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Divya Dutta: I still put old music, and pick up a book I want to read

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Childhood memories are something that stays with you forever, don’t they? And so is the case for the National award winning actor and author of Me and Ma—Divya Dutta— who shares her love for music, books, acting, comes courtesy her parents. “Whatever your parents do, you get conditioned to that. I remember my dad would put gramophone record, and would sit and read a book. And then once a week, we would go and watch a movie. Aadat par gayi jab se. I still put old music, and pick up a book that I want to read. It travels with you and kind of becomes your companion,” says the actor known for films such as Delhi-6(2009), Bhaag Milkha Bhaag(2013), Blackmail (2018).

Most often people shift to a kindle, but Dutta likes her reading the good ol’ style. “People do shift to kindle, but I do need my hard copy which I can hug it tight. It’s a beautiful relationship you have with the pages. Actors come with various moods. And suddenly, you’re like ‘Hey, I wanna read that’,” says Dutta, who has a habit of reading three books simultaneously, and is currently penning a book comprising of short stories and a memoir.

“I still once a while in my library will pick up a Mills and Boon. It’s nice to be in touch with how you began your reading and how you were glued onto it,” adds the actor who will next be seen in a film portraying a queer character on screen.

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Books & Authors

The Gujarat model comes to Delhi, writes Rajdeep Sardesai

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Long before Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), there was Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara. In May 2007, a group of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists stormed into an exhibition being held in the university by a fine arts student, Chandramohan, and physically assaulted him, while claiming that his paintings offended their religious sentiments. The police entered soon after, and arrested the artist. When the faculty intervened, they too were threatened with arrest. The vice-chancellor (VC) refused to file any First Information Report (FIR) or extend any support to students. Instead, the faculty was given suspension notices while the VHP activists were let off by the police.

Sounds familiar? The truth is, the impunity with which a mob of masked goons ran amok in the JNU campus, even as a timid and partisan administration chose not to act, is not without precedence, and only suggests that a system of “controlling” universities through untrammelled State power has moved from Vadodara to the heart of the national capital.

Gujarat, in particular, has seen a calculated attempt in recent times to stifle all forms of dissent on the campus in the name of enforcing discipline. The conscious de-politicisation of the campus has not been done with the idea of raising academic standards, but in ensuring a stultifying regimentation that prevents the student community from mobilising on contentious issues.

Student union elections are held irregularly. For example, Gujarat University has not held student elections for the past four years, and only last week, the authorities finally offered to hold elections in March. Even more glaring is the manner in which VC are chosen to head the universities, solely on the basis of their loyalty to the ruling party. A former Gujarat University VC became the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson after his term ended, while the current pro-VC is also a party functionary. A BJP media cell member is the VC of the Kachchh University as is the case also with the North Gujarat University. VCs have often been appointed based on their political allegiances by previous regimes too, but the sheer brazenness in choosing party members to head a university makes nonsense of any claim of autonomous institutions.

Even private universities in Gujarat have been unable to resist political pressure. Ahmedabad University, for example, was forced to withdraw the appointment of renowned historian Ramachandra Guha as a distinguished professor after the political leadership reportedly vetoed it. Guha has been a critic of the BJP/Sangh parivar, but that a formidable intellectual and Gandhi biographer would be denied the opportunity to teach in the land of the Mahatma only because of his ideological views reflects the distance that Gujarat has travelled from the tolerant, accommodating spirit of the state’s greatest figure.

Ironically, it is the students of Gujarat who first lit the spark of anti-establishment anger that would eventually build into a wider nationwide protest movement against Indira Gandhi’s Emergency in the 1970s. Narendra Modi himself claims to have been a part of the Nav Nirman Andolan, which began in 1973 when students in a local Ahmedabad college went on strike in protest against a 20% hike in hostel food fees, an agitation that rapidly spread across the state.

Today, it is likely that the student protesters of the 1970s would be dubbed by the government as “urban Naxals”, “tukde tukde gang” and “anti-nationals” who need to be packed-off to Pakistan. Where once the space for dissent was valued, and even supported, today any contrarian view attracts instant vilification. Where once taking a political stand was encouraged, today students are being pushed to abandon any form of political activity by the same leaders who claim to have emerged from the embryo of student politics.

The lame excuse offered by the ruling elite for the need to “control” the campuses is that this was precisely how their opponents behaved when they were in power. The Left Front’s culture of violence and intimidation in West Bengal during its long rule in that state is often cited as an example of how coarse politics can lead to a sharp decline in higher education standards. Indira Gandhi’s clampdown during the Emergency is also mentioned in the context of the shrinking autonomy of universities.

