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A Woman’s era (1948-2016)

I don’t find it easy to write. Words wouldn’t come or if they do, they are not the right words. I am probably just one of the millions of mourners who is in the process of realizing human mortality.

These are sad times indeed for a great Indian life have come to an end. She never sought to lead but in a way destined to. Today she leaves behind a state she nurtured. Despite a few shortcomings Dr. Jayalalithaa always helped tamilians believe that for TN, the best was yet to come. At this time of grief and depression we ought to comfort ourselves in the knowledge that this is true for her too.

Jayalalithaa’s three characteristics that I consider incredible are 1) Persistence- Reaching the top wasn’t a task that demanded a couple of years- It was her life 2) self-control over emotions – she never boiled over or reacted 3) Extremely ambitious – she was willing to go an extra mile or take risks if need be.

The more affection she received and respect she commanded, her desire to secure a place in history also seemed to grow day by day and her natural charisma helped her advance her political career.

Totally self-made, there seemed to be no influence of her parents or acquaintances on anything she was reluctantly but inexorably drawn into. Call her “The Doughty Fighter” or “The Iron Lady” or “A Polyglot” or “Amma” or “Puratchi thalaivi” or “A riddle wrapped in an enigma” Jayalalithaa won the hearts of the people with her greatness and goodness. She knew to transcend caste and religion. As with many issues that come wrapped in controversy, the origin of the dispute gets relegated to the margins and politics takes over. This is what happened when MGR’s Party was split into two, one headed by his wife Janaki and another by Iron lady J jayalalithaa. It’s no secret that she was mentally and physically tortured by people who feared her rise soon after MGR’s demise. Still it wasn’t in her nature to bite dust. Jayalalithaa constantly reminded herself that there would come the day when she would rise against all odds, the day when TN would look up to her and count on her as the undisputed leader. Few years later the time had come, not suddenly or in an unplanned fashion but as things are destined to happen. Thus, there were a series of reasons and forces because of which her drive for success was created. It was probably MGR who inspired and motivated her to get into politics vigorously and passionately but that she exceeded her mentor in political accomplishments is known to all. At times though her whimsical temperament got the better of her, she continued to be looked upon as the best partner for development by the BJP and congress. Creating a positive influence in the life of the downtrodden was her cup of tea. An innate tendency she had for nurturing and taking care of her own people and her willingness to go the extra mile to sustain the very society she belongs to was reflected in the form of services and products. In her regime, projects were not meant to be grandiose but more personal to ensure the poor are provided with the basic essentials of daily living. People saw God in her.

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In the eyes of those who doubted her leadership, her first reign 1991-96 was not regarded a success but it helped her with redefining of herself which was necessary to carve a niche for herself in TN politics. Perhaps most importantly Jayalalithaa’s her chief ministerial restraint, solemnity, judiciousness and on and off nonpartisan stance created an image of greatness or dignity that surrounds her to date. Also, although Jayalalithaa hated partisanship she tolerated dissent, vicious attacks on her reputation, name, even modesty and sometimes a divisive press- all in the interest of freedom and may be the Party too. Her very journey addressed issues like mothers and daughters, the self, sexuality, identity, struggle and victory.

Sadly some personal associations didn’t augur well that led to her brief downfall around the mid 1990s helping Jayalalithaa to take strong decisions. The differences were so visible and real, but because of the way Jayalalithaa conducted herself taught us that she values her political convictions and her commitment to democracy more than friendships with hidden agendas. Yet those were kind of familial differences; deep and fierce as only family differences can be, but also intimate to an extent. Today as we stand bewildered and shaken, her example reminds us that we must move forward with resolve and honesty. Playing her cards well, be it expressing her support in releasing the Rajiv Gandhi murder convicts or getting water from Karnataka or the Mullaiperiyar dam issue, Jayalalithaa seemed like a stroke of luck for TN.

Essentially a private person, Jayalalithaa hated being viewed as a celebrity. To journalists with provoking queries she came across as a ‘Devil’s advocate’. Such attitude is the result of the credibility of the one with who Jayalalithaa interacts with. She was matured enough to know that there are always some bad apples in the media basket. However, Jayalalithaa’s rendezvous with Simi Garewal portrayed her as a person with all charm and geniality, full of genuine pleasure at being able to recall old memories, older acquaintances and friends. In fact she pulsated with her dramatis personae.

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For Jayalalithaa it was twice as hard to get through the male dominated TN political arena as she had her share of harassments. She never displayed emotions in public or gave in. But she fought back instead. But for her intelligence and pragmatism, Jayalalithaa would never have achieved all she did by way of hard work, culture, enlightenment and different levels of maturity. Now that Jayalalithaa is no more, it is not surely easy for us to accept and admit that Jayalalithaa was once convicted in disproportionate assets case but as we all are aware law takes its own course hopefully for the other three to prove their innocence. Strong character and greatness she demonstrated continuously and constantly resulted in exceptional leadership sometimes giving the people a feast to their eyes.

If there were times Jayalalithaa was branded as an unreliable coalition partner then we ought to know there are situations when absurdity is reality and reality is absurd and it’s called politics.

