Monday 31 December 2018

In a world of selfies, an old photographer remembers the age of Bollywood-inspired studio portraits

Christophe Prébois’ nostalgic documentary Mr Ram Chand Photographer talks about a time when taking a photograph was an exception, not the rule.

Almost twenty years ago, Christophe Prébois was driving down a road in Ajmer, Rajasthan, when a photograph displayed in the first-floor window of what ostensibly was a dry cleaner’s shop caught his eye. The image was of a group of men, all holding guns and the French photographer was intrigued by the mismatch between the shop and the display. A conversation with the shop’s owner, Gurumuk Chand, revealed that the upstairs was a photography studio named Shatranj, which was run by his father, Ram Chand. The photograph on display had been in the shop for many years.

“It was my second trip to India and I had come with a camera thinking I would come back with an amazing harvest of images,” said Prébois. “But I soon realised that I’d rather look for images already done, images witnessing the past and, above all, images done by Indian photographers.”

© Ram Chand/Christophe Prebois (The Artist and the Photographer, 1960s-1970s).
Image Courtesy: The artist and JaipurPhoto 2018
Prébois’ obsession with Ram Chand’s work was immediate and over the next few years he made many trips to India to get to know him. With the son’s help, he finally convinced Chand, whom he describes as a “grumpy old man”, to tell his story – “Mr Chand was rather intimidating and wouldn’t let me freely roam around the studio. He had a closet crammed with all the negatives he had done but he would not let me look at them. He got more relaxed on the matter only when he retired some years later.” In 2016, Prébois was allowed to follow Chand around with a video camera.

For Prébois’ documentary film, Mr Ram Chand Photographer, the octogenarian relives the 1960s and 1970s, when his photo studio was “the most respected establishment in the area”. “The first thing he told us in response to our project was, ‘Mera time ho gaya’ – ‘my time is done’ – but in the end he was pleased to be the center of our interest and to recall his memories,” said Prébois.

Prébois’ first instinct was to use the archival material gathered from Chand in a photography exhibition, but he realised that the soul of this work was within Chand himself. “That was why I decided to shoot this documentary movie,” he said. “Mr Chand was the person most fit to give some basic information about the pictures and I was lucky he was willing to speak about his work.”

The documentary will be screened in India as part of the JaipurPhoto, an international outdoor photography festival being held in Jaipur from February 23 to March 4.

© Ram Chand/Christophe Prebois (The Artist and the Photographer, 1960s-1970s). Image Courtesy: The artist and JaipurPhoto 2018

A Bollywood fantasy
“Mr Chand started his first business, a studio called Navrang in 1959,” said Prébois. “He opened Shatranj in 1969. Both studios were named after famous movies released the same year. His reasons to be a photographer were very different from ours these days. To him it was just a job. A job he did with all his heart, always trying to fulfill his clients’ satisfaction, but still a job. He almost never did a picture for his own pleasure and totally stopped taking pictures the day he retired.”

By the time Prébois met Chand in the late 1990s, his photography business was already on the decline and he used to spend his days reading the newspaper in front of his son’s dry-cleaning business on the ground floor. “He was doing mostly passport photographs at that time,” said Prébois. “He also had a contract with the local prison to shoot new inmates’ face and profiles just like in movies. His window display consisted of ornate frames with portraits inside and every morning he would hang a few outside for publicity.”

© Ram Chand/Christophe Prebois (The Artist and the Photographer, 1960s-1970s). Image Courtesy: The artist and JaipurPhoto 2018
As the shop name suggested, the work produced by Chand’s studio was reflective of popular culture in the 1960s, which was inspired by Bollywood. Dressed in their best, subjects would pose in front of the camera, their awkwardness apparent in their stiff posture and straight, unsmiling faces. “These were simple people with simple lifestyles,” said Chand. “They would come to get themselves photographed, there was no need for smiling teethily like fools.”

Some would dress up – jackets, ties and dark glasses for men; and a traditional Kashmiri costume for women – for the special occasion of being photographed. “I remember my surprise when Mr Chand told us that the subjects were regular people and not characters from a movie,” said Prébois. “One of the portraits of a man with a big moustache turned out to be the watchman for the bank next door who wanted to show his massive moustache to some relatives living far away, another one was of a milkman. And one was of a young man who wanted to send a nice picture as a keepsake to a future fiancée living in another city.”

© Ram Chand/Christophe Prebois (The Artist and the Photographer, 1960s-1970s).
Image Courtesy: The artist and JaipurPhoto 2018
In the documentary, Chand is seen showing the various styles that were commonly demanded by his customers – creating a photograph of one man in double role, or superimposing an image of a famous actor next to them or being shown holding guns – which were all borrowed from Bollywood.

He leads his interviewer through rows of dry-cleaned saris on to the first floor of the shop where relics from his days as a photographer, such as a flower vase attached to a colourful stand, are still stored. “The customers needed something in the frame they could rest their arm on while striking a pose, or the women needed somewhere to sit while their husbands stood next to them,” says Chand, as he points to a small white chair with a fanned back. The small space also still has a dressing room where he would store combs and clips for the women.

© Ram Chand/Christophe Prebois (The Artist and the Photographer, 1960s-1970s).
Image Courtesy: The artist and JaipurPhoto 2018
An indispensable part of Chand’s studio was Rajinder Sharma, a painter living in Ajmer, much in demand for his Bollywood poster work. Chand talks fondly of Sharma in the film. “He could do anything with his paintbrush on a photograph,” he said. “Most of the times, he added details in the photograph after it had been shot. He could add a moustache on a person, or draw them holding guns, he could even make a blind person look like a sighted one with his paintbrush. Being photographed as a bandit was so popular at the time, where were we supposed to get the costume or the gun? He would draw everything later.”

© Ram Chand/Christophe Prebois (The Artist and the Photographer, 1960s-1970s).
Image Courtesy: The artist and JaipurPhoto 2018
Portraits to selfies
Like most other studios of the time, Chand’s work at the time relied heavily on portraits. “He never did a photo of a landscape for instance,” said Prébois. “The portrait genre today has obviously been revolutionised with smartphones. As a consequence, people’s attitude in front of the camera has changed. They’ve became more experienced as sitters. They don’t need the help of a photographer any longer to indicate and correct their pose. Being photographed by a professional in a studio was like experiencing a transformation through a succession of black boxes, through the studio itself and then through the camera, without knowing what the result would be. With today’s technique there’s no more mystery, no more surprise.”

By the end of 1990s, with the introduction of smaller cameras that were easier to use, Chand’s business was dwindling. He shut down the studio in the early 2000s partly because of the scarce demand for his style of portraits and partly because he felt he was ready to retire. He let his son, whom he never pushed to pursue photography, take over as the breadwinner of the family.

© Ram Chand/Christophe Prebois (The Artist and the Photographer, 1960s-1970s).
Image Courtesy: The artist and JaipurPhoto 2018
“He slowly got less interested when colour photography came in,” said Prébois. “He knew that the way he used to do his trade was finished and he never intended to change.”

