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Driven by the pandemic, the online higher education and life-long learning market in India is poised to reach $5 billion by 2025, a new report has said. Online higher education is emerging as the fastest growing sub-segment of the edtech sector. The user base for online higher education grew by 75 per cent in 2021, despite a three times growth in the average ticket size compared to the K12 segment. In fact, the market size for online higher education in India is now comparable to the largest edtech segments (K6-12 including test preparation), the report showed. According to Bengaluru-based market research firm RedSeer, the macro-economic factors that will drive this growth include relaxation in regulations governing degrees, supply-side capacity gaps, realisation of the need for higher education among students and professionals, and transition to the credit system. “India’s booming edtech market, which saw multiple startups and increased funding during the pandemic, is expecting further boost on the back of growth in higher education and lifelong learning segments. It’s safe to say that online higher education has impressed us all by emerging as the fastest growing sub-segment,” said Abhishek Gupta, engagement manager, Redseer. The unbundling of courses and democratisation of access unquestionably boosts the demand for online higher education and also increases the completion rate. Another growth driver is the supply-side capacity gaps. India has supply-side constraints in education infrastructure (especially for specialised courses). Transition to the credit system as well as the realisation of the need for higher education by students and working professionals is further contributing to the boom in this sector. The market for online lifelong learning also will expand further with “further push after Covid as the economic uncertainty further establishes the need for continuous learning,” the report said. Apart from Covid, existing skills getting increasingly redundant, job creation lagging behind new additions to the workforce annually, and a mismatch between industry requirements versus education curriculum in colleges are the other reasons for growth. The findings also saw that there was a steep uptake in M&A (mergers and acquisitions) activity as well in the online higher education segment. 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.
When Kuldeep Kolhe lost his job due to the economic crisis in 2008, the future looked uncertain. During one of the many walks he would take in that difficult period, somebody he met on the streets of Churchgate suggested that he start selling books. Back then, the digital boom was only in its nascent stages and physical books were still in demand. That is how the jewellery craftsman took to selling pearls of wisdom outside the Vasai railway station.  Twelve years later in 2020,another hurdle appeared in the form of pandemic lockdowns, but the 39-year-old had learned to adapt with the times. While fiction and non-fiction books are the mainstay at Kolhe’s stall, he decided to expand into stationery sales to meet more needs of students. Now, as things have opened up in full swing, his wife handles the new business, while the Nallasopara resident comes to Vasai to run his cherished bookstall.  Over the years, Kolhe, who hails from Amravati, has sold from various spots around the train station but has found a permanent place now a few paces away from the exit, at a building owned by an avid reader. He is the go-to man in the area for students interested in picking up the latest self-improvement, science-fiction or thriller title. Signs of changing timesThe location is ideal for Kolhe as it is not only visited by students from nearby colleges and curious bystanders but also by people who are just about to board the autorickshaw. At his stall, Kolhe stocks as many as 500 books, which are available in the English, Hindi and Marathi languages, starting at Rs 100.“Earlier, I used to get readers who were interested in love stories and crime books but over the years, that trend has changed, especially after the pandemic.” He says more people now want to read about start-ups, motivational and self-help books.  This has even made him change the way he positions his books at his stall. While earlier he used to have some interesting popular titles including the likes of Khalid Hosseini and Hussain Zaidi, now popular books such as ‘Ikigai’ and ‘Do Epic Shit’ are seen at the front. More people prefer to read foreign authors over their Indian counterparts today, or authors that are actively promoting their books on social media, he observes. Kolhe himself also finds solace in a popular financial literacy book — ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter. Covid-19 and the digital futureLike many other businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic, which fast-tracked the digital boom, affected his business. The blows of 2016’s demonetisation had lingered too. Kolhe admits that while he was initially scared about whether he would be able to continue or have to shut his business, he doesn’t think about it anymore and will cross that bridge when it comes. “My business was good till 2019 before the pandemic but reduced after that. However, it is picking up since 2022. While I used to sell 50-60 copies a day earlier, I now sell about 20-25 copies a day,” he says. Kolhe says he is all about encouraging the reading habit among youngsters. “Most of my customers are young college students, who don’t have the money. So, I give them the book for Rs 100 and give back 50 per cent of that amount when they return it. There is no time limit on that,” he explains. While the rates may differ now, he has been following a similar approach ever since he started the bookstall.  Student-first approach Kolhe shares that it isn’t always easy for students and aspiring writers. While small-time authors in the city keep books with him, they don’t always sell. However, they are happy to grab at least a few eyeballs along the way. On the other hand, students who hope to write or are struggling to get published sometimes ask him for advice or share trials and tribulations such as how their stories were stolen. The ones who have been able to self-publish, insist on taking the money from him only after he has managed to sell their books and never before that. Every time, life has thrown Kolhe a challenge, he has adapted to come out of it. Even as he faces stiff competition from online retailers, the Mumbaikar is boosting his digital services too — he tells clients to ‘WhatsApp’ him the cover of any book and he will source it for them. When students thank him for lending them books, from which they get newer perspectives on life, Kolhe feels fulfilled. Interestingly, he hasn’t read most of these books. “They (students) say I have a lot of knowledge about books but actually I don’t. I have been learning from the customers who buy from me every day, and tell me about them.”
