Fix Shaky Footage with Warp Stabilizer in Premiere Pro

first_imgHow to Stabilize Your Footage with Warp StabilizerApply the Warp Stabilizer effect from the effects window under the distort tab.Allow Warp Stabilizer to analyze your footage. You can continue to work on your edit during this process.Adjust the Smoothness parameter to the best setting for your footage. Keep in mind that you may not need a high percentage value. Something as low as 5-10% may be sufficient.Adjust the Crop Less <-> Smooth More parameter to bring back any unwanted crop or to smooth out your footage even more.For more details and a full overview on how to stabilize your footage, check out our tutorial.Issues to Look for When Using Warp StabilizerNoticeable Warping When Warp Stabilizer is finished stabilizing, your clip may look smooth, but there may be noticeable warping in the background areas of your shot. Be sure to pull back on the smoothness parameter and adjust the crop settings within Warp Stabilizer.Too Much CroppingSometimes, in order to get a clean stabilized shot, Warp Stabilizer may crop your clip too much and cut out essential parts of your shot. To help fix this issue, adjust the Crop Less <-> Smooth More parameter. You can now stabilize your shaky footage without having to leave Adobe Premiere Pro. Here’s how you can best use the Warp Stabilizer effect.Cover image via Shutterstock.Whether you shot your footage handheld, on a shoulder rig, or with some accidental movement using a Steadicam or gimbal, Warp Stabilizer is more than capable of stabilizing your video. Several years ago, if you wanted to reduce camera shake, you would have to jump over to Adobe After Effects to stabilize your footage. Now, you can just stay inside of Premiere Pro without disrupting your workflow.Let’s get started. Do you have tips on how to stabilize your footage? Let us know in the comments.last_img read more

Video Tutorial: Determining The Best Lens for Your Project

first_img200mmThe audience is very removed from the character, creating a sense of suspicion. The character knows something the audience doesn’t, and we’re not close enough to figure out what it is.But used for a close-up, the result is dynamic and flattering — a complete reversal from a medium shot. Interested in the tracks we used to make this video?“KickShot” by Gyom“Liseberg” by Origami Pigeon ArtistLooking for more cinematography tutorials? Check these out.How to Create the VHS Look in Premiere Pro + Free VHS Effect PresetsGet Better Results Using LUTs with Lumetri Color in Premiere ProHow to Create a Stop-Motion Paper CrumpleCinematography Tutorial: Following The Three-Second RuleProduction Tips for Shooting in Outdoor Lighting Conditions 85-100mmThis pulls the audience away from the character, casting them more as observers than participants in the scene.This option is a great focal length for enhancing movement and action in a frame. Which focal length communicates which feeling in which situation? We break down the options down in our latest video tutorial.As a storyteller, I’m constantly trying to determine what focal length works best to evoke  a particular emotion in a scene. If the character knows something the audience doesn’t, do I shoot my scene on a wide 16mm or a telephoto 200mm? If my character is claustrophobic or afraid, what focal length best represents that emotion?In this tutorial, I break down some of cinema’s most-used focal lengths (16mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 100mm, and 200mm) and explore which work best to communicate the message I’m trying to get across with the scene.Below, I’ve detailed the emotions each lens conjures along with a corresponding set of images. If you’re interested in learning a little more about my experience shooting with these lenses, check out this video.Disclaimer: the following article is based completely on my personal opinion, so nothing here is by any means an industry standard. Your emotional reactions may be completely different, but stopping to think about them is a good exercise.16mmEpic and expansive. This is great for documentary or location-focused work. 24mmSimilar to the real world. It’s perfect for conveying real-life experience.(22mm to 24mm is the most realistic option because it is so similar to what our eyes see.)35mmWide and cinematic, this is great for Medium shots.The image feels close to the character without actually occupying his space.50 mmThis creates a nice, comfortable distance from the character.It’s also my favorite cinematic focal length because it keeps the background recognizable while creating beautiful bokeh.last_img read more

Is the New Mac Pro a Content Creator’s Dream Machine?

first_imgThe PowerTech writers have already begun comparing the performance and appearance of the new Mac Pro to that of a supercar. It’s outstandingly powerful and sleek. Let’s take a look at some of the specs. The processor of this machine is an Intel Xeon – W. It boasts anywhere from 8 cores of processing power all the way up to a whopping 28 cores, making it one of the most powerful machines out on the market today. With all of this computing power inside of this machine, it provides some really outstanding results for content creators.  The machine’s optional Radeon Pro Vega II Duo graphics card also provides 2.6x faster render times from FCPX than the previous Mac Pro.This processing power is supported by 32GB — all the way up to 1.5TB — of RAM. Video UsageOne of the most impressive features of the new Mac Pro for video creators is that it will essentially eliminate the need for proxy workflows. Creating proxies for your video files is a long, cumbersome process that we all wish we could eliminate. Proxies have become a necessary evil in order to have a smooth, consistent workflow. However, the new Mac Pro is looking to change that workflow.With the introduction of AfterBurner, content creators will now be able to playback three simultaneous streams of 8K ProRes Raw video, or up to twelve streams of 4K ProRes Raw video. Because of this processing power, this will introduce faster and more efficient workflows for today’s content creators:Introducing Apple Afterburner. Blaze through 8K video. Created to transform the workflow for film and video professionals, Afterburner allows you to go straight from camera to timeline and work natively with 4K and even 8K files from the start. No more time-consuming transcoding, storage overhead, or errors during output. Proxy workflows, RIP.The MonitorWith all of the processing power for high-quality content, Apple also saw the need for a high-quality and high dynamic range monitor to display all of it. As a result, they introduced the Pro Display XDR. This 32 inch XHDR 6K display provides a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, and is super bright with up to 1,600 nits brightness and a consistent 1,000 nits. These monitors are expertly calibrated to the truest and most perfect color possible for your projects:Pro Display XDR is optimized to more than meet the standards of creative professionals. Every display goes through our state-of-the-art color calibration. Each of the display’s 576 LEDs is also individually calibrated and has its light profile stored. An algorithm then uses this information to determine the exact light intensity at which each LED should be modulated, in order to produce the best possible image.With this advanced set of specs and features, the new Mac Pro is poised to become the workhorse machine amongst many creative professionals. With its raw processing power, modularity, and impressive display, you’ll begin to see this tool in production houses — and in the hands of content creators — to help them meet the demand of their content. For the first time in years, it feels as if Apple has truly made a machine with the creative professional in mind. All images via Apple.Looking for more on video gear? Check out these articles.Will Gear Companion Apps Change The Game For Lone Wolf Filmmakers?4 Older Cinema Cameras That Hold Up to Today’s StandardsWhy You Should Wait to Download Your NLE’s Beta ReleaseProduction Tip: How to Calculate Power for Your CameraIs the GoPro 7 Black the Best Action Camera on the Market? The Complete RedesignAfter the lackluster reception amongst the professional industry of the 2013 revision of the Mac Pro (dubbed the “trash can”), Apple knew they had to go back to the drawing board for Pro users. But worse, the under-performing 2013 Mac Pro left Pro users feeling like Apple no longer truly cared about the needs of the working creative professional. Fortunately, Apple noticed this misstep and took corrective action. While working alongside professional content creators and developers in an effort to understand their particular needs, Apple developed this completely redesigned and modular Mac Pro. For the first time in years, professionals have once again felt that Apple truly cared about their unique needs. At first glance, this machine is reminiscent of that of the previous tower version of the Mac Pro. After glancing at a spec sheet, you’ll quickly realize that this is one of the most powerful and exciting product announcements to come out of Apple in quite some time. Let’s take a look at what makes this machine so exciting for professional users, especially video and film professionals.  Just announced at Apple’s WWDC, the all-new, completely redesigned Mac Pro is stacked with heightened performance updates and new hardware features.With this massive list of updates, this machine is poised to become the workhorse of the film production industry and a video editor’s dream. In fact, the machine was built with true professionals in mind. They partnered with companies like Adobe, RED, and Avid to meet the unique performance needs of their workflows. We’ll take a look at the features and performance of the new Mac Pro and why it may be the best machine out there for today’s content creators.last_img read more

