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Celebrating Diwali around the World!

Diwali has also become a time to travel and experiment. That’s why, though it is a chance to spend some much-needed time with family, it has also become a time for fresh new experiences.

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Diwali has also become a time to travel and experiment. That’s why, though it is a chance to spend some much-needed time with family, it has also become a time for fresh new experiences. From outdoor adventures like a camel safari in Rajasthan or snorkeling in Malaysia to leisurely gondola rides in Macau to authentic local village stays and culinary-cuisine tours with chefs in Greece, travelling has become more about the experiences than just ticking countries off the bucket list.

If you are planning then check out the top Exciting and happening countries for a memorable vacation.

Few popular International Destinations

Malaysia
With almost 900 islands, Malaysia has plenty of offshore attractions to compete with the best. West coast isles like Penang and Langkawi offer a compelling blend of cuisine, culture and luxury, while east coast ones are more rugged and remote, with diving, hiking and edge-of-the-map relaxation spots. While in Malaysia, you can also opt to explore the well-known tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands, the exquisite beaches of Langkawi or the unique street art of George Town. Definitely a destination that has something special for every traveller.

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Star Cruises – Gemini – Penang & Langkawi

Macau
Famous as the ‘Vegas of China’, Macau makes for a perfect Diwali vacation. Get started with your Diwali gambling with the world’s largest casino, the Venetian Macau. With over 3000 slot machines and more than 500,000 sq. ft. of gaming floor, you will never get stuck for options here. If gambling isn’t your thing, then go ahead and explore the magnificent Macau Towers and the historic Taipa village, ride the beautiful gondolas, visit the ancient Chinese temples or enjoy the amazing cuisine, a mix of Chinese and Portuguese flavours. Start off with Chinese congee for breakfast, enjoy a Portuguese lunch of caldo verde soup and bacalhau (cod) fritters, and dine on hybrid Macanese fare such as minchi.

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The Worlds Largest Casino Venetian Macao

Greece
While famous for its breathtaking islands, Greece is also a cultural and historical treasure chest. Explore the ancient Acropolis. Step into the ring where Olympians first competed. Climb stone-hewed steps to Meteora’s monasteries. Contemplate the Oracle’s insights from the grandeur of Delphi. Take in a starlit drama at an ancient outdoor theater and be stunned by massive marble sculptures dredged up from the Aegean. Greece is a fascinating collection of experiences that will make any Diwali vacation super special.

Few popular Domestic Destinations

Rajasthan
While an extremely popular tourist destination, Rajasthan is still very much in demand, especially when you feel like celebrating Diwali in India. Explore the unending desert with unique camel and jeep safaris, roam the magnificent monuments, from the Hawa Mahal to the Jantar Mantar to the City Palace and the Mandore Gardens and finally stuff yourself with the amazingly delicious and rich cuisine. Rajasthan is definitely an experience to treasure for a lifetime.

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Jaipur Hawa Mahal at Diwali Night

Kashmir
While much has been said and written about Kashmir, it’s still one of the most popular destinations in India. Starting off with Srinagar, this awe-inspiring city is best known for its lush gardens and serene lakes, where you can relish a shikhara ride on Dal Lake, or go exploring the Mughal Gardens and Old City monuments. At Gulmarg, the ski capital of India, tourists can get their adrenaline kick skiing down the snow-capped hills or admiring the beautiful vistas from the Gondolas (cable car system). The ambience of Leh, on the other hand, is completely different. Nestled in a fertile, green oasis and surrounded by miles of parched landscape, Leh is a colourfully refreshing burst of colours, cultures and natural beauty. Often dubbed as Little Tibet, it offers many opportunities to tick off some major travel goals like camping at the picturesque Pangong-Tso lak, visiting the numerous monasteries to find inner peace, and so much more!

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A shikara (boat) on Dal Lake

Andaman & Nicobar
Think clear turquoise waters, unspoilt beaches, stunning rain forests, gorgeous corals, ancient tribes, and you’ll think of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. A tropical paradise in the truest sense of the term, this archipelago of islands is sure to blow your mind with all the amazing activities available and things to experience. So whether you would like to jet- ski across the beautiful blue ocean, go diving or snorkelling, watch the turtles nesting or take in some local history, this is definitely an amazing way of spending the Diwali vacation.

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Andaman and Nicobar Islands Diwali Celebration

“Diwali is increasingly becoming a time to experience the world, especially since the rituals are such that they don’t have to be done at home,” says Viren Batra, co-founder of Nirvana Excursions. “At the same time, the rituals are an essential part of the festival, and therefore, we make it a point to customise itineraries according to our clients’ requirements and specifications, ensuring that they truly enjoy both the vacation as well as the festival.”

