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As one walks through the ruins of Nalanda, every stone speaks of a bygone era that asks to be kept alive in our collective consciousness, says the multi-faceted Shivani Singh of her captivating historical thriller that is a fascinating tale of how one of the worlds most ancient universities got destroyed.
"As an academic, media professional and filmmaker, it did not take long for me to conclude that every event is fundamental, a story - and history is a narrative waiting to be told, Singh told IANS in an interview of her third historical fiction, "Nalanda" (Amaryllis), which could pan out as a trilogy.
"My journey has thrown up a form and metier for my novel writing. All three novels employ the suspense format, with 'Secret of Sirikot' and 'Nalanda' fitting more precisely in the murder mystery genre. While both these books are historical fiction, even 'Lonely Gods', a fantasy, gravitated in this direction.
"The fiction format gives unencumbered access to the art of story-telling and when it is history, this access can be liberating. Also, I think in pictures, so that part came easy," Singh explained.
How did "Nalanda" come about?
"Ever experienced the otherworldliness of a Buddhist monastery? Shrouded in mystery, how can it not be a story waiting to be written? And Nalanda, if you walk through its ruins even today, every stone speaks of a bygone era that is asking to be kept alive in our collective consciousness," Singh explained.
Siddhartha, a young Buddhist monk studying at Nalanda, is catapulted to the brink of history by the university's senior teachers. They command him to aid the royal investigation of a suspicious death on campus. Mahipala, the King of Magadha, believes death is murder.
Mahipala's royal officer in charge of the investigation is none other than Siddhartha's brother Aditya Raj. The brothers are forced into an uneasy alliance. Between them are played off the un-foretold forces that wiped off Nalanda from the historical map of India.
As the fate of Nalanda is sealed, strange deaths occur in quick succession. Plagued by misery and doubt, Siddhartha unwittingly stumbles upon a secret. It makes him question his faith, his rationality and, finally, his existence. In the end, Nalanda is razed to the ground. This is a fact. However, the narrative is a climactic context of many other elements of alternative history and speculative spirituality. It's a shocking disclosure of esoteric practices, involving the divine feminine, never divulged to the masses for reasons unknown.
Venturing into historically virgin territory and, in many ways, picking up from where Dan Brown left with "The Da Vinci Code" and its successors in the genre, "Nalanda" exposes a reality that is devastating, mind-altering and yet, somehow, liberating.
"The narrative is a climactic context of many other elements of alternative history and speculative spirituality. It's a shocking disclosure of esoteric practices, involving the divine feminine, never divulged to the masses for reasons unknown. 'Nalanda' exposes a reality that is devastating, mind-altering and yet, somehow, liberating," Singh explained.
Even today, the how, why and when Nalanda was sacked is hotly debated to the point of controversy.
"The gaps in historical evidence allow space for alternative history, and I have used it just because I can. Especially because esoteric practices around the divine feminine is truly history's best-kept secret. Those who 'know' don't usually talk about it, and those who talk don't 'know' much about it. Again maybe because its literature is too obtuse to be deciphered. For those who know, the esoteric is a code that needs to be broken. And breaking codes is always liberating," Singh elaborated.
The research for the novel wasn't easy.
The book is essentially a manuscript written in the first person and unearthed a thousand years later. Book within a book evolved throughout writing as a necessary tool. Just as a standalone, the manuscript seemed out of context, without a timeline and background continuity, awkward somewhat. Also, the complexity of the plot necessitates a sequel. Book within a book facilitated that as an artifice," Singh elucidated.
Speaking about her previous novels, and how they came to be translated and published in Romanian and Portuguese, she said: "'Secret of Sirikot' took full advantage of poetic license created by the unbridled imagination of a young girl. Retelling history happened through her prismatic experience. 'Lonely Gods' was an experimental postmodern effort to demystify the esoteric."
Both found an audience in Europe perchance, when the translators and publishers reached out to her.
"The Romanian publisher has shown intent in publishing 'Nalanda' in Bucharest and Italy, so we hope that 'Nalanda' too will reach Europe," she said.
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For Singh, "'Nalanda' has turned out to be a "palimpsest, its story unravelling even after publishing, showing more complexity, hidden layers. Truly the toughest book I ever wrote".
Never one to rest on her laurels, a sequel to "Nalanda" is on the cards "because it's looking like a trilogy. I am also exploring untold aspects of Rajput history", Singh concluded.
May the Force be with you, Shivani Singh! (IANS/AD)
Some women say they experienced period changes after getting a Covid-19 vaccination. While the reported changes are short-lived, research into this possible adverse reaction remains critical to the success of the vaccination programme, according to an editorial published in The BMJ.
