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Restore the Earth – How you can contribute to the 41st Earth Day

Our planet isn’t doing that great. We know that. We hear it, read about it and even talk about it. But what really is the problem? Who is responsible, why is it happening and most importantly, what can we do?

The first step in the direction of change is awareness – understanding the problem and what steps we can take as individuals. And so, Penguin Random House India would like to share a list of some of the books that will help you get started on this journey.


Conflicts of Interest

India’s foremost environmentalist, Sunita Narain, gives a personal account of her battles as part of the country’s green movement. While outlining the enormous environmental challenges that India faces today, Narain talks about how corporate lobbies and political interests often scuttle their effective resolution. Conflicts of Interest also includes an ‘environmental manifesto’, a blueprint for the direction India must take if it is to deal with the exigencies of climate change and environmental degradation.



In this book Ramachandra Guha, an acclaimed historian of the environment, draws on many years of research in three continents. He details the major trends, ideas, campaigns and thinkers within the environmental movement worldwide.

Massive in scope but pointed in analysis, written with passion and verve, this book presents a comprehensive account of a significant social movement of our times and will be of wide interest both within and outside the academy.


Thirsty Nation

Presented in the book are innovative, cutting edge ways to combat the water crisis and ways of investing in the right projects. The roles of technology, finance, and a general view of domestic and foreign investment in water are explored by the authors and practical and lucrative financial advice is offered making it an important book in the present ecological and financial environment.


The Vanishing

The Vanishing takes an unflinching look at the unacknowledged crisis that India’s wildlife faces, bringing to fore the ecocide that the country’s growth story is leaving in its wake—laying to waste its forests, endangering its wildlife, even tigers whose increasing numbers shield the real story of how development projects are tearing their habitat to shreds. It tells us why extinction matters, linking the fate of wildlife to ours.


How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

Bill Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science, and finance, he has focused on what must be done in order to stop the planet’s slide toward certain environmental disaster. In this book, he not only explains why we need to work toward net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases, but also details what we need to do to achieve this profoundly important goal.

Five DIY recipes that will help you to take the first steps to a zero waste life

In this world full of plastic and chemical waste, how can you help save the planet?

Did you know that there will be more plastic than fish in our seas by 2050? Did you know that it takes 20,000 litres of water to make a pair of jeans? Did you know that we have a massive food wastage problem, and yet millions die of hunger each day?

Sahar Mansoor  founder and CEO of Bare Necessities, a zero-waste social enterprise and Tim de Ridder present  Bare Necessities-How to Live A Zero Waste Life is your one-stop guide on how to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle in India. Filled with activities, insights, recipes, tips and how-to guides, it is a must-read for anyone wanting to make a positive change in their life and to our environment.

Read on for five easy-to make recipes that will drastically improve both your own health and that of the environment, while also producing absolutely no waste!


  1. Sustainable behaviour begins with your very first activity of the day-brushing your teeth! This recipe ensures your pearly whites are treated to only clean ingredients, while making sure there are no squeezed out plastic tubes of toothpaste ending up in the landfill.

Peppermint Party Toothpaste

You will need:

  • 1 part baking soda,
  • 1 part coconut oil,
  • A few drops of peppermint essential oil.

All you need to do to get naturally clean teeth is to mix it all together in a bowl until it becomes a paste and then place it in a reusable container for the next time you brush your teeth. While this may taste and appear to be different from the toothpaste you’re used to, it is worth trying out.

  • To use the Peppermint Party Toothpaste:
    • Scoop a tiny dollop with a teaspoon on to your toothbrush (you could start using this and a bamboo toothbrush at the same time) before every use.


  1. Your muscles need to be thoroughly rejuvenated when you begin your day crusading for the environment, Ditch the pricey and plastic packaged bath salts for a simple recipe that is even more effective.

Lemongrass Bath Salt

You will need:

  • 1 part rock salt/Epsom salt/pink Himalayan salt (or a combination of all),
  • A small drizzle of coconut oil,
  • A few drops of lemongrass essential oil,
  • Rose petals.

For a naturally rejuvenating bath, follow this method:

  • Gradually mix each of these ingredients in a bowl in chronological order,
  • Place it into a reusable container for use when you bathe next.


  1. Busy days means sometimes your hair needs and extra kick without an extra hour of shampooing. But store-bought dry shampoos are often aerosol based, which contribute to air pollution and often have chemicals that can damage your hair in the long run. This dry shampoo recipe is safe for both cake and your hair!

