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Photographer Saleel Tambe Bags Coveted British Title

The 170-year old The Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain has bestowed on the Indian born British citizen Saleel Tambe, a renowned wildlife photographer, the prestigious Associate of Royal Photographic Society (ARPS) title. This is one of the most coveted international distinctions, recognized as the “Michelin star of photography”. The RPS Distinctions are one of the most widely recognized and respected photography titles throughout the world. The qualifications support people to undertake structured assessments through a tailored and friendly education programme with a high standard of care and support for everyone. Saleel’s presentation was titled “WINGS” in the Natural History genre and a panel comprising seven eminent jury members assessed his body of work. This distinction grants a golden lapel with a gold emblem certificate and the ARPS title is now officially added to Saleel’s name. He has also authored several books on birds and wildlife. Saleel has gathered all these priceless images wandering relentlessly in various sanctuaries and national parks across the globe. Fifty year old Saleel, an IT professional, was born in Indore and graduated from Jabalpur Engineering College and in 2003 moved to the UK. Besides photography he is also an accomplished tabla player.

The Other Side Of Vocalist Mahesh Kale You Don’t Know!

India’s renowned vocalist and national award winner Mahesh Kale is a globally respected artiste. But, there is more to him. Recently, the singer flew into the UK three days before his concerts leaving his organisers, fans and followers guessing. No, it was not to do a dry run but to travel the local tube in London, walk over 15000 steps in Central London, and explore the “vibe of the city.” Kale believes that weather is part of human life as nature has an inseparable bond with mankind. Kale is a tree hugger and also chooses to sit on a park bench and write a poem. He ensured that his disciples from Edinburgh accompanied him at both his concerts in the UK. Local travel in the city of performance helps him to understand a little more of the culture of that land, their liking for music. At his show in Manchester, a 6-month old baby Swananadi Kulkarni, overwhelmed by the audience and gathering, started crying. Kale walked up to her and whispered a song into her ears, and soon she stopped crying and started smiling. Kale is an avid traveler. This year he will be performing in the U.S., Germany and Switzerland. Kale is married and lives in the Bay area.
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India’s Top Vocalists Mahesh Kale, Kaushiki Chakraborty To Regale UK Audiences

Indian classical music aficionados are in for a treat in the UK. The recent opening of the South Asian Gallery – one of its kind in the UK — at the Manchester Museum has loaned an original pair of tabla of Ustad Allah Rakha from the British Museum. Allah Rakha’s tabla gathers a lot of interest and attention as one can hear the original clip of his playing on earphones. More. Come March, Mahesh Kale India’s renowned vocalist and national award winner will enthrall his fans in the UK’s two UK cities. Kale’s “Sur Niragas Ho – UK Tour” will be Live in Harrow (Mar 11) followed by the city of Manchester (Mar 12) at the iconic Royal Northern College of Music. Disciple of the late Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki, Kale came to prominence after he won the 63rd National Film Award as the Best Playback Singer, for a classical piece in the Marathi film Katyar Kaljat Ghusli.  A fortnight after Kale’s performance the UK audience will be regaled by another classical music artiste Kaushiki Chakraborty from Patiala gharana. Her popularity can be gauged from the fact that tickets for her concert have already been sold out.

King Of Puri To Visit UK In The Spring Of 2023

The City of London and the UK has lured all. The King of Puri is no exception. Dibyasingha Deb, known as Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb IV, will be travelling to the UK in May 2023. He is the current titular Gajapati Maharaja and Chairman of the Shree Jagannatha Temple, Odisha and the current Adhyasevaka (known as the first and foremost servitor) of Lord Jagannatha and according to customs also considered to be the living reflection of the Lord. Huge preparations are on to welcome the King of Puri to the UK. The King, the current head of the house of Bhoj Dynasty, will be accompanied by his wife Maharani Leelavati Patamahadei. The 70-year old King’s travel in the UK is organised by the Shree Jagannatha Society of UK. Reportedly, Odia’s population in the UK is over 5000. “Pleased with support and growth here the King of Puri is on a mission to spread the Jagannath Sanskruti in the UK and across the globe,” admits Siba Ranjan Biswal, one of the leaders of the Odia community in the UK. The King’s itinerary includes visits to the Jagannatha Temples in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Bath.  The King is expected to visit the City of Greater Manchester which has hosted the 43rd Annual Convention of the Odia community in August 2022.  
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Odisha’s IISER Appoints “Geek Gayak” Sandeep Ranade As Visiting Scientist