5 Tips to Maximize the iPhone 11’s Filmmaking Capabilities

first_imgThe iPhone 11 looks to be a game changer for smartphone videography. Here’s how to truly unleash its filmmaking potential.The concept of using a top-of-the-line smartphone to shoot big budget narrative features meant to be shown on cinema screens is still pretty insane, when you think about it. Yet, here we are in 2019, and not only has this been happening more and more, but technology is still continuing to outpace itself with its near-yearly breakthroughs.The iPhone, in particular, has been a leader in these efforts, and filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh have already made use of iPhones in the past (the iPhone 8 for his feature High Flying Birds and the iPhone 7 Plus for Unsane).Now Apple has outdone itself once again with its latest iPhone 11 (for this article we’ll focus on the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone Pro Max) and its next-level video camera technology. Until it is surpassed (likely next year), this iPhone 11 represents the latest and greatest filmmaking smartphone on the market.So, if you’re looking to make the investment for your next film project (or just looking to make the most cinematically beautiful Tik Tok videos ever), here are five tips to truly maximize your iPhone 11’s filmmaking capabilities.Understand the CamerasSimilar to the iPhone X, and other smartphones of the past few generations with dual camera technology, the iPhone 11 has two cameras. But, it has also added a new ultra-wide camera to the mix for even more coverage. In total, this gives the iPhone 11 Pro the following:Telephoto Camera12MP52 mm focal lengthLarger f/2.06-element lensOptical image stabilizationFocus pixelsWide Camera12MP26 mm f/1.86-element lensOptical image stabilization100 percent focus pixelsUltra Wide Camera12MP13 mm f/2.45-element lens120-degree field of viewThese three lenses together give some of the most comprehensive in-smartphone coverage of any offered on the market. It also provides a solution for capturing that near-fisheye ultra wide cinematic-looking footage with its new third camera, which can be seen in this video by filmmaker Rian Johnson:And, technically speaking, with the iPhone 11’s front-facing “selfie” camera you’re actually getting four cameras on one device. This begins to matter when the iPhone 11 is used with partner program Filmic Pro for capturing and utilizing multiple angles at once. Over on Shutterstock Tutorials, Rubidium Wu takes a look at what to expect when shooting a feature on the iPhone 11 Pro compared to a cinema camera like the Canon C200. Stabilize with Tripods and GimbalsSo, your first real additional step for maximizing your iPhone 11 — after simply understanding the multiple cameras at your disposal — will be to solve the problems of stabilization. While in-camera auto-stabilization is still making some very impressive advancements, it might be asking too much to use a hand-held for most of your filmmaking projects.Luckily, third party stabilization options for smartphones are also abundant and quite affordable these days as well. Here are a couple options that should work with the different iPhone 11s:Shuzhu Tripod: $15PEYOU Tripod: $23Manfrotto Tripod: $28For gimbals, the popular DJI Osmo Mobile 3 is an industry leader. And, while reports of the Mobile 3 not quite fitting the iPhone 11 Pro or Max are coming in, you can rest assured that DJI will have options soon.Lighting Options and RigsImage by Niphon Subsri.A couple of things to note. One, while the iPhone 11 does finally offer some impressive low light and “Night Mode” technology, it doesn’t mean you should make a habit of shooting cinema-quality footage without the use of additional lighting sources.And two, while filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh or Sean Baker on Tangerine did shoot with iPhones, they also still used industry standard lights for the majority of their production. Lighting matters! As such, the best options for lighting scenes when shooting with your iPhone 11 will be using the same lighting solutions you might use on any regular project. And, if you’re looking for resources, help, or inspiration, here are some articles to read up on:Lighting 101: A Quick Guide for Lighting FilmThe Simple, Stable Solution to Rigging Your Lights AnywhereVideo Tutorial: Create a DIY Wireless China Ball LightHowever, if you really want to push your iPhone 11’s capabilities in or on camera, these iPhone ring lights are quite popular. Keep in mind they are mostly used for selfie-style recording.Other Audio OptionsSimilar to lighting, audio becomes a big concern for any smartphone-shot film projects. It’s also similarly solved by following the same production procedures that you’d find for any other type of filmmaking with DSLR, mirrorless, or cinema-level cameras. Your audio will only be as good as the effort you put into it. And, good audio requires at least one or two individuals dedicated to capturing audio with boom mics, lapels, and a solid audio recorder that can be monitored and reviewed for every shot.Here are some good audio recording resources:The Indie Filmmaker’s Guide to Recording Audio9 Things You Should Check Before Recording AudioAudio Tip: How to Get Good Sound on Every BudgetAgain, there are options which can work directly with your smartphone. And, while these will help, be careful to not rely on them too much in favor of using audio recording in more traditional filmmaking ways.Smartphone Editing OptionsOne area that is actually advancing fast enough to compete against traditional filmmaking practices are the much improved and impressive smartphone editing apps and options. While you’re still probably best served transferring your iPhone 11 footage to a laptop or PC to work in your NLE editing platforms of choice, there are more and more options out there for editing in-smartphone, making run-and-gun projects much more possible than ever before.Here’s a full list of options with information and reviews to consider.Top image via Apple.For more smartphone filmmaking tips, tricks, and guides, check out these additional articles below:3 Simple Tips for Stabilizing Smartphone VideographyWorking With Vertical Phone Footage in Post-ProductionSmartphone Filmmaking: Saving Battery Life and Storage SpaceShooting a Feature with an iPhone the Soderbergh WayShould You Make a Feature Film on a Phone?last_img read more

Final phase of U.P. civic body polls begin

first_imgPolling for the third and final phase of civic body polls began on Wednesday amid tight security in Uttar Pradesh.It covers 233 urban bodies spread across 26 districts, including five municipal corporations of Bareilly, Saharanpur, Jhansi, Firozabad and Moradabad, an official said.Voting for 76 Nagar Palika Parishads and 152 urban panchayats is also underway. The final phase is of major importance for the seven-month-old Yogi Adityanath government as 12 Cabinet Ministers and ten state Ministers hail from these areas where polling is taking place on Wednesday. The Chief Minister has himself led the high-decibel campaign of the Bharatiya Janata Party, along with state unit chief Mahendra Nath Pandey.The BJP has enjoyed a majority in most of these urban bodies and this time, the elections are being seen as the first litmus test of the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government after its massive victory in state assembly polls held earlier in 2017.Of the urban body polls held in 2012, BJP had a mayor in 12 of the 14 municipal corporations. Only Allahabad and Rampur had mayors from the opposition camp.In 2012, Uttar Pradesh was under a Samajwadi Party (SP) rule and the feat was a major one for the BJP as it had not been in power for more than a decade then.Thereafter, the BJP has been making impressive electoral gains and won 73 out of the 80 parliamentary seats in the watershed 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It then romped home with a decisive majority of 325 seats of the 403 assembly seats in the 2017 state assembly polls.It is for the first time that all the other major parties — Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party and Congress are contesting the urban body polls on their party symbols. The SP, which was ousted by the BJP in the assembly polls is giving the ruling party a run for its money in many districts like Mahoba, Mainpuri, Jhansi, Etawah, Chandauli, Jaunpur, Kushinagar, Bareilly, Etah and Kannauj.last_img read more

Debate over Zeliang’s qualification set a rest

first_imgAs Nagaland goes to the polls, a long-time debate has been put to rest. In his affidavit submitted for contesting the Peren seat as a Naga People’s Front candidate, Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang said he had failed in his BA examination in 1979. Kengim Kulimbe, an Independent candidate and Mr. Zeliang’s opponent in Peren, was quick to issue a statement on the Chief Minister’s “true academic status”.Mr. Kulimbe had often gone to court in his bid to establish Mr. Zeliang’s qualification.Mr. Zeliang, 65, chose not to react. But the returning officer at Peren, the headquarters of Peren district in Nagaland, said the complaint against the Chief Minister was for the court to decide and not the Election Commission.Nagaland’s Chief Election Officer Abhijit Sinha said the nominations of 227 out of 257 candidates were found valid. His Meghalaya counterpart Frederick Roy Kharkongor said 374 out of 443 nominations were accepted.last_img

Meghalaya RTI activist murdered

first_imgA Meghalaya youth leader and Right to Information activist was killed in a coal belt in the hill State’s East Jaintia Hills district on Tuesday morning.Police said the body of Poipynhun Majaw, the president of Jaintia Youth Federation (JYF), was found on Rymbai Road near Khliehriat, the headquarters of East Jaintia Hills district bordering Bangladesh and a prime mining area in the State.“We found wounds on his head probably caused by a heavy iron object. This looks like a case of murder, but we are waiting for the post mortem report to find the culprits and uncover the motive behind the murder,” Nazarius Lamare, the district’s Superintendent of Police told The Hindu.“Mr. Majaw lived in Jowai (22 km from Khliehriat) and had come to Khliehriat yesterday (Monday). He was last seen at the deputy commissioner’s office about 3pm,” Mr. Lamare said.A.R. Mawthoh, Deputy Inspector General of Police (Eastern Range), said a wrench was found near Mr. Majaw’s body and that the police were hunting for more clues.Misuse of public fundsRights activists say they suspect the 38-year-old Mr. Majaw could have paid the price for exposing a nexus between heads of the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (JHADC) and cement companies that were allegedly allowed to mine limestone without permission.Besides coal, East Jaintia Hills district is rich in limestone. A year ago, Mr. Majaw had, through RTI, revealed misuse of public funds by the JHADC and its leniency towards more than a dozen cement companies that were violating the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and mining limestone without permission.These cement companies, owned by non-locals in the Narpuh area of the district, have allegedly been accused of operating against the interest of local people and harming the fragile ecology of the area.The JHADC, currently headed by Andrew Shullai, denied any ‘evil nexus’ with cement companies. “A former chief executive member of JHADC was arrested after Mr. Majaw filed an RTI and exposed a scam in the council. He had given to the police recordings of threats from this chief executive member,” Agnes Kharshiing of Civil Society Women’s Organisation said.“We condemn this murder and demand stern action against those responsible for Mr. Majaw’s death,” she said.last_img read more

Rajasthan Lokayukta submits annual report

first_imgThe Rajasthan Lokayukta received the highest number of complaints against the Revenue Department during 2017-18, while an inquiry into the irregularities in the Mining Department was conducted on his direction. Lokayukta Justice S.S. Kothari submitted the 32nd annual report to Governor Kalyan Singh at Raj Bhavan here earlier this week.There were 885 complaints against the Revenue Department, followed by 860 against the Urban Development and Housing Department, 814 against the Police Department and 755 against the Rural Development Department.Justice Kothari pointed out that 4,312 cases were pending before him as on April 1, 2017, while 4,807 new cases were received during the year. Of the total of 9,119 cases, 5,107 were disposed of, he said.In 2016-17, 5,973 cases were disposed of, while 4,990 cases were resolved in 2015-16 and 3,756 in 2014-15. Justice Kothari said that the maximum 23,982 cases were received till February 28 this year during his tenure. Of them, 23,754 cases were disposed of.Relief providedDuring the last one year, the Lokayukta took cognisance in 27 cases and started action. In 791 cases, the complainants were provided relief, which was the maximum in the history of the Lokayukta institution in the State, said Justice Kothari.Disciplinary action was taken against 407 public servants as a result of action from the Lokayukta Secretariat during 2017-18. According to the sources in Raj Bhavan, the Governor praised the work performed by the Lokayukta. Meanwhile, the State government has extended the tenure of Justice Kothari by three years.last_img read more

