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AUGUST 2019 `100

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India’s
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PLEDGE

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CONTENTS
Features 76 104
drama in real life bonus read

50
cover story
WOMPF!
A snowboarder fights
to survive an avalanche
Those He Left Behind
This soldier died the
way he served—right
of his own making. beside his men.
INCURABLY INDIAN by brett popplewell by brian mockenhaupt
Because we are like
this only! on the cover:
by samit basu 84 illustration by
siddhant jumde
extraordinary lives
CITY CHRONICLES Mightier Than
Overcurious cops, a star
The Sword
elephant, gridlock jams:
The astonishing life of
it can happen only in ...
Manoranjan Byapari.
by rd readers

84
by sanghamitra
chakraborty

58
the power of giving
Pay It Forward
92
travel
People who donated half The Road To Lahore
their wealth to charity. A visit to an ancestral
by ishani nandi land and a long-lost past.
with team rd
by mannu kohli

68
photograph by subir haldar

national interest
The Right To Education
An in-depth progress
report on the now
decade-old RTE Act.
by nilanjana bhowmick

readersdigest.co.in 5
Reader ’s Digest

16 Dear Reader points to ponder


18 Over to You 32 Megan Rapinoe,
everyday heroes Sudha Murthy
24 A Noteworthy Life and Girish Karnad
by rima datta holland
good news
34 Ocean Clean-up,
Conversations Green Footwear,
words of lasting an Honest Cabbie
interest by v. kumara swamy
28 The Search for India
by jawaharlal nehru
department of wit
finish this sentence
36 I First Noticed
38
31 Appreciated in I was Getting
the Afterlife Older When ... Better Living
by anne roumanoff
food
38 Take to Local
by naini setalvad

28 health
42 E-Pharmacies—
What You Need
to Know
by v. kumara swamy
news from the
world of medicine
44 Training for
Surgery, the
Great Mosquito
Experiment
and Oranges
for Eye Disease
top & left: indiapicture

how to
46 Build a Better
Breakfast
by marissa laliberte

6 august 2019
Reader ’s Digest

Culturescape
interview
Humour
with ali fazal 37
114 Riding the Humour in
Web Boom Uniform
by vanya lochan
66
Life’s Like That
75
As Kids See It
100
Laughter, the

clockwise from left: mandar deodhar/m. unal ozmen, shutterstock/keshav kapil


Best Medicine

rd recommends
116 Films, Books,
The Genius
Streaming, Section
Sports and 124 Zing! How
A Rising Star to Craft a
review Comeback
120 A Magical by talib visram
Conjuring 128 Brainteasers
by jai arjun singh 130 Sudoku
studio 131 Word Power
121 The Argument 133 Quiz
by Kulwant Roy 134 Quotable
by gayathri sankar Quotes
me and my shelf
122 Wendy Doniger’s
Top 10 Reads

114 133
8 august 2019
VOL. 60 NO. 8
AUGUST 2019
Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie
Group Editorial Director Raj Chengappa

editor Sanghamitra Chakraborty IMPACT (ADVERTISING)


group creative editor Nilanjan Das publishing director Manoj Sharma
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V. Kumara Swamy bengaluru: gm Upendra Singh
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BUSINESS
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Editor: Sanghamitra Chakraborty (responsible for selection of news).

12 august 2019
Reader ’s Digest

DEAR READER

Sorry, Not
Sorry
M
any years ago we had left our don’t work, or won’t work; people who
home in Kolkata to go to a will be flaky, rude, fib casually, break
friend’s lunch near Gariahat, a queues and the law. But ultimately we
15-minute walk away. A bit late, we desis are known for our dil and sense of
rushed to a black-and-yellow taxi out- humour; we will poke fun at ourselves,
side our gate. The driver was resting on but won’t hear of it from an outsider.
the front seat—he lifted his head with We celebrate August, and laugh at

P HOTO GRA P H BY A N A N D GO GO I , HAIR & MA KE - U P BY R OLI KA PR AKAS H ,


great effort and looked up. ourselves a bit, in ‘Incurably Indian’
“Gariahat? You want to take a taxi (p 50). ‘India’s Greatest Givers’ (p 58) is
to … Gariahat?” he asked, scowling. our tribute to a handful of extraordi-
“ Yes, w ill you drop us?” nary Indians. In ‘Mightier than the
my husband asked. Sword’ (p 84), I meet an exceptional
“Young people these days, I tell man—a warrior–survivor—who has
you. It’s around the corner— risen up in challenge against
walk!” And he went back to extreme injustice and oppression.
sleep, leaving us stunned. While ‘The Right To Education’
Let this be clear: I will rage, (p 68) focuses on an important
angst or laugh at my home- issue, ‘The Road To Lahore’
I L LU ST RAT I O N : S I DDH A N T JU M D E

town, but I will have no one (p 92), full of love and nostal-
else mock it. Ditto for this gia, is a must-read.
country. There are any num- Let’s raise a toast to
ber of situations in India freedom!
that leave us with our Sanghamitra Chakraborty
hair standing on end, editor
like that ‘Shock
laga’ ad, too many Send an email to
things that editor.india@rd.com

16 august 2019
Your Amazing Body
The cover story unveils
OVER TO secrets about the human
YOU
Notes on the
body, and reveals how
understanding the func-
tioning of organs can help
June issue prevent illnesses. Ever
since we have stopped
taking care of our body’s
needs, different ailments
They Gave Millions to Charity have overpowered us.
Juliana LaBianca’s article on common people who Stressful workspaces
amassed wealth in millions and then donated it to and flawed eating habits
charities after their deaths, shook me to the core. have further ensured that
They could easily have led a lavish life, but instead, the signals that the body
emits, go unnoticed,
they chose to live frugally and donate their riches
leading to a higher inci-
for a greater cause. It’s also worth noting that they
dence of such ailments.
stayed away from the limelight, which is such a re-
We should be vigilant and
freshing contrast to today’s publicity-driven world, look out for unusual signs
where almost all good deeds are broadcast over in our body, as it can save
social media, often by the doers themselves. Hats us from a lot of discom-
off to these great men and women—let us all fort in the future.
aspire for the same selflessness and humility. —Manjeet Singh
—Priti Pawaskar, Mumbai Ishar, Mohali, Punjab
Priti Pawaskar gets this month’s ‘Write & Win’ prize of `1,000. —EDs
Cinema Paradiso
It was delightful ‘revisit-
The New-Look was the first time I saw ing’ Calcutta’s Metro
June Issue a copy of RD—and I theatre with Soumitra
Going through the June treasured it for decades. Das. The broad stair-
issue of the magazine The glossy pages and case, the plush carpets
with the new makeover, the balanced content of and the chandeliers of-
I was reminded of a the new Indian edition fered a peek into what
Reader’s Digest copy brought forth nostalgic we imagined royal Euro-
sent to me by my Amer- memories of the said pean settings may have
ican pen friend in 1960, 1960 American one. been like. I am tempted
when I was a high —Tharcius S. to add one more anec-
school student. That Fernando, Chennai dote here—the legend

18 august 2019 Æ
Reader ’s Digest

of the six-foot tall door- was quite an ‘experience’ quenching the thirst of
man. The story goes to go to the movies. so many people in the
that no underaged punk —prithvijeet sinha, national capital. He de-
could ever get past him Lucknow serves accolades from
to watch an adult movie. all quarters for rendering
And when African Safari Our House is on Fire great service—not only
was playing in the the- In her heartfelt speech, in satisfying the thirsty,
atre, people went to Greta Thunberg points but also providing nutri-
watch the tall doorman out the negligence of tious food to schoolchil-
dressed as a Masai with world leaders towards dren who really need it.
a spear, as much as the climate crisis at the May God grant this Good
movie itself! World Economic Forum. Samaritan more strength
—Arunava Sen “Our house is on fire”, to carry on his good work,
Gupta, Kolkata quite literally, with all and also taste the fruits
the greenhouse gases of his labour.
Soumitra Das’s article being emitted into the —Sanjib Kumar Das,
reminded me of the glory atmosphere. The crisis Cuttack
days of the Mayfair Cine- is probably much worse
ma in Lucknow. By the than we can even imag- The Genius Section
time I was eight, it was ine. It’s high time we set The new Genius section
seeing its last days, but aside our anthropocen- is beautiful and meaning-
my father had told me so tric attitude and ques- ful. The article on reading
many stories that I knew tioned our lifestyle habits was thought-pro-
all about its reputation. choices. Living in de- voking. A reading habit
One of the anecdotes I nial is not an option: is indeed priceless, as it
recall my father sharing We must do our bit to keeps our mind active
was that catcalling front- save our planet, because and healthy. It’s neces-
benchers would never the greatest threat today sary to keep reading, not
dare besmirch the ambi- is the hope that some- just for knowledge but
ence of Mayfair with their one else will save it. also for one’s personal
presence. The movie- —Vaidehi Pandit, growth and development.
goers would watch the Mumbai —Beena mathur, Pune
choicest of English films
and then savour the best Delhi’s Water Man
ice cream at the adjoining Alagarathnam Natarajan Write in at editor.india@
Kwality’s shop, in the aka matkaman is doing rd.com. The best letters
discuss RD articles, offer
heart of Hazratganj. The yeoman service to society
criticism, share ideas. Do
article made me pine for by performing the simple include your phone number
the good old days when it yet challenging task of and postal address.

readersdigest.co.in 21
Reader ’s Digest

EVERYDAY HEROES

Luis Dias uses the power of music to bring


strength and joy to disadvantaged children

A Noteworthy Life
By Rima Datta Holland

J
uly 2007. A BBC concert showca- of Goan doctors, Dias followed in
sing the Buskaid Soweto String his family’s footsteps and pursued
Ensemble at the Royal Albert Hall medicine, specializing in gynaecology
in London. The performance ends to and obstetrics. Trained in the violin
thunderous applause. The dancers from the age of five, music was an
and musicians in the orchestra stand, integral part of his upbringing, and has
look proudly around, smile and bow, remained an overwhelming passion
while the audience claps on and on. ever since. In 1998, he went to study
Calls of “bravo!” echo through the and work in London, a city he loved for
hall. Among the crowd, transfixed, its rich music culture. In the same year
is 41-year-old Dr Luis Dias. He had as the Buskaid performance, Dias came
heard of this ensemble and knew across a similar project—El Sistema—a
it consisted solely of children from programme that offers classical music
South Africa’s poorest townships, but training to underprivileged youth in
had never seen them performing live. Venezuela. If he had wondered how
Speaking about it years later, his voice successful such orchestras could be,
still filled with awe, he says: “That all doubts were now put to rest. These
concert just blew my mind.” were living proof that children who
Born in 1966 to an illustrious family had never held a musical instrument,

24 august 2019 Photograph by Kailas Naik


“Music touches the soul of a person
like nothing else,” says Luis Dias (front,
centre). Seen here with Child’s Play
students in Panjim, Goa

readersdigest.co.in 25
Reader ’s Digest

whose lives were far removed from To those who wonder why he didn’t
classical music, could be trained to continue with his medical career, he
play with expertise and enthusiasm. replies, “There are many who can
Encouraged by the achievements of provide medical care, but few who
Buskaid and El Sistema, Dias began teach western classical music in India. I
to explore the possibility of starting know what I’m doing now is what I was
a similar effort for disadvantaged put on earth to do,” he responds.
children in India. Yet, as he explains, it was not easy
Among others, Dias approached getting such an ambitious enterprise off
David Juritz, a South African violinist, the ground. With Chryselle managing
who started Musequality, a foundation the administrative side, Dias began
that promotes music education for to build the foundations for Child’s
children in developing countries. With Play. Aside from getting the necessary
the organization’s support, Dias’s plans funds, it was important to find a place
began to take concrete shape. In 2008, that would safely house the children,
he and his wife, Chryselle, decided to teachers and equipment. They
give up their comfortable life in the UK eventually found the perfect partner
and return to their home in Panjim, in Mangala Wagle, the powerhouse
Goa, to try and realize what many woman behind Hamara School, a
thought was an impossible dream. In shelter for disadvantaged children in
just one year, the duo founded their Panjim. Their collaboration started
charity Child’s Play India Foundation. in 2009 and classes began with
The name was carefully chosen for 12 children and one teacher in the
its dual meaning, as was their raison shelter’s dusty front yard, next to a
d’etre: Every child is noteworthy. noisy street, bustling with traffic.
Realizing that setting up the pro- From these humble beginnings,
ject and teaching music would be a Child’s Play gradually grew in spite
full-time endeavour, Dias abandoned of being solely dependent on private
his medical career, swapping the life funding. Instruction is now offered
of a successful physician for that of a to about 120 children. True to their
poorly paid music teacher—a move motto, no child is turned away, for
some would consider foolhardy. A Dias firmly believes that all children
quiet, unassuming man of medium have the innate capacity to play music.
height, dark-haired and bespectacled, A core group of five or six faculty
Dias is transformed when describing members hold it together, instructing
the power of music, the depth of the children in violin, viola, cello,
his commitment shining through. flute, piano and choir. “We’d love to
“Music touches the soul of a person introduce more instruments if we only
like nothing else,” he says with a smile. had the teachers,” he says regretfully.

26 august 2019
Everyday Heroes

Child’s Play puts on at least two


concerts a year to which the children’s
families and general public are invited.
The parents, many of whom are street-
side vendors and labourers from
nearby slums, while initially wary,
feel nothing but pride once they see
their children on stage as any parent
would be. Never had they imagined
that their children, condemned to a
life in the wings, would find a place
on centre stage, in the limelight and
“I KNOW WHAT applauded by a wildly enthusiastic
I’M DOING NOW IS audience. It matters little to them that
it is western and not Indian classical
WHAT I WAS PUT music that their children are playing.
ON EARTH TO DO.” What matters is that their children are
displaying their hard-won skills and
that they are appreciated.
Dias’s excitement when he teaches “It is not just the life of a child that
the children is palpable. He demon- we may be changing. Music can have
strates how a piece should sound, ex- an effect on generations to come. Or-
plains a bit of the history, asks them if chestral music teaches children to
they remember what ‘adagio’ means, work together to create a thing of
which language it comes from, which beauty. It has the power to create har-
note he’s playing, sharp or flat. These mony in a community,” Dias says. It is
children, their lives circumscribed by clear what he means when he says
their social status, are making leaps playing music together can foster unity.
far beyond the limits fate has imposed Children in Dias’s violin class come
on them. Dias and his colleagues not from different religious communities:
only teach them music, they broaden Muslim, Christian and Hindu. How-
their horizons with every session. They ever, when the bow touches the strings,
teach them endurance and discipline, their fingers find the same notes, their
persistence and patience. Reflected in hearts pulse to the same rhythms and
the children’s faces is a sense of pride their spirits surge in harmony. “This
at being able to play an instrument work does come at a personal cost. But
indiapicture

and, with every smile of approval and when I go to meet my maker,” he says
pat on the head from their teacher, with a wry grin, “at least I can say, I did
their growing self-esteem. what I could to make a difference.”

readersdigest.co.in 27
Reader ’s Digest

CONVERSATIONS

The Search For


INDIA
India’s first Prime Minister explains what ‘Bharat Mata’
means to the common citizen

by Jawaharlal Nehru

28 august 2019
IT WAS ABSURD, OF COURSE, to think I seldom did so in the cities, for there
of India or any country as a kind of the audiences were more sophisticated
anthropomorphic entity. I did not do and wanted stronger fare.
so. I was also fully aware of the But to the peasant, w ith his
diversities and divisions of Indian life, limited outlook, I spoke of this great
of classes, castes, religions, races, country for whose freedom we were
different degrees of cultural struggling, of how each part differed
development. Yet, I think that a country from the other and yet was India, of
with a long cultural background and a common problems of the peasants
common outlook on life develops a from north to south and east to west,
spirit that is peculiar to it and that is of the Swaraj that could only be for
impressed on all its children, however all and every part and not for some. I
much they may differ among told them of my journeying from the
themselves. Can anyone fail to see this Khyber Pass in the far north-west to
in China, whether he [the common Kanyakumari or Cape Comorin in the
man] meets an old-fashioned distant south, and how everywhere
mandarin or a Communist who has the peasants put me identical
apparently broken with the past? It was questions, for their troubles were the
this spir it of India that same—poverty, debt, vested interests,
I was after, not through idle curiosity, landlords, moneylenders, heavy rents
though I was curious enough, but and taxes, police harassment, and all
because I felt that it might give me these wrapped up in the structure that
some key to the understanding of my the foreign government had imposed
country and people, some guidance to upon us—and relief must also come
thought and action. Politics and for all. I tried to make them think of
elections were day-to-day affairs when India as a whole, and even to some
we grew excited over trumpery matters. little extent of this wide world of
But if we were going to build the house which we were a part.
of India’s future, strong and secure and I brought in the struggle in China, in
beautiful, we would have to dig deep Spain, in Abyssinia, in Central Europe,
for the foundations. in Egypt and the countries of Western
Asia. I told them of the wonderful
‘BHARAT MATA’ changes in the Soviet Union and of
Often, as I wandered from meeting to the great progress made in America.
meeting, I spoke to my audience of this The task was not easy; yet it was not
indiapicture

India of ours, of Hindustan and of so difficult as I had imagined, for our


Bharata, the old Sanskrit name derived ancient epics and myths and legends,
from the mythical founder of the race. which they knew so well, had made

readersdigest.co.in 29
reader’s digest Conversations

them familiar with the conception of patches in the district or province, or in


their country, and some there were the whole of India? And so question
always who had travelled far and and answer went on, till they would ask
wide to the great places of pilgrimage me impatiently to tell them all about it.
situated at the four corners of India. I would endeavour to do so and explain
Or there were old soldiers who had that India was all this that they had
served in foreign parts in World thought, but it was much more. The
War I or other expeditions. Even mountains and the rivers of India, and
my references to foreign countries the forests and the broad fields, which
were brought home to them by the gave us food, were all dear to us, but
consequences of the great depression what counted ultimately were the
of the ’30s. people of India, people like them and
Sometimes as I reached a gathering, me, who were spread out all over this
a great roar of welcome would greet vast land.
me: Bharat Mata ki Jai—Victory to Bharat Mata, Mother India, was
Mother India. I would ask them essentially these millions of people,
unexpectedly what they meant by that and victory to her meant victory to
cry, who was this Bharat Mata, Mother these people. You are parts of this
India, whose victory they wanted? My Bharat Mata, I told them, you are in a
question would amuse them and manner yourselves Bharat Mata, and as
surprise them, and then, not knowing this idea slowly soaked into their
exactly what to answer, they would look brains, their eyes would light up as if
at each other and at me. I persisted in they had made a great discovery.
my questioning. At last a vigorous Jat,
wedded to the soil from immemorial The following is a section from Jawaharlal
Nehru’s book, The Discovery of India.
generations, would say that it was the Excerpted with permission from ‘Who Is
dharti, the good earth of India, that Bharat Mata?’ On History, Culture and the
Idea of India: Writings by and on Jawaharlal
they meant. What earth? Their Nehru, edited by Purushottam Agrawal,
particular village patch, or all the published by Speaking Tiger Publishers.

What a Delicious Book!


The Edible Book Festival honours literary-inspired culinary creations, and this
year one entry really had the judges smacking their lips. It featured a cover
made of salami and cheese etched with a picture of Karl Marx, all sitting on a bed
of olives, bread and assorted finger foods. Its name: The Communist Antipasto.

30 august 2019
Reader ’s Digest

hat, he’s unbearable. AFTER: He was


quite a character. He was certainly never
one to let people take advantage of him.
BEFORE: He eats too much, he drinks
too much. He’s got high cholesterol
and a damaged liver. AFTER: He was a
bon viveur, an epicurean who knew
how to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
BEFORE: I’ve never seen such a nosy
blabbermouth of a woman, a real scan-
dalmonger. She’s the ultimate gossip
queen. AFTER: She had an unfailing
interest in other people and a perma-
nent need to communicate with them.
BEFORE: She spends all her time at the
hairdresser’s, her make-up is a real
DEPARTMENT OF WIT paint job, and she blows all her money
on clothes. AFTER: She was always per-
fectly turned-out and elegant, with a
completely individual sense of style.

Appreciated BEFORE: I’ve never seen such a miser,


he won’t even give you the time of day.

in the AFTER: He had a very rare type of gene-


rosity, in fact he was so rarely generous
that it made those occasions

Afterlife very precious.


BEFORE: He complains about feeling
lonely but he’s fallen out with everyone,
nobody can stand him anymore.
By Anne Roumanoff AFTER: He was very selective about his
friends. His very high standards ren-
when you die, you are put on a dered him a happy loner.
pedestal. The terrible faults you BEFORE: To be honest, I won’t miss
possess while you’re alive are him very much. AFTER: You will remain
transformed into wonderful qualities forever present in our hearts.
indiapicture

as soon as you’ve gone.


