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2021: A year of Love, Labour and Loss

Love is a mystery. Love is unitive. Love is how we connect as human beings with one another and with the whole universe together. Love is how we learn, become better, and make the world a better place to live for us and others. Love needs freedom to breathe, equality to thrive, and openness to flow and grow. Love is personal, political, philosophical, sexual, social, historical, metaphysical, transcendental, et al. Sadly, we have only one word to describe such a complex emotion. The ancient Greeks had six different words, but even that’s not enough. 2021 taught me new ways to describe the complexity of love and its various hues. Love lost on many counts, but it miraculously sprang on a few occasions like a phoenix. My LOVE vocabulary was defined and redefined by people who touched my life one way or another this year.

shillpi a singh

LOVE IS ART: Cheriyal scroll painters

The handful of artists belonging to the Nakash caste and hailing from Cheriyal village in Telangana are the keepers of the visual form of storytelling popularly named after them as Nakashi art or Cheriyal paintings. Over the years, these artists have painstakingly preserved the rich cultural tradition of using pictures to tell stories from Indian mythology and local folklore. The proponents of this art form are heavily dependent on their art for survival, but the 15-month lockdown left them in the throws of woes.

LOVE IS ART: The award-winning Nakashi artists D Vaikuntam and his wife Vanaja.

“The Cheriyal art is on the brink of extinction. Today, only seven families are engaged in this art form. Five of these belong to the Nakashi community, and the others are outsiders who learned it from my father, D Vaikuntam,” says D. Rakesh, a young Nakashi artist. With no other source of income, his family of five – father Vaikuntam, mother Vanaja, brother Vinay Kumar, and wife Monisha – took to online workshops to fend for themselves during this period. The workshops conducted by SkillXn, Paramparik Karigar, Crafts Council of Telangana, Spic Macay, Dastkaar Haat Samiti, and Rajasthani Studios were creatively satisfying monetarily rewarding for his family. “The response was heartening, and the students showed keen interest in learning the art form. We want to keep it alive, and efforts like these will help us reach out to a wider audience,” says Vaikuntam.

The dying art form received a Geographical Indication status in 2007. Reminiscing the rich cultural tradition, Vaikuntam says, “Cheriyal scroll painting is one of the earliest forms of audio-visual entertainment. Hundreds of years ago, the storytelling communities travelled through villages, singing and narrating stories using the scroll as a visual tool. Each scroll measured about three feet in width and could extend to over 60 feet. A scroll contained about 40 to 50 panels, and each panel depicted a part of the story. These were displayed in a sequence to tell the tale.”

With newer forms of storytelling ruling the public imagination, the Nakashi artists have adopted unique ways to reinvent the art form and keep it relevant. “The pictorial tale from the epics doesn’t excite people anymore. The scrolls have been reduced to an aesthetic item adorning the walls, collected by art lovers,” rues Vaikuntam. To make the art form saleable, Nakash artists have designed utility items. “We made masks during the lockdown and sold them through our Facebook and Insta pages. We also use the traditional art form to make key chains, pen holders, and wall decor items,” says Rakesh.

Each Cheriyal scroll starts with a panel of Ganapati, followed by Goddess Saraswati. “It is customary for the artist to seek the blessing of the deities to ensure that the art flourishes without any obstacle,” says Vaikuntam. The Cheriyal scroll painting is drawn on handmade khadi cloth or canvas processed by applying a paste of tamarind seed, tree gum and white clay. Three coats of the paste are applied, allowing a day in between for the paste to dry. Once the scroll is ready, the artist outlines characters using a squirrel-haired brush. In Cheriyal scrolls, only natural colours are used like white comes from grounded sea shells, black from lamp soot, yellow from Pevidi stone, blue from Indigo leafs, red from Inglikam stone and the other colours from various vegetable dyes and ground stones. Every colour is mixed with thirumani tree gum, before being applied on the scroll. “The red colour fills the background. The face and skin colours are decided by the nature of the character, like blue and yellow are for gods and goddesses, respectively; brown or darker shades for demons, while pink and skin tones are for humans,” explains Vaikuntam.

LOVE IS ART: National Award winner Cheriyal artist D Vaikuntam.

(Photographs by P Mohanaiah and Tejaswini Paladi)

2021: A year of Love, Labour and Loss

Love is a mystery. Love is unitive. Love is how we connect as human beings with one another and with the whole universe together. Love is how we learn, become better, and make the world a better place to live for us and others. Love needs freedom to breathe, equality to thrive, and openness to flow and grow. Love is personal, political, philosophical, social, historical, metaphysical, transcendental, et al. Sadly, we have only one word to describe such a complex emotion. The ancient Greeks had six different words, but even that’s not enough. 2021 taught me new ways to describe the complexity of love and its various hues. Love lost on many counts, but it miraculously sprang on a few occasions like a phoenix. My LOVE vocabulary was defined and redefined by people who touched my life one way or another this year.