Mr Ram Chand Photographer will be on display at Hawa Mahal from February 23 to March 4 as part of the JaipurPhoto festival.

(Source: Scroll)

Sunday 30 December 2018

How Chipko Andolan pioneer Chandi Prasad Bhatt saved Badrinath temple

His agitation in 1974 prevented the heritage structure in Uttarakhand from being turned into a concrete monstrosity.

Oo most people, a country’s natural heritage and architectural heritage seem to be completely different spheres. Those who save trees and rivers seem to inhabit a world entirely different from those who save temples and monuments. But this fractured vision obscures individuals whose lives have linked the two spheres.

Chandi Prasad Bhatt, widely admired as the pioneer of the Chipko Andolan, is among them. The Chipko movement of the 1970s, which resulted in Himalayan villagers successfully saving their forests from felling by threatening to hug trees, is celebrated by environmentalists worldwide. Unremembered, though, is that around the time he was saving forests, Bhatt also successfully saved, in a manner of speaking, the Hindu shrine at Badrinath. Unlike trees, the temple would not have disappeared. But had it not been for Bhatt, its traditional fabric may well have been destroyed.
It is a forgotten story, of how a celebrated environmentalist became the saviour of a famous temple. It also brings into focus other individuals equally passionate about their ecological inheritance and cultural patrimony. In Bhatt’s life, these appear as connected parts of the same world, and his actions, in fact, were an outcome of this integrated vision.

Making a fascinating find
Research leads, as I know from experience, can come out of casual conversations. And so it was when I first met Bhatt on December 6, 2017, at Ashoka University, where I teach. He is now past 85 but seems much younger. This is not merely because his head of hair is still black, even though his beard is white. His aura is young and hopeful. There is no cynicism in his attitude to what he sees around him. In addition, he has a razor-sharp recollection of the time gone by.

As a historian of archaeology, I asked Bhatt about Uttarakhand’s built heritage and the threats that it has faced. He answered by recalling an agitation around Badrinath in the mid-1970s he had been closely involved with. He saw the agitation not in religious terms, he said, but as one aimed at saving the cultural character of the shrine. Much to my surprise and delight, he told me he had donated the file relating to this agitation to Ashoka University. Bhatt, in fact, was on the Ashoka campus that afternoon because he was being felicitated for his work. It was in the course of that conversation with him in Sonepat and several more in Dehradun and Gopeshwar, where he lives, as also through the letters and newspapers in the Bhatt files and government reports, that I learned about his involvement with the Badrinath temple.

The Badrinath temple with its Himalayan backdrop. Photo credit: Nayanjot Lahiri
Putting heritage at risk
The story goes back 45 years to a cold December day in 1973, when Bhatt struck up a conversation in Gopeshwar with a visiting wood worker named Muhammad Yaqub. In this small town, such visitors were common and they would have recognised Bhatt, a familiar figure in the hills after he had founded the labour cooperative Dasholi Gram Swarajya Sangh in 1964. Emphasising local employment generation, the cooperative had in 1973 successfully fought against the forest department’s decision to allot hornbeam trees in the Mandal Valley near Gopeshwar to Symonds Co. of Allahabad rather than to local peasants for making agricultural implements. This was the first of several successful protests that Bhatt led as part of the Chipko Andolan.

When the visitor saluted him, Bhatt casually asked him what he did. Yaqub said he was working at the Badrinath temple. Was the temple broken? Bhatt asked. It wasn’t, but large-scale construction was going on nevertheless. A two-hour conversation followed, during which Bhatt learned for the first time about the nature of the Badrinath renovation project. It was being funded by the Birlas, through their charity – the Jayshree Trust, named after the daughter of Basant Kumar Birla – which had also got the design of the new construction prepared. A massive wall of cement and steel was being built, enveloping the temple’s garbagriha, or sanctum sanctorum. The concrete cladding was already several feet high and, in anticipation of new construction, the sabha mandapa, or audience hall, had been broken.

Yaqub’s description alarmed Bhatt. Usually, in repairs of historic temples, the local idiom is followed. Here, however, in the name of repair and renovation, an entirely new kind of construction was being undertaken. In his mind’s eye, Bhatt would surely have seen Badrinath becoming part of the national chain of massive Birla temples, very different from the charming and understated temple complex that existed. He may also have drawn a connection between the forest department’s agenda, against which he had just led an agitation, and that of the Badrinath Temple Committee. Just as the hornbeam trees allotted to a sports goods company in distant Allahabad would have disrupted a customary way of using forests, a distant entity in Calcutta, if permitted to construct in this way, would have turned upside down the traditional architecture of the shrine.

Simha Dvara fronts the Badrinath temple. Photo credit: Nayanjot Lahiri
Much as he wanted to, Bhatt could not go to Badrinath immediately. Winter had set in, the roads were carpeted with snow, and the shrine had been closed to worshippers. But in the first week of March 1974, he met with Badrinath’s former chief priest in Joshimath. The priest was aware of what was happening and admitted it was wrong. When Bhatt asked why he was keeping quiet, he asked him to have faith in the power of Badrinath.

Not content with depending on the power of the deity, Bhatt went to the site in April to see it for himself. The temple had opened a little earlier than usual, so that pilgrims who had come for Maha Kumbh festivities in Haridwar could combine it with a visit to the shrine. When Bhatt reached the temple, he first saw a large billboard near the historic Simha Dvara, proclaiming the work was being done by the Birla family in the manner of “Devanam Priya Ashoka” – the Mauryan emperor Ashoka from the second century BCE. A temple known by the name of Badrinath was not only acquiring the Birla stamp, its rich new patrons were advertising their work as comparable to that of an ancient emperor, that too a Buddhist one.

When Bhatt stepped inside the temple’s courtyard, the half-finished construction he saw was exactly as Yaqub had described it: the small shrine on the brink of being engulfed by a monstrosity of concrete. He went to the office of the Chief Executive Officer, where the chairman of the Temple Committee, Ramnarayan Pandey, was also present. The Chipko leader was well-known in Badrinath because of the struggles he had led in the hills and because Bhoodan Patrika, a Sarvodaya magazine he was associated with, used to be sold there. He was introduced to Pandey as a “Sarvodaya wallah”.

Bhatt asked Pandey about what was happening at the temple. “Can’t you see?” Pandey retorted. “You are a Sarvodayi, the temple is being renovated.” Bhatt persisted. Some of his queries were about the ecological threat that building a tall structure would pose, he said. The Alaknanda river constantly cuts the rather fragile bank on which the temple stands. Was the increased elevation viable and would it withstand icy winter gales? Other queries related to the use of cement, steel and concrete. Had the Samiti, before the restoration work began, consulted traditional shilpa shastra experts and archaeologists about this unfamiliar construction material? He also asked about the source of the funds. Couldn’t the money have been raised by appealing in the name of, and to, the people of India?

