Read Culture News

Mid-Day Premium Aftab Poonawala, and now Rimple Jain: Inside the mind of cold blooded killers

The body was chopped into 35 pieces, bones reduced to powder, hands severed with a hammer, and body parts disposed in Delhi’s Chattarpur Pahadi jungle over a span of few months. This was a murder chronicle crafted by Aftab Poonawalla in May 2022. Forward to March 2023 in Mumbai, a murder of similar style has been reported; torso and head wrapped in a saree, limbs stored in a steel drum, and perfumes sprayed for months to cover the foul smell. The murderer was a 23-year-old girl. While the recent murder unravels in Mumbai, Delhi just reeled out of another savage murder from February 2023 where the victim Nikki Yadav was strangulated and stuffed in a fridge. Three cold-blooded murders of parallel fashion have unfolded in India’s metropolitan cities that have jolted the collective sanity of the nation. What is the striking commonality in the three cases? The victims were killed by their closest kin, i.e., a boyfriend, a daughter, and a lover. How does one’s mind sketch a cold-blooded murder with no fear of consequence? Some terms that come to our mind when we link psychology and crime are psychopath, sociopath, psychotic, etc. It becomes imperative to avoid labeling and deliberate on what psychology tells us about a killer and the context of crime. spoke to psychologists Tanvi Sardesai and Juveriya Syed, who decode the behavior patterns, triggers and mental state of killers who commit bone-chilling acts of murder. Traits of a cold-blooded killer Research suggests that a set of personality traits and behavioural patterns play a role in shaping the mind of a killer. Sardesai, a clinical psychologist from Mumbai shares, “People who commit murders may have undergone different trajectories in the past. Resultantly, the motivation behind committing gruesome murders arises from their tangential life curves.” City-based counselling psychologist, Juveriya is practicing at Family first Guidance Centre Crawford market in Mumbai. She believes that these traits differ for each person as each case is unique to the circumstances of a murderer. People who commit such crimes may have a history of exhibiting violent and antisocial behaviour. Certain observable traits are: 1. Engaging in impulsive acts of road rage and violent fights2. No control over impulse and temper3. Reduced ability to regulate emotions4. Seeking sensory stimulation through a substance or deviant acts5. Lack of empathy or remorse for the other’s pain6. Lack of respect for other’s dignity7. Suffering from personality disorders or other mental health issues8. Inability to connect with their social or familial circles What happens in the brain when people kill When a person commits an unplanned murder in a fit of rage, they tend to feel powerful and in control while performing those acts. The kill may potentially induce a rush of excitement or even euphoria. Adrenaline as well as dopamine is released by the brain which enhances their energy levels and gives them a heightened experience of being in the moment, without regrets. Juveriya shares that this feeling, however, is usually very short-lived and is often followed by feelings of guilt and regret, as the act of violence was impulsive. The murderer may have been in a rage when they committed the act, but this does not guarantee a lack of consequential thought process post-murder. What makes killers dispose of bodies in an undignified manner The act of cutting, tearing, ripping etc. in psychology is referred to as dismemberment. This can be of two types: Offensive dismemberment in which dismemberment is the primary motivation, and defensive dismemberment in which the motivation is to destroy or hide evidence. Various factors such as sexual gratification, sensation, and thrill-seeking, grandiosity contribute to a killer’s drive to dismember a body. Juveriya reveals that the act of dismemberment empowers a killer’s instincts. “It could be a way for them to exhibit power and establish that they are in control over the victim even after death.” Sometimes, the killer might feel an emotional attachment to the victim, and cutting up their body serves as an emotionally cathartic act. How Psychology classifies people like Aaftab Poonawala, Sahil Gehlot and Rimple Jain In her experience of clinical psychology, Sardesai has learned that those committing murders may often have traits of Antisocial Personality Disorder. This is characterised by a lack of concern for the feelings of others and disregard for social norms, rules and obligations. They also tend to have low frustration tolerance and a low threshold for engaging in aggression, including violence. Such people might also be prone to blaming others or offering plausible rationalizations for their behaviours. They also tend to be deceitful and manipulative while dealing with others. They may exhibit irresponsible behaviours and have trouble maintaining healthy relationships. What neuroscience has to say about the mind of a killer Researchers have been studying the behaviour of people with violent tendencies for a long time. They have come up with three main theories about why people act violently. Experts shed light on the theories: Biological theory The Biopsychosocial model describes factors such as genes, temperament, the action of neurotransmitters, and abnormalities in brain structure and function that may predispose an individual to develop Antisocial Personality Disorder. Abnormalities in the brain such as a lack of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex have been linked to crimes involving issues with impulse control. Psychological theory When the past is layered with memories of torment such as childhood trauma, unstable family environment, exposure to violence, inability to regulate emotions, and so on, are factors that contribute to the outlier behaviour. They tend to lose on their empathy front and act without fear of consequences. Sociological theory Sociocultural factors such as peer influence, comparing their social status, and trying to prove their worth, inferiority, or superiority complexes can also trigger violent tendencies among people. Hence, it's not just one thing that makes people act violently but a combination of multiple factors. Cognitive Behavioural Model This model explains disorders by considering one’s beliefs and thoughts and how these elements interact with one’s emotions and behaviours. In ASPD, certain core beliefs may contribute to how they view themselves, others and the world and this may have an impact on their actions. Other factors that can be attributed to antisocial behaviour Exposure to the violent history of crimes and media engrains the brain with explicit ideas. Outlets like violent movies and games focused on showcasing extreme sexual sadism are strongly linked with violent crimes. When one consumes such visuals for the first time, one might flinch and look away. Gradually, violence gets normalised and takes a deep seat in the human psyche. What is worse is that it empowers people with violent tendencies to learn about killing and body disposal hacks. TV shows like Dahmer, Mindhunter, Nightwalker are a rage in our society owing to the deranged leads and their unusual lives. Many of us enjoy the nerve-wracking stories as the content unfolds. However, there are always a few deviant members in society who watch it as a sport. They pick up tips that embolden them to commit murder and get away with it. Identifiers of people with deviant personalities It's important to note that not all murders happen in a planned manner; some occur in a simple fit of rage, such as the cases highlighted in today’s discussion. People who commit murders in a rage usually have issues controlling their impulses. This stems from a deficit in a neurotransmitter called dopamine in the frontal cortex of the brain. Impulse control can be observed in daily life, such as in people with addiction issues, gambling issues, road rage issues, and even binge-eating or binge-watching. All of these situations demonstrate a deficit in controlling one’s impulse or desire to do something adds Juveriya Those diagnosed with ASPD often have conduct disorder in childhood. Sardesai highlights that deviant people begin to reveal their outlier personalities right from their formative years. Behaviours seen here may include physical aggression such as cruelty towards animals, assault, vandalism, abusive behaviour, excessive lying, and delinquent behaviours such as running away from school, fire setting, etc. “When a child engages in merciless acts like throwing stones at a street dog or pulling the tail of a street cat just for fun, it tells us something very important: the child is gaining pleasure from the pain of others,” said Juveriya. Upon noticing such behaviour, the child’s mental health should be diagnosed and they should be taken for therapy. Also Read:  Dream interpreters reveal why we dream and what do they really mean

31 March,2023 11:19 AM IST | Mumbai | Ainie Rizvi
Image for representational purpose only. Photo Courtesy: istock

Mid-Day Premium How accessible are music festivals for differently-abled people in India?

