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LitFest: a celebration of languages

India’s popular Jaipur Literature Festival will bring together writers from across India representing a multitude of diverse languages this month.

India’s colourful literary heritage will be a focus at this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival as it brings together writers from Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Nagamese, Oriya, Prakrit, Rajasthani, Sanskrit, Santhali, Tamil and Urdu writing. The programme explores the magnificent legacy of these languages while examining contemporary trends in writing.

Beginning 23 January the festival will feature 300 speakers from India as well as across the world.

Conversations will aim to sustain the vastness of national languages amidst galloping globalisation and draw on an incredible linguistic and literary legacy.

Rajasthani language finds voice in its distinctive syntax and variety of dialects –- the iconic Rajasthani poet Chandra Prakash Deval, a pioneer poet of Rajasthani literature Raju Ram Bijarnian, eminent authors Ritupriya and Madhu Acharya will speak of the rich heritage and linguistic traditions of the state in a session titled “Rajasthani Binya Kyaro Rajasthan”.

In a conversation with author Vishes Kothari, the panel will talk about the unique genius of Rajasthani literature in its many manifestations.

Author Anukrti Upadhyay

In another conversation, authors Vishes Kothari (who translates from Rajasthani to English) and Chandra Prakash Deval (convener of Rajathan’s Sahitya Akademi chapter) will speak to bilingual novelist Anukrti Upadhyay on Rajasthani writer, poet and litterateur Vijaydan Detha’s rich legacy of magical narratives.

Detha belonged to a family of bards and contributed enormously in bringing folklore and oral traditions into the mainstream of Indian literature. This session will feature Vishes Kothari’s vivid English rendering of the Timeless Tales from Marwar, a handpicked collection from Detha’s celebrated Batan ri Phulwari – literally “Garden of Tales”.

On the recent protests in the country against Citizenship Amendment Act, which provides a premise for religious discrimination, it could be interesting to hear the views of these authors on linguistic diversity at a time when Indian state is promoting “One Nation One Language” policy.

Athor Vishes Kothari

“Language has been the rallying point for various sub-national movements across the country,” writes Vishes Kothari in the First Post. “The recent push for the One Nation-One Language model has been met with sharp resistance and criticism from many parts of the country, including Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Rajasthan, on the other hand, is as quiet as quiet can be. It has been so for seven decades now.”

“Chandraprakash Dewal says that for 70 years now, generations of students have not had the chance to be educated in their mother tongue.” These conversations are likely mature at the festival.

Modern Hindi fiction represents a continuum between many pasts and an emergent present. Two prominent writers evoke the landscape of change. Kamlakant Tripathi’s recent novel Sarayu Se Ganga is a magnificent evocation of history and culture across the last century. Another prolific Rajasthani author Nand Bhardwaj’s latest collection of short stories Badalati Sargam also covers a range of themes that highlight the quirks and contradictions of a changing society. In conversation with celebrated Hindi author Anu Singh Chowdhary, they will speak and read from their new work.

Author Easterine Kire

A session titled “The Rivers, The Sky, The Self”, with four writers from north-east India, will speak of the landscape of memory, evoking folklore, oral narratives and the histories of their people. The panel consists of Esther Syiem, a bilingual poet, academic and playwright, who has also worked with oral scripting in Khasi; Easterine Kire, an award-winning poet, short story writer and novelist from Nagaland and author of the novel A Respectable Woman set against the decisive Battle of Kohima; and Mridul Haloi, winner of the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar in 2017 for the poetry collection Akale Aso Kushale Aso. The distinguished panel will be in conversation with academic and feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia and read from and speak of their work and the legacies of myth and memory.

The landscape of Indian literature is multilingual and multivocal with 22 official languages and thousands of mother tongues and dialects. “Many Languages One Literature” will be a session that interrogates and celebrates the unity in this diversity with three celebrated writers – Aruni Kashya, KR Meera and Shubhangi Swarup will be reading from their works in Assamese, Malayalam and English, as they discuss the literary and linguistic context of their inspirations.

