“We usually hear people say that Hindi is the language of Hindus and Urdu is the language of Muslims. A language cannot belong to a religion,” Shabana Azmi told a packed audience at the Jaipur Literature Festival, while discussing the role of language and poetry in the cultural discourse of a nation.
“Urdu belongs to everyone,” the Bollywood actor said to an audience of all ages that appreciated the nuance of her comment with a spontaneous round of applause.
Shabana was emotional while talking about the legacy of her father – Kaifi Azmi – who used poetry to promote the equality of women – way back in the 1930s.
Shabana was speaking in a session titled “Jan Nisar and Kaifi” along with her lyricist and writer husband Javed Akhtar (son of writer Jan Nisar), and diplomat-turned-author Pavan K Varma, who has translated Kaifi Azmi’s work in English.
The conversation moved to the role of Urdu poets in the pre-independence era. It is interesting to note that many Urdu poets in the early 20th century were revolutionary poets. Of course, there were romantic poets too. But a few crossed the line or were seen to be doing both, as the ‘Progressive Writers’ Movement’ shaped up in the 1930s.
The famous freedom-slogan “Inquilab Zindabad” (Long Live the Revolution!”) which was first used by Bhagat Singh after bombing the Central Assembly in Delhi in 1929 and is since used in many Bollywood movies, was in fact conceived by Urdu poet Hasrat Mohani who has also famously written the legendary romantic song “Chupke chupkeraat din” (sung by Jagjit Singh).
“I always remember my father as a revolutionary writer,” Shabana said reflecting on her childhood. “Only when Pavan (Varma) translated (Kaifi’s work), I realized that his writing is romantic.”
Kaifi played a major role in the Progressive Writers’ Movement (in Urdu: Anjuman Tarraqi Pasand Mussanafin-e-Hind), which was started in London when a few Urdu writers met there. Then they came to India in 1935 and met writers here in Lucknow. The thought behind the movement was that let our writing not be just about romance but also about social issues.
“I feel this movement needs to be revived,” said Shabana.
Shabana and Javed are keen to preserve the legacy of their legendary fathers – Jan Nisar Akhtar and Kaifi Azmi – by compiling their literature in two, separate anthologies.
KiwiBuild chief, Stephen Barclay, has left the organisation after just five months in the job. According to reports, he was on leave since November 2018, while the government denied rumours about his resignation in December last year. He was hired in May to lead the government’s ambitious scheme to build 100,000 homes in a decade.
The resignation has caused strong criticism from the opposition party leaders.
The resignation does not bode well for KiwiBuild, which has already shown itself to be a much more difficult beast than Phil Twyford, or the government seem to anticipate, says National Party housing spokesperson Judith Collins said in a statement.
The Government’s flagship KiwiBuild programme is “in crisis” with head Stephen Barclay resigning, says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“Phil Twyford can’t even manage his own department – how can we expect him to plan and build 100,000 new houses?
“This is the danger of putting the Government in charge of a massive house building programme.
“Twyford must urgently move to cut planning red tape so that the private sector can take over and build the houses New Zealanders need.
“We have a housing crisis because regulation has made land artificially scarce and houses expensive.
“The latest manifestations are in Auckland and Wellington where students are paying to share beds and sleep in living rooms.
“KiwiBuild will not add to the housing supply and will not solve the housing crisis.
“The Government is simply buying existing private sector homes, placing a KiwiBuild logo on them, and adding a set of bureaucratic rules around who can buy them.
“Phil Twyford should be getting to the source of the housing crisis by tackling red tape, something he campaigned on in opposition.
“The Government was elected to solve the housing crisis. Nine months in, it is desperately failing.”
The government’s ambitious scheme of building homes came under fire when it was reported that some of the initial homes were not sold to “low-income” families, but to professionals like doctors and marketing managers.
If you thought that the popular Jaipur Literature Festival is about interactive forums of writers and journalists engrossed in endless discussions on the world’s socio-economic and cultural issues, think again.
While the famous event on the literary calendar offers intellectual bonanza of author-sessions, there’s more to enjoy at this annual feast of art and culture.
Let’s look at the highlights of the events that historically draw crowds at the Jaipur Literature Festival and offer entertaining options for a diverse taste in Indian culture.
The Jaipur Music Stage
The Jaipur Music Stage, which runs in the evenings from 24 to 27 January as part of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, is your passport to go on an intense discovery of a world of music in the course of four exciting days.
The Festival Bazaar
At the Festival, during or in-between the sessions, take a stroll through a pulsating bazaar where artisans and designers display and sell a range of products: embroidered shawls, exquisite minakarijewellery, funky stationery, edgy gifts, chic couture, spiffy footwear and home décor.
Each year the Festival celebrates Jaipur’s built and cultural heritage in a series of breathtaking events supported by Rajasthan Tourism. This year these will be at the Jawahar Kala Kendra and the Amber Fort.
If you are literary group and will do anything to stalk your favourite authors and queue up at dawn to buy their latest book as soon as it hits the stores, the Festival has special book-signing kiosks at all venues and you can get authors like Anita Nair, Anuradha Roy, Ben Okri, Colson Whitehead, Gulzar, Germaine Greer, Jeffery Archer, Shabana Azmi, Shashi Tharoor, Sohaila Abdulali to sign copies on the sidelines of their sessions.
The Delegate Experience
While the Festival is open to all, a special experience can be sought through curated Delegated Packages which give an opportunity for a close-up view of the Festival.
A Culinary Treat
The five days of festivities at the Festival also offer a chance to indulge in a delectable culinary affair.
Art at JLF
Whether you’re a fan of Marc Quinn, arguably one of the leading contemporary artists or have a soft spot for the various traditional art forms of India, or just want a stunning backdrop for that picture perfect moment, there’s plenty of art going around at the Festival.
