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Abled Differently

December 3, 2011

The National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped does stalwart service to the country. Established in the year 1984 at Manovikasnagar, Secunderabad, the  NIMH is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India. It is dedicated to services for persons with mental retardation.

NIMH has three regional centers located at New Delhi, Kolkata, & Mumbai, and the NIMH Model Special Education Center located at New Delhi. The Institute endeavors to excel in building capacities to empower persons with mental retardation. Since the quality of life of every person with mental retardation is equal to other citizens in the country, in that they live independently to the maximum extent possible and through constant professional endeavors, National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped empowers the persons with mental retardation to access the state of the art rehabilitation intervention viz., educational, therapeutic, vocational, employment, leisure and social activities, sports, cultural programmes and full participation. The objectives for which NIMH works are listed as under:-


  • Human Resources Development
  • Research and Development
  • Development of models of care and rehabilitation.
  • Documentation and dissemination.
  • Consultancy services to voluntary organizations
  • Community Based Rehabilitation
  • Extension and Outreach programmes
Today (3 December) is the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, and to celebrate the awareness of the needs of persons with different abilities, the NIMH released three new books, Manuals on Early Intervention to Infants and Toddlers with Developmental Delay– Series 1, volumes 1-3.
The amazing thing is that these books are freely available to the public at large since this is such an important and poorly researched and understood area. Already having published over 125 such manuals and books, the NIMH is particularly well suited to the detection of learning disabilities, and manuals like these are of immense value to early educationists everywhere. These books- and their companions in the NIMH library- are an invaluable tool for schools everywhere, and they can be had for the asking if you write to the Director, NIMH in Secunderabad.

The Great Outdoors

July 6, 2011

Several Indian institutes that are dedicated to the study of the great outdoors are based in Dehra Dun, far from the madding crowd…

The newest among these is the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) that started in 1982. As its name would suggest, WII aims to train people in the areas of  wildlife research and management. The Institute is also actively engaged in research  on biodiversity related issues.

The Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology is an autonomous research institute of the Department of the Science & Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Govt. of India. Named for D N Wadia, the doyen of Himalayan geology  (FRS and National Professor),  this started life in Delhi University (in the Botany department!) moving to Dehra Dun only in 1973.  During the last quarter century the Institute has grown into a centre of excellence in Himalayan Geology and is recognised as a National Laboratory of international repute with well equipped laboratories and other infrastructural facilities for undertaking advanced level of research in the country.

The granddaddy of them all is the venerable Forest Research Institute (FRI) that was established (as the Imperial Forest Research Institute) in 1906. A premier institution under the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), the FRI, set in the sylvan surroundings of Doon Valley, the Forest Research Institute is a proud testimony to the foresight and vision of foresters and administrators of long ago. Located on a lush green estate spread over 450 hectares, with the outer Himalaya forming its back drop, the Institute’s main building is an impressive edifice, marrying Greco-Roman and Colonial styles of architecture.  

The Wadia Institute brings out the journal Himalayan Geology that publishes original contributions on all aspects of geology of the Himalaya. The papers present new findings, related scientific data and good synthesis on geology, geophysics, or climate (including monsoon) with dominant emphasis on the Alpine-Himalayan Mountain Belt and adjoining terrains. 

The WII has a large number of its publications available for download as PDF files, as for instance their report on the Status, distribution and Conservation perspectives of Lesser Florican in the North-Western India, that has the charming and seemingly exuberant cover image of this sadly endangered bustard.

Rural Academics

May 26, 2011

The National Council of Rural Institutes had its origins in a suggestion, in 1949, by the then newly formed University Education Commission with Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan as Chairman, that emphasised the need for great advancement of Rural Higher Education through a system of rural colleges and universities.

