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I don’t write to a pattern: Author Shobha Nihalani

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Author Shobha Nihalani says she does not write to a pattern but that has not come in the way of her churning five hugely successful novels. Her novels have mystery and conspiracy as the common theme. She is quite a citizen of the world, having lived in places as diverse as Singapore, Mumbai, Hong Kong.

“There’s no particular pattern, but I am either thinking about the story or writing it down whenever I have time. It could be a chapter or a page or a character development,” Nihalani told the agency in an email interview from Hong Kong, where she is now settled.

“I don’t have a 9-to-5 job, but I do work part-time in our family-owned company as a boy-keeper. I am also a housewife which involves family and social responsibilities”, she said.

It is perhaps this diversity of existence that has led Nihalani to deliver to the literary world works like “Karmic Blues” (her debut novel that was first published in Danish), “The Silent Monument” (also translated into Danish), two of the “NINE” trilogy and now “Unresolved” (Hachette, pp 286, price Rs.350).

“The common thread in all these stories is that they are based on mysteries or conspiracies. ‘Karmic Blues’ carries references to past life regression, ‘The Silent Monument’ mentions conspiracies surrounding the historical facts of the Taj Mahal. The conspiracy of ‘NINE’ refers to the oldest secret society, the protectors of powerful knowledge. And in ‘Unresolved’, I have implied that there are influential people who kill those who demand transparency using the RTI Act,” she said.

How did Nihalani get started as a writer?

“It was the love for the written word. Back in the 1980s, as a teenager in Mumbai, I would accumulate newspaper snippets of well-written, entertaining articles. In addition, I had a little notebook and wrote down quotes or phrases that were so beautifully written… I had to save them.”

The snippets, articles and the notebook entries – all helped in Ninhalani’s role as a writer.

“Later, when I studied in Antwerp for my bachelor’s degree, one of the requirements was to write an essay for an economics course. I chose to write an economic assessment of India during British Rule. A family relative helped me gain access to the Fergusson College library in Pune.

“While I researched, I also spent many long hours completely lost in the dusty volumes of Indian history inside that architecturally beautiful library. It was one of the most memorable times of my life. I guess that’s when the seed was planted to become a writer,” Nihalani explained.

How did her global journey come about?

“My parents loved to travel a lot. My childhood and growing up years were spent in six cities in four different continents. It was only after marriage that I planted roots and settled down,” she said.

What then has she gained from her global journey? “There are many snapshots of memories that have enriched my life,” she replied.

In Kano, in Nigeria, she has “memories of bloody feudal wars between ethnic groups”.

“In Bengaluru, travelling to school on the cycle-rickshaw in the cool mornings, spending time with neighbours as we would cycle around the colony. In Singapore, I was finding it difficult to adjust to school life and spent most of my time reading books”.

“Next stop, Mumbai, this was the city where I finally felt I had developed roots and made some good friends. There was the laid-back college life. Bunking was part of the scene which meant sitting with friends at Marine Drive, eating street food, discussing the philosophies of life and the changing trends,” Nihalani elaborated.

The most memorable part of Mumbai, “was the monsoon… the smells, the sounds, and the cool breeze. Also, from our high-rise apartment, I would watch oncoming sheets of rain forming curtains across the sea… it was a visual pleasure”, Nihalani said.

On moving to Antwerp, the one thing that really hit her was the quiet.

“The sparsely populated streets, as compared to Mumbai, were so empty, it felt strange. The lack of noise was so distinct, it took time to adjust. But then I slowly developed a liking for the solitude and walked for hours exploring the city.

“The changing seasons were so distinct it was a marvel to watch the trees blossom in spring and change with the passing months, turning into gnarled branches in the winter. There was many a ghost story that came to mind during the dark cold months. In Hong Kong, my journey took on a new turn with marriage and a whole new life developed from there on,” the author said.

What of the future?

“Definitely more reading and writing”, Nihalani concluded.(IANS)(image-twitter)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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United nations
India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya. 

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Delhi University Students Win the Enactus World Cup 2017

India wins the Enactus World Cup 2017

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Delhi University
India wins Enactus World Cup 2017. Twitter.

New Delhi, Sep 30: After an extremely tough competition between different students across the world in the Enactus World Cup 2017, Team India, represented by Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies (SSCBS), Delhi University emerged as the winner. The winning projects were project UDAAN and Mission RAAHAT.

Supporting the Government of India’s Digital India and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan mission, RAAHAT strives to effectively eliminate open defecation and provide safe sanitation in the urban slums; whereas, UDAAN aims at narrowing the digital divide between rural and urban India by setting up computer centres.

The Delhi University college team was led by the college’s faculty advisor, Anuja Mathur and student president of SSCBS Student President Aditya Sharma. The winning projects included 34 more members. The Enactus India and Enactus SSCBS were presented the Ford Better World Award of USD 50,000.

Also Read: Three Indian Women on Fortune’s Most Powerful Business Women

President and Global CEO, Enactus, Rachael A. Jarosh congratulated the Indian for winning the world cup and called the projects- RAAHAT and UDAAN, inspirational success stories of Enactus students, who are sowing businesses. She said that the projects address the real world challenges efficiently and innovatively. Enactus India President Farhan Pettiwala said that the two projects created by Delhi University students contribute to the country’s betterment, as they support the Government’s civil and social agenda.

Enactus is an international nonprofit organisation, with 72,000 students from 1,700 universities in 36 countries, which held its annual global event in London from September 26 to 28. A selected group of 3,500 students, business, government leaders and academicians across the globe were present at the event. Participants for the final competition round are qualified from over 72,000 university students. Each team has about 17 minutes to present their projects of entrepreneurial action.

Enactus works to nurture the entrepreneurial skills of students, and to address fundamental, social and economic challenges by developing innovative and experiential learning opportunities for students.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.