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Retd Indian Army veteran cycling across the country in a tribute to Soldiers who laid down their lives for Nation since Independence

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Major General Somnath Jha , Source: All India Radio

New Delhi, April 18, 2017: Major General Somnath Jha (Retd), who is cycling across the country in a tribute to the soldiers who laid down their lives for the nation since Independence, reached Delhi Cantonment on the penultimate day of his journey.

Having spent 37 years in service, the 58-year-old third-generation soldier took up the daunting task of paying homage to around 21,000 armed forces personnel by cycling for two minutes for each of them throughout the country.

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“This is my symbolic homage to my brethren who didn’t have the privilege of retiring as I did since they made the supreme sacrifice before that,” Jha said.

Accompanied by his wife Chitra, Jha hit the road 18 days after he retired on October 19 last year starting his journey from Ambala Cantonment (from where he retired), and has cycled for 42,000 minutes across 29 states over a period of seven months.

He paid homage to every war memorial on his way and would conclude his homage journey at the Amar Jawan Jyoti here on Wednesday.

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During the journey, his day would start early in the morning as he would cycle till he hit his day’s target, which could be anything between 70 to 150 km taking minimal breaks in between, a Defence Ministry statement said.

Commissioned in the 11th Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry, Jha scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro at the age of 54 and learned paragliding at the age of 56. (IANS)

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Educated Woman: Should She be a Housewife or a Working Woman?

Educated women are often relegated in various societies for opting the role of a homemaker

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Home-making
Housewife doing domestic drudges

By Megha Acharya 

  • The definition of ‘Independent women’ is always weighed with the money she earns.
  • Societies see bread earners as the ones who run the family.
  • This societal taboo disrespects the woman’s choice.

People are of the opinion that an educated woman limiting herself as a housewife is “squandering” her qualification. Women often hear, “what’s the use of studying, if you have to become a housewife”. The choice of staying at home or going to work is completely a personal decision. Both sexes pertain the right to take decisions of their lives.

It’s not necessary that the option to stay at home is always imposed on women, some may opt to become a housewife. The ‘taboo’ of a woman wasting her degree by sitting at home, relegates the choice made by her. Women education is questioned, if they decide being independent by not spending eight hours outside of their homes.

The work profile of a housewife gets restricted to the domestic drudgery in many societies. Had home-making been doing just the domestic chores, then why do working mothers prefer leaving their kids with English-speaking maids or send them to creches, where their baby is under the guidance of educated people. Why do they not randomly pick someone?

An educated woman can make better decisions in home-making. The quality of life of the family would be better in terms of nutrition, cleanliness, health and stress when the person devotes a lot of her time at home. From choosing the right kind of household items to childcare, her qualifications would play a huge role. Young minds benefit from interactions with an educated person. The housewife’s qualifications would help her decide the kind of school her child would fit in, the kind of environment is required for his/her growth, and most importantly the lessons and values to be given to her children.

The contribution made by a housewife gets quantified with money. She is asked, “Do you not feel ashamed while asking for money from your husband?”. Does the woman’s time, effort and sweat in cleaning and maintaining the house, not anything? The definition of ‘Independent woman’ is often misconstrued. The self-earned cash is an important sign of freedom, however, being independent is only weighed with earning money. People fail to understand that, a lady taking the onus of the whole family, making wiser decisions for the well-being of its members qualifies to “being independent”.

Also Read: Working Mothers Can Now Balance Work and Family with These Hacks.

The relationship between a husband and a wife is mutually dependent. Both are reliant on each other for physical and mental support. If a lady homemaker needs money from her husband, then the latter needs cooked food, ironed clothes, clean house and good parenting for his child.

