Explosive found in UP Assembly; Yogi Adityanath seeks NIA probe

first_imgUttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Friday called for an NIA probe after an explosive substance was found near one of the benches of the State Assembly in a major security lapse.The suspicious white powder was discovered by Vidhan Sabha staff on Thursday and had apparently been missed by the House security and dog squads.A forensic probe of the substance revealed it to be Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), Mr. Adityanath said in the Assembly on Friday.The white packet containing the substance weighed 150 grams. The plastic packet was found under the chair of Ram Kobind Chaudhary, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Adityanath informed the House. The forensics arrive in front of Vidhan Sabha at Lucknow on Friday. | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt center_img Expressing concern over the security lapse, the Chief Minister said he has called for an urgent meeting on Assembly security.”PETN found in the Vidhan Bhawan proves that some people are up to some mischief. We need to respond strongly to their mischief. That is why it is necessary for the NIA to probe this and unmask such elements,” Mr. Adityanath said.Mr. Adityanath also said that a proper police verification should be conducted of the Assembly staff as such lapses could be potentially dangerous.”It is difficult to trace this explosive. Only when officials physically check it that it can be traced,” said the chief minister.”It was 150 gm of PETN. 500 gm of PETN is enough to blow the whole Assembly off,”Mr. Adityanath said, ruing the absence of a Quick Response Team in the State even as he speculated that the incident could have been executed in connivance with a militant or terrorist group.Uttar Pradesh Assembly Speaker Hriday Narain Dixit said Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and Quick Response Teams will be deployed at Assembly premises.last_img read more

Farmers’ core panel backs Maratha rally on August 9

first_imgPune: The farmers’ sukanu or core committee, spearheading the farmers’ agitation across the State, has lent its support to the silent rally to be held by the Maratha community in Mumbai on August 9.Committee members had organised a gathering in Pune on Sunday to review the situation on the farmers’ demands.The rally, organised by the Maratha Kranti Morcha to demand reservation in government jobs and education for members of the Maratha community, is expected to see massive participation. The leaders of the core committee said that in support of the Maratha agitation, they will stage sit-ins and rasta roko protests on August 14 and 15, and aim to prevent guardian ministers across Maharashtra from conducting the flag hoisting ceremony on Independence Day. Swabhimani Paksha riftMeanwhile, committee members said there were no differences between Swabhimani Paksha head Raju Shetti and Minister of Agriculture for State Sadabhau Khot, Mr. Shetti’s number two aide in the party. Speaking in Solapur district, Mr. Shetti, in a gesture of rapprochement, expressed confidence that Mr. Khot would not leave the party. “Some people may not be able to stomach the stern discipline necessitated by our [farmers’] movement. But I do not think Sadabhau Khot will exit the party,” he said. He refuted rumours that the Swabhimani Paksha was planning to exit the State government. Relations between the two farmer leaders have been strained for a few months. Mr. Khot, last week, had said he would not appear before any internal party committees, after he was grilled by the party’s core working committee for alleged anti-party activities.last_img read more

Centre approves creation of National Testing Agency

first_imgThe Union Cabinet on Friday approved the creation of a National Testing Agency (NTA) to conduct entrance examinations for higher educational institutions.Its creation will relieve the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) – which conducts exams like the National Eligibilty-cum-Entrance Test – and the All India Council for Technical Education of the burden of conducting entrance tests.The Hindu had first reported on December 13, 2016, about the Centre’s move to set up the NTA.“The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the creation of a National Testing Agency (NTA) as a Society registered under the Indian Society Registration Act, 1860, and as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organization to conduct entrance examinations for higher educational institutions,” said a press release.The NTA will begin by conducting exams managed by the CBSE and gradually conduct other examinations too. “The entrance examinations will be conducted in online mode at least twice a year, thereby giving adequate opportunity to candidates to bring out their best,” the release added. “In order to serve the requirements of the rural students, it would locate the centres at sub-district/district level and as far as possible would undertake hands-on training to the students.”The NTA will be chaired by an eminent educationist appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. There will be a Board of Governors comprising members from user institutions.The Centre will give an initial grant of ₹25-crore to the NTA to start its operations in the first year. Thereafter, it will be self-sustaining.“Establishment of NTA will benefit about 40 lakh students appearing in various entrance examinations. It will… also bring in high reliability, standardized difficulty level for assessing the aptitude, intelligence and problem solving abilities of the students,” the release said.last_img read more

Narendra Modi to hold farmer’s rally in West Bengal on July 16

first_imgPrime Minister Narendra Modi will address a Krishak Kalyan Samavesh (farmer’s welfare rally) in Paschim Medinipur district of West Bengal on July 16.Speaking to The Hindu, BJP State president Dilip Ghosh said the meeting was being organised to congratulate the Prime Minister for raising the minimum support price for kharif crops. “We are hopeful that the Prime Minister will not only criticise the Trinamool government over the plight of farmers in Bengal but will also speak on the Centre’s plans to address the issue,” Mr. Ghosh said. He said the party chose Paschim Medinipur as the venue for the meeting to “capitalise on its performance in the rural polls” in the tribal-dominated Jangalmahal area.BJP’s national spokesperson Shahnawz Hussain said the MSP hike showed the Centre’s commitment to farmers’ welfare. He added that this had become a cause of concern for the Opposition. “In Bengal, the BJP’s support base is steadily increasing. However, Bengal is going through a state of lawlessness under the Trinamool government,” he said in Kolkata.last_img read more

Unnao rape: NHRC notice to U.P. govt.

first_imgThe National Human Rights Commission issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government over the alleged harassment of the Unnao gangrape victim by State authorities, an NHRC statement said on Friday.Taking suo motu cognisance of a media report about the victim accusing the government of harassing and threatening her, the NHRC sought reports from the State Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police within four weeks.The victim had accused BJP MLA Kuldeep Sengar and others of gangrape in 2017. According to a media report, the NHRC said, the victim and her family were being pressured to withdraw the case against Kuldeep Sengar.“The Commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, amount to serious issue of violation of the right to live with dignity of the victim and her family members. It is the responsibility of the State to ensure safe and secure environment for the victim of the sexual assault, her family members as well as the witnesses of the criminal act,” the NHRC statement read.‘Directions ignored’Indicting the State government, the NHRC observed that it seemed earlier directions given on April 10 “were ignored, otherwise the reports of harassment of the victim would have not come to the fore”.last_img read more

