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Divan Staliner book wins 7th Romain Rolland Book Prize

The French Institute in India, in collaboration with Apeejay Trust, announces Pankaj Kumar Chatterjee’s book “Divan Staliner”, a translation of Jean-Daniel Baltassat’s Stalin’s Couch, the winner of 7th Romain Rolland Book Prize. This Bengali translation has been published by New Bharat Sahitya Kutir. Elated about his win, translator Pankaj Kumar Chatterjee said, “I am delighted as my first translation from French into Bengali has been honoured with the Romain Rolland Book Prize. I am grateful to the French Institute in India for their support during the past two years – from arranging funds under the PAP Tagore programme to my selection as the awardee. I expect that more and more French books will be translated into Bengali. I promise to do so.” “I extend my good wishes to Pankaj Kumar Chatterjee, a very deserving winner of the Romain Rolland Prize for his exceptional Bengali translation of Jean-Daniel Baltassat’s Stalin’s Couch. It is my sincere hope that his recognition inspires more translators and publishers to continue their invaluable work in introducing the richness of French literature to Indian readers. At Oxford Bookstores, we understand the vital role that translations play in enriching the literary landscape, exploring new cultures, perspectives, and ideas, and breaking down barriers while fostering a deeper appreciation for the diverse beauty of global literature. We are delighted to support the prestigious Romain Rolland Prize, a prize which not only acknowledges the efforts of Indian translators and publishers but also nurtures a love for literature that transcends boundaries," said Priti Paul, Director of Apeejay Surrendra Group. This is the second time that a Bengali title has received the prestigious award, following the translation of Kamel Daoud’s Meursault, contre-enquête as “Myorso Birudhyo Saksho” by Trinanjan Chakraborty, published in 2022 by Patra Bharati. This year’s winning title was originally published in French as Le Divan de Staline. It was longlisted for the prestigious Goncourt Prize in 2013 and later adapted for the cinema by Fanny Ardant, with Gérard Depardieu playing Stalin. The story revolves around a singular episode in the life of Stalin. With three years left to live, Stalin comes to spend several days in his native Georgia, in a decadent palace in the middle of a forest. In the ducal study where he sleeps is a couch that resembles the one Freud has in London. At night, his long-time mistress, Vodieva, plays the role of a psychoanalyst. During the day a young painter, Danilov, a prodigy of social realism, waits to be received by Stalin to present to him the monument of eternity that he has designed to his glory. Insomnia, infinite questioning, infinite waiting. Stretched out on this couch, Stalin plays with the ghosts that haunt his dreams: his mother, his wife who committed suicide, his years in Siberia, and Lenin, the greatest of the lying fathers. Jean-Daniel Baltassat imagines the intimate life of the Soviet ruler, and far from rehabilitating Stalin as being tender and affable, portrays him as a ruthless man who evokes terror and demands submission. He approaches Stalin as a writer with a remarkable evocative power, where imagination takes over from historical truth. Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, Counsellor for Education, Science and Culture, Embassy of France, and the Director of the French Institute in India said, “Jean-Daniel Baltassat belongs to a tradition of French writers excelling in the art of historical fiction. With the Romain Rolland Translation Prize, we aim to bring contemporary French literature to the forefront, and award the efforts made by Indian publishers and translators to make these works available in India.”The winning publisher will be invited by the French Institute in India to the Paris Book Market in May 2024 and the winning translator will be invited to the Paris Book Fair in April 2024. Established in 2017, the Romain Rolland Book Prize awards the finest translation of a French title into any Indian language, including English. The prize aims to promote and acknowledge the efforts of Indian translators and publishers in introducing the richness of Francophone literature and thought in all its diversity to Indian readers. Ms. Priti Paul, Director, of Oxford Bookstores supports the Romain Rolland Prize through the Apeejay Trust. This story has been sourced from a third party syndicated feed, agencies. Mid-day accepts no responsibility or liability for its dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and data of the text. Mid-day management/mid-day.com reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever

29 February,2024 01:46 PM IST | New Delhi | IANS
Pandit, Rihanna's crew and Ranbir Kapoor spotted at the venue. File/Pic

Pandit, Rihanna & B-town celebrities flock to Jamnagar for Ambani wedding

Amidst a spectacle of vibrant red attire and cultural fervour, Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant set the stage for their much-anticipated pre-wedding celebrations in Jamnagar. The couple's presence illuminated the atmosphere as they undertook 'Anna Seva', serving the residents of Jogvad near Reliance Township. Today's live updates mark the commencement of a star-studded affair, with the arrival of key figures and celebrities. As the pandit arrives to conduct traditional ceremonies, the buzz escalates with the touchdown of pop sensation Rihanna's team at Jamnagar Airport. Notably, prominent Bollywood stars including Alia Bhatt, Ranbir Kapoor, Salman Khan, Arjun Kapoor, Shilpa Shetty, Manushi Chillar and Parineeti Chopra arrived at Jamnagar airport today morning. Pop singer Rihanna's crew arrives at Jamnagar The Ambani-Merchant gala unfolds over three days of opulent revelry in Jamnagar, commencing from March 1 to 3. Day one heralds a 'Cocktail Party' titled 'An Evening in Everland', while day two promises guests an adventurous 'Walk on the Wildside', urging them to embrace comfort in attire and footwear. On the final day, the festivities culminate in a celebration of India's rich cultural heritage under the theme 'Hastakshar'. Anticipation is high as approximately 1,000 esteemed guests, including luminaries such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Shantanu Narayen, Sundar Pichai, and Bob Iger, are slated to grace the grand occasion, as reported by India Today. Jamnagar, Gujarat: Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant's pre-wedding functions started with Anna Seva at the Jogwad village near Reliance Township in Jamnagar. Mukesh Ambani, Anant Ambani and other members of the Ambani family served traditional Gujarati food to villagers.… pic.twitter.com/KIXJqjdSCJ — ANI (@ANI) February 28, 2024 In addition to the grandeur, the event also emphasises philanthropy and cultural exchange. The 'Anna Seva' conducted by the couple underscores their commitment to serving the community and fostering bonds with the local populace. Furthermore, the inclusion of traditional ceremonies and themes throughout the festivities reflects a deep reverence for India's cultural heritage. As the celebrations unfold, Jamnagar transforms into a hub of excitement and elegance, drawing attention from across the globe. The convergence of esteemed guests, celebrities, and cultural icons not only adds glamour but also symbolizes the merging of traditions and modernity in a harmonious celebration of love and togetherness. With each passing moment, the Ambani-Merchant pre-wedding extravaganza continues to captivate hearts and minds, setting new standards for luxury, hospitality, and cultural appreciation on a global scale.

