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– by Vikas Dutta
Jan 16, 2017: Title: Lanka’s Princess; Author: Kavita Kane; Publisher: Rupa Publications India; Pages: 280; Price: Rs 295
Like the space-time it is set in, Hindu mythology too seems to trace a circular course — in fiction. Its once unmitigated villains are being re-evaluated, their motives and actions re-assessed, and epics retold from their perspective. But while the great “demon” king, the Pandavas’ unknown brother and “jealous” cousin have had their say, what about a calamitous woman long-perceived as a cause of the war that destroyed Lanka?
But it was time that Surpanakha got her chance to tell her story of repression, rage, revenge — and eventual redemption.
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We have long known her as Ravana’s younger sister, a “wanton” asura whose advances to Ram and Lakshman, the exiled princes of Ayodhya, were spurned and earned her horrific mutilation from Lakshman’s swift sword. Her subsequent complaint to her brother set in motion a chain of events that led to the death of almost every male relative. But do we know anything else about her — her past, her thoughts, her future?
Remedying the deficiency is author Kavita Kane, who has long been trying to give the overshadowed women — wives, mothers and sisters — of the great mythological epics a voice — and their due.
And after Karna’s wife Uruvi, Sita’s sister Urmila and the apsara Menaka, it is time for Meenakshi, the youngest child and only daughter of sage Vishravas and asura princess Kaikesi. It was her mother who named her Surpanakha, because of long sharp nails and equally sharp and destructive temper.
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Meenakshi’s story cannot, however, be seen in isolation from her family, especially her brothers, the powerful and ambitious Ravana, the slow but solid (and unexpectedly perspicacious) Kumbha, and the righteous Vibhisana, and the growing tensions between her parents, and her father and eldest son.
But this is not where Kane begins her tale, which starts in another, later age, where a young prince, raised as a cowherd, returns to Mathura to reclaim his heritage.
Among the crowd, Krishna immediately identifies an old, hunchbacked woman, who makes her living by making sandalwood paste, as an “acquaintance” from an earlier life and approaches her. She is discomfitted by the attention of “an eerily familiar” but unrecognisable interlocutor, who seeks a favour, and promises to return. He does after fulfilling his primary mission, restores to proper form and reminds her of her previous life.
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It is then a flashback to the hermitage of Vishravas as she is being born, and her mother’s disappointment at giving birth to a daughter. From then we follow the childhood of Meenakshi and her elder siblings, which give us insights into their latter, more-known selves. It also, through their examples, shows us how some human traits and social issues have been part of our lives in the ages.
And before the events segue into those we know as the Ramayana, we learn how Meenakshi’s bids at happiness in her trying life fail and what an elaborate revenge she plans and implements — though there are times when she balks at the cost it demands.
Her campaign doesn’t end on the battlefields of Lanka but continues well into Ram’s Ayodhya, though she finds herself unable to carry out the final part of her revenge due to the unexpected reactions from her prospective victims. It is then she finally understands the patterns of her life and fate.
The narrative returns to Mathura, where Krishna, who has comforted her with her eventual redemption, foresees — but forbears to tell her — her future (setting the stage for the next book?)
But, Kane’s fourth book is not just a mere retelling of the epic from the viewpoint of a significant but minor character, and providing more space to the likes of Ravana’s mother, wife Mandodari, and brothers as well as Sita, though it is her sister, who has a more vital role.
It also may not lead us to view Surpanakha more sympathetically (though we can understand her) but shows how epics are not about the struggles between “good” and “evil”, but of and between humans, of their choices, aspirations, their different social systems and outlooks. We read them not to find god but to know more about ourselves.
By N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe
Do you have a strong desire for a late-night snack but you are trying to control the temptation to avoid gaining weight? Many people, due to many reasons, feel hungry again after having dinner. It can be due to work shifts, boredom, stress or if you have had a smaller or earlier dinner. There's a lot of debate about whether or not you should eat after dinner. And, if that's okay, what are the foods to consume at that hour? As per Dietitian and Nutritionist Sakina Mustansir, if you snack wisely, you will not gain weight.
Mustansir suggest foods that you can binge on late at night.
* Berries -- Berries are loaded with fibre which helps you feel full, besides they also contain magnesium, a mineral that relaxes nerves and muscles to speed faster.
Berries are loaded with fibre which helps you feel full. | Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
* Peanut butter Sandwich -- Peanut butter contains tryptophan that gets converted in the brain to melatonin to promote sleepiness. And carbohydrates like bread are needed alongside to make tryptophan more available to the brain. Hence peanut butter bread is the perfect pairing for a pre-sleep snack, and nutritious, too.
Peanut butter contains tryptophan that gets converted in the brain to melatonin to promote sleepiness. | Photo by Deryn Macey on Unsplash
* Whole-grain crackers -- When you're hungry for something savoury and crunchy at night, then this can come in handy. Make sure they are unsalted to keep overeating at bay.