SHILLPI A SINGH

LOVE IS BELONGING: Sindhustan

“All I knew about my culture was Sindhi kadhi,” pronounces celebrity hairstylist and filmmaker in her documentary Sindhustan and on that note, she sets the tone of a poignant tale spread over the last few decades before and after partition to retrace her Sindhi roots. The ubiquitous flavour of vegetable-rich kadhi makes Sindhustan a delectable watch as it meanders through the lanes and bylanes of Sindhis’ memories, whose quintessential identity is synonymous with their kadhi that’s like no other.  

Trailer of Sindhustan.

The kadhi also becomes the documentary’s access point; Bhavnani’s aunt Kamla Thakur’s kitchen conversation and verses by the renowned 18th-century Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif becomes a crucial cinematic tool for the filmmaker. The unobtrusive camera captures her cooking, from start to finish, and the tedious kadhi-making process serves as a metaphor for Sindhis in general and Bhavnani in particular. It manages to create a steady simmer in the storyline, from the moment her aunt places tur dal in a cooker on the stove to painstakingly following the rigours, till it is ready to be served on a carefully laid out table filled with other Sindhi delicacies. The brilliant move not only adds a rich flavour to her storytelling, but the shots, panning in and out the kitchen, and shifting focus on the lives and times of other Sindhis, then and now, takes the story forward. “Food is something big for us, and so it made sense to weave the story around it. Kadhi is my favourite, and it was my only choice because it is also our identity in a way. Also, so many stories happen in the kitchen and around the fire, so it was my best bet,” tells Bhavnani.

Poster of Sindhustan.

The entire process of making a Sindhi kadhi takes about three hours, and Thakur, a chef herself, gives us a sneak-peek into the Sindhi household and tells us how Sindhi kadhi is different from other kadhis in the course of the filming. “It is made from toor daal. We boil it with tomatoes in a cooker, then seave and use the soup, cooking it on slow fire much like a mithai. It is nutritious as we put lots of vegetables in it,” says Thakur. 

LOVE IS BELONGING: A still from Sindhustan.

Another thing that stands out in Bhavnani’s maiden project is the story that her legs carry – the fusion of two dying art forms, one from Sindh and another one from Bihar in the tattoos; while her feet reflect her rootlessness with an image of fish on each to show how the waves have given them a sense of fleeting sand, lashing it with memories, time and again.  The use of alta (red liquid dye) to decorate her feet and fingers is another fusion of culture that Bhavnani has used to her advantage in the documentary, and the ease with which she has used ink to tell the story of the largest migration of culture in history is truly commendable.

“My one leg has motifs from Ajrak, a predominantly Sindhi art form. Here the cloth was first washed in a solution of water and ajrak berries. It was then steamed and stamped with wooden blocks injected with dyes. The printed cloth was then dipped in a solution of indigo and washed in water so that colours came out sparkingly bright. The other leg reflects the popular Madhubani art form from Bihar. The only common thing between the two cultures is fish. It is predominant in Madhubani paintings and also in ours because it is believed that our presiding deity Jhulelal rode a fish,” she recounts. The beauty of this amalgamation in her passion project makes Sindhustan a mini piece of art in itself.

The pain and trauma of those who lived and survived the painful partition echo louder in each person’s account. Their sense of longing and belonging and connection with the land of their origin – Sindh – where they or their ancestors once lived tugs at the audience’s heartstrings.

Sindhustan is a must-watch if you are a Sindhi because it has high nostalgic value.

It is even more important to watch Sindhustan if you are a non-Sindhi because it is a ready reckoner to understand a community that has been dispossessed and displaced but still retains its enterprising, industrious, zealous, benevolent and cosmopolitan nature transcending barriers of castes, race and religion.

Thakur is the go-to person for Bhavnani for food, and she loves to feast on her “Teevan, Sai Bhaji, Seyal Beeh Patata, and, of course, Kadhi on Sundays.” Also, don’t forget to feast on Sindhi kadhi that Thakur’s French neighbours in Paris referred to as the water of gods. Bon appétit!

Maybe your country is only a place you make up in your own mind. Something you dream about and sing about. Maybe it’s not a place on the map at all, but just a story full of people you meet and places you visit, full of books and films you’ve been to. I’m not afraid of being homesick and having no language to live in. I don’t have to be like anyone else. I’m walking on the wall and nobody can stop me.

Hugo Hamilton

(All pictures from Sindhustan; the film is streaming on https://www.moviesaints.com/movie/sindhustan)

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

ADnaama

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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Frequently feel dizzy? It could be vertigo.

Dr Pawan Ojha gives the lowdown on the disease of the vestibular system.