In a session full of laughter and wisecracks, Indian children’s book author Sudha Murty conducted the crowd like a teacher in a classroom during her session ‘My Books And Beliefs’ with Mandira Nayar. It was one of others that got Day 2 of the Jaipur Literature Festival 2023 off to a refreshing start. While sharing her wise words with the audience that included not only children but also parents and other young adults, she narrated several instances of how she learned from her daughter. One of which involved helping a talented individual but did not make her get into action the first time she heard it. At the time, Murty’s daughter Akshata, who was 15 years old, reminded the author about her privilege. Murty narrates, “My daughter said if you don’t want to do social service, don’t expect anyone to do it. She was upset about it and went away.” However, her daughter’s words troubled her as she went for a university meeting. Since it was delayed, Murty had some time to ponder over her words and realised quite a lot. She explains, “My daughter had asked me, ‘What’s your aim in life?’ The first 25 years I had worked for myself to get the first rank because I wanted to show in engineering college that girls are as good as or even better than boys. I joined engineering college 55 years ago and there was not a single lady.” Over the next two decades after that, Murty says she did different jobs without a salary at Infosys with Narayan Murthy, her husband and founder of the company. After she let go of her responsibilities at the technology company, she had a lot to ponder about. “So, what do I look forward to in life? I thought about it for three days and then started my foundation. So, my daughter is my guru. She woke me up and said ‘Amma, what is your duty? And that duty has given me tremendous fulfilment in life.” One that she says could never be given by any awards, rewards or even the Padma Shri that she was awarded by the Government of India in 2006. “The reward or joy from helping poor people has given me tremendous satisfaction. Thank you to my daughter Akshata for waking me up and asking me the question,” she adds. It is also the reason why the Indian educator and philanthropist says she often tells mothers that their children are smarter than them and the parents can take a cue from them that could change their life.  Interestingly, Murty’s learnings come from years of dealing with different kinds of situations, and one that seems to have had a competitive streak where she went against her family’s wishes to pursue engineering. A time in her life she explains, after a prod by Mandira Nayar. She says, “I finished my pre-university in 1967 and I got very good marks,” continuing to joke by saying she was born in a good time because there wasn’t too much competition. She explains, “I come from a small town in northern Karnataka where people thought a woman can’t become an engineer and that something was wrong with my brain and said it is a man’s domain. When I said I like Applied Science, there was so much of a shock in my house in Hubbali. My father was a doctor and said if you speak well, you connect with people, you will be a good lady doctor. My grandfather said you are very fond of history, you can do History and a PhD and be a teacher, he said ‘ras’ nahi hai engineering main.” It was not only her father and grandfather but also her grandmother who had concerns, but those that were different from them. “She said who will marry me in my community, but she didn’t know across the river existed Narayan Murthy,” she shares. On the other hand, her mother who was a school teacher had said she could do MSc (Master in Science) in Mathematics and become a professor. She adds, “She said that will be accepted and you will get three months holiday and you can look after the family but I said no, I want to do engineering because any change in society is with the help of applied science.” Murthy not only went on to get the first rank in the first semester but also helped the boys in their assignments in the future at the university. “Knowledge is not anybody’s domain; it is not a boy’s domain or a girl’s domain. It is the domain of the people who study with honesty,” she reminds.   Also Read: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: Feisty women seem to arouse controversy
When Kochi-resident Vidya Mukundan was asked to design a gender-neutral uniform for Valayanchirangara government Lower Primary School in Ernakulam, Kerala, she was excited because she had experienced the difficulties of performing extra-curricular activities in skirts. “Girls are body conscious, and the idea was to offer them comfort. The most important aim was to allow girls to be free by enabling freedom of movement,” shares the self-taught designer. The two piece ensemble she came up with — 3/4th shorts and a shirt — earned unanimous praise. “The uniform treats them as kids, not discriminating between them as boys and girls. Many female students seem more confident, and they are especially happy about having pockets,” adds Mukundan. Her friend Dr. Binoy Peter, former academic chairman and Parent Teacher Association (PTA) president of the school, had roped her in for the assignment. She researched international schools with gender-neutral uniforms and attempted to iron out common problems faced by them. Valayanachirangara first introduced the uniform in 2018 for lower and upper kindergarten classes. “Parents and children were comfortable and we received positive feedback. We then decided to implement this for everyone till grade 4. The pandemic stalled the execution, but now all students have been wearing the same uniform and the response has been good.” School uniforms are among the most prominent visuals most people recall when they think of school. However, uniforms are much more than a tool for identification or an imagery of kinship—they are gendered. Most uniforms have enforced societal constructs of gender for centuries now in areas of work and education across the globe. Questioning the nature of school uniforms is critical, because of the multi-faceted significance of clothing, from appearance to function. For example, wearing trousers means increased mobility, and individuals regardless of gender might simply prefer them. In Mumbai, Andheri East school Tridha has in place a gender-neutral uniform—a kurta for regular days and t-shirt on sports days. Students from kindergarten to grade 10 can choose bottom wear of their choice (provided it is comfortable and knee length). “When we were to decide on a uniform, our priorities were very simple–it had to be comfortable, joyous, and gender-neutral. Why gender-neutral? Because all the activities done at the school are gender-neutral.  