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The life and times of five Indian
women who moved here
several decades ago
SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
REPORT ON PAGES 6, 7 & 8
Well settled... (clockwise
from left) Mrs Indira
Dr Piloo Chacha,
Mrs Chitra Varaprasad,
Mrs Preetinder and
Mrs Rhama Sankaran.
Chaos in Tripura as Lenin
statues pulled down
THE post-poll violence in Tripura
has led to two statues of
communist icon Vladimir Lenin
being pulled down.
One was knocked down at
Sabroom while another was
knocked down near a government
college in Belonia (right).
The acts were committed by
supporters of the Bharatiya
Mazdoor Sangh, a trade union
movement linked to the ruling
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
This happened just days after
the Left was defeated in the state
assembly polls by the BJP and its
ally, the Indigenous People’s Front
of Tripura, which together won a
two-thirds majority in a state
where the Communist Party of India
(Marxist) was in power for 25 years.
Heli-taxi service starts between
Bengaluru airport and city
A HELICOPTER shuttle service has
started in Bengaluru for the public to
travel hassle-free between Bengaluru
airport and the city.
The HeliTaxi, which can sit six
passengers, operates from 6.30am to
9.30am and 3.15pm to 6pm.
The fare is Rs3,500 a passenger,
with additional taxes.
Currently, the helicopter service
provider has employed only one
helicopter to ferry passengers and will
raise the number based on demand.
Phones banned at Madurai’s
DEVOTEES visiting the Meenakshi
Sundareswarar temple in Madurai are
no longer allowed to use their mobile
They will have to go through a
compulsory security check where
officials will place a sticker on the
device noting that it has been checked.
Devotees then have to place them in
lockers in the north and west towers.
This comes after a fire burned down
much of the Veera Vasantha Rayar
Mandapam hall on Feb 2. Even though
no one was injured, the temple
administration decided to tighten its
security after the incident.
Rajasthan highways to be
toll-free for local vehicles
RAJASTHAN vehicles will no
longer have to pay toll on state
highways, the government in Jaipur
Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje
said: “It will come as a big respite for
people in the state.”
She made the announcement while
replying to a question in the state
English-medium primary schools
in West Bengal
THE West Bengal government has set
up state-run English-medium primary
schools. It has introduced them in
North 24 Parganas, Nadia and
Jalpaiguri, where English is the
medium of instruction and not just a
According to a report by the
Times of India, this will end a
35-year-old language debate after
English was done away with from
the primary level in 1983 during
the Left Front rule.
Officials believe that the
English-medium primary schools
will slowly lead to educators
teaching English in secondary
Madhya Pradesh helps its
poor with various grants
MADHYA Pradesh Chief Minister
Shivraj Singh Chouhan has
announced a Rs12,000 grant that
will be given to a poor family upon
the birth of a child.
This is in addition to a sum of
Rs5,000 that will be given to a
poor family for the last rites of a
deceased family member. He added
that Rs2 lakh will be given through
insurance for those who die a natural
death before the age of 60.
The state’s poor will also pay only
Rs200 a month for electricity instead
of paying by the meter.
Women to join Delhi’s Swat team
FOR the first time, the Delhi Police will
admit 40 women into its Special
Weapons and Tactics (Swat) team, com-
mitted to anti-terror operations and
tackling stubborn criminals. The team
has 200 men.
A senior police officer said: “The in-
duction of women will begin with the re-
cruitment of the new batch of person-
nel in the force. They will be trained and
equipped along with their male coun-
An Indian Express report stated that
commandos are equipped with the lat-
est weapons and security apparatus,
and are expected to be ready for action
within moments of an alarm being
Cricketer Harmanpreet Kaur joins
INDIAN women’s Twenty20 cricket
team captain Harmanpreet Kaur has
joined the Punjab police as a deputy
superintendent of police.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh
and Director General of Police Suresh
Arora pinned the stars on her uniform
Mr Singh had offered the post to Ms
Kaur in July last year, following her
commendable performance in the
Women’s Cricket World Cup 2017.
IVYANSHU Ganatra was just
19 when glaucoma claimed his
eyesight. Being a nature lover
who revelled in cycling, climbing moun-
tains and trekking, he was not ready to be
So he fought against all odds, and to-
day he is India’s first blind solo paraglider.
