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The Subcontinental Menu

How sacred lemons bring prosperity and other juicy stuff from the neighbourhood...

The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Sajith Kumar
The Subcontinental Menu

Pakistan To Execute 30 Terrorists

The focus in India may squarely be on Kulbhushan Jadhav’s fate but Pakistan will also execute 30 other “terrorists”. The sente­n­­cing of Jadhav has added fresh strains to Indo-Pak ties, but to prove that it is not being partial to the “Ind­ian spy”, the Pakistani army has also ordered execution of 30 other condemned persons charged with terrorism. The execution orders, known as the ‘black warrants’, were signed on early this week by the Pakistani army chief, Gen Qamar Jawed Bajwa. The timing of the execution is interesting; not only is it linked with Jadhav, but also with Pakistan’s attempt to project itself as a victim of terror and its resolve to fight the scourge. India continues to attempt to isolate Pakistan for its selective fight against terrorism—encouraging terrorists targeting India while fighting those that pose a direct threat to its authority. Yet, executing the 30 terrorists may just help refurbish Pakistan’s international image somewhat.

Where Sacred Lemons Bring Prosperity

A temple management in Tamil Nadu has raised Rs 68,000 by auctioning nine lemons. One of them actually went for Rs 27,000. But then, the lemons were sacred, not the ordinary ones in your neighbourhood market. All these lemons were spiked on the spear of the presiding deity at the Balathandayuthapani temple in Tiruvanainallur during the recent Panguni Uthiram festival. A lemon is spiked on the spear of Lord Muruga on each of the first nine days of the 11-day festival. It is widely believed that possession of these lemons not only brings prosperity, but also blesses a childless couple. Many years ago, the temple adm­inistration used to distribute such lemons free of cost but a surge in demand forced it to auction them. Last year, the lemons had brought in more than Rs 57,000 to the temple kitty, with one piece fetching as much as Rs 39,000.

Nellore Woodies Get Their Due

UdaYAGIri wooden cutlery, known for ages for its intricate and exquisite carvings, is made by a few master craftsmen from the Nellore reg­­ion in Andhra. The origin of the craft dates back to the 16th century regime of Quli Qutab Shah of Golconda. It also traces its influence to Persian motifs, and is mostly sold as gift and table decoration. Now, the famous cutlery has been given the coveted GI (geographical identification) tag. Andhra Pradesh state agencies had applied for it on behalf of craftsmen from about 100 families with the traditional skills. GI indicates products from a specific reg­­ion, where no other manufacturer can claim the name covered by the tag. It also paves the way for exports.

Modi In London, Sonrise In Jaipur

Lalit Modi, the cricket impresario who turned into the fall guy of the gentleman’s game, may have been staying in exile in London for quite some time after facing various charges of omissions and commissions, but the stage is set for his son to carry forward his legacy back home. Ruchir Modi has quietly become the president of Alwar district cricket association and is set to contest the election for the president of Rajasthan Cricket association (RCA), a post currently held by his father. The stage is set for a smooth accession to the throne for the 22-year-old. The election, scheduled to be held on April 26, will see history repeating itself if Ruchir wins the election. It was 12 years ago that Lalit had won the same election to take over the reins of Rajasthan cricket and went on to change the face of Indian cricket with the Indian Premier League (IPL).

A Ramjanmabhoomi Far Away

Hey Ram! There are 3,626 villages in the country which are named after Lord Ram but there is only one where every male resident has ‘Ram’ either as a prefix or a suffix to their names. In Paschim Sanabadh of Bankura district in West Bengal, all male children are named after Lord Ram, in a tradition apparently 500 years old. Even youngsters from the image conscious current generation are averse to discontinuing it. They ascribe the tradition to their forefathers’ great love for the deity. Surrounded by villages with a sizable Muslim population, Paschim Sanabadh has carved a unique identity for itself. A Ram temple was set up in the village around 400 years ago, which is in the process of being  renovated.

Political Parties In Nepal Not To Use Children For Election

Political parties in the subcontinent believe in ‘catch-them-young-and-build-them-up.’ So, children have often been used for campaigning, getting people to booths and, occasionally, to vote for absentee voters. But parties in Nepal have taken an oath not to use children below 16 during polls after civil rights activists gave them a 19-point memo. The parties may now include this in their manifestos for the local body elections in May. But will it also deter armed militants from recruiting child soldiers?

Sanga’s Fresh Guard

Sri Lankan cricketer Kumar Sangakkara retired a few years back, but will stage a comeback as a commentator. Sanga will debut as a commentator in the ICC Champions Trophy in the UK in June. Several former skippers, including Ricky Ponting, Brandon McCullum and Graeme Smith are also going to cut their teeth in the commentary box. Considered the most cerebral cricketer of his time, Sangakkara says the Champions’ Trophy is a special tournament he loved playing, and is looking forward to watch the best players go head to head. Similarly, many are waiting to see how the stylish run-machine fares before the microphone.

Suchitra Lives On

Iconic film actress Suchitra Sen has been, for many Bengalis spanning generations, the acme of feminine beauty. Those partisan supporters have reason to cheer, thanks to efforts of the government of Bangladesh.

She was born as Roma Dasgupta in 1931 in Pabna, in the Bengal presidency (subsequently East Pakistan and now Bangladesh). But Partition in August 1947 saw her migrate to Calcutta with her family. She started acting in movies in the early ’50s; as the decade wore on, her place as Tollywood’s top heroine was cemented.

The house on Gopalpur Hem Sagar Lane in Pabna, in north-western Bangladesh, where Suchitra Sen grew up, was left dilapidated for a time,  then taken over by people with links to the Jamaat-e-Islami. After a prolonged political battle, the Pabna district authorities managed to take control of the building and convert it into a museum in her memory. Earlier this month, it was formally opened to the public and had been drawing enthusiasts from Bangladesh and beyond ever since.

The museum on Suchitra Sen in her ancestral place in Bangladesh has helped revive her memory in the country and beyond.

Suchitra Sen was not only one of the first Indian actresses to have won an award at an international film festival—silver prize for best actress at Moscow in 1963 for Saat Paake Bandha—she was also a huge box-office star. With Uttam Kumar, the pair domina­ted Bengali films for two decades and attained iconic status. She was also popular for roles in Hindi films like Mamta and Aandhi. But she would be best known for her roles in Bengali romances, like Saptapadi.

Though both her daughter Moon Moon and granddaughter Raima followed in her footsteps, none of them could approach her exalted status in the film firmament. The myth about Suchitra grew further once she began her retired life in seclusion—many comparing her shunning public appearances with that of Hollywood’s reclusive Greta Garbo. In her illustrious career Suchitra Sen received sev­­e­­ral awards, but refused to accept the Dadasaheb Phalke as, by then, she had started shunning  pub­­lic appearances. She died in 2014 at the age of 82. Bangladesh’s gesture of turning Suchitra Sen’s ancestral home into a museum seems to have helped in bringing back the memory of her luminous presence, especially among the younger generation, in a big way. The Pabna house has now become a major draw not only for people from Bangladesh but also—through word of mouth—for visitors from other parts of South Asia, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, where not many Bengali film personalities are known.

Illustrations by Sajith Kumar


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