BEFORE: He has a really nasty disposi- Anne Roumanoff is a well-known French
tion. He flies into a rage at the drop of a humourist. She lives in Paris.

readersdigest.co.in 31
POINTS TO PONDER

We have to be better. We have to love more. Hate less.


We got to listen more and talk less. We got to know
that it is […] our responsibility to make the world a
better place.
Megan Rapinoe, football player

I do not like what some people say, that we are Indians


first and Hindus afterwards or Muslims afterwards. I am
not satisfied with that […] I do not want that our loyalty
as Indians should be in the slightest way affected by any
competitive loyalty whether that loyalty arises out of
our religion, out of our culture or out of our language.
I want all people to be Indians first, Indians last
and nothing else but Indians.

left india picture


B. R. Ambedkar, jurist and social reformer

Megan Rapinoe B. R. Ambedkar

32 august 2019
Reader ’s Digest

Many times I have realized, when people want to


converse with you, and don’t know your language, you
converse through your heart. You tell whatever you
want to in your language; they will tell what they want
in their language, but you will understand.
Sudha Murthy, engineer and author

If you are interested in any form—[whether] music, drama


or anything, you want to push. […] You want to explore
new possibilities and you want to see what can
you do that has not been done before.
Girish Karnad, playwright, writer and actor

Self-conscious youth will not only act, but will


also dream; […] It will create for you a new India—and
a free India out of the failures, trials and experience
of the past. […] If we are to rid India once for all of
from right alamy (2)

the canker of communalism and fanaticism, we


have to begin work among our youth.
Subhas Chandra Bose, freedom fighter

Sudha Murthy Girish Karnad Subhas Chandra Bose

readersdigest.co.in 33
Shriyans Bhandari helps students
try the Greensole footwear.

GOODforNEWS
a
Better Planet

FOOT SOLDIERS OF CHANGE


child empowerment Mumbai-based in this country, footwear is a luxury. above: greensole, heroes: raashid hassan
athlete, Shriyans Bhandari and his This means that the delicate feet of
marathon-mate, Ramesh Dhami, deprived children are most affected,
used to repurpose their worn-out as they walk to school or run around
shoes into slippers and flip-flops. barefoot, exposing themselves to
This was to be the genesis of Green- injuries and infections.
sole Foundation, an initiative they Greensole has tied up with
launched together. “We recycle schools and colleges to distribute
used footwear, make it wearable reconstructed shoes across the
and distribute it among school chil- country. Since 2013, they have
dren in need,” he says. For millions distributed around 2.4 lakh pairs
of poor, hungry, unclothed people of recycled footwear to the needy.

34 august 2019
Reader ’s Digest

They hope to cross a million pairs


soon. Greensole also sells recycled HEROES:
shoes to raise funds. This, combined The Honest Cabbie
with corporate donations, has hel-
ped them scale up rapidly. On their When Tariq Ahmad Naikoo, a taxi
website, anyone can donate or help driver from Kashmir, found a bag
recycle footwear, starting at `199 a with wads of cash, jewellery and
pair for children. three high-end mobile phones, a
Bhandari and Dhami’s dream cache worth around `10 lakh in all,
is to ensure that no Indian child his first thought was How do I reach
goes to school barefoot by 2023. the owner of the bag?
Sources: Child Empowerment—The Guardian, 05.07.19, Environment—thenewsminute.com, 22.06.19, Heroes—Kashmir Reader, 26.06.19.

We hope this comes true. Naikoo had found the bag at


the popular Aharbal tourist spot in
The Plastic Slayer

environment Priyesh KV, 30, a


Kerala-based fisherman, had been
noticing more plastic waste than
fish in his nets, of late. Rather than
ignoring the problem, he decided
to take it head on in April this year.
Within two months Priyesh, single-
handedly, hauled around 3.5 tonnes
of plastic from the sea. On some
days, he spent more time collecting
plastic waste than catching fish.
This is not something he regrets, Shopian, around 50 kilometres
south of Srinagar. He managed to
though. But where does all that
switch on one of the phones he
plastic go? Priyesh convinced the found in the bag and waited for
local panchayat about the grim it to ring. Of course, the frantic
effects of plastic and they, in turn, owner called soon. Naikoo asked
have set up a plastic-shredding the person to come to the spot
unit. The output is later taken to where the bag was lost and
a recycling plant in Kozhikode, returned it. He was applauded by
the district headquarters. Priyesh tourists and the local police and
wants to do much more by roping later, given a gift and a letter of
in more people for his mission. appreciation by the latter. Well
Here’s wishing him every success! deserved, we say!
—COMPILED BY V. KUMARA SWAMY

readersdigest.co.in 35
Reader ’s Digest

FINISH THIS SENTENCE

I first noticed I was getting


older when …
… even elderly people vacated the
senior citizens
seat for me
in the metro.
BHANU SHARMA, Dha ra ms hala

… I started wearing
clothes that I’m
… I opened the fridge door
comfortable in
but forgot why.
rather than follow the latest fashion.
SUNITA ROY, Luckno w
DEVI SENTHIL, B en g al u r u

… I said this a lot:


‘Remember the time
when … ’
... I could no longer RICHA AGATHA, Pa tna

stay up past 11 p.m.


on a Friday night.
TRISHA PAUL, Br us s e ls , Bel g iu m
… new songs left me
unmoved.
I could only
… I became convinced that only the relate to
I N D I A P I C T U RE

guillotine could cure my grey hair, old melodies.


as P. G. Wodehouse once said. URMI VARMA, Pa nc hk ula,
NARAYANAN KAKKAT, Vasai , M a h a ras ht ra H ar ya n a

36 august 2019
Reader ’s Digest

Humour in

UNIFORM
When the officer
stopped in front of
me during inspection,
I sharply opened the
chamber of my rifle
and thrust it into his
hands. He glanced
into the chamber and
looked surprised.
Inside was a smashed
cockroach. I figured
this meant trouble,
and it did. Nodding
to the late bug, the of Unnecessary Re- inform everyone.
officer announced, ports’. Among the first He informed every-
“Legs improperly reports to make that one, including the
aligned—six demerits.” list: the ‘Report of birthday girl herself
—Dennis Depcik Unnecessary Reports’. saying, “Ma’am,
—Sgt Richard Weiser this is to inform
My medical unit you that it is your
kept me busy filing It was customary in birthday today.”
reports, many of my dad’s regiment —Pranay Prusti,
which clearly didn’t for the duty clerk to Bengaluru
apply to us. Here’s inform other officers
one example: ‘Person- and their wives of
nel Trained for B-52 birthdays/anniversa- Reader’s Digest will
Weapons System’. ries. On an officer’s pay for your funny
When the Inspector wife’s birthday, my anecdote or photo in
any of our humour
General learnt of this, dad, as the adjutant, sections. Post it to the
he ordered us to sub- ordered the newly editorial address, or email
mit a monthly ‘Report posted duty clerk to us at editor.india@rd.com

Cartoon by Jon Carter


readersdigest.co.in 37
BETTER LIVING

Take to Local
Try these seven easy-access alternatives
to exotic and expensive foods

By Naini Setalvad

indiapicture

38 august 2019
Reader ’s Digest

G
LOBALIZATION has allowed local grocers and
us to access exotic foods from vegetable vendors,
around the world, all year the immunity-
round. For most people, if a prod- boosting fruit has
uct is expensive, it must be superior. a bunch of other health
What they don’t realize is that it may benefits: It balances stomach ac-
cost more not because of its premium ids, strengthens the heart and lungs,
quality but because of the massive improves skin and hair texture and
duty levied on imported food. A lot is an anti-carcinogenic. Eat it fresh
of locally sourced produce is just and sprinkled with sea salt or chop it
as good, and in some cases, even into small pieces and toss it into your
better. What’s more, it is priced favourite salad for a dash of tartness.
far more reasonably. Also, eating
local foods can help you reduce AMARANTH v/s QUINOA
your carbon footprint by up to seven Did you know that amaranth [rajgira
per cent and show more love for in Hindi] is packed with manganese
the planet. Here are some easy-to- and just one serving can fulfil your
find local heroes. daily need of this nutrient? Part of the
same plant family as quinoa, this pro-
AMLA v/s GOJI BERRIES vides comparable health benefits and
With lifestyle illnesses on the rise, at a fraction of the cost. Amaranth is
everyone wants to boost their immu- also high in antioxidants, fibre, cal-
nity, and vitamin C is essential for it. cium, phosphorous and iron. You can
We often end up ignoring local sources add ground amaranth seed grains with
of vitamin C such as amla [the Indian your flour to make rotis or bread. Or eat
gooseberry] and hanker for the fancier amaranth puffs as a breakfast cereal.
goji berry. While goji berry may be la-
belled as a ‘miracle fruit’ because of its FLAXSEEDS v/s CHIA SEEDS
many health benefits, the sour-tasting It is so much better to use flaxseeds
amla offers similar—if not better— instead of chia seeds in your smooth-
benefits. Our daily requirement of vita- ies and salads. Flaxseeds [alsi in Hindi]
min C is about 65 to 90 gm. One serving not only contain anti-inflammatory
of amla contains 600 mg of vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids but also come
and if juiced, its value increases. When laden with monounsaturated fats,
it is dehydrated, amla provides 2,428 which are essential for your overall
to 3,470 mg of vitamin C. Even when good health. High in fibre and low in
it’s dried and turned into powder, it carbohydrates, these wonder seeds are
retains as much as 780 to 2,660 mg also packed with antioxidants that help
of vitamin C. Easily available at most improve your skin and hair.
readersdigest.co.in 39
Reader ’s Digest Better Living

PANEER v/s FETA CHEESE they are mechanically pressed and


If we compare the two, 100 gm therefore retain their nutrients, so opt
of paneer has 20.8 gm of fat and for the cold-pressed variety instead of
18.3 gm of protein and 100 gm of regular mustard oil.
feta cheese has 21 gm of fat and
14 gm of protein. But beware—there HOMEMADE BUTTERMILK v/s
is a lot of added salt in feta and, there READY-TO-DRINK PROBIOTICS
could be added preservatives too Many households in India
for prolonging shelf life. There’s can churn out a glass
nothing better than fresh, homemade of fresh homemade
c o t t a g e c h e e s e o r p a n e e r. I t buttermilk. Due
c a n e a s i l y b e m a d e a t h o m e, to the naturally
w i t h s k i m m e d m i l k o r b o u g ht produced live
from your local dairy that makes a bacteria in it, but-
fresh batch every day. termilk supports
gut health and
COLD-PRESSED MUSTARD OIL boosts immunity.
v/s EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL When it is made at
The monounsaturated fat in mustard home, you can control the quality of
oil is nearly on par with its level in milk and choose if you want it plain
olive oil. Mustard oil has been an or with natural salts, herbs or spices.
integral part of the Indian pantry for Packaged probiotic drinks, on the
centuries and our bodies are used to other hand, often contain added
it. Unlike extra virgin olive oil, which sugars and preservatives, which are
has a low smoking detrimental to health.
point, mustard oil has
a high smoking point, FRESH HOME-MADE YOGURT
which is more suitable v/s GREEK YOGURT
for Indian cooking. All forms of yogurt contain
Extra virgin olive oil gut-friendly bacteria known as
is best preserved at probiotics that improve digestive
18 degrees Celsius, health and overall immunity. Greek
whereas mustard oil yogurt and homemade yogurt [dahi
is produced locally in Hindi] are both good sources of
and does not require probiotics. However, just as with
a specific temperature buttermilk, you can choose the
indiapicture

for preservation. Cold- variety of the milk to make yogurt at


pressed oils are more home. It’s best to make a fresh batch
beneficial for health as and consume it on the same day.

40 august 2019
Reader ’s Digest

A
few months ago, drawn by a
funny TV commercial and an
HEALTH attractive discount (30 per cent!),
I decided to try buying my meds online.
Downloading an e-pharmacy app, I
registered myself, but my prescription
E-pharmacies: was three years old, hence the transac-
tion could not take place. But the plat-
What You form had a solution. I could consult
a licensed doctor through it. In a few

Need to Know hours, I was talking to a Maharashtra-


based MD, who went through my med-
ical history, asked a few questions and
gave me what I needed. Within a day,
The full deets about buying a licensed pharmacist delivered the
medicines online medicines at my doorstep. I had saved
around `300 on just one transaction.
Unwittingly, I had joined a growing
number of people buying their
By V. Kumara Swamy medicines online. According to a recent
study by the international consultancy
firm, Frost & Sullivan, the e-pharmacy
market in India was estimated at
around $512 million (`3,500 crore)
last year and is estimated to gallop
to $3,657 million (`25,000 crore)
by 2022. These numbers are
actually small compared to
brick-and-mortar medical
stores. “Overall, e-pharmacies
are 1.5-2 per cent of the $18
billion (`1.26 lakh crore) pharma
industry in India. Business has
picked up in the last three years,
as it works well for the chronic
patient use cases,” says Dharmil Sheth,
indiapicture

co-founder of PharmEasy.
In fact, the bulk of medicines on
demand from e-pharmacies are

42 august 2019
for chronic diseases such assure that their consumers’
as Alzheimer’s, asthma, personal information will
d i a b e t e s, c a n c e r, e t c . remain confidential.
Some major e-pharmacies Medlife asserts that their
in India include Medlife, platform is as safe as any
Ne t m e d s, Pha r m E a s y , brick-and-mortar phar-
and 1MG. Don’t wait until macy. It claims having as
you are out of many as 39 quality checks
Safety first medicines to from the time an order is
Even though online shop- make a pur- placed until the customer
ping has taken off in a big chase online, as receives it.
way in India, most buyers it may take a
are a bit queasy placing day or two for Key points to consider
their faith in faceless, online delivery. Ê Ne v e r b u y f ro m a n
companies for medicines. A entity that does not require
few court rulings last year on the legal- a doctor’s prescription.
ity of these platforms have not helped ÊA valid invoice should come with a li-
matters. Last year, the Delhi High Court cence, GST, expiry date and batch num-
directed the Ministry of Health and bers of the medicines that you procure.
Family Welfare to draft policy guide- Ê Always read user reviews before you
lines for regulating and authenticating pick a platform.
the e-pharma market, which have been As for the discounts that attract many
released. “Right at the outset, Medlife such as myself, it seems these will con-
voluntarily followed a stringent self- tinue to rain for some time to come.
regulation process incorporating fea- “We believe that affordability is only
tures like ‘no sale without prescription’, a part of the impetus; convenience
‘sale of only genuine medicines’, etc.,” a plays an equal part. Every business
spokesperson of Medlife says. has experienced a ‘discounting phase’
In fact, the industry has come as retail migrated from storefront to
together to form the Digital Health e-commerce, as the economies of scale
Platform to practise self-regulation. and the savings inherent to no-rent, no-
Some of their guidelines: Every medi- sales staff, etc., have been passed on to
cine will be sold against a valid Rx the consumer,” says Bruce Schwack,
prescribed by a registered medical director of communications, Netmeds.
practitioner; medicines will be sold Net net, e-pharmacies are generally
only via licensed pharmacies; drugs safe as well as economical compared
indiapcture

that can be potentially abused and to your neighbourhood chemist. Just


psychotropic drugs are never to be make sure you choose a reliable plat-
sold over these platforms. They also form before you try them out.
readersdigest.co.in 43
Scientists Wipe Out
Disease-Carrying
Mosquitoes

Although the majority of


mosquitoes don’t spread
diseases, the three most
deadly types (aedes,
anopheles, and culex)
live on almost every
continent and are re-
sponsible for transmit-
ting approximately
17 per cent of the infec-
tious diseases around
the world, according to
News From the the Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial
WORLD OF Research Organisation.

MEDICINE In an experiment with


global implications,
scientists released more
than three million sterile
ORANGES WARD OFF male Aedes aegypti
mosquitoes in three
MACULAR DEGENERATION tropical towns in north-
An orange a day might keep macular degenera- ern Australia. The sterile
males mated with wild
istockphoto , africa studio/indiapicture
tion away, according to a study of more than
females, and more than
2,000 adults aged 49 and older. The Westmead 80 per cent of the entire
Institute for Medical Research in Australia, population was eventu-
which conducted the study, found that people ally wiped out.
who ate an orange daily reduced their risk of
acquiring this age-related visual impairment by
up to 60 per cent. In addition to vitamin C,
oranges have flavonoids, which might explain
the effect: These compounds prevent oxidative
stress and reduce inflammation in the body.

44 august 2019
Reader ’s Digest

TRAINING FOR SURGERY TB Vaccine Trial

Surgery is tough on the body. Even minor procedures Tuberculosis, a


carry the risk of complications such as shock or in- highly communicable
fection. Besides choosing an experienced surgeon, disease, kills more
recent research suggests that training for surgery may than 3,00,000 people
be the best way to avoid these issues and recover every year, according
faster. “You wouldn’t run a race without preparing,” to the government’s
says Michael Englesbe, MD, a transplant surgeon Central Tuberculosis
who started a preoperative programme at the Univer- Division. The depart-
sity of Michigan, USA. “An operation is as physiologi- ment also states that
cally hard” as running 5 kms, he explains. The a single patient can
programme, which includes about an hour a day of infect as many as
walking, helped reduce the length of hospital 10 people.
stays by 31 per cent. Similar programmes Recognizing this,
add other therapies. Together, they offer the Indian Council
tips for starting your own regimen two of Medical Research
to six weeks before surgery: (ICMR) has launched

1 Read up on your procedure to


help mentally prepare for what
recovery will be like.
two variants of a vac-
cine, on a trial basis,
to check the effective-

2 Learn relaxation techniques


such as prayer or meditation
to cope with any pain, stress or de-
ness of them on those
who come in close
contact with the pa-
pression you might have. tients. The study, to

3 Breathe in through your nose


deeply, hold for five to ten sec-
onds, then let your breath out slowly
be spread over seve-
ral months, will be
conducted on around
through your mouth. Do this several 12,000 healthy indivi-
times a day to prevent respiratory duals who are at high
ljupco smokovski/shutterstock

issues such as a partial lung collapse. risk of contracting the


If you smoke, quit before surgery, disease. If the trials
even if it’s only for a few weeks. are successful, we

4 If you’re not exercising daily, walk


at least a few minutes every day.
could see the vaccine
being approved for

5 Being dehydrated or malnou-


rished increases the chance of
delirium. Drink plenty of water and
use on a larger scale
for prevention.
—WITH INPUTS FROM
eat nutritiously. V. KUMARA SWAMY

readersdigest.co.in 45
HOW TO

Build a
Better
Breakfast
11 ways to get the most out of
the first—and most important—
meal of the day

By Marissa Laliberte

ifong/shutterstock

46 august 2019
Reader ’s Digest

W
e’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of
the day, and that may actually be true. A study of more than
50,000 adults aged 30 and older found that breakfast-eaters
were more likely to lose weight than those who didn’t eat a
morning meal. Other studies link skipping breakfast with a
higher risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
But it’s not just when you eat; it’s what you eat. Balancing carbohydrates with
protein, fibre and healthy fats is the key to a satisfying and nutritious breakfast.
These tips will help you really rise and shine:

1. Eat even if you’re not hungry difference, but given that a larger waist
Although you might not feel like eating size and metabolic syndrome can in-
first thing in the morning, it’s a good crease your chances of diabetes, heart
idea to get something into your system. attack and stroke, it’s worth making the
Eating within 90 minutes of waking up effort to hold it steady.
will jump-start your metabolism and
keep you from getting hungry later, 3. Add peanuts or peanut butter
says certified dietician and nutritionist In a small study of 15 obese women,
Amy Shapiro, and founder of Real eating peanuts or peanut
Nutrition in New York City. Just a butter helped to lower
banana will do the trick. the glycemic re-
sponse to a break-
2. Be boring fast of Cream of
Varying what you eat is a good idea in Wheat [break-
theory, but if you are watching your fast porridge
weight, you might want to stick with made of wheat
the same old menu. A 2014 British semolina] and
study found that people who allowed orange juice—
their breakfast calories to fluctu- meaning that the
ate (as measured by a five-day diet carbohydrates were
diary) had larger waists and a higher digested more slowly
incidence of metabolic syndrome and blood sugar did not rise as
(that raises the risk of heart disease, high. Plus the women felt fuller for up
stroke and diabetes) than folks who to 12 hours after eating the peanut but-
matthew cohen

kept their morning calorie intake con- ter or peanuts, so they were less likely
stant, no matter how much they ate the to snack later. Peanut butter on toast or
rest of the day. It’s not clear why your chopped nuts on cereal adds hassle-
morning calorie count makes such a free protein to a carb-heavy meal.

readersdigest.co.in 47
Reader ’s Digest

of 93 obese and overweight women


with metabolic syndrome, those who
ate a balanced 700-calorie breakfast
over a 12-week period lowered their
blood sugar and blood pressure two
times more than people who ate a 200-
calorie meal. They also lost an aver-
age of 8.7 kilos and had lower levels of
ghrelin, the ‘hunger hormone’.
4. Drink coffee only after
you’ve eaten 6. Pile on the produce
Coffee on an empty stomach can be “I advocate for plants in every meal,”
too acidic for your body, and pairing Shapiro says. She recommends sneak-
it with your morning meal could set ing in a serving of fruits or veggies by
you up for overeating throughout the cooking tomato or spinach in your
day. “It can send the signal that you’re eggs, adding avocado to your break-
full and don’t need to eat for another fast sandwich or eating half a banana
couple of hours,” says certified with toast.
holistic-nutrition coach Andrea Moss,
founder of Moss Wellness. “This can 7. Always pick a protein
mess with hunger levels, energy A review of studies in the journal

matthew cohen, aleksey troshin/shutterstock (coffee splash)


levels, focus and concentration later Advances in Nutrition found that for
on in the day.” Also, when you do breakfast to reduce hunger later in
reach for your first cup, double-check the day, it needs to be high in protein.
the calorie count on your coffee order. Shapiro recommends eggs, nut butter
Even a healthy-sounding small skim or cottage cheese (which is generally
latte, which is mostly milk with just a little lower in sugar than yogurt) to
a shot or two of espresso, has about give your breakfast a protein boost.
140  calories, Shapiro says. Instead,
she recommends a dash of cinnamon 8. Embrace fat—even dairy fat
in your coffee for a calorie-free Fat isn’t the main enemy to weight-
natural sweetener that could also help loss success—sugar is. “Fat is digested
regulate your blood sugar. slowly by the body and helps decrease
the rate at which we digest and break
5. Go big down carbohydrates,” says Moss. That
There’s an old saying that advises means healthy fats keep you full and
‘Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a squash cravings. At least one quarter
prince, and dinner like a pauper’. It’s of the calories in your breakfast should
worth following. According to a study come from fats, mostly the healthy

48 august 2019
How to Build a Better Breakfast

mono- and polyunsaturated kind.


