Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has held talks with his Australian counterpart Dan Tehan to expedite the bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) negotiations.
According to a statement released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on Thursday, the two leaders held talks on December 21 through video conference. “The ministers appreciated the progress made in various rounds of talks between the chief negotiators of both sides and discussed the way forward for an early conclusion of interim agreement,” India’s Commerce and Industry Ministry said.
“In this regard, both the ministers appreciated that bilateral trade talks have been very progressive and both the ministers have decided to deepen the engagement and directed the officials to speed up the negotiations to pave the way for a comprehensive agreement,” it said.
Both the ministers also pitched for a rules-based international trading system.
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vEMPIRE REPORTS STELLAR 2021 PROFIT LED BY GAINS IN METAVERSE PROPERTY, NFTS SALES
Decentralised metaverse vEmpire on Monday reported a stellar performance in 2021 with an annualized profit of over $18.5 million, led by gains in metaverse property, sale of NFTs and staking investments.
The year-end report, compiled by vEmpire, discloses its staking strategies carried out across Ethereum, Decentraland, Sandbox, Axie Infinity, and Starlink, leading to unrealized profit surpassing $ 4 million in the final quarter of 2021 alone. As early adopters of the Metaverse the entity’s NFT sales amounted to an additional $500 thousand and supplemented with newly acquired valuable investments, at roughly ninety percent below current market value, concluding its 2021 annualized profit at $18.708 million and a price-earnings ratio of 1.44, 20 times lower than the average company in the S&P 500 today.
For 2022, vEmpire’s objective will remain to spur growth and decentralization of Metaverses. “Our users have contributed to staking tens of millions of dollars worth of Metaverse tokens on our platform, which has enabled us to build a decentralized Metaverse investment portfolio that represents the largest in the industry,” said Dom Ryder, founder of vEmpire. “Overall we are extremely pleased with the performance and the quality assets we have acquired over the past quarter. I am pleased to say we are very much on track for the remainder of our roadmap. We are still incredibly early to the Metaverse,” he added.
vEmpire’s ETH pool allows access for more individuals to the expensive, but profitable, blue-chip NFT protocols like Bored Ape Yacht Club. vEmpire’s ETH staking pool was incepted with 518.7 ETH and its value, as measured by the lowest equivalent asset floor, is now 1,021.5 ETH, almost doubling in value.
Meanwhile, vEmpire’s Metaverse staking options in Metaverses like Decentraland, Sandbox, Starl, and others allow investors to partake in early allocation and investment of valuable plots within Metaverses.
FOOD: HOT FROM THE PRINTING PRESS
“Proof of the pudding,” they say, “is in the eating”. And, “Seeing is believing,” tells another adage. But, how do you react when a 3-D printed snack or steak is served to you on a plate? 3-D was once supposed to be the next big thing in cinema. There was a time when one had to wear special disposable glasses to experience the magic of 3-D. The characters seemed to leap out of the screen- the villains targeting you, the poor spectator cowering in the seat. But the technology never caught on. Large 70 mm screens and Dolby surround sound created the illusion of depth and immersion much better.
There have been attempts to revive it with films like ‘Avatar’ but with very little success. It’s only the kids and, adults who refuse to grow up who value 3-D effects in immersive Virtual Reality.
Those addicted to Science Fiction have always been open to the idea of many more dimensions than length, width and height. But, no need to digress into abstract realms of physics and mathematics. Hasn’t our food always been three dimensional? As a matter of fact, the seductive drooling anticipation of flavours triggered by aromas, lingering taste summoned up by memories uncannily in unguarded moments remind us that the fourth dimension –time has much to do with our enjoyment of food. What then explains the exciting buzz about 3-D Printed Foods?
3-D printers made their appearance more than a couple of decades back as an innovative application of pneumatic extrusion technology and were hyped as an invention that would have applications in diverse areas from architectural design to medicine.
The first generation of 3-D printers worked with plastic threads that could be squeezed through a nozzle liquifying them through the application of heat. Subsequent passes of the nozzle added layers over the first layer. The design of the object was fed into the computer and the printer produce cost-effective parts or prototypes. It took quite some time before chefs in the kitchen and technologists in food companies discovered this tool.