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Gau Rakshaks not listening to Modi is a matter of concern: Former VP Hamid Ansari

The Jinnah portrait was just an excuse. It’s been there for a long time. The gentleman who objected to the portrait was a member of the AMU Court for three years. What did you do about it?”

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Hamid Ansari

New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) There has been a rise of vigilantism in the country and if “gau rakshaks” (cow vigilantes) are not listening to even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then it is a matter of concern, says former Vice President Hamid Ansari.

“Modi is a strong leader. He is the unquestioned leader of his party. If his words are not being listened to, that’s a matter of serious concern. No need to say that there are people in his party who are defying him. I am not drawing that conclusion,” Ansari said in an interview with IANS ahead of the release of his latest book “Dare I Question”.

This book is a compilation of speeches that Ansari made on different occasions on different themes. He said he has explored various issues in the book such as what is it to be an Indian, what is Indian nationalism or why do we call ourselves plural, secular, democratic.

The former Vice President created a flutter recently when he said in the foreword to the book that the remarks of Modi at the farewell function for Ansari last year that his views were conditioned by his long career as a diplomat in Muslim countries and as a person who has dealt with minoities (as a member of the National Minorities Commission) were a deviation from tradition on such occasions.

While asserting that intolerance is indeed rising in society, he underlined that it cannot be said that the communal divide emerged only after the Modi government came to power as it has been there for very long.

“Intolerance has been there in our society for a long, long period. But I think if the level of water rises you don’t notice it at first and it begins to rise higher and higher. Then you notice it. That’s what is happening,” he said.

“Yes, there has been a rise of vigilantism. It has been written (about) nationally as well as internationally. International newspapers have reported that there has been a rise in it. I can’t put a precise date (as to when it was noticed first)… different occasions, different places. It has been going on for many, many years,” he told IANS.

There have been incidents of attacks and lynchings of people belonging to the minority community suspected of cow smuggling or in the name of eating beef in some states.

Has it risen after Modi government came to power?

“No, no. Every government has been guilty of failures. Every time there has been a communal riot anywhere, it is a manifestation firstly of intolerance and secondly of failure of administration.

“You see two people can always have a disagreement. Two bicycles can collide on the road and there will be exchange of hot words. But what takes a small disagreement into a communal riot requires thinking and planning. And wherever there is such planning, there is failure of law and order,” Ansari said.

Asked if he is particularly indicting the state governments headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for rising vigilantism, the former Vice President said: “Look, I am indicting the government of the day wherever it is. Whether it happens in Assam, Kerala or Punjab. It doesn’t matter. I am not targeting political parties, I am targeting administrations.”

Commenting on critics and trolls on social media tagging him as an “ungrateful Muslim” post his remarks in a TV interview just a day before his demitting office that there has been a rising sense of insecurity among the Muslims, Ansari pointed out that it was not for the first time that he had said as much.

“Ungrateful to whom? This is my land. I am an equal citizen of this country. I am an equal stakeholder of this country and I have been so for centuries. Where is the question of ungratefulness? Gratefulness or ungratefulness comes only if you are giving me something and I am receiving something. It is my right. I have my rights, I have my duties,” Ansari said.

Asked if the incident of Hindutva goons barging into Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) when he was there to attend a function on May 2 happened with the local administration’s connivance, Ansari said he would desist from drawing such conclusions but stressed that the Jinnah portrait there was just an excuse to create disruption.

“I don’t draw that kind of conclusions. But I do know I was invited there, and there was disruption. The function could not take place. The senior police officer in the district next day admitted that there was a failure of arrangements and that he is going to inquire into it.

“I am not drawing a conclusion that there was a connivance of the local administration with the miscreants. But I see it as straightforward fact of failure. Now why that failure took place, let the inquiry find out.

“But yes, the Jinnah portrait was just an excuse. It’s been there for a long time. The gentleman who objected to the portrait was a member of the AMU Court for three years. What did you do about it?” Ansari asked.

On the demand by rightwing politicians to end the minority status of the AMU and Jamia Millia Islamia, Ansari said that as the matter is being heard in the Supreme Court, he, and others, should not comment on it.

“Let the court’s opinion come, we will see after that. The Acts of Parliament are there which created these institutions, the debates in Parliament are there as to what was the intention behind setting up these institutions. All this will be discussed threadbare in the Supreme Court and the court will decide,” he said.

As the next Lok Sabha elections are nearing, it is pertinent to examine the present government’s achievements and failures. While Prime Minister Modi used to bitterly attack the Manmohan Singh government over an “absence” of a tough policy on Pakistan, has the present government evolved a consistent policy on Pakistan after four years in office?

Ansari, who was a career diplomat, replied: “We have zig-zagged on Pakistan to the best of my knowledge. We have gone like a pendulum from one extreme to the other. If that is policy, then there is a policy. What can you do about it?”