Be it sports, handwork, woodwork or cooking,” explains Ruth Mehta, the trustee and acting head of Tridha. Students of Tridha, a school in Andheri East, are free to wear whatever feels comfortable. Pic/Tridha school  “I think gender-neutral uniforms are a good idea. Wearing skirts really bothered me in the beginning. In skirts you can’t run fast, it decreases agility. It’s harder to sit in them as compared to pants where you don’t need to cover anything. In our school (Poddar International), the skirts are knee length, we have a wrap-around skirt with a belt but when the wind blows, the skirt lifts so we need to wear beige shorts. We even had pink clothes for girls and blue for boys but after the students protested, the school introduced blue for all,” shares 12-year old Dishi Parekh. Dishi’s father Neerav Parekh voices his concern, “My daughter generally has a very strong opinion about uniforms. My wife and I both believe uniforms need to be gender-neutral. Girls have to be conscious all the time that their skirts will fly with the wind blowing. Trousers are much more comfortable, my daughter doesn’t wear skirts at home. We need to keep in mind that these young kids have been at home for two years. I’m worried as a parent, she’s not used to skirts and she travels alone in an auto. Not having a pocket is also troublesome because they carry phones since they commute by themselves. We would have preferred that the school allowed kids to wear what they want. Society needs to acknowledge and talk about this.” Experts agree. “The freedom to wear what one wants allows an individual the choice of comfort and utility while at the same time expressing their individuality, creativity, and freedom,” explains consultant psychiatrist and de-addiction specialist Dr. Sneha Sharma. “That’s why when one has to conform to social norms some individuals can feel restricted, uncomfortable, and unauthentic which can impact self-esteem and personality. This may also lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment if the culturally appropriate demands are not met.” Outlining the impact of school uniforms, she adds, “In one’s formative years this can force gender roles and stereotypes which can impact an individual’s potential and further strengthen prejudice. For example, wearing skirts makes it difficult to compete in physical sports due to the fear of being exposed so boys have a certain advantage in participating in physically challenging sports, hence reinforcing the belief that boys are better at sports.” Besides functional use, clothing plays a huge role in gender expression. “Traditionally clothes have played a strong part in defining gender norms. It makes sense that a challenge to conventional clothing is a normal part of asserting independence and creativity in gender expression,” observes Sharma. “Gender-neutral uniforms should be the norm. If we say that both girls and boys have the same rights, then in every single way this should be adapted. I feel girls would feel more confident and comfortable when they have pants and shirts in their daily school rather than wearing a dress or skirts which restrict their physical activity,” says Payal Pobari, mother of three-year-old Yuveer. “I was in a convent school, with a pinafore dress, shirt and tie. While that was a default way of life for me, now as a mother to a young girl, I often wonder how it is always the girls who are expected to restrict their movements, and body language in certain ways to fit society standards. Being a designer I have also realised that a simple switch in clothing choices makes a world of difference in the freedom we offer them,” observes Yaman Banerji, mother of an eight-year-old.   “We should let the kids be kids, and enjoy their childhood while keeping away the urge to apply gender roles even subconsciously. We are also lucky that a lot of stigma around the LGBTQIA+ community is being lifted and acceptance is on the rise, along with a lot of open communication about the same. On the same lines, it would be a welcome change to have gender-neutral uniforms in schools. After all, after the home, that is where the child spends a substantial time of their life and builds their value system,” concludes Banerji. Also Read: Transgender Awareness Month: Dating as a gender queer person in India
Stuti Yadav* from Malad Malwani, an underdeveloped area in suburban Mumbai, was made to leave school in 2017 and quickly married off by her father to someone in their village in Uttar Pradesh’s Jaunpur. Her mother, who has a hearing and speaking impairment, had no knowledge of this. “I did not want to drop out. I had just passed my ninth grade and wanted to study further,” says the 21-year-old, who was 17 at the time. “I resisted initially but my father started crying and was scared I would run away with someone like my elder sister. I was of the view that my father cares about me and would have planned the best for me. My mother was shocked when I returned,” she recalls. Yadav, now separated from her husband, is trying to find work and complete her education in the city. As offline classes resume in a phased manner across several states in India, bringing children—especially girls—who have lost touch with education back into schools will be a priority for education rights activists, community volunteers and government authorities. Nearly 42 percent of females, from age 3 to 35 years, were currently not attending educational institutions, according to data collected by the National Statistical Office (NSO) between July 2017 and June 2018. The problem has worsened during the pandemic. The socio-economic impact of lockdown disconnected a large number of learners across India, specifically those who belonged to underprivileged sections of society, from formal education. UNESCO estimates hold that school closures due to Covid-19 have affected 320 million learners in India from pre-primary to secondary levels of education. Girls accounted for 141 million, or 41 percent, of those affected. In the state of Maharashtra, ever since the pandemic, a total of 2,399 children—including 1,129 boys and 1,270 girls—have dropped out of school, according to data provided by Child Rights and You (CRY). CRY says it has managed to re-enroll a little over half of them — 638 boys and 702 girls. Mandar Shinde, member of Pune-based child rights network Action for Rights of Children (ARC), says many girl students in their area of jurisdiction are still registered in schools but have stopped attending classes, and hence are not considered ‘dropouts’ yet. He adds that it is too soon to estimate the number of actual dropouts over the year. With an increasing digital divide and unequal access to resources, gender disparities are widening across all levels of education. Additionally, a surge in child marriages—the National Crime Records Bureau found such cases jumped 50 percent from 523 in 2019 to 785 in 2020—is also contributing to more and more girls dropping out of school and college education. The burden of child marriage UNICEF estimates find that at least 1.5 million girls under 18 get married in India each year. Marriage is the major reason why 13.2 percent of enrolled females—12.4 percent in rural areas and 15 percent