No students in this school: Sanskrit institute with four teachers in dire straits

From a distance, this government-run Sanskrit school in Sikar district of Rajasthan appears like any other run-down school with the building in need of paint. But once you enter the premises, it becomes clear that something else is amiss. The school is erringly quiet – there are no children on the small playground or, for that matter, in the classrooms.

The Government Upper Primary Sanskrit School in Pratappura village has six classrooms, four teachers — but not a single student. The teachers report for work at about 8am, water the plants, read newspaper, chat among themselves and leave after 2pm. They get their salary on time, but are not happy about the state of affairs.

“We feel ashamed to be sitting idle the whole day. It was once a thriving school with more than 50 students, but things changed a few years ago,” Sanwarmal, the school’s head teacher, told HT.

The school, which was established in 1998 attracted children from the neighbouring villages. In 2005, the student strength peaked to 55 and then gradually began to decline. In 2015-16 academic session, only four students were left and their parents also withdrew them last year.

(From left) Sanwarmal, Krishna Verma and Prabhudayal Sharma- teachers of Upper Primary Sanskrit School in Pratappura.

“A few years ago, the neighbouring villages did not have schools so the children used to come to Pratappura. Now, there are three middle schools within 1-2 km range, and so this school has been deserted,” village sarpanch, Balram Verma, said.

Pratappura has a population of about 300, and in most households the head of the family are employed in other towns and only the elders have stayed back to look after the ancestral home.

“The village has only six to seven students from class 1-8 who now study in other schools in the neighbouring villages,” Sanwarmal said.

All the teachers are now sick with boredom. “There is nothing to do here. We even encourage the village elders to come and chat with us so that we are able to pass the time,” Krishna Verma, who is the sole female teacher, said.

A retired army man, Kashiram and a farmer, Ghanshyam Singh, are regular visitors.

The teachers have approached the education department in Jaipur to shift them on deputation to other nearby schools where there is vacancy for Sanskrit teachers. “We gave a written request many months ago, but no action has been taken in this regard. We were told that deputations have been stopped for now,” Sanwarmal said.

The school has a glorious past, said Prabhudayal Sharma, who joined as a teacher in 2003.

“Some of the students have become doctors and engineers and one of them is a senior police official. But now there is little hope. The chances of the school’s revival are very slim,” he said.

As if to emphasise his point, a stray dog wanders inside the premises to be quickly shooed away by one of the teachers.

No Ordinary Cooks: The Rise and Decline of the Tradition of Khansamas

It is somewhat ironical that in this day of celebrity chefdom, khansamas, the original traditional professional cooks or chefs in many parts of the country, should have so totally disappeared. But this disappearance is perhaps inevitable. The khansamas were a product of a feudal India, of the British Raj, and while their legacy lived on for many decades post-Independence, and post the abolition of the privy purses which dealt a death blow to feudalism in many ways, in the post Liberalisation world, it was inevitable that this legacy would wane which is a pity because these were no ordinary cooks. They were master chefs who, despite being professionally untrained, cooked with an instinct for flavours and spicing that cannot be taught to students of Indian gastronomy.

Most of us who grew up at the cusp of Liberalisation can perhaps recall the last of the khansamas from old clubs in old cities. Some of us may even have been privileged to be part of extended families of some affluence and influence who employed these professional cooks. But how did the institution of the khansama-in the erstwhile dak bunglows, bureaucratic homes, Railways catering, army messes and elite clubs come about?

Much of it can be traced to Avadh – that glittering center piece of cultural and culinary evolution in the post-Mughal times. Abdul Halim Sharar (1860-1926), the best known chronicler of the lifestyle and culture of Avadh writes extensively about the Nawabi preoccupation with food and the exalted status enjoyed by cooks in their kitchens.

In Guzishta Lucknow, the finest narrative describing the Lucknow  of the past, Sharar not only talks about the splendours produced in the Nawabi kitchens-Rs 60,000 a month were spent on food apart from salaries of various cooks-where cuisine was raised to the form of art, but he also talks about the categories of cooks. While a bawarchi was an ordinary cook, cooking in bulk (that legacy has survived till today and you have bawarchis cooking up biryani, curries or working the tandoor for big fat Indian weddings), his profession was looked down upon by elite Lucknowwallahs

 No Ordinary Cooks: The Rise and Decline of the Tradition of Khansamas

as being commonplace. Rakabdars, on the other hand, were the true master chefs, and highly regarded.

