Monday 30 November 2020

Indian Army wanted Royal Enfield Bullets — Nehru ensured they were 'made in India' first

 In ‘Indian Icon’, Amrit Raj traces the journey of Royal Enfield setting up an Indian company with Madras Motors because the Army wanted hardy bikes.

Royal Enfield had come to acquire a fair amount of fan- following in the immediate years after the Second World War. During the War, the Redditch-based company made and supplied the ‘Flying Flea’ to the British Army as a means of transport for its paratroopers. These 125cc, 2-stroke engine bikes that produced 2.5 hp power could be dropped by parachute in a tubular crate behind enemy lines. Nothing like this had been done before. These bikes were fast enough for army purposes, light-weight, and able to get through where heavier vehicles would not.

Some Royal Enfield bikes were also being imported to India by Madras Motors Ltd Its owner K.R. Sundaram Iyer (KRS) also imported a host of other British bikes. In search of greener pastures, KRS and his nephew K. Eswaran had moved to the then Madras from their ancestral village in Kallidaikurichi in Tamil Nadu just before the Second World War started.

File photo | Royal Enfield- Bullet 350 | Wikimedia Commons

‘One worked as a fitter in the cycle shop and another as an accounts clerk in a cycle shop they eventually acquired. Then they also took over English Cycle, which was another cycle shop, and English Cycle was also importing bicycles from UK and selling it,’ Kapil Viswanathan, the grandson of KRS, told me in an interview for this book.

Gradually, KRS and Eswaran went on to become importers of motorcycle brands such as Raleigh, Rudge, Humber, BSA, Hercules, and Enfield.

In 1952, Madras Motors received an order for 500 350cc Bullets from the Indian Army, a model the company had launched three years ago in the UK. The motorcycles arrived from Redditch in early 1953 and proved to be a great success, being both hardy and easy to maintain. The army officers who rode the motorcycle in flat, cultivable lands to patrol Indian borders felt it was better than the bikes they used.

After 1947, the Indian Army had been using Triumphs and BSAs to patrol the newly-created Indian borders.

However, these motorcycles were prone to many mechanical glitches and frequent wear and tear. To compound the problem, they were all imported.

The Indian Army was so impressed with the Bullets that it wanted to place an order for more bikes. However, the Indian government was of the opinion that the bikes be locally manufactured.

The Indian government under Jawaharlal Nehru was operating on a shoe-string budget and wanted motorcycles that could be acquired at a reasonable cost. They were specifically on the hunt for ones that could be manufactured locally, that could at a later stage be ‘Made in India’. Nehru’s government believed this would allow industrialisation to take root in the country.

The British manufacturer agreed to the terms and conditions of the Indian government and presented the 350cc, 4-stroke Royal Enfield Bullet.

The next task was to find a joint venture partner in a mostly barren motorcycle landscape. This would come from an unlikely region, one that was far from the mountains and the northern plains of India.

‘T.T. Krishnamachari was the commerce minister at the time and my grandfather and he … they knew each other rather well. By Independence, my granddad was fairly well established as a large cycle importer, seller, and re-seller,’ Viswanathan said.

In 1955, Enfield India Ltd was formed as a 51:49 joint venture in favour of Madras Motors and owned by KRS and Eswaran. The duo later split the business once it diversified into power transmission in the 1960s. While KRS and his sons retained Enfield India, Eswaran and his family kept the power transmission business.

Enfield India had a solid start on the back of their first order from the Indian Army for the 350cc Bullet, whose rhythmic thump is part of folklore.

In 1956, a manufacturing plant was built in the Tiruvottiyur locality of North Madras and the production of motorcycles began in a phased manner. A total of 163 Bullets were built by the end of the year. The first completely ‘Made in India’ Enfield rolled out of the factory in 1962. India was now making and selling Royal Enfield Bullets.

KRS’s eldest son, S. Sankaran, and later, his younger one, S. Viswanathan, took charge of managing the company. KRS’s second son S.R. Subramanian headed Madras Motors, distributing the company’s products at the national level. In pre-liberalisation India’s protected market conditions, with limited competition, Enfield India slowly but steadily flourished.

When the Indian Army placed a big order for 500 Royal Enfield 350cc Bullets with Madras Motors in 1952, it could have broken a forty-three-year-old colonial record for selling the greatest number of single-brand motorcycles in India.

