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Discovering Tulsidas in Tulsi Ghat

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It is five pm and I find myself back on the banks of the river Ganga in Varanasi, as it flows so quietly that it almost appears still. I am on my way to locate a 400 year old house where the Ramcharitmanas was written in Tulsi Ghat, one among the famed ghats of Varanasi. Tulsi Ghat is slightly higher than the rest and a steep staircase, three Shiva shrines, an old peepal tree and a white colour tree with a large balcony mark Tulsi Ghat.

A fairly aggressive greets me with aggression as it jumps from the peepal tree. I become defensive and allows me to pass. In Tulsi Ghat, I spot the guesthouse of the Sankatmochan Foundation and the laboratory of the Swachh Ganga Foundation, which spearheads the cleanup of the river Ganga in Varanasi. For a house that is 400 years old, one would expect it to be fairly well-known. I ask for directions to the Tulsi Ashram and a man indicates the house with his index finger right across the street opposite the akhara (wrestling rink). 

Walking into the white…

Tulsi Akhara: Fight Club of Varanasi

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The sun rises gently over the horizon and casts its deep reflections on the river Ganga a few minutes past seven. For many, it is the rise of yet another day in the ancient city of Varanasi. This morning, I am curious to explore the Tulsi Akhara in Tulsi Ghat, Varanasi to observe the morning routine of pehelwans (wrestlers). Nervous and excited, I walk in to the Swaminath Akhara in Tulsi Ghat and I greet Pehelwan Siyaramji with a namaste. He lights an incense stick and places it near the feet of the ochre-coloured idol of Bajrangbali (Hanuman, an ardent devotee of Lord Rama and one of the central characters in the Ramayana).


Akharas (wrestling clubs) are the original gymnasiums of India, often to show their wrestling prowess. “A regular day in the akhara begins at six am with dand baithaks (sit-ups) or jori phirna (turning around a pair of wooden cylinders tapering at one end, filled usually with iron or concrete). This is followed by yoga routines such as the suryanamaskar (obeisance …

Misplaced Contemporary Past:

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A week ago, ahead of her book launch, the Internet arm of TV channel NDTV published an excerpt from “Indian Cultures As Heritage: Contemporary Pasts” by eminent historian Romila Thapar. In the excerpt, she eloquently articulates about the pressures that have arisen due to political parties claiming to be unhappy with the content being taught in school and college textbooks. This, according to her, paves the way to seek revisions and rewriting of textbooks. Political intrusion, needless to say, must be unanimously condemned, irrespective of our individual and political affiliations. Hence, the aim of this post has been to draw Ms. Thapar’s attention to certain points she makes which deserve to be contested.
In the excerpt, she claims that educational institutions are often used by administrators as stepping stones in order to realise personal ambitions, which results in the credibility of an institution taking a backseat. This is certainly true and one must appreciate her fine eye for o…

Statue of Vandalism

The Internet on Tuesday erupted in shock as a statue of Russian communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin was razed by a group of suspected BJP workers in Belonia, Tripura amidst chants of "Bharat Mata Ki Jai". The demolition comes days after the BJP-led alliance managed to wrest control of the state, which experienced communist rule for the past 25 years.

In such a climate, a reaction is often influenced by the ideological and political strand that one subscribes by. The reactions that flooded the Internet soon after the video went viral ranged from shock, misplaced anger to even celebration. The demolition did evoke strong reactions from both sides as the detractors commented that vandalism should not be encouraged and the demolition of a statue by a democratically elected government shows its contempt for erasing history. The supporters, meanwhile, cheered as the razing of the statue which they termed as the symbolic end of a rule characterised by oppression, intimidation a…

Book Review: The Friendless God

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Book: The Friendless God
Author: S. Anuradha
Publishers: Moonlight Publications
Pages: 350

There is little doubt that India is a country of myriad facets, where the ancient co-exists with the modern. "The Friendless God" is S. Anuradha's debut novel. The Singapore based journalist specialises  in equities.
Set against the backdrop of the turbulent demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Ram Janmabhoomi in 1992 for the larger premise, the novel interestingly follows the parallel yet overlapping journeys of an atheist single mother Vaidehi, who is also a struggling Carnatic music exponent and her son Kodanda, who tries to befriend Rama, meets with resistance from his mother Vaidehi. In addition, the book follows the life of an orphan Raman, for whom Rama is a tool to scale ahead in life. It is within this framework that "The Friendless God" traces the lives of the three characters and their equations with the scion of Ikshvaku: Rama.

"The Friendless God&quo…

Wink of an Eye

The first Internet sensation of 2018 is here: Priya Prakash Varrier. Until last weekend, nobody knew the 18 year old actor from Kerala. In the run up to Valentine's Day on Wednesdsy, promoters of the Malayalam movie "Oru Adaar Love" uploaded a 3:16 minute video of the song "Manikya Malaraya Poovi" on YouTube. In the trailer, we can see Priya Varrier winking at her co-star which instantly catapulted her to what many believe she is the "national Valentine". 
The clip features the song "Manikya Malaraya Poovi", with an ensemble cast playing uniformed school kids falling in love in seemingly soft-lit slow motion. Priya Varrier, in a bit that lasts for just 30 seconds, locks gazes with a boy, raises her eyebrows and even winks at him, thus flooring him and seemingly the country as well.
On Wednesday evening, popular Hindi channel Aaj Tak fell prey to a parody tweet and aired a full debate around it. The tweet, issued by a parody and satire handl…

Jignesh Mevani and "that Mic"

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On Thursday, newly elected member Jignesh Mevani from Vadgam in Gujarat opted out of an impromptu reaction on the sidelines of a public meeting in Chennai. The reason? Mevani spotted a Republic TV mic among other microphones on the table. This led to Jignesh Mevani demanding that the Republic TV mic be removed before he addressed the media. Interestingly, the interaction at first glance appeared as a press conference but as clarified by N. Jayaraman on The Wire, that the interaction was after an event, where he was invited by a study circle.

The incident led to a boycott of Chennai's media which walked off after saying that a politician cannot dictate terms to the media. The boycott raised an important question about who has or does not have access to a media outfit and under what c
ircumstances. The refusal to engage with a Republic TV led to a stormy debate among journalists. Rationally speaking, both sides of the debate have a valid argument and a decision can be arrived at ba…