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Archive for the ‘Sri Aurobindo’ Category

Best pizzas in Delhi: 10 restaurants that serve the most authentic pizzas in the capital – GQ India

Posted: March 9, 2020 at 7:42 pm

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Ask a Delhizen where youre likely to get the best pizzas in Delhi, and youll have a divided house pretty fast. While several normcore people will throw out the one name that everyone tends to (it's on our list) and the self-professed hipsters unearth the two other names that vie for top billing (one of which is also on our list), weve curated 10 places that will bring you a pie to write home about.

You may not see a couple of presumed favourites on this curation, but thats only because popular consensus agreed that theyve depreciated in that special something that made them brilliant over the years or were never worth the hype in the first place. The ones that did make the cut, however, know exactly how to make a pizza pie that deserves both a repeat visit, and repeated Instagram topshots.

Ask a Delhiite where youll get the best pizza in the city, and the answer youll get on loop is most people dont know of it, but Leos. The textured paned windows, wooden benches and warehouse vibe of this Vasant Vihar spot are only part of the draw of this favoured pizzeria. Its their woodfired pizzas, with a crust to die for, buffalo mozzarella and a non-overbearing tomato base, that makes regulars of people. Getting the pepperoni is a non-negotiable.

Address: 28, Basant Lok Market, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi

Phone Number: +91 9821277236

Cost For Two: 1,700 for two people (approx.)

One of the OG pizza spots in the city to do woodfired thin crusts, Amici may have seen a lot of (strong) competition turn up, but it hasn't lost its mojo. Their classic Capricciosa (Italian ham, black olives, artichoke, mushrooms) is still a crowd favourite, as is the Spinach and Goat Cheese, with its divine red wine onions. If youre the dude on a diet whos just trying a slice, they do a mean Smoked Salmon and Avo salad too.

Address: 8, Defence Colony Main Market, Defence Colony, New Delhi

Phone Number: 8, Defence Colony Main Market, Defence Colony, New Delhi

Cost For Two: 1,200 for two people (approx.)

You might think this Qutub veteran is on the list because were besotted by its beautiful outdoor space and Grecian blue and white aesthetic, but ask any real Olive fan, and the the thing theyre likely to have ordered the most is their delicate, elfin pizzas. The German Tarte Flambe Pizza, with its crumbled sausages, bacon rashers and sour cream, is easily top of the charts. Pair with a gin cocktail for best results.

Address: 6-8, Kalka Das Marg, Mehrauli, New Delhi

Phone Number:+91 9810235472; 011 29574444

Cost For Two: 4,000 for two people (approx.)

Possibly still quite undiscovered except for that series of pizza fanatics that go beyond the places that have become pop culture icons, EVOO (which stands for Extra Virgin Olive Oil). We love this sweet, happily sunlit place with its chalkboard specials and its Evoo-drizzled pies. While the pasta might leave a little to be desired, the Pistachio & Pesto pizza (rosemary, green olives and ricotta, best with an add on of bacon chips) and Pork Calabrioan pizza (smoked pork calabrian sausage, pancetta) more than make up for it.

Address: B-2, Ground Floor, Shivalik, Near Sri Aurobindo College, Geetanjali Pancheel Road, Geetanjali Enclave, New Delhi

Phone Number: +91 8368428737

011 41662030

Cost For Two: 1,500 for two people (approx.)

To curate this list without including the original big daddy of traditional Italian would just be shoddy research. Head to this nuanced restaurant if the rendition youre after is more haute cuisine than happy comfort. The Pizza Emiliana (parma ham, rucola, parmesan) ends up in a photo finish for the best on the list with the Quatro Formaggi (mozzarella, parmesan, smoked scamorza, blue cheese).

Address: Hyatt Regency, Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi

Phone Number: 011 26791234

Cost For Two: 4,500 for two people (approx.)

Sure, they might be delivery only but Napoli manages to zip over a quality pizza to South Delhi diners swiftly enough to make it a go-to for Netflix and actual chill day. Their base is comforting, they never skimp on toppingsorder a Meat Lovers pizza and theyll throw on enough bacon and pepperoni to feed a small countryand they almost always turn up hot. Their calzones are both ricotta-full and wonderful, but be prepared to make an absolute mess when you eat them.

Address: Delivers In and around Safdarjung

Phone Number: 011 40517365

Cost For Two: 800 for two people (approx.)

It would be remiss to not mention this iconic eatery on our list of best pizzaand, in this city, asking to be crucified. The charming, movie-themed restaurant does their Italian a touch more cheesily than the more authentic restaurants, but we love them for it. Their garlic salami and black olive pizza is fantastic, but were fans of the four-fourths pizza that divides four meats into two slices eachbasically giving you four types of pizza slices in the same pie. A Belgian chocolate shake with it completes the indulgence.

Address: 68-A, Khan Market, New Delhi

Phone Number: 011 41757588

Cost For Two: 1,500 for two people (approx.)

Youd imagine a jack of all trades like The Oberois all-day diner wouldnt make it to a best-of-the-best- list, but they surprise us every time. The thin, light and beautifully done pizzas at 360 definitely make the cut for the best in the cityin particular the Tricolore (spinach, feta, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts) and Burrata and Arugula.

Address: The Oberoi, Dr. Zakir Hussain Marg, New Delhi

Phone Number: 011 24363030

Cost For Two: 5,000 for two people (approx.)

From its fat cursive font at the door to its warm wooden interiors and triangular trusses, everything about Fat Lulus is comforting and easy. The perfect space to kick back with a thick shake (Nutella and Salted Caramel, anyone) and a pie, this will always be in our top spots for its brilliant Polop pizza (Katsu chicken in teriyaki with sesame seeds) and Butter Chicken Masala za. A side of their Pomme Frites doesnt hurt if youre okay to carbo-load.

