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We The People: establishing rights and deepening democracy

A regime of economic rights constitutes a blow against the spontaneity of capitalism. Therefore, this regime cannot be instituted except through struggles, that is, through collective action. Hence, even though the rights may be individually enjoyed, they can come into being only through a collective struggle. The collective struggle of the workers that is needed for achieving a set of individual rights, including above all a set of economic rights, already makes the workers transcend their individualism.

…Furthermore, the unprecedented crisis caused by the pandemic and the lockdown have created both a clear necessity for the state to meet its obligations with regards to these rights, and greater public awareness of the costs of not meeting them. This can therefore provide an opportune moment in which to rethink the social contract between people and the state in ways that would ensure the future realization of these basic rights.

Oxfam released its 2019 inequality report titled Public Good or Private Wealth? during the World Economic Forum at Davos… The fulcrum of the Oxfam report is the trend of growing inequality in the world, which is reflected in the tremendous concentration of wealth amongst a few individuals and a small number of TNCs (transnational corporations). The report says that twenty-six individuals (not surprisingly, all men) have more wealth than the bottom 50 per cent of the global population. Globally, the number of billionaires has doubled since the financial crisis. India has added eighteen new billionaires in the last year, raising the number of billionaires in the country to 119. In 2018, the total wealth of India increased by $151 billion (Rs 10,591 billion). However, the wealth of the top 1 per cent increased by 39 per cent, whereas the wealth of the bottom 50 per cent increased by a dismal 3 per cent.3

According to the India Inequality Report 2018, India is home to 17 per cent of the world’s population; it is also home to the largest number of people living below the World Bank’s international poverty line measure of $1.90 per day… In the chapter titled ‘Grip of Inequality’, in the 2013 book An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions, economists Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen state that inequality may be rising in the last couple of decades but India has a historical legacy for multiple social inequalities… Drèze and Sen show how caste hierarchies have bred inequality. They look at a 1901 study12 that compared the literacy rates of Brahmins and Dalits. The study showed that in most regions, a majority of Brahmin men were already literate (in Baroda, up to 73 per cent). At the other end of the spectrum was the literacy rate among Dalit women, which was zero in most states. Dalit men achieved a literacy rate of at the most 1 per cent and Brahmin women a maximum of 6 per cent. The data showed a clear gender and caste monopoly of education back then.13

Education and health are central to achieving a dignified life for all. While the Constitution of India now explicitly recognizes the right to education, a number of Supreme Court judgments and the spirit of the Directive Principles of the Indian Constitution imply that the right to healthcare is also something that is accepted… While there have been significant improvements, health and education outcomes in India still remain poor and uneven, calling for continued and greater investments in these sectors with reforms to strengthen the government programmes in a manner such that they deliver.

The crisis in public health became even more apparent in the wake of COVID-19, which exposed the huge gaps in health infrastructure and access to personal protective equipment (PPE), staff, test kits and so on… Health allocations have been historically low, with currently only about 1.4 per cent of GDP being allocated to health, while the National Policy on Health, 2017, makes a commitment of spending 2.5 per cent of GDP on health by 2025.2 The Union government’s spending on health as a percentage of the GDP reached an all-time low in 2015–16, even lower than in the much-tainted early 1990s.3 Given such a low base, the Government of India announced only an additional Rs 15,000 crore (~0.1 per cent of GDP) in March 2020 for COVID-19 emergency response and health system preparedness.

[In Kerala, redistributive] measures—such as land reforms, collective bargaining for higher wages and public provisioning of education, healthcare, food and social security and so on—ensured that the average citizen is assured of the basic needs that uphold human dignity… Access to government schools and hospitals was given to all sections of society, even in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Rights-consciousness among the backward classes, inculcated by social reform initiatives, enabled them to fully utilize these opportunities.

It was against such a background that the People’s Plan was launched in August 1996… The People’s Plan approach consciously embodied the spirit of rights-based development… Most of the people-related functions such as health, education, women and child development, SC/ST development, agriculture-related development, poverty alleviation, the provision of basic needs like housing, sanitation, water supply, etc. were entrusted to local governments at the cutting-edge level—village panchayats, municipalities and corporations.

[…] The big lesson from Kerala is that the potential for participatory rights-based development is real and achievable in local governments. But nothing is ‘per se’ or ‘ipso facto’; there is a need for proactive policy by the government, which has to be translated into purposive processes and procedures with active involvement, support and guidance from the fraternity of believers in democratic decentralization, inclusion and participatory development from all sections of the society.