What’s more, milk is usually fortified
with vitamins A and D, which are fat
soluble. So you need some fat (at least
one to two per cent) to help your body
absorb those nutrients more efficiently.

9. Calorie-control your smoothie


A smoothie might seem like a healthy
option, especially when made from
whole fruits rather than fruit juices.
But be careful of a fruit free-for-all,
because the calories and sugar weight in a bowl than you will with
add up when you toss in too much, larger flakes, and that could lead to
Shapiro says. Just one large banana, overeating. In fact, a study published
for instance, has 121 calories and in the Journal of the Academy of
16.6 grams of sugar. Nutrition and Dietetics revealed that
even though participants poured
10. Look for larger flakes ... themselves a slightly lower volume
A little-observed fact about cereal: of cereal when the flakes were small,
The smaller the flake size, the more they still consumed more cereal
efficiently it fills a bowl. That means by weight compared with a bowl
you’ll get more small-flake cereal by containing bigger flakes.

11. ... and sneaky sugar


Since cereal can be a surprising sugar
bomb (depending on the brand,
more than half of your calories could
come from sugar), it’s wise to limit
how much you eat. You should also
look for a brand with at least five
matthew cohen, indiapicture

grams of fibre and no more than


eight grams of sugar per serving, says
Shapiro. Yogurt can be a problem too.
Non-fat yogurts are often loaded with
sugary syrups or artificial sweeteners.
Instead, try an unsweetened low- or
full-fat version and add fresh or dried
fruit or some honey.

readersdigest.co.in 49
COVER STORY

Unapologetically
INDIAN
Because we are like this only!

By Samit Basu
Illustrations by Siddhant Jumde

n these strange, troubled times, what we all crave is

I something familiar, something constant—something that


will not change, however much the world around us might.
And the answer to this is, literally, within ourselves. Indians
won’t change. We won’t change. It’s time to take another
look at our eccentricities and oddities, all those special
features, even the ones that embarrass and irritate us, that
make us unapologetically Indian.
There are so many things about this country that we don’t
appreciate until we are far away. You learn to truly value a lot
of the little expressions of large-scale cohabitation only when

50 august 2019
Reader ’s Digest

Concerned about privacy


breaches? Most Indians have
never known what privacy is!

readersdigest.co.in 51
Reader ’s Digest

they’re not around you any more—


the neighbourhood dog-feeder, the
water-sharing neighbour, the people
who appear out of nowhere to offer
help and shelter when emergencies
appear. We are a people who are
taught fairly early in life that you’ll
have to build your own support
s y s t e m s, b e c a u s e n o e x t e r n a l
benevolent authority is going to look
after you—so whether we evolve or
not, we learn how to survive.
We o f t e n c e l e b r a t e I n d i a n
improvisations and innovations as
‘jugaad’, voluntarily overlooking the
fact that they become necessary
because people get desperate,
because systems don’t work. But,
strangely, our acceptance of non-
working systems has prepared us
for the interesting times the world is
heading towards. What can anything
throw towards Indians that we haven’t WE DON’T NEED TO
dealt with since childhood?
Are you concerned about privacy BUILD LOCATION-
breaches and data theft? Most BASED APPS TO FIND
Indians have never known what
privacy is—and what is data theft in
ROMANCE—LOCATION-
a country where perfect strangers, BASED AUNTIES WILL
meeting you for the first time, feel FIND YOU PARTNERS,
free to ask you how much rent you
pay, how much you earn at work, EVEN IF YOU RESIST.
how much you weigh, and when on
earth you’re planning to get married, whole audience is the quizmaster.
or if you’re already married, when C l i mat e c ha n g e ? We f a c e
you’re planning to have a child, or the weather disasters every year, which
next one. Human interaction in our governments have no intention of
country is already an endless episode helping with. Surveillance? The
of Kaun Banega Crorepati where the Americans need to invest billions of

52 august 2019
Cover Story

dollars to spy on their citizens, and pools in nighties and banians was
the Chinese need to build incredibly actually a statement against body
dystopian systems of human shaming, the size-zero fad, artificial
management. Here in India, we do trends of corporate-enforced beauty
it all manually—what surveillance and the global swimwear mafia? What
can you be scared of if you have if Hyderabad’s Visa Balaji temple and
grown up in an Indian family? What Jalandhar’s Hawaijahaj (aeroplane)
draconian social regression have we Gurdwara are massive crowdsourced
not already had defended to us by public art projects mocking Western
an older family member? We don’t imperialism and anti-immigration
need to build location-based apps hegemonies worldwide? Did we
to find romance—location-based invent influencers with our godmen,
aunties will find you partners, often in blockchain with our dabbawalas,
the face of your active resistance. Our and search-engine optimization with
offline human networks have a speed, our astrologers?
range and reliability that no telecom If I were in charge of a history-
giant can match. rewriting project, I would place
The threat of automation and large- Indians in key moments of history
scale job loss? Indians are unfazed— that would add both great weight and
already there are no jobs, and we are much authenticity to our ‘Indians
confident the machines won’t work. invented everything’ arguments. I
Pollution and water shortage? Please. would talk about how Columbus,
We are already able to ignore the upon sailing to find India, actually
world’s worst air and days of no water found it, but was given wrong
supply while we send each other directions at the coast and sent to
Good Morning WhatsApps. Whenever America. How Neil Armstrong, upon
the apocalypse arrives, whatever form landing on the moon, met a group
it takes, our centuries of training in of lost Indian tourists, who looked
ignoring harsh realities around us at his lunar vehicle and asked him
will enable us to not really notice the how many kilometres it ran per litre.
world has ended—and make rude How years before Copernicus, Indian
comments about people who Mark astrologers had already mapped the
Themselves Safe online afterwards. galaxy in a dosa. How Alexander
What if we started seeing various accidentally crashed a north-Indian
inescapable Indian traits as incred- wedding and decided to go back home
ibly woke trends? What if refusal to because it was just too crazy—how he
stand in queues was a landmark pro- gathered his troops together one last
test against global socio-political hei- time, and told them: Тие се вакви
rarchies? What if going into swimming само. They are like this only.

readersdigest.co.in 53
Reader ’s Digest

City Chronicles
Just as you can tell what city any Indian is from by
the mango she insists is the world’s best, each city’s
auto drivers have a unique way of turning you down.
We asked our readers to share with us their own
experiences characterizing their hometowns. Here’s
a smattering of anecdotes from their contributions
By RD Readers

Only in Delhi Several would-be molesters were


A city known for plain speak, but caught that evening. I wonder if they
some interrogations are just weird were asked their salaries later.
I had moved to Delhi recently and was —Rajeshwari Jha, Delhi
out on assignment as a reporter. The
Delhi Police had a women’s cell that Only in Kolkata
tracked what was called ‘eve-teasing’ Trying to buy something isn’t
those days. I was seated in a police always a City-of-Joy experience
jeep next to a woman officer, waiting A friend from Pakistan was shop-
for action. ping for saris in Kolkata. There was
Delhi’s evil-doers were probably a bunch of passive, morose sales-
waiting for the temperature to come men sitting around the store that af-
down a bit, so we found ourselves sit- ternoon, when she entered—a bit of
ting in the jeep for a long while. Like a contrast to the Karachi salesmen,
a true detective, the officer decided to who were always eager and willing.
interrogate me instead—and the first So much so that these large muscular
thing she wanted to know was my sal- Pathans would enthusiastically drape
ary. I tried to evade the subject, but saris on themselves to display them
she was insistent. All she wanted was for the shopping ladies.
an idea, she said in the end. My friend was kind of embarrassed
“Why?” I asked to ask these pinched Bengali
“What if I want to become a men to get up and help. Then she
journalist?” she said. remembered that she had come
“If I tell you my salary, you won’t,” to buy some gifts and pointed to a
I said. top-shelf piece she fancied.

54 august 2019
“ It ’s o u t o f re a c h,” s a i d t h e
salesman blandly. “For me, and you,”
he added, and went back to reading
his newspaper.
—Nupur Sinha, Kolkata

Only in Bengaluru
It’s a long and lonely road in the
traffic-jam capital of India
My friend Rohit’s car was crawling at
a snail’s pace near Bengaluru’s Silk
Board junction, notorious for gridlock
jams. He suddenly spotted a colleague
walking briskly down the pavement.
Rohit immediately called out to
him, offering a lift.
“Thank you, but no,” his colleague
said. Desi-baby day care?
“No really, it’s cool. I’m headed that
way,” Rohit insisted. daylights out of me. As I prepared to
“Sorry boss, but I’m in a bit of a enter the ladies’ compartment, I did
hurry,” said the fellow and disap- kickboxing moves in my head: jab,
peared into the traffic. hook, uppercut!
—Sangeeta Manocha, Bengaluru Suddenly the frenzied ladies be-
hind me yelled “lavkar” (faster), and,
Only in Mumbai before I knew it, I was swept away by
Rush-hour commutes require the huge crowd. Basically, everyone
skilled training pushed and shoved until we were
I remember the first time I travelled miraculously propelled into the com-
in a Mumbai local train during rush partment within seconds. While I
hour. My heart skipped a beat as I tried to breathe, everyone else looked
gazed at the train offloading a horde calm and unperturbed, as though
of passengers on to the platform. I they did this every day!
almost froze, wondering how I’d be In The Art of War, Sun Tzu says,
able to get on the train in one piece. “supreme excellence consists in
I had observed a few other trains breaking the enemy’s resistance
arrive and leave before this one, without fighting”. I guess Mumbai
and the sea of humanity flowing in trains taught me that.
and out of compartments scared the —Priyanshi Gupta, Mumbai

readersdigest.co.in 55
Reader ’s Digest

#WHOISYOURCITY: AGE, SEX, LOCATION?


In July 2019, a Lahore-based digital Ê Srinagar is a damaged teen
media manager posted a quote by the that was abused in his childhood
famed English art critic John Berger from and also sent to prison even though
her twitter handle @izahshahid: “Every he was innocent. All these brutalities
city has a sex and an age which have and injustice are turning him into
nothing to do with demography. Rome something even he doesn't know
is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a but the beauty in his heart is still alive,
teenager, an urchin, and in this hasn’t it's pure. Nothing will change that.
changed since the time of Dickens. Paris, — @sameedshah7
I believe, is a man in his twenties in love
with an older woman.” Soon, India's Ê Mysore is a beautiful woman, royal
Twitterati began responding with and charismatic. Had a glorious past,
descriptions of our cities in human but now wakes up every day to realize
form. Here are some of our favourites: that the past is well behind, and the
glory long gone. She lulls slowly wait-
Ê Chennai is a matriarch. ing for another chapter of her life.
Grounded, loved, earthy. Gives — @sreedhanya
us the yummiest of food and the
best of advice. Is full of stories that Ê #Shimla is an English lady's rest-
demand rapt attention. Laughs and less soul trapped in the body of an old
cries with equal vigour. Keeps the Pahari woman, it misses the charm of
door open for beef biriyani dinners. its youth and writes fog poems for a
— @caselchris1 lost lover.— @SoulVersified

Ê Benaras is an old shayar who Ê Bombay: late 30s, jaded, bit


was in love with a courtesan in his weathered. Smokes bidis, carries
prime and still writes love sonnets pocket watches. Broods alone by the
about her performance on his ghazals. sea. Man of many talents, gets the job
He often sits with his friend Ganga done. Isn't classically handsome, has
and talks about how she used to strange scars, really long legs. Throws
put flowers in her hair. Ganga never his head back & laughs. Has secrets.
confessed her feelings for the shayar. Try but you can't help swooning.
— @Pooja_Tripathii — @Shayonnita15

56 august 2019
To err is human, but to wander off is … bovine!

Only in Jodhpur festival, Pooram, which takes place


To err is human, to forgive divine, in April–May every year. There are
but to wander off is … bovine elephant processions, parasol parades
In an unexpected turn of events, a and a thunderous symphony of drums!
cow was produced before a local court Elephants are a big part of Pooram, and
in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, over a dispute. Thrissur boasts several fan clubs for the
Turns out, the issue arose between a magnificent creatures. The tallest and
police constable and a teacher over most dignified temple elephant is the
the ownership of the prized bovine. 55-year-old Thechikottukavu Ramach-
The judge carried out a physical andran, who towers at 10.5 feet and has
inspection of the cow and adjourned his own Facebook page!
the case at first. At the next hearing, Devotees were terribly disheartened
however, the cow was let loose however, when authorities forbade
so it could find its way home. It the partially blind animal from taking
purposefully made its way to the part in the event last year citing health
constable's house and, voila, its concerns. But the love of tens of thou-
ownership was decided! sands of fans, who eagerly anticipate
— Spotted by Deepak Purohit, Bhopal the spectacle of Ramachandran walk-
ing among massive crowds for hours
Only in Thrissur on end, would not be denied. A huge
Where there are elephants, there media campaign reversed the verdict
are ele-fans. and he was allowed to open the festivi-
A small, sleepy town in Kerala, Thris- ties. Stars must bow to fans sometimes!
sur is famous for its annual temple —K. Muraleedharan, Thrissur

readersdigest.co.in 57
Reader ’s Digest

“#LivingMyPromise
is a platform for like-minded
people to come together
and pool their resources to
make a larger impact,”
says Girish Batra.

58 august 2019
THE POWER OF GIVING

Promising to give away


half their wealth to charitable causes,
these extraordinary Indians are setting a
new milestone in philanthropy

By Ishani Nandi with Team RD


illustrations by Keshav Kapil

hen Bill and Melinda 47-year-old Girish Batra, a corporate

W Gates and Warren Buf-


fet launched The Giv-
ing Pledge in August
2010, they invited high net worth in-
dividuals to dedicate more than half
executive from Bengaluru. A part-time
volunteer at DaanUtsav—a pan-India
giving week in October—Batra dis-
cussed starting a similar initiative
in India with his fellow volunteers.
their fortunes to philanthropy. The But, instead of bringing together the
movement grew rapidly and by 2017, super-rich, Batra proposed that well-
there were 168 signatories from 21 heeled middle-class Indians—with a
nations. This is when word reached net worth of `1 crore or more—pledge

readersdigest.co.in 59
Reader ’s Digest

to give away at least half their wealth and Ulhas Vairagkar don’t believe that
over the course of their lives, or in philanthropic support should be pub-
their wills as a posthumous donation, licized. “However, we are persuaded
to causes close to their hearts. that our pledge may possibly influ-
By August that year, the campaign, ence some more to think and maybe
dubbed #LivingMyPromise (# LMP ), act in a similar direction,” they say.
went online and news began to “#LivingMyPromise isn’t an NGO. It
spread. Venkat Krishnan N, founder does not collect or grant money. Each
of the non-profit GiveIndia, and pledger makes an individual decision
among the first to take the pledge, and offers a public declaration of their
and five more donors from DaanUtsav commitment to donate a sizeable
came on board. Today, a total of portion of their wealth,” explains
27 signatories from across India Batra. The core group emphasizes
have signed up, including actor, that this is for ordinary people who
director and philanthropist, Rahul lead a ‘normal’ life, but have decided
Bose. “Asking Indians to commit to to make a difference nonetheless. And
something like this would have been to help those who have the mindset,
preposterous earlier,” says Bose. But LMP offers advice on legal, financial
this, to him, is an indication of where and other practical aspects. Reader’s
philanthropy has reached in India. Digest met a small bunch of these
“This is not first level; this is talking ‘middle-class Azim Premjis’ to bring
to those who are a few steps in the to you their stories.
journey, where they are willing to
make this a way of life,” he says.
What indeed ties the pledge AMITH PRABHU, Gurugram
takers is not their enormous fortunes, Growing up in Mangalore, Karna-
but their big, giving hearts. Most of taka, Amith Prabhu and his brother,
them have grown up in average, mid- had a “semi-luxurious life”. But strong
dle-class homes, where frugality was middle-class values and a culture of
tempered with generosity and social generosity were drilled into them. “We
responsibility. Having learnt from got whatever we wanted, but we were
strong, positive role models in their taught never to be greedy and to give to
own lives, they have continued on the others,” says Prabhu, 39, a Gurugram-
path of giving—donating funds, time based public-relations professional.
and services to serve the needy. Prabhu’s mother earned around
While most of them shy away from `5,000 monthly but always kept away
the spotlight, even the most reluc- a couple of months’ salary to offer as
tant see value in making their pledge interest-free loans to the needy. His
public. Delhi-based signatories Smita father, a professor, served mid-day

60 august 2019
The Power of Giving

meals to underprivileged students


in his college. When he lost his
mother at the relatively young age
of 51—Prabhu was 21—he made a
promise to himself—he would give to
the needy whatever he inherited
from his mother and in 2011, he
started the Ethel Prabhu Foundation
in her honour.
Prabhu did volunteer work after
graduation, which made a lasting
impact on him. “I came across several
people who had done so much for
others with no expectations.” As he
took on various roles in his career,
he continued to contemplate on the
various means of wealth creation and
sharing. This is when he came across
#LivingMyPromise, and decided to
take the plunge. Talking about why
he pledged to donate half his earnings
after he was gone, he says it was “I don’t want to blame governments.
simple: “I knew I would earn enough I just feel we all need to adopt a value
system and focus on giving,”
and more for all my needs and also
says Amith Prabhu.
have a surplus that I can use to make
lives of certain people better.”
His family is completely on board do not hesitate to respond though,
with this. “I built assets with the hoping it will inspire more people to
intention of giving them away in the give. Charity is not about managing
future. It’s a personal choice. And one’s reputation. It is about behaving
my family respects that. The assets I with a conscience,” he says.
have purchased with my wife will be Prabhu has a suggestion for all
disposed of by her in my absence in those on the cusp of charity. “I wish
any way she wishes,” he adds. He has everyone could make an effort to keep
also pledged to donate his body for 10 per cent of their income for a wor-
medical research. thy cause in their lifetime, and maybe,
Despite his many years in the PR 100 per cent of all that they inherited
world, Prabhu seems uncomfort- for the needy afterwards.”
able talking about his charity work. “I —by v. kumaraswamy

readersdigest.co.in 61
Reader ’s Digest

were both excited about the initiative


and wanted to act on it,” he recounts.
Having grown up in a setting heavily
driven by philanthropy, the instinct to
give came naturally to both. Venkatra-
man, originally from Chennai, moved
to the social sector after seven years in
consulting. Fareedi, from Darjeeling,
was influenced early on by her mother
to give. “In spite of the many hard-
ships she faced, my mother started a
school in one of the most remote parts
of Darjeeling. So there was no run-
ning away from the fact that no matter
what your means, you can still con-
tribute,” she says. The pledge is just an
extension of that belief for both.
Today, besides their annual contri-
butions to various organizations, they
“We are cause agnostic. Social change have also pledged to donate half their
requires thought and action and we wealth to charitable causes in their
support any group that is changing will. “However, after having signed up
peoples’ lives for the better,” say Sriram to #LMP, we want to be more consistent
Venkatraman and Mashqura Fareedi. with our support and plan our contri-
butions better,” says Venkatraman.
While the fear of not having saved
SRIRAM VENKATRAMAN enough for the future often cripples
AND MASHQURA FAREEDI, several well-intentioned people, Ven-
Bengaluru katraman and Fareedi assert that they
For development professionals did not harbour any doubts or fears
S r i ra m Ve n k a t ra m a n , 3 6 , a n d about signing up to # LMP . In fact,
Mashqura Fareedi, 39, “It felt like Fareedi feels this has brought the two
a ‘no-brainer’ because it is parting closer. “This would be the first time
with something that never really was we are doing something together
ours to keep and it made sense that it besides our work in our individual
would go to social welfare.” Venkatra- capacity. I would like to think of it as
man came to know about the pledge in just the first step,” she says.
early 2019 through a social media post. The couple realize that not every
“I discussed it with Mashqura and we person may find it easy to sign up to