The record until then was held by Francis Benjamin Stewart, the famed photographer who had filmed the Delhi Durbar for Lord Curzon in 1903. Stewart ran a company based out of Pune called Messrs. F.B. Stewart and Son. Among other things, the company was also the distributor of Triumph Motorcycles in the country and they held the record for selling 136 Triumph motorcycles in the country in less than five years.

This excerpt from ‘Indian Icon: A Cult Called Royal Enfield’ by Amrit Raj has been published with permission from Westland Publications.

(Source: The Print)

Sunday 29 November 2020

Uttar Pradesh Police registers first case under new law against 'love jihad'

 The case was registered by a resident of Bareilly who accused a Muslim man of trying to forcibly convert his daughter and also for threatening to kill her.

The Uttar Pradesh Police has registered its first case under the newly-implemented anti-conversion law, accusing a Muslim man of trying to forcibly convert a Hindu girl.

The case was registered Saturday under the Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020, which was cleared by Governor Anandiben Patel earlier that day.

Tikaram, a resident of the district Bareilly, filed the case at the Deorania Police Station against a youth named Uwaish Ahmed for allegedly threatening his daughter’s life and forcing her to convert to Islam.

Representational image | Photo: Pixabay

The Deputy Inspector General of Bareilly zone Rajesh Pandey told ThePrint that the Deorania Police registered the case under Sections 3 and 5 of the new law, along with the Indian Penal Code sections related to threat to life.

Pandey added that the accused, Ahmed, who is a resident of Sharifnagar in Deorania, had absconded from his residence and efforts were on to apprehend him.

Accused verbally abused girl, threatened to kill her

In his complaint, Tikaram alleged that Ahmed was acquainted with his daughter since they were students and used to frequently talk to each other.

However, recently, the latter started pressurising her to convert to Islam. According to the girl’s father, Ahmed and his family were warned on many occasions but he did not relent.

Tikaram also accused Ahmed of verbally abusing his daughter and threatening to kill her.

Based on his complaint, the police has registered an FIR against Ahmed under the ordinance that applies to cases of alleged ‘love jihad’. According to the police, a team is currently trying to apprehend the accused.

The Uttar Pradesh government approved the ordinance, Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Bill 2020, that seeks to bar “forceful religious conversions”, including for marriage, on 24 November

The ordinance provides for an imprisonment of 1-10 years and a fine of Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000 under different categories.

(Source: The Print)

Decades of data suggest parenthood makes people unhappy

 Decades of studies have shown parents to be less happy than their childless peers. But are the kids to blame?

How does one live a happy, meaningful life? For many the answer is, at least in part, raising children. Watching a child grow and learn about the world is a joyous experience, and the time spent providing unconditional love and care offers spiritual dividends. Then in our golden years, children can be a source of palliative comfort.

This view is so entrenched in our culture that many people, especially women, are pressured by friends and family into having children and feel they must justify their reason not to.

As is often the case, social reality proves more complicated than the worldview learned at mother's knee. Decades of research has compared the happiness and well-being of parents to nonparents, and the verdict is in: a lot of parents are less happy than their childless peers. But not all of them.

(Photo by Alex Hockett / Unsplash)

The parent trap

Headlines claiming parents to be more dejected than nonparents certainly grab our attention, but such stories are hardly news. Empirical studies have been tracing out this pattern since the 1970s. Here are three sample papers demonstrating the trend:

A 2011 review by Thomas Hansen, a researcher at Norwegian Social Research, compared our folk understanding on the relationship between parenthood and happiness to the evidence. It found that people believe "the lives of childless people are emptier, less rewarding, and lonelier than the lives of parents," but that the opposite proved true. Children living at home interfered with their parents' well-being.

A meta-analysis by the National Council on Family Relations looked at a more specific metric of happiness: marital satisfaction. It found that couples without children reported more romantic bliss. The difference was most pronounced among mothers of infants, while fathers disclose less satisfaction regardless of the child's age. The authors noted the discrepancy likely resulted from role conflicts and restrictions on freedom.

Finally, a study published in the American Journal of Sociology looked at 22 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and compared the association between parenthood and happiness. Researchers Jennifer Glass (University of Texas, Austin) and Robin Simon (Wake Forest University) found that nonparents reveal higher levels of well-being in most advanced industrialized societies.

The happiness gap was widest in the United States, where parents were 12 percent less cheerful than childless adults. Fourteen other countries—among them Ireland, Greece, Britain, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Australia—also showed a less-than-sunny outlook for parents, but not to as large a degree as in the U.S.