29 February,2024 01:24 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Zoya Lobo

Mid-Day Premium I aimed to convey the warmth that exist within the hijra community: Zoya Lobo

Mumbai-native Zoya Lobo is a transgender photojournalist who is pathbreaking in every sense of it.  From struggling to finding acceptance to her success at work, Lobo continues to rise with grace and resilience. Her photographs, showcasing family portraits capturing the diversity of the hijra community and their chosen families, were a part of the recent exhibition at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. Held at Mumbai’s iconic Kalanjee House in collaboration with Smirnoff Lemon Pop, the exhibition aimed at capturing the intimate lives of transgender individuals who often find solace in non-biological families through the lens of an LGBTQIA+ person. In an exclusive chat, the trailblazer talks about her journey, the criticality of chosen families, a queer gaze, and more. How has Mumbai shaped and fostered your queer identity? Lobo: Mumbai’s dynamic atmosphere, bustling with people from various backgrounds, has created a space where I could explore and embrace my true self. One of the key elements that has contributed to my queer identity in Mumbai is the sense of community. With numerous support groups, events, and safe spaces, connecting with like-minded individuals who share similar experiences has been crucial in building a sense of belonging and acceptance. Mumbai's inclusive and progressive attitude has also played a pivotal role. The annual Pride events, vibrant queer-friendly neighborhoods, and supportive allies have all contributed to creating an atmosphere of acceptance where individuals feel more empowered to express their authentic selves. Furthermore, the city's rich cultural tapestry has allowed me to explore different facets of my identity. I have found spaces that celebrate diversity and encourage the expression of individuality. As India's pioneering transgender photojournalist, what kind of stereotype or discriminatory behaviour have you faced at work? Tell us about the changes you’ve seen in the industry regarding inclusiveness. Are transpersons paid the same?  Lobo: My journey in the field has been both rewarding and challenging. Being a trailblazer in any industry often comes with its set of stereotypes and discriminatory behaviours, and the field of photojournalism has been no exception.  One of the most prevalent stereotypes I've encountered is the misconception that transgender individuals lack the skills or credibility to excel in professional roles. There were instances where colleagues and even some editors doubted my abilities, questioning whether my gender identity would affect the quality of my work. Overcoming these stereotypes required not only showcasing my skills through my photographs but also challenging preconceived notions about transgender individuals in the workplace.  Discriminatory behaviour has manifested in subtle and overt forms. In some instances, I faced microaggressions and exclusionary practices, such as being overlooked for assignments or not being invited to certain events. However, I've also encountered outright discrimination, including derogatory comments and prejudice from colleagues. This underscores the importance of advocating for inclusivity and diversity within the industry.  Despite these challenges, I have witnessed positive changes in the industry's approach to inclusiveness over the years. There's a growing awareness of the need for diversity in storytelling, and media organisations are making conscious efforts to amplify marginalised voices, including those of transgender individuals. Initiatives like mentorship programs and workshops focused on inclusivity have emerged, fostering a more welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of their gender identity.  However, the journey toward true inclusiveness is ongoing. While there has been progress, it's crucial to continue dismantling systemic barriers and challenging ingrained biases. A significant aspect of this progress involves addressing the issue of pay equality. Transgender individuals, like everyone else, deserve equal pay for equal work. Unfortunately, there is still work to be done to ensure that compensation is fair and unbiased across all demographics within the photojournalism industry.  How was your experience at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival? Lobo: Working with Smirnoff Lemon Pop on the collaboration for the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival has been an immensely rewarding experience. The opportunity to contribute to a powerful exhibition showcasing the diversity of the transgender community, alongside talented ally photographers, has been both impactful and empowering. The transformation of Mumbai's Kalanjee House into the Smirnoff House creates a dynamic space for meaningful dialogue and artistic expression, aligning seamlessly with Smirnoff's commitment to positive change. The curated experiences at the festival, such as discussions on transgender rights and culinary stories, further enrich the collaborative journey, making it a standout and memorable endeavour.  Your recent exhibition showcased family portraits capturing the diversity of the hijra community. What does family mean to you? Lobo: The recent exhibition featuring family portraits of the hijra community was a profound exploration of what family truly means in the context of a marginalised and often misunderstood community. For me, family extends beyond the conventional definition of blood relations; it encapsulates a sense of shared identity, mutual support, and a collective journey towards understanding and acceptance. In the hijra community, chosen families play a pivotal role. These portraits aimed to capture the diverse bonds and connections formed within the hijra community, showcasing the beauty of chosen families that provide a sense of belonging and understanding often not found in mainstream society.  Family, in this context, is a source of strength and resilience. It embodies the shared experiences, struggles, and triumphs of individuals who have faced societal stigmatisation. Through the lens of these portraits, I aimed to convey the warmth, love, and interconnectedness that exist within the hijra community, challenging stereotypes and fostering a deeper understanding of their rich tapestry of relationships.  The exhibition also sought to redefine the traditional notion of family, encouraging viewers to broaden their perspectives and embrace the idea that family is not solely defined by blood ties. By showcasing the diverse relationships within the hijra community, I hoped to provoke thought and spark conversations about the fluidity and expansiveness of the concept of family. I hope that through these images, viewers can see beyond preconceived notions, recognising the beauty and strength that exist within the chosen families of the hijra community.  Many queer individuals struggle with self-doubt in their journey of self-acceptance. Who are the people you believe to be central to your journey and success? Lobo: In my journey of self-acceptance as a queer individual, several people have played pivotal roles in helping me navigate the challenges of self-doubt and embrace my authentic identity. Supportive friends who provided unwavering encouragement and understanding were instrumental in fostering a sense of belonging. Additionally, mentors and LGBTQIA+ community leaders served as guiding lights, offering wisdom and reassurance during moments of uncertainty.  Furthermore, my chosen family – a group of close-knit individuals who have become pillars of support – has been crucial in helping me build resilience and confidence. Their acceptance and love have been transformative, affirming that self-discovery and acceptance are ongoing processes, and I am not alone on this journey. While the path may be challenging, the connections forged with these individuals have been central to my growth and success in overcoming self-doubt and embracing my true self.   Chosen families play a significant role in the lives of LGBTQIA+ individuals, however, the experiences vary on several factors. Please share how multifaceted and critical it is among the transgender community. Lobo: For transgender individuals who may not conform to societal expectations of gender norms, chosen families become a sanctuary of understanding and acceptance. Those who are not ‘straight passing’ may face additional challenges and discrimination, making the support of chosen families even more critical. These families often provide a safe space where individuals can authentically express their gender identity without judgment, fostering a sense of belonging that may be absent in biological or less accepting family environments.  Moreover, for those marginalised within the queer community itself, such as non-binary or genderqueer individuals, the importance of chosen families cannot be overstated. These individuals may encounter misconceptions or even exclusion within certain segments of the LGBTQIA+ community, making chosen families essential for building a network of allies who truly understand and respect their unique experiences. In essence, chosen families within the transgender community offer a lifeline of support, understanding, and affirmation. They serve as a chosen network of individuals who share similar journeys, helping to navigate the complexities of self-discovery and acceptance. The critical role of chosen families lies not only in providing emotional support but also in empowering transgender individuals to face societal challenges and celebrate the richness of their diverse identities. Recognising and valuing the multifaceted nature of chosen families is essential for fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment within the transgender community.   When a member of the LGBTQIA+ community with their diverse lived experiences is behind the lens, how different do you think the gaze and outcome are? Lobo: When a member of the LGBTQIA+ community with their diverse lived experiences is behind the lens, the perspective and outcome of the photographs are profoundly different. Having lived through the varied challenges and triumphs of being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I understand intimately the depth and complexity of these experiences. This perspective allows me to go beyond stereotypes and cliches, portraying individuals in a positive light rather than perpetuating narratives of pity or sadness commonly associated with them.  My approach to photography is rooted in capturing the positivity, resilience, and happiness that characterise the lives of LGBTQIA+ individuals. Through my lens, I aim to reflect the authenticity of their joy, love, and strength. By focusing on the positive aspects of their stories, I hope to counteract harmful stereotypes and contribute to a more nuanced and uplifting representation. The goal is not to gloss over the challenges but to provide a holistic view that acknowledges the full spectrum of emotions and experiences.  In the absence of art, and media that fails to represent LGBTQIA+ individuals, queer creators often end up creating space that they hoped existed. What story are you trying to convey through your photographs? Lobo: In the absence of art and media that adequately represents LGBTQIA+ individuals, my photography aims to create the space that I wished existed during my journey of self-discovery and acceptance. Through my lens, I strive to convey a narrative that celebrates the diverse and authentic experiences within the queer community, challenging stereotypes and offering a more nuanced perspective. I seek to capture the beauty, resilience, and everyday moments of LGBTQIA+ lives, recognising the multifaceted nature of identities within the community. Each photograph is an attempt to break away from limiting narratives and showcase the richness of diverse relationships, expressions of gender, and the intersections of various identities.  My work is a form of visual activism, advocating for increased visibility, understanding, and acceptance. I want to contribute to a cultural shift where queer individuals can see themselves authentically represented, fostering a sense of pride and empowerment. By sharing these narratives, I hope to inspire conversations, promote empathy, and challenge societal norms that perpetuate exclusion and discrimination. Ultimately, the story I aim to convey through my photographs is one of resilience, authenticity, and the beauty found in embracing and celebrating the unique tapestry of LGBTQIA+ lives. I want viewers to connect with the humanity in these images and, in doing so, contribute to a more inclusive and accepting world for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.   What is the one thing that surprised you the most and your biggest learning from working on this project? Lobo: One of the most surprising and impactful aspects of working on this project was the depth and resilience of the stories within the transgender community. Each photograph became a portal into intimate moments, authentic connections and the narratives of acceptance and love were profoundly moving. My biggest learning from this project was the transformative power of visual storytelling in fostering empathy and understanding. Through this lens, I witnessed the potential of art to challenge preconceptions, break down barriers, and create meaningful dialogue. It reinforced the importance of representation and the need for diverse voices in shaping narratives, particularly within marginalised communities. This experience has inspired me to continue using my creative work as a tool for advocacy and positive change. 