62 august 2019
The Power of Giving

the pledge. “Many of our friends have


existing commitments that they need
to honour first. But for many of us,
especially the ones with no kids, this
is also a great opportunity to plan our
contributions. And for our generation,
there are many like us out there
who just want to know how. #LMP is a
great way to do so,” says Venkatraman.
“We hope we are able to encourage
more people to join”.
—by vanya lochan

BHARATI DASGUPTA,
Mumbai
Since childhood, Dasgupta, now
76, had seen a steady stream of visi-
tors welcomed to stay at their Mum- “The philosophy is simple—you have,
bai family home. “They can’t come so you can; you can, so you give; you
to Bombay and not have a place to give, so you impact; you impact, so
you change,” says Bharati Dasgupta.
stay. You must accommodate who-
ever comes, because you have some-
thing that they don’t,” she would hear granddaughter was adopted. Over
her parents say. the next 10 years, she expanded CSA’s
This small but significant lesson in efforts across state lines and into the
selflessness was engraved on young world of orphan care.
Dasgupta’s heart, and she remained “When I first heard of the
true to her parents’ legacy ever #LivingMyPromise campaign from
since. After serving with the Indian Venkat (Krishnan) my first thought
Banks’ Association and heading her was, I would never fit into the `1-crore
own consulting firm, Dasgupta took bracket! But, with some careful
up full-time social work. In 2002, scrutiny and research, I found that,
she, along with three other family between my house, savings and other
members, founded Catalyst for Social assets, it all added up,” she smiles.
Action (CSA), an NGO that works in When asked if she ever felt both-
the field of adoption and family-rights ered or concerned about neglecting
care for institutionalized children, her family by giving away a large por-
a cause she came to love when her tion of her wealth, she responds, “Not

readersdigest.co.in 63
Reader ’s Digest

at all. I realized that my daughter and opportunity to make a lasting impact—


son-in-law, both successful profes- a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to
sionals, were much less likely to need build a middle-class ‘giving’ commu-
my money than those with little or nity, based on philanthropy. Together,
no means.” But more than the finan- we can create a whole new structure
cial support, Dasgupta sees a greater for bringing about change,” she says.
purpose to #LMP. “This was a great —by ishani nandi

Operations at Bain
“If I can Capital and a leading
encourage
philanthropist, invited
someone
through my him to join the #LMP
presence, I am fold, he was more
happy,” Bose than happy. Already
says. fired up by ideas of
social change, he is a
committed traveller on
this revolutionary road
today. “This is a much
deeper calling—a
t e s t a m e nt t o h ow
you view the world,
really, and what
happiness means to
you,” says Bose.
Among the few
RAHUL BOSE, c h i l d re n w h o a re famous Indians
Mumbai being given the gift committed to
Social concerns and of education and philanthropy, Bose
philanthropy have groomed for social has dedicated
defined actor Rahul engineering in their h i s p u b l i c p ro f i l e
Bose, 52, for years own communities. and credibility
now. Saddened by Bose has donated 70 to energizing the
grave disparities, he per cent of his earnings #LivingMyPromise
started a foundation, to this cause. So when campaign.
13 years ago, with Amit R. Chandra, MD
—by sanghamitra
underprivileged and Head of Indian chakraborty

64 august 2019
The Power of Giving

MEENAKSHI RAMESH,
Chennai
For 49-year-old Meenakshi Ramesh,
a social entrepreneur and passionate
volunteer of kuppai (garbage) cleaning,
it was her middle-class upbringing and
her father’s values that played a big role
in shaping her as a person. When her
mother passed away, she stepped in to
take on household responsibilities de-
spite her young age. Her father, a self-
made banking professional, remains
an idol of selflessness for her and her
two sisters every day. He was generous
beyond measure and never once
turned away someone in need. Says
Ramesh, “My father said it takes a lot
for someone to reach out for help. It
takes their self-esteem and their pride.
Don’t just think it’s my money; try to
see what that money can do for them.”
Motivated by the security and suc-
cess that an IIM-education brings, she “Maybe we can’t end inequality in our
chose to join the one in Ahmedabad, lifetime, but we all have an obligation to
where she met her husband, Ramesh do something,” says Meenakshi Ramesh.
Mangaleswaran, whom she describes
as “my partner in every sense—espe-
cially in our giving journey”. When they When Krishnan, her classmate at
graduated in 1993, India was opening IIM, inspired them to take the #LMP
up like never before, presenting people pledge, it was a natural transition for
like them with unprecedented oppor- the couple. Though Ramesh feels they
tunites. Within a few years, the couple still have a long way to go to reach their
was able to secure financial stability pledged amount, she says having a
and began sharing their prosperity clear goal serves as both reminder and
with those in need, beginning in small motivation to continue the work.
ways—making donations, volunteer- —by pratishtha dobhal
ing time and expertise to NGO s or To learn more about this campaign,
providing health insurance and yearly visit www.livingmypromise.org or send
increments to their domestic help. an email to livingmypromise@gmail.com

readersdigest.co.in 65
“You’ll be relieved to hear your phone died too.”

box had the $15 price slapped a sticker over


stamped on the top, the price that read,
LIFE’S
Like That
which I thought would
be tacky on a gift, so I
“$2.98 Day Old.”
—Marge Donnell
asked the man behind
the counter for a mar- Sometime in the early
ker to black out the ’90s, my Belgian pen-
price. Didn’t work— friend, Theodora, got
I stopped off at the you could still see the married. She was only
supermarket to buy price through the ink. 18 years old then. After
my son-in-law his “I know what to do,” a few years, I asked her
favourite pie—sour the man said. “I’ll cover of any news of a ‘new
cream and raisin. The it up.” And with that, he arrival’ in the family,
66 august 2019 Cartoon by Rob Murray
Reader ’s Digest

The first stage of a realistic baking TAKE THE


show would be each contestant trying BRAIN
to open a jammed utensil drawer. FREEZE
— @blade_funner QUIZ
meaning a child. Theo- tion as a gift from his You know how some-
dora was not very flu- aunt, Supreme Court times your brain can’t
Justice Ruth Bader conjure up a really simple
ent in English, but was
word but it somehow con-
very candid in her re- Ginsburg. “In my 20s,
structs an inspired substi-
ply. “We are trying, I thought, Aha! She was
tution? Here’s one from
but it’s not coming!” teaching me something @Bramptonmel: “My
—SUNIL A. Kallikada very important about 17-year-old child forgot
Thane, Maharashtra patriotism and law,” the word foal and called
he told The New Yorker. it a horse puppy instead.”
My husband talks in “Now I’m in my 30s and Twitter is filled with these
his sleep. Unfortu- have kids of my own, semi-precious gems. Try
nately, he also snores, and I realize, no, she just to deduce these elusive
so I sometimes give gets a discount at the Su- words (answers below):
him the wifely elbow. preme Court gift shop.” 1. A really REALLY
“What?!” He de- wet salad.
manded one night, My neighbour texted — @wesleymallin
still mostly asleep. me, “I just made syno- 2. How-far machine.
“Turn over—you’re nym buns!” I texted — @hardleygirl
snoring,” I said. back, “You mean like (susan long)
He did as instructed grammar use to make?”
3. One of the metal
and while doing so I haven’t heard from things with four
muttered, “That’s her since. stabby fingers.
nothing; you should —Gerald L. — @laurie_winkless
hear my wife snore.” Loffredo
m. unal ozmen/shutterstock

4. Arctic cabbage.
—Karen Brungardt
— @GreyAreaUK
Every year from when 5. Meat pickle.
he was age five to 12, Reader’s Digest will pay — @AlistairDove
for your funny anecdote
screenwriter Daniel or photo in any of our
Stiepleman would humour sections. Post it lettuce, 5. hot dog
receive a copy of the to the editorial address, or measure, 3. fork, 4. iceberg
United States Constitu- email: editor.india@rd.com answers: 1. soup, 2. tape

readersdigest.co.in 67
NATIONAL INTEREST

RIGHT TO
EDUCATION
A Progress Report
After a decade since the Right to Education Act
was passed, experts from the field assess its key
achievements and shortcomings

By Nilanjana Bhowmick

“Come back soon, Ammi!” a teary- When their seven-year-old daughter


eyed Arhaan implored his mother, Umra qualified through the RTE in one
when she dropped him to school in of the city’s prominent private schools
April last year. It was his first day in in 2017, they were over the moon.
Lucknow’s Blue Bells School. When “They never really accepted her
Uzma Khan picked him up afterwards, though. When I went to meet the prin-
he was beaming, ear to ear. Arhaan cipal, I was turned away. Umra is highly
had qualified to study for free in this intelligent, and I didn’t want to spoil her
elite school under the Right to Educa- chances. So I put her in a private school
tion (RTE) Act. Uzma, a homemaker, anyway,” she added. So, when Arhaan
and her husband, who works as a got accepted, it was one less expense
chauffeur, had always dreamt of a bet- the family—with a monthly income of
ter life for their two children. And in `8,000—needed to worry about.
that dream, private, English-medium “Much as though we wanted it, we
education featured prominently. wouldn’t have been able to manage
Photograph by Chandradeep Kumar
68 august 2019
Reader ’s Digest

Wasima, an RTE beneficiary, with


her parents Maqsoodan (left)
and Akhtar Ali

readersdigest.co.in 69
Reader ’s Digest

good schooling for both. Right to Edu- “She just refused to go—school was
cation came as a boon,” says Uzma, just an open space, with no toilets or
happy to be able to admit Arhaan any other facilities,” Ali, who works as
to Blue Bells under provision 12(1) a driver, said.
(c) of the RTE that provided for They admitted their second daugh-
compulsory reservation of at least ter Wasima to a private school around
25 per cent of seats in private schools 2010 but could afford the fees (`300 per
for underprivileged children. month) for only a year. After the RTE
RTE came as a relief to millions was implemented, they admitted her
like her. Akhtar Ali and Maqsoodan, to a government school in Chattarpur.
residents of a resettlement colony “She is in secondary school now. It is
in Delhi, tried to educate their firstborn a huge help that we don’t need to pay
Salma, unsuccessfully. Salma, now 28, the fees or for books,” Maqsoodan said.
dropped out of school after class 5. August 2019 will mark a decade since

THE JURY IS IN...


and minority communities.
It has, however, successfully
closed the gap between
girls and boys in school
through better enrolment.
There’s been some
Dr. Ranjana Kumari, improvement in Tarun Cherukuri
Director, infrastructure, though CEO, Indus Action Education
Centre for Social Research not satisfactory. Its major Think Tank
failing is that the quality
There is no connect between and quantity of teachers at One of the most progressive
different schemes of the government schools has and ambitious legislations
government— between RTE been abysmal, and not ever passed. With such a di-
and the Kasturba Gandhi meeting the required verse population and difficult
Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs)— teacher-student ratios. Also, geography of the country to
for example, which can help educational institutions are cater to, it is inevitable that
increase access to education failing to comply with the the legislation faces many
for girls from underprivileged RTE standards and norms. challenges in its proper

70 august 2019
National Interest

the law was passed, making elemen- its development? The story of these
tary education free and compulsory children illustrates at once how the RTE
for children between the ages of six has been an asset, while highlighting
and 14. By 2030, India is poised to be- the challenges that are holding it back.
come the world’s third-largest economy
with the largest young, working popu- KEY ACHIEVEMENTS
lation globally. The RTE could usher The most important achievement of the
in rich dividends in its growth story RTE has been that it allowed India to
and help it gain a huge advantage over achieve almost 100 per cent enrolment
arch-rival China and its rapidly age- rates. The figures are nothing if not im-
ing population. It is well timed (never pressive—total school enrolment stood
a day early, actually), but could India, at a record 97.2 per cent in 2018.
with 35 per cent of the world’s illiter- Since the RTE was implemented
ate, leverage education to accelerate in 2010, India managed to improve

implementation.The require action plans for each


system currently has state separately on the lines
largely succeeded on the of those already prepared for
input side. Outcomes in Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar
terms of bettering student Pradesh. Intellectual debates
results are still a distant can continue but what is
reality. The traditional Anil Swarup needed is action based
approach to bettering Former Secretary, on ground realities. Policy
the physical infrastructure, Department of School Education will not improve learning
increasing the number and Literacy, GOI outcomes. Action on the
of teachers for training, Only policies won’t solve ground will. There are indeed
lowering teacher-student the problems of school some good ideas, some of
ratio and hiking teachers’ education. Clearly defined which are not new. However,
salaries has not really mate- action plans, in consultation the key question is whether
rialized. The focus on the with the stakeholders, will. such ideas are politically
input side was critical in the The focus has to be on acceptable, socially
first few years. We should implementation and not just desirable, technologically
look beyond it. The soul of “gyaan” [lecture]. More than feasible, financially viable,
the RTE is access to quality the Educational Policy, in a administratively doable
education opportunities. diverse country like ours, we and judicially tenable.

readersdigest.co.in 71
Reader ’s Digest

infrastructure. The fraction of schools 74.2 per cent over the same period, the
with usable girls’ toilets doubled, NGO’s report added.
reaching 66.4 per cent in 2018, ac-
cording to Aser Centre’s Annual Status KEY SHORTCOMINGS
of Education Report (ASER), the only Its biggest failings have remained low
source of information on children’s learning levels, the lack of qualified
learning outcomes in the country. teachers and compliance with section
The proportion of schools with 12(1)(c) of the RTE law, that requires
boundary walls registered an increase private schools to reserve 25 per cent
of 13.4 percentage points to stand at of seats for underprivileged children.
64.4 in 2018. The percentage of schools According to ASER, numeracy and
with a kitchen shed increased from literacy standards remain sub-par,
82.1 to 91. Schools with books, other and are, in many instances, lower than
than textbooks, increased from 62.6 to standards recorded in 2008.

a focus on improving
foundational skills.
The RTE Act did not
undermine learning
outcomes, but it failed
to explictly focus on
Yamini Aiyar, this challenge. India’s Saleem Khan
President & Chief Executive, education system is Director,
Centre for Policy Research reaching that trajectory SAARAS Foundation
now. What the RTE did
The RTE was enacted at was that it started a conver- Lack of social inclusion is one
a time when India was sation around education in of the biggest failings of the
already on a path to achieve this country. But there was RTE law. The beneficiaries of
steady enrolment rates. a complete disconnect the Act are facing various
The RTE law has helped between imagination of challenges. There are three
in improving infrastructure the law and its categories of schools in India.
and quality of schools but implementation. Elite schools, middle- and
it has failed to bring about lower-income schools. The

72 august 2019
National Interest

In 2018, just over 50 per cent of


class 5 children could read a class 2- Three Salient Features
level text meant for seven- to eight-
Of The RTE Act
year-olds. This is a decline from 2008,
when over 56 per cent of class 5 stu- QThe right of children to free and
dents could read a class 2 text book. compulsory education until completion
The results for arithmetic ability, too, of elementary education in a
look disappointing, with just 28 per neighbourhood school.
cent of class 5 students able to do divi- Q Atthe primary level, the student to
sion, compared to 37 per cent in 2008. teacher ratio should be maintained at
According to ASER, learning outcomes 30:1, and 35:1 the upper primary level.
suffered because of a push towards uni-
versalization following the implemen- Q It
prohibits physical punishment,
tation of the RTE Act. It added that the mental harassment and screening
procedures for the admission of
children; capitation fee, private tuition
by teachers and running of schools
without recognition.

middle and lower income


schools are most compliant change has been “slow and uncertain.”
with the RTE provision of An inclusive school system has been
25 per cent reservation for another grave challenge that the law
underprivileged children. But has been unable to address. “A major
they are not getting their failing is the lack of specific provisions
reimbursements from the for children that most need access
to education—the girl child, the SC/
government on time, which in
ST communities and minority com-
turn, discourages compliance. munities. Lack of focus on specific
The government should come up communities means that there aren’t
with an online system of quick provisions to take care of their indi-
grievance redressal. There has to vidual needs,” says Ranjana Kumari,
be proper checks and balances. I director of the New Delhi-based Cen-
would say the RTE is about choice. tre for Social Research, an advocacy
But in our country underprivileged group for women. She points out that
people do not have many choices. the 25 per cent reservation of seats in
And if there are no choices, then private schools “does not tackle the
there are no equal opportunities. issues around integration and provi-
sion of extra help to these students.”

readersdigest.co.in 73
Reader ’s Digest National Interest

This also worries Saleem Khan, who


runs the Saaras Foundation based in
RTE in Numbers Lucknow. “If this could be addressed,
According to data from the District
Q 50 per cent of the loopholes could be
Information System for Education (DISE), plugged,” he says.
the state fill rate—the share of available The other inadequacy of the Act has
seats filled by the mandate—has been that despite provisions, schools
increased from 14.66 per cent in are lacking in qualified teachers. Many
2013–14 to 15.12 per cent in 2014–15 schools have been unable to meet the
teacher-student ratio required by the
QThe number of participating schools act, although the percentage of schools
admitting at least one student under the complying with the RTE-mandated pu-
mandate has increased from 44,158 in pil-teacher ratio almost doubled since
2013–14 to 45,996 in 2014–15. 2010, rising from 38.9 to 76.2 per cent
Q The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) for in 2018, according to ASER.
all persons in elementary education There was an imminent need to ad-
increased from 81.6 per cent in 2000–01 dress the “flat learning curve for the
to 96.9 per cent (provisional figure) child throughout later stages of school-
in 2014–15. ing, not enabling social inclusion, un-
certainty after class 8 for kids in public
QThe GER for boys and girls increased
schools,” sums up Tarun Cherukuri,
by 4.5 (from 90 per cent to 94 per cent)
co-founder of the Indus Action Group,
and 26.4 (from 72 per cent to 99 per
a non-profit organization working
cent) percentage points respectively
to ensure compliance with section
during the stipulated period.
12(1)(c) of the RTE law.
Q RTE Act’s Section 12(1)(c) reserves “Now that the government has
2.2 millions seats across India. largely succeeded in ensuring quan-
tity, the next intervention focal point
Q 1.5 million out of the 2.2 million seats
should be on quality. So yes, RTE had
go vacant every year
to start with being Right to Enrolment,
but now the time has come to move
towards RTE being Right to (Quality)
Education,” Cherukuri added.
That way, learning outcomes would
improve significantly and children
like Umra, Arhaan’s sister, and
I ND I A P I CT U RE

millions of others who have been


denied their rights so far, can be
included in its fold.

74 august 2019
Reader ’s Digest

AS KIDS SEE IT

“I think I used Dad’s hair-restoration shampoo.”