Low hanging fruit was plucked first. Companies like Hersheys tried these machines to make sugar sculptures and chocolate mousses. Then the Italian companies joined the race with pasta printers. Spaghetti with different sauces came out of the printer in individual portions closely resembling the traditional stuff. However, the 3-D printer can’t meet the needs of all cuisines. 2013 witnessed the experimentation with in vitro meat farming via a 3-D printer. This was not confined to mock-vegan protein-based meats but composing chicken, beef, pork, etc from derivatives obtained in a sustainable humane manner. The Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology at Thanjavur is one of the few places where the topic is being researched in the Indian context. It has printed customized snacks savoury cookies as per the wishes of schoolchildren in the neighbourhood.
Those working in the labs here have the Indian context in sharp focus. Most Indians like to have their meals piping hot. Preparing an Indian meal involves more than turning meat patties or mother sauces. Vegetables complement cereals and lentils. 3-D food printers have a long way to go before they can dish out ‘combos’ we are used to. The spicing is multi-staged and nuanced. Food is first infused with spice pastes that are stir-fried. Then finished with ‘tempering’. These operations are not easy to replicate in a printer.
The softest plastic threads are much harder and stronger than edible ‘yarn’ obtained from vegetables and lentils. Even if this obstacle is surmounted the problem of fragility of 3-D printed food structured would remain. The challenge of replicating shape, colour, texture and taste in recipes in non-Western cuisines is complex. The optimists keep suggesting by-products for the 3-D food printer. These machines can be used for recycling peels and waste to produce food-grade packaging or easy to chew food for senior citizens who have difficulty in mastication. The greatest obstacle at present is the high cost of 3-D printers for domestic use. Even in the commercial domain, post-printing processing costs aren’t negligible. The slow speed of printing has also retarded the proliferation of this technology. Issues of toxicity and contamination of ingredients as they pass through the ‘assembly line’ of the printer persist and will have to be addressed to allay the fears of consumers.
Magic of 80s: Raj Babbar & Padmini Kolhapure talk about their latest web series Dil Bekaraar
In this exclusive conversation as part of NewsX India A-List, Raj Babbar and Padmini Kolhapure spoke about their latest web series ‘Dil Bekaraar’ on Hotstar, which is set in the 80s.
Actors Raj Babbar and Padmini Kolhapure joined NewsX for a candid chat as part of its special series NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, the duo spoke about their latest web series Dil Bekaraar on Hotstar, which is set in the 80s.
Speaking about what attracted him to the show, Raj Babbar said, “My first priority is my work. I give a lot of time to a lot of things but I thought this is my identity. If I am known as Raj Babbar, it is because of Mumbai and the Hindi Film Industry recognised me as a performer. No matter where I go, people recognise me as an actor and then other adjectives on whatever I am. I realise that I should give priority to the actor side of me, which gave me this recognition and gave me a place in the society. That’s why I feel my first priority is my work.”
He added, “When I heard this story, I remembered a book that I had read sometime in the past. It was a bestseller at that time. It was called, ‘Those Pricey Thakur Girls’ and it stayed in the mind. When I heard this story, I felt very nice, a very interesting subject and I am doing a very beautiful role in it. I found the innocence of 80s, magic of 80s in this. That romance, the comedy, all of this is beautifully captured in this. The USP of the 80s that people used to think is evil is the corruption and the corrupt is the evil. These fiery girls, my 5 daughters, they are brilliant and also very fiery and ambitious. It is this very interesting thing, which attracted me. When I heard the narration and got to know that Padmini ji and Poonam ji are doing this, I said okay. I got this confidence that we will be in majority. Meher and Akshay are beautiful actors. They are very energetic people and it was fun working with them.”
