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Tokyo Olympics 2020: Indian Women Bask in Glory

We cover the wins and developments for India in the first week of Tokyo Olympics 2020 that began on the 24th of July this year.



Mirabai Chanu

The excitement in the wait for the Olympics after a year’s postponement due to the virus last year has had everyone’s spirits high. The 29th edition of the games started on 24th July in Tokyo this year, with more than 206 nations and 11,000 athletes becoming a part of it, among which, representing India are 127 athletes competing in various games.

Amidst the rising noise around the games, India opened its medal count with a bang on Day 1, with news making rounds of Mirabai Chanu winning a silver medal, India’s first, in the 49kg women’s weightlifting category. The 26-year old athlete from Manipur, who had been the only one qualified for the sport in the Olympics, was showered with love and appreciation all over the country for kicking off India’s Olympic campaign with much glory. 

Mirabai Chanu had entered the sport at a very young age of 12, later winning her first gold medal in 2009 at the Youth Championships in Chhattisgarh. In 2014, she won a silver at the Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow. In 2017, she won a gold medal at the World Weightlifting Championship. Carrying the pride of India on her shoulders, and winning honour to its name, it is only to say that as a sportsperson and especially coming from Manipur, like many others belonging from her state, she had to face a lack of facilities and financial support. And while National and public appreciation run in abundance for her now, it is to see how much of that impacts the way people in India see and treat people from North-east, for her win is as much for herself and her state, as is for the country. 

Mirabai Chanu marked history, as she became the second female athlete in India to win a medal in weightlifting; as the first one, a bronze was bagged by Karnam Malleswari 21 years earlier in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. 

And with more eyes following the games throughout, the week ended with more exciting developments for India. Lovlina Borgohain, debutant boxer and the first woman from Assam to qualify for the Olympics, secured India’s second win and first boxing medal by defeating world champion Nien-Chin Chen of Chinese Taipei at 4-1. And entering the semifinals. P.V Sindhu, who won a silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics, also sailed into the semifinals after winning against Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi (21-13, 22-20) soaring expectations and thrill for the next match. 

India’s streak with Hockey in the Olympics has been an impressive run, with 8 medals adorning the team, the last one won in 1980. With both Men’s and Women’s teams still in the league this time, it will be all eyes for the matches in the coming week. The Women’s Hockey team had a narrow victory over Ireland in the second-last pool match, while the Men’s Hockey team defeated Japan 5-3 to move into the knockout stage.


Editor's Pick

Throwback Thursday: The King Of Novels, Rajanikanta Bordoloi

Rajanikanta Bordoloi is an Assamese novelist whose contribution to literature has been immense. Here’s a closer look into his life and works.



Rajanikanta Bordoloi, Assamese writer

Rajanikanta Bordoloi was an Assamese writer, novelist and journalist whose contribution to Assamese literature is immense. The writer is hailed with many revered titles like, ‘Upanyash Samrat (The King of Novels)’, ‘Pioneer of Romanticism in Assamese Literature‘ and the ‘Walter Scott of Assam’. The publication of his debut tribal novel, ‘Miri Jiyori’, placed him as one of the greatest novelists of Assam, and laid down the steps to his respectable stature for years to come. On his 155th birth anniversary, let’s dive into the phenomenal works of Rajanikanta Bordoloi.

Early Life

Rajanikanta was born on November 24th in the year 1867. He did his graduation from Calcutta University. During this time, Rajanikanta was actively associated with Asamiya Bhasa Unnati Sadhini Sabha. The organisation’s prime objective was the development of Assamese language and literature.

After his studies, he returned to Assam and joined government services. While working for the government, Sir Edward Gait assigned him with the task of collecting historical and ethnographic materials for his new book ‘Assam’. This task pushed Bordoloi to a novel writing, and he released his debut novel, ‘Miri Jiyori’ in the year 1894. 6 years later, in 1900, his second novel, ‘Manomoti’ came out.

Works of Rajanikanta Bordoloi

Throughout his life, Rajanikanta wrote nine novels: Rongalo (1925), Nirmal Bhakat (1926), Rohdoi Ligiri (1930), Tamleshwari Mandir (1926), Donduadruh (1929), Radha Rukminir Ron (1925), Thamba Thambi’r Sadhu (1932), including Miri Jiyori and Manomati.