in urban—do not currently attend any educational institution. This is as per the NSO data cited above. In Yadav’s case, she was promised that she would be allowed to study further after marriage but what followed within months was pressure to conceive a child, domestic violence and harassment by an alcoholic husband which finally led to the couple’s separation. For Yadav, the separation meant the end of a tormenting year, making her a little hopeful. She returned to Mumbai last year and despite societal and family pressure to marry again, plans to educate herself and her siblings. “I have decided to study further with my own money and my father has agreed. I want to earn and take care of my family as well,” she says, adding that she will be applying to take the tenth standard exam privately next year. While her younger siblings are still engaged in formal school education and managing to attend online school classes, Yadav is currently on the lookout for jobs to support them and herself. ARC’s Shinde says at this point, his organisation’s focus is on bringing such children back to school by tracking them and assisting them with resources. “If we receive cases of a girl child marriage, we try to stop it. But if we cannot, the state Child Welfare Committee takes up the cause of rehabilitation of children who are married off.” Aspirations vs domestic expectations According to the NSO data, as of 2018, 32 percent of females in rural areas and 27 percent in urban areas, were not attending education in 2018 because of domestic work. “My elder daughter had to drop out of school in seventh class because of my deteriorating relationship with my wife. She had to leave school and take care of younger siblings and other chores at home,” says Suhas Chavan, who works as a housekeeper at a private company in Pune. Chavan’s daughter Raksha*, who used to study in a municipal school, has since been at home dealing with the family crisis, with no opportunities available to study further or learn new skills. Completing her education and getting a job are uphill challenges for the 15-year-old. “I want to enroll her again in school but the situation at home does not allow that. How will she study now when she cannot learn the English language quickly or remember anything that she has learnt? And I don’t want her to work. We can manage ourselves financially,” her father says. Raksha’s three younger sisters have continued to attend online classes on one phone that Chavan bought during the pandemic. He says the three will go to school once offline classes begin for their age groups. Both Yadav and Chavan’s eldest daughter were forced to put aside aspirations and compromise their independence to shoulder household responsibilities at a tender age. How digital gaps hurt For 17-year-old Almas Khan’s younger sister, who is studying in Class 7 at a Municipal school in Malad Malwani, attending online class every day was a task as the family did not have enough money to spend on internet services or mobile data. “There was only one phone and three people to study. My sister used to visit her friend’s house to study but even that could not last for a long time. My father cannot work since he was grievously injured in an accident. In that case, paying for mobile data is a privilege,” says Khan, who herself is grappling with finances to secure admission in a first year bachelor of commerce (BCom) course in a nearby college. Khan fears that her younger sister will have to leave school after passing seventh class, the final level of upper primary municipal school. The fear, she says, is valid, given that she was forced to quit school after tenth class, due to financial constraints. In 2019, she managed to resume Class 11 studies at a night college with financial assistance from teachers, a few debts and small scale jobs at home. Lockdown hit during her first year final exams, and like her younger sister, she too attended online classes with her friends and cleared the 12th class board exams with 76.5 percent. According to the Centre for Budget and Governance Ability (CBGA), only 33 percent of women in India had access to the internet, in contrast to 67 percent of men. Further, the NSO data reveals that only 24 percent of Indian households have an internet facility. According to Shinde, most of the children from marginalised communities were attending government schools so education and related entitlements were available for free up to the seventh or eighth standard. The pandemic disrupted this system with online classes and lack of access to digital infrastructure pushed children from marginalised communities, especially girls, out of school. Ongoing efforts and scope for action Mumbai’s Zarin Khan, community organiser at Nakshatra Network which works for girls’ education and health, says she and her colleagues have been constantly visiting girls who are willing to get back to school and convincing their parents to re-enroll them. According to Khan, the group has managed to re-admit six girls this year to school or college and is currently in touch with 35 more girls in the Malad Malwani area. “We have also been gathering groups of girls and allowing them to study together since there are a limited number of phones,” Khan adds. Education rights volunteers believe there is not much that they can do if the families have shifted to their native places after losing their source of income in cities during the lockdown. When asked how schools can help bridge the gap between the number of girls enrolled and those attending online or offline classes, Shinde states that schools must first get in touch with local authorities such as Zilla Parishads or Municipal Corporations to identify vulnerable groups of children and ensure that they are attending school. Second, schools must provide basic necessary facilities such as transport, books and uniforms to such children at the earliest. “Finally, schools must declare out-of-school and dropout cases as an educational emergency as any child left out of school is a potential victim of child marriage or child labour,” Shinde adds. Organisations have also been conducting classes to help children work on their basic skills and recover from learning losses. According to Nilendu Kumar, General Manager, Development Support of CRY, volunteers are also conducting bridge classes, where they take language, maths and science lessons, for children from marginalised communities in rural and urban areas, to ensure they are smoothly integrated into the offline system. Says Kumar: “Children have faced a loss of education for more than one and a half years. This has been the biggest casualty. In the case of girls, if you have to prevent them from getting married underage, you have to ensure that you connect them to education in some or the other way.” (*Names of all the girls have been changed to protect their identity) Also Read: How parents and students can prepare for in-person classes in the new normal