In what could be described as an ‘elections masterstroke’, the Modi government has agreed to provide a 10% reservation in education and jobs for the economically weaker sections (EWS) among “general” category.
This quota will be in addition to the existing 50% reservation available in government jobs and educational institutions for back classes (the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes) – thus the total quota will now be 60% once the necessary amendment is made to the Indian constitution’s Articles 15 and 16. Currently, the constitution does not allow reservation on the basis of economic conditions.
So who will benefit from the new 10% quota?
It is expected to help people with an annual family income of Rs 8 lakh or less. While calculating the family income, all members of the family – the beneficiary, their parents and siblings below 18 years, and spouse and children below 18 years.
Who are not eligible for the quota
People who own houses bigger than 1,000 square foot.
Residents with annual family income exceeding Rs 8 lakh.
Those who own agricultural land above five acres.
The ruling BJP government is only a few weeks away from national elections, and this quota is expected to win the support of the general category of voters or the “upper caste” as many leading media reports have described the beneficiaries.
The NDA government kept the bill highly confidential, with only a handful of ministers aware of what was cooking, even as a bunch of bureaucrats burnt midnight’s oil to get the draft ready.
“Yes, in principle, quotas are wrong! But if they have to be provided then this probably is the best way to offer them,” says Auckland-based Prashant Belwalkar, who welcomes the new quota. “It is laughable when you hear Tejaswi Yadav saying the idea of the reservation was not to eliminate poverty but to remove the years of neglect of the lower caste! Then use the law which forbids discrimination on grounds of religion, caste, creed! Why have a reservation; if getting acceptance as an equal human being is all that was needed, then giving reservation was not going to solve it! Lets dump reservation then!”
No matter the season, the lineup of events in Auckland in 2019 will have something for everyone.
As well as events, the number of hotels and other construction projects that will be completed in 2019 will excite many Aucklanders and visitors to Auckland.
Check out our top ten list of events and experiences taking place in 2019
The new year kicks off with a smack of cricket bats and whack of tennis rackets with both the Burger King Super Smash T20 and ASB Classic; space enthusiasts can go “Above and Beyond” with a new immersive aerospace exhibition at MOTAT; and theatre-lovers can venture into a whole new world with Disney’s Aladdin – The Musical.
It doesn’t stop there with an exciting array of sporting events, music events, exhibitions, theatrical shows, exciting hotel openings, and new tourism experiences all taking place throughout 2019, alongside Auckland’s annual calendar of events.
Auckland’s city centre is undergoing exciting transformation, which includes four world-class hotels opening in 2019 including the five-star SKYCITY Horizon and Park Hyatt; additionally, New Zealand’s largest property development, Commercial Bay, is on track to be finished by September.
The $1 billion project will bring together high-quality retail, food and beverage, its own luxury hotel and the new PwC Tower.
Another exciting prospect for 2019 is saying goodbye to the winter blues with a new and uniquely Auckland winter festival serving up a variety of different food and lighting events across the region in July.
With so many events and experiences to choose from all year long – alongside the region’s stunning natural playground, range of tourism activities and delicious food and beverage options – Auckland is the perfect destination for everyone, at any time of the year.
Here’s a sample of events we’re excited about in 2019:
1. Disney’s Aladdin – The Musical, The Civic, Queen St (3 January – 10 February)
One of the world’s most raved about musicals is finally hitting New Zealand shores! Aladdin: The Musical is based on the 1992 Disney animation Aladdin – sing-alongs from the audiences are expected.
Celebrate Chinese New Year and the Festival’s 20th anniversary! More than 800 handmade Chinese lanterns will light up the Auckland Domain where you can enjoy the tastes of Asia, watch live music, dance, and martial arts performances; then top it all off with the spectacular fireworks finale. With free entry, it’s great weekend of fun for all ages.
3. Cirque du Soleil – KOOZA, Alexandra Park (15 February – 3 March)
The famous Cirque du Soleil is bringing another incredible show to New Zealand in 2019. KOOZA returns to its circus origins with a performance that focuses on stunning acrobatics and the art of clowning.
4. Baking school opening at Chelsea Bay, Birkenhead (early 2019)
Chelsea Bay, a sugar factory on Auckland’s North Shore, recently relaunched tours around its factory floor and opened a new cafe. In early 2019, they will offer adult and children’s baking lessons in the Edmonds Baking School, which is bound to be the source of many amateur bake-off competitions amongst work colleagues, friends and family.
5. Pasifika Festival, Western Springs Park (23-24 March)
Pack a picnic rug, and step into the relaxed but vibrant atmosphere that can only be Pasifika. Pasifika Festival is made up of 11 unique villages – each with their own performance stage and market setting – that showcase the cultures of 11 Pacific Island nations. Wander the market stalls for delicious food, plus traditional arts and crafts.
6. Park Hyatt Auckland, opening May
This will be the first Park Hyatt hotel in New Zealand. This exciting project is an exemplar of what the Wynyard Quarter revitalization is all about: quality design and builds at the highest sustainability standards and a site use that contributes to economic activity on the waterfront.
7. Commercial Bay, opening September
The Commercial Bay project is set to transform Auckland’s CBD and waterfront. The $1 billion project will bring together high-quality retail, food and beverage, its own luxury hotel and the new PwC Tower. Commercial Bay will be a great hub to grab a bite to eat, catch up with friends over a few drinks, and for treating yourself to a fabulous shopping spree.
8. Auckland Diwali Festival (October)
Celebrate our most vibrant Indian festival with food, entertainment, dancing and crafts. Diwali is an important and ancient Indian festival celebrated throughout India and in Indian communities around the world. The Auckland Diwali Festival brings Aucklanders and visitors of all ages and ethnic backgrounds together to celebrate and experience Indian culture in its many exciting forms.
