Friday December 15, 2017

Deven S Khatri: Meet the man who is on a quest to revive Sanskrit readership in India


By Nithin SridharSajal Sandesh Sushma Swaraj

While Sanskrit is considered a ‘dead language’, a group of people in Delhi have taken it upon themselves to revive and restore Sanskrit to its ancient glory. After successfully running Sajal Sandesh– one of the few weeklies published in Sanskrit, they are gearing up to start a multi-page daily newspaper in Sanskrit.

In an exclusive interview with NewsGram, Deven S Khatri, co-editor and one of the founding members of Sajal Sandesh, shared his experiences in running Sajal Sandesh.


Nithin Sridhar: Sajal Sandesh is one of the few weeklies published in Sanskrit in India. Can you tell us more about it? When was it started? Who are the people behind it?

Deven S Khatri: Sajal Sandesh was started on Vaishaka Sukla Akshaya Tritiya, i.e. on 13th May 2013 by a group of Sanskrit enthusiasts with an intention to spread the language worldwide. Many people from very diverse backgrounds have contributed to this initiative. Apart from myself, we have Pandit Rakesh Kumar Mishra, our editor who has done MA-Sanskrit from Delhi University, and Mr. Manishi Kumar Sinha who is a Senior Advocate in the Delhi High Court. We also have a group of volunteers who are working in various states.

NS: How are the weekly’s finances managed? Any support from the government?

DK: It is largely funded by individual donations. I and other founding members also invest our funds in the weekly. We have received no government assistance till now. Though we have been awarded DAVP (Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity) status from the government, we are yet to receive any paid advertisements from them.

NS: What was the inspiration behind this initiative? Any incident or situation that resulted in this initiative being started?

DK: Two years ago, when Kendriya Vidyalaya decided to drop Sanskrit as an optional subject, I and other members of Sanskrit Lovers Group decided to start our own initiative to promote Sanskrit.

During the same period, when we visited the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) campus in Varanasi, we noticed that many foreign students were speaking fluently in Sanskrit. They were even chanting various Vedic Suktas (Vedic Hymns). After witnessing this, we decided to start the weekly so that Sanskrit could be popularized among Indians as a common man’s language.

NS: How was the experience of running a Sanskrit weekly in India? What challenges did you face?

DK: Well, the experience has been amazing, but we did face many challenges in the beginning. Initially, we found it hard to acquire the news and get it translated into Sanskrit. We also faced some issues while printing the news in Sanskrit, as certain letters are absent in Hindi fonts. But the biggest challenge was in tackling the apathy shown towards the idea of  Sanskrit weekly by certain government bodies, organizations, and people who were otherwise advocates of Sanskrit. One by one we have successfully overcome these challenges.

NS: How much circulation do you have on average? Who is the targeted audience?

DK: At present we publish around 25,000 copies every week. We regularly keep getting emails, phone calls, and references for new subscriptions. Though we intend to take the weekly to every home, as of now our main target groups are universities, various government bodies, Sanskrit organizations, temples and gurukulams (traditional Sanskrit schools). We also have a small number of individual subscribers.

NS: What is the response from the readers?

DK: We have had a tremendous response from the people. Common people have welcomed this initiative. I have witnessed many people treating the weekly as a holy book. The response from the students in the universities has been very encouraging as well.

Many people realize the importance of Sanskrit and treat it as a mother to Indian culture and humanity. They have subscribed to our newspaper with this sentiment and respect, though they are not able to read Sanskrit.

Sajal Sandesh Maheish Girri

NS: Can you tell us about the name Sajal Sandesh? Any special reason for choosing that name?

DK: Sajal Sandesh means “pure message”. Along with the news, we want to impart pure values, hence the name Sajal Sandesh.

NS: After launching a successful Sanskrit weekly, now you are about to launch a multi-page daily. So what comes after this? Any long term vision?