Receiving an education forms a very integral part of a person’s life and in India, the emphasis on learning has been existent for as long as one can remember. The process of getting good grades to secure admission in a good college starts very early in most families. It is also what sets the tone to subsequently get a good job in a reputed organisation, which is a sign of security in most Indian homes.  In India, National Education Day is celebrated every year on November 11 since 2008. The day was chosen because it is also the birth anniversary of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who was the first education minister of India. While Azad passed away over 60 years ago, his legacy lives on through this day through the various institutions he started to help encourage education in India. In 1992, he was posthumously given the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India.  Here are five other interesting facts about Abul Kalam Azad on his birthday:  Birth of changeSayyid Ghulam Muhiyuddin Ahmed bin Khairuddin Al Hussaini or Abul Kalam Azad, as he is more popularly known, was born on November 11, 1888 in Mecca, which is a part of present-day Saudi Arabia. While his father, who was a reputed scholar lived in Delhi, the family eventually moved to Kolkata in 1890. Interestingly, Azad was home-schooled in various subjects and was fluent in Arabic but it wasn’t long before he learned Hindustani, Bengali, Persian and English.  Becoming a journalistAzad rose to prominence because of his journalism, which he started when he was just 11 years old by publishing a poetic journal called ‘Nairang-e-Alam’. He was also the editor of a weekly called ‘Al-Misbah’. It was only the start for Azad, as he went on to contribute to many Urdu publications including ‘Vakil’, an Amritsar-based newspaper, for which he was also the editor in 1906 briefly before he came back to resume the role till July 1908.   Writing for independenceIn 1912, Azad started a weekly newspaper called ‘Al-Hilal’ in Kolkata, which heavily criticised the policies of the British but not without talking about the many difficulties faced by people every day. Even though it got banned in 1914 under the Press Act at the time, he continued to voice his opinions and even started a journal called ‘Al-Balagh’, which was also banned in 1916 and was followed by his arrest and subsequent time in jail till 1920.  Foundation of education While Azad was immersed in politics after joining the Indian National Congress and learning about Gandhi and his philosophy, he also sowed the seeds for education. After he became the president of the Khilafat Committee, he along with Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari and Hakim Ajmal Khan founded the Jamia Millia Islamia university in Delhi, without the help of the British, and for Indians who wanted to pursue a higher education.  In a post-independent India, Azad worked closely with India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to create programmes for the construction of schools and colleges to encourage children and teens to get the opportunity to receive primary education. It was also during this time that he served as the first education minister of India from August 15, 1947 to February 2, 1958. He laid an emphasis on the education of girls and those living in rural India. Azad was also the chairman of the Central Advisory Board of Education. During his time as the head, he pushed for full and compulsory education for all children till the age of 14, literacy among adults and the opportunity to explore secondary education and vocational courses.  Instrumental in setting up institutionsAfter Azad set up Jamia Millia Islamia university, he was also instrumental in overseeing the formation of the Central Institute of Education, which is currently known as the Department of Education of the University of Delhi. He also encouraged the idea of starting the Faculty of Technology at the same university, and the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru. Four years after he assumed his role as the first education minister of the country, Azad was responsible in starting the first Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur with the help of the Ministry of Education. He saw it as a means for furthering higher technological education and research in the country.  Maulana Abul Kalam Azad passed away on February 22, 1958 at the age of 69 with a legacy that speaks for itself at the various educational institutions across the country. Also Read: Why it is urgent to address caste-based discrimination in Indian medical institutions
“I still haven‘t been told who these people are,” says Indian filmmaker Onir, continuing, “If as a person, I have been threatened with violence, I have the right to know who these people are who want to attack me and why.” A week after his session at the Bhopal Literature Festival was cancelled, Indian filmmaker Onir came to the Jaipur Literature Festival 2023 to talk about gender, sexuality and the many challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community in India. The Indian filmmaker known for ‘My Brother… Nikhil’, in a session ‘I Am Onir’ at the festival held annually in the Pink City, revealed his disappointment about the incident and with the organisers for not sharing more details. “I was supposed to be at the Bhopal Literary Festival and was on the way to the airport when I was told that there were certain protests by certain groups and the police cannot guarantee my security, so I was dropped,” he narrates. He expressed sadness especially because he had spent considerable time in the city shooting a film right after the 2018 Supreme Court reading down of Section 377. It was one that not only celebrated the verdict but also recreated the Pride March in it and participated in the Pride March in Bhopal. The reasons given to him are that his social media accounts are being scrutinised and he was not the right candidate either. However, he has moved on because soon after he visited the Calcutta Literature Festival and has now made his way to Jaipur. LGBTQIA+ community and films It is not only culturally but also in entertainment that Onir has seen a reluctance, and not only at the filmmaker level but also with the ministry. While the filmmaker believed that things would open up for the community especially after the verdict in 2018, he was met with a recent disappointment. “In 2005, when I made ‘My Brother… Nikhil’, it got a U certificate without cuts and in 2022, when I was trying to make a film, which was inspired by an ex-army man about him being gay, the script got banned by the Ministry of Defense. So, forget about making the film, it was even before that,” he reveals. “I was not creating something fictitious, and I meant no disrespect for them,” he adds.  