 

[The Fourth volume in the Rethinking India series, We The People covers a range of questions and incites conversations that are important and immediate. To delve deeper, get your copy today!]

Acid – An Excerpt

 
Sangeetha Sreenivasan’s remarkable debut Acid is a gripping tale that attempts to subvert the conventions of society. The narrative is fuelled by the intense romance between Kamala and Shaly who stay in the same house as Kamala’s sons, Shiva and Aadi. Shiva and Aadi stay downstairs and take care of each other in their own way.
When Kamala’s mother dies, she returns to Kerala—to an ancestral house lying next to the cremation grounds in Cochin’s outlying reaches. Although an uneasy place for her, the place, nevertheless, is home. However, nothing can prepare her for the devastation that ensues in this lyrical, hallucinatory trip of a story.
Here is an excerpt from the novel:
—————————————————————————————————————————
In the kitchen Aadi set some milk to boil, his heart pounding all the while and his lips trembling. He did not remember much about his grandmother, though. He was worried about his mother, now an orphan bereft of someone to guide her.
By the time Shaly came back, she had regained her composure and she cautioned Aadi in a carefree manner to watch the coffee, which was boiling over. She shut the flame off and accidentally knocked the lighter down, but let it remain there. The bright red polish still shone on her nails, especially on her toes. After Aadi had gone to Shiva’s room with the tray of coffee and biscuits, she picked up the lighter and lit the stove again and prepared some tea.
She had to push the door open with her leg as she was holding a tray laden with a teapot, cups, biscuits, toast and marmalade. Kamala stood beside the table, unmindful of her shouts or reluctant to open the door. She took no notice of the tray Shaly placed on the table. Instead, she stood there listening to some lone voices from within. Shaly should have been bitter about this, but her poise betrayed only signs of suppressed anger, shrouded in grace. When Shaly noticed Kamala’s eyes closed in rapture she pulled her up by the hair and hit her hard across the face, anyway. ‘What the hell!’ said Shaly.
Kamala stepped back and carelessly knocked the teapot over with her hand, spilling the hot tea onto the floor.
‘I’m going to kill you, you bitch!’ Shaly tried to thrust her fingers into Kamala’s mouth, with a force sufficient to scoop out the insides—the tongue, uvula, teeth and everything—but anticipating the worst, Kamala pursed her lips disgustedly and forced them out, so that Shaly had to give up.
In consequence, acid took the reins. It designed the maps of convulsed ecstasy under Kamala’s tongue. Soon it would travel, numbing whatever it touched on the way until Kamala was numb to the world outside her eyes. Red kangaroos wearing lucky horseshoes would race up to her brain, making her forget her present, past and future in the haze of dust their hooves would raise. Neurons would mount on camels obscured by clouds to take her for a short pleasure ride.
‘Bastard! What do you think of yourself? You stupid slut!’ Shaly shook her hard; slapped her harder still. Kamala didn’t seem to be in pain. Yet she covered her face in her hands and squatted on the floor. ‘Everything happens because of you, Kamala! How many times have I warned you against taking those dumb godforsaken pills? But you don’t listen. You are on medication. Do you hear me?’ Tea pooled in the wooden depression on the floor.
Shaly went out to fetch a mop, saw Aadi on the stairs and yelled, ‘What the hell do you want? Get out of here.’
It was not easy for Shaly to compose herself this time. After a while, she tried to fake a sympathetic look and walked to the children’s room, pretending everything was under control. Before she knocked on the door she said to herself, ‘Kams is a horrible woman. Everything here is garbage,’ and smiled.
Still smiling, she asked the boys, ‘Shall I get you breakfast?’ The boys looked at each other and then at her. ‘What about grandma? Are we not going to see her?’ Shiva asked solemnly.
Shaly was about to say something but suddenly the sound of the saxophone shook her up and her face turned pale and bare. Music came floating down the stairway.
On the upper floor, Kamala closed the windows, drew the curtains shut and sat on the floor in the corner of her room. She thought she was safe, no harm could ever find her. She stared at the innards of her stereo and laughed thoughtfully.
‘I will bring you toast, please wait,’ Shaly called out from the kitchen, as if the boys were impatient and enthusiastically waiting for something to munch on.
The first two pieces of toast got burned on the frying pan. Shaly wondered from where Kamala had got hold of the hallucinogen again. She had taken it on an empty stomach, in addition to the sleeping pills she had had the night before. Shaly recollected the faces of each and every peddler on the road. Bastards.
Two tiny pieces of eggshell flopped on to the yolks in the pan. White pyramids on yellow balls. She removed the pieces with the edge of a spatula. ‘I should not have left her,’ she said to herself.
No one knew how long a bad trip would last. Kamala’s mother, frozen, white and pale, waited for her daughter in uncertainty while Kamala shut herself up in a room too far away from her mother and mused on something that would never be useful in life. She moved the gears on an unbridled, hysterical ride, on a magic journey some people mistook as life.
On top of her worries, Kamala had a pet dog called Depru. Monsieur Depression. An impalpable ghost of her esteemed hypotheses. It accompanied her wherever she went. A huge bulk, a mass of comfort. A cushioned bundle of sadness. It showed no interest in playing with a ball or a toy, no interest in going out for a walk. Instead, it would mount her shoulders, its weight crushing her. They say dogs make eye contact. It looked straight into Kamala’s eyes like other dogs. But in the mauve shadow of its eyes, a child drowned every second. And Kamala wept, looking at the dying child.
 

