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The story of the Leogryphs of Kangla by Wangam Somorjit

The cover art of Binodini’s “The Princess and the Political Agent” by Shruti Mahajan of Penguin Random House India features, bloody and broken, the leogryphs called the Kangla Sha that stand today in Kangla Fort in Imphal. In the back, a little anachronistically, is painted the palace in Manipur, built for Binodini’s father Maharaja Churachand, himself a major presence in his daughter’s historical novel. It represents the new order in Manipur under the eponymous Political Agent after the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891. The beasts themselves represent the destruction of the sovereignty of Manipur in the fort where the Princess spent her childhood and youth – and the setting of Binodini’s tales of love, rivalries, and intrigues. Here is the little-known story of these chimerical beasts of Kangla Fort.

Somi Roy, translator.

Today, one hundred and seventy-six years ago, on the 24th of July, 1844, Maharaja Narasingh of Manipur inaugurated the two giant leogryphs that stood guard at Kangla Fort in the heart of Imphal. About fifty years later, they were destroyed by British cannon fire.

Known as the Kangla Sha, the pair of mythical lionesque beasts was made of brick and stood eighteen feet tall. They guarded the entrance to the fort’s inner citadel called the Uttra. The citadel was the innermost enclosure housing the royal residences in the heart of the Kangla, the double moated palace fort of the kings of Manipur. The Meiteis called these guardian beasts Nongsha, literally Heavenly Beasts, retronymically translated as lions which they resembled. They became known as Kangla Sha after the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891.

The first pair of these leogryphs was constructed by Maharaja Chourjit in 1804. They were Manipuri adaptations of the splendid Burmese mythical beasts called chinthe that guard the entrance of the pagodas of Burma. Ties between Manipur and the glorious and more powerful Burmese kingdoms of Ava, Shan and Mon Burmese – matrimonial alliances, wars, tributes and so on – were well established by the middle of the 18th century. As one of several Manipuri princes who stayed with the Burmese king in the 1760s, Chourjit would have seen the Burmese chinthe in front of their pagodas.

The powerful court of Ava had made remonstrance with the kings of Manipur for profusely gilding and decorating their palaces with royal Burmese emblems and multistage roof buildings. It was looked upon as evidence of the rise of the kings of Manipur. So in 1819 the Burmese invaded Manipur, destroyed the Kangla Fort, and occupied the kingdom for the next seven years.

Kangla Fort was not only the abode of the kings of Manipur but also the symbol of their ancestral roots back to Pakhangba, founder of the Ningthouja dynasty that still exists today. The citadel’s hall was also sometimes referred as the House of Pakhangba, as he was crowned here as the first Meitei king in 33 CE according to the Court Chronicles of Manipur.

For nearly 20 years after Manipur was regained from the Burmese, Kangla remained an abandoned old palace. The monarch after the Burmese expulsion, Maharaja Gambhir Singh, reigned from his capital at Langthabal, eight kilometres from Imphal down the Burma Road. At this time, Manipur was acknowledged as an independent power by the Burmese and the British in the Treaty of Yandabo of 1826.  In 1844, Gambhir Singh’s cousin and comrade-at-arms in repelling the Burmese, Regent Narasingh became the king of Manipur and moved the capital back to Kangla. He reconstructed the pair of leogryphs in front of the citadel in Kangla upon the ruins of the old foundation of the previous leogryphs of 1804. The court chronicle of Manipur records that the construction of the two new leogryphs began on June 2, 1844. The Maharaja inaugurated the statues, dedicating them to the royal deity Shri Shri Govindajee on July 24, 1844.

No pictorial representations of the first leogryphs of 1804 exist nor do we know what happened to them after the Burmese destroyed Kangla Fort in 1819. The leogryphs rebuilt in 1844 stood guard at the foot of the citadel, facing west towards the fort’s main entrance, the western gate of the Kangla Fort. They were made of brick, and painted white. They crouched upon their hind legs and stood upright on their forelegs. The tails curled back towards their spines. Their mouths opened wide. The two bifurcated horns, adorning their heads unlike the leogryphs of East and Southeast Asia, were derived from the sangai or the brow-antlered deer (Rucervus eldii eldii) of Manipur. The chimerical beasts bear similarity to the antlered dragon boats of Manipur and to the coat-of-arms of Gambhir Singh engraved above his footprints on the stone he erected at Kohima (now in Nagaland) in commemoration of his victory over the northern tribes in 1833. Therefore, we can surmise that the Manipuri adaptation of the Burmese chinthe was already an addition to the religious and state iconography even before the leogryphs raised by Narasingh.