Her life attempts to push the boundaries of common knowledge, locating the reasons for her secrecy, rationalisation of brutality and denial of her own anger, not just in her commitment to political ideals of serving the people or the ideology of the self but should be an attempt to recapture the illusion of a perfect life she craved for even as a child. Hence, she neither cared for the male psyche – rational or irrational- for good or bad nor did she seem to trust any. As a result she was surrounded by opponents and opportunists. What a sight to see male leaders, cabinet ministers prostrating at her feet!

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When she combined exceptional humanity and sacrifice with a goal that deeply or positively influenced the lives of large number of people, she acquired a demi God status that would’ve prompted people act the way they did.

Amma will be missed by those who know her, by TN that she served so proudly and loved so deeply and also by those who have a life because of the policies she pursued. This is the time, a rare time, that at different places in the country, people are thinking in a similar way. That is, we are all living through a nightmare from which we might wake up and live in a state of shock until time heals.

‘She seized every moment, embraced every challenge and lived life to its fullest’ – This is how Jayalalithaa will be remembered.
Dr. Elsa Lycias Joel

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China

A Lovers’ Quarrel: What Now for India and China?

Manak Suri

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India China Border

When China’s Consul General to India Zheng Xiyuan addressed a gathering in the city of Mumbai earlier in the week he made an interesting comparison on the relationship between the two Asian giants. “Relation between China and India is just like the monsoon season,” he said. “There are different levels of rainfall in different years. And sometimes you have clouds as well.” It is not surprising how apt the statement is especially with regard to the past three years which have seen the tiger and the dragon compete for geopolitical influence in Asia and beyond and tussle over longstanding territorial issues. The latter of the two culminated in the 70-day long military standoff in Doklam/Donglang, which has since then deescalated. However, the monsoon sometimes surprises with a few delayed showers, and so has Beijing with a sudden change in its rhetoric towards New Delhi, from one of visible aggression to one which is seemingly cooperative.

Clashes between the two kept analysts across the globe busy, with the possibility of a full-scale military conflict a favourite topic of discussion for the political enthusiasts among the uninitiated. The Doklam episode was the final among a series of recurring conflicts. The most prominent among them included India snubbing China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) summit in May flagging sovereignty issues due to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC); a key portion of the OBOR which runs through a region of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan and claimed by India, and China’s repeated blocking of India’s move to get the chief of Pakistan based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed listed as a global terrorist with the UN. The relations had already taken a downturn with India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group being blocked by China on a consistent basis. Added to that, tensions reached a high with India’s decision to allow the Dalai Lama, seen as a separatist by China to visit the Tawang region which is claimed by China as Southern Tibet and by India as a part of its state Arunachal Pradesh. This happened despite repeated warnings from the Chinese that the visit would cause serious damage to diplomatic ties between the two countries. Did it?

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The action-packed episodes are in the past now and recent developments on the world stage are worth a second look. With no new conflicts brewing for the time being and a precarious lid on the existing ones, it has been nothing short of intriguing to see the evident tone of cooperation between the two frenemies since the Doklam issue has been resolved. China seems to have made good, even if ever so slightly, on blocking the move to designate the JeM chief as a globally designated terrorist by condemning the Pakistan based terror group along with the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba at the recent BRICS summit held in Xiamen. While the move has likely and arguably been made to protect its own investments in the country and doesn’t have any visible bearing on India’s repeated efforts as yet, the step is significant in projecting Beijing’s new viewpoint on the fight against terror based outfits on a global level which previously was limited to vague statements sighting requirement of solid evidence and further communication and coordination between the involved countries. Beijing has also snubbed Pakistan in its effort to internationalise the issue of Kashmir, maintaining its position that the matter is for them and India to resolve on their own. While there has been no change of position on the issue from before and there is no strain of ties between the two ‘all-weather allies’, the tone of the statement is a change to be welcomed by New Delhi in its prominent stand against terrorism on both the national and international level.

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Speaking of change, India along with Japan remained relatively quiet in the South China Sea conflict, making no explicit mention of it in their joint statement when the Prime Ministers of both the countries met earlier this September. Improvements in ties aside, another likely reason could be that the issue has taken a backseat with the focus of China, Japan as well as that of the United States on the heightening tension in the Korean Peninsula.

However, with Trump’s undiverted attention on Kim, the South East Asian countries involved in the conflict may find it difficult to stand up to the Chinese on their own, should Beijing choose to push even further with its activities in the contested waters. Therein lies an important lesson for India. “The Chinese have demonstrated a pattern of creeping encroachment”, India’s former Ambassador to Beijing Ashok K. Kantha has said, and India would do well to remember that. Indians may see the disengagement from both the sides in Doklam as a diplomatic victory over the Chinese but the conflict is not yet resolved. China’s perceived soft behaviour may merely be an understanding on their part that perhaps the time to act is not now, more so that cooperation is the way ahead; something which has continuously and explicitly been implied by both the sides over and over considering what else is at stake.