Address: C 7, Commercial Complex, SDA Market, SDA, New Delhi

Phone Number: +91 9599288395

Cost For Two: 800 for two people (approx.)

Sure, this place is already on our list of most romantic places in the city, but it isnt too focussed on creating a quality date night vibe to forget how to make a quality pizza pie. While we definitely love the intimate atmosphere, the wood-fired pizza is definitely one of their big sells. Try the A La Spagnola (Spanish chorizo, gorgonzola) if youre a meat-eater, or the Basilica (basil pesto, artichoke hearts, French goat cheese) if youd rather keep it green.

Address: 10/48, Malcha Marg Shopping Complex, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi

Phone Number: +91 9810877553

Cost For Two: 2,400 for two people (approx.)


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Best pizzas in Delhi: 10 restaurants that serve the most authentic pizzas in the capital - GQ India

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March 9th, 2020 at 7:42 pm

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International Yoga Festivalkicks off in Puducherry – The Hindu

Posted: January 11, 2020 at 5:44 am

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Puducherry is an ideal location for hosting international yoga events by virtue of its peaceful and pious ambience, Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy has said.

Inaugurating the 26th International Yoga Festival hosted by the Department of Tourism at the Gandhi Thidal, the Chief Minister said the city had attracted spiritual minds such as Sri Aurobindo and The Mother who had propagated the integral yoga concept globally. Even in the universal township of Auroville, yoga is an integral part of life for its community, which includes about 50 nationalities.

Crediting the Government of India, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for efforts at the United Nations for a global celebration of yoga, Mr. Narayanasamy said the Puducherry government was promoting wellness centres across hospitals.

The government was committed to develop tourism, yoga, art and culture and handicrafts. We would like to focus on promoting traditional Tamil culture so that they can not only entertain visitors but also inspire the younger generation, he said.

On a lighter note, Mr. Narayanasamy said yoga was particularly ideal for politicians and those in public life as it would equip them with patience. He himself was a regular practitioner of yoga in the morning and he had found that it had helped him discharge duties for about 17 hours every day, Mr. Narayanasamy said.

V. Vaithilingam, MP, T. Djeamourthy, MLA, Purva Garg, Tourism Secretary, L. Mohamed Mansoor, Tourism Director were among those who spoke.

Over 1,000 yoga practitioners and enthusiasts, including foreigners, are participating in the event.

The valedictory of the yoga festival will take place at the Art and Craft Village, Murungapakkam on Tuesday.

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January 11th, 2020 at 5:44 am

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Six from city ace CAT exam, aim for IIMs – Times of India

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Ludhiana: The nation-wide results for the Common Admission Test (CAT), for admissions to the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) were declared on Saturday. Six students from the city scored over 98 percentile marks and made their parents proud. Akshit Garg (21) managed to secure 99.58 percentile marks and is one among the top scorers from the city. Other toppers who scored 99-plus percentile marks are Ishan Singal (99.13), Shivam Singla (99.10), Vaibhav Singla (98.55), Kashish Garg (98.10) and Angad Loomba (98.48). Speaking after the results, Akshit said he had been preparing for the CAT for the last two years. I worked very hard to ace the test. I took coaching to crack the exam which helped me a lot, he said. He added that he cracked all the mock papers, and listed out all his weak points, which helped him excel. Akshit said that his success can be attributed to his teachers and parents who always supported him to take the right path. His father is a trader while is mother is a homemaker. Akshit aims to study at IIM Lucknow in order to hone his business skills to be able to start his own venture at later stages. Ishan, a resident of Pakhowal Road, managed to crack the CAT by scoring 99.13 percentile marks. A commerce graduate from Delhi University, Ishan plans to take admission in IIM Lucknow. He wants to pursue MBA in marketing. Shivam Singla who scored 99.10 percentile marks aims to become a finance consultant. I think to crack the CAT exam there is no need to study for 6 hours in a day, as one who study with dedication for three to four hours and can score good marks, he said. Sucess mantras of toppers Akshit Garg, 99.58 percentile A BCom student from Sri Aurobindo College of Commerce and Management Mantra: It was my second attempt. In the first attempt, I scored 95.13 percentile marks. My main focus was to crack mocks and ensure my graph goes up. Practice will always make you better Parents Rajesh Garg, trader and Sonia Garg, housewife Ishan Singal, 99.13 percentile A BCom graduate from Kirori Mal College, University Of Delhi Parents Ashok Singal, businessman and Sunita Singal, entreprenuer Mantra- Consistency is the formula to crack CAT and 6 hours of daily practice is needed Shivam Singla, 99.10 percentile A BCom graduate from Sri Aurobindo College of Commerce and Management Parents Sanjeev Singla, businessman and Sonia Singla, homemaker Mantra- Be confident while writing the exam. Focus on mock tests, as itll go a long way

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January 11th, 2020 at 5:44 am

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A Hindu critique of Hindutva – The Hindu

Posted: December 28, 2019 at 10:45 am

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The question I ask myself as we witness the assertion of the ideology of Hindutva and its resultant fear among minorities is this: Is it possible to have yet another reading of my religion or the experience of religiosity and take part in a collective movement for creating a society filled with love, empathy and pluralism? This is both a sociopolitical and an ethico-existential question. At a time when the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 has caused fear and existential insecurity among the minorities, there is a danger of the movement against the discriminatory nature of the CAA degenerating into violent communal politics. Therefore, it is important to introspect and redefine ones politics, culture and religiosity for a collective struggle.

Yes, there is a Left-Ambedkarite version of secularism, and many of us university-educated/metropolitan intellectuals and civil society activists are reasonably free from the burden of the conditioned mind that religious orthodoxy causes. Yet, a careful look at Indias culture and society would indicate that religion is all-pervasive: it can be seen in beliefs, rituals as well as in the dangerous stereotypes we nurture about others. Hence, the mere act of debunking religion will not help. We need to rescue religion from zealots and rediscover the spirit of religiosity as, to use Rabindranath Tagores language, our surplus. It is in this context that as someone born in a Hindu family, I would like to critique Hindutva or, for that matter, any deterministic/one dimensional doctrine of religion. This critique emanates not from scientism or soulless secularism, but from deep religiosity, the urge to transcend limiting identities.