Election Commission monitoring happenings on the border: Ashok Lavasa

first_imgThe Election Commission of India (ECI) on Tuesday said it is keeping an eye on developments along the India-Pakistan border, while being “constitutionally bound to perform its duties”.“The ECI is well aware of happenings on the border and we are keeping an eye on every activity. At the same time we are constitutionally bound to perform our duties,” said Ashok Lavasa, Election Commissioner of India. He was addressing a press conference in Mumbai after a two-day visit to Maharashtra to assess the preparedness of the State to conduct the forthcoming general elections. He was responding to whether Tuesday’s air strike in Pakistan and further developments will affect the schedule of the Lok Sabha elections. The ECI team held meetings with political parties, police officials, senior bureaucrats, heads of nodal agencies, railways and postal officials to take stock of the situation. Taking stock “We are happy with the State’s preparations for the polls,” said Mr. Lavasa. The ECI announced that the State, for the first time, will have Voter-verifiable Paper Audit Trail machines at all polling stations. “It was used in the bye-elections that took place in the State, but this time, 100% polling stations in the State will have VVPAT machines,” he announced. Asked about the complaint of inclusion of 44 lakh bogus voters in the electoral list submitted by Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee, Mr. Lavasa said he will be replying to the complainant with ‘action taken’ within 15 days. As per the final publication of electoral rolls on January 31, 2019, the State has 8,73,30,484 voters, of whom 4,57,02,579 are male and 4,16,25,819 female. The State has 2,086 third-gender voters. “The ECI is also considering the option of applying a 48-hour silence period, before the voting day, to the print media,” he said, when asked whether the ECI is contemplating a ban on political advertisements in newspapers on voting day. “That issue has been pending,” he said. During the forthcoming elections, for the first time, accessibility observers will be appointed. At least one polling station managed by women will be in each Assembly segment in the State.Maharashtra has 95,473 polling stations at 49,284 polling locations. The Income Tax Department will deploy quick-response teams throughout the State. In addition, 942 flying squads, 1,013 static surveillance teams, 705 video surveillance teams and 288 video viewing teams are being formed.last_img read more