He firmly believes that only sports can
bring the disabled and others together,
and dispel misconceptions about those
Divyanshu’s journey began with his
anger and frustration over dealing with a
sudden, difficult and dark phase in his life
which he was not prepared for.
Even his ability to walk alone was
questioned by people.
He went to a rehabilitation centre hop-
ing to get equipped for life but found that
career suggestions did not go much be-
yond that of telephone operator.
But he strongly believed that a dis-
abled person can do much more.
“I was not ready for a life based on peo-
ple’s sympathy. It took some time for me
to regain my mental stamina and physical
strength. I knew I belonged to the out-
doors – and slowly started going for cy-
cling and other activities like climbing,”
said Divyanshu, now 40.
Climbing led to paragliding, initially
with an instructor.
“I can never forget that ecstatic feel-
ing. It is the closest to any sort of spiritual
experience I ever had. It is extremely diffi-
cult to express how it feels to be flying in
the sky. No experience is more liberating
than that. There are so many barriers on
land, but in the sky I am free like a bird.”
That was in 2004, when he was 26, and
there was no looking back.
Battling stereotypes, he wanted to
beat the notion that a disabled person
needs a helping hand.
Finally, in 2014, Divyanshu became In-
dia’s first blind solo paraglider.
He underwent classes in theory, simu-
lation, ground handling of the glider and
understanding the controls before he
took to the air.
He told the Times of India then that he
had some difficulty with the ground han-
dling, and took more time than others.
But the mid-air navigation was compara-
tively easy for him.
“You can either follow the air current
or rely on instructions your team gives
you via radio. Most rely on the second,
and I did too,” he said.
This success led him to start, in the
same year, the Adventures Beyond Barri-
ers Foundation, which attempts to bridge
the gap between the able-bodied and the
disabled, in collaboration with Firefox
Bikes, a leading brand of imported cycles
“I am blessed to be born in Pune. From
childhood I have been climbing hills or go-
ing on treks frequently,” he added.
Although he is often cited as an inspira-
tion for others, this is something that Di-
vyanshu is not very fond of hearing about
“There is nothing ‘inspiring’ about
what I have done. Paragliding or moun-
tain climbing or any adventure sport can
be done by any individual, what’s so spe-
cial about me doing it? You won’t call an
able person doing the same an ‘inspirati-
on’, then why (do that) for a disabled per-
Divyanshu’s struggle has not been
against physical constraints as much as in
trying to break through people’s atti-
“Disability should be the last word
used for describing a blind person. What
hurts me more is the assumption of the
able-bodied that it must be difficult for
one to live with a ‘disability’. Not with
any ill-intention, but it is a misconception
the mainstream community carries in the
mind, and which has crippled their ap-
proach towards the disabled,” he said.
“Persons with disabilities are the
largest invisible population in our coun-
try. There are around 200 million people
with disabilities in India but we are barely
noticed,” he added.
Another word that bothers him is
“sympathy”. Divyanshu believes what
the disabled community looks for is empa-
“Ask us how our life is, don’t assume!
We do not need sympathy, but empathy.
The narrative of disability needs to be
changed, the language needs to be
changed. How disability is portrayed is
sad and people need to know that we
don’t lead a sad life. We are perceived
with pitying eyes – this needs to be
Talking about the constitutional
rights of the disabled, Divyanshu said
that though there are a number of rele-
vant laws, implementation is often
“If the legislation is not practised,
then it is of no use. First, the majority of
the disabled are unaware of their rights.
Second, the rights are not implemented
properly for the betterment of the dis-
abled. There is a certain quota for the dis-
abled in both the private and public sec-
tor, but the disabled are just made to sit
out and no work is assigned to them,
which is worse,” he pointed out.
Still, Divyanshu has always been an
optimist and he strongly believes change
“There is a change in people’s atti-
tude towards the disabled,” he said. And
he waits for the day when “we have
more mainstream people opening up
their educational institutes, work places
and public spaces for us”.
Indo-Asian News Service
be the last word
describing a blind
— Divyanshu Ganatra (above)
Can do spirit...
takes to the skies
with his paraglider
(above), relying on
from the ground.