9. International and domestic sporting events – throughout the year
Kick off the year in the sun at the ASB Classic watching tennis superstars from around the world, or from the stands at Eden Park for upcoming international and domestic cricket matches. Then later in the year, warm up your winter by cheering on your favourite netball, football and rugby teams. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for other local sporting events, including any announcements for the Auckland Tuatara – our local heroes of baseball!
10. Top international and local live music in Auckland – throughout the year
From international acts to music festivals and the best of home-grown artists, you can hear the best in Auckland. Check out Splore or St Jerome’s Laneway Festivals, or grab tickets to Lily Allen, Greta Van Fleet, Mumford & Sons, Six60, Florence + The Machine, Eagles, The Hollies, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Kiss, Don Giovanni presented by APO and much, much more!
While the New Year brings up many health-related resolutions, for a Hamilton (NZ) chef fond of unhealthy food, the fitness regime started a few months earlier, with his selection in the Royal New Zealand Navy.
Thirty-seven year old Ordinary Chef Sharfuddin Shaik credits his weight-loss to the five-week long training at Auckland’s Devonport Naval Base of RNZN which started in August.
The former chef at a restaurant bar in Hamilton admits to leading an unhealthy lifestyle. “I was a chef with bad eating habits,” Sharfuddin says. “A lot of deep-fried, greasy food.”
All that changed when he had passed the RNZN’s physical tests, but he had to overcome one more barrier – getting fit and losing weight.
After a rigerous training and strict Navy diet, he had lost nine kilograms and was very happy about it.
“My weight bothered me,” he says, as he looks forward to his training to be a chef in the RNZN. “In civilian life I was 82 to 84 kilograms. I would check it, and I knew what my body mass index (BMI) ideal should be. Now I’m 75kg. It makes me feel younger.”
He credits the physical training required of Basic Common Trainees, with 5km runs and swimming every second day, as well as the cross-country runs, physical evaluations, and marching.
“And it’s eating healthy food every day.”
His extra weight and the unaccustomed rigors caused him initial problems early in his training, with knee pain and minor injuries. But as he lost weight and got fitter, those issues faded.
“No pain, no gain,” he said.
He had always wanted to join the navy and when living in India applied to join that country’s navy. He had been watching documentaries of the 1999 Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan and was interested in the Indian Navy’s role.
“I applied when I was 21 but I failed my exams,” he said. “Twenty-one is also the upper age limit for applications in India.”
He came to New Zealand in 2007 and gained his citizenship in 2013 NZN chefs.
“I saw that there was no upper age limit – you just needed to pass the fitness and aptitude tests. So I applied in 2016, the processing took a year, and then I was here.”
He said his wife had been very encouraging about his move to the RNZN.
“In the first two weeks, everyone got homesick, but you bond as the days go by,” he said.
He is aware he is older than a lot of his classmates, and he knows if the weight goes back on, he won’t keep up.
“I’m very careful now and my fitness is comparable to the others. I want to stay at this level all the time.”
As India’s popular literary event matures into its 12th year, the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival is aiming to provide a platform for the issues of successful women in conversation.
Beginning 24 January, the cold lawns of Dinghi Palance in Jaipur will witness this five-day carnival of discussions and debates featuring successful Indian women who have overcome cultural and financial barriers, have fought the stereotypes and transformed the popular views in the mainstream psyche.
In a session titled ‘Mithali Raj: The Warrior Skipper of Indian Cricket’, the most popular woman cricketer in the cricket-crazy country will speak her heart out about her journey and more importantly the challenges she faced as recounted in her recently-released autobiography. The all-time leading run-scorer for India and Padma Shri awardee will expose gender stereotypes and skewed opportunities for women players and discusses the way forward for an environment that actually rewards grit and talent.
Similarly, Usha Uthup – with her unusual voice that has won millions of heats through her songs in 15 Indian and eight foreign languages will share her experiences in conversation with Sanjoy K. Roy in ‘I Believe in Music’, talking of what music means to her and her all-encompassing belief in its power.
In ‘Healed: Life Learnings from Manisha Koirala’, the cancer-survivor actor will share the highlights and lowlights of her career, relationships and her battle to overcome ovarian cancer. A candid session about the physical and emotional turbulence of her life post-diagnosis, the power of prayer, positive thinking and the long and intricate process of healing, this session will give the bare bones story of a dauntless journey and hard-won survival.
But the conversations are not just limited to sport and entertainment.
The stark and unadorned ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape’ will have Sohaila Abdulali share her heart-rending story of being gang-raped as a teenager more than 30 years later.
Similarly, journalist Abdulali will discuss her latest book, written from the point of view of a writer, counsellor and activist and a personal and professional testament that reaches out to victims and survivors. Abdulali throws light on the tortured silences around rape.
Priyamvada Natarajan, Professor at Yale and acclaimed author of Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos, will open the curtains through “map the heavens” across the cosmological discoveries of the past century. Her gift for making scientific theory accessible to audiences and her commitment to developing strategies to enhance numerical and scientific literacy make for easy learning.
Silicon Valley-based classics scholar Donna Zuckerberg re-appropriates the legacy of the ancient Greeks and Romans and repositions it in a larger context. In conversation with biographer Patrick French and writer Sharmila Sen in ‘Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age’, she dismisses the myopic and sexist vision which colours the study of the classics and the unparalleled wisdom found in Ovid, Euripides, Marcus Aurelius. Her book is a grim account of misogyny, toxic white supremacy and some very flawed history proliferated online by the Alt-Right to muscle its way into the venerable study of antiquity.
Associate Professor Veer received a Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching award from Ako Aotearoa National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, presented at a parliamentary ceremony by the Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins. The award represents years of commitment and support for learners that go far beyond good teaching practice.