When the same question was posed to Padmini Kolhapure, she responded, “The first attraction was Mr Habib Faisal. I have seen his work and he is a brilliant director. After working with him, I realised truly how meticulous he is. This script and this story demanded a lot of nuances to recreate the 80s era, which he has done brilliantly. He has lived that era and knows a lot about it. We have been there and done that so it wasn’t very difficult for Raj, Poonam or me to do this. More challenging probably for the youngsters because they don’t know what the 80s era was. I am sure that they would have had to work on every little thing. Second thing was the production house, so it was Smriti Shinde and Sobo films and then the OTT platform, which was Disney + Hotstar, so what better could I have asked for. You have Raj Babbar, Poonam Dhillon, Akshay, Seher, Aditya. This entire ensemble cast and to top it all, my role. It being a web series, it runs into a couple of episodes so it was not like I am playing a primary character in it but I am playing a very important role. It is a very colourful role, which I was quite amused while performing. Every time I would finish my role, I would just look back and laugh. I’d say to myself, what am I doing? It is really beautiful when you are an actor and performing such challenging roles. You realise what an actor you can be and what can come out. With a good director and co-actors, you can just create magic.”
END OF AN ERA: PT BIRJU MAHARAJ LEAVES BEHIND A RICH LEGACY
Such was his control on his footwork, he could stop all other ghunghroos and produce the sound of a single ghunghroo with delicate execution.
Pandit Birju Maharaj was arguably the greatest exponent of Kathak dance of his generation. Born as Brijmohan Nath Mishra, he inherited Kathak in his genes and grew up in the house of Kathak maestros such as his father and guru Pt Jagannath ‘Achhan’ Maharaj and uncles Pt Shambhu Maharaj and Pt Lachhu Maharaj. He added fascinating elements of ‘shringar’ and ‘abhinay’ to the illustrious legacy of Lucknow’s “Kalka-Bindadin gharana”.
Pt Birju Maharaj with Ambassador Surendra Kumar at the IAFA event remembering Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore at NMML.Pt Birju Maharaj lighting the inaugural lamp at an IAFA event, an evening of Indian Kathak dance and American Jazz at India Habitat CentrePt Birju Maharaj, Ambassador Surendra Kumar and US CDA MaryKay Carlson with participating artists at India Habitat Centre
Birju Maharaj had tremendous control on his footwork while dancing with agility. No doubt hundreds of tiny ghunghroos create a rhythmic sound. But with delicate execution, he could stop all other ghunghroos and produce the sound of a single ghunghroo! When a dozen dancers descended on the stage in dazzling dresses, dancing in unending circles as if in a trance, it presented an unforgettable spectacle.
He was a great story-teller and created dance ballets based not only on stories of Radha Krishna but a host of other subjects also. In fact, I met him for the first time at Ravindralay in Lucknow in 1975 where he was staging ‘Sham-e-Awadh’, an evening of the courts of the Nawabs of Awadh, which was a huge hit. He was a great choreographer who made Madhuri Dixit dance to his tunes in ‘Devdas’ and deservingly won Filmfare’s Best Choreographer award for Kamal Hassan’s ‘Vishwaroopam’ & Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Bajirao Mastani’.
Birju Maharaj was also associated with Satyajit Ray’s ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’ for dance sequences. Under his direction, his senior most and ablest disciple Saswati Sen, who has now grown up to be a guru in her own right, presented ‘Romeo Juliet’ in Kathak style in Glasgow, UK. For years, Birju Maharaj and Saswati made a fetching and graceful pair on the stage.
In 1984, when I was serving in Syria, a dozen of his disciples, including his sons Deepak and Jaikishan Maharaj, nephew Ram Mohan and favourite disciple Durga Arya, presented Kathak dance performances. In Damascus, when Durga Arya danced in 73 non-stop circles, the whole hall was in a frenzy. She was later presented with an embroidered ‘chaddar’ as a mark of appreciation.
In 1988, I met Birju Maharaj at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan in London at an event where Prince Charles, who had succeeded Lord Mountbatten as the Patron of the Bhawan, was also present.