A Spanish family sit down together for a meal. (Photo from Flickr)

Are the kids alright?

Based on a glance at this research, one could posit that children are a predominant source of unhappiness—and yes, we all know that one kid who is Exhibit A for this statement. But these researchers were careful to note that these effects are correlative, not causative, and there are many factors in the mix beyond progeny.

Hansen's review points out that the parents most susceptible to unhappiness were women, singles, those in lower socioeconomic strata, and those living in less pro-parenthood societies. Meanwhile, the National Council on Family Relations saw the largest decrease in martial satisfaction among the higher socioeconomic groups, likely because their status afforded them greater freedoms before having children.

Glass and Simon found eight countries where parents reported higher levels of happiness than nonparents, including Spain, Norway, and Portugal. Their analysis indicated that countries offering "more generous family policies, particularly paid time off and childcare subsidies, are associated with smaller disparities in happiness between parents and nonparents."

A potential reason? Parents in countries supporting pro-family policies contend with fewer stressors. They can take more parental leave, enjoy expansive subsidized care, and aren't as financially burdened by educational expenses. This is especially true when compared to the U.S., which provides little support for parents compared to the other countries in the study.

Importantly, Glass and Simon also found that such policies had no detrimental effect on the happiness of nonparents. In fact, the presence of strong pro-family policies led to greater happiness for women of all statuses.

Parental unhappiness is... complicated

Taken together, these three studies suggest a major cause of parental despondency is scarcity. Lower-class parents find it difficult to patch together the money, resources, and social networks necessary to succeed in their own lives while also supporting their children. Even upper-class parents can grow weary if a resource in short supply is traded off, such as time or the freedom to self-actualize.

Countries with pro-family policies can offset these scarcities to help balance the happiness gap between parents and nonparents.

But research in this field casts a wide net. As studies shift their focus, they draw different conclusions to give us a fuller, if more complicated, picture of parenthood's many pitfalls. Taken together with scarcity, all of the following factors likely have some pull on parental happiness, though it is difficult to say to what degree.

A young mother sits with her daughter. (Photo by Katie Emslie / Unsplash)

Culture of extended families. Countries like Spain and Portugal, where parents report being 3.1 and 8 percent happier than nonparents respectively, culturally center on extended families. The Spanish manage personal problems through family, an approach that extends to child rearing where many hands make light work.

In sharp contrast, the United States culturally centers on a sense of individualism and mobility. Its nuclear family model consists of small family units where parents take near sole responsibility for raising children while the extended family lives in separate domiciles, sometimes hundreds of miles away.

Who becomes a parent. Glass and Robin note that their results could be tempered by parental selectivity. They propose that countries like Spain and Italy, which have low fertility rates, may select toward people who truly desire to have children. The United States, with its much higher fertility rate, could have people not strongly predisposed to parenthood having children nonetheless.

Children in the home. An analysis from the Institute for Family Studies found that men aged 50-70 are happier than their childless peers if their children have left home. However, men who still had children at home reported being less happy than either nonparents or empty nesters. For women of the same age, being an empty nester resulted in a slight decrease in happiness compared to nonparents, but a steep decline if the children lived at home.

Number of children. The same analysis showed that women with only one child were seven percentage points less likely to report being happy than nonparents, while women with three or four children showed no discernible difference. No significant variance emerged for men.

Nicholas H. Wolfinger, the analysis' author, admits these results are counterintuitive and posits two possible explanations. The first is unmet family size preference redounding unhappiness, as many people settle for fewer children than they'd like. The second is a strong sense of familism offsetting parenthood's more negative effects. It is unlikely that family size in-and-of-itself causes a decline in happiness.

Parenting style. The way a parent approaches parenting may have substantial effects on their happiness. Developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik argues in her book The Gardener and the Carpenter that our modern parenting model, in which we view children as material to be molded into a particular type of adult, is not only wrongheaded but also a source of stress and misery for many parents.

"It isn't just that the [current] parenting model isn't the natural model, it's also just not a very productive model," developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik told Big Think. "It hasn't helped parents or children to thrive. It's led to a great deal of anxiety and guilt on a part of parents and a great deal of hovering expectations for children that really aren't necessary and in fact may even be counterproductive if we still want children to innovate and create."

Self-perception. A Pew Research Center survey found that parents who reported being very happy with life also believed they were doing an excellent job as a parent.

