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This unpublished illustration by Hilary Knight features Eloise slumped in a chair in the Plaza's enormous, opulent lobby. (Collection of Hilary Knight, © Kay Thompson). VOA

NEW YORK, August 5, 2017: Sixty years after she captured America’s heart, six-year-old Eloise is still making trouble at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Eloise is the central character in a series of beloved children’s books, written in the 1950s by Kay Thompson, who died in 1998, and illustrated by Hilary Knight, who’s very much alive at 90.



Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight on the set of Funny Face, 1956.

Thompson, who at various points in her life was a radio personality, a vocal arranger at MGM, and a popular cabaret performer, amused her friends with the voice of a little girl called Eloise. One of those friends thought the character might make a good children’s book, and introduced her to a young artist named Hilary Knight. Knight says he and Thompson hit it off right away. “She was the most fantastic, interesting, funny, tough lady,” he recalls with a laugh. “She was incredibly talented and I never had so much fun in my life.”

They ended up working on four books together, and a new show at the New York Historical Society looks at the creators of the series.

Life at the Plaza Hotel

Eloise has an absent mother, a close relationship with her Nanny, her dog Weenie, her turtle Skipperdee and the staff of the Plaza Hotel, where she skibbles about and makes a lot of mischief.


Eloise left her mark on everything, from mirrors at the Plaza, to readers around the world.VOA

Jane Curley, the exhibition’s curator, says Eloise became part of the cultural zeitgeist. “She landed at the Plaza in 1955, in the midst of the staid Eisenhower era, when role models for women were [traditional stay-at-home moms] June Cleaver and Donna Reed. And all of a sudden here’s this wild irrepressible six-year-old rushing around barging into things, getting into trouble. And she struck a chord.”

In fact, Curley adds, “The Plaza was flooded with six-year-olds looking for Eloise coming in and saying ‘is Eloise here?’”

They still arrive, looking for Eloise. Plaza concierge Hatusumi Komiyali suggests they check the elevator. “If the elevator comes up really, really slow, that means she did it again. That she pressed all the buttons!” she says with a laugh.

The Plaza celebrates its most famous resident, even if she’s fictional. Children visiting the Plaza can have an Eloise tea in the Palm Court, with pink cotton candy, go to a store with all kinds of Eloise merchandise, and even stay overnight in the Eloise suite on the 18th floor, designed by Betsey Johnson.


Young visitors can enjoy a stay in the Eloise Suite at the Plaza Hotel. VOA

It’s a riot of pink and each guest has a personal experience, says the hotel’s PR director, Ariana Swerdlin. “Whenever you come in, Eloise writes you a note.”

Ten year-old Annie Clark visited the Plaza, dressed like Eloise, in a black skirt, white shirt, pink sweater and a red ribbon in her hair, and carrying a plush toy turtle, like Eloise’s pet Skipperdee.


Eloise fan, Annie Clark, poses in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel.

“I think that I do kind of relate to her, because she lives in New York City. I can be mischievous sometimes,” she admitted. “But not always, like her.”

A book for precocious grownups

The irony is that Kay Thompson never thought of Eloise as a children’s book. Knight points out its subtitle is “A book for precocious grownups, about a little girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel.” “To her dying day, she said it was not a child’s book. It offended her, you know, that people considered it that.”

Curator Jane Curley agrees. “She didn’t like children very much and she would waltz into Doubleday’s [book store] and pick up stacks of her books out of the juvenile section and plunk them down in the grownup section and then walk out.”

The centerpiece of the new exhibition at the New York Historical Society is a large portrait of Eloise that Knight painted for Thompson’s birthday, in which the six-year-old is posing like English royalty.


Two years after the painting’s well publicized disappearance, Knight received a phone call from a muffled voice telling him where to find his artwork ― in a trashcan and ripped in pieces. (Collection of Hilary Knight, © Kay Thompson)

Curley says the painting hasn’t been displayed for 57 years. Thompson donated it to the Plaza, where it hung in the lobby, but it was stolen on the night of the Junior League Ball in 1960.

The mystery of the missing portrait

The disappearance made headlines, Curley says. “Walter Cronkite announced on national TV, ‘Eloise kidnapped from the Plaza Hotel.’ Kay offered a reward. There was a great amount of excitement but the portrait failed to show up.”

Two years later, Knight got an anonymous phone call telling him the portrait was in a dumpster on New York’s East Side. He picked up the damaged painting and put it in storage, where it’s been, until it was restored for this exhibit. But the mystery remains. Who took it?

Curley thinks she knows. “I strongly suspect that this was Kay Thompson’s best stunt ever. She was tired of Eloise. It was 1960, she’d taken the three books out of publication and only left the original book in publication. So, to have the portrait disappear was a great exit.” (VOA)


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Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Char Dham Yatra resumed on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.

As weather cleared up in Uttarakhand, Char Dham Yatra restored on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.

According to sources, road leading to Badrinath has been repaired and helicopter service has also resumed.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited Dungi village and met families of people who were missing after the landslip incident, and consoled them.

Dhami assured them of all possible assistance. Two people from the village are still reported to be missing.

Pilgrims were seen leaving from Rishikesh Char Dham Bus terminal and Haridwar bus station for the pilgrimage since morning.

As per the state government, various departments -- Devasthanam Board, police are assisting the pilgrims.

Police Chowki Yatra Bus Terminal, Rishikesh, was announcing passenger-information via loudspeaker.

Free RT-PCR tests of pilgrims were being conducted at Rishikesh bus terminal.

Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board's media in-charge Dr Harish Gaur said pilgrimage was on in Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, while for Kedarnath, helicopter service was also available.

Though the weather was cold in all dhams, thankfully there was no rain, he added.