Associate Professor Veer says his passion for teaching is inspired by the work of his grandfather who, despite growing up in poverty in India, sought education and succeeded in law. His grandfather gave back to his village and adopted city of Muzaffarnagar by building schools that enabled thousands of Indian children – especially girls – to access education and escape poverty.
He now teaches and fights for equity and fairness as a sign of respect for his grandfather’s work as an educational activist, he says.
“I teach because I am the product of education as a social elevator. Without education I would not be where I am,” Veer says.
He joined the University of Canterbury in 2010 from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. He started out in business after his undergraduate studies at Waikato Business School, but soon returned to academia, realising that the greatest impact on his life had come from teachers, rather than business leaders.
Associate Professor Veer has a track record of teaching excellence, both in New Zealand and prior to that at the University of Bath. He has previously been recognised with a UC Teaching Award and five Lecturer of the Year Awards from the UCSA since 2010.
Last year he was presented with UC’s Teaching Medal for 2017. The Teaching Medal is awarded in recognition of an outstanding and sustained contribution to teaching at UC. The University’s highest award for teaching excellence is only awarded from time to time, and has been awarded 10 times in total.
The recent demise (on 24 February 2018) of Bollywood superstar Sridevi has encouraged a frenzied discussion in Indian media about the dangers of varied fads related to Bollywood and overall glamour industry – ranging from unnatural crash diets to excessive cosmetic surgeries, use of steroids, and so on. These are driven by the obsession to look good at cost, at any age, at any time of the day. The common question being asked is – how far do we want to go with this, and is it worth it?
We live in an age where we are bombarded with images of women (and men) who are an epitome of Cleopatra – perfect looks and right clothes – if any. And this beatification of women is not limited to traditional media – it is on social media too – which is mostly self-created content. The race to the most beautiful face on earth seems to be ongoing – 24 hours a day, across all continents, races, and media.
This race starts pretty much early in life – with parents putting up beautiful pictures of their babies – and those who are not able to or refuse to keep up with the norms or trends get trolled on social media. The pressure continues into college days which is full of official competitions based on looks and appearance. This leads into beauty pageants first at the college level, and then at regional, national and finally international level.
Women are stereotyped and certain social norms imposed on them – which are based on our collective preferences and prejudices. Such prejudices are epitomized in beauty pageants in India. In fact, the socio-cultural beliefs manifest well in such beauty pageants, which drove one researcher to study Indian beauty pageants in detail.
“When I started my research on campus beauty contests in South Bangalore in the 90s, many of my colleagues raised their brows with ‘Why? Aren’t beauty contests mere fun and entertainment? What is there to research in it?”, recalls Dr Sukanya Kanarally, a researcher and former associate professor at Bangalore University. “I had to argue that such contests, whether local, regional, national or international, need to be analyzed because they not only reflect social constructs of gender but also of nationalism and globalization.”
Dr Kanarally recently spoke at the Victoria University of Wellington at a seminar organized by New Zealand India Research Institute. Dr Kanarally completed her doctoral studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India and has worked as Associate Professor at Bangalore University for more than 15 years. She conducted her research on the beauty contests held in a women’s college in Bangalore that she worked for along with some of the neighbouring colleges in south Bangalore for over ten years.
“I try to trace the changes in the very way such contests were organized, thus reflecting the larger socio-political scenario in India.”
Dr Kanarally believes that beauty pageants are not just for entertainment, but serve a wider purpose – creating consumers, and building a multi-billion dollar global beauty industry. “As we know, a strong correlation exists between pageants and free-market policy.”
For example, a Russian contestant won Miss World in 1992, soon after the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia agreed to open its markets to the West, says Dr Kanarally. “Interestingly none of the countries in communist rule had won a beauty title (till then).”
Aishwarya Rai won the Miss Wold title in 1994
A similar trend could be seen in India as well, as we saw the likes of Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen winning the international beauty pageants in the 1990s – the decade following India’s liberalization of its economy. The open economy, with growing consumerism, needed Indian models. After all, a Cindy Crawford would find less acceptance in the mind of Indian consumers. So Indian brands needed Indian models.
Ironically, the Indian beauty pageant winners became endorsing international brands than Indian brands in India. Aishwarya Rai, for example, has never been a major endorser of Indian products, says Dr Kanarally. “Products like Coca Cola, LʼOreal, Lux International beauty soap, Longines (Swiss watches) are some of the brands endorsed by Aishwarya Rai who famously declared that if she won the contest, she would prefer to be the ‘cultural ambassador’ from India. Contrary to her statements she has even endorsed skin whitening products like White Perfect from LʼOreal.”
Commercial interests, it seems, dictate the norms of these beauty pageants. To that end, these contests need to feed to specific social expectations. After all, beauty is “not” in the eyes of the beholder, she says. “Beauty is a discourse that is politically shaped.”
Women expected to live as per societal expectations, and beauty pageants are no exception. In 1960, Argentinian Miss World Norma Gladys was threatened with disqualification for drinking alcohol, cites Dr Kanarally. “Similarly, the 1965 Miss World (from UK) and the 1969 Miss World (from Sweden) faced prospects of being dethroned for posing nude.” And in 1973 and 1974, the Miss World winners from the US and the UK were dethroned for not ‘fulfilling their responsibilities’. “Their crime? One had multiple boyfriends and the other had dared to become a single mother!”, says Dr Kanarally.
Ms America Nina Davuluri (image courtesy: Instagram @ninadavuluri)
And our definition of beauty is also specific – tall, fair, thin, and of course, belong to a certain ethnicity and race. When Nina Davuluri won the Miss America title in 2013, most of the news headlines referred to her ethnicity: “Miss America Crowns Its First Indian-American Winner”, wrote Pop Sugar. Twitter went into a frenzy with racist remarks against the Indian origin winner. Some even went to the extent of calling her an “Arab” and a “terrorist”.
