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Chronicling Kullu Valley’s sacred journey

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Kullu: Starting from the sun temple at Nirath in Himachal Pradesh’s Satluj Valley that traces its origin to the Harappan era, a new book traces the sacred journey of the Kullu Valley as it concludes at the majestic Rohtang Pass, the so-called ground of the dead, after covering the Nirmand, Ani, Banjar and Kullu.

‘A Sacred Journey’ and two other books – one on traditional and popular cuisines of Kullu and the other anthology of excerpts from the accounts left by foreigners who have visited Kullu in the last 1,400 years – were released during the week-long Kullu Dussehra celebrations that began on October 24, Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar told IANS.

‘A Sacred Journey’ and the other two books were compiled by Minakshi Chaudhry, who now has 16 works to her credit.

In an earlier book, ‘Sunshine: My Encounter With Cancer’, she narrates her innate struggle and captures the intense experience of her journey to recovery. Her books include ‘Ghost Stories of Shimla Hills’, ‘Love Stories of Shimla Hills’ and ‘Whispering Deodars: Writings from Shimla Hills’.

‘A Sacred Journey’ has not only breathtaking and captivating photographs but also interesting information and nuggets, Kanwar said. For example, Nirmand village was established by Parshuram himself who granted land to the Brahmins.

The book also contains information about the earlier travelers like Penelope Chetwode, the wife of British Poet Laureate John Betjeman and the daughter of the one-time Commander-in-chief of the British Army in India, Field Marshal Philip Chetwode, who was so captivated by the area that she made repeated visits to Ani and Kullu as a young girl.

She was finally laid to rest in these hills near Khanag in 1986.

The book has more than 250 photographs and brief descriptions about places of tourist interest, both popular and lesser-known destinations.

The second book is based on the traditional and popular cuisine available in Kullu district.

Most people know that in the last decade Siddu, the steamed and stuffed local bread, has become a hot selling item.

But there are many more delicacies that are waiting to be discovered by the tourists, said Kanwar.

These nutritious items will definitely be relished by the tourists if made available on a commercial scale. This book makes the readers aware about dishes like askalu, babru, femda and geechey.

The book also details the restaurants and hotels where international food is served.

Manali, Kasol, Tosh and other destinations in the district have several eateries that serve authentic Indian, Chinese, Tibetan, Israeli, Korean, Lebanese, Nepalese and German cuisine.

The third book is an anthology of excerpts from the accounts left by foreign travelers who have visited Kullu over the last 1,400 years.

The book starts with the description of Ku-lu-to (Kullu) by Huen Tsang, the 7th century Chinese pilgrim, and ends will a piece written by Cristina Noble in the last decades of the 20th century.

She liked Kullu so much that she married an Indian and made Kullu her home.

The centuries-old Kullu Dussehra celebrations begin on ‘Vijaya Dashami’, the day they ended in the rest of the country.

(Vishal Gulati, IANS)

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Listening for Well-being : Arun Maira Talks About a Democracy in Crisis, Unsafe Social Media and More in his Latest Book

Maira asserts that we must learn to listen more deeply to 'people who are not like us' in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race.

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Arun Maira
Arun Maira (extreme left), during a public event in 2009. Wikimedia
  • Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira’s latest book is titled ‘Listening for Well-Being’
  • Maira observes that physical and verbal violence in the world and on social media is continuously growing
  • He also highlights the importance of ‘hearing each other’ in order to create truly inclusive and democratic societies

New Delhi, September 5, 2017 : Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira contends that “physical violence” in the real world and “verbal violence” on social media against people whom “we do not approve of” are increasing today. With such trends on the rise, the very idea of democracy finds itself in a crisis.

The solution?

“We need to listen more deeply to people who are not like us,” said the much-respected management consultant, talking of his latest book, “Listening for Well-Being”, and sharing his perspective on a wide range of issues that he deals with.

“Violence by people against those they dislike, for whatever reason, is increasing. It has become dangerous to post a personal view on any matter on social media. Responses are abusive. There is no respect for another’s dignity. People are also repeatedly threatened with physical violence.”