The kind of Hindutva we see today is against some of the finest aspects of my religiosity that I learned as a Hindu. While the discourse of Hindutva with its hypermasculine nationalism is essentially monolithic and centralising, I have learned about the beauty of the elasticity of human consciousness and merger of multiple faiths and paths from the likes of Ramakrishna Paramahansa. While the doctrine of militant Hindutva is recklessly engaged in an act of othering and stigmatising Muslims, I have learned about love, empathy and listening from M.K. Gandhis remarkably nuanced engagement with Hinduism. Likewise, while Hindutva intensifies aggression, Miras bhajans teach me that love and religiosity are not separate. The character of Anandamayee that Tagore created in his classic novel Gora makes me see the enchanting power of maternity, the current that absorbs everything. And hence, I begin to see the hollowness in the assertion of brute masculinity seen in instances of mob lynching by zealots, which ruthlessly denies the possibility of an evolutionary journey towards what Sri Aurobindo regarded as the divine consciousness.

Yajnavalkyas conversation with Maitreyi in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad helps me conceive the depths of spirituality, the quest for the Eternal, and also helps me see the ugliness in a doctrine that reduces religion into mere identity politics, or a weapon for intensifying the narcissistic ego of the Hindu nation. Engagement with the Bhagavad Gita acquires a different meaning. I see the ethos of niskam karma (or the spirit of work as an offering without selfish interests) in Gandhis politico-spiritual pilgrimage to Noakhali in 1946, not in the calculative Machiavellian urge to build a temple at Ayodhya at the demolished site of the Babri Masjid. Moreover, there is a culture of conversation and argumentation in the broad tradition of Hinduism. While Nachiketa dared to converse with Yama, the proponents of Lokayata did argue with the followers of Vedanta. In a way, it is possible to be a Hindu with the spirit of pluralism and dialogue in our consciousness. Paradoxically, it is possible to be a Hindu, yet be a non-Hindu. This is why the ideology of Hindutva is not in conformity with religiosity as peoples inner quest for moving towards a world of love and togetherness.

We are passing through difficult times. First, as the CAA and the National Register of Citizens together indicate, the minority community has further been stigmatised. And in a society with a long history of the tension-ridden relationship between the two communities, the ghettoisation of space and mind has further erected a huge wall of separation. Hence, the danger is that the anger against the CAA might take a communal turn, and it is not impossible for the nationalist media to project it as a conflict between patriotic Hindus and problematic Muslims. From Seelampur in Delhi to Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh, these Muslim sites might be immediately projected as war zones. And in a vicious cycle of humiliation and provocation, the minorities could feel more and more lonely.

Majoritarian Hindutva is not merely against Muslims; it is no less hostile to those Hindus who think and live differently while some would be castigated as leftists, pseudo secularists and urban Naxals, the rest would be regarded as effeminate idealists or Gandhian fools. Therefore, in such a situation, it is important to try to evolve a culture of communion between the two communities, and fight together for a better world. However, the discourse of communalism or a politics based on exclusivist religious identity (and even though majority communalism is immensely destructive, minority communalism is no answer to it) is essentially against this spirit of communion. Likewise, a soulless secularism which fails to deal with the religious/spiritual quest doesnt succeed much in touching peoples hearts for inspiring them to create a new moral politics for collective redemption.

In troubled and directionless times, Gandhi could tap the therapeutic power of religiosity and move towards this communion. He could be a Hindu; yet, dialogic, experimental and elastic. In a way, as Nathuram Godse might have thought, he was also a non-Hindu. Likewise, I would imagine that a Muslim with true religiosity is equally eager to resist the attempt by the orthodox clergy or the fundamentalist elements to hijack the religious sphere. He/she ought to be inherently against the Talibanisation of consciousness. Because true religiosity is the art of using the form in order to be formless. Imagine a world where Kabir and Rumi, Gandhi and Maulana Azad, and Tagore and Nizamuddin Auliya work with us, become our educators, and inspire us to heal the world through the power of love and understanding. Even though in the age of dystopia it may appear to be impossible, it is a challenging task we ought to strive for. This is precisely the most important sadhana, or the meaning of being a Hindu a seeker who seeks to break the iron cage of Hindutva or, for that matter, any other fundamentalist doctrine.

Avijit Pathak is Professor of Sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

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A Hindu critique of Hindutva - The Hindu

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Revolutionary to Yogi – The Statesman

Posted: November 25, 2019 at 1:42 am

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Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872- 1950) went to England for education when he was seven. His political life began there in his teens. Although he qualified in the ICS examination, he was not selected as he chose to abstain from the horseriding test. He secured a First in Classics and a Tripos at Cambridge in 1892. Returning to India in 1893, he joined the Baroda College as professor of English, and later became its principal. In 1902, he came in touch with Thakur Saheb who was then the leader of a secret Maharastra revolutionary group, and was thus initiated into the revolutionary movement. Participating in the protest against the partition of Bengal in 1905, Sri Aurobindo left Baroda College.

The next year, in 1906, he settled in Bengal and joined the newly started National College as its principal. In 1907, he gave a revolutionary turn to the apolitical organization Anushilan Samiti which was founded in 1902 by its president, Pramathanath Mitra, of which he was a Vice-President. He reorganized it and made Sister Nivedita its member. Under his direction young men, including his brother Barindra Ghose, were making bombs and guns. Sri Aurobindo was a follower of Tilak when the latter left the Congress in Surat and took to extremism. Tilak was no longer prominent in Indian politics after 1908 when he was sentenced to transportation for six years and sent to Mandalaya jail on a charge of sedition.

