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Actress Prachi Desai recently joined NewsX for a candid interview as part of NewsX India A-List. Prachi has made a comeback in Bollywood after a long break with the suspense-thriller Silence… Can You Hear It?, which released on Zee5 on 26 March. She is currently basking on its success.

Talking about it, she said, “I think so far the response has been great. Also, I’ve done a film after a while so that excitement is special. The intention was to do something different as it’s been a while and that has paid off. The one thing I’m consistently hearing every day from people is it’s nice to see me back after a gap. That’s good to hear as it gives you a sense of hope. It also reminds me that people do want to watch me and are happy to see me again and there cannot be a better feeling than that.”

When asked about what convinced her to say yes to this film, Prachi expressed, “It just ticked all the boxes, there aren’t any specific requirements for every film that you do but it’s just the basics so whether it was a good and engaging script, the role was different and appealing and it’s made by a debutant female director. I’ve always wanted to work with female directors and feel like we need more of them in this industry and that is the case with this movie. I needed to do a strong role which is why I took a while to say yes to something and it happened when ‘Silence’ came my way and I immediately said yes.”

Sharing more insights from her experience, she said, “I love the film and love espionage thrillers, and murder mysteries in general. I don’t think you’ll believe this but I enjoy watching horror movies a lot and watch them often. With thrillers, it just keeps you at the edge of your seat most of the time if it’s written and directed well. This particular movie was a page-turner. When I was reading the script I just needed to know what’s gonna happen next and that’s a good sign.”

Sharing her experience of working with Manoj Bajpayee and being on sets with him, Prachi mentioned, “Manoj sir is like an institution in acting. I would just keep observing him the whole time on the set, watching him perform, how he prepares for every particular scene and trying not to creep him out while doing that. I feel a lot of things are going on in his head at a time, he is so talented. I think it rubs off very nicely on all of us as you want to also do well in the scene since he’s so good.”

She added, “He’s a very selfless actor. He makes sure that everybody in the scene is equally involved and if he ever feels like you can do something that will make your performance better, he shares that with everyone. The kind of involvement and dedication he has, despite being such a busy actor is commendable. He’s someone who’s done far more work than all of us in the film put together. Even then, he would just be involved with his 100% and probably worked as hard as we did. Considering the number of hours we worked, he doesn’t shy away from the hard work at all and that’s refreshing.”

On taking up a new role, Prachi said, “It was unplanned, an actor’s life is sometimes unpredictable. However, there came a point when I just felt like I needed to maybe detour from the roles that I’m doing and do something slightly different. It may not be earth-shattering but I needed that shift, and I don’t know if the casting directors or the filmmakers are lazy as they feel like this person does something well so keep on giving them the same role that makes their job easier as they don’t have to work hard with you to do something different.”

“That happened and repetitive things came my way. For a while, I enjoyed my space and made the most of it. But after a point, it felt like I can do so much more and needed people to open up to that. When that did not happen, you’re an actor and if you’re not a producer yourself, all you can do is probably wait or try and add something different to your role. But you only have this much only and you can do it within that scope as you can’t make a different film for yourself. The waiting period took a little longer than expected. Certain things in that span were very interesting but did not materialise for some reason, and as an actor, at times you never know how months and years pass by and then there we were struck with the Covid-19 pandemic and an entire year went into trying to deal with the new normal. After all the wait, I feel, it has been worth it.”

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Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday said that Pakistan is facing economic destruction due to the “anti-people ideology” of Prime Minister Imran Khan, The Express Tribune reported.

“Prime Minister, you used to blame corruption for Pakistan’s state of affairs. [Look how] the country has been destroyed economically due to your anti-people ideology,” Bilawal said in a statement. “You have amnesty schemes for the elite and food charity centres for the poor. This won’t work,” Bilawal added.

Highlighting rising poverty in the country, the PPP chairman said, “850 million Pakistanis are standing on the edge of the poverty line.”

He claimed, “15 to 20 people are committing suicide every day due to the situation, while medicines have become costlier by 100 per cent. The poor have no one to look up to,” The Express Tribune reported.

Earlier, PPP chairman had warned that the country is moving towards another flour crisis as there are less than 20 days of wheat stock left in the country.

