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A slip and a fall in search of the grey ghost of the Himalayas

In Deepak Dalal’s new book, The Snow Leopard Adventure, Vikram and Aditya are back in magnificent Ladakh. Having finally freed their young friend Tsering from the hands of dangerous men, they’ve set themselves up for an even greater challenge: to track down the grey ghost of the Himalayas, the snow leopard.

But things don’t always go according to the plan during their trek. Here is an excerpt from the book that highlights one of the more challenging events of the trek.

Front Cover The Snow Leopard Adventure
The Snow Leopard Adventure||Deepak Dalal

I didn’t see exactly what happened because I was looking down at the gravel-strewn track as I ran. I heard a scream, and when I looked up, I saw a pair of hands grabbing desperately at the edge of the outcrop. I wasn’t far behind Caroline and scarcely a few seconds must have elapsed between her falling and my flinging myself to the ground and locking my fingers around her wrists. I had barely grasped them when her scrabbling fingers slipped, and her entire weight was transferred on to me. I was dragged forward and my chest hit the rock at the edge of the cliff with a thud.

We were both stuck, Caroline dangling from my hands and I pressed against the cliff edge, pinned down by her weight. Caroline is three inches taller than my 5 feet 7 inches and also heavier than me (sixty-five kilos to my sixty, she told me later). I could feel myself being pulled towards the edge. Disaster appeared to be a certainty, but Tsering intervened, saving us by clinging to my thighs and adding his weight to mine.

Now, on reflection, I don’t think any of us would have died if we had gone over. The cliff we clung to was not a large one. The fall was only a few metres. But the area at the base of the cliff was not flat, it sloped downwards at an alarming angle. Our injuries could have been serious. We would have broken several bones, but we would have survived.

My breath came in rapid gulps and sweat must have flowed from my every pore. Yet, even though I was terrified, a part of my mind admired the vista that spread before me. I could see the river valley below and the mountain slopes opposite. I spotted flecks of colour in the distance—our camp mates. I wondered if they could see us.

I am ashamed to admit that I lost control of myself up there. My hands shook and my chest hurt terribly. My heart kicked and pummelled my chest, and my senses swam about me. I kept assuring myself that there was no reason to panic and that nobody would go over.

I had no idea then that I was speaking my thoughts aloud (Caroline and Tsering informed me later). I told myself that we only had to wait it out. Somebody would come . . . Tina and Kathy would return and untangle us.

Luckily, a heaven-sent determination infused Caroline as she dangled in the sparse Ladakh air. While I was rambling, she spotted fissures and cracks on the rock face she was suspended against. She willed her legs to grope beneath her and she found secure anchors in the stony crevices. Her fingers and palms gripped rock at the cliff edge. With me still holding on to her wrists, she pulled herself up a few inches.

I heard her breathing. She was gasping and panting far louder than I was. Soon her face was level with mine and our eyes met. Hers glittered with cold determination. There was a vacant expression in mine, she told me later. She was probably right, because she had to shout several times before I paid attention to what she was saying. She wanted me to release her wrists, which I did mechanically. Now sure of herself, Caroline dragged herself up and without further incident she flopped beside me. We lay inert on the rock, Tsering looking down on us.

After a long time we continued our walk to the crest. The rest of the morning was a blur. None of us were in any state to look for bharal or search for leopards. Kathy, Tina and Yuan turned up, exhausted, after an hour. They had found more sign of the leopard they were following but had not been able to locate it. We turned back for camp shortly thereafter. Caroline had extracted a promise from

Tsering and me not to speak about the morning’s drama to anybody. She smiled gratefully when it became clear that we were not going to say a word, and she turned distinctly friendly when we maintained our silence at camp too.

Aditya was aghast when he learnt that I had not pursued the leopard with the others. ‘How could you let such an opportunity go?’ he wanted to know. ‘You were so close to the leopard!’

Does Aditya eventually see the Snow Leopard? Grab your copy for Snow Leopard Adventure to find out!

Did our universe… always exist??

It all started with a big cosmic blast. Or did it? Refresh your facts with this excerpt from Shruthi Rao’s How We Know What We Know  and immerse yourself in a world of fun facts about the world, its origins and all the awe-inspiring details of how everything works.

~

What is the Big Bang? The sound you hear when you burst a big balloon?

Umm, no. The Big Bang Theory is an attempt to explain what happened at the beginning of our universe.

Wait. Our universe had a beginning? Didn’t it always exist?

That’s what scientists thought too, till a few decades ago. But research and studies suggest that there was indeed a beginning. A point. Before that point, there was nothing. And after that point, the universe came into existence.

Scientists think that the universe came out of a singularity—an infinitely small, infinitely dense, infinitely hot point. What exactly is this, though? If the universe was born from this singularity, where did the singularity come from? Why did it appear?