We still have much to learn about parenthood, and the results of so much variegated research can sometimes feel in contention. Even so, it should be clear that our folk assumptions about family are in need of a major update, and we must reconsider our views on parenthood, both from an individual perspective and with regard to social policy.

With that said, there are two strong conclusions we can draw from what we do know. For nonparents, your choice to be childfree will not doom you to a sullen, meaningless existence where you'll spend your final days contemplating a life wasted, like some inverse It's a Wonderful Life.

Nor are parents doomed to immolate their happiness on the altar of their child's future. Parenthood can be a source of exuberance, but simply raising a child will not magically bring contentment to your life. If anything, you'll have to work harder for that contentment as many factors, some in your control, some not, dictate parental happiness. Anyone considering parenthood should weight them judiciously before making a decision.

(Source: Big Think)

Saturday 28 November 2020

Marriage between first cousins illegal, says Punjab and Haryana High Court

 Court rules after youth, who was in a live-in relationship with a minor girl who was his relative, files for anticipatory bail

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has stated that marriage between first cousins is illegal. The assertion came after a youth moved the High Court against the State of Punjab for anticipatory bail.

The petitioner, a 21-year-old youth, had sought anticipatory bail in a case registered under Sections 363 (kidnapping), 366A (Procuration of minor girl) of the Indian Penal Code at Khanna city-2 in Ludhiana district.

The counsel for petitioner submitted that his client had also filed a criminal writ petition, along with the girl, praying for grant of protection to their life and liberty. The State however argued the duo were first cousins and their fathers were real brothers.

Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan, while hearing the petition, said, “..the submission in the present petition that as and when she [the girl] attains the age of 18 years, they will perform marriage is per se illegal.”

During the hearing, the court file of the criminal writ petition was also summoned and as per its memorandum of parties, the girl’s age was stated as 17 and the petitioner had filed the said petition with the submission that both of them were in a live-in-relationship.

Along with the petition, a representation was also annexed, in which the girl had stated that while her parents had love and affection for their sons, she was ignored by them. Therefore, she decided to live with her friend and, on that account, she was apprehending that her parents could harass them and disturb their peace of mind. This petition was disposed on September 7.

Justice Sangwan, in the current case, pointed out “ the present petition also, the petitioner has not disclosed the fact that he is the first cousin of the girl and, therefore, the submission in the present petition that as and when she attains the age of 18 years, they will perform marriage is also per se illegal.”

The counsel for the State, who opposed the bail, raised objections, including that the girl was a minor. Besides, the boy and the girl were first cousins as their fathers were brothers. Hence, the petitioner concealed yet another fact in the said criminal writ petition that they fall in the prohibited ‘sapinda’ under the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) and could not marry each other. The HMA prohibits marriage between two individuals if they have common ancestor.

(Source: The Hindu)

Nurse-turned-farmer, Kerala man now earns Rs 30,000 monthly from growing lotus

 Growing 20 varieties of the Indian bean and catering to customers pan India, Eldhose P Raju says that lotus farming gives him peace of mind.

hile flying back to Kerala from Qatar, an industrial nurse—one who is “assigned emergency cases to provide medical aid in ambulances”—Eldhose P Raju was mulling a plan to find a similar job in his hometown. Wanting to come back home to his family in the Ernakulam district, he was confident enough to find a job as he has 10 years of experience catering to emergency cases. However, his plans took a drastic turn as his job search turned futile. That’s when the lotus entered.

Adopting a winning attitude when life dealt him a bad hand, Eldhose turned to his childhood passion. “Since childhood, I was passionate about plants and had a special love for lotus flowers. So, I set up an aquatic garden on my terrace with some bowl lotuses which were imported. When they bloomed, I shared pictures of them on my Facebook page and Instagram account, and that’s how all it started,” Eldhose tells The Better India.

With a variety of plants at home, he started watching YouTube tutorials on lotus farming and decided to cultivate lotuses at home in the month of March. From then, he began to import lotuses from different places, including Thailand, Europe and America. Once the imported lotuses started to bloom on the terrace garden, Eldhose began to fill his feed with the pretty pictures.

Social media: The saviour

Seeing pictures of flowers in flowerpots and plastic bowls on social media pages, people from different parts of India started to contact Eldhose. “Mainly people from North India contacted me for lotuses seeing the pictures I posted on Facebook. Then I began to supply lotus flowers and its tuber – its dormant roots, across India,” says the 34-year-old.