He said that gangs of trolls go after their victims viciously. “Social media has become a very violent space. Like the streets of a run-down city at night… not a safe space to roam around in.”

At the same time, streets in the physical world are becoming less safe too. “Any car or truck on the road can suddenly become a weapon of mass destruction in a ‘civilised’ country: in London, Berlin, Nice, or Barcelona,” Maira told IANS in an interview.

Maira said that with the rise of right-wing parties that are racist and anti-immigrant, there is great concern in the Western democratic world — in the US, the UK and Europe — that democracy is in a crisis.

In the US, for example, supporters of Donald Trump, Maira said, believe only what Trump says and watch only the news channels that share a similar ideology. On the other side are large numbers of US citizens who don’t believe what Trump says but they too have their own preferred news sources.

“They should listen to each other, and understand each other’s concerns. Only then can the country be inclusive. And also truly democratic — which means that everyone has an equal stake and an equal voice,” he noted.

In “Listening for Well-Being” (Rupa/Rs 500/182 Pages), Arun Maira shows his readers ways to use the power of listening. He analyses the causes for the decline in listening and proposes solutions to increase its depth in private and public discourse.

Drawing from his extensive experience as a leading strategist, he emphasises that by listening deeply, especially to people who are not like us, we can create a more inclusive, just, harmonious and sustainable world for everyone.

But it would be wrong to say that the decline in listening is only restricted to the Western world.

“We have the same issues in India too. We are a country with many diverse people. We are proud of our diversity. However, for our country to be truly democratic, all people must feel they are equal citizens.

“The need for citizens to listen to each other is much greater in India than in any other country because we are the most diverse country, and we want to be democratic. So, we must learn to listen more deeply to ‘people who are not like us’ in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race,” he maintained.

Maira also said that India is a country with a very long and rich history. And within the present boundaries of India are diverse people, with different cultures, different religions, and of different races.

“So, we cannot put too sharp a definition on who is an ‘Indian’ — the language they must speak, the religion they must follow, or the customs they must adopt. Because, then we will exclude many who do not have the same profiles, and say they are not Indians. Thus we can falsely, and dangerously, divide the country into ‘real Indians’ and those who are supposedly non-Indians. Indeed, such forces are rising in India,” he added.

Maira, 74, hoped that all his readers will appreciate that listening is essential to improve the world for everyone. He also maintained that it is not a complete solution to any of the world’s complex problems but by listening to other points of view, we can prevent conflict and also devise better solutions.

Born in Lahore, Arun Maira received his M.Sc. and B.Sc. in Physics from Delhi University’s St Stephen’s College. He has also authored two bestselling books previously, “Aeroplane While Flying: Reforming Institutions” and “Upstart in Government: Journeys of Change and Learning”. (IANS)

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Book Review: Author Tim Harford’s “Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy” deserves Plenty of Plaudits

But economist, columnist and author Tim Harford does not only seek here to list of 50 specific inventions but also to tell us the singular stories behind their inception

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Tim Harford
Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy cover. Facebook
  • Author Tim Harford has written a new book titled ‘Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy
  • Tim Harford is also an economist and a columnist

New Delhi, August 22, 2017: The i-Phone may seem the pinnacle of human endeavour, ingenuity and technological prowess — but while Steve Jobs deserves the plaudits, the range of technologies making it possible were a collective effort, facilitated by a surprisingly unexpected benefactor. Such tales are discussed in Tim Harford’s “Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy.”

When we think of the wonders of our modern world, we may cite these flashy hand-held devices that enable us to communicate, entertain ourselves and find information instantly. But they are merely one facet, for our lives now owe to a range of inventions and discoveries stretching from the humble plough to Google, and from the elevator to intellectual property, and achieved in several unusual and unexpected ways.

And while the i-Phone does make a list of 50 such inventions, so do concrete, clocks and infant formula as well as limited liability companies, public key cryptography and the welfare state — and many others, including some which may seem surprising.

But economist, columnist and author Tim Harford does not only seek here to list of 50 specific inventions but also to tell us the singular stories behind their inception — the iPhone especially — and how they affected us socially and economically from the beginning of civilisation to workings of the world economy now. Or rather in laying its foundations.