The prestigious Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Berhampur, Odisha has appointed Sandeep Ranade popularly known as “Geek Gayak” as a visiting scientist. Ranade probably is the first non-PhD scholar to be appointed to this post. He is expected to inspire students to do research in different areas of music. Pune-based Ranade, a software engineer, became globally popular after he won the Apple Designer of the Year Award 2021 for his App –NadSadhana. According to developers at Apple, “NaadSadhana is the sort of future-world app that could only be created by someone with an extremely specialized, almost-impossible skill set. Sandeep Ranade was that someone.” Ranade began singing from the age of four and by the 11th grade he had developed a great liking for vocal music. He has a masters from Johns Hopkins, two decades of tech-world experience, and a thriving career as a Hindustani classical vocalist. He returned to India to pursue both technology and music. He gave the app a test run by recording “Na Corona Karo,” a song about taking precautions against Covid-19 that went viral in social media after it was shared by AR Rahman and others. Ranade says his App is fully based on AI, and is trained not to adjust to the complexities of each instrument, but to the mix of the orchestra and the mood of the singer.
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Amish Tripathi Bags Additional Portfolio Of Education At Indian High Commission UK

Celebrated author, writer and bureaucrat and currently Director, Nehru Centre in London, Amish Tripathi (48) has obtained a two year extension to serve in London. In addition to his current posts as Director, Nehru Centre Amish has been offered an additional portfolio — Education. With this he is now Minister (Culture & Education), High Commission of India. This move reflects on him as a powerful Indian bureaucrat as extensions are very seldom rather unprecedented and happen in very special cases. Amish says, “My team and I will manage all interactions with the British Education ministry, universities here in the UK and actively support Indian students here.” Following a memorandum of understanding struck on July 21, 2022 that is a part of the UK-India Enhanced Trade Partnership by the UK and India to recognise each other’s higher education qualifications, Universities in the UK expect a surge in applications from Indian students. In 2020-21 the UK attracted 84,555 Indian students, with 73% coming for masters courses mostly of one year’s duration. In the year ended March 2022, as many as 107,978 Indian students were issued study visas to the UK, marking a significant rise of 93% compared to the same period before that. The UK government had indicated in 2019 that it was going to reintroduce the post-study work visa route for international students graduating from July 1, 2021 resulted in a massive boost in student numbers.
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Odisha Sand Artist Pattnaik Faces Flak For His Rishi Sunak Portrait Resembling Tony Blair

Odisha-based internationally acclaimed sand artist and Padma Shri Awardee Sudarsan Pattnaik seems to be grabbing headlines in the UK for all the wrong reasons. Pattnaik like most Indians was excited with the Indian origin Rishi Sunkak becoming the Prime Minister of UK. So, in his own inimitable style he paid tribute to Sunak by creating a sand portrait of Rishi Sunak on the Puri beach. This creation came in for heavy criticism from the British media which stated that the renowned sand artist Pattnaik has gone wrong in depicting Rishi Sunak; he looked very much like the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Sudarsan is indeed apologetic. He told The Independent, UK which he has uploaded on his Twitter handle “My only intention was to draw Mr Sunak to congratulate him. It was a proud moment for me to witness the historic moment of an Indian origin man becoming prime minister of the UK like many Indians.”  Also, what propelled Pattnaik to draw Sunak was his personal connection with Sunak’s mother-in-law Sudha Murthy who had encouraged him in his initial years. Sudarsan laments the fact that his good intention has created unnecessary controversy but he will make up for it by creating another one, and make it look more accurate.
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Secret Recipes That Tickle The Palates Of The Rich And Famous

Did you know that billionaire banker Uday Kotak fondly remembers the udad ni dal, ring na olo and chokha na dashmi his mother made?A new book brings back a host of recipes used by the mothers of Kotak and half a dozen other big business leaders. These, as well as a couple of dozen other celebrities across films and sports like Aamir Khan, Vidya Balan, Irfan Pathan, Mithali Raj, Mary Kom, and author Amish Tripathi and commentator Harsha Bhogle, share precious family recipes.The ‘food memoir’, as business journalist-turned-author Sudha Menon describes her seventh book Recipes for Life, is a collection of interviews, anecdotes and stories about her subjects growing up with their mother’s food. Menon, who is also an actor and motivational speaker, says she started writing this one after her mother-in-law’s death, with dementia having wiped out her legacy of hundreds of family recipes that she had mastered over decades. “The same heart-breaking situation is replaying with my mother now – she too was a brilliant, passionate cook, but has slowly lost her memory over the last year or so.” The book, she adds, is a documentation of family recipes that come down the generations through word of mouth and “a celebration of the bonds we forge with our mothers and those who cook for us with love”.
The master at work

Raj Kapoor’s Famous Intern Rahul Rawail’s Directorial Memoirs Capture The Showman, 60s Bollywood And, A Lot More