In 2001, he came to our residence in Chicago along with Saswati Sen and endeared himself to everyone with his disarming simplicity and unassuming nature. He treated me like his younger brother and seldom said ‘no’ to my demands on his time. It was my tribute to him that the back cover of my coffee-table book “In the Minds of the Maestros” carried only Birju Maharaj’s picture. He released this book along with Dr Karan Singh at Ravi Shankar Centre in Chanakyapuri, Delhi, in the presence of Dr Sonal Mansingh.
In 11 years of the existence of Indian Academy of Fine Arts (IAFA), he appeared in several of its panel discussions such as “Kabira Kharayat Bazaar Mein” at India International Centre (IIC), “Remembering Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore” at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) and “Pt Ravi Shankar, 90 Not Out” at Islamic Culture Centre, all in Delhi.
He and his disciples participated in IAFA’s musical soirée “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” at The Instituto Cervantes, Delhi. In 2019, a total of 24 artists from his ‘Kalashram’ participated in IAFA program, in association with the American Embassy, “An evening of Indian Kathak & American Jazz” which was also attended by the American Chargé d’affaires (CDA) MaryKay Carlson at Stein Hall in India Habitat Centre, Delhi.
Courteous to a fault and a man of a few soft-spoken words, he was a pleasing singer in Hindustani style. He could sing Thumris for hours. Though he was honoured with the country’s second highest civilian award Padma Vibhushan, Sangeet Natak Award, Kalidas Samman and dozens of other prestigious awards as well as two honorary doctorate degrees to his credit, it was the boundless love of his fans and admirers that he valued the most.
An outstanding artist of his stature should have been nominated to the Rajya Sabha long back and the Ministry of Culture should have offered him a decent accommodation for life. A ‘D-II’ type accommodation at Pandara Park provided to him certainly wasn’t appropriate for his stature and calibre.
He was the unofficial ‘cultural ambassador’ of India for over 60 years who enthralled thousands of connoisseurs of Indian classical dance in India and abroad. Maharaj was a Kathak legend who also produced dozens of dancers at ‘Kathak Kendra’ as well as at his own Kalashram. Now, several of his disciples have been teaching dance at their own institutes as is the case with Shovana Narain. Without Pt Birju Maharaj, the Kathak world will never be the same again. May his soul rest in peace!
The Author is a former Indian ambassador
SEEMA PAHWA, MANUKRITI PAHWA & ANNUP THAPA TALK ABOUT ‘YE MARD BECHARA’
In the exclusive interview as part of NewsX India A-List, actor Seema Pahwa, debutant Manukriti Pahwa and filmmaker Annup Thapa talked about their latest film Ye Mard Bechara.
Actor Seema Pahwa, Debutant Manukriti Pahwa and Filmmaker Annup Thapa recently joined us on NewsX India A-List to speak about their latest film Ye Mard Bechara, which released on the occasion of International Men’s Day. In the exclusive interview, the trio shared what Ye Mard Bechara is all about and the message it tries to deliver. Read excerpts:
Speaking about Ye Mard Bechara and what drew her to the film Seema Pahwa said, “The film is based on the situation of men in our society. Be it today’s society or the earlier society, the film throws light on where the men stand in our society today unconsciously. It is not like we have done it deliberately. Unconsciously, we have put more and more pressure on men without think that he is also piled under responsibilities. Ever since childhood, what responsibilities we are dumping on him. The film talks about that and points out the wrong definition we have in our minds regarding being a man. What should it be, is it someone who inflicts pain or is it someone who helps others.”
“The story is being told in a very interesting manner and a light-hearted manner. It does not underline it but that’s the message the film delivers. I think people will resonate with it,”she added.
When asked about experience of directing Ye Mard Bechara and his thoughts on the film finally releasing in theatres, Annup Thapa expressed, “It is like a miracle. We were not expecting to see our film in the theatres. The shooting kickstarted before lockdown in 2019. Talking about the idea of the film, I’m a man myself and since I was the eldest in the family, I had the responsibility of my family since my childhood. My own experience and surroundings prompted this film. Like Seema ma’am said, people are connecting with this film. The responses that are coming on the trailer of the film shows people want to watch this film and finally someone spoke about the plight of men. It has at least begun. A lot of films have been made of women issues, should be made and people have appreciated them. Similarly, there are a lot of issues faced by men and they are experiencing discrimination with various laws that have been made. Several social boundaries have also been drawn and men are responsible for it. The message is delivered in a very positive manner in the film and does not demonise anyone. A man is not bechara because of a woman. When you watch the film, you will be surprised. As much as the film is important for men, it is equally important for women.”