The Indian filmmaker said nobody wanted to engage in a dialogue with him about why it was not approved, even after he suggested it and was open to discussion. “The Secretary of Defense said it is derogatory for the army and a threat to national security. I’ve been thinking that I have been doing workshops with the army in Kashmir, so, in a way I was working for the army.” While approvals are now a hurdle, even if that goes through, he still believes a lot more needs to be done with respect to representation of the community in films, not only for lesbians and gays but also for the trans community. He shares, “I feel that the trans community has been most misrepresented in cinema, even more than gays and lesbians.” He also dwells on the fact that whenever he sends a queer narrative for approval there is always a hurdle. “I am very often told, ‘we are taking baby steps, this is a little too much’.” It is not only the approvals but also when his colleagues tell him they are making ‘his’ kind of films that he finds very troublesome because he asks, “What is ‘your’ kind of film?” When I make a film about heterosexual characters, I don’t go out telling people I am making your kind of film.” It is not the only issue as he also said that Indian films are currently in the phase of being made with a lens that shows the acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community in society, even though it has come a long way from ‘My Brother… Nikhil’, there is still more work to be done. Read More: How Sudha Murty aced engineering to show people girls are better than boys
In tune with our vegan series, experts delve deeper into the nutritional value of ‘Tempeh’ and its steady rise as a plant-based diet. Parallelly, this week we celebrated National Cheese Day with Mumbai chefs who shared four recipes for a variety of mouth-watering cuisines that you can prep up in no time. Along with food, we spotted Persimmon: A medium-sized light orange fruit that chefs are using as a secret ingredient to enhance flavours in their dishes. With festivals kicking in, we spoke to the production and curatorial team behind the Van Gogh 360 show to learn about the essentials that go into crafting an event of this scale and style. In literary arts, travelled to the Jaipur Literature Festival 2023 to interact with authors and filmmakers on their latest pursuits. Following up on commute but making it cute, we spoke to two city-based fashion influencers who dish handy tips for men to ace their office looks despite long hours of traveling to work. When it comes to office, nobody is spared from politics. An expert administrator shares easy hacks to emerge as a winner at work. Here is the complete list: 7 tips to manage office politics Navigating office politics can be challenging. You can’t escape it but you can bend the rules to make it serve your ultimate goal Read More Veganuary: Tempeh is the plant-based protein you might be missing out on A traditional Indonesian dish that has become a staple in the vegan diet, tempeh is high in protein, and gut-friendly. From its nutritional prowess to its increasing popularity, experts help us further our understanding of tempeh and its steady rise Read More Men’s style hacks: How to look stylish at work even after travelling by crowded Mumbai local train The struggles of travelling by the Mumbai local train are known to all and more often than not, people step off the train with stained or torn garments, and broken belts and buttons too, making it difficult to look good when you reach the office. While women have aced it, men can do with some tips, and two Mumbaikars dish them out from experience Read More National Cheese Lover’s Day: Mumbai chefs share cheese recipes for you to ace at home Whether you are fond of delicate mozzarella, or bold cheddar, the idea is to indulge. Mumbai chefs have shared four cheesy dishes across a variety of mouth-watering cuisines for you to whip up in no time Read More Immersive Van Gogh 360°: Hosts reveal how the experience was crafted A one-of-its-kind experience will transform walls and floors into walkable sublime art that the viewers can sink into. The visceral show will be accompanied by an Education Room where the patrons can learn about the maestro’s art and life Read More Persimmon: How Mumbai restaurants are using the seasonal winter fruit Seen on most fruit sellers’ cart as a bright orange bulb, persimmon is a fruit that is eaten by quite a few people but may not always be the first choice for others. Mid-day Online asked Mumbai chefs how they make use of it in dishes, its popularity and what makes it unique Read More
Vincent Van Gogh is a classic case of posthumous fame. A tortured artist, he struggled with poverty and psychosis as his painting skills evolved through the art movements in Europe. With the passage of time, his mind turned bleak while his canvasses emerged brighter, bolder, and with more dramatized brushstrokes.  With low commercial success, he sold only one painting in his lifetime and is referred to as the “misunderstood genius”. Van Gogh ended his miseries with a bullet in his chest but his luminous works continue to glow and light up different cities of the world. Coming to Mumbai today is the immersive experience of ‘Van Gogh 360° India’ at the World Trade Centre, Cuff Parade in Mumbai. The show is scheduled to run from January 20 to February 17 and will be open from 10:00 am – 9:00 pm throughout the week. Hosted by the Canadian company Festival House Inc., the exhibit will project his masterpieces on mammoth floor-to-ceiling displays in loop animations for about 45 minutes to an hour. Images will move, projections will go from dark to light and the colours will explode as the viewers enter his elusive mind. There will be a walk-through merchandise store for exclusive Van Gogh collectibles. What will the immersive experience be like? The Van Gogh 360° is an installation art surpassing the realms of physical and digital art. It will create a world where viewers will find themselves walking inside the painting and peeping into Van Gogh’s elusive imagination. Making use of 3D technology to generate dynamic images out of static ones, the experience will completely bathe the viewers with vivid colors and expressions of his thoughts, dreams, and emotions. It will be a smooth blend of well-known pieces and some lesser-known pieces spanning Van Gogh’s entire body of work. Pic/Festival House Inc. In a conversation with, Tabish Khan, founder of Theia Enterprises, reveals the production planning that has gone into crafting India’s first immersive show. Essential checklist for Van Gogh 360° Dimensions There are multiple nuances that need to be taken care of while erecting a show of this scale. “Dimensions become critical and are based on the imaging formula we create internally. The space requires higher ceilings for the projector to throw a light range that will map the image. At the venue, we are working with a massive ceiling height of approximately 25 feet. The higher we go, the better the resolution.” As the event stands fully booked on bookmyshow, the hosts are contemplating to expand the schedule