According to Dawn, Bilawal lamented that Pakistan, which was known as a wheat-producing country, is now importing wheat, adding that the ruler of Pakistan (Imran Khan) was unfortunately not even familiar with “alphabets of the word agriculture”.

Meanwhile, the worsening COVID-19 situation in Pakistan does not seem to abate just yet, as the country recorded 3,785 new cases in the last 24 hours.

With the 118 new deaths, the total coronavirus death toll in Pakistan reached 18,915. However, the total COVID-19 cases reached 58,026 on Sunday. Citing the official data by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), Geo News reported that 40,736 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours out of which 3,785 tests came positive.

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Will US support during India’s crisis strengthen Quad?



Several experts have opined that China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour and US support during India’s COVID-19 crisis will make the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) – a security alliance between India, the US, Japan and Australia – more robust.

Terry Wu for The Epoch Times writes that the growing threat from China would bind the geopolitical factor strongly in the long run and political factors drive the long-term regional outlook. “Our (US-India) relationship is still very strong. If anything, the US support to India has made the partnership even stronger,” said Major Randy Ready at the US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), adding that the COVID-19 outbreak had no impact on security operations between the two nations.

Srikanth Kondapalli, professor in Chinese studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said that the second wave of the crisis will play a part in strengthening the Quad cooperation by highlighting the importance of the vaccine partnership that is the centrepiece of the dialogue, The Epoch Times reported.

“The future for the Quad is pretty bright,” said Rahul Mishra, a senior lecturer at the University of Malaya, adding that the four countries are keen in strengthening and institutionalising the initiative, while European powers are also showing interest.

“The Quad should be about how to maintain liberal democracy and the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Tosh Minohara, professor of US-Japan Relations and Diplomatic History at Kobe University.

The professor further said that the US will defend Taiwan as America’s world leadership is at stake and expressed hope of seeing a new US administration in 2025 that is more aggressive on China.

“The Indo-Pacific is the most consequential region for America’s future. It hosts our greatest security challenge, and it remains the priority theater for the United States,” said commander Admiral John C Aquilino at the new USINDOPACOM.

“Although everybody calls it COVID-19, everybody knows that the virus originated from Wuhan,” said Kondapalli.

Under the former President Donald Trump’s administration, ties between Washington and Beijing had deteriorated.

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China has shown reluctance to clear a $6 billion loan for the single largest project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) due to the growing concern over mounting debt.

The cost of the Mainline-I (ML-I) railway project was initially USD 9 billion but later it was reduced gradually to USD 6.8 billion. According to a report in The Express Tribune, Chinese authorities are wary of Pakistan’s ability to service its debt. “Beijing conveyed its concerns during a meeting held on March 30 to discuss financing modalities of the project,” the Pakistan government officials said as per the report.

“The Chinese side have sought clarification regarding the possibility of raising further debt by Pakistan during currency of the IMF program. The Pakistani side clarified that debt situation is being monitored and there is no restriction under the programme to raise debt for viable projects,” Deputy Chairman Planning Commission of Pakistan Dr Jehanzeb Khan told the Pakistan daily.

Amid lack of progress on several CPEC projects, subtle signs of unease have emerged between the two countries over the future direction and funding of mega projects, under increasing scrutiny of media and the public.According to a report published in Modern Diplomacy, the outcome of recent meetings between the two countries reveals significant scaling down of Pakistan’s expectations regarding the inclusion of more projects under CPEC phase II.

Fabien Baussart in an opinion piece for Modern Diplomacy last month had said, “While the country has for long portrayed USD 6.8 billion Main Line-I project to be the main artery of the Pakistan Railways and tried to convince China for financing the project, the Chinese side has tried to avoid any commitment for funding.”

Pakistan has been unable to secure any favourable consideration including the concessionary loan at an interest rate of one per cent, said Baussart while adding that China is only willing to offer a mix of commercial and concessional loans to fund the rail project backed by suitable guarantees by Pakistan.

In 2015, China announced an economic project in Pakistan worth USD 46 billion. With the CPEC, Beijing aims to expand its influence in Pakistan and across Central and South Asia in order to counter the influence of the United States and India.

The CPEC would link Pakistan’s southern Gwadar port (626 kilometres west of Karachi) in Balochistan on the Arabian Sea to China’s western Xinjiang region. It also includes plans to create road, rail, and oil pipeline links to improve connectivity between China and the Middle East.