"A link between menstrual changes after Covid-19 vaccination is plausible and should be investigated," wrote Dr Victoria Male, a reproductive specialist at Imperial College London, in the editorial. Reports of menstrual changes after Covid-19 vaccination have been made for both mRNA and adenovirus-vectored vaccines, she added, suggesting that, if there is a connection, it is likely to be a result of the immune response to vaccination, rather than to a specific vaccine component, she said.
While changes to periods or unexpected vaginal bleeding are not listed as common side effects of Covid-19 vaccination, more than 30,000 such reports have been made to the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) surveillance scheme for adverse drug reactions till September 2. However, most people find that their period returns to normal the following cycleand, importantly, there is no evidence that Covid-19 vaccination adversely affects fertility, Male said.
Most people find that their period returns to normal the following cycleand, importantly, there is no evidence that Covid-19 vaccination adversely affects fertility, Male said. | Photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash
The MHRA states that its surveillance data does not support a link between changes to menstrual periods and Covid-19 vaccines, since the number of reports is low in relation to both the number of people vaccinated and the prevalence of menstrual disorders generally. However, the way in which data is collected makes firm conclusions difficult, Male noted.
She argued that approaches better equipped to compare rates of menstrual changes in vaccinated versus unvaccinated populations are needed, and pointed to the study that the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has undertaken. Indeed, the menstrual cycle may be affected by the body's immune response to the virus itself, with one study showing menstrual disruption in around a quarter of women infected with SARS-CoV2.
If a link between vaccination and menstrual changes is confirmed, this will allow individuals seeking vaccination to plan in advance for potentially altered cycles, Male contended. In the meantime, clinicians must encourage their patients to report any changes to periods or unexpected vaginal bleeding after vaccination. And anyone reporting a change in periods persisting over a number of cycles, or new vaginal bleeding after the menopause, should be managed according to the usual clinical guidelines for these conditions, she suggested. (IANS/MBI)
Keywords: vaccine, menstrual cycle, period, covid, women, health
A garage sale in the 21st century needs a tech-savvy platform. This is where Poshmark comes into the picture, the platform with a community of over 2.5 million Canadians has products listed with over half a billion dollars in value by their users.
It began expanding outside of the United States in Canada in May 2019 and has now launched in India. So its become simple and easy for anyone to sell items from their closet, enabled by a full suite of end-to-end seller tools and services, including seamless listing, merchandising, promotion, pricing, and shipping. Indian consumers will be able to join Social marketplace Poshmark, Inc. (Nasdaq: POSH), a booming community of more than 80 million users and a vibrant network of millions of shoppable closets to make money, save money, connect with others, and foster entrepreneurship.
The platforms scalable model and infrastructure enables continued expansion to new countries and categories in the future. | Photo by Duy Hoang on Unsplash
"As an Indian who grew up exploring the marketplaces of Old Delhi, I know firsthand how important it is to come together and connect as part of the shopping experience. I am confident that our social marketplace will resonate with Indian consumers and allow us to build a thriving and successful community here." The platform's scalable model and infrastructure enables continued expansion to new countries and categories in the future. (IANS/ MBI)
(Article originally written by: N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe)
Keywords: Clothes, garage, Poshmark, India, Old Delhi, social marketplace
Great historic events that have shaped the world and changed the outlines of countries are often not recorded in memory, or so we think. Wars made sure to destroy evidence and heritage, and the ones who survived told the tale of what really happened. Folklore, albeit through oral tradition kept alive many such stories, hidden in verse, limericks, and rhymes.
Ringa-ringa-roses, a common playtime rhyme among children across the world, is an example of folklore that has survived for many centuries. It tells the story of the The Great Plague of London which ravaged the city between 1665-1666.
The Plague broke out from improper disposal of garbage and poor sewage conditions. Fleas from the rats that lived in the sewers spread the disease that killed more than half of London's population. Many people fled from their homes as there was no medicine available for those who were infected.
Beak-shaped masks worn during the Great Plague of London Image source: wikimedia commons
It was around this time that masks began to be invented. The first masks were shaped like beaks, and were worn not to protect the wearer from the disease, but to the prevent them from being able to smell the decay and death around them, which they called 'miasma'. The beaks were filled with floral herbs that allowed doctors and nurses to tend to the sick without being reviled from the smell.
Children are often seen forming circles by holding hands and reciting loudly,
Pockets full of posies
We all fall down"
An illustration of the Great Plague of London, 1665 Image source: wikimedia commons
When the last line is sung, they break the circle and fall down. The roses and posies are believed to be the preferred fragrances inside the masks, and a single sneeze (a-tishoo) was enough to infect the one who was exposed to the disease. Consequently, they fell down, ill, and later died.
An alternative version of this rhyme is sung about the fall of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the aftermath of World War II. The roses and posies are interchanged with geranium and uranium, to symbolise what was used in the atomic bomb. But this version is not as famous the original.
Keywords: Rhymes, Ringa-ringa-roses, Great Plague of London, WWII, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Folklore