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As the tensions rise between India and China along the borders in Ladakh, Shekhar Gupta in his article for The Print invokes an American political satirist P.J. O’Rourke.
Talking about his works Shekhar points out that in his ‘A Brief History of Man’, P.J. O’Rourke writes a small sentence “Meanwhile, in China, there were the Chinese.”. This sentence is relevant to us today.
Shekhar Gupta believes that the sentence conveys us a sense of resignation about the “inscrutable” Chinese. This thought happens to be familiar thought in the West.
“But we don’t live in the West. We’ve lived next door to China for as long as first civilisations grew.”, writes Shekhar Gupta
Let’s look at the history of Indian interactions with China since independance. What is inscrutable about it? Talking about the military assault across two fronts in 1962, it may have been a surprise to our leaders back then, but that is only because they were delusional.
From Chinese ultimatum to India to “return their stolen yaks and sheep” in 1965, to their appearance along the Ladakh frontier this year, China happens to be completely predictable and far from inscrutable. Especially keeping in mind Chinese actions in respect to India.
The push at Nathu La (Sikkim) in 1967 was probably to check out the resolve from India. Which they saw at its weakest — having fought two recent wars (1962 and 1965), famines, ship-to-mouth existence, political instability and a diminished Indira Gandhi. . The Indian response was a lesson they quickly learnt. What did the Chinese do after that? They have kept the peace for 53 years. Will you call that response evidence of Chinese inscrutability? They probed us, got a rude push-back, and decided to wait and stir the pot in different ways, at different times, says Shekhar Gupta in his artcile for The Print.
The Chinese kept the hold of what they wanted in 1962. According to Shekhar the truth is, they had it in their possession almost fully, barring small, tactically important slivers in Ladakh. They asserted their ownership and let their larger claim, Arunachal Pradesh, fully in Indian control, go militarily uncontested.
The Chinese never gave up claim on it. In 1986-87, they again checked us out at Wangdung-Sumdorong Chu (Arunachal), when they saw Rajiv Gandhi take India’s defence budget to a 4 per cent-plus of GDP. And once more, the response was firm and the Chinese backed off. The lesson we learnt according to Shekhar Gupta is that the Chinese won’t open fire randomly for the sake of it, Or when they are absolutely sure of an easy victory so they could be seen like ‘teaching an upstart a lesson’ as they did in 1962. Predictable.
Each and every action and response of China fits a pattern- Deliver a message, add leverage, and return, according to Shekhar Gupta.
India, China and Pakistan shared this unusual ‘triangulation’ in which China was using Pakistan to keep India preoccupied, said Former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh during his tenure.
His idea was to break this ‘triangulation’ by seeking peace with Pakistan. He thought, that a country as big and powerful as China, would see less of an incentive for peace with India than Pakistan.
Shekhar Gupta believes that today, that option is not so available, as hostility with Pakistan is central to the Modi-BJP politics. They’d rather make peace with China than Pakistan. That is why the lavish welcomes and frequent meetings with the Chinese leaders. The objective, still, is escaping that triangle.
Another instance of Vajpayee explaining the Chinese negotiating style. “Dekhiye, aap aur hum baithe hain aur vaarta kar rahe hain (see, you and I are sitting and negotiating),” he said. If two people require something and the first person asks to let go of something, the other will say no. Then the first person again asks for something little less, then again the other person might say no. But ultimately the second person will relent and let go of some. The Chinese would never do that.
Both these leaders underlined that the Chinese are consistent, and predictable. And that is why we should not be shoched or surprised by what they have unveiled across Ladakh. We should have anticipated it on 5 August last year when we made the big changes in Jammu & Kashmir. This Chinese move, like all others in 60 years, was fully predictable. Even the timing, says Shekhar Gupta in his article for The Print.
Diwali is arguably one of the most auspicious and celebrated holidays in South Asia. It is celebrated over the span of five days, where the third is considered most important and known as Diwali. During Diwali people come together to light, lamps, and diyas, savour sweet delicacies and pray to the lord. The day has various origin stories with the main them being the victory of good over evil. While the North celebrates the return of Lord Rama and Devi Sita to Ayodhya, the South rejoices in the victory of Lord Krishna and his consort Satyabhama over evil Narakasura.
Narakasura- The great mythical demon King
Naraka or Narakasur was the son of Bhudevi (Goddess Earth) and fathered either by the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu or Hiranyaksha. He grew to be a powerful demon king and became the legendary progenitor of all three dynasties of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa, and the founding ruler of the legendary Bhauma dynasty of Pragjyotisha.
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Narakasura was created, grew up to be strong and powerful but he was not satisfied with it, so he decided that he would worship Lord Brahma. He performed severe penance and was driven by the power of his penance; Lord Brahma appeared before him. Narakasura knew his mother loved him dearly so he asked Lord Brahma to grant him a boon that he would only die by the hands of his mother, Bhumidevi. Lord Brahma smile and ultimately granted him the boon.
