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Rediscovering Hanuman, the evergreen hero (Book Review)

Hanuman was a hero who combined strength with sweetness, humour with gravity, sharp intellect with childlike innocence, sensitivity with power, traditional wisdom with innovative spirit, and fierce determination with gentle humility.

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Lord Hanuman, Pixabay

May 02, 2017:

Title: The Chronicles of Hanuman; Author: Shubha Vilas; Publisher: Om Books International; Pages: 278; Price: Rs 350

While the West keeps searching for new heroes every few years, the East is happy with the plethora of already existing ones. And this book is a story of the most dynamic among them – – “the evergreen, original superhero Hanuman”.

 Hanuman’s saga is, of course, all too well known. Hanuman tales have entertained and educated civilisations for centuries. But author Shubha Vilas, a spiritual seeker and a motivational speaker, feels there has been no attempt to present the Hanuman stories in a contemporary way, without deviating from the original traditional narrative.

“The Chronicles of Hanuman” is a sincere attempt to bring together the many tales of Hanuman that have existed in Indian mythology and folklore for thousands of years. But it also carries some stories most people would have probably never heard of.

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Starting from his divine birth to his most heroic acts, the engrossing book is packed with any number of short Hanuman stories from the Vedic times. Each story ends with what one can learn from Hanuman’s exploits in Lord Rama’s war against Ravana.

The book also has a rich section on prominent Hanuman temples spread across the country. As devotees know, Rama may be the hero of Ramayana but there probably are more Hanuman temples than Rama’s. The reason is not difficult to seek.

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Hanuman was a hero who combined strength with sweetness, humour with gravity, sharp intellect with childlike innocence, the sensitivity with power, traditional wisdom with an innovative spirit, and fierce determination with gentle humility. Indeed, as the author underlines, Hanuman is one’s original hero — and will remain so. IANS

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Spooky! 5 Unsolved Mysteries From India You Will Not Believe Are True

If you think you can solve any puzzle with your analytical mind, think again because these incredibly baffling mysteries are going to leave you confused.

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unresolved mysteries of India
A Tughlak-era hunting lodge, Malcha Mahal has no windows, doors, electricity or water supply. But the royal descendants of Awadh continue to occupy the now run down house. (representative image) Wikimedia

 

  • India is home to not only a variety of cultures, religions, and traditions but also several unsolved mysteries
  • While some cases can be balanced with scientific rationality, these cases remain largely unresolved 

New Delhi, August 30, 2017: A dilapidated Mahal with no doors, windows, food, water or electricity supply, but home to Royal siblings who have not come out for over 20 years; a beach that appears and disappears all within the same day, a girl who recollected everything from a life she has previously lived; a place where thousands of birds commit suicide; these might sound like instances from an Alfred Hitchcock movie but aren’t. We present to you these unsolved mysteries from India that would leave you puzzled.

Believe it or not, these are real-life occurrences that have been reported and documented.

There is a reason after all, why the world knows our country as incredible‘ India.

India has, for generations, gripped researchers and scientists with tales and mysteries. While some of the claims have been debunked by science and rationality, many others remain mysteries “unsolved mysteries” of the modern world.

ALSO READ: The concept of Reincarnation in Hinduism and Buddhism: Read On!

NewsGram presents to you 5 cases “unsolved mysteries” that have baffled the minds of many, and continue to remain unsolved and unexplained-

  1. The curious case of Shanti Devi who recalled being Lugdi Devi in past life.
In the 1930s, a four-year old Delhi girl brought the whole nation to a standstill. Reason? Only one sentence that said “I have lived here before.”
Born in 1926 in a Delhi-based family, Shanti Devi began reminiscing details of a past life at the age of four. She claimed she was Lugdi Devi from Mathura, who lived with her husband Kedar Nath and had died during childbirth. Her recollections of her life as Ludgi Devi were spotless, and were further proved right when a letter sent to Mathura was received by Kedar Nath at the exact address she had shared. Shanti Devi also recognized Kedar Nath at first glance and recalled details of their life lived together.
This strange case even reached Mahatma Gandhi, who upon meeting young Shanti was visibly surprised (according to eye witness accounts) and also set up an inquiry commission for the case.
The case was picked by multiple Indian and foreign researchers over time, who found her claims to be uncannily accurate.
The story of Shanti Devi’s reincarnation till date remains one of the most well-documented unsolved mysteries of past-life recalling in present time.

