India Insight

Ravi Shankar, a song more felt than heard

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

As the world pays tribute to sitar master Ravi Shankar, who died on Tuesday at the age of 92, it’s worth reflecting on his greatest contribution to the world: his attempt to bridge the gap between “eastern” and “western” music with the likes of the Beatles and violinist Yehudi Menuhin.

But what will Indians remember him for? Teaching George Harrison to play the sitar, perhaps. But what’s the song he wrote that no Indian can forget? What’s the Indian equivalent of the concert for Bangladesh that Harrison organized, and at which Shankar played?

Yes, he composed the legendary signature tune on Doordarshan, the national broadcaster — the tune that millions of Indians woke up to every day. But have you heard these Bollywood songs from the swinging ‘60s? “Pipara ke Patwa”, “Hiya Jarat Raha Din Rain”? Shankar composed them for the film “Godaan.” They’re not exactly big hits. He also scored Satyajit Ray’s “Apu trilogy” of films, which is an honour whose notoriety is restricted by necessity to a small group of people. Arthouse films don’t reach the same number of cinema screens as “Jaws” or “Dil Chahta Hai.” The soundtrack to “Gandhi” is a nice achievement, but it’s not an enduring hit on its own.

Shankar won all the awards and honours that one could receive, but was he successful at reaching the common man with his music? I don’t think you can say that. Like it or not, Shankar is not to India what the Beatles are to the world. Both are revered — but people play the Beatles every day, within India and without. Beyond the nearly subconscious presence of the Doordarshan tune, he is absent from India’s cinema-obsessed, song-and-dance crazy nation’s collective music-loving conscience.

from The Human Impact:

Dial-a-maid, get-a-slave in middle class India

When I arrived in India some years back as a single mother and full-time journalist, there was one thing I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about – finding domestic help.

Maids, nannies, drivers, cooks and cleaners are ten-a-penny amongst the urban middle classes here.

In New Delhi’s neighbourhoods, for example, most families employ full- or part-time help, who do everything from feeding and bathing babies and cooking family meals to sweeping and washing floors.

Window closing on Prime Minister Singh’s planned visit to Pakistan

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)

It is eerily quiet on the fenced border between India and Pakistan in the southern plains of Jammu and Kashmir. Farmers are planting paddy, you can hear the sound of traffic in the distance from both sides of the border, and sometimes the squeals of children. Overhead in high watchtowers that can be seen from a mile, soldiers peer through binoculars at the enemy across while in the rear just behind the electrified fence with its array of Israeli-supplied sensors, soldiers are strung out in a line of bunkers. It’s a cold peace on one of the world’s most militarised frontiers.

Now the young chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, wants to change that, by cracking open the border and allowing the movement of people and trade through a road and rail route that have been shut since Partition in 1947.

Kejriwal names his party, now it’s agenda time

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)

Now that we know the name of India’s newest political party, launched by social activist Arvind Kejriwal, let’s look at what else it might deal with aside from the annihilation of corruption.

Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi party (AAP) – the name means “common man,” with “aam” meaning “ordinary” (and also “mango”) in Hindi – hasn’t said much so far about the bread-and-butter political topics of the day. While Kejriwal’s India Against Corruption has spoken on a few topics such as the hanging of Mumbai attacks convict Ajmal Kasab, how would he deal with a hostile nation with nuclear weapons? In fact, what is his foreign policy platform?

Photo gallery: From Haridwar to Rishikesh, why you don’t stick to the itinerary

You may be ready with the camera equipment and travel gear, but what if the first sight of your destination doesn’t appeal to you? That happened to me when I reached Haridwar. The dirt and grime appalled me, and I wasn’t up for an “exotic India” photo op. Worse, the manager of an ashram refused to provide accommodation because I was a single male. The other lodging house guy I spoke to over the phone was equally reluctant and for the same reason.

Walking past the innumerable beggars and the drying Ganga river, I found a spot where a man was resting under a tree.

 

Disgruntled, I hopped into the next autorickshaw and reached Rishikesh, about 20 kilometres from Haridwar. The view cheered me up.

Zee News editors arrested in Jindal extortion case

(Updated with response by Zee News)

Two senior journalists of Hindi-language channel Zee News were arrested on Tuesday night in an extortion case filed by Congress lawmaker and Jindal Steel and Power Ltd Chairman Naveen Jindal.

Jindal released video recordings last month that he said showed the journalists trying to extort money from the industrialist in return for not airing negative stories on coal block allocations involving his company.

Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) was among the companies named in a state auditor report as one of the beneficiaries of controversial coal block allocations which came to be known as “coalgate”.

from Photographers' Blog:

Meeting a modern-day Gandhi

Delhi, India

By Mansi Thapliyal

"I am Gandhi!" he says firmly. "His soul resides inside me," he announces, smiling unwaveringly.

I stare blankly at the man who is wearing a dhoti wrapped around his waist, thick black oval glasses and carrying a cane just like Mahatma Gandhi.

GALLERY: MODERN-DAY GANDHI

Two weeks ago, I called this man asking to meet him and he politely told me not to say "hello."

from Money on the markets:

Subbarao goes against his panel, again

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is not the only one walking alone.

Duvvuri Subbarao, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) chief, also seems to be on a solitary, and one hopes, contemplative walk.

It's not just the government putting pressure on the central bank to act and cut rates.

Is Kasab’s death enough closure in the Mumbai attacks?

“If you hear the sound of a bullet, kneel, and if you have to move, then crawl, don’t run.”

Those are not the first words you want to hear when you arrive to cover an assignment — but then this wasn’t just any assignment. I was at Nariman House in Colaba to cover the attack that came to be known as 26/11.

On Wednesday, four years later, that story finally got some sort of closure, after the lone gunman captured during the Mumbai attacks was hanged. But for those who were a part of those dark days of 2008, whether real closure will come because of this one act of justice is a tough question to answer.

No criticism please, we are Indians

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

When I signed up for a Facebook account four years ago, a friend warned me it was “dangerous for your sanity” — of course, she meant it in terms of the time I would spend peeking into other people’s lives (She was right). But on Monday, for 21-year-old Shaheen Dhada, that phrase took on a whole new meaning.

When Dhada updated her Facebook status, complaining about Mumbai’s shutdown following the death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, little did she know she would find herself in court pleading for bail after being arrested for “hurting religious sentiments”.

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