Saturday, January 7

Vasco Da Gama's Description of his landing in India

While I was in Manchester son, after finishing my lecture at the uni, I was walking back to the hotel when I spotted a second hand book seller on the pavement. And of course I had to stop and browse. Besides other books, I got two books. One was on Goan food and its history and second was on Portuguese history including what the Portuguese did in Asia and India. 
The Treaty of Tordesillas which was signed between Spain and Portugal way back in 1494 divided up the free world, the Spanish got the west of Cape Verde and the Portuguese got the east. And that blasted treaty signed so many years and centuries back is still causing problems because for example Argentina used that sodding treaty to claim the Malvinas or Falklands Islands. And that Falklands war was documented by professor sir Lawrence freedman, my PhD supervisor. How's that for a link? 
The Sykes Picot treaty dividing up the carcass of the Ottoman Empire was just signed a century or so back. If the The Treaty of Tordesillas is any guidance, the bloody Middle East will be in turmoil for another 3-4 centuries. 
Anyway, the Portuguese were admired for their ship building and navigation prowess. For a minor economy to rule over such a large empire was amazing. But the brutality was also extraordinary. Never before had anybody seen such brutality in the Indian Ocean before and believe you me, there have been some despots. See what religious fervour does to you? 
But this document is fascinating. The riches of India meets the greed and religious fanatics of Europe. But they left behind some exciting architecture in Goa and some excellent food. I'm looking to make some of those dishes. 

Vasco Da Gama's Description of his landing in India
(via Instapaper)

[Vasco Da Gama, "Round Africa to India, in The Library of Original Sources, O. J. Thatcher, ed., vol. 5 (Milwaukee, WI: University Research Extension Co., 1901), pp. 27-29]

[arrival.] That night (May 20) we anchored two leagues from the city of Calecut, and we did so because our pilot mistook Capua, a town at that place, for Calecut. Still further there is another town called Pandarani. We anchored about a league and a half from the shore. After we were at anchor, four boats (abrades) approached us from the land, who asked of what nation we were. We told them, arid they then pointed out Calecut to us.
On the following day (May 2I) these same boats came again alongside, when the captain-major sent one of the convicts to Calecut, and those with whom he went took him to two Moors from Tunis, who could speak Castilian and Genoese. The first greeting that he received was in these words: "May the Devil take thee! What brought you hither?" They asked what he sought so far away from home, and he told them that we came in search of Christians and of spices. They said: "Why does not the King of Castile, the King of France, or the Signoria of Venice send thither?" He said that the King of Portugal would not consent to their doing so, and they said he did the right thing. After this conversation they took him to their lodgings and gave him wheaten bread and honey. When he had eaten he returned to the ships, accompanied by one of the Moors, who was no sooner on board, than he said these words: "A lucky venture, a lucky venture ! Plenty of rubies, plenty of emeralds ! You owe great thanks to God, for having brought you to a country holding such riches !" We were greatly astonished to hear his talk, for we never expected to hear our language spoken so far away from Portugal.

Friday, January 6

Clever Girl: A 10-year-old’s advice for surviving Jurassic World


I read this article and loved it. Its a review of Jurassic Park the movie. I remembered that you were scared of some movies which we watched at home and thought of sending this to you so that you can perhaps use these tricks. I remember the first movie which scared me. It was called as The Deep ( and it was relating to an underwater treasure hunt and all that. I remember Dadu and Didu taking me to see the movie in a theater when I was about your age. I was scared, i tell you, and i went out to pee so many times just so that i can avoid watching the scary parts like the shark attacks. And that night, i was so scared that I crept into bed with Dadu and Didu and slept curled up tightly with Dadu. So its fine being scared, Choti, we are there to give you big hugs. Also as I said, you can use some of the techniques given below so that you arent scared the next time we watch a scary movie, yes? 



Yet again Hollywood decided it didn’t need my opinion of a major motion picture, so they screened it after my press deadline. But the man can’t hold me down! Instead of reviewing Jurassic World, the newest entry in the famous dino franchise, I decided to interview a 10-year-old girl about dinosaurs. 


Illustration by Allison Kerek 
Alex: Hi, Una. Do you remember me? We met when your dad and I were on a radio show together. You and I ate doughnuts backstage. 

Una: Ummm. 

Alex: There was a dog there. 

Una: Oh yeah! I don’t remember you, but I know there were people there. 

Alex: That’s OK. I’m forgettable. Anyway, your dad said you’re excited about the new Jurassic Park movie? 

Una: Yeah! I’ve seen the previews for the other ones, and they weren’t as good quality because they were made a long time ago. I’m really excited about the scene where the sea-dinosaur totally owns that shark. That looks aaawesome. 

Alex: So does it seem scary at all? 