Most of the customers are from New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Pune. “People from Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram had come to my home and collected lotus plants and bowls too,” Eldhose adds.

More than the tubers, there is a demand for plants. Once Eldhose receives the orders, he removes the dirt and water from the bowls and then sends them to the customers. He adds, “The plants can survive for almost 12 days and tubers survive longer than plants. Once the customer receives the plant, they just have to replant it.”

“I am also happy to help my customers with tips and tricks to take care of the plants. I don’t encourage those people to buy plants who buy them just for fun,” he says and adds, “Seeing my plants, I feel relaxed and happy. They are my stress busters. Money will come and go, but I believe peace of mind should be there for every individual.”

20 varieties of lotuses

Eldhose cultivates almost 20 varieties of lotuses, including the Zhizun Qianban, Magnificent, Charming lips, Da Sajin and Fire bowl. From the lotus farming, he receives a “good salary”. “In a month, I make approximately Rs 30,000, which I feel, is good.

In my garden, I have plants ranging from Rs 850 to Rs 3500,” he says and adds that he is proud of himself for doing what he loves.

“I also thank my family for being my all time support system. Without their support I wouldn’t be able to reach where I am today. My family respected my decision to choose the plant business even though I have a different educational background,” says Eldhose, who lives with his father, mother and wife.

Eldhose receives orders via direct messages on Instagram and Facebook. If you wish to order lotus plants from him, you may contact him on this number 89439 11901.

(Source: TBI)

Friday 27 November 2020

Maradona Shrine in Kerala: Hotel room he once stayed in has been a museum for 8 years

 This hotel room in Kerala is rented out only to customers who are fans of the iconic player- Diego Maradona.

When V Ravindran heard that football legend Diego Maradona had passed away, one of the first things he remembered was the deafening applause that one of the greatest footballers of all time received as he stepped out of the Blue Nile hotel in Kannur district of Kerala on 23 October 2012.

"Three months before Maradona arrived, his team came to inspect hotels in Kannur. They selected our hotel and gave us a list of preparations that they wanted for a VIP's stay, without revealing the name. We thought that it would help our business too. Two rooms were joined together and made into a large suite room. We arranged everything as they mentioned. Later in October we were informed that the guest was Maradona. I was overjoyed, because I was a great fan of the game and of Maradona," Ravindran, the owner of Blue Nile hotel says.

Room number 309 of the hotel is still kept as a tiny museum in memory of Maradona's visit. The accessories used by the football player, plates, spoons, bed sheets, bathroom accessories and even the shell of the prawns he ate were kept in glass frames. The room also has a display of rare pictures of the footballer and newspaper clippings about him.

The room is rented out to other customers as 'Maradona special suite'. "We give the room only to people who are fans of Maradona and to those who come in search of the room, because everyone may not maintain the room as it is and won't understand the value," he says by adding that at least two or three guests come to his hotel in a month to stay in the room.

On Thursday, for the first time, the room was opened from 10 am to 5pm for the public in Maradona's memory.

Ravindran has a lot of memories to share about Kannur's favorite, Maradona.

"It was like god coming to our hotel. So we made sure that everything was perfect. Prior to Maradona's arrival we read that he is used to Russian cuisine. So I appointed a person who had previously worked as a chef in Russia. Prawns, salads, carrots and sweet lemon juices were the things Maradona mainly ordered. He doesn't speak English so his secretary spoke to us," he added.

Maradona stayed in the hotel for two days. Ravindran recalls how thousands of people gathered around his hotel just to catch a glimpse of their icon.

"I haven't seen that much of a crowd ever in my life. We were scared that they would rush inside the hotel. So we requested Maradona just to come out of the balcony and wave at the public. He did so, and the applause, I can still hear it in my ears, it was huge" he recalled.

He says that when the footballer hugged him while leaving, he was elated. "I still get goosebumps thinking about those days," he added.

(Source: TNM)

Metal monolith found by helicopter crew in Utah desert

 A strange metal monolith has been discovered in the Utah desert by a helicopter crew, leaving local authorities baffled.

Wildlife officials spotted the "unusual" object while counting sheep during a flyover in a remote south-eastern area of the US state.

They said the structure had been planted in the ground between red rock.


There was no indication who installed the monolith, which was about 10 to 12ft (3.6m) tall.

In an interview with local news channel KSLTV, the helicopter pilot, Bret Hutchings, said: "That's been about the strangest thing that I've come across out there in all my years of flying."