Leogryph used in the 1833 as commemorative stone in Kohima

 

The leogryphs built in 1844 were destroyed in 1891 after the Anglo-Manipuri War that year. In the events leading up to the outbreak of the war in March, five British representatives had been taken prisoner by the king of Manipur, tried in military court, and executed for their crime for invading the palace of Manipur. The execution of the British men took place in front of these leogryphs and their blood was smeared over the mouths of the two statues. In this, Manipuris saw the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy in Manipur that white men’s heads would fall in front of the beasts. After British retaliation in battle, the Manipuris were defeated and the British occupied Kangla Fort in April 1891.

On June 20, 1891, the Kangla leogryphs were destroyed by cannon fire upon the order of General H. Collett, the commander of the British army, as retribution, symbolic political vengeance, and display of imperial power and dominance.

The British occupied Kangla Fort as a British reserve until their departure in 1947. When young prince Churachand was installed as the new king by the British in 1891, a new palace of Manipur, commonly known as Chonga Bon, was constructed in 1908 about two kilometres away. The fort remained closed to the Manipuri public. Newly independent India succeeded to the Kangla and the fort was occupied by the Indian paramilitary forces. Manipur acceded to the Indian Union in 1949 and in 2004 Kangla Fort was returned to the people of Manipur after a series of public agitations. In 2007 two replicas of Kangla Sha were reconstructed on the original site where they had stood before being destroyed by the British on July 20, 1891.

 

Wangam Somorjit is the author of The Chronology of Meitei Monarchs (2010), the first edited version of the Court Chronicle of Manipur with corresponding CE dates; and Manipur: The Forgotten Nation of South-East Asia (2016), an anthology of publications from different countries of the region.

 

The Princess and the Political Agent || Binodini Devi (Author), L. Somi Roy (Translator)

Inside the world of Sisters of the Golden Lotus

I think of the stories I heard growing up. Of women with shadowy faces and daggers glinting in their hands. Women who wear their saris like fisherfolk, who knock down doors and slash into enemies with knives and swords and spells. The Sisterhood of the Golden Lotus.

Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. In fact, it is this very mark that caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding in order to protect her own life.

But a group of rebel women called the ‘Sisters of the Golden Lotus’ rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic. Here are some quotes from Tanaz Bhathena’s book that tells us more about the Sisters of the Golden Lotus

Who are they?

“No one is quite sure if the Sisters are legends or common brigands, and no one ever quite remembers what they look like. Appearing and disappearing from villages and towns with a stealth that rivals King Lo- har’s Sky Warriors, the Sisters have no permanent home, successfully melding into their surroundings like color-changing lizards.”

*

Introducing themselves

“People who do not know us think we are ordinary Ambari women. Seamstresses. Midwives. Farmers. Mothers. Daughters. People like your zamindar will offer us food and shelter in exchange for a walk through the fields or a night in their beds.” Juhi’s eyes harden. “Of course, deceptive appearances are a must in our line of work.” She holds up a hand. There, right in the center of her palm, I see a golden tattoo shaped like a lotus.”

*

They have birthmarks.

“To my surprise, Kali lifts her sari petticoat up to the knee. Amira turns around, pushing down the shoulder of her blouse. The woman holds up the lantern to each exposed body part, one after the other.

Each girl has a birthmark. A brown one in the shape of a diamond right next to the dagger strapped to Kali’s calf; a black one in the shape of a falling star on Amira’s shoulder blade.”

*

But not all of them

“Do the Sisters . . . do you all have birthmarks?”

Juhi lowers her hand. “No. Only Amira and Kali. But I don’t limit the Sisterhood to marked girls. There are other women as well who need saving, who need to escape their pasts.”

*

Their current home

“The Sisters live on the street behind the temple—in a two-story building that once housed the village orphanage. Some of the novices mock the villagers for not guessing that it no longer functions as one, for never questioning why we don’t take in boys.”

*

Mealtimes with the Sisters

“I’m unable to keep the envy out of my voice. At mealtimes, some of the Sisters occasionally boast about their exploits. Magically tying up zamindars who deceive farmers into signing over their land—and not releasing the former until the land is restored. Rescuing girls who get harassed by men in marketplaces. Standing up to women who beat their daughters-in-law.”

*

Why are they called Sisters of the Golden Lotus?

“Yes. Amira told me that she and Kali would feel like thorns in my side. Kali countered that they were like the gold lotuses of Javeribad, the kind that bloomed in the mud. That’s how we came up with the name.”

*

Hunted by the Sky || Tanaz Bhathena

Inspired by medieval India, Hunted by the Sky is the first in a stunning fantasy duology by Tanaz Bhathena, exploring identity, class struggles and high-stakes romance against a breathtaking magical backdrop.