Make sure crackers are unsalted to keep overeating at bay. | Photo by Romina BM on Unsplash
* Carrot and hummus -- If you're craving something crunchy and low-calorie and filling, fresh carrots with hummus can come in handy.
If you're craving something crunchy and low-calorie and filling, fresh carrots with hummus can come in handy. | Photo by Jonathan Pielmayer on Unsplash
* Popcorn -- For those who would like to eat something salty and crunchy, we would suggest they binge on popcorn. It's a high-fibre snack that will keep you full until the next meal. Leave off the butter and salt, and replace them with heart-healthy fats like olive oil or fresh herbs. In fact, three cups of air-popped popcorn contain less than 100 calories and roughly 4 grams of fibre, which will help you to feel full.
For those who would like to eat something salty and crunchy, we would suggest they binge on popcorn. Photo by Georgia Vagim on Unsplash
* Nuts -- Nuts like walnuts and almonds contain natural melatonin, protein, and magnesium, a modest handful of nuts will satiate appetite and induce sleepiness.
Nuts like walnuts and almonds contain natural melatonin, protein, and magnesium Photo by Pratik Bachhav on Unsplash
* Roasted Grams -- Roasted Grams are a crunchy nutrient-dense, low-calorie snack that's high in protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals, which makes them a healthier alternative to salty snacks like potato chips.
Roasted Grams are a crunchy nutrient-dense, low-calorie snack. | Wikimedia Commons
* Low Fat turmeric Milk -- Milk is a rich source of important nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B, potassium and Vitamin D. Adding turmeric to milk enables your body to relax. It gives a calming effect to the brain and gives you a perfect good night sleep. (IANS/ MBI)
Adding turmeric to milk enables your body to relax. | Photo by Osha Key on Unsplash
Keywords: berries, turmeric, dinner, peanut, popcorn, crunchy, butter
If you're even a little familiar with the Indian culture you'll be aware of the traditional bracelets made of glass worn by women in India. Firozabad, a small industrial town approximately 200 km from the capital of India, Delhi is famous for its glass industry and especially its bangles. Thus it is rightfully known as "The Bangle City" or the "The Glass City of India". This city had is notable for the production of the bulk amount of indigenous glass. Bangles of every colour; red, green, blue, yellow, gold-lined, edged silver, you name it the city has it. Gorgeous bangles with intricate designs and rich colours are the unique art crafted by the hands of thousands of artisans living in Firozabad.
Making glass useful and a decorative object has been the city's tradition for more than 200 years. 75% of Firozabad's population including children are directly or indirectly involved in the traditional glasswork industry. Bangle making is a household business with generations passing on traditional techniques, from grandparents to parents and then to children. The city employs thousands of craftsmen and around town. Some of the town's units run 24 hours. There are about 150 bangle-making and decoration units in the city. A single bangle is expected to move to pass as many as 45 to 50 hands before turning it from a pure lump of glass into a piece of disposable jewellery.
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Firozabad today produces a range of glass products like glass hardware for decorative purposes, glass art items such as toys, candle stands, animal figurines and images of gods and goddesses, glass domestic goods such as drinking glasses. They even produce the science and laboratory glassware such as beakers, flasks, containers for college, university and factory laboratories; glass automotive products such as light bulbs, battery bulbs and Glass Street and domestic lighting equipment for urban and rural lighting and utility applications including miniature bulbs and high-voltage lighting equipment. This way half the city's output is exported.
A single bangle is moved past as many as 45 to 50 hands before turning it from a pure lump of glass into a piece of disposable jewellery.Wikimedia Commons
Behind the beautiful bangles that we wear are the hazardous and miserable conditions of the artisans. Not many people are aware of the blood, sweat and even lifetime disabilities that these glass craftsmen face while the production of this colourful glassware. Despite being successful and having a name for it as the "Glass City" it has failed to establish its place in the international market. The reasons are simple, as the city has stuck to the primitive traditional manual techniques which often lead to health hazards and has employed children in these glass furnaces for generations.
The craftsmen and children working in this industry often work for elongated hours in dark with shards of glass, and glass dust everywhere. All the work they do from welding to soldering pieces of glass is done without proper protection. Due to such conditions, they frequently suffer from respiratory problems, loss of vision, silicosis and other health hazards. Children employed lose their vision even before becoming an adult. 70% of the workers don't even get minimum wages.
Child labour and exploitation of labour have been a major problem in Firozabad for which the Government had made several laws and act acts to address the issue. The city continues to defy the laws and has become a hub of child labour and continues to exploit hundreds of children.
ALSO READ: Child Labour: Can the 'abused' dream?
Behind all the glitter and glory of the Glass City of India are the poor work conditions of the artisans and the health hazards that run from generation to generation. The glass children of the glass city need their rights to be protected. The city needs modernization of the traditional techniques to machines to avoid health hazards and address the problem of child labour. The enterprises and the government are working to promote the glass industry to bring back the shine and charm of the city.