Dessert Dry Shampoo

You will need:

  • 1 part cornflour,
  • 1 part cocoa powder,

All you need to do is put the cocoa powder into a bowl, followed  by the cornflour. This one is really easy to make, with no complications involved:

  • Stir the two ingredients with a spoon until there are no distinct ingredients, that is, you can no longer see any white from the cornflour. The mix should be light brown in colour.
  • Place this in a container for you to use when you need it.


  1. There’s nothing more infuriating or exhausting to handle than a clogged drain whether in the bath or in the kitchen! While you might be tempted to pour plastic sachets of commercial drain cleaner down the pipes, do the water bodies in your area a favour and stop pollution at its source with our much more environmentally friendly concoction.

Pipe Cleanse-Unclog Your Drain

You will need:

  • 1⁄2 cup baking soda,
  • 1⁄2 cup white vinegar,
  • A wet cloth,
  • Hot water.

Unclog your drain by:

  • Pouring the baking soda down the drain,
  • Follow with white vinegar,
  • Cover the opening with the wet cloth
  • Let it sit for 5–20 minutes (based on how clogged your drain is),
  • Pour some hot water down the drain.

This trick will work wonders for mild clogs!


  1. After a long day of saving the environment one small step at a time,  unwind and pamper yourself with this nourishing facemask.

FaceTime (as nature intended)  Facemask

You will need:

  • 1 tablespoon rice flour,
  • A pinch of turmeric,
  • 1 teaspoon honey,
  • 1 tablespoon of mashed banana, tomato, orange, papaya or pineapple.

All you have to do is:

  • Blend the dry ingredients together,
  • Drizzle some honey to form a paste-like consistency,
  • Finish off by adding your preferred fruit in.

Use it like any other face mask. It is a great natural alternative that will provide you with supple, hydrated skin. However, make sure you only use this mask once a week.


The three critical rules of working as a consultant

Management consulting is seen as a glamorous profession. But behind the mystique are the consultants who put in extraordinary effort, cultivate great problem-solving skills and display fine personal attributes to capture the attention and respect of their clients.

The Mind of a Consultant opens up that world to the readers through the story of Samantha Thomas, a character modelled on many excellent consultants, who gives us a glimpse of what goes on inside the mind of a consultant.

Here is an excerpt from when Samanta is an intern and learns the three critical rules of working as a consultant.


‘Is the presentation ready?’ Hamid was unapologetic in his question.

It was 2 a.m. Samanta had been working for more than eighteen hours straight on the presentation for the client leadership team that was to be presented the next day. She was expected to be part of the presenting team alongside Hamid, the project manager and partner who owned the account. Hamid was six years her senior and from the same institute she was attending. He was highly respected by his colleagues and the project team members looked to him for guidance.

She thought back over the past few weeks, remembering the first day she had arrived at Pinnacle for her internship. It was like a dream come true. Her first official day as an intern at Pinnacle. She, along with thirty-five fellow interns from some of the best management institutes in the world, had been participating in the internship orientation. Two of the senior partners and a few engagement managers who could make it were part of the two-day programme.

While partners spoke about the culture and the attributes of great consultants, the engagement managers were more operational. They spoke about the tools and the support that were available to interns. They shared Pinnacle’s knowledge base, along with templates for ppts and Excel sheets, which were life-savers for the interns when they started out.

At the end of the second day, the interns were provided with laptops and their project assignments. Samanta was assigned to a large organization-transformation project in the retail industry. The organization was exploring strategies to enhance growth and increase efficiency amid changing industry dynamics. Her project manager for the assignment was Hamid. At the time, Hamid was participating in more than half a dozen similar assignments worldwide. He was always up to date on the latest happenings in the industry and often considered an expert in the field.

The first time Samanta and Raghav, a fellow intern, met Hamid to work on the project, he came across as passionate and knowledgeable. It was obvious that he was an accomplished consultant.

‘I want you guys to challenge me,’ he told them. ‘it’s important that you get a head start and not waste time doing things that don’t matter to this project.’

He gave them presentations and materials to read, a brief on the client requirements and the names of some resources in the firm that he thought could be helpful.

‘Get ready to fly out tomorrow to meet the client,’ he said. ‘We’re having meetings with some of the key management team members before doing a few store visits to understand their set-up. You need to be up to speed on everything that we know about the client by then.’