From contemplating a degree in nuclear physics to wielding a megaphone is Rahul Rawail’s initial confession. In his book, Raj Kapoor: The Master at Work  Rawail reveals about his visit to the big top with his school buddy Rishi Kapoor to ogle at Russian circus artistes who were participating in the shoot of Mera Naam Joker directed by the Showman Raj Kapoor.  His family’s Bollywood connection (Father H S Rawail was a famous film maker) lands him an internship for the filming which melds into a coveted assistant’s job with RK. His sojourn with RK begins with the studio’s biggest flop and gets cemented with its hugest hit Bobby worth a lifetime of experience. He gives a ringside view into the making of these blockbusters and this is the most valuable part of the book where he shares intimate nuggets and anecdotes. There are stories about the Showman himself and other larger than life characters like Premnath whose bizarre antics are gleefully related. The legendary gourmet tastes of RK and his love of good food and drink are peppered throughout the book. Ultimately Rawail would go on to direct his own film for RK called Biwi O Biwi before embarking on his solo career which included blockbusters like Love Story, Betaab, Arjun to name a few. Rawail remains an important bridge between the movie moguls of the sixties and the present day.
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Controversial Youth Speaker Devdutt Pattanaik’s Live Telecast Cut Out, As Women Cite His Unsociable Media Abuse

Mythologist-author-speaker Devdutt Pattanaik courted controversy, even before he spoke, as invitee of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports at the Two-Day National Youth Festival virtual conference, Puducherry. This may also have led to his live telecast over Doordarshan being blanked out. Pattanaik’s session was not televised live by DD due to “unforeseen technical issues”, said Kanchan Gupta, senior advisor to the I&B Ministry.  Union Minister Anurag Thakur also faced flak from his own party and women’s pressure groups asking why the mythologist was chosen to inspire youth through his lessons from Bhagavad Gita? Sexist, misogynist and sexual abuses frequently hurled across social media by Pattnaik went viral on social media. The chorus for his removal from the event gained shrill currency even as author and columnist Shefali Vaidya (among several women) tweeted, “The problem with Devdutt Pattnaik is not just that he is a mediocre person, who completely distorts our scriptures without even basic knowledge of Sanskrit. He is an absolute filth who loves abusing people’s mothers. To hail this man as a ‘great mind’ is truly sickening!”. The fallout: of the huge banner of revolt and repulsion was that one of the backroom boys for the event decided on the “unforeseen technical issues” as a better option than facing the further wrath of the scorned women.

Photo : Fotocorp

Katrina-Vicky Royal Wedding Pageant Gets Rs 100-Cr Webcast Offer: The New Normal!

Talk about big fat Indian weddings…the scale and spending on these “events” is humongous, even for everyday vanilla mortals. Imagine the scale, splendour, spending, secrecy, stardust for THE wedding of 2021…yes, Sheela ki Jawani fame Katrina Kaif and Surgical Strike Stud Vicky Kaushal got royally hitched on December 9 at Hotel Six Senses, Fort Berbara, Rajasthan in stunning Sabyasachi outfits. Katrina arrived at the mandap in a traditional red outfit, in a Doli like the Royal families of yore, the coy bride sporting dozens of bangles, and special mehendi (said to be of a unique variety from Tamil Nadu). He in pristine white. A very select gathering of exclusive members from family and friends were present. Believe it or not, the layer of secrecy was actually planned, to keep the festivities top secret exclusive. And now we hear rumours of a killer OTT on the verge of signing a Rs 100 crore deal on the dotted mehendi lines for exclusive streaming rights! Box office showing on this scale…oooh, the streamer and fans are already high on anticipation. This is a new money spinner for our desis, apparently in vogue in Hollywood. Whatever the videsis can do, we can do better…..more colour, extravagance, scale on for 4 days, exotic visuals, song and dance. Katrina and Kaushal surely hit the mother lode with this sweet super star deal.

Photo : Fotocorp

How This Fourth Khan Managed To Create His Own Space In Bollywood

His surname is Khan yet this 51-year old actor has never been bracketed with the other three Bollywood Khans – SRK, Salman and Aamir. But, today this fourth Khan, Saif Ali Khan, is proving to be the most relevant Khan; he has reinvented himself and adapted to the changing times. He’s the first one to experiment with the OTT platform with Sacred Games. Now, other big stars have followed him. Is there a strategy in what he is doing? Yes. This came to the fore after 2000. Playing character Sameer in Dil Chahta Hai and Langda Tyagi in Omkara won him accolades. Since then he has decided not to insist on playing the lead role but to pick up interesting and challenging roles. Son of actress Sharmila Tagore and cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, Saif entered the film industry in 1993 with Parampara, followed by Yeh Dillagi and Main Khiladi Tu Anari. Post that, nobody touched him in the nineties. In fact, industry insiders were derogatorily commenting about his looks. His patience paid off when romantic comedy Hum Tum proved to be a game-changer. Today, Saif is being offered roles that are meaty. But his latest movie Bunty Aur Babli 2 bombed at the box office. But, nobody seems to mind. Saif has arrived and he has created his own space.
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‘Sach Kahun Toh’ Hides More Than Reveals