Meanwhile, Sri Aurobindo was appointed Assistant Editor by another extremist, Bipin Chandra Pal, in his English paper, Bande Mataram,. He soon took charge of the paper as Pal was eased out of it in 1907. Swami Vivekanandas brother, Bhupendranath and Barindra, who were also connected with the work of Bande Mataram, found Pal half-hearted. Pals faith in revolutionary idealism did not last long. In 1913, he pleaded for the continuation of the British connection in view of the immense possibilities of federal internationalism. Sri Aurobindo was accused of seditious writings in Bande Mataram and was accused of involvement in the Alipore bomb case in 1908. While in jail, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das fought for him in court and proved that he was not guilty.

He was in Alipore jail for a year as an undertrial and was acquitted for want of evidence but Barindra was sentenced to transportation for life. After his release he brought out the English weekly Karmayogin and the Bengali weekly Dharma. Now his connection with revolutionary activity was open and clear. A warrant of arrest was therefore issued against him in February 1910 for writing an article titled To My Countrymen. Realising his impending incarceration, he secretly left for his home town, the French Chandannagar, from where he moved to Pondicherry and spent the rest of his life there in a spiritual quest. Deshbandhu described Sri Aurobindo as the prophet of nationalism.

But where did he get so much power and inspiration from? Prof. Subodh Chandra Sengupta has the correct answer: It was Swami Vivekananda who introduced the cult of Shaktiworship, which was taken up by a succession of brilliant men, the first two being Aurobindo Ghose and Barindra Ghose, who might be called the joint authors of Bhawani Mandir. It was a political tract the idea of which was Barindras and the writing of Sri Aurobindos. It was displayed in the Alipore Conspiracy case. Initially, Sri Aurobindo wasnt perhaps acquainted with Swamijis writings but felt their impact, which was the fountain of Swamijis pervasive influence.

Going through his works subsequently and by dint of his interactions with Sister Nivedita and others, he became knowledgeable about Swamiji. His knowledge about Sri Ramakrishna was also remarkable. Though he didnt meet them, their lives and spiritual ideas took deep roots in his mind. He however met Sarada Devi in 1910 on a Sunday and paid his respect to her at the Udbodhan House in Baghbazar. His wife Mrinalini Devi was an initiated disciple of Sarada Devi. Both were worshipers of Kali. Mrinalini Devi was a well-known spiritual personality by her own right and had a following. She stayed all her life at Chandannagar. Sri Aurobindo claimed that he received three messages on a mystical plane from Sri Ramakrishna between 1908 and 1912.

By his own admission, Sri Ramakrishnas influence on the development of his spiritual life was profound. He said to a disciple: Remember also that we derive from Ramakrishna. For myself it was Ramakrishna who personally came and first turned me to this Yoga. He also claimed that Swamiji mystically communicated to him various instructions in meditation during his imprisonment for a year. He said: Vivekananda in Alipore jail gave me the foundations of that knowledge which is the basis of our Sadhana. Considering these two statements alone, if one presumes that he held Ramakrishna- Vivekananda as his Guru one would not be wrong. Those two spiritual phenomena in his life are ample reason to believe that Ramakrishna and Vivekananda were pathfinders in his mystical journey.

That his mind was suffused with their thoughts is evident from many of his religious and philosophical writings which exude their ideas eloquently. In an editorial piece of Dharma (26 Poush 1316) with the heading Sri Ramakrishna O Bhabishyat Bharat, he said with an absolute faith to show that Sri Ramakrishna was the highest manifestation of the power of God. He wrote: The man appeared as Sri Ramakrishna is the Antaryami Bhagawan. He had also written unequivocally, Satya-yuga arrived on earth by the touch of Sri Ramakrishnas feet; the world is dipped in joy in his touch; with his Advent, the gloom accumulated over centuries disappeared. He established Yuga-dharma, and was the sum total of all the earlier Avataras. Sri Aurobindo was convinced that Sri Ramakrishna gave to India the final message of Hinduism to the world.

Similarly, his estimation about Swamiji was tremendous. He described him as a very lion among men. He said: The going forth of Vivekananda, marked out by the Master (Sri Ramakrishna) as the heroic soul destined to take the world between his two hands and change it, was the first visible sign to the world that India was awake not only to survive but to conquer. Sri Aurobindo was a prolific writer on the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita. His interpretations of these important scriptures were in the non-sectarian spirit of Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. In a treatise on Isha Upanishad he reflected on Sri Ramakrishnas precept of non-difference (abhedatwa) between Brahman and Shakti. Sri Ramakrishna is specially conspicuous in his book The Life Divine. He used in it in the parables and analogies used by Sri Ramakrishna. Developing Sri Ramakrishnas teaching that everything is possible for God, Sri Aurobindo claims that the infinite is illimitably free, free to determine itself infinitely, free from all of its restraining effect of its own creations.

Again, as Sri Ramakrishna said God is both with and without form, so also Sri Aurobindo said that the Divine Being is at once Form and the Formless. There are numerous such instances in his works which he believed deserve allusions for the benefit of the seekers of Truth and God. According to Sri Aurobindo, all religions express one Truth in various ways and move by various paths to one goal. In the final analysis Vedanta propounds that the Infinite Reality is at once personal and impersonal, static and dynamic, with and without form, immanent and transcendent.

He affirmed the harmony of all religions precisely on the basis of this non-sectarian Vedantic worldview, faithfully following Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. The actual revolutionary activity of Sri Aurobindo spanned hardly four years. But his spiritual pursuit spanned four decades. Within this period he raised himself by intense sadhana to be an extraordinary yogi of distinctive character and epitome. Cutting across classes, communities and countries, he is now globally acceptable as a spiritual pathfinder for peace and harmony.

