New Delhi, Nov 26, 2016: Noted author Ruskin Bond was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at Times Lit Fest here on Saturday for his outstanding contribution in the field of literature.
Bond, moments after receiving the award, reminded his young readers of climate change in the course of conversation with writer Paro Anand.
“Nature has been really kind to me. So I think I can give back to the nature by celebrating it. I am not an activist, but I can celebrate it in my writings,” the author said as he took a pause to think.
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“For the sake of our children and grandchildren, we should try and save the planet,” he said.
Bond was speaking to a packed house, comprising of young school children and elderly, at India Habitat Centre here.
“I am not a pessimist so I will not say that life will end in 50 years. I am an optimist so I will say that life may end in 150 years,” said an emotional Bond, whose writings reflect his close proximity to the nature.
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“It has always been my observation that I have written better when I am in the lap of the nature. People have been my stories, animals have been my stories and when I run out of people and animals, I make stories out of ghosts. But there is an element of nature all through.”
He advised his young readers to become “one’s own best friend” and read as many books as possible.
“Reading books has sustained me right from a young boy to this age. It has always made me feel that life is beautiful,” he said.
Bond also responded to questions from young readers and shared his answers on diverse issues, ranging from the current state of children’s literature in the country to the number of times he has fallen in love at first sight, second sight or at hindsight, for that matter. (IANS)
Much-loved and widely-read author Ruskin Bond believes that it’s from a love of reading that a writer comes to a love of writing, and penning a book does not always translate to the author becoming immortal.
“There’s only one way to become a writer, that’s to be a reader. If you look at the lives of all writers who are successful, you’d find that when they were boys or girls, they were readers and bookworms. It’s from a love of reading that you come to a love of writing.
“Writers do get forgotten. Sometimes we think writing a book gives us some sort of immortality, I assure you it doesn’t. Ninety-nine percent of writers over the ages have been forgotten, you don’t know that some of them have been very good?. Writing is something you do anyway, regardless of whether it is going to make you rich or famous around the world or in your country,” Bond, 85, said at Arth, a cultural fest, in the national capital.
Landour-based Bond, an Indian author of British descent and a Padma Bhushan awardee, published his first novel “The Room on the Roof”, the semi-autobiographical story of the orphaned Anglo-Indian boy named Rusty, at the age of 17, which won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (1957).
I did begin writing very early, and writing somehow wasn’t very fashionable back in the 1950s when I finished school. Today I keep meeting youngsters and even oldsters who want to write and are writing books. It seems to be the in-thing.
“?But when I finished school, writing wasn’t popular as a profession. But I was determined to be a writer, and when I came home, and my mother asked, Ruskin what are you going to do with yourself now, I said Mum, I’m going to be a writer, she said, Don’t be silly, go and join the army,” shared Bond.
How far do awards go in contributing to the work of an author?
“I don’t think in the long run, awards have made much difference. If you are a good writer, and you have a good readership, then prizes and awards along the way are nice to have on your mantelpiece, but they are not going to make a great difference to your work.?”?
With more than seven decades into writing, does the great author have a writing ritual?
“I think most writers try to write something everyday, you need a certain discipline to get through the assignment you have been given, or to complete a novel. I try to write a page or two every morning, but it’s not compulsory.”
Bond has previously pointed to a dwindling reader base, but feels that there is enough audience for good writers to help them thrive.
“A lot of parents complain that children spend more time on electronic media and don’t read enough, but you see, reading has always been a minority pastime. Even when I was a boy, in a class of 30-35 boys, there were just 2 or 3 of us who were fond of reading.
“At that time, education in English in India was confined to a few schools, and maybe to the upper classes, but today it has spread significantly throughout the country.” (IANS)
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a man of moderation in a fraternity of jingoistic nationalists; a peace visionary in a region riven by religious animosity; and a man who believed in India’s destiny and was ready to fight for it.
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (93), who died on Thursday, will go down in history as a person who tried to end years of hostility with Pakistan and put development on the front burner of the country’s political agenda. He was also the first non-Congress Prime Minister to complete a full five-year term.
