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Comment: Will lockdown wipe out lifestyles built over 30 years?

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landlords threatened

The ancient Indian protocol for social distancing is embedded in the lines my yoga guru, from the famous ashram in Monghyr, Bihar, taught me:

  • “Chaar miley, chausath khiley,
  • Miley bees ek saath.
  • Harjan se harijan miley,
  • Bihsain bahattar hazar.”

(When two plus two i.e. four eyes meet each other; 32 plus 32, 64 teeth smile together’

10 fingers of both palms, greet 10 of the other, a total of 20.

Then a person, blessed by the Lord, is in union with another without physical contact.

This results in 36,000 vital points in one human body and 36,000 in the other, sending ripples of joy through 72,000 points in the two beings.)

The current etiquette of social distancing possibly has precedent in past practice. Arrival of outsiders may well have wrenched us away. With Freudian prescience, Akbar Allahabadi put his finger on the nub of the matter:

  • “Tifl mein bu aaye kya ma baap ke atwar ki,
  • Doodh to dibbe ka hai taaleem hai Sarkar ki.”

(How should an infant inherit characteristics of his/her parents on a diet of powdered milk and government education?)

The lockdown outlawed any toing and froing, conditions which Ghalib had described with great simplicity about Delhi during 1857:

  • “Koi vaan se na aa sake yaan tak,
  • Aadmi vaan na ja sake yaan ka”
  • (No one from there can come here;
  • Likewise, no one from here can go there)

This limitation on visiting each other soon began to reveal our instinctive comfort level with social separation. We were quite comfortable within the Lakshman rekhas we sketched around ourselves. More revealing were telephone conversations with neighbours, and members of the Residents Welfare Association. What they expressed was indifference to the migrants who had walked away from the suddenly imposed penury, joblessness, no roof over their heads in the torrid heat — and now it seems, the approaching winter. Were these millions condemned by their ‘karma’, to be judged for suitable slots only in the next life?

When I visited South Africa to cover Mandela’s release, what struck me was not the exclusive white enclaves. I had expected them. After all that is what Apartheid was all about. What astonished me was Lenasia, the Indian colony outside Johannesburg. Sprawling mansions with two swimming pools was the lot of many Indians. Unlike the joyous ‘Black’ South Africa, much the overwhelming majority, Lenasia was uneasy at the end of White rule. It was possible to meet Manek Patel in his bungalow who thought “apartheid helped keep bloodline pure”.

Hierarchies and class are inescapable. A revolutionary like Ho Chi Minh did live in a modest, two room, oak cottage but it had the nicest view of the lake. The rare visa which enabled me to cover the 1979 China-Vietnam war was arranged by a member of the Bao Dai family, an old Vietnamese aristocracy.

The Indian hierarchy, based on caste, is unique. Unlike racism, it is not based on prejudice: it is simply a time honoured practice which draws red lines, not to be crossed, between occupation based caste groups arranged in a vertical hierarchy. Egalitarianism disrupts these red lines. The unease with the Constitution is deep seated for this reason with the present regime which harks back to a pre Islamic ‘golden past’.

As we enter the seventh month of the lockdown, it may be worthwhile taking stock. My wife and I (and a live-in help) have been moderately cautious: we have entertained, keeping social distancing and never having more than four guests. Likewise, we have visited friends for meals, and taken the masks off, once seated.

My daily three kilometer walk in the park adjacent to our apartment (I take off the mask; it suffocates me) has been sacrosanct as has been my yoga. The clan in hundreds spread across north India, has so far reported no expiry. But there have been three positive cases in Lucknow including an 85-year-old with co-morbidities. They recovered within three days and three children in the same apartment remained untouched by the virus.

The bleakness that I see ahead cannot be extrapolated from our experience in the health arena. It is the economic sphere, joblessness, abysmal drop in resources, redesigned kitchen budgets, even within cousins where darkness is catching up.

A visit to South Delhi’s Select City Mall was scary. Hanuman Chalisa was being chanted in the biggest food mart to invoke the monkey God. The lobby of the five star hotel was as eerie as the empty road in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, where a biplane swoops down on a terrified Cary Grant. A five star restaurant without a customer abutting a bar, stocked to the ceiling, but without a soul. Trust Ghalib to invade my mind:

“Bhare hain jis qadar jaam o subu, maikhana khali hai.”

(Goblets and cups are full to the brim, but the tavern is totally empty)

How long will Indian capitalism survive such tightly sealed goblets? Corona, I suspect, will wipe out lifestyles boosted by 30 years of reform. The new middle class will revert to their first car, the Maruti and mother’s vegetarian recipes.

This middle class may adjust without too much fuss to the pre reform austerities, a mood that will dovetail nicely in the march towards Hindu Rashtra. A fly in the ointment may well be mass anger. After all, those who walked, their ranks swelled by the jobless and the hungry, will ask questions. Will bread trump faith? To forestall any trouble on that count, the regime has already unfurled a range of draconian measures to put away anyone with a talent to mobilize public anger. As a backup there is also the scary virus as a deterrent against public anger bursting onto the streets. This scarecrow can be made scarier. But that might accelerate velocity of the economy’s nosedive. Which economy? What better way to stop the leak than to sink the ship? Salvation shimmers over the sands as silhouettes of the Hindu Rashtra appear.

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior commentator on political and diplomatic issues. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached on [email protected])

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2nd wave: Fears of slower global recovery, US polls to weaken rupee

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Wall Stree USA

New Delhi, Oct 31 : Fears of a slower global recovery due to rising cases of Covid-19 infections in Europe and the US will cast pressure on the Indian rupee next week.