Visually-impaired Ninad Pawar loves different kinds of music but was able to attend his first live concert only three years ago and the experience was like no other for him. It was simply because the music festival was equipped to handle differently-abled fans, and his wish to attend an experience was fulfilled. Now, he regularly attends music festivals with friends whenever he gets time off from work. However, the 27-year-old still faces many challenges and feels organisers need to address them, so that more disabled people can attend them. One of them being the lack of awareness about whether the festival can cater to differently-abled people, especially those who are blind like him as they would be able to attend only after they are confident of being able to get the required help when they are there.     With each passing year, India is witnessing an increasing number of music festivals catering to different genres of music. Subsequently, each and every one of them is visited by thousands of fans but somehow it seems hard to spot many differently-abled people attending them. It is not like they don’t want to attend them, but the lack of adequate facilities may often be a deterrent. This writer has seen only a handful of people in wheelchairs attend mega music festivals in the last two years after the Covid-19 pandemic. Quite a few venues had arrangements like ramps made for those in wheelchairs, among other aspects of catering to the community. However, others weren’t so friendly for those who are visually impaired like Pawar or other handicapped people either due to uneven ground or simply the lack of adequate facilities.  While this is only a part of challenges faced by those who are disabled in a public space, it is a reminder of a larger issue about the lack of accessibility in public spaces that aren’t limited to cultural spaces. Sumeet Patil, a city-based social activist who has been working towards helping make spaces more accessible to those with disabilities over the last 15 years, says the very issue has been taken for granted. At the ground level, Patil explains, "Accessibility is barely there in India and even if it is there, it is only in a few places. It is important to understand that accessibility isn't only for disabled people, it's for everybody." One that is certainly not limited to basic rights but also to that of entertainment because who doesn’t love a little art and music in their lives?  Making festivals accessible Interestingly, efforts are made to bridge the gap between accessibility and such festivals. Siddhant Shah’s Access For ALL is one such organisation and probably the only known one in India that has been at the forefront of making art and culture festivals accessible to all. They consult them on how to bring in accessibility elements to the festivals. Shah explains, "We assist with facilities such as setting up an information desk to help those with disabilities to have accessible risers, ramps, toilets, training staff and ground staff to assist a person with various needs they may have, and we are seeing an incremental change." However, he says it's a space where one size doesn't fit all because everybody's needs are different. "Every person with a special need has a different requirement," he adds.  The ‘accessibility consultant’ has collaborated with the likes of NH7 Weekender, Serendipity Arts Festival and Jaipur Literature Festival in the past, and more recently Lollapalooza’s India debut in Mumbai, to make them accessible to all. However, he says the changes are slow and can be done only one step at a time. "Accessibility is multifold and an incremental process. You will not get everything in one go because it is a process," he explains.  It is also the reason why the award-winning Andheri-based organisation has to be proactive in bringing about this change because very often it is not a part of the festival organiser’s initial plan and more of an afterthought, thus stressing on the need for Shah and his team to intervene in the planning phase. Over the last six years, the consultant, who is also a heritage architect, has approached many festivals to think about accessibility and then pitch how and why their venues can be friendly to all kinds of viewers. Now, he says more organisers are keen on focussing on accessibility than they were in the initial years. "If we reach out to 10 people, we get replies from at least seven of them, and four actually go on to consider accessibility," he explains the ground reality.  It is a stark contrast from what it was seven years ago when they started out. He notes, "At that time, the RPWD Act, which is The Right for Person with Disability Act, came into effect in 2016, after the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan, the government's Accessible Indian campaign. So, there have been a lot of efforts being made to create awareness in the domain." The fact that representation has also increased since then, he says, has helped. "Prior to 2016, there were only seven disabilities that were recognised. Now, we have 21 disabilities that are recognised," he adds.  However, accessibility in public spaces is still in the nascent stage and that means many organisers have their doubts. Since every organiser is still trying out things, they don't want to go wrong, says Shah, because it's somebody's safety at stake. "It is important to start small and get the perfect elements in place." So, when the Mumbaikar took on NH7 Weekender for the first time, they started with physical disability. They learned that the signage will not only help the disabled group but also other groups of older people with difficulties in vision to get proper signages. The use of maps, elements indicated properly and signages also went a long way at the festival.  It was no different at the first-ever Lollapalooza in India, Access For ALL set up sign language interpreters. They also set up an email id for people to contact them and address all accessibility concerns - it would help them right from the gate of the festival to anywhere inside. While it works for the particular festival, the queries and feedback also help them better understand how they can cater to people with disabilities in the future at such events. However, it isn’t easy because catering to people from the community may often be met with criticism but he is not backing down any time soon.  Challenges and solutions Even as Shah and his team has been working with festivals on a large-scale level with cultural festivals in India, Patil believes there is a lot more that should be considered not only by independent stakeholders but also organisers. While it is already being seen more in the private sector, the public sector needs to actively do it too.   When considering a music festival, the activist, who is also a visual designer, says it is important to remember that people don't particularly come to look at the performance but listen to the music. So, for those who are hearing impaired, the 33-year-old believes, there should be more provisions made. He suggests, "Since those who are hearing impaired, have hearing machines that match different decibel levels depending on their requirements, festivals should consider having these machines that are not only low-cost, but also help for those with a hearing problem.” There are also those who are deaf but can get the vibrations of sounds, which means they can listen to music. If festival organisers install a vibration creator board, which is usually wooden or a metal sheet, they will also be able to have a good time, says Patil.  However, it doesn’t only end at those who are hearing impaired but also those who need to use a wheelchair to move around, and that doesn’t only mean those who are disabled but also those who are old or find it difficult to walk. He explains, “There also needs to be stage accessibility where people can get on to the stage either with the help of a ramp or rods to use as support while climbing up the stairs; there is also a need for toilets with ramps so that everybody can access it.” If there is no availability of ramps, Patil says at least having a dedicated space for people with wheelchairs to comfortably enjoy the show is necessary.  Pawar is among the lucky few because he has managed to have a good experience at all the festivals till now including NH7 Weekender, which he attended along with another visually-impaired friend in 2022. "I have had good experiences in all the festivals I have attended till now. They weren't difficult because they had made it easy with instructions for blind people to navigate around." There were even ramps for handicapped people so that their family and friends could put them on the ramps and help them enjoy the festival. "Even the games we played there had Braille-friendly system so that we could access it. We can't see but at least, we can enjoy the festival," adds the Vasai resident, who has attended at least five-to-six festivals till now.  However, Pawar says while these venues are easier to navigate, there is still work needed in other areas. "If the area is big, it is easier to navigate for us but if it is a small venue, then it becomes a challenge because we can get hurt since there are no facilities," says Pawar, while citing the classic example of Mumbai railway stations. In such cases, he suggests that more festivals should start having volunteers to guide blind people and if that is difficult, then they should at least have proper indicators to set up at different points to help them navigate the venue.  At the most basic level, Patil steering the conversation from where Pawar left off highlights how Mumbai local trains don't have provisions for small children to climb onto the train. One mustn’t take it for granted because the Mumbaikar particularly uses children as an example to explain how short people often have a problem while commuting, and it’s no different for those who are in a wheelchair.  The fact that most facilities are provided for the masses often makes it difficult to get "accessibility for all", according to Patil. "Even our taps are at a particular height so that means children can't access them. What about those who don't have hands?" Patil asks a question reminding us how we often take disabled people for granted. Also Read: 'World’s No. 1' DJ Martin Garrix in Mumbai: I haven’t made a track with Indian sounds yet, but I’m definitely open to it