These 50 inventions, he says, range from those “absurdly simple” to ones which became “astonishingly sophisticated”, “stodgily solid” to “abstract inventions that you cannot touch at all”, profitable right from their launch or, while others were initially commercial disasters.

Also Read: Book Review: Hinduism in Ancient India and the Various Aspects of its Traditions by Greg Bailey

“But all of them have a story to tell that teaches us something about how our world works and that helps us notice some of the everyday miracles that surround us, often in the most ordinary-seeming objects. Some of these stories are of vast and impersonal economic forces; others are tales of human brilliance or human tragedy.”

Harford, known for his “Undercover Economist” series, does stress that he doesn’t seek to identify the 50 most economically significant inventions for some seemingly obvious entrants — printing presses, airplanes, computers — are missing. And there are good reasons why.

He also promises that while zooming in closely to examine one of these or pulling back to notice the unexpected connections, will provide answers to questions like the link between Elton John and the promise of a paperless office, how an American discovery banned in Japan for four decades affected women’s careers there, which monetary innovations destroyed Britain’s Houses of Parliament in the 1830s.

Harford also explains how all these inventions have two facets — they may not be always benign — in the longer run, or ensure a “win-win” scenario for all.

While it is easy to see inventions as solutions to problems, he warns against seeing them as only solutions, for they “shape our lives in unexpected ways — and while they’re solving a problem for someone, they’re often creating a problem for someone else”.

These attributes are best shown by the case of an ostensibly well-meaning American inventor who is responsible for poisoning our environment twice-over though his two contributions were initially helpful, and then by both the beneficial and baleful impacts of the plough — or banks for that matter.

Harford also shows that there is more to an invention than its inventing, and even for any one of them, “it’s often hard to pin down a single person who was responsible — and it’s even harder to find a ‘eureka’ moment when the idea all came together”.

Dealing with such aspects in the brief interludes between the inventions, placed in no discernible chronological or thematic order, Harford also seeks to put them together at the end to pose the vital question of how we should think about that often used and often misunderstood buzzword “innovation” today.

“What are the best ways to encourage new ideas? And how can we think clearly about what the effects of those ideas might be, and act with foresight to maximise the good effects and mitigate the bad ones?” he asks.

But as his incisive but illuminating and entertaining sojourn through centuries of human activities and endeavours show, there are no easy or definite answers. (IANS)

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Bob Dylan: Spiritual Side of the Legend explored in Upcoming Book

Scott Marshall's new edition "Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life" investigates into the spiritual life of the legendary singer

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Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life
Spiritual Side of the Bob Dylan is explored in an Upcoming Book. Wikimedia
  • Bob Dylan was majorly impacted by Judaism, Christianity and other parts of spirituality
  • A spiritual side of the poet and its effects on the pop culture is explored in Scott Marshall’s new book
  • The book “Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life” is definitely something to look forward to as it will also be featuring Carolyn Dennis, Dylan’s ex-wife

June 14, 2017: An icon of 1960’s with compositions like “The Times They Are a-Changin'” and “Blowin’ in the Wind”. These were the songs which became a hymn during that time for civil rights and anti-war movements.

Bob Dylan, as known to all, was majorly impacted by Judaism, Christianity and other parts of spirituality. Therefore, it was important to know his frame of reference in contemplation of understanding the influence he was under, perceives Scott Marshall.

A spiritual side of the poet and its effects on the pop culture is explored in Scott Marshall’s new book. When Marshall was asked why he chose now to write his new book “Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life”, he explained how strong of an impact Jesus and Jewish’s roots had had on Dylan, which are both part of his story.

ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Book Discussion on Arun Shourie’s ‘Two Saints’

“Christianity can have different meanings for different people, as for Dylan, it seems more about the figure of Jesus than the following of an organized religion. Dylan appears to be a child of God, not tethered to any religion for religion’s sake, but trying to pursue the Truth, clay feet and all.” Marshall’s words made sure that it hasn’t been an easy trip for Dylan.

The book “Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life” is definitely something to look forward to as it will also be featuring Carolyn Dennis, Dylan’s ex wife. For the very first time, she has talked about her life with Bob. The spiritual journey of the great artist will be looked through his four decade’s career.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394