Most of Rajanikanta’s novels were inspired and based on the ancient historical events of Assam. For instance, Manomati narrates the events following a group of people trapped between the retreating Ahom forces and the advancing Burmese army. In his novel, Nirmal Bhakat, Bordoloi has spun the story around the socio-political conditions of Assam, the Ahom dynasty and the Vasihnav religion. The novel portrays the time from the coronation of Chandra Kanta Sinha to the British domination of Assam. The historical consciousness in Bordoloi’s novels has granted him the titles of ‘Father of Assamese Novels’, ‘Scot of Assamese Literature’, and ‘Assam Bankim Chandra’.

Except for the novels ‘Miri Jiyori’, which narrates a tragic story of a pair of a boy and girl, and ‘Thumbair Sadhu’, the rest of his novels are written with a historical viewpoint.

Apart from writing novels and stories, Bordoloi was also a journalist. He wrote for many leading magazines like Junaki, Usha, Assam Hitoishi, Bahi and Abahon. He was also the editor of a monthly Assamese magazine called Pradipika.

The novelist breathed his last on March 25, 1939 in Guwahati, Assam.

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Editor's Pick

Celebrating The Sitar and Surbahar Icon: Ustad Imrat Khan

Remembering the sitar and surbahar instrumentalist, Ustad Imrat Khan, and his passionate contribution to Indian classical music.



Ustad Imrat Khan, Imrat Khan, Sitarist Sitar, Musician, Legend

Ustad Imrat Khan is a prominent figure in the Indian classical music field. It was his dedication and passion for music, especially for the surbahar, which saved the instrument from fading away from the musical sphere. 

As many know, Imrat Khan belonged to the surbahar playing tradition of the five-generation-old Imdadkhani Gharana, of which was his grandfather, Imdad Khan, a master in both sitar and surbahar and his well celebrated elder brother, Ustad Vilayat Khan. In fact, it is the Imdadkhani Gharana, who is credited with inventing the musical instrument, surbahar, which is also sometimes called the “bass sitar”

On his 87th birth anniversary, let’s dive into the influence of the instrumentalist in music in not only India but also abroad. 

Early Life 

Begum Inayat Khan, the wife of late Ustad Khan, was keen on continuing the legacy of his husband. Her two sons were to carry his legacy forward. Therefore, from an early age, Inayat encouraged her sons to learn only the surbahar. Imrat’s uncle, Ustad Wahid Khan, trained him in surbahar. Unfortunately, Imrat was only 3 when his father passed away. Therefore, along with his uncle, he was also trained by his maternal grandfather, Ustad Bande Hasan Khan and brother Ustad Vilayat Khan. 

It is believed that members of the Imdadkhani Gharana are trained extensively in both sitar and surbahar, regardless of the instrument they eventually choose to play full time. 

The Musical Genius In Imrat Khan

In the early years, both brothers Imrat Khan and Vilayat Khan used to present their music as a jugalbandi. The duo performed together, with Vilayat on the sitar and Imrat playing the more difficult surbahar. The brothers’ creativity and virtuosity blended well together and produced immaculate recordings. Some of these immortal recordings are ‘Night at the Taj’ and ‘Mian Malhar.’ In these duo performances, Imrat Khan’s meticulousness and artistry were ever-visible.

Imrat Khan is most famously known for his ‘gayaki’ style of playing. Along with this, he also played unusual raags, two of which were popular were Kalavati and Abhogi Kanhra. These ragas distinguished him from Vilayat Khan and carved a separate musical identity of his. He was also a composer, and had worked closely with Satyajit for the 1958 ‘Jalsagar’.

In 1970, Imrat toured the world and performed at the Cannes Film Festival, exposing the surbahar in the west as well. Following that, Imrat started teaching in the west. He moved to the U.K. where he taught at the Dartington College of the Arts. In the mid-1970s, he moved to Europe, where he taught at the Central Academy of the Arts, Berlin. In the 80s, he was teaching at Washington University, St Louis in the U.S.

Awards and Achievements

Imrat Khan was awarded the prestigious Sangeet Natak award in 1988. In 2017, he was recognised as a recipient of the Padma Shri. However, Imrat declined the award, stating that it was too late for this recognition. The Ustad was deeply disappointed with the non-acknowledgment of his contribution to the Indian music by the government. His students and juniors were receiving the accolade, but not him. By the time it was awarded to him, Ustad had decided that he’d decline the award as an issue of propriety than self-aggrandisement.

Nevertheless, Imrat Khan was an enigma of Indian music and its culture. He kept the surbahar alive, with his unusual and deeply creative ragas. The instrumentalist even rejected fusion concerts and productions saying that there was enough to explore in Indian music. On November 23, 2018, the musician breathed his last at the age of 83. He had a stroke after being ill for several months.