Una: Ummm…I guess. 

Alex: Which part? 

Thursday, January 5

The Contradictions of Ballerinas


Another article on ballet and ballerinas. 

I love seeing you dance. It's ethereal and you look like a wisp of wind. Beautiful and planned and drifting to a rhythm that only you can hear. 

And no question of your strength choti. You're a very strong girl. I see your discipline and systematic way of dealing with everything. I'm very impressed by that. 



Begin forwarded message:

From: "Blogtrottr" <>
Date: 2 January 2017 at 3:32:59 pm GMT
Subject: JSTOR Daily: The Contradictions of Ballerinas

where news meets its scholarly match 

The Contradictions of Ballerinas
Jan 2nd 2017, 13:02, by Erin Blakemore
Are ballerinas strong or fragile, gritty or ethereal? A look at the soaring, strong dance of a Misty Copeland or another prima ballerina brings all of those tensions into soaring, toe-shoed focus. And when dance historian Jennifer Fisher faced her own feelings about a tutu, she came to realize that ballerinas are a study in complex contradictions.
When Fisher gave a tutu to her three-year-old goddaughter, she had to confront her mother's fear that the garment would seduce her into the dark side of dance. The dangers of ballet—from physical injury to exploitation, eating disorders and more—are all too well known, but after her conversation with her friend, Fisher realized that it was worth investigating how society interprets the ballerina.
As ballet and society evolve, perhaps new interpretations of ballerinas can emerge.
Ballerinas have long made feminists both uneasy and excited, embodying fulfillment and the shackles of feminine performance. Fisher acknowledges the gender imbalances within dance; while the field is dominated by women, it is still largely directed and choreographed by men. On the other hand, cultural theorists have found strength within ballets themselves—stories of agency and independence that are enacted by women, for women.
Fisher then discussed ballet with ten women who, though their ages, races, and socioeconomic status varied, had "a strong relationship to ballet." For these women, everything from pointe shoes to the princess-like roles ballerinas play on stage were deeply evocative. Though some of the women viewed ballerinas as part of a system that has largely negative effects on women, others found empowerment in their dance.
For most observers, there's a tendency to want to see ballerinas in either/or terms. Their "strength is either masked or evident," Fisher writes. "…she is either frilly or powerful…she is either in charge or swooning in someone's arms." But as ballet and society evolve, suggests Fisher, perhaps new interpretations of ballerinas that acknowledge both their agency and their anguish can emerge.
Fisher's goddaughter didn't get seduced by her tutu—rather, she tried out dance but eventually quit it during her teen years. "She stayed with it…until she won her pointe shoes and found out what it was like to consider satin and tulle as tools—voluptuously deceptive but rewarding tools that she masterfully learned to use."
Copeland said it best, declaring that her body's "strength and grace enabled [her] to pursue her passions." Perhaps it's that very tension between strength and sublimity that still makes dance so compelling. As ballet evolves and dancers like Misty Copeland change our conception of what a ballerina can be, perhaps that arsenal of tools/tulles will grow and change even further.
The post The Contradictions of Ballerinas appeared first on JSTOR Daily.
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Wednesday, January 4

Fwd: Helping others

Kannu and Diya

Here's something from another charity that I help run. This is home start Hillingdon. It's a charity which helps families with young children. When families have problems relating to alcoholism, drug abuse, unemployment, mental illness, unable to cope or a variety of problems, the police or NHS or social services or other relevant bodies pull us in. We deploy one of our trained volunteers to help out the family. Usually the assignment takes between 6-9 months although it can be as short as 1 month or as long as 2 years.

The volunteers are brilliant. They are normal citizens. All who have kids of their own. And they devote almost a day per week helping out some other family. They don't get paid. And most of the cases are serious. They are one or two steps away from the family breaking up and being taken into care. And if a family breaks up, it really ruins the members. And once a child is taken into care, the probability that the child's future life is screwed is very high. Did you know that a child taken into care can cost £50,000 per year? So we look after 100 families per year. Even if only 10% families were saved, from a cost side we are very effective. But the main benefit is to broader society to keep families together.

You two were and are raised in a well to do family. If a bit strange with a nutty baba and the books and loud noises and museums and strange habits but seriously, there are so many other families which are in serious need for comfort. See this list of outcomes we aimed for and completed.

Oh and another thing kids. And remember this very closely. We have to look after family members. Most of my cases do not have family members to reach out to. And the lack of family can cause severe loneliness and if/when you have issues there is nobody to reach out to. So that's why I was so happy that Both of you kids are so nice and speak well and keep in touch with dadu and didu and piya and pro and of course us. And at end of the day kids, you've got to love each other. Be patient. And help others.

Anyway I'll talk more about these families as we go on.