Grieving the soldier son who became a militant

first_img“We did not want him to join the Army. You know what happened with Ummer Fayaz. We have orchards and I am a government school teacher. If he wanted he could have pursued higher education and taken up any other job, but he insisted. He showed no inclination of joining the militants; we are in deep shock,” said Mr. Meer.Recalling the fateful day his son disappeared, Mr. Meer said, “He accompanied me to a peer baba (shrine) in the morning. I wanted to go there as I have had two surgeries and I don’t keep well. My eyesight is weak that is why I don’t use a mobile phone. But that day, he was continuously speaking to someone on the phone. I did not know what he was talking about. He had to attend a wedding at Budgam in the evening, but he refused to go there, saying he had to join work at the earliest.”Mr. Muzamil said his brother had deleted his Facebook account after he went missing. “Maybe it was all pre-planned. When I saw his pictures on social media, I checked his Facebook profile. It had been deleted. Our house is undergoing construction and before coming home on April 13, he had asked me to send pictures of the renovated kitchen. After that we exchanged no messages on WhatsApp,” said Mr. Muzamil, who is pursuing a Masters in English through distance education from IGNOU. He said Idrees had bought a new phone about a month back.Idrees’ mother Raja Bano sits in a corner and nods her head in approval whenever Mr. Muzamil speaks. “I want my son back,” she says in Kashmiri.Mr. Meer said his son had become interested in the armed forces in 2013. “He couldn’t join the Army that year as we did not have his caste certificate. He asked me to get the certificate so that he could apply afresh. He applied the next year and got through the recruitment,” the grief-stricken father said. Less than 48 hours after he was told that his son, who had enlisted in the Army, had joined the terrorist outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen, 49-year-old Mohammad Sultan Meer was back at work. Meer, who teaches at a government primary school near his house, says getting back to work will help him forget the grief that has struck the family. | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD A picture of Mir Idrees Sultan and, right, his mother Raja Banoo at her home in Shopian .center_img Raja Banoo, Mir Idress Sultan’s mother.  | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD Meer Idrees Sultan, 23, the second of his five children, left home at Safanadari in South Kashmir’s Shopian on April 15, telling his family that he had to rejoin his Army unit. Within hours, however, the Hizb released his photograph on social media, saying he had joined the outfit. Soon the picture went viral. Deployed in Doklam Idrees had joined the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry in 2015. After about a year’s training, he was posted in Bihar’s Katihar district. It was the first time he had travelled outside the Kashmir Valley. Last July, his unit was deployed in Doklam during the tense stand- off between Indian and Chinese troops. With patchy communication lines, Idrees had only once called home from Doklam — on Eid to wish his family.Mr. Meer recalled that when Idrees came home last in January, he had taken him to Chandigarh to see a doctor. He had told the family that he had no plans to come home in April. However, Idrees told his unit in Bihar that he had emergency work at home and applied for 10 days’ leave. “He came home on April 13. After two days he told us that he has been transferred to Khrew near Pulwama. He left home at 3 p.m. on April 15. When we called him at 8 p.m. to check if he had reached, his phone was turned off. We kept calling him every hour. We feared he had been abducted by militants,” said Mr. Meer with tears in his eyes. Less that a year ago, Lt. Ummer Fayaz from nearby Kulgam was allegedly abducted and killed by Hizbul Mujahideen militants in Shopian district when he had gone to attend a wedding. The family said none of the men from the village had joined the militants in the recent past. Yawar Majeed, from a nearby village, who had joined the Hizbul in 2017, was killed on April 1 along with 12 other alleged militants in Shopian when security forces launched multiple operations. Education cut shortMr. Meer said that by 1 p.m. on April 16, Idrees’ photograph was all over social media. “My eldest son Muzamil showed me the picture on his phone. I could not believe my eyes — he had joined the militants. We rushed to a nearby police post to report that he was missing,” said Mr. Meer, who doesn’t use a mobile phone.Ironically, Mr. Meer says Idrees was the first in the family and the village to join the Army. Earlier he had been was pursuing a B.Sc degree at the Government Degree College in Anantnag, around 20 kms away. last_img read more

Unnao rape: HC seeks CBI’s response

first_imgThe Allahabad High Court on Monday sought the CBI’s response to an affidavit filed by the mother of the Unnao rape victim alleging that the agency was not conducting a fair investigation into her husband’s murder.The court also stayed the hearing under the POCSO Act in the rape case in which BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar is an accused along with others as the State counsel informed the court that the U.P. government has agreed to transfer the matter from Unnao to Lucknow following a CBI plea.POCSO ActThe CBI told the court that the case was now before the special CBI court in Lucknow after it took over the investigation, and the matter under the POCSO Act, which is before an Unnao court, should also be transferred to the CBI court in Lucknow.After the U.P. government counsel said that the State was ready to transfer the case, the Bench comprising Chief Justice D.B. Bhosale and Justice Suneet Kumar stayed the hearing in the Unnao court, pending a decision on the CBI’s transfer plea. The court also directed the CBI to file its reply on the affidavit by the mother of the victim alleging that the CBI was not conducting a fair investigation in her husband’s murder case and the FIR registered by the agency was different from the version in her complaint.The 17-year-old girl has alleged that she was raped by the MLA at his residence, when she had gone to meet him with a relative, seeking a job on June 4, 2017. Frustrated with the alleged inaction, the victim attempted self-immolation in front of Chief Minister’s residence on April 8. The next day, her father died in jail.last_img read more

Buddhist monk held for ‘sexual abuse’ of students in Bihar

first_imgA Buddhist monk running a meditation centre at Gaya district was arrested for the alleged sexual exploitation of 15 child monks. On Thursday, the monk, Bhante Shanghpriya, was remanded in 14 day judicial custody and the statements of the children were recorded before a judicial magistrate. The International Buddhist Council has condemned the incident and sought a probe. A Special Investigation Team headed by the Bodh Gaya Deputy Superintendent of Police had been formed to probe the case, said Gaya Superintendent of Police Rajeev Mishra. The IBC held an emergency meeting at Bodh Gaya and condemned the incident. “We demand a thorough probe … the organisation running the monastery was not registered with the IBC,” general secretary Pragya Deep said. Informed sources told The Hindu that out of 160 monasteries running in Bodh Gaya, only 55 are registered with the IBC. “The police are investigating details of the Trust running the monastery and if any fraud was found, an FIR will be lodged against all members of the trust,” said Mr. Mishra.Managed by TrustOn Wednesday, all 15 child monks, along with their parents had complained to the Bodh Gaya police about physical and sexual abuse by Bhante Sanghpriya. The police swung into action and arrested the accused monk. All the child monks were studying at Prajana Jyoti Buddhist Novice School and Meditation Centre located at Mastpura village under the Bodh Gaya police station. The school-cum-meditation centre was managed by the Prajana Social Welfare Trust.Later, an FIR was lodged with the Bodh Gaya police under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. “The child monks had complained about their physical and sexual abuse by their head monk to their respective guardians…they also informed us that they were thrashed, mistreated and sexually abused while staying in the school…we are investigating the matter now,” Deputy Superintendent of Police Rajkumar Shah told journalists. A board of doctors had been set up for their medical examination.From AssamAll the child monks, aged seven to 12, are from Karbi Anglong district of Assam. The incident came to light when one child monk somehow came out of the centre and rang up a previous teacher of the school who was in Mumbai and narrated their ordeal. The teacher from Assam knew parents of the victim monks and informed them about their trauma. The parents reached Bodh Gaya on Wednesday and took out them to the police station.The police have lodged all 15 child monks along with their parents at the Assam Bhawan in Gaya town.last_img read more

Leh makes short work of a mountain of waste

first_imgAuthorities in tourist hotspot Leh have put 65 tonnes of waste to productive use after the ecologically sensitive region’s garbage output went up drastically following the release of 3 Idiots on Christmas day nine years ago, drawing tourists in hordes.“The 65,000 kg of waste was first collected from the Choglamsar, Nubra, Nimo and Khaltsi areas this year. While 27,000 kg waste was sold to scrap dealers, 17,000 kg of cardboard, egg trays and other agriculture waste was reused for recyclable products like biofuel and bricks. Paper and cloth waste were used for making decorative items,” Deputy Commissioner (Leh) Avny Lavasa told The Hindu.Recycle, upcycle Project Tsang-da, initiated by the district administration this year, aims at sustainable waste management in rural areas of Leh district and city. “For the first time, the project turned the waste into revenue-generating goods, such as curtains, toys and cushion covers. Wine or beer bottles and other broken glasses were also reused in construction of roads and buildings by local construction companies,” said Ms. Lavasa.The vast cold desert region of Leh is home to a small population of 1.47 lakh people. Around three lakh tourists visited Ladakh in 2018, a quantum jump from 79,087 tourists in 2009, the year 3 Idiots came in the public eye for locations like the Pangong Lake, straddling India and China. “Yes, the amount of waste has gone up due to the tourist footfalls,” said Ms. Lavasa. During peak tourist season, Leh city collects 16 to 18 tonnes of waste per day, and annual waste production stands at an alarming 374 tonnes. The region, from a hydrological point of view, is the source of some major waterways in the sub-continent, such as the Indus river system.last_img read more