Sanskrit has been the primary language of knowledge, learning and ritual in ancient and medieval India. Its rich traditions permeate most modern Indian languages, and its tremendous influence continues in every aspect of Indian life. It remains yet very much a living language, taught in schools, broadcast on All India Radio, and with over 90 publications published in it across the nation. In a splendid session, writers and scholars from across the world will discuss the grandeur, practicality and accessibility of Sanskrit and its role in the culture and daily life of modern times. The panel will feature Oscar Pujol, writer of the Sanskrit dictionaries titled Sanskrit-Catalan and Sanskrit-SpanishMadhura Godbole, programme head of the Sanskrit Language Department at the American Institute of Indian Studies; Makarand R. Paranjape, poet, scholar and Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies who has written extensively on pre and post-colonial Indian culture politics and society; Rachel Dwyer, Professor of Indian Culture and Cinema at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

News

New wage rates may impact work visas

Auckland-based immigration lawyer, Aaron Martin, believes that the government’s decision to increase the minimum wage could impact the eligibility of migrant workers for work and residence visas.

The New Zealand Government has lifted the minimum wage to $18.90 per hour effective April 2020 – before raising it to a $20 minimum wage by 2021.

Around a quarter of million workers will be better off next year, thanks to another $1.20 an hour increase to the minimum wage, the biggest equal lift ever,” says Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

The government estimates 242,000 workers will benefit, which includes people working on $17.70 and between $17.70 and $18.90 an hour.

The new rate will put an extra $48 per week before tax in the hands of employees currently on minimum wage for 40 hours a week.

The government derives its confidence in raising the minimum wage from a low unemployment rate at 4.2 per cent, with a prediction to add 43,600 jobs in 2020, and New Zealand economy growing at a faster rate than other OECD nations, including Australia, Canada, the USA and European countries. The rise in minimum wage is estimated to boost wages by $306 million annually.

“We’re implementing a balanced approach to the minimum wage increases and have provided certainty to businesses who told us they wanted to know how much the minimum wage will increase and when the changes were going to happen,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.

The starting out and training wages will also see a boost, with a rise to $15.12 per hour from 1 April 2020, remaining at 80% of the adult minimum wage.  

At the same time, migrants whose pay packet is not at the required threshold will either end up with a 1-year work visa (as opposed to 3-year visa) or be rendered ineligible for residence on 24 February 2020, says Auckland-based immigration lawyer, Aaron Martin

“Imagine a stonemason on an essential skills work visa who earns $21.25 per hour. On 23 February their job would be classified as mid-skilled and they would be granted a 3-year work visa. One day later their job will be classified as low-skilled because of their pay rate.

‘Or, imagine a carpenter who earns $25 per hour and is seeking a residence visa. On 23 February they are eligible for residence; on 24 February they won’t be.

“To still qualify for a visa under the new thresholds, these migrants on the cusp will need a pay increase of 2%. This may seem like only a small increase. But for an employer, a pay increase is not a quick and easy decision. Incremental increases can add up to make it unfeasible to employ a migrant.

“Pay rate is a factor outside the control of most migrants. These threshold changes disempower them from being able to secure a visa on a long-term basis with a view to making a commitment to our country.

Implications for the aged-care industry

Immigrants on visas make up a third of New Zealand’s 22,000 aged-care caregivers and 5000 nurses.

Aaron points out that the government recently granted a small window to the aged-care sector reclassifying some of their jobs as skilled employment. “Workers in the industry have also fought hard to get wages up to the $25 an hour benchmark for residence eligibility. This move will set the sector back again.

“Many migrant nurses and caregivers must now be reconsidering whether to stay in New Zealand.

Why now?
Employers in many industries say they would struggle without a supply of overseas workers.

The immigration system automatically adjusts wage levels as a result of annual review, say Aaron. “But continually placing the goal of residence out of reach leaves people disheartened and wondering whether there are greener fields elsewhere. In a globally competitive market for skills, New Zealand runs the risk of losing to the competition.

“Our immigration system is already under pressure from a large number of applications, and New Zealand is looking like an uncertain place to get residency.

Proposed work and residence visa payrate changes effective 24 February 2020

The new thresholds are based on the New Zealand median salary and wage rate of $25.50 per hour (up 2% from last year), equivalent to $53,040 per annum for a 40-hour per week job.

Skilled Migrant Category

1.       The threshold for gaining skilled employment points will change from $25.00 to $25.50 per hour for jobs at ANZSCO skill level 1,2, or 3, and jobs at skill level 4 or 5 that are included at Appendix 7 of the operational manual.

2.       The threshold for gaining skilled employment points will be $38.25 per hour for jobs at ANZSCO skill level 4 or 5 that are not included at Appendix 7 of the operational manual.

3.       The threshold for bonus points for high remuneration will be $51 per hour.

 Essential Skills Visa

1.       The threshold for mid-skilled employment will change from $21.25 to $21.68 per hour for jobs at ANZSCO skill level 1,2, or 3.

