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– by Vikas Datta
Title: In Wartime – Stories from Ukraine; Author: Tim Judah; Publisher: Penguin Random House; Pages: 259; Price: Rs 599
This is the first casualty of war, goes the old saying, and this holds most true in civil wars where the arguments over legitimacy of a government, the course and meaning of history (which rarely remains in the past), and the validity of a separate identity and nationalism can be as fiercely contested as territory. Ukraine is a case in point.
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Trying to find answers to these questions, or rather what the people think, journalist-cum-author Tim Judah travels all over the country, from its west — where the old Austro-Hungarian and Polish influence lingers — to the east — where the Russian impact is strong — and even a sliver of territory, only accessible across the post-Soviet state (Moldova), which contains a bewildering mishmash of ethnic groups.
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Judah, who has reported on the Ukraine situation for the Economist, whose Balkans correspondent he is, and the New York Review of Books, and has extensive experience of covering conflicts in Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq and Darfur, among others, notes what drew him here was that Ukraine, despite all its importance, was “one of the continent’s most-under-reported places” — and covered in a skewed manner if at all.
“For most of the last century, what little reporting in the foreign press there was, was done in the main by foreign correspondents living in Moscow, who inevitably absorbed some of the imperial and then former imperial capital’s patronising attitudes,” he said.
Though revolution and wars have awakened editors, “most outlets still do not give journalists the space to make people and places really come alive” now and it is this deficiency that Judah sets out to redress with his vivid yet balanced account, which is also heart-rendering at quite a few places.
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However, he makes it clear that he is not presenting an account of events that led to the Maidan revolution of 2014, the annexation of the Crimea, the consequent war, or who was responsible for the shootings at the Maidan, or of the Malaysian Airlines plane. Nor is it a history of Ukraine, though what happened in Lviv and Western Ukraine during World War II and the history of Donetsk in the east do creep in “because these two stories are key to understanding what is happening now”.
What Judah presents are stories of a whole lot of common but extraordinary Ukrainians, Russians and a whole gamut of ethnic minorities spanning from professors to grandmothers to ex-soldiers (and a Russian agent who has been set in all scenes of strife since the days of the Soviet Union), and sights and scenes.
Beginning with the stark description of a war fatality whose body hangs from overhead power lines, Judah unforgettably depicts how the past hangs heavy when he visits a cemetery in western Ukraine.
This, he tells us, has bodies of the Austro-Hungarian soldiers who died fighting the Russians in the First World War, the Poles who died fighting the Ukrainians when it was over, and next to them, their Ukrainian enemies, the people murdered by the Soviets in 1941, the Soviets who died fighting the Nazis, the monument to the local Ukrainian SS division, the other Ukrainians who fought with the Nazis, against them, against the Poles again, then against the Soviets, and “now the new sections for a new generation”.
His account, well enlivened with maps and photos, is, however, not a very comforting read but a tragically sobering one about how identity politics, geopolitical aims, misgovernance and corruption — in one place, a politician laments how it is hard to fund schools when nobody pays their taxes — and, above all, how the heavy hand of history can blight lives. (IANS)
Karwa Chauth is a Hindu festival that is primarily celebrated by married Hindu women. On this day, married Hindu women keep Nirjala fast, which means fasting even without consumption of water, from sunrise to sunset. The reason behind this fast is to pray for their husband's life, health, and safety.
According to the Hindu calendar, Karwa Chauth is celebrated on the fourth day after Purnima in the month of Kartik.
On this day, married Hindu women dress in new clothes (preferably red because signifies a happy married life) and apply henna to their hands. At the same time, women observing this fast get together to celebrate it by narrating the Karwa Chauth Vrat Katha and singing folk songs, which make this a lot more lively. Some women also worship Goddess Parvati in the Karwa Chauth puja followed by Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesh, and Lord Kartikeya. And, the fast is later broken after having a glimpse of the moon.
Married Hindu women have gathered to perform the Karwa Chauth puja.Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Interestingly, there are many stories related to Karwa Chauth. Some of them are:
Story of Queen Veervati
This is the most interesting story. There was a queen named Veervati, who was the only sister amongst seven brothers. She spent her first Karva Chauth as a married woman at her parents' house. She began to fast after sunrise but by evening, she was desperately waiting for the moon to rise because she couldn't control her thirst and hunger any longer. Seeing this, her brothers became worried because their beloved sister was suffering from thirst and hunger. So, they begged her to break the fast but she refused. Seeing her in distress, the brothers tricked her by placing a round mirror in a Pipal tree, which made it look like the moon had risen. So, Veervati fell for her brothers' tricks and broke her fast, and the moment she sat down to eat, news came that her husband is dead. This is the reason why married Hindu women observe such a tough fast for their husband's life.
