Sunday Long Reads: Best and worst of Independent India, the legacy of Ebrahim Alkazi, and more

New Delhi |

Published: August 9, 2020 11:56:37 am





1984 anti-Sikh riots, Bishen Singh Bedi, sunday eye, independence day stories, eye 2020, indianexpress, independence day special, A young girl with with national flag at Taj Hotel on the eve of Independence day. (Source: Express Archives)

Bishan Singh Bedi: “With years, this too shall pass”

Elder by a year to independent India’s midnight’s children, I have aged with our beloved nation. I have seen this country face several crises but I could never imagine that a disaster of this scale would strike us. I feel deeply saddened with the lives lost due to the present pandemic but experience has taught me to grin and bear it, to not succumb.

There had been another time in my life when I had been confined at home, worrying about my safety and that of my family. That was in October 1984, when the country was witnessing the anti-Sikh violence. A few months earlier, in June, I was one of the two beneficiaries of the Cricketers’ Benefit Fund Series (CBFS) in Sharjah, along with Imran Khan. With the money I got, I bought some farmland outside Delhi, hoping to settle in the peaceful countryside. But when even the capital wasn’t safe for us, it was unthinkable for a Sikh family to live in a secluded area on its outskirts. For close to nine months, my family and I had no roof over our heads. Sometimes, we would stay with friends who were gracious enough to host us, and, at other times, we were at my employers’ Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) guesthouse.

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Uttara Baokar: ‘Anything that begins has an end’

Independence Day, Indian Independence, Uttara Baokar, eye 2020, sunday eye, indian express news Indian soldiers drag a truck in NEFA during the 1962 Sino-Indian war. (Source: Express Archive)

After 18 days of intense fighting, the war in Kurukshetra was over. In the palace, in my role as Gandhari in Andha Yug, I received news that my eldest son, Duryodhan, had been killed. I fell to the floor of the stage and wept. As a dark auditorium watched, Gandhari raised herself, gathered her sorrows and confronted Krishna. “Tum yadi chahtey toh ruk sakta tha yudh yeh (If you had wanted, you would have stopped this war),” she cried. The play, directed by MK Raina, was staged in 1986. Dharamvir Bharti wrote it in 1953, in the aftermath of the Partition and World War II.

At three, I did not realise the importance of freedom. I began to understand things during other wars — with China in 1962 and with Pakistan in 1965 — when loud, wailing sirens warned of air raids by Chinese or Pakistani aircraft. Entire cities plunged in darkness. People hid under beds, clutching one another. Everything could be obliterated in a flash.

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Narayani Gupta: ‘Time and again, Delhi has opened its gates to the helpless and hopeful’

eye 2020, sunday eye Time goes by: The Jamali Kamali Mosque in Mehrauli, Delhi (Source: Wikimedia)

Age does not increase wisdom, it merely adds layers of recollections. The brain sifts out what it wants to retain and saves them as memories. These are often complicated by knowledge from hindsight.

1951: Silent City

Scrambling through the bramble, we came up short against a mosque; its courtyard had a corner enclosure. We were wonderstruck. The interior was a luminous carpet, covered entirely with stucco work in rich colours. (Delhi’s Jamali Kamali Mosque is now part of the Mehrauli Archaeological Park; the tomb-chamber, brutally vandalised, is kept locked).

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Raghunath Mashelkar: ‘There is no limit to human endurance, imagination and achievement’

covid 19, Raghunath Mashelkar, independence day special, scientist, covid-19 pandemic, indianexpress, sunday eye, eye 2020, The long journey: The nation’s responsibility is towards children of families thrown into extreme poverty by the pandemic (Source: Express Archives)

You might say these are crazy dreams. Can a country, which has so many deprived, so many people below the poverty line, so many illiterates, really do it? What gives me the confidence that it can happen?

This confidence comes to me because of the images of a little boy, who, in the late 1950s studied under streetlights and went barefoot to school until he was 12 years old. A little boy, who struggled to have two meals a day; a little boy who was about to leave studies in 1960 after his matriculation, in spite of securing a position in the top 30 in Maharashtra State SSC Board, because his poor widowed mother could not support his education. This boy was helped by this gracious Indian society…Today, he is giving this address as the president of Indian Science Congress at the dawn of the new millennium in the august presence of our Prime Minister. If this miracle can happen to an Indian, given an opportunity, it can happen to every Indian, and most certainly it can happen to my India in the coming millennium.