DK: Well, our intention is to spread Sanskrit and make it a common man’s language in India. So, we do have plans to upgrade and expand our current operations over next few years, and we also plan to explore other initiatives that can be taken up to spread Sanskrit.

NS: When was the idea to start multi-page daily conceived? When will the daily be launched? Have you finalized its name?

DK: Well, the desire to start a Sanskrit daily was present from the beginning itself. But, back then, we were not sure whether we would be able to manage it or not. But, now, with two years of experience in running a weekly, we are confident enough to take up this challenge. We have submitted our application to the RNI (Registrar of Newspapers for India) and hopefully we will be able to start the daily in the month of October, during the Navaraatri festival. We have thought of a few names, but it is for the RNI to finalize the name.

NS: Today, Sanskrit is largely perceived as a dead language. What is the role of Sanskrit in modern life? Do you see Sanskrit reviving and re-emerging in the coming future?

DK: I completely disagree with the tag “dead language” that is attached to Sanskrit. Although Sanskrit has been downgraded in India, in many countries like Germany, China, and USA, it is being taught at various universities. Even in India, it is still alive, though its presence is limited.

Sanskrit denotes the richest culture of India and has solutions to many modern day problems. It is a very ancient language, it is a Deva-Bhasha (language of the Gods), and it is like a mother who can impart knowledge about various aspects of life.

It is rich in its philosophy and spirituality, and can contribute to various areas of modern society like economics, medicine, etc. Today’s society lacks basic human values like love, faith, kindness, respect, and honesty. And Sanskrit can deliver these values and enrich the society.

Therefore, we have accepted the challenge to revive and rejuvenate Sanskrit, so that it becomes a language of the common man, and we can restore India to its place of Vishwa-Guru (world-teacher).

  • Chandra Shaker

    Sajal Sandesh’s Great Work in revitalizing samskritam. Let us together strive to have samskritam conversation in daily lives. Because the understanding of bhaarat’s greatness is by speaking samskritam, and unity in bhaarat is also foreseen by speaking samskritam. Going to foreign countries we know it is all empty even though riches and wealth is abundant. ‘saare jahaan se acchaa bhaarat’, is all because of our samskruti. Let us revitalize our samskruti, let us unite, let us speak samskritam. Let us bring bhaarat’s past glory. If we get attracted to shining something foreign while forgetting revitalizing bhaarat’s greatness, we might fail together, because many foreign countries rely on bhaarat’s direction e.g., yoga & other shaastras, bhaarat has. Bhaarat’s shaastras are still very modern, state of the art. Please keep up good work by all who are uplifting samskritam. Thanks & Regards, Chandra Shaker, Columbus, Ohio, USA

  • arun@houston

    Abhinandan and shubhechha for bold and noble initiative……arun kankani, Houston, TX, USA

  • Andrea Marcialis

    We need more sanskrit!
    Andrea, Venice, Italy

  • Chandra Shaker

    Sajal Sandesh’s Great Work in revitalizing samskritam. Let us together strive to have samskritam conversation in daily lives. Because the understanding of bhaarat’s greatness is by speaking samskritam, and unity in bhaarat is also foreseen by speaking samskritam. Going to foreign countries we know it is all empty even though riches and wealth is abundant. ‘saare jahaan se acchaa bhaarat’, is all because of our samskruti. Let us revitalize our samskruti, let us unite, let us speak samskritam. Let us bring bhaarat’s past glory. If we get attracted to shining something foreign while forgetting revitalizing bhaarat’s greatness, we might fail together, because many foreign countries rely on bhaarat’s direction e.g., yoga & other shaastras, bhaarat has. Bhaarat’s shaastras are still very modern, state of the art. Please keep up good work by all who are uplifting samskritam. Thanks & Regards, Chandra Shaker, Columbus, Ohio, USA

  • arun@houston

    Abhinandan and shubhechha for bold and noble initiative……arun kankani, Houston, TX, USA

  • Andrea Marcialis

    We need more sanskrit!
    Andrea, Venice, Italy

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Bhai Boolchand-the Indian who launched trade with Ghana

The first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast (Ghana's colonial name) in 1890 , Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana

Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana.
Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana. pixelbay
  • Bhai Boolchand, the anonymous Indian, is credited with starting trade between Ghana and India
  • The year was 1890.