‘Been there done that’ could easily have been the title of veteran actress Neena Gupta’s memoir. The story of her tumultuous life, Sach Kahun Toh which begins with her middle-class stereotypical childhood in Delhi in a humble locality. Despite domestic doubts and paternalism and a ‘behenji’ college background she grows up confident and educated. The NSD and the hiccup of an early marriage to the boy next door cannot prevent her packing her bags for Mumbai. A perceived breakthrough role as part of the youngsters in Saath Saath typecasts her but there is also a small part in Gandhi. Khandaan in 1984 is her big arrival on TV, one of those strong woman roles. Gupta who was also cast in art house classics like Jaane Bhi Do Yaron and Mandi details her eventual humiliation and exit from Star Plus with the game show Kamzor Kadi Kaun flopping. Naturally her personal life especially her well-publicized relationship with Vivian Richards do make an appearance as do some other dalliances including an abortive marriage with the son of a prominent classical singer but there are no real revelations. In 2017 she perceives herself as sidelined, almost forgotten and makes a dramatic plea for work on Instagram. In conclusion though, the book despite its candid title, mimics the lyrics of her famous Choli song cameo from Khalnayak… hides more than reveals.

Flashback 1971: India’s Tryst With Historic Wins Under Ajit Wadekar

1971 to most living Indians conjures up the country’s biggest battlefield victory and the creation of Bangladesh. However, if you are of a senior vintage, it’s likely the association will be one of India’s early and epochal sporting triumphs not on the hockey turf. It was indeed nothing short of miraculous when unfancied India beat giants West Indies in their own backyard and followed up by a series victory in England! Such could not have happened without prodigious feats on the field such as Sunil Gavaskar’s astonishing 774 aggregate or Chandrashekhar’s 6 for 38 at The Oval. The story however begins in conflict with the rejection of the Nawab of Pataudi by chairman of selectors Vijay Merchant in favour of Ajit Wadekar by using his casting vote to break a deadlock. The book – 1971: The Beginnings Of Indian Cricket Greatness – details these shenanigans and also how number one keeper Farrokh Engineer was excluded from the West Indies tour. A batting swansong by veteran Dilip Sardesai and the performance of new superstar Gavaskar delivers the series with grace notes from geniuses like Salim Durrani. On the England leg India survives a scare to come back and win at The Oval. Needless to say, in both series the bowling burdens are shared by the fabled spin quartet. The best part of the book are the interviews.
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Storyteller’s Recollections of Some Rude Scents, Rich Cuisines

Once upon a time in a newsroom far away, there was a suave reporter/ editor / food critic. A Rude Life, Vir Sanghvi’s memoir artfully churned out during the enforced paralysis of the pandemic, seems from a distant, different era. From his privileged childhood, boarding school et al to Oxford, it bubbles with stories and character. The anecdotes are like the gourmet confections he critiques: intricate and inviting, definitely not every day fare. The ingredients are delectable but do smack of name-dropping sourced from the old boy network of a bygone era. Clearly, he has met everyone from Yuri Gagarin to Dhirubhai Ambani to Amartya Sen. An easy rapport is established with the PM Rajiv Gandhi. On these coat tails Sanghvi manages to engage the reclusive Amitabh Bachchan and probably presents the most coherent story of his entry and abrupt exit from politics. There are ringside accounts of Bofors or how a senior Congressman who had suffered at the hands of Sanjay Gandhi reacted at the news of the latter’s fatal plunge —Mar gaya saala!  Vir Sanghvi’s journey straddles an important time when TV ‘journalism’ was unobtrusively birthed, and he shares many vignettes of these early days and famous shows which segues into his newer avatar as food maven and writer of books. Though not finished, a life, unlikely to be encountered today.

Anti-Maharashtrian Brahmin Genocide 1948: Need For Recognition, Healing

It has taken a magnum opus on Veer Savarkar to put in print a memory that still lives and torments millions: The memory of the 1948 anti-Maharashtrian Brahmin genocide, a “wilfully erased chapter of history.” While writing for his concluding volume on the freedom fighter – Savarkar (Part 2): A Contested Legacy, 1924-1966 – author Vikram Sampath’s crowdsourcing efforts through social media drew an outpouring of tragic personal tales from survivors and descendants of the 1948 pogrom. The book captures how the carnage started from Bombay and Pune before spreading to Nagpur, Satara, Sangli, Miraj, the Patwardhan States, Belgaum, Kolhapur, where thousands of Brahmins were either massacred or their properties destroyed; and most villages in the state were ethnically cleansed of Brahmins. Thanks to laws like the Press Act, the media was silent on it – as it was on the coverage of the Partition Holocaust against Hindus and Sikhs in the newly created Pakistan, and its Kashmir horrors. Washington Post reported on wave of looting, arson and killings; New York Times said how “the communal riots quickly swept Bombay when news of Mr Gandhi’s death was received (January 30, 1948).” The accounts of DP Mishra, home minister of Central Provinces, point to a systematic pogrom against Brahmins and how no FIRs were lodged. Says Sampath: “The tragedy apart, denying its very occurrence makes it a doubly chilling crime.”