31 March,2023 09:50 AM IST | Mumbai | Nascimento Pinto
Representational images. Pic/iStock

Wellbeing plays central role in cutting down burn out in companies: Report

Organisations that focused on the wellbeing of employees had a significant impact on reducing burnout, according to a report on Tuesday. The Workplace Wellness Index report, by Great Place To Work -- a global authority on workplace culture and employee experience -- is based on a survey representing 8.94 million employees from 18 industries. The report showed that only 15 per cent of employees experience burnout in companies in the top quartile as compared to 39 per cent in the bottom quartile. The gap between companies that prioritise workplace culture and those that do not was a staggering 14 per cent. "Health and Wellness in workplaces have become increasingly important, especially in countries like India where the overall wellness score is low, and mental health challenges continue to be a growing concern," said Yeshasvini Ramaswamy, CEO, Great Place To Work India, in a statement. "Workplace wellness is inversely proportional to employee burnout, as top quartile companies with increased workplace wellness saw a decrease in burnout, while bottom quartile companies with decreased workplace wellness saw an increase in burnout," Ramaswamy added. According to the National Mental Health Survey of India, only one in 10 people with mental health challenges receive adequate treatment, highlighting the need for companies to prioritise employee well-being in the absence of suitable societal infrastructure, especially with hybrid work environments becoming a more pronounced feature of the corporate world. Further, the report also showed that people belonging to generation Z value resilience the most, while those from generation X and millennials adore fitness whereas post the Covid-19 pandemic social networking and connectedness was valued the least across all generations. Well-being is a business imperative and non-negotiable for individuals and organisations, especially as India grows to become a trillion-dollar economy. The report also showed that 80 per cent of employees at the best workplaces feel like they can work at their current job for a longer period and are willing to put in extra effort to complete their tasks than 74 per cent of employees at the other workplaces. Also Read: Mango payasam? Mumbai chefs share recipes for innovative desserts to make with the fruit this summer 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/ reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever

29 March,2023 06:02 PM IST | Mumbai | IANS
Image used for representational purpose. Pic/iStock

Ram Navami 2023: Famous Lord Ram temples every devotee should visit

Ram Navami is a Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Lord Rama, one of the most admired deities in Hinduism. Amid this festive aura, here are some famous Lord Rama temples that devotees can visit. Sri Rama Temple, Bhadrachalam: Located on the banks of the Godavari River in Telangana, this temple is one of the most famous Rama temples in India. The temple is believed to have been built in the 17th century by a devotee named Kancherla Gopanna, popularly known as Bhakta Ramadas. Ram Janmabhoomi Temple, Ayodhya: This temple in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama. The temple has been a topic of controversy for many years and has undergone several renovations and reconstructions. Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameswaram: This temple is located on the island of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and is believed to have been built in the 12th century. The temple has one of the 12 Jyotirlingas (sacred lingams) of Lord Shiva and is an important pilgrimage site for both Shaivites and Vaishnavites.Ram Mandir, Orchha - Located in the historical town of Orchha in Madhya Pradesh, this temple is dedicated to Lord Rama and was built in the 16th century by the Bundela Rajput kings. Ramnagar Fort and Ramnagar Temple, Varanasi: Located on the banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, this temple is dedicated to Lord Rama and is part of the Ramnagar Fort complex. The temple is believed to have been built in the 18th century by the Kashi Naresh (ruler of Kashi).  

29 March,2023 06:02 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Monica Chaudhary preforming in a play during her time as a theatre artist. Picture Courtesy: Monica Chaudhary