Not much is known about him, but it has now emerged that trade relations between Ghana and Indiawere started by Bhai Boolchand, the first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast — Ghana’s colonial name — in 1890. That’s some 67 years before the British colonial government granted the country independence, research by the Indian Association of Ghana has found.

“As far as our records show, Bhai Boolchand (of the Bhaiband Sindhworki trading community), landed on the shores of the Gold Coast in western Africa in 1890. Nearly twenty years later, in 1919, the first Sindhi company was established by two brothers — Tarachand Jasoomal Daswani and Metharam Jasoomal Daswani,” the Indian Association said.

The duo opened a store — Metharam Jassomal Brothers — in the then capital city of Cape Coast in 1919.

“Their business flourished and branches were opened in Accra and Kumasi. A few years later, the two brothers separated and whilst Bhai Metharam Jasoomal continued the business as Metharam Brothers, Tarachand Jasoomal operated his business as Bombay Bazaar. These were the first two Indian companies that were established in the Gold Coast,” the Association said.

Boolchand’s arrival, therefore, pre-dates the historical links between the two countries that were always thought to have started between Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkruman, and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Boolchand can thus be described as the one who paved the way for the arrival of other members of the Sindhi community, initially as traders and shopkeepers.

The Indian Association said more of this group arrived in the 1950s and 1960s, with a few venturing into manufacturing industries such as garments, plastics, textiles, insecticides, electronics, pharmaceuticals and optical goods.

The Association said two more Indian firms were established under the names of Lilaram Thanwardas and Mahtani Brothers in the 1920s. This trend continued in the 1930s and 1940s with the creation of several more Indian companies like T. Chandirams, Punjabi Brothers, Wassiamal Brothers, Hariram Brothers, K. Chellaram & Sons, G. Motiram, D.P. Motwani, G. Dayaram, V. Lokumal, and Glamour Stores.

Glamour Stores, which was stared by Ramchand Khubchandani who arrived in Ghana in 1929, has grown — after changing its name to Melcom Group — to become the largest retailing business in the country. The Melcom Group, headed by Ramchand’s son Bhagwan Khubchandani, is now in its 60th year and about 40 stores all over the country.

Ramchand and his brother later went into garment manufacturing in 1955 and once employed over 1,200 Ghanaians. They later opened the first Indian restaurant, Maharaja, in Ghana. Bhagwan followed in his father’s footsteps and in 1989 established the Melcom Group with his sons-in-law, Mahesh Melwani and Ramesh Sadhwani.

Another Indian-owned company that has survived through the years is the Mohanani Group, which is currently in its 51st year. At the first-ever Ghana Expatriate Business Awards, the Ministry of Trade and Industries recognised the work of one of the thriving Indian-owned B5 Plus Steel Company and awarded it the Best Expatriate Company in the metal and steel category.

As these companies brought in new expatriate staff, some left their employers to venture out on their own — resulting in more companies opening up.

“After 1947, the Gold Coast attracted the attention of some Indian multinational companies, and big names like Chanrai, Bhojsons, K.A.J. Chotirmal, Dalamals and A.D. Gulab opened branches in Ghana,” the Association said.

“The employment of Ghanaians by these founding companies also helped to lessen the burden of unemployment in the country. This amply demonstrates the level of commitment India has in the developmental agenda of Ghana,” it said.