2. Siblings of the haunted Malcha Mahal 

Unresolved mysteries from India
One of the gates of Malcha Mahal. Wikimedia

Will you be able to live in a dilapidated house with more bats than humans, in the middle of a dense forest, in the absence of electricity or water; no windows or doors with no such thing as human presence or contact?
What if we tell you there are people who do?
700-year-old Malcha Mahal is home to two siblings from the royal family of Oudh- Prince Riaz and Princess Sakina, who have since 1985 not made any contact with the outside world and strictly stay indoors.
Adjacent to the Earth Station in Delhi, the lodge was a Shikaarghar (hunting ground) built by Feroz Shah Tughlaq and was declared haunted in the 14th century after which all human activity was banned around the area.
The Begum of Oudh and the granddaughter of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah,  Began Wilayat Mahal was given the Malcha Mahal by the Indian government in 1985 as compensation for Wajid Ali Shah’a land that had been seized by the Britishers.
A few years after moving in, the Begun committed suicide by drinking crushed diamonds in 1993, leaving behind the wailing royal siblings. A few successful theft cases left the children aggressive, who ever since have broken all possible human contact with the world.
They remain strictly inside without proper food, water or electricity with reports suggesting that Prince Riaz comes out concealed only to get meat for their dogs.
Till date, they have only given two interviews with no other record of their presence. The spooky lodge stands tall amidst all surrounding mysteries and all you can find there is an eerie silence, zero human presence and a board that reads ‘ENTRY RESTRICTED. CAUTIOUS OF HAUND DOGS. PROCLAMATION : INTRUDERS SHALL BE GUNDOWN’

 

3. The sonic boom of Jodhpur

Unresolved mysteries of India
The city of Jodhpur was one of the many places around the world where the explosion sound was heard. Wikimedia

The world was in the grip of a global rumor claiming that the world was to end on December 21 as predicted by the Mayan calendar. At such disquieting times, the people of Jodhpur city in Rajasthan were startled on December 18 by a deafening boom.
The sound, which resembled a loud explosion, was believed by some to have been the breaking of a sound barrier by an IAF over Jodhpur while others contested that an army ammunition depot situated nearby must have gone up in smoke. However, these claims were immediately turned down by army officials.
When an object travels through air at a speed greater than that of sound, an enormous amount of sound energy is released which sounds similar to the sound of an explosion – the sonic boom.
What was even more intriguing was that this was not a singular event. Similar unexplained sounds or booms were heard at different places spread all over the world including UK and US that month. At some places, the boom was also allegedly accompanied with a green light.
What could have moved in the air at that great a speed? Was that the sound of testing a strange new weapon or could it have been some alien activity. And were these sounds connected? The case continues to remain one of the many daunting mysteries of present times…& its still one of the unsolved mysteries.

4. The hair-raising case of Monkey Man

A mysterious, hairy animal-like creature was rumored to roam the streets of Delhi in the summers of 2001 that would attack people and vanish almost magically. This was the case of Delhi’s Monkey Man.
Eyewitnesses and victims gave varied accounts of this monkey-like man; some claimed he was 4 feet tall and hairy while others asserted it was over 5.5 feet tall, wore a helmet, and had glowing red eyes with long claws and three buttons on its chest. It’s still one of the the unresolved mysteries.
Several of the Monkey Man’s victims were reported to have serious scratches on their bodies and two victims had allegedly fallen off buildings because of panic after coming face to face with the ‘creature’.
Within a year, reports of attacks by a similar creature surfaced from different parts of Delhi and even Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh).
Monkey Man was a menace for a long duration as kids and adults alike feared his sightings. Large groups of people carrying arms at night to fight the beast became a common sight around the time.
Some people dismissed the story as an urban myth, while others claimed the creature to be a reincarnation of Lord Hanuman. Either way, the cases and reports of the Monkey Man’s sightings died down on its own and the case was reduced to one of the many unsolved mysteries of the country.

5. The Hide and Seek beach 

Unresolved mysteries from India
The Chandipur beach in Odisha is also called the Hide and Seek beach. Wikimedia

There is a beach in India that disappears twice a day. Don’t believe us?
The Chandipur beach, also known as the Hide and Seek beach does not exist constantly in any map. Here, visitors can actually witness the sea disappear in front of their eyes.
Located in Orissa, the Chandipur beach witnesses a mysterious natural phenomenon. Visitors may witness water on one visit, but may find only sand dunes and Casuarina trees on the next. The entire beach appears and then disappears in the matter of just one day.
This phenomenon is believed to be unique to Chandipur beach, where the sea recedes by as much as 5 km every day during the ebb time, which is the period between the high tide and the low tide. This phenomenon happens twice every day with the locals even being fairly aware of the timings of the high tide and the low tide.
However, this timing of the magical disappearance and re-appearance of the water changes as per the moon cycle because of which, safety measure have to be taken by the beach visitors at all times. This is one of the unsolved mysteries of India.