Interesting snippets from Manohar Parrikar’s extraordinary life

An Extraordinary Life  showcases Manohar Parrikar’s rise in politics from the son of a grocery store owner in a nondescript town, a sanghachalak in Mapusa town, an Opposition MLA and leader, to a chief minister (on multiple occasions) and, finally, to a defence minister.

Over the last two decades, the exploits of one man, an IIT-Bombay alumnus, changed the way mainstream India looked at Goa and the political goings-on in the country’s smallest state.

In An Extraordinary Life, Sadguru Patil and Mayabhushan Nagvenkar explore daily battles of a gifted individual are brought to the fore as he encounters love and vices.

Alongside his public feats and persona, Parrikar was also an intriguing man with some personality quirks that contributed to his political career. We take a look at some of these below:

 

Finding a way out

 

‘Falling into trouble isn’t rare when one is young. But even at the age of eight, Manohar had the temperament to find a way out of it.

Avdhoot was nine, a year older than Manohar, when the latter fell into a deep, dry rainwater ditch near their ancestral house in Parra village. The gutter was deep enough to make Manohar’s efforts to climb out of it futile. Like in many rural homes at the time, the Parrikar household also reared a few head of cattle.

‘Manohar told me to fetch at least five bundles of straw. They weren’t too heavy, so I brought them one by one and, on his direction, threw them into the gutter. He piled them one on top of the other and managed to climb out,’ Avdhoot recalled.’

 

IIT-Bombay

 

‘A year after the release of the Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha–starrer Bombay to Goa, seventeen-year-old Parrikar left Goa to go to Bombay in 1973. And just like Bachchan was a superstarwaiting-in-the-wings in the S. Ramanathan film, IIT-Bombay gaveParrikar the fertile breeding ground for his personality to blossom and allowed him to come into his own.

As far as Parrikar was concerned, he was to give IIT-Bombay the privilege of having on its rolls the first IITian chief minister in India, and his hostel-mates the pleasure of better meals at the mess at that time.’

 

Resourcefulness and Keen Eye

 

‘Even his mother was often stumped by Manohar’s resourcefulness. Radhabai once had enough of her son’s brattish behaviour. So she locked him up in a room one day.

According to Walavalkar, Manohar escaped by breaking the glass windowpanes. Another time Radhabai decided to teach her younger son a lesson once again. She decided to play dead to get Manohar worked up. Avdhoot, who was nearby, saw her lying still and not responding to his call. He called out to Manohar for help. ‘I thought Aai was dead and started crying. But Manohar was obviously smarter than me. He told me not to cry because he could see Aai’s stomach moving with her breath. Her plan to rattle him was foiled,’ Avdhoot said.’

 

Calligraphic Skills

 

‘Apart from his special talent at maths, he was regularly complimented by his teachers for his immaculate handwriting, something the media also noticed decades later when his handwritten noting related to the Rafale deal as the defence minister merited a news feature story in February 2019.

‘Cursive font. Sentences so perfectly stacked you wonder if a ruler was involved. No strikethroughs. No smudged ink. A written reply by Manohar Parrikar to India’s defence secretary in 2015, accessed by ANI, would put any schoolteacher’s pet to shame,’ stated an India Today online story headlined ‘Rafale Row Rages.’

 

Appetite for Reading

 

‘When he was in school, he loved reading storybooks, instead of ‘boring’ school texts.

‘Often he would pretend that he was reading a textbook when our parents were around, but cached inside was a storybook. Once, a relative got suspicious because Manohar had been going hard at this coursebook for hours and yanked it from his hands. The hidden storybook fell out too,’ said Avdhoot.

Manohar also developed another habit early on. A habit that would hold him in good stead in his later years. Reading newspapers. So obsessed was he with reading newspapers that his parents started worrying about it.’

***

An Extraordinary Life || Sadguru Patil, Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

 

An Extraordinary Life  showcases Manohar Parrikar’s rise in politics from the son of a grocery store owner in a nondescript town, a sanghachalak in Mapusa town, an Opposition MLA and leader, to a chief minister (on multiple occasions) and, finally, to a defence minister.

Ten things about Manohar Parrikar you may have not known!

Former Defence Minister and four-time Goa Chief Minister late Manohar Parrikar was one of the most reported personalities in India’s smallest state. But the privilege of researching for his biography ‘An Extraordinary Life: A biography of Manohar Parrikar’ gave us several fresh insights about his personality. And some lesser known nuggets too.