 

Eleven Ways to Love: An Excerpt

Love stories coach us to believe that love is selective, somehow, that it can be boxed in and easily defined. Eleven Ways to Love: Essays, is a collection of eleven remarkable essays that widen the frame of reference: transgender romance; body image issues; race relations; disability; polyamory; class differences; queer love; long distance; caste; loneliness; the single life; the bad boy syndrome . . . and so much more.

Here is the foreword of the book written by well-known poet Gulzar.
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Is love selective? No. There is no ideal love, and there is certainly no ideal lover. In this wonderful collection of essays on love, I welcome you to dip into eleven kinds of love: eleven individuals who have had their lives transformed by this very thing.

Here then are eleven ways to love from eleven unusual lovers. I’d like to leave you with a parting thought . . . and a poem of my own.

I have seen the wafting aroma of those eloquent eyes
Do not touch it with your hands and stamp it with a relationship
It’s just a sensation, caress it with your soul
Let love be love, do not label it.
Love is not words, love is not sounds
Love is just a silence that speaks, that hears
Love is unstoppable, love is inextinguishable
Love is a droplet of light shimmering through the ages
Something like a smile is in bloom somewhere in those eyes
Something like sunshine lingers around those eyelids
The lips don’t say a word, but numerous unspoken stories
Hover around their quivering edges
I have seen the wafting aroma of those eloquent eyes . . .
Translated by Sunjoy Shekhar
First published in 100 Lyrics by Gulzar (Penguin India, 2012)

Gulzar

Undercover Princess by Connie Glynn – An Excerpt

Connie Glynn has always loved writing and wrote her first story when she was 6 with her mum at a typewriter acting as the scribe. It was at university that Connie started her hugely successful YouTube channel Noodlerella (named after her favourite food and favourite Disney princess). Her book, Undercover Princess is about a fairy tale obsessed Lottie Pumpkin who starting at the infamous Rosewood Hall, where she was not expecting to share a room with the Crown Princess of Maradova, Ellie Wolf.  Lottie is thrust into the real world of royalty – a world filled with secrets, intrigue and betrayal.
Let’s read an excerpt from the book:
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Princess  Eleanor Prudence  Wolfson, sole heir  of King Alexander Wolfson  and next in line for the throne  of Maradova, did not live in one of  these spaces, nor was she one of these people, but she was in desperate need of both.

‘I am going to this school!’ Eleanor slammed the brochure on the table with a loud thwack, causing the cups of breakfast tea to wobble on top of their saucers.

Alexander Wolfson didn’t even look up from his newspaper to reply.

‘No,’ he said blankly.

‘I  am next  in line for  the Maravish throne.  I think the teeny-tiny  decision of which school  I attend is something I am capable of managing myself.’

Alexander looked up at his wife, Queen Matilde, who was sitting across the table from him.

She  shrugged.  ‘She does have  a point, Alex,’ she  said amiably, delicately dropping a lump of sugar into her teacup and stirring it slowly while stifling a smile.

This was not the parental solidarity King Alexander had been hoping for.

