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Nur Jahan: The widow who became the Empress of India

The book also puts into context different narratives about the rise of Nur Jahan, while laying down antecedents of the chroniclers of the time, thus allowing the reader to gauge and understand the political and historical context to the narrative.

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The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan

For certain generations of Indians, the cinematic fable of Anarkali is perhaps the most celebrated, but cliched, introduction to royal court intrigues of the Mughal era, in which an enraged Emperor Akbar orders the confinement of Shehzada Salim or Jehangir’s lover and semi-fictional heroine in a nondescript portion of a wall at the Lahore fort, following an elaborate courtship, including song and dance.

Ruby Lal’s biography “Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan” in many ways tries to throw the spotlight on the real heroine of the life and times of Jehangir: His empress Nur Jahan.

Lal, in her feminist biography of the Nur Jahan — born Mihr un-Nisa — underscores her worth in the otherwise overwhelmingly male-dominated annals of the Mughal empire, which have invariably spoken about the men who wore the crown and defined the destinies of the millions who lived in their empire.

Nur Jahan, according to Lal, was everything every Mughal empress, before and after her, wasn’t.

A warrior who led troops into battle, an expert horse-rider, a widow who ended up marrying an emperor, an empress who issued royal proclamations and who had royal coins with her name etched on them. And when push came to shove, also rescued Jehangir after he was imprisoned by one of his officers.

Lal’s approach in chronicling Nur Jahan is an interesting one. By using historical fact as an easel, the author paints rich, vivid, descriptive strokes of Nur Jahan’s journey from the daughter of a relatively nondescript and persecuted Persian nobleman, their perilous travels to the Mughal court in Lahore and her dramatic rise to becoming the Empress of the mighty Mughal Empire.

“Asmat and Ghiyas would have walked along the streets crowded with houses, perhaps exploring the bazaars, that pulsates with energy, packed with buyers and sellers, and passersby exchanging greetings and the news. One section of the bazaar, a series of intricate lanes, was set aside for women only. Women took their time gazing at the bold patterns and colourful embroidery on the finest muslins, silks and velvets. Many wore flowers in their hair, and toe rings and anklets with charms or little bells and chewed betel leaf to redden their lips. Married women wore maang, red colour in the parting of their hair; or the sekra, seven or more strings of pearls that hung from a band at the forehead or the laung, a clove-shaped stud ornamenting the nose” is how Lal evocatively describes the scenes which Nur Jahan’s parents would have encountered in 16th century Lahore, a flourishing centre of trade and a beacon for the persecuted Persian parents, whose daughter in the decades to follow would be the Empress of the Empire.

The book also puts into context different narratives about the rise of Nur Jahan, while laying down antecedents of the chroniclers of the time, thus allowing the reader to gauge and understand the political and historical context to the narrative.

For example, while summarising three parallel narratives about a snake threatening a just-born Mihr un-Nisa, she says: “An Italian quack doctor, an Indian courtier, a Scottish adventurer — each wrote of Nur Jahan’s birth. The Catholic mercenary Manucci (Italian) was interested in an imitation of Christ. For Khafi (courtier), the Indo-Persian tales of migration and a man’s compassion for his wife were dominant. Alexander Dow (Scotsman) and the early colonial writers who followed him were enchanted by a romantic image of India, that land of wonders, surprises — and snake charmers.”
“Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan” is a rare lyrical read about a dashing woman who not only smashed the prevailing high walls of conservatism of her time, but whose influence is also unfortunately overshadowed in India by the romance of a Jehangir’s semi-fictional lover, Anarkali.

Book: Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan; Author: Ruby Lal; Publisher: Penguin-Viking; Pages: 308; Price: Rs 599

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at [email protected] )

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Changing alliances set the tone for Bihar Polls

The BJP’s Bihar unit President Sanjay Jaiswal says the NDA has jumped into the poll fray with full force. The BJP-led NDA parties were contesting on the sole plank of development.

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Patna, Sep 23 : Political parties in Bihar are busy chalking out strategies for the Assembly elections which are likely to be held in October-November this year though the Election Commission (EC) has not yet announced the poll dates.

In many cases, parties which were friends during the last elections will now be seen as opponents while foes in the last polls have joined hands.

In the last assembly elections, the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) fought against each other but in this election they are together in the NDA-fold.

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is likely to remain in the NDA this time as well but the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) which was with the NDA during the last elections has severed ties with it. Former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha’s party RLSP is now part of the Opposition Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan) for the forthcoming election.

However, the RLSP and the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) are said to be upset as the seat-sharing formula in the Grand Alliance has not yet been decided.

Former MP Pappu Yadav has also announced to contest this year’s election through the Jan Adhikar Party (Loktantrik). Yadav has not yet aligned with any opposition party.

The BJP is enthused with the JDU coming back to the NDA. The importance of the Bihar elections for the BJP can be gauged from the fact that its National President J.P. Nadda has already reached Patna and is busy reviewing preparations for the polls.

The Left which contested the last elections alone is likely to join the Grand Alliance this time. There have been several rounds of talks between the Left and the RJD on contesting the elections together.

RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwari said the Opposition grand alliance should expand its outreach. Negotiations were on with many other parties, he added. Asked about the resentment over the seat-sharing formula, he said candidates who could guarantee a win were being selected.

The BJP’s Bihar unit President Sanjay Jaiswal says the NDA has jumped into the poll fray with full force. The BJP-led NDA parties were contesting on the sole plank of development.