The NCRI was formed, finally, in 1995, and is located in Hyderabad (in about as non-rural a setting as could be imagined!)  with the prime objective to strengthen rural India in a holistic manner, using education as an instrument of social advancement, in the following ways:

  • Promote Rural Higher Education on the lines of Mahatma Gandhi’s revolutionary ideas on education so as to take up challenges of micro planning for transformation of rural areas as envisaged in NPE 1986 (as modified in 1992); and as it was suggested by Radhakrishnan Commission (1948);
  • Consolidate network and develop Rural Institutes and endow them for recognition;
  • To develop Rural Institutes into Regional Development Institutes and Rural Universities which shall function as hubs for knowledge connectivity and emerge into effective agent for rural transformation in backward regions through voluntary initiatives wherever possible;
  • To regulate the quality of education of rural institutes and educational programmes in the area of rural higher education of all the Universities in India;
  • Design a variety of courses at tertiary level around emerging rural occupations;
  • Strengthen teacher training facilities for Gandhian Basic Education;
  • Strengthen the content of all these institutions with emphasis on science, technology and management on one hand and traditional wisdom on the other;
  • Promote vocational training programmes and initiatives for self-reliance;
  • Encourage field-oriented courses of rural institutes;
  • Promote action research as a tool for social and rural development;
  • Promote extension services to the community through micro level planning; and
  • Advise the Government of India on all such matters pertaining to rural institutes as may be referred to it from time to time.

Two of their recent books on Gandhiji’s thinking on rural education have been published by Serials Publications, a New Delhi based publishing house. Perspectives on Nai Talim, edited by S V Prabhath, is on Gandhiji’s  all-inclusive concept of education. ‘Nai Talim’ is education for social transformation. The objective is to create a new society based on equality and free from exploitation by ensuring educational, economic, and social development, of the especially disadvantaged segments of society. Education should not be only limited to mastering of fundamental scientific principles of any branch of science or art and developing sense of professionalism alone. Leadership and commitment are qualities that are expected to be developed in an individual by education.

Gandhi today is a collection of essays on the current relevance of Gandhi, from the perspective of rural higher education.  Prof. J N Sharma of the Panjab University says … The book is a work of conviction and hope. Some of very profound, provocative and engaging articles have been included in this volume which should be read by all. A treasure trove of reflections on Gandhi, the compilation unfolds his thoughts and deeds. The collection also mirrors the many fold contribution of Gandhi to humanity. The outstanding work is bound to blaze a new trail of Gandhian alternatives because the collection includes the very best in the field. The sweep and richness of the book will help the reader to contextualize and grow their own understanding of the ideals and principles of the Mahatma. The work is an invaluable edition in the Gandhian Thought.

Both books (and other Serials Publications) can be found in the SwB Bookstore. 

Tagore Triptych

May 16, 2011

 As part of the celebration of the Tagore Sesquicentennial, the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi has a wonderful exhibition, Circle of Art: The Three Tagores that has been curated in great style by Ela Dutta.

The three Tagores are Rabindranath and his two nephews Gaganendranath and Abanindranath, and  Circle of Art: The Three Tagores explores the milieu, their individual temperaments and their search for a new visual language. The exhibition is very extensive, making it possible to see the three artists  use of fantasy, mystery and romanticism… and  the impact of their art on modern Indian visual culture.

Also available from the NGMA accompanying the exhibition is a superb reproduction of six prints, priced at an unbelievable Rs 200. Some of the images chosen can be seen on the left- these can be ordered through the SwB Maps, Prints and Poster ministore.

While on the NGMA, they have a great website from which we reproduce some of the material below. Their  principal aims and objectives are

  • To acquire and preserve works of modern art from 1850s onward
  • To organize, maintain and develop galleries for permanent display
  • To organize special exhibitions not only in its own premises but in other parts of the country and abroad.
  • To develop an education and documentation centre in order to acquire, maintain and preserve documents relating to works of modern art
  • To develop a specialized library of books, periodicals, photographs and other audio visual materials
  • To organize lectures, seminars and conferences, and to encourage higher studies and research in the field of art history, art criticism, art appreciation, museology and the inter-relations on visual and performing arts.