‘See?’ said Eleanor. ‘Even Mum agrees with me.’

Alexander  remained firmly  fixated on his newspaper, feigning  an image of complete composure. He took  a sip of tea.

‘ Edwina –’ he gestured to their  maid – ‘would you kindly take the empty plates to the kitchen, please?’

‘Of  course,  Your Majesty.’  Edwina expertly stacked  the crumb-covered trays and exited the dining hall with a skilled smoothness,  her feet barely making a sound on the oak flooring. The large double doors closed behind her, creaking softly as she eased them shut.

Once Alexander was sure she was a reasonable  distance down the hall, and safely away from any domestic outbursts, he looked back down at his newspaper and said, ‘My answer is no.’

Eleanor let out an exasperated  screech and stamped her foot. ‘You  could at least look at the brochure!’ she  snapped, snatching the newspaper from her father’s fingertips.

Alexander was forced to look up at his daughter.
Eleanor  had always  been a challenging  child. She was anything but a typical princess; she would take fiery political arguments and sneaking out to loud, rowdy concerts over mild polite conversation  any day, and more than anything she despised elaborate formal functions – or at least she assumed she did, having refused to ever attend one. But she was smart, she was confident and she was  passionate – and for Alexander that was all far more important than any of the traditional values expected of her. Although occasionally he did wish she’d watch her language around her grandparents.

As much as he wanted Eleanor to be happy and live a life free of the commitments of royalty, the fact remained that she would be queen one day and would eventually need to accept that responsibility. He was determined to find a way to make his  daughter realize she could enjoy her royal obligations; something he’d had to learn himself when he was younger.
——–
‘What  on earth  are you wearing?’  Ollie’s sarcastic tone drifted  into Lottie’s bedroom. He stood  leaning against the door frame, his  arms crossed as he watched Lottie pack  up the last items in her room.

‘Ollie!’ Lottie’s hand rushed to her chest in shock  at the sudden appearance of her best friend. ‘How did you get up here? And how many times do I have to tell you to knock?’ Lottie  was huffing slightly from trying to squish down her suitcases. Ollie was fourteen, the same age as Lottie, yet even though he  was taller than her he’d retained his baby face, which reminded her of soft-serve ice cream on the beach and other happy memories.

‘I had to sneak past the wicked witch. Did you know her skin’s turned green finally?’ Ollie said with a devilish smile.

Lottie giggled, but she couldn’t ignore his comment. She looked  down at her outfit, brushing down her dress self- consciously. ‘And what exactly is wrong with my outfit?’ she said indignantly.

Ollie laughed, grinning at her with his signature cheeky smile. Clumps of dog hair dotted his jeans, a permanent feature that he never seemed to care about.

‘Isn’t it a little too fancy for the first day of school?’

‘Too fancy?!’ Lottie couldn’t believe he’d suggest something so ridiculous. ‘Nothing is too fancy for Rosewood Hall. I need to fit in. I can’t have my clothes making me an outcast on the first day.’

Lottie began picking at a  non-existent spot on the collar of her  dress. ‘Most of the students probably have their clothes tailor-made out of gold or something.’

Ollie casually strolled into the room, taking a seat  on Lottie’s bed. He pursed his lips as he glanced around the  bedroom. Usually so alive with Lottie’s special brand of handmade quirkiness,  it was now stripped bare, everything she owned crammed into two pink suitcases.

‘Well,’  Ollie began, reaching into his pocket, ‘if you can take a moment off from worrying about  what other people think of you . . .’ He pulled out a crumpled envelope and a worn-out Polaroid  that Lottie recognized from his bedroom wall. ‘These are for you.’

Lottie reached out for them, but Ollie whipped his hand back.

‘You can’t open the letter until you’re on the train.’

Lottie  nodded with  an exasperated  smile and he slowly  placed both gifts in her hand. It was a photograph she’d seen thousands of times: the two of them at the beach, their noses covered in ice cream and beaming grins on both their greedy faces.  Even though the colours had begun to fade to sepia, you could still see the tiara on Lottie’s head and the horns on Ollie’s. As children, the two had demanded to wear these fancy-dress items every day and  everywhere. Ollie had declared he was the fairy Puck from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream after they’d watched an open-air performance at the beach one evening. He’d been completely infatuated with all the mischief the character got away with and  assumed he too could get away with being naughty so long as he was wearing his horns. Lottie’s tiara, on the other hand, had a less happy – go – lucky origin. Her thumb lingered over the accessory in the photo, a little pang striking her heart as she remembered the day she’d received it.