Indians are not only investing in the manufacturing and commercial sectors of the country; they are also investing in the financial sector. Bank of Baroda, one of India’s biggest and most reputable banks, recently established a branch in Ghana and hopefully it will expand its operations in other parts of the country very soon. (IANS)

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Beatles, Apple, Facebook knew India more than Indians

Famous non-Indian celebrities know more about India and its past

The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture.
The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture. Wikipedia

-By Salil Gewali

Facebook’s Chairman Mark Zuckerberg had dropped a bombshell on the “secularists” in India during PM Modi’s visit to his campus in California. It’s all about the Facebook connection with India. Initially, it was never a bed of roses for what is now a household name “FACEBOOK” across the world. This world-famous ‘social networking service company’ had its own share of bad times. Revealing for the first time in the meeting at the Facebook office upbeat Zuckerberg told PM Narendra Modi that Steve Jobs, the founder Chairman of Apple, had advised him to visit a certain temple in India for blessings. The revelation may have caused heartburn to many. More so in India where so-called secular and snooty folks have long acquired a proclivity to look down upon their own culture, religion, and values while being appreciative of any bizarre customs and styles of the West. Yes, heeding the advice of his mentor Steve Jobs the depressed Mark had visited the temple and toured around India for nearly a month.

Facebook's CEO tells about India.
Facebook’s CEO tells about India. wikipedia

Well, the American techno-wizard Steve Jobs had himself spent over six months in India in 1974. He was here in quest of the higher meaning of life and spiritual solace. As understood, from early age Steve was quite haunted by a good deal of unanswered questions. Of course, his encounter with a book “Be Here Now” by Richard Alpert, a Harvard Professor, had opened up a gateway to the spiritualism of the East. This book had also introduced him to a mystic Yogi ‘Neem Karoli Baba’. That later inspired Steve to set out the journey for the East. As soon as Steve and his friend Daniel Kottke arrived India they directly went to meet the Guru in Kainchi Dham Ashram in Nainital. But to their disappointment, they found the Baba had already passed away some months earlier. Nevertheless, the urge to dive deeper into the spiritualism did not die away. They shaved their heads and put on Indian clothes and undertook an extensive meditation and yogic practices.

The most significant impact that had made upon Steve’s life was a book “Autobiography of a Yogi”by Paramhansa Yogananda. It is on record that he would read this book too frequently, at least once every year until his death, 2011. This book had given him the practical insight into what exactly this world is about and how a layman can prepare himself to realize the Supreme knowledge. The first-hand account of a Yogi with empirical approaches to know oneself this book by Yogananda is a smash hit manual now among the seekers of the Eastern spiritualism.

Yes, by dint of hard work, intuition and innovation Steve stood out as one of the most successful techno-tycoons of the modern times. As much known, Jobs was hardly possessed by the luxury of riches and materialistic vanity. He just regarded his entrepreneurship as a tool to awaken his dormant potentialities. The chairman of and famous philanthropist Marc Benioff says with conviction — “If you want to understand Steve, it’s a good idea to dig into ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’.” It is this book which Steve’s family had given to all the guests as a last gift at his memorial service.

Here we can’t afford to ignore the Beatle’s fascination for INDIA as well. The band members that were basking in the opulence of materialistic riches and glory visited India (Rishikesh) in search of inner peace. They met with Sri Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and learnt from him Transcendental meditation (TM) who laid bare methods to feel true bliss within. Sri Maharshi is a big name in the West having a huge following that includes celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, David Lynch, Russell Brand, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Aniston, Modern physicist Dr. John Hagelin, to name a few. The Beatle’s Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr often assist a Hollywood Director/actor David Lynch to organize the Transcendental meditation under ‘David Lynch Foundation’ across USA and the European countries. George Harrison later took refuge in Bhakti Yoga. The founder of ISKCON Srila Prabhupada showed him the pathway to the Supreme Consciousness.