Credits: YouTube (Ustad Imrat Khan – Topic)
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Editor's Pick

Throwback Thursday: The Classic Of Bollywood, Prithviraj Kapoor

Prithviraj Kapoor is an icon in the Bollywood industry and the Hindi cinemas. Here’s a tribute to the legend on his 116th birth anniversary.



Prithviraj Kapoor, Throwback Thursday

In the pre-independent and pre-partitioned India, cinema and movies were not at their highest pace. During that time of a building up of the movie industry, rose a gem who pioneered the Indian theatre and birthed one of the first family of India films: The Kapoor Family. Prithviraj Kapoor probably didn’t see coming the bulk of influence he’d have over acting and entertainment industry in India. He is considered as one of the founding figures of Hindi cinemas.

The Kapoor family has been in the show business for more than 90 years now. The generational family has produced exceptional actors, producers, and directors. On Prithviraj Kapoor’s 116th birth anniversary, here’s a look into his life and how he came to sow the seeds to Bollywood and Hindi theatre.

Early Life

Prithviraj Kapoor was the son of the sub-inspector in the police from the then Punjab in the British India. He belonged to a middle-class Hindu Punjabi Khatri family in Samundri, near the town of Lyallpur (now Faisalabad in Pakistan). He finished his formal education from Khalsa College in Lyallpur and Lahore and graduated from the Edwardes College in Peshawar. Later, he applied for a one-year program in law to become a lawyer, even though his deepest desires were aiming towards acting. In fact, he used to perform theatre in Lyallpur and Peshawar. Eventually, he gave into his desires, and borrowed some money from his aunt. The money got him to land in the city of dreams, Bombay (now Mumbai).

The Acting Career: Theatre And Bollywood

Bombay gave Prithviraj his long awaited taste of the film industry. He didn’t immediately make it big into the cinemas. A lot of hard work, patience, and determination were regularly poured in before Prithviraj became a classic known face of the Bollywood. His debut character was an extra in the film. In his third film, ‘Cinema Girl’ in 1929, he played the lead role. Till 1931, movies were silent, which meant they had no sound. With the release of ‘Alam Ara’ in 1931, the first ever sound/talking, Bollywood saw a huge historical transformation, and Prithviraj was a part of this history, although the movie didn’t do well. Some of his much loved character appearances were in the movies “Rajrani Meera”, “Seeta”, “Manzil”, “President”, “Vidyapati”, “Pagal”, and “Sikandar”. However, with movies like “Mughal E Azam”, “Harishchandra Taramati”, “Sikandar-e-Azam”, and “Kal Aaj Aur Kal”, Prithviraj left an unforgettable legacy behind.

Apart from the screen, Prithviraj was also a player on the stage. Theatre, after all, paved the way for his interest and success in Bollywood, and it continued to stay his first love. He even founded his own theatre group by the name, Prithvi Theatre in 1944. The theatre performed close to more than a thousand shows, but with a growing disinterest in theatre and increasing fascination with on-screen movies, the group dwindled, and eventually closed down.

Later Life

Prithviraj was married very young at the age of 18, while his wife, Ramsarni Mehra, was 15-years-old at that time. Both of their first and second born passed away, and after that, the couple had four more children, Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor and Urmila Sial Kapoor, of which the brother trio made a big face in the Bollywood. This started the generational Kapoor family, who for five generations has kept up the Hindi cinema tradition. They’re famously also known as the first family of the Hindi Cinema. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren like Rishi Kapoor, Rajiv Kapoor, Karisma Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, and Ranbir Kapoor, etc. have showed prominent success in Bollywood.

Prithviraj and his wife passed away just 14 days apart from each other. Both of them were suffering from Cancer. Prithviraj Kapoor breathed his last 29 May 1972. After his death, Prithviraj received the highest accolade in Indian cinema, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.

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Vistas of Bharat : Indian Culture

Against Silence: The Oral Tradition of Kashmir

Learn the roots of the oral tradition in Kashmir and why it holds such a deep symbolic significance for Kashmiris.



Oral Traditions of Kashmir

The thing about documentation is that it is privy to destruction. History, records, stories—their preservation is abundant in all societies, but in all societies there are running powers of manipulation as such that the narrative carried in them is blurred from wrong to right, truth to lies, and the reality is all but lost. It is here then that the importance of oral tales is recognised the most. Like a thread passed down from generation to generation, they bind people together and protect their truths. Because the things embedded in oral traditions—from language to the stories they tell, from memory to history—nurture connections within communities, affirming their identities against a backdrop of evolving social realities.