First mooted in 1949, the idea of the NGMA was nurtured by Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad, bureaucrats like Humayun Kabir and an active art community. Vice-president Dr S Radhakrishanan formally inaugurated the NGMA in the presence of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and artists and art lovers of the city on March 29, 1954. The choice of Jaipur House, one of the premier edifices of Lutyens’ Delhi, signified the envisaged high profile of the institution. Designed by Sir Arthur Bloomfield, as a residence for the Maharaja of Jaipur, the butterfly-shaped building with a central dome was built in 1936. It was styled after a concept of the Central Hexagon visualised by Sir Edwin Lutyens. It was Lutyens, along with Herbert Baker, who visualised and gave shape to the new capital in Delhi. Along with buildings designed for other princely potentates like Bikaner and Hyderabad, Jaipur House girded the India Gate circle. The famous architect conceptualised a harmony of facades giving the buildings a distinctive character.

NGMA’s inauguration was marked by an exhibition of sculptures. All the prominent sculptors of the time like Debi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, Ramkinkar Baij, Sankho Chaudhuri, Dhanraj Bhagat, Sarbari Roy Chowdhury and others had participated. The show spoke of the painstaking preparations made by NGMA’s first curator Herman Goetz. A noted German art historian, Goetz had earlier been responsible for setting up the Baroda Museum.Since Goetz’s tenure, NGMA has had a string of distinguished directors.

The Gallery is the premier institution of its kind in India. It is run and administered as a subordinate office to the Department of Culture, Government of India. The NGMA has two branches one at Mumbai and the other at Bangaluru shortly. The gallery is a repository of the cultural ethos of the country and showcases the changing art forms through the passage of the last hundred and fifty years starting from about 1857 in the field of Visual and Plastic arts. Notwithstanding some gaps and some trivia, the NGMA collection today is undeniably the most significant collection of modern and contemporary art in the country today.

Shillong calling

May 3, 2011

Every so often, something comes up that reaffirms one’s faith in the vitality of our country’s diversity… and creativity. The town of Shillong is home to a number of educational institutions- NEHU, the North East Hill University, the Indian Institute of Management, the National Institute of Technology, the Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures… some of which have been around for quite some time- after all, Shillong was the capital of Assam before the creation of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. We have written earlier about the Vendrame Institute and its publications on our other blog, so this post is about something new and different.

Pyrta is a journal of poetry and other things based in Shillong. Drawing its name from the Khasi (to call out!) the journal calls out across the internet for contributions, and not just poems. As they say,  Pyrta is a little bit local, and mostly universal…. [The magazine]  aims to be a vibrant multicultural space – we’d  like voices from all over to contribute quality work categorised broadly under Poetry, Photo Essays, Prose, Sketches and Local morsels.

They are interested in just about anything, taking their cue from Paul Valery who said once, ” I can’t help it, I’m interested in everything” –

and want to provide authors/ photographers/ artists, whether new or established, a platform to share what they love doing…. [] submissions are welcome from anywhere. about anything.  (An example of a photo-essay, God’s Lonely People…)

The magazine can be read online, and is scheduled to appear five times a year- in keeping with the seasons in Meghalaya:  Pyrem (Spring), Lyiur (Summer),  Por Slap (Monsoon), Synrai (Fall), and Tlang (Winter). Four have appeared so far, with interesting and unusual contributions from a variety of old and new voices. The editor, Janice Pariat, and a small team put together the issues with love, imagination, and not a whole lot of money… They promise to bring out an annual print issue that puts together the best of the magazine- along the lines of Pratilipi, one imagines… From what we have seen on the net in terms of their poetry, prose and art, Pyrta in print is going to be terrific!

My home, my heart

April 29, 2011

A colleague at the University of Wyoming first told us about Jameela Nishat, the Hyderabad-based activist,  feminist, and poet.

