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A Shimla cafe where prisoners serve pizzas



Shimla cafe
File Photo

Shimla, April 17: It’s a real life scene right out of reel life.

Hindi films “Karma” and “Do Aankhen Barah Haath” showed convicts being taken out of prison to be reformed. Now, in Shimla’s first Book Cafe inmates of a sub-jail near here are trained by a renowned hotel to serve cookies and pizza they have baked.

The cafe, with a seating capacity of 40 and constructed at a cost of Rs 20 lakh, was opened by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh last week.

It is located right above the Ridge — once the promenade for the British colonial rulers when this city was their summer capital — and on the way to the famed Jakhu temple.

The four who run the cafe are Jai Chand, Yog Raj, Ram Lal and Raj Kumar, all of whom are serving life imprisonment at the Kaithu jail near Shimla, Director General (Prisons) Somesh Goyal told IANS.

The first-of-its-kind cafe in the country is funded by the state’s Tourism Department. It is open daily from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. At night, the prisoners return to the jail.

Goyal, who has also been credited with reforming prisoners through music, said employing prisoners at the cafe was an attempt to rehabilitate them.

“This cafe has given us the chance to connect to the world,” Jai Chand told IANS.

Another beaming jail inmate, Yog Raj, said this cafe had given them a chance to get employment once they walk out of the prison.

“This is being run by four of us independently. Even the visitors, the locals, don’t show any apprehension while interacting with us. Indeed, they are keen to know more about our radical transformation,” he added.

Most of the time, the cafe, which offers free Wi-Fi access, is occupied by visitors reading books on wildlife, environment, tourism and Shimla’s history while sipping coffee.

It has books of authors like Chetan Bhagat, Nikita Singh, and French novelist Jules Verne, besides educational books, magazines and newspapers.

“The cafe has a good collection of books of national and international authors,” Shimla Deputy Mayor Tikender Panwar said.

For tourist Rewti Menon and her husband John Philip, it was a unique experience to interact with the prisoners.

“This cafe has given them another opportunity to live with dignity. Such experiments with an extensive support network will deter them from returning to crime,” Philip said.

Last year, 10 inmates of the Central Jail in Nahan in Sirmaur district performed at the Gaiety Theatre here at a public function.

And the Chief Minister was among those who enjoyed their performance.

According to jail authorities, five of the 10 prisoners are undergoing life sentence for murder and two are facing trial under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.

Special music classes were organised by prison authorities for almost a month to train the inmates in singing and playing instruments.

They sang Himachali folk songs, qawwali and Sufiana songs of Bollywood movies.

By- Vishal Gulati

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])


‘Hichki’ Movie Review: An emotionally inspiring film




New Delhi, March 23: Film: “Hichki”; Director: Sidharth P. Malhotra; Cast: Rani Mukerji, Supriya Pilgaonkar, Sachin Pilgaonkar, Neeraj Kabi, Shivkumar Subramaniam, Asif Basra, Ivan Rodrigues, Harsh Mayar and Kunal Shinde

Rating: 3.5/5

Adapted from a 2008 released English film, “Front of the Class”, which is based on Brad Cohen’s book “Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had”, director Sidharth P. Malhotra’s “Hichki” is a feel good, emotionally packed and inspirational film.

It is the touching story of Naina Mathur, a young girl who would not let Tourette Syndrome keep her from doing what she loved most; teaching. Despite her speech defect, she sets out to become a teacher.

Hichki Rani Mukerji

Tourette syndrome is a neuropsychiatric disorder which sets off multiple motor tics which include compulsive throat-clearing, knee knocking, violent muscle twitches and piercing barks. These tics are beyond one’s control. While the exact cause that sets off these tics is not known, it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Rani Mukerji as the plucky Naina Mathur is flawless. She portrays her character with sincerity.

Hichki review

“I can’t see you as a teacher,” one blunt administrator tells her. To which, she replies, “Before meeting me, did you know about Tourette Syndrome? Well, now that you know, I have educated you.”