The rumble beneath their feet: Maharashtra’s Palghar fears a larger earthquake

first_img The tremors have been numerous. Since November, hundreds of earthquakes, ranging between 1 and 4.3 on the local magnitude scale, or ML (broadly equivalent to the widely used moment magnitude, or Mw), have struck Palghar district, 150 km north of Mumbai. Around 18 of Palghar’s villages, with 63,000 residents, have borne the brunt because of their proximity to the epicentres.These earthquake “swarms”, as clusters of small quakes are called, have pushed Hyderabad’s National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) and Delhi’s National Centre for Seismology (NCS) to install seismometers in the region. These devices will help measure the magnitude of the quakes. The district administration, meanwhile, is scrambling to provide tents for those who are too scared to live in their homes; some 1,300 community tents have been distributed. Simultaneously, a team from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, headed by structural engineer Ravi Sinha, is training Palghar’s engineers and masons to assess the safety of constructions in the quake hotspots.Much of this panic could have been avoided if existing building regulations had been better enforced. Long before these temblors began, Palghar was classified as Zone 3 on India’s seismic zoning map, which means it can expect quakes measuring up to 6-6.5 on the Mw scale; for comparison, the devastating 1993 Latur quake measured 6.1 Mw. So, local laws require all constructions in Palghar to be designed for such quakes. They must comply with the National Building Code and tick multiple boxes of earthquake-resistant design.As things stand, repeated battering by the swarms have left several homes with cracks, and a handful with collapsed walls. A preliminary assessment in Dahanu and Talasari subdivisions, the worst hit locations, has identified 1,750 damaged houses. While these are mostly in rural areas, where the enforcement of seismic codes is poorer, urban areas may not be better off.According to IIT Bombay’s analysis of the 2011 Housing Census data, 10 lakh people in Palghar live in potentially weak homes. Unless these structures are upgraded, the region will likely suffer loss of life in the event of a larger quake.The chances of a large quake (upto 6.5 Mw) are no longer remote, according to seismologists. Even though the initial suspicion was that the swarms were a temporary phenomenon linked to rains, NGRI seismologists have argued that the real reason is tectonic activity along a geological fault in Palghar. “If it is related to a fault, we cannot be complacent that quakes will continue to be small,” says Mr. Sinha. Moreover, given that the epicentres are in rural areas, “it is likely that a disproportionately large fraction of buildings will be damaged with relatively low shaking,” he adds. Scientists divided on causes of Palghar quake | Photo Credit: Prashant Nakwe The scale of the exercise is currently restricted to the 18 quake hotspots, although a larger temblor would spread farther. Around 90 local engineers will be trained. They will scan buildings and inform occupants about safety.Public structures, such as schools and hospitals, will be the top priority, with the government paying for their strengthening. “The idea is that, in the event of a real Zone 3 earthquake, the government’s own capacity should not be degraded,” says Mr. Sinha. Private constructions, on the other hand, will have to fund themselves. Only low-income groups will get financial help through the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.There isn’t much time. Once the monsoon arrives, the government tents may not hold up. So, the assessments must be completed earlier. At the end of it, some of Palghar’s residents may learn that their homes are safe enough to return to, says Mr. Sinha. Others may have to upgrade their houses, while still others will have to rebuild altogether.The compliance gapPalghar’s unpreparedness is typical of large parts of India today. Close to 60% of the country lies in Zones 3, 4 and 5, which means these areas can experience moderate to severe quakes. These places legally require all construction to comply with the seismic codes developed by the Bureau of Indian Standards. Yet, a swarm of small temblors has disrupted life in Palghar.Why has compliance been below par? The reasons are complex. First, the worst affected areas are villages, where there is a shortfall of trained engineers. So, even though local laws require home owners to consult a licensed structural engineer and meet NBC requirements, it often doesn’t happen. Says Aseemkumar Gupta, Secretary of the State’s Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department, “It would be wrong on my part to say that for every building constructed in rural Palghar, there is a structural consultant applying his mind about Zone 3 earthquake issues. It doesn’t happen for 99% of the small houses.”In urban areas, the problems are different. Many constructions are slums built without municipal permissions. Others may follow seismic codes on paper, but not in reality, given the added costs. And municipal bodies do not have the resources to police everyone.It was to tackle such issues that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) published earthquake management guidelines in 2007. The ambitious document recommended wide-ranging measures such as training engineers, improving enforcement, and raising public awareness.But implementation has been uneven because it isn’t a small task, says Kamal Kishore, an NDMA member. Between the 2001 and 2011 Censuses, for example, close to 3 crore new brick masonry houses came up in India’s earthquake-prone regions. To ensure compliance of all of them would need many more engineers than municipal bodies have at present. “You simply can’t do it overnight,” Mr. Kishore says. “Even countries that have turned over their entire building stock successfully have taken not years, but decades.”Rare, but deadlyThere is another obstacle in the way of earthquake preparedness: quakes are rare, despite their deadliness. Further, intra-plate earthquakes, which occur deep inside the peninsula — such as the Latur, Bhuj and even Palghar quakes — are even more infrequent, compared to Himalayan ones. This makes it likelier that peninsular inhabitants will be unaware of the region’s seismic history. “A large number of people have forgotten about the 1993 Maharashtra earthquake. It’s been more than 25 years and a whole generation has turned over since then,” says Mr. Kishore. Not knowing how much damage an earthquake can wreak can take away motivation to spend money on seismic compliance.Still, globally, there is a growing realisation that earthquakes do more than kill humans; they cause mass migrations, job losses, and economic stagnation. Mr. Sinha cites New Zealand’s Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, which measured 6.3 Mw and 7 Mw. Because the region was known to be situated on a fault, most buildings were appropriately designed. As a result, casualties were fewer than they would have been otherwise.The problem was that even though most structures survived, they subsequently became unusable. “They were designed to be safe against fatalities, but not designed to be stronger than that,” says Mr. Sinha. “So they were not safe for people to return after the quakes.” As a result, Christchurch, until then a thriving manufacturing hub, had to demolish over 600 commercial buildings, and cordon off sections for days. According to a 2015 paper in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 6,000 businesses were displaced by the cordon. The New Zealand Treasury estimated the capital cost of the quakes to be equal to 20% of the country’s GDP, a significant hit.For Palghar’s residents, though, GDP is the farthest thing on the mind. It’s the everyday anxiety of not knowing if their homes will collapse, and of sleeping in tents, that gnaws. “We suffered a lot in the initial days,” says Patel. When the tremors began, schoolchildren slept under the open sky during the chilly winter nights. Now, they have tents and bunk beds, but it would be nice just to get back to their rooms. When the earthquakes first began in November 