Former vice-chairman of IL&FS arrested

first_imgThe former vice-chairman and managing director of Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) Hari Sankaran was arrested by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) on Monday and remanded in police custody till April 4. Mr. Sankaran was arrested in connection with the ongoing investigations into the affairs of IL&FS and its group entities, an official spokesperson said. “He has been arrested on the grounds that he abused his powers in IL&FS through his fraudulent conduct and in granting loans to entities which were not creditworthy or have been declared non-performing assets (NPAs) and caused wrongful loss to the company and its creditors,” the spokesperson added. Trouble surfaced at IL&FS in the July to September quarter of 2018, when two of its subsidiaries started defaulting on repayment of loans and inter-corporate deposits to lenders. A subsequent series of defaults caused a systemic problem with many non-banking finance companies running into financial issues. On October 1, 2018, the Central government took steps to take control of the company through a directive by NCLT and arrest spread of the contagion to the financial markets. A new board under the leadership of banker Uday Kotak was constituted. as the earlier board was deemed to have failed to discharge its duties. At that time, the SFIO was asked to probe the procedural lapses at the firm and its subsidiaries. as the top management was believed to be involved in diverting money for ulterior motives. The SFIO counsel Hiten Venegavkar sought Mr. Sankaran’s custody for five days “for ascertaining all the fraudulent activities carried out under him, to prevent him from influencing any witnesses and destroy the evidence, to examine him about the loan and advances approved without proper collaterals.”The remand copy, reviewed by The Hindu, says: “SFIO examined details of the funds raised by IFIN (IL&FS Financial Service Limited) from different public sources. Approximately ₹17,000 crore has been raised by IFIN from the public through bank loans, debentures, commercial papers and corporate deposits, etc. The amount borrowed by these means has been used by IFIN to advance both short and long term loans. The company is said to have advanced 80% to 85% of the total borrowings as loans and advances.”It was also argued that IFIN had also provided loans and advances to group companies, which have no financial capacity to service the debt. The group companies, which were given loans, were having heavy operational losses and were heavily debt-ridden. IFIN had funded the group companies to avoid the defaults of loans taken by them from banks. The quantum of loans and advances given by IFIN to the group of companies of IL&FS Limited has been continuously increasing, both in quantum as well as percentage of total borrowings.last_img read more

Will House Science Panel Need an Ethical Review?

first_imgSince U.S. House of Representatives science committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) subpoenaed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on 1 August for data from decades-old air pollution studies, the agency has remained silent on how it will respond. But a vehement back-and-forth has filled that silence, as the panel’s top Democrat, Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), continues to spar with Smith over the move’s wisdom. Last week, the exchange included Johnson’s suggestion that the panel might need an independent oversight board to approve its use of sensitive data—and a letter from a researcher who claims Johnson defamed him during the fierce debate over the subpoena.Smith argues that raw data from two seminal studies linking airborne soot to higher death rates—the so-called Harvard Six Cities Study and American Cancer Society research known as Cancer Prevention Study II—should be made public for reanalysis, because they underpin costly pollution regulations. But because this data contains personal health information about participants who were promised confidentiality, Johnson and fellow Democrats argue that the subpoena violates the participants’ trust.Smith has repeatedly promised that committee staff members would handle any personal health information with care. But the wording of the subpoena, which gives EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy a 19 August deadline to present the data, has Democrats uneasy. It states that the information “may be produced in a de-identified form that removes personally identifiable information,” but also demands that these data be sufficient for independent replication of the original findings. Critics of the subpoena argue that it will be impossible for independent researchers to replicate the studies with de-identified data, meaning the committee will need to get the complete raw data, including sensitive personal information.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(*)In a letter to Chairman Smith on 6 August, Johnson said the subpoena’s wording was evidence that the Republicans intend to go after data that is not fully de-identified. And that raises a new question, she wrote: Will the committee follow the same rules as federally funded research institutions entrusted with sensitive health information about human subjects? Will it, for example, establish an institutional review board (IRB) to oversee the process and ensure it meets ethical standards?In his 8 August response, Smith reiterated that any personal health information in the subpoenaed documents would be removed before third parties saw the data, but did not respond to Johnson’s IRB question. Smith also asserts that de-identification is a simple process that should cause no delay in the EPA’s response.Not everyone is so confident. Darrell West, director of the Brookings Center for Technology Innovation, notes that data collected from smaller communities, as in the Six Cities study, can be problematic, because it might be possible to reconstruct a participant’s identity even after names and addresses are removed. Others told ScienceInsider that the question of whether the science panel would need IRB approval for holding and handling any original data isn’t easy to answer, because Congress can—and often does—exempt itself from federal regulations.There’s a chance that such issues could end up being hashed out in court, if EPA resists the subpoena. West, for one, believes that if the raw Six Cities data can’t be adequately de-identified, the committee has no legal right to request them.Meanwhile, one of the researchers who says he was denied access to the American Cancer Society data has also become involved in the fray. At the 1 August committee meeting to approve the subpoena, Smith named James Enstrom, formerly an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as an example of a legitimate scientist whose request for raw data had been unfairly turned down by the society.Johnson, however, challenged Enstrom’s credentials in her 6 August letter. Enstrom, she wrote, was a longtime tobacco industry consultant who conducted industry-funded research questioning the negative health effects of secondhand smoke and was fired by UCLA in 2012.Enstrom fired back with his own letter on 8 August, writing that he wanted “to fully refute the defamatory statements about me” and asking Johnson to “immediately withdraw” her comments. He is a past user of American Cancer Society data, he wrote, and has never been a consultant to the tobacco industry, although the industry has funded his research. He also noted that he is now involved in a wrongful termination suit against UCLA, which he claims fired him in retaliation for studies that found that fine soot particles did not cause “premature deaths” in California.last_img read more

Podcast: A butterfly controversy, the evolution of human language, and more

first_imgWhy has a plan to save monarch butterflies backfired? When exactly did human language evolve? And what shapes our immune systems? Science’s Online News Editor David Grimm chats about these stories and more with Science’s Sarah Crespi. Plus, Charles Bishop discusses the “roller-coaster” flight strategy of bar-headed geese as they migrate across the Himalayas between their breeding and wintering grounds.last_img

Diabetes drug may help obese women conceive and have healthier children

first_imgMany obese women have a hard time getting pregnant. When they do, often with the help of infertility treatments, they tend to have children who are prone to obesity themselves. Now, working in mice, researchers have identified a process in egg cells that may account for both of these problems. What’s more, a new diabetes drug—now in clinical trials—may offer a solution.  This is “a new idea about how obesity affects the quality of eggs,” says David Albertini, a reproductive scientist at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, who was not involved in the study.Obesity doesn’t just impact a person’s lifestyle—it can also alter the way their cells work. High levels of fats and cholesterols can clog up a cell’s machinery and interfere with its ability to build fully functional proteins. More specifically, obesity stresses the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), where proteins are made and shuttled throughout the cell. This process, known as ER stress, can cause the cell to self-destruct and can occur in cells throughout the body, including the liver, pancreas, and brain.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(*)To find out if this stress response takes place inside egg cells as well, researchers led by Rebecca Robker, a cell biologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia, turned to a mouse model of obesity that closely replicates what’s seen in humans. The aptly named Blobby mice have a genetic mutation that causes them to overeat their way to obesity on regular, low-fat mouse chow.The researchers monitored both ER stress and the activity of mitochondria, the energy-generating machinery of cells, in the egg cells of obese and healthy mice, as well as how their egg cells faired after in vitro fertilization (IVF). When the researchers compared the patterns of gene expression in the egg cells of obese and lean mice, they found that the Blobby mice had significantly higher levels of genetic markers for ER stress. Critically, Blobby eggs also had reduced mitochondrial activity compared with their lean litter mates’ egg cells.“When we saw that the mitochondria in the eggs were damaged, we knew that that was a very important and critical problem,” Robker says. Mitochondria in eggs are particularly important; although both parents contribute DNA to a child, mitochondria from the mother’s eggs give rise to all the mitochondria in every single cell of an offspring’s body.The researchers found that the damaged mitochondria in the eggs of obese mice couldn’t replicate properly in the embryos. The fetuses that developed from the eggs of Blobby mice were heavier than those from skinny mice, and they had less mitochondrial DNA in their livers, kidneys, and hearts.“This is important because it provides a new mechanism, a new understanding, for how obesity may lead to an offspring’s own propensity for obesity,” Robker says.She and her colleagues predicted that both the cellular stress response and the mitochondrial damage could be reversed by treating obese mice with existing compounds. A stressed ER can flood a cell with calcium, and mitochondria, which help keep calcium levels in check inside cells, can then become overwhelmed and break down. Robker’s team reasoned that by tackling the problem in the ER, the benefits would trickle down to the mitochondria. Indeed, when the researchers gave the obese mice BGP-15—an ER stress inhibitor that in early clinical trials for diabetes research is already proving to be a safe and effective way to increase mitochondria in muscle cells—the eggs showed both lower levels of cellular stress and higher mitochondrial activity. And when these eggs were fertilized and transferred into surrogate mothers, they no longer grew into overweight fetuses, the team reports online today in Development.Robker’s team is now testing whether the diabetes drug will have similar fertility-boosting effects on isolated human eggs. Still, she notes that weight loss and nutritional strategies—instead of drugs—can also keep women from having to resort to IVF. “Obese women only have to lose a small amount of weight and their natural fertility will often return.”last_img read more

I-T Dept Widens Probe Into ₹6,500-cr FDI by Biometrix in RIL Group Entities

first_imgIndia’s Foreign Tax and Tax Research (FTTR) division has sought information from various countries, including Singapore, on the ₹6,500-crore investment by Singapore’s Biometrix Marketing in companies belonging to Reliance Industries (RIL) or its promoter group.Read it at The Hindu Related Itemslast_img