Story of Karwa Chauth in Mahabharata
Interestingly, it is believed that Draupadi also observed the fast of Karwa Chauth for the safety and long life of her five husbands. Once, when Arjun had gone for penance in the Nilgris, the rest of the Pandavas faced many issues in his absence. That was when Draupadi remembered Lord Krishna for his help, and he reminded her that in a similar situation, Goddess Parvati had kept the fast for Lord Shiva. Inspired by this, Draupadi too kept the fast of Karva Chauth for her five husbands. Since then it was believed that the Pandavas were able to face every problem.
Therefore, Karwa Chauth is celebrated by married Hindu women all across the world with full enthusiasm. Though, there is a sect now that has started calling this age-old ritual “patriarchal".
Keywords: Hinduism, Women, Karwa Chauth, Festivals, Patriarchy.
Karnataka is famous for Sandalwood, and this is best projected in the state's own Mysore Sandal Soap. This golden, fragrant soap that is rich with the goodness of Sandalwood, has a rather fascinating history behind it, and it is not for cosmetic benefit at all.
Mysore Sandal Soap, surprisingly, was not created by anyone interested in the beauty benefits of soap or its cosmetic value. Instead, it was created by Maharaja Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV and Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, the Diwan of Mysore.
Post-World War I, there was too much sandalwood lying around and the state did not know what to do with it. This excess stock was a result of the halted export to the other princely states. In 1916, the birth of the Sandalwood soap beloved to Karnataka came from an idea that the Maharaja received because of this wood.
He was gifted a set of soaps made from sandalwood oils, and he was extremely impressed with this. He decided to make soaps that represented the essence of the state. He discussed this idea with his Diwan, Visvesvaraya, who immediately backed him up. They began to experiment the making of soaps in collaboration with Indian Institute of Science.
Msore Sandal Soap is the only one with an oval shape that has not changed since 1916 Photo credit: Wikimedia commons
One of the students who worked on this process, Sosale Garalapuri Shastry showed great talent and was sent to England, to learn how to make soaps. He later came to be known as Soap Shastry. His work helped to standardise procedures, and the government factory that makes Mysore Sandal Soap was set up.
Shastry also designed the packaging box and gave the soap a unique shape. Soaps at that time were only rectangular bars. Mysore Sandal is the only oval soap that is embellished both inside and outside. Shastry intended for it to look like a jewellery box.
Every box of Mysore Sandal Soap has the inscription, 'Srigandadha Tavarinida' which means, "from the maternal home of the sandalwood". It is the only soap made from pure sandalwood oil, and bears the emblem of the sharaba, a creature with the body of a lion and head of an elephant.
The Maharaja's initial intent behind the soap was to reach the goodness of sandalwood to as many people as possible, and through men like Visvesvaraya and Shastry, it was made possible. The Mysore Sandal Soap is still one of the most organic soap and perhaps the only one that represents the culture of an entire state.
Keywords: Mysore Sandal Soap, Sandalwood, History, Shastry, Visvesvaraya
The new medical colleges being opened in Uttar Pradesh will be named after saints and sages.
The state government has issued an order naming four district hospitals that are being converted into medical colleges.
These district hospitals are in Bijnor, Fatehpur, Chandauli, and Siddharth Nagar.
The Bijnor medical college has been named after Mahatma Vidur, a philosopher during the Mahabharata era and uncle of the Pandavas and Kauravas.
The Chandauli medical college has been named after Baba Keenaram, said to be the founder of the Aghori sect.
The Siddharth Nagar district hospital will be called Madhav Prasad Tripathi Medical College after the BJP politician from the region. Tripathi, popularly known as Madhav Babu, was also the first Uttar Pradesh BJP chief. He was elected MP from Domariyaganj in 1977, besides being two times Jan Sangh MLA and also a member of the UP legislative council.
The Fatehpur hospital has been named Amar Shaheed Jodha Singh Ataiya Thakur Dariyawn Singh Medical College, after the freedom fighter of 1857.
It is said that he was among the first to use Guerrilla warfare against the British, as taught by freedom fighter Tatya Tope.
Meanwhile, according to official sources, the medical college in Deoria will be named after Maharishi Devraha Baba and the medical college of Ghazipur in the name of Maharishi Vishwamitra.
The medical college of Mirzapur will be in the name of Maa Vindhyavasini, the medical college of Pratapgarh in the name of Dr. Sonelal Patel and the medical college of Etah will be named after Veerangana Avantibai Lodhi. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Medical Colleges, Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, India, Politics