One thing Samanta learnt from Day One was that consulting constantly needed one to learn and travel. That was the best part about being at Pinnacle. It treated its team members as star talent, and believed that its people could figure out a way to deliver on even the toughest assignments.

Samanta and Raghav spent their time leading up to their trip reading more on the retail industry in general and the company in particular. Pinnacle had some wonderful case studies and industry knowledge available that they found helpful. There were different terminology and business metrics that Samanta and Raghav had never encountered before, but Hamid encouraged them to learn all of it, and learn it well.

‘You don’t want to be seen as novices. You should be able to ask and understand questions in areas that are relevant even to the CEO.’

The following day, Samanta, Raghav and Hamid started on their trip to see the client. Samanta had been told that she was lucky to be doing her first project with Hamid, so she took advantage of the uninterrupted cab drive to ask him questions. there was one in particular she couldn’t help asking.

‘How did you earn so much respect from your peers?’

Hamid raised his eyebrow at her, a smile on his face. Samanta shifted uncomfortably in her seat. She was probably the first intern to ever ask him that.

Hamid gave a short laugh at her discomfort before answering. ‘How do you think, Sammy? And you too, Raghav.’ Samanta thought for a moment. There were several possible reasons, or, more likely, a combination of several of them.

Raghav chimed in first. ‘Maybe hard work? or domain knowledge?’

Samanta nodded. She had been thinking along the same lines. She added her own thoughts. ‘I would think project-management expertise would have something to do with it. Is that part of the reason?’

Hamid nodded and smiled. ‘All of those are correct, but there are three main rules I live by in this firm.’ he held up his fingers as he counted them off.

‘Rule 1: strive for knowledge.

‘Rule 2: build your best coalition.

‘Rule 3: Always be ahead of the client.

‘Each of these is critical when working as a consultant.’

The Mind of a Consultant hands you all the tools necessary to build a successful professional career in an easy-to-understand manner.

Seven Fascinating Gastronomic Glimpses into Rana Culture and Cuisine

What happens when two distinct regal cultures come together in the hands of a lady who is both a wonderful conversationalist and a wonderful cook?

The Rana name has been synonymous with the history and culture of Nepal for centuries. The beautiful palaces of Nepal were known not only for their glamour and architecture but also for their royal feasts. The recipes of the food served were closely guarded by the cooks of the palaces and a lucky few who inherited them from earlier generations. Rohini Rana has collected and documented the recipes precious to each Rana prime minister’s family.

Showcasing magnificent food from the palaces, this luxurious and beautifully illustrated cookbook attempts to preserve these recipes for future generations, and posterity, while also giving quaint snippets of the history and unique cultural practices that shaped the creation and ingestion of this delightful cuisine.  Read on for some of these very  interesting gastronomic glimpses.


1-Fascinating and often contradictory customs existed side side by side especially  when it came to non-vegetarian food

Certain meats were totally taboo and never crossed the thresholds of the bhanchas (kitchens) of the Bajais’ dominated realms. Pork was considered unhealthy and not partaken of inside the palace kitchens or dining hall. However, the wild boar held a prestigious position in all joyous occasions.


  1. The interesting overlap of military and culinary history is evinced in the unlikely influence of Awadhi cuisine brought about by Nepalese help granted to the British during the 1857 War of Independence.

The local cuisine was influenced to a certain extent by the khansamas (cooks) brought in from Mughal India after the loot of Lucknow during Jung Bahadur’s time. Since then the Khansamas and the Nepalese Bajaes and ‘Bajais’ (Bhramin men and women worked in tandem, though in separate kitchens, perfecting a style of fusion cuisine that has become famous being unique in its Rana flavor.


  1. An oft-overlooked description from the Ramayana became the basis for the tradition of a truly grand feast of 84 dishes which is the mainstay of most Rana ceremonies even today

The main ceremony, which totally involves and rotates around food is the Chaurasi Byanjan. This ceremony is still a must during Pasni (rice feeding of a child), Bartamand (sacred thread Ritual) and Biyah (wedding). This tradition goes back to the epical story of the Ramayan and the wedding celebration of Sita’s marriage to Ram where King Janak is supposed to have served 84 Chaurasi (varieties of food) at the banquet.