They only cooked small portions of food for the main aristocrats (and not the entire household) and devoted their time to refining dishes, developing preserves, procuring the best ingredients and artistically decorating plates! Somewhat like the head chef in a modern restaurant kitchen that runs on the French model. Instead of following a recipe, Rakabdars were instinctive geniuses who created novel dishes out of existing ingredients-a dry fruit only khichdi without dal and chawal, sliced aubergines, delicately spiced, put on trees, murabbas, rich desserts, you get the drift.

Since cuisine was entertainment and the entire culture favoured hyperbole and elaborate manners (as has been often caricatured), nazakat and nafasat – delicacy and elegance– were equally prized in the culinary arts too. Thus we have the legacy of paans fashioned out of just malaipulaos rather than robust biryanis and aromats in minute quantities to rev up kebab and kormas as well as paheli ka khana

— to trick your senses-much before the age of Heston Blumenthal.

After the Revolt of 1857, when the last Nawab of Avadh Wajid Ali Shah was exiled to Kolkata, capital of the British Raj, hundreds of cooks employed in the extended household traveled east with him. These were cooks of all categories. Some of them or their progeny, it is conjectured, found employment with the British clubs and in the homes of the memsahibs, some turned bazaar chefs, but all of them, no doubt, contributed to the inventive cuisine that we know today-aloo dum, mochar

chops, Calcutta biryani which is a take on the avadhi biryani and, well, smoked hilsa, that ultimate aspirational dish. The khansamas were inventing a whole new genre of food with newer influences married to local ingredients and spicing.

Before we talk further about the khansamas and their influence on Indian gastronomy, a peep into the legacy of another traditional Indian cook: the padayan. While the khansamas were at least originally muslim cooks proficient in old Mughalai khana

, employed by aristocrats, bureaucrats, landlords given to entertaining and in clubs and messes of British India, padayans were also professional cooks, only more homely and matronly.

Most ordinary high-caste Hindu homes in UP and large parts of the Gangetic heartland employed these Brahmin women to cook in their inner kitchens. Padayans would make everyday fare, slaving over the fire, turning out hot phulkas and paranthe, ghee-laden dals and seasonal vegetables and curries. This was every day fare but the padayan ruled the kitchen with an iron fist. Economy was maintained, no meat (in some regions, fish was not taboo) was allowed into this inner space governed by religious rituals of cooking and eating.

The khansamas, by contrast, cooked fare meant for entertaining. Their cooking then was naturally more inventive and eventually became the basis of restaurant/club cooking in India, though of course, over the years some of the dishes became part of the “party” fare in homes as well. If there is such a sharp divide between home-style, “regular” Indian food and what we eat outside, it is also because of these differences in cooks.

If the Rakabdars in Lucknow-and similar cooks in other princely states-excelled in turning out exotic dishes with expensive ingredients, khansamas of the British Raj employed in dak bungalows and clubs in the boondocks invented with what they had. Dak Bungalow curries and the like come nowhere close to the refinement of a korma but the khansamas were no rakabdars and their context had changed. Still, that same instinct for invention and experimentation survived. That is exactly what defines Indian cuisines even today – this melange of different influences on our tables.

9 Healthy Morning Rituals Models Do No Matter How Busy They Are

It’s basically a career requirement for supermodels to always look and feel their best before photo shoots (how else are they supposed to look good in front of a camera?). Knowing this, it’s no surprise models partake in a few healthy habits in order to keep their bodies fit, their skin clear and their energy levels up. Here, we scoped out the simple morning rituals that four models do every single morning to look and feel their best, no matter how busy they are.

Lindsay Ellingson, supermodel and cofounder/creative director of Wander Beauty

“I drink a large glass of warm water with lime to keep my body alkaline,” says Ellingson. “To increase circulation and exfoliate my skin, I dry brush my body, which wakes me up right away. I also challenge myself to meditate for 10 minutes every morning using my Headspace app, and I take a raw food multivitamin, which helps to fight free-radical attacks and keeps my skin looking youthful.”