29 February,2024 11:01 AM IST | Mumbai | Maitrai Agarwal
Image for representational purposes only. Photo Courtesy: iStock

Mid-Day Premium How somatic wisdom guides this contemporary dance in Mumbai

Come dusk on February 29, the stage at the National Centre for Performing Arts will witness a carnal kinesis. Bodies will shrink and stretch to reveal corporal movements set against a digital canvas. Commissioned by the Museum of The Museum of Art & Photography Bengaluru, this visual backdrop has been designed by Kunihiko Matsu, a Japanese graphic artist. Spectrum 2024: the annual dance festival at NCPA commenced in 2018 to unify various Indian dance forms under one roof, informs Dr Swapnokalpa Dasgupta, head of the dance department at the National Centre for Performing Arts.  The last leg of the festival concludes with ‘Contemporary Dance’ which will be performed by a troupe of 8 movement artists led by Jayachandran Palazhy, the artistic director at Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts, Bengaluru. In an interaction with Midday, the duo takes us through ancient Indian dance wisdom, and the need to preserve it and prepare a discernible audience. Somatic: relating to the body as opposed to mind Speaking to Midday on a Zoom call, Palazhy demystifies somatic arts by circularly tracing his fingers: “What you saw was a defined movement. When I engage my gaze, it acquires an additional layer of dimension. And, now if I trace a bigger circle, the movement becomes macro, inhabiting a larger space.” As each movement unfolds, it activates various body parts, a process Palazhy describes as "rewiring the body." Consequently, every motion sets off a chain reaction, permeating spaces and igniting energy on an atomic level. The dance maestro emphasises that to fully grasp the essence of somatic movement as an artist, one must possess exceptional multitasking abilities. This entails simultaneously inhabiting the physical and the imaginative realms—but also in a temporary way as dictated by the music.  Furthermore, with advancements in technology and visual arts, an artist must upskill herself to navigate elements beyond mere lighting. Breaking new ground in their field, this one-of-a-kind contemporary dance blends physical expression with digital simulations, uniting the realms of the tangible and the visual. Somatic wisdom embedded in Indian dance traditions The core idea behind the choreography is in line with Attakkalari’s motto, which finds its roots in traditional physical wisdom, innovation and technology. “As a part of our Nagarika online interactive archive on Indian somatic expressions - we attempt to unearth the concepts of body and principles of movement about the somatic wisdom embedded in Indian performance and physical traditions,” informs Palazhy. Upon conducting months of research, the team extrapolates the new-found information to process contemporary experiences, aspirations, memories and imagination which further informs their choreography. Palazhy takes us back in time when Indian dance evolution underwent an obstruction. “Because of our colonialist past, we had a little break in our natural development of our dance forms.” He highlights the necessity for contemporary practitioners, be it in Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, or his own experience, to integrate our rich heritage and ancient dance wisdom into the ongoing development of our art forms. “Our goal is to preserve the strength of our tradition while also embracing evolution, as it is integral to defining our identity. India's identity must remain dynamic rather than stagnant. This belief has driven our efforts over the years, during which we've explored various subjects,” he adds. Narrating tales with dance movements The presentation will include different themes exploring various aspects of human existence. Prayer of a different kind: Kabir’s poem set to tune by Kumar Gandharva, is a piece developed and performed by Attakkalari’s rehearsal director and choreographer Hemabharathy Palani, who moves effortlessly to the iconic music of acclaimed singer Bindhu Malini. Reflections draw inspiration from the distilled geometry and poetic grace of classical dance Bharatanatyam and portray the inner sanctity and elegance through the precision and skill of the moves of the dancers. Nava Durga: Created during the lockdown phase and based on the images of Goddess Durga by nine contemporary female painters, this piece explores the plight of contemporary Indian women, their trials and tribulations, and their fight for justice and equality. Vanna Vativukal explores the male and female energies that exist within us, particularly the playful nature of the period of courtship. Set to specially composed music by MIDIval Punditz, images of rites of passage of time and rituals as well as elements, such as water, are invoked in this celebration of sensuality.  Jeeve Pravah: Set in response to the poignant sight of migrants journeying back to their distant villages amidst India’s sudden lockdown due to Covid-19, Jeeva Pravaaha peeks into human experiences and memories, diverging from glorifying India’s megacities or their architecture. Portraying the city as dynamic rather than immutable, this piece is much like the changing skyline of Mumbai. It delves into the intricate human connections expressed by great poets of the era, envisioning freedom from grandeur and praising wandering devotees carrying divinity within. Seamlessly blending heritage, memories and contemporary cityscapes, the performance unfolds the transformation of the notion of home—from a refuge to a place evoking seclusion and tension.  The music for this performance has been crafted by Bindu Malini and MD Pallavi, both of whom are acclaimed singers and composers, having received national awards for their work. They primarily chose to work within classical traditions, albeit with a contemporary twist. Rather than strictly adhering to the classical genre, they draw inspiration from it. “You can also discern the influence of the Ragas in their work, with some well-known songs, such as snippets from Kumar Gandharva's repertoire, included,” remarks Palazhy. “I believe the audience can anticipate a multifaceted experience, combining both auditory and visual elements. With multiple layers incorporated, there's something to appeal to everyone. Whether you're intellectually engaged and reflective or simply seeking artistic enjoyment, plenty will captivate your interest. If you're someone who responds to performances on a visceral and sensory level, there's also something tailored for you. In essence, this experience caters to everyone, spanning from children to adults. Cultivating a discernible audience Over the past 14 years, Palazhy has made a deliberate effort to educate himself, recognising that many art forms are often overlooked in our education system. However, with the recent overhaul of the national education policy, there's a growing acknowledgment of the importance of creative arts education in fostering a knowledge economy. This emphasis on creativity is evident in schools and colleges, including Attakalari’s diploma program, which attracts students primarily from Mumbai and Maharashtra, especially Pune. Through their Mobile Academy initiative, the institute has had the privilege of teaching at various esteemed institutions, such as the National Film Institute in Pune, the National School of Drama, NIFT (Fashion Technology Institute), Srishti School of Art and Design and several universities, including IIT Hyderabad. “As an arts organisation, we understand that our role extends beyond mere performances; we aim to cultivate an audience that is both informed and discerning in their appreciation of the arts. In Indian aesthetics, we recognise that the creation of 'Rasa' is not solely the performer's responsibility but emerges from the dynamic interaction between performer and audience, encompassing various dimensions such as energy, metaphor, symbolism and imagery,” outlines Palazhy. In the realm of education, he advocates for the idea that dance embodies simultaneous inhabitation of multiple spaces. Commenting on the link between body movements and music, he states that neuroscience underscores the profound impact of dance and music education on cognitive development, shaping children's cognition, memory, imagination and creativity by forging new neural pathways. Thus, integrating arts education into the curriculum holds immense significance in nurturing well-rounded individuals. Reflecting on my journey, Palazhy recognises dance as a profoundly intellectual pursuit, manifesting in physical form while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of the present to touch upon the future. 

29 February,2024 09:32 AM IST | Mumbai | Ainie Rizvi
Representational Image. Pic Courtesy/iStock

94 pc of Indian firms plan to boost workers' skills, abilities this year: Report

About 94 per cent of Indian companies plan to enhance their employees' skills and abilities, and 53 per cent are looking to provide online training and development programmes in 2024, a new report said on Tuesday. According to the professional networking platform LinkedIn, upskilling employees, aligning learning programmes to business goals, and creating a culture of learning are the top three focus areas for India's learning & development (L&D) professionals in 2024. "With skills for jobs globally expected to change 68 per cent by 2030, we are seeing a greater emphasis on learning both technical and soft skills with a majority of employers surveyed agreeing that this balance will be critical for organisations to succeed in the age of AI," said Ruchee Anand, Senior Director - Talent, Learning and Engagement Solutions, LinkedIn India. The report surveyed 4,323 hiring managers in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the US, India, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, China, the Netherlands, Sweden, MENA and Brazil. Amid rapidly changing skill requirements due to AI and automation, the report mentioned 98 percent of employers in India noted significant shifts in the skills they prioritise for job candidates. Companies now value candidates with not just AI expertise, but also soft skills and a capacity for learning. The report revealed that 91 per cent of L&D professionals in India view human skills as increasingly competitive in the economy. Moreover, the report highlighted that 48 per cent of India's hiring managers are providing career progression opportunities to their existing employees. They also believe "helping employees build the skills needed for the future of work" (38 per cent) and "providing competitive salaries and benefits" (31 per cent) are key to retaining top talent. This story has been sourced from a third party syndicated feed, agencies. Mid-day accepts no responsibility or liability for its dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and data of the text. Mid-day management/mid-day.com reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever

28 February,2024 02:44 PM IST | New Delhi | IANS
On stage, Chatterjee will join legendary percussionist A. Sivamani, the renowned mandolin virtuoso U Rajesh, and the versatile vocalist Gayatri Asokan. Photo Courtesy; Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre

Sitar maestro Purbayan Chatterjee-led 'Classicool' to perform at the NMACC

The Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre is all set to present "Classicool," a captivating contemporary interpretation of India's classical and fusion music led by some of the most celebrated Indian artists. The event will take place on March 1 at 7:30 pm at the Grand Theatre at the performance and cultural centre in Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai. Led by the acclaimed sitar maestro Purbayan Chatterjee, the collective promises to deliver a unique musical experience that pushes the boundaries of tradition and innovation. On stage, Chatterjee will join legendary percussionist A. Sivamani, the renowned mandolin virtuoso U Rajesh, and the versatile vocalist Gayatri Asokan who will come together to perform unique tunes that you may have never heard before. Attendees will be mesmerised by vibrant melodies and dynamic rhythms as these exceptional artists come together to showcase their mastery and creativity.  The four-member collective 'Classicool' promises to be a celebration of musical diversity and artistic brilliance, inviting audiences on a transcendent journey through the rich tapestry of Indian classical and fusion music. Purbayan Chatterjee says, "I am thrilled to present 'Classicool' as part of our ongoing commitment to promoting cultural exchange and artistic excellence. This unique collaboration brings together some of the finest talents in the industry to create an unforgettable musical experience that transcends genres and captivates audiences." For all those who want to witness this musical event, the tickets are available now and can be purchased online or at The Grand Theatre box office.

28 February,2024 12:58 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Many Mumbaikars gather to sing karaoke at various restaurants and bars during the week on Mondays and Wednesdays too. Photos Courtesy: Nicole Ann Pereira/Meldan D'Cunha/Glynis Luan Simoes

Mid-Day Premium Crazy for karaoke: How Mumbai’s bars, jockeys and enthusiasts turn up the volume