Dalai Lama’s Tibet Dreams Rested On Lal Bahadur Shastri’s Return From Tashkent

It is the mystery of the century. The disappearance of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and death of Lal Bahadur Shastri. Reams and reams have been written on the subject but still there is no finality. The latest book His Holiness The Fourteenth Dalai Lama: An Illustrated Biography written by Dalai Lama’s trusted companion and aide for over four decades, Tenzin Geyche Tethong, touches on a subject that Indians have been seeking an answer – death of Shastri. The book throws light on Shastri’s equation with the Dalai Lama. According to RSS mouthpiece Organiser, which has exclusive access to this chapter in its latest edition, writes: “On an early day of January 1966, the Dalai Lama received a message from WD Shakabpa, his representative in New Delhi, which carried the news which he has been longing to hear since the day he had entered India in 1959 after his 17-day long daring escape from the guns of Chinese Army in Tibet. Shakabpa informed the Dalai Lama that “the Indian government was prepared to recognize the Tibetan government in exile and that he would receive a definite answer once the Prime Minister (Lal Bahadur Shastri) returned from Tashkent.” Unfortunately, Shastri, according to reports, died of a heart attack in Tashkent. But, this biography published by Roli Books, will once again stir debate about Shastri’s death and the hand behind it.

Udhayanidhi Stalin Wows His Voters By Playing A Real Hero

Actor Udhayanidhi Stalin, new elected DMK MLA, son of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, is all over his Cheppakkam Thiruvallikeni constituency, a dense demographic mix of Hindus and Muslims, who have lived in amity for long, mostly from the middle- and lower-income groups. Their concerns: navigable roads, uninterrupted power and water, safe neighbourhoods. A TASMAC outlet right in their midst and the fallout of filth and unruly behaviour was one of the first vexing issues brought to him. Overnight, the outlet was sealed. The voters here are on overdrive praising his tireless efforts and can-do attitude of solving civic problems as fast as they are filed. This area is plagued by clogged up drains and overflowing sewage. He has tackled this with huge septic tank vacuum cleaners. Old tenements with broken power meters were on the list of woes. The young MLA has given orders to install new ones. The hawks are just waiting to see him take one wrong step. Udhayanidhi is tunnelling through, unmindful. After all, his grandfather, Kalaignar Karunanidhi, won from Cheppakkam three times, building the DMK cadre. And having played only the hero in his six films, for Udhayanidhi taking on the adversaries is scripted by the mighty party machinery. Reel hero turns real hero for now.

Carnatic vocalist Bombay Jayashri

18 Celebs Auction Six-Yard Saris, Raise Hope For Covid-Hurt Artistes

Covid-19 has turned life topsy-turvy for everybody. For practitioners of classical art especially, the past few Covid-hit months have been excruciatingly painful. With Sabhas in Chennai, the Mecca of Carnatic music, shut and no live concerts, the artists have been caught in a pincer-like situation. On the one hand, their income flow has stopped. On the other, their live connection with the audience, too, has snapped. More than anybody else, the disadvantaged artists are worse off. These tough times call for mutual empathy and sympathy. Well, the pandemic has seen top female artistes in this part of the world coming out to aid fellow-artists who are in distress at the moment. Funds for the folks, and disadvantaged folks, at that! This is an initiative facilitated by Panchavarnam Silks. Eighteen top female artistes from the world of classical music and dance (Aruna Sairam, Bombay Jayashri, Sowmya, Chitra Visweshwaran, Sudharani Raghupathy, Priyadarsini Govind, Nityasree Mahadevan and others) have donated a six-yard sari each to help this cause. The saris were put on auction. The money thus raised will go to support the disadvantaged artistes and their families in these stressed-out times. These aren’t yards of fabric. Well, these 18 have given yards of hope to their fellow-artistes.

L To R : AM Rajagopalan, EK Dhilipkumar, Abhigya Anand and Srirangam Ravi

Astro Take On Covid-19: What Does The Crystal Ball Reveal?

There is a joke in Tamil, “After allopathy, homeopathy, naturopathy, only Tirupathi.” As the pandemic raged, astrologers sprouted like mushrooms in the monsoon on YouTube. Tamil Nadu is particularly addicted to astrology. But where did these futurists go wrong in predicting the course of this scourge from Wave 1 to 2, and now watch out for 3? The 95-year old stalwart of the astro world, AM Rajagopalan, erstwhile editor of Kumudam Jothidam, a popular Tamil weekly, lucidly tells us about the very unusual planetary configurations from December 2019 onwards, when Saturn and Jupiter were impacted by the invisible Rahu. According to this much sought after savant, from September 2021 onwards, Corona’s deadly intensity will diminish. Abhigya Anand from Karnataka made news for accurately foreseeing the conjunction of six powerful planets aligned in a line, portending great danger from a pandemic that would shake the world. EK Dhilipkumar, another popular social media Jothishi has his disclaimer – “Can Doctors cure every malady? We can’t predict the course for every event or calamity.” His logic, Rahu is an invisible planet, the “paapa graham.” He foresees that the pandemic will start self-limiting by mid-2022. Srirangam Ravi also talks about planetary effects of Mars, and mainly Jupiter who starts his movement from June 21, and will give significant relief in September, and a collective sigh of relief by November.