World Theatre Day 2023: Monica Chaudhary and other artists dwell on the art form

In India, entertainment and culture have always been intertwined and have evolved greatly over the years through music, poetry, dance or theatre. Since the beginning, arts and entertainment have acted as a medium to promote and pass on our rich Indian values and culture across generations thus creating its identity and theatre has been one of these instrumental pillars.   It is an art form that uses the medium of the stage to tell stories that leave a deep impact on the hearts and minds of the viewer. However, it seems to be elusive to younger audiences with entertainment today only one click away in our homes. Yet, some of the country's younger hearts are ensuring that this magic lives on and Monica Chaudhary is one of them. Importance of theatreChaudhary is a theatre artist and actor who recently delivered a striking performance playing the role of Kinchi in the recent Bollywood movie ‘Tu Jhooti Mai Makkar,’ credits her success in life, to theatre. Chaudhary was introduced to theatre while exploring her interest in acting after Arvind Gaur, a theatre director and her mentor welcomed the Bollywood actor into Asmita, a Delhi-based theatre group. It is from him that she learned the craft of theatre.She says, “Theatre educated me on various socio-cultural and political issues at a very early age. It helped me learn well and I enjoyed it. It not just expanded my knowledge about India and its culture but also shaped me beautifully. I learned to be more disciplined, dedicated as well as empathetic.” Over the years, many aspiring actors who started their journey from the stage have gone on to become big actors. Abhinavanand Singh, another theatre artist from Delhi is currently pursuing a career in acting in Mumbai. He shares, “Though there isn’t any hard and fast rule of doing theatre first to pursue an acting career, it does help. Having an experience with theatre, the process of acting in front of a camera becomes a tad bit easier.” Abhinavanand Singh delivering a performance at a play. Photo Courtesy: Abhinavanand SinghInterestingly, it is something that has not only worked for him but for Chaudhary, and that is why she urges aspiring actors to do theatre. She says, “Theatre teaches you not just to act but other skills like voice projection without the assistance of mics, diction, dancing, singing, dialogue delivery and so much more.” The rehearsals for the play, she says, have helped her build the kind of discipline that is required on sets. “The shooting of the film goes on for over 16 hours which is exhausting. Doing theatres prepared me for the shoot life. I wasn’t completely unaware of the process because I had experience with stage performances. So those aspiring to become actors should start with theatre,” she adds. Having dabbled with both films and theatre, she shares, “There are no cuts in theatre. Artists have to memorise the entire script. Shooting for cinema allows you to take a cut in case you forget the dialogue. If that happens on stage, you have to improve on the spot. Further, before delivering a final performance, rehearsals are conducted for months to perfect the play.” The fact that the audience gives an immediate response in theatre unlike in cinema where an artist has to wait for the audience’s response until the film’s release, is what keeps her going. Chaudhary recalls her former days as a theatre artist when she revelled in the applause of the audience during her performance. “My first play was based on one of the short stories by Bhisham Sahni. I remember delivering a monologue for which I received applause from an audience I couldn’t even see in the dark. It was surreal. That is when I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.” Setting the stageFor many aspiring actors, their very first stage is in school, or college and the latter is known to propel people into their careers. In Mumbai, quite a few colleges have their own theatre groups that offer students a platform to showcase their theatrical talents. St. Xavier's College, which has a history of producing great talent and is one of the top colleges in the city, has its theatre group named Fitoor, established in the early 2000s, which seeks to provide interested students an opportunity to learn the art. Yash Mishra, the present co-head of Fitoor says, “There are many students from our college who wish to do theatre. We organise workshops from time to time that educates the students about what theatre is and how it works. We also organise workshops that give students valuable insights about acting, direction, voice modulations and scriptwriting.” Recently, they invited prominent vocal artist Asif Ali Beg to speak on the importance of vocal range in theatre which received great feedback from the students. Further, the group’s participation in inter-college competitions gives aspiring theatre artists much-needed exposure. Shreevardhan Talegaonkar, a student at the college, aspires to be an actor. As an undergraduate student, Talegaonkar acted in my short films as a part of his academic projects, however, he always felt something was amiss. That is when he decided to attempt theatre. Speaking about the impact theatre has had on his life, Talegaonkar shares, “Theatre exposes you to literature. I was introduced to the works of playwrights I had never heard of. Reading plays taught me a lot about human nature and the culture that resides around us. Theatre helped me understand the nuances, the reason behind each word said, the intensity behind them. Another important aspect for a theatre artist is to observe lives. I believe those oblivious towards the life around them can never be actors.” Talegaonkar, who is still a student of the art, says, “Acting in theatre requires delivering a lot of expressions so that artist’s emotion is conveyed to the last of the person sitting in the audience. It requires strong voice modulation, powerful dialogue delivery and much more.” Acting in movies, however, he has experienced, doesn’t require exaggeration because, with the cameras placed closer to you, the subtle expression of the emotion also works. Has the interest in theatre gone down?Although many youngsters are interested in learning this art form, the audience for theatre seems to be limited and there is an important observation that Singh makes. “People are okay with spending Rs 500 on coffee in an expensive cafe but they find a Rs 200 ticket for a play expensive. We are making a deliberate choice of not engaging with theatre. This needs to change if we are to keep the theatre art alive.”   It is not his only grouse but also the fact that OTT platforms saw immense growth during the pandemic, performing arts in India like theatre suffered quite a bit because performance venues were closed. “The situation is getting better now with more plays running in theatre halls,” he says with a sigh of relief. However, since theatre has been a significant part of Indian society, Monica Chaudhary is affirmative of the art form staying relevant even today. “I don't think the popularity of theatre has gone down. Both cinema and theatre have beautifully co-existed. To date, I go to Prithvi theatre to watch plays every weekend and see that the shows run houseful. This is because it is a different art form independent of cinema. A live performance is a live performance. Nothing can replace the joy of watching a live performance.” Mishra thinks that theatre should be viewed as a standalone art form instead of purely making it an inlet to acting in cinema. He says, “Theatre should also be given the kind of importance and love acting garners. It is on people to make this change. Everyone collectively should take the steps to widen the prospects of theatre in our country.” The fact that theatre has helped spread important messages to audiences, touch upon crucial and sensitive socio-cultural issues that are otherwise not easy to address publicly, explain complex issues to Indians by acting them out, and even highlight the Indian culture is what makes it essential in people’s lives. On a parting note, Monica Chaudhary urges everyone, especially the young to hit the theatres and watch artists perform plays. “Just like we head out for a weekend getaway, attend family dinners and even make plans to watch movies with friends, we must also watch theatre or any performing art for that matter on some weekends. This way, our ancient art forms will continue to stay relevant at all times.” Also Read: World Theatre Day 2023: A day to keep ancient art form alive in digital epoch

27 March,2023 01:19 PM IST | Mumbai | Aakanksha Ahire
 World Theatre Day seeks to celebrate the art form as well as individuals who enjoy theatre. Image Courtesy:  iStock

World Theatre Day 2023: A day to keep ancient art form alive in digital epoch

India is a land of rich culture and heritage successfully passed on from generation to generation. The various art forms in the country play a significant role in passing on the culture, especially theatre. It is an impactful storytelling medium even in current times when digital screens have dominated our minds. Why? Theatre performances are more personal in nature as they are performed live. On march 27, i.e., the World Theatre Day, we bring to you its rich history, significance and ways you can commemorate the art of theatre Theatre reflects on every person’s life in some way or the other. This is precisely why audiences are left feeling overwhelmed with a blend of emotions at the end of the show. William Shakespeare has rightly said, ‘All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances.’ HistoryA lot goes into putting out a splendid play in a hall full of audiences like writing an impactful story, presenting the idea correctly, delivering powerful acting, designing costumes, and much more. To honour and celebrate the beauty and hard work of the overall theatrical production, International Theatre Institute (ITI) created World Theatre Day in 1962. ITI is the world organization for performing arts. A French playwriter Jean Cocteau delivered the first message on World Theatre Day. ITI is an initiative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and thus has its support for World Theatre Day as well. Significance of dayTheatre is a medium of expression. It has a strong historical relevance. In ancient times it played a key role in getting across social messages and has been instrumental in bringing significant changes in society. Theatre opens us to new ideas and perspectives we are unaware of. World Theatre Day seeks to celebrate the art form as well as individuals who enjoy theatre. It is commemorated to honour everyone who contributes to bringing a story to life through theatre. ThemeITI follows the same theme of ‘Theatre and a Culture of Peace’ each year. This theme highlights the role theatre plays in unifying various cultures of the world, educating audiences about different cultures and bringing about peace. On this day, several international and national events are conducted to celebrate World Theatre Day. How can you celebrate?Although we have numerous movies and OTT shows for entertainment purposes, watching the theatrical magic unfold live in front of our eyes is surreal. Here is how you can celebrate the day:1. Enroll for a theatre class or join a theatre group if you are a theatre enthusiast.2. Attend a play with family or friends.3. Act out a scene from your favourite play and put it out on social media marking the relevance of the day.4. Honour your favourite artist, scriptwriter or director and mention how they impacted your life. Also Read: International Day of Zero Waste 2023: Here are 4 easy ways to reduce your waste and build a cleaner, greener Earth

