South and Central Asian Editorial Consultancy (SCAEC)

we build bridges through words



Art: On the back of a visiting card

Artist: Eisha Sarkar, India


The Man Who Said, “Quit India!”

Danish Khan digs out another gem from the past. This is a lovely piece about Yusuf Meherally, the man who gave the Indian freedom movement its two most impactful slogans, “Simon go back” and “Quit India.”

When the world is flat, it’s all wrong

Who Killed Osho?

If you lived in Pune in the early 1990s, you would have, at some point in time, learnt about Osho or Rajneesh. I first saw his picture at my grand-uncle’s house. I was seven when we moved to Pune from New Delhi. It was 1990, the year Osho ‘left his body’. Unfamiliar with the bearded man in the framed photograph, I asked my grand-uncle who he was. He replied, “He’s a guru, Osho, and he lives here in Pune.” “Your guru?” “No, we’ve been to a few of his talks.” Osho faded from my memory as other things took over till I got married and moved to Vadodara and found his book in my mother-in-law’s bookshelf. I read it and liked it but did not read more. Not till I found this book, ‘Who killed Osho?’ At Crossword bookstore, I took a second look at the book because the writer’s name caught my eye. ‘Abhay Vaidya.’ And I have a faint memory of him introducing himself at a Times of India ‘outdoor’ workshop I was part of. I bought the book. It has been an eye-opener about how faith and business married to create entire communities of believers all over the world and how it led to the death of India’s most widely-known new-age guru, who created his own brand of meditation, under the most suspicious circumstances and how the world was made to forget Rajneesh to make way for the most marketable spiritual brand, Osho. Of a professor who became widely known as a ‘sex guru’, multimillion dollar investments in his name, illegal transfers of intellectual property rights and fights over copyright, clashes between Western pragmatism and Eastern beliefs and the rise and destruction of a faith, this is a book that asks more questions than it answers and leaves you thinking, “How the hell did we miss this?”

#WhoKilledOsho #Pune #Rajneesh #spirituality #IntellectualPropertyRights

– Text by Eisha Sarkar

AK-47, the True Symbol of Free Enterprise and a Measure of Human Rights Violations


“Nothing in the world – organic or synthetic, metal or chemical – has produced more deaths than the AK-47. It has killed more than the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, more than HIV, more than the bubonic plague, more than malaria, more than all the attacks by Islamic fundamentalists, more than the total of all the earthquakes that have shaken the globe… AK-47s have been used by armies in conflicts in more than fifty countries over the last thirty years… It has been the prop for every role: liberator, oppressor, soldier, terrorist, robber and the special forces who guard presidents. Kalashnikov’s highly efficient weapon has evolved over the years: eighteen variants and twenty-two new models, all from the original design. It is the true symbol of free enterprise. The absolute icon…

“To calculate the state of human rights, the analysts consider the price of an AK-47. The less it costs, the more human rights violations there are, an indication that civil rights are gangrening and the social structure is falling to pieces. In western Africa, an AK-47 can cost as little as $50. And in Yemen, it is possible to find second- or thirdhand weapons for as low as six dollars…

“The arms question is kept in the bounds of the economy, sealed in the pancreas of silence.”

(Excerpt from Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah shared on Innate Explorer)


Tawaif Tales

Eisha Sarkar

Vikram Sampath’s book, ‘My Name is Gauhar Jaan!’ – The Life and Times of a Musician is an incisive account of the life of a tawaif (a woman of the arts) who went on to become the first person to have her voice recorded in India in 1902. The book also traces the journey of Indian music after the fall of the Mughal Empire in 1857 and before India gained Independence in 1947. I am glad it picked it up from Crossword because it is filled with facts and trivia that I’d like to share here:



Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni: Many of us have been exposed to the sargam at some in our lives, either by listening to Indian music or as a student of music. Indian music draws its seven basic notes from the sounds of animals and birds. Sa is associated with the peacock’s shrill cry, Re with the bullock, Ga with the goat, Ma with the jackal, Pa with the cuckoo’s cooing, Dha with the horse and Ni with the elephant. You might know the sargam but did you know this?

The Mumbaiya word, chhappanchuri: In Mumbai, the word chhappanchuri is used as a derogatory term for a woman who is shrewd and has the gift of the gab. In Sampath’s book, I discovered where it may have come from. Apparently, it was the nickname of a tawaif, Janki Bai (1880-1934) from Allahabad. A jealous suitor, madly in love with her, had scarred her face with 56 (chhappan) slashes when she rebuffed him.

How the harmonium came into Indian music: Most people in India think the harmonium must have been invented here because it is inseparable from Indian classical or folk music. But, it was only in the late 1800s did this French instrument (developed by Alexandre-Francois Debain) become an accompaniment to an Indian vocalist. The credit for this goes to Bhaiya Ganpatrao, a son of Gwalior’s Maharaja Jivajirao Scindia and Chandrabhaga Devi, a courtesan. The harmonium was despised as a lifeless, stiff-reeded instrument because it was incapable of producing subtle nuances. Ganpatrao modelled the harmonium to suit Indian music so muchso that it displaced the reigning sarangi.

The shellac in gramophone records: Lac is hardened resin secreted by the tiny lac insects which settled on twigs and sucked the plant’s sap. These insects were scraped from the twigs, crushed, dried, sieved, winnowed, washed and again dried. The mangled mass was then passed through a hot melting system, filtered and stretched into sheets or ‘shellac’. Since it was non-toxic, it was used to make gramophone records.

The hierarchy among the tawaifs: While most tawaifs were trained in music and dance, some chose to only sing. A ‘bai’ was a tawaif who only sang. A ‘jaan’ sang and danced. Interestingly, even when the dancer sat and performed, the tabla and sarangi players accompanying her always stood and played their instruments. (How many people play the tabla standing up, nowadays?)

This piece is also available on Eisha’s blog Innate Explorer

MTV Rebel Music: Afghanistan

Gandhi and People-to-People Peacebuilding


“What can we do to respond to the challenge of unending war and pervasive terrorism? The most important thing is to recognize, as Gandhi did, that we are not powerless and that each and every one of us can act for the common good and join with others in a global struggle for peace… Gandhi was a master of people-to-people peacebuilding, but who were the people who followed him? Like us, they were ordinary people, with busy lives, who could ill-afford to put their lives on hold to work for social change. And yet they did. The stopped and they acted. And through their actions, they reminded us that change must begin with ourselves and our willingness to fight for a common goal.

The road to people-to-people peacebuilding starts with the simple commitment found in these three words, “I will try.” When we commit ourselves to try to be a peacebuilder, we will almost certainly have mixed results. There is value in act of trying, but conflicts will not suddenly disappear. And so our efforts may seem to be failures. But we try again, and it is that commitment to try and try again that is the crucial first step in being an agent for positive social change. That simple commitment to try is at the heart of Pax Populi’s people-to-people peacebuilding program.”

– Professor Robert McNulty, Founder, Pax Populi, at the Yi-CII The Business of Peace session in Vadodara, India, on October 22, 2016

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