Do you often get a spinning feeling while lying down on your bed or when you are still? Often do you experience dizziness that disrupts your balance? This could be a sign of vertigo. Dizziness might imply vertigo, fainting, poor body balance, or even fits. Vertigo is a type of dizziness where you feel like spinning. These feelings may last from a few seconds to days and often worsen with movement.

WHAT CAUSES DIZZINESS? Vertigo is commonly caused by disease of the vestibular system. The vestibular system inside the inner ear helps in sensing our head position in space relative to the body, and works in an integrated manner with the brain to maintain body position. Vertigo can also result from diseases of the vestibular nerve or parts of the brain that deal with body balance.

IS VERTIGO A BIG PROBLEM? The diseases related to the inner ear and its nerve supply are generally considered less worrisome. ‘Benign Positional Vertigo’ often causes the most severe vertigo but can be treated easily by experts. It occurs when the calcium deposits of Otolith organs of the inner ear fall in the inner ear canals to cause short episodes of severe vertigo upon head movement, such as while lying down or getting up from the bed. Another important cause of vertigo is ‘Vestibular Neuritis’ which occurs due to viral infection or autoimmune disease of vestibular nerve, where vertigo, nausea, or vomiting can last up to several days. Meniere’s Disease is caused by a build-up of fluid in the inner ear tubes, causing episodic vertigo with ringing in the ears and hearing loss. The exact cause is unclear, a viral infection, an autoimmune reaction or a genetic component coule be the trigger. Many people who have migraine often complain of vertigo with or without headache, that is called ‘Vestibular Migraine.’ A neurologist can often easily identify and treat the underlying migraine to relieve vertigo.

WHAT’S THE MOST WORRISOME KIND OF VERTIGO? Vertigo that is caused by brain disease should be considered worrisome and treated on an urgent basis. Stroke is an important and serious condition causing dizziness. In a population-based study of more than 1,600 patients, 3.2% of those presenting to an emergency department with dizziness were diagnosed with a Stroke. Apart form this, brain infection, Multiple Sclerosis, hypothyroidism and other biochemical disturbances can cause vertigo even in the absence of fever.

So, one should not delay consulting a doctor as soon as one feels sudden dizziness. Warning signs for a serious cause of vertigo include severe headache, persistent vomiting and imbalance, double vision, vision problems, sudden hearing loss, or early signs of brain stroke (weakness or numbness in arm or leg , face drooping to one side, trouble while speaking or swallowing). People who are older than 60 years, with diabetes, hypertension, smoking and history of heart disease or brain stroke, should be extra careful. Doctors might require an urgent MRI of the brain to diagnose the brain problem and treat it in time.

TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE: Medications prescribed to relieve Vertigo include betahistine, antihistamines and anti-emetics. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) can be treated by physical repositioning procedures performed by expert doctors. Video-Nystagmography equipment might need to be used for complex cases. Special precautions in vertigo are limiting sodium intake, avoiding caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, and tobacco. If diagnosed in time, brain stroke can be effeciently treated with clot busters and/or interventional treatment. If vertigo is caused other serious problem, such as brain tumor or injury to the brain or neck, surgical treatment might be necessary to rectify those problems. Vestibular rehabilitation in the hands of expert physiotherapists forms an essential part of vertigo treatment. With correct diagnosis and treatment, most patients can be relieved of their vertigo effectively.

(Dr Pawan Ojha is Senior Neurologist-Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi-A Fortis network Hospital)

National Science Day 2021: Women in science on what it means to be one

https://www.freepressjournal.in/weekend/national-science-day-2021-the-art-of-being-a-woman-in-science
The article was published in The Free Press Journal, edition dated 28 February 2021.

LOVE BIRDS

Nano Stories

(A dear friend sent me this beautiful photo clicked by an amazing photographer, Rene’ Kahle’ from Netherlands who posted this photo on his instagram handle rene_kahle.My friend asked me if I could write a nano story based on this photo.And I did write a story which I am sharing with you all here)

When she was captured and put in a fancy cage, the love bird couldn’t bear the separation from her mate and stopped eating.She grew weak and lost her sheen.The bird catcher took pity and released her.
She couldn’t fly high but found a thorny cactus to rest.In an instant , her long lost mate who hadn’t let her go out of his sight found her.

He perched himself beside her inspite of the thorns piercing his body, fed her lovingly and groomed her till she got her sheen back.

The Chubby Little Girl.
Copyright © 2020

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Ashraf Patel of Pravah and ComMutiny Youth Collective wins Social Entrepreneur Of the Year Award – India 2020

New Delhi, November 26, 2020: The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, the sister organisation of the World Economic Forum and the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation of Jubilant Bhartia Group today announced Ashraf Patel of Pravah & ComMutiny Youth Collective (CYC) as the winner of the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award – India 2020. The award was presented by Smt Smriti Zubin Irani, Hon’ble Minister of Women & Child Development & Textiles, Government of India, at a virtual ceremony in presence of eminent personalities from different fields from across the world.