2018, the children of Palghar’s Nareshwadi Learning Centre were terrified. The youngest, aged 5-7 years, burst into tears. Five months later, the tremors continue, but the children are used to it, much to the chagrin of the school coordinator, Vivek Siyaram Patel. He would like them to stay alert and dash out of their classrooms every time the ground shakes. That’s what they have been taught to do.But when the largest quake occurred on March 1, its noise was like a large Diwali bomb, “the bigger kids ran out but the younger children kept sitting inside. It’s like they were used to it,” says Mr. Patel.Like thousands of residents of Palghar, a district on Maharashtra’s coastline, Mr. Patel and the rest of the staff at Nareshwadi, a residential school for underprivileged children, aren’t sure if their buildings will withstand further shaking. Cracks have already appeared in the school’s dining hall. A few of the tall metal rods that support the hall’s sloping roof have bent with each quake. Unsure of whether everything will come down with the next tremor, some 220 of the school’s boarders now sleep in tents.Also Read Such quakes have distinct characteristics — they are small, shallow, noisy, and typically end after the monsoon water drained. Small means they never exceed 4 in magnitude, making them relatively harmless. Shallow implies that they originate from within 5 km of the earth’s crust. This also makes them audible, in contrast to intermediate and deep earthquakes, which emerge from beyond 60 km.The NCS, the first body to set up 4 seismometers in Palghar in December, opines that the swarms could well be hydro-seismicity. Its calculations show a shallow depth of 3-4 km. “We are going by experience here,” says Vineet K. Gahalaut, NCS director. “We have seen several such swarms in western and central India.” But he cautions that tectonic activity cannot be ruled out.In contrast, NGRI, which also began monitoring the Palghar quakes in January, is convinced that the quakes are tectonic, triggered by the same forces that cause planetary tectonic plates to drift over a ductile layer of the mantle. The NGRI now has six seismometers in Palghar, and its data suggest that most quakes are emerging from between 6 km and 15 km, too deep for rain-related seismicity.Another factor that has swayed the NGRI’s assessment is how long the quakes have continued. “They should have died down by now,” says Mr. Srinagesh. “Usually, they have a lifespan of a month or two.” But the Palghar tremors have continued for nearly five months, at the rate of 30-35 per day. Further, their magnitude has risen, with the largest ML 4.3 quake occurring on March 1.The differences between the NGRI’s and the NCS’ depth estimates could be due to a number of reasons. To calculate depth, scientists use the timings at which seismic waves arrive at their seismometers. Then, based on assumptions of the wave velocity, and distance of each seismometer from the epicentre, they estimate the depth that best fits their data. This means that the calculations have error margins, and depend a lot on assumptions made. Since neither NCS nor NGRI have published their data, it’s hard to say why their estimates differ. “I haven’t seen their data, so I cannot comment on the accuracy. But in general, for geophysical problems, there is no unique solution,” says Mr. Rajendran.Mr. Sinha, however, has seen NGRI’s data and is inclined to buy its arguments. The district administration too is working on the assumption that the quakes are not mere hydro-seismicity. “I have reasons to believe that what the NGRI is saying is correct,” he says.The implications of this are significant. While rain-related seismicity peters away quickly, tectonic quakes can be large and destructive. If so, the current swarms could merely be foreshocks before a bigger temblor. It has happened before. In the year before the 1993 Latur earthquake, NGRI recorded several small earthquakes in the Killari region. No one thought they would end in a large one, given the historical lack of seismicity there, but they did. If the same happened in Palghar today, it would find itself unprepared. Mahesh Gollapudi and Dhiraj Kumar Singh, project assistants at Hyderabad’s National Geophysical Research Institute, collect data from a seismometer in Gagodi village, Palghar. Why are quakes happening at Palghar? Fortifying PalgharThis is why Mr. Sinha’s team is working on a training module for Palghar’s engineers, so that they can assess which buildings are the most vulnerable. Mr. Sinha has his task cut out. Prima facie, many structures in the district aren’t earthquake-resistant. Nevertheless, to strengthen every such home in the district is too massive an exercise. “It’s expensive, not just monetarily, but also in terms of available human resources. There are only so many engineers who can be deployed in Palghar to do this, without affecting the governance of the entire State,” he says. For comparison, a World Bank-funded project to repair and reconstruct 225,000 houses in Latur cost about $220 million and took four years.So, Mr. Sinha’s strategy is to triage: find the most vulnerable of the vulnerable houses. These will be reconstructed, while others will merely be strengthened. “It is possible to do things so that without demolishing and reconstructing a house, we can strengthen it to the extent that it doesn’t collapse. It may still collapse partially, though,” he says. For example, traditional houses made of irregular stones, or “random rubble”, caused heavy casualties in both the Latur and the 2001 Bhuj quakes. Their walls are made of two vertical layers, or wythes, of stones. When tremors hit, these poorly bonded wythes separate and fall apart. So, one fortifying technique is to add long “through stones” at intervals along the wall’s length. These hold the wythes together when shaking occurs.Also Read Maharashtra’s Palghar district to get another seismometer Searching for the causeSeveral residents of Dahanu don’t remember prior earthquakes in the region. “This is the first time I am experiencing it,” says the principal of the Nareshwadi Learning Centre, Babasaheb N. Pawar, who has been in Palghar for 30 years. Then there’s the noise, described sometimes as a deep rumbling and others as a large bomb. “My heart would leap out of my body,” says Mr. Patel. “Can you imagine the condition of the little children?”Still, despite the absence of tremors in Palghar’s memory, the Deccan peninsula has a history of swarms. This phenomenon, thought to be triggered by rains, is called hydro-seismicity. Even though the tremors seem tectonic — the kind that occurred in Bhuj, Latur or Nepal — they aren’t. While both involve geological faults — cracks in the earth’s crust along which rocks can move — that’s where the similarity ends. The movement of the rocks that causes earthquakes is triggered by very different mechanisms.In hydro-seismicity, heavy rains seep into the top layers of earth, compressing the rock beneath and increasing the pressure inside the rock pores. “It’s a bit like a baby elephant sitting on a mattress,” says Kusala Rajendran, a seismologist at Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science.According to one estimate, for each 10 m rise in groundwater level, the pore pressure increases by 1 bar (bar is a unit of pressure, equal to 100,000 pascals). When this happens in the vicinity of existing geological faults, the pressure can destabilise them. Another way for rain to trigger quakes is if the water enters faults that are sealed and inactive. “Here, the water can lubricate the clayish contact surface of the fault, causing it to slip,” she explains.Such hydro-seismicity has struck the peninsula before. In October 2017, residents of Hyderabad’s Borabanda suburb experienced small quakes for over a month. They began after intense rains, says D. Srinagesh, who heads NGRI’s seismology observatory, and measured less than 1 ML each, a tiny wobble. “But they sounded like Diwali hydrogen bombs. People grew panicky and were running helter-skelter,” he recalls. When the rains ended, the tremors stopped. Similar phenomena had occurred in Andhra Pradesh’s Nellore in 2015, Saurashtra’s Talala in 2007 and 2011, and Madhya Pradesh’s Khandwa district.Also Readlast_img read more