Housewife managing household
Independent woman managing household

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Working parents juggle the responsibilities of home and work, which makes them stressed. In such situations, some choose to be the multitasker, while some want to stay at home. Every individual chooses the best for themselves. Rather than judging them, we should respect their decision and show some compassion. Women education never gets wasted if, they willingly decided to take part in the selection of household items. And, we must never forget that education passes on wisdom, and wise decisions always succeed

Megha can be reached at Twitter @ImMeghaacharya


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“Ants Among Elephants” by Indian-Origin Author Sujatha Gidla is Creating Waves in the US

Interview with Sujatha Gidla, who recently wrote a memoir capturing the life of Dalit community in India

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Dalit Women protesting against exploitation
Dalit Women protesting against exploitation. Wikimedia
  • Many instances of discrimination and humiliation that she and her family were customarily subjected to
  • This Independence was not real independence, it was only transfer of power
  • Caste-based discrimination is uniquely cruel

New York, USA, August 27, 2017:  The nation has just celebrated Independence Day with great pomp and fervor but does this special occasion evoke similar sentiments among the Dalits living in the country? No, contends an Indian-origin author Sujatha Gidla, who was born an “untouchable” and is now creating waves in US literary circles with a provocative memoir capturing the life of her community in India.

Until recently, Sujatha Gidla was just another New Yorker, working as a conductor on the City Subway. But her recent memoir, “Ants among Elephants: : An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India”, which not only details her memories of growing up as a Dalit woman in India but also lists the many instances of “discrimination and humiliation” that she and her family were customarily subjected to, has thrust her into the limelight.

On how she responds to special occasions like Independence Day, the author said that, as children, they would admire iconic figures like Gandhi and Nehru, and celebrate the day but things changed gradually as they become more aware.

ALSO READ: Religious minorities, Dalits face discrimination in India: A report by US Commission on International Religious Freedom

“When I joined the RSU (Radical Students Union) we were told that (this) Independence was not real independence, that it was only transfer of power. And now we don’t feel anything because we are not made to feel that we are Indians like other Indians.

“It is the same thing in the universities where I studied. I don’t have that pride of my alma mater because we were not treated as equals. None of us have that pride, not even my mother,” Gidla told IANS in an email interview from New York.

The author further quipped that, by and large, “this is not independence” for members of her community.

“There have been many types of discrimination in various parts of the world. As far as I know, caste discrimination is uniquely cruel. There is racism in America, but I will never compare it with caste and rather say that caste is much worse.

“I will also say this: Blacks here are murdered, they have been lynched. But I have never read about another place where untouchables are fed excreta, made to drink urine and paraded naked. Even under slavery, the slave owners took care to feed their slaves in order to keep them fit to work. Untouchables in India never even had that,” Gidla said.

Sujatha Gidla reiterated that untouchability is neither a religious nor a cultural problem. It is rather a social problem and that there has to be “some sort of fundamental change”; otherwise the Dalits will “continue to suffer”.

Elaborating on the “suffering” that she repeatedly mentions in the book, Gidla said most Dalits in India, particularly those trying to fight against the caste system, live under constant duress due to verbal attacks and the threat of physical violence.

“Our neighbors in India have been actively trying to kick my mom out of her apartment. Her (upper) caste colleagues hate the fact that her daughter wrote a successful book.”

“That is the irony; we cannot even celebrate the publication of the book because we are afraid that it will make people around us unhappy. Even fellow untouchables are not posting it on social media for fear of being exposed to their colleagues and (upper) caste friends as untouchables,” she elaborated.

Also Read: Dr. Kallol Guha: Anglophonic Education will not uplift Dalits

Gidla’s grandparents converted to Christianity at the onset of the 20th century and were educated at Canadian missionary schools. She too, with the help of Canadian missionaries, studied physics at the Regional Engineering College in Warangal, in what is Telangana today. She was also a researcher in applied physics at IIT-Madras.

Gidla initially worked as a developer in software design, then moved to banking but lost her job in 2009 during the economic crisis. Finally, she took up the job of a conductor at the New York Subway.

This book, Gidla said, initially began as an investigation into the caste system but finally took the shape of a memoir as her family members also enriched its pages with their personal experiences and reflections.

So what would bring “freedom” in the true sense to Gidla and her family, as also to over 300 million Dalits in India?

“True freedom is equal access to everything in society -education, jobs, etc. When that is achieved, the prejudices will begin to disappear, but only gradually, not instantaneously. Without having equal access to economic betterment all these words about caste being an evil practice or we should treat untouchables with respect are meaningless,” she maintained.

The book has been published in the US by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan publishers, and is yet to hit the Indian market. (IANS)