We don’t know that. Yet.
But how do we know that this is what happened?
The story began about a 100 years ago, with Georges Lemaître of Belgium. Though he was an officer of the church, he was fascinated by physics and he studied Albert Einstein’s theories of space and time and gravitation. He concluded that if Einstein’s theories were right, it meant that the galaxies in the universe are moving away from each other. Lemaître said this proved that the universe is not just static and unmoving, as everybody previously thought. It was expanding.

cover How We Know What We Know
How We Know What We Know||Shruthi Rao

It was a theory, and though Lemaître had come up with it on the basis of an established theory, scientists needed other proof before they could accept it. But Lemaître didn’t have any data to support this idea.

Meanwhile, American astronomer Henrietta Leavitt came up with a way to calculate how far away stars are from Earth. Using her work, astronomer Edwin Hubble looked through his telescope and calculated the distances of various stars from Earth. He concluded that things in the universe were moving away from Earth. Not just that, things that were farther away from Earth were moving away faster than things close to Earth. This could only mean one thing. The universe is indeed expanding. Georges Lemaître was right.

Okay. The universe is expanding. But how does that prove there was a Big Bang?

If the universe is expanding, it must have expanded from some point. Think of the expanding universe as a movie. The galaxies are moving outwards, away from each other. Now run that movie backwards. You can imagine it as the galaxies rushing towards each other. So then, all the galaxies must meet at some point. At this point, all the matter of the universe must have been contained in a very small space, that is, the singularity.

The moment at which this singularity started expanding is the Big Bang.

But where was the proof?

Decades later, in 1965, two scientists, Arno Allan Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson, were trying to measure radio signals in the empty space between galaxies. They used a giant horn-shaped antenna, called the Holmdel Horn Antenna, in their observatory at Bell Labs in New Jersey, USA. But as they tried to take measurements, an annoying noise kept interfering, like static on a radio.

Where was this noise coming from?

They pointed the antenna towards New York City. No, it wasn’t city noise.

They took measurements of the noise all through the year. No, it didn’t change with the seasons.

Could the noise be from a nuclear test that had taken place a while ago? It couldn’t be. If it was, the noise should have decreased year by year.

Then what was it?

Perhaps it was just the pigeons roosting in the antenna? They chased away the pigeons, and scooped up and cleaned the droppings. But the noise still remained.

Then they learnt about the scientist Robert Dicke, a professor at Princeton University. Dicke had been thinking about the Big Bang. His opinion was that if the Big Bang was true, there should be some kind of matter remaining from the explosion. And most probably, he said, this would be a kind of low-level background radiation throughout the universe.

Dicke wanted to try and find it. But it turned out that it was exactly what Penzias and Wilson had already found! The hum they had encountered was this very radiation resulting from the Big Bang!

Penzias and Wilson got the Nobel Prize for this discovery, because it proved that the Big Bang Theory was true.

Researchers all over the world are still taking better measurements of this noise, and are finding more things to think about.

~

Exciting trivia awaits you in How We Know What We Know.

 

The Absence of Adolescence

Writer – politician Muthuvel Karunanidhi is amongst the most important political leaders India has ever seen. In Karunanidhi: A Life, author A.S. Panneerselvan tells the story of the man who became a metaphor for modern Tamil Nadu, where language, empowerment, self-respect, art, literary forms and films coalesced to lend a unique vibrancy to politics.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter titled, The Absence of Adolescence.

Karunanidhi
Karunanidhi A Life || A.S. Panneerselvan

 

Like many underprivileged children, karunanidhi’s life moved straight to adulthood from childhood, bypassing the phase of indulgent adolescence. The politicization that began with the anti-Hindi agitation and exposure to the literature of the Self- Respect Movement propelled karunanidhi into becoming an activist right from his days in the second form. The police excesses and the custodial deaths of two anti-Hindi agitators, Thalamuthu and natarajan, had a profound impact on the young karunanidhi.

 

The late 1930s witnessed varied crises for all the political players: the imperial government was getting ready for the Second World War; the great Depression and its fallout was taking its toll; Mahatma gandhi’s supremacy was challenged within the Congress by the election of Subhas Chandra Bose as the party president for the second time; and the Left was emerging as a distinct political force with its leaders gaining a hold over decision-making in both the Congress as well as other popular fronts. There was also a shift in Dravidian politics with the leadership moving from the wealthy section among the non-Brahmins to Periyar and Annadurai.