Evolution’s Clock Ticked Faster at the Dawn of Modern Animals

first_imgFive hundred thirty million years ago, the number and diversity of life forms on Earth mushroomed. This so-called Cambrian explosion kept Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, awake at night, as he worried that his theory of natural selection couldn’t explain the sudden proliferation of species. Now, researchers have combined evidence from the fossil record with clues in the genes of living species to estimate the speed of that evolutionary explosion. Their finding—that the rate of change was high, but still plausible—may put Darwin’s fears to rest.The dawn of the Cambrian period divides two very different Earths. In one, primitive, mostly single-celled creatures “sat on the mud and did very little,” says evolutionary biologist Matthew Wills of the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. In the other, life forms as diverse as our modern fauna roamed the planet. The abrupt appearance of these creatures in the fossil record “gave Darwin a headache,” Wills says, and critics of evolution have argued that the tree of life couldn’t possibly produce so many branches and bear such a variety of fruit so quickly.Some scientists explained away this dilemma by claiming that the fossil record is deceptive. Perhaps, they speculated, the first representatives of modern animal groups appeared long before the Cambrian period, but had tiny, soft bodies what were not easily preserved as fossils. But based on fossil evidence, most paleontologists believe the “fuse” on the explosion must have been short, with new life forms proliferating only a few tens of millions of years before the Cambrian period. Just how quickly would species have to evolve to squeeze in all these new developments? “No one has actually tried to quantify just how fast the rates were,” says Michael Lee, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia and the South Australian Museum, who led the new research. “They just literally took Darwin’s word that they must have been pretty fast.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)So Lee and colleagues estimated that speed by studying the evolution of arthropods—Earth’s most diverse phylum, which includes insects, crustaceans, and arachnids. They looked at how changes evolved in both the genetic code and the anatomy of arthropods, comparing 62 different genes and 395 physical traits. For any two branches of the arthropod family tree—centipedes and millipedes, for example—they picked out important physical differences and variations in genetic sequence in modern specimens. Then, using evidence from the fossil record about how quickly the two branches diverged, the group calculated roughly how fast genetic and anatomical differences must have emerged for each lineage over time.They found that when some early branches of the arthropod family tree were splitting off, creatures were evolving new traits about four times faster than they did in the following 500 million years. The creatures’ genetic codes were changing by about .117% every million years—approximately 5.5 times faster than modern estimates, the group reports online today in Current Biology. Lee calls this pace “fast, but not too fast” to reconcile with Darwin’s theory.This combined model for genes and anatomy represents “quite a stride forward,” Wills says. The results not only show that the evolutionary clock ticked much faster around the time of the Cambrian, but also hint at what may have sped it up. The fact that genes and anatomy evolved at roughly the same rate suggest that pressures to adapt and survive in a world of new, complex predators drove both, the authors speculate. Innovations such as exoskeletons, vision, and jaws created new niches and evolution sped up to fill them. Wills agrees that the new research makes this explanation for the Cambrian explosion “look a lot more probable now.”Others caution that such analysis is in its infancy. “It’s an excellent first step,” says Douglas Erwin, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., but the exact rates of evolution in the study might not be reliable. He points out that while the study uses fossil data to determine when a given arthropod branch emerged, it doesn’t include the known characteristics of these extinct ancestors in its comparisons of physical traits, which involve only living creatures.Some of the assumptions the authors make in estimating these emergence dates are also problematic, says Philip Donoghue, a paleobiologist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. But he believes future iterations of this approach—incorporating fossil traits into the analysis—will yield a powerful new tool: “All the cool kids will be doing it soon.”last_img read more