  1. This strange (but strangely reasonable) taboo on what is probably one of the most commonly eaten poultry.

The only bird that did not reach their ornate platters was the common chicken, because it pecked at dirt and droppings so was not considered hygienic. With the waning of shikar trips and shikaris the chicken finally found its way to the cooking pot, although in a separate kitchen.


  1. Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day around the world, but the Ranas certainly bucked tradition in this regard.

Coming to the meal patterns of the Rana households, breakfast was not common if taken at all. Lunch was the main meal usually had at 10 am in the traditional ‘junar ko bhancha’ or room adjoining the kitchen.


  1. Despite the Ranas’ progressive social reforms in many ways, caste rigidity dominated the culinary department.

The Ranas were extremely orthodox in their eating habits and never partook of rice cooked by any other than a Brahmin or someone of the same caste as themselves. There are many interesting stories of Jung Bahadur creating quite a few faux pas at Queen Victoria’s dining table because of his fastidiousness.}


  1. Rice seemed to have a very special role even amidst the plethora of Rana dishes considering it had to be eaten in a specified room!

Dinner was usually at 6 or 7 pm served in the rooms upstairs with a variety of rotis, cheura meat and vegetables. If rice was being served, it had to be partaken of in the junar ko bhancha again

Making Excellence A Habit – A chat with the man who tells us how

 Dr Mohan is one of the few practicing doctors in India who have contributed to research, education and charity in such a large measure. His book, Making Excellence a Habit documents the fundamentals of what makes a person achieve meaningful success. 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 interview with the man himself on his proudest moments, people that inspire him, and his writing a book!


  1. When you look back, what are some of your proudest moments?

            Establishing the largest chain of diabetes centers in the world, and the sustained growth and development of the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation as well as our Education Academy and the charitable clinics that we run are some of the proudest and most fulfilling moments of my life.

When I started working with my father in 1971, there was not a single private hospital or centre dedicated to diabetes in the country. Today, diabetes has become a much sought-after specialty and everybody wants to practice diabetes. This, I think, is largely a reflection of the 50 years of our work which went into building up the specialty of diabetes. Perhaps, my greatest satisfaction is that, without any formal Government or University backing or support we have been able to contribute a large chunk of the diabetes research done in India and our work has helped to place India on the world map of diabetes research. Looking back, these are very satisfying indeed.


  1. Who are some of the people that inspire you?

I have several people who have inspired me in different ways. Firstly, my spiritual Guru, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, for, it was He who demonstrated to the world that it is possible to offer world class health care for the poor, completely free of cost. My father Prof. M. Viswanathan was my mentor and it was he who brought me into this field of diabetology. My wife, Dr. Rema Mohan was a very strong-willed person, who battled cancer while contributing extensively to her field, diabetic retinopathy. In the medical field, Dr. Venkatswamy, the founder of Aravind Eye Hospital and Dr.S.S. Badrinath, the founder of Sankara Nethralaya inspired me a lot, as did Dr. Anji Reddy, Chairman of Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories and Dr.N.K.Ganguly, the Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research.


  1. Will you write a second book? 

            I would definitely like to write a second book if I can find the time to do it.


  1. How did you manage to write a book alongside your busy schedule?

           I would say that it was my passion to write and to inspire youngsters which kept me going. Although it did take some time, I am happy I was able to eventually complete it.


  1. If you could give advice to an inspiring writer, what would it be?

           My advice to aspiring writers would be to tell their stories with as much human interest as possible as people love to hear stories that are told well. There should also be a message for the readers, particularly for youngsters who should get inspired to achieve excellence in whatever they do. Whichever the type of book that the writer is attempting to write, he or she should spend enough time thinking about it and to see how it will be useful to society.


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.

Battling Infertility and what they don’t tell you

What’s a Lemon Squeezer Doing in My Vagina? is a witty, moving and intensely personal retelling of Rohini’s five-year-long battle with infertility, capturing the indignities of medical procedures, the sting of prying questions from friends and strangers, the disproportionate burden of treatment on the woman, the everyday anxieties about wayward hormones, follicles and embryos and the overarching anxiety about the outcome of the treatment.


Here is an excerpt from the chapter where she first encounters a lemon squeezer.