(The writer is with Ramakrishna Mission, Narendrapur)

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Revolutionary to Yogi - The Statesman

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November 25th, 2019 at 1:42 am

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The Uncertain Future of the World’s Largest Secondhand Book Market – Atlas Obscura

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Shortly after dawn in Kolkata, India, musky plumes of incense waft through the passageways of Das Gupta & Co. bookstore, diffusing among the decades-old volumes on its steep mahogany shelves. The smoke billows out of the shops peeling, pale-blue doors and onto Kolkatas College Street, the largest secondhand book market in the world.

Each morning, as part of a common Hindu tradition known as puja, a daily prayer ritual usually intended to praise a deity, the bespectacled Arabinda Das Gupta swings a brass censer around his old shop. He is a fourth-generation bookseller; the object of his worship is the written word. Puja concentrates your mind on the books, he says. Theres chaos and movement before, but then the words go still like grains of rice. I need that sense of calm to go about my days work in this place.

Das Guptas shop is the oldest in the entire market. When Arabindas great-grandfather, Girish Chandra Das Gupta, arrived in Kolkata in 1886, he had little competition. Very few books were available at the time, so he imported them to meet demand, he says. The shop opened that year with a noble mission: the spreading of knowledge. It had just 50 books.

Nowadays, the market can trade that many books in a few minutes. College Street, known by locals as Boi Para (which roughly translates to Book Town), spans more than a mile and covers a million square feet. Bigwigs of Bengali publishing coexist with makeshift stalls hammered together from wood, bamboo, tin, and canvas, in a chaotic matrix that runs from Mahatma Gandhi Road to Ganesh Chandra Avenue.

College Street has every imaginable type of text, available in Bengali, English, Mandarin, Sanskrit, Dutch, and every dialect in between. Precious first editions and literary classics sit cheek by jowl with medical encyclopedias, religious texts, and pulp fiction, often precariously stacked in uneven piles that resemble jagged cliff faces. Wily booksellers peer from raised wooden stalls; bearded collectors rifle through stock; mothers drag first-year university students through the aisles to collect their required reading.

The old-world charm of College Street may not last forever, however. Flyovers and shopping malls have sprung up across the city, courtesy of rapid modernization projects that are flattening unique histories. More than a century after the book market was founded, some booksellers are worried that change is coming to College Street.

Kolkatas rich literary heritage dates back to the 18th century, when the East India Company helped to make it a major printing center. Under Lord Wellesley, the British colonial governor who organized construction of the citys central roads, the Hindu College was built in 1817, later followed by the Calcutta Medical College, the first medical school in the country, in 1852 and the University of Calcutta in 1857. These colleges set up a syndicate with several shops in the 1870s, catering to Indias intelligentsia and British colonizers alike, and College Street market was born.

Decades ago, the British poet and translator Joe Winter described College Street as a planet littered with books, a crazed sales pitch wherever one looks. His description still rings true. Yellow and green tuk-tuks, or auto-rickshaws, fly by; men drag carts of books; bicyclists squeeze through narrow gaps with bags of books balanced on their handlebars. Even more books arrive on the citys technicolor buses and yellow taxis, which are shaped like turtle shells.

Although books arent a necessity like they once were, with so many alternative ways of getting information, somehow we keep going, says Pinaki Majumdar of APC Ray, arms tucked pensively behind him. He wears the unofficial College Street uniform: a striped, short-sleeve shirt and a round belly that belies the sedentary lifestyle of a reader and Kolkatas fried street food. Majumdar is one of the longest-serving of the cheeky, chattering booksellers. APC Ray bookstore was set up in 1910, boasting of rare editions from Bengali greats such as Rabindranath Tagore and Jibanananda Das. Books are everything to me, adds Majumdar. I started reading when I was just five years old and never stopped. I even love them more than my wife.

But a new development could cut deeply into the business of the hawkers who have thrived here. For years, the state government has been pushing ahead with an ambitious, centralized book mall that will stretch over a million square feet, as large a floorspace as all of the existing bookstores combined.

According to the projects architects, the Barnaparichay Mall is to launch next summer, and will offer sleek, modern boutiques, a library, an auction center, translation services, and cafs. The mall is to enrich the book culture and habits of Kolkata, says Sankalan Tatar, of the architecture firm Prakalpa Planning Solutions. It will be an integrated book mall. Literature, life, and leisure will be under one roof. This will be the most happening place in north Kolkata.

Traditional booksellers fear that the mall will threaten the traditions of College Street. The place will be soulless, says Das Gupta. But Im worried that people will prefer the cheap prices and comfort of the book mall, so Im considering taking a place there. For some of the less-established booksellers, the malls rental prices will be prohibitive. The book mall is too expensive for me to move, says Ranjit Biswas, owner of a cupboard-sized stall full of dusty books. I couldnt even if I wanted to.

According to Tatar, some concessions will be made. For example, on Sundays, the malls escalators will be switched off for two hours, allowing the makeshift booksellers to come into the mall and ply their trade in certain spaces.

Many booksellers remain unconvinced. At the markets famous Indian Coffee House on Bankim Chatterjee Street, a historic meeting spot for Kolkatas writers and thinkers, the mall is a constant subject of adda, the Bengali art of wide-ranging conversation, often practiced here among students.

Akashleena Bhaduri, a third-year engineering student at the University of Kolkata, sips on a sugary coffee and makes the case for the book mall. This place is outdated, the roads are dirty, the hygiene is poor, and in the summer its unbearably hot, Bhaduri says. Ohit Banerjee, a postgraduate researching comparative Indian language and literature, fires back. My elders told me that Mahatma Gandhi bought a rare book from here, and that he said it was a special place, he says. We must protect it.