Happy Pi Day!

first_imgToday is National Pi Day! In case you haven’t figured out the connection yet, it’s 14 March—written 3/14 in the American calendar system—and we get to celebrate the number pi, 3.14159, by eating pie, (preferably at 1:59 p.m.). Pi Day has been unofficially celebrated by universities, institutions, and miscellaneous science geeks for years—the earliest official celebration on the books happened at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988—but the House of Representatives officially designated 14 March as National Pi Day in 2009. Science is commemorating today’s festival of math and dessert with a party. How are you celebrating? Tell us in the comments.last_img

Mysterious Illness May Be Carried by the Wind

first_imgOne of the world’s most baffling diseases may be spread by the wind. A new study has found that Kawasaki disease, which sickens 12,000 children a year in Japan and occurs in other countries including the United States and South Korea, is at its deadliest when the wind blows from northeastern China. The findings suggest that the illness may be caused by an airborne toxin from that region, but just which one remains unclear.Kawasaki disease typically strikes children between 6 months and 5 years old. Common symptoms include fever, a blotchy red rash, and redness and sometimes peeling of the hands and feet. It can be treated with antibodies; untreated, it often leads to inflammation of the coronary arteries, sometimes causing aneurysms that can lead to internal bleeding or heart attacks. Some researchers believe Kawasaki to be an infection, but they have never identified the microbe responsible; others suggest it’s an immune response to an unidentified toxin.In previous research, mathematical ecologist Xavier Rodó and colleagues at the Catalan Institute for Climate Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, had suggested that seasons with large numbers of Kawasaki cases in both Japan and the United States coincide with times when the prevailing winds come from Central Asia. In the new work, they investigated that idea further.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)The researchers examined health records from 1970 to 2010 in each of Japan’s 47 administrative divisions. They looked at the days on which the most cases were identified in Tokyo and other major cities, and used computer models of airflow to find out where the air had come from in the previous few days. Because the incubation period for Kawasaki disease is unknown, the team looked at various lag times.On the days most children became ill, the air blowing into the cities had spent large amounts of time in the same region in northeastern China, usually about 2 days before reaching Japan and 2.5 days before the children came down with symptoms, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This suggests, the researchers say, that the disease is borne on the wind and that it has an incubation period of only about a half-day.They also looked at the possibility that the disease could be an infection spreading between children. However, in all the major cities, most children fell ill on the same days, and the infection peak in all cities died away as soon as the wind changed direction, which would be hard to explain if the children were infecting each other. “It must be in the form of a toxin or some other environmental agent,” Rodó says. His team also found no relationship with days of high levels of pollen or common pollutants such as sulfur and nitrogen oxides.The region implicated, the Northeast China Plain, is highly agricultural, so the researchers suggest that a toxin produced by a fungus living on the crops is a likely culprit. They conducted several flights from Japan to northeastern China—the opposite direction of the prevailing winds—and filtered the air they collected. They found many species of Candida, a fungus genus responsible for common human infections and also for symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease in some strains of mice. However, the researchers do not claim to have identified the exact cause of Kawasaki disease, and they are hoping to conduct more flights. They also plan to look in more detail at the cause of the disease in the United States.“I think these authors have presented a dataset that is pretty conclusive that this is most likely a microbial toxin of some type,” says environmental microbiologist Dale Griffin of the U.S. Geological Survey in St. Petersburg, Florida. He notes that the techniques of tracking airflow back to a common origin are well established in environmental sciences.Anne Rowley, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, says the work is “very interesting” but she remains skeptical about the windborne toxin hypothesis, which, she says, would be unprecedented for a human disease. She notes that a number of diseases, including AIDS and polio, were attributed to unidentified toxins shortly before infectious agents were identified.last_img read more

Gravity-defying trees explained by Newton

first_imgHow do towering trees like redwoods defeat the pull of gravity to bring water up to their leaves? Isaac Newton, the father of gravity himself, came up with an explanation that is not too far off from the current scientific wisdom, according to an article published online today in Nature Plants. The arboreal feat stumped scientists until more than 200 years after Newton penned his botanical musings (shown above) in an unpublished notebook he used in the 1660s. Newton suggested that light knocks away water particles from fluid-filled pores of the plant and “by this meanes juices continually arise up from the roots of trees upward,” he wrote. This bears a resemblance to the modern-day explanation—continuous chains of fluid form in the pores of the plant that stretch from root to leaves, aided by surface tension and the liquid clinging to the pore walls. Evaporation of water at the leaves pulls the chain of fluid up to the treetop. Although he didn’t quite get the details right, one thing’s for sure—Newton was no sap.last_img read more

Indian-American Jailed For Duping 300 Chinese Investors

first_imgAn Indian-American hotel developer has been sentenced to three years of imprisonment by a US court for defrauding around 300 Chinese nationals who invested in his failed USD 900 million project. Related Itemslast_img

Indian-origin Man Pleads Guilty to Taking USD 2.5 Million in Bribes in US

first_imgAn Indian-origin man has pleaded guilty to taking USD 2.5 million in bribes and kickbacks from companies seeking contracts to work on energy saving projects in the US government buildings.Bhaskar Patel, 67, of Windermere, Florida, received the bribes and kickbacks when he served as a senior project manager for Schneider Electric Building Americas, based in Andover, MassachusettsRead it at Tribune India Related Itemslast_img