(Left) With a cycling
After losing his
glaucoma at the age
of 19, Divyanshu
the odds to become
India’s first blind solo
OLITICS is a field best suited
for “great people with extraor-
dinary skills and human quali-
ties”, says veteran Malayalam film-
maker Balachandra Menon, even as
southern film industry bigwigs Ra-
jinikanth and Kamal Haasan take the
“Politics is not my cup of tea. I was in-
vited in 1984 by Congress leader and
former Chief Minister K. Karunakaran
to contest parliament elections. My ap-
proach to politics is very serious. It
must be handled by great people with
extraordinary skills and human quali-
ties. I feel I don’t have qualities of that
sort,” Menon told IANS.
However, he said it doesn’t mean he
is an “escapist running away from reali-
“I am aware of my social obligations
and commitments, which I express
through my medium — films. I never
maligned the sanctity of cinema in my
career. I always selected themes and
made films with the fervent hope that
they will never demoralise viewers.
“In the last 40 years, I have read and
heard personally the impact of my films
on the audience and I am quite happy
about it,” added the multi-faceted tal-
ent known for his quirky and hugely suc-
This year, Menon, known as a “sin-
gle-man industry”, has made it to the
Limca Book of Records for the maxi-
mum number of films directed,
scripted and acted in.
Having helmed his first film at the
age of 23, Menon has directed/script-
ed/acted in 29 of the 36 films directed
He is now working on his 30th
movie, Ennalum Sarath, which he feels
is also a “record of sorts” considering
he has cast nine directors of Malayalam
cinema as actors in the movie.
What has been his driving force?
“Competitive spirit is a driving force
that keeps life going with a thrill. To be
number one is a feeling planted and
nursed in one’s mind by others.
“But it is a totally different feeling
when you achieve it in the same field
which is your main hub of activity,”
said the 64-year-old Padma Shri
What is his take on the debate over
freedom of expression in Indian cin-
Mincing no words, he said: “Let me
admit that I’ve always enjoyed a honey-
moon with the censor board. They
could not meddle much in my films be-
cause almost all them were family-ori-
ented and not controversial. But if you
ask me whether I am happily okay with
the censor system, my answer is an em-
“Quite often, they are not able to dis-
charge their duties perfectly — due to
varied reasons. But if someone moots
the idea that censors can be abolished
and film-making is possible without a
censor board, my answer is a more em-
“Today, the censor board is a tooth-
less organ. They must be equipped with
more administrative powers to enforce
their deliberations. The selection of
board members has to be more serious,
vigilant and quality-based, free from
communal and political interference.”
As for his own journey in Malayalam
filmdom, Menon said, “I was and I am a
“I started my career back in 1978 as a
single-man industry with story, screen-
play, dialogue, direction and acting tag. I
was forced to carry on endlessly when
my films became commercial hits.
“I evolved a different way of narra-
tion which the public accepted. Instead
of dancing to the tune of the industry, I
went ahead with my rhythm.
“I experimented with new and inno-
vative themes... I never failed to keep
alive the curiosity factor in the minds of
film-goers. That ‘something special’ feel-
ing (helped) me wade through these 40
years, braving all superstar syndromes.”
Menon, credited for having intro-
duced actresses Shobana, Parvathy,
Karthika, Annie and Nandini to the in-
dustry, said it is “sheer fate” that he has
been a man of many talents.
“Like the industry always does, I was
typecast as a ‘multi-task’ man and there
was no escape from that. I pampered my
audience too much and they got ad-
dicted to that particular ‘touch’ in my
films, which is otherwise known as the
‘director’s signature’. So I was com-
pelled to continue as a separate entity.
“Personally, I believe that it is always
good to delegate and take a back seat in
the long run. But in that respect, I call my-
self unfortunate because I couldn’t find
any substitutes to do the job for me in
the way the audience expects.”
Indo-Asian News Service
with new and
I never failed
to keep alive the
curiosity factor in the
minds of film-goers.
(helped) me wade
through these 40
years, braving all
— Filmmaker Balachandra Menon, who
started his career in 1978
But film-maker Balachandra Menon
says he is aware of his social obligations
his cup of tea
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