Whatever awaits Kolkatas College Street in its next chapter, the community has already survived innumerable challenges. It has been through two world wars, has managed to remain a center of political and literary activism since the 1930s, and witnessed the beginning of the revolutionary Naxalite movement in the 1970s. According to Das Gupta, violent protests broke out against the stocking of controversial books, such as D.H. Lawrences Lady Chatterleys Lover. On May 30, 2004, his shop suffered a fire that caused enormous damage and destroyed maps of Bengal dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

Still, College Street has gone on to become the beating heart of Indias literary world, with intellectuals such as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, a Harvard economist and frequent visitor, making it a home away from home. Institutions such as the fifth-generation Bani Library, known for its science collection, and Sri Aurobindo Pathamandir, a religious center established in 1941, has made it a pillar in the citys identity. These achievements, the booksellers say, can never be taken away.

During a rare moment of afternoon calm, Das Gupta sits down for a chai masala, boiled in huge pots and served in tiny, ceramic cups. In the background, booksellers lean lazily over their stalls; others squat down low to gossip, or calmly leaf through thick tomes. There is a sense of togetherness. This is the way that I see it, he says, widening his silver eyebrows. Weve written this history and we wont be forgotten.

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The tribe finally completed a ceremony interrupted by a massacre in 1860.

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The Uncertain Future of the World's Largest Secondhand Book Market - Atlas Obscura

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November 25th, 2019 at 1:42 am

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Odd-even scheme: Arvind Kejriwal to decide on extension of rule on Nov 18 – Business Today

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Amid a sharp increase in air pollution in Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has stated that the Delhi government will decide on extension of the odd-even scheme on November 18. The minister held a press conference at 12pm on Friday, where he said, "As per weather forecast, air quality in Delhi will improve in the next 2-3 days. If the air quality doesn't improve, we will take a decision on extending odd-even vehicle scheme on November 18."

Delhiites woke up to a rather thick blanket of smog on Friday. Air quality in the city has dipped to 'severe-plus' level. November 15 is the third consecutive day of Delhi's dipping air quality. Friday is the last and final day of 12-day odd-even car rationing scheme.

Air quality in several areas of the city was recorded at severe categories. AQI at Pusa Road was at 777, while it was 930 at Dwarka Sector 8. AQI at Sri Aurobindo Marg was 733, 757 at Ashok Vihar, 610 at Jahangirpuri, 808 at Narela, 865 at Bawana, 722 at Okhla, 765 at Rohini.

He had earlier stated that the scheme could be extended "if need arises". "If the need arises, we will extend it," Kejriwal had said to media.

The CM had also appealed to the opposition parties to not resist the scheme. "Pollution has increased drastically. All of Delhi is demanding odd-even. At such a time, the Opposition should support the people's wish," he had said.

Arvind Kejriwal has blamed stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for the air quality in Delhi. He had said that these states were disregarding the directions of the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the Delhi government on a plea challenging the odd-even road rationing scheme. The apex court also directed it to show the data of pollution in Delhi from October till November 14 this year. The bench also directed Delhi government to submit pollution data from October 1 to December 31, 2018.

Also read: Delhi air pollution: No relief from thick smog as AQI hovers around 500-mark on the last day of odd-even rule

Also read: Tired of the pollution in Delhi? Migrate to these cities

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Treating education as a public good – The Hindu

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It is not surprising that Jiddu Krishnamurti, arguably the greatest Indian thinker on education in the 20th century, does not find a mention in the most recent iteration of the New Education Policy (NEP) 2019. Krishnamurthis ideas on education and freedom learning in a non-competitive and non-hierarchical ecosystem and discovering ones true passion without any sense of fear may have been too heterodox for a government report. Nonetheless, there are elements of contemporary global thinking that do inform the NEP en passant the emphasis on creativity and critical thinking and the ability to communicate and collaborate across cultural differences, which are part of the global common sense.

The near-final NEP, despite its lacunae, is a vast improvement over its earlier, almost-unreadable avatar. The reports 55-page brevity is matched by a reader-friendly organisational structure: four chapters focussing on school education; higher education; other key areas like adult education, technology and promotion of arts and culture; and a section on making it happen by establishing an apex body and the financial aspects to make quality education affordable for all. While the commitment to double the government expenditure on education from about 10% to 20% over a 10-year period is still insufficient, given the enormity of the challenge, it is an unprecedented commitment to the sector.

Education, for most of us, is a necessary public good central to the task of nation building and, like fresh air, is necessary to make our communities come alive; it should not be driven solely by market demand for certain skills, or be distracted by the admittedly disruptive impact, for instance, of Artificial Intelligence. This form of education should be unshackled from the chains of deprivation, and affordable education, for instance in JNU, is vital to ensure access to even the most marginalised sections of our country. Education policy, in essence, must aim to produce sensitive, creative and upright citizens who are willing to take the less-travelled path and whose professional skills will endure revolutions in thinking and technology.

A menu of choices provided by the private sector, which reduces education to the status of a commodity and views our youthful demography as human capital, is being doled out as panacea by instant India specialists to our educational challenges. This is a fallacy. We have to be conscious and deeply aware that there is no developed country where the public sector was not in the vanguard of school and higher education expansion, in ensuring its inclusiveness, and in setting standards. Even the sui generis Ivy League universities, created because of generous philanthropic endowments, function more like public institutions today. It was, therefore, essential for the government to produce a blueprint for reforms after widespread consultation; whether the present NEP report can deliver on this challenge is debatable.

As an academic, I am of course delighted that the NEPs stated goal is to reinstate teachers as the most respected members of our society. Empowerment of teachers remains a key mantra of the policy, and it is understood that this can only be achieved by ensuring their livelihood, respect, dignity and autonomy, while ensuring quality and accountability. If the NEP stems the rot in most institutions of learning which leads to the erosion of autonomy of teachers even on academic forums it would have achieved a major breakthrough. Indeed, such is the intolerant dictatorial attitude of many of our current university leaders that the act of intervening in academic debates itself seems like treason.