Anoushka Rising

first_imgShe is a beautiful image of Ravi Shankar, but there is a lot more to Anoushka Shankar than just being her father’s daughter.A musician who excels both at the sitar and the piano, a writer, and actress, Anoushka recently launched a new album, Rise, written, produced and arranged by her, which was nominated for the Grammies in the contemporary world music section. In an exclusive interview with Little India’s Kavita Chhibber, Anoushka Shankar talks about her life, her music, George Harrison, the negative stories in the press splashed by her mother’s ex husband, her sister Norah Jones relationship with the Shankars, and much more.What are your earliest memories of music? It was before I really started learning music formally. I remember singing with my mom. I have always been interested in music, but it was the piano that I was drawn to. I never really felt an active desire to play the sitar and when I did, I did not like it initially, but my father made it so interesting for me.. Each lesson would be filled with anecdotes, creating pictures in my mind, about each raga, especially when I was younger and slowly I began to like it a lot. You have become an integral part of Ravi Shankar’s tours since the past few years. Raviji said that you have an uncanny ability to reproduce anything he plays, and he often improvises even while doing a duet with you and you catch up quickly.As far as dad is concerned, it is always intimidating to be on the same stage as him, playing with him. It terrifies me to even think of making a mistake and having him hear it.A good 90 percent of what my father plays on stage is improvisation, so it is quite a Herculean task playing a duet with him. I am constantly staring at him all the time, picking things up as he continues to improvise and that is why now playing solo is such a wonderful experience for me , because it gives me the opportunity to discover myself a lot more.Your first three CDs were all traditional classical music and featured solo performances by you. With Rise you have broken new grounds in more ways than one?I started playing and performing at such a young age, so the focus was a lot on technical perfection, even though I was learning to feel the music and the emotional aspect of it from my father on the side. Today I think my growth as a musician has been as the result of my own personal journey and where I’m today in terms of maturity and being comfortable in my own skin.When I am performing with my father or playing his compositions, I still focus on what he wants from me and play accordingly, but when I perform solo, it’s different. I can never take away from the fact that my father has an immense influence on who I am as a musician, but he has given me the freedom also to be my own person.Let’s talk about Rise. You were supposed to be on this one year sabbatical, and here we are with an album, you created on your own and that has earned a Grammy nomination. Well I knew this was going to be an ensemble album. I must admit I didn’t plan to have so many different artists on it, or that I would play such a minor role in some of the pieces but as I went along, I was so excited by what these artists brought to the album, that I often forgot about my own work.It was extremely hard to put this album together, as I was working with artists in different age groups with different temperaments, unique caliber and stature. I was also recording in five different cities around the world. The instruments didn’t match and often we worked on the computer going note by note to create a match on every level. For example “Voice of the Moon” is actually four different pieces where each instrument was recorded separately and then made to flow smoothly. In spite of all the various instruments and music style the album still has a very Indian heart. I’m really proud of the fact that this album is completely my own, and I was involved in all aspects of its creation. Look at my face. I have looked like Bapi (Ravi Shankar) from the day I was born… how blind will you have to be to figure out whose child I was if you saw us together.Ever since Norah Jones burst in to the music scene with her first album and her relationship with Raviji, the Indian media especially, has had a field day, talking about her supposed turbulent relationship him, his silence at not acknowledging her in the early years. When did you know you had a half sister?I have known that I had a half sister my whole life. Norah’s mother felt it was best to protect her by not telling her in the early years. My mother on the contrary has always been very open with me so I knew all along that I had a half sister. She visited my father at the age of 2 and 5 in India and later in England and was on the tour with us for about three weeks.The press got the time line all wrong and one magazine that seems to for some reason not like us, ran a story on Norah and me which implied that I was the spoilt brat carrying interviews with people I had never met and that Norah was the poor suffering one. It has been implied that she became well known, then developed a relationship with my father, but the fact is she and I have been close since I was 16 and she was 18 and her relationship with my father was fine.Your mother’s ex husband Narender Kotiyan has pictures of you two poignantly displayed on the internet painting him to be a martyr whose daughter was snatched away by your parents. Even the caption of the recent story “The Man Anoushka Shankar Loved and Lost,’ sounded like you are pining for him, and being kept away against your will. Your mother has never denied that she conceived you while she was still married to Naren, but that the marriage was rocky, a fact he admits to, himself. He also claims that he didn’t know Ravi Shankar was your father. Look at my face. I have looked like Bapi (Ravi Shankar) from the day I was born… how blind will you have to be to figure out whose child I was if you saw us togetherLook at my face. I have looked like Bapi (Ravi Shankar) from the day I was born. My mother did tell him, but even if she didn’t utter a single word, how blind will you have to be to figure out whose child I was if you saw us together. It’s totally idiotic to claim otherwise. My mother and he divorced when I was four, she married my father when I turned seven, so how did he snatch me away from him? In fact, even though he is biologically not my father and as such has no legal right on me, my mother would send me to visit him on weekends and even after they married, both my parents, especially my father were so magnanimous as to encourage me to spend time with him because he was someone who was a part of my early years. But each time I went there, if I let him, he would try to say things against my parents or emotionally blackmail me. By the time I was 10 or 11 it was my decision not to see him any more. He made me uncomfortable.For a period of time he would come for my concerts and I would go over to say hello, but it would always be so melodramatic.He had this circle of friends who believed his sob stories and had decided it was their job to reveal “the real truth” to me. I often get letters from all these people and respond to every one telling them to tell him how I feel about all that he is doing, and it irritates the crap out of me, because it is not fair or right or any of their business. I would be at a concert in London signing autographs or whatever and one such friend would come over and say very emotionally ‘He is here … Naren is here…’ He would create this weird environment and expected me to tip toe around my parents to go see him. It was all so stupid. No one in my family has ever made him feel unwanted or unwelcome. Like any one else, he can come and meet me in the open, but he doesn’t.All the pictures you see on the internet are out of context and the right time line and removed from albums. One of the pictures is taken at the house of Bapi’s friend. It’s not even in his house. My mother actually bought that house, in spite of his claims to the contrary. She was so civil with him and dealt with everything with dignity. Why is he doing this, if he claims to love me?I don’t bear him any ill will and I loved him as a kid. But I wish he would get help and counseling. It’s very unhealthy to hold on to grudges and talk about nothing else, but the past and distort facts even though it has been 20 years.Your family has been very close to George Harrison and the concert for George to mark his first death anniversary was beautiful.George Harrison was a beautiful man and the concert for George was cathartic for all of us. It was a lot of work as we ended up putting everything together in four days and we worked at an incredible pace. I love playing with other people because you become a part of a greater musical endeavor. Bapi wrote a beautiful piece for the concert and it all somehow came together. With that tribute we rejoiced and also were finally able to let go.It seems a lot more valuable for me when I get something which I know is only just for me. Like the time I won the national Beta Conference representing the state of California, or when I won Homecoming Queen it seems a lot more valuable for me when I get something which I know is only just for me. Like the time I won the national Beta Conference representing the state of California, or when I won Homecoming QueenHow was it foraying into acting? You did the Pamela Rooks film, “Dance like a Man” about the daughter of two dancers continuing the dream of her parents through her own to dance. I know you have trained in Bharat natyam.Yes, but it was so long ago. The linear notes were in my head and I remembered the symbolic patters and hand movements, but I had to retrain physically to regain that comfort level because again I had not continued dance. The good thing was that I have faced the camera so often that there were no jitters there. As a result I could focus on the work at hand.I enjoyed the experience, and felt that this was just the right film, and my role as a supporting actor just the right one to test the waters. It is not something I’m pursuing seriously. I have done a lot of readings but things have not worked out mainly because of my hectic tour schedule.So has it been a blessing or a burden to be Ravi Shankar’s daughter?Well, it has been beneficial in the sense that I would have had to struggle a lot more to be where I am. I usually ignore people who are overly critical or expect too much. Once in a while there is an excellent analysis, but finally, it is more important what my audience thinks and the positive flow of energy from them to me is an incredibly amazing experience. I knew earlier on that I would always be known as Ravi Shankar’s daughter no matter what, so I take it all in my stride. I have never come across serious discrimination, although once in a while I meet people who aim little jibes here and there: “Oh my God, if I had heard you with my eyes closed, I would have never known you were a woman.” A man would never get a comment like that.You have achieved a lot in a short span of time – ace pianist, sitar prodigy, writer etc. So what are the achievements you are singularly proud of?Probably those that have nothing to do with music. I feel that whenever I get an award, or I do something related to music, it invariably has a connection with my father. So it seems a lot more valuable for me when I get something which I know is only just for me. Like the time I won the national Beta Conference representing the state of California, or when I won Homecoming Queen. That was an amazing experience because it had nothing to do with my music. Everyone had voted for me because they liked who I was as a person and not because I was Ravi Shankar’s daughter. And now of course my new album. What’s in the works now?I will be in India and Rise has just released there so I will be performing pieces from it then come back and complete my father’s festival of India tour. Then I will be headed for a world tour for Rise. Times have changed and I think it’s unhealthy to be obsessed with just one thing. I would go crazy.. I crave too many things, so I see myself doing a variety of things and as many interesting projects as possible. Related Itemslast_img read more