Some Lawsuits Involving Indian American Family in Alleged Cheating in National Geographic Bee Competition Dismissed

first_imgLawsuits against an Indian American family whose sons allegedly cheated during a regional National Geography Bee competition in 2016 remain pending.However, parts of the lawsuit, stemming from a January 2016 competition at Oak Brook, Ill.-based Forest Elementary School during which two sons of Dr. Rahul Julka and Komal Julka were accused of cheating on the bee, were dismissed by two federal judges, the Chicago Tribune reported.Read it at India West Related Itemslast_img

Why We Travel To India

first_imgFor us, immigrants, travel is our raison d’etre. It makes our existence possible. We take it for granted, gripe about its vicissitudes and admire its force to bring us together, to transform our world. Immigrants travel because we want to go home or try to grasp in our infantile charms the idea of home. Immigrants have the sickness of displacement caused by travel. Many of us never traveled anywhere until we migrated here and now we find it is part of our reason to exist.The non resident in Non Resident Indian is about not being home. So we travel to visit home, family, town and country. We also travel for leisure. Those who observe are also observedThat first visit home is memorable. There is such joy to be home again. The air, the smells, the sights and the people, they all look and feel familiar. The home cooked meal hasn’t quite tasted the same in the U.S. The favorite dishes at your favorite eating joints are delightful all over again.This joy of rediscovery cannot be captured in words. A secret unfolding takes place inside you. One of the first things I did on my first visit home was to order bhajias from a local restaurant; no onion ring has ever come close. I recall a friend who longed for a real cup of tea, which he found only at an Iranian restaurant, which have all since vanished. “Double tea with less water” was his formula.The script of such travels back home is familiar to all of us. There are variations to be sure; but sooner or later, you become unsure if you are glad to return, fully anyway.A few days into my visit, I was on a long bus ride, overnight for almost 10 hours. An hour into the journey, the TV monitor on the bus began blaring the sounds of a Hindi movie. No one could conceivably sleep in the middle of that ruckus. Yet, my fellow passengers seemed oblivious, at least on the face of it, and some were even engrossed in the film, which they had likely seen several times before. Suddenly, the jolt of discomfort hit me. How could one possibly listen to that and how could the driver be so inconsiderate at this hour. What would have been a normal experience before I left was now a discord in my life. Once the anger has subsided though, there was an appreciation for things different, an awareness of how you live in two worlds.Two worldsWe have to remind ourselves that we live in two worlds. Living here too long doesn’t help. No amount of poetry can quite rescue us from that itch. We settle into this complacency, knowing that this world is too comfortable and what we left behind has changed dramatically. What good will returning do?Yet, almost for therapeutic reasons, we return home – to find our coordinates in two places. We realize that strange and alien as some things might look there, it is still our world. NRIs frequently become impatient with service in restaurants, in hotels, with bureaucracy or even become indignant at times over a little discomfort. Everything about India becomes irritable. All the same, this venting is good, because it reminds us in our “enlightened” perspective that we are growing up as an NRI.Living in a cocoon can be stifling. Even living abroad in the United States, does not help because myopia sets in. The wisdom we immigrants develop as a result of traveling back and forth is unmatched in value. It is beyond any other gifts we have and well beyond any gifts we can give ourselves. Think of the writings of the Nobel Prize winning Non Resident Indian author V. S. Naipaul, who had very little to say about India that was praiseworthy in his Indian trilogy – An Area of Darkness, India: A Wounded Civilization and India: A Million Mutinees Now. After repeated trips, his criticisms have mellowed. He has become a lot more tolerant of a country that proved too complex for his lashing tongue.We travel for the sake of nostalgia – to live in the past that we once did. These trips are also part of our growing up. Travel gives us new eyes, as the French critic Marcel Proust once said. It is the same country, the same people and the same home. Much of it worn and changed over time, but it holds the essences of our memory. We now see things from a different perspective. When you live in India, you take the slums of Mumbai, the stark poverty or the secret hideouts of your childhood for granted. We hardly even think about them. Separate yourselves over distance and time and your have wider, wiser eyes. Now there is a global worldview with which you see the same slums and poverty. The lyrical charms of your own hideouts are clearer, but with critical detail. We discover new things in familiar places because we travel.Wisdom is never without its bias. As immigrants, we have the power of foreign currency. We know our way around. We can afford things we never did before. Spending is a lot easier now. And yet, we want to be normal, save a little change and pretend to be someone else. It is not uncommon to hear stories of NRIs who want to pass as “natives,” conceal their money and still enjoy the privilege of being better off.We are pardesis in a desi land. But “native” Indians have developed an uncanny skill in detecting and outing NRIs with pretenses. Once at a historic site that imposes different fees for foreigners and for native Indians, I tried to get away by claiming that I was indeed a resident of India. I tried my Hindi and Marathi on the man behind the ticket counter . But he didn’t want to have anything to do with it. He insisted that I cough up the special entrance fee in dollars that “foreigners” are asked to pay. What did he have to do with demanding more money; he was a government servant after all, I thought. But he unmasked me quickly and rebuked me warning that I was not the first one to run this trick by him. Seems like quite a few NRIs try to “look local.”We also travel for leisure. Have you heard of the running gag that there is always an Indian in any country and in any place you are traveling? Given our robust share of the world population and our growing purchasing power, we are now everywhere. Go to the ski slopes in Austria, an aboriginal village, Disney world, or a remote tourist site in Brazil and you will find a visiting Indian there. We are entering the class of leisure travelers. A whole industry drives this, of course, preying on our desires to be somewhere and curiosity to see the world. Travel for leisure has a different flavor, a different slant than the travel for necessity, one that takes you home. In both cases, you travel because you can. In the former though, it is because you have to, for emotional, family or psychological reasons. But travel for leisure is made possible by surplus income. It is an expression of power and means. That form of travel, more than any other, is an intrusion. We travel to visit those who cannot travel and enjoy their environment for our pleasure. The travel industry, by definition, is exploitative of the places it promotes, without regard or respect for those who live there.Consider the jewel of India’s travel industry, one of the wonders of the world, the great Taj Mahal. For all the romance and glamour associated with this monument, traveling to the Taj and seeing it are instructive experiences. Clearly, it is the most popular tourism site in India. People go there to be in the presence of one of the greatest monuments in the world. The environment around it has lost any identity of its own. You can witness the foreign currency pouring in from all corners. The city of Agra, with it splendorous past resembles a waiting room, adjoining a great, historic place. It has been drained of its own culture and people. The entire highway leading from Delhi to Agra, once a prized countryside, showcases how a distinctive region can lose its charms because it is leading to the Taj. Everyone is hawking something. Everyone attempts to speak languages they cannot. As you get closer to the city, the skyline is crowded by an oil refinery. Stories about how pollution is ruining the marble of the Taj are plenty in themselves. The city of Agra is enveloped with smell, thick and polluted air and you have to strain to see local people anywhere. Those who live there are clearly surviving by adjusting to the tourist economy.It does not appear that any of the money that the Taj brings (the fees for foreigners are hefty) or that the hotel industry generates goes to reducing the environmental damage. We are talking not simply of pollution, but also cultural damage. It is as if you are entering a prison and seeing only the prisoner. The surroundings have lost their historic and local cultural character. Is this how tourism promotes itself? Arrogance and indifference allow for such negligence for the distant visual pleasure that the Taj provides. If you take in all the experience, the Taj becomes only a building, a monument without life. And this is not just the case with the Taj Mahal. The local economies of many places around the world have been displaced by the economies of travel and tourism. But don’t expect inquiring minds to probe these issues in the travel sections of Western newspapers and travel magazines. The New York Times does ask the question: Why we travel? But it proceeds to answer it purely from the perspective of travel as consumption. You are likely to get tips on how India is “made easy” or “how to survive in Delhi for 36 hours,” along with suggestions for places where you can get poolside cocktails.There are reasons (and evidence) to believe that travel actually causes more harm than good upon the places it promotes and the people it needs. Travel may help some people living around the places we visit. But it is marginal at best and it is still patronage. Consider if the money that the Taj brings or what is brought in Rajasthan goes to those who live there. Or imagine Cancun’s surroundings with all that money brought in for the people alone. Think of the economy of Goa! Would they really have all the problems of shortage in funding in public works or education if they were supported by all the money brought in from tourism? We patronize people, not help them. This is why the most popular tourist spots are surrounded by poverty and a shoddy environment if not squalor. The much ballyhooed NRI class in India, it is said, has spawned a new economy in India, entirely meant to please us, from the shopping malls to regular hangouts. We know well that there is a new India now for us NRIs, mindful of our privileges and resources. How else do we explain the emerging shopping malls, copycat Western hangouts and places of comfort all designed to cater to this moneyed class.It is possible to go to India (or anywhere, for that matter) and live in luxury, sleep in five star hotels, smell the sterile air of air-conditioned rooms, cars and cabs, visit the places you wanted, meet the people you could and return intact from that experience. How different is it from the times of the British, who had servants waiting on them in their plush mansions, with their luxuries of cricket and hill stations and promenades in designated places. They turned their arrogance into patronizing, which is exactly what modern travel allows you to do. When you are a traveler, take a good look at yourself from the eyes of those who live there. It would be akin to Dutch filmmaker Bert Haanstra’s film, Zoo. In it, we see the whole experience of visiting a zoo from the point of view of the caged animals. Think of how the world appears to them.From the perspective of the locals, we are the picturesque, we are a sight to behold. We appear clownish, with our Bisleri bottles, our hot new sneakers, our hats or sun tan lotions. We have the look of being lost; everything exotic is a purchasable commodity. We could be sold anything. People who live in tourist areas, those who make a living from us, have skills far beyond what we can imagine.Our own pleasures for travel become so important. We arm ourselves with cameras and keep clicking any and every strange sight in our reach. The camera is as intrusive as a gun and given its omnipresence, even more dangerous. All you have to do is invite strangers into your home and let them take pictures of your abode and your family. Imagine this feeling upon those we visit. And yet, we take it for granted that when we travel, we ought to carry a camera. Each person and object that offers a sight out of the ordinary is worth capturing. We celebrate visiting a place by the number of pictures we take. Each image in our album is a robbery. Perhaps the locals should start taking pictures of the tourists so it puts them at unease and makes them aware of a camera’s aggression.With the right disposition, travel can be a humbling experience. You are suddenly aware of different worlds and hopefully it reduces your arrogance and the position of luxury you occupy. The great American writer Mark Twain once warned: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Travel can make us humble in our knowledge and about our place in the world. And India certainly demands humility.Humility in TravelYou know the tales of people who packed their bags and assumed a visit to India is a little variation from that to rural Texas or the outskirts of Cancun and gotten the shock of their lives. India can be unforgiving to the uninitiated. It is a country with extreme contrasts and nothing ordinary here works quite the same way there. Those who think the U.S. is diverse country between Los Angeles and New York, with the lovely Mississippi delta shaping the middle character, are gravely mistaken to assume this is diversity. India defines diversity. Language changes with each leg of travel and food with each passing day. Sights and sounds are distinct and there is poetry in that richness. For what we consider order, there is a deeper boredom. Surprise is held in each encounter and if you are ready to see the country, the culture and the people on their own terms, not as showcases for tourism, you will experience life that is varied