2.       The threshold for mid-skilled employment will be $25.50 per hour for jobs at ANZSCO skill level 4 or 5 in Appendix 7 (This visa was treated as an exception due to changes made at the end of October.)

The threshold for higher skilled employment for all other skill level 4 and 5 roles will change from $ 37.50 to $38.25 per hour

News

Government reverses immigration authority’s directives on arranged marriage visa

how to save marriage

Following a public backlash, the Government has reversed Immigration New Zealand’s directives which made getting a spouse visa impossible for migrants with arranged marriages.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says that the ministry has fixed an issue affecting how Immigration New Zealand has processed visa applications for culturally arranged marriages, which will now see a consistent process applied which ensures people with legitimate arranged marriages can visit New Zealand while also preventing any rorting of the system.

“Earlier this year Immigration New Zealand issued guidance to front line Immigration staff that made it significantly harder for people to get visas to visit their partner. That guidance no longer applies with today’s announcement,” the minister says.

The new process clarifies:

  • Those who have a culturally arranged marriage to a New Zealand resident or citizen can apply for a culturally arranged visitor’s visa.
  • The visitor’s visa will have strict assessment criteria attached to it to ensure only legitimate arranged marriages are approved and to stop so called mail order brides and other potential rorts
  • Once the partner has been living in New Zealand with their spouse they can begin the process to apply for a partnership visa while proving the legitimate nature of their nuptials.

“There were issues with the process Immigration New Zealand used to issue visas for culturally arranged marriages. It was inconsistently applied,” the minister says.

“The Government is now ensuring that people in a culturally arranged marriage can visit their spouses here subject to usual risk management processes.

“I will make a small change to instructions to allow Immigration New Zealand to provide culturally arranged marriage visitor visas to partners of New Zealand residents and citizens as the policy originally intended. This removes the need for work arounds, and maintains the ability to appropriately accommodate the cultural dimension around arranged marriages and have robust clear processes.

“Once they are here, the visitor period will help demonstrate the genuine and stable nature of their relationship in order to get a partnership visa.”

However, an immigration officer must be satisfied that the marriage ceremony genuinely occurred and followed an identified cultural tradition and there is a genuine intent to live together.

“Immigration New Zealand officials will also need to check the marriage followed an identified cultural tradition, including the facilitation of the selection of the persons to be married being done by people who are not parties to the marriage. This is to stop so called mail order brides or other attempts to rort the system.” Iain Lees-Galloway says.

This change will have an retrospective effect: those declined since May who are clearly eligible under the clarified process will be reassessed by Immigration New Zealand. Others will be able to reapply if they consider themselves eligible. Those who meet the new criteria will have reapplication fees waived.

Prior to these amendments only those who were planning to marry in New Zealand through a culturally arranged marriage within 3 months of entry could apply for this visa.

People who have married a New Zealand citizen or residence class visa holder, (or who are intending to marry in New Zealand, New Zealand citizens or residence class holders), may be granted a visitor visa authorising a maximum stay of 3 months from their date of arrival.

News

Allow kids to talk about sexuality – expert

Tracey Clelland, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

You don’t have to be an expert in sexuality education to help your child make sense of relationships and sex, says University of Canterbury’s (UC) Health Sciences lecturer Tracy Clelland.

Tracy spoke to 60 parents of 11 to 14-year-olds for her PhD research, and found that young people are learning about sexuality from many sources, besides school-based sexuality education, such as billboards, friends, news, social media, and everyday interactions.  “Schools play a role in sexuality education but so do parents and wider whanau,” she says.

“Parents play a part in supporting young people to develop a strong sense of self and healthy relationships. They play an important role in opening up critical conversations about the realities of relationships – rather than telling young people what to do, we should allow them to talk openly about sexuality topics relevant to their lives.”

Indian parents, who volunteered for the research, discussed how knowledge about the body was often “secretive”. “They discussed how it is often “uncomfortable” to talk about sexual matters with their children,” Tracey told The Global Indian magazine.

One such parent, Puneet, attended the focus group because she wanted to encourage parents to talk about sexual topics and make sure schools and families worked together. The shame of not knowing what was happening to her body as a young girl was a particular impetus for encouraging other Indian parents to talk with their children.

“With my daughter, I don’t want her to have all those myths or beliefs what I had in the past,” Puneet said. “I want her to be fully knowledgeable and go into relationships with an open mind so that she knows what she’s going to do and how it’s going to affect her. I don’t want her to have shame.”