He added that while India’s traditional policy of non-alignment adopted under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was “fine” and earned the country respect in the world, India’s neighbourhood policy has deteriorated in recent years.

“Our neighbourhood policy at the moment seems to be under some stress. People who are knowledgeable about it have written about it,” he said.

Is India doing enough to counter China’s growing influence?

“Successive governments have been very conscious about it. China is a big neighbour. And we have relations with China, different kinds of relations — political, cultural and even military relations. Both countries understand that we have problems also, we have positive relations as well,” Ansari said.

(Asim Khan can be reached on [email protected] )

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Once a poetic experience, sex has now become an unfulfilling encounter: Writer Seema Anand

The Arts of Seduction” (Aleph/188 pages/ Rs 499), the publisher says, will forever change the way one thinks about love and lovemaking.

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Seema Anand

She is an acknowledged authority on the Kama Sutra, and her recent book, “The Arts of Seduction”, is billed as a guide to having great sex in the 21st century. London-based mythologist and narrative practitioner Kamadevika Seema Anand laments that people are not having “great sex” these days, and that it has been reduced to an “act of instant gratification”.

Once a poetic experience“For the most part, sex is now a brief, tiresome, unfulfilling encounter, something that ‘needs to be done’. For the ancient Indians sex was a poetic experience centred on the nuances of seduction and the subtlety of exploration whereas our idea of ‘great sex’ focuses on the tiniest (and possibly the most irrelevant) part of it — the act of penetration. The ‘Kama Sutra’ holds that there is only so much one can do with the genitals. The real excitement comes from what happens before and after, from what the mind can conjure up,” Anand told IANS in an email interview.

To explain better, she asks her readers to imagine a feast of their favourite foods laid out in front of them.

“You pick up each thing separately, you savour it, you roll it around your mouth till its flavour fills your brain. Then, and only then do you move on to the next thing so that at the end of it even the memory of each taste will have the capacity to bring a smile to your face.

“Similarly, we are like a banquet of erogenous zones with an incredible capacity for pleasure, where each spot has its own sensations and its own manner of arousal — imagine the potential,” she said.

Pleasure, she said, is the bringing of each little nerve ending tingling to life — one tiny nerve at a time.

“It needs the indulgence of time and fantasy — you need to be physically, mentally and emotionally present with your lover. When was the last time you can say you did that,” she asked.

Anand reminded that “Kama Sutra” author Vatsyayan’s solution for exploring pleasure was to create variety — variety in everything.

“The only way to keep it fresh is to constantly change what we do. However, that is a challenge in itself — in our heads we can fantasise to the end of the universe and back but in terms of ‘doing’ we never vary things. So if it is the kiss then let there be 500 different types kisses to choose from, depending on the occasion — kisses that only use the lips, those that use the lips and the tongue, yet others that use the lips, the tongue and the teeth…” she quipped.

Anand said that if there was ever a time to bring back the “Kama Sutra” and its ideas, it was now.

The book, she said, began with an exploration of the incredible literary and cultural heritage which is all but lost to us. “I wanted to unravel those metaphors, to dig up the ancient myths and stories, to unsilence the narratives that made sex such a poetic experience for Ancient India. I wanted to put the seduction back into sex and reclaim the refinement and joyousness of sexual pleasure for the human race,” she said on what propelled her to write the offering.

The Arts of Seduction” (Aleph/188 pages/ Rs 499), the publisher says, will forever change the way one thinks about love and lovemaking.

The book charts several techniques and refinements that can elevate sex to “an altogether different level” — featuring innovative codes for loves messages, the effects of applying perfume to different parts of body, the many different types of kissing, and, among others, where and how to massage your lover’s feet.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected] )

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Injunctions, defamation suits emerge as new weapons against authors, publishers

As a publisher I find that I have faced pressure and censorship across all political regimes

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Freedom Forge Press

New Delhi, July 11 : A biography that traces Baba Ramdev’s rise from godman to tycoon has been caught up in a legal storm for over 11 months; Amish Tripathi’s upcoming book has been served a legal notice and its launch postponed; a nonfiction account on Bastar by Nandini Sundar came under pressure from a state government; and a critical book on the 2002 Gujarat riots by Rana Ayyub could not find a publisher.

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Those who disseminate ideas through books have had their share of political coercion. “As a publisher I find that I have faced pressure and censorship across all political regimes,” says Chiki Sarkar, publisher of Juggernaut Books.

But now, an insidious method of going against authors and publishers has emerged — of causing delays through the courts. The fear of legal suits and defamation charges has assumed such proportions that it has led to rejections and self-censorship among publishers, industry insiders say.

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In a series of interviews with key people holding top portfolios in some of India’s most prominent publishing houses, IANS ran a reality check on whether or not they have faced issues like self-censorship or pressure from political groups or legal action during the four years of the Narendra Modi government.