Narakasura burst out laughing as Lord Brahma vanished. He thought no mother would kill their child so Lord Brahma had made him immortal. Drunk and maddened by his own power Narakasura brought all the kingdoms under his control and targeted Swargalok (Heaven). Even Indra (King of Gods) and demi-gods had to retreat in front of Narakasura. He kidnapped and took 16,000 women from the palaces as prisoners. Troubled by Naraksura's deeds the gods rushed to Lord Vishnu for a solution.
Lord Krishna and Devi Satyabhama were born to kill Narakasura
Lord Vishnu was born as Lord Krishna and Narakasura's mother Bhumidevi took the avatar of Krishna's wife Satyabhama. As Satyabhama, Bhumidevi was unaware of the knowledge of Naraksura being her son. Aditi the mother of all gods approached Satyabhama crying for help with bloodied ears as Narakasura had torn off the glowing earrings from the ears of Aditi.
Satyabhama was furious on gaining the knowledge of Narakasura's atrocities she asked Krishna to fight the demon king while she fights alongside him. Krishna agreed and they attacked the great fortress of Narakasura, riding his mount Garuda with his wife Satyabhama.
The furious battle unleashed. Krishna defeated Narakasura's general Mura and came to be known as Murari (the killer of Mura). Narakasura used several divine weapons against Krishna, but Krishna slew all those weapons effortlessly. The demon hurled a shakti towards Krishna, which mildly hurt Krishna and he fell unconscious. Upon this sight Satyabhama was enraged, she furiously pulled out a weapon of her own and hurled it at Narakasura's chest. Anxious Satyabhama turned to her fallen Lord, Krishna got up with a smile and he was completely fine. He was only playing his part. It was Satyabhama who was an incarnation of Bhoomidevi, whose hands were destined to slay Narakasura.
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Lord Krishna and Goddess Satyabhama had put an end to the Narakasura's kingdom of evil. As Narakasura lay on his deathbed he realised that Satyabhama was no one but an avatar of his own mother. He requested a boon from his mother, for no one to mourn his death. Instead, he wished for people to celebrate it with light and colours. They freed the 16,000 women who later married Lord Krishna to restore them of their honour in society, retrieved Mother goddess's earrings. This day is celebrated as 'Naraka Chaturdashi' popularly known as Choti Diwali - the day before Diwali as the triumph of good over evil.
Keywords: Diwali festival, goddess Laxmi, demon king, Lord Krishna, Satyabhama, the festival of light, Naraksura, Narak Chaturdashi
For all the great inventions that we have at hand, it is amazing how we keep going back to the safety pin every single time to fix everything. Be it tears in our clothes, to fix our broken things, to clean our teeth and nails when toothpicks are unavailable, to accessorize our clothes, and of course, as an integral part of the Indian saree. Safety pins are a must-have in our homes. But how did they come about at all?
The safety pin was invented at a time when brooches existed. They were used by the Greeks and Romans quite extensively. A man named Walter Hunt picked up a piece of brass and coiled it into the safety pin we know today. He did it just to pay off his debt. He even sold the patent rights of this seemingly insignificant invention just so that his debtors would leave him alone.
Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement in the 70s. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Later, he even invented the sewing needles and a couple of other important inventions but never kept any of the patent rights.
When the punk rock tradition took over in the seventies, safety pins became a fashion rage. They were used as piercings and to patch clothes together. Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement. In some cultures, the safety pins have become symbols of good luck.
Keywords: Safety-pins, Punk Rock, Brass, Accessories, Walter Hunt
In South India, Deepavali marks the end of the monsoon and heralds the start of winter. The festival is usually observed in the weeks following heavy rain, and just before the first cold spell in the peninsula. The light and laughter that comes with the almost week-long celebration are certainly warm to the bones, but there is still a tradition that the South Indians follow to ease their transition from humidity to the cold.
Just before the main festival, the family bathes in sesame oil. This tradition is called 'yellu yennai snaana' in Kannada, or 'ennai kuliyal' in Tamil, which translates to 'sesame oil bath'. The eldest member of the family applies three drops of heated oil on each member's head. They must massage this oil into their hair and body. The oil is allowed to soak in for a while, anywhere between twenty minutes to an hour. After this, they must wash with warm water before sunrise.
Women applying oil to the heads of men Photo credit: Indians in Kuwait
In some parts of the peninsula, soap is not used to wash off the oil because it nullifies its effects. Some cultures who do not like the oil to remain in any way on their skin wash it off with shikakai and herbs, which is a paste that is traditionally used as a substitute for soap. Sometimes, the oil is heated with flowers and spices as well and is less sticky than in its pure form.
The purpose of this ritual is to cleanse the body, detoxify it, and produce heat in it. Sesame is a very heaty substance and tends to heat up the body. This heat, or 'usshna' in Kannada, prepares the body to face the sudden cold that comes to the peninsula immediately after Diwali. South India has no smooth transition weather-wise from monsoon to winter. There are a few days of stable, rainless weather, and suddenly the cold winds descend.
In many ways, the celebration of Diwali is centered around preparing for winter, considering the amount of heat and light the rituals consist of – lighting lamps, bursting crackers, and consuming warm treats. Those who practice these rituals earnestly find the shift in seasons and weather quite pleasant.
Keyboards: Sesame Oil Bath, Diwali Ritual, Traditional Sesame Oil Bath