Listed below are ten lesser known facts about Parrikar. And no, this piece doesn’t mention his fetish for fish curry… For that nugget and more, read the book!

 

By Sadguru Patil and Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

 

Lucky number 13

Shunned and feared by many, Parrikar, a passionate contrarian, considered ‘13’ as his lucky number. Born on December 13, the number, he would often say, brought him good luck in politics. The registration plate of his last official ride, a Hyundai Santa Fe, bore the number 1313. His mobile phone numbers ended in 1313 and 131213. In 2000, he formed a government and was sworn-in as Chief Minister of Goa for the first time with the help of 13-non BJP MLAs. In 2017, he cleverly manoeuvred his way to the top post yet again with the help of… you guessed it right: 13 BJP MLAs!

 

Never a full term

Despite being sworn-in as Chief Minister of Goa on four different occasions from 2000-02, 2002-2004, 2012-2014 and 2017-2019, Parrikar never completed a full five-year term in office. Anxious about a revolt brewing within his government, Parrikar got the state assembly dissolved in 2002. In 2004, he was ousted by a resurgent Congress. In 2014, he was handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to join the central cabinet as Defence Minister. And in 2019, he died in office, after just two years in office as CM.

 

Accidental electoral debut

This fact has managed to duck attention altogether. After his initial grooming in the RSS, Parrikar’s initial role in the BJP was that of an organizer, as one of the secretaries of the party’s state unit. In 1991, BJP leader late Pramod Mahajan entrusted him with the responsibility of selecting a candidate for the North Goa Lok Sabha seat in the general elections. Parrikar could not shortlist a single credible candidate for his party, because contesting a popular election on a BJP ticket at the time was considered synonymous with certain defeat, and a poor defeat at that. With no candidate available, Mahajan directed Parrikar to contest the election. Parrikar’s defeat in the 1991 Lok Sabha polls was the only electoral loss in his political career.

 

Bookworm

Parrikar was known to read just about everywhere. In the front seat of his official car, in hotel lobbies, at the airport and even on the seat of his loo. He devoured books like he customarily devoured his political opposition. In 2013, at a book release event, he confessed that his house had two toilets. “I am currently reading a book on the Mahabharata. It’s in one toilet. There’s another book in the other toilet,” Parrikar said then.

 

Music to the soul

Amid spasms of pain while undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer in New York, Parrikar looked to Hindustani classical singer Jitendra Abhisheki for solace. He loved to listen to Marathi bhavgeets (devotional songs) too. His favourite singers were Sudhir Phadke, Bharat Ratna Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Abhisheki and Rahul Deshpande. Phadke’s ‘Dehachi Tejori’ (God’s vault) and Veer Savarkar’s ‘Sagara Prana Talmala’ (O Ocean, my heart is restless) topped his list of favourite songs. In his later years, he liked listening to Rahul Deshpande, whose songs were downloaded to his Ipad.

 

Mercedes mania

As a young businessman, when his political journey was still some distance away, Parrikar ambition was to own a Mercedes car. Once he walked the political path however, he realised that owning a Mercedes would impair public perception of him.  After all he was beginning to be known for his ‘common man’ identity. So he dropped the idea altogether.

 

Control-freak

Parrikar’s style of governance was marked by a chronic disregard for existing administrative systems, with excessive power wrested in his person. Ministers were mere puppets in his abrasive style of governance, as Parrikar, his few handpicked bureaucrats and upper caste coterie members pulled all the strings. There was a key reason why Parrikar kept stalling his departure to Delhi as a cabinet minister. Because Modi mirrored his traits, when it came to governance-style and control. “I was a king in Goa. In Delhi, I am just one of the many princes,” Parrikar lamented to his friends.

 

Tech travails

For an IIT alumnus, Parrikar shied away from using new technology for communication. Apart from using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, he had no other use for the instrument. According to those close to him, accessing emails reluctantly was as far as Parrikar would go, when it came to embracing technology.

 

Money management

For a man, who is often lauded for planning and vision, Parrikar was pretty much financially broke when he returned to Goa, soon after passing out of IIT-Bombay and marrying Medha. He was so short on money, that his mother, Radhabai, paid some of his insurance premiums for a while.

 

Swachch Goa

India woke up to the ‘virtues’ of co-branding Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary with a cleanliness gig, as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachch Bharat Mission in 2014. But the initiative was first launched by Parrikar as Chief Minister of Goa on October 2, 2002. He preferred to call it ‘Clean Offices Day’, when government servants were called to their respective offices on the national holiday and directed to spruce up the premises and immediate surroundings.