‘I’ll  give you  some time to  say goodbye,’ he  said, before effortlessly picking up both her suitcases and carrying them down the stairs to the car. When he was gone she thoughtfully placed  Ollie’s gifts with the rest of her most important belongings, which she’d laid out on the now-bare bed so as not to forget them. She put each item into her handbag: first the weathered Polaroid and letter from Ollie, followed by her favourite sketchbook, her most loyal stuffed companion, Mr Truffles,  a framed photo of her mother, Marguerite, in her graduation gown, and, finally – looking very out of place among the other objects – a crescent- moon tiara, her most valued possession. It had taken Lottie all of sixty minutes to pack her entire life into two pink suitcases, one denim backpack and a small over- shoulder  handbag with a sturdy white strap. She looked over the now- empty room.

I did it, Mum, she thought. I got into Rosewood just like I promised.
Copyright © Connie Glynn, 2017

Will You Still Love Me, An Excerpt

Ravinder Singh is the bestselling author of I Too Had a Love Story, Can Love Happen Twice?,  Like It Happened Yesterday, Your Dreams Are Mine Now and This Love That Feels Right . His new book, Will You Still Love Me is deeply moving, disturbingly close to reality, and love at its worst and its best.

Here’s an excerpt.
_______________________

Rajveer sat down on his seat and looked at her with newfound feelings. The spectacle of a sleeping beauty kindled a variety of emotions in his heart. Now that he could look at her without feeling self-conscious, Rajveer realized how attractive a woman Lavanya was! His eyes rested on the glowing skin of her face and her neck before they slid down to her waist, to the skin visible between the blouse and the long skirt she wore. He watched the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest as she slept. The tiny sleeves of her blouse clung to her elegantly shaped arms.

Rajveer took in the details of her beauty—her jet-black silky hair that lay softly on her shoulders, her not so long fingers that ended in shapely nails. She possessed a well-toned body many women only craved for. Lavanya wasn’t tall, yet her average frame possessed more than enough charm to be considered quite striking.
Then suddenly she turned her head in her sleep. It made Rajveer immediately retract his gaze. He thanked god that she hadn’t abruptly opened her eyes and caught him staring at her. He then looked around self-consciously to check if anybody else had noticed him doing so. He was safe, he realized.
To distract himself, Rajveer pulled out the Hello 6E from the seat pocket in front of him and began flipping through it. He occasionally checked on Lavanya too, who remained deep in sleep.
More than half an hour passed this way. By then, Rajveer had also pulled out his laptop from his luggage and had begun working on it. Just then he heard the captain’s voice letting passengers know that he had initiated the descent of the plane. This woke up Lavanya from her sleep.
‘Slept well?’ Rajveer asked. There was a sense of familiarity as he spoke and a certain softness.
She rubbed her palms over her face and then looked at him, ‘Yes. I feel so fresh now!’ She smiled.

Then reacting to the announcement that the use of lavatories was not allowed as they had begun descent, Lavanya quickly unbuckled her seat belt. She wanted to use the loo as soon as possible.
Caught by surprise,  Rajveer had to quickly close his laptop, place the in-flight magazine on the middle seat, close the tray table, and then unbuckle himself, all in a rush. Lavanya didn’t have much time. She tried to manoeuvre through the narrow space between Rajveer’s legs and the seat in front. In the process, Rajveer’s knees rubbed against her skirt. Her touch and proximity felt like a jolt of electricity to him. Briefly he found himself staring straight at her bare, slender waist. Gosh! How much he wanted to feel that dewy skin on the tips of his fingers. He got a whiff of her perfume and he inadvertently took in a deep breath.
‘Sorry,’ Lavanya apologized for the discomfort to Rajveer. You are welcome, he said in his mind.

