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Rejections shattered, strengthened and streamlined my writing: Sahitya Akademi winner Anees Salim

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New Delhi, Dec 18 : Still recovering from the surprise of being named as the winner of the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award (English) for his novel “The Blind Lady’s Descendants” — a long suicide note of a 26-year-old — author Anees Salim has said that the initial rejections he faced from mainstream publishers were shattering; but they also went a long way in strengthening and streamlining his writing.

The Kerala-born author, whose latest novel “The Small-Town Sea” garnered critical acclaim after its release in 2017, said he wished he was born a couple of decades later and started writing when it became considerably easier for an aspiring writer to be in touch with the publishing world. He contended that his literary journey has been a tough one.

“For instance, when I started writing, there was no such thing as a literary agent. There was no Internet and there were no avenues of opportunities for a writer to try his luck out, except for a few magazines. You had to wait for months on end to get even a rejection letter, with limited facilities to reach out to publishers and remind them of your submission,” Salim recalled in an interview with IANS.

He maintained that the scene has changed drastically now and pointed to the “sheer number of books getting published”.

“In fact, every time I visit a bookstore I am surprised and disappointed at once. Surprised by the number of books on the racks, and disappointed by the visibility enjoyed by pulp fiction. When I started writing, I used to frequent bookstores and spend long hours reading the opening passages of as many books as possible. I believed every bookstore had room for inspiration. And I used to consider people employed in bookstores as the luckiest ones, for they could feel, smell and read books all day,” he said.

But somewhere down the line, bookstores started to choke him.

“Too many books, too many frills. I wish the bookstores could give you a little more space,” opined Salim, whose “Vanity Bagh” had won The Hindu Prize for Best Fiction in 2013.

On December 5, India’s national academy of letters announced its annual Sahitya Akademi Awards in 24 languages, which were recommended by distinguished jury members representing each languages and were then approved by the Executive Board of the Sahitya Akademi under the Chairmanship of Akademi President Chandrashekhar Kambar. Salim’s name in the list was hailed as a recognition long overdue by literati on social media.

“Rejections did shatter me. But they also strengthened me and streamlined my writing process. The more I was rejected, the harder I worked. I decided to keep writing irrespective of what publishers thought of my work. And by the time I got my first book deal (‘The Vicks Mango Tree’, 2012) I had finished a handful of manuscripts, out of which I showed three to my agent, the rest I found too simplistic to be shown around,” the Kochi-based author said.

Despite his tedious journey to getting published, Salim maintained that India has some wonderful publishing houses who stay focused on quality.

“Publishers indeed have to cater to every kind of reader and every genre of writing has to prosper. But one thing I am totally against is the idea of self-publishing. I am afraid vanity publishing is the biggest enemy of reading and writing. Getting published should have nothing to do with your bank balance,” he contended, in view of the rising number of self-publishing houses that have mushroomed across the country in recent years.

Salim said that every recognition changes the pace of his writing and every award makes him extremely cautious and somewhat slow. He recalled that he won his first award in 2014 and since then he must have discarded more than a dozen novels after the initial chapters, fearing that they will be frowned upon by his publishers who seem to have immense faith in him.

“I have already started writing my new book. It is too early say what it will develop into. But I have a historical backdrop in mind and I hope to finish it by the end of next year.”

The Sahitya Akademi award, in the form of a casket containing an engraved copper-plaque, a shawl and a cheque of Rs 1 lakh, will be presented to Salim at a special function in January next year at Kamani Auditorium here.

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

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Indo-Russian collaboration in AI, IoT to take-off in 2019: Zyfra CEO

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India-Russia relations

New Delhi, Jan 24 : Indo-Russia joint projects in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are expected to take-off this year according to the Finnish-Russian digital solutions provider Zyfra which has joined hands with Indian companies to provide IoT and AI-based solutions for the industrial sector.