*

 

An Extraordinary Life || Sadguru Patil, Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

 

Crime, corruption, and the freedom to dream

Megha Majumdar’s electrifying debut novel, A Burning, is about the cost and freedom of dreams in a world burdened with class and socio-political power-structures.

She traces the lives of three protagonists Jivan, Lovely and PT Sir – which get entangled after a terrorist attack on a train in Kolkata. The responsibilities for both Jivan’s false charges and her freedom lie in the hands of PT Sir and Lovely – who too are battling with the daily indignities of their life.

With entrenched injustices, fascism, politics of religion, and betrayals coming into play – these characters become reflective of daily human struggles in a country spinning towards extremism.

*

 

Jivan

 

‘If the police didn’t help ordinary people like you and me, if the police watched them die, doesn’t that mean that the government is also a terrorist?’

Jivan is a Muslim girl living in a slum in Kolkata. She witnesses the aftermath and carnage of a terrorist attack on a train and reshares a video on Facebook with the caption given above. Days later she is arrested for the attack and thrown into prison undoing tears of work she has spent clawing her way out of poverty.

 

 

PT Sir

 

‘PT Sir knows who she is. Isn’t she the ghost who begs him for mercy? Isn’t she the ghost who searches the gaze of her teacher, hoping that he might offer rescue? Maybe that is why they had the white curtain up at the court— not so that Jivan could not influence his testimony, but so that he would not have to face her.’

A gym coach, PT Sir is Jivan’s former physical education teacher who turns against out of his thirst for recognition. He embraces a political career, getting entangled in extremist politics, inextricably connecting his political rise with Jivan’s fall.

 

 

Lovely

 

‘Uff! Don’t make me say it, Lovely. I can’t do this marriage scene with a half man.’

Lovely is a transgender woman from the same slum as Jivan – who dreams of making it big in Bollywood and attends a local acting class. She faces day-to-day ignominies because of her gender-identity. She has a husband named Azad. Lovely has an alibi that can prove Jivan’s innocence – but it would cost Lovely everything she holds dear.

*

 

A Burning|| Megha Majumdar

 

Jivan, Lovely and PT Sir present to us an unforgettable character-arc that explores the complexities of possessing morals in today’s world. As each of them face profound obstacles and inequalities, Majumdar gives us one searing question to explore through them: Who is allowed to dream?

Why is Dry Fasting the Most Superior Form of Cleansing?

You must always turn to nature when you are sick or afflicted with disease. Nature holds all the answers, and when you align yourself with it, you heal and recover. Dry fasting is one such answer.

Dry fasting is complete abstinence from food and water for a particular window during the day, followed by breaking the fast in a specific manner. This window during which one fasts is called the elimination phase, and the window during which one eats is called the building phase.

In their book, The Dry Fasting Miracle, Luke Coutinho and Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Ali Bin Rashed Al Nuaimi teach us how this diet can stimulate the body, help one find the right balance between the ‘elimination phase’ and the ‘building phase’, aid weight loss and help avoid a number of diseases.

Here we talk about why dry fasting is the most superior form of cleansing.


Our body makes its own water

How? As a by-product of the fat that is burnt during the fast. Unlike the water you drink, this metabolic water is of superb quality, produced by the hard work of your own cells. It is almost like it erases all the negative information that was part of the body before the fast, allowing cells to experience a kind of rebirth, taking in moisture from the air and supplying it to the cells.

It target and reduces inflammation, and is immunostimulatory

Inflammation and low immunity are the root causes of any disease – be it cancer, cardiovascular problems, diabetes or simply the inability to lose weight. The body cannot have inflammation without water. Pathological bacteria, viruses and other microbes love a wet environment, which is ideal for them to thrive in—shortage of water is like a kill switch for them.

It enables the burning of toxins as opposed to the flushing out of toxins via urine, bowel movement, kidneys, liver and skin

The body, during a dry fast, absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrogen to manufacture its own amino acids. Since there is no water to flush out these endogenous toxins, these are eliminated through a unique mechanism that is dormant during less rigorous modes of fasting. Each cell, thus, self-combusts, becoming the furnace that burns up its own waste.

Dry fasting can help manage the effects of radiation exposure

Regular fasting can also help restore the protective functions of cells and organs against radiation damage. This is particularly important for those who live or work in settings where they are regularly subjected to radiation or have been exposed to palliative radiation in case of cancer treatment. Dry fasting can be highly effective in healing the side effects of chemotherapy.


Give dry fasting a try, yourself! Read more about the processes and more benefits in the book, The Dry Fasting Miracle, available here.

Pandemic in the Times of Social Media

 ‘Social media and technology are not agents of change. They are just tools. We the connected people are the agents of change.’