What basically pulls the rational westerners to India is less known to Indians themselves. It’s shamefully paradoxical. From early 19th Century, the philosophical literary treasure troves and Yoga of India found more admirers in the foreign lands than at home. Indeed, the philosophy of the “laws of karma” and the presence of all-power-divinity within every being and everywhere — which any human being can realize irrespective of one’s caste, creed, nationality, and color, has intensely stirred the greatest of the great minds of the West. The ancient texts hold out a whole bunch of keys to unlock oneself and know his/her relationship with the Supreme Being which in fact seems very reasonable to the West. Further, the complex studies of world-view by Modern scientists are gradually arriving at the same conclusion what the ancient sages of India expounded over five thousands year back that ‘creation and creator are ONE’. Interconnection, inter-relation and interdependence among every individual particle/object, living or non-living, in the infinite universe — which is the fundamental tenets of the Eastern philosophy, provided a new light of wisdom to the the modern physicists like Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Julius Oppenheimer, Brain David Josephson, David Bohm, John Stewart Bell et al.

Well, Indian’s contribution to the western academia is immeasurable — though deliberately undermined or less discussed in India itself. It’s very worthwhile to recall a famous proclamation by our western master whom we hold in the highest esteem. TS Eliot, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, asserts: “Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys”.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali.

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Forks in the Road : 10 places to eat in Delhi

Delhi has so many diverse cuisines to offer. Here is the list of 10 places to eat in delhi which you can not miss

Foodie Delhi
10 places to eat in Delhi (pexels)

Delhi, the present day cultural hub of India, which was once under the rule of The Parthians, The Turks, The Afghans, The Mughals and The Britishers which left an impact on the city and gave it its own  unique status. Tourists from all over the world come down to Delhi and lose their hearts to it scrumptious cuisines.

It’s winter in Delhi, a perfect weather for sampling Delhi’s most famous attractions- its incredible street food. It’s not just the street food that Delhi is famous for but a lot of history and culture that is mixed up with the food. Everything from Asoka era to Mughals to the invaders who held sway over Delhi to Purana Qila, have left the taste of the food behind.

To the variety of chats that will take you on tour of tangy, sweet and spicy flavours to the non-vegetarian food which will remind of the rich flavours to the food never tasted anywhere, Delhi has it all.

Here are 10 places to visit for indulging into the flavors of Delhi.

  1. Paranthe Wali Gali


Paranthe Wali Gali since 1870s is the name of a narrow street in the Chandni Chowk area of Delhi known for its series of shops selling parantha, an Indian flatbread. The food is old fashioned, strictly vegetarian and the cooked dishes do not include onion or garlic. Stuffed aloo (potato), Gobi (cauliflower) and matar (peas) paranthas are the most popular ones. Lentil paranthas are also available. The cost could come up to 150 rupees for 2 people. This street is lit from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

  1. Dilli Haat
India Opines

Dilli Haat does not only showcase the rich Indian culture and diverse Indian Heritage, but is also one of the best place to enjoy regional food from all over the country. Dilli Haat provides various food stalls having food from various Indian States that gives you a variety of choice at low cost prices. Its timings are from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Bijoli Grill- a West Bengal food stall offering Fish curry and Kosha Mangsho; Momo Mia, an Arunanchal Pradesh food stall offering Momos and Fruit Beer; Nagaland Kitchen, a Nagaland food stall offering Raja Mircha and Momos; Manipur Foods, a Manipuri Food Stall offering Fried Rice, Tarai Tong ad Fruit Beer; Rajasthani Food Stall offering Pyaaz Kachori, Desi Ghee Jalebi and Rajasthani Thali; Maharashtra Food Stall offering Vada Pav, Puran Poli, Shrikhand; Dawath-E-Awadh, a UP Food Stall offering Kebabs, Biryani and Phirni and other food stalls from states such as Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Kerala.

  1. Khan Market
The Urban Escapades

Khan Market is not only a place for die hard shoppers, it is also Delhi’s incredible food districts. A neighborhood that never sleeps, whose streets are filled with the scent of mutton kebab and fried rice. Khan Market has restaurants such as Town Hall Restaurant, The Big Chili Café, Yellow Brick Road Restaurant, Wok in Clouds, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Soda bottle opner wala, Azam’s Mughlai, Café Turtle, Omazoni and Market Café.