 

The twists and turns of the Left’s mobilization need elaboration in order to understand how, despite its revolutionary aura, karunanidhi remained with the Dravidian Movement’s social reform agenda. in his essay, in the January–March 1984 issue of The Marxist, E.M.S. namboodiripad points out that when the Congress Socialist Party was formed in 1934, the Communist Party of india initially branded it as Social Fascist. With the Comintern’s change of policy towards the politics of the Popular Front, the indian communists’ relationship to the inC witnessed a reversal. The communists joined the Congress Socialist Party (CSP), which worked as the left wing of the Congress. Once they had joined, the Communist Party of india (CPi) accepted the CSP demand for the Constituent Assembly, which it had denounced two years before.1

 

in July 1937, the first kerala unit of the CPi was founded at a clandestine meeting in Calicut. The five persons present at the meeting were E.M.S. namboodiripad, krishna Pillai, n.C. Sekhar, k. Damodaran and S.V. ghate. The first four were members of the CSP in kerala; ghate was a CPi Central Committee member, who had come from Madras. Contacts between the CSP in kerala and the CPi had begun in 1935, when P. Sundarayya (Central Committee member of CPi, based in Madras at the time) met with EMS and krishna Pillai. Sundarayya and ghate visited kerala several times and met with the CSP leaders there. The contacts were facilitated through the national meetings of the Congress, CSP and All india kisan Sabha.

 

in 1936–1937, the cooperation between socialists and communists reached its peak. At the second congress of the CSP, held in Meerut in January 1936, a thesis was adopted which declared that there was a need to build ‘a united indian Socialist Party based on Marxism-Leninism’. in kerala the communists won control over the CSP, and for a brief period controlled the Congress there.2

 

While the Congress in kerala had a distinct leftward tilt, in Tamil nadu it was virtually under the conservative leadership of stalwarts such as C. Rajagopalachari and S. Satyamurti.

 

Thiruvarur became a microcosm of the play of these multiple forces. Smitten by Periyar’s radicalism and Annadurai’s eloquence, karunanidhi began devouring the entire oeuvre of Dravidian literature. Periyar had already published the Tamil version of The Communist Manifesto in 1937; a number of serious political publications were being published from various parts of the state. Periyar’s Kudiarasu (The Republic) was the key vehicle for dissemination as well as articulating new ideas and planning political mobilization towards an egalitarian society.3

 

While Muthuvelar and Anjugam were rejoicing at their son’s tireless learning, little did they realize what he was reading about. Textbooks were last on karunanidhi’s reading list. The extensive literature in politics was revelatory for young karunanidhi. For the first time, he realized that he too had two priceless possessions—his oratory and his pen. His first public speech was a clear pointer. it was a school competition. And karunanidhi decided to make a mark. He looked at some of the redeeming features of the so-called villains within Hindu mythology. karunanidhi spoke at length about the friendship between karna and Duryodhana—a friendship that cut across both caste and class.

 

The speech was well-received, and the teachers developed a new respect for their wayward student. But, what they did not know was the effort that went behind this oratory. karunanidhi worked on the text of the speech for nearly a week; rehearsed the speech frequently before the mirror; changed the words, similes and metaphors to get the rhythm that would alter the art of public speaking in Tamil forever.

 

He also created his own publication—Maanavanesan (Friend of students). A handwritten fortnightly of eight pages in demy size that dealt with a range of issues—from questioning orthodoxy to exploring the poetics of early Tamil. He and his friends would make about fifty copies of the magazine and circulate it for a modest fee that managed to just cover the cost of the paper. Years later, when i met him at Murasoli along with Kungumam editor Paavai Chandran for a short interview for the Illustrated Weekly of India, karunanidhi said the handwritten journal was a great learning experience. ‘We could not afford to make any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. A single mistake meant rewriting fifty copies. The sheer labour of correcting made me write a very clean first draft, without any corrections or overwriting,’ he recalled. He also took pains to mail a copy of the magazine to the leaders of the Self-Respect Movement.

 

But not all of karunanidhi’s icons were happy with the handwritten magazine. Bharathidasan, the well-known poet and a life-long supporter of the Dravidian Movement and karunanidhi, called it a waste of time and effort. He told karunanidhi: ‘The madness of expecting changes from handwritten publications can only be compared to the madness in thinking that development will happen due to spinning charkhas.’

 

Muthuvel Karunanidhi was ardent as a social reformer and unrelenting as an opposition leader. To read more about him, his life and his work, get your copy of Karunanidhi: A Life.

Taran’s fascinating rendezvous with Lord Ganesha

Not a lot is going right for Taran Sharma. First, he stole his annoying brother’s necklace and ran off into the night. Then, his family got taken hostage by spindly creatures of the dead. And to top it all, he’s just been charged with a mission by Lord Ganesha himself! Now, in order to rescue his family from the hands of the preta, he has to undertake a journey more fantastical than he can begin to comprehend.

As Taran embarks on an epic voyage that may lead to disastrous consequence, he realizes that having faith, especially in himself, might be harder than he was led to believe.

Dive into a riveting adventure to the Veiled Lands, replete with evil Naga armies, mythical creatures and a supervillain who will stop at nothing to reach the elusive Gateway of Moksha in Ganesha’s Temple.

**

Ganesha closed his eyes and raised all four of his hands. Particles of light appeared from thin air. They formed images in the centre of the room, and then began shimmering, swirling into new images. Taran saw human figures eating, dozing, bathing, riding horses.

‘Many thousands of years ago, gods and goddesses ruled happily over a vast world called the Veiled Lands. It was a spiritual world filled with an energy that forms the spiritual core of all life. We call this prana.’