My Nani

first_imgWhen my sister was a little girl she asked my mother the name of a certain old lady. “Call her Nani,” my mother responded off-handedly. Hereafter, to my sister, all old ladies became “Nani.” This name was extended to my father’s mother, who was not really an old lady at that time and who is, in a strict sense, not really my “Nani” but my “Dadi.”When I learned how to talk, I also began to call my paternal grandmother Nani, despite her repeated protests. “My friends will laugh at me,” she would say. “How will I tell them that you call me Nani?”Some things never change. The name stuck. In my book, my “Dadi” is still “Nani.” I remember the Nani of my childhood – in her pastel chiffon saris and chignon buns, always at my grandfather, Dada’s, side. Dada, the man who adored his wife to no end and always wanted her beside him. Dada, cigarette hanging on the edge of his lips, the man who loved to go on long sunset drives in the small West African town of Kumasi where he lived for most of his adult life. Dada, dressed in well-pressed white and beige shirts and pants, wearing shiny, polished black shoes. Dada, hair combed back, clean-shaven and wearing his signature dark glasses.Nani had a refrigerator down the hall from the room she shared with Dada. In it, she stored all sorts of goodies. Whenever we visited, my sister and I would vanish from my mother’s watchful eye and sneak to Nani’s room. She would hold our hands and lead us to the icebox. There, she would bestow upon us a bar of dense chocolate. Locally made Golden Tree chocolate, wrapped in sparkling aluminum and tempting red paper, it tasted of freshly crushed cocoa beans picked in Asante land.Near the end of Dada’s life, my grandparents moved to India. At that time, my sister and I were living with Meme, my maternal grandmother, in Pune, where we were attending Catholic school. Nani and Dada rented an apartment below ours. In the evenings, after I had finished my homework, I would run across the street to sit in Dada’s lap.Nani would come in and feed us barbecued liver on wooden skewers and fried magaz, brain – “E be good for your blood. E go make you strong. You want to chop?” she would say – and hummus made out of channa dal, doused with olive oil and sprinkled with red pepper and emerald coriander.Some memories are so clear that you have to wonder whether you perhaps invented them.After Dada passed away, Nani – who had never liked to eat meat – turned vegetarian. She didn’t ever cook the liver or the brain for us again. What I remember after that – Nani dressed in her all-white salwar kameez, saris, and pant suits, with her still-black hair put up in a bun, making typical Sindhi sweets for us to eat.Monthal, a sweet meat made of besan (gram) flour, melted sugar, and condensed milk is her specialty and pride. Stir the dough over fire, add crushed pistachios and almonds, form into a circle or a square and there you have it. “Mint mein thay sagati,” is her motto. “I can make it in a minute.”Nani is also famous for her lolo, a bread thicker than chappatti, crisp and fried in melted sugar. Her malpuda, another sweet bread, fried until chewy, is to die for. And her satpudas, white, concentric circles of crisp, flaky dough sprinkled with crystal white sugar – they melt in your mouth.In this day of low fat and non-cholesterol regimens, Nani’s cooking does not receive the enthusiastic reception it once did. But, Nani is a woman of all ages. She too has become health conscious, squeezing her fried foods dry of excess oil. She presses her lolos against folded paper towels and holds them between her palms. “See,” she says, “So much oil e dey come out.” Her face glows with excitement. She has found a way in which she can feed her 13 grandchildren without inflating their arteries.Nowadays, Nani leads a shuttle lifestyle. She rotates abodes, alternating between the homes of her six children, traveling from Ghana to New York to Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to Casablanca and then to India every few months. Nani has never really lived in India – she left Sindh around the 1947 Partition for Ghana as a young bride and didn’t return to India until the 1960’s. Her first language, then, is Sindhi and her second, English. Nani can read jars of condiments and medicine containers, directions of the VCR, and road signs. This winter, she even read cover-to-cover the family newsletter that my cousins and I published. You can’t get more cosmopolitan than that.But, Nani’s roots are simpler. She was born and raised in Hyderabad, Sindh. It was there, in school, that she first learned to read and write English. Nani practiced her English by speaking in broken, Ghanaian-style, pidgin English with the vegetable vendors, the cook, the housekeepers, my grandfather’s employees, and all other Ghanaians she came into contact with as a resident of Ghana between the 1940’s and the 1980’s. Somehow, when we, her grandchildren were born, this English became our primary mode of communication with her. It never occurred to anyone that Nani could teach us Sindhi.So, I lived 20 years of my life not knowing that I could communicate with Nani in any other way. Sure, I could understand Sindhi, but I never chose to extend that understanding to my speech.Many times Nani would say to me, “Talk to me in Sindhi. Otherwise how you go learn your language?” I would laugh in response.A few years ago, I spent three months working in Bombay as an intern at a local newspaper. During this time, I ended up living with my father’s aunt who was staying in the city for the summer. Aunty Sundri, as I called her, has always reminded me a great deal of Nani. Apart from the fact that they are good friends, she too has spent the larger part of her life in Ghana, she too has always spoken to me in her broken English, and she too was in many ways as cosmopolitan as my Nani. Living in close quarters with her, I decided that the time had come for me to learn how to speak my mother tongue. My impetus – here, there was nobody around to mock my mistakes, improper accent, and inconsistencies.Later that summer, when I met Nani in Pune, I told her that henceforth, I only wanted to speak to her in Sindhi. Making the transition was difficult, to say the least. Many times, my tongue would stick in my throat and lumps of “ummmm” and stones of “you know” would emerge instead of the eloquent thoughts I wanted to share with her. Often, she would respond to my pidgin Sindhi with her what-now-seemed-to-me fluent English.The comfort zone that we had established with each other over the past 20 years was not easy to break. Still, I persisted, because inside, I felt that the fruits of these attempts would be worthwhile.Nani loves to talk. On the phone, to strangers, to her children, and if possible, to her grandchildren too. Ask her one question and you can have her running for an hour, turning back the reels of time to remember the day when this or that happened, to remember so-and-so’s sister’s brother’s aunt who said this or that, to remember how on May 16, 1976, such and such took place. Nani never forgets a date, a name, or a place.Until recently, I did not know how to turn on the tap of her memory. Gradually though, I have begun to learn how to use the key of my language (that had always been at my disposal) to unlock my grandmother’s thoughts.I am continuously amazed with my discoveries.For example, I have shared a bed with Nani in the past and so, I know very well that she is an early riser – always up before sunrise. I have also been the sleepy audience of Nani’s early morning exercise routine – she lifts her legs high, spreads them, joints them together again, rotates them on an imaginary bicycle, folds her knees, lifts her arms, breathes in, breathes out. There’s more, but my mind, in its slumber, does not remember.Nani is visiting my family this summer. A few weeks ago, I was driving her to Manhattan when we got stuck in traffic on the West Side Highway. As we waited for the roads to unclog, she started to tell me all the prayers she chants every morning when she wakes up. Then, she told me how 18 years ago, soon after Dada’s passing, a whistle began to wake her up at 3 am each day. At first, she was scared by the strange sound in her ear. But, she never told anyone about it; like many of her thoughts, she kept this one to herself too. It took her some time, but at last, Nani told me, she figured out that this was her internal alarm calling her to wake up and meditate.“I don’t know how to sit there with my eyes closed and meditate,” Nani said. “So, I chant the name of all the gods – Ram, Krishna, Durga, Jagadambe, Sairam, Guru Nanak, Dada Shyam … They are all the same.”If I couldn’t speak my language, I would never have known the chain of events that led her to change her sleeping patterns.That day, Nani and I also talked about marriage, compromise, stubbornness, about issues of power and control within male-female relationships, about the need to adjust to changing times, about her philosophy on life.“All this time, I never knew what I was missing,” I find myself thinking these days, after every conversation I have with her.Nani, with her strong and independent mind and feminist streak, makes me eager to be an “old lady.” In her, I do not see old age as a fearful prospect, but as a peak toward which I must aspire. Tonight, at dinner, I asked her how old she is. I don’t know why, but I was shocked to learn that she is 75. It’s hard to guess this from looking at her or from being a witness to the energy, inner strength, resilience, and zest for life that she exhibits.Last month, I turned 25. To celebrate my birthday, my family went to dinner at a Korean restaurant. Nani came along, dressed in her white and gold embroidered satin salwar kameez, and sat next to me. In good humor, I asked her if she wanted to learn how to eat with chopsticks. Within sixty seconds, Nani had picked up the technique. She ate the rest of our four-course meal with chopsticks!I was surprised, but looking back upon this tiny incident, I tell myself now that I should have known better to expect anything less from my Nani.Originally published in Little India, July 1999. Related Itemslast_img read more

Remittances

first_imgRemittances from migrant Indian workers grew 90% to $52 billion in 2008 even as the global economy collapsed, according to the World Bank. India is the largest recipient of remittances, followed by China, which received $40 billion in 2008. In all migrant workers sent $328 billion to their families in 2008. But the Bank is projecting a decline of 7 to 10 in 2009 as economic conditions worsen. Private capital to developing countries is drying up, falling from $1.16 trillion in 2007 to $707 billion in 2008.Remittances account for almost 46% of Tajikistan’s GDP and 34% of Moldova’s.Top Recipients of RemittancesCountryBillionsIndia$52.00China$40.60Mexico$26.30Phlippines$18.60Poland$10.70Nigeria $10.00Egypt $9.50Romania $9.40Bangladesh $9.00Vietnam $7.20Remittances as Proportion of GDPCountry% GDPTajikstan46%Tonga39%Moldova34%Lesotho28%Guyana26%Lebanon 24%Samoa23%Jordan 22%Hondura21%Kyrgyztan19% Related Itemslast_img read more