and keep the show going. Consequently, as the event will receive a heavy footfall, crowd management gains primary importance. “In order to comfortably space out the attendees, the floor size has to be huge. This is not a concert where people are standing shoulder to shoulder. Attendees will require ample space to stand and reflect upon the visuals in order to fully live the experience. The whole event is covered in a 10,000 sq. ft. of area which offers us the flexibility we require. ” Pic/Festival House Inc. Image mapping and animation Van Gogh 360º is a three-dimensional world that will exhilarate the senses. The futuristic technology deploys large-scale 360º-projection achieved through dozens of projectors and high powered computer servers that will deliver crisp and compelling images. Tabish shares that his agency imported the projectors from Canada. “We got the same projectors that have been used in the international Van Gogh 360 exhibitions in order to resurrect the exact experience here in Mumbai.” The curatorial team from the Festival House Inc. shares that the immersive experience is fully animated. It was produced by a Canadian animator outfit (names undisclosed on request) over more than an eight-month period, giving life to his paintings. The animated images were studied closely before selection and are of the highest quality resolution. “The vibrancy and details of Van Gogh’s artwork are powerful and are very effective in an immersive environment. The use of augmented reality allows for an even greater appreciation of his technique given each stroke is magnified on a vast surface.” AR combined with projection mapping offers the necessary depth to re-create Van Gogh’s style of painting called ‘Impasto’ which is marked by thick brushstrokes. Pic/Festival House Inc. Lighting and soundtrack Major precision goes into crafting a display of this grandeur. To bring the maestro’s bright musings to life, lighting conditions have to be controlled. Tabish highlights the criticality of choosing a completely dark room for this exhibition: “A penetration of a single ray of light can disrupt the entire experience. As the images go from dark to light and the animation switches, we have dedicated technicians to administer the exposure of light entering the room.” An original classical instrumental score has been composed to run in the background of the loop animation. The sounds have been orchestrated specifically as per the theme and the movement of the imageries. This will ensure a seamless transformation as the viewer walks from one painting to another without ever knowing when the switch happened. Pic/Festival House Inc. Why Van Gogh? The immersive experience has featured the works of other artists like Picasso and Monet but the conspicuousness of Van Gogh’s exhibits reveals that he is the winner of this genre. In international events, patrons have been seen indulging over a drink to his painting, “Starry Night”. In another instance, some of them slept on the floor to viscerally teleport into the sunflower fields painted by him. The free-flowing arena makes for a viable spot for people to sink in fully and alter their reality with the power of his paintings. Festival House Inc. elaborates, “Vincent Van Gogh’s works were the first to be used in this sort of exhibition format. The vibrancy and details of his artwork are so powerful and elusive that they make a perfect fit for an immersive environment.” Read More: IN PHOTOS: Jaipur Literature Festival 2023 gets underway in the Pink City
Indian author Amish Tripathi has a very busy schedule, one that not only involves his duties as an author, but also one that involves being a diplomat in London. Even though he is busy with all of this, the London-based author is working on a story idea for a book, one that involves him going beyond his love for Indian mythology and that is for one reason only. “There is a story idea that has caught my fancy – part in London, part in India, more modern, it has an influence of time travel and of gaming. The main reason to start this book is that I need to impress my son who reads a lot. I am not my son’s number one author; I am his number two author. He keeps telling me you’re a close number two,” laughs Tripathi, continuing, “So, I am going to start this series with elements of fantasy. I am okay if anyone else does not like my books but for my son, I have to be number one in his eyes.” The author is in India for the Jaipur Literature Festival 2023 being held from January 19 to January 23 a little over two months after the release of his latest book ‘War of Lanka’. The author, who is returning to the festival after three years, calls it the ‘Kumbh Mela of Literature’.   New idea, new fantasyInterestingly, even as the author reveals the time for the fantasy idea to be put on page is ripe, it comes at a time when he has worked on some non-fiction books with the writer centre that are in the pipeline for a release soon. He adds, “The ’Rise of Meluha’ will come out in a few years. It is in my mind; I just need to write it.” It is one that many readers and fans will be eagerly waiting for, especially after the Shiva trilogy, which brought fame to the author. The first of which, called ‘The Immortals of Meluha’ was published in 2010, followed by ‘The Secret of the Nagas’ in 2011 and ‘The Oath of the Vayuputras’ in 2013. Even as Tripathi comes from the release of his latest book, the response to it has been nothing like he expected. He explains, “I must admit that I was a little nervous before the launch of this book because the publishing trade has gone through a difficult time. With the pandemic, many bookstores and publishers shut down. So, it was a very difficult time.” However, the sales till now are keeping him happy and he attributes it to the fans. It is the fourth book in The Rama Chandra series, the first of which was ‘The Scion of Ikshvaku’ that released in 2015, followed by ‘Sita: Warrior of Mithila’ in 2017, and ‘Raavan: The Enemy of Aryavarta’ in 2019.   Maze of cluesSo, what is it that keeps the fans coming back and how is ‘War of Lanka’ different from all his other books over the last 12 years? Tripathi quickly reveals, “Hardcore fans know that The Shiva trilogy and The Ram Chandra series are linked. The Rama Chandra series is actually a 1,500-year prequel to the events of The Shiva Trilogy. It is a bit like The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.” So, this one is on the similar lines with a complicated narrative structure, that he thinks are what his readers like. “I leave a lot of hidden clues across my books on the covers. I have left clues in ‘Immortals of Meluha’ that have been tied up now with this book,” he reveals. This, he says, can be seen in the fact that the name of the founder of the city of the Nagas in the Shiva trilogy is not random and it is linked up now. All of these books are a build-up to the one book he has planned that links the Shiva and Ram Chandra series. He shares, “It will be the fifth book of The Ram Chandra series and you can see it as minus one of The Shiva Trilogy and that will be called ‘Rise of Meluha’.” For fans who still haven’t figured it out, Tripathi says they can put the spines of all The Ram Chandra series book covers together and will find a clue that will end with the last book.   