Olivia Culpo, model and former Miss USA

“Every morning, I always take my vitamins,” explains Culpo. “I like to start off the day drinking hot water with lemon. It’s so soothing and it makes me feel like I can take on the whole day without having to load my body with caffeine. It’s a really comforting ritual. I also meditate in the morning.”

Hunter McGrady, Sports Illustrated model

“I always make sure I drink at least 16 ounces of water while I get ready before I head out for the day and make sure I eat a good breakfast,” exclaims McGrady. “This is a must! My go-to is avocado toast and a hard-boiled egg. I have no energy on set without it!”

Miranda Kerr, supermodel and founder of Kora Organics

“I make a cup of warm water with lemon and listen to a meditation to help clear my mind, center myself set my intention for the day,” says Kerr. “Drinking warm water with lemon helps kickstart the digestion process and cleanse your system. Every other day I also like to apply my KORA Organics Hydrating Mask ($34) while I’m listening to my meditation—it helps refine pores, remove dead skin cells and promotes healthy tissue rejuvenation leaving the skin feeling replenished and rejuvenated.”

No yoga, sports, no degree in engineering, technical colleges

Students of engineering colleges and technical institutes will have to take part in yoga, sports or other socially relevant activities in addition to their regular academics to be awarded a degree.

Earlier, the institutions had these activities, including National Social Service (NSS), National Cadet Corps (NCC) and the Unnat Bharat Abhiyan, but these were not compulsory for earning a degree.

Now, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), which governs more than 10,000 institutions having over 18 lakh students, has made these mandatory.

Students will have to ensure 25% attendance in one of these activities although there won’t be any marks for their performance.

Officials said the move will help in the holistic development of students.

“Apart from studies, students need to do other activities too which is good for their well-being and for the society too,” a senior AICTE official said.

Welcoming the move, Pooja Sharma, a BTech student, said unless it is made mandatory, students will not take it up.

yoga

For example, under the government’s flagship Unnat Bharat Abhiyan, which aims to uplift rural India, students will have to visit villages and engage with the rural folk to learn from their lifestyle.

“By doing yoga or sports they can take care of their health,” the official said.

The all India boards of studies was considering incorporation of yoga and value addition to the curriculum of engineering courses, the HRD ministry had said recently.

Last month, the University Grants Commission (UGC) had asked all universities and colleges to prioritise the celebration of the International Yoga Day (IYD), and submit proof of activities undertaken by students and faculty for review.

Under the Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA), the government aims to uplift rural India by enabling higher educational institutions to work with villages in identifying development challenges and finding solutions for enabling sustainable growth.

The NSS is a large-scale community service programme meant for the youth to engage with social problems and is run by universities across the country. Delhi University, for instance, took up the programme in 1969.

Mamata Banerjee says ‘no’ to Wipro on SEZ status

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday categorically said that it is difficult for the state government to give SEZ status to Wipro for its second development centre in the state.

“Premji’s (Azim Premji of Wipro) son wanted SEZ status for the second project here. But due to policy of the government, we will not be able to accord that,” Banerjee said at a Nasscom gathering here.

She said that SEZs were approaching the sunset clause, so some other means could be thought of.

In last year’s Union budget, finance minister Arun Jaitley had announced that tax benefits to SEZs would continue till 2020.

Infosys is another IT company which is stuck up because of not getting SEZ status here for its first project in the state.

When asked, Premji’s son Rishaad Premji, who was also present here, said “The chief minister referred to a conversation way back.”

Infosys

“Now it is closed issue. We are exploring other means,” he said.

Urging the IT companies to invest here as Bangalore was fully saturated, Banerjee said Kolkata has the scope for growth and opportunity.

“In addition to that, the state has skilled manpower… and cheap also. Attrition rate is also very low,” she said.

To circumvent the SEZ issue, the state government has decided to give some incentives instead.

“Please let me know what you want. We have land bank, infrastructure and talent”, Banerjee said.