 

12 Rules For Life by Jordan B. Peterson – An Excerpt

Jordan B. Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. Formerly a professor at Harvard University, he was nominated for its prestigious Levenson Teaching Prize.  In this book, 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos,  he combines ancient wisdom with decades of experience to provide twelve profound and challenging principles for how to live a meaningful life, from setting your house in order before criticising others to comparing yourself to who you were yesterday, not someone else today.
Let’s read an excerpt from this fascinating book.
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RULES? MORE RULES? REALLY? Isn’t life complicated enough, restricting enough, without abstract rules that don’t take our unique, individual situations into account? And given that our brains are plastic, and all develop differently based on our life experiences, why even expect that a few rules might be helpful to us all?
People don’t clamour for rules, even in the Bible . . . as when Moses comes down the mountain, after a long absence, bearing the tablets inscribed with ten commandments, and finds the Children of Israel in revelry. They’d been Pharaoh’s slaves and subject to his tyrannical regulations for four hundred years, and after that Moses subjected them to the harsh desert wilderness for another forty years, to purify them of their slavishness. Now, free at last, they are unbridled, and have lost all control as they dance wildly around an idol, a golden calf, displaying all manner of corporeal corruption.
“I’ve got some good news . . . and I’ve got some bad news,” the lawgiver yells to them. “Which do you want first?”
“The good news!” the hedonists reply.
“I got Him from fifteen commandments down to ten!”
“Hallelujah!” cries the unruly crowd. “And the bad?”
“Adultery is still in.”
So rules there will be—but, please, not too many. We are ambivalent about rules, even when we know they are good for us. If we are spirited souls, if we have character, rules seem restrictive, an affront to our sense of agency and our pride in working out our own lives. Why should we be judged according to another’s rule?
And judged we are. After all, God didn’t give Moses “The Ten Suggestions,” he gave Commandments; and if I’m a free agent, my first reaction to a command might just be that nobody, not even God, tells me what to do, even if it’s good for me. But the story of the golden calf also reminds us that without rules we quickly become slaves to our passions—and there’s nothing freeing about that.
And the story suggests something more: unchaperoned, and left to our own untutored judgment, we are quick to aim low and worship qualities that are beneath us—in this case, an artificial animal that brings out our own animal instincts in a completely unregulated way. The old Hebrew story makes it clear how the ancients felt about our prospects for civilized behaviour in the absence of rules that seek to elevate our gaze and raise our standards.
One neat thing about the Bible story is that it doesn’t simply list its rules, as lawyers or legislators or administrators might; it embeds them in a dramatic tale that illustrates why we need them, thereby making them easier to understand. Similarly, in this book Professor Peterson doesn’t just propose his twelve rules, he tells stories, too, bringing to bear his knowledge of many fields as he illustrates and explains why the best rules do not ultimately restrict us but instead facilitate our goals and make for fuller, freer lives…
Order is where the people around you act according to well understood social norms, and remain predictable and cooperative. It’s the world of social structure, explored territory, and familiarity. The state of Order is typically portrayed, symbolically—imaginatively—as masculine. It’s the Wise King and the Tyrant, forever bound together, as society is simultaneously structure and oppression.
Chaos, by contrast, is where—or when—something unexpected happens. Chaos emerges, in trivial form, when you tell a joke at a party with people you think you know and a silent and embarrassing chill falls over the gathering. Chaos is what emerges more catastrophically when you suddenly find yourself without employment, or are betrayed by a lover. As the antithesis of symbolically masculine order, it’s presented imaginatively as feminine. It’s the new and unpredictable suddenly emerging in the midst of the commonplace familiar. It’s Creation and Destruction, the source of new things and the destination of the dead (as nature, as opposed to culture, is simultaneously birth and demise).
Order and chaos are the yang and yin of the famous Taoist symbol: two serpents, head to tail.* Order is the white, masculine serpent; Chaos, its black, feminine counterpart. The black dot in the white— and the white in the black—indicate the possibility of transformation: just when things seem secure, the unknown can loom, unexpectedly and large. Conversely, just when everything seems lost, new order can emerge from catastrophe and chaos.
For the Taoists, meaning is to be found on the border between the ever-entwined pair. To walk that border is to stay on the path of life, the divine Way.
And that’s much better than happiness.
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The Diary of a Domestic Diva by Shilpa Shetty Kundra – An Excerpt