Mumbaikar Glynis Luan Simoes has always loved singing and that is because she grew up singing in the church choir with her mother and father. Later on, she sang to the likes of Backstreet Boys everywhere possible including the galley of the airplane, when she was an airhostess. Then she went to Goa one time and sang at St Anthony's bar on Calangute beach, and then things changed. Even though the 39-year-old used to be shy, she started singing at a bar in Bandra. It was like singing was what Simoes was meant to do even though she hadn’t received any kind of formal training. Over the years, she used to visit karaoke bars in Mumbai to sing and before she knew it, the Khar resident was hosting karaoke nights in the city.  She shares, “I used to go for karaoke nights and then I made a friend, who used to be the host. I used to stand close to the console and see how the host mixes on the live mixer and picked that up. So, whenever the other hosts used to leave, I used to take over the mic.” Soon enough, her friend asked if she would like to help out if the other guy wasn't available, and Simoes never looked back.   While most Mumbaikars experience the Monday blues, there are a quite a number of city dwellers like Simoes who go to sing the blues, ballads, and rock and roll at neighbourhood pubs that host karaoke nights in Mumbai. While the street outside may be quiet and getting ready for Tuesday, the restaurants are full of people who love to sing karaoke and Simoes is one of the many who start it off. Like Mondays, Mumbai even has karaoke nights on Wednesday, as many people go to beat their mid-week blues with some song and dance to English and Hindi karaoke nights. While traditionally people may imagine Friday, Saturday and Sunday to be the days to party, these karaoke nights tell a different story. Or, as this writer observes and believes, Mondays and Wednesdays are the new Fridays, as karaoke nights are hosted on most days across venues. Also Read: How these Mumbai artists are keeping street art tradition alive in Kala Ghoda Celebrating karaokeSimoes, who started professionally being a karaoke jockey in 2013, explains, “There are a lot of places for karaoke now, and a lot of places now also host karaoke nights because a lot of people are looking to be able to sing because they want to unwind after work. It used to only be during the weekends before but now it is during the week too.” It is a stark difference from the time the Mumbaikar started going to sing during karaoke nights over a decade ago.  Earlier, she says, people used to travel to South Mumbai to attend karaoke nights at Jazz By The Bay (presently known as Pizza By The Bay) and to places in Andheri and Bandra, but that has now changed. “There was a time I used to host karaoke in Pune and my followers to come there along with us. We used to have a huge group going there and coming back the same night. At that point in time, I used to not only do karaoke but also work for British Airways. I used to finish karaoke nights, come back and rest for an hour, and then go to work and have another show in the evening.”  Glynis Simoes (left), who is a professional singer now, started hosting karaoke in 2013 and has seen more people pick the mic confidently these days than before. Photo Courtesy: Glynis Simoes Santacruz-based Andrew Jacquet is one of several other Mumbaikars who absolutely love karaoke. He explains, “In the 2000s, I spent a lot of my summer holidays on ships with my dad, who was a captain, and his crew were all Filipinos, and they are very seriously into it. So that is what got me to like it.” The Mumbaikar and his family loved the form of singing so much that they have even had karaoke machines at home, but Jacquet says he still prefers to go out and enjoy himself usually at The Little Door or Road House Bluez, which has his favourite haunts in the city for the activity. In 2016, Jacquet took it up a notch and even ran a now-defunct blog called ‘The Bombay Report’ with his friend, where they would review karaoke places in Mumbai, till 2020. “I love singing, and it's a great place to meet new people. It really beats out just listening to the same music over and over when you are at a bar you know,” shares the 29-year-old, who says he also likes how it has an intimate scene. “I like that it is so interactive, and some people are amazing. It is a good way to bond, usually when you go out, you are limited to the group you come with, with karaoke you can meet new people,” adds Jacquet. These days, the karaoke enthusiast goes once every two months, usually during December. While he would want to go more often, Jacquet says most of his friends don’t really sing, and that’s why he doesn’t end up going more often.  Like Simoes, even Nicole Ann Pereira has also been into singing and that’s how her love for karaoke grew over time. She explains, “I have always been very passionate about singing. So, instead of a regular dance night, my friends and I used to go for a karaoke night, since we were 18 years old. It was only through karaoke I had the confidence to hold the mic and sing.” That translated into her hosting shows while she was in college and for events otherwise. Having always been passionate about singing, Nicole Ann Pereira used to go for karaoke nights with her friends since she was 18, instead of going out dancing. Photo Courtesy: Nicole Ann PereiraIt didn’t take long for her to find her love for both, which eventually led to her getting the opportunity to host her own karaoke five years ago when The Little Door approached her. “It has been a wonderful journey ever since. It has taught me to be disciplined and patient yet enjoy every bit of it. I have met so many people along the way and have had the best experience with them,” adds the Bandra-based karaoke host, who is also a consultant with a multinational company in the city. Apart from The Little Door, Pereira also likes to go to Soul Fry, The Den, Three Wise Monkeys and Bulldogs in the city for karaoke nights.SEE PHOTOS: How these Mumbai eateries are adding unique gourmet fillings to pavs Joy of singing karaoke The very experience of singing like no one cares while also meeting new people is also what she likes about karaoke. “Karaoke makes people come together and in sync. People really connect through songs whether its dancing or singing. At karaoke, however, the singer gives it their own touch making it personal and engaging. The best part of karaoke is you can sing your heart out regardless of being good at it,” she adds.  Interestingly, Simoes has seen this positively change over the years since she has been actively going for karaoke. She explains, “People used to be extremely shy and scared in the beginning. They are like that even now but nowadays people are more open to this possibility of holding the mic and sing any song the way they want to sing it. I keep telling a lot of people even if they are shy, once you take the mic, there is no turning back. Me, being a professional singer, I started as a karaoke singer because I was not professionally trained. I turned my hobby into my profession.” Having been there and done that, today the Mumbaikar encourages a lot of people who are really good at singing, to sing. “Like you need to go and sing and explore different genres of music because it may suit your voice, you never know,” she adds.  