As two large and quickly growing economies, India and China’s relationship with each other has been heavy enough invested in by both the countries for them to know different. This is not just evident from the business end, but also from the mixing of the two cultures as well. Bollywood movies are enjoying huge popularity among the Chinese audience. At the same time across the border, Mandarin as a language has acquired more importance over the years, with schools offering the same as an optional language growing in number. Opinions of the people on each other may change every now and then from favourable to not as much in polls, yet there is no denying their mingling.

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In this lovers’ quarrel, as is with any other, while the occasional bickering is unlikely to give way (at least in the foreseeable future), reconciliation is perhaps always the key and a quick one for that matter. This is known by both, even if they may forget from time to time.

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India

Get Acquainted with Mumbai Through its Diverse Food

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Popularly called India’s financial capital, Mumbai is known for more than just Bollywood and its stock markets. It is one of the more famous cosmopolitan cities in the country with a brilliant mix of people from all over. This eclectic combination of a variety of people from different places across the country has ended up creating a paradise for the food lovers in Mumbai.

A variety of edibles in the Maximus City

Named after Mumba, a Goddess and patron deity of the Kolis, Mumbai is a mixture of people from different religions as well. The ethnic group of Kolis are made up of Christians and Hindus and have provided the world with the finger-licking ‘Prawns Koliwada’ famous in Mumbai. Taste this deep fried Prawn dish for a mind-blowing experience. The people of the Konkan region have brought Malwani food to this city in all its spicy glory. Wash down this delicious food with Sol Kadi, which is a refreshing after-food beverage drunk after a heavy meal of Pomfret masala or crab masala.

Mohammed Ali Road

Mumbai is famous across the country for its outstanding street food that makes exploring this city an interesting feat. Experience every flavour of the city soon as you land and board the Mumbai airport cab, and drive towards the active Mohammad Ali Road. Experience the buzz of activity in this area, which plays home to several important mosques and is also the heart of all Ramadan celebrations in the city. Try out the Mumbai classics such as pav bhaji and bhel puri, unique to this area’s busting khao gallis (food streets).

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Chowpatty Beach

A food lover’s visit to this city is incomplete without making a stop at Mumbai’s Chowpatty beach. Considered to be the best place for vegetarian food items and street foods such as pani puri and pav bhaji. Sit on the sandy shores of this beach and watch the picturesque sunset while munching on some sev puri, which is Mumbai’s classic street food. The combination of herbs, sev and chutneys over the potato makes for a scrumptious snack. Sample some kulfi sticks while at the beach. Kulfi is a frozen dairy dessert that is more creamy and dense than ice cream is. Pick your favourite flavours from mango, rose, cardamom, pistachio, and saffron.

Indian Sweets

For those of you who have a sweet tooth, try the hand-churned samples of ice cream in strange yet delicious flavours in Mumbai. Close to the markets of this city exists a 120-year old shop that also serves bright orange jalebis and sugary sweet goodies popular in India. If you’re flying into the city, you can pick out self-drive Mumbai airport taxi service such as Zoomcar and explore the food joints of this exquisite city.

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India

It’s Been 70 Years Since India Became An Independent Nation: What’s Changed?

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It has been 70 years since India became independent and a lot has changed. On the 15th August 1947, India finally won its independence, after a long struggle for freedom. The road to freedom wasn’t easy; it was a long struggle and one that cost them thousands of people. The country was partitioned, and Pakistan was created, and along with it, a new India was born. India may have lost some of its people, but it gained a brand new identity.

Since then, India has adopted a democratic path and has developed in many unexpected ways. Wondering what’s changed in the past 70 years – then read on for a guide to the ways in which India has advanced over the past seven decades.

Equality comes before law

In 2017, India treats everyone equally when it comes to law. All Indians are equal and subject to the same authority when it comes to law and jurisdiction. There is no special treatment based on eligibility, income or gender – everyone is treated fairly. Birth is no longer seen as a basis for choosing who should and shouldn’t be powerful. Social privileges are not based on gender, religion, caste, or ethnicity – everyone is equal. Each citizen carries an Aadhar card or can use an Aadhar card download instead. This states their name, contact details, and holds a range of information about them. Despite these laws around equality, discrimination does still exist, but the government and local authorities are working hard to stamp this out.

Education has significantly progressed

Today, more than 100 million children go to school in India and complete their primary education, which includes learning to read and write. The number of children going on to secondary education and higher education is also impressive. There are now over 300 universities in India that children can choose to attend. At secondary school and in higher education, children are encouraged to learn skills that will aid them in later life and make the process of getting a well-paid job easier. There is a lot of emphasis on educational equality, with girls being encouraged to attend school just like boys are.

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Socio-economic changes

In terms of industry, India has also made some incredible advancements since 1947. In the 50s and 60s, heavy industries became big business in India and received a lot of government attention. Today, smaller scale industries are receiving the same attention, helping to make startups more successful. There have been a lot of community development programs bringing schools, medical facilities, and clean water to communities across the country.

Since it gained its independence in 1947, India has come a long way. There have been a lot of changes that have taken place within the country, from how it is run and governed, to how important education is for children. India is slowly but surely changing for the better, with more and more emphasis put on helping to grow and develop poorer communities, improving the way of life of the masses, rather than just the few.

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