Rewind 2005: Advani and Vajpayee at a rally in Mumbai

How Vajpayee-Advani Jugalbandi Created A Saffron Wave

In Pakistan it is said history begins at midnight 14 August 1947. Vinay Sitapati’s book Jugalbandi: The BJP Before Modi suggests a similar trajectory for the ruling party’s amnesia today for anything that came before; however a long time ago In a polity far away there was Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani, a world away from today’s ruling jugalbandi. The word itself suggests an equal music but it is rarely so. From distinctly diverse backgrounds: Advani fluent in English, Vajpayee a poet in his native tongue. Organiser and Orator. Unique skill sets that created their own niches in the party. The book dutifully chronicles their early encounters with each other as RSS workers and Advani’s unwitting part in derailing Atalji’s bete noire Balraj Madhok. Vajpayee the first time MP and Advani his dutiful backroom boy to how they matured into a champion duo with one leading and the other happy in a subservient part by turns. Alas while the friendship endures Advani is not a part of Vajpayee’s Camelot which slowly takes shape after his move to Delhi and his reconnecting with Rajkumari Kaul his college sweetheart.  The lady’s influence cannot be discounted; She provides him with conversation, confidence and a convivial environment for his meetings and confabulations. Advani is conspicuously absent from these now dominated by  Brajesh Mishra and Ranjan Bhattacharya, the Kaul’s son in law and husband of Vajpayee’s pet adopted daughter. Advani’s sunset years have been less painless, his standing in the party he nurtured itself in doubt. In the end the epitaph from Amit Shah was “They were afraid to fly the flag of Hindutva fully”.
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The Other Side Of Bhimsen Joshi

“Ganyarache Por” (Singer’s Son) is the Marathi title of Raghavendra Joshi’ s memoir. In English, however, it is presented as “Bhimsen Joshi, My Father,” indicating the book’s essential dilemma. It inhabits an unusual space in that it is neither the usual hagiography of the ‘authorized biography’ nor is it a mere muckrake. The Singer’s Child writes uninhibitedly about his father’s twice-married life in a warts-and-all tale. Though generally affectionate about its subject, it’s accompanied by revelation and detail.  Among the many biographies of the concerned vocalist even the most celebrated – Mohan Nadkarni’s – rarely delves into the personal space. Books like this alluded pussy-footedly to the singer’s dual marital status discreetly, usually creating the impression that after an unhappy prior relationship or even due to the death of his first wife the Pandit remarried. This book tries to undo the airbrushing and is quite candid about the mechanics of the dual household. It is unabashedly a quest for some justice for his late mother and himself for the litany of humiliation heaped on their first family by the second. The book abounds in these; from the singer’s surreptitious flight to Nagpur with his supposed pupil to the often precarious existence of the early years of his semi-abandoned family. It is even a fight for recognition as the father was sometimes ambivalent about their status. The writer is frankly envious and deeply saddened by the discrimination practiced by his father. Unfortunately, Raghavendra passed away in February 2020
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VK Krishna Menon’s Dark Side

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh’s biography of VK Krishna Menon — A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of V.K. Krishna Menon — based on fresh archival material, reveals that the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru entrusted Menon with responsibilities such as the post of high commissioner to the UK and defence minister, although Nehru had himself diagnosed Menon as suffering from depression and dark mood swings, as early as 1938. When asked to leave as high commissioner, Menon in a letter acknowledged to Nehru that he took sedatives and hypnotics, but insisted that the barbiturates were not habit-forming. The mercurial Menon, who had strong likes and dislikes, usually created divisions wherever he worked. As defence minister Menon played havoc. He encouraged army chief General PN Thapar to humiliate and charge-sheet two of the most outstanding officers in the Indian Army, General KS Thimayya and General SPP Thorat, who were later exonerated. He instigated his favourite, General BM Kaul, to hold a court of inquiry against Lt General Sam Manekshaw, who was to be later appointed India’s first field marshal. Clearly, even the best of leaders can be fickle-minded – and a disaster.

Benazir Bhutto: Making Money The Pakistani Way

One more book on Pakistan’s first woman prime minister Benazir Bhutto hit the book shelves sometimes back. The Bhutto Dynasty, authored by Owen Bennett-Jones, while tracing the turbulent history of the Bhutto dynasty, also reveals about her views on corruption. “Politicians everywhere, the former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto argued, made money. The difference was that while Western politicians did so after they left office, their counterparts in the developing world did not have that option. The U.S. journalist Ron Suskind once put it to her that his high-level sources in the U.S. government had told him that she was making ‘real money’. There was no denial. Rather she said, “Let me explain how it works. In your part of the world Dick Cheney is vice president and then he goes to Haliburton to make his money. In this part of the world, you make your money whilst you are in office. It is not that different.”