Shilpa Shetty Kundra is a renowned film and TV actor, businesswoman, author of The Great Indian Diet, entrepreneur and health enthusiast. She has always been a trendsetter, whether it be fashion or ideas. In her latest book, The Diary of a Domestic Diva, the actor and entrepreneur brings you fifty of her most special recipes-some of which feature in her popular Sunday Binge videos on Instagram.
Here’s an excerpt from the introduction to this book by Sanjeev Kapoor.
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What I like most about Shilpa’s approach to food is that it’s very honest. She belies the notion many of us have about stars: that they live by strict diets and don’t eat as they please. Shilpa, as you will discover through this book, is a dedicated foodie and loves to eat. I have known her for a long time now and I can tell you that she certainly knows when to stop eating too, one of the key factors in maintaining a healthy body weight.
The Diary of a Domestic Diva is straight from her kitchen and offers a mix of healthy recipes, favourite recipes, famous recipes with a twist and guilt-free desserts. The idea behind the book is very heartening. It features recipes that do not take much of your time and leave you free to do other things. Through this book, she touches upon a beautiful point: Women need not be tied to the kitchen stove all day. Give a woman nutritious and fast-to-cook recipes and she will have the time to step out to do what she pleases. It’s a cookbook with a message: Women ought to have some ‘me’ time. In my conversations with her, she has often mentioned the way, back in the day, her mother (a brilliant cook) would cook with the paucity of time as she was a working woman. I know it is all this that has led her to put together this book for the working woman. Being a family person, every aspect of her life draws from her experiences with people close to her. Her father’s love for food and yet his fitness is another inspiration that has worked so well for her. The recipes mentioned here have been tried out by her and I can vouch for their deliciousness. The fact that I drop everything when there’s an invite to her lovely ome for a meal is proof! The twists she adds to traditional recipes are delightful to say the least. The Diary of a Domestic Diva is about indulging your love for good food. And when such a message comes from one of the fittest people in town, you do sit up and take notice. Shilpa maintains that good food makes us happy and we shouldn’t feel guilty about something that makes us happy, and over the years this is something I have come to believe too.
With this sure-to-be-a-bestseller cookbook, Shilpa also enters the space of celebrity cooks and it delights the chef in me to see the world get so interested in food. It is indeed one more brownie point for the food industry.
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Coffee Can Investing The Low Risk Road to Stupendous Wealth – An Excerpt

Most people invest in the usual assets: real estate, gold, mutual funds, fixed deposits and stock markets. It’s always the same four or five instruments. All they end up making is a measly 8 to 12 per cent per annum. What if there was another way? In Coffee Can Investing, Saurabh will show you how to go about low-risk investments that generate great returns.
Here’s an excerpt from this book.
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The ancient Romans were used to being defeated. Like the rulers of history’s great empires, they could lose battle after battle but still win the war. An empire that cannot sustain a blow and remain standing is not really an empire.” – Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind 18 (2011)
Many historians take the view that the “greatness” of a kingdom or an empire should be measured by its longevity. How long did the empire sustain? How durable was the empire? By this measure the first great empire was arguably the Persian Empire. Founded around 550 BC, it lasted for around 200 years until Alexander the Great brought it to an end in 330 BC by defeating King Darius III. However, if longevity is the measure of a great empire, then the Roman Empire is by some distance the greatest empire that the world has ever seen. Whilst the first Roman republic, headquartered in Rome, lasted from 100 BC to 400 AD, the imperial successor to the Republic lasted for a staggering 1400 years before falling to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. So ubiquitous is the influence of this empire, the language in which we are writing this book, the legal system which underpins the contract between the publisher and the authors of this book, the mathematical concept of compounding which underpins much of this book, all of them come more or less directly from the Roman Empire!
When it comes to investing in stock markets, greatness is defined as ‘the ability of a company to grow whilst sustaining its moats over long periods of time’. This then enables such great companies to sustain superior financial performance over several decades. The Coffee Can philosophy of investing is built using the twin filters to identify great companies that have the DNA to sustain their competitive advantages over 10-20 years (or longer). This is because ‘greatness’, which the coffee can portfolio seeks, is not temporary and it is surely not a short-term phenomenon. Greatness does not change from one quarterly result to another. In fact, great companies can endure difficult economic conditions.
Their growth is not beholden to domestic or global growth – they thrive in economic down cycles as well. Great companies do not get disrupted by evolution in their customers’ preferences or competitors or operational aspects of their business. Their management teams have strategies that deliver results better than their competition can. These great companies effectively separate themselves from competition using these strategies. Over time, they learn from their mistakes and increase the distance between themselves and their competition. Often, such companies appear conservative. However, they do not confuse conservatism with complacency – these companies simply bide their time for making the right moves. These traits are common among great companies and rarely found outside great companies.
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The Diary of a Domestic Diva by Shilpa Shetty Kundra – Recipe Excerpt