—Stuart J. Ellman

In The Coronavirus: What You Need to Know about the Global Pandemic¸ authors Dr. Swapneil Parikh, Maherra Desai, and Dr. Rajesh Parikh recall a haunting video of Wuhan, wherein a desolate woman bangs a gong in her balcony and cries: ‘There’s nothing I can do, please can someone come help us. Help! Somebody please come!’ Even though it was deleted within a day, it managed to mobilize and alert a huge population of the crisis.

Since 2004, following the inception and launch of Facebook, human interaction has changed drastically. The digital age has played a significant role in generating information, awareness, responses and collective strategies for this pandemic. In a time where it is more necessary than ever for the world to stay connected, social media and the digital age have risen to the occasion.

 

Personal Stories and Unofficial Reports: Alerting the World from China

In the Chinese province of Wuhan, where the epicenter of the virus lies, Ophthalmologist Dr. Li Wenliang tried to warn his groups on WeChat about a possible outbreak on 30th December 2019. It garnered a lot of traction across social media channels, which resulted in him reprimanded. He eventually died of Covid-19 in early February; and was hailed as one of the earliest whistleblowers in China.

As the crisis in China unfolded, social media revealed its world-shaping power by enabling a decentralized record of humanity and human interaction accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. This record is maintained on smartphones in pockets, computers in bedrooms and massive data centres all over the world. In China, authoritarian leaders have tried desperately to censor and control this record. However, their attempts have only revealed that while an individual’s truth is powerful, a society’s collective truth is unstoppable.

Through social media and many unsung heroes, we learnt of the true scale of the outbreak. Users shared horrific stories, images and videos in WeChat groups and on Weibo. The videos depicted heartrending, heart-breaking scenes of patients pleading for help and families crying and grieving over their dead. Social media posts shared personal stories of what it was like to live in the epicentre of the outbreak. In one video, a lady in her forties, without a mask, without her face censored, shielded only by her courage, cried in desperation ‘Nobody cares about our lives, ordinary people’s lives. You cannot get medicine, even if you are rich. You cannot get a hospital bed, even if you have money.’

Other users posted horrific scenes of Chinese law enforcement teams in hazmat suits dragging people from their homes and locking them in small boxes loaded on trucks. No one knows where they were taken. Videos depicted trucks, aerial vehicles and numerous workers spraying roads and pavements with disinfectant. A once-busy city looked like a deserted ghost town with empty streets and shuttered stores.

Besides keeping the world informed of the experience of the people of China through the outbreak, social media provided organizations like the WHO and CDC actionable data about the outbreak. According to the WHO, over 60 per cent of initial outbreak reports were from ‘unofficial informal sources’. Were it not for social media, it is possible that the Chinese government would have been less forthcoming with information about the outbreak.

The Coronavirus: What you Need to Know about the Global Pandemic|| Dr Swapneil Parikh , Maherra Desai , Dr Rajesh Parikh

Enabling Research, Novel Tools, and Real-time Information

During the COVID-19 outbreak, social media platforms have been extensively used to access accurate information from the WHO and CDC. News outlets have used Twitter and Facebook to keep users informed of the latest statistics about the disease. YouTube has provided access to a tremendous number of excellent videos about the virus and the disease.

The CDC routinely tracks tweets and Facebook posts for signs of a disease outbreak in various parts of the world. Using social media, they follow digital epidemiology to better understand the disease. Google tracks search trends; a spike in specific search terms can detect public health concerns or epidemics.

Social media platforms also provide scientists and researchers with new tools to access new data sets and to share information in real time. A team at the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University built an interactive dashboard to visualize and track reported cases of the COVID-19 in real time. They obtained their data from DXY.cn, a Chinese healthcare social network.

Information available on social media has also enabled a new era of digital epidemiological research. Researchers at the US National Institute of Health used a new approach to study the epidemiology and progression of the COVID-19 outbreak. The novelty of their approach was the reliance on social media and news reports for data.

 

The Other Side: Myths and Misinformation

During the initial phase of the COVID-19 outbreak, there was little factual information. Social media content creators churned out half-baked theories and blatant falsehoods. As has been observed in past outbreaks, the absence of reliable information coupled with an increasing death count results in panic, confusion and the suspension of critical thinking and fact-checking abilities.

By February 2020, this reached such a crescendo that the WHO declared a ‘massive infodemic’ of COVID-19 misinformation. The WHO leveraged the same tools causing the infodemic to quell it. Further, these tools came in handy for WHO to make information more accessible to the public at large. It created simple infographics and content and shared accurate information on their social media handles. social networking platforms including Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Weibo, Twitter and TikTok, took it upon themselves to clean up their sites. They used fact-checking agencies and AI-based tools to screen misinformation, which was deleted, and redirected visitors to more reliable and accurate information sources.