Even Mario Andrade, another city-based karaoke jockey like Simoes, started his journey quite similarly because of his love for karaoke. He shares, “I used to be a karaoke regular at another karaoke jockey’s nights way back in 2001. At the time, I used to go to various places like Jazz By The Bay, Banana Bar and others. I used to go to Sun-n-Sand in Juhu, where my guru, Savio D’sa used to be the host. So, one night he wasn’t able to come and told me to host it since I had been there quite often. I did it for the first time in April 2004, and really enjoyed doing it.” Juhu-based Mario Andrade has been a karaoke jockey for two decades now and hosts karaoke nights almost every day of the week in Mumbai. Photo Courtesy: Mario Andrade Andrade immediately told Dsa how much he enjoyed it and said he was open to any other opportunities that would come his way. Almost immediately, the latter told the Juhu resident about how travelling from Mulund to Juhu is quite a challenge, and since he lived in the neighbourhood, he should probably take over. It has been 20 years since then, and Andrade loves every bit of it even today, after giving up his corporate job many years ago. Today, he hosts karaoke nights all through the week except Saturday and Tuesday and is even looking to fill up the latter. While he hosts karaoke nights at 3 Wise Monkeys on Wednesday and Sunday, he also hosts one at Big Small on Mondays along with another colleague. He is also soon going to start at the Game Ranch in Malad on Thursdays and hosts the one at Heritage on Fridays – showing how much karaoke has picked up in the city over the years. In all this time, he has seen a lot of changes but more particularly the increase in the number of karaoke jockeys. He shares, “Being a karaoke jockey is a specialised thing and is not everybody’s cup of tea because hosting the karaoke night is not just about having all the tracks and announcing the name and song, it is about engaging with people, meeting new people because you have to make them comfortable because for some of them it is the first time. They may have not come to sing but they may have just come to experience it.” However, he says karaoke has become a ‘doormat’ because over time, restaurants and bars have been using karaoke as fillers especially when they aren’t doing well, so that the karaoke night can pull a crowd but that, he says, may not always work in the restaurant’s favour. While being a karaoke jockey may seem easy, Andrade says there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. “For example, updating a software, buying songs from authentic karaoke companies by paying 2-3 pounds a song, then constantly updating your technology with your mic and mixer,” the 49-year-old shares. Armed with over two decades of experience, his mic, mixer and software – all of which speaks for itself, Andrade believes more karaoke jockeys need to take the effort to be more serious about their work if they want to do it correctly. At the same time, he has had some of the best experiences being a radio jockey over the years. “People have met at my karaoke nights and got married. There are people who have been average singers and have been regulars and become really good singers over the years,” he adds.SEE PHOTOS: What you need to know about 'Coffee Badging' and how HR can deal with itGetting people to sing on a Monday Interestingly, long before many restaurants and bars started hosting karaoke nights in the city, Soul Fry was one of the early ones. Meldan D’Cunha, the owner of popular Bandra restaurant, that is popular for its karaoke nights, has been one who has seen that happen very closely, after he started the restaurant in 1996. He shares, “We started with jazz nights every fortnight, and then I felt there was more scope for music, so I thought doing something on the slowest day of the week makes sense and Monday is always the worst day for a business all around the world. So, I started the karaoke nights on Monday in 2001 with some good hosts who were friends.” While it took some time to take off, says Dcunha, because it costs money to pay the hosts and set up the whole thing. It is one of the reasons, he has observed that has led to people stopping their karaoke nights because they weren’t able to make money because the expenses are too high.  However, the sense of community is probably what fuelled the fire for the karaoke nights, which also happen on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday as of today and it is always jam-packed. Such is the crowd, D’Cunha says he has now started closing the gate at 10 pm on Fridays because it is essential to handle the crowd properly, and make sure the service is good with food and drink as there are people of all ages.  It has come a long way from when he started. He explains, “It started with a lot of people from the community that had people from Bandra Gymkhana and Wellingdon Gymkhana, who used to be our regulars. Now, it has evolved. While they stopped coming, other people have started coming and it is not only Catholics anymore but also people from other communities who join in and that has been really good for the business also. There are a lot of people who come from Navi Mumbai, Borivali’s IC Colony, Vasai and even Colaba who come regularly with huge groups.” Meldan D'Cunha, owner of Soul Fry in Bandra, started karaoke nights in 2001 and has managed to have a packed night every Monday, apart from other days of the week. Photo Courtesy: Meldan D'CunhaEven after all these years, D’Cunha still handles all the bookings to ensure that everybody gets a chance properly. You will usually find D’Cunha and his wife sitting at the first table and encouraging every kind of singer to sing their heart out. Over the years, D’Cunha says there have been many celebrities who have been regulars. Some of them are India television actor and model Shweta Salve, Malaika Arora and Leander Paes, who still visits. Some of the others include Arbaaz Khan’s son Arhaan, and even international cricketers include the likes of Australian pace legend Brett Lee, who visited often with his gang, whenever he is in the country, and even Michael Clarke and Sri Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara too. D’Cunha reveals that Indian rock band Agnee’s Kannan Mohan started his career singing karaoke at Soul Fry, and he still tells people about it. Even Indian pop rock band Sanam’s Venky S visits the restaurant often till date.  D'Cunha says the karaoke nights have also seen a lot of choir singers who come in, and he personally encourages duets especially to regulars who come in to explore their vocal range. While he used to earlier use the machine, today, the Bandra resident uses the treasure trove of YouTube’s karaoke videos to fuel the community. “Earlier, we used to have the machine and we started using YouTube only five years, as it has a lot more karaoke songs now. It has helped a lot because the software has limited songs,” he shares. Today, after Fridays, Mondays are one of the best days of the week for D’Cunha.  With the evolution, comes the learnings and timely changes to let the culture flourish and he made one of them. “Recently, we decided that each table will get a song to sing rather than each singer so that more people get to sing. Otherwise, if six people come on a table and every one of them is a good singer, it happens every time, then only that table gets the opportunity to sing.” In fact, such is the popularity of the karaoke nights there, that D’Cunha says, he has seen a lot of people come with their bags to the restaurant on a Monday before they fly out of the city only so that they can sing their hearts out with karaoke. 