27 March,2023 12:04 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
While plays are being written in all languages, some of the best writing in the subcontinent is happening in the English language space, believe Project 87's founders. Representational photo/istock

This Mumbai initiative is putting a spotlight on Indian English language plays

There are a plethora of Indian language plays India can be proud of but very often the country’s English language plays tend to get lost in the shadows, either because of preconceived notions or from being compared to Western plays. In an attempt to revive interest in Indian English language plays, city-based playwright and director Ramu Ramanathan decided to sow the seeds to educate the public about artists who have written immersive plays that deserve to be read.  Ramanathan casually shared the thought with city-based duo Nikhil Katara and Himali Kothari, who had started the 'Readings in the Shed' initiative in 2018 to focus on the written text through readings. Katara and Kothari, who were both mesmerised by the idea, immediately got to work with a team of people looking through over 250 plays, written in the last two decades and chose 87 from them. While they have traditionally conducted readings, Katara and Kothari have approached this endeavour differently. Since launching on August 9, they have used artistic lettering to depict the name of the plays on the dedicated social media account – project87_theatre. The duo hope to encourage people to not only read the plays but also learn about the playwrights. They provide short intriguing snippets about the plays or talk about their accolades and pique interest about the playwright’s writing process.  Mid-day spoke to co-founders Katara and Kothari to understand why they created Project 87. They talk about a common misconception about Indian plays, discovering gems in the process of bringing together this project and how the pandemic has changed the way people perceive and consume the arts.  Here are edited excerpts from the interview:  What is Project87_theatre and how did it come about? Himali Kothari - Project87_theatre started with a simple thought from Ramu Ramanathan -- We know of playwrights from the West End and Broadway but we don’t really know many from Karol Bagh, Koramangala or Kolkata. So then what can we do about it? We felt that one thing we could do is bring these plays and playwrights to the forefront and hopefully generate some dialogue about their work. Perhaps, a play by a playwright from Kochi may catch the eye of a theatre company in Kanpur. At the moment, the goal is to use social media to spread the word about this project across the theatre community. Every day we will spotlight one play through our social media networks. The posts will be composed of a crisp two-line summary and mention of any awards or recognition it may have got. Each post will also be accompanied by artwork designed by Anjali Shetty who specialises in artistic lettering (Instagram handle: We would love for theatrewallahs to spread the good word and lend their voice to this effort.      Nikhil Katara, Himali Kothari and their team went through more than 250 plays and finally selected 87 of them to be a part of Project 87. Photo: Himali Kothari Why did you decide on only 87 plays?  HK - The number was not fixed beforehand, the parameters were established and since 87 plays fell within these set parameters, we stopped at 87.   Do you think the medium through which people consume plays is going to change because of the Covid-19 pandemic?  HK - Yes, the medium has changed but isn’t that true of the consumption of all art forms? Maybe, all the pandemic did was pre-empt the inevitable. More than change, I think what this time has done is added one more medium for consumption of theatre. A change in consumption may cause indigestion initially, but then the palate adapts. For more than a decade, we have been meeting up and reading plays and other texts together and discussing them. The chit-chat creates dialogue on craft, socio-political context, themes, etc. Many other theatre groups across the country undertake similar activities. For instance, playwright Swetanshu Bora’s group in Bangalore reads plays which are works-in-progress and share their thoughts with the writer. This is a brilliant support system for playwrights. Bangalore-based Bhasha Centre for Performing Arts has launched a project called The Drama Library to make scripts available to readers in digital form. Where do you see English plays written in India in the theatre landscape in the country, compared to other language plays? Do you think more needs to be done to promote them? Nikhil Katara - While plays are being written in all languages, and there are some phenomenal playwrights everywhere, some of the best writing in the subcontinent is happening in the English language space and they are brilliant. Writers like Swetanshu Bora, Faezeh Jalali, Yuki Elias and many other emerging writers are creating a treasure trove that needs reflection and consideration. Plays like Ramu Ramanathan's 3, Sakina Manzil and Mahesh Dattani's Dance Like A Man were revolutionary in their own right and had a great impact on people discussing complex themes in history and gender. A lot needs to be done to promote the plays, so that their impact doesn't fade from public memory.Each post will be composed of a crisp two-line summary which will be accompanied by artwork designed by Anjali Shetty. Photo: Himali Kothari  How did you go about looking for these plays spanning over a period of two decades? Do you have a personal favourite?   HK - First, we foraged. The bulk of this work was done by Mary George and Vipraa Vijayakar, both students of BVoc Theatre and Stagecraft at Wilson College. Based on the framework that we had created under Ramu’s guidance, they drew up a list of 250-plus plays. This needed a taskforce. We called for help and it was answered. Toral Shah and Quasar Thakore-Padamsee of QTP, Ayesha Sayani aka Pooh of Sultan Padamsee Awards, Shernaz Patel of Rage Productions, Lata Ganpathy and Mukund Padmanabhan of the Hindu. We consulted digital resources compiled by Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards and publishers like Sahitya Akademi, Dhauli Books, Orion. Abhijeet Sengupta’s playwriting encyclopaedia proved to be an excellent resource, and so many others whom we reached out to helped us in the process.  Next, this list was further whetted and tightened. It includes plays that have won awards and accolades. It also has plays that have wooed audiences plus work that has attempted to set playwriting standards.  One personal favourite? Definitely not. In fact, I rue the fact that I have not seen so much of this brilliant work. Manjima Chatterjee, V Balakrishnan and so many others who I have come to know of, thanks to this project. So, you see I have an ulterior motive here.      Are any of the plays which are a part of Project87_theatre written by Mumbaikars or have Mumbai at the centre of the plot?  HK - Plots shift and move. The details may be specific to the setting but the theme can be absorbed anywhere. For instance, Harlesden High Street by Abhishek Majumdar is set in a street in London but the frustration of migrant labour would be just as relevant in Mumbai or any other city. Vikram Kapadia’s Black with Equal is set in Jagruti Co-operative Housing Society. For me, it could be the society I live in, in Mumbai. For a theatregoer in Bangalore, he could see it as his place of residence.   Are there common misconceptions about English plays in India? How do you think more people can be encouraged to watch or listen to plays? NK - English language plays are often conceived to be extremely complex, an intellectual rumination of sorts but many plays in this space have emerged which are not only meaningful but also extremely entertaining. Colleges and universities emphasised on humanities through the medium of theatre, a successful project of the 20th century and this project must be rebooted. Theatre can speak to people because it is alive, breathing and needs everyone present to invest themselves for the stories to work. The last two years have made people realise the necessity of being in a space with others and what better space than that of a theatre? Do people need to be encouraged? I guess not, they must just know that there is a play happening and I guess they'll come. There should be more people in the space of letting others know. Are you working on something apart from Project 87? Will the audience be seeing it in a different medium? NK - These last 18 months taught us that we needed to adapt our storytelling medium and method. In 2018 and 2019, 'Readings in the Shed' averaged one show per month but in 2021 we could do only one live show - Letters of Love at the NCPA. It was recorded live and thus was able to travel to the Borderlight Festival in Cleveland and made accessible to a global audience. Limited by closure of performance spaces, we published an anthology of short stories titled ‘Readings in the Shed’ so that our stories would reach audiences.  Two new plays by 'Readings in the Shed' have been included in a collective of 50 plays across the world. These plays are commissioned by Climate Change Theatre Action and will be made available to performers globally to channel theatre to create awareness on climate change. We also joined hands with Wilson College Mumbai to start a UGC-approved BVoc in theatre and stagecraft. Currently, we are in the process of putting the finishing touches on a short film on climate change which has been the result of a collaboration with our friends in the UK 'Director's Cut Theatre Company'. This project was facilitated by a grant from the Asia Europe Foundation. The film is shot partly in India and partly in the United Kingdom and merged together through e-capabilities.Also Read: This Pune cyclist is on a mission to equip remote and rural citizens with free cycles

