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Monday, September 27, 2021

Sunday Long Reads: Loss of insects and their impact, history of forgotten people, Sri Lankan civil war, and more

Here is your Sunday reading list

August 22, 2021 12:07:29 pm
insectA bug’s life: If not for insects, we wouldn’t get a lot of our plant-based food. Insects are the original recyclers. (Source: getty images)

What could the loss of insects mean for the ecosystems that sustain us?

A few days ago, I opened a jar of honey that I hadn’t touched for months. The thick golden treacle was dotted with black spots – ants who had dropped dead after gorging on the nectar. That was something I hadn’t seen for years. It now seems long ago when a forgotten candy bar, a piece of fruit, a cube of cheese left uncovered or even a crumb of cake would draw a troop of foraging insects from nowhere. Their pheromone trails alerting more colony members who would join in the effort to break down the food item into tiny particles, which they carried back home.


When hosts turned guests at the Rashtrapati Bhavan

Rashtrapati Bhavan, Rashtrapati Bhavan guest wing, British viceroys and governors, Rashtrapati Bhavan news, India's colonial history, Indian Presidents, Eye 2021, Sunday Eye, indian express, indian express news Queen Elizabeth II at the entrance of the Dwarka suite, with Prince Philip, and the first president of India, Rajendra Prasad. (Courtesy: Rashtrapati Bhavan Photo Archives)

The first resident of the Rashtrapati Bhavan had an inauspicious beginning to his stay at the Viceroy House. On December 23, 1929, Lord Irwin was travelling by train to Delhi, when a bomb was thrown at his viceregal train. The nonchalant Irwin is said to have remarked, “I heard the noise and said to myself ‘that must be a bomb’. But as nothing happened, I went on reading Chaloner (poet and statesman Sir Thomas Chaloner).”

Though only five viceroys had the luxury of calling the Rashtrapati Bhavan their home, 14 Indian presidents thus far, have resided in this magnificent palace. However, our presidents never really stayed in the same rooms that were once occupied by the Viceroys.


What the passing of the endlings teaches us about nature

Bustard The thing with feathers: The tall stately Great Indian Bustards are in great peril. (TR Shankar Raman)

Two bullets passed through three brothers and killed them as they sat side by side.

The secretary wrote, “The first bullet killed one and… the second bullet after having gone through one struck the other, which was behind it, and killed it also.”

Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo pulled the trigger in 1947. In Surguja District in central India, he shot them by night from a vehicle. It was his private secretary who later chronicled the passing of the last cheetahs shot in India.


Remembering the forgotten heroes from India’s freedom struggle

BR Ambedkar at his residence in Mumbai

Chahe jitni tarah se kahi jaye,aur jitni bar, Azadi ki kahani se kuchh chhut hi jata hai (No matter how many ways and how many times it is said, some things always remain unsaid when it comes to stories of the freedom struggle), I heard this statement from a balladeer in eastern Uttar Pradesh who used to compose songs on the heroes of freedom movement. It is true that history is the “narrative of what happened’’, but it is not fixed, it continuously evolves.


How a translator’s collective makes room for richer conversations and an inclusive way of life

(Left to right) Indian Novels Collective co-founder Ashwani Kumar with writer Annie Zaidi, writer-translator Anjali Purohit, and the collective’s co-founder Anuradha Parikh at an event of the collective

Two years ago, when the 90-year-old Wisconsin-based Hindi writer and academic Usha Priyamvada was approached with the idea of getting her debut novel Pachpan Khambe Laal Deewaarein translated into English, she got anxious. She wondered if anyone would be even interested in reading the 60-year-old novel. Published in 1961, the celebrated novel is located within the boundaries of an all-women’s college in Delhi, where we meet Sushma Sharma — lecturer, warden, single, and sole provider for her large family — who’s resigned to the regimented loneliness of her life.


Why writing is a form of introspection for Sri Lankan writer Anuk Arudpragasam, whose new novel is on the Booker longlist

Run silent, run deep: Anuk Arudpragasam (Courtesy: Penguin books)

As in his life, the impact of Sri Lanka’s nearly three-decade-long civil war ricochets through the writings of Anuk Arudpragasam. “I wanted to write a novel about the relationship between a young man and his grandmother, but over the course of writing it, the war began entering the narrative in various ways. After a while, it became clear that this too would be a novel about the war, though one that dealt with the psychic repercussions of war rather than its immediate violence,” he says of his Booker Prize longlisted second novel, A Passage North (Penguin Hamish Hamilton, Rs 599), a meditation on absence, sorrow and the legacy of the civil war, that follows his debut work, The Story of a Brief Marriage (2016).


How does the cuteness quotient play out in the animal community?

animals, animal kingdom, cute animals, animals and cuteness, eye 2021, sunday eye, indian express, indian express news Round eyes, chubby limbs, cuddly body — what’s not to love? (Photo: Ranjit Lal)

It’s a weapon that has been used since time immemorial by nearly every animal species including us, with devastating effect. Animals have used it on their own kind — and even on us, and we fall victim to it nearly every single time. And there’s a very simple reason why — it has survival value.

It’s the terrible “cuteness” bomb, which can reduce leathery boors to warm globs of sweet goo. The moment they confront a toothless, gurgling baby, extending its chubby arms towards them, its eyes enormous, its smile innocent, the deed is done! It needn’t be a human baby — a puppy or a kitten or an orangutan, bunny or tiger cub will do just as well, though maybe the line could be drawn at naked mole rat babies! If this is the effect that the C-bomb can have on iron men, you can imagine what it does to inherently tender-hearted women? Sure there are people who cringe at the mention of the “C” word and researchers working in animal labs who try to blank out its effects by giving their subjects hard cold numbers instead of names, as they conduct some of their experiments.


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