“There has only been a few legal cases in the court, but we have not faced any political pressure,” says Kapish Mehra, Managing Director of Rupa Books.

What emerges from these discussions is that political pressures on publishing houses is not “a new phenomenon” — both parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have practiced it. But the legal threat as a weapon to thwart public discourse through books has assumed menacing proportions.

Recently, writer Amish Tripathi was served a legal notice for his latest book “Suheldev & The Battle of Bahraich”. Tripathi announced the postponement of the July 16 launch “due to some circumstances beyond our control”. Earlier, pre-orders were being booked.

The announcement of the book was made at Sonali Bendre’s Book Club in Mumbai and the cover was launched by actor Varun Dhawan, who too has been sent a legal notice.

The book is said to revolve around Raja Suheldev, a semi-legendary Indian king from Shravasti in Uttar Pradesh. In the legal notice sent on June 25, a copy of which IANS has, the sender has accused the author and bollywood actor Varun Dhawan, of hurting “his and his communities’ sentiments”.

“Raja Suheldev is a godly figure among the Rajbhar community. I have received several messages and complaints from members of our community that Amish Tripathi has hurt their sentiments,” Jaiprakash Rajbhar, who sent the notice, told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

Rajbhar, an advocate, said that Uttar Pradesh text books for Class VI clearly point out that Suheldev was from the Rajbhar community. “The author has referred to him as somebody from “other caste”. This is a historical blunder,” he said.

“Moreover, the cover of the book shows Suheldev half naked. A king who is fighting a battle and riding a horse could not afford a piece of cloth to cover his body?” he asked.

On such grounds are objections to work of great artistes being raised. Tripathi and publisher Westland have declined comment on the issue.

Tripathi is a writer of fame and repute. With gross retail sales of Rs 120 crores, his novels include “The Immortals of Meluha”, “The Secret of the Nagas”, “The Oath of the Vayuputras”, “Ram: Scion of Ikshvaku” and “Sita: Warrior of Mithila”.

Sarkar, who started her publishing career at Bloomsbury in London, then worked at Penguin Books India and rose to become India publishing head after Penguin’s merger with Random House, said that Juggernaut has published many politically brave books — “I am a Troll”, “Shadow Armies”,”The Burning Forest” and “Mothering a Muslim”.

“But the book we have run into the biggest legal trouble over — the biography of Baba Ramdev — is a non-political book,” Sarkar told IANS.

The publication and sale of “Godman to Tycoon: The Untold Story of Baba Ramdev”, authored by Priyanka Pathak-Narain, has been stayed by the Delhi High Court, after a lower court had lifted a similar order earlier.

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According to Baba Ramdev’s petition, the book mentions some details from his past that are “irresponsible, false (and) malicious”. Certain content, Ramdev’s petition said, “had been added without evidence and verification”.

Juggernaut said in its appeal that the book was “truthful, even-handed and balanced consideration of the history of Baba Ramdev, which has been meticulously researched and is based on public and recorded sources, most of which have been in the public domain for years”.

It all began on August 4, 2017 when in an ex-parte order, the Additional Civil Judge at the District Courts of Karkardooma in Delhi asked Juggernaut not to publish or sell the book. The injunction was lifted nine months later in April 2018.

But the freedom was not to last too long. In May 2018, the Delhi High Court restored the temporary injunction. Ramdev’s lawyer had told the court that certain parts of the book were “unfounded and had misleading material which are malicious and scandalous”.

Pathak-Narain, the author had told the court that the contents of the book represented “only reported true facts as gleaned from publicly available documents and contains legitimate and reasonable surmises and conclusions drawn therefrom”.

The next hearing in the case is in August. “We will fight it out up till the Supreme Court, if need be,” says Sarkar.

“The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar” by Nandini Sundar, professor of sociology at Delhi University, who has been writing about Bastar and its people for 26 years, faced covert pressure from the state government to not publish or distribute the book. She chronicled how the armed conflict between the government and the Maoists had devastated the lives of some of India’s poorest, most vulnerable citizens in Bastar.

Fear of legal cases or political pressure often lead to publishers exercising their own version of self-censorship. Journalist Rana Ayyub, who was lately in the news for facing hate and threat messages on social media, could not find a mainstream publisher for her book “Gujarat Files”, an undercover expose of the 2002 riots in the state that claimed the lives of over 1,000 Muslims. She ended up publishing it herself. Ayyub, in a text message from London, expressed her unavailability to respond at present.

Industry insiders say that “legal suits, defamations proceedings and temporary injunctions” were their greatest fear. Injunctions can kill the fate of any book. They say that in eight out of ten cases, where a book can potentially be stayed by a court, mainstream publishers would avoid publishing it — or at least tell the author to remove content or “tone down” portions which are “objectionable”.

(This is first article in the two-part series on freedom in book publishing. Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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