I heard of ‘artificial insemination’ for the first time in a Malayalam movie when I was eight or nine years old. It was Malayalam cinema’s cult classic Dasharatham (1989), which was so ahead of its time that even now I am not sure if its time has come. A leading mainstream actor, Mohanlal, plays a rich, spoilt man-child who decides to act on a whim and have a child through surrogacy. He finds a desperate woman who needs money for her ailing footballer husband’s medical treatment and agrees to rent her womb. They draw up a contract, turn up for the procedure, and fifteen days later she is pregnant! No failed attempts, cancelled cycles or any other complications. With this movie lodged in my brain for reference, I thought fertility treatments were an easy-peasy lemon-squeezy affair. To be fair to the movie, it is not about infertility. It’s about a healthy, fertile couple who use artificial insemination for conception. It may well have happened that quickly and effortlessly in real life too. But the movie glosses over the unseemliness and hardships of the treatment. For those who have seen the movie, I hate to burst your bubble. Welcome to the world of ART.

I began our first IUI in July 2011 with the earnestness of a debutant, expecting early and prompt success. I had not dealt with sickness or physical incapacity in any significant manner until then, being blessed with a constitution that rarely fell prey to illness. I sailed through ten years of school without any noteworthy episodes of fever. My haemoglobin level typically hovered near the fourteen mark. When Ranjith caught the swine flu, despite my being in close contact with him my natural immunity provided the necessary shield against the deadly virus. My good health was my secret pride and I had taken it for granted all my life, expecting the body to tag along in whichever direction I pulled it. Therefore when we started treatment I anticipated the same level of responsiveness and performance from it. But for the first time, my body, specifically the reproductive apparatus, proved to be a terrible let-down, insolently ignoring my instructions.

The procedure itself was relatively simple with only a few key steps. The first step was pills to stimulate my ovaries to release multiple eggs. The second was follicular study. Follicles are tiny fluid-filled balloons in the ovaries that function as the home of the egg. They may expand from the size of a sesame seed (2 millimetres) to the size of a large kidney bean (18 mm to 25 mm) during the course of the menstrual cycle, eventually bursting to push the egg out. The follicles are measured at regular intervals during a cycle to ascertain if they have matured and are ready to release the egg. This is done through a transvaginal ultrasound (TVS).

I was not a big fan of TVS. It involved insertion of a long, slim plastic probe into my vagina and twisting it around to get a close look at the uterus. Magnified images of the uterus appeared on a computer screen. I was appalled the first time when the doctor covered the transducer with a condom and dipped it in lubricating gel, indicating that it had to enter an orifice in my body. I thought that scans, by definition, were non-invasive. It caused some discomfort, but it was not very painful. Eventually, I learnt to relax my muscles and spread my legs far apart to make things easier. I wished I didn’t have to get a TVS, but if I had to then I could tolerate it.

The cycle got off on the wrong foot from the very beginning. The first ultrasound showed only one big-enough follicular blob (at 13 mm). The other four or five follicles were too small, indicating they might not reach maturity. This meant I might have only one egg despite taking drugs to stimulate the release of many.

In the next ultrasound, my ovarian plight did not show improvement. The lead follicle was still only at 15 mm (way below the 18 mm mark of maturity) and the others had not grown at all, looking like they were giving up on ovulation altogether.

There were no outward symptoms to show if the follicles were fattening or dying (this is true for most reproductive processes). So at every ultrasound I went in expecting miracle growth, only to be told that my seeds were lagging poorly behind. I felt helpless at the response from my body because there was nothing I could do to expand the follicles. If it were an outwardly manifest condition I could have applied my inner reserves of resolve and determination to improve the outcomes, in the same way that I would do daily exercise and physiotherapy to regain strength in an injured leg. But my action, or inaction, had no bearing on the ungovernable follicles.

We waited a couple of more days and did a third ultrasound. This time the news was worse. The lead follicle had ruptured; it hadn’t waited for the others to catch up or even to reach its own full maturity. There was nothing left to do but to hurriedly put the sperm inside the uterus since an egg (presumably underdeveloped) had arrived and was waiting. The sperm transfer was scheduled for the same day.

what’s a lemon squeezer doing in my vagina | Rohini S. Rajagopal

I rang up my manager and said I would be taking the day off to address a personal emergency. An hour later, Ranjith drove in from his office to give a semen sample. He came in, gave the semen sample and left. He did not stay any longer because he had meetings that could not be rescheduled at such short notice.