Even though he lived the last 13 years of his life in virtual isolation, dogged by debilitating illnesses and bedridden, he has left an enduring legacy for the nation and the region where he was much loved and respected across the political spectrum and national boundaries, including in Pakistan.
In the tumultuous period he presided over the destiny of the world’s largest democracy, Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state and then almost went to war with Pakistan before making peace with it in the most dramatic fashion.
In the process, his popularity came to match that of Indira Gandhi, a woman he admired for her guts even as he hated her politics.
He also became the best-known national leader after Indira Gandhi and her father Jawaharlal Nehru.
After despairing for years that he would never become Prime Minister and was destined to remain an opposition leader all his life, he achieved his goal, but only for 13 days, from May 16-28, 1996, after his deputy, L.K. Advani, chose not to contest elections that year.
His second term came on March 19, 1998, and lasted 13 months, a period during which India stunned the world by undertaking a series of nuclear tests that invited global reproach.
Although his tenure again proved short-lived, his and his government’s enhanced stature following the world-defying blasts enabled him to return as Prime Minister for the third time on October 13, 1999, a tenure that lasted a full five-year term.
When finally he stepped down in May 2004, after an election that he was given to believe he would win, it marked the end of a long and eventful political career spanning six decades.
Vajpayee had gone into these elections riding a personality cult that projected him as a man who had brought glory to the nation in unprecedented ways. The BJP’s election strategy rested on seeking a renewed mandate over three broad pillars of achievement that the government claimed — political stability in spite of the pulls and pressures of running a multi-party coalition; a “shining” economy that saw a dizzying 10.4 percent growth in the last quarter of the previous year; and peace with Pakistan that changed the way the two countries looked at each other for over 50 years.
The results of the elections could not have come as a greater shock to a man who was hailed for his achievements and who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 influential men of the decade.
Success didn’t come easily to the charismatic politician, who was born on Christmas Day in 1924 in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, into a family of moderate means. His father was a school teacher and Vajpayee would later recall his early brush with poverty.
He did his Masters in Political Science, studying at the Victoria College in Gwalior and at the DAV College in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, where he first contested, and lost, elections. He began his professional career as a journalist, working with Rashtradharma, a Hindi monthly, Panchjanya, a Hindi weekly, and two Hindi dailies, Swadesh and Veer Arjun. By then he had firmly embraced the ideals of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
But even as he struggled to win electoral battles, his command over Hindi, the lingua franca of the North Indian masses, his conciliatory politics and his riveting oratory brought him into public limelight.
His first entry into Parliament was in 1962 through the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. It was only in 1971 that he won a Lok Sabha election. He was elected to the lower house seven times and to the Rajya Sabha twice.
Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975 and put her political opponents in jail. When the Janata Party took office in 1977, dethroning the Congress for the first time, he became the foreign minister.
The lowest point in his career came when he lost the 1984 Lok Sabha polls, that too from his birthplace Gwalior, after Rajiv Gandhi won an overwhelming majority following his mother Indira Gandhi’s assassination. And the BJP he led ended up with just two seats in
the 545-member Lok Sabha, in what looked like the end of the road for the right-wing party.
In no time, Vajpayee was replaced and “eclipsed” by his long-time friend L.K. Advani.
Although they were the best of friends publicly, Vajpayee never fully agreed with Advani’s and the assorted Hindu nationalist groups’ strident advocacy of Hindutva, an ideology ranged against the idea of secular India.
Often described as the right man in the wrong party, there were also those who belittled him as a moderate “mask” to a hardline Hindu nationalist ideology. Often he found his convictions and value systems at odds with the party, but the bachelor-politician never went against it.
It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee — one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it — that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum. It was this trait that made him the Prime Minister when the BJP’s allies concluded they needed a moderate to steer a hardliner, pro-Hindu party.