Ganesha focused his kind, brown gaze on Taran.

‘The Veiled Lands are very simply an old earth, and its beings as old as this world itself. They have seen endless cycles of destruction and rebirth, existing far longer than you can imagine.

front cover of Ganesha's Temple
Ganesha’s Temple || Rohit Gaur

 

‘In the Veiled Lands, through prana, came the first beings of light and dark—a duality exists wherever life forms. Dyaus the Sky Father and Prithvi the Earth Mother created Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu, as well as many other devas like Surya, Agni, Indra, Varuna. These devas went on to create spirits and magical creatures, who lived peacefully together. Some devas turned into asuras, who are demons and titans. I could go on for years if I had to narrate the lives of every single deva and asura.’ Ganesha waved his hand as though turning a page in a book.

From the light particles over Ganesha’s head, new images appeared. One of the figures, snake-like and menacing, was pictured standing over a fallen deva, a staff raised above his head. Taran stared in fascination.

‘Vritra,’ Ganesha said soberly. ‘Once a deva, Vritra grew ambitious and power-hungry and sought to conquer his brethren. He attempted to overthrow the peaceful order, dominate the other devas and asuras, and rule the Veiled Lands by himself.

‘His rebellion was unsuccessful and the other devas, pitying their brother for his vanity, vowed to exile him from the Veiled Lands. They decided to create a parallel world for asuras like him, which lacked all prana. They had to combine all their powers in order to create such a world, and that powerful spell also created the Bare Lands—the world you now inhabit, Taran.

**

Whereabouts: Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest literary landscape

Exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement: in this novel, Jhumpa Lahiri stretches her themes to the limit. The woman at the center wavers between stasis and movement, between the need to belong and the refusal to form lasting ties. The city she calls home, an engaging backdrop to her days, acts as a confidant: the sidewalks around her house, parks, bridges, piazzas, streets, stores, coffee bars. We follow her to the pool she frequents and to the train station that sometimes leads her to her mother, mired in a desperate solitude after her father’s untimely death. In addition to colleagues at work, where she never quite feels at ease, she has girl friends, guy friends, and “him,” a shadow who both consoles and unsettles her. But in the arc of a year, as one season gives way to the next, transformation awaits. One day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun’s vital heat, her perspective will change. This is the first novel she has written in Italian and translated into English. It brims with the impulse to cross barriers. By grafting herself onto a new literary language, Lahiri has pushed herself to a new level of artistic achievement.

 

Here is an excerpt from the book Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri:

 

The city doesn’t beckon or lend me a shoulder today. Maybe it knows I’m about to leave. The sun’s dull disk defeats me; the dense sky is the same one that will carry me away. That vast and vaporous territory, lacking precise pathways, is all that binds us together now. But it never preserves our tracks. The sky, unlike the sea, never holds on to the people that pass through it. The sky contains nothing of our spirit, it doesn’t care. Always shifting, altering its aspect from one moment to the next, it can’t be defined.

 

Whereabouts| Jhumpa Lahiri

 

This morning I’m scared. I’m afraid to leave this house, this neighborhood, this urban cocoon. But I’ve already got one foot out the door. The suitcases, purchased at my former stationery store, are already packed. I just need to lock them now. I’ve given the key to my subletter and I’ve told her how often she needs to water the plants, and how the handle of the door to the balcony sometimes sticks. I’ve emptied out one closet and locked another, inside of which I’ve amassed everything I consider important. It’s not much in the end: notebooks, letters, some photos and papers, my diligent agendas. As for the rest, I don’t really care, though it does occur to me that for the first time someone else will be using my cups, dishes, forks, and napkins on a daily basis.

 

Last night at dinner, at a friend’s house, everyone wished me well, telling me to have a wonderful time. They hugged me and said, Good luck! He wasn’t there, he had other plans. I had a nice time anyway, we lingered at the table, still talking after midnight.

 

I tell myself: A new sky awaits me, even though it’s the same as this one. In some ways it will be quite grand. For an entire year, for example, I won’t have to shop for food, or cook, or do the dishes. I’ll never have to eat dinner by myself.

 

I might have said no, I might have just stayed put. But something’s telling me to push past the barrier of my life, just like the dog that pulled me along the paths of the villa. And so I heed my call, having come to know the guts and soul of this place a little too well. It’s just that today, feeling slothful, I’m prey to those embedded fears that don’t dissipate.

The despair of the barren landscape

Dust and ash engulf the land, dry rivers snake the earth and a phantom darkness looms over everyone. As most of India reels from this environmental catastrophe, water replaces oil as the most valuable commodity and cities get infested with gangs and powerful religious figures.

In this dystopia, the hi-tech Millennium City, which is inhabited by the rich, overlooks the quarters of the poor. Millennium City gives rise to a form of technology that manufactures artificial humans in laboratories.

Born in one such lab, Haksh does the forbidden: he falls in love with Chhaya, a human.