Keywords: Glass industry, Firozabad, child labour, health hazards, poor working conditions
By- Lisa Frank
When COVID-19 hit, teachers and students got a crash course in video conferencing apps and remote learning. While many schools are now transitioning away from the remote format, technology and education have nonetheless become inseparable. Interaction with others via the internet is now a fact of life both in school and outside of it.
While much of that interaction is healthy, some of it is not. School officials can help stop bullying when it happens in person, but they may not know when it occurs digitally. That leaves parents as the first line of defence against cyberbullying. This year, take some precautions to help protect your kid from this hurtful practise and show them how to interact safely online.
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To protect your child from cyberbullying, your first instinct might be to bar them from the place it so commonly occurs — social media. Your daughter won't fall victim to the Snapchat equivalent of a hit and run if she's not on the platform, right? And your son won't receive nasty comments on his Youtube videos if you don't let him post any — case closed.
Not so fast, Mom and Dad. It would be unrealistic to totally ban your child from social media — it's just too prevalent. You might be surprised how often even schools will use it to keep in touch with their students. Instead of prohibiting access altogether, set up certain times and situations in which they are allowed to get on social media. That way, if cyberbullies show up, you can help your kid defuse the situation and salve any psychic wounds.
You could allow 30 minutes right after school to look at TikTok while in the living room with you, for example. Or they can catch up on their friends' Instagram stories on their tablets. This routine will be both something to look forward to and easy activity to help them transition from their school day.
Of course, there will be times your child won't have supervision, such as when they are hanging out with friends or away from home. For these excursions, a cell phone for kids is perfect for limiting social media access while allowing you to keep in touch. Using a limited device, they won't encounter harmful people online in a place they feel unsafe.
Popular social media platforms may be integral to modern communication, but there are many lesser-known ones with less stringent rules. These include forums like Reddit and 4chan, which at best can be time-wasters and at worst can invite cyberbullying.
If you're looking to minimize your child's attachment to the internet, then it is best to bar access to such sites. It is far more likely that they'll interact with bad actors in communities with such large, diverse reservoirs of content.
Even if your kid is allowed to go on certain websites, there are actions that they should always avoid without permission. These include messaging strangers, sharing personal information, and making purchases, to name just a few. Cyberbullying can move from the virtual world to the real one when a bully knows your home address. Impress upon your child how important it is to keep personal information private.
Respond to your children without judgment so that if they need help, they feel safe coming to you for aidUnsplash
No matter how much you regulate your kid's internet activity, you want to make sure that they understand why. It's important that they don't feel punished or belittled as you strive to protect them. The best way to do this is by being open with your child: The internet can be dangerous at times. They haven't done anything wrong, but you just want to make sure they aren't put in harm's way.
Provide them with a space to air their opinions respectfully even if they disagree with your decisions. If they beg for a Snapchat account and then run into their school's mean girls, resist the urge to say, "I told you so." Respond without judgment so that if they need help, they can feel safe coming to you for aid. A healthy foundation of trust relies on your respect for their needs and vice versa.
Having this support system can mean the difference between their feeling powerless or protected during a harmful interaction. They'll always be sure that you are in their corner should a cyberbully strike. And if one does, it will present an opportunity to discuss rules, their necessities, and their objectives.
While your primary goal is to protect your kid from cyberbullying, as a parent it's also your job to ensure they aren't bullying others. Cyberbullying takes many different forms, and because of this, it's important to teach your child internet etiquette.
Without someone's face in front of us, it is easier to say things to people that we wouldn't in person. Remind them that behind every profile, there is a real person. They may be tempted to join in on an internet pile-on — especially when the "cool kids" at school are doing it. Encourage them to step away (or better yet, come to the other student's defence) in such situations. If your child understands the effect harsh words can have on a person, they'll be more likely to do the right thing.
On the flip side, teach them it's OK to brush the occasional negative comment aside. It is also worth discussing the importance of context — the unemotive nature of text communication can sometimes breed misunderstanding. A simple comment giving someone a suggestion might be interpreted as hostile due to the absence of verbal inflection. While they shouldn't downplay genuinely hurtful language, they shouldn't be quick to take offence, either.
Most social media platforms have implemented anti-bullying features aimed at giving users a sense of control and self-protection. Instruct your child on how to use these tools to curate and preserve their online experience. This includes unfriending, unfollowing, blocking, reporting, hiding, and restricting undesirable accounts and posts when they encounter something that bothers them.
If your kid can't find a solution on their own, even with these tools at their disposal, that doesn't mean they're out of luck. After all, you've already given them the assurance that they can always ask for your help. By familiarizing them with solutions and managing their usage, you'll be better able to keep your child safe from online bullies this school year.
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