Flying high


Telugu girl Anny divya has become the youngest woman commander in the world to fly a Boeing 777

Born to Telugu parentsin Pathankot Anny Divya  spent her formative years in Vijayawada.  ‘ I did my schooling and Class XII in Vijayawada where my mother hails from while my father [ an ex army man] is from Warangal.  Since childhood I was fascinated with becoming a pilot. In fact I remember when a teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up my list of goals has pilot on top which eventually became a reality” she says with a smile.

Divya learnt about pilot training at the Rashtriya Uran Akademi in Uttar Pradesh and started preparing for the All India entrance test. “ Getting into the Academy was difficult as I had to clear the test  but I was really keen on getting into the pilot training course. Luckily the education system in Andhra Pradesh was good and I was good at academics so I could crack the exam and make it” she shares.

Apparently one of her English teachers helped her prepare for the interview.  ‘ One interviewer asked me what Vijayawada famous for while another asked if I would be comfortable wearing trousers during the training since I wore a salwar kameez for the interview she recalls.

Coming from a small town, adjusting to the new environment was challenging, admits Divya. “Getting used to the English pronunciation was difficult. The way North Indians speak is also different, and although I studied in an English medium school, nobody spoke much of English in college. Also, getting used to the diverse culture was a tough. However, my parents supported me a lot, and my determination helped me overcome all difficulties,” she says.

After her course, Divya was posted with Air India in Mumbai. “At 19, I went to Spain to train on a Boeing 737 Jet aircraft for a couple of years. Later, I was trained in Boeing 777 in London, and became the youngest woman in the world to fly as a commander of a Boeing 777,” she recalls.

Ask her how life changed after becoming a pilot, and Divya replies, “A lot has changed!” She adds, “After overcoming the initial hurdles, I learnt a lot.. I have to be on my toes at all times as we have to get used to the changing technology and stay focussed. My thought process has also changed and I am optimistic about all aspects of life. Also, I feel being connected to one’s roots is important.”

Divya operates as captain on international flights, and has flown to more than 30 countries. She has also pursued her B.Sc., Aviation and LLB. She divides free time between singing and dancing.

Courtesy    Deccan chronicle


You sweet little potato

I love potatoes.  Who doesn’t it? That doesn’t mean I would lap up French fries or wafers made from sweet potatoes. This until a couple of years when I was tricked into eating sweet potato kebabs at a friend’s restaurant. Chomping into them I looked up and asked “ what are these made of?  Sweet potatoes “ they laughed.  I paused for a bit and thought to myself  I just ate sweet potatoes and I think they are quite yummy?

It took me some time but eventually that day my inhibition for the tuber ended as I returned and regaled over my wonderful taste of the vegetable.

My dislike for the tuber could have been associated with the fact that I connect it to fasting. I have never fasted in my life and the only time I saw these potatoes in abundance in the markets was during shivaratri. The reason that is the only tuber allowed for those who fast during the festival.  Surprisingly around the time I tasted my first sweet potato I saw a lot of sweet potato recipes featured on quick video tutorials on social media. Sweet potato bakes fries pies oven roasted for snacks and many more. Despite knowing the benefits of sweet potatoes I didn’t think it was a super food.

The orange tinged sweet potatoes are Nature’s unsurpassed sources of beta carotene. According to medical and health journals the tuber has the ability to raise the Vitamin A in our blood levels especially in children. Sweet potatoes are not always orange fleshed they can be purple at times.  So it is absolutely safe to consume the tuber with purple stains here and there.  This tuber is known to be rich in important antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties. Steaming or boiling before consuming is the best way to benefit from the important properties of this vegetable.

Sweet potatoes don’t take a long time to prepare.  Cutting them into half inch slices and quick steaming them for just seven minutes not only brings out their great flavor but also helps to maximize their nutritional value.  They also pack a powerful nutritional punch. They provide our daily need for  vitamin A in one medium spud along with lots of fibre and potassium.  A lot of chefs work on busting myths about them.  Laura Matthews the head of nutrition at Jamie Oliver in Healthier  Happier You wrote “ sweet potatoes are a source of four essential micronutrients  Vitamin C   thiamine  potassium and manganese  which between them have a whole range of properties that our bodies need to keep us ticking.

Surprisingly this super food doesn’t find much place in our daily menus.  To make sweet potato tikkis wash them thoroughly or scrub them if needed   peeling isn’t required.  Steam and mash.  Add finely chopped onions green chillies grated ginger  chopped coriander leaves and salt to taste.

Knead and mix until you get a fine ball. Keep aside for ten minutes. Make smaller balls out of it flatten it with a gentle press of thumb and roast them on a non stick pan.

Courtesy   The  Hindu    Prabalika M Borah

Ujjaini mahankali bonalu


Bonam—– thanks giving to the goddess

Nonalu  a Hindu festival for the Goddess of power MahanKali or Kali is celebrated in Secunderabad and Hyderabad in Telangana.