A coming-of-age novel about violence and transgression, Darklands is about one thing above all: love-both all-consuming and redemptive. Here’s an excerpt from this dark tale of love.

**

He woke up, dreaming of sheep. They were everywhere. Atop a hillock, cascading down a brook, their curly white fur gleaming in the soft, wintry sun. And then, with a slight flutter of an eyelid, they were gone. What surfaced was the wasteland, corroding away in the harsh morning sun. It was still early morning, but the sun was already severe. Through his half-open eyes, still very heavy with sleep, Easwaran tried to look. The dust and ash had begun to swirl across the barren landscape. Some people were up from their sleep, while some had wrapped their tattered blankets around their heads, trying to evade the daylight. Easwaran tried to gauge what time it must have been. Probably still seven. But in the vast, desolate landscape, time and its precise classification had become vestigial rituals of an age that no longer can be. It was reduced instead to a rough probability. As was everything else. Life even. His son was still in the blanket, but Easwaran knew he was wide awake. The infant was still asleep close to him. From a bit afar, towards the edges of the makeshift camp, the lanterns were giving up the last of their flames. Set against the glowing daylight, these tiny flames seemed pathetic, like a puny space rover approaching the cosmic infinitude of Jupiter. But the flames stayed, pale and almost invisible, but intact nevertheless. No one in the camp seemed to mind.

Aakash walked softly over to Easwaran, a cold rifle gleaming in his hand. His face was taut and visible from a distance. Well, at least to Easwaran, it seemed hardened. As if laughter hadn’t meandered on the soft pastures of his face for a long time now.

‘There’s trouble,’ Aakash said, crouching unevenly near the man. ‘Apparently, that Phanai’s lad is missing.’

‘Is it what I fear?’ Easwaran remarked. He was up by now. Granules of dust and ash were on his face, but he seemed unperturbed by this.

‘Could be. But no one knows. I saw him last night, quiet and all by himself, as he normally is. More than anything, he seemed safe.’ Aakash regretted the moment he said this and he even anticipated what Easwaran’s reply would be.

front cover of Darklands
Darklands || Arnav Das Sharma

 

‘Nothing is safe,’ Easwaran replied, his eyes turning away from Aakash and towards the desert landscape that stretched before him and all around and shimmered like a hot metal freshly pulled out of industrial fire.

‘I was thinking of telling Eaklavya that we need a search party. We should look for him, no?’

‘Look for him where? Where do you think he could go? How many nooks and crannies and undiscovered lanes do you see here? It’s a damned wasteland.’ Easwaran tasted the bitter trickle of bile rising in his mouth. He thought he had accepted his fate and along with it, everyone’s. He thought that he had stopped caring. For that was the only way he could make sense of it all. But he was clearly wrong, it seemed.

‘What else are we supposed to do then?’ Aakash asked. Easwaran knew he could not answer that—he didn’t have an answer. He chose to keep quiet. The infant woke up crying. He picked it up and began cradling it in his arms. He recognized those to be peals of hunger. But he also knew he could do nothing about it.

**

 

 

 

Success stories of people with diabetes

Making Excellence a Habit is a behind-the-scenes account of a person honoured internationally for delivering path-breaking care to hundreds of thousands of people with diabetes. While hard work, passion and focus emerge as winning lessons, delicate and tender learnings from Dr Mohan’s life, such as empathy or spirituality, are not forgotten.

Here is an excerpt from the book that talks about success stories of people with diabetes.

 

Front cover of Making Excellence A Habit
Making Excellence A Habit || Dr V. Mohan

Many people with diabetes believe that because of their illness, they cannot achieve their ambitions. Of the two most common forms of diabetes, type 2 and type 1, the former can be treated with tablets, diet and exercise, although some individuals may need insulin at some point in their life. Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, is a more severe form of the disorder where insulin injections are needed from the beginning, and often several times a day, in order to maintain good health. I have seen that when people develop type 1 diabetes (or even type 2 diabetes, for that matter), they often tend to give up. Their family also thinks that they are doomed to a life of mediocrity, devoid of any ambitions or success.

 

Doctors, too, unknowingly, reinforce this mindset. We were taught as students that if somebody is fifty years old and has had diabetes for twenty years, their arteries and blood vessels would be seventy years old. We therefore recognize what’s referred to as the ‘chronological age’, which is the actual age of the patient, and the ‘biological age’, which is the age of the arteries. In the case of people with diabetes, almost every study has shown that diabetes decreases the lifespan of an individual. Statistics show that in both men and women between seven to eight years of life are lost due to diabetes. Currently, the average lifespan of an Indian is sixty- seven years for males and sixty-nine years for females. Hence, for Indians with diabetes, one would expect that the average lifespan would be around sixty years for both males and females. By this calculation, one would assume that it would be almost impossible to find an elderly person with diabetes in India. Only 0.001 per cent of India’s population today are nonagenarians, that is aged ninety years or above. Hence, finding a ninety-year-old person with diabetes in India would be an absolutely rarity.