Shilpa Shetty Kundra is a renowned film and TV actor, businesswoman, author of The Great Indian Diet, entrepreneur and health enthusiast. With Shilpa Shetty’s quick and hassle-free methods, The Diary of a Domestic Diva makes cooking good food easy. These favourites of the Shetty-Kundra household have been created to give you variety, taste and the occasional food coma.
Let’s read this recipe which will give us a peek into the world of the Domestic Diva!
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Shilpa’s Treasure Pulao
This is a simple pulao recipe that I whip up when I am struggling to decide what to cook. It pairs well with cucumber raita, dal, chicken or any other curry. It’s a permanent fixture at all occasions, arties or pujas at my house and is always appreciated by guests.
Serves: 3
Nutritional value:
768 kcal (Carbs: 53 g,
Protein: 4 g, Fats: 60 g )
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 big onion, julienned
1 bay leaf
3 star anise
2 black cardamoms
5 cloves
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp garam masala
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp black pepper powder
½ cup fresh corn
1 tbsp ghee
1 cup basmati rice, washed and soaked for 15minutes
2 cups water
1 veg or chicken stock cube, soaked in 4 tbsp warm water

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok on medium heat and fry the onions till they are golden brown. Next, add the bay leaf, star anise, black cardamoms and cloves. Mix well.
  2. Add the powdered spices and mix for a couple of minutes till they are fragrant.
  3. Add the corn, making sure it is partly cooked before you add the rice. You can also steam it separately if you want to save time.
  4. Mix in the ghee and the rice, along with water, vegetable stock and lemon juice. Cook for 15 minutes in a pressure cooker. If you want to cook it without pressure, then add 1¾ cup water. Season well and serve hot after removing the whole spices.

Variation: Check if the vegetable cubes are low in salt. Normally, stock cubes are pre-salted, so I hunt for the low-sodium ones. You can substitute corn with green peas or chicken. Nonvegetarians can substitute the vegetable stock cubes with chicken stock cubes.
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The Black Economy in India by Arun Kumar – An Excerpt

Arun Kumar taught economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, till 2015. He has a master’s degree in physics from Delhi University and Princeton University, USA, and a doctorate in economics from JNU. A ground-breaking book, The Black Economy in India in India shows how demonetization is not the way to end the black economy, since what India needs is to empower citizens and make leaders accountable.
Here’s an excerpt from the Prologue.
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The black economy is once again in the news because of the announcement of demonetization of the large-denomination currency notes. It is not that this is the first step that the present government has taken to tackle the black economy. It started its journey by forming a special investigation team (SIT) under a Supreme Court order in 2014. It has got the approval for many bills, for example, on Benami Property, Black Money held abroad and Income Declaration Scheme. But none of them had the same dramatic impact on the economy since they were not comparable in order of magnitude that demonetization is.
The present move will not be able to tackle the black economy but has the potential to devastate the economy. The impact on the poor, the farmers, workers and producers in the unorganized sectors has already been severe. Thus, it is impacting those who never generated black incomes or held much of the high denomination currency notes. According to reports, much of the high-denomination notes issued by the RBI are coming back into the banks. The implication is that those who held substantial black cash have managed to exchange their old notes for new ones. Thus, the culprits who were supposed to be punished by the demonetization have escaped while the innocent have been trapped into standing in queues or by unemployment.
The prime minister promised normalization in fifty days but that cannot happen since so much currency cannot be printed in such a short time. Not only will the currency shortage continue due to insufficient printing capacity but those with black money are first replenishing their coffers causing a shortage of cash available to the public. Further, hoarding is going on. Thus, the economy would suffer for much longer and irreversibilities have already set in, pushing the economy towards a recession.
All this happening in the context of the black economy has again brought this topic to the centre stage. Public curiosity/ awareness of the issue has suddenly increased by leaps and bounds. It is in this context that this book with a new prologue is being issued at this juncture. The prologue discusses the different remedies to tackle the black economy that have been attempted by the present government. It must also be said that the theoretical framework of the book remains as valid today as it did in 1999. In fact, there is a section on demonetization in the book which had argued against taking such a step for precisely the reasons that are playing out today.
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