Vajpayee Years: An Insider’s Account

Post retirement there is a tendency among most bureaucrats to pen a book of their years in the government job. The latest to join the writers’ hall of fame is Shakti Sinha, an IAS officer who served as private secretary to the late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. His book Vajpayee: The Years That Changed India provides an insider’s account of Vajpayee days as prime minister.  He says whenever there were any crisis or controversies, Vajpayee never blamed the Opposition. People do not know how difficult it was for him to form a government in 1998 and run it. Vajpayee held the post of the prime minister for three non-consecutive terms in 1996, 1998-99, and from 1999-2004. Despite numerous political difficulties, he took important decisions like going nuclear and, paradoxically, extending a hand of friendship to Pakistan. The book highlights how resolutely Vajpayee defended India when the Kargil war broke out. And yet how his government was denied a second term.
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Azim Premji: Billionaire With A Heart

Sometime in the mid-nineties Wipro’s Azim Premji – the 10th richest Indian with a net worth of $7.2 bn — won the prestigious Business India’s Businessman Of The Year Award. After the award function, he was chatting with Business India’s editorial team and narrating a story about his son Rishad’s persistent demand for a car. “After much persuasion by my son, I finally agreed to let him have a car,” shared Premji. Knowing Premji’s net worth, the editorial staff of the Business India assumed it would be a Merc or Ferrari. Yet, their curiosity got the better of them and one scribe asked, so which car was it. “I sanctioned him an Indica,” said Premji nonchalantly. There was a pin drop silence. But that’s the stuff Premji is made of: Simple Living, High Thinking. The man who has donated over $16 bn for charitable causes is not looking for headlines. He shuns the Press. In fact, his wife Yasmeen who worked for Business India’s sister publication Inside Outside is very much like him – low profile and not-ostentatious. So the new book by two journalists Sundeep Khanna and Varun Sood Azim Premji: The Man Beyond Billions should make for an interesting read. The book brings out his simplicity. He loves chocolates, travels economy class and prefers to take the subway while in New York.  All these qualities indeed make him a cut above the rest.

Confessions Of A CBI Director

Former CBI Director RK Raghavan, who was the chairman of the Special Investigative Team constituted to probe the 2002 Gujarat Riots, revealed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, kept his cool right through the marathon session of questioning and never parried questions. In his autobiography A Road Well Travelled, Raghavan said: “The SIT’s unequivocal stand on the chief minister’s role was unpalatable to his adversaries in the State and in Delhi. They engineered petitions against me, accusing me of favouring the chief minister. The grapevine had it that they misused central agencies to monitor my telephonic conversations. They were, however, disappointed not to find anything incriminating.” Raghavan’s book sheds light on the gruelling interrogation that Modi was subjected to. “At one point of time, SIT had to question Modi on the various allegations made against the state administration. We had it conveyed to his staff that he had to come in person to the SIT office for this purpose, and that meeting him elsewhere would be misconstrued as a favour. He readily agreed to come to the SIT office within the government complex in Gandhinagar. Modi’s questioning lasted nine hours and he kept his cool right through the marathon session which ended late at night. He never parried questions. Nor did he give the impression of padding up his responses,” the book points out.

Atul Kulkarni: Jumping The Curve, After Happy Journey

Atul Kulkarni, 56, a top Marathi actor, a national award recipient (Chandani Bar) says one should jump off a curve’s peak to restart life from the beginning of another. That’s why he has quit a Trust engaged in promoting quality education, specifically among tribal children. Announcing this on FB, he said he had headed the NGO, Quality Education Support Trust (QUEST) for 14 years since its inception and it was time to jump off. With its action and research oriented pedagogy and training,  QUEST has reached 2.6 lakh students, 9,000 teachers, 5,600 schools and anganwadis  across Maharashtra. After these long years, the moment coincided with his peak in the Trust. It also coincides with the concept of vanaprasta and semi-retirement which meant ceasing to be in a position of authority, especially in public life but implies he wasn’t abandoning being active in life. He would be its “list of friends”.  No word about his acting career, though.

$2.5 Mn: Why Aren’t We Talking About This, Ms Rihanna

Well, that’s the amount for the Tweet that launched a thousand ships against India. For the Delhi cops, this is all a part of the very original Greta Thunberg ‘Tool-Kit’ that earlier sent thousands of tractors rampaging through the Capital on the Republic Day, delivering India its Capitol Hill moment. According to investigative website The Print, international pop star Rihanna was allegedly paid $2.5 million (Rs 18 crore) by a Canada-based Public Relations firm to tweet in support of farm protest. The PR firm’s Tool-Kit for Dummies (leaked by ‘Child’ Greta by mistake) instructs the protestors on a range of goals: how to Disrupt ‘Yoga and Chai’ image of India; Watch out for Physical Actions during the first-of-its-kind Farmer’s March/Parade into Delhi on Jan 26th; and how to create a Twitter Storm. The PR project clearly has all the hallmarks of a well-funded conspiracy – and it’s designed not to stop at the repeal of farm laws. Now after disclosures on Rihanna, Twitter is afire with guesses on what inspires former porn star Mia Khalifa to support farmers. And we are asking: Why the paid tweet didn’t carry the tag of the sponsored or commissioned content?