Puneet has spoken with other Indian families living in New Zealand and encouraged them to “give knowledge in advance”. She hopes this will support newly married couples to feel less embarrassed about their bodies and build healthy relationships.”

“Don’t try to protect young people from the complexity, irrationality and joy of relationships. “Protection often shuts down the opportunity to engage with young people and contributes to young people feeling like they will be judged. If we want young people to think critically about issues like consent, pornography and gender, then parents play a part in supporting young people to do this.”

Tracy Clelland, University of Canterbury’s (UC) Health Sciences lecturer

Parents may need to first revisit their own sexuality education experiences, especially if they invoke uncomfortable or awkward memories, says Tracy

“Parents need to stop thinking of sexuality education as about the biological aspects of sex and embrace a holistic approach.”

“As a sexuality educator at UC for 12 years, teaching sexuality education with 19 to 22-year-old students, most of their discussion is around love, the complexity of relationships and the joy of relationships. For younger people one of the common questions is ‘how do I know if they like me?’”

Tracy’s own experiences with her teenagers have been positive.

“There is a lot of joy in talking about the realities of sexuality and relationships with your children. Allowing your children to share their opinions builds communication in families.”

Immigration News Study Abroad Work Abroad

US lacks high-skilled talent to stay competitive – CEO group

Ethnic people in New Zealand

The US saw a 14% decline in international business school applications—a steeper decline than any other country; Canadian and European MBA programs saw application increases.

Calling attention to the challenges the U.S. faces, 63 CEOs and deans from leading business schools in the US, have signed an open letter seeking a substantial change in the U.S. approach to high-skilled immigration. The letter expresses urgent concern that the U.S. does not have the high-skilled talent it needs or the capacity to train enough people with these skills to remain competitive in a global economy.

The CEOs are proposing pro-growth changes:

  • Removing “per-country” visa caps, modernizing the visa processing system, and reforming the H-1B visa program to make it possible for skilled migrants to have a reasonable chance of gaining entry to the United States.
  • Creating a “heartland visa” to encourage immigration into the regions of the United States that could benefit from these talented individuals.

Regions in which students desire to study are likely to be the winners in economic development because they are attracting talent—which has implications for homegrown talent as well by creating hubs of innovation and economic growth. Early Warning Signals: Winners and Losers in the Global Race for Talent provides a look into the current flow of talent into specific countries, citing data from GMAC’s 2019 Application Trends Report, an annual snapshot of admissions trends for graduate business programs.

Quality business schools are emerging around the world and the competition for talent is fierce, the sign of a vibrant marketplace, says Sangeet Chowfla, President and CEO of GMAC.  “Business schools don’t hold all the cards, however. Policy makers also have a responsibility to seed an environment conducive to student mobility.”

More Students choosing Canada over the US

In 2019, the United States experienced a 13.7 percent decline in international business school applications—a steeper decline than any other country in the world, and a drop that came amidst largely rising or stable applications everywhere else in the world.

Conversely, both Canadian and European programs saw application increases, which were driven primarily by rising international demand. For the US, these numbers are a worrisome indicator for the future mobility of talent—especially for business leaders who now cite the hiring and retention of talent as their number one concern, says GMAC report.  

Canada plans a million new residents by 2021

As a positive signal for the country’s future mobility trends, Canada saw an 8.6 percent uptick in international business school applications in 2019—a positive signal for the country’s future and mobility trends ahead. This follows on the heels of a 16.4 percent increase in the prior year. Canada also gained 286,000 permanent residents in 2017 and aims to have a total of 1 million new residents by 2021—with a focus on high-skilled labor. This positions the nation to yield economic benefits in the years and decades to come.

UK’s skills shortage to worsen

Three in five UK firms reported experiencing a more difficult time finding talent over the previous year, and 50 percent expected the UK’s skills shortage to worsen further in the future. However, 61 percent of UK business programs reported an increase in international applications in 2019 over the prior year, and the share of Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) score reports sent to UK programs has increased slightly since 2016, according to a report released by GMAC in March of 2019.

India continues to lose talent

The movement of talent from India to other countries continues, with increasing interest in domestic schools. The percentage of Indians sending their scores from the GMAT exam to United States business schools fell from 57 percent in testing year 2014 to 45 percent in testing year 2018, according to the most recent GMAC data. During that same period, the percentage of Indian GMAT test takers sending their test scores to Indian schools rose from 15 percent to 19 percent.