But the argument that, “if they could do it, why can’t we?” is morally flawed and politically tendentious. The BJP has prided itself on being “a party with a difference” and the Modi government has won two successive electoral majorities on a “new” India vision premised on a “Gujarat model” of governance. This model was meant to offer “acche din” to India’s gen-next, not divide the student community between Right and Left in a manner that would leave our campuses bloodied. Indeed, this is not a case of Right versus Left but simply a matter of right versus wrong.

Post-script: While Left and Rightwing student groups in JNU engage in a blame game over who initiated the violence, spare a thought for the faculty. Is it “bharatiya sanskriti” to hit teachers? And if teachers are not safe in a campus, then who is? Don’t forget that it was a long-serving MS University faculty member, Professor JS Bandukwala whose house in Vadodara was ransacked during the 2002 Gujarat riots. No one from the Gujarat administration till date has even met the professor to empathise, perhaps because he was seen as a fierce critic of the Hindutva politics. Is this then a classic case of what Gujarat thought yesterday, the rest of the country must think today?

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Nidhi Manral does a sparkling job with her ‘Sprinkling Poetry’

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There are writers and then there are wizards who can do wonders with words. Well, though at a very early stage of her career, Nidhi Manral had proved to be one of those wizards of words. With every word she had chose to write, with every sentence she decided to frame, you can understand the writer herself is a voracious reader. What’s amazing to know is the amount of reading Nidhi had devoted herself into. Every single poem from the book proves the versatility of the writer and also that of the reader in her.

Nidhi, in her own words, will stay ever grateful to her Dada, late Shri. Arun Kapur who gave her the precious gift of education. We as admirers of Nidhi can only say thanks to Mr. Kapur for what he did. The education she received became the starting point of her writing brilliance. Once you complete reading the book ‘Sprinkling Poetry’, you tend to wonder why Nidhi chose to name the book ‘Sprinkling Poetry’ as the book quite easily could have been named ‘Sparkling Poetry’ due to the caliber the author displays on the table.

You’ll start loving the book right from the cover page itself. The cover depicts a young girl in a pensive mood. Perhaps, the mood and the body language of the girl sets the tone for the content of the book. This book deals with emotions – one of the most difficult subjects to explore. But due to her gifted skill, Nidhi Manral does that with considerable ease.

While reading the book, the reader needs to go through the content very slowly allowing himself or herself the time needed to absorb the thought. The ideal approach can be not to read more than one poem at a time which will help you to reflect and absorb the inner aspects of the poems written by the author.

What amazes us the most is the range of subject covered in the book. We, at times, feel in our generation there is dearth of creative topics. But a talent like Nidhi had proved that it’s not about a dearth in creative topics but there is serious dearth in people with eyes for creativity.

We’ll love to wait for the next book by this lovely author.

Buy Sprinkling Poetry From Amazon At Just Rs. 149

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Shilpa Goel takes a poetic path to communicate with God through ‘Poetic letters to God’

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Author Shilpa Goel, who has been listed among top 10 on the list of 31 modern poets you should follow by Glow habits, has presented the readers with a beautiful communication product in the form of a collection of verses titled ‘Poetic letters to God’. The book stands out due to multiple reasons.

Firstly, it attempts a subject which is already quite well explored but perhaps never been presented the way it has been done by Goel. Verses and letters had always been considered as two different genres. But perhaps had never been thought of something which can be blended together. That’s exactly where Shilpa Goel does a brilliant job.

Secondly, the book stands out due to its simplicity. Right from the word god you, as a reader can make out what the author is intending to do through this particular book. To begin with, the book defines its objective precisely; In the middle, it establishes the intended message firmly and towards the end the book, satisfies the readers by conveying the message to the fullest.

Thirdly, the book can be termed as a really special book due to the honesty reflected throughout the work. Different people take different routes and medium to reach and communicate with God. As confessed by the author, she has always considered writing as that form for her. She started writing poems as messages which she wanted God to know. Soon this became a habit for her and what followed is a wonderful set of creations in the form of free verses. The readers can only feel greatly happy knowing that the author had decided to publish these set of write ups in the form of a book by titling it as ‘Poetic letters to God’.

Shilpa has shown glimpses of brilliance in this particular book. Readers can only expect her to come up with her next book soon. The way she has built the reputation for her, the reading fraternity will eagerly be waiting for her next book. This book is recommended for readers and non-readers alike. This is a perfect read for the regular readers for the novelty of its presentation. The same is applicable for the non-readers too due to the easily relatable subject she selected. Whatever be your type grab a copy of this book and witness the fascinating communication between a golden heart and the almighty.

Buy Poetic Letters To God From Amazon At Just Rs.190

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