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The enigma of the dark

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Avni Doshi Author

New Delhi, Dec 2 : “I like exploring the unconscious drives that my characters undergo, do something that’s truly out of their character. Those are always the interesting things for me – in my characters and the real people I come across,” smiles author Avni Doshi, who was in Delhi recently.

Talk to this author of the recently released ‘Girl in White Cotton’, published by HarperCollins India, that the book took eight drafts in seven years to finally reach its destiny, and she tells IANS, “Now, it’s difficult to even think about that. I have amnesia, while I liked some drafts, many I can barely remember at all. I think they all were a learning process and important to the final product. Now, if I had to set out with the thought of spending that much time on my next book, I don’t think I would be able to as it seems like a lifetime. In retrospect, I can see the kind of mistakes that I made and I have definitely learnt so much and I don’t think the subsequent novels would be so time consuming.”

During the lengthy writing process, it was ‘the voice’ that proved to be her clue that she had hit something right. It was that of the daughter, with something very bare, raw and almost cruel about it. “The moment it came about, I knew instantly that it would carry me to the end of the story and beyond.”

An art historian and curator by training, Dubai-based Doshi, who grew up in the United States is busy turning her drafts into an artwork. She laughs that her husband and she excel at failing. “He at golf, and me at writing. So, I took his golf balls and covered them in my manuscripts, so they kind of looked like garbage. I have placed them in a grid and framed it — a grid-like calendar of our daily failures. It’s hanging there…a constant reminder for us.”

Insisting that her favourite parts of the book have come out of mistakes or experimenting with something that she was not sure of succeeding, Doshi adds, “Frankly, I feel that it is in failure that the most interesting and creative moments lie.”

The kind of attention the book is receiving, with Doshi being invited as a panelist at major literature festivals, is she now comfortable calling herself a novelist?

“Can I? I keep looking around for permission. And at festivals, I have to keep pinching myself when I am sitting with writers who I look up to.”

However, it is being a writer that she identifies most closely with and not an art curator for she has always felt much outside the art world.

“Maybe because I was lacking the passion for the subject and also, I feel I have a desire to make and create. Now I have found what I have always wanted to do. Writing allows me to be deep into the creative process on my own terms, have a real sense of control. There is something about writing that you can be a control freak, because it is you and the page. I like having a sense of control although there is always a gap between what you want to say and what finally comes out on the page. It’s never perfect. Once in a while, you get it perfect and that’s a great pleasure.”

Doshi is quite comfortable with the loneliness that comes with writing. Admitting that she does fall into bouts of depression and sadness, especially when the work is not going well; but the moment things start working well on paper, alienation seldom comes close. “Also, I try to maintain as full a life as I can. I used to live a very hermit life while writing the last draft – locking myself up, distancing myself from people – wake up at 4 in the morning and go to sleep at 6 p.m. But now, with a little child, I am learning the many new ways to write, with him sitting at my feet, playing and making a mess.”

The author who has started writing fragments of her next novel says she did try writing some short stories but “all were terrible”. “I am in such awe of people who write brilliant short stories. It’s such a talent to have that economy with sentences and words. I just don’t think I can do it yet, of course I am going to keep trying.”

All praise for young debut women writers including Madhuri Vijay (‘The Far Field’), the writer believes in sparing herself the torture of giving herself timelines. “What’s the point? I once wanted to write 5,000 words in a week. What turned out were 5,000 words of nonsense! I am not sure if timelines can get me anywhere faster.”

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Creator of the Grand Trunk Road

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Sher Shah Suri GT Road

New Delhi, Dec 11 : For travellers in India, moving from North to South or East to West, would have been almost impossible if the magnificent Grand Trunk Road did not exist. We must thank Sher Shah Suri, the founder of the Suri Empire for creating this amazing road connecting the major cities of India. Whenever there are discussions about this splendid road, Sher Shah Suri’s name is always mentioned with awe. But the Grand Trunk Road is just one of his major creations. Few know what an extraordinary personality he was and how much we owe him. In his seven-year rule he added a vast number of improvements that we continue to see today.