The Alaknanda river constantly cuts the rather fragile bank on which the Badrinath temple stands. Photo credit: Nayanjot Lahiri
While Pandey had no answers, he accused Bhatt of being envious of what the Birlas were doing and declared with arrogant certitude that there was no such thing as an Uttarakhand architectural style.

After hearing all this, Bhatt left. But he told himself: “This won’t happen. This is Angad’s foot and it will not now move.” Angad’s unshakeable posture is an allusion to the Ramayana story of Ram’s trusted monkey-soldier planting his foot in such a way in the court of Ravana that no one could move it. Bhatt would, in much the same way, be unswerving in his determination to save the temple from losing its heritage features.

Winning the fight
Bhatt planned this fight in the way that he had taken on ecological challenges. He explained that an andolan, or agitation, is always the last means for seeking redress.

A satyagrahi, to begin with, has to acquire and disseminate correct information. So Bhatt spoke with people, especially old residents who had “experience-based knowledge”, gathered material about the environmental fragility of the slope on which the temple stands and its historical features. In May, Bhatt returned to Badrinath, this time accompanied by some colleagues. They included Govind Singh Rawat, block pramukh of Joshimath who was Bhatt’s close associate, an important leader of the Chipko Andolan and a member of the Communist Party of India. They were joined by Balakrishna Bhatt, a young lawyer, and the journalist Dhananjaya Bhatt. The idea was to disseminate information and help give the matter some publicity.

Badrinath’s makeover was first reported in the Hindi weekly Dinmaan, edited by the literary critic and journalist Raghuvir Sahay. He was known to Anupam Mishra, a journalist closely associated with Bhatt who would later write the first history of the Chipko protests. The story was picked up by a large number of newspapers, and through regular reports from May to July 1974, people in different parts of the country learned about the project. As Bhatt explained, this was necessary because if matters escalated, those supporting the renovation could spread all kinds of disinformation.

It is fascinating to read newspaper reports from that time and get a flavor of the reactions the news evoked. The Uttarakhand Observer of June 17 compared the Birla trust to the East India Company saying that, under the guise of renovation, it was attempting to control this holy shrine, a move opposed by local people. There was also a poignant description of how stones removed from the temple in the course of renovation now lay by roadsides – stones that had seen pujas were now being used to make cooking hearths for workers and travellers.

The Birla Mandir in Delhi. Photo credit: Wikipedia
Janyuga reported on July 4 that red sandstone from Agra, typical of Birla structures, had reached Badrinath and would be used in the renovation work. The Birlas had been told that local stone was traditionally used in hill temples, but the financiers insisted on red sandstone. From the height of the structure to the stone being used, all seemed to underline that Badrinath, with its historic “pahadi shaili” or Pahadi-style architecture, was on the brink of becoming like Delhi’s Birla Mandir. In fact, on July 8, the Uttarakhand Observer dramatically informed the people of the hills that Bholaram’s soul was asking them from heaven why they had sold their “Vastu Kala”, or architectural arts, to the Birlas. The invocation of Bholaram would have touched a sensitive spot since he was the master craftsman who, generations ago, had overseen the creation of Simha Dvara.

In spite of such adverse publicity, work at the temple clipped along. So, Bhatt took his fight to the government. He travelled to Delhi and met MN Deshpande, director general of the Archaeological Survey of India. The meeting was arranged by his nephew, Budhi Prasad Bhatt, who had been Deshpande’s student. Deshpande pointed out that since the temple was not a protected monument, it was outside his jurisdiction. Had it been under the ASI, the director general added, he would have immediately stopped the work. Still, he felt something should be done and told Bhatt if he got the work stopped, the ASI would find a way to intervene. Bhatt promised he would try to do something within 10 days.

Bhatt then went to Lucknow to see Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister HN Bahuguna. He explained what the Jayshree Trust was doing at the temple. Apparently, the chief minister was convinced and told Bhatt if the temple was damaged, his government would severely punish those responsible. He also asked him to submit a memorandum that very evening. Bhatt went out and got a memorandum typed, but when he returned, the chief minister’s personal assistant did not let him in. Bhatt thought that the assistant had been approached by those he was opposing in Badrinath. He eventually decided to submit the memorandum to some influential legislators. Photostat facilities were not easily available in those days so he had a dozen copies typed overnight.

Chipko Andolan, whereby Himalayan villagers successfully saved their forests by hugging trees, is celebrated by environmentalists across the world. Photo via Twitter
He left Lucknow the following day, despondent and wondering if and how an agitation to preserve the temple could be launched. Nonetheless, he helped form the Uttarakhand Mandir Bachao Samiti and started preparations for an agitation. Unknown to Bhatt, his memorandum soon resulted in the matter being raised in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, with several legislators across parties demanding a halt to the renovation work. On July 13, the chief minister assured the Assembly that his government would get the director general of the ASI to ascertain whether Jayshree Trust had changed the temple’s historical form. He also set up an inquiry committee under ND Tiwari, then finance minister, and ordered that until it submitted a report, work at the temple must stop. Deshpande was made a member of this committee and he would play a proactive role in ensuring that the shrine’s traditional architectural form was preserved and the new concrete walls demolished.

In Gopeshwar, Bhatt learned about these developments when he tuned his transistor to listen to the evening news. He rang up the acting district magistrate, who was in Badrinath, and told him what had happened. The official had also heard the news and he summoned the superintending engineer of the Birla trust. The engineer pleaded helplessness, stating that he could not halt the work until his employer told him to. “Yadi tum band nahin karvate ho to main tumhe band karta hoon,” the magistrate replied. If you don’t stop the work, I will put you behind bars. The threat worked and construction was stopped. By then, the concrete walls had been raised to nearly 22 feet.

The final stretch
From his vast experience as an activist, Bhatt knew the government’s assurances could melt away as quickly as they were given unless popular discontent was demonstrated against what the temple’s management and the Jayshree Trust had done. So a public meeting and a procession were planned at Badrinath around Janamashtami, which fell on August 10. Bhatt arrived with people from Gopeshwar a day before, along with his wife and daughter. Nearly a hundred of Bhatt’s followers decided to go to the temple that very day. They had the support of dimris, pujaris and lawyers there, even political parties. But the Brahman pandas vehemently opposed them, and targeted Bhatt in particular. Walking at the edge of the procession to keep watch, he was isolated and gheraoed by the pandas who shouted slogans branding him a Chinese agent (or Communist) and “Seth ka Virodhi”, or opponent of the Birla seth. At the temple, Bhatt’s comrades were met by pandas waiving black flags and shouting slogans. In spite of the provocation, the protestors remained peaceful, for it was integral to how Sarvodaya workers conducted themselves.