Bonam means Bojanalu in Telugu or a meal in English is an offering to the Goddess.  Women bring cooked rice with milk sugar sometimes onions in a brass or earthern pot adorned with small neem branches and turmeric  vermilion  [kumkum] or Vibjooti [ white chalk ] and a lamp on the top. Women go to the temple carrying it on their heads and offer the Bonam to the deity.

Hence the Jathara acquired the name Bonalu  plural of Bonam.  Some women fill the vessels with water mixed with turmeric powder and offer it to the Goddess along with the neem branches.  This is called saaka.

This festival is celebrated during Ashada masam in July and August months.  In Ashadam each Sunday is celebrated as Bonalu in particular regions of Hyderabad and Secunderabad twin cities.

Secunderabad Ujjaini Mahankali Bonalu is celebrated on Fourth Sunday. It is also known as Ashada Jatara Utsavalu.

The goddess at different temple is worshipped with different names such as Yellamma,  Mysamma  Pochamma  Pedamma Dokkalamma Ankalamma  Poleramma Maremma etc and is decorated with special illumination buntings and festoons.

The dance of balancing pots with the colourfully dressed female dancers balancing pots [Bonalu] step to the rhythmic beats and tunes in praise of the village deity.

Male dances called the potahrajus follow the female dancers to the temple lashing whips and emerald margosa leaves tied around their waists adding colour to the roaring trumpets and pulsating percussion.





19-year-old Chennai girl Neerajakshi chats about winning Nodojiman – The World, a music competition held in Japan for non-native singers

She’s called Neerajakshi by family and friends. In the online world though, she prefers the name ‘Yami’.

It’s the name she used when she attempted voice-overs for an online Japanese voice-acting group. That was in 2015, a little after she discovered a passion for the Japanese language. Today, Neerajakshi Sunder Rajan — a 19-year-old who is currently undergoing articleship at a chartered accountancy firm — is the first Indian to have won top honours at Nodojiman – The World, a competition in which contestants from various countries are invited to sing Japanese pop songs.

It’s show time

Her first tryst with the Japanese world started when she was very young, when she used to follow anime (a style of film and television animation). “Initially, my sister and I used to watch them just for fun,” recalls Neerajakshi, “They were quite entertaining.” Slowly, the siblings got obsessed with the themes and characters in the shows. “Naruto and Cardcaptor Sakura were two of my favourites,” she smiles.

It soon became dinner-time discussion for Neeraja and her sister Sindhuja. They even started picking up bits and pieces of the language. “We loved interacting in Japanese… from whatever we picked up from these shows,” she recalls, “Of course, back then, we didn’t know if we were speaking it the right way.”

Tune in

It was early this year, after she’d completed her CA inter, that she came across an online post about a Japanese singing competition called Nodojiman – The World. A trained Carnatic musician herself (her father, Delhi P Sunder Rajan, is a renowned violinist), she checked out a few pop songs and picked them up surprisingly well. “I submitted three songs as audio files and forgot all about it,” she says. But an e-mail came soon, requesting her to send videos of her singing. “I then came to know the magnitude of this competition and that there were more than 20,000 applicants from all over the world.”

In a few weeks came another mail from the organisers, that took Neerajakshi by surprise. She was not only chosen for the competition — which meant an all-paid trip to Japan — but was also the only Indian in the event that had contestants from USA, Belgium, Norway and the Philippines, among others.


Hyderabad’s own little drummer

Arnav Kuppachi might look like your average 10 year old but when he begins talking his words precede his age.  He is very confident and talks like he knows what he is doing.  Especially so when he talks about his love for drumming. His parents Kalyan and Vavita deserve credit for where he has reached today. They spotted the “ sense of rhythm” in him early and encouraged him to take up music.  Luckily for Arnav his school too helped him dabble in various musical instruments like key board violin piano guitar and table before moving on to drums.

Recently during a World Music Day event in the city  Arnav was one of the youngest players.  In fact he stood out in the band as all the other members were over 27 years of age.  The way the little boy matched up with their experience impressed everyone in the audience.

“ I was first part of a band with members who were in my age group  but I wasn’t happy because they didn’t spend time practicing and weren’t taking it seriously” says Arnav explaining that for him drumming is a serious business.

In fact it was this interest that pushed his parents to bring out the best in his and provide him with good training.  “ All his music teachers in school always told us that he was a quick learner and we wanted to nurture the talent in him.  So we tried enrolling him in a class with Dominic  a well known drummer in the city. But Dominic felt he was really young then   he was just eight years old.  However today Arnav has been practicing for over a year and now Dominic sometimes feels that we should have started a bit earlier “  shares Arnav’s father Kalyan.