In an e-mail interview with IANS, Igor Bogachev, the Chief Executive of Zyfra, which has supplied Indian manufacturers with AI and IoT-based solutions, as well as autonomous vehicles, said the Indian sectors with most potential to adopt such solutions are metallurgy, transportation, aerospace and petrochemicals.

“India is of great interest to companies in the field of the industrial Internet of Things and this year we hope to see first projects in this area being implemented jointly with Russia,” Bogachev said.

“Innovations should become a point of growth of Russian-Indian relations. We see significant potential for introduction in such industries as construction of machine tools, mechanical engineering, metallurgy, the chemical industry and the oil and gas sector,” he said.

Last month, Zyfra announced it has managed to reach $3 million in contracts with its Indian counterparts in 2018., and the company plans to reach the target of $50 million in India-related deals by 2021.

The company has already signed agreements with various Indian companies, including Spudweb, Abcon Group, Parivartan Automation, Agaram Infotech, Wimerasys, Nortech Trinity and Mascot Tools.

Zyfra is implementing 7 pilot projects in collaboration with its Indian partners and plans to launch five more joint projects including for production of farm machinery, as well as for manufacturing components for aerospace divisions of both Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

According to Bogachev, cooperation between Russia and India in AI and IOT will be much more than a buyer-seller relationship and will involve sharing best practices, knowledge and innovating jointly.

“We truly believe, that we will be able develop products with our Indian partners, probably with joint ventures, to export to third countries,” he said.

The company has already signed agreement with various Indian firms accounting for around $2.5 million in contracts, the Zyfra CEO said.

Last year, Zyfra unveiled its manufacturing data collection (MDC) plus system in India which performs real-time machine monitoring with customizable reports and charts that can be used to track jobs, parts, operations, work centres, scrap costs, downtime and people, he said.

Zyfra recently also released a report which ranks India among the most advanced countries in terms of development of AI technologies and IoT. The survey ranks the US first, followed by China, while India ranks 13th, after Canada.

The company has started the acquisition of the VIST Group, one of the industrial leaders in development and implementation of information technologies for digital mining.

“Through the acquisition of these assets, which will be finished by 2020, the company is planning to occupy a significant share of the global market and to compete with Catarpillar, Komatsu and other majors,” the CEO said.

According to Bogachev, who also chairs the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Subcommittee on the Digital Economy and Innovations, “there is tremendous opportunity for disruption in the industrial IoT and applied AI space, although it is still a nascent market to a larger extent.”

Founded in 2017, the private sector Zifra’s clients in Russia include giants like Gazprom, Chelpipe, NLMK Group and United Engine Corporation.

(Biswajit Choudhury can be reached at [email protected])

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Madhya Pradesh farmers hopeful of being ‘debt-free’ as loan waiver scheme kicks-off

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Earth Climate

Bhopal, Jan 22 : A week after the launch of the loan waiver scheme in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress government claims 19.54 lakh farmers have filed their applications in the six days till Sunday.

While the opposition BJP has been calling the “Jai Kisan Rin Mukti Yojana” a trick to cheat the farmers, the question is how the farmers of the state perceive the entire exercise.

Kailash Chaudhary, a farmer from Mandsaur district’s Babulda village, said: “About two years ago, six farmers sacrificed their lives for their rights in Pipliya Mandi. This is the beginning of the victory of their fight.”

“Forms are being filled for waiver of loans up to Rs 2 lakh. We feel that the government is taking our demands seriously,” Chaudhary told IANS.

Mandsaur was the centre of farmers’ agitation in 2017 when six farmers were killed in police firing in June, 2017. After the incident, the farmers’ movement had taken over the whole state, which then spread to the whole nation.

Farmer’s leader Kedar Sirohi said: “Farmers in different parts of the state are excited about the loan waiver. They are filing applications in large numbers.”

“To ensure they don’t face any difficulty in filing applications, leaders and workers of farmer organisations are helping them. Government officials is also alert to help out the farmers. Colour coding of application forms has made it easier for farmers to fill out the applications,” he said.