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Feel free to unfriend

social media, eye 2020, sunday eye With me or against me: Is Web 3.0 an entertainment-hate complex? (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

When Tay Tay (aka Taylor Swift) sang Haters gonna hate (hate, hate, hate, hate), eventually starting one of the most persistent hashtag and meme, she was on to something. Often celebrated as a disregard for what negative people say and think, and following your true bliss (you know, you be you bae), this anthem perhaps is a little bit more than that. It is also a stark reminder that the hater is not just one exceptional person who bullies, trolls, intimidates and abuses. No, if we were to take our social-media worlds seriously, we will have to accept that we are all haters. And we hate all the time.

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How three Mumbai teenagers designed a game for the visually-challenged

eye 2020, sunday eye Touch and go: The team behind Vision Beyond.

Whenever Yashovardhan Kothari, Dhruv Jhaveri and Dev Kapashi hung out together or went on trips, they realised that not all board games were fun for Jhaveri’s younger brother Moksha, 13, who is visually challenged. It prompted the three teenaged friends to design one for Moksha and those like him.

“We didn’t find many games for the visually impaired in the market and those that were there were expensive and had to be imported from the US. So we started brainstorming and asked Moksha various questions on what he was looking for so that we could fill the void in the market,” says Kothari, 17, a Class XII student of Mumbai’s BD Somani International School.

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Remembering Ebrahim Alkazi, a demanding but compassionate mentor

Ebrahim Alkazi, theatre, MK Raina, Safdar Hashmi, NSD, National School of Drama Renaissance man: Ebrahim Alkazi during an exhibition of artist KG Subrahmanyan at Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi. (Photo: Express archive)

In 1967, I came from Kashmir as a young boy to study at the National School of Drama (NSD), whose director was the formidable Ebrahim Alkazi. It was my second or third visit to Delhi, the city that would become home once I was accepted at the drama school. NSD was very tough. You couldn’t bullshit your way through. Everything was professional and strict schedules had to be followed. Alkazi understood India very well, understood that these boys and girls were coming from all over the country and what he needed to do to mould us.

When I look back, I realise that the first lesson he gave us was on the dignity of labour. He was doing a production with our seniors called Three Sisters, by Anton Chekov, He gave me a jar of car polish and cloth and asked me to shine the entire stage. We didn’t know how to polish a stage but we had to do it. When we finished, he said, “Now you have to do backstage”. He taught us meticulously how one walks to change the sets within seconds when the blackout happens. There should be no noise, one had to move on one’s toes. He would rehearse that with us many times till we perfected it. That sense of pride I felt to backstage last till date.

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Ten important ideas for Indian restaurants this Independence Day

Suvir Saran, Slice of Life, Independence Day, Indian restaurants, Indian food, Indian cuisine, Indian culinary tradition, authentic Indian food, eye 2020, sunday eye, indian express news Innovation ought to be the driving force when creating a new restaurant or hotel. Time ought to be invested in hiring the right chef, sommelier, mixologist, designer and architect. (Creative by Aamir Rabbani)

In celebration of India’s Independence Day, 10 words need to be recognised, reflected upon and grasped as paramount ingredients that drive the restaurant industry. If we do not appreciate their significance, we will not rise correctly to the call of the pandemic.

Inequity in wages paid to women compared to their male counterparts needs to be eliminated. Unfairness is injustice that harms us endemically. We need more women in the workforce and we need to provide for them appropriately. A gender-equitable employee base is a wonderful way to maintain a professional environment. Testosterone levels — and the behaviour they elicit —are easily checked when women are empowered with leadership roles.

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Do animals understand the concept of freedom?

eye 2020, sunday eye A free bird: Animals revel in freedom just as much as we do (Source: Ranjit Lal)

Ever since the COVID-19 lockdowns kept nearly the entire population of the world incarcerated in their homes, cartoonists have had a gala time showing animals strolling “downtown”, peering into our windows and passing snide comments. There have been any number of videos also depicting much of the same — deer jaywalking on the streets, bears disporting themselves in people’s lawns, leopards sneaking around on the lookout for pet dogs and so forth. Some of us huffed and puffed indignantly — how dare these wild things infringe on our personal spaces, quite forgetting that we were the ones who turfed them out of what were their homes in the first place (I hate crocodile wranglers so much because they jump on the backs of crocs and bind them up with rope and duct tape just because they’re reclaiming someone’s swimming pool, where once a lovely marsh used to be).

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