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Security officials in Kabul said that the Taliban in the past week tried to take over some strategic areas in at least six provinces of the country, but Afghan forces repelled their offensives.



KABUL: Amid the ongoing drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan, the war-torn country has seen a spike in the incidents of violence in recent weeks, leading to casualties of Afghan security forces and civilians.

Afghan security officials on Saturday said that the Taliban in the past week tried to take over some strategic areas in at least six provinces of the country, but security forces repelled their offensives. Over 1,000 Taliban terrorists have been killed and wounded in several encounters with the Afghan security forces during this period in Kandahar, Helmand, Farah, Herat and Baghlan provinces, said General Yasin Zia, the Afghan Chief of Army Staff.

Alongside Ghazni city, Khawja Omari, Jaghato, Waghaz and Khogyani districts have also faced deadly battles in the past days. Meanwhile, local officials in Baghlan said that hundreds of people have taken up arms to fight the Taliban.

Afghan Ministry of Defence said that offensive operations have been launched to eliminate the Taliban in areas under their control. It added that at least 250 Taliban fighters were killed in at least seven provinces in the last 24 hours and thousands more in the last four months.

The Taliban, however, has rejected the Afghan Defence Ministry report that they had suffered significant losses due to heavy fighting over the first four months of this year.

According to the ministry’s data, the period in question was the deadliest for the Taliban, as 6,320 group members were killed and 2,790 others were injured in clashes in different provinces across the country. The highest number of casualties in the past four months — 2,099 — was reported in the southern Kandahar province, as reported by Sputnik.

The Taliban on Saturday rejected the Afghan Defence Ministry report that they (Taliban) had suffered significant losses due to heavy fighting over the first four months of this year but the Ministry maintained that the figures of Taliban casualties were accurate.

Amid this surge in violence, US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Friday had said that the United States will stand with Afghans who support the Republic if the Taliban do not choose peace.

“If the Taliban do not choose peace, a future based on consensus and compromise, then we will stand with Afghans who strive to keep the Republic intact,” Khalilzad had said in a tweet.


Leading UN officials on Saturday condemned the deadly bombing outside a high school in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, which led to the deaths of at least 30 people, including several school children.

Most of the casualties are reported to be girls, who were leaving the building at the end of the school day, UN News reported, adding that the city was full of shoppers, ahead of the Eid-al-Fitr celebrations.

“UNICEF strongly condemns the horrific attack earlier today near the Sayed Ul-Shuhada high school, in Kabul, Afghanistan,” said Henrietta Fore, the Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

“The attack claimed the lives of dozens of schoolchildren, mostly girls, and severely injured many more. Violence in or around schools is never acceptable. Schools must be havens of peace where children can play, learn and socialize safely.” The UNICEF chief added that children must never be the target of violence, and that the UN agency continues to call on all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to adhere to international human rights and humanitarian law.

Volkan Bozkir, the President of the General Assembly described the blast as “an abhorrent and cowardly attack”.

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Building a meaningful marital relationship

Rwituja Gomes Mookherjee



The pandemic and ensuing uncertainties have greatly impacted couples who’ve been recently married. In some instances, with quick court marriages or extremely private gatherings, cancellation of plans, curtailing ceremonies and celebrations, absence of bickering relatives and fun with friends, many feel deprived, disappointed and unhappy having had to compromise on a significant life event.  

Living together as a couple is life-changing. The settling in period is crucial as no one likes changes. We may outrightly resist, react with displeasure or find a way to cope. But invariably it leaves us feeling unsure and dissatisfied with an emptiness of having lost a way of life. So it’s important to willingly adjust, adapt and mutually compromise to settle differences that may arise from everyday interactions.  

A new set of parents – from having to manage one set of parents and their emotional baggage, suddenly you inherit another! How do you address them? Are they involved in your marriage? How lonely is the struggle to adapt? Coming from a nuclear setup does the extended family structure overwhelm you? Do you sense disappointment that your maternal parents are alone and left out? 

New House indicates the pressure to fit in. What is often overlooked is that the in-laws too must accommodate an unknown new person! Instinctually the girl attempts to recreate her maternal home and lifestyle while the in-laws insist on the unsaid rules and regulations of their lives. A clash is evident as each manipulates the other to accept their way of life.