*

These times are unprecedented and have called for real-time information and communication across the globe for strategy, safety and survival. Even though there have been downsides to social media, in terms of inducing panic (or false sense of safety) through misinformation and propaganda – the larger world has definitely benefited from the accessibility of information social media has been able to present.

On a personal and human level – social media and digital platforms have also helped us stay connected. Community and human support have not been hindered due to isolation and quarantine strategies. Although the future is still uncertain – survival, to a large extent, has been made possible through social media.

The Coronavirus: What You Need to know about the Global Pandemic brings together medical experts Dr. Swapneil Parikh, Dr. Rajesh Parikh, and Maherra Desai, to present a timely and reliable narrative on the Covid 19 pandemic and possible ways forward.

 

History of the Coronavirus

On the eve of 31 December 2019, as the world celebrated the start of a new decade, the province of Wuhan alerted the World Health Organization of several ‘flu-like’ cases. Less than a week later, a novel coronavirus, was identified. In February, the disease it caused was named COVID-19.

The symptoms of Coronavirus are dangerously similar to that of the common flu: fever, coughing, breathlessness, tiredness, headache and muscle pain. But in India, that has such a high population density, we will have to do more than just stick to Namaste to greet each other. What we need most right now is credible and comprehensive information from professionals that can help us understand what the Coronavirus is, and how we can prepare and protect ourselves against it.

Panic is historically an integral component of pandemics. Understanding the Coronavirus within a larger, historical context of pandemics and survival is crucial to prepare – mentally, emotionally, and strategically – for the times about to come. Find an introduction to the history of the coronavirus below:

The Coronavirus

The story of the coronavirus (CoV) begins with Dr David Arthur John Tyrrell, a British virologist studying the common cold. Dr Tyrrell was born in Middlesex, United Kingdom, in 1925, and completed his medical training in 1948. The same year, the Common Cold Research Unit (CCRU) was founded under the auspices of the United Kingdom’s Medical Research Council. In 1957, Dr Tyrrell joined the unit, excited at the prospect of developing a cure for the common cold and, in 1982, became its director.

At the CCRU, he experimented on volunteers to study viruses responsible for the common cold. Newspaper advertisements offered a unique ten-day stay at CCRU where

The volunteers would be infected with preparations of a cold virus. They would be paid £1.75 per day and would be housed in small groups, strictly isolated from one another.

In 1965, Dr Tyrrell’s team isolated an unusual virus from a young boy with the common cold. They exposed several volunteers to his nasal washings and they developed a cold. Interestingly, the virus, initially named B814 after the number of nasal washings, grew exclusively on human embryonic tracheal cultures.

In 1966, Dr Dorothy Hamre and Dr John Procknow identified a similar virus in medical students sick with a cold. Later that year, Dr Tyrrell demonstrated under an electron microscope that the new virus resembled the bird bronchitis virus and the mouse hepatitis virus. With this new information, scientists around the world identified related viruses, giving them similarly unimaginative alphanumeric names. Shortly thereafter, these new viruses were collectively named coronaviruses (CoVs) for their crown-like appearance.

Dr David Tyrrell’s brilliant discovery laid the groundwork for modern research on coronaviruses. Scientists have since identified numerous coronaviruses in a multitude of animal species. These include alpha, beta, gamma, and delta coronaviruses. Gamma and delta coronaviruses infect birds and have not been proven to cause human infections. Alpha and beta coronaviruses have infected humans and many other mammals, especially bats. The seven coronaviruses that have infected humans are called human coronaviruses (HCoVs). Of these, HCoV-229E and HCoV-NL63 are two human alphacoronaviruses, while HCoV-HKU1 and HCoV-OC43 are two human betacoronaviruses. Last, there are the three notorious human betacoronaviruses that have caused SARS, MERS and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The WHO has declared COVID-19 as the most dangerous threat to world public health, the first pandemic due to a coronavirus.


To understand responses and possible ways forward by placing COVID-19 in a historical context, the authors mention Lord Byron’s words: ‘The best prophet of the future is the past’.

A complete story of a disease must include the 5 Ws: the what, who, where, when and why. Epidemiologists are the disease detectives who investigate a new disease like COVID-19. They explore the what (health issue of concern), who (person or people affected), where (place in which the disease is occurring), when (time course of the disease) and why (causes, risk factors, modes of transmission).Stories of past pandemics and viruses help disease investigators and scientists build this framework in order to tackle the novel Coronavirus affecting the world currently.

The Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About the Global Pandemic is the first book that addresses the history, evolution, facts and myths around the pandemic.

Esha Deol Thaktani’s Yummy Food Recipe for Your Kids

When can I introduce my baby to solid foods?

Becoming a new mother can be an exciting yet overwhelming time. No matter how prepared you are, there will always be many confusing moments, opinions and a whole lot of drama! And just like any other new mom, Esha Deol Takhtani was faced with many such questions soon after the birth of her two daughters-Radhya and Miraya.

Packed with advice, tips, stories and easy and delicious recipes for toddlers, Amma Mia reflects the personal journey of one woman’s transformation into a mother. Informative and easy to follow, this book will help new mothers navigate the ups and downs of raising a healthy toddler and make their child fall in love with food.

 

 

Read a recipe from the book below:

 

Continental Potato Wrap
Ingredients
1 tbsp. cumin seeds
 ½ tbsp.  mustard seeds
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp. ginger–garlic paste
1 potato
 ½ tbsp. turmeric powder
½ tbsp. amchur powder
 ¼ tbsp. garam masala powder
 ½ cup of water
 ½ cup of flour, to which you may add ¼ tsp. salt
 1 tbsp. oil
Direction
  • In a pan add oil and sauté cumin seeds, mustard seeds, chopped onion and ginger–garlic paste. Fry well. Add the spices and mix well.
  • Add enough water and salt to the flour so it achieves the consistency of dosa batter.
  • Mix the potato in with the rest of the mixture till cooked.
  • In a non-stick pan, pour refined oil and spread the flour batter like you would to make a dosa. Fill the stuffing in the centre. Fold it properly and fry on a low flame. Your tasty breakfast is ready to be served.

 

 

For more tips and tricks, check out Amma Mia by Esha Deol Takhtani.

 

Shake a Leg with Mandira Bedi’s Workout Playlist

Mandira Bedi is a fitness icon. But behind the six-pack is also a snotty, complaining, can’t-get-out-of-bed-today girl who, in her own way, is still searching for true happiness. Not conditional, materialistic, transactional happiness, but just happiness. So has she cracked it yet? Mandira says ‘No’. But she genuinely believes that she’s headed in the right direction. In her own chaotic way, she seems to have discovered some kind of non-scientific, non-spiritual and as-yet-non-existent formula for finding peace in everything. Just being happy for no reason.

 

We are sharing here one of her secrets from Happy For No Reason: her terrific playlist for power-packed workout sessions!

 

 

 

Mandira Bedi’s Top 40 Workout Songs (You Will Never Need Another Playlist)
  1. Have It All (Jason Mraz)
  2.  Woke Up Late (Drax Project)
  3.  Build Me Up Buttercup (The Foundation)
  4.  Old Town Road (Lil Nas X)
  5.  Don’t Start Now (Dua Lipa)
  6.  Close to Me (Ellie Goulding)
  7.  Titanium (David Guetta)
  8.  Keeping Me Under (Two Another)
  9.  Glorious (Macklemore)
  10.  More Mess (Kungs)
  11.  Don’t Matter to Me (Drake & Michael Jackson)
  12.  Empire State of Mind (Jay-Z & Alicia Keys)
  13.  Truth Hurts (Lizzo)
  14.  Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough (Michael Jackson)
  15.  The Shape of You (Ed Sheeran)
  16.  Faith (Wham)
  17. Wasabi (Little Mix)
  18. Memories (Maroon 5)
  19. Day ’n’ Nite (Kidi Cudi)
  20. 2 in a Million (Steve Aoki, Sting & SHAED)
  21. Body (Loud Luxury & Brando)
  22.  24k Magic (Bruno Mars)
  23.  Respect (Arethra Franklin)
  24.  Feel It Still (Portugal. The Man)
  25.  Rock DJ (Robbie Williams)
  26.  Feels (Calvin Harris)
  27.  Cake by the Ocean (DNCE)
  28.  Firework (Katy Perry)
  29.  Dancing in the Moonlight (Toploader)
  30.  Middle of a Heartbreak (Leland)
  31.  Classic (MKTO)
  32.  Wild Thoughts (DJ Khaled)
  33.  Hand in My Pocket (Alanis Morissette)
  34.  Attention (Charlie Puth)
  35.  Sweet like Cola (Lou Bega)
  36.  Desert Rose (Sting)
  37.  Good Thing (Zedd & Kehlani)
  38.  Talk (Khalid)
  39.  Catch & Release (Matt Simmons)
  40.  Sky Full of Stars (Coldplay)

    To find out more of Mandira’s secrets for being Happy For No Reason, get the book here 🙂