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People in India stare at those who don’t fit the norm, says an Acid-attack Victim

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Acid Attack
Laxmi Agarwal (center), an icon among acid attack survivors, says they too have a right to hopes and dreams. VOA

– by Sugandha Rawal

New Delhi, Jan 6, 2017: She has walked the fashion ramp in New York, but ain’t no model. Reshma Qureshi, an acid attack survivor, feels India is becoming “more focused on looks” and says it’s a pity that people in the country stare at those who don’t fit the “norm”.

“Walking the New York Fashion Week and the Surat fashion show for Archana Kocchar is proof of global acceptance of different beauty standards. But I believe that, in India, it is only a very small number of people who think this way,” Reshma told IANS in an email interview from Mumbai.

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“Most people still turn and stare at anyone who isn’t the norm — be it a person on a wheelchair, someone crippled, amputated, fat, or a survivor of acid attacks, including me,” added the brave young girl who has become a campaigner against acid attacks.

Reshma also feels that India is becoming more focused on looks.

“Till today, whitening products are sold openly and proudly. People cherish fairer daughters and attempt to wash out dark skins. Girls want to stay as thin as possible and boys are taking more and more dangerous protein shakes,” she said.

The teenager, who supports the “Make Love Not Scars” initiative, doesn’t want people to feel sorry for her sufferings. Instead, she wants them to channel their anger towards making the world a better place to live for women.

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“There is more acceptance of acid attack victims abroad — however, perhaps less awareness. It’s complex, but abroad, especially the West, acid attack survivors are given rehabilitation, emotional care, carry on to get married and lead normal lives. In countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq… a person is defined by that attack for life,” Reshma said.

“People still stare a lot and feel sorry for me. They shouldn’t feel sorry for me, they should feel angry with me.”

Last year, Reshma made her voice heard when she stepped out to walk the New York Fashion Week (NYFW) runway. She also made a fashionable statement along with actress Bipasha Basu by walking for designer Archana Kochhar in Surat.

Reshma’s life was normal like any teenager till the fateful day when she suffered severe facial burns and lost an eye at the age of 17 in 2014 after being attacked with sulfuric acid by several male assailants in Allahabad, a city in Uttar Pradesh.

She didn’t aspire to be an inspirational figure for thousands of women around the globe, but is now dedicated towards her mission.

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She said: “I look back at my struggle and still think over how futile all of this is. There was no need for me to be attacked by my brother-in-law as revenge to my sister. I had nothing to do with anything. I was innocent — my sister was innocent. The pain was unbearable, my bones were showing because my skin had charred off. I lost one eye. Why? What was all of this for?

“However, it was the people behind me who made me overcome depression. If I had killed myself — my parents, brothers and sister would not have survived and I know that. Till today, my attack haunts my parents more than myself. I know I’m an inspirational figure — but I wish I wasn’t. I wish it had never happened to me and never happens to anyone else.”

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She only hopes the Indian government comes up with stringent laws.

“There is more conversation around acid attacks and people are now being jailed more often. However, they are being released sooner. Although acid sale is banned in some states, people still sell it illegally. There have to be random checks and stricter laws,” said Reshma, who has also been supported by Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan. (IANS)

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

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Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393

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Over 5,000 Plant Varieties in Last 3 Years sent in by Tribal Farmers to protect the species : Minister

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Tribal Farmers
tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years (representational Image). Wikimedia

New Delhi, June 8, 2017: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Wednesday said tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years through Krishi Vigyan Kendras for registration at the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority.

It will play an important role in the development of climate resilient and sustainable varieties in future, he said at the National Workshop on Empowerment of Farmers of Tribal Areas here.

“New technological innovations in agriculture must reach to the fields of tribal areas but before taking such steps we must keep in mind the unique conditions of these areas, which are the gift of nature and therefore, we should promote natural farming in those areas,” he said, as per an official release. (IANS)

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