Arun Shourie: Preparing For Death

His family has been a great votary for euthanasia and both his parents walked the talk. So it is hardly surprising to see the 79-year old Arun Shourie writing his 20th book aptly titled “Preparing For Death”. For many the title of the book may seem morbid and negative. Not so for Arun Shourie who is known to take the bull by the horns. Shourie has shifted his base from the power centre of Delhi to the quiet, idyllic Lavasa near Pune. He has played an interesting innings, donning the hat of the economist, journalist, author and politician. But, over the last three-four years, this Ramon Magsaysay Award winner has become bitter with NDA’s dispensation. He is particularly peeved with the Prime Minister Modi for not giving him a cabinet berth. Post-NDA’s first win in 2014, there were strong rumours that Shourie would become the Finance Minister but that did not happen. Disappointed, he along with other disgruntled party colleagues like Yashwant Sinha and Shatrugan Sinha, went all out against Modi during 2019 elections. But of no avail. The man who once praised Modi sky high reportedly told his media friends that his eternal regret in life is that he supported Modi.

Swara Bhasker: Actor-Activist

If you ever wonder what made a talented actor like Swara Bhasker an activist that may see her lose a promising career in Bollywood then you should read her foreword in the book Inquilab: A Decade Of Protest. This is a collection of articles penned by various activists like Anna Hazare, Kavita Krishnan, Rana Ayub, Nayantara Sehgal, Ramachandra Guha etc. Swara writes that she grew up in defence services gated colony as her father is Commodore C Uday Bhasker, now retired. The colony consisted of three multi-storeyed buildings occupied by the families of officers serving the defence forces. The separate lift and staircase for officers and servants intrigued the 10-year old Swara. Now, segregation based on hierarchy in the armed forces isn’t a new thing. But this discrimination disturbed her? So she asked her father: “Is it not like our own kind of apartheid?” Her father smiled and told her: “Well, if you think it’s wrong you should do something about it.” Encouraged by her father, she did protest and took a signature campaign but of no avail. Like charity begins at home, so too for her, the crusading started at home.

What’s A Smart Phone To A Superman: Big B & Aditya Puri

In today’s tech-driven world life evolves, revolves and devolves around a smart phone. But, this news may come as a shock and surprise to many that this just retired super banker never carried one. Aditya Puri, to whom all the credit goes for building the country’s most valuable bank, seem to be uncomfortable with the electronic leash, as many see it. But, that has not stopped Puri from ensuring that HDFC Bank adopts cutting-edge technology to keep its stakeholders enthralled. Then we have one more superman – a superstar actually – who carries the latest smart phone but never answers it because it is always on the silent mode. This revelation came from Big B’s son Abhishek at The Kapil Sharma Show. He said, “Since dad gets too many calls, he never answers the phone. He asks people to send him an SMS or a WhatsApp text and then he will answer the phone.” Abhishek then laughingly added, “But dad never reads SMS or WhatsApp on time.” He then went on to narrate an incident where his mother after boarding the flight from Kolkata to Mumbai messaged to the family group “Boarded”. On landing she said “Landed”. “Dad saw the message a good 7-8 hours later and messaged mom ‘Have a safe flight’. But she was already home, had her dinner and had gone to sleep,” said Abhishek.


Technology Cannot Disrupt Original Content Provider: Short Post Editor

They say time flies. How true!  Today is our #SecondAnniversary. Two years back at the height of Covid-19 Pandemic when lockdown was the way of life we took a leap of faith and launched Short Post (Jan 28, 2021), the first-of-its-kind website in the country that focuses on Authentic Gossip. The Oxymoron is deliberate. Well, the response has been quite encouraging. That’s what has kept us going. Till date we have posted close to 2000 stories in the areas of Politics, Business, Entertainment and Sports. Each insightful story of around 225 words has been contributed by Senior Editors. There is a sense of satisfaction of creating a new segment in the market – authentic gossip — and in the process creating a brand (in a limited sense), creating demand (readers) and creating supply (writers). Well known advertisers — IDFC FIRST Bank, ICICI Lombard – supported us.  And that really boosted our confidence. Thank you!

So here we are raring to go.  But, when I look at the media landscape the disruption is indeed fast and furious. Technology is playing a very big role in how content will be consumed. In the past, we have seen how social media has disrupted the media world. Now, everybody is saying the same thing about ChatGPT. It has reached 1 million users in five days. Its scorching pace of growth is indeed frightening and will disrupt the media industry big time. My limited argument is can it do investigative stories, write gossip items using the digital world ecosystem. Unlikely. Clearly, the original content has to be created first — only then can ChatGPT do the magic. That’s what we promise to do – focus on original content.

Before I sign off, I am reminded of an old advertisement of the early sixties: “Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars. So we try harder”. Likewise I can say, we are two years old and we are trying even harder to be relevant to you readers.