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Apex court stays proceedings against Dominique Lapierre
Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi, Sep 23 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday stayed the criminal proceedings initiated against noted French author Dominique Lapierre and his publisher Shekhar Malhotra by the Madhya Pradesh Director General of Police Swaraj Puri relating to a book on the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster.
A bench of Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P.P. Naolekar issued notice to Puri and Javier Moro, co-author of the book "It was Five Past Midnight in Bhopal", on a petition from Lapierre and Malhotra seeking transfer of the complaint outside Madhya Pradesh.
In the transfer petition, they said that Puri was holding a powerful position in the state through which he could influence witnesses in the trial of the case.
They said it would not be possible to have a just and fair trial and it would be in the interest of justice that the complaint was transferred to a competent court outside Madhya Pradesh.
Puri had filed a criminal complaint against the French author and Malhotra in a Jabalpur court, which had issued summons to the publisher to appear before it on Sep 26.
In his complaint Puri had alleged that Lapierre had not portrayed the December 1984 industrial disaster, which killed thousands and left hundreds of thousands affected by poisonous chemical fumes from the Union Carbide factory, properly as well as the role of the police in right perspective.
Puri had also filed a civil complaint seeking compensation of $20 million and to restrain the publishers from printing, selling and circulating the book.
The Jabalpur court had also issued notices to the author and publisher on this petition.
Pondicherry's palm leaf manuscripts to be on UNESCO list
Indo-Asian News Service
Chennai, Sep 23 (IANS) Palm leaf manuscripts preserved at the French Institute in the seaside resort town of Pondicherry will be registered with UNESCO.
This is being done after recommendations from an international advisory committee.
The institute is responsible for cataloguing of manuscripts preserved in temples or by private individuals in Pondichery, 280 km south of Chennai, and neighbouring areas.
The manuscripts have been preserved in air conditioned chambers at the French Institute, set up in 1955, said a release.
"A majority of the texts, mostly in Sanskrit and Tamil, relate to religion and worship of Lord Shiva," Institute director Jean Pierre Muller said in the release.
The French Institute has become a repository of the world's largest collection of manuscripts on the religious tradition of Saiva-Siddhanta (practices followed by devotees of Shiva, one of the Hindu trinity) spread throughout the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, he claimed.
Dealing with death, divorce and depression
By Fakir Hassen, Indo-Asian News Service
Johannesburg, Sep 23 (IANS) South African Indian writer and communications consultant Brenda Kali has been lauded for her latest book, "A Lonesome Echo", which provides advice on dealing with difficulties in life.
Guest speaker at the launch of the book here Thursday evening, Judge Mervyn King pointed out that the book had a "three-d" subtitle - Death, Divorce and Depression, all which everyone has to confront at some stage in their daily lives - and commended Kali for providing a useful reference work to do that more easily.
Kali's book, easily readable, offers advice, drawn from her personal experiences and research, on how to deal with the stresses brought on by all these events.
From seeking to explain what death and acceptance thereof is about, to a chapter labeling divorce having "Some Good in Goodbye", the book also deals with getting rid of the anger that pain, loss or tragedy brings to the lives of those affected by it.
An entire chapter is devoted to a 12-step guide that deals with looking fear in the face, showing love and compassion at all times, celebrating the brotherhood of man, and reviewing the concepts of control and forgiveness.
The book, suitably illustrated by Elizabeth Catton, ends with a selection of mediation mantras in English that readers can use, irrespective of religious affiliation.
For ASI, 15 Mughal gold coins and Rs.15 are same!
By Sharat Pradhan, Indo-Asian News Service
Lucknow, Sep 23 (IANS) Even Mughal emperor Shah Jahan would turn in his grave if he were to know that the caretakers of his wonder creation, the Taj Mahal, were suffering under an order he issued hundreds of years ago while ruling India.
It may sound incredible, but if official records are to be believed, the Imam (priest) of the mosque inside the precincts of the 17th century monumental wonder is still entitled to a monthly remuneration of just Rs.15.