I love playing the drums more than anything else. I keep practicing as much as possible. I was nervous at the World Music Day event, but I think it went pretty well. Everyone congratulated me and it makes me happy that I achieved something  says Arnav who has been performing at several places in the city.

He has huge plans for the future and is now gearing up to join an in house band at Microsoft where his mother works.

Arnav says he wants to go on to become one of the best drummers ever.  “ I also want to learn table so that I can use both the instruments to create fusion music’ he concludes.



Rooting out trafficking




IPS officer Mahesh Bhagwat was recently recognised by the US State Department for his long and concerted fight against human trafficking


IPS Mahesh Bhagwat, Commissioner of Police, Rachakonda, who has been leading the fight against human trafficking since 2004, was feted for his courage and conviction by the US State Department on June 27 and conferred the 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report Hero award. He was recognised for his vital role in elevating human trafficking as a government priority, and his innovative approach to investigating cases and dismantling trafficking operations. Under his command, Rachakonda police have rescued 490 children from Orissa who were forced into labour and have raided and closed 25 brothels in less than a year.

First anti-trafficking tryst: 
It was in 2004, during his posting as DCP Cyberabad, that Bhagwat first raided a resort. “I realised that victims were being brought from Kolkata and Mumbai to Hyderabad and felt that we should do something. While in Nalgonda as SP, we launched a project called Aasara for the rehabilitation of victims, in coordination with other stakeholders. With that project, we were able to control 90 per cent of prostitution. It was recognised internationally in 2006,” he recalls.

Bhagwat joins seven others from around the world, who have been recognised for their efforts despite threats to their lives. Bhagwat says, “Law enforcement officers can do something beyond rescue of victims. For instance, rehabilitation and repatriation in coordination with other stakeholders. Prevention, protection and prosecution are the 3 Ps of anti-trafficking.”

Recalling his days as SP, Women Protection Cell, CID, he says, “During my tenure, the United Nations office on drugs and crime launched a project against human trafficking.” An anti-trafficking unit was opened in Hyderabad under the CID and Bhagwat was made in-charge. “We then started conducting raids in Mumbai and Bengaluru; rescued many victims from brothels and brought them back to our state.”

He also started writing and contributing to journals, including a book published by the UN on trafficking. “My book is on the syllabus for the Certificate Diploma in Trafficking Course at IGNOU.”

In 2009, Bhagwat was promoted as DIG of Eluru range, after which he returned to Hyderabad as a resource person at the National Police Academy, Lal Bahadur Academy and other institutes in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Talking about the award, he says, “This award has brought global recognition to Telangana Police in its fight against trafficking.”

US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, Ambassador-at-Large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Susan Coppedge, and Advisor to the President, Ivanka Trump recognised this year’s TIP Heroes.

“My gratitude to DGP Anurag Sharma, CM garu, HM garu and my Rachakonda commissionerate team for their support,” says Bhagwat.

The previous Indian recipients of the award include Amod Kanth, Kari Siddamma, Kailash Satyarthi, Sunitha Krishnan, Sattaru Umapathi, Swati Chauhan and Bhanuja Sharan Lal.









Leaping high into the air

Ever overheard a group of youngsters in your neighbourhood  huddling and talking about Ollies and wondered what those are?  The Ollie is the most fundamental skateboarding trick where the rider and board leap into the air without the use of the rider’s hands. With June 21 being the Go skateboarding Day enthusiasts from the city as young as eight year olds are gearing up to celebrate the day in all fanfare.

Talking about the same  Aaron Savio Johnson student of class III says “ I took interest in it after watching You Tube videos and pestered my father to get me a skateboard.  I started training professionally three weeks back but the experience is thrilling.” Further adding Savio’s father says “ it’s really difficult to see him falling while training but I try to stay strong and get accustomed to it  but his determination is commendable”. Another student of class III agasthi Chandrashekhar who’s into the sport says “ I have been into roller skating since I was four years old and now with skateboarding I find it really good. I am going to focus on it now.

It’s not just kids who are into skateboarding but many youngsters from the city who are into this sport are coming up with an event at Wall Ride Park. But the way they all fell in love with the sport is almost similar   through You Tube videos.  Sushant Kumar after completing BBA is into fulltime skateboarding.  ‘ I learned the basic from those videos and started pratising three years back”  he says adding “ it  was love at first leap.  Now whenever I get time I take part in competitions   not to win  but to learn tricks from other experts “.  He also adds “people generally think that it’s so much fun  but skateboarding is about maintaining balance while trying out new tricks”.

A member of skateboarding in Hyderabad group Adnan Jafar shares his plan for the day.  “ we will be gathering at the Wall Ride Park to participate in competitions.  It’s very rare that we get a chance to be together and we can’t miss this opportunity to try out new tricks at the new venue only dedicated for skateboarding “ he explains.  Adnan has been skateboarding for the past six years and thinks it is just right time for people to explore more of it.