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India
Exploring The Spiritual Traveller’s Connect With Ajmer
Humra Quraishi

Ajmer brings out the Sufi in even the most ordinary traveller that comes to this vibrant city located 130 kilometres from Rajasthan’s state capital Jaipur in the midst of the dusty Aravallis. After all, it is home to the shrine of the revered Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. A relatively tranquil morning usually gives way to a hectic afternoon as hoards of followers and excited visitors throng the ‘dargah’. What is it that pulls in such enormous crowds here? Is it the search for spiritual solace or mere curiosity? Or perhaps it is a combination of the two? Today, the world outside may be divided on communal or caste lines and ridden with everyday struggles for survival, but within the premises of his shrine Chishti’s brand of Sufism reigns supreme. There’s no talk of religion or politics, only human values and lots of hope.

As per tradition, twice everyday food is cooked in two huge ‘degs’ (cooking vessels) and distributed free to visitors at the dargah. It is said that that Mughal Emperor Akbar had presented one ‘deg’ while his son Emperor Jehangir had presented the other one.

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The Millennials Champion Social Activism
Elayne Clift

Who are the Millennials? Demographers use this term when referring to the children of baby boomers, adults in their late thirties and early forties. There are about 80 million of them in the US and they represent the last generation born in the 20th century. They are totally tech-savvy and quite socially conscious. Unlike their Boomer parents, Millennials want a healthy balance between work and family life and they make effective social activists and social entrepreneurs. Take, for instance, actress and filmmaker Kamala Lopez and her colleague Gini Sikes. They are producing a film called ‘Equal Means Equal’, a documentary about women’s equality covering issues like gender pay gap, pregnancy discrimination, immigration, religion and violence among the subjects discussed. Then there is Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley, the co-founders of Kiva, a non-profit with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.

“We envision a world where all people - even in the most remote areas of the globe - hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others.”

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India
What Minority Women Want? Debating The Uniform Civil Code
Hema Vijay

With the Bharatiya Janata Party forming the new government at the Centre, the issue of the enforcement of a Uniform Civil Code has gained ground once again, as the ruling party had included it in its election manifesto stating that “there cannot be gender equality till such time as India adopts a Uniform Civil Code, which protects the rights of all women…”. Article 44 of the Constitution calls for the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) that would usher in secular laws applicable to every citizen irrespective of his/her religion. Even as a heated debate rages on, with strong voices emerging both in favour of and against this move, what is the opinion of young minority women? Do they see the UCC as a threat to their cultural and religious identity? Or is it, in fact, a tool that will further gender equality, especially in matters pertaining to marriage, divorce, inheritance adoption and maintenance? Read on for some interesting perspectives.

“The country needs a common civil code that is fair to all communities and to every citizen.”

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India
People Power Drives Banker-Turned-Sarpanch Arati
Rakhi Ghosh

Arati Devi, 29, one of the youngest sarpanchs in India, recently travelled from her village, Dhunkapa in Odisha’s Ganjam district, all the way to the United States of America to represent India at the International Leadership Programme on State and Local Governments, where she met US president Barack Obama among other world leaders. She was the only Indian among the 21 participants in the programme. Arati has always made her people proud. She did it when she became the first girl from the village to clear her Class 10 exam with a first division and later when she went on to do her Masters in Business Administration as well as get a job as an investment banker. Then in 2012 when they needed her to come back and contest for the post of the sarpanch she did not bat an eyelid before chucking her lucrative career. Ever since then Arati has been slogging to make life better for everyone in Dhunkapa. From streamlining the Public Distribution System to ensuring the proper implementation of welfare schemes like the Indira Awas Yojna to bringing electricity to this Dalit hamlet, she has done it all.

“More than a thousand people, including women, participate in the ‘palli sabha’ where they raise their voice on many pertinent issues. Unlike earlier women now come to panchayat office to meet me and put forth their problems.”

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India
Taking Life Lessons From Resilient Ladakhi Children
Kulsum Mustafa

What happens when a big city girl steps out of the comfort of an urban milieu and decides to spend a few weeks in one of the most isolated regions in India? She ends up learning some of the most unforgettable lessons about life, strife, struggle and survival – and that too from a bunch of six year olds. When 20-something Sumitra set out from Mumbai to a remote village on the Indo-Pak border in Ladakh, she was all geared up to teach English to second graders at the Jamyang Boarding School, home to 300 children, a majority of whom have either been orphaned or are first generation learners from poor families. A month later, the teacher ended up becoming the student, as she not only got a closer look into their hard life but also came to appreciate all the basics that city children take for granted - running water, proper sanitation, nutritious food, and most importantly access to good education.

‘I perceived a range of emotions on the faces of the students – from mild resentment to outright fear. They were scared of heights, they were scared of the dark and they were scared of India and Pakistan fighting…’

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 WFS Ref: INDN718 1150 words
 
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