Equally laudable is the emphasis on early childhood care and schooling more generally. The anganwadis remain the backbone of an early childhood care system but have suffered on multiple grounds, including lack of facilities and proper training. This, as the report recognises, needs to change; but the incremental and rather ad hoc changes proposed (in stand-alone anganwadis, or anganwadis co-located with primary schools, etc.) may not deliver. The idea of volunteer teachers, peer tutoring, rationalisation of the system of schools and sharing of resources does sound ominous. It is also not clear what strategies will be adopted, nor what resources will be committed, to strengthen the public sector, including the Kendriya Vidyalayas, the State government-run institutions and the municipal schools.

Much has to be learnt here from examples even in the non-commercial private sector. The best example I know of holistic childhood education is that of Mirambika, a free-progress, experimental school inspired by the writings of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

The NEP wisely recognises that a comprehensive liberal arts education will help to develop all capacities of human beings intellectual, aesthetic, social, physical, emotional, and moral in an integrated manner. Indias past, and its unique, culturally diverse matrix provide a rich framework, but delivering on a holistic liberal education programme requires much more than just proclamations.

The proposal to establish a National Research Foundation, with an overarching goal... to enable a culture of research to permeate through our universities needs to be applauded and widely supported. But the creation of a National Testing Agency (NTA) has understandably generated scepticism. While, on paper, the NTA will serve as a premier, expert, autonomous testing organisation to conduct entrance examinations for admissions and fellowships in higher educational institutions, in reality, universities and departments may lose autonomy over admissions, even of research students. This is not an empty fear; the initial signs of this change are already visible in universities.

Equally serious is the concern about the division between research-intensive premier universities; teaching universities; and colleges. The NEP suggests, three types of institutions are not in any natural way a sharp, exclusionary categorisation, but are along a continuum. But the advantage of these divisions, per se, is neither intuitively nor analytically clear, given that high quality teaching and cutting-edge research comfortably coexist in most universities of excellence.

The NEP draft will now be placed before the Cabinet; one hopes that many of the concerns raised are addressed before an official policy is finally announced, recognising also the enormous pressure from global educational service providers to capture the Indian education market.

In 2003, I had the opportunity, as Vice Chancellor of the University of Jammu, to invite the then-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief K.S. Sudarshan for breakfast at home. Also invited were my colleagues in the university, K.L. Bhatia and Nirmal Singh. Addressing the issue of a section of Jammu chauvinists campaigning against my appointment (as a Kashmiri) to the Vice Chancellorship, Sudarshan said: This is a vishvavidyalaya (university) an academic universe, a global sanctuary of ideas which we can never be reduced to a space for narrow bigotry. We have to upload the highest principles here, not let academic positions or programmes be traded or let education become yet another business. Given that the RSS is an important stakeholder in the NEP, it is critical that it guards against consumerist, neoliberal ideas of education taking over through the backdoor, while an apparent vigil of cultural nationalism is maintained in the front.

Amitabh Mattoo is professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University

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November 15th, 2019 at 2:44 pm

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Five Indian students win Oxford Big Read Asia Prize, four from Nagpur – The Statesman

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Marking a strong presence in the field of excellence, five students from India bagged prizes at Oxford Big Read Asia Prize at the Asia level. Out of these five students, four were from Nagpur while one from Madurai.

There were around 6000 submissions from schools from China, Malaysia, Pakistan, and India in the competition.

There are three categories for the different age groups in which the children compete.

BR Nimeesha from Sri Aurobindo Mira Universal School, Madurai was the winner in category 1 for the age group five to nine years.

In category 2, which is for the age group of 9 years to 11 years, Ananya Sheorey from The CDS School, Nagpur and Saara Den from Centre Point School, Nagpur were the winners. While in category 3 for the age group of 12 to 13 years, Neha Chhajed and Sama S Jahafirdar both of Bhavans BP Vidya Mandir, Nagpur were the winners.

Speaking about this competition, Sivaramakrishnan Venkateswaran, Managing Director, OUP India said, We are delighted to see growing participation and engagement in Oxford Big Read Asia. This competition provides students with an opportunity to augment the ambit of their reading and also demonstrate their literary and creative skills.

He added, We believe that early age interest in reading and writing is fundamental to ensuring better learning outcomes in young learners.

M Gnana Sundari Principal Sri Aurobindo Mira Universal School, Madurai said, I am happy to state that Oxford Big Read is an excellent contest for the students which creates in them a love for reading. Writing book reviews help students engage more deeply with what they are reading and also it is a great way to develop their vocabulary. Kudos to Oxford University Press for introducing this unique global program in India.

The campaign is open to schools and institutions in Hong Kong, China, India, Malaysia, and Pakistan through the Oxford University Press branch offices. Submissions from students are evaluated by a panel of judges based on originality of thought and expression, vocabulary range and the overall quality of content.

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Five Indian students win Oxford Big Read Asia Prize, four from Nagpur - The Statesman

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Frustration over Ayodhya verdict is not coming from Muslims but Left-illiberals – ThePrint

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Much blood has flowed, tears too. Many insecurities have drowned, fears too. Enough political capital has been wasted, narratives too. Abundant inter-religious divisions have been created, riots and killings too. The 491-year-long religious battle behind, the three-decade-old political skirmish resolved, the victory for what had degenerated into a property dispute in hand, and the supremacy of the Constitution established, it is now time for India to live the ideals that Ram stood for.

If we are to examine avatars from the prism of spiritual goals, Rams transformative role was to deliver to the world the ideal of sattwa through action. Unlike the next avatar Krishna, Ram neither gave any spiritual discourse nor announced to the world his avatarhood. His role was to live like a man and raise men towards the sattva ideal through his actions, sacrifice, valour, justice and above all, love. Actions were his teachings, victory a legacy. At the point society then stood, Ram delivered the highest ideal by slaying Ravan and establishing Ram Rajya.