Additionally, the rupee is expected to get weaker on account of uncertainties prevailing on the back of upcoming US Presidential Election which will be held on November 3.

“The continuation of the pandemic in absence of a vaccine is creating havoc and is playing out in the Fx market. The fear that economic conditions are going to get worse before they get better, is keeping the dollar strong against EM currencies,” said Rahul Gupta, Head of Research-Currency at Emkay Global Financial Services.

“Adding to this mood is the uncertainty of the US presidential election outcome. So, next week the chances of USDINR trading above 74 are higher and expect the spot pair to trade within 73.50-74.50.”

The Indian rupee closed last week at 74.11, its weakest level in two months.

“Next week, US elections will take centrestage. Democratic candidate, Joe Biden is projected to win the race comfortably based on the current polls and leads. Also based on the current polls there is a likelihood the democrats could win both the House and Senate. This will be huge blue sweep for the and that will drive policy changes,” said Devarsh Vakil — Deputy Head of Retail Research at HDFC Securities.

“Their stated economic positions suggest that dollar could weaken in the medium term, which could drive commodities and emerging market equities higher.”

Besides, major economic data points such as automobile sales figures for October and ‘Purchasing Manager Index’ will further guide the currency’s movement.

The foreign fund inflows into the country’s equity markets are greatly influenced by these macro data that show the health of the economy.

Consequently, the flow status of foreign funds also impacts the rupee’s movement.

According to Sajal Gupta, Head, Forex and Rates, Edelweiss Securities: “Just before US elections rupee and equity became wobbly and some people may have booked profits before the event. Rupee has weakend to 74.50 levels. It has traded comfortably above the 74 handle.”

“Expect the rupee to be volatile and trade in wider range of 74 to 75.20 with some more depreciation risk.”

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at [email protected])

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Lalu’s son Tejashwi trying to secure his own place under the sun

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Tejashwi Yadav

Patna, Oct 31 : As the Bihar Assembly elections are underway amid hectic electioneering, one political leader who is toiling to secure his own place under the sun – away from the political shadow of his father – is Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejashwi Yadav.

In the absence of his father and party supremo Lalu Prasad — whose oratory and inimitable style have catapulted RJD quite a few times to power in the past – Tejashwi is spearheading the poll campaign on behalf of his party and the Grand Alliance, of which the RJD, Congress and certain Left parties are a part.

By removing the pictures of his parents – former Chief Ministers Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi – from the banners and posters of the RJD early on during campaigning, Tejashwi had give enough indications that he would go among the voters with a new image of a young leadership.

While his father forged a Muslim-Yadav alliance to come to power in Bihar, Tejashwi is talking of going down the developmental path by taking along all sections of society.

While the opposition NDA is bringing up the alleged ‘jungle raj’ during the RJD rule in Bihar in the past, Tejashwi has been avoiding to join issues with them and instead talking of jobs, irrigation and education to woo the voters.

Even as Lalu Prasad, who is presently admitted in the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi, where he has been lodged since May 2018 after conviction in fodder scams starting 2017, may be giving political instructions to Tejashwi and other RJD leaders in the run-up to the electoral battle, Tejashwi has been adding his own elements to the RJD campaign strategy.

Given the huge crowds that are seen at the rallies of Tejashwi, it seems that his poll strategies are a success so far, remarked a party leader.

Even though Tejashwi, who was Leader of the Opposition in the outgoing Assembly, may not have his father’s ability to take lighthearted potshots at his political adversaries, which has swayed the voters in the past, he has been delivering his speeches in Bhojpuri for the voter connect.

“Tejashwi may not have Lalu’s oratorial skills or style, but he has got his fingers on the pulse of the voters as to what they want. He also understands what to speak so as to make the youths at his rallies to clap. The promises of jobs and to take all along have been paying him dividends,” said an RJD leader on the condition of anonymity.

Political analyst Faizan Ahmed pointed out that by seeking forgiveness from the people for all the wrongs done in the past RJD rule, Tejashwi has given indication that he wants to make a fresh beginning in Bihar politics.

“There is no doubt that he wants to move away from his father’s shadow and prepare his own ground. In this, he is succeeding and making a connect with the electorate.”

Senior journalist Manikant Thakur said that though Tejashwi’s attempt to move away from the past RJD rule is commendable, slip of his tongue once in a while has created fear among the voters.

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Who is Preetika Chauhan? Everything to know about ‘Savdhaan India’ actress arrested by NCB

Saavdhan India’ actress Preetika Chauhan (30) was among one of the people who got arrested after getting caught buying drugs. Here’s everything about her!

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preetika chauhan

The Narcotics Control Bureau made two more arrests in the drug supply case on Sunday. ‘Saavdhan India’ actress Preetika Chauhan (30) was among one of the people who got arrested after getting caught for buying drugs red-handed.

Who is Preetika Chauhan?

Preetika Chauhan hails from Karsog, Himachal Pradesh. She is a B.Tech graduate and had made her acting debut with the film Jhamela, which was released in 2016.

She went on to play goddess Shachi in Sankat Mochan Mahabali Hanumaan.

Apart from Sankatmochan Mahabali Hanuman, Preetika Chauhan also had appeared in a few episodes of CID and Savdhaan India. She was also seen as Bhudevi in Star Bharat show Jag Janni Maa Vaishno Devi.

Preetika was last seen as Goddess Parvati in Santoshi Maa – Sunayein Vrat Kathayein. Preetika was also part of the TV show ‘Devon Ke Dev Mahadev’.

The case is in the ongoing investigation in actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case. The Bollywood drugs nexus case came to light while a parallel investigation was being carried out by the NCB.

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