Thursday October 19, 2017

End of the road for Spell & Bound bookstore

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By Ishan Kukreti

If human body can be considered as a temple for the soul, a book store can be seen as a temple for all the knowledge so painstakingly preserved in all its flesh and blood form; and that’s a book!

Book stores have long been an avenue of romance for the shy and the introvert, a boiling pot of arguments and rebuttals for revolutionaries, and a calm and quiet island away from the maddening crowd for many-a-soul.

For Michel Foucault literature, and as a corollary book, was something magical. It stood as a signifier which signified itself. Closer home, every bibliophile would agree when Nehru says, ” When you read books, you realize that your original ideas are not so original after all.”

However, Economy and the principles of supply and demand have forever been stronger than any romantic notion of reality.

The musty yellow pages of a hardbound title , no matter how appealing or attractive, can’t compete with a thousand book strong prosaically porcelain Amazon Kindle.

The paperback of a Rushdie’s, Kundera’s, Roy’s or Lahiri’s latest can never stand the onslaught of time and technology’s brutal march. A PDF downloaded is any day more convenient and handy than a book bought. However, it is also more conveniently forgotten.

The ruthless advance of modernity has taken a toll on a lot of things. The temples of human knowledge are also on the list.

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The latest victim of this one-way phenomenon is Spell & Bound bookstore in SDA market opposite IIT Delhi. In business and struggling since 2011, the place has finally succumbed to the digital pressure.

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“Humne toh chalene Ki Puri koshiah Kari. Ab nahi chal paya toh kya Karen?” (We tried to keep it going. But we couldn’t. So what can we so?) An abjectly indifferent caretaker of the store; a loyal guard of the burning literary The House of Lacquer of Delhi, tells me.

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The process of modernizing the apparently outdated traditional, going on piecemeal in various avenues of contemporary life is something worth pondering over.

Is Modern always a better substitute for Traditional, and moreover, does Traditional need a substitute to begin with? Is Modern more modern than Traditional?

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These questions are rhetorical, and demand just a moment of silent introspection. From vinyl to tapes to CDs and USBs, the world is again moving back to vinyl. The organic is coming back again after losing the battle with processed.

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If time is cyclic (as propounded in the Easter philosophy) do the labels “Modern” and “Traditional” hold any water? Or are they just yardsticks to name the Present?

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These answers can only be found at the beginning of another ‘now’ when the roles and ethos of the society will be rethought and reorganized.

Till that time, Spell & Bound, with many others, will remain a disenchantment in the lives of the people they once so dutifully uplifted.

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In memory of India’s founding fathers(Book Review)

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Title: Understanding the Founding Fathers –An Enquiry into the Indian Republic’s Beginnings Author: Raj Mohan Gandhi; Publisher: Aleph Book Company;
If we go through the scenario of political leaders, we will see them standing under a dim light of peace. This situation best describes the leaders who are involved in promising country’s independence or giving a blue map of its future strategies.

No matter how many years surpass, the people, opposition or the critics will still go on counter questioning their motivations, capabilities and achievements. India’s founding fathers are just the illustration of these actions.

In the Indian context, these could entail the prospects that could have ensued if Vallabhbhai Patel had been free India’s first Prime Minister instead of Jawaharlal Nehru, or if Subhas Chandra Bose had stayed in India during World War and led the freedom struggle and/or independent India.

Then how about if BR Ambedkar had not left Nehru’s cabinet, or going back a bit, the leadership of a united India had been given to Mohammed Ali Jinnah?

But as author Raj Mohan Gandhi observes, “These questions may usually be dismissed as being purely hypothetical but a related question makes practical sense. Are our present-day discontents of recent origin or connected to the beginnings of the Indian republic? Were crucial mistakes made in the 1947-50 period?”

It is an attempt to answer these questions that led to this work whose small size does not reflect its weighty and reasoned erudition but he admits its aims were first more limited – “merely wanting to address sweeping criticisms of (Mahatma) Gandhi and Nehru levelled by two interesting men – a swami from Gujarat and a professor from America”, both of who he only came to know about in early 2015.

Swami Sachidanand of Gujarat blames Mahatma Gandhi, for weakening India by his espousal of ‘ahimsa’, leading to the ignominious defeat to the Chinese in 1962 , as well as the Hindu community, by failing to understanding “two things: the value of the sword, and the danger from Islam.

On the other, American ‘Marxist’ scholar Perry Anderson, in “The Indian Ideology” (2014), charges the Mahatma with being “anti-Muslim, that he forced Pakistan on an unwilling Jinnah, that he helped fashion a Hindu state where Muslims would remain subordinate, a state which had enslaved the people of Kashmir”, and prescribes Indians banish Gandhi, Nehru and Patel and others and “all they represent”.

With “the Swami and the Professor were in essence cancelling each other’s charges against Gandhi, a reply would merely require quoting each to the other” but the author, despite a part of him encouraging this response, holds the issue is greater – for there are many Hindus who believe or led to believe what the Swami thinks contentions, and likewise, many Muslims in both countries about the stand most lately expressed by Anderson, “and if facts and reasons could clarify a few minds, an effort to supply them might be worthwhile”.

He begins with his rebuttals of both Sachidanand and Anderson, by extensively citing their criticism and inferences and countering it through Mahatma’s recorded writings, statements and actions – and simple logic.

The next chapter does the same for Nehru and the fourth deals with Jinnah, Bose and Ambedkar, who have all been praised by Anderson, laying out a tantalizing premise of whether they could have “joined hands to give India and Pakistan an alternative history, free of Partition and its killings and perhaps free also of the injustices and inequalities that have scarred the subcontinent?”