 

While these statistics are well established, they’re not necessarily true, and moreover, there are a lot of exceptions to the rule. Over the last few years, we have been noticing at our centre that our patients with diabetes, presumably due to better control, are living longer and longer. In 2013, I published a paper to show that patients with type 2 diabetes could live for forty or fifty years despite their diabetes. This paper was published in the prestigious American journal Diabetes Care and became a landmark paper. My colleagues and I were pleased that we as Indians were the first to report on the long-term survival of patients with type 2 diabetes.

 

After we had submitted the paper, Dr William Cefalu, then the editor of Diabetes Care, visited me in Chennai. Dr Cefalu told me that he was delighted to receive our paper and wanted to learn more about the survival among people with type 2 diabetes. Dr Cefalu then suggested that we have, as a control group, patients who were ‘non-survivors’, that is, had not survived for forty years. I mentioned to him that this would take time, as we would have to painstakingly match the ‘survivors’ and ‘non-survivors’ from our large electronic records. He gave us additional time to do it, and once we were done, we submitted the paper again to the journal. The paper was an instant hit—and was the first in the world to demonstrate the long-term survival of patients with type 2 diabetes of more than forty years duration.

 

In fact, when I received the Harold Rifkin Award for Distinguished International Service in the Cause of Diabetes from the American Diabetes Association, Dr Cefalu was present at the ceremony. I walked up to him and asked him whether he remembered me. Dr Cefalu smiled and said, ‘Why do you think you are receiving this award?’ By then, Dr Cefalu was the chief scientific officer of the association and, despite his high position, he hadn’t forgotten my paper in his journal. ‘That paper of yours was definitely one of the highlights of your career,’ he said. I agreed. I was humbled to receive the award, and even more so because I was the first diabetologist from India to have been chosen for the award.

 

However, in that study we did not take the age of the patients into consideration—only the duration of diabetes. Only recently have we started looking at our electronic medical records again to see how many patients lived very long lives. This time, our study showed that 325 of our patients with type 2 diabetes had survived beyond ninety years of age. This meant that if one applied the formula taught by our teachers, the biological age of these patients was unbelievably long. By now, I have several patients who have crossed ninety-five years of age and are approaching their hundredth birthday. I have also seen my first patient with diabetes cross the coveted hundred-year birth-anniversary mark. This man was the former vice chancellor of two universities and has had diabetes for almost sixty years. This means his biological age would be 160 years!

 

To understand the fundamentals of what makes a person achieve meaningful success, get your copy of Dr Mohan’s Making Excellence A Habit

A Women’s Day reading list for boys and girls

It isn’t always easy to be a woman. As our little girls grow up, we’d love to have them mentored by some of the strong women, with strong voices who aren’t always brought to the limelight. There is so much the women before us have done to bring us where we are – and it’s important we teach our girls – and boys – that women are as strong as men….if not stronger.
Here is a list of books for children to celebrate women, this Women’s Day
The Girl Who Chose by Devdutt Pattnaik

‘You are bound by rules, but not I. I am free to choose.’
Two thousand years ago, the poet-sage Valmiki wrote the Ramayana. It is the tale of Ram, the sun-prince of Ayodhya, who is obliged to follow family rules and so makes no choices.

India’s favourite mythologist brings you this charmingly illustrated retelling of the Ramayana that is sure to empower and entertain a new generation readers.

The Daughter from a Wishing Tree
The Daughter from a Wishing Tree by Sudha Murty 

The women in Indian mythology might be fewer in number, but their stories of strength and mystery in the pages of ancient texts and epics are many. They slayed demons and protected their devotees fiercely. From Parvati to Ashokasundari and from Bhamati to Mandodari, this collection features enchanting and fearless women who frequently led wars on behalf of the gods, were the backbone of their families and makers of their own destinies.

I Need to Pee
I Need to Pee by Neha Singh

 

Rahi simply loves slurping refreshing drinks, and so she always needs to pee. But boy, does she hate public loos! Travel with the cheeky Rahi and read all about her yucky, icky, sticky adventures in this quirky and vibrant book about the ever-relevant worry of having a safe and clean toilet experience.

Manya Learns To Roar by Shruthi Rao

Manya badly, badly wants to be Shere Khan in her school play. The Jungle Book is her favourite film and she knows all the lines. She’s sure she’ll be a superb Shere Khan.

But not everyone thinks so. Her classmate Rajat is always making fun of her stammer. Her English teacher thinks its risky to let her get on stage and her principal seems to agree.

The more anxious Manya gets, the worse her stammer becomes. Will Manya lose her dream role? Can she overcome her fears and learn to roar?

Angie Thomas’ books are important lessons on race, friendship and grief

Angie Thomas’ new book Concrete Rose returns to the site of her previous work, The Hate u Give, where the narrative events are catalysed by the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager. We’re returning to Thomas’ books, which are inspiring and necessary, delving into conversations around race, friendship, activism, and giving us characters that are unforgettable. Here is an excerpt from The Hate u Give:

 

A commotion stirs in the middle of the dance floor.