My toddler just got a hold annoyance, she replied, The next day, while we
of a tub of margarine, “The top drawer.” waited at the doctor’s
rubbed it all over her legs —Tim Breithaupt office, Jaden noticed a
and said, “Lotion you can poster of a doctor and
eat.” I feel like she may Six-year-old son: a mother holding her
be on to something. Mom, why did newborn baby.
@Bottomofmypurse you marry Dad? Jaden exclaimed, “Oh!
Me: Because he Are the doctors giving
I was babysitting my six- made me laugh. away free babies?”
year-old granddaughter, Son: You know, —Jesslet
and at bedtime she you could have just Siluvairayan
emerged wearing the married a clown!
pyjamas I had recently —Michelle Noble
given her for her birthday. Reader’s Digest will pay
DAVID WEIGHAM

Thrilled to see her using My four-year-old son, for your funny anecdote
or photo in any of our
them, I said, “Nice Jaden, loves babies. humour sections. Post it
pyjamas. Where did you Recently he voiced his to the editorial address, or
get them?” With a hint of wish for a baby sister. email: editor.india@rd.com

readersdigest.co.in 75
Reader ’s Digest

In the backcountry
of British Columbia,
Brock Crouch
prepared to carve up a
mountain as the star of
a snowboarding film.
One misstep later, he found himself
fighting to survive an avalanche
of his own making

By Brett Popplewell
Illustration by Christy Lundy

WOM
76 august 2019
DRAMA IN REAL LIFE

MPF! readersdigest.co.in 77
Reader ’s Digest

t was dark beneath the snow, this was how he was going to die. But

I which was cold and solid, like


concrete. Brock Crouch could
feel his arms but he couldn’t
move them. They had been
useless to him during his fall, and now
they were locked in place, one by his
side and the other twisted somewhere
there was no fighting it, either.
He closed his eyes and slipped into
the darkness. It was silent, almost
peaceful. He didn’t hear his friends’
frantic screams coming out of his radio,
which was located somewhere on his
body, but smothered by snow. Nor did
behind his back. he register the sound of a chopper’s
He was trapped, badly injured blades cutting through the sky above
and in a state of shock that left him him while he slowly suffocated in the
numb to the sting from the snow debris of his own mistake.
pressing against him. Crouch’s back Then he blacked out.
was broken, as were six of his teeth Five minutes earlier, Crouch had
and his helmet—which had cracked been standing at the jagged top of
against a rock, leaving him concussed. the mountain’s ridge, looking for
He was woozy, but alert enough to his next line of descent through the
understand he was in mortal danger. fresh powder. It was 2:15 p.m. on
Moments earlier, Crouch had 22 April 2018—a little late in the
free-fallen like a rag doll over a cliff, season to be heli-skiing on this range,
bouncing and flipping uncontrollably which stretches north of Whistler.
300 metres down one of the unnamed The air was warm—10°C—and the
peaks of the Pemberton Ice Cap in sun dangerous in the sky above, its
British Columbia [in Canada]. His rays weakening the snow’s grip on
board was still attached to his feet, the mountainside.
which were the only body parts The odds of an avalanche increased
now protruding from the snow. He with every passing moment the sun
was upside down, and his head, bore down. It was a risk Crouch and
completely submerged, was wedged the six others in his party considered
between his knees—a painful position while deciding which slopes to shred
to be in, except he hadn’t felt anything and which to avoid. They’d flown to
since hearing the crunch of his this particular corner of the Coast
vertebrae against a rock. Mountains in search of a pristine
There was no way to push or pull backdrop for a snowboard film—the
his head the half-metre required to get type that attracts an audience enthused
it above the snow, no way to clear his by death-defying vertical drops.
own airway. He couldn’t even spit the Crouch was the main talent on the
broken teeth from his mouth. He was mountain that day, one of the chosen
18 years old, too young to accept that stars of Absinthe Films’ latest movie.

78 august 2019
Drama In Real Life

acrobatics over obstacles in a terrain


park. But he’d never tested his
skills anywhere as remote as the
mountainside he was on that April
afternoon. Though he was capable
of taking on almost any drop, he was
reliant on his Canadian guides to help
him decide which treacherous cliffs to
descend. Chief among those looking
out for him was Shin Campos, a
46-year-old retired pro snowboarder-
turned-film producer and mountain-
safety coordinator who’d lived
around Whistler and worked in the
area’s peaks and ridges for nearly
Crouch had never three decades.
tested his skills
anywhere as remote ampos knew the risks associated

as the mountain
he was on that
C with backcountry mountain
hopping better than anyone
and had dug more than a few of his
clients out of near-death experiences.
afternoon. He counted himself among the more
fortunate guides in the area, but he
knew about loss. Less than a month
The transatlantic production had just had passed since his close friend and
wrapped months of shooting in the fellow guide, Lisa Korthals, had died
Swiss Alps and was now gathering in an avalanche on a nearby ridge. She
last-minute footage of the teen in the was still on his mind as he monitored
backcountry of British Columbia—the the Absinthe team’s movements. He
birthplace of commercial heli-skiing. tended to remain high on the peak,
as it gave him the ability to respond
he competitive surfer from in any direction if one of his charges

T Carlsbad, California, and rising


talent in the world of slopestyle
snowboarding was a breakout star
got in trouble below. He stayed out of
the frame while Crouch and another
snowboarder, Cam Fitzpatrick, carved
of the Winter X Games [an annual the slopes. Then he watched the
extreme sports event produced by chopper bring them back up.
ESPN], famous for his high-flying At 25 years old, Fitzpatrick was

readersdigest.co.in 79
Reader ’s Digest

a veteran of snowboard films. The was standing right on a massive


Wyoming-based rider had spent his cornice that had been heating up in
winter working on this production the afternoon sun.
in Europe. Like Campos, he’d just Fear crashed over Fitzpatrick. He
met Crouch a few days earlier, but couldn’t rush to grab Crouch, as his
Crouch’s talent and demeanour— own body weight might aggravate the
driven but not arrogant—had already situation. It was best for them both to
made an impression. remain calm, but he needed to shout
out a warning. “Be careful!” he yelled.
hen the chopper deposited “This is a hanging cornice!” It was too

W Fitzpatrick and Crouch on


the ridgeline for the last
time, the men rode across to Campos
late. The snow and ice had already
begun to give way.
In a split second, ever ything
to discuss a wide area of fresh powder beneath Crouch’s feet disappeared
they’d spotted from the sky. It was a with the loudest crack Fitzpatrick had
perfect line, wedged between two ever heard, followed by a vacuumous
cliffs—the type that would nicely lend ‘WOMPF!’ Fitzpatrick looked on in
itself to the camera’s lens. Fitzpatrick horror as Crouch, too, disappeared.
reckoned they could access it if For a time, he could hear his colleague
they ventured 50 metres across the screaming as he plummeted along
mountaintop. Campos agreed and with 140 square metres of snow that
reminded both of them to look out had broken off from the ridge. Then
for cornices—overhanging masses he heard the sound of Crouch’s body
of snow that clung to the ridgeline, scraping against the rocks below. After
looking deceptively firm from above that, nothing.
but prone to break off at any moment.
Campos watched as Fitzpatrick and rom his perch on a neighbouring
Crouch moved across the top of the
mountain and disappeared behind
the jagged rocks and boulders that
F peak, helicopter pilot Josh Poole
could see a cloud of snow rising
up near where he’d dropped off the
made up the ridge. He could no longer two snowboarders. The 40-year-old
see the men but could still hear them had just landed his chopper, cut the
checking in periodically with the team engine and was sitting out in the sun.
on their radios. He knew what had happened even
Fitzpatrick led the way, conscious before he heard Fitzpatrick screaming
of not veering from the zone they’d “Avalanche! Avalanche!” into the
established as safe. It took a while for radio. He bolted back into the cockpit
him to realize that they’d gone too far, and started the blades.
and even longer to notice that Crouch Lifting into the air, Poole pushed the

80 august 2019
Drama In Real Life

were all together, calculating the risks


associated with their own descents.
Poole was coming in fast but
already feared the worst. He’d been
on the scene of Korthals’ death just
weeks earlier, hovering overhead
as rescuers struggled to locate her
remains in the debris of the avalanche
that had buried her. The odds were
grim: Only 47 per cent of avalanche
victims survive. And 90 per cent of
those who lived were dug out within
the first 10 minutes. Crouch’s chances
were dwindling fast.

he pilot could see the


On a neighbouring
peak, helicopter T runout from the avalanche
that had been triggered by
the broken cornice, but there was
pilot Josh Poole no sign of Crouch. And he could
could see a cloud of hear Campos on the radio, asking
for eyes on the mountainside. The
snow rising up near boarders desperately wanted to help
where he’d dropped in the search, but were afraid of
off the two hangfire—residual snowfall that often
breaks off in the minutes after an
snowboarders. initial avalanche.
As he eyed the debris, Poole looked
for traces of anything—a glove,
chopper’s nose down and began sli- goggles, a twisted body. It didn’t
cing through the kilometre and a half take long before he thought he saw
of clear blue sky that lay between him something. The tip of a snowboard,
and the cloud of snow dissipating in maybe. He locked its location in
the distance. Meanwhile, Campos and his mind, quickly mapping a route
two other boarders, Mark Tremblay down from the top for the other
and John Jackson, both also featured snowboarders. He radioed directions
in the film, made their way as fast as to Campos, then spun the chopper
they could toward Fitzpatrick, who toward the object in the snow.
was still standing in shock. Soon they A clock was ticking inside

readersdigest.co.in 81
Reader ’s Digest

Fitzpatrick’s head. Three minutes He looked to be dead.


had passed since Crouch had fallen Campos readied to revive him.
out of sight, if not more. It felt like Then, suddenly, Crouch’s eyes opened
forever to him before any of the and he began gasping for breath.
boarders deemed it safe to start “Oh god!” Campos said, shocked.
down the mountain. Jackson and “He’s alive! He’s alive!”
Campos led the way, heading to the C ro u c h ha d s u r v i v e d f o r a n
end of the runout, while Fitzpatrick estimated seven minutes under the
and Tremblay tracked higher, where snow. He looked around but could
the debris began. Each of them hoped hardly register what had happened.
to pick up a pulsed radio signal from Then sensation returned to him,
Crouch’s location transceiver. and he began moaning about the
pain piercing through his spine.
oole spot ted a safe spot Campos asked him if he could feel his

P to land near the runout and


dropped the chopper. He killed
the engines, then jumped out of the
fingers and his toes. He said he could
but continued to complain about
his back. Fitzpatrick and Tremblay
cockpit with his shovel, running arrived on the scene, and soon the
through the snow toward the object five of them were digging delicately
he’d spotted from the sky. Brushing around Crouch, none of them wanting
its surface off, he confirmed into to do anything that would leave
the radio that he’d located Crouch’s him paralyzed.
board. Poole started to dig. When they got the teen out,
The chopper’s blades were still the men gingerly straightened out his
spinning as Campos and Jackson body while Poole sprinted back to
joined Poole—the two snowboarders the chopper for a stretcher. Close to
quickly working at the compacted 2:40 p.m., about 20 minutes after
snow with the shovels they’d carried Crouch first began to fall, the pilot
in their packs. It took a minute just to flipped the propellers back on.
expose Crouch’s legs, and a few more Campos and Jackson climbed into
to uncover the top of his head. He’d the aircraft along with Crouch. Once
been folded up like a taco, and his secured, Poole lifted off from the
face was blue by the time they got it mountainside and pointed toward the
exposed. He wasn’t breathing. Whistler Medical Clinic, some
Jackson put his hand in Crouch’s 20 kilometres away.
mouth and cleared his airway of snow
and broken teeth. Besides his head t wasn’t until the chopper was
and feet, his body was still buried.
Blood was coming out of his ears. I out of sight, and Fitzpatrick and
Tremblay were alone, that the

82 august 2019
Drama In Real Life

“I honestly did.”
However, at no point in the
months since the accident has he
contemplated not getting back on
his snowboard. In fact, the thought
of returning to the sport has helped
him to focus through the pain
of his recovery.

ot everyone on the

N mountain that day sees it


the same way. For Campos,
last year’s ski season was the most
emotionally gruelling of his career,
while Fitzpatrick has spent months
questioning why he and Crouch
and the others even fathomed
putting their lives in danger for the
sake of a thrill and a film. Poole has
Crouch had folded up taken himself out of the heli-skiing
like a taco, and his business. Although he says the timing
is a coincidence, he has struggled
face was blue by the with what happened. “That winter
time they got it affected me,” he says. “I’d be lying if I
said it didn’t.”
exposed. He wasn’t Last September, Stay Tuned—
breathing. t h e f i l m C ro u c h w a s w o r k i n g
on—premiered in Zurich. Days after
that, and five months removed from
emotional weight of the event began the ordeal, he got some good news
to set in. Fitzpatrick was the first to from his doctors. “Cleared to board,”
cry. But he wasn’t the last. Crouch announced on social media,
It took almost a full week to sort along with the image of himself
through the extent of Crouch’s being rolled into an MRI machine
injuries. Besides the knocked-out after his fall.
teeth, he’d torn his pancreas and And now he says he longs for a
fractured three vertebrae. He was return to the very ridge where he
thankful to be alive, and still is. nearly died. “I’d like to go back and
“I thought I was dead,” he says. conquer that mountain.”

readersdigest.co.in 83
Manoranjan Byapari, a
symbol of subaltern dissent

84 august 2019
EXTRAORDINARY LIVES

Once a child left for dead, now an


award-winning author, Manoranjan Byapari’s
life is an astonishing survival saga

By Sanghamitra Chakraborty
Photograph by Vikram Sharma Illustration by Keshav Kapil

January 2018, Chennai. The stage is set for The Hindu Prize 2018
for non-fiction. Five outstanding books from over 500 entries have
been shortlisted. Each of the authors is widely celebrated, barring
one. So when the outlier’s work, Interrogating My Chandal Life—
An Autobiography of a Dalit, is announced as the winner, it is a
moment in Indian literary history. Receiving the award, author
Manoranjan Byapari, now 69, normally tenaciously unsentimental,
breaks down into his gamchha, which he wears around his neck as a
symbol of his identity. Many in the audience, his wife Manju among
them, struggle to fight back tears. “The joy is not mine alone, but
that of all those who are hated and discriminated against. The
respect I received here made me cry,” Byapari said later.

readersdigest.co.in 85
Reader ’s Digest

yapari was born in 1950 Ever since, his life has been a scram-
into a family of fisherfolk ble for survival. As a teenager, he got
in the lush Barisal district sucked into the Naxal movement, chan-
(in today’s Bangladesh). As nelling his rage towards armed strug-
namashudras, the lowest rung of the gle. Walking the thin line, he veered
Dalit people, his family had little to lose, into a life of crime. In and out of prison,
but the derangement of Partition took over the years, he worked in a crema-
their home as well. The Byaparis were torium, as a cook, a coolie and a rick-
herded into a truck, along with at least shaw puller. Chance encounters helped
30 other families, and transported to Byapari drag himself out of the subhu-
refugee camps in the badlands of West man life of a chandal (corpse burner) to
Bengal. Memories of that terrifying pursue learning and wisdom. He would
journey—being bumped around in target his pent-up rage to speak out
the vehicle in the searing heat, the air against upper-class tyranny. He would
clouded with red dust from the tracks, dip into his well of lived experiences
a baby being born en route and an old to chronicle the unwritten histories of
man dying on the truck—were burnt the Dalit people, and, finally, become
into the brain of the 4-year-old. a symbol of subaltern dissent.
Upper-caste people were provided
land after Partition, but Dalits were ntouchability, and the stigma of
thrown into camps. Shiromonipur, in caste, were drilled into Byapari
Bankura, was like a prison camp, only as a child. “In the camp we were
with dole. The refugees were randomly all namashudras, but never noticed
shoved into furnace-like canvas tents. it. Later, when I grazed cows for a
“The rice we got had a disgusting Brahmin home, I was shown my place
sour smell and caused widespread as a human. They used to pour dal into
dysentery,” Byapari recalls. “Every my misshapen food bowl from a height.
night, there were babies dying. It’s They would kiss a dog, but weren’t
impossible to forget the loud wails of willing to touch me”.
grieving mothers and the small pond By the time he was 10, his father had
close by, where dead babies were developed ulcers out of persistent hun-
cremated. The fire never quite died ger, and his little sister died of starva-
down—the smoke from the pyre blew tion. “We had no clothing, used mud to
over the camp.” wash our hair and lived in a hovel. My
As an infant he was also infected. mother used to wrap a mosquito net to
“I died one night. And my body cover her body. I realized I too would
was supposed to be buried the next die—we all would—if I didn’t escape,
morning. Somehow, I started showing so I ran away,” says Byapari.
signs of life when day broke.” He landed up in Kolkata, and then

86 august 2019
Extraordinary Lives

Byapari breaks down as he


receives the 2018 Hindu Prize
for non-fiction.

in New Jalpaiguri and Assam, where incredibly, found his family, who
he worked in tea shops and dhabas. were overjoyed to see their lost child.
Tea shops, and their chatter, were like a Meanwhile, the Naxal movement had
library for him as a boy, Byapari says. “I intensified further. A row between the
learnt about the Naxalbari movement CPI(M) and the Naxals over a wall-
there and recognized that the Naxals writing issue landed him in trouble,
were exactly like me, their battle was even though he was just a sympathizer
also against hunger. All year I would at that point. “The actual offender got
work hard, but then had to hand over away—being from a poor, low-caste
my earnings to the owner and stay family, I was easy prey. Battered body,
hungry. What kind of justice was this? broken legs, even though I kept saying I
Their battle was my battle.” was illiterate, I could not write.”
He left his job and wandered through As it happened, his story reached
east and north India. “During this time, the ‘real Naxals’ and they got in touch,
I grabbed food from dogs’ mouths, asking him if he wanted revenge. He
picked at dumpsters and followed was given medical treatment and
around beggars in hunger. One thing handed a pipegun, bomb and knife,
was clear : No matter where you and a new chapter began.
are in India, there are people who go At night, Byapari played Robin
to sleep hungry.” Hood. “I was a brawler, alcoholic and
He returned to Kolkata and, antisocial in the eyes of the public and

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Reader ’s Digest

police. But those who had nothing, to read and write. We got down to it
especially the women who came to straightaway: A twig was my pencil, the
the city as domestic help, considered jail courtyard my slate, Mastermoshai
us their protectors,” he says. One of the was my textbook.”
vulnerable women he saved from thugs,
a girl named Manju, later married him. tarting with the Bengali
This life was also the shortest path alphabet, Byapari progressed to
to Alipore Special Jail, where his life words, and eventually to books,
took a U-turn. A man of around 60, and discovered an insatiable hunger
who everybody called Mastermoshai, for literature. There was no library in
was lodged in the same prison wing as his jail, but somehow he was able to
Byapari. Mastermoshai took a shine to access them through his Naxal friends.
the young jailbird and tried to convince The more he read, the more he evolved,
him to start reading and writing, but and a new person started taking shape.
Byapari was not interested. By the end of his sentence, he had
One day, Mastermoshai called tremendous goodwill in the prison.
young Byapari to a window in their Out of jail, he worked as a rickshaw
ward. Across the road, he pointed to puller, but his passion for reading had
a small green shoot sprouting out of gripped him further. “All I wanted to
the National Library wall. The shoot do was read more books,” he says. He
got no moisture or nourishment, yet scoured through scrap dealer stocks
it grew out in defiance. Mastermoshai for old books and magazines. He read
asked the young prisoner to reflect on classics and pulp fiction, devouring
it. “This is our life,” said Mastermoshai, whatever he got his hands on. While
“it’s possible to find sustenance, he joined a local library, many of his
if you look for it.” passengers, thrilled to know about his
On another occasion, Byapari reading, passed on old books—Gorky,
encountered a good-looking young Dostoyevsky, Rabindranath, Sarat
man in the jail asylum who said he Chandra and the The Red Book. “I
had been turned in by his mother. went from the Himalayan peaks to the
Apparently, he had lost his mind bottom of the desert, voyaged in space
reading Sarat Chandra’s Charitraheen. to the deepest forests and became a
When Byapari asked Mastermoshai globetrotter, even though I was only a
how this was possible, his teacher said: rickshaw puller,” says Byapari.
“How would you know what a book can The world of Bengali literary fiction,
give a man? Go peel potatoes ... ” especially that created by Mahasweta
“The next morning I felt a strange Devi and Chanakya Sen, amazed him.
turbulence within, and a change of “In the Pita Putra books, by Sen, I had
heart. I told Mastermoshai I wanted tripped on the word jijibisha. I just

88 august 2019
Extraordinary Lives

could not find the meaning anywhere. How far have you studied? What books
One day, I had a passenger—looking at have you read? He named quite a few
her I figured she could be a professor, books, among them were Mahasweta
as she had taken the rickshaw from Devi’s Hajar Churashir Maa and
Jyotish Roy College, and so might know Aranyer Adhikar. “I edit a literary
what the word meant,” recalls Byapari. magazine—will you write for me?” the
It was late afternoon in June and the woman asked. Byapari had already read
sun was breathing fire. The passenger some 400 books, but he had never
unleashed a barrage of questions: written a single line until then. He told
Where did you come across this term? her this, asking her for her address.
S UB I R H AL DA R / IN D I A TO DAY

In a strange, and joyful, coincidence,


Byapari met his literary mentor
Mahasweta (inset), as a rickshaw
puller in Kolkata.

readersdigest.co.in 89
Reader ’s Digest

“When she shared her name and Brahmanvad and Manuvad, not to
address, I was amazed—she was mention the oppression, violence and
Mahasweta Devi herself! I showed her injustice against his people. He has
the copy of her book I was reading and spent the past four decades, bringing
she gave me a big hug,” recalls Byapari. to the fore their untold stories, which
Byapari started visiting Devi, who would otherwise have been lost.
soon became his literary mentor. “I You hear despair in his voice, talk-
tried for a month to write my story and ing about the current socio-political
ended up wasting a lot of paper. My climate: “Even through years of Com-
writing was terrible—I couldn’t read it munist rule in Bengal, the scourge
myself,” he laughs. But in the end, it was of casteism remains insidious … All
published in Bartika magazine titled these years of work of rationalism and
Rickshaw Chalai [I am a Rickshaw scientific progress have been negated
Puller]. And so, a writer was born. by regressive forces in one sweep.
Byapari has written 16 books and We have fallen back by hundreds of
numerous social and political essays. years.” Yet, not one to be defeated, he
Much of his fiction is inspired by calls himself a lekhowar, one who has
his own experiences, and peopled weaponized his writing, and uses the
by characters he has encountered fierceness of his prose to fight back.
on his remarkable journey. Says When Amazon Westland launched
Arunava Sinha, translator of There’s their language imprint Eka, this year,
Gunpowder in the Air: “Byapari has an their goal was to publish great writing
extraordinary empathy with everyone in Indian languages apart from English
he saw struggling to survive, just like and take them to a wider audience.
himself. He could have foregrounded Says Minakshi Thakur, publisher,
his own unique experiences in all his Language Division: “Byapari is a writer
fiction, but he chose instead to tell the who must be moved from the sidelines
stories of these other people, united in of publishing to the mainstream. His
that they were all victims fighting back ideas about caste and inclusivity, about
and refusing to surrender.” home and identity, nation and borders,
Byapari’s political thinking is must be heard by readers across states,
informed by his activism, not just especially the youth. They are relevant
in Bengal but his work in Chhattisgarh now more than ever in our current
with Shankar Guha Niyogi, the political climate. His writing stems
l e g e n d a r y t ra d e u n i o n l e a d e r, from deprivation, rage and isolation; it
who became his political mentor in is raw and uncoloured by training. And
the ’80s, when he moved to the area. most importantly, he speaks about a
Byapari has battled on relentlessly, world he has seen and lived in a world
through his writing, against which isn’t a fair one.”

90 august 2019
Extraordinary Lives

(Clockwise from left) Byapari at his writing desk; receiving the 2019 Gateway
LitFest Writer of the Year award from film director Adoor Gopalakrishnan;
speaking at the Jaipur Literature Festival, 2018

mazon Westland has acquired named after Mahasweta Devi, is mar-


the rights to 14 of his books— ried and a working woman. Manik is
novels, shor t stor ies and settling into a career. “I am grateful to
memoirs. These will be translated Manju for everything—she kept our
and published in English and hearth burning, while I fought my
seven languages over the next three battles,” says Byapari.
years. This has provided succour to Today, Byapari travels around
Byapari and eased his financial stress the country captivating audiences
somewhat. While he used to spend in literary forums everywhere. At
TO P L E FT: S U BI R H A L DA R/ I N DI A TO DAY

12 arduous hours, every day, as a cook home he can be seen most often
at a local school for the deaf until last typing energetically into his laptop,
year, now he has found a relatively his incandescent rage staying alive
comfortable office job there. in defiance and courage. “From a
Byapari lives with his wife and son person, I have become a subject. I
Manik in Mukundapur, on the south- want to take my story far and wide.
ern edge of Kolkata, and is currently Many, many people can get the
busy rebuilding his old home, which energy to fight their battles, that way,”
is a dream come true. His daughter, says the writer, warrior.

readersdigest.co.in 91
TRAVEL

Journeying to the city for the first time was


like being reconnected to a long-lost past

The
ROAD to
LAHORE By Mannu Kohli

92 august 2019
The 200-foot-tall national monument,
Minar-e-Pakistan (Tower of Pakistan)

readersdigest.co.in 93
Reader ’s Digest

I HAD NEVER THOUGHT


I would see Pakistan.
Whenever I looked at
my father’s passport,
where his birthplace
was stated as “Undivided
India”, I felt a stab of pain in my heart.
Could we wipe away what had passed
between the two countries? Would I
ever get to see the land my parents
had left in the wake of Partition?
I grew up hearing the Punjabi
spoken in Rawalpindi, where my folks
came from. Our home resonated with
music from across the border, that,
unbeknownst to me, had become a
part of my life. I was memorizing the
nazms of Faiz Ahmad Faiz, sung by The author (right) with singer
Shafqat Amanat Ali at Lahore’s
Mehdi Hassan, and unsuccessfully
Government College University
reproducing them to myself at
age five. My childhood was spent
listening to the greats : Farida I DREAMT OF REACHING
Khanum, Iqbal Bano, Abida Parveen,
Ustad Amanat Ali Khan and Nayyara MY ANCESTRAL LAND,
Noor, among others. BUT I KNEW IT WAS
Growing up, I listened with rapt NOT TO BE.
attention to my father’s stories—the
glamour of Lahore, the beauty of the
Murree Hills, the spiritual fervour of
the Golra Sharif near Rawalpindi—
that seemed magical. had left behind their belongings, their
The scenes of bloodshed and mas- living and their dead—and, I suspect, a
sacre that accompanied this shat- part of their souls—forever. I dreamt of
P RE V I OU S S P R E A D : A LA MY

tering of a map and its people came stepping foot in my ancestral land, but
alive. Those dark days when families I knew it was not to be.
and friends were separated forever,
trains and buses bursting at the seams The Invitation
offloaded homeless people into a Suddenly after years of working
strange land. These were people who with a major music label, I turned to

94 august 2019
Badshahi Mosque

repertoire and artistes from Pakistan. cities. We had what is called an


I had the privilege of working with ‘on-foot’ visa for Lahore. On reaching
the legendary Farida Khanum and Amritsar on a nippy February day, we
interacted with Abida Parveen and learnt that the border would close at
Ghulam Ali. Around 2007, I got an 3 p.m. After a 45-minute bus ride from
opportunity to work with Shafqat the station through the countryside,
Amanat Ali and ended up as his we reached the gateway where the two
manager later. From Farida-ji to lands meet.
P H O TO L E F T: M A NN U KO H L I, R I GH T: A L A M Y

Shafqat-ji, they had all invited me to


Pakistan, especially Lahore, many Like a Dream
many times. So in 2012, when friends As I got my first glimpse of the blue
from an NGO that was taking students board marked ‘India–Pakistan border’,
from India to Lahore for an exchange an unexpected lump formed in my
programme, invited me, I jumped at throat and my eyes welled up. For
the opportunity. a moment it felt like my heart had
Indians and Pakistanis have had a stopped beating. A huge wave of
policy of making life difficult for each love and sadness washed over me at
other by issuing visas to only specific that precise moment. Knowing that

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Reader ’s Digest

Pakistan was just over a kilometre


away, and Lahore just 20 kilometres
from there, was surreal. There wasn’t
much time to waste between customs
and other formalities, and we had to
walk a little more than a kilometre
to reach the border gate.
Reaching the border, we could see
the crowds collecting on both sides for
the evening change of guard. While
Gandhiji’s favourite bhajans were
being played on our side, Pakistan
played their national songs. The
slogan-shouting reminded me of a
muqabla qawwali performance with
each side trying to outdo the other. LAHORE’S OLD-WORLD
Soon it was my turn to show my
passport at the gate. To our shock, the CHARM MIXES
immigration officer had forgotten to DELIGHTFULLY WITH
stamp many of our passports and now MODERN AMENITIES.
there was utter panic as it was time for
the gates to close on both sides.
Two of us ran back with the
unstamped passports. In the
meantime, the exit gate had informed elegant. It was the Urdu, I realized.
the officer about his mistake, and he At the immigration terminal, we
met us at the terminal. We then rushed were greeted by officers who were
back, out of breath and worried that extremely helpful and polite. Instead
we may miss the deadline. We were of being annoyed about our late entry,
in for a surprise, though. Our officers which meant extra work beyond
had requested their counterparts their shift, they were reassuring and
L E FT: I ND I A P I CT U R E , R IGH T: A LA M Y

to keep the gates open for us and welcoming. And now, we were all set
they had graciously obliged. And so to leave for Lahore city in a minibus
we were quickly made to cross over, that was waiting for us.
where they checked our passports and
motioned us in. Beautiful, Enchanting
Crossing over, I immediately Lahore, I realized, resembled Lutyens’
noticed the change in language and Delhi—only more green and lush,
lehja (tone)—much more formal and compared to the rest of the Indian

96 august 2019
Decorated trucks
in Lahore look like
new brides.

A sari shop
in Anarkali Bazaar

capital. I was so excited about being so that my hosts were highly amused.
there that I soaked in everything in After this, we went on a tour of the new
my surroundings with the wonder of Defence Housing Authority, Lahore,
a child in a fairyland. which was like any posh south-Delhi
The Avari Hotel where we were neighbourhood—only from the 1970s.
staying was beautiful, w ith its Empty, open roads and beautifully
tastefully traditional decor and huge, manicured lawns and trees lined the
green lawns. Food had always been area—all quite enchanting.
at the centre of all my conversations
on Lahore, so we soon left for Model Old-World Charm
Town, the abode of the famous Bhaiya At night, I realized, I had been given
Kabab. This was my first meal in the a room in the ladies’ wing of the
city and one that will always stay with hotel. Apparently the women guests
me. It was a small place really, nothing could also opt for lady attendants and
fancy, but I was to learn soon why it service staff, if desired. Honestly, I was
had such a reputation. We ordered a bit amused—the old-world charm,
the food in the car, and minutes mixed with the modern amenities,
later arrived the most scrumptious was delightful. In fact, this coexistence
seekh kebabs, accompanied by a of the modern with the traditional
finger-licking tamarind chutney and was something I was to get used to
kulchas. This local bread resembled in Pakistan. In the morning, I noticed
the khameeri roti, sesame seeds that the hotel rooms had their own
added. The food was so delicious that 24-hour radio, so as I sat by my
I just could not stop eating—so much window overlooking the swimming

readersdigest.co.in 97
Reader ’s Digest

pool and ate fresh fruit, I was


serenaded by the ghazals of my
favourite singers.
Over the next couple of days,
Shafqat-ji and his band, who were all
very hospitable, caught up with me
often. I saw the Minar-e-Pakistan, Bad-
shahi Mosque and other iconic monu-
ments with the students’ group, and
accompanied Shafqat-ji to the studios Seekh kebabs
where he dubbed his songs. I also got
to meet his friends who were amazingly
warm and welcoming.
One evening, we were graciously
I WONDERED, QUITE
joined by another great singer, Tina OFTEN, WHAT WE, AS
Sani and her friend, all the way from NATIONS, WERE EVEN
Karachi. After dinner that day, we went
to dub a jingle Shafqat-ji was singing
FIGHTING ABOUT.
for his friend and popular actor Shaan’s
morning show, at a studio in Behryar
Town, which was a beautifully set up
gated community on the outskirts of
Lahore. The cleanliness, beauty and such as Balraj Sahni, Dev Anand, Faiz
greenery of Lahore reminded me of Ahmad Faiz, Khushwant Singh and
eastern Europe sometimes. Allama Iqbal, among many others.
The huge campus was awe-inspiring
Feasting in Lahore and the sports-day event for which
On one of the evenings I was taken for Shafqat-ji took us was delightful. The
a surprise trip to see the beauty of the iconic building in the heart of Lahore
motorway to Islamabad. And while I city is where we spent the entire day
couldn’t travel to the city, as I did not interacting with young students,
have a visa for the Pakistani capital on the music society and faculty of the
that trip, the drive, halfway and back, college. The dinner that night at
itself was a treat, especially the return Lakshmi Chowk was another epic meal
in the warm glow of the setting sun. that I was to go back for repeatedly on
O n our last day, we got the subsequent trips. The Taka Tak and
opportunity to visit the iconic Karahi preparations were delectable
Government College University, and impossible to resist.
Lahore, the alma mater of legends Everywhere we went, we experienced

98 august 2019
overwhelming warmth and hos- people of our two countries—if only
pitality. From the general manager they were not provoked and poisoned
of the Avari Hotel to the salon staff at by the powers on both sides.
the famous Pearl Continental Hotel,
the schools on our itinerary to the Saying Goodbye
shopkeepers at Anarkali Bazaar in the On the morning of our return, some
walled city, which resembles Delhi’s of the students in our group asked
Chandni Chowk, and all the people we why they could not stay on. They felt
met socially, were so excited to learn so loved and pampered that they did
that we were from India. Everyone not want to come back. As I said my
was welcoming, without exception. goodbyes and walked back across the
From not wanting to charge me for border, I remember stopping at the
a hair wash to genuine reluctance white line, with one foot in Pakistan
to accept payment for our meals, I and another in India, wondering how
experienced hospitality at its finest. the two neighbours that were this
I wondered frequently what we, as close could be so far apart.
nations, were even fighting about. As we drove towards Amritsar city
The lady security guard at the hotel once again, I knew in my heart that
wanted to know exactly that—she was I would go back many more times
also curious about Delhi. I only felt to this beautiful land. It felt like a
love, mutual respect and admiration part of my soul lived there and had
everywhere I went. Ordinary people reconnected with me when I stepped
in India and Pakistan are really the foot in Lahore.
same—they are as wary of their There is some truth in that old
politicians and crave peace as much saying, then: “Jis Lahore nahi dekhya
as we do. I realized more than ever o jamiya hi nahi!” [He who hasn’t
ALAMY

that there is so much love between the seen Lahore hasn’t been born yet].

readersdigest.co.in 99
LAUGHTER
The best Medicine

One Small Gag


for Mankind ...
Last month, 20 July
marked the 50th anni-
versary of the Apollo 11
mission. We’re cele-
brating with jokes
even the man in the
moon will howl at.
) Why is a moon “Do you think it’s wise to move away
rock tastier than from solar energy?”
an Earth rock?
It’s a little meteor. A broke guy walks past He takes a sip, then
) Which is closer, a pub. He looks at the another. With each
Florida or the door longingly, but chug, the mug
moon? The moon. since he has no money, magically refills.
You can’t see Florida he walks on. Just then, “And for your other
from here. he spots a lamp lying in two wishes?”
) How do you know the gutter. He picks it Between swallows,
when the moon is up and rubs it, and a the lucky guy shouts,
broke? When it’s down genie emerges. “I will “Give me two more just
to its last quarter. grant you three wishes,” like this one!”
) What did Neil intones the genie. — FRIARSCLUB.COM
Armstrong say when “Give me a bottom-
no one laughed at his less mug of beer,” the Why is it a ‘penny for
moon jokes? “I guess guy says. A mug of beer your thoughts’ but you
you had to be there.” appears in his hand. have to ‘put your two
Æ
Cartoon by Harley Schwadron
100 august 2019
Reader ’s Digest

cents’ in? Somebody’s I’ll call it a smartphone the day I yell,


making a penny. “Where’s my phone?” and it yells,
—steven wright,
comedian “Down here! In the couch cushions!”
— @Here_To_Laugh
I could have been a
clockmaker, but the
idea only struck me
at the eleventh hour. MEET THE MOST ABSURD
—aradhya purohit, HOLLYWOOD CLICHÉS
Bhopal

Ê Hello. I am a person
A young lawyer is
using a phone in a movie.
working late one night
I don’t say goodbye
when his door opens
before I hang up. I just
and in walks Satan stop talking and put the Ê Hi. I’m the best friend
himself. “I have an phone down and the of a murder victim. Even
offer,” says Satan. person on the other end though the police come to
“If you give me your somehow just knows my workplace to question
soul and the soul of I’m not there anymore. me about my dead friend,
everyone in your fam- — @mattsinger I’ll just unload this truck or
ily, I’ll make you a full clear these busy tables as
Ê Hello. I’m a nurse in
partner in your firm.” a movie. I sit at the desk we talk instead of giving
The lawyer stares and know nothing but them my full attention.
icily at the devil for visiting hours and the — @steve_eifert
a full minute before location of every patient Ê Hello. I’m the Golden
demanding, “So, and doctor in the hospital. Gate Bridge in a movie.
what’s the catch?” — @politinurse I will be destroyed.
— KINSLEYLAW.COM — @MichaelLevySF
Ê Hello. I’m a bar patron
in a movie. I can walk into
stokkete/shutterstock

Question: How do stat- any bar for the first time


isticians sign off their and say “Two beers,
letters or mails? please” and the bartender Reader’s Digest will pay
Answer: Yours, will hand me two beers for your funny anecdote
or photo in any of our
approximately. with no discussion of type, humour sections. Post it
—V. r. Shankar, brand or receptacle. to the editorial address, or
Visakhapatnam — @tjchambersLA email: editor.india@rd.com

readersdigest.co.in 103
BONUS READ

Sgt First Class Carlos Santos-Silva died the way


he served—right beside his men. This is their story

Those He
Left Behind
By Brian Mockenhaupt

W
HILE HIS MEN anniversary in Washington, D.C.,
patrolled the farmland during his two weeks of leave from the
of southern Afghani- war zone. They would tour the capital
stan, Sgt First Class and visit some of Carlos’s men as they
Carlos Santos-Silva came home to recovered from injuries at Walter Reed
his wife, Kristen Santos-Silva, who Army Medical Center. Instead, Kristen
had bought a new blue sundress em- wore her new dress to Dover Air Force
broidered with pink flowers to greet Base and watched six soldiers carry
him at the airport. They’d planned to Carlos off a plane in an aluminium
celebrate their 12th wedding box draped in the American flag.

104 august 2019 Photograph by Tyler Oxendine


Carlos Santos-Silva’s
son, Cameron, and wife,
Kristen, holding his photo

readersdigest.co.in 105
Reader ’s Digest

“We’re here together,” she said the


night before the funeral—and their
anniversary—11 April. “This just isn’t
how I thought it would be.”
Outside the funeral home in Arling-
ton, Virginia, she gathered with friends
and family and handed out balloons,
12 blue and 12 white, for each of their
12 years together. At the signal, the oth-
ers released theirs on cue, but Kristen
wouldn’t let go. She gazed skywards,
and her lips trembled. After a long
moment, she opened her hand and
watched the balloons rise. “I love you,

“I HEARD STORIES
ABOUT HOW TIGHT
PEOPLE GET WHEN
THEY DEPLOY, BUT
I NEVER KNEW IT
COULD BE LIKE THIS.”

Carlos, forever and ever and ever,” she to the casket. He and I had known
said, then covered her face with her Carlos for years, having both served
hands and shook with sobs. Cameron, two deployments with him in Iraq.
their 11-year-old son, stood next to her Carlos had gone on to become a drill
and pressed his face to her hip. sergeant, training new soldiers, and
P H O TO GR A P H BY JA R ED M O O SSY

The next day, under a cloudless sky, then a platoon sergeant with the 82nd
she buried Carlos, 32, in Arlington Airborne Division, leading 40 men in
National Cemetery. A horse-drawn the Arghandab River Valley, a violent
caisson carried his casket down a road swath of southern Afghanistan.
lined with tall shade trees to Section “I will forever be honoured to call
60, where the headstones chart the his- him my friend,” Sergeant Davila said,
tories of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. his voice steady and solemn. “Rest
Sgt First Class Raul Davila stepped easy, Brother.”

106 august 2019


Gunshots cracked the Some of the men who there, those who’d known
warm morning air, a bu- served with Carlos (from him best over the past
gler played taps and in left): Lachance, Maher, seven months, those with
crisp movements, prac- Taylor, Knollinger and him the day his truck
Rosa, in 2010
tised countless times, had rolled over a mas-
the burial detail pulled sive bomb buried in a dirt
the flag tight and folded it into a neat road snaking through farmers’ fields?
triangle of stars on a field of blue. Carlos’s men were still working in a
A general knelt beside Kristen and lush, dangerous corridor of orchards
handed her the flag. I looked at the and grape furrows outside Kandahar.
crowd, at those who had known Carlos As has happened thousands of times
at so many points during his life. during the wars in Afghanistan and
But what about those who weren’t Iraq, when soldiers are killed and their

readersdigest.co.in 107
Reader ’s Digest

bodies sent home, their friends stay


behind, to mourn and remember—and
fight. I wanted to meet those men.

F
LYING INTO Afghanistan, I
peered out the window at the
vast stretches of brown inter-
rupted by jagged mountains, scored
by rivers and dotted with villages.
I would be staying with Carlos’s

LOREDO HEARD THE


RADIO CALL: “OUR
GUYS JUST HIT
AN IED. FOUR
RESPONSIVE. ONE
UNRESPONSIVE.”

platoon at Combat Outpost Tynes the insurgents were too hasty. The
along the edge of the Arghandab River bomb went off too early, and the target
Valley, northwest of Kandahar. The post truck rolled on, its crew uninjured.
was named for another lost soldier, At Combat Outpost Tynes, a former
Private First Class (Pfc.) Marcus Tynes, school, Carlos’s legacy was immedi-
who was killed 22 November 2009. To ately apparent. When the platoon had
get there, I rode in the last truck of a moved into the compound in Decem-
five-vehicle convoy. Looking through ber 2009, soldiers slept in the few small
the windshield from the back seat, I classrooms or outside, until Carlos
COURTESY SPC. BRENDAN NEENAN

watched a giant fountain of dirt shoot coordinated a construction project. The


into the air around 200 metres ahead. platoon then extended the structure
The concussion rattled my chest. “IED! and built small rooms for each soldier.
IED! IED!” crackled over the radio, the During the slow, hard work of build-
same call made when Carlos’s truck ing up the rooms and the outpost’s
was hit. An improvised explosive de- outer defences, Carlos had been be-
vice planted in the same spot near the side his men, filling sandbags and
bridge had just exploded. But this time, lugging materials. “He was always

108 august 2019


ha n d s - o n w i t h u s,” Left: Carlos in the Carlos was born in
S.Sgt Edward Rosa, the Arghandab River Valley, Germany to an Army fa-
platoon’s senior squad Afghanistan, 2010. mily and bounced around
leader, told me. “He Above: On 22 March, bases as he grew up.
the truck he was riding in
was always out there He enlisted in 1996 and
was destroyed by an IED.
with us working. He trained as a mechanic in
did everything with us. an aviation unit at Fort
He was about the guys.” Ca m p b e l l , Ke nt u c k y ,
He organized movie nights with where he met Kristen, who was also in
a wide-screen television powered the Army. But he soon switched to the
P H O TO G R A P H BY JA R E D M O OS SY

by a gun truck’s battery. At Christ- infantry, where he excelled.


mas, after Kristen and the platoon’s I served with him at Fort Drum,
family support group sent stockings New York, for three years, and he im-
from Fort Bragg in North Carolina, pressed me as the most knowledge-
Carlos played Santa at the outpost. He able, but laid-back, soldier I knew. He
made each man sit on his lap before could answer any question on tactics,
he’d give him a stocking. weapon systems or Army regulations,

readersdigest.co.in 109
Reader ’s Digest

but he was also quick with Cameron and Kristen like Carlos. They had
wisecracks and constantly at their home at planned a couple of trips
concerned about his men. Fort Bragg in 2010 to Las Vegas, and Carlos
The soldiers at Com- and Kristen had visited
bat Outpost Tynes told Lachance and his wife in
me the same. He played video games New Hampshire. Lachance had even
with them, gave professional guidance turned down a promotion to staff
and counselled them on problems at sergeant in February because it would
home. And he often made jokes when have meant switching platoons and
his men faced danger, to put them leaving Carlos.
at ease and remind them that good

E
could be found even during dark and ACH PLATOON is led by an offi-
fearful times. cer, a first or second lieutenant.
P H O TO G R A P H BY JA R ED M O O S SY

“I heard stories about how tight peo- The platoon sergeant serves as
ple get when they deploy, but I never his or her go-to person in administra-
knew it could be like this,” said Specia- tion and logistics. That means Carlos
list Clayton “Doc” Taylor, the platoon’s could have stayed behind at the out-
medic. “I called him Dad.” post while his men patrolled. But he
So did many of his men. Sgt Adam was always with them, as he was on
Lachance had never had a male friend the morning of 22 March, in the front

110 august 2019


Bonus Read

passenger seat of a hulking mine- “He’s gone,” Maher said.


resistant truck, driving down a dirt “Who’s gone?” Knollinger asked.
road alongside a vineyard, just about “Sergeant Santos.”
to cross that small bridge. Knollinger stood in the road and
Around five kilometres away, cried. For a week afterwards, Combat
S.Sgt Edwardo Loredo heard the call Outpost Tynes was quiet. “There was
crackle over the radio as he led a foot just silence for a while,” Knollinger
patrol through the farmland south of said. “There wasn’t joking around
the outpost. like there was before.” Soldiers talked
to one another in quiet voices or kept
“I NEED TO SEE THIS,” to themselves. Carlos’s men felt adrift
without him.
KRISTEN TOLD THEM. “They lost their rudder,” Capt.
“IS THAT THE TRUCK? I Jimmy Razuri, the commander with
NEED TO SEE WHERE Carlos’s company, said at the time.
Lachance had planned to bring Carlos
IT HAPPENED.” a McDonald’s double cheeseburger
from Kuwait on the way back from
his two weeks of leave. Instead, while
“Our guys just hit an IED,” he said. he sat in the Atlanta airport, his wife
Sound takes about 15 seconds to travel called with the news.
that far, so another moment passed

O
before they heard the blast. Even at N HIS FIRST patrol after his
that distance, it rumbled through their friend’s death, Lachance
chests. The bomb had been huge. The reached into a pouch on his
radio crackled again: “Four responsive. body armour and pulled out a handful
One unresponsive.” of Jolly Rancher candy, the small pile
Loredo’s patrol ran towards the speckled with green apple candies. His
sound of the explosion. They arrived breath caught. He always carried Jolly
just as the medevac helicopter lifted Ranchers on patrol, and Carlos took all
off in a wave of dust that blocked out the green ones, every time. Lachance
the sun. A tan armoured truck lay on stuffed the green candies back in the
its side, the bottom scorched and the pouch. “I wouldn’t touch them,” he
rear tires blown away, next to a deep told me.
crater in the dirt road. Several weeks before, Lachance,
Sgt Dale Knollinger, still out of a self-trained tattoo artist, had given
breath, approached Sgt Gregory Carlos a tattoo. The words snaked
Maher, who had been in the four- around his right arm: The only thing
vehicle patrol. necessary for the triumph of evil is

readersdigest.co.in 111
Reader ’s Digest

for good men to do nothing. Beneath told the group. “It’s why we’re still do-
them, a date: 22 November 2009, when ing what we’re doing today and why
Private First Class Tynes and another these guys behind me aren’t with us.”
soldier in Carlos’s company, Sgt James Later, Kristen sat with a half-dozen
Nolen, had died. soldiers and looked through pictures
After Carlos’s death, 10 platoon from the deployment, many of which
members asked Lachance for a similar she hadn’t seen before. Carlos walk-
tattoo. One now wears the quote on his ing through villages, filling sandbags
thigh, another on his biceps, another at Combat Outpost Tynes, drinking
on his ribs, all followed by 22 March, tea with the Afghan police, handing
2010, and C. M. S., out stockings for
Carlos’s initials. Christmas.
Kristen laughed

O
N 11 SE P- and reached to-
TEMBER wards the laptop
2010, I gril- computer screen,
led chicken wings as though to
with Doc Taylor touch him. And
under a grey sky then the pictures
at a park on Fort changed, from
Bragg. Country mu- shots of a grin-
sic blared from the ning Carlos to sol-
Knollinger, Cameron and Kristen,
open doors of his diers standing on
at Cameron’s high-school
white Chevy pickup graduation in 2017 a dirt road next to
truck. Taylor’s wife a truck flipped on
i n f l at e d a p l a s - its side, scorched
tic palm tree as Kristen Santos-Silva by flame, two wheels blown off.
opened a box of plastic Hawaiian leis The laughter stopped, and Dale
[flower garlands]. She and Carlos had Knollinger and Edward Rosa traded
planned to throw a luau [a Hawaii- nervous glances with other soldiers.
themed party] for the guys after the “I need to see this,” Kristen told them.
COURTESY KRISTEN SANTOS -SILVA

deployment. She figured he would have She leaned closer to the screen and
wanted her to follow through. stared at the pictures. “Is that the
The pavilion filled up, and Captain truck? I need to see where it hap-
Razuri stood in front of the memorial pened. I need this.”
table stacked with photos of six men Kristen and the soldiers told
in the platoon who had died that year, stories about Carlos, and one by one
starting with Carlos. “Nine years ago his men sat for a few moments and
today, you know what happened,” he wrote on the big framed picture she

112 august 2019


Bonus Read

T
had brought. By day’s end, the border HAT NIGHT, after Kristen had
around the photo was crowded with packed up the leftovers and
messages to their fallen leader. pulled down the decorations, she
and Cameron returned to their small
I want you to know you changed brick house on Fort Bragg, crowded
my life and I love you for that. The with pictures of her husband. Cam-
world will never be the same without eron retreated to his bedroom to play
you. But I will be the man I told video games, as he had often done
you I would. I love you, Dad. Till with his father and now did alone.
we meet again. DOC TAYLOR Beside him on the bed lay the framed
picture, adorned with the memo-
Dad, I can’t even describe what it was ries of the men his father left behind.
like to work for you. I learnt so much
and matured because of you. You were WHERE THEY ARE NOW
awesome to work for and truly a great Carlos’s legacy lives on with his platoon
friend. I love you and think about you mates, his wife and his son. The group
every day. Miss you. tries to meet at least once a year to catch
SGT DALE KNOLLINGER up and reminisce about Carlos with a
round of White Russians, his favourite
You were the quiet professional. drink, and a toast: “For Carlos!” A year
Thank you so much for your guidance. ago, Knollinger attended Cameron’s
You have no idea how much you are high-school graduation. The 19-year-
missed. Goodbye, Brother. old also completed the US Naval Sea
SGT BRIAN FLANNERY Cadet Corps programme, with the
highest rank. He plans to become a
I’ve never been closer to another hospital corpsman with the US Navy
man. You were a great friend. Until in the future. “It’s awesome that my
we meet again, you will be thought dad made such an impact on his friends
of every day. SGT ADAM LACHANCE that they keep supporting me,” he says.

An Inspired Choice
After God created 24 hours of alternating darkness and light,
one of the angels asked him, “What are you going to do now?”
God said, “I think I’m going to call it a day.”
reddit user bot_10

readersdigest.co.in 113
CULTURESCAPE
Books, Arts and Entertainment

Riding the
Web Boom
Ali Fazal, best known for
Fukrey and Hollywood’s
Victoria & Abdul, is going
places with Mirzapur

by Vanya Lochan

‘‘
Tell us about your life before you
entered the Indian film industry.
I was studying Economics at Mumbai’s
St Xavier’s College, and before that, I
was at The Doon School. Acting was
accidental for me. At Doon, I was a state-
level basketball and hockey player until
I injured my shoulder and was left with
nothing to do. A Shakespearean play was
being rehearsed and I just went for it. That
day, to now, it’s been crazy!

What was that one moment when you


felt that you had finally made it big?
I felt like that when I walked into the

114 august 2019


Reader ’s Digest

Venice Film Festival for the premiere coming years, India gains enough
of Victoria & Abdul with Stephen momentum to be able to have this
Frears and Judi Dench. Suddenly, in our contracts. I remember fighting
Amal and George Clooney came in for bathrooms for women on the set
to say hi and we were all just chilling at one point. However, we still have a
at a really cool place. I thought, long way to go when it comes to pay.
This is amazing!
What are your thoughts on the digi-
How do you prepare for your roles? tal entertainment space in India?
I make sure that I read the script tho- I think it’s evolving expediently. At
roughly and this might sound odd, the same time (and this only happens
but I find out what my costumes are. in India), we have suddenly made
Once I know my costumes for every endless platforms for digital shows. I’m
scene, it adds up as a painting in my worried this might affect quality, and
head and then everything else comes then, we’ll be back in the same hole.
out of that.

Do you have a mentor in Bollywood?


I HOPE INDIA GAINS
God, I wish! At the start of my career, ENOUGH MOMENTUM
I had great influences like Saeed TOWARDS EQUAL
Akhtar Mirza, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh
Khan and Anand Rai. Of late, Richa
PAY. WE STILL HAVE
[Chadha] has been someone who I A LONG WAY TO GO.
really look to for advice.

You are known for not adopting a Do you Google yourself?


particular image or genre. Would I did that recently when someone told
it have been better otherwise? me what’s written on Wikipedia about
I probably would have made more me. So much on it is wrong. Not all of
money or would have been part of it, but a lot of it.
‘bankable projects’, but my conscience
mandar deodhar/india today

wouldn’t allow that. It’s helped peo- What’s next?


ple, but I think the idea is changing. I have Prasthanam coming out in
So, we have to raise the bar and not be September 2020. I am currently
scared to try new things. shooting for Mirzapur 2 and will
start shooting for Bhoot Police soon. I

’’
What do you think about the gender have also done a Netflix film called
pay gap in the film industry? House Arrest and another film
I think it’s changing. I hope in the called Arranged Marriage.

readersdigest.co.in 115
RD RECOMMENDS

Films sues, and she leads her best friend


Boots (a monkey) and a group of
friends to save her parents and solve
ENGLISH: Quentin Tarantino’s ONCE the mystery behind a lost city of gold.
UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD pro- Starring Eva Longoria and Michael
mises to be an intriguing film set in Peña, this also releases on 9 August.
1969 Hollywood. The plot revolves
around a TV actor and his stunt dou- HINDI: BATLA HOUSE will chronicle
ble, who embark on a journey to gain the investigation of the 2008
fame in Hollywood during the time of Batla House encounter. Starring
the infamous Charles Manson mur- John Abraham and Prakash Raj,
ders. The film, starring Leonardo the film is set to be released on
DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Al Pacino, 15 August.
releases in India on 9 August. In MADE IN CHINA, a Gujarati
In DORA AND THE LOST CITY businessman sets out for China
OF GOLD, an adaptation of dreaming of better prospects.
the popular series Dora the Whether his journey
Explorer, the teenage allows him to be a
protagonist is intro- successful entrepre-
duced to high-school neur remains to be
life. Adventure en- seen. Starring Raj-
kummar Rao and
(Above) The stars of
Once Upon A Time in Mouni Roy, the
Hollywood ; (right) John film releases
Abraham in Batla House 30 August.

116 august 2019


Reader ’s Digest

Streaming SACRED GAMES SEASON 2: Nawazuddin


Siddiqui and Saif Ali Khan will reprise
their roles in the second season of
Sacred Games, coming to Netflix on
15 August. The trailer teases a continua-
Nawazuddin Siddiqui tion of the ever-evolving plots, featuring
in Sacred Games Mumbai cop Sartaj Singh and the notori-
ous gangster Ganesh Gaitonde.
Gaitonde’s ‘mentor’ Guruji (Pankaj
Tripathi) will also figure prominently in
this season, as will new characters
Shahid Khan (Ranvir Shorey) and Batya
Abelman (Kalki Koechlin). The stakes are
higher, and the impending catastrophes
may not be limited to Mumbai alone.

#WATCHLIST: 0N industrial Ohio, USA, produced by Jay Z,


OUR RADAR against the backdrop Free Meek will portray
of waning optimism rapper Meek Mill’s
and clashes between journey from his in-
Otherhood: A Netflix high-tech China carceration in 2017
film streaming 2 Au- and working-class to his early release
gust, Otherhood will America. and subsequent
feature long time emergence as a fig-
friends Carol, Gillian Free Meek: An Amazon urehead of prison
and Helen going to Prime docu-series reform activism.
New York to recon-
nect with their sons
on Mother’s Day, and
in the process, redis-
covering themselves.

American Factory: This


Netflix-original docu-
mentary, streaming
right: netflix

21 August, will take


a deep dive into post- A still from Otherhood

readersdigest.co.in 117
Reader ’s Digest

Books
A Gallery of Rascals by Ruskin Bond,
Aleph Book Company

Ruskin Bond, as always,


brings together in his
stories a bunch of di-
verse and quirky char- Scope Out
acters. His fiction is Who Killed Liberal
especially celebrated Islam (Rupa)
for the unforgettable Hasan Suroor pro-
misfits, dreamers, vides a nuanced
small-time con artists, perspective on why
rapscallions and drift- liberal Islam is under
ers who populate it. threat in India.
A Gallery of Rascals favourites like ‘The

book covers courtesy: aleph book company, hachette india, rupa publications
will bring together, for Thief’s Story’, ‘The Boy Kafka’s Last Trial:
the first time, the most Who Broke the Bank’, The Case of a
memorable rogues in ‘Tigers for Dinner’ and Literary Legacy
his stories. Look out ‘A Case for Inspector (Pan Macmillan India)
for the new tales to be Lal’. Immensely read- Writer Benjamin
featured in this collec- able, the 30 stories Balint details how
tion—‘A Man Called in the collection will literary executor Max
Brain’, ‘Sher Singh and show exactly what Brod preserved
the Hot-water Bottle’— makes Bond a master Kafka’s legacy after
while enjoying old storyteller. his death—and
against his own
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE ... Daastan-e- wishes.
Dastarkhan: Stories and Recipes from
Muslim Kitchens (Hachette): Mas- A Thousand Ships
terChef India contestant Sadaf Hus- (Pan Macmillan India)
sain explores the stories and tra- Author Natalie
ditional cooking techniques of 30 Haynes’ book retells
dishes of Muslim communities in the story of the
India. With easy recipes adapted to Trojan War from
modern times, the book aims at al- an all-female
lowing people to recreate and sam- perspective.
ple these mouthwatering delicacies.

118 august 2019


Culturescape

Sports Rising
2019 Ashes Series, 2019 US Open,
FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019
Star
One of the oldest cricketing rivalries will Sanya
resume from 1 August 2019. Australia, Malhotra
the winners of the last Ashes series, will A former yoga in-
take on England, to be held from 1 Au- structor and choreo-
gust to 16 September in England. Com- grapher, Sanya
prising five tests, it will also be a part Malhotra was the
of the inaugural 2019–21 ICC World only Indian to make
Test Championship. it to Hollywood Re-
The final tennis Grand Slam of the year, the porter’s list of break-
US Open, will be held at Flushing Meadows in out talents from the
New York City from 19 August to 8 September. Novak 2019 Berlin Film Fes-
Djokovic and Naomi Osaka will be defending their tival for Photograph.
titles in the men’s singles and women’s singles events. Her acting chops
The 18th edition of the FIBA Basketball World Cup have garnered ac-
for men’s national basketball teams will be held in claim everywhere.
China from 31 August to 15 September. For the first Expect to see the tal-
time, 32 countries, divided into eight groups of four ented 27-year-old in
teams each, will be participating. The final is sched- Anurag Basu’s next,
uled to take place in Beijing on 15 September. scheduled for 2020.

GAMING ANCESTORS: THE


HUMANKIND ODYSSEY This highly
extreme right: sanya malhotra/twitter

anticipated third-person survival


game, the first by Panache Digital
Games, will release on PCs on
27 August. It will trace human
evolution from its origins. Players
are going to control the activities
of our ancestors out to explore a
hitherto unknown world.

—COMPILED BY SAPTAK CHOUDHURY WITH PRATISHTHA DOBHAL

readersdigest.co.in 119
Reader ’s Digest

REVIEW Joan Baez


(left) and
Dylan
performing
(Conjuring the)
on the
Rolling Thunder Rolling
Revue: A Bob Dylan Thunder
Story by Martin tour
Scorsese

A Magical
Conjuring
singer and his troupe documentary with
By Jai Arjun Singh (plus celebrity guests) authentic behind-the-
accessible to small-town scenes footage. Happily,
America. But this is also there is a lot of that too.
ON THE NETFLIX MENU, a sleight-of-hand exer- Dylan sitting with Allen
you’ll find the wrong title cise where fiction and Ginsberg at Jack Ker-
for this film. It is missing fact merge. For instan- ouac’s grave, playing a
an important first word: ce, the story that actress harmonium. Patti Smith
‘Conjuring’, which ap- Sharon Stone tells about telling a goofy story. Joni
pears after jerky footage her meeting with Dylan Mitchell asserting that
of the magician-film- as a 17-year-old—that’s she deserves to be taken
maker Georges Méliès made up. You probably as seriously as male
performing a trick. It’s won’t realize this unless songwriters. Joan Baez
the first pointer to the you are steeped in Dy- dressing up as Dylan.
legerdemain in the lanology, or unless you And there are the per-
‘pseudo-documentary’ have read up on the film. formances. The most
we are about to see. But one is left with a hypnotic scenes include
(Conjuring the) Roll- mild suspicion that this the one where we see a
ing Thunder Revue: A material didn’t need complete performance
Bob Dylan Story by Mar- such a convoluted fra- of ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna
tin Scorsese unfolds like ming story. We have Fall’, with no cutaways,
a concert film about already had so many or Dylan performing a
Dylan’s 1975 Rolling ironical/meta perspec- snarling version of ‘Isis’.
netflix

Thunder tour, which tives on Dylan that one That’s where the real
aimed at making the yearns for a straight magic of this film lies.

120 august 2019


Culturescape

STUDIO

The Argument, by Kulwant Roy


IMAGE COURTESY: KULWANT ROY COLLECTION, ADITYA ARYA ARCHIVES

Silver Bromide Print, Dimensions Unspecified, 1946–47

FOR YEARS AFTER his supply and photogra- foreshadowing the


death, the photos of phers would have to conflict between
Kulwant Roy, a photo- shoot in one frame, Mohammed Ali Jinnah
grapher who recorded requiring them to men- and Gandhi. The speci-
many famous Indian tally compose the image fics of the exchange is
leaders and freedom before clicking it. The best left to the imagina-
fighters, remained proximity of the photo- tion of the viewer, but
neglected. They were grapher to their subject the animated gestures
finally unearthed by also revealed the per- of the two, coupled
his family friend, sonal equation they with Jinnah’s incredu-
Aditya Arya, over 20 often shared. lous expression, per-
years after his death. The Argument re- fectly depicts their
Roy’s photographs ceived attention not stormy rapport well-
were taken during times only for capturing a mo- known to the public.
when film was in short ment in history but also — BY GAYATHRI SANKAR

readersdigest.co.in 121
ME & MY SHELF

A scholar of Sanskrit and Indian


textual traditions, Wendy Doniger
is the author of 16 books and
several translations, including
the bestselling book, The Hindus:
An Alternative History. Her most
recent work is Beyond Dharma:
Dissent in the Ancient Indian
Sciences of Sex and Politics (2018).
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The first five books on
this list and the last [see box], by European
authors, are the ones I read about India while
growing up—books that inspired in me the
love of Indian literature and the desire to
learn Sanskrit. The others are books by
Indian authors I came to love later.

A Passage book seared my soul. It made sense to


to India me as no other religious text had ever
BY E. M. FORSTER, done. Hume’s elegant phrases still hum
Penguin Classics, `399. in my head even though I now know the
This, to me, is not only original Sanskrit text.
the best novel ever
written about the The Transposed Heads
British in India, but BY THOMAS MANN, Vintage Books, `2,536.
photo courtesy: wendy doniger

also one of the best books about India The theme of this satirical reworking of
itself. Rich in insights, it continues to an ancient Indian story continued to
inspire me. weave in and out of my own books
about disguise and transposition.
The Thirteen Principal
Upanishads Rama Retold
BY ROBERT ERNEST HUME, Franklin BY AUBREY MENEN, Currently unavail-
Classics Trade Press, `2,879. My first able. A wicked, cynical satire on the
experience of Indian philosophy, this Ramayana, this book inspired me to

122 august 2019


Reader ’s Digest

seek out the original. Little did I know My Experiments with Truth:
that Menen was prosecuted under the An Autobiography
same Indian law (Indian Penal Code BY M. K. GANDHI, Jaico Publishing House,
295A) that was used against me in 2010. `299. Gandhi’s life—the strange contrast
between his ascetic ideas and his politi-
Through the cal savvy, and above all , his courage—
Looking Glass moved me deeply and made me want to
BY LEWIS CARROLL, see India in its actuality as on the page.
Puffin Classics, `299 .
Having remained my fa- Haroun and the
vourite book since early Sea of Stories
childhood, it’s both hi- BY SALMAN RUSHDIE,
larious and philosophically profound, of- Penguin India, `299.
ten drawing upon Indian philosophy and Enriched with original
logic for its insights, such as the idea that riffs on traditional story-
we are all part of someone else’s dream. telling, Haroun delighted
me with its fantastical language and bril-
The Interior Landscape liant integration of Indian mythology.
Love Poems from a Classical
Tamil Anthology Afternoon Raag
BY A. K. RAMANUJAN, NYRB Poets, `750. BY AMIT CHAUDHURI, Penguin India, `223.
While teaching in London, this book re- My favourite contemporary Indian
vealed to me the wonderful interrela- author, Chaudhuri writes just as Virginia
tionship between interior poetry (about Woolf would have, had she lived in India.
love, personal devotion) and exterior His vivid evocation of women relaxing
poetry (about history, politics). Later I in darkened rooms in the Calcutta heat
often discussed his books, and so much took me back to my own years in
else, with the author Ramanujan, my Calcutta in 1963.
beloved colleague and friend in Chicago. —COMPILED BY VANYA LOCHAN
The Book
I Loved
Most...
Kim
BY RUDYARD KIPLING, Rupa Publications India, `195. This is
a wonderful, knowing tale of India, not so much racist as
uncomfortably about racism (as Edward Said pointed out
in an appreciative essay). In this book, Kipling’s love of India
and individual Indians overcame his inbred prejudice.

Book prices are subject to change.

readersdigest.co.in 123
THE
GENIUS
SECTION
10 Pages to sharpen
Your Mind

ZING!
HOW TO CRAFT
A COMEBACK
“My dear, you
“Winston, you are ugly. But
are drunk.” tomorrow I shall
be sober and you
will still be ugly.”

By Talib Visram
from mentalfloss.com

124 august 2019


Reader ’s Digest

I
n a 1997 episode of Seinfeld called trained with Chicago’s Upright Citi-
‘The Comeback’, George Costanza zens Brigade [comedy group]. Don’t
is merrily stuffing himself with worry about crafting the perfect
free shrimp at a meeting. His reply. “It’s about letting go of the need
coworker mocks him : “Hey, to judge ourselves,” says Belina Raffy,
George, the ocean called. They’re CEO of the Berlin-based company
running out of shrimp.” George sits Maffick, which uses improv skills in
there humiliated as laughter fills the business. “Especially if we are ope-
room, his mind searching frantically rating from the desire to make each
for the perfect riposte. It’s only later, other look good—a key tenet of im-
on the drive home, that he thinks of provisation.” Not every riposte will be
the comeback. But the moment has a gem, but some will hit their mark.
passed. (That may have been a good
thing, since George’s epiphany was, Listen before you leap
predictably, mediocre: “Well, the Still, spend some time considering the
jerk store called and they’re running argument that your sparring partner
out of you!”) is laying out. Your retort may be more
The disappointing experience of accurate and therefore more success-
thinking of the perfect response too ful, says Jim Tosone, a business tech-
nbc tv/kobal/shutterstock (alexander). anl/shutterstock (churchill)

late—l’esprit de l’escalier, or “stair- nology executive turned improv coach


case wit”—was identified by French who developed the Improv Means
philosopher Denis Diderot. He was Business programme.
so overwhelmed by an argument at a
party that he could think clearly again Put a few in the bank
only once he’d gotten to the bottom of Some of history’s most skilled come-
the stairs. back artists stored witticisms for later
We’ve all been there, envying those use and were able to pull them out
who are quicker on their feet. So we of their memory at the critical time.
decided to ask people who rely on Winston Churchill was known for
witty rejoinders for a living—improv his comebacks, but Tim Riley, direc-
performers, freestyle rappers and tor and chief curator at the National
others—how anyone might seize Churchill Museum in Fulton, Mis-
the opportunity for clever retorts in souri, says that many of his burns
everyday life. Here are their insights. were borrowed.
One of his most famous lines was
Don’t think too much in response to a jab from politician
In improv, the funniest responses oc- Bessie Braddock: “Winston, you are
cur on the spur of the moment, says drunk.” The Prime Minister replied,
Douglas Widick, a performer who “Bessie, my dear, you are ugly. But

readersdigest.co.in 125
Reader ’s Digest

tomorrow I shall be sober and you will member). Nevertheless, it took quick
still be ugly.” thinking to pull it out at the right mo-
Riley says a line similar to the above ment. “It was an off-the-cuff recall of
was actually copied from a W. C. Fields something he had synthesized, com-
movie (which likely lifted it from a posed earlier and that he was waiting
dig made by a House of Commons to perform,” Riley says.

CHECK OUT THESE LEGENDARY COMEBACKS


When Yankees baseball been reviewed by A young, unknown
great Babe Ruth signed the press: “There’s a musician complained
a contract in 1930 for conspiracy of silence.” bitterly to composer
$80,000, he was asked Oscar Wilde: “My dear Johannes Brahms about
whether he thought he Morris, join it yourself.” delays in the publication
deserved to be making of his first opus. Brahms
more money than Presi- In 1954, poet Edith counselled him to be
dent Herbert Hoover. Sitwell was given the patient. “You can afford
“Why not?” he replied. title Dame Commander not to be immortal for
“I had a better year of the Order of the British a few more weeks,”
than he did.” Empire. On a visit to the Brahms told him.
United States, an Ameri-
Abraham Lincoln, after can asked, “Why do you In 1845, President James
being called two-faced call yourself ‘Dame’?” K. Polk named James
about slavery by debate “I don’t,” Sitwell responded. Buchanan secretary of
opponent Stephen “The queen does.” state. Former president
Douglas: “If I had another Andrew Jackson
face, do you think I would After a bout of drinking, protested. “But you
wear this one?” humourist Robert yourself appointed him
Benchley found himself minister to Russia for
Reporter: “How face-to-face with a uni- your first term,” said Polk
many people work formed man. Benchley defensively. “Yes, I did,”
at the Vatican?” asked the man to call said Jackson. “It was as far
Pope John XXIII: him a cab. The man in- as I could send him out
“About half.” formed Benchley he of my sight and where he
was an admiral in the could do the least harm.
Writer Lewis Morris US Navy. “Get me a I would have sent him to
complaining that his new battleship, then,” the North Pole if we had
book of poems hadn’t Benchley replied. kept a minister there.”
sources: W H I T E H O U S E H I S TO R Y.O R G ; cnn; T H E N AT I O N A L C AT H O L I C R E P O R T E R ; T H E N E W YO R K T I M E S ;
B A R T L E T T ’ S B O O K O F A N E C D OT E S ; T H E L I T T L E , B R O W N B O O K O F A N E C D OT E S

126 august 2019


The Genius Section

Don’t obsess over a misfire to deploy quick-witted social-media


The high you get from spearing your retorts as a marketing strategy. [Fast-
opponent with a verbal thrust can be food chain] Wendy’s’ Twitter account
shadowed by its opposite: The low has become so well known for its
that comes from blurting out a lame sassy replies that some users try to
response. If it doesn’t go your way, intentionally provoke it, almost like a
the rapper iLLspokinn advises brush- battle of the wits. “Bet you won’t fol-
ing off your missed opportunity rather low me @Wendys,” a user challenged.
than dwelling on your error: “It can be “You won that bet,” Wendy’s immedi-
toxic to hold on to it,” he says. ately shot back.
George Costanza also learnt that
Delays can be fatal he who hesitates often loses in the
When you are conversing via text or comeback game. He meets his shrimp
social media, you get a few extra min- nemesis again at a business meeting
utes to think through your responses. and takes the opportunity to use his
That could improve the quality of your old “the jerk store called and they’re
zinger, but don’t deliberate for too running out of you” line. Too late! The
long. Replies lose their punch after guy already has a comeback for the
a day or so. “Speed is integral to wit, comeback: “What’s the difference?”
whether in real life or screen life,” says he asks with a smile. “You’re their
Scott Talan, a social media expert at all-time bestseller.”
American University.
M E N TA L F LO S S.C O M (16 july 2018), copyright © 2018
In fact, some companies have learnt by talib visram.

The Only Constant


You can’t crush ideas by suppressing them. You can only
crush them by ignoring them. By refusing to think,
refusing to change.
ursula k. le guin

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past
or the present are certain to miss the future.
john f. kennedy

You never change things by fighting the existing reality.


To change something, build a new model that makes
the existing model obsolete.
r. buckminster fuller

readersdigest.co.in 127
BRAINTEASERS

Pot of Gold
Moderately difficult
Leprechaun gold comes
=
in denominations of 1, 3,
4, 6 and 7. If the illus-
trated sets of coins are
equal, how much is the
=
shamrock coin worth?

Match Play
5 Moderately difficult

(POT OF GOLD) DARREN RIGBY; (MATCH PLAY) FRASER SIMPSON


This grid contains matches
5 of different sizes, any of
which may be completely
4 unburnt, partially burnt
or completely burnt. Mat-
3 ches burn from the head
(the red end) to the tail
without skipping segments.
5 The numbers outside the
grid indicate the number
4 of burnt segments in the
corresponding row or co-
3 lumn. Can you shade in the
burnt segments to ‘match’
4 5 4 3 3 6 4 the numbers?

128 august 2019


reader’s digest

DOORWAY
Taking Orders
Difficult The robot shown here can move
only horizontally or vertically from where
it stands. If it’s ordered to go in any one of
its four available directions, it will continue
as far as it can in that direction before it
stops. When it encounters a single box, it
will push it until it can’t go any further in
that direction. However, it isn’t strong
enough to push multiple boxes at once,
meaning that two or more boxes stacked
next to each other will just stop it where it
is, as will a wall or a box stacked against a
(TAKING ORDERS) DARREN RIGBY; (RUNS IN THE FAMILY) SUE DOHRIN; (PLACE YOUR CHIPS) FRASER SIMPSON

wall. How could you order the robot out of


the room, presuming the doorway is too
narrow to push a box through?

Runs in the Family


Easy Jim and his daughter Sam both ran in a 10-kilometre race. Jim finished in
49 minutes, Sam in 54. Jim ran at a perfectly steady pace, but Sam lost steam and
took exactly 25 per cent more time to complete the second half of the race, com-
pared to the first. Jim’s wife and Sam’s mother, Heather, stood at the halfway mark
to cheer them on as they passed. Who went by her first?

60 40
Place Your Chips
10 10 50 Difficult You have a stack of poker chips that are
each worth `5, `10 or `25. You need to put them
25 65 on the squares of this grid—but no more than
one chip per square—so that their value totals
80
the amount of rupees shown for each row, col-
5 10 35 umn and long diagonal. Not every square needs
to have a chip on it. Several chips and one blank
5 25 space (designated by a star) have been placed to
30 70 55 50 50 get you started. Can you finish the grid?

For answers, turn to PAGE 130

readersdigest.co.in 129
reader’s digest

BRAINTEASERS
SUDOKU ANSWERS
BY Ian Riensche FROM PAGE 128 & 129

Pot of Gold
4.
9 4 7
Match Play
5 5
5
4 6 3 8 4
3

8 5 9 2 5
4
3
7 6 2 3 8 4 5 4 3 3 6 4

1 2 9 3 Taking Orders

7 9 3 1
8
2 7 6
To solve this puzzle …
=Box that has moved
You have to put a number from =Box that hasn’t moved
1 to 9 in each square so that: SOLUTION Runs in the Family
(SUDOKU) SUDOKUPUZZLER.COM

5 8 4 6 7 2 9 1 3
)Every horizontal row and 2 7 9 4 3 1 8 5 6 Sam, by half a minute.
vertical column contains all 6 1 3 9 8 5 7 2 4
nine numerals (1–9) without 3 5 7 8 9 4 2 6 1 Place Your Chips
repeating any of them. 8 4 1 3 2 6 5 9 7 10 10 10 10 10
9 6 2 1 5 7 4 3 8 5 25 25 10

)Each of the 3 x 3 boxes 10 25 10 10 25


7 9 8 5 1 3 6 4 2
4 3 5 2 6 8 1 7 9 5 10 10 10
has all nine numerals, 1 2 6 7 4 9 3 8 5
5 5 10 5
none repeated.

130 august 2019


The Genius Section

9. aweigh adj.
WORD POWER (uh-'way)
a over the side.
b off the bottom.
c trailing behind.
Feeling lost? This month’s vocabulary
10. egress n.
words are all about giving you directions: ('ee-gress)
up or down, near or far, east or west, a entrance.
on and on. To locate the answers, b exit.
c shortcut.
navigate to the next page.
11. recede v.
(rih-'seed)
a pass underneath.
By Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon b lean to the right.
c move back.

1. starboard n. 5. juxtapose v. 12. laterally adv.


('star-bord) ('juhk-stuh-pohz) ('lat-uh-ruh-lee)
a ship’s right side. a lay on top. a sideways.
b ship’s left side. b put side by side. b backwards.
c ship’s front. c encircle. c upwards.

2. transpose v. 6. sinistral adj. 13. pole star n.


(trans-'pohz) ('sih-nih-struhl) ('pohl-star)
a cut straight across. a from the south. a western route.
b turn sharply. b underground. b North Star.
c move to another place. c left-handed. c southern tip.

3. nether adj. 7. periphery n. 14. adjacent adj.


('neh-ther) (puh-'rih-fuh-ree) (uh-'jay-sent)
a down low. a great distance. a at the fore.
b overhead. b close range. b neighbouring.
c spread out. c outer edges. c pressing down.

4. anterior adj. 8. apex n. 15. abaft prep.


(an-'teer-ee-er) ('ay-peks) (uh-'baft)
a at the midpoint. a clockwise motion. a to the rear of.
b behind. b uppermost point. b on the border of.
c in the front. c needle on a compass. c downstream from.

readersdigest.co.in 131
Reader ’s Digest

Getting Oriented
The Latin word orientem, meaning ‘the rising sun’ or
‘the east’, gave us the historical name for the world’s
eastern lands: the Orient. The Occident refers to the west,
from the Latin occidentem (‘sunset’). Things such as winds
and auroras are boreal from the north and austral from the
south—hence the name of that down-under continent.

Word Power twins, it’s impossible recede from our town,


ANSWERS to tell them apart. the cleanup will begin.

6. sinistral (c) 12. laterally (a) sideways.


1. starboard (a) ship’s left-handed. Did you Good basketball players
right side. Looking out over know that the United must be able to move well
the ark’s starboard, Noah States has had just eight laterally as well as down
scanned the horizon, hop- sinistral presidents? the court.
ing to spot land.
7. periphery (c) outer 13. pole star (b) North
2. transpose (c) move edges. My puppy is a Star. “Once I catch sight
to another place. Kyle’s bit shy—she tends to of the pole star, I can
novel is a retelling of linger at the periphery get my bearings again,”
Hamlet, transposed to of the dog park. muttered the lost hiker.
modern-day England.
8. apex (b) uppermost 14. adjacent (b)
3. nether (a) down low. point. The Bollywood neighbouring. The sisters
“Why is my phone always actress had reached the lived in adjacent houses
lost in the nether reaches apex of fame by age 18. on M. G. Road for more
of my purse?” Rakhi than 50 years.
complained. 9. aweigh (b) off the
15. abaft (a) to the rear of.
sirichai puangsuwan/shutterstock
bottom. “Anchors
4. anterior (c) in the front. aweigh, boys!” the The private jet has a ritzy
“I see that you’ve been captain shouted as his master suite abaft the
flossing your anterior crew prepared to set sail. main cabin.
teeth, but you need to pay
attention to your molars,” 10. egress (b) exit.
said Dr Rao. Are you sure this hedge
maze has an egress? Vocabulary Ratings
5. juxtapose (b) put 9 & below: intermediate
side by side. When you 11. recede (c) move back. 10–12: ascendant
juxtapose the identical When the floodwaters 13–15: tip-top

132 august 2019


The Genius Section

the British rule in 1942?


QUIZ
7. In 1940, the Muslim
League, led by Moha-
Independence Day Special mmed Ali Jinnah, in a
by V. Kumara Swamy resolution passed in this
city, demanded that
1. Mahatma Gandhi read it to Mayo with a note, “To India be separated into
this book by a 19th-cen- one drain inspector from two states: one for Hindus
tury British critic when he another.” It was reportedly and one for Muslims.
was in South Africa, and a bestseller in the 1920s. Name the city.
decided to change his life Name the book.
“in accordance with the 8. In 1943, this Indian
ideals of the book”. He 5. In which year was the freedom fighter was trans-
later translated it into tricolour, comprising saf- ferred from a German sub-
Gujarati and gave it the fron, white and green, marine into a Japanese
title Sarvodaya. Name the adopted as the national submarine near the island
book and the author. flag of India by the Indian of Madagascar?
National Congress?
2. How did Rabindranath 9. Lord Mountbatten, the
Tagore express his anger last British Viceroy of India
and register his protest chose 15 August as Inde-
after the Jallianwala Bagh pendence Day for India, as
massacre in 1919? it was on this day in 1945
that the Japanese forces
3. Name the book by his- had surrendered, putting
torian Katherine Mayo an end to World War II.
that Mahatma Gandhi Which book was this
called a “drain inspector’s revealed in?
report” for its negative
depiction of India. 10. Which British lawyer
ILLUSTRATION BY KESHAV KAPIL

6. After the failure of the was given five weeks to


4. K. L. Gauba wrote this Cripps Mission, Mahatma divide India into the new
book as a counter to Kath- Gandhi decided to launch independent nations of
erine Mayo’s. He even sent which movement against India and Pakistan?

at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins. 10. Sir Cyril Radcliffe.
4. Uncle Sham. 5. 1931. 6. Quit India Movement. 7. Lahore. 8. Subhas Chandra Bose. 9. Freedom
Answers: 1. Unto This Last by John Ruskin. 2. By renouncing his knighthood. 3. Mother India.

readersdigest.co.in 133
Reader ’s Digest

QUOTABLE QUOTES

Carve your own way … Choose not to drift along.


Sushmita Sen, actor

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains,

from left: yogen shah, indiapicture, krishnendu halder


but to live in a way that respects and enhances the
freedom of others.
Nelson Mandela, political leader and Nobel laureate

I have always believed that everyone should have the


freedom to love. There is no greater emotion than love
and it should not be denied.
Dutee Chand, athlete

Sushmita Sen Nelson Mandela Dutee Chand

Acchha Product, par buri


sales? Kyon? Jo dikhta hai
woh bikta hai.
JAGDEEP KAPOOR, brand guru

Contact : Tel: 022-28477700 s enquiry@samsika.com s www.samsika.com


Copyright © 1995. Jagdeep Kapoor

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