The big procession was to be held the next day. When Bhatt woke up, he learned that hostile posters had been put up all over Badrinath, again with messages like “Chinni agent so raha hai” (Chinese agent is sleeping here) and “Birla aur mandir ka Virodhi kaun?” (Who is the opponent of the Birlas and the temple?). But the procession and the public meeting proceeded as planned, peacefully. Over a thousand people came from across Chamoli, alerted through a network of contacts as also by Hayat Singh, a Chipko activist who knew the terrain well. The demonstration was led from the front by Gaura Devi, Bhatt’s doughty comrade who had led the women of Reni village to save their forest in the spring of that year.

The procession was about half a kilometre long. The villagers had come with jhaanj (clash cymbals), bugles and traditional bajas, while women of Mana village arrived in beautiful garments, adding colour, music and song to the march. Alongside slogans such as “Bharat Mata ki jai” and “Mahatma Gandhi ki iai”, the rally resonated with slogans to save Badrinath. And the Sarvodaya song, “Bair bhav todne, dil ko dil se jodne...chale chale, chale chale”, was lustily rendered, with Bhatt leading the singing. The successful deployment of the organisational strength of the Chipko movement was clearly visible that day.

A young Chandi Prasad Bhatt (right) with Gaura Devi and Hayat Singh.
How the agitation helped propel the Tiwari committee’s work and, later, the dissolution of the temple committee led by Pandey is for another story. At the end of this story, what remains embedded in my mind is that the same friends who were closely associated with the Chipko protests – Bhatt, Gaura Devi, Hayat Singh – also led the Badrinath Bachao Andolan. They protected the shrine the same way they did their forests because they saw them as interconnected parts of their common heritage.

If I was asked under what conditions monuments and archaeological sites could be best preserved, my reply would be based on what this forgotten episode from the life of Chandi Prasad Bhatt reveals. Our built heritage will survive when we see it as an integral part of our lives and beliefs – and when we are willing to fight for it just as we do for our forests and fields. This story illuminates Bhatt’s courage to hold firm to his vision of heritage in which fighting to safeguard a temple’s traditional form mattered as much as saving trees.

(Source: Scroll)

Saturday 29 December 2018

The strongest couples are best friends first

The strongest couples go on dates that are fun, not just dates that are romantic. They visit amusement parks together and hold hands on roller coasters. They go to the arcade together and compete for the highest score. They watch comedies together and make jokes the entire time. They have fun whenever they are in the same room.

The strongest couples don’t only love each other, they actually like each other. They enjoy spending time together. They would rather watch movies and shop for groceries and take naps together than on their own. Everything is more exciting when they are side-by-side.

The strongest couples know what to say to make each other laugh. They know exactly what to do when their person is in a bad mood. They know which song or dance or youtube video will cheer them up the fastest.

Unsplash / William Recinos
The strongest couples can have a great time together without getting intimate. Without clothing coming off. Without things getting physical. The strongest couples love being around each other, even when they don’t get an orgasm out of the deal. They like each other for more than their bodies. They actually like their intelligence, their dedication, and their sense of humor, too.

The strongest couples tell each other everything. They talk about work. They talk about their families. They talk about their other friends. They give each other good news and bad news. They don’t hide anything. They don’t keep secrets. They are completely open.

The strongest couples laugh together. They have a million inside jokes to share. They have weird nicknames for each other that they aren’t embarrassed about using in public. They know exactly what to say when they want to tease each other but they never take it too far.

The strongest couples try new things together. They take vacations together. They sign up for classes together. They taste new foods and travel to new places together. If one person wants to see a certain concert or eat at a certain restaurant, then the other person is always willing to tag along.

The strongest couples can’t go a day without talking to each other. They send each other the dumbest jokes. They tag each other on social media just to be annoying. They aren’t afraid to send double or triple texts. They are completely comfortable with each other.

The strongest couples consider each other family, even if there isn’t any paperwork to make it official yet. They spend holidays together. They carpool to parties together. They are each other’s plus-one. They are a packaged deal.

The strongest couples act as a team. They have their own separate lives, and they realize they can’t be together all of the time, but they always support each other. They encourage each other. They have each other’s backs.

The strongest couples are best friends. They love spending time together, even if they aren’t doing anything more than lounging on the couch for the evening. They just love each other’s company. They love being in the same room. They love sharing their lives.

(Source: TC)

Depression of fathers and their daughters linked, survey finds

Study of 3,176 UK families finds raised risk of 18-year-olds with depression if their fathers had similar feelings after their birth

A teenage girl is more at risk of developing mental health problems if her father has experienced post-natal depression, according to research.

A study of more than 3,000 families in the Bristol area in England found that one in 20 fathers experienced post-natal depression in the weeks after their child was born. Researchers found a link between men with the condition and their daughters experiencing depression at the age of 18.

The “small but significant” risk applied only to daughters. Sons were found to be unaffected, said the study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. The survey, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which has been running since 1991, looked at 3,176 father and child pairs.

The authors said it was unclear why girls might be more affected than boys at that age but that it could be linked to specific aspects of father-daughter relationships as girls went through adolescence.

They said the findings could have implications for perinatal services, which traditionally focus on identifying and treating post-natal depression in mothers.

Fathers, like mothers, can experience post-natal depression, say academics. Photograph: Bill Cheyrou/Alamy

Paul Ramchandani, of the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge, said: “Research from this study of families in Bristol has already shown that fathers can experience depression in the post-natal period as well as mothers. What is new in this paper is that we were able to follow up the young people from birth through to the age of 18, when they were interviewed about their own experience of depression. Those young people whose fathers had been depressed back when they were born had an increased risk of depression at age 18 years.”

Ramchandani added that the team also looked at some of the ways in which depression in fathers might have affected children.

He said: “It appears that depression in fathers is linked [to] an increased level of stress in the whole family, and that this might be one way in which offspring may be affected. Whilst many children will not be affected by parental depression in this way, the findings of this study highlight the importance of providing appropriate help to fathers, as well as mothers.”

Mark Williams, the founder of the lobby group Fathers Reaching Out and a campaigner concerned with paternal depression, said: “In my experience of working with families it’s sometimes only the father who is suffering in silence. But sadly very few are asked about their mental health after becoming a parent.”

Previous research by the same academics found post-natal depression in fathers was linked to behavioural and emotional problems in their offspring at the ages of three-and-a-half and seven. The researchers believed this might be due to paternal depression causing conflict between partners and prompting maternal depression.

(Source: The Guardian)

A 1946 love story: After 72 years of separation, 90-year-old man meets first wife

After Narayanan Nambiar and Sarada were split in 1946, their children from second marriages decided to set up a meeting for the two.

90-year-old EK Narayanan Nambiar finally met his 85-year-old wife Sarada recently, after 72 years of being separated from each other. When they met, bystanders say, Sarada went shy and quiet, much like the 13-year-old she had been when she parted ways from then 18-year-old Narayanan. As first reported exclusively by Mathrubhumi reporter CK Vijayan, Narayanan Nambiar and Sarada hadn't even spent one year together after their marriage in 1946 before fate and politics pulled them apart, following which they moved on to remarry and have their own families.