This realisation became the very essence of the conversation I had with a friend, Aiman. She grew up and lives in Kashmir, who too has listened to and relied on stories for purposes that have gone beyond the norm of entertainment alone. In Kashmir, this tradition called luk kath, the people’s talk, Aiman says, is as lively as ever, a breathing, relatable entity within which there’s a space to find belongingness. A token of remembrance that she, like many others, can cling to so as to never feel lost in their own home.

The Oral Tales Of Kashmir: Stories, Folk Ballads And More

Aftaab and Zoon, the sun and the moon; the mountains and rivers have all been part of the oral tales in
Kashmir, giving life to them and, in turn, rooting them to the things of the land. Like the legend of Nagrai and Heemal, which Aiman narrated for me in bits and pieces, a folk ballad with little similarity to Shakespearan Romeo and Juliet, or Laila Majnu. This tragic love story of the Serpent King, Nagrai and Princess Heemal, finds memorabilia in a river spring in a small park near the town Shopian. The tale used to be one of the many stories that comprised Aiman’s childhood, fond memories of chilly winter nights, where she would huddle together with her family and listen to her elders narrating the stories they too must have been similarly told.

These stories, like those made-up for children, come with a lot of animal imagery, ghosts and demons, scary wolf-like creatures called bram bram chok or wan mohniyu, a powerful, hairy human-like creature with long nails who is said to wander in forests. Female figures of witches, or daens, too are abundant, one of the kind being Rantas, a seductress witch with her feet turned backwards, known to eat the hearts of men. Of course, like all old things, they too have some problematic tropes running, misogyny and patriarchy being the one of many.

While there are also tales meant to teach obedience, and some others, morality. But like all interesting things, these folktales have served the primary purpose of nourishing imagination, the reason which perhaps for Aiman too fuelled her later fascination and reliance on literature—the lucky instance of interest that led to us becoming acquaintances in the first place. But there’s more to it, there’s also curiosity. In the narration of these stories, she found the space to learn the habit of questioning, the what and why of the way things are. She expressed how these questions, in time, became more important than they really seem, because learning to ask questions, of why did it happen and why is it happening, became specifically relevant to the social and political developments surrounding Kashmiris.

Dapaan: The Significance Of The Oral Tradition

Dapaan is the word for ‘it is said’ or ‘they say’ in Kashmiri, an expression with which all stories are begun, for myths or legends which have no identifiable source. In the present situations of constant uncertainties in the state fuelled by government regulated informational blockade, the word that invoked the idea of fiction has also taken a new form. Dapaan as a harbinger of fearful events and anxieties, plays its part, as news and rumours, said and heard beginning with the word ‘dapaan’, make their way into everyday lives.

In telling me stories from her childhood and those she heard in those days, Aiman stressed how for her, her home has always been the paradise on earth. Memories of the stories, for instance, cannot forget the contexts in which they were told. There are some stories that impress a metaphor for occupied Kashmir, like that of the man who travels on a donkey while carrying all the load on his own head. He does so to not burden the animal he is travelling on, but in his ignorance doesn’t realise how the weight is ultimately being put on the donkey while the man assumes he is being kind to the animal by keeping the load on himself. These little things of everyday life then become an expression that absorbs and speaks of the nature of things. In the same vein also run proverbs, like Garah wandai gara sasah, garah neraha ne zah, (‘O home, I would sacrifice a thousand houses on you and will never leave you’) or asav ne, te lasav kith paeth (‘How will we live, if we don’t laugh’). The connectedness drawn from these pieces of oral culture are owed to the way they have been passed through generations, where that which everybody has heard comes to hold the value of truth. It has stood the grounds of time, and so it comes to stand against erasure.

Bhand Pather And Ladi Shah: Other Forms Of Oral Tradition

And outside this household of folk stories, there lie other oral traditions which have played similar roles, like that of Bhand Pather and of Ladi Shah. Bhand Pather, which is now a declining art form of folk theatre, is based on satirical drama drawn from mythologies and social realities. The unwritten scripts of these dramas have been passed on in families, where their performances invoke cultural roots often infused with political commentaries and humour. Bhand Pather is a very old tradition of drama but has served newer purposes of educating and informing masses, spreading awareness of the many issues that people did not have an easy access to talk or know about. And so, the political representation made its way into folklore not directly, but through subtleness, wit, and sarcasm. In that what they did, and this is what Aiman believes, is not just help in shaping opinions of the people but also strengthening them, where the problems concerning entire communities could find a space to be conveyed and shared.