Food – a necessity to live well. Is your palate shocked into having to develop a taste for a fish head, spicy food, vegetarian diet or bland ‘healthy’ meals? Do you find cooking destressing? Are you experimental or long for mom’s cooking? Are your kitchen management skills criticised? Inter-caste marriages can add to the pressure and this dissatisfaction gradually extends to other areas.

Sleeping habits – Are you an early riser or a night owl? What do you like to do before going to bed? Are you expected to wake up early? Do you sleep hugging a pillow or lie on your stomach? Do you move constantly in your sleep or snore? Does your partner question how much you sleep? 

Sex rituals are as stressful as the inability to reach orgasm. What’s your attitude towards sex? Who initiates lovemaking? Are you free to say no? Is foreplay important? Do you rush to clean up after sex or stay engaging in pillow talk? Do you cuddle or like space? 

Bathroom habits – Do you prefer a clean and dry bathroom? Do you read the news or play games in there? Do you screw back the toothpaste top or want the shampoo name facing the front after use? Do you forget to switch off the geyser or leave the wet towel on the bed? Do you fart or burp unconcerned or worry about your bowel movements?  

Shopping – Do you shop armed with a checklist or enjoy window shopping and buying whatever fancies you? Is shopping relaxing? Do you shop at full price or only during sale season? 

Personal style – Do you dress for comfort, to be presentable or follow fashion religiously? What is your grooming ritual? Do you love jewellery? Does your wardrobe cater to different occasions or do you dress the same wherever you go, no matter the occasion?  

Entertaining patterns can bring anxiety. What’s your idea of socialising? Do you regularly entertain? Are you always left cleaning up? Does it annoy you to constantly entertain the same people?  

Choice of relaxation – Do you like to laze with a book, binge-watch or ‘do nothing?’ How sacrosanct is ‘me time?’ Are you an indoor or outdoor person? What’s your ideal holiday? Are you adventurous or prefer a scheduled itinerary when travelling?  

Money matters – Money gives a sense of power, position, control and stability. Do you discuss money and share financial responsibilities? Do you feel you contribute more? Should money be saved for a better future or spent on being happy today? Attitude towards money and what it means to you individually can greatly impact relationships.  

Religious rituals – Each family has its way of praying, celebrating or making an offering. How tolerant are you of your partner’s religion? Do you bathe before praying? How often do you visit your place of worship?

Work from home has also meant no respite. Do you work long hours? Are you expected to take on household responsibility? Is your work considered important? 

Building a life of togetherness can be fun or an exhausting battle. To reduce conflict and ease into togetherness, it’s important to have open communication and create a shared understanding of values. Emotional engagement, romance, humour, trust, stress-reducing conversations, forgiveness and acceptance can strengthen the commitment and intention to achieve personal and couple goals and dreams. 

The writer is a mental health counsellor. The views expressed are personal.

Building a life of togetherness can be fun or an exhausting battle. To reduce conflict and ease into togetherness, it’s important to have open communication and create a shared understanding of values.

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As a nation, the need of the hour is to rise beyond the trivial issues and rally behind our leaders, who have been working towards Covid recovery and India’s overall development.

V K Saxena



India is reeling under the disastrous influence of Covid-19. This is a viral disease that caught the world by shock and surprise during 2020 and the virus mutated time and again to enlarge its catchment, even as we thought that the impact is reducing. A recent variant has taken India, the second-most populous country in the world, by sheer surprise. And its impact is devastatingly large.

As has become a tradition of unthoughtful opposition in the country, fingers are being raised on the Prime Minister himself. In the eyes of the irresponsible opposition, unfair international press, and polarised communities, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in person, is responsible for every shortcoming in the country. If a person is infected, if someone had to wait for an hour for the vaccine, if someone did not get an ambulance or gas cylinder or bed, if someone’s Aadhar Card was not read on the computer, if a vaccine registration data that was wrongly entered did not respond in time, whatever be the grouse that is big or small, the blame is squarely placed on the Prime Minister, which is totally unfair. 

The most popular person in the country today is also the most targeted person. This unfair blame game has not helped any process of addressing any problem. Since it is being propelled by vested interests, it is just serving some lowly political strategy of the opposition. But as a nation, the need of the hour is to rise beyond these trivial issues and establish fundamentally strong arrangements for providing relief for the suffering.  