According to official figures, out of the 19.54 lakh forms filed till Sunday, around 60 per cent were green forms, 35 per cent were white forms and 5 percent were pink forms. The farmers are hopeful of becoming debt-free through this exercise.

As per the scheme, the farmers of the Aadhaar seeded list will have to submit green applications and the farmers of non-Aadhar seeded list will have to submit white coloured applications. Farmers have to submit a pink application to file an objection or claim against information provided in the green or white list.

However, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been accusing the Congress of misleading the farmers and terming the scheme a trick to cheat them.

Former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan said the Congress promise of a loan waiver won’t be fulfilled by a mere announcement.

“The Chief Minister (Kamal Nath) and Congress leaders are saying they have fulfilled their promise of loan waiver to the farmers. But the promise has not yet been fulfilled. An announcement does not mean fulfillment of the promise,” he said, adding the Congress was misleading the farmers.

Congress spokesperson Syed Jaffer responded that 55 lakh farmers will get their loans waived of under the scheme, for which the due process needs to be followed.

“No matter what charges the BJP makes, the truth is that farmers are happy and they trust that the Congress is fulfilling the promise that they made to them,” he said.

“Those farmers who are in debt, neither are they now receiving notices from the banks nor is their property being seized. Under BJP rule, farmers had to go to jail and lose their property just for not paying their power bills,” Jaffer told IANS.

Calling the scheme pro-farmer, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Sharma told IANS that political parties were creating doubts about the scheme.

“Farmers were reeling under debt which had increased manifold over the last one-and-a-half decade. Now they are getting waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh. The government is new and one should wait before making adverse comments,” he said.

Kamal Nath had signed the farm loan waiver file soon after taking oath as the Chief Minister. The filing of forms for the waiver started from January 15 and will continue till February 5.

According to the government, farmers will start getting the money in their loan accounts from February 22.

The Chief Minister had said that the scheme would benefit around 55 lakh farmers by waiving their loans worth Rs 50,000 crore.

(Sundeep Pouranik can be contacted at [email protected])

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Entertainment industry is run by a glamorous mafia: Pahlaj Nihalani

Dropping another bomb, Nihalani says he suspects the hands of some big guns in sabotaging “Rangeela Raja”.

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Pahlaj Nihalani

Mumbai, Jan 22 :Govinda, “Rangeela Raja”, Pahlaj Nihalani-backed comeback vehicle for Govinda, did not open well. Nihalani says it is because his film did not get the theatres required as the entertainment industry is run by a “glamorous mafia”.

“I am being targeted for my blunt views on the workings of censor board, and because of me, my leading man Govinda is being targeted. If you ask me, Govinda and I have the maximum number of enemies in the film industry,” Nihalani said.

Lamenting the lack of theatres for “Rangeela Raja”, Nihalani says he was refused a release in places like Bihar and Jharkhand.

“These are traditional strongholds of Govinda. And not a single theatre in Patna or Ranchi agreed to play ‘Rangeela Raja’. Why? Because my film is bad? Are only quality films released in theatres? And who decides that my film is substandard? A handful of critics for whom I did not have a press show, so they are upset with me and they are taking it out on my film,” he said.

Dropping another bomb, Nihalani says he suspects the hands of some big guns in sabotaging “Rangeela Raja”.

“I know who they are. I know the people who want to finish off Govinda and me. The entertainment industry is run by a glamorous mafia. They all sit, eat, sleep and make movies together. Solo producers like me with no corporate backing are being pushed out of the film industry in the name of corporotization,” he said.

But Nihalani says he isn’t going away anywhere.

“I belong to this industry as much as those who are currently monopolising the A-list stars. I will make another film with Govinda and prove he too is an A-list star.”

Nihalani says he has always believed in introducing new talent and will continue to do so.

“I introduced Govinda and Chunky Pandey. In ‘Rangeela Raja’ I’ve introduced Mishika Chourasia. I am confident she has a very bright future. Unless the industry will punish her for being Pahlaj Nihalani’s protege.”

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