Another form bridging the accessibility of information like Bhand Pather is Ladi Shah, the Kashmiri song ballads full of melody and humour. The performer, also called the ladi shah, comes with an instrument called dhukar, singing songs that communicate and comment on socio-political matters of day-to-day life. It was only fairly recently that Kashmir got its first female ladi shah in fact, twenty-five year old Syed Areej Safvi. The oral culture, therefore, is still evolving into relatable entities; where people like herself, Aiman suggests, are also finding their own responsibility to know more about it and to carry it forward. This remembrance and recognition, through multiple traditions like Bhand Pather and Ladi Shah, are their own history, a way to protect their roots.

Aiman’s own understanding over the importance of folk stories has been this alone, also the reason she was willing to share it with me. Attempts at surviving and preserving the aspects of their culture are an important part of the community. Stories, the oral tradition of Kashmir and culture surrounding them come to form a language of their own in all societies like this then, with their own depths and necessity.

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Editor's Pick

Attoor Ravi Varma: A poet with many words to express.

“Actually the language of poetry is the language of our thoughts. Thoughts never stretch too far. It should be like that.” – Attoor Ravi Varma'



Attoor Ravi Varma, Indian Poet, Malayalam Literature, Poet

Early Malayalam Literature like any other language’s literature had rigid rules. Before it thrived on its own it focused on a combination of different languages like Malayalam and Tamil or Malayalam and Sanskrit. It was only with the arrival of Modern Malayalam literature that the language got recognition which was separate from other languages.

Born in the small village of Trichur district of the erstwhile kingdom of Cochin, Attoor, Attoor Ravi Varma was an Indian Poet and translator of Malayalam literature whose writing style made him stand out for generations in the crowd. Born in a family of simple-minded people, Ravi Varma never lost his humbleness and down-to-earth nature as is showcased in his documentary “Maruvili”.

I listen to what you are saying,

What you don’t say echo within me,

For us the same vowels, consonants, the same silence”


Maruvili or “Call from the Other Shore”, is also a poem by the late Malayalam poet/ translator. Carrying political and prophetic undertones this poem was written in the year when the conflict between the Sinhalese and Tamilians in Sri Lanka had torn the nation to shreds and Rajiv Gandhi had to send in the Indian Peacekeeping Forces to control the situation.

As someone who had been influenced by the Tamil language because of his teaching experience at Presidency College Madras in Tamil Nadu, Varma felt some sort of connection with the language and with the people who speak it. So, he tried to portray the Sri Lankan Tamils’ plea to end the suffering as much as he could in his popular work, Maruvili.

Known as one of the pioneers of Modern Malayalam poetry, he was one of the few who disregarded all the rules of poetry and as a trailblazer made a path of his own using free verse. According to him, true poetry is your inner voice or your thoughts which you need to mould in certain ways to help other people understand the depth and beauty of it as seen through your eyes. His way of thinking about what poetry truly is resembles William Wordsworth’s, who himself said that “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions”, in his essay “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads.”

Being a left-wing politics supporter who believed in social equality, it’s no wonder that the subjects of many of his poems are actually ordinary people with ordinary lives. He draws inspiration for his work from his day-to-day life and experiences and from things he reads about such as Greek tragedies, readings in Anthropology, etc and keeps his poetry as simple as possible. He emphasises a lot on the importance of using the right words to connect with readers. Being a beloved teacher to his students as documented in the previously mentioned documentary, one would assume that he is a great teacher, but according to him he doesn’t feel like he is ‘that great of a teacher’ as in his words, he doesn’t “teach” poetry but rather he “understands” it, and that’s what makes all the difference. 

He has earned various awards for his works, from the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for Poetry for his poetry anthology, Attoor Ravi Varmayute Kavitakal to receiving the highest literary award of Ezhuthachan Award in 2012, from the government of Kerela, he has received it all, but the one that will stay with him forever is the legacy that he left behind and the people he influenced with the message that, poetry is indeed your thoughts, and your inner voice, nothing more, nothing less. 

Credits: YouTube (Sahitya Akademi)
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Lend Your Ears: Mesmerizing Malayalam Musical Covers 

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Manpreet Toor's Laung Laachi
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