To the popular mind, the epitome of beauty has to meet the standards propogated over decades of media stereotypes. There has never been a fat Miss World, even though thinness is not a cultural universal norm even in the West, says Dr Kanarally. “There has never been a short Miss World either. Even the Black Miss Worlds are light complexioned too. In other words, Miss World is useful shorthand for the representational relation between deeply unequal nations and seemingly equal contestants. Take the instance of Miss Nigeria of the 2001 pageant who was described as ‘a white girl in black skin’.”
Having multiple ethnic identities is never easy. It was never easy anyway – whether living in India or outside India. In a sense, India is complicated – a Muslim can be Gujarati-speaking in Gujarat or Malayali-speaking in a southern Indian state.
However, second-generation Indian migrants face similar dilemma while living outside the country. Multiple ethnic as well as national identities get mixed over generations, giving rise to sometime funny acronyms like ABCD (American Born Confused Desi), which sums up the cultural and linguistic confusion often characteristic of children of migrating families.
And this is not unique to Indians – many migrants from other ethnic groups face similar issues – which is not surprising in the global, virtual world we live today.
And at a panel discussion at the recent Jaipur Literature Festival, not one but three panelists had mixed ethnic backgrounds, and who have chosen to become writers in their own right. Syrian-American journalist and former civil rights laywer Alia Malek was one of the panelists, who spoke about her book “The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria and A Country Called Amreeka: US History Re-Told Through Arab American Lives.” She shared her experience of how Syrians are written about with an outside view, as if Syrian citizens, the insiders, cannot provide an objective view of their life.
Mixed-ethnic experience provides an undertone to cultural memoirs: (From left) Abeer Hoque, Juliet Nicolson, Keggie Carew, Alia Malek and Amy Tan
Similar experience of stereotypes was shared by another panelist, Nigerian-born Bangladeshi-American writer Abeer Y Hoque. Talking about her book publishing experience, she mentioned how publishing agents of different countries reacted differently to her manuscript.
After reading her memoir, her American agent wanted her to change the American section of the book, with some exotic elements to fit American perceptions of Syrian migrants. And wait, her Indian agent had problems with the Bangladeshi elements in the book. She wondered if she showed the manuscript to a Nigerian agent, they may want the Nigerian section changed as well.
Abeer pretty much summed up the experience of many migrants with mixed ethnic backgrounds: “I’ve felt a little bit out of place in all of the places I belong.”
Popular Chinese-origin American author Amy Tan expressed a slightly different opinion: “Belonging was to do with values inculcated by parents during childhood, rather than one’s country of origin. She, like many migrants, doesn’t feel so sure about her privileges as an American in the Trump era, as non-white citizen, even though she was born in the US.
The discussion became candid when Juliet Nicolson (grand-daughter of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson) shared an intimate truth about her life – how alcoholism had devastated her mother’s life, eventually killing her. Juliet pretty much saw history repeating when she herself took to drinking heavily. Writing a memoir was, in a way, Juliet’s way to give voice to her mother.
In fact, alcohol, as the Telegraph writes, was the dark thread linking mothers to daughters throughout “this gilded tale of life in magnificent houses,” as described in Juliet’s candid book “A House Full of Daughters by Juliet Nicolson”.
Dr Hashem Slaimankhel, a well-respected community leader from Auckland, lost his life in a suicide bomb blast in Afghanistan, which killed at least 95 people.
Dr Slaimankhel, who was a co-founder of Afghan Association of New Zealand, was on visiting his family in Afghanistan when a Taliban suicide bomber struck in Kabul.
Omar Slaimankhel, Dr Slaimankhel’s nephew and a professional rugby player told media that his uncle’s wife, son, and siblings have flown to Afghanistan to join other family members for the burial.
Dr Slaimankhel was one of the former board members of Auckland Regional Migrant Trust, and was “very active within various migrant communities,” said the Trust in a Facebook post. “Condolences to his family. It’s a great loss.”
One of the key events in India’s literary calendar, the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2018 (#ZEEJLF) will open tomorrow and continue its legacy as a diverse and equitable platform for literary and artistic expression across languages, religions, countries, politics and genres.
The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival programme boasts of a range of speakers from far corners of India and the world, and will continue to be a platform for social, moral, and economic debate that changed the cultural landscape of our country.
This year the Festival presents marquee names including, celebrated American novelist Amy Tan, award-winning playwright & screenwriter Sir Tom Stoppard, Booker-winner Michael Ondaatje, Paramita Satpathy Tripathyan influential voice in Odia fiction-writing recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award, acclaimed travel writer Pico Iyer, Padma Bhushan awardee writer and art historian B. N. Goswamy, former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, internet sensation and performance poet Rupi Kaur, cult young adult writer Anthony Horowitz, Sahitya Akademi awardee Hindi writer Mridula Garg, Gruffalo creator and the enticing children’s author Julia Donaldson, Manoranjan Byapari the acclaimed Dalit writer from Bengal, Suki Kim, the first undercover journalist in North Korea, Pulitzer-awardee of Spotlight fame Michael Rezendes, acclaimed Kannada novelist and playwright Vivek Shanbhag, Bollywood personalities Anurag Kashyap, Sharmila Tagore and Soha Ali Khan, Padma Vibhushan awardee danseuse Sonal Mansingh, Bridget Jones creator Helen Fielding, tabla wizard Zakir Hussain, Sahitya Akademi awardee Kiran Nagarkar, popular writers Ashwin Sanghi, Amish, Chetan Bhagat, and businessperson & anthropologist Sudha Murthy and several others.
There is much to look forward to at Jaipur BookMark (JBM), the business segment of the Festival, providing the much-needed B2B support and infrastructure to the global publishing industry converged at the Festival. JBM will be held at JBM Haveli in Diggi Palace and has a host of sessions, roundtables and masterclasses.