Mr Hutchings said a biologist counting big horn sheep in the helicopter was the first one to spot the structure from the sky.

"He was like, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, turn around, turn around!'. And I was like, 'What?'. And he's like, 'There's this thing back there - we've got to go look at it!'," Mr Hutchings said.

Mr Hutchings speculated that the monolith may have been installed by "some new wave artist", or a fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the 1968 film directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Imposing black monoliths created by an unseen alien species appear in the movie, based on the writing of novelist Arthur C Clarke.The Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau released images of the rectangular-shaped metal object in a news release last week.

It said authorities would determine if "they need to investigate further".

"It is illegal to install structures or art without authorisation on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you're from," the department said.

The department has not disclosed the exact location of the monolith, fearing explorers may try to seek it out and "become stranded". The big horn sheep wildlife officials were counting are native to many parts of southern Utah, where the terrain is rugged.

As yet, no one has claimed responsibility for installing the structure.

Looking for answers, Utah's highway patrol turned to social media, writing in a post on Instagram: "Inquiring minds want to know, what the heck is it? Anyone?"

Most observers presumed it was an installation left by a sculptor, with some saying it resembled the work of late minimalist artist John McCracken.

(Source: BBC)

Thursday 26 November 2020

Mysterious new mushroom species glow like the Northern Lights in Meghalaya forests

A mushroom documentation project in the forests of Northeast India has revealed not only 600 varieties of fungi, but also led to a new discovery: a bioluminescent — or light emitting — variety of mushroom. The new species — named Roridomyces phyllostachydis — was first sighted on a wet August night near a stream in Meghalaya’s Mawlynnong in East Khasi Hills district and later at Krang Shuri in West Jaintia Hills district. It is now one among the 97 known species of bioluminescent fungi in the world.  

Michele P. Verderane

How the scientists found it

During the monsoon season, a team of scientists from India and China embarked on a fungal foray in Assam. Over the course of two weeks, they were amazed by the vast diversity of fungi in the region: hundreds of species of fungi were spotted, some of which were new to science. After hearing reports from locals of “electric mushrooms”, they headed to West Jaintia Hills District in Meghalaya. It was a drizzly night and a local person guided the team to a bamboo forest, which is part of a community forest, and asked them to switch off their torches. A minute later, the group was awestruck by what they saw: in the midst of the darkness an eerie green glow emerged from dead bamboo sticks that were smothered in tiny mushrooms. The fungus emits its own light—a phenomenon known as bioluminescence.

Natural torches for residents

Interestingly, local residents used the glowing bamboo sticks as natural torches to navigate the forest at night. Steve Axford, a fungal photographer who accompanied the team, set up a small studio and took photos.

Upon closer observation, the team noticed that only the stipes (stalks) of the mushroom lit up and they suspected it could be a new species, said Gautam Baruah, who leads the Rural Futures initiative at the Balipara Foundation in Assam and is a co-author of the report. A detailed examination in the laboratory had confirmed their suspicion: it was a new species from the genus Roridomyces—and the first fungus in this genus to be discovered from India.  

This mushroom was only found growing on dead bamboo (Phyllostachys mannii). Special elements could be present in the bamboo substrate that this fungus prefers, said Samantha Karunarathna, senior mycologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and lead author of the report She added that more research is needed to understand why they grow on this bamboo species. So far this mushroom is known from Krang Shuri, West Jayantia Hills District and Mawlynnong, East Khasi Hills District in Meghalaya.

Michele P. Verderane

Lights serve a purpose

Only a few species of glowing fungi have been reported from India. Two have been reported from the Western Ghats, one in the Eastern Ghats, and one in the state of Kerala, among others. Glowing fungi have also been spotted in the forests of Maharashtra and Goa (part of the Western Ghats) but they have not been scientifically reported. Karunarathna believes the actual number of bioluminescent fungi in India should be higher.

Michele P. Verderane

A 2015 study showed that bioluminescence in Neonothopanus gardneri, a large, bright mushroom that grows at the base of young palm trees in Brazilian coconut forests, is under the control of a circadian clock. The activity of the enzymes involved in producing light peaks at night and this regulation implies that the lights serve a purpose.

(Source: India Times)

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Nepal’s elite failed to preserve Gurkhas’ 200-year history. But folk songs kept it alive

 In ‘Ayo Gorkhali’, former British Gurkha regiment officer Tim I. Gurung stitches together a history of his community that goes beyond soldiering and bravery.