Born Farid Khan Lodhi in 1486 at Sasaram in modern day Bihar, he was the grandson of an ethnic Afghan, a noble of the Pashtun Sur tribe named Ibrahim Khan Suri. Farid Khan became known as �Sher’ when as a young man he saved the King of Bihar, from a tiger that had suddenly leapt upon him. He was later re-named Sher Shah and rose to become the founder of the Suri Empire in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent.

A landowner (Jagirdar) and a representative of the Delhi rulers of that time, he was an adventurer with royal connections and was recruited by Sultan Bahlul Lodi of Delhi during his long confrontation with the Jaunpur Sultanate. He was one of the eight sons of Mian Hassan Khan Suri – a prominent figure in the government in the Narnaul district. His grandfather Ibrahim Khan’s �Mazar’, still stands as a monument in Narnaul.

Sher Shah rose from being a private to the status of a commander in the Mughal army under Babur to the level of being the governor of Bihar. In 1538, when Babur’s son Humayun was away at war, Sher Shah took over the state of Bengal and established the Suri dynasty – naming it after the �Sur’ tribe to which he belonged. A gifted administrator and strategist during his rule from 1538 to 1545, he introduced a number of important changes, which continue to benefit us till today.

As a brilliant general Sher Shah laid foundations for later Mughal emperors – among them Akbar son of Humayun, was probably the one who benefited the most from this. Among Sher Shah’s more important strategies in his administration, was the setting up of new civic and military rules. Under him, the first �Rupiya’ was issued in place of �Taka’ – and still continues to remain. Another important improvement was the reorganisation of the postal system of the Indian Subcontinent. To ensure that he would be remembered, Sher Shah renamed the name of Humayun’s city, changing it from �Dina-panah’ to �Shergarh’ and simultaneously he also revived the historical city �Pataliputra’, which had been steadily declining since the 7th century. The feather on his cap is however the Grand Trunk Road, for which he is justly famous.

It is said that Sher Shah and his father were constantly fighting with each other. His father, Hassan Khan Suri, then a jagirdar of Sasaram, had several wives with whom Sher Shah did not get along and so, he decided to run away from home. When his father discovered that Sher Shah had requested Jamal Khan, the governor of Jaunpur to give him shelter, he wrote a letter that stated, “my son being annoyed with me, has gone to you without sufficient cause. I trust in your kindness to appease him, and send him back; but if refusing to listen to you, he will not return, I trust you will keep him with you, for I wish him to be instructed in religious and polite learning.”

But Sher Shah refused and replied in a letter, “If my father wants me back to instruct me in learning, there are in this city many learned men: I will study here.”

Sher Shah started his service under Bahar Khan Lohani, the Mughal Governor of Bihar. Because of his valour, Bahar Khan rewarded him with the title �Sher Khan’ After the death of Bahar Khan, he became the regent ruler of the minor Sultan, Jalal Khan. Jalal soon realised that Sher Khan’s power in Bihar would make things difficult and sought the assistance of Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah – the independent Sultan of Bengal. Ghiyasuddin sent an army under General Ibrahim Khan but Sher Khan defeated the force at the battle of Surajgarh in 1534 after forming an alliance with local chiefs – and achieved complete control of Bihar.

In 1538, Sher Khan attacked Bengal and defeated Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah. But could not capture the kingdom, because of the sudden appearance of Emperor Humayun and his army. On 26 June 1539, Sher Khan faced Humayun in the Battle of Chausa and defeated him. Assuming the title �Farid al-din Sher Shah’, he defeated Humayun once again at Kannauj in May 1540 and forced him out of India.

Thereafter Sher Shah turned his attention towards the Rajput Forts. He attacked Malwa and Jodhpur, but was killed during the siege of the Rajput Fort of Kalinjar. Sher Shah had ordered the walls of the fort to be blown up with gunpowder, but he was himself seriously wounded, by the explosion. He died on May 22, 1545 and was buried in Sasaram. His son Jalal Khan succeeded him, taking the title of �Islam Shah Suri.’