Rams business was to fix for the future the possibility of an order proper to the sattwic civilised human being who governs his life by the reason, the finer emotions, morality or at least moral ideals, such as truth, obedience, cooperation and harmony, the sense of humour, the sense of domestic and public order, to establish this in a world still occupied by anarchic forces, the Animal Mind and the powers of the vital Ego making its own satisfaction the rule of life, wrote Sri Aurobindo. Rama and Sita are the ideals of the Indian nation, Swami Vivekananda said in a 31 January 1900 lecture.

Taking that as a civilisational context, the battle for a plot of land measuring 2.77 acres seems statistically insignificant. But before the force of faith that sees the timeless, spaceless eternal in holy premises, this small plot of land had become one of the central points of division between Hindus and Muslims over centuries and in a formal court of law over decades. With the Supreme Court finally ruling favour of Hindus, but with caveats that include giving Muslims a five-acre plot to build a mosque in Ayodhya, we hope this clash of political religiosity, is behind us.

Also read:Ayodhya verdict made one thing clear. This is the problem with Indian secularism today

The five-judge verdict comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, next Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and justices Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer is unanimous. Spread over 1,045 pages, this has been one of the most closely-watched judgments and will be among the most closely-tracked orders of the Supreme Court over the next few decades. The scope for error and hence a revision, therefore, is limited. Judicial orders are technical and pivot around points of law and the Constitution, and hence, this judgement will set a precedence for future disputes on and around properties of faith.

Apart from the order per se, we laud the administrative planning between Gogoi and the government of Uttar Pradesh. Sensitive to potential troublemakers who could enflame peoples, the two institutions, the judiciary and the state executive, took pre-emptive measures to prevent violence. At the time of writing, we see no flashpoints. Hopefully, there will be none going forward. We also commend the maturity of political parties, all of which are standing firmly behind the judgement.

Above all, we see the rise of a mature India, a society that has been honed to peace on the hot anvil of religious violence, a nation worthy of the time. No triumphalism, no victory marches, no needling by Hindus. No violence, no threats, no anguish by Muslims. A general sense of peace and calm prevails that tell us that we are more than what the media headlines expect, that we can surprise ourselves in what cynics see as the most dire crisis of faith. Exhausted by years of suspicion and fighting, perhaps we are turning a new leaf in Hindu-Muslim relations, a leaf that the rest of the world could emulate.

Also read: Muslim bodies split on Ayodhya verdict review plea, community at odds with clergy

There is dissonance, of course. But barring stray comments by political leaders, it is not coming from Muslims. The source of this frustration is the predictable Left-illiberal ecosystem. Already a diminishing ideology and receiving only contempt and whataboutery with every tweet, Leftist ideologues are attacking not merely the judgment but the Supreme Court itself. In their minds, the judicial process works only when a verdict is in their favour. Not for them the multiple hues of democracy where among other things, finally we argue differences out in a court of law and bow before the majesty of law. In a civilisation that stands high above suffocating Left-Right-Centre boxes of Western thought, this ecosystem is best ignored. Stepping back, we see this group of people and their ideology expressions of tamasic forces that have been and continue to weaponise victimhood.

Irrespective, having won this long-drawn battle that has sucked out the energies of several faith warriors, the arc of action is now in the hands of Hindus. How they behave and what they do with this victory will decide the future course of India. Having fought for Ram, they need to follow Ram. Had the verdict been in favour of Muslims, Hindus should have embraced sacrifice and walked away, like Ram did, when asked to forego the kingdom and live in the forest for 14 years by his father. Along with Sita and Lakshman, as Ram walked into the forests, away from the luxuries of palace life, he didnt look back, harboured no regrets. A sattwic detachment guided his actions.

Winning the case, however, has placed the yoke of morality on the shoulders of Hindus. And as Ram bhakts they need to follow their faith. Despite defeating Ravan and killing him in battle, Ram installed Ravans brother Vibhishan as the king of Sri Lanka. He neednt have. Nobody would have raised any question had he taken charge of the kingdom. But driven by the sattwic ideal of righteousness and justice, Ram did what he did. No great discourse, no lecture. A simple act decided the course of the island nations future. He handed the throne to Ravans brother and flew to Ayodhya. Again, Ram didnt look back and despite a spectacular victory, remained detached in sattwa.

Also read:Why Mathura or Varanasi temple disputes wont go the Ayodhya way

To complete this judicial-physical win and turn it into a moral-religious victory, Hindus must learn from and follow Ram. If the Muslim leaders agree, for instance, Hindus could help build their mosque. They could help finance it. They could participate in several ways and celebrate its completion. All this without the smallest political grandstanding. Simple actions, silently executed would go a long way in not merely imparting dignity to the victory but even creating a virtuous cycle of Hindu-Muslim unity, a model for 21st century India.

This would mean the people shunning vested political interests from both communities. Politics in the area of religion has repeatedly proven to be a tool that has short-changed the people. Religion in the premises of politics has failed to harmonise collective interests. On the contrary, political religiosity has created rifts and fed on and profited from them. It is perhaps time to reverse the cycle. That is, allow the sattwa ideal in individuals each being harbours some aspect of sattwa within to engage one another and create a new and harmonious India. From that sattwic ideal, that unity, that spiritual oneness will emerge Indias 21st century Ram Rajya.

Finally, we see the pyres of hatred and potential rebirth of an aspired-for harmony. Now that the people have shown the maturity that political leaders ought to have had in the first place, perhaps politics will follow through and pick up the pieces of destruction physical and psychological and rebuild the nation as per the new will of the people. The people are done with faith-based, religion-driven lives of mutual suspicion. We look at this verdict as the beginning of new political alignments in tune with a new India.

The temple is a body, Ram an eternal ideal. The body in control, now embrace that sattwic ideal.

The author is Vice President at Observer Research Foundation.

This article wasfirst publishedon ORF.

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