He brought into governance measures that created for India a distinct international status on the diplomatic and economic fronts. In his third prime ministerial stint, Vajpayee launched a widely acclaimed diplomatic initiative by starting a bus service between New Delhi and Pakistan’s Lahore city.
Its inaugural run in February 1999 carried Vajpayee and was welcomed on the border by his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif. It was suspended only after the 2001 terror attack on the Indian Parliament that nearly led to a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
The freeze between the two countries, including an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation on the border for nearly a year, was finally cracked in the spring of 2003 when Vajpayee, while in Kashmir, extended a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan. That led to the historic summit in January 2004 with then President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad — a remarkable U-turn after the failed summit in Agra of 2001. Despite the two men being so far apart in every way, Musharraf developed a strong liking for the Indian leader.
His unfinished task, one that he would probably rue, would be the peace process with Pakistan that he had vowed to pursue to its logical conclusion and a resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
He was not known as “Atal-Ji”, a name that translates into firmness, for nothing. He could go against the grain of his party if he saw it deviate from its path. When Hindu hardliners celebrated the destruction of the 16th century Babri Mosque at Ayodhya, he was full of personal remorse for the apocalyptic action and called it — in a landmark interview to IANS — the “worst miscalculation” and a “misadventure”. He even despaired that “moderates have no place — who is going to listen to the voice of sanity?”
In his full five-year term, he successively carried forward India’s economic reforms programme with initiatives to improve infrastructure, including flagging off a massive national highway project that has become associated with his vision, went for massive privatisation of unviable state undertakings despite opposition from even within his own party.
While his personal image remained unsullied despite his long innings in the murky politics of this country, his judgment was found wanting when his government was rocked by an arms bribery scandal that sought to expose alleged payoffs to some senior members of his cabinet. His failure to speak up when members of his party and its sister organisations, who are accused of killing more than 1,000 Muslims in Gujarat, was questioned by the liberal fraternity who wondered aloud about his secular proclamations. He wanted then Chief Minister — now Prime Minister, Narendra Modi — to take responsibility for the riots and quit but was prevailed upon by others not to press his decision.
A day before his party lost power, Vajpayee was quoted as saying in a television interview that if and when he stepped down he would like to devote his time to writing and poetry. But fate ruled otherwise. The man who once rued that “I have waited too long to be Prime Minister” found his last days in a world far removed from the adulation and attention — though across the nation people prayed for his well-being — surrounded only by care-givers and close family whom he even failed to recognize. (IANS)
Google’s admission that it had in 2014 inadvertently coded the 112 distress number and the UIDAI helpline number into its setup wizard for Android devices triggered another controversy on Saturday as India’s telecom regulator had only recommended the use of 112 as an emergency number in April 2015.
After a large section of smartphone users in India saw a toll-free helpline number of UIDAI saved in their phone-books by default, Google issued a statement, saying its “internal review revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release given to OEMs for use in India and has remained there since”.
However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended only in April 2015 that the number 112 be adopted as the single emergency number for the country.
According to Google, “since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device”.
Google was yet to comment on the new development.
Meanwhile, French security expert that goes by the name of Elliot Alderson and has been at the core of the entire Aadhaar controversy, tweeted on Saturday: “I just found something interesting. I will probably do full disclosure tomorrow”.
“I’m digging into the code of the @Google SetupWizard app and I found that”.
“As far as I can see this object is not used in the current code, so there is no implications. This is just a poor coding practice in term of security,” he further tweeted.
On Friday, both the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as well as the telecom operators washed their hand of the issue.
While the telecom industry denied any role in the strange incident, the UIDAI said that he strange incident, the UIDAI said that some vested interests were trying to create “unwarranted confusion” in the public and clarified that it had not asked any manufacturer or telecom service provider to provide any such facility.
Twitter was abuzz with the new development after a huge uproar due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R.S. Sharma’s open Aadhaar challenge to critics and hackers.
Ethical hackers exposed at least 14 personal details of the TRAI Chairman, including mobile numbers, home address, date of birth, PAN number and voter ID among others. (IANS)