Voices argue louder than the music. Cuss words fly left and right.

front cover The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give||Angie Thomas

My first thought? Kenya walked up on Denasia like she promised. But the voices are deeper than theirs.

Pop! A shot rings out. I duck.

Pop! A second shot. The crowd stampedes toward the door, which leads to more cussing and fighting since it’s impossible for everybody to get out at once.

Khalil grabs my hand. “C’mon.”

There are way too many people and way too much curly hair for me to catch a glimpse of Kenya. “But Kenya—”

“Forget her, let’s go!”

He pulls me through the crowd, shoving people out our way and stepping on shoes. That alone could get us some bullets. I look for Kenya among the panicked faces, but still no sign of her. I don’t try to see who got shot or who did it. You can’t snitch if you don’t know anything.

Cars speed away outside, and people run into the night in any direction where shots aren’t firing off. Khalil leads me to a Chevy Impala parked under a dim streetlight. He pushes me in through the driver’s side, and I climb into the passenger seat. We screech off, leaving chaos in the rearview mirror.

“Always some shit,” he mumbles. “Can’t have a party without somebody getting shot.”

He sounds like my parents. That’s exactly why they don’t let me “go nowhere,” as Kenya puts it. At least not around Garden Heights.

© 2017 Angela Thomas, by permission of Walker Books Ltd.

 

~

Concrete Rose is a return to Garden Heights, seventeen years before the events depicted in The Hate U Give. It is a fierce and inspiring account of what it means to grow up as a black man in the United States. Here is an excerpt:

“That trifling heffa! And I don’t mean Iesha,” Ma says. “I mean her momma!”

Ma ain’t stopped fussing since we left the clinic.

At first I thought Iesha and Ms. Robinson stepped outside. Nah, they left. One of the nurses said she pointed out they were leaving the car seat. Ms. Robinson told her, “We don’t need it anymore,” and shoved Iesha out the door.

We went straight to their house. I banged on the doors, looked through the windows. Nobody answered. We had no choice but to bring li’l man home with us.

front cover Concrete Rose
Concrete Rose||Angie Thomas

I climb our porch steps, carrying him in his car seat. He so caught up in the toys dangling from the handle that he don’t know his momma left him like he nothing.

Ma shove the front door open. “I had a funny feeling when I saw all them clothes in that diaper bag. They shipped him off without a word!”

I set the car seat on the coffee table. What the hell just hap- pened? For real, man. I suddenly got a whole human being in my care when I never even took care of a dog.

“What we do now, Ma?”
“We obviously have to keep him until we find out what Iesha and her momma are up to. This might be for the weekend, but as trifling as they are…” She close her eyes and hold her forehead. “Lord, I hope this girl hasn’t abandoned this baby.”

My heart drop to my kicks. “Abandoned him? What I’m supposed to–”

“You’re gonna do whatever you have to do, Maverick,” she says. “That’s what being a parent means. Your child is now your responsibility. You’ll be changing his diapers. You’ll be feeding him. You’ll be dealing with him in the middle of the night. You—”

Had my whole life turned upside down, and she don’t care.

That’s Ma for you. Granny say she came in the world ready for whatever. When things fall apart, she quick to grab the pieces and make something new outta them.

“Are you listening to me?” she asks.
I scratch my cornrows. “I hear you.”
“I said are you listening? There’s a difference.”
“I’m listening, Ma.”
“Good. They left enough diapers and formula to last the

weekend. I’ll call your aunt ’Nita, see if they have Andre- anna’s old crib. We can set it up in your room.”

My room? He gon’ keep me awake!”

She set her hand on her hip. “Who else he’s supposed to keep awake?”

“Man,” I groan.

“Don’t ‘man’ me! You’re a father now. It’s not about you anymore.” Ma pick up the baby bag. “I’ll fix him a bottle. Can you keep an eye on him, or is that a problem?”

“I’ll watch him,” I mumble.

“Thank you.” She go to the kitchen. “‘He gon’ keep me awake.’ The nerve!”

I plop down on the couch. Li’l Man stare at me from the car seat. That’s what I’m gon’ call him for now, Li’l Man. King Jr. don’t feel right when he my son.

My son. Wild to think that one li’l condom breaking turned me into somebody’s father. I sigh. “Guess it’s you and me now, huh?”

I hold my hand toward him, and he grip my finger. He small to be so strong. “Gah-lee,” I laugh. “You gon’ break my finger.”

He try to put it in his mouth, but I don’t let him. My fingernails dirty as hell. That only make him whine.

“Ay, ay, chill.” I unstrap him and lift him out. He way heavier than he look. I try to rest him in my arms and sup- port his neck like Ma told me to. He whimper and squirm till suddenly he wailing. “Ma!”