I had come to the clinic at eight in the morning assuming I would just pop in for the ultrasound and pop out. An easy day with only the bother of TVS. But when I heard that I would have to stay back for the IUI, I inwardly experienced a mini-heart attack. Early on, while describing the procedure, Dr Leela had mentioned that the sperm would be injected inside the uterus using a catheter. Having heard the words ‘inject’ and ‘catheter’ in conjunction with my vagina, I thought it best to look up the process in detail on the Internet. One of the first search results showed that during an IUI the doctor uses a ‘speculum’ to pass the catheter into the uterus. It was a surgical instrument inserted inside the vagina or anus to dilate the area and give the doctor a better view. I did a quick search on Google Images to know what it looked like. The photos that flashed on my screen sent ripples of shock through

my system. It looked like the stainless-steel lemon squeezer found in a kitchen. It was made of metal and about the same size as the kitchen tool. It had two blades to widen and hold open the vagina and a third handle with a screw to lock the instrument into place.

What’s a Lemon Squeezer Doing in my Vagina offers a no-holds-barred view of Rohini S. Rajagopal’s circuitous and highly bumpy road to motherhood.

Seven lessons on the meaning of courage from Of Revolutionaries And Bravehearts

History is often narrated as sagas of kings and queens, legends of battles and wars, or chronicles of art and architecture. But history is more than that. It is the story of ordinary people; their food and language, their thoughts and beliefs, their livelihood and culture. Tales of sweepers and sculptors, robbers and merchants, sailors and saint-why, even pirates!

In Of Revolutionaries and Bravehearts, Mallika Ravikumar pens eight historical stories that will change the way you look at history and give you an entirely new perspective on what it means, and what it takes to be courageous, for all of history is built by someone who displayed truly incredible grit and courage, even if their determination is not always recognized as courage.

Read on to find out some of the most important lessons on courage, taught to us by the ‘revolutionaries and bravehearts of Mallika Ravikumar’s insightful and thrilling book.

  • It takes extraordinary courage to challenge what has always been presented as the truth, but it is those very insidious ‘truths’ that need to be challenged.

Aruna closed her eyes and sang along. She did not fear climbing the tallest trees. She did not fear jumping into the deepest wells. She would not fear crooked truths!

  • The most important form of courage to cultivate is to raise your voice against injustice, particularly an injustice that does not affect you directly

“Please Guruji, please!” a chant of pleas arose from all around. Sane Guruji belonged to the priestly class. Yet, he felt the bite of injustice suffered by the untouchables. It had been nine days since he’d eaten. Could he give up now?

  • Courage, even on the battlefield manifests in different ways not just in bravado or military prowess, but in compassion, empathy and an almost invisible helping hand.

Ignoring his condition, Sukha continued to serve. In his own silent way, he tried also to comfort those in pain, offering them a patient ear, a gentle nod in their most trying moments. Nobody noticed him. Nobody knew his name. After all, he was just the sweeper.

  • Sometimes the basis of courage is recognizing one’s individual responsibility to make a change even if it appears to be just a drop in the ocean.

This is not child’s play!” her grandfather said calmly, putting his hand on the young girl’s shoulders. “The nation’s problems cannot be sorted out by you!” “Then who?” Kanakalata shot back. “If each of us thinks so, how can anything change?

  • There is courage indeed in non-violent and peaceful protest, as evident in the actions of the teenaged Kanaklata Barua and her young colleagues at the Mrityu Bahini who gave up their lives to hoist the flag during India’s freedom struggle.

Each of the young girls went down with the flag held high. Passing it on to the next in line before a bullet robbed them of their lives. Not one of them fought back. Not one of them turned on the police, although they were many more in number. Not one of the let out an abusive word or cry or curse. Like trained soldiers, they followed their oath and sacrificed themselves for what they held so dear.

  • Courage is just as evident in the act of creation, though creation in itself rarely credit for the bravery and determination that is often required to create a work of art that will last the test time of time, in the most tumultuous of times.

‘Vidyadhara, one day, I will be gone and so will this empire,’ Mahendra Varman had said to him once many years ago. ‘But our legacy in stone will outlive us all. Generations to come will see these beautifully sculpted figures on the shores of Mamallapuram and remember that a king once walked the land who cared more for art than war.’

Sometime the greatest and most underrated courage is that displayed in the quotidian lives of ordinary people such as traders, merchants and craftspeople who often battle extraordinary odds to simply live productive lives and who have a role to play in making history in their own little way.