Starting tomorrow the city will be overtaken by a deluge of cultural and heritage events spilling beyond the four walls of Diggi Palace with over 400 events in 10 venues,including the Music Stage at Clarks Amer, and two special heritage sessions at Amer Fort and Hawa Mahal respectively, supported by Rajasthan Tourism.
The Festival’s carefully curated sessions offer a wide array of themes encompassing poetry including sessions like Hasso, Hasso, Phir Hasso, milk and honey, Nude: The Poet Within and more, gender studies with The Feminine Gaze: Women Writing Memoir, Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and likewise, children’s writing, crime writing, environment, the vast canvas of Indian languages, journalism and media including Sansad: Inside Parliament, Rajasthan: Badalte Mahaul Mein Media, Across Barbed Wires, and Undercover in North Korea: Facts and Fictions, Bollywood, several Rajasthan focus sessions, business and economy, Asia/China/Southeast Asia, history, sociology, Shakespeare, religion and identity, sport and many more.
This year the Festival is working with 51 different corporate partners, education institutions, government departments, trusts and foundations who support the event and celebrate the core values of democracy and equality it stands for.
This year the Festival has booked 4,000+ hotel nights to host over 500+ speakers and over 178 musicians, who will participate in 205 sessions, 19 concerts of infectious music played morning and night. The Festival, produced by Teamwork Arts, has an essential team of 375 volunteers and crew of 300 who make the event run smoothly.
Namita Gokhale, author and co-Director of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, said, ‘It’s lovely to be backstage at Jaipur watching the Festival come alive before my eyes. Seeing the faces of eager young volunteers reminds me of the tremendous youth energy that is harnessed and also unleashed at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival. Literature is an infectious form of magic, and shared stories and narratives reinforce our human bonds and understanding, and we welcome one and all at the Festival to join in this magical Celebration of the word”
William Dalrymple, author and co-Director of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, said, “We have gathered talent from across the globe—from Afghanistan to Patagonia and Tasmania to Turkey—to present writers of genius as diverse as the great literary critic Homi K. Bhabha, travel writer Redmond O’Hanlon, terror expert Peter Bergen and the theoretical particle physicist Lisa Randall. We import some of the world’s most admired playwrights and novelists, including Tom Stoppard, Michael Ondaatje and Amy Tan. We delve deeply into areas of world literature we have so far failed to explore, notably the novelists and poets of Scandinavia, Syria and West Africa while returning to examine eternal classics such as the works of Conrad, Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf.”
Sanjoy Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, producer of the Festival, said, “The city of Jaipur comes alive in January with the sounds of music, of words and ideas, discussions and debates. Where else can you listen to the best minds from across the world, take in the beauty and heritage of the magnificent Amber fort, dine out amongst the stars and meet up with old friends!!”
India is a tremendous area of potential growth for New Zealand trade, believes Glenn Coldham, Head of Customs in NZ for DHL Global Forwarding. “We are very encouraged by moves to bring forward an FTA between our two countries to reduce barriers to trade including duty.”
Glenn was speaking in Auckland at a workshop conducted by India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC), focusing on dealing with various logistical issues, while doing trade with India.
“At times we do experience inconsistencies with moving sea and air shipments out of India due to the complexities of documentation and associated approvals to allow cargo to move without delay.
“However, it is very pleasing to know India has started to reduce that complexity with the new GST introduction as part of those improvements.” Glenn expressed his positivity on the changes being introduced in the Indian market.
India is a very large and attractive destination for companies intending to expand their markets internationally and businesses have the option to enter the Indian market either with or without direct investment, says TMF Group’s Company Secretary, Siddhartha Sharma.
“There are a number of very flexible structures that can be used, such as, branch office or representative office right through to incorporating a private or public company and this will depend on the business’s operations and vision.
“Recent Government moves to put more of the compliance processes online and provide a fast track route to incorporation have lessened historical complexities but it is crucial to have the right service provider to assist you with your Indian set up and operations.”
However he reiterated that the documentation requirements are still substantial, rigid and complex.
With the implementation of the new GST regime in India, the country can now boast of One Country, One Tax, says the newly appointed Honorary Consul of India in Auckland, Bhav Dhillon.
“There is still differentiation in product categories. With the onset of the digital economy and progress in e-registration of companies, now it’s becoming even easier for companies to do business with India. This was reflected in the fact that India has leaped 30 spots to the number 100 spot, in the World Bank’s latest global ranking on Ease of Doing Business,” said Bhav.
INZBC board member, Sameer Handa informed that India Unplugged as a series is aimed to help and educate the market on doing trade with India.
Shuchi Kothari, Associate Professor in Media and Communication at the University of Auckland, explores this in three short films which will be shown at the Auckland Art Gallery on 12 November.
Dr Kothari is an Indian New Zealander from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, who has lived in Auckland for over 20 years. She teaches screen production at the University of Auckland and has written award-winning films such as Firaaq, Apron Strings, and Coffee & Allah.
Among Dr Kothari’s three films screening at the Art Gallery is her directorial debut Shit One Carries. “My labour of love,” she says.
The 17-minute film, directed and written by Dr Kothari, deals with Avi, a middle-aged Silicon Valley engineer, who returns briefly to his childhood home in India to care for his bedridden father. Their prickly relationship is in contrast to the warmth Amrutdada shares with all his professional caregivers especially Natthu – a young attendant responsible for wiping bottoms and bedpans.
One afternoon, everything goes out of kilter when Amrutdada has diarrhoea and Natthu is not on call. Avi panics. He tries desperately to get someone – anyone – to clean up after his father.
“When forced to perform the unpleasant task himself, Avi realises that to clean his father’s shit, he must let go of his own crap,” says Dr Kothari.