and complex and forever charming. But all this requires humility, a judgment that does not use the yardsticks of one’s own confinement to read the other. Nothing quite humbles you as much as India. To the uninitiated, it is a culture shock. Its variety is bewildering and its complexity intimidating. For those with empathy and pity, there is nothing that India offers other than a deepening of stereotypes and prejudices. When you travel to India, even as a returning Indian, there will be many things that appear “strange” or alien. The odd rituals in temples, the wayward strangers walking around without aim, the rickshaw-wallahs who haggle over little amounts of money, the slow speed of bureaucratic paper between two points, the long lines for railway and bus tickets, the slow traffic, everything requires that you come to terms with what you are seeing. A wise traveler defers judgment. He indulges in his experience and lets the world unfold before him. India offers unlimited joy and there are “strange” surprises at every corner. A recent trip provided a strong lesson in humility to me.I missed a flight in India and had to make my way quickly to Khajuraho to meet up with others in my group. I caught a plane to Gwalior and then drove in the night for almost seven hours. It became one of the most memorable journeys, full of lessons and moments of reflection. First, it would not have been possible without the benefit of my foreign currency to rent a car and drive that quickly so late in the night. The driver was, as always, a man of the world, familiar with all the tricks and tales about people who travel to India. He crisscrosses the North each week, taking travelers from one place to another. Wise and cautious, suspicious of strangers, but fully willing to open his heart to them, he engaged me in conversation throughout the trip.As is commonplace in India, he needed tea (with extra adrak, or ginger) every two hours and enjoyed stopping, just because he felt like it. There was a longer break for almost 40 minutes for tarka dal and rice at a roadside dhaba. Clearly he was tired as he had been on the road for over 14 hours already, but determined to make the most of his new customer-acquaintance-listener. He warned me a few times to watch for bhoot (ghosts) on the road as he saw a few himself. It was an intense journey.I got into the car as an NRI, mindful that it was an odd hour, and the journey was long. It was also a road little traveled at that hour. With each passing minute, it became clear that the reasons for travel are really about humility and trust of strangers, not about leisure and not about money or souvenirs.After some four hours on the road, he spotted on the side of the road a small hut that seemed like a home. It did not appear to be a dhaba. But he must have known the residents and told me later that the person there stays awake most of the night to offer tea to his driver friends. A younger son, about 9-10 years old, would run to the trucks or cars with tea and a pot of water. The driver declared it was time for his tea, but I declined any more caffeine at that hour. He took the car aside, reclined his seat and went to sleep. His snooze lasted for 20 minutes, while the car sat in a remote farm. When he woke up, he turned on his lights and right on cue the little kid came by with tea and water. All of us chatted a while about ordinary things.Among the many stories I heard while driving, some of which may have been embellished, were about travelers to India. The driver believed that all travelers who come to India are running from something. It could be something personal or just some artificial idea that India offers solace to lost souls. It was not the first time I heard that belief.What the driver meant was that travelers wear too many masks. They pretend to be what they are not. Some of them pretend they are not NRIs, while some others do. Some pretend to know a lot while few do. Some want to be at home there, but few try. He was particularly skeptical of those who think they know a lot about India from the Internet, especially those who make online reservations in the belief they are getting the best deals. Some come laden with prejudices and return with deepened impressions. Very few, he said, come to India to be Indians.Just as I was trying to figure out what he was saying, we rolled in front of the touristy hotel in Khajuraho where I was staying. The contrast between the two worlds grew starker than ever. I was entering a world with fewer surprises, with people just like me staying there. The pretenses there were glamorous and comforting. I asked him if he wanted to stay, get some rest and then drive back. He declined with a simple answer: he would sleep better in his car. The experience told me what travel is about and what it isn’t.How hard it is to travel! I am not talking simply about the difficulties at the airports, delays and lost luggage. But it is hard to defer judgment, to diminish your arrogance and even more difficult to be humble. The people we met in the dark of the night had more to offer in our experiences than the tourists in hotels.The next day, I was at the Khajuraho temples, another great monument on the list of many travel destinations in India. The temples were gorgeous and profound. Their surroundings were dry, but the grass in the compounds was green. The area had not seen rain in months, but each segment of the lawn in the tourist areas was generously watered.It was easy to identify the NRIs and foreigners from the locals. The moments for the former were filled completely with the selfish consumption of pleasures.This is not about coming home enlightened, I thought. It is not about traveling because I can. It is not about patronizing them with your gestures or foreign currency. Travel is not meant to cleanse you and give you a break from your crises. It is certainly not about seeing the world for the extra thrills you can afford.It is about seeing the world from other perspectives. It is about how ridiculous you look as a traveler to your own land. It is about them worrying about their next day while you wonder about yours. It is about this upside down world that makes them wonder why you come searching for a place they cannot leave.  It is part of sight-seeing when you become a sight yourself.One marvels at the attraction with Mehndi among foreigners. It has certainly become a part of the Indian chic. Think of the women artists who swarm around Western tourists at India Gate in Delhi. Their intrusive and exemplary skills in hawking their services to strangers are nothing short of amazing. If you are not likely to be a customer, it is easy to watch them in action. They scramble for any exposed white skin that comes into their vision on unsuspecting visitors. Sleeves that are not covered with clothing are raw material to transform into elaborate designs in no time. Partially bare backs are better, because they have less sensitivity to touch. But really, these are small considerations; all they need is a gullible customer. If a customer is absorbed in sight-seeing, looking around at the joyous crowd that gathers there, it is possible that before they are even aware, there is already a design at works on their arm.If you are amused by the artist armed with a little cone filled with Mehndi in one hand and a handful of printed designs on the other, then that amusement may not last too long. Before you know it, your blank skin has been painted over with an attractive Mehndi design. Savvy capitalists these women are. Prices are not to be haggled over here. There isn’t enough time for it. First the street artists know that you will pay what they ask because it is bound to sound like a cheap deal to you. Then they will always offer a package deal if you are willing to make a canvas out of other parts of your body.Their skills are admirable. In  short time, with that little cone and no assistant around (but plenty of competition), they can make an artwork out of the most boring bodyscape. If you insist that it was done without their permission and that they have to remove it, that is an equally gracious task, although they will not miss naming a price for that too. The best option in that sunny space is to give in, sit down and choose your own design.It is part of sight-seeing when you become a sight yourself. Vehicles with soulRiding an auto rickshaw can be a terrifying experience to the uninitiated. This tiny little three wheeler rides the roads as if it is in a contest in improvisation. It is a powerhouse on the road if you measure power by the efficiency of getting from here to there. The “auto” as it is called, can seat three, four or even five on a tiny seat. If you are willing to sit next to the driver, on that small protrusion on his seat, then you are the sixth or seventh passenger. The numbers that can be accommodated depends on the size of riders.  On the busy and crowded Indian streets, an auto rickshaw is extraordinarily nimble. For city travel, no vehicle matches a rickshaw. Try not to boast about the dexterity of a bicycle; the auto rickshaws can outwit them. It is hard to see if anything intimidates a rickshaw. And yet, if you are not used to it, if your nervous system cannot take the shock and awe of Indian roads, it is better to walk or consider some other mode of transportation. It can out-maneuver almost anything. The control on the front wheel is temperamental, so the two back wheels simply try to cope. The net result is a rollicking ride that shakes, tumbles, tilts, but mostly lands on its three feet. You cannot simply sit back there as if you are being led by an orderly machine. You have to participate, make sure your instincts are tuned to gravity and the forces of acceleration and movement.  And if you are game, what is terrifying turns exciting, like a rollercoaster, except that on this one, you actually go from one place to another. They are best suited for back alleys and side roads, those not found on maps, and seem to go anyplace they find a direction.Apparently, the auto rickshaw was China’s gift to the world and is found in many regions, from Italy to Thailand. But there is nothing like an Indian rickshaw. Like other unpredictable patterns of transportation on Indian roads, this one moves with careful alacrity.  In towns that take their personalities seriously, the insides and outsides of rickshaws could be read as walls of poetry, worship or simple witticisms that will make you chuckle or turn you into a devotee.One gets the feeling that rickshaws never die. They just keep running. If you return to the same town, 10 years later, you get the feeling that all the rickshaws are still running. It has to be the most demanding vehicle that has a soul of its own.Airports: India’s dullest placesIndian airports are visually and spatially some of the most unattractive places in the country. With long lines, hordes of passengers and increasing delays, Indian airports are places you cannot wait to get out of. Suddenly the crammed space on the plane looks attractive. Unlike some train stations in the country, which exhibit grandeur, Indian airports are products of an age where efficiency and profit matter more than character or history.The airport interiors are not distinctive, except now there is growing hunger to claim every inch of space for advertising. Smaller stalls, billboards, McDonald’s and Subways compete for our attention. Indian airports are not great places for dining, which is ironic for a country that offers great food on every street corner. Among the more intriguing features of Indian airports are idols of worship and panels of outlets for charging cell phones. Here you see an embodiment of what India is about; an instantly devotional place where gods are everywhere as well as a place committed to technology.  We have not yet discovered the shopping potential of airports, which Europe and the U.S. have grasped so well.Airports are depressing places anyway, especially if you are stranded. The lack of distractions to kill your boredom makes Indian airports only that much duller. Western Gaze: (Tips from a Western traveler)Your bags are loaded, the 15-hour plane ride is touching down and you are brimming with anticipation of what you will discover. But wait!  Are you prepared to confront a different world as soon as you emerge from the airport?  Would you turn away from a desperately poor child or a woman cradling a baby in her arms? It is a rapid lesson in world poverty, in the situations that tourist books gently warn you about, but rarely prepare you for. Their solitudeIndia can be disorienting for the first time traveler.As a foreigner, or a “gora,” you will be stared at. Not a quick, furtive look, but a studied stare that engulfs you. Men are subjected to it, but women even more so. It is not an experience you are likely to encounter in the West. But the motive is not physical attraction, but a visual rarity. The best way to fend off such advances of the gaze is to interrupt it, either by guarding what they are looking at or distracting them. It is instructive to be the other in another world.If the onlookers are armed with cameras and these days, with the proliferation of cell phones, almost everyone is, you will be photographed. It is one of the most intriguing and beguiling experiences for a Westerner in India. Dashiell DavisIf you are a woman, objectified enough at home, as a Caucasian you will be more inviting on Indian streets. There is widespread perception that women from the West are easy prey. Groping and fondling them is quite common, especially when they are most vulnerable. The problem intensifies in closed environments, such as clubs, where women, particularly Western ones, are easy targets for harassment. It is best to be on guard at all times.Then there are street merchants, the constant peddlers. They are very persistent. Even a furtive glance will suffice, but a longer glance is an invitation to a hard sell. How deep is capitalism intertwined with such gazes! Some are constrained by the tables they sell their wares on. Those without tables must be the nimblest capitalists anywhere.  Their goods travel with them and they are persistent salespeople. Heavy-footed mall shoppers beware. Either you run, or learn to negotiate in person for their wares. Persistent beggars hover close to your skin. There is no limit to how much you give and no easy way to resist.A visit to India is not a trip you will ever forget, but nothing in the world will quite prepare you for it.– By Dashiell Davis Related Itemslast_img read more