26 March,2023 08:35 PM IST | Mumbai | Nascimento Pinto
Director Trushant Ingle; writer and actress Asawari Naidu on the sets of Zollywood. Image courtesy: Trushant Ingle

How ‘Zollywood’ explores the zest of Vidarbha’s lesser-known zhadipatti theatre

“I wanted to show the world of zhadipatti to those who were unaware of it,” says Trushant Ingle, director of ‘Zollywood’, a Marathi film, which explores the dynamics and celebration of zhadipatti, a thriving theatre scene in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region. Prominent in the forested villages of Nagpur, Gondia, Gadchiroli and Chandrapur, together known as zhadipatti--roughly translating to trees and fields-- the local theatre of the same name presents a lesser-known picture of a region mainly shown as drought-stricken in the visuals by mainstream media. With zhadipatti, the region is in a different zone; it echoes with music, theatrical energy and people here have fun too, indulging in six-month long entertaining dramas at night post-work. ‘Zollywood’, by Wishberry Films productions, offers the viewer a glimpse into this zestful world of Vidarbha’s farmers, who eagerly await zhadipatti naatak every year. Written by Asawari Naidu, who plays Rajni in the film, the story revolves around the rivalry between production houses, known as ‘presses’ in zhadipatti, run by Aman, Raja and Dipak. While Aman (Anil Uttalwar) remains transfixed on monetary gains, his cousin Raja (Kajal Rangari) is flattered by one of the female performers and Dipak (Ajit Khobragade), a young writer passionate about social subjects, tries to preserve the essence of the theatre’s art and values through his own press. A silent observer to these events, Narayanrao, the veteran of zhadipatti, who is respected by many, worries about the future of the art form. Naidu, who has been associated with zhadipatti for over 20 years now, says the film, though fictionalised, has been inspired by multiple real life events. With a turnover of crores in just about four months, zhadipatti is the bread and butter of hundreds of people, including actors, drivers, scriptwriters, cleaners and many others from villages across the region. “It is unfortunate that nobody outside the region knew about a theatre form, a culture which defined the lives of so many people. I wanted to show different elements of it and also how integral it is to their lives, so much so that the dialogues of zhadipatti shows stay with people for years after a season ends,” says Naidu. A still from Zollywood. Asawari Naidu as Rajni performing on the stage in front of a suspended microphone. Image courtesy: Trushant Ingle Capturing the spirit in its truest form For Ingle, creating a film on zhadipatti was a long-time dream. From the time he worked as a child actor in its acts in 2005 to his stint in dramas at Mumbai’s Prithvi Theatre, the desire to bring this unexposed theatre to a larger audience always topped his aspirations as a filmmaker, which is also why he was determined to capture it in its real form. From elements such as a suspended microphone on the stage, curtain closing actions, live music, personal make-shift greenrooms for the actors, live background sound effects to the dynamics theatre operations and the excitement it generates among the people, the film offers an unfiltered version of the actual theatre scene. Moreover, most of the actors in the film are non-actors, belong to the Vidarbha region and are familiar or associated with zhadipatti in different ways. “If I had not casted the local people from that village, there would be nothing authentic about the film. I was very strict about this aspect, mainly the language dialects, the essence and spice of the theatrical acts. I wanted the fragrance of the soil and didn’t want to dilute it,” says Ingle. Naidu stresses on the commercial aspect of the theatre--also a premise of the film--wherein rivalries between presses over money is a common affair. “I wanted to show different kinds of people, genuine artists and also the commercial people who only cared about the money. There is nothing wrong or problematic about it; it’s just the way it is, similar to the way any other film industry in the city functions” she observes. A still from the street-play scene in Zollywood. Image courtesy: Trushant Ingle Talking about the evolution of the theatre over these years, Ingle and Naidu say it still operates in the same manner. While there are minor changes in the dialogues and other creative experimentations by the actors, the writers adhere to the daily-soap format for the plays, catering to the women in the audience. This is to ensure that it is purely about fun, entertainment and reflections of their everyday household events. Though predominantly a commercial theatre, the film consists of parts that reflect the director’s thought process to touch upon anti-caste expression. This is evident through scenes in the everyday life of the artists outside the theatre, which are not meant for advancing the story, but does have an impact on the viewer. Whether it is when the lead actor Dipak pays his respects to a photo of Dr BR Ambedkar and Savitribai Phule before leaving for work or a street-play where the performers talk about caste as a social evil and the need to fight back, these scenes do provide insights into the lives of the diverse communities who are involved in the happenings of zhadipatti. “When you start fighting for human rights, you won’t be able to hide it for long. Zollywood was a subject, but I was involved in it too. If I can’t put forth indicators of my beliefs and ideological perspectives through my film, then I am not there in the scene at all,” Ingle notes. Challenges in getting the film out An unconventional film bringing an unfamiliar theatre form to the big screen, in all its originality, naturally did not have many takers among the mainstream industry producers; as Ingle puts it, the issues were mainly rooted in the way the idea was perceived. The negotiations largely involved demands to give a commercial touch to the film with glamour and probably an item number, something that did not sit well with the director’s creative process. Director Trushant Ingle with zhadipatti audiences. Image courtesy: Trushant Ingle While bringing a producer on board turned out to be a two-year-long process, involving around 200 narrations, discussions with multiple producers and navigating commercial hurdles, the film was completed in merely 20 days after a collaboration with Wishberry Films. The director credits it to the unwavering dedication of the actors and crew members, who were passionate about the subject and stayed until the end without giving much thought to their personal financial gains. Moreover, accusations of defaming the theatre by stakeholders of zhadipatti in real life presented another set of challenges to the Zollywood team. This is true, especially for Naidu, who faced a ban along with the film by her own industry members. “At some point, I had to resort to police protection to travel to the village, meet with the complainants and clarify their doubts about the story,” says Naidu. While the film’s initial release date was April 9 2021, Covid-19 lockdown restrictions on cinema theatres further stalled the release until June 3, 2022. Zollywood received much appreciation for its authenticity from reviewers and filmmakers alike, including director Nagraj Manjule, who is also an inspiration to Ingle. Taking the challenges in stride, Ingle focuses on the genuineness of the work, “I am satisfied that I could make the film the same way I wanted it to be. It was my responsibility towards the theatre and its people as well. Challenges will be there, otherwise there’s no fun in the process.” A screening of the film organised by Mavelinadu Collective on July 30 in Mumbai was a full-house show with people appreciating the creators for their honest treatment of the art form and the artists. The film will soon be out on OTT platforms for the public to watch. Also read: #BoycottBollywood: Independent filmmakers decode the trend’s causes and impact