It is a thought-provoking work that the author, a grandson of the Mahatma, has penned and despite his relationship, he is quite balanced and freely acknowledges his grandfather’s shortcomings and mistakes. And there is something new that most of us will find, though it may not be very salutary, e.g.what ex-INA men ended up doing.

But the real value of this book is that icons are humans and not infallible or beyond debate, and issues of disagreements, or any perceived dishonors, can be discussed peacefully and logically, without sending oneself into paroxysms of rage and needing coercive action or bans to assuage.(IANS)

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Innovations with bright expectations spark India International Science Festival

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New Delhi: Uzma Bano, a class 8 student from Lucknow, took not more than a month to design and build a solar-powered air conditioner to help relieve long power cuts her school would endure during summer months. That was a reward in itself for this daughter of a cold drink seller. But showcasing it in India International Science Festival (IISF) at IIT-Delhi made her feel proud.

My design will help children in the school as well to save electricity. This is eco-friendly and will not cause global warming, she said.

Her AC consists primarily of a 25-litre ice-box, a portable table fan, and a solar panel and it cost her about Rs 3,500.

Bano’s is just one of the 800 projects made and displayed at IISF by pupils of classes 6 to 10 from across the country, offering energy solutions to the world that is desperate to move away from burning more hydrocarbons.

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Participants, representing all states and remotest of places, including the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, had to win district and state-level science competitions to qualify for IISF. Their models had to be built keeping in mind the problem their district or state was facing.

From a garbage management system to a solar-powered hybrid bicycle and a thermoelectric generator, the students brought the best of their ingenuity to bear on the challenges their communities faced.

Oza Alay Kumar’s ‘artificial tree and wind tunnel’ was adjudged the best model. The boy from Gujarat’s Mehsana district got the gold medal for it.

The silver medal was bagged by Ananya Y R of Karnataka’s Chikkmagaluru district for her ‘biodegradable plastic’ model.

Prithvi Raj of Jharkhand’s Garhwa district won the bronze for his jacket that helps the blind.

In addition to top honours, 57 participants were given awards of appreciation. (IANS)

(Picture Courtesy:pib.nic.in)

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Sonia slams Modi, RSS for communal agenda

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New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday launched a stinging attack on the Narendra Modi government, saying it seeks to whitewash its “communal agenda” by hiding behind the “mask of development”, and also accused the RSS of opposing the Quit India movement.

Sonia Gandhi also attacked the government on price rise at a function to mark the culmination of the 125th year birth anniversary celebrations of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi targeted the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for “intolerance” and said the country cannot be painted in “one colour”.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh said secular values of the country were in danger and accused Modi of pursuing “his own interests”.

The event was also attended by senior Congress leaders.

Sonia Gandhi, in a hard-hitting speech, said there were forces today committed to destroying Nehru’s legacy.

“Let us pledge that we will not let any force diminish its glory,” she said.

Sonia Gandhi said Nehru’s greatness was in stark contrast to “those so-called nationalists who nowadays go around giving certificates on patriotism”.

“When some individuals attempt to infect our nation with sense of intolerance, prejudice, injustice, communalism, hatred and bigotry his light continues to shine forth and show us the right way, the way out of darkness,” she said.

She said when leaders like Nehru were fighting for our freedom, “the ideological masters of today’s ruling establishment were hiding safely in their homes while some were even singing praises of their British masters”.

“In fact, in 1942 when (Mahatma) Gandhi ji announced the Quit India movement, there were two groups which actively and openly opposed the call. One was responsible for partition and the other is today the remote controller of the ruling establishment,” Sonia Gandhi said, without directly naming the RSS which is the ideological fountainhead of the BJP.

“It is a historic fact that both these groups instructed their followers to condemn Gandhi ji’s call. No matter how much the government today may wish to erase this past, it is a historical fact,” she added.

She said that for Nehru, democracy rested on the foundation of a debate, a free exchange of ideas.

“Simply because someone holds a different view or disagrees, they cannot be branded a traitor. It is a form of tyranny. Seeing the prevalent atmosphere of intolerance, we are reminded all the more of Nehru ji’s days when any citizen could speak his mind, his mann ki baat — a phrase which has nowadays been reduced to being the name of a radio broadcast,” she said.

Noting that Nehru was synonymous with laying the foundation of India’s growth, she said the Modi government seeks to use development as a buzzword but fails to take lessons from Nehru’s legacy.

“Today, we are witnessing attempts by certain individuals and elements to whitewash their communal agenda in front of the world by hiding it behind the mask of development,” she said.

She said Nehru oversaw setting up of several art and cultural centres but these were being reduced to a “joke”.

“Several eminent writers and scholars who were felicitated by the government are now returning their awards as a form of protest.”

She said members of the ruling party were quick to remind the common man what to eat and what not to eat, but have little advice to offer “those people who are forced to buy dal at Rs.200 a kg”.

Rahul Gandhi said the BJP and the RSS want everyone to sing in one tune.

“The BJP and the RSS think they know everything and don’t like to be questioned but the truth is, if they knew everything, ‘acche din’ (good times) would have come (by now),” he said.

Targeting Modi, he said the prime minister was asked by the media to comment on the issue of intolerance during his visit to Britain.

The Congress has been raising the pitch against the government over incidents such as lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh over rumours of eating beef and had met President Pranab Mukherjee earlier this month to convey its concern over “rising intolerance”.

(IANS)