Weeks together at sea. Months away from home. Years upon years of hard work. Overcoming storms. Escaping pirates. Battling all odds, a famine-stricken young boy had emerged out of the dead weight of destiny to claim a decent life for himself.

Of Revolutionaries And Bravehearts | Mallika Ravikumar







What is the human cost of shame?

In the early dawn one day in 2014, a man discovered the dead bodies of 14-year-old Lalli Shakya and 16-year-old Padma Shakya hanging from a mango tree on the edge of their village in Uttar Pradesh. Upon hearing of the discovery and reaching the bodies, the grief-stricken women of the family formed a protective shield around the tree. They knew that if their girls were taken down immediately, they would be forgotten, lost in a brutally inefficient and prejudiced system; but if media arrived, and photos of the bodies went viral, those in power could not ignore the deaths and justice would be served.

A shattering, utterly immersive work of investigative journalism, based on years of meticulous reportage The Good Girls slips behind political maneuvering, caste systems and codes of honour in a village in northern India to uncover the real story behind the tragic deaths of two teenage girls and an epidemic of violence against women. Read on for a glimpse into the devastating fault lines created by caste, gender, technology and revealed by a tragedy that shook the imagination and hopefully the conscience of a nation.



In the year that Padma and Lalli went missing, 12,361 people were kidnapped and abducted in Uttar Pradesh, accounting for 16 per cent of all such crimes in India. Across the country, one child went missing every eight minutes, said Kailash Satyarthi, who went on to jointly win the Nobel Peace Prize with Malala Yousafzai. And these were just the reported cases. The economist Abhijit Banerjee, who later also jointly won a Nobel Prize for his approach to alleviating global poverty, explained that ‘parents may be reluctant to report children who ran away as a result of abuse, sexual and otherwise.’ He added that this was likely ‘rampant’. In fact, some parents sold their children or deliberately allowed unwanted daughters to stray in busy marketplaces. No one reported them missing, and so, no one looked for them. Even in a tiny village like Katra where everyone was of the same social class, the Shakya family believed that the police would still take sides. They would choose to favour the person of their caste. And told that the culprit was Yadav, they would most likely wave away the Shakyas, being Yadavs themselves. ‘Raat gayi toh baat gayi,’ they would say, grunting back to sleep. The night has concluded and so has the incident. ‘It was easy to ask why we didn’t immediately go to the chowki,’ Jeevan Lal would later complain. Time was scarce and he preferred not to waste it on a thankless task. There was, however, another reason that Padma’s father held back. By 10.15 p.m., a dozen men were searching for Padma and Lalli in the Shakya family plots. Some in the group assumed that the girls were injured and unable to call for help. Around the search party, termites crawled, mosquitoes buzzed and moths fluttered. As the heat drained out, the field rustled with snakes slipping back into their holes. Nazru excused himself – to eat dinner, he said. The others waded through the upturned earth of Jeevan Lal’s property. They tramped into the orchard. They arrived at the dagger-leafed eucalyptus grove. They went as far as the tube well that adjoined the Yadav hamlet. They moved quickly and, at the request of Padma’s father, they didn’t call out the girls’ names. They were as quiet as they could be. A villager who lived some 400 feet from the Shakya plots had gone into the fields to empty his bladder several times that night, but when questioned about it later he said he didn’t hear or see anything. Certainly, there was nothing to suggest that a group of men armed with torches and tall, heavy sticks were in search of missing children. Jeevan Lal didn’t need to spell out what was at stake, but he did anyway: ‘Our daughters are unmarried,’ he said. ‘Why would we ruin their chances of finding a good match?’ The other villagers would have asked why the girls had been allowed out at night with a phone, and without a chaperone. ‘There’s no point crying after the birds have eaten the harvest,’ they would have said. But the girls had been taken by Pappu. Nazru had said so – and Jeevan Lal knew this, even if the others didn’t. ‘This is the sort of place where people cause a commotion over a missing goat,’ a village storekeeper later said. ‘If the girls were taken by Pappu, as Nazru said, why didn’t the family make any noise or call out to anyone?’ They didn’t, because it wasn’t just the girls’ honour that was at stake, it was the family’s too. And the family had to live in the village. And so, just like that, in less than an hour since they were gone, Padma was no longer the quick-tempered one. Lalli was no longer the faithful partner in crime. Who they were, and what had happened to them, was already less important than what their disappearance meant to the status of the people left behind.

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?