What instrument is this
vibrating the strings
of my eyelashes?
what Picture forms and unforms
on the aural screen?
What shadow is this
that overspreads the clouded heart?
You know
I Love shadows,
but whenever this one
unfurls its wings,
a tide of Thoughts swells in the blood,
and the blood begins to drip
from my pen.

(India, 1958)

This is from A Poem Slumbers in My Heart, a slender volume published by SPARROW, the feminist archival group based in Mumbai and which is translated from the Dakhani, the Telugu-Urdu hybrid that is so characteristic of Hyderabad, the city where she lives, and where she is Executive Director of the Shaheen Women Resource & Welfare Association.

Nishat is a significant presence in contemporary Urdu literature and is known outside this circle by translations of her work, mainly by Hoshang Merchant at the Central University, Hyderabad. A recent poem that she shared with us (in translation)

Yogini’s Lament

What is right,
And what is wrong,
I do not know.

I am crushed
into every darkest shadow
Of every crevice.
I live in every call.

This is the world of fights.
Here is the society of violence.
I am the maker of love.

Where do I go?
Where do I dance?

You leveled the gumbad.
You demolished me.

It weighs so heavy on my memory.

In this mire,
my essence,
my life’s breath bleeds.
Into this masjid,
my lovers came,

My gungra and my payal
cry to remember their devotions.

The whole of the earth is janumbhomi
Why fight over its pieces?

I am jogan


You leveled the masjid.
You charred my soul.

No one knows
What is right
And what is wrong.

This open earth is my home.
The sky affirms.

My ghugra’s outcries echo
In this great open
For centuries.
The open earth is my heart.


April 26, 2011

Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan founded Underscore Records some years ago with one main aim: to empower artistes playing Indian music to own and share their music globally.

The emphasis is on empower: many Indian artistes have little idea of copyright and the technologies that are available today, and more often than not have little or no financial resources at their command to protect themselves and their art.

It is particularly important that established and mainstream artistes like Mudgal and Pradhan lend support to this cause- for one thing they bring their considerable reputation to bear on the effort, and for another, they speak (or, in this case, sing) for their brethren with a clear and loud voice.

Underscore Records is an exclusive music label and website that specializes in music from India. All copyrights for the music on the site rest in most cases with the musicians who made and recorded it, and hence revenues generated from sales also go almost entirely to the artistes.

Underscore also sponsors an annual  music festival dedicated to the richness and diversity of Indian music, and to the independent music industry that is gradually gaining ground in India: Bajaa Gajaa. This has been curated by Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan three years in a row now, and is held in Pune, usually early in the year. In addition to showcasing Indian talent, there is also an academic component, entrepreneurship, and plain simple fun! Exhibitions, films, performances- its wild, energetic and an absolutely unique forum.

A seminar that was part of BG2011 was on  The Musical Lens: Filmmaking and Music. Music has had a long association with film making. In India, music continues to play an integral part of mainstream cinema not just through background scores but by way of songs. However, outside the world of mainstream cinema, the association between the arts of music and film making does not seem to reach the public eye.

This seminar makes an attempt at understanding the views of filmmakers and will try to throw up solutions to the challenges that the present circumstances pose with regard to aesthetics, production, dissemination. The seminar will also act as a forum for open interaction between musicians and filmmakers, in an effort to understand each other’s roles and situations. The seminar brought together film historians, critics, documentary and filmmakers- 
Gargi Sen (Magic Lantern),   
Spandan Bannerjee, 
Meenakshi Shedde, 
Arun Khopkar, and Rajula Shah among others. And this was just one of the seminars…

This year, the exhibitions at Baajaa Gaajaa included displays of art, contemporary and archival photographs, instruments and more, all of which pertain to music. There was an exhibition of instruments organized according to the Indian system of categorizing musical instruments under the four heads, namely, avanaddha, ghana, sushir and tat. 

SwB is very pleased to offer Underscore’s records in our Audio CDs ministore.