It was a meeting between their relatives that allowed their paths to cross once again. Like the greatest love stories, Narayanan Nambiar and Sarada’s story is suffused with drama, sorrow, heartbreak, and anti-feudal, anti-colonial politics.

An eight-month love story
Narayanan Nambiar and Sarada’s love story began and ended in 1946. The two had been married to each other for eight months when, in December 1946, “our story's hero” (as Narayanan Nambiar’s nephew Madhukar tells TNM), Narayanan Nambiar and his father Thaliyan Raman Nambiar decided to take part in the Kavumbai Farmers Rebellion, a farmer’s uprising to gain control over their own land and wrest it from the feudal leaders. In Kavumbai, the planned uprising was against the feudalist Karakattidam Nayanar, who controlled many parts of Kannur.

On the evening of December 30, 1946, Narayanan Nambiar, Thaliyan Raman Nambiar and 500 other volunteers marched to a hill near the house of Karakattidam Nayanar with weapons, planning to attack the house early the next morning.

However, members of the Malabar Special Police (MSP), tasked by British colonial rulers to protect the interests of Kerala’s feudalist rulers, caught wind of their plan and surrounded the hill that same night, firing at the group with machine guns. Five protesters were killed by machine gun fire, while EK Narayanan Nambiar and his father went underground. They were later arrested by police, after which they were imprisoned in Kannur and Salem jail. Although Narayanan Nambiar suffered 16 bullet wounds in the firing, he managed to survive, but continues to carry one single bullet inside him. His father Thaliyan Raman Nambiar, however, was shot dead in jail on suspicion of being involved in violent protests.

Meanwhile, on December 31, 1946, 60 members of the MSP had arrived at the home of Narayanan’s wife Sarada and his mother. They broke into the house, destroying their rations of ghee, milk, pepper and rice, and attacked his mother, as they suspected that Thaliyan Raman and Narayanan Nambiar had returned home. They returned soon after, and burned their house down.

With no signs or hopes of Narayanan’s return, and after a few more violent visits from the MSP, Sarada’s mother-in-law decided to send her back to her natal home, where she was soon remarried.

Eight years later, in 1954, Narayanan was released from jail in Salem and left for his home, only to find out that his wife had been remarried. Narayanan Nambiar, too, remarried and had seven children.

A date after 72 years
Narayanan Nambiar’s niece, writer Santha Kavumbayi, even wrote a novel based on the events of Narayanan Nambiar’s life, titled 30 December.

When Bhargavan, Sarada’s son, happened to meet Santha and Madhukumar, they decided to speak to their respective family members and set up a meeting between the two. They met at Bhargavan’s house in Parassinikkadavu in Kannur district.

Sarada’s family prepared a traditional Kerala meal of kappa (tapioca), kanji (rice gruel) and puzhukku (a root vegetable dish) to welcome Narayanan Nambiar, who came with his sister-in-law and her children.

In videos of their meeting, Narayanan Nambiar can be seen patting her head, while Sarada’s eyes were trained on the floor. At other times, when Narayanan Nambiar speaks to others present in the house about the events that cast them apart, Sarada can be seen stealing a few glances at him before looking away.

They discussed how neither of them was angry at anyone for the events in their life. As her children brought up memories of their mother, Sarada said that she never had to work and was treated like a daughter by Narayanan Nambiar’s family.

Before he was set to leave, again, Narayanan Nambiar laid his hand on her head and told her “I am leaving now”, while Sarada simply nodded and looked to the ground.

(Source: TNM)

Lost in Asia's deepest cave

Almost 50 years ago, Mustafaqul Zokirov left his drought-hit mountain village in a remote corner of Uzbekistan in search of water.

He never returned.

But his disappearance led to a discovery that now draws explorers to a Central Asian country normally known for its vast steppes and ancient Silk Road cities.

What attracts them is Boybuloq - at 1,415 metres (4,640 feet) - Asia's deepest cave.

The Hisar mountains where Asia's deepest cave is located

Uzbekistan's mountains still have an air of mystery and are amongst the least explored anywhere.

That's certainly true for the Hisar range in the south of the country, where Boybuloq lies.

Just getting there is a task not for the faint-hearted. First comes a hair-raising seven-hour drive in an old Soviet-era UAZ off-road vehicle, up to the hamlet of Dehibolo - which translates as "the highest village".

Patches of fertile ground have been cleared from the rocky ground in Dehibolo village

As the mountains disappear in the clouds on one side, steep gorges promise certain death on the other should your driver make the smallest mistake.

"I even ride in winter and at midnight," boasts our young chauffeur Erkin. "I know every stone and every bend. So relax and enjoy the view."

Once we reach the last few villages, the road disappears altogether and the car has to make do with a river bed amidst steep barren cliffs, springs and narrow streams.

At an altitude of over 3,000m, Dehibolo marks the end of the journey, a small green oasis at what feels like the end of the world.

The dwellings of Dehibolo have been built into and around the rocks and boulders

During the snowy season from late January to mid-April, the village is completely cut off. People here have to produce almost everything themselves, except clothes, medicine and flour.

Villagers keep honey bees, rear sheep, grow fruit and vegetables and all summer they have to gather either firewood or coal in the surrounding mountains to keep them going through winter.

"Life here is tough," says Norkhol-momo, 70. "All my children have moved away, just my youngest is still here."

Everything here is built into the rocks. Norkhol-momo's courtyard is also the roof of her neighbour's place.

Like her fellow villagers,. Norkhol-momo lives a life of self-sufficiency

Growing food is challenging in these narrow, rocky valleys. People spend years clearing rocks away to make room for small gardens where they can grow fruit or vegetables.

For water they rely on rain and a few natural springs, and any dry spell can pose danger for the community.

In 1971, a bad drought hit the village and all the springs dried out.

So Mustafaqul Zokirov, a local carpenter and father of eight, decided to do something about it.

He knew that water came from a cave in the high mountain, a four-hour walk away. Taking his son and several donkeys and water canisters, he made the trek to the Boybuloq spring.

Little did he realise that this was to be his last trip - nor that it would later lead to one of the biggest geographical discoveries in the world.

Local springs are the essence of life in Dehibolo

 His grandson Shahobiddin recounts a story passed on through the family. "He left the donkeys and my then teenage uncle by the entrance and entered the cave, but never came back.

"His son waited all night and the next morning alerted the village."

Young men from the village entered the cave but no trace was found for the next 14 years.

Then in 1985, a group of Russian explorers came to the village. After hearing the story, they offered to look for Mustafaqul.

Shahobiddin is proud of his grandfather's legacy

Two years later they found his remains, in one of the deepest corners of Boybuloq, the lamp still lying next to his bones.

The search had led them to what is now recognised as the deepest - and one of the least explored caves - in Asia.

The trek to Boybuloq leads along narrow paths and steep rock faces
We too made our way to the cave entrance, a small hole set in a rock face.

Despite an outside temperature of 30C, a cold wind blew from the mouth of the cave.

Just beneath the opening we saw the small spring Mustafaqul had come to find.

Now - nearly 50 years on - a new drive to open Uzbekistan to visitors is bringing paying clientele to this remote spot.

This year a joint Russian-French-Swiss expedition was on site.

Vadim Loginov hopes to find a connection between the Boybuloq and Vishnevsky caves
"Our main task was to find a possible tunnel that connects the two deepest caves in the Chulbayir mountains - the Boybuloq and Vishnevsky caves," expedition head Vadim Loginov explains.

"They are actually positioned in such a way that we assume these two are in fact a single long cave."

If it can be proven, the two systems would become one of the deepest in the whole world.

But it's not an easy task. Vadim Loginov says they have found new rivers and lakes inside the cave. "An inexperienced person won't survive here."

While we were there, a small group of Swiss and French explorers entered the complex.

The international caving team explored underground and hope to return next year
"You cannot find such a deep cave at a height of 3,000 metres anywhere in the world," says Arnauld Mallard from Switzerland.

His team have been into the Vishnevsky cave, which is around 735m deep, and now plan to return in 2019 to enter Boybuloq and look for the elusive connection.

For the villagers of Dehibolo, the explorers offer a connection of a different kind, an opening up to the rest of the world.

(Source: BBC)

One man’s long, lonely mission to convince Kolkata that the Sun revolves around the Earth

Since 1979, KC Paul has been tirelessly, single-mindedly debunking scientific notions by painting graffiti and distributing pamphlets.

It all began one evening in 1962. The Sino-Indian war was almost at an end. Kartik Chandra Paul, a trainee with the Indian Army, was sitting under the open skies in Fatehgarh, Uttar Pradesh. Suddenly his attention was drawn skywards, to Venus, the evening star, and the North Star, or the Alpha Ursae Minoris, glowing steadily.

Over the weeks that followed, Paul, a class eight dropout, noticed the positions of these two celestial bodies did not change. His interest in astronomy was piqued. He turned to the works of astronomers Ptolemy, Copernicus and Galileo, reading them voraciously and evolving his understanding of how the solar system works. By 1974, he had reached an inflexible conviction – it is the Sun that revolves around the Earth, not the Earth around the Sun.

KC Paul | Devarsi Ghosh
For more than four decades since, Paul has been tirelessly trying to make the world believe that the geocentric cosmic model is correct as opposed to the heliocentric model scientifically held to be true. Since he was let go from the army in 1979 on grounds of eccentric behaviour, Paul has been drawing attention to his astronomical theories on the streets of Kolkata and Howrah by selling and distributing pamphlets, self-published thin booklets in English and Bengali, and making graffiti on the city’s walls, lamp posts, fire hydrants and electric boxes. His efforts – deluded or otherwise – haven’t gone unnoticed. Newspapers have profiled him, documentaries have been made on him. And next year, a film inspired by his life, featuring an A-list cast, is set to hit theatres.

Kartik Chandra Paul's booklet. Photo: Devarsi Ghosh.
Paul’s graffiti, usually created with white paint on a black background, include his distinctive drawings of the Earth rotating on its axis as the sun revolves around it. His handwriting (precise, neat) and the language (a mix of Bengali, Hindi and English) are unmistakable. There are bold proclamations like “The Sun goes around the Earth once in a year, hence seasons change” and “This new theory is a challenge for all scientists all over the world”. There is also the angst-filled question: “Are journalists and scientists blind?” He extrapolates on his theories beyond the polemics when he finds a wall that is large enough.

Some of the graffiti from the 2000s feature his recent corollaries. Prominent among them is his belief that there is no life on Mars because Mars is a planet, unlike the Earth, which he says is a “dead star”. “Planets should revolve,” said Paul, sitting on a makeshift bed in his Howrah home one afternoon. “[The] Earth is stationary. It was once a star which burned out and now lava flows underground. Only those celestial bodies who share this quality can have life. Mars is not one.”

After a pause, Paul seals his argument: “Prove me wrong if you can.”

At least two generations growing up in Kolkata and its adjoining areas, from the 1980s till the 2000s, have been mystified by his striking graffiti. Paul was also a regular fixture at the annual Kolkata Book Fair, until this year, when he was pushed out by the police after being accused of spreading anti-science messages. Now 75, he operates from the 12-foot-by-3-foot veranda in the ground floor of his two-storey home.

“People found Copernicus and Galileo incorrect and ridiculed them,” said Paul. “When people cannot prove you wrong, they [get] scared and choose to make fun of you.”

His booklets contain clippings of newspaper articles on him, illegible sketches depicting his new cosmic theory, and copies of three letters that he received from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which refuted his claims. One booklet features a cartoon of an agitated old man holding a staff. This, Paul says, is from an old story written about him. He also has snippets of a newspaper article on him headlined “Kolkata’s Copernicus” pasted on his walls. Paul has added an anti before Copernicus with a black marker. When asked why, Paul says it is for factual accuracy as he is disproving Copernicus.

Paul’s detractors – and he has many – describe him as a “lunatic” who is “anti-science”. But Paul is nonchalant about the insults he has had to live with. “I have been beaten, pushed around, laughed at,” he said. “When you don’t have the ability to talk science, what [else] can you do?”

Iconoclastic Bengali author Nabarun Bhattacharya once likened Paul to one of his fictional creations, the “fyataru” – the street-dwelling subaltern peoples of Kolkata who can fly at will and cause mayhem, rebelling against the city’s symbols of capital and its ideas of tradition and civility. But the fictional character that Paul most resembles is Bhattacharya’s eponymous hero of the novel Harbart. Harbart Sarkar is ridiculed for his lifestyle, and his belief in his power to communicate with the dead. Ironically, through his very public death, Sarkar ends up connecting a contemporary Kolkata, detached from its past, to the ghosts of the bloody 1970s.

Paul’s resolute belief in his theories, despite the odds stacked against him, says writer Indrajit Hazra, mirrors Kolkata’s stubbornness to stay rooted in a glorious past that is now long gone. “KC Paul’s story is joined at the hip with that of the city, which still believes in its utterly special, if no longer central, position in the country it is a part of,” Hazra wrote in his book, Grand Delusions: A Short Biography of Kolkata.

Meghnad Bhattacharya in 'Sun Goes Around The Earth'. Photo courtesy: AVA Productions.
But for director Arijit Biswas and his co-writer Paramita Munshi, Paul’s 40-year crusade is a compelling story of grit and tenacity that has made its way into their film, Sun Goes Around The Earth. In the film, a Paul-like character TC Paul, played by Bengali theatre actor Meghnad Bhattacharya, goes around writing his theories on Kolkata’s walls with a brush and a can of paint.

“Here is a man who stood at one place all throughout his life and fought for his beliefs with zero resources,” said Munshi. “Staying in a shanty for years on the streets and living on Rs 20 a day just for your beliefs needs another kind of concentration.” Munshi refers to the time in the 2010s when Paul had left his home in Howrah to live on the road in Kolkata’s Rashbehari area for two and a half years after a feud with his family.

“If you taught me during my childhood that rosogolla is pantua and pantua is rosogolla, I will grow up believing it,” said Paul. “But once I have learned that rosogolla is rosogolla and pantua is pantua, I can never go back to being wrong, right?”

This black-and-white understanding of the universe has helped Paul survive countless run-ins with authorities, scientific guardians in the city and the casual heckler. Anything that remotely meddles with his cosmic model is gobbledygook to him. In a 17-minute documentary created by CockCrow Films, Paul, when confronted by a young man, tells him that concepts like black hole, dark matter or quantum physics are “fiction”, and therefore, it is pointless to argue about them.

But what lies at the root of Paul’s dogged conviction and his single-minded defiance of the established understanding of the universe?

Paul’s uncomfortable relationship with authority and traditional protocols goes back to his days in the army. First, he got a “red entry” against his name in 1974, when he published his theories in an edition of Amar Ujala and accidentally exposed the location of his battalion. The second time he angered his seniors was when he defied orders and wore a monkey cap to fight the cold in a high-altitude location. The final nail in the coffin was when, as a quartermaster, he was ordered to send 12 of his men to another point in Ladakh to unload trucks but he sent only four. “Who would unload my trucks then?” is his contention.

After his army stint, Paul returned home and took up a job at the West Bengal State Electricity Service. On off-days, holidays, or on his way to office, he would sell his booklets and pamphlets. After retiring in 2005, Paul used a chunk of his Rs 5 lakh pension to publicise his cosmic model. Bolstering his spirits was the support of places like the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which is committed to studying the universe with a Vedic geocentric model, interest shown by like-minded researchers and civilians, and the letters he received from several universities and organisations such as NASA that often politely debunked his concepts.

Photocopy of first letter received from NASA in 1975, available in Kartik Chandra Paul's booklet. Photo: Devarsi Ghosh.
“The roots of his decades-long occupation of the city’s walls lie in the discipline and focus that he gets from his military background,” observed Munshi. In November, when Paul met journalists at a press conference after the premiere of Sun Goes Around The Earth at the Kolkata International Film Festival, all he spoke about was his cosmic model, completely disregarding the fanfare around him. “You start a conversation with him and even if you steer it away in one direction, he will bring it back to his theories,” said Biswas.

Paul’s obsession has, however, cast a shadow over his family, especially his wife, 62-year-old Sapna Paul. Paul scoffs, when a request is made to speak to his wife and daughter-in-law. “They don’t know anything. Ask me your questions.”

A sudden phone conversation between Paul and filmmaker Saumya Sengupta, whose Paul-focused documentary The Geocentric Man has earned the ire of the censor board, provides a window of opportunity to speak to his wife in another room.
Kartik Chandra Paul at the Kolkata Book Fair. Photo credit: Amitabha Gupta/Wikimedia Commons [CC Attribution 4.0 International license].

“Only I know how I have lived with this man,” bemoaned Sapna Paul. She complains about Paul’s poor financial management, his occasional disappearances from home when his four children were young, leaving her to take care of them and his gambling addiction. Has she seen the new film about her husband, whose houseful premiere made news at the festival? “No,” she said. “He never tells me anything.”

But his wife and his neighbours agree about Paul’s amiable and polite manner outside of home. While walking towards his home, Paul had greeted practically every acquaintance on the road with a smile. “His is a very nice family that keeps to themselves,” said Shekhar Das, a cycle-repair shop owner in the neighbourhood. “As for what he preaches, we are too uneducated to challenge him and the educated cannot keep up with him.”

(Source: Scroll)

Friday 28 December 2018

Toblerone's halal certification outrages the far right

Members of Europe's far right have called for a mass boycott of Toblerone, after discovering that the popular triangular chocolate bar is halal-certified.

Halal is an Arabic word that denotes that a food or service is permissible according to Islamic law. It excludes foods containing pork or alcohol, and requires that animals are slaughtered by a Muslim by a cut to the throat, without being stunned.

Toblerone has not changed its recipe, but some online commentators have taken badly the news that its factory in Bern, Switzerland, achieved a halal certification in April -- with the federal spokesman of Germany's nationalist AfD party claiming it showed the "Islamization" of Europe.

"Islamization does not take place -- neither in Germany nor in Europe," the AfD's Jörg Meuthen wrote sarcastically on social media. "It is therefore certainly pure coincidence that the depicted, known chocolate variety is now certified as 'HALAL.'"

The post prompted some of his followers to react with similar outrage, with several people throughout Europe tweeting that they would not be purchasing the product in the future.

"I will never, EVER buy another toblerone!!! #BOYCOTTTOBLERONE," one Twitter user wrote.

"Too bad, I like to eat. But I don't like Muslim food," another said on Facebook, while a third announced: "Toblerone is now on my list!"

Toblerone's factory received halal certification in April.

But others ridiculed the outrage, pointing out that most mass-produced foods are already halal-friendly and that Toblerone has always met the criteria anyway.

"Anyone who has the power and time to get upset about such nonsense must not be surprised by the (ridicule)," one said.

Mondelēz, which produces Toblerone, confirmed that the factory in Bern that produces the chocolate achieved a halal certification eight months ago but said that the production process was not altered.

"The certification did not result in any change to our beloved traditional Toblerone original recipe," Mondelēz said in a statement emailed to CNN. "Due to the inherent nature of Toblerone chocolate its production process essentially meets the halal criteria anyway."

"Most multinational companies have products which are halal-certified," Umar al-Qadri of the nonprofit Department of Halal Certification, told CNN. "Companies want to generate more income and there are two billion Muslims in the world that only eat halal."

"Nothing has changed," he added, noting that companies simply need to pass an inspection to ensure that their factories are halal-certified.

He encouraged those angered by Toblerone's move to "do their research and find out about what halal is," saying of the reaction: "It's an expression of Islamophobia and nothing else."

"They assume halal is negative when actually, it's something very positive -- a higher standard of food safety."

(Source: CNN)

Qatar skies to see world’s largest kite fly in record attempt

World’s largest kite will be flown in Qatar on Saturday in an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.

The kite is made in the colours of Qatar national flag with a picture of the Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

The kite named “Al Majd kite” (The glory kite) is the brainchild of Qatari poet Hussain Al Khayarin.  The massive kite, which measures 2,673 square metres, was tested in Beijing, China.

The kite’s height is 66 metres and width 40.5 metres Al Khayarin told The Peninsula yesterday.

The kite was tested in Beijing, China. Video still

The kite will be flown on Saturday, December 29, 2018, at Al Daayen beach after Dhuhr prayer, in the presence of officials from Guinness Book of Records.