This simply tells you how persevering she is.

The film reveals how as a student she was expelled from twelve schools before finally being accepted whole heartedly at St. Notker’s High School. The same school later accepts her as a teacher, mid-term, not because of her brilliant academic credentials but because of a crisis situation. She is hired to teach a class of underprivileged, reluctant misfits. How she wins everyone’s hearts, forms the crux of the tale.

Looking back periodically to show Naina as a child, the film is most powerful in some of those flashback sequences.

Hichki Movie Review

How as a child, she convinces herself that Tourette Syndrome is her lifelong companion and that could teach her important lessons about human nature. That bit of disassociation which is crucial helps her cope with otherwise difficult situations. This comes through in her strained relationship with her father and also when she tells her school teacher, Mr. Khan, “Treat me like other students.”

The film is packed with dramatic moments that are as truthful as they are inspiring. Every scene resonates with sentiments. With apt metaphors and lingo, the writing is simple and straightforward. And while the film intends on communicating life-affirming values, there are moments in the first half that seem forced.

The second half, despite the painstakingly moralistic notes, touches the right chords. You get so immersed with the characters especially Naina. You feel sorry for her when despite her sincere efforts, her class gets suspended, for no fault of theirs.

What elevates the film is the brilliant performances by the supporting cast. You can relate with every character as each one of them is well-etched. The ones that stand out apart from the gang of students are Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar as Naina’s estranged parents, Ivan Rodrigues as the School Principal, Neeraj Kabi as Naina’s colleague at school who is keen to dismiss Naina’s students from the school and of course the character who plays Naina’s brother.

The loving relationship between the siblings is well-defined.

With ace production values, the film is well-made. The only sore point is the loud background score that kills the subtlety of the subject.

Overall, “Hichki” remains in your mental space long after you leave the theatre.


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Unhappy Naresh Agarwal joins BJP, says SP prefered Bollywood actress over me as RS candidate



Naresh Agarwal
Naresh Agarwal joins BJP (Photo-ANI)

The Samajwadi Party leader, Naresh Agarwal on Monday joined BJP in the presence of Railway Minister, Piyush Goyal and BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra.

While joining BJP, Naresh Agarwal who is currently the Rajya Sabha member of Samajwadi Party said, “I am joining the BJP as I think that until you are in National Party, you cannot do anything for the society. I am also impressed by PM Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and UP CM Yogi. I still respect Mulayam Singh Yadav and Ram Gopal Yadav, but the current scenario in SP where it is doing a coalition with Congress and sometimes BSP is very sad.”

The leader joined BJP after the Samajwadi party nominated actor and politician Jaya Bachchan for the upcoming Rajya Sabha election in April. The party had to choose between Naresh Agarwal and Jaya Bachchan as they don’t have enough legislators in the assembly to support their candidate.

Talking about Samajwadi Party’s Rajya Sabha candidate, Jaya Bachchan he said, “My comparison was drawn with those working in films… I was rejected for those who dance in films, work in films. I found it not proper. Nobody found it proper.”

Agarwal became tv channels and newspaper’s headline for making controversial statements. In July 2017, he courted controversy in Rajya Sabha by associating Hindu Gods with alcohol, while speaking on the issue of mob violence related with cow protection. However, after his statement, he was made to apologise by BJP.


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India, Pakistan should decide to think of peace: Farooq Abdullah on ceasefire violations



Farooq Abdullah
National Conference party leader, Farooq Abdullah (File Photo)

Kashmir:  National Conference party leader Farooq Abdullah on Tuesday spoke about the situation on the India- Pakistan border in Kashmir. 

The leader speaking on the continous ceasefire violation said,”this will continue to happen.”

The leader urging both the countries to find a diplomatic solution said,”firing will continue to happen on both sides unless the two nations decide to think of peace.”

“The sooner they think about it, the sooner it will stop,” he added.

However this is not the first time when Abdullah has asked for diplomatic solutions, earlier the leader stated that war is not the solution of the Kashmir issue.


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