Slumdog Redux

first_imgHello sir. You know that movie Salaam Bombay? I acted in that movie.”“Yeah that old movie — oh, you were in it?”“I was the main character, sir.” Salaam Bombay’s Shaffiq Syed: “If I could change back the hands of time, I would have never agreed to be part of that movie.”That is a recent exchange in an autorickshaw in Bangalore driven by Shaffiq Syed, the rag-picker kid who shot to instant recognition with Mira Nair’s path-breaking, Oscar-nominated film Salaam Bombay in 1988.Syed had run away from his home in Bangalore to Mumbai, because “all the boys talked about what a big city Mumbai was.” He left home with three friends, but they lost each other on the train as “we kept getting down in various stations to avoid the ticket checker as we were traveling without tickets.”Finally, he reached Mumbai and ended up near Juhu beach. “I had never seen the sea in my entire life. I just got out of my clothes and jumped into the waves. The water was salty. Then I saw a huge building nearby, which was probably a hotel, but I thought it was a salt factory, because of which the sea was so salty.”He was plucked to act in Salaam Bombay and the rest, as they say, is history.But for Syed it is a bitter history: “All the bad things I learned, all the bad deeds I did, were after acting in Salaam Bombay. I was really young then. I still remember that after I got the national award I thought the world belonged to me — that I had arrived to claim my rightful place in mainstream society. I slept with the award under my bed every night, thinking someone would steal it. I went to a lot of producers after that, but no one was willing to give me a chance. I was too naïve to understand that no one helps a child from the roads.” Mira Nair established the Salaam Baalak Trust for the 27 kids who acted in her movie. The trust looked after the wellbeing of the kids, helped them integrate into the mainstream, and tried to prevent them from slipping back into the drudgery of slum life.They had little success with Syed, who found it hard to cope with his life after fame. He changed jobs, thrice attempted suicide, broke into his mother’s house and was jailed. At that point, trust members say, they drew the line and stopped trying to aid Syed, who returned to Bangalore ultimately and now ekes out a living as an autorickshaw driver.“If I could change back the hands of time, I would have never agreed to be part of that movie. You know children are very sensitive. Once you expose them to the good life, they can never adjust back to their old drudgery. I have three children, I would never allow them to act in a movie,” Syed says resolutely.Ever since the movie Slumdog Millionaire grabbed the headlines after winning 10 Oscars in February, Syed has been hunted out by the media. He says, “Everyone forgot me and now suddenly they remember that I am alive. A couple of days back I got a call from Mira Nair. She asked me how I was doing. She did not want to know what I was doing for the last 20 years. So why bother now?”Syed is writing a script based on his life. He says: “This script, if made into a movie will be like no other film. My journey from ignominy to fame and back into ignominy will be a lesson for many.” The trajectory of life for many of the other boys who acted in Salaam Bombay was similar. Many took to petty crimes; two died, one of HIV-Aids and another in an accident. Hansa Vitthal, the only girl in the group of street boys, is married and lives in a Mumbai suburb.Salaam Bombay’s major success story is Raju Bernard, who enacted the character of Keera. Bernard was adopted by the film’s cinematographer Sandi Sissel and went on to live in the U.S. He now works as a camera assistant in Los Angeles, is married and has a child. The journey, however, was not easy for him either.“I made a decision to move to an entirely different world with a woman who looked like no one I had ever had direct contact with, fair skin and blond hair. I knew nothing about America; I did not even speak the language. I only knew that ‘everyone’ said that going to America was great. I was too young to fully grasp and understand the meaning of ‘America is great’ and just how wonderfully my life would change once I reached America,” says Bernard, now known as Bernard Chablis Sissel.Sissel grew fond of the little boy during the shooting of the film. After the shooting wrapped up, she appointed a guardian for Bernard in India and sent money regularly for his education and upkeep. However, she soon realized that the money wasn’t reaching Bernard and invited him to visit her in the U.S. He asked to stay on and Sissel was happy to oblige.Says Bernard of his experience of working with the film: “I was young then and they offered me meals and something different to do everyday. It never felt like work, it felt like playtime to me during the filming and a break from reality. During the filming, I got to spend time with my mother, Sandi. I remember excitedly asking her to take a picture of me holding the slate for the first time. Every now and then when I hold a slate in front of the camera for her, I fondly remember that first time. What I Bernard Chablis Sissel with his biological family in Mumbai: “I think often about my family in India and how I miss them and what poverty they still endure.”remember most is having a sense of purpose and a place to go every day.”Bernard says he doesn’t remember why he was chosen to play Keera. “My mother, Sandi, had said previously that I was quite a character when I was young and often during shooting they would use me to distract the gathering crowds away from the main shooting. It could have been this trait of mine that gave me the opportunity to be in Salaam Bombay.”He has visited his family in Mumbai since with Sissel. His biological family still lives in the slums, although they lead a more dignified life than before. Bernard says he has mixed feelings toward them. “I think often about my family in India and how I miss them and what poverty they still endure. I realize now as an adult the extreme poverty I was living in as a child and am thankful for where my life has taken me and thankful for all those that made it possible for me to choose a better life, especially my mother, Sandi. I now have a family of my own, my wife, Karen, and my 3-year-old daughter, Maya, who will never have to experience what I did as a child.” Born Into Brothels’ Preeti: “I have a flat in one of the most posh area of Kolkata, a laptop, expensive phones, money. What else do I need to be happy?” Bernard’s experience bolsters the argument of child rights activists in India who assert that for full rehabilitation and fruitful integration into mainstream society, children need to be removed from the slum atmosphere. Geeta Venkadakrishnan, founder director of the Kolkata chapter of the Hope Foundation, a non profit organization that works with street kids, says: “For long term rehabilitation, the most important thing is to take the child out of the slum environment. It is not always poverty or a lack of money that ails life in the slums; it is the hazardous environment that is the worst ailment. In order for them to integrate well into mainstream society, they need a good environment. The money should be put in a fixed deposit for them and the child should be put in a residential school.”Salaam Bombay opened up a floodgate of filmmakers making films on street or slum kids or using them in movies or documentaries. Born into Brothels by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski won the 2005 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. The documentary is described on the Kids-With-Camera website as “a tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art. Born into Brothels is a portrait of several unforgettable children who live in the   Zulfiquar, (center in white) who acted in Little Terrorist performs in a play. A.K. Tewari, coordinator of Apna Ghar, where Zulfiquar goes to school, says, “When children act in films, post all the recognition and limelight it gets very difficult for them to fall back into their old lives.” red light district of Calcutta, where their mothers work as prostitutes. Zana Briski, a New York-based photographer, gives each of the children a camera and teaches them to look at the world with new eyes.”Nearly 7,000 women and girls work as sex workers in the red light district of Kolkata. In 1997, New York based photographer Briski, on a mission to photograph them, befriended the children of many of the sex workers and began teaching them photography. Subsequently, she and filmmaker Ross Kaufman scripted their stories into the movie Born into Brothels. Kids with Cameras was founded by Briski in 2002 to raise money and awareness for the children through the sale and exhibition of their work.Ross Kauffman said in a live chat on the internet: “None of the kids are in the line and they are all doing well. Through the sales of their photography, the kids have earned over $100,000 which goes directly towards their education…. I am so proud of the kids. They are incredible.”Two of the eight children featured in the film came to the U.S. for study, helped by a charity financed by the film’s proceeds. Sadly, one of the girls, then in her teens, fell back into the darkness that the film was hoping to deliver her from. The girl, Pooja, who now calls herself Preeti, was rescued from Sonagachi when she was a minor and housed in a juvenile welfare home where she stayed until February 2006. After her release she returned to the trade and is a sex worker now.She says, “I came back here on my own will.” Dressed in hip clothes, she totes a hi-tech mobile phone and sports a lot of attitude. When a reporter tried to talk to her about her stint with the Oscars, she initially was reticent, but ultimately opened up, saying, “It was a fairy tale.” She’s 20 now, but doesn’t regret her life. “I have a flat in one of the most posh area of Kolkata, a laptop, expensive phones, money. What else do I need to be happy?” she said dismissively. Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail, of Slumdog Millionaire fame, on the Wills India Fashion Week ramp in March. Rubina’s father is fending of allegations that he tried to sell his daughter for $260,000. An update on the kids posted on the film’s official website shows that one of the boys, Avijit Halder, who was associated with Born into Brothels went to the U.S. three years ago for study. He is currently finishing his senior year at a private high school. Over the past two summers, he has participated in prestigious film programs at the Sundance Institute and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He plans to attend a U.S. university this fall, studying medicine and film.It has been a long journey for Halder. From the little and shy son of a sex worker in Kolkata, he is now amidst American teenagers. The little boy who was afraid to dream, found his calling in painting and drawing. He has entered his work in international competitions and won the Cultural Diversity Award at the 2006 Pura Inspiracion Film Contest at the Tucson Film Festival for his documentary Culture. He has built an international network of friends and mentors and bares his life, dreams and aspirations on a social networking site. In the lingo of an American teenager he speaks of his inner conflicts. He calls his profile picture, “Spilt personality” and raves about Kolkata as the “dee best” hometown. He writes: “Altho my life sux..I consider myself 2 b lucky.. anyways I m indian n dats all just an ordinary person…who loves eatin, laughing..sometimes painting n photography n hate schools a lot….All my friends r cool.” In his podcast “Beyond Brothels,” he says, “I wish I still had that life. With my friends.” Avijit Halder, who worked in Born into Brothels has produced another award winning film Cultures. Photo: Ken SteinMost of the other children in Born into Brothels are attending school through the help of Kids with Cameras, which also supports their friends and siblings through sponsorships at Sabera and FutureHope, two non governmental organizations in Kolkata who work with children.As for the children who acted in Slumdog Millionaire, life has done a double flip for little Rubina Ali, 9, and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, 10, who captured American hearts as they were trotted to the Oscar Awards ceremony in February. According to media reports, Rubina’s house has been fitted with hi-tech gadgets, including a 32-inch LCD screen. In an official statement, the movie’s producers said they are looking to buy both children apartments near their old slum, whose ownership will rest in a trust until they complete their education and turn 18. The clause was included to prevent the adults from selling their flats. The producers have also arranged for a rickshaw to take the children to a non profit English medium school.The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority has gifted two apartments for the children to felicitate their achievements. The producers say they are working with local social workers to ensure that the children get a decent education and a better life. However, soon after the kids come into money, relatives and publicity hounds began crawling out of the woodwork. Rubina’s biological mother Khurshid Begum surfaced to claim the child (and her fame and money) she had abandoned. She is now fighting a custody battle with Rubina’s stepmother who brought her up. Indian police are currently investigating a report in a British tabloid News of the World accusing her father Rafiq Qureshi of offering to sell her for $260,000 to a fake sheik.Sanjoy Roy, founder of the Salaam Baalak Trust, says: “The most important thing is that there needs to be a comprehensive plan for their long term rehabilitation. Such a plan might include provisions for career choices, a mentor for guiding them through the ups and downs of life and even counseling to cope with sudden fame and then maybe anonymity. It is also important that the money that is being raised in the name of the children be put in a fixed deposit for them so that they don’t need to be dependant on any trust or any individual.” The Salaam Baalak Trust has under its care, Zulfiquar, the small boy who played the role of Salim, in the short film the Little Terrorist, directed, written and produced by Ashvin Kumar, which was nominated for the 2004 Academy Award for Live Action Short Film. The movie revolves around Jamal (played by Salim), a 10 year old Pakistani Muslim boy. Zulfiquar was a street child who was handpicked for the movie. He now lives under the care of the Salaam Balak Trust, where he attends school.A.K. Tiwari, coordinator of the home, Apna Ghar, where Zulfiquar lives says, “We have a lot of theater workshops at our homes. The filmmaker saw Zulfiquar in one such workshop and cast him as Salim. It was a documentary and he was paid Rs 5,000 for it. We opened an account for him with that money. Later on he acted in another film, directed by the same filmmaker, and he was paid Rs 1 lakh then. We put all the money in a fixed deposit for him.”Zulfiquar is in 10th grade now, but has become indifferent toward his studies. Tiwari says: “When children act in filmspost all the recognition and limelight it gets very difficult for them to fall back into their old lives. With Zulfiquar, he started thinking he was a big film star. Before he acted in the movies his grades in school were really good. However, afterwards they started slipping. He is more interested in films and dance now. We had to counsel him a lot to make him come to his senses and finish his studies. We made it clear to him that he has to finish his education first.”That is an issue also confronting the star of another movie that created waves with Slumdog Millionaire at this year’s Oscars, Smile Pinki, the story of a young girl Pinki whose life was transformed by cleft surgery, which won the Oscar in the short documentary feature category. Satish Kalra, regional director for South Asia for Smile Train, the international charity which offers free cleft surgery to children such as Pinki, said: “Smile Pinki will hopefully raise awareness on the global problem of cleft lip and cleft palate. We cannot support her education as Smile Train only provides a level playing field to these children. We hope somebody comes forward and supports Pinki’s education.”Pinki has found a mentor in Dr. Subodh Kumar Singh, the doctor who performed the surgery on her and accompanied her to the Oscars. He complains that often people promise support to Pinki just for the publicity. He cited media reports that Pinki would be getting education free for life, but Singh says, he isn’t aware of any such commitments. The Indore Medical School has promised free medical education for Pinki, but Singh says: “She is only in the second standard. The most important thing for her now is to complete her primary and secondary education. Only then we can think of her further education. As of now I am bearing the cost of her education and I will continue to do so.”Since her surgery, Pinki is happy and engaged at her school, where earlier she was ostracized. An intelligent girl, she is especially proud of her books, which have been gifted to her by the scores. She has turned her collection of fiction and non-fiction books into a library in her village, issuing them out to people who want to borrow them. Singh says: “Education is the only way forward. Given a level playing field, Pinki will go far in life.”Pinki’s exposure to the world has also proved beneficial for her village, Rampur Dhavaia in Uttar Pradesh. The U.P. government has gifted her a new house and announced plans to develop her village as a “model village.”The success of Slumdog Millionaire propelled the problem of slum and street children in India to international attention. The Indian government is proposing the establishment of a National Commission for Children to promote the welfare and rights of children. The young stars of Slumdog Millionaire feted at Universal Studios Hollywood in February. However, Roy says, it will take time for major changes to take effect. “In villages in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and the South there is a huge improvement in rolling out education where the Panchayats have been made responsible for the local school system, appointing teachers, and so on. Sure some schools are still rudimentary, but in states with bad governance like Bihar, UP, Bengal, etc., this has yet to set in.”For children thrust into the public vortex through movies, the psychological effects of their 15 minutes of fame can be both uplifting and devastating. Sissel recalls it took years for Bernard to recognize that survival was no longer his problem. “He was, oh, so brave to take such a big step with a Western woman. He is still saving himself.”Children rights activists say that the money showered on the children is inevitably frittered away. Long term rehabilitation alone can ensure that the children do not slip back into their old lives. They say the children require counseling to come to terms with their sudden fame and equally sudden ignominy; that the money they earn should be put in a trust for their education and career goals and most importantly they should be taken out of the slum environment so they grow up with regular kids.Geeta Venkadakrishnan, director of the Kolkata chapter of Hope Foundation says, “I am sure very soon the little girl from Slumdog Millionaire will be offered endorsements or a role in some movie or serial. However, that is not the solution. We need to first take care of their education and then other things. Without education it will not be long before she (Rubina) sinks back to the drudgery she came from.”Slumdog Millionaire’s story about slum kids touched the hearts of cinemagoers worldwide. It propelled its child stars to instant stardom. The Mumbai slum children Rubina, in a gown, and Azhar, dapper in a tuxedo, walked the Red Carpet and were feted in five star hotels in the United States at this year’s Oscars.On their return to India, both the children complained of the heat and mosquitoes. Those will be the least of their problems in the roller coaster life ahead. Related Itemslast_img read more