Her other films screening are: Fleeting beauty – about an Indian woman giving her Pakeha lover an unusual history lesson with more than a hint of spice, and Clean Linen set in the summer of ’84 when a nine-year-old Kiwi-Indian boy discovers a family secret only to realise that some things don’t come out in the wash.
Talk to any visitor to New Zealand and the first things they are likely to comment on are the beautiful scenery and the friendly locals. Kiwis are seen as friendly, hospitable and inclusive – qualities highlighted in a new programme launched in New Zealaland: ‘Welcoming Communities’ or Te Waharoa ki ngā Hapori.
“We want newcomers to know that their cultures and identities are valued and that opportunities exist for them to get to know us well,” says Steve McGill, General Manager, Settlement, Protection & Attraction for Immigration New Zealand.
“We want them to fulfill their potential to contribute and be part of New Zealand’s prosperity.”
Councils in five regions are working with their communities to pilot Welcoming Communities, which puts out the welcome mat to newcomers: migrants, former refugees, international students and family members.
The pilot communities taking part are: Tauranga/Western Bay of Plenty, Southland, Whanganui, Palmerston North, and Canterbury.
Communities that make newcomers feel welcome are likely to enjoy better social outcomes, greater social cohesion and stronger economic growth. In this environment, everyone is able to fully participate in the economic, civic and social life of the community.
Building connections between locals and newcomers mean everyone feels included and knows they belong.
It’s not just New Zealand that sees value in being welcoming. Welcoming Communities is part of an international movement. Countries running similar initiatives include Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States of America.
Can hackathons make education more accessible for girls in India? While India takes pride in its IITs and IIMs, a large number of girls quietly drop out from education school-level onwards. Want to change that? Here’s your chance with ‘Hack4Her’ – a unique hackathon organised by Women’s Education Project India, in association with TechGig and Random Hacks of Kindness India.
You swell with pride when your child bids you ‘bye’ happily at her school gate. Her education is her passport to an independent life and a confident future. But are all girls in India this fortunate?
Female literacy in India stands at just 65.46% (2011 census), when the world average is 79.7%! Further, the school dropout rate amongst adolescent Indian girls is 63.5%. Which means that most girls going to school right now will gradually fallout from the education fold and may get into employment or family life even when their education stands at bay.
This may sound like a common practice at many households and the outcomes stand out as child brides, young mothers and women with little or no access to basic necessities in life.
As we read this quietly wearing a thoughtful look, a big question stands tall – are we doing enough to bridge the gap between Indian women and their education?
Of course the government and other agencies are doing their bit but what about the rest of us? Each of us is an agent of change and there is no dearth of opportunities to bring about any change.
Women’s Education Project (WEP) India – an international organisation which supports women education – has organised a unique hackathon titled ‘Hack4Her’ to find new-age solutions to promote women education in the country. WEP India has joined hands with TechGig and Random Hacks of Kindness India for this unique contest which invites everyone to share ideas and ways to promote women education, and welfare at large.
Anybody – irrespective of age, gender, location, or education – can submit his disruptive ideas to help bridge the gap between women and education at the TechGig website. One can submit his idea either in PPT or PDF formats. Speaking of this association, Dipti Tandon, Product Head, TechGig said, “We are excited to partner with Women’s Education Project and Random Hacks of Kindness India for Hack4Her. At TechGig, we strongly believe in making women the forefront of all endeavours. We have the Geek Goddess series where we celebrate the feats of women coders exclusively. We are hopeful that Hack4Her will give light to many ideas that will boost tech solutions to enhance women education.”
Ramathreya Krishnamurthi, Business Head, TimesJobs and TechGig too expressed his aspirations from this hackathon. He said, “India is marching on to become a progressive society, however women-related issues continue to be ignored and that is a big drawback in our society’s mobilisation. With Hack4Her, we hope to have not just one or two, but more than a dozen of bright ideas that will ignite the cause of women education in India. TechGig is committed towards making technology a forefront of our daily lives and we keep hosting world-class coding contests to promote that idea. Being part of this hackathon is one such move. We invite everyone to share their ideas to promote women education”.
The team from Women’s Education Project India India is equally excited about this partnership. “Women’s Education Project -India conceptualised the idea of Hack4Her in the context of some real challenges faced by a woman to pursue her education in India. Here, we are talking about women in rural parts of the country who drop out due to various socio-economic reasons. By addressing some of the resolvable challenges, through this hackathon, we are talking baby steps to ensure our women in the coming generations don’t drop out of schools and colleges for reasons that could have been just a hack away. This hackathon in one step closer to make a woman self-reliant and independently empowered through education,” said Shruthi Dinkar, Director, Women’s Education Project India.
The participants too are excited about this contest. Since this hackathon was made live on TechGig, more than 1,916 registrations have already happened. This is just an initial number which is rising with every passing day.
On his maiden visit to India in his current capacity, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the two discussed stepping up effective cooperation to combat terrorism in all its forms and promoting regional stability and security.
The India Prime Minister noted the firm upward trajectory in the bilateral strategic partnership following the positive and far-reaching talks with President Trump in June this year.
Modi shared the resolve expressed by Secretary Tillerson on taking further steps in the direction of accelerating and strengthening the content, pace and scope of the bilateral engagement. They affirmed that a strengthened India-US partnership is not just of mutual benefit to both countries, but has significant positive impact on the prospects for regional and global stability and prosperity.
In the context of President Trump’s new South Asia Policy, Prime Minister noted the commonality in the objectives of eradicating terrorism, terrorist infrastructure, safe havens, and support, while bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.
Earlier in the day, Secretary Tillerson also had detailed discussions with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
Typically this time of the year, Boulder (USA) witnesses an odyssey of autumn colors with the cottonwoods, aspen and maples trees decorating the side walks with golden leaves. This time, however, it is witnessing a display of culture and literature with 70 eminent authors around the world descending for the third-edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) in Colorado.