Portals of the temple in Badrinath will close on November 20, Gangotri on November 5, while that of Kedarnath and Yamunotri on November 6.

Uttarakhand floods, triggered by a major downpour from October 17 to 19, have claimed 65 lives so far, 3,500 people have been rescued while 16,000 evacuated to safety.

Seventeen teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), seven teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), 15 companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and 5,000 police personnel have been engaged in rescue and relief operations.

The state has already been provided with Rs 250 crore Disaster Fund which is being used for relief works.

To prevent spread of the diseases, the Central and state governments have decided to send medical teams to the affected areas.

Snapped power lines will be restored at the earliest, the government assured.

The state government said that as soon as alert for heavy rainfall was issued, the Incident Response System was activated at state and district levels, and pilgrims were halted at safer places. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Uttarakhand, India, Char Dham Yatra, PushkarDhami, Rishikesh.


Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.

The Centre has continued the Naga peace talks with the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) leaders, but negotiations face roadblocks as the Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.

The sources aware of these developments said that the Centre was hopeful that a successful solution of the six decades-long peace talks would arrive at a logical conclusion, but in the recent statements, Naga leaders have accused the Centre of offering post-solution options.

Sources quoting the stand of Naga leaders said that NSCN's stand was loud and clear that it would not follow the forbidden route to the Naga solution that was linked to foregoing the Naga national flag and Constitution, which is the face of the Naga political struggle and identity.

The Naga leaders have also said that the Centre has been using divisive policy and flattery in the name of finding the Naga political solution when the matters heated up.

When the Centre resumed the peace process in September this year and sent the former special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) A.K. Mishra as the Ministry of Home Affairs' emissary to the rebel outfit's chief negotiator and general secretary T. Muivah, he assured him (Muivah) that the peace talks would be initiated under the original framework signed in 2015, a source in the Naga rebel group said.

"Here we are talking about the Naga national flag and Yehzabo (Constitution), the two issues that are holding up the Naga solution under the ongoing Indo-Naga political talks in Delhi.

"The chequered history of the Indo-Naga political issue is clear enough before us, with accords and agreements that were never meant to be implemented in letter and spirit", an important office-bearer of the rebel outfit said while criticizing the governments' stand.

Accusing the Centre, he further accused the Centre of persuading the Naga people again to accept whatever is being offered to hurry up the Naga talks.

On the invitation of the Centre, the senior leaders of the NSCN-IM including T. Muivah arrived in the national capital on October 6 this year to hold another round of talks with the Centre.

Both, the Centre and the Naga leaders had indicated their keenness on resolving this long pending issue by the end of this year in an amicable manner.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, who is also chairman of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), and Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had been actively involved in the resumption of the peace talks and taking it forward to a logical conclusion.

Soon after the transfer of Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi, who was appointed as the Centre's interlocutor for the Naga peace talks on August 29, 2014, to Tamil Nadu, the peace talks resumed on September 20 in Kohima when the Centre representative met the Naga leaders and invited them to visit Delhi for further rounds of peace talks.

The NSCN-IM and the other outfits entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 1997 and over 80 rounds of negotiations with the Centre have been held in the past in successive governments. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Nagaland, India, Constitution, Politics, Flag.


Photo by Wikimedia Commons

India-England test series will now be played next year from July 1 at Edgbaston Stadium

The series decider for the Test series between England and India will now be played at Edgbaston from July 1 next year, said the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday. India is currently leading the series 2-1 before the fifth Test at Old Trafford was cancelled hours before the start due to concerns over COVID-19 outbreak in the tourists' camp.

"The fifth match of the LV= Insurance Test Series between England Men and India Men has been rescheduled and will now take place in July 2022. The match, which was due to take place last month at Emirates Old Trafford, was called off when India were unable to field a team due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid-19 cases inside the camp," said an ECB statement.

"With India leading the series 2-1, the concluding fifth match will now take place from July 1, 2022, at Edgbaston, following an agreement between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)," added the statement.

ECB also said that due to the rescheduled Test, the white-ball series between England and India will now start six days later than originally planned. The T20I series will begin on July 7 at Ageas Bowl with Edgbaston and Trent Bridge hosting the second and third matches respectively on July 9 and 10. It will be followed by the ODI series starting on July 12 at The Oval followed by Lord's and Old Trafford hosting the second and third ODI on July 14 and 17 respectively.

"Ticket holders do not have to take any action as all tickets will remain valid for the equivalent rearranged matchday at their host venue. Host venues will communicate the new fixture details to ticket purchasers and the options available to them, including the timeframe for requesting a refund if they are not able to attend the new match day," further said the statement.

"We are very pleased that we have reached an agreement with BCCI to creating a fitting end to what has been a brilliant series so far. I'm very grateful to all the venues involved for the cooperation they've shown in allowing us to reschedule this match. I'd also like to thank Cricket South Africa for their support and understanding to allow these changes to be possible," said Tom Harrison, the CEO of the ECB.

"We would like to apologise again to fans for the disruption and disappointment of September events. We know it was a day that so many had planned long in advance. We recognise that accommodating this extra match means a tighter schedule for the white ball series. We will continue to manage our players' welfare and workloads through next year while we also continue to seek the optimum schedule for fans, players and our partners across the game."

"I am delighted that the England-India Test series will now have its rightful conclusion. The four Test matches were riveting, and we needed a fitting finale. The BCCI recognizes and respects the traditional form of the game and is also mindful of its role and obligations towards fellow Board Members. In the last two months, both BCCI and the ECB have been engaged in discussions and our efforts were aimed at finding a suitable window. I thank the ECB for their understanding and patience in finding an amicable solution," said BCCI Secretary Jay Shah. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: India, Britain, BCCI, Test Match, Cricket.