In the last Bihar assembly elections, the JDU, the RJD and the Congress had contested together under the Grand Alliance and formed the government with absolute majority. Later, however the JDU broke away from the alliance and formed the government in Bihar by joining hands with the BJP.

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Herd immunity an impractical strategy, study finds

They found that using the suppression strategy, far fewer fatalities were predicted: 62,000 among individuals aged 60-plus and 43,000 among individuals under 60.

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Boost immunity

Achieving herd immunity to COVID-19 is an impractical public health strategy, according to a new model developed by University of Georgia scientists. The study recently appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Controlling COVID-19 has presented public health policymakers with a conundrum:

How to prevent overwhelming their health care infrastructure, while avoiding major societal disruption? Debate has revolved around two proposed strategies. One school of thought aims for “suppression,” eliminating transmission in communities through drastic social distancing measures, while another strategy is “mitigation,” aiming to achieve herd immunity by permitting the infection of a sufficiently large proportion of the population while not exceeding health care capacity.

“The herd immunity concept is tantalizing because it spells the end of the threat of COVID-19,” said Toby Brett, a postdoctoral associate at the Odum School of Ecology and the study’s lead author. “However, because this approach aims to avoid disease elimination, it would need a constant adjustment of lockdown measures to ensure enough—but not too many—people are being infected at a particular point in time. Because of these challenges, the herd immunity strategy is actually more like attempting to walk a barely visible tightrope.”

This study carried out by Brett and Pejman Rohani at the University of Georgia’s Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases, investigates the suppression and mitigation approaches for controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

While recent studies have explored the impacts of both suppression and mitigation strategies in several countries, Brett and Rohani sought to determine if and how countries could achieve herd immunity without overburdening the health care system, and to define the control efforts that would be required to do so.

Pejman Rohani teaching a class. Credit: Photo taken by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA in 2019
They developed an age-stratified disease transmission model to simulate SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the United Kingdom, with spread controlled by the self-isolation of symptomatic individuals and various levels of social distancing.

Their simulations found that in the absence of any control measures, the U.K. would experience as many as 410,000 deaths related to COVID-19, with 350,000 of those being from individuals aged 60-plus.

They found that using the suppression strategy, far fewer fatalities were predicted: 62,000 among individuals aged 60-plus and 43,000 among individuals under 60.

If self-isolation engagement is high (defined as at least 70% reduction in transmission), suppression can be achieved in two months regardless of social distancing measures, and potentially sooner should school, work and social gathering places close.

When examining strategies that seek to build herd immunity through mitigation, their model found that if social distancing is maintained at a fixed level, hospital capacity would need to greatly increase to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. To instead achieve herd immunity given currently available hospital resources, the U.K. would need to adjust levels of social distancing in real time to ensure that the number of sick individuals is equal to, but not beyond, hospital capacity. If the virus spreads too quickly, hospitals will be overwhelmed, but if it spreads too slowly, the epidemic will be suppressed without achieving herd immunity.

Brett and Rohani further noted that much is unknown about the nature, duration and effectiveness of COVID-19 immunity, and that their model assumes perfect long-lasting immunity. They cautioned that if immunity is not perfect, and there is a significant chance of reinfection, achieving herd immunity through widespread exposure is very unlikely.

“We recognize there remains much for us to learn about COVID-19 transmission and immunity, but believe that such modeling can be invaluable in so-called ‘situational analyses,'” said Rohani. “Models allow stakeholders to think through the consequences of alternative courses of action.”

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Bihar Man Carves Out 3-km-long Canal In 30 Years To Irrigate Parched Fields

A man from Bihar’s Kothilawa village has been carving out the canal for the last 30 years that too single-handedly. This will benefit a large number of animals.

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Longi Bhuiyan

A man from Bihar’s Kothilawa village of Gaya dug out a canal 3-kilometre long canal single-handedly. This canal carved out by Laungi Bhuiyan will direct rainwater from the hills nearby to the fields within his village. This will help in irrigating the farms and will be beneficial for the entire village.

Laungi Bhuiyan took nearly 30 years to carve this canal single-handedly. He dug out the canal after he noticed that during the rainy season, water falling from the mountains would flow into the river. Bhuiyan found a way to utilise the water. He planned to save the water coming from the mountain by taking the initiative alone and carving out the canal in Kothilawa village in Gaya, Bihar.

Talking about the canal, Lungi Bhuiyan said, “It took me 30 years to dig this canal which takes the water to a pond in the village. For the last 30 years, I would go to the nearby jungle to tend my cattle and dig out the canal. No one joined me in this endeavour… Villagers are going to cities to earn a livelihood but I decided to stay back.”

The Kothilawa village in Lahthua area of Gaya in Bihar is surrounded by a dense forest as well as mountains. Moreover, it is 80 kilometres away from the Gaya district and is known to be a refuge for Maoists. The people of Kothilawa earn their living by farming as well as animal husbandry. This canal made by Bhuiyan will benefit the farmers as well as the animals which means that all villagers will benefit from his work. The villagers took this opportunity to praise his efforts and hard work.

“He has been carving out the canal for the last 30 years that too single-handedly. This will benefit a large number of animals and to irrigate the fields as well. He is not doing it for his own benefit but for the entire area,” said Patti Manjhi a local from Kothilawa.

“A lot of people will benefit here. People are now getting to know him because of his work,” said Ram Vilas Singh, a teacher from Kothilawa village in Bihar’s Gaya while praising the man for his efforts which will benefit the villagers.

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