Manukriti Pahwa, who makes her debut with Ye Mard Bechara, further spoke about her passion for acting and revealed how she bagged the film. She revealed, “I think acting was something that I always wanted to do. When I was young, I was more exposed to theatre than films and film sets. I always knew that I wanted to be on stage and I want to act. When I grew up, I wanted to do my degree in dramatics so I did my studies in that. I came back and did theatre for a while. Once I was confident about my craft, I started auditioning.”
“Sui Dhaaga happened. I did a small part in Sui Dhaaga and then I did Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi, which I did under mom’s direction. Annup ji had actually come to narrate the film to mom at home and I happened to be at home at that time. That’s when I got introduced to him. He later asked me if I would like to act in the film. I told him i would read the script and get back to you. I read the script and thought it was a great concept. It is something that nobody is thinking about. There is a lot of talk about women’s liberation and women’s freedom. A lot of films are also being made on this and people are talking about it but nobody is really thinking from a men’s perspective. That really interested me in this project and made me come on-board,” she added.
There’s a perfect oasis waiting to be discovered: Obeetee presents the Gypsy Oasis collection
There is a wanderer within all of us, yearning to uncover and explore the unknown. To cater to that inquisitive and free spirit, OBEETEE presents the all-new Gypsy Oasis Collection. Creating a seamless yet beautiful web of fibers, this collection aims to blend the world as one.
The Gypsy Oasis Collection draws inspiration from the ornamental traditions of the ancient Ottoman empire, combined with the free spirit of the gypsy soul. This collection appeals to the wanderer who seeks the great unknown and equips them to bring that nomadic and exotic essence to the comfort of their homes. With the Gypsy Oasis Collection, you can turn any corner of your home into your own bohemian escape and let the OBEETEE rug transport you to where you are most content.
The color palette of this collection is vibrant in its true form and the designs are meant to be decorative while maintaining the legendary OBEETEE timelessness. Rugs in the Gypsy Oasis collection embody the traditional heritage of the Khotan and Oushal patterns while bringing a new age touch to them, providing the best of both worlds. They have a quintessential bohemian appeal that is sure to wow creative minds. Made with the utmost detail and artisanship on canvases of silk and wool, the Gypsy Oasis collection is unlike any other.
With each innovative new collection over the last century, OBEETEE has garnered an undisputed reputation in terms of its brilliance. OBEETEE boasts of a community that sustains its existence and excellence with over 25,000 artisans dedicated to the creation of extraordinary rugs and the Gypsy Oasis Collection is an incredible extension of that.
Carpets in the Gypsy Oasis Collection range from Rs. 25,000 up to Rs. 3,00,000.
Founded in 1920, OBEETEE is one of the oldest and largest hand woven rug companies in not only India but also the world. Expanding over a century, OBEETEE has garnered an undisputed reputation in terms of its brilliance. With over 25,000 artisans dedicated to the creation of extraordinary rugs, OBEETEE boasts of a community that sustains its existence and excellence.
The uniqueness and regality of OBEETEE is undeniable, and the Rashtrapati Bhavan, which houses two beautiful OBEETEE creations, is in agreement. In addition to that, innumerable prominent people have experienced and recognized the world of OBEETEE over the years.
OBEETEE has the greatest in-house rug-making capabilities in India, powered by their modern dyeing plant and ever-inspired design department. They constantly employ new textures and designs, and house over 4,000 colourfast shades of wool in their bank. OBEETEE was the first company to receive the SA 8000:2001 certification for Social Accountability. The company does an endless array of things to give back to the community. From supporting children education, women vocational training, public health and sanitation, to numerous environmentally conscious efforts, OBEETEE is by the people, of the people, for the people.
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