China now home to 6 of the Top 50 MBA programs

Similarly, Chinese business schools saw a 6.8 percent increase in domestic applications this year, and domestic volumes were up year-on-year at 73 percent of programs. While 86 percent of applicants to these programs currently come from within the region, the rising profile of China’s business schools could begin to attract more global candidates. China is now home to six of the Financial Times’ Global Top 50 MBA programs, including the fifth-ranked overall school, China-Europe International Business School (CEIBS). In 2009, just two of the top 100 were in China.

News

NZ Indian body condemns Sri Lanka attacks

The Waitakere Indian Association has condemned the terrorist attack on the Christian brothers and sisters, celebrating the Easter services across Sri Lanka.

As the authorities continue to deal with what is an unprecedented and abhorrent event after years of turmoil in the country, Waitakere Indian Association stands and extends our sincere condolence to the Christian community. Our compassionate thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and those who have been traumatized by this cowardly act of terror.

Waitakere Indian Association stands with our Sri Lankan community in New Zealand during this tragic time. No act of terrorism will divide us.

Health

UK public health urged to support vegan food

Vegan diet

The vouchers available to buy milk and animal-based vitamin D supplements should be extended to vegan food, says Vegan Society of UK.

Currently, under the Healthy Start scheme of NHS UK, the vouchers cannot be used for buying plant milk and there are no vegan-friendly vitamin D supplements available.

Dr Jeanette Rowley, of Vegan Society, and solicitor Edie Bowles from Advocates For Animals said the Healthy Start Voucher Scheme is discriminatory without any lawful justification.

Heather Russell, Dietitian at The Vegan Society, says that it is important for everyone to eat calcium-rich foods daily and fortified plant milk plays an important role in vegan nutrition.

“In fact, the UK’s Eat Well guide recognises that fortified plant milk represents a valuable alternative to cow’s milk. Calcium content is comparable and the soya variety is similar to cow’s milk in terms of protein quantity and quality.”

Bollywood News

Strong women with strong message at JLF

The art can bring change – and does not have to be limited to playing a role of meager entertainment. In fact, these two goals can almost work concurrently, as can be experienced at the popular Jaipur Literature Festival which becomes an amalgamation of intellectual and social conversation.

It has also been a place where women – strong women, celebrity women – have used the opportunity to share relevant messages.

One of these celebrities was popular yet unorthodox Bollywood singer Usha Uthup. In conversation with Sanjay Roy, the singer shared her diverse journey as she built her career without any film background, and became a household name.

As she began, she lent her voice to jingles and even sang in a club in Chennai (then Madras). However, Bollywood was not far away. “RD (Burman) saw me perform at the nightclub, and was really interested.” RD invited invited her to record a song with none other than Lataji. “I recorded my anglicized version with Lataji, but later they recorded the song again with Ashaji.” She grabbed this first opportunity and made the most of it – Dum Maro Dum became an anthem for an entire generation.

Of course, the road ahead was not easy – her voice was very different to the prevalent, melodious, soft voices of the female singers. “Bollywood has good girls and they have certain songs. For bad girls, there are different songs, which came my way.” She still grabbed these opportunities and created a niche for herself.

It is not just her voice that separates her from the norm. She has a unique style sense – kanjivaram saree worn with a prominent bindi (red dot on the forehead) which almost puts her in contrast with the western and westernized songs she sings. In fact, this contrast helped her create a strong image for herself. But this wasn’t intentional, she says.

“Raised in a middle class south Indian family, I wore cotton sarees even when I sang in night clubs My bindi and my flowers in the hair – this is part of my south Indian heritage. I love my accessories including the bangles.”

Not to keep her uniqueness limited to sarees, she even pairs up her kanjivaram sarees with “kanjivaram sneakers” especially designed for her by a cobbler in Kolkata. If this is not chic, then what is?

If Usha Uthup is an example of an unconventional voice carving her own path, there was another Bollywood celebrity at the JLF who has shown that there are no limits to achievement, even when faced with a life threatening situation.

Photo: Bollywood Hungama

Manisha Koirala fought her way back to life and then back to movies, after recovering from cancer. Launching her book “Healed: How Cancer Gave Me a New Life” at the Jaipur Literature Festival, Manisha shared the choices she made along the way which helped her fight some of the “deathly” battles that showed up unexpectedly at the peak of her career in Bollywood.

Her diagnosis with ovarian cancer in 2012 was sudden and caught her and her family off guard. Cancer brings up thoughts of death for most of us, she says. “I was shocked. I had a restless night. I felt so lonely. My regular journey from Kathmandu to Mumbai seemed like never ending.”