28 February,2024 10:30 AM IST | Mumbai | Nascimento Pinto
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hands-over wings to astronauts-designate Shubanshu Shukla, Prashanth Balakrishnan Nair, Angad Prathap and Ajit Krishnan who have been selected to be the astronauts on India’s first crewed mission to space 'Gaganyaan Mission', at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), in Thiruvananthapuram. Pic/PTI

Meet the four IAF fighter pilots who will lead India's Gaganyaan mission

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announcing the names of the four IAF officers who will be on India's Gaganyaan mission, the Indian Air Force has revealed the background and credentials of Group Captains Prasanth Balakrishnan Nair, Ajit Krishnan, and Angad Pratap, and Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla. Group Captain Nair, born in Kerala's Thiruvazhiyad on August 26, 1976, is an alumnus of the NDA and recipient of Sword of Honour at the Air Force Academy. Commissioned in the IAF's fighter stream on December 19, 1998, he has flown variety of aircraft including Su-30 MKI, MiG-21, MiG-29, Hawk, Dornier, An-32, etc. A Category A flying instructor and test pilot with approx 3000 hrs of flying experience, he has commanded a premier fighter Su-30 squadron. Group Captain Nair is also the alumnus of the United States Staff College and Directing Staff at the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington, and Flying Instructors School (FIS), Tambaram. Group Captain Krishnan, born in Chennai on April 19, 1982, is alumnus of the NDA and recipient of President’s Gold Medal and Sword of Honour at the Air Force Academy. Commissioned in the IAF's fighter stream on June 21, 2003, he has flown variety of aircraft including Su-30 MKI, MiG-21, MiG-21, Mig-29, Jaguar, Dornier, An-32 etc. A flying instructor and test pilot with approx 2,900 hrs of flying experience, he is also alumnus of the DSSC, Wellington. Group Captain Pratap was born in Allahabad (now Prayagraj) on July 17, 1982. Alumnus of the NDA, he was commissioned in the IAF's fighter stream on December 18, 2004 and has also flown variety of aircraft including Su-30 MKI, MiG-21, MiG-29, Jaguar, Hawk, Dornier, An-32 etc. He is also a flying instructor and test pilot with approx 2,000 hrs of flying experience. Wing Commander Shukla was born in Lucknow on October 10, 1985. Commissioned on June 17, 2006 in the IAF's fighter stream, he is a fighter combat leader and test pilot with approx 2,000 hrs of flying experience on a variety of aircraft including Su-30 MKI, MiG-21, MiG-29, Jaguar, Hawk, Dornier, An-32 etc. This story has been sourced from a third party syndicated feed, agencies. Mid-day accepts no responsibility or liability for its dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and data of the text. Mid-day management/mid-day.com reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever

28 February,2024 07:50 AM IST | New Delhi | IANS
Mark Zuckerberg. File/Pic

Ambani's wedding, swords and headsets for Zuckerberg's Asia tour

Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg was in Japan on Monday on a mini-Asia tour involving sword-making, mixed-reality headsets in Seoul and reportedly also lavish pre-wedding celebrations for an Indian multi-billionaire Mukesh Ambani's son, Anant Ambani. Zuckerberg posted footage on Sunday on social media of a "special afternoon learning about making katanas" with a sword master, including of him hammering molten metal and swinging a blade. The 39-year-old had been skiing in Japan with his family and was due to meet with Facebook developers in Tokyo on Monday and Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported. Zuckerberg was then expected to travel to South Korea where he is lining up meetings with President Yoon Suk Yeol and leaders of tech titans Samsung and LG, according to South Korean media. "Mark is planning a brief visit to the country and is scheduling some key meetings," Meta said in a statement to AFP without sharing further details. South Korea is home to some of the world's biggest tech companies, including Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, global leaders in memory chips. These two are among the few firms in the world that make high-end memory chips tailored for artificial intelligence processors. During his South Korea trip, Zuckerberg will meet the CEO of consumer tech giant LG Electronics to discuss the development of a mixed-reality headset to compete with Apple's Vision Pro, the Korea Economic Daily reported. In India Zuckerberg was set to attend the March 1-3 pre-wedding celebrations of the son of Mukesh Ambani, chairman of oil-to-telecoms giant Reliance Industries, Bloomberg said. Meta, Google and others have invested billions of dollars in Reliance's digital unit Jio Platforms as it seeks to take on Amazon and Walmart in India's vast e-commerce market. Ambani, 66, is the world's 10th-richest person according to the Forbes real-time billionaires list, while Zuckerberg is ranked fourth. The other 1,000 invitees from politics, business, Bollywood and cricket for the pre-nuptials for Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant, the daughter of an industrialist, reportedly include Bill Gates and Ivanka Trump. This story has been sourced from a third party syndicated feed, agencies. Mid-day accepts no responsibility or liability for its dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and data of the text. Mid-day management/mid-day.com reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever

26 February,2024 02:43 PM IST | Mumbai | AFP
The clock will display 30 Muhurats, tithi and all other time calculations of Vedic Hindu panchang. Photo Courtesy: AFP