She come back with the bottle. “What, Maverick?”
“I can’t hold him right.”
She adjust him in my arms. “You relax, and he’ll relax.

Now here, give him the bottle.” She hand it to me, and I put it in his mouth. “Lower it a little bit, Maverick. You don’t wanna feed him fast. There you go. When he’s halfway through it, burp him. Burp him again when he’s done.”

“How?”
“Hold him against your shoulder and pat his back.”
Hold him right, lower the bottle, burp him. “Ma, I can’t—” “Yes, you can. In fact, you’re doing it now.”

~

Two beautiful, urgent reads that will stay with you.

 

 

 

 

Of childhood memories and Aai’s unforgettable life lessons

The evening prayers in the ashram are over. Cowbells tinkle sweetly in the distance. The residents of the ashram sit in a circle, their eyes fixed on Shyam, who has promised them a story as sweet as lemon syrup. And so Shyam begins.

While on some evenings he tells them of his boyhood days, surrounded by the abundant beauty of the Konkan, on others he recalls growing up poor, embarrassed by the state of his family’s affairs. But at the heart of each story is his Aai-her words and lessons.

Narrated over the course of forty-two nights, Shyamchi Aai is a poignant story of Shyam and Aai, a mother with an unbreakable spirit. Here, we are sharing an excerpt from the book where Shyam reflects on the relationship between his parents and how they had both taught him important life-lessons.

**

It was Bhau’s custom to go to the temple after he finished his puja at home. That was the signal for us to lay the plates for lunch. We would serve everything else before he came back except for the rice. When we saw him coming, we would call out, ‘Bhau’s here, Aai. Bhau’s here. Serve the rice.’ Bhau would bring back holy water from the temple. We would have that and then settle down to lunch.

That day, Aai had made a dish from sweet potato greens. She used to make tasty dishes from the leaves of all kinds of vegetables like pumpkins and ladies’ fingers. She would say, ‘Anything can be made to taste good if it’s tempered with a couple of spices and the right amount of salt and chilli powder are added.’ She was right, of course, because whatever she made did indeed taste good. The culinary deity seemed to dwell in her fingers. She would pour her heart and soul into everything she made.

However, that day was a little different. There was no salt in the vegetable dish she had made. With all the work she had to do, she had simply forgotten to put it in. Bhau didn’t mention it, so we didn’t either. Bhau’s self-control was unbelievable. Every time Aai offered him another helping of the vegetable, he would say, ‘This is excellent.’ He neither added the salt that was served on his plate nor asked for any. Aai said to me, ‘Don’t you like the dish? You’re not eating it the way you normally do.’ Before I could answer, Bhau cut in with, ‘Now that he has started learning English at school, he’s not going to enjoy these rustic vegetables.’

front cover of Shyamchi Aai
Shyamchi Aai || Sane Guruji

 

‘Not at all,’ I protested. ‘If learning English is going to do that to me, I don’t want to learn it. Please don’t send me to school.’

Bhau said, ‘I said that only to make you angry. When you get angry, I know all is well with the world. You like jackfruit, don’t you? I’ll get one tomorrow from Patil Wadi. If I don’t find a tender one, you can have the pods boiled and spiced.’

Aai said, ‘Yes, please get one. We haven’t had jackfruit in a long time.’ Bhau went out to the verandah for his routine walk and prayers. After that he spun yarn for his sacred thread. The spinning disc was made of clay. The house rule was that all of us should know how to spin yarn.

Aai had finished clearing up and had now sat down for her lunch. I was sitting nearby. She took her first mouthful of the vegetable and discovered it had no salt. ‘Shyam, there’s no salt in this dish. None of you said so. Why didn’t you tell me? How could you eat this saltless dish?’

‘We said nothing because Bhau said nothing,’ I replied. Aai was very upset.

‘How did you eat this?’ she kept asking. ‘No wonder you didn’t have much. Otherwise you would have single-handedly finished half the lot. You like your vegetables. I should have known then. But what’s the use of saying it now?’

Aai was full of remorse for her mistake. She believed we should always give people the best we can, whatever it is. She felt she had been careless, not paid enough attention, lost her concentration on the job. She had done wrong and she refused to forgive herself.

Bhau had said nothing because he hadn’t wanted to upset her. She had spent so much time at the hearth breathing in all the smoke and fumes just to make food for us. Why find fault? Why not accept what was made as tasty? Bhau believed it was wrong to hurt the person who had cooked for you.

‘Friends, it is for us to decide who the finer human being was. Was my father the finer human being because he ate an unsalted dish as if it were the best he had ever eaten in the belief that it was better to control one’s tongue than hurt another’s feelings? Or was my mother the finer human being because she was upset over serving us something that wasn’t perfect, asked us why we hadn’t complained and wouldn’t forgive herself for her mistake? According to me, both were fine human beings.

Our culture is founded on self-control and contentment as well as on doing work as perfectly as possible. I learnt from my parents that we should aspire to both these virtues in life.’

**