India’s Ambassador to the United States, Navtej Sarna, joined in two sessions at the Main Boulder Public Library on 15 and 16 September. Sarna, is also the author of the novels “The Exile” and “We Weren’t Lovers Like That”, the short story collection “Winter Evenings”, and non-fiction works including “Indians at Herod’s Gate”, “Second Thoughts”, and “The Book of Nanak”. Sarna has served as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ambassador to Israel, Secretary at India’s Foreign Office, and also as its longest-serving spokesperson.
Sarna spoke at the inaugural session Freedom to Dream, which was the theme of the Literature Festival. The session was underpinned by a provocative dialogue about diverse topics like migrating, poets, American dreams, globalism, nationalism, climate control, feminism and ancestral cultures.
Sarna explored the benefits of the growing interest in literature in India which is celebrating 70 years of independence. “We have come a long way. Where we once had few writers, we now have many and the journey of our literature’s outreach to the world is one of the most significant aspects of this journey as Indian writing has now been brought to the world. India is now a literary destination and a reading destination and the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival has led this growth.”
Sarna also participated in the session The Untrod Path: Writing Travel: Christina Lamb, John
Huston, Lori Erickson, Navtej Sarna and William Dalrymple. In a suddenly shrunken planet, the
conventions of travel writing are being challenged by more experiential insider accounts. Five
panelists speak of their very different approaches to recording and sharing their journeys with Irene Vilar.
“Descriptions of the peaceful and lavender filled gardens of the 800-year-old Indian hospice in
Jerusalem moved me to a much deeper understanding of this land and the people who call it holy.”
said Sarna in his exploration of his own father’s story, adding that “the barbed wire was rolled up many years ago but the virtual barrier between east and west Jerusalem still remains.”
During his final session – Second Thoughts: A Writer and a Diplomat, Sarna discussed his books on subjects as varied as romance, religion and history, in conversation with John Elliott.
“Sikh history is a young religion, just 500 years old. But it is replete with dramatic events in this period: a lot of the martial aspect, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of battles. All that together is a huge area waiting to be written about,” said Sarna.
International performers, the Kalika Kala Kendra dance group, will bring centuries-old traditions to life on the main stage at the 2017 Auckland Diwali Festival, being held in Auckland’s central city next month. This is the 16th year of the Auckland Diwali Festival, which will take place at Aotea Square and Queen Street from midday to 9pmon Saturday, 14 and Sunday, 15 October.
The free, family friendly festival showcases and celebrates traditional and contemporary Indian culture, including dance and music, food, fashion, arts and crafts, and street-theatre, ending with the famous Barfoot & Thompson fireworks finale.
The renowned Kalika Kala Kendra dancers, who will travel to Auckland from Ahmednagar in Maharashtra State, India to perform at Auckland Diwali Festival, were founded by Marathi film star and social activist Rajashree Nagarkar to provide girls in her nomadic community with a livelihood.
They are experts at the romantic folk dance style known as ‘lavani’ – a combination of traditional song and dance performed to the quick tempo beats of dholki, a percussion instrument.
While the origins of lavani date back to the 1560s, it wasn’t until the 1700s that the musical style came into prominence as a form of entertainment and morale booster for weary soldiers.
The dancers wear 9 metre long saris and heavy jewellery including a wide belt at the waist. Their ghungroos, or ankle bells, can weigh as much as 10-15kg.
Charmaine Ngarimu, Head of Major Events for Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), says Auckland is shaped by a rich ethnic mix of people and traditions.
“The Auckland Diwali Festival is an opportunity to celebrate and connect with local Indian communities. It’s a must do event in Auckland’s major event calendar, and the popularity of the festival continues to grow every year, attracting tens of thousands of people during the weekend.”
Asia New Zealand Foundation Executive Director Simon Draper says the Auckland Diwali Festival brings together many different Indian communities.
“This festival is an opportunity that gives these communities the chance to share their own special cultural traditions and foods with the wider Auckland community. We’re delighted to still be supporting this iconic event 15 years after it was first held.”
The Kalika Kala Kendra dance group will join more than 800 local performers, including regular festival favourites BAD (Bhangra Auckland Da), Raunak Punjab Dee, and the Khottey Sikkey Dance Group, and the hotly contested Radio Tarana Bollywood Dance Competition and the Indian Weekender Mr and Ms. Diwali contest.
The Kalika Kala Kendra dance group is visiting New Zealand courtesy of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the High Commission of India and Air New Zealand.
Mahendra Sharma has been appointed president of the Waitakere Indian Association at the association’s recent AGM meeting on 10 September in Auckland. All of the association’s new and existing Board members embody the spirit of community and bring talent, expertise and energy to the table, says says Sharma. “We are very fortunate to have them by our side as we continue to strengthen community in Waitakere.”
Speaking at the event, Minister for Community and Voluntary Sector, Alfred Ngaro, said that the Indian community has been contributing positively not only to the New Zealand economy but also culturally and events such as Holi and Diwali bring all Kiwis together to celebrate the great diversity in our country.
A new partnership was also signed between Waitakere Indian Association and Best Pacific Institute of Education. Speaking on behalf of Best Pacific Institute of Education, the Community Development Manager Li‘Ilolahia said, “Partnership with Waitakere Indian Association is a pivotal for the growth of education sector in West Auckland as the institute provides free education for various courses and the ethnic people can increase their skills by availing such opportunities provided by Best.”
The Trustees of Waitakere Indian Association also honoured five new life members who have not only contributed to the welfare of the Indian Diaspora in West Auckland but also to the community at large.
There are more than 180,000 Indians living in New Zealand and Hindi is the fourth largest spoken language.
Since its formation in 2000, Waitakere Indian Association has been working with various government agencies and local Indian associations in promoting, advocating and integrating the Indian Diaspora, culture and values with the Kiwi way of life.