26 March,2023 08:34 PM IST | Mumbai | Sarasvati T
Mid-day editors have handpicked six feature stories to make up for your Sunday indulgence. Photo Courtesy: iStock

From health to books: Read our top features of the week

The past week has been quite festive with Gudi Padwa marking the beginning of the new year. It also saw the start of Ramadan for Muslims all around the world. The holy month of fasting has begun and with our busy lives, it can never be easy. We had a nutritionist share some friendly tips to stay fit during Ramzan. Dates, known as the ‘Sultan of Iftar’ are eaten as a customary tradition to break the fast. Besides being delicious, dates offer several health benefits that you must know about. While satiating your taste buds, don’t ignore your gut health. Good gut health is possible only when you have more good bacteria than bad ones. A nutrition coach explains how your gut health is related to hormonal imbalances. For many, visiting the dentist is a nightmare, especially when told to undergo dental cleaning. We spoke to a dental expert who explained the good and bad of dental cleaning. Since March 20 was celebrated as International Day of Happiness, we got a range of experts to share actionable tips that can be adopted to enhance happiness in our everyday lives. It was followed by World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, for which we highlighted the issues children and adults with Down Syndrome face and what more can be done to help make things better. Next up in the latest episode of Shelf Life, we bring to you the story of a bookstall located at Bhayander railway station for nearly 30 years. Over the years, it has now been converted into a multipurpose stall. Here is the complete list of the stories we brought to you in the past week: Nutrition tips for Ramzan: How to healthfully navigate fasting in the holy month If you follow a restrictive diet or have diabetes, fasting during Ramzan can be tricky. Health experts share nutrition tips to help you keep your health in order. Read more  Explained: How dates are the world’s most complete meal in itself The sultan of iftar, dates or Khajoor are one of the most standalone complete foods that provide the body with essential nutrition. Experts decode the miracle fruit and share the health benefits of incorporating dates in your diet. Read more  How is your gut health linked to hormonal imbalances Nutrition expert outlines the impact of gut health and hormonal imbalances, and lists five everyday practices that can deteriorate your gut health. Read more Can dental cleaning damage your teeth and gums? The dental expert takes us through the dangers associated with teeth cleaning and reveals that excessive scraping during a dental clean-up may erode tooth enamel, which gives rise to oral problems. Read more   International Day of Happiness 2023: Being happy through mindfulness Wellness experts share actionable mindful practices that can be adapted in everyday lives to enhance happiness Read More  Impact of Down Syndrome on family caregivers, lack of awareness, and need for inclusivity in education Children and adults with Down Syndrome face a variety of challenges every day and even as their family and friends do as much as they can, they believe a lot more can be done to make their life easierRead more  Why this bookseller at Bhayander hopes more railway stations in Mumbai keep books for commuters As Mumbai boasts of small book stalls in almost every nook and corner, the book stalls at its railway stations are a shadow of their distant past. Not only are they hardly like they used to be in their heyday but even with what remains, there are not many takers. However, one multipurpose stall manager hopes it to change Read more Also Read: Nutritionist shares expert tips for vegans to fast during Navaratri

26 March,2023 02:39 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Image for representational purposes only. Photo Courtesy: iStock

Turn your indoors from drab to delightful with these home decor tips

Your home is your sanctuary, a place where you can relax, unwind, and feel comfortable. However, sometimes your space can feel a little lackluster, and you may find yourself wanting to give it a more luxurious look and feel. Fortunately, there are several decor trends that can help take your space from drab to delightful. Sanjeev Sharma, Partner of Orionn Architects share nine ways to make your home look more luxurious. Add metallic accents:Adding metallic accents is an easy and effective way to make your home look more luxurious. You can incorporate metallic accents into your decor through various decorative pieces, such as lamps, vases, mirrors, or picture frames. Metallic finishes like gold, silver, and brass can add a touch of glamour and sophistication to any room. According to Pinterest, searches for "mixed metallics" have increased by 96% in the past year. Use statement lighting:Statement lighting is another decor trend that can instantly make your home look more luxurious. Consider installing a chandelier in your dining room or foyer, or opt for an oversized pendant light in your living room or bedroom. Unique floor lamps can also add a touch of elegance to your space. You can also incorporate dimmer switches to create a cosy ambiance and adjust the lighting to fit your mood. Invest in quality textiles:Investing in high-quality textiles is another way to make your home look more luxurious. Soft and luxurious fabrics such as silk, velvet, and cashmere can add a touch of elegance to your curtains, throw pillows, and bedding. When selecting textiles, focus on fabrics with rich colours and textures that add depth and richness to your space. Choose rich colours:Choosing rich colours is another way to make your home look more luxurious. Colours like navy blue, emerald green, burgundy, and deep purple can add depth and richness to your space. You can incorporate rich colours through your walls, upholstery, or accent pieces. Consider using a bold accent wall or painting your trim in a rich colour to create a focal point in your room. You can also add decorative pillows or a throw in a rich colour to your sofa or bed. According to Pinterest, searches for "dark interiors" have increased by 123% in the past year. Incorporate natural materials:Incorporating natural materials into your decor is another way to make your home look more luxurious. Materials like marble, granite, wood, and stone can add texture and elegance to your space. Consider incorporating natural materials through your flooring, countertops, or accent pieces. You can add a marble or granite countertop to your kitchen or bathroom, or use wood or stone flooring for your living room or bedroom. Natural materials can bring a sense of warmth and comfort to your space while also adding a touch of sophistication. Create a focal point:Creating a focal point is another way to make your home look more luxurious. A focal point can be anything that draws the eye and creates visual interest in a room. This can be a unique piece of art, a statement piece of furniture, or an eye-catching accessory. Consider creating a focal point in your living room with a large piece of artwork or a unique statement sofa. In your bedroom, you can create a focal point with a luxurious bedding set or a statement headboard. According to Pinterest, searches for "curved furniture" have increased by 176% in the past year. Layer your decor:Layering your decor is another way to make your home look more luxurious. Layering involves combining different textures, colours, and patterns to create a cohesive and visually interesting look. Consider layering your bedding with different textures and patterns, such as a plush duvet cover, a velvet throw, and a patterned accent pillow. In your living room, you can layer different textures through your furniture and decor, such as a velvet sofa with patterned accent chairs and a shaggy rug. Use mirrors:Using mirrors is another way to make your home look more luxurious. Mirrors can create the illusion of space, reflect light, and add visual interest to a room. Consider hanging a large mirror in your living room to create the illusion of a larger space and reflect natural light. You can also add a decorative mirror to your entryway or bedroom to create a stylish focal point. Mirrors come in different shapes and styles, so choose one that complements your decor style and adds to the overall aesthetic of your space. Keep it simple:Keeping it simple is another way to make your home look more luxurious. A cluttered or overly busy space can detract from the overall aesthetic and make a room look less sophisticated. Instead, focus on simplicity and clean lines to create a sense of elegance and luxury. Consider using neutral colours and simple decor pieces to create a clean and minimalist look. Choose furniture with sleek lines and avoid cluttering surfaces with too many accessories. In conclusion, there are many decor trends that can make your home look more luxurious. By incorporating elements such as metallic accents, statement lighting, high-quality textiles, rich colours, natural materials, focal points, layered decor, mirrors, and simplicity, you can transform your space from drab to delightful. These trends can add depth, sophistication, and visual interest to your home, creating a sense of luxury and comfort. When selecting decor elements, consider your personal style and the overall aesthetic of your space to create a cohesive and visually stunning look. With a few simple changes, you can elevate the look and feel of your home and create a space that feels luxurious and inviting. Also Read: Interior designers suggest tips to spruce up your home to welcome guests this season 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/ reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever

25 March,2023 06:23 PM IST | New Delhi | IANS
Nandalal Prasad has been manning the stall at Bhayander railway station for 30 years and has had to convert it from a bookstall into a multipurpose stall. Photo Courtesy: Nascimento Pinto

Mid-Day Premium Why this bookseller at Bhayander hopes more railway stations keep books

“This stall used to be filled with books all around – from one side to the other. There was not a single spot that used to be empty,” says a proud Nandalal Prasad, who sits comfortably at his stall on platform number 6 of Bhayander railway station. He talks of the time when the stall used to boast of 1,000 – 1,500 books. Even though train horns blare and announcements are heard on the speakers on a busy working day in Mumbai, Prasad seems more mesmerised and less distracted with the daily hustle and bustle with the trains, when we meet him on a busy working day, as a light summer breeze passes us indicating a train has just left the platform.  Unfortunately, today the book stall functions as a multipurpose stall with cold drinks, chips, biscuits and stationery, but books in sections of the stall are a mainstay and reminder of a not-so-distant past. “I have been able to convert this stall into a multipurpose stall only because of books and newspapers. I have made a life out of this, so if I neglect them, then there is no meaning in keeping the stall,” shares Prasad, who clearly doesn’t forget his roots. Prasad has been manning the stall for roughly 30 years after coming to Mumbai a little over three decades ago from Uttar Pradesh. The Bhayandar resident, who is fondly called ‘Nandu’ started at what used to be a fully functional bookstall as a part-timer but was soon handed over the reins by the owner to man it full-time. “I did try other jobs like working in a factory close by when I came to Mumbai but somehow, I didn’t take to it. So, when the owner of this stall told me to take it up and said he would pay me the same amount I was earning there, I happily took it up and have been here ever since,” says the happy 57-year-old. Today, he not only has a house but has also managed to educate his children, who now have jobs. While Prasad used to get a salary earlier, he became a contractor over the years, and doesn’t miss a day except when he visits his village. “My children do handle the stall when I go back to my village but otherwise, I like sitting here because I get to meet so many people every day and have different conversations with them,” he adds.  Is the Mumbai commuter reading? The stall, which has many different English, Hindi and Marathi magazines stacked behind Prasad on a section of the stall, also has over 250-300 books on the right side – inside and on display through a glass case. They are mostly Hindi and Marathi language books about subjects such as literature that include poems by Rabindranath Tagore along with works by Premchand as well as popular stories from Panchatantra. There are also books on science, magic and religion with catchy book covers that are sure to intrigue passersby. While these are the lighter reads, the stall also has books on the Indian Constitution, along with study books for college students and those preparing for government exams adorn the glass cabinet but have very few takers.  Prasad has over 250-300 books and magazines at his stall including literary works by Rabindranath Tagore and Premchand (left) as well as academic books (right). Photo Courtesy: Nascimento Pinto “Earlier, there used to be many people who used to come to buy these books, but the numbers have reduced a lot over time. Today, small children don’t come at all, and youngsters aren’t interested in reading books because they are with their mobile phones. It is a stark contrast from over 20 years ago,” says Prasad matter-of-factly. The stall is frequented only by adults who have been coming over the years and pick up newspapers and magazines and some books before they board the train. He adds, “Nowadays, there are people who come but after showing them the books, they say they will buy them online or read online.” While he is not a reader, Prasad flips through the pages a little to see why people must have asked for it at such times. Among the many different languages, it is the Hindi books and magazines that are most popular. Readers come for the likes of Grihashoba, Meri Saheli, Sarita, Satya Katha and Manohar Kahaniyan, which are really popular. How Covid-19 pandemic affected the bookstallAs if the lack of enough readers wasn’t hard hitting, the Covid-19 pandemic came along and decided to play spoilsport for the Mumbaikar, who opens the shop at 6:30 am and closes it by 9:30 pm every day. “After the lockdown, people stopped reading and buying books or newspapers like they used to before. So, I was forced to make it a full-fledged multipurpose stall to sustain it.” Unsurprisingly, the change seems to have attracted more customers to the stall than when it had books. Prasad barely has any time from attending to commuters looking to buy a quick bottle of water or chilled flavoured milk bottles to quench their thirst while waiting to board their train to town. “Earlier, when there were books, there was a time this stall was so busy, people couldn’t stand for even two minutes here,” he adds. Today, that has visibly changed.  Interestingly, Prasad’s stall is one of few on the Western line that still have books, the other being at Mumbai Central railway station, he tells us. However, the Mumbaikar says he has heard that there is a stall coming up at Vasai station but wonders whether it will be a canteen or book stall-multipurpose stall. He explains, “There should be book stalls at railway stations because a lot of people do complain that newspapers are not easily available online and neither are magazines as much and they depend on this every day, apart from those who read.” Even though the demand for books is less, it is clear Prasad hopes there are more book stalls at railway stations in Mumbai. After all, he has managed to make one survive for 30 years. “You can call it public service or a business, whatever you like, but it's been like that at this stall,” he shares. So, it is no surprise when he tells us that if things get better, he will change it back to a book stall. “Then, I will only keep books here. Even now, I make sure to get books for commuters who don’t find them here,” he concludes. Also Read: Here is why dates are the 'superfood' that you need to add to your diet

25 March,2023 01:27 PM IST | Mumbai | Nascimento Pinto
This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK