Barbie, hello Jatayu
drives pain away
Way to go
Annapurna Sahu was rescued after 25 years of confinement in her own house. Bibhuti Mishra reports
Fortythree-year-old Annapurna Sahu was rescued by the Dhenkanal district administration after 25 years of confinement in her own house. She was confined to a cubbyhole of a room, at the backyard of her house since she was 18. She was discovered completely nude and too frail to walk Annapurna is the daughter of Brajabandhu Sahu a resident of Mandapasahi in Dhenkanal. When she was 18, her parents had found a groom for her in Indupur village nearby. She was to marry a widower.
Family sources revealed that
she refused the match and from that day onwards lost her mental balance.
Since she showed no signs of improvement after prolonged treatment by
doctors, even witch doctors, she was left to her own fate.
Interestingly, though there are two police stations on either side of the house, the police got no wind of the condition of the woman for so long. The Dhenkanal district magistrate, Usha Padhee, got the news from an unidentified source and took the initiative to rescue her.
She was found in a dingy room at the backyard in a wretched condition and taken to the district headquarters hospital.The cost of her treatment is being borne by the district unit of the Red Cross. Hospital sources reveal that she is taking food normally and her health is showing signs of improvement. Although the district administration had said that they would rehabilitate her in an old age home after getting fully cured, her family members say they would take her back.
In fact, the family is upset over the manner in which the district administration ‘rescued’ her. It has, they feel, tarnished the name of the family. They have disowned the charge of ill-treating her. Her brother, Ganeswar Sahu, says that she was confined to a room after she developed mental sickness.
She was taken care of properly and fed regularly, "We did all that was possible for her according to our financial condition. The doctors could not diagnose her disease. She remained in the main part of the house but a few months back we shifted her to the room in the backyard as she was becoming uncontrollable and moved about naked," says Sahu, owner of a flourmill. However, the family thanks the district administration for coming to the aid of their daughter Annapurna.
While she recuperates in the hospital, nobody knows why and how Annapurna, a trained mid-wife at that time, became mentally deranged 25 years back.
Although not very coherent, Annapurna at times talks sensibly. A number of visitors, including newsmen, visit her every day. She says, "I am feeling better. But don’t call me by the name ‘`C1nnapurna’. That is the past, I should be known as Purna now. ‘Purna’ means complete and perhaps she is keen on this name because her present is completely happy. She takes whatever food she feels like, smiles and talks in patches. She cannot talk at a stretch as she feels tired.
If asked about how and why she was confined in her own house she says, "The past is past. Why talk about it?" Sometimes she remembers her past and cries. The district Red Cross society has been bearing all the expenses of her treatment and activists of Dayananda Saraswati Service Mission are keeping guard at the hospital. A couple of psychiatrists, including the one from Chowdwar Circle Jail, have been treating her and she is showing good progress. The doctors aver that Annapurna would recover completely.
Since she has become very weak, she is being given adequate food. Hospital sources reveal that she was also given blood transfusion as her haemoglobin level had dropped.
Meanwhile, the district administration had had a talk with Annapurna’s family who have agreed to let her stay in a short-stay home after recovery.
Writer-journalist Shinie Antony’s two latest books, Planet Polygamous: 36 Tales of Infidelity and Kardamom Kisses, have been entered for the Commonwealth Prize, writes Humra Quraishi
New Delhi-based writer-journalist Shinie Antony should have every reason to celebrate—come September she not only turned 40 years old but now has four books to her credit. Two books had been published earlier and another two were published this month. In fact, her very first collection of stories, "Barefoot and Pregnant" (Rupa), had won her a Commonwealth Broadcasting Association story-writing prize in 2001. And now come these two latest books from her repertoire. Her collection of short stories, "Planet Polygamous: 36 Tales of Infidelity’" (Indialog), hit the stands last week and a novel titled "Kardamom Kisses" (Rupa) will hit the stands by September-end. And there’s another frill to both these books—her publishers have entered these books for the Commnonwealth Prize. So let’s wait and watch—and read.
After reading the 36 stories laden with ample traces—or a heavy dosage—of infidelity, I had to ask Shinie why she’d dwelt on infidelity and she said: "Infidelity brings on all kinds of debate. For and against. The 36 stories in this volume delve beyond the conventional cheating between spouses into larger betrayals that sully the soul. Keeping faith with one lover would sometimes mean sinning against another`85" And if you were to delve further and ask her how many of these stories have any real-life setting or back-up, she elaborates: "The stories here include a family secret that comes to light too late, a young girl’s ache for a fantasy lover, a married woman’s divorced feeling and a hooker who sometimes dances to please herself. All of them have a setting in reality in so far as the circumstances are concerned. It is in fleshing out the characters that I have experimented. As you say, we seldom speak the truth. But being a repressed, insanely hypocritical society has its advantages. One gets a weird viewpoint on things, a sort of upside-down view."
But, in the same breath, she rules out any resemblance between characters she writes about and patches from her own life. I ask her if the personal can be delinked from the written flow? "The delinking is a conscious act while the link-ups are too covert to be observed by the self. The novel is not about me except maybe that I think that joint families are a better option by far for the modern woman’s mental well-being. But then again, I am very much a product and part of the nuclear system and it could well be a hankering for the moon or a kind of romanticising. In the short stories, however, I confess to an autobiographical moment or two`85 factors which have influenced my writing are urban loneliness, the pressure to pretend that everything is funky cool in one’s life and the contrast between reality and one’s perception of it. The smallest of things bring this contrast into sharp focus." And to the very inevitable query—two books in one month!
"The novel was definitely hard work and the short stories were meant to be commercial breaks in between. The thing is I can’t write light stuff even at gunpoint. I see a blank piece of paper and I go all intense and hyper. So I tried to balance the two streams—of sarcasm and seriousness—and branch them into two separate strands.
Of course, one cannot compartmentalise creativity. So while the novel surprised me with its comic moments, the short stories took on an almost sinister quality. Three years, I’d say, went into the thinking of the novel and as for the short stories, the monsters took a little longer."
And for the taste to continue lingering, I end with the query why she has titled her novel Kardamom Kisses and that, too, spelt with a capital ‘K’ as against the conventional ‘C’ and why not garlic kisses! She quips "you will have to read the novel to discover why it is not called Garlic Kisses or Cinnamon Kisses or even Gunpowder Kisses for that matter. The sensuousness of the cardamom spice translates well into intimacy I guess..."
A group of activists in Guwahati has decided to fight ‘cultural invasion’ from the West and develop indigenous toys for children, writes Parbina Rashid
IF you feel the Barbie doll and her ultra-modern set of friends are not good companions for your growing child, then you are not the only one. A group of cultural activists in Guwahati, which believes that Barbie and other much-hyped Western characters have been alienating the young impressionable minds from their roots, has made it its mission to fight against this "cultural invasion".
The result is a joint venture taken up by the Design Department of the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, and the Vivekananda Kendra, which overlooks the Brahmaputra.
The project is to develop toys based on mythical figures from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata using the technique of mask-making. In other words, it’s exit for Barbie and welcome to Jatayu.
The project is still at the documentation stage but after a series of workshops conducted by both institutes, the enthusiasm has percolated to the local artistes, who have so far been making masks for religious ceremonies and satras, the monastic Vaishnavite institution thriving at Majauli, the largest river island in the world.
"The traditional masks, which are an integral part of the Satriya culture, are confined to religious ceremonies alone. We are trying to modernise the art to cater to the taste of the present generation", says Prof A.K. Das of the Design Department, IIT, Guwahati.
It is not an easy task. It requires not only convincing the local artisans, who are solely inspired by religious ardour and are still not ready for commercialisation of their art form, but also the market.
Though the idea of having indigenous toys with a cultural rooting has appealed to the masses, how many of such dolls will find home is something still to be seen.
Mask-making has been a tradition in Assam since the days of Sankardev, the great Vaishnavite, when it was used to communicate with the masses about the scriptures.
The masks were used in plays called Bhaona to portray various characters. These masks were made of local materials and have evolved as an art form to attain the status of a recognised craft. Since mask-making is highly specialised and, over the years, has become a sort of hereditary art confined to a few families, the emphasis is on making it a popular art form.
"There is a need to revive these traditions as they hold a great potential not only in the cultural but also in the economic field. The first step is to prevent this tradition from becoming extinct. Secondly, there is a need to integrate the traditional technique with the modern art form," says Dipankar Mahanta of Vivekanand Kendra.
What about the opposition from religious groups? "You cannot be too protective about cultural heritage and preserve it in isolation," adds Professor Das.
How do they propose to achieve the Herculean task of ousting Barbie and Superman from the market?
"Our first step is to soften the expression of the traditional masks, which are normally harsh and not suitable for a baby’s nursery. Secondly, we are going to sensitise the young parents to initiate their children into their culture. Each mythical toy will have its own story to narrate," says Mahanta.
"We may not be able to send Barbie and Superman packing home, but if a child has at least one traditional doll in his or her collection, we feel we have achieved something," he adds.
If not, one can always promote them as souvenir items or decorative products.
Regular exercise helps reduce pain in old age, says a survey that studied participants over a period of 14 years. Bonnie Bruce and colleagues from Stanford University, US, compared the level of pain in a group of runners and a group of community-based individuals who acted as controls, reports science portal EurekAlert. Participants were followed for 14 years, and were on average in their mid-sixties when the study started. Each year, they completed a questionnaire about their health status, exercise habits and history of injuries. In total, the study included 866 subjects: 492 runners’ association members and 374 controls.
The researchers say people who exercise regularly experience 25 per cent less muscle and joint pain in their old age than people who are less active.
Their results show that the greater majority of physically active participants did on average between 355 and 2,119 minutes of exercise per week over the course of the study, while controls exercised significantly less.
After adjusting for confounding factors such as gender, age, weight and health status, the results show that pain increased in both groups over time.
But members of the Runners’ Association experienced 25 per cent less musculo-skeletal pain than controls. This reduction persisted throughout the study period.
"Exercise was associated with a substantial and significant reduction in pain even despite the fact that fractures, a significant predictor of pain, were slightly more common among runners," the researchers concluded. — IANS
A new survey has shown that girls in all girls schools are much more likely to study science and maths than girls in co-ed schools where they often get intimidated by what come to be known as 'male' subjects.
According to a number of school teachers, who were questioned during the survey, boys often dominate science and maths lessons and make exaggerated claims about their ability which drives girls away from these subjects, reports the Telegraph.
Researchers found that nearly twice as many girls in girl's schools study physics and chemistry A-level than nationally, 80 per cent more study a modern foreign language and 70 per cent more do maths.
They say that this is because if girls sense that boys think they are incapable of a particular subject and dominate the apparatus and ask all the questions they quickly pick up the message that it is not something which is their area.
Girls are less likely to clear their doubts and ask questions in class in the presence of males. — ANI