The founder of the Suri Dynasty lies under the splendid Sher Shah Tomb that is 122 ft high and stands majestically in the middle of an artificial lake in Sasaram – located on the road that he is famous for – India’s magnificent Grand Trunk Road.

(Shona Adhikari is a lifestyle and travel columnist.)

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‘National Conference won’t be part of political process unless 370 restored’

“We have faith in Supreme Court,” the NC leader said. “It is a fact that Article 370 was revoked without taking the approval of the J&K Assembly.”

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Farooq Abdullah

Srinagar, Dec 10 : Senior National Conference leader Mustafa Kamal has said the NC won’t take part in the political process until the restoration of Article 370 and statehood to Jammu & Kashmir.

In an exclusive interview with IANS, Kamal, the brother of detained former Chief Minister and NC chief Farooq Abdullah, said the National conference will not be a part of any political process that doesn’t serve the interests of the people of J&K.

“They demolished the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. We can’t take part in any political process in this system,” he said. “New Delhi will like to manipulate us for changing the demography of Jammu & Kashmir and enslave the people.”

He said those clamouring for the extension of Article 371 to Jammu & Kashmir are free to do so but the National Conference won’t budge from its stated position.

“We don’t want Article 371, those who want it, let them take it,” Kamal said. “They are talking about a third front, let them go with it, National Conference will not change its position.”

Kamal said Article 370 was scrapped to end the Muslim-majority character of Jammu & Kashmir and to pave the way for “demographic change”.

He said his party is preparing the ground for moving a motion against the Centre’s “unilateral decision” and is hopeful the Supreme Court will declare the move on Article 370 as unconstitutional.

“We have faith in Supreme Court,” the NC leader said. “It is a fact that Article 370 was revoked without taking the approval of the J&K Assembly.”

He said they were taken aback by the removal of Article 370 because both the Governor and the Prime Minister had denied that the article was being revoked.

“Our leaders met with (then) Governor Satya Pal Malik and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and both denied the Article was being revoked,” he said.

He said international pressure is mounting on India over Kashmir and the present situation cannot continue forever.

He said the National Conference will keep on pressing for an agreement between India and Pakistan for a resolution of Kashmir.

He said he is in touch with Farooq Abdullah and said he won’t make any “compromise”.

“Farooq Abdullah has always stuck to his principles, why would he change his stand now?” Kamal said.

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Rahul Gandhi returning to lead Congress again?

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scindia rahul gandhi priyanka gandhi

New Delhi/Wayanad (Kerala), Dec 6 : Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi is all set to return to lead the party and is likely to take over after the Delhi assembly polls early next year. A hint to this effect was dropped by Congress General Secretary, Organisation, K.C. Venugopal who said that country wants his leadership more now.

Venugopal, who is accompanying Gandhi to his Kerala constituency Wayanad, told reporters: “The nation is going through a critical phase… The party needs his leadership and there is loud chorus from the workers to bring him again and we hope he will listen to them.”

A Congress session is scheduled in the next few months to ratify the appointment of interim President Sonia Gandhi. A source said that in the same meet, a chorus will grow to bring again Rahul Gandhi as planned by young leaders in the party.

Rahul Gandhi’s elevation to the party organisation was first demanded at the AICC’s Hyderabad session in 2006 where workers from UP raised slogans in his favour and he was made party General Secretary in 2007. After that, the demand to make him Vice President was raised at the brainstorming session in Jaipur in 2013.

He was elected President unopposed in 2017 after demand from different quarters of the party, but during the 2019 General Elections, the party was routed under his leadership and he resigned in May taking the responsibility of poll debacle and did not budge to the party’s repeated requests to reconsider. In August, Sonia Gandhi was appointed interim party chief.

Though he may not be the party chief, but Rahul Gandhi’s decisions are evident within the party’s decisions as evinced by appointment of Nitin Raut as minister in the Shiv Sena-Congress-Nationalist Congress Party coalition government in Maharashtra and of Nana Patole as the Assembly Speaker.

The party is finalising a venue for the AICC session, which could be held in the Congress-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan in January and February, a source said.

By: BY SAIYED MOZIZ IMAM

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