Covid-19 pandemic and Indian mythologyTripathi returns to India in a post-pandemic world and one can’t be ignored because of the kind of effect it has had on mankind. It has not only affected us physically in many ways but also mentally and they will be seen for a long time. For ‘War Of Lanka’ author, it was no different and one that he likes to call “the black swan of the black swans” with reference to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s usage of the term. For him, it was people’s reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic that was actually the ‘black swan’. He explains, “Never in human history has the entire world locked down and reacted together to something.” It is this very reaction, which he says will most likely feature in his upcoming book set in the modern era. While it will not be the central theme, it will definitely inform the story in different ways. However, Tripathi has kept exploring Indian mythology through it all. So, it is hard to not ask Tripathi about what makes him keep coming back to Indian mythology and his fascination with it and he has a very simple response. “Innate and intuitive liberalism is an attribute of every religious group in India. We think it is normal in other countries, but it is not. The fact that you are in Mumbai, you go outside Mount Mary Church other than a Sunday and most often than not, you will see Hindus or Muslims. You go to Venkateshwara Temple in the south, and there are photos of women in burqas praying there to Lord Vishnu and that is such a beautiful Indian thing. Because intuitively, Indians are comfortable with multiple truths. It is visible in our myths and stories,” he shares, adding “Indians can teach the world true liberalism and that is what drives me.” So, would he explore stories beyond Hindu mythology? Tripathi shares a unique anecdote. “There was an American Christian who told me that there is a belief among Indian Christians that Jesus actually came to Kashmir during his lost years. I haven’t got a story idea for it but I was extremely intrigued and fascinated,” shares Tripathi, with a child-like enthusiasm for mythology in the Indian context.  Also Read: Shashi Tharoor: Dr. Ambedkar was India’s first male feminist ahead of his time
The Jaipur Literature Festival 2023 got underway in the Pink City at Hotel Clarks Amer for its 16th edition earlier on Thursday. The day started on a powerful note with a keynote address from Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah on ‘writing as a form of resistance’ and carried on to many interesting topics including one session that had Shashi Tharoor and Sumit Samos discuss ‘Dr Ambedkar: Life and Times’ with Pragya Tiwari. It comes months after both Tharoor and Samos have written books about Ambedkar, with ‘Ambedkar: A Life’ and ‘Affairs of Caste’ respectively in 2022. Both the authors shared their extremely unique understanding of the Indian social reformer and jurist, who inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement. Talking about the inspiration behind his autobiography, Tharoor said there were two things particularly that struck him when he was contemplating starting to work on the project. “The Indian that had the most statues to him around the country is Dr Baba Ambedkar. There is a debate that it must have been Mahatma Gandhi, but journalists travelling around the country said that every village at least has a bust of Ambedkar.” For Tharoor, this was extraordinary at many levels because for the Indian economist and social reformer, in his own lifetime, it was unthinkable. “He was somebody who was controversial, lost more elections that he won, was frequently attacked in his own lifetime and that such a figure has become an unchallengeable icon with every party trying to lay claim to some aspect of his life,” he adds. Like many others in the country, Tharoor revealed admiration for Ambedkar and one that develops the more one reads about him, for his intellect and his strikingly original mind. “He had gone through hell and faced awful discrimination and humiliation at various stages of his childhood and youth and to rise above that in a series of distinctions that people born to a life of privilege have come close to,” he explains, continuing, “He is a gentleman whose life definitely takes your breath away and is worth knowing about.”  Feminism, constitution and politicsIt was not only the aspect of Ambedkar’s intellect and aura but also his speeches that made Tharoor believe that Ambedkar was a feminist way ahead of his time. He shares, “It is really striking to hear Ambedkar’s speeches to the female audiences in the 1930s and 40s and you are hearing a voice that would be considered very progressive in 21st century India. He tells women, don’t marry early, don’t let your parents push you into marriage, when you do get married, stand up to your husbands and you are not just there to serve them, make sure you are not coerced into having too many children too early, you should have control of the children you have.” A case in point being when Ambedkar tried to introduce a bill in the Mumbai legislature to promote birth control for women, and the idea was shot down by the conservatives. It is only one among other instances of his actions to bring about change. When one talks about Ambedkar, it is hard not to talk about his contribution to the country’s law and politics too. So, Tharoor when asked about his view on the influence of Ambedkar on laws of the constitution and the politics of the country said it was notably considerable. “Ambedkar struck an extraordinary balance between standing up for the rights of his oppressed community on one hand and insisting on individual agency and autonomy for the citizens on the other.” He went on to add that while the British saw Indians as a collection of different groups of people, and ruled us that way, the Constitution shifts India away from that kind of thinking into a land of individual citizens with their own rights and that every adult had a right to cast their own vote. Secondly, as Sumit Samos pointed out liberty, equality and fraternity, the Indian politician said it was particularly equality and fraternity he emphasised on more. On his contribution of reservation for Dalits and scheduled tribes, he shared, “His argument was that it was the only way to undo millennia of discrimination and injustice so you are needed to guarantee access to opportunity but guarantee outcome. So, you reserve seats and that has now become universal.”Also See: IN PHOTOS: Jaipur Literature Festival 2023 gets underway in the Pink City


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