The history of Nepal won’t and can’t be complete without the 200-year-long history of the Gurkhas.

I am not an expert on this subject. However, I’ve tried to find and read as many books as possible in researching this subject and found out that my choices were somewhat limited. The Gurkhas have a vibrant, diverse and distinguished history, especially during WW I and WW II. Unfortunately, they were mostly limited to oral history. As we didn’t bother to preserve them, they were mostly lost when the storytellers died. The damage is already done. They are mostly all gone and never going to be recovered again.

Display at the Gurkha Museum in Nepal | Wikimedia Commons

Nepali writers outside the country were more active than the ones inside when it came to writing about the Gurkhas. Indra Bahadur Rai, PaariJaat, Daulat Bikram Bista and Bhupi Serchan were some notable names, who wrote about the Gurkhas. The powerful poems of Bhupi Serchan brought the stories of Gurkhas to the masses and evoked emotions. Dr. Harka Bahadur Gurung, a geographer, anthropologist, author, and artist known for his conservation works, was one of the champions of the Gurkhas. Being a son of an Indian Gurkha himself, he spent his childhood and youth in an army garrison. The Gurung surname also helped. He had done a lot of research and writing on the subject and was the leading scholar on Gurkha matters, and any writer who had come to Nepal in search of the Gurkhas’ matter could not have done their job without consulting him. Almost all the books about the Gurkhas that I have seen so far have forewords by the eminent Dr. Gurung or mention his name. That clearly showed the influence and respect he had had among the writing communities. In brief, if anyone had done something for the Gurkhas, it was Dr. Gurung.

The interest and endeavour shown by the new generations on this particular subject are noteworthy. Basanta Thapa of Himal Books has published a trilogy of Gurkha-related books. Lahureko Katha (The Story of the Gurkhas) by Bharat Pokhrel, Basanta Thapa and Mohan Mainali is a collection of the stories of Gurkha war veterans and compiles a list of thirteen real, detailed and heartbreaking stories of Gurkha veterans who fought in WW II. British Samrajyaka Nepali Mohora (Nepali Footprints on the British Empire) by Jhalak Subedi is the second one of the detailed and up-to-date books on Gurkhas, and the book covers the history of the Gurkhas in general. This book is based on the life of former GAESO president Padam Bahadur Gurung.

The third and last book of the trilogy is Warrior Gentlemen: ‘Gurkhas’ in the Western Imagination by Lionel Caplan, a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London and an expert on South Asian politics, including Nepal. British-Gurkha (From Treaty to The Supreme Court) is another good book on the Gurkhas and published by the British-Gurkha Study and Research Centre, Nepal.

Peter J. Karthak, the writer, musician and veteran journalist, who passed away in April 2020 was an authority on Gurkha-related subjects. Lt. Col. (Retd.) J.P. Cross is another enlightened author who has tried to bring the Gurkha legacy to the world through his various books. During the process of researching this book, I read some of his books as reference and found them very helpful. ‘Cross Saheb’ was the Commanding Officer of BGC Camp Pokhara when I joined the British Army as a recruit in 1980, and I still remember the speech that he delivered to us in fluent Gorkhali.

The main problem the intellectuals from Nepal have with the Gurkhas is that they always think of Gurkhas as na├»ve, thick-headed and sometimes even cocky. They don’t consider the Gurkha stories worthy of being written about. As a result, the Gurkha legacy has been neglected by all.

The singers and musicians of Nepal have compensated for the shortcomings found in the written word. Nepal is indeed rich in folk songs. We have a wide variety of folk songs in our society. The Gandharwa/Gaaine (the singing caste) with their one-size-fits-all-type of music instrument called sarangi, must take credit for continuing the old tradition. They did indeed sing a lot about the Gurkhas. Their songs genuinely reflected the actual situation: the pain of separation, and the agony of waiting, for the Gurkha community as a whole. Listening to their songs was the only way of forgetting their pain within the community, especially in the time of wars. Crowds would grow wherever they started singing.

Here are some examples of the famous folk songs of Nepal regarding the Gurkhas in the past.

● Cassino Attack Jandama Dekhina Ankha Dhuwale, Chhadyo Saathile … (On the way to the Cassino attack, they couldn’t see through the billowing smoke and were left behind by friends.)

Gaai Palyo Banaiko Bhaglai, Chhora Palyo Germanko Dhawalai … (I raised the cow for the tiger of the jungle, and so were my sons in the battle with the Germans.)