Congratulating the winner and appreciating the finalists of this year’s SEOY Award India 2020, Smt Smriti Zubin Irani, Hon’ble Minister of Women & Child Development & Textiles, Government of India, said, “I acknowledge and appreciate the contribution of Schwab Foundation and Jubilant Bhartia Foundation in celebrating social entrepreneurs. I would like to congratulate all the social entrepreneurs who have been considered by the esteemed jury for this prestigious award. This award today highlights to the rest of our country, that compassion is not only the most endearing but also an equally profitable business skill. Those who have come to this platform are the champions of digital India.”

Source: Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

The SEOY Award India 2020 winner – Ashraf Patel has been bringing revolutionary change through development of a generation of empathetic, sensitive youth change-makers in India. It is doing so, through psycho-social interventions and helping them build more inclusive identities & societies.

Source: Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

Prof Klaus Schwab, Founder & Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum and Co-Founder of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, announced the winner of the SEOY Award India 2020 and added, “The World Economic Forum is very much involved in helping fight the pandemic. I am looking forward to having India very well represented in our activities because India is a major force in shaping the future and has to be very prominently engaged.

Commending the winner and the finalists of SEOY Award India 2020, Mrs Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-Founder of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, said, “This year’s winner and finalists of the Social Entrepreneur of the Year India award all exemplify what our community is about – actors who have selflessly dedicated their lives to improving the state of the world around them. Social innovators are pioneering agents of change re-inventing the way our institutions operate, and are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The current global pandemic has highlighted the crucial role of social innovators in identifying urgent needs and mobilizing responses to realities on the ground. The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurships is proud to have been partnering with Jubilant Bhartia Foundation over the past 11 years to award social innovators from India who are not only driving change but are also shifting organisations and systems towards a more just, inclusive, sustainable future.”

Applauding the winner and the finalists, Mr Shyam S Bhartia, Chairman and Founder and Mr Hari S Bhartia, Chairman & Co-Founder, Jubilant Bhartia Group and Founder Directors of Jubilant Bhartia Foundation, said, “Over last eleven years, we have seen a diversity of applications coming from the remotest corners of the country. The award process has so far seen over 1600 diverse applications. This year, inspite of trying times of pandemic, we received over 100 applications, with over one third women social entrepreneur applicants. The enthusiastic participation reflects the resilience & the tenacity of the social sector in these challenging times. It hearting to see that the finalists of this year have brought disruption in their own fields with their innovative ideas and approach. They have done path-breaking work in the fields of Healthcare, Youth Development and Solid Waste Management. Congratulations and kudos to the winner and the finalists for their extraordinary efforts. Their commitment to the cause is incomparable.

Source: Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

On winning the SEOY Award – India 2020, Ashraf Patel, said, “This recognition for youth leadership has come at a moment when it was needed the most, the world right now is beset with inequality, conflict and environmental issues. Never before have we needed more collaboration and shared leadership with young people to create a better world.”

Ashraf Patel will join the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship Community, the world’s largest and prestigious network of social innovators from around the world. The winner also participates in the annual and regional meetings of the World Economic Forum, which offer unique opportunities to engage with global decision makers from the public, corporate, media, academic and civil society sectors. The other finalists were Sujoy Santra of IKure, Kolkata & Sandeep Patel of NEPRA , Ahmedabad .

Celebrating its 11th year, the SEOY Award India has established itself as one of the most reputed and coveted awards for social entrepreneurs in India. The award recognises entrepreneurs who implement innovative, sustainable and scalable solutions to solve India’s social problems. In 2010, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and Jubilant Bhartia Foundation came together to promote social innovation in India through the Social Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY) India Award.

The SEOY Award – India 2020 received applications from 23 cities this year, with interventions in diverse fields including clean technology, media communication, youth development, disability, energy, enterprise development, labour conditions, microfinance, health & nutrition, sustainable farming and water & sanitation.

Source: Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

This year’s jury members for the award included, Shobhana Bhartia, Chairperson & Editorial Director, HT Media Ltd; Hilde Schwab, Chairperson & Co-Founder, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship; Sudha Pillai, Board Member, Jubilant Life Sciences Ltd & Former Member Secretary, Planning Commission, Government of India; Uday Kotak, President, CII & Executive Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Kotak Mahindra Bank; Rakesh Mohan, President and Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Social & Economic Progress; Rohini Nilekani, Chairperson, Arghyam Foundation; P R Ganapathy, Regional Director, Stanford Seed, India, and Dipesh Sutariya, Co-founder, EnAble India, Winner SEOY 2019.