  1. Spice Aangan

Tucked away in Safdarjung Development Area’s main market is a hole-in-the-wall tandoor-and-takeaway restaurant known as Spice Aangan. Spice Aangan has been a staple of the SDA market food scene for a while now. The hole-in-the-wall is bang opposite the small, grassless park located at the centre of the market. While there are a couple of steel benches at edge of the park to sit and enjoy their food, it is otherwise a purely takeaway and home delivery outlet. Restaurant serves tandoori snacks–chicken tikka, malai tikka, seekh kebab–as well as mutton dishes, curries, biryani and shawarma rolls. Despite so many options, though, you’d be hard pressed to find the regulars ordering anything other than the chicken shawarma.

  1. Karim’s

Karim’s is a historic restaurant located near Jama Masjid Gali Kababian, Old Delhi, Delhi. It is know that this is the best restaurant in Delhi, serving non-vegetarian food since 1913. The original Karim’s is bang opposite Jama Masjid in the walled city area of Delhi. It is close to a market known as Darya Ganj. Those visiting Karim’s for the first time will be surprised at the location. Getting there is not easy, you will need to ask locals for help. Mutton Burra, Mutton Raan-this starter is huge, and is meant for four or five people. There is a wide range of kebabs including Seekh Kebabs, Shammi Kebabs and Mutton Tikka. Chicken Seekh Kebab, Tandoori Chicken or Chicken Tikka for those who love chicken. Mutton Korma, Mutton Stew and Badam Pasanda Chicken Noor Jehan and Chicken Jahangiri are the main courses to be tried once you get there. As for the bread Khamiri Roti is something not to be missed. Karim’s serves two main desserts Kheer Benazir and Shahi Tukda.

  1. Pandara Road

Delhi serves delectable food in almost every nook and corner of the city. Whether it is crowded streets of Chandni Chowk or the sophisticated eateries of Khan Market. One such stop is Pandara Road Market, located near India Gate, the place serves best non-vegetarian food of the city, so all the meat lovers out there fill your wallets. Havemore offering the best Butter chicken and garlic naan and Gulati which is best known for its Dum Biryani and kebabs with the cost price of 1500 rupees for two, and many other restaurants like Chicken Inn, Pindi and Ichiban.

  1. Amar Colony

Amar Colony is generally known to be the hub of garments but it is also the hidden street food hub. Home to a diverse population from India, Africa and Afghanistan, there is no doubt, diversity in food here too. A number of small joints for street food in Amar Colony exist which serve the most delicious dishes for you. Most of the shops are situated in the main market and are close to each other. Nagpal Chole Bhature, Hunger Strike, Tibb’s Frankie, Biryani Corner, 34 Chowringhee Lane, Sharma Chaat Bhandar, Deepaul’s Café, Dolma Aunty Momos, Muttu South Indian Anna, High On Burger are the best places to visit when on Pandara Road.

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  1. Hudson Lane, GTB Nagar

Hudson Lane, very close to the main North Campus area, is one place where you will find one of the finest cafés and best restaurants in Delhi. Mostly serving Italian, Café, and Fast Food Cuisine, these quirky joints offer an amazing culinary experience at an extremely pocket-friendly price. Woodbox Café, Mad Monkey, Indus Flavors, QD’s, Ricos and Big yellow Door are the most recommended places to munch at.

  1. Jung Bahadur Kachori Wala

Situated near Paranthe Wali Gal, Jung Bahadur Kachori Wala is a small but popular street stall that’s been serving sought- after Kachoris since the early 1970s. Kachori stuffed with urad dal and served with special spicy chutney is a must try ther.

  1. Connaught Place
India Today – India Today Group

From fancy revolving restaurants to the delicious local rajma chawal, Connaught place does not discriminate when it comes to food. Home to some of the best restaurants in Delhii and also ironic dahbas, one can relish all kinds of cuisines here be it local, regional or international. Kake Da Hotel, Parikrama, Jain Chawal Wale, Minar and much more are the places to step up with.