Indeed, some errors may have occurred in arresting the widely spreading nature of the virus. It is a large nation of unique challenges and it is almost impossible to take into account every caution in developing national strategies and implementing the local actions of these wider programmes. Often, people also do not cooperate unless excessively forced a discipline upon them. More than all, the virus is new to the world and our historic cumulation of knowledge has not given enough understanding about the behaviour of this microscopic beast. Most modern researches, including the invention of the vaccine, are only a few months old and we are yet to discern the long term effects and effectiveness of the measures being prescribed and adopted. As such, the policy-making horizon at the national level also does not have an accumulated experience to bank upon and derive from.  

If you analyse the matter in sum total, India has actually done much better under the circumstances than even many advanced countries in the world. Firstly, many western countries including the USA allowed civil protests on wearing masks and people argued there to the extent that imposing mask is against their fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution. India has imposed the mask rule much more sincerely than any country in the world. As for social distancing, India imposed very stringent guidelines and very meticulously implemented it in every place of people’s congregation. However, there is a view that this regulation could have been better followed in election rallies and religious congregations. With cooperation from people and political outfits of all hue and colour, this could have been coordinated better though. 

Vaccine production is one important and primary response to the pandemic that India did better than any other country on the planet. India invested heavily in this and brought out very effective vaccines at very affordable prices. India also became a global leader and philanthropic in vaccine distribution and shipped millions of doses to the countries in trouble. Many countries including the US kept for domestic use what it produced, without shipping out a vial whereas India worked under the principle of ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ and stood by the troubled States. The public vaccination programme also was a very systematic one in India and it began from the most vulnerable sector of the society. In Germany, senior citizens registered for vaccination in January 2021 are still waiting to get their first dose. In a minuscule population of Switzerland, the vaccination programme that started in December 2020 has still covered only 8% of the population. The Netherlands with a population of 1.7 crores is hoping to cover its citizens only by July or August this year. Italy, which suffered hugely during the Covid first wave, is still embroiled in awarding contracts for procuring vaccine and politics has broken out around AZ, Moderna, Pfizer etc. and the country is in indecision. We can take up the case of each of the 193 countries in the world and see how they have badly fared, while India has done exceedingly commendable work in comparison.

However, India is shown in a bad light, all the while, which is a trend in international one-upmanship, to which even Indians in India and abroad greatly contribute. If the per-unit population death by the virus is computed, India has the least number of deaths per crore of population. While Italy has 57, France 47, Germany 38, and the USA 29, India has recorded only 26 deaths per crore. It is only that India is visible because of our large population and the absolute numbers of affected. Also, we are visible because of the dramatic footages of rituals of cremation of the dead while the rituals in other communities may not be that dramatic looking. Especially the burning of the dead bodies in India, which may stir up emotions when pyres are seen on the television screen, is one of the best methods to destroy and annihilate the virus so that it does not re-enter human society through ecological recycling.

China is determined to show India in poor light because as a nation, it was isolated in the first wave and the virus was popularly called as Chinese virus. Now, it will benefit China if the second wave virus could be called as India virus and most allies of China and vested interests will provide fuel to this terrible conspiracy. Indian opposition and mindless Modi haters will only give on a platter the food for India bashing if they continue to play into the hands of international cartels that want to see India underdeveloped and politically chaotic. By highlighting and constantly filling the television channels and social media with negative information of the tragedy India is undergoing and completely hiding under the carpet the enormous amount of positive work India is doing towards the mitigation of the pandemic, we only stir up anarchic conditions and delay recovery.

This is the time for us to come together as a nation and rally behind our leaders, who have been single-mindedly and apolitically working towards Covid recovery and India’s development. If we don’t recognise that ‘citizen role’, we just turn out to be our own enemies within the nation and spin within the negative spiral that we ourselves create, knowingly or unknowingly.

The writer is Chairman, Khadi & Village Industries Commission, Government of India. The views expressed are personal.

Indeed, some errors may have occurred in arresting the widely spreading nature of the virus. It is a large nation of unique challenges and it is almost impossible to take into account every caution in developing national strategies and implementing the local actions of these wider programmes.

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