Soon after the diagnosis, she grappled with the possibility of death. But instead of asking gloomy questions like “why me?”, she was asking more enabling questions to herself – how will I come out of it?

Immediately, she started doing extensive research on cancer, and took control of her treatment, rather than being a passive recipient of it.

She was proactively asking questions to doctors, and even started reading cancer-related material online.

Her advice to cancer patients is to be actively involved in their treatments.

“Take your own decisions and take control of yourself rather than relying on others. Also equip yourself with information about your cancer.”

In such difficult times, the immediate family members act as a crucial support system, and in Manisha’s case it was her mother, who stood by her like a rock.

As she was fighting her battle, she kept her head high, and made a promise to herself that if won this health battle, she would create more awareness about this – something that she found missing during her own struggle.

“The attitude matters,” says the goodwill ambassador for the UN Population Fund, and has been making public appearances to raise awareness.

News

Urdu doesnt belong to one religion – Shabana

“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 chupke raat 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.

News

KiwiBuild CEO resigns after weeks of absence

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.

News

Seven things to do at Jaipur LitFest

Jaipur Literature Festival

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 minakari jewellery, funky stationery, edgy gifts, chic couture, spiffy footwear and home décor.

Heritage Evenings

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.

Book-signing Sessions

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.

News

Modi’s 10% quota masterstroke

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!”

Business Health

Unilever buys The Vegetarian Butcher

Unilever Vegetarian Butcher

Unilever is acquiring The Vegetarian Butcher, so as to expand its portfolio into plant-based foods that are healthier and have a lower environmental impact, according to a statement from the FMCG giant.

It is no surprise that the multinational firm is interested in a vegetarian business, as the trend among consumers to opt for vegetarian meals gains popularity.

For The Vegetarian Butcher, the acquisition is the next step in its ambition to grow into ‘the largest butcher in the world’. Founder Jaap Korteweg: “Unilever’s international network across 190 countries, provides every opportunity to accomplish this.”

Jaap Korteweg, a ninth-generation meat farmer and a real meat lover, became a vegetarian and founded The Vegetarian Butcher in 2007 to satiate his own need for quality ‘meat’, which was not produced from animals. The products made by The Vegetarian Butcher are being sold in over 4,000 outlets in 17 countries.

According to Korteweg, the acquisition has come at the right time. “We want to take the next step – conquer the world. It is our mission to make plant-based ‘meat’ the standard. We believe that with Unilever’s international network, this acquisition will help to accelerate our mission.”

Unilever and The Vegetarian Butcher started working together in 2016 when they jointly launched the ‘Vegetarian Meatballs in Satay Sauce’ and ‘Vegetarian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce’, which were marketed under the Unox brand.

The acquisition, which was announced today, is a step on Unilever’s journey towards a portfolio with more plant-based products. Currently, Unilever is selling nearly 700 products with V-label in Europe. In the Netherlands, these include products from Unox, Knorr, Hellmann’s, Conimex and Ben & Jerry’s brands.

The Vegetarian Butcher is a brand with a clear mission, many loyal ambassadors, a good following on social media and a strong position in the market, says Nitin Paranjpe, President Foods & Refreshment Unilever. “The brand will fit in well within our portfolio of ‘brands with purpose’, which have a positive social impact, are better positioned to meet the needs of consumers and are growing faster. Importantly, this acquisition will help us to accelerate our journey towards more plant-based food.”

The acquisition, expected to be completed before the end of 2018, will impact about 90 people employed by The Vegetarian Butcher, who are expected to remain with the business under Unilever ownership.

News

2019: Top Things to do in Auckland

Auckland’s lantern festival attracts local as well as international tourists

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.

2. Auckland Lantern Festival, Auckland Domain (14-17 February)

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!

News

Indian chef loses weight for a Navy career

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.”

News

Jaipur LitFest to provide voice to prominent women

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bqe5xKPAluz/

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.

News

Top honours for Indian-origin professor in NZ


New Zealand’s University of Canterbury Associate Professor Ekant Veer receives New Zealand tertiary teaching excellence honours

University of Canterbury Associate Professor Ekant Veer, from the College of Business & Law’s Management, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship department, has been awarded New Zealand tertiary teaching excellence honours in a ceremony at Parliament.

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.

Bollywood

Bollywood: Is beauty in the eyes of the beholder?

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’.”

Books

JLF 2018: living with multi-ethnic identities

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.

JLF

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”.

News

Aucklander dies in Afghanistan

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.”