World's first Vedic clock in Ujjain to be inaugurated virtually by PM Modi

The world's first Vedic clock- which will display time according to ancient Indian traditional panchang- has been prepared and installed in Madhya Pradesh's Ujjain district and will be unveiled on March 1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will virtually inaugurate the Vedic clock installed on an 85-foot high tower constructed at Jantar Mantar in the city on March 1. It is located near Government Jiwaji Observatory in the district. The clock will display information about Vedic Hindu Panchang, planetary positions, Muhurat, astrological calculation, predictions, etc and it will also show time the Indian Standard Time (IST) and the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The clock will calculate the time based on from one sunrise to another. Member of Vedic clock developing team, Shishir Gupta told ANI "The world's first Vedic clock is installed at an 85-foot high tower constructed here in Ujjain. The clock will calculate time from one sunrise to another. The time period between the two sunrises will be divided into 30 parts whose one hour consist of 48 minutes according to ISD. The reading will start from 0:00 with the sunrise functions for 30 hours (an hour of 48 minutes)." The clock will display 30 Muhurats, tithi and all other time calculations of Vedic Hindu panchang, he added. Director of Maharaja Vikramaditya Research Institute, Shree Ram Tiwari said, "It will be the world's first clock in which Indian time calculation will be displayed. The Vedic Clock is installed here as Ujjain has been considered the centre of time calculation. The Tropic of Cancer passes through Ujjain." Experts say that 300 years ago, the standard time of the world was determined from Ujjain only. A machine is present in Ujjain to find out the time. The then Higher Education Minister and now state Chief Minister Mohan Yadav had laid the foundation stone of the Vedic clock on November 6, 2022.  Also Read: How 1982 ‘Gandhi’ film inspired Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal to start the Gandhi Book Centre in Grant Road With inputs from PTI/ANI This story has been sourced from a third party syndicated feed, agencies. Mid-day accepts no responsibility or liability for its dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and data of the text. Mid-day management/mid-day.com reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever.

26 February,2024 02:36 PM IST | Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh | ANI
TK Somaiya (right) started the Gandhi Book Centre with other members of Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal in Grant Road in 1982. Photos Courtesy: Nascimento Pinto

Mid-Day Premium How ‘Gandhi’ film inspired Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal to start Gandhi Book Centre

It was November 1982 and Richard Attenborough’s ‘Gandhi’ had just been released in theatres across India. In Mumbai, TK Somaiya and fellow karyakarta (co-worker) associated with the Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal, saw how people were thronging the theatres to watch the movie featuring popular Hollywood actor Ben Kingsley play the titular character, enact the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Working with the organisation that was continuing the legacy of Acharya Vinoba Bhave, popularly known as an Indian advocate of non-violence and human rights, and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, they decided to start selling books on Gandhi outside the theatre.  He explains, “At the time, we used to sell books about Bhave but saw how so many people wanted to know more about Mahatma Gandhi. So, we put up a stall outside Regal Cinema and sold Gandhi’s autobiography and other books on him for Rs 5. They were selling very fast that we used to take as many as 40 books and it was always sold out for the next six months that the movie ran in the theatre.” Birth of the Gandhi Book CentreAt the time, the Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal situated in a quiet lane off the vegetable market near Grant Road railway station was only running as a non-profit organisation focused on continuing the legacy of Vinoba Bhave. However, after seeing the demand for books on the ‘Father of the Nation’ grow immediately after the release of the movie, Somaiya decided to take it a step further beyond selling books outside the theatre. “The ground floor used to be vacant and not used by anybody. So, the owner gave us the space to set up a bookshop and that’s how the ‘Gandhi Book Centre’ came to life,” shares 86-year-old Somaiya, who is the president of the organisation today.  The walls of the two-floor structure showcase photographs of Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave. The first floor has a section solely dedicated to an exhibition on the life of the latter, as many may not know it. Ask him if he thinks enough people know about the life of Vinoba Bhave and he says there is definitely a lot more room to get to know about him, especially for the current generation. This writer meets him on a weekday, and may have interrupted his afternoon siesta, but the face of a slightly groggy-eyed Somaiya lights up as soon as he starts talking about Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave and how the Gandhi Book Centre came to exist. In the same year the bookshop was started, the bachelor octogenarian, who used to live in Colaba before that with his family, soon moved to the first floor of theMandal’s office, which now functions as his home, to generally overlook operations.  At the time, Somaiya, heavily inspired by Bhave’s work in his early 40s, had already been working with the mandal to learn more about their work, after giving up his job as an engineer with Larsen & Toubro. Even today after all these years, the Mumbaikar is as passionate about the work they do as he was more than four decades ago as he instructs those around him to get the statistics on how many people read about Mahatma Gandhi every month. In the week leading up to the 76th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, apart from its bookshop Gandhi Book Centre, they also put up a stall at Flora Fountain. Together, they earned Rs 2.25 lakh in just six days from selling books on him across the two locations. According to the Annual Report of the Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal, they sold books worth Rs 22 lakh in 2022 – 23, showcasing the popularity of Gandhi and his teachings. “Which country do you think must be reading the most about Mahatma Gandhi through our website apart from India?” Somaiya asks. “It is the USA,” he replies, while showing us a paper with the statistics, which he insists on getting a report of every month. “Can you imagine that in January 2024, we got 2,19, 305 pageviews from the US on the website? That is how popular Gandhi is not only in India but also around the world, as people from more than 200 countries visit our website every month.” Coming in second was India at 1,10,116 pageviews, followed by Poland at 75,970. Going online for the world Having a website has proved to be a boon for the Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal. After having registered it in the late 90s, they roped in Rajesh Sinde, another Mumbaikar who started out with the Mandal as an intern to manage their digital presence but has found purpose doing the work for close to two decades. Today, the physical bookshop boasts of as many as300 titles on Mahatma Gandhi and more on Vinoba Bhave in stock that goes into many thousands. Somaiya adds, “While we sell books on Vinoba Bhave and Mahatma Gandhi through the Gandhi Book Centre here, the staff of four people is also busy sending books by post as many people place their orders online from different parts of the city and country. However, people can read books on Gandhi for free through e-books that we regularly upload on our website mkgandhi.org.”  Today, the website also has articles on the life of Gandhi, that any person around the world who wants to read about the Indian freedom fighter can read about it. Their WhatsApp group takes it a step further as they send out popular quotes by Mahatma Gandhi every morning hoping to help people start their day positively. Making Gandhi accessible to prisoners, children Since 2007, they have also been trying to inspire prisoners to read the works of Gandhi in the prisons across Maharashtra by regularly conducting sessions and even giving them free access to books about him. “We also conduct the ‘Gandhi Peace Exam’ every few months after they have done these sessions at many of the jails including Byculla jail, Thane Central Jail near us and even in Nagpur,” adds Somaiya.“There was a young boy who used to frequently go in and out of jail in Nagpur due to his different activities, so they kept him within the jail and that’s where he got exposed to the works of Gandhi through us and his life changed,” narrates the Mumbaikar. Less than a decade ago, Somaiya says he got out of jail a changed man and has now transformed his life by getting a job in Mumbai and living a happy life with his family. Beyond the prisoners, they regularly conduct the exam for school students in the city to help them learn more about Mahatma Gandhi from a young age and hope to carry forward the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi through the bookshop.

24 February,2024 09:32 AM IST | Mumbai | Nascimento Pinto
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