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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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The Invisible Coolie Shines in ‘The Cutlass’ (Comment: Special to Newsgram)

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The Cutlass
Dr. Kumar Mahabir

Aug 21, 2017: “Coolie” is the name of the character played by Narad Mahabir in the play directed by Errol Hill titled Man Better Man.

The local play was performed at NAPA in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago in June and an excerpt was staged in August during the premiere of the CARIFESTA festival. Mahabir was given a minor role as the lone Indo-Trinidadian (Indian) villager in the musical which was laced with humorous dialogue, Kalinda dances and calypso songs.

Except for recent plays written and directed by Indians like Victor Edwards, Seeta Persad and Walid Baksh, Indian actors and actresses have been given minor roles or none at all (“invisible”) in “national” theatre and cinema. In this context, The Cutlass is a movie with a difference. And indeed, the tagline of the movie on the cinema poster is “A breakthrough in Caribbean Cinema.”

Surprisingly, Arnold Goindhan is given the lead role (by the non-Indian TeneilleNewallo) as of the kidnapper named “Al” in The Cutlass. Paradoxically, he is given only a fleeting presence in the film’s trailerHe is the only Indian actor and the only character who is Indian, in a movie that is based on crime, race and class.

As a villain, Al is portrayed as an evil Indian Hindu. A calendar painting of the anthropomorphic Hindu god, Lord Hanuman (The Remover of Obstacles) is captured fleetingly on the wall of Al’s forest camp. In the film world of poetic justice The Cutlass, light must overcome darkness, whiteness must overwhelm blackness, and Christianity must conquer Hinduism. The pendant of Virgin Mary in the hands of the white kidnapped victim must overpower Hanuman.

Goindhan is a full-time Indian actor from Malick in Barataria who also sings and plays music. The “Island Movie Blog” on August 11 noted that when Goindhan “keeps his portrayal subtle, he really shines.” The July/August edition of the Caribbean Beat magazine stated that The Cutlass has delivered “compelling performances” to audiences.

The kidnap movie premiered to a sold-out audience at the T&T Film Festival in 2016 received rave reviews. It copped the T&T Film Festival’s Best Trinidad and Tobago Feature Film and People’s Choice awards. The Cutlass was also screened at international film festivals such as the Cannes Film Mart at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

The last time an Indian was chosen for a major role in a local feature film was 43 years ago in 1974. That film was titled Bim which featured Ralph (Anglicised from Rabindranath) Maraj playing the role of Bim/Bheem Sing. Bim was based on the composite life of a notorious assassin, Boysie Singh, and aggressive trade unionist and Hindu leader, Bhadase Sagan Maraj.

As an actor, Ralph Maraj was preceded by Basdeo Panday who became the first Indian in the Caribbean to appear on a big screen in Nine Hours to Rama (1963). The movie was about the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Panday also acted in two other British cinematic movies: Man in the Middle (1964) and The Brigand of Kandahar (1965).

But the Indo-Caribbean actor who has earned the honour of starring in the most movies – Hollywood included – is Errol Sitahal. He acted in Tommy Boy (1995), A Little Princess (1995) and Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle (2004).

Valmike Rampersadand Dinesh (“Dino”) Maharaj is rising stars to watch. Originally from Cedros, Dinesh is the lead actor in Moko Jumbie, a new feature film by Indo-Trinidadian-American Vashti Anderson. Moko Jumbie was selected for screening at the 2017 LA Film Festival.

Dinesh acted in the local television series, Westwood Park (1997–2004). His cinematic film credits include portrayals in Klash (1996), The Mystic Masseur (2001) and Jeffrey’s Calypso (2005).

Nadia Nisha Kandhai is the lead actress in the upcoming screen adaptation of the novel, Green Days by the River.

There is a real danger in marginalising Indians in theatre and film when they are in fact the largest ethnic group in T&T according to the 2011 CSO census data. Cultivation theory states that images in the media strongly influence perceptions of the real-world. This theory was developed by communication researchers George Gerbner and Larry Gross of the University of Pennsylvania in 1976.

The Cutlass can transmit the following wrong perceptions of reality: (1) Hinduism is evil, (2) Indians are one percent of the population, (3) there are few Indian actors, (4) Indians constitute the majority of kidnappers, and (5) the majority of kidnapped victims are white.

I presented a research paper in 2005 based on 40 cases of kidnapping in T&T. My findings revealed that 78% of the victims were Indians, and according to the survivors, the overwhelming majority of the kidnappers were Afro ex-police and army strongmen.

Watch Trailer: The Cutlass

 

The Writer is an anthropologist who has published 11 books


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.