During Shah Jahan's tenure, an Imam used to get 15 gold 'asharfis' (coins).
For the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), it is the count that matters.
Apparently, it is immaterial for the ASI that the salary was fixed more than 350 years ago. And if that were to be converted in terms of actual value, those 15 coins would be equivalent to thousands of rupees today.
"The salary of the Imam was fixed in accordance with the spirit of the Mughal 'firman' (rules), issued by Shah Jahan, who had fixed it at 15 coins," said an ASI official.
"What else can we do, we are bound by the will of the emperor," the official told IANS over telephone from Agra.
Ironically, a peon appointed by the government to assist the Imam, receives a monthly salary of more than Rs.5,000.
Sadiq Ali, the present Shahi Imam (chief priest) as well as his predecessors have been raising the issue before the ASI, but to no avail.
"The pittance given in the name of salary to the Shahi Imam of Taj mosque proves what I have been pointing out for long," remarked Hafis Usman, president of Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board.
"This simply reflects ASI's contempt or insensitivity towards what is acclaimed as an unparalleled world heritage," says Usman, who has been pressing for takeover of the Taj by the Waqf Board.
He is of the view that Imams would not have got such raw deals if the Waqf board were looking after the monument.
"Earlier too I tried to invite the attention of the central government towards gross neglect of the mosque and other religious quarters of the Taj complex, but all my calls went unheeded."
Proposing to renew his demand for the transfer of the Taj from the ASI to the Waqf Board, he warned: "If necessary, we will take the salary issue to court."
Kid magician uses craft for social issues
By Gyan Varma, Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi, Sep 23 (IANS) One would easily take him as just another four-year-old kid, but Grandhi Himakar is a magician with a mission.
Along with his trainer 'Professor' Vikram, he uses magic to raise awareness on social subjects ranging from HIV/AIDS to harmful consequences of superstitions.
The two are in the capital to participate in a national competition of magicians beginning Friday.
After winning a national prize at the age of three, Himakar started training and performing with Vikram to spread awareness on social subjects. They have visited several villages in Andhra Pradesh to educate villagers on various social issues.
"Villagers are astonished to see him perform the same tricks that local priests perform," said Vikram. Villagers are then told that it was just a trick and there was no supernatural power behind it as claimed by those godmen.
In an act called Folk Magic, Himakar first mixes four differently coloured sands in a bucket of water and then takes them out separately one after the other -- without getting them wet.
Vikram said that many self-styled godmen in the southern state resort to this act to claim supernatural powers and then extract money from villagers.
"When people see Himakar perform the same trick, they realise that they were being duped by the self-styled godmen," Vikram said.
To raise awareness on the AIDS threat, he first puts a fresh banana in a bag and brings out a rotten one after casting a 'spell' on the bag. In the second part of the act, he puts a fresh banana in the bag after covering it with a condom, but this time the fruit remains fresh. The act is followed up by a short speech on the benefits of using a condom.
Vikram plans to teach him to perform the kind of acts Satya Sai Baba, well-known spiritual leader, is known to perform: how to produce holy ash from thin air and how to produce a Shivling from mouth or from thin air.
Vikram hopes that Himakar would be able to present some of these tricks in the capital and win the competition.
Asterix faces 'The Falling Sky'
By Daniela Schroeder
Brussels, Sep 23 (DPA) For 46 years, comic-book warrior hero Asterix and his inseparable side-kick Obelix have fretted that the sky might fall on their heads.
Now it looks like their worst fear may be realised: "Asterix, The Falling Sky" is the title of the latest book featuring the adventures of the cunning little Gaul and his rotund friend and is set to go on sale in 27 countries Oct 14.
Albert Uderzo, the indefatigable artist who has illustrated all 33 Asterix adventures and also written the last nine books, unveiled the title of the new volume Thursday in Brussels, Europe's comic-book capital.
Uderzo insisted the title of the comic book - referred to in Europe as an "album" - did not mean it was time to bid farewell to the popular Gallic tribe.