“This initiative is part of my dream to enter Qatar’s name in Guinness Book through some work related to the Qatar National Day. I am trying to make this dream come true by flying the largest kite in the skies of Doha carrying Qatar flag and the image of the Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani,” Al Khayarin tweeted yesterday.

“The idea came to my mind with the siege imposed on Qatar last year, where I tried in July after one month of the siege to do something that carries the name of Qatar high in the sky.

“For this purpose I made one kite measuring 120 square metres. The kite was launched on December 24, last year as an experimental step in collaboration with India technical team", he said. The event was attended by crowds of public and media.

The launch on Saturday will be attended by many interested guests and experts from Australia, New Zealand, India and other countries, along the Guinness World Record team, local and foreign media and will be open for the public.

“I was wishing to launch the kite during the National Day, but for technical reason and Guinness Book requirements we could not do it. As well National Day event is full of activities.”

During the launch small kites with picture of H H the Amir, Qatari flag and motto of the National Day will be distributed among kids coming with their families to see the launch, Al Khayarin explained. The minimum time required for the kite to stay in the sky is 20 minutes and I hope the weather will be convenient for that on Saturday, he added. 

Al Khayarin who is also poet, and holds a degree from the Sorbonne, MA on political science from UK, has launched around ten initiatives since the imposition of the siege on Qatar on June 5, 2017.

On the other hand, Al Khayarin pointed out that kite as sport is very popular in Far East, Europe and America and it is not much known in this region.  In 2005, Kuwait achieved the highest record with kite’s area of 950sqm which was launched during its national day celebration in Kuwait.  He added that China made in 2013 a kite with area of 1200 sqm but failed to meet Guinness’s requirement and hopefully Qatar will achieve world record this year.

(Source: The Peninsula)

This kid myth-busted the history of Christopher Columbus to his teacher and it's amazing

This kid is brilliantly setting the record straight on Christopher Columbus.

When King Johnson studied 'the man who discovered America' (for contemporary Europeans, anyway) at school, he wrote about the lesson in a journal entry.


King's blistering lesson review quickly went viral.
King immediately hit off with a blunt point about the standards of teaching that day.

Today was not a good learning day.

Blah blah blah i only wanted to hear you not talking

He went on to make a salient point - that a better Christopher to celebrate would be Christopher Wallace aka The Notorious B.I.G.

You said something wrong and i can't listen when I hear lies.

My mom said that tho only Christofer we acknowledge is Wallace.

Then he hits the teacher with some hard facts.

Columbus didn't find our country the Indians did.

Not one to throw away the opportunity to kick back at home, he did say he still wanted the holiday off.

I like to have Columbus day off but I want you to not teach me lies.

That is all.

My question for the day is; how can white people teach black history?

To the teacher's unimpressed comments scrawled in red pen, he simply replied:


The teacher might not have been impressed - but everyone else was.

King now has an Instagram page, run with the help of his mum.
Who is clearly bringing her son up the right way.

On the page, they shared part of a response from a teacher who was impressed by his journal entry.

And King's already got more Instagram game than you.

All hail the King.

(Source: The Independent

Notes nearing ninety: Learning to write less

Donald Hall, who died in June this year at the age of eighty-nine, was a prolific poet, essayist, and editor whose work has had an enormous impact on American letters. He was The Paris Review’s first poetry editor, and he served as the U.S. poet laureate. Before his death, he compiled one final book of essays, A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety, an excerpt from which is below:

When I was sixteen, I read ten books a week: E. E. Cummings, William Faulkner, Henry James, Hart Crane, John Steinbeck. I thought I progressed in literature by reading faster and faster—but reading more is reading less. I learned to slow down. Thirty years later, in New Hampshire with Jane, I made a living by freelance writing all day, so I read books only at night. Jane went to sleep quickly and didn’t mind the light on my side of the bed. I read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and six huge volumes of Henry Adams’s letters. I read the late novels of Henry James over and over again. After Jane died, I kept reading books, at first only murderous or violent writers like Cormac McCarthy. Today I am forty years older than Jane ever got to be, and I realize I haven’t finished reading a book in a year.


An athlete goes professional at twenty. At thirty, he is slower but more canny. At forty, he leaves behind the identity that he was born to and that sustained him. He diminishes into fifty, sixty, seventy. Anyone ambitious who lives to be old or even old endures the inevitable loss of ambition’s fulfillment. In a Hollywood retirement home to meet a friend, I watched a handsome old woman in a wheelchair, unrecognizable, leap up in ecstasy when I walked toward her. “An interview!” she said. “An interview!” A writer usually works until late in life. When I was eighty, still doing frequent poetry readings, audiences stood and clapped when I concluded, and kept on clapping until I shushed them. Of course I stayed to sign book after book and returned to my hotel understanding that they applauded so much because they would never see me again.

Suppose I am the hundred-fifty-year-old maple outside my porch. When winter budges toward spring, I push out tiny leaves, which gradually curl yellowish green, then enlarge, turning darker green and flourishing through summer. In September, flecks of orange seep into green, and October turns the leaves gorgeously orange and red. Leaves fall, emptying the branches, and in December, only a few remain. In January, the last survivors flutter down onto snow. These black leaves are the words I write.

Back then, I wrote all day, getting up at five. By this time, I rise scratchy at six or twitch in bed until seven. I drink coffee before I pick up a pen. I look through the newspaper. I try to write all morning, but exhaustion shuts me down by ten o’clock. I dictate a letter. I nap. I rise to a lunch of crackers and peanut butter, followed by further exhaustion. At night I watch baseball on television, and between innings run through the New York Times Book Review. I roll over all night. Breakfast. Coffee.

When Jane was alive, our dog Gus needed walking every day. Jane walked him when she woke, feeling sleepy before breakfast. When they left, I lifted my hand from the page, waving goodbye. Midday, we had lunch and a nap, and then I walked Gus. In my car, I drove him up New Canada, the dirt road near our house, and parked where the single lane widened. We walked the flat earth, not for long because I wanted to get back to the manuscript again. Now when someone brings a dog to the house, I barricade myself in a big chair. An attentive dog would break my hip.

Louise is my cat. Ten years ago, her vigorous sister Thelma squirmed out of the house and discovered Route 4. My assistant Kendel dug a hole, and we set a half-barrel over the grave to impede hungry animals from enjoying a Thelma snack. Louise is passive, too shy to scoot through an open door. At night, when I watch MSNBC, she annoys me by rubbing my knee, but she never knocks me over.

Striving to pay the mortgage in the late seventies and eighties, some years I published four books. Now it takes me a month to finish seven hundred words. Here they are.

p.s.: Donald Hall (1928–2018) served as the U.S. poet laureate from 2006 to 2007. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts.
“Seven Hundred Words” excerpted from A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety, by Donald Hall. Copyright © 2018 by Donald Hall. 

(Source: The Paris Review)