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Kolkata cafe celebrates ‘queer’ identities over food

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Kolkata, May 8: Festooned in fairy lights, far from the prying and judging eyes of the public, cafe “Amra Odbhuth” (We are Queer) provides space to the LGBTQ community members here to get together over platters of food and celebrate their identities.

What started out as a pop-up and the need for a meeting space to discuss issues and furnish a platform for queer reading and performances sans censorship, has become a movement of sorts to reclaim the word “Odbhuth” (queer in Bengali).

“Amra Odbhuth” in a renovated family home in south Kolkata, has branded itself “as a space where queer and trans voices get together, laugh, perform and celebrate identities.”

The unique cafe-collective movement was started by Upasana, Nandini Moitra, Raina Roy and Kallol Guha.

“There aren’t a lot of queer friendly spaces in the city. We just wanted to share our experiences and connect with each other, outside activism and NGO spaces. We wanted to have a concrete, physical space outside online forum. Since food culture is big in Kolkata, people always love to get together over food,” one of the founders told IANS.

The cafe-collective, more of an extension of an idea to break away and start something new, also resonates with Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore’s famous verse “Amra nutan joubaneri doot, amra chaanchol, amra odbhuth, amra bera bhangi, amra ashok bone, ranga neshay rang”.

In English it translates into “We are heralds of youth, we are restless, we are unique, we break down barriers and sway to the forest’s intoxication.”

Although it is not operational on a regular basis, the cafe comes up with rotational menus aligned with its events: queer art meet, evening of poetry with performance artist Alok Vaid-Menon and screenings.

It also unveiled a full-fledged traditional Bengali menu for the Poila Baisakh celebration last month.

Apart from the regular coffee, the popular foods here are basil ham cheese grilled sandwich, bacon salad and mandarin mojito (non-alcoholic).

The founders have expansive plants for the space, though funding is a pressing issue.

The cafe is also open to non-LGBTQ members as long as “they respect boundaries”. Some of the other house rules include a no-alcohol policy since the cafe is smack bang in the middle of a residential area.

“The concept is to ensure the members of the community feel comfortable and are able to enjoy art, cinema and performances without being judged,” the co-founder added.

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Health

Can drinking too much water harm you?

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Toronto, May 23: Do you drink too much water? Beware, overhydration — excess fluid accumulation — can lead to dangerously low sodium levels or in the blood or result in brain swelling, researchers say.

Hyponatremia, a life-threatening condition of brain swelling, is more common in elderly patients and can cause cognitive problems and seizures.

“(Hyponatremia) occurs in common pathological conditions, including brain injury, sepsis, cardiac failure and in the use of drugs, such as MDMA (ecstasy),” said Charles Bourque from the McGill University in Canada.

While it was yet uncertain how hyponatremia develops, the study found that a defect in the hydration sensing mechanism of the brain could be the culprit.

The researchers said that brain’s hydration sensing neurons could not detect overhydration in the same way that they detect dehydration.

Overhydration activates Trpv4 — a calcium channel that can be found in glial cells, that act to surround hydration sensing neurons.

It is cellular gatekeeper implicated in maintaining the balance of water in the body.

“Our study shows that it is in fact glial cells that first detect the overhydrated state and then transfer this information to turn off the electrical activity of the [hydration sensing] neurons,” Bourque explained.

“Our specific data will be important for people studying hydromineral and fluid electrolyte homeostasis, and clinicians who treat patients faced with hyponatremia,” he noted.

The results, published in the journal Cell Reports, showed that overhydration is first identified by the Trpv4 channel which triggers the release of a type of amino acid known, taurine, which acts as a trip wire to inhibit hydration sensing neurons.

“Preclinical models of hyponatremia will be used to examine if the mechanism we report is affected in this condition with the long-term objective of designing new treatments or diagnostic tools,” Bourque added.

IANS

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Lifestyle

Taj Mahal, Mumbai Sea Link among top 10 travellers’ choices

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Mumbai, May 23: The eternal monument to love, the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Rajiv Gandhi Bandra Worli Sea Link in Mumbai figure among the Top 10 TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice awards of 2018 for most visited and popular tourist landmarks, it was announced here on Tuesday.

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Taj Mahal, Agra

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Bandra Worli Sea Link, Mumbai

The other top Indian monuments in the list of awards include: Amber Fort in Amer, Golden Temple of Amritsar, the Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple, and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in New Delhi, Agra Fort, and Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur

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Amber Fort, (Amer) Rajasthan

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Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple, Delhi

Golden Temple of Amritsar,

Golden Temple of Amritsar

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, New Delhi

The award winners were decided using an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for landmarks worldwide over a 12-month period.

This year’s TripAdvisor awards recognize 759 monuments spread in 68 countries globally, said the company’s Country Manager Nikhil Ganju.

“India’s landmarks as as diverse at its heritage and are among some of the most iconic structures in the world. The list presents fantastic gems ranging from poignant memorials to sheer architectural marvels that are great options for travelers,” he added.

Mumbai’s sole entry to the list, the RGBWSL is one of its most prominent modern landmarks and an infrastructure marvel of a cable-stayed bridge cutting through the Arabian Sea to connect Bandra with Worli.

The top 10 Travellers Choice Landmarks of Asia include: Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Taj Mahal and the Golden Temple in India, Wat Pho or Temple of Reclining Buddha in Thailand, Mutianyu Great Wall of China, Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine of Japan, Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar, Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia, and the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam.

Similarly, the Top 10 landmarks worldwide are: Angkor Wat, Plaza de Espana in Spain, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre in UAE, St. Peters Basilica of The Vatican, Mesquita Cathedral de Cordoba in Spain, Taj Mahal, Duomo di Milano in Italy, Alcatraz Island and Golden Gate Bridge both in US, and the Parliament of Hungary.

IANS

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Health

Exercise 4-5 times daily to delay ageing

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New York, May 21: Want to stay young for long? If so, start exercising four to five times a day as it may help keep your heart stay healthy and slow down ageing, according to researchers.

Research showed that different sizes of arteries are affected differently by varying amounts of exercise.

While exercising for about two to three days a week for about 30 minutes may be sufficient to minimise stiffening of middle-sized arteries, exercising for about four to five days a week is required to keep the larger central arteries youthful.

The study would help “develop exercise programmes to keep the heart youthful and even turn back time on older hearts and blood vessels”, said one of the study authors, Benjamin Levine from the University of Texas.

With age, arteries — which transport blood in and out of the heart — become prone to stiffening, increasing the risk of heart diseases.

For the study, published in The Journal of Physiology, the team examined 102 people over 60 years old, with a consistent lifelong exercise history.

The participants were divided into four groups depending on their exercise history — Sedentary: less than 2 exercise sessions per week; Casual Exercisers: 2-3 exercise sessions per week; Committed Exercisers: 4-5 exercise sessions per week and Masters Athletes: 6-7 exercise sessions per week.

A lifelong history of casual exercise (two-three times a week) resulted in more youthful middle-sized arteries, which supply oxygenated blood to the head and neck.

However, committed exercisers (4-5 times per week) also had more youthful large central arteries, which provide blood to the chest and abdomen, in addition to healthier middle-sized ones.

Larger arteries need more frequent exercise to slow down ageing, the researchers said.

The findings will help see “if we can reverse the ageing of a heart and blood vessels by using the right amount of exercise at the right time”, Levine explained.

IANS

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