But Uderzo admitted that coming up with new ideas was becoming more and more difficult. "Asterix, The Falling Sky" is the first new album to be released in four years.
The 78-year-old illustrator also revealed that his health was an issue. He is colour blind and was experiencing problems with his hands.
"I don't intend to quit," Uderzo told reporters. "The scenarios and drafts for the albums are done by me. Then I have someone turn it into ink, and finally colourists work on the strips."
An estimated eight million books will go on sale next month, the first time ever that a new Asterix album is to be published worldwide on the same date.
The mustachioed hero, conceived by Uderzo and author Rene Goscinny during a boozy brainstorming session in a French bistro, has become an institution in Europe and an international bestseller.
Since their first appearance on the scene in 1959, the adventures of the little group of dauntless - and thanks to their druid's magic potion unconquerable - Gauls have sold 310 million copies, with the books translated from the original French into 107 languages and dialects.
With its rich gallery of characters, its gags, and deliberate repetitions for comic effect - for example the ritual feast in the last frame, the repeated sinking of the pirates and the Roman-bashing antics - have won the hearts of readers worldwide.
But some fans claim that Goscinny's sudden death in 1977 led to a loss in the quality of the books and that stories written solely by Uderzo have lost much of their spirit and verve.
Others accuse Asterix himself of being a nationalist, a racist, a chauvinist and an exponent of the late French president Charles de Gaulle's imperialist ideology.
Although he unveiled the title of his new work, Uderzo did not give any further details of what readers can expect, except for saying there would be "no travels this time" for the two heroes.
Despite Uderzo's denials, rumours still abound that "The Falling Sky" will be Asterix's last album.
Black humour shades infidelity tales (BOOK REVIEW)
By Paloma Ganguly, Indo-Asian News Service
Book: "Planet Polygamous"; Author: Shinie Antony; Price: Rs.195; Publisher: Indialog
One night stands, incest, unrequited love... but before you think this is just another book on man-woman relationships gone wonky, read again. In "Planet Polygamous", infidelity cuts a wide swathe.
From a grandfather unwittingly pushing his grandson to the jaws of death to the mind of a lonely woman driving her to madness, all the 36 short tales are about "a world turned traitor".
Sometimes two pages and some cutting dry wit is all it takes for journalist-author Shinie Antony to swish around the deep, dark recesses of the mind - of men, women, demons and dolls - and flesh out tales of desire and deceit.
The author thrives on brevity and humour. Sample this line: "Porn at the wrong moment is the pits."
Or this passage where Mr. Demon tells a heavily pregnant Mrs. Demon: "I was thinking that maybe I could... temporarily take on your pregnancy for the weekend while you go there and enjoy your time out."
If infidelity could be rendered matter of fact, then this is it.
But the lightness of tone is kept skin deep as Antony - like in her debut book of short stories "Barefoot and Pregnant" - takes us into worlds that are about to stop ticking.
Take, for instance, "The Doll's Dilemma" in which a doll silently witnesses the multiple cracks in a household until, in a chilling denouement, an angry maid plucks out its eyes...
"A Dog's Death", in which a boy witnesses the "suicide" of a neighbourhood canine, is stirringly poignant. The story won the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (Asia) award for short story writing in 2002.
The theme of sexual abuse that pervaded Antony's previous book is again deftly explored in "Papa's Girl".
Perhaps a more discerning selection would have made the book a crisper read.
Some pieces are a bit over the top, and some are too open ended. Also, one has to keep flipping back to see the story titles as only the writer and the book's name appear on top of the pages.
But Antony's style is her own. Often she refuses to pin her stories to a specific locale.
Why, some protagonists in "Planet Polygamous" aren't even rooted to planet earth - there are ghosts, angels and even one bumbling soul who takes endless re-births in search of the perfect spouse only to be betrayed again and again.
It's a whole new look at infidelity.
As a delighted character - who discovers that his wife is alive after a stranger has rocking sex with her presumed dead body - remarks in the book: "...adultery had never looked so good".