● Ghar Ta Mero Himali Pakha Beisi Ho Re, Kun dinko Sanyogle Bane Lahure … (The Himalayan slopes and valleys are my home, which day’s luck made me a Lahure?)

● Lahureko Relimai Feshanai Ramro, Rato Rumal Relimai Khukuri Bhireko … (The fashion of Lahures makes my dear so lovely, with a red handkerchief for my love and sporting a kukri.)

The song below was sung by a singer named Jhalakman and heard in the aftermath of the Nepalese revolution of 1950.9 WW II had ended only a few years ago and the song clearly showed the pain, agony and misery of the people whose sons had gone to war and there was no guarantee they would return safely home again.

Aama Basi Dharti Naroya Aama, Banche Pathaula Tasvirai Khichera,

Don’t sit on the ground and cry, my dear mother, I will send you a photo if I survive,

Baba Runchan Barsha Din, Aama Runchin Jindaji Bharilai Hajura,

Father will cry for a year, and mother will cry for a lifetime, my dear!

Hai Barai, amale sodhlin ni khwoi chhora bhanlin, ranhai khulyo bhandias

Mother will ask where is my son; tell her the war had just begun

Babale sodhlan ni khwoi chhora bhanlan, ranh jitdaichha bhandias

Father will ask where is my son; tell him I am winning the battle

Dajaile sodhlan ni khwoi bhai bhanlan, aunsai badhyo bhandias

Elder brother will ask where is my brother; tell him his share has increased

Elder sister will ask where is my brother; tell her the gift has decreased

Bahinile shodlin ni khwoi bhai bhanlin, maiti ghatyo bhandias

Younger sister will ask where is my brother; tell her you’ve one fewer brother now

Chhorale shodlan ni khwoi baba bhanlan, topi jhikei bhandias

Son will ask where is my father; tell him to take his cap off

Chhorile shodlin khwoi baba bhanlin, sunchurako daan diyas …

Daughter will ask where is my father; tell her to forget about the gold bangle

Priyale shodlin khwoi swami bhanlin, baatai khulyo bhandias
Wife will ask where is my husband; tell her the way is cleared

Bhaujyule shodlin ni khwoi dewar bhanlin, khasi kaat bhandias

Sister-in-law will ask where is my brother-in-law; tell her to celebrate at her will

Saathile shodlan khwoi lahure bhanlan, mayamaar bhandias
Friend will ask where is my lahure; tell him to forget about me

The other famous song that every Gurkha must have sung at least a few times in his army career is the one called Resham Fiririri … During the recruit training especially, song and music play a significant role in the training, and a session of dances and songs was held every evening. No one was spared and all had to dance or sing in their turn and as far as I was concerned, the dance and singing sessions were the ones I would have liked to forget. I was shy then. But now, I can afford a smile or two at my misery.

Resham Phiriri, Resham Phiririi
The fluttering sounds of my silk handkerchief …

Udera Jaun Ki Dandai Ma Bhanjyang, Resham Phiririi
Shall we fly over to the mountain pass? The fluttering sounds of my silk handkerchief

Eknale Banduk Dui Nale Banduk Mirgalai Takeko
Single-barreled rifle, double-barrelled rifle pointing at a deer …

Mirgalai Maile Takeko Hoina Maya Lai Dakeko
My aim is not pointed at the deer but you, my love …

Resham Phiriri Resham Phiririi

The fluttering sounds of my silk handkerchief …

This song was said to have been collected from the villages near Pokhara, composed by Budhi Pariyar, and sung by Sundar Shrestha and Dwarika Lal Joshi through Radio Nepal. Although the official song came out later, the original song was already famous before that, especially among the Gurkhas, among whom this song was undoubtedly the most popular one.

Singing and dancing skills were one of the criteria for promotion in the army. Young soldiers with a feminine face and a slim body were encouraged to dance as a ‘Maaroni’ (man dancing in a woman’s attire). They were in massive demand for special events, especially in Dashera (Dashain) and other festivals. Some of them did achieve the rank of Gurkha officer or senior NCO through this particular skill, and all the Gurkha battalions had a few such talents of their own. The senior officers were quite fond of these dancers.

In time perhaps, the Gurkhas will be written about more, especially in Nepali literature.

Excerpted with permission from Ayo Gorkhali: A History of the Gorkhas by Tim I. Gurung, published by Westland, November 2020.

(Source: The Print)