At 60, ‘The Room on the Roof’ is back with gorgeous illustrations

At 60, 'The Room on the Roof' is back with gorgeous illustrations10.7K
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Dylan Thomas, in his poem Fern Hill, says, “Time held me green and dying / Though I sang in my chains like the sea.” When I revisited The Room on the Roof, after too, too many years, I felt as if Thomas had written that line for Ruskin Bond – for upon his eternal roof, Ruskin is yet green, and yet dying, and yet singing in the chains of his birth, his identity, his art, his beloved Doon Valley and his endless search for joy.

My favourite artistes have been the Beatles, Rajesh Khanna and the Nawab of Pataudi. I bring up their names for a reason – The Beatles, in their music, started with innocent energy and charm and flew higher and higher into almost intellectual pop, only to fall apart when the flight began to drift; Rajesh Khanna started with that same innocent energy and charm, honed it instinctively into an art which soared to the heavens and then crumbled to earth when the instinct turned into crafted ego; and Pataudi, born with brilliance in his blood, overcame tragedy to lift Indian cricket to a level from which it rose and rose and rose, even as he played the role of a leader, a source, and let his talent only occasionally fully blossom.

Rereading The Room on the Roof, I was struck by the truth of Ruskin’s genius and art – he reached a peak at a very young age, and he discovered his source, his art, at a time when others were relying only on innocence and energy and charm. Because, Ruskin’s first book is full of joy, but it is not a happy book.

It has hard edges, bitter realisations, death, departure and doubt. It is a story of the body as much as the spirit – when Ruskin describes the other boys, he starts with their form, their skin, their colour; when he confronts Mrs Kapoor, you can feel the teenage heat.

It is a story, a book, full of such wonderful detail, such descriptions – just read the section of the storm on the roof, or the first visit to the chaat shop – and yet the characters are as dark as they are real. The guardian, the sweeper, Suri, the friends, flawed and yet final. The picnic is not a journey of complete joy; it is full of effort and pushing a panting car out of a river and lust in the forest and prying eyes and uneasy games… And yet they are all woven together with threads of words which bind and yet break so easily.

Departure. Everything is always leaving Rusty. Everybody. So eventually he has to leave – but not before a final sojourn to his beloved room. A room where nothing happens, and yet so much does. Where the elements – whether the lizard, or the morning light, or the storm, or the proximity of bodies, or the fear of walking over the edge – make each moment both a threat and a treat.

And then the climax in Hardwar – or is it a climax? Has Rusty really reached a final decision? No, he has not. He only knows that to be where he is is the complete truth, and yet only the first step on another journey.

At seventeen, Ruskin knew that life was not a childhood game, but he also knew that the game of childhood was the only way to survive life.

And he has been doing so for the past so, so many years – in his little cottages, his little joys, his teas and his mornings and his mournings.

When he was a child, he wrote of childhood as he was an adult – throughout his adult life, he has written of childhood as a child! That is the secret of Ruskin’s art. His stories, his characters are always just slightly on edge. Departure and death are as real as toast and tea. No, he never returns completely to the room on the roof, but every room he as ever lived in since is a journey back to that room.

As Ruskin himself says, he does not want to change a word of The Room on the Roof. He knows it is him – or “he”, to be correct.

The Beatles and Rajesh Khanna moved from innocence to awareness, and their art is a reflection of that journey. Pataudi journeyed from innocence to tragedy and then returned with a hardened art. Ruskin Bond journeys on from the raw, gentle awareness of his first book, and until today uses that awareness to spread innocent, edgy joy to readers around the world. If his first book had been only tales of childhood, he would never be the writer he is today.

Read or reread The Room on the Roof. You will be stunned, as I was – stunned at the art, the craft and the great leap which fills this book with wonder. Each one of us has our own rooms, our own roofs, and Ruskin knows this. But he also knows that his room and his roof are unique, as ours must be, too.

“Ahead of them lay forest and silence, and what was left of time.”

Green and dying, in the Fern Hill of the Doon Valley, may the chains from which Ruskin sings never break, nor chafe too much. We need him – all of us.

Excerpted with permission from The Room On The Roof: 60th Anniversary Edition, Ruskin Bond, Illustrations by Ahlawat Gunjan, Introduction by Tom Alter, Penguin India.

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YouTube Ban Lifted in Pakistan After Google Launches Local Version

YouTube Ban Lifted in Pakistan After Google Launches Local Version

Pakistan Monday lifted a years-long ban on video-sharing site YouTube after Google launched a country-specific version ensuring the filtering out of content deemed blasphemous.

The Supreme Court in 2012 had ordered a ban on the site after the “Innocence of Muslims” was uploaded.

The American-made film depicted the Prophet Mohammed as a thuggish deviant and triggered protests across the Muslim world including in Pakistan, where more than 20 people died in demonstrations.

Blasphemy is a contentious issue in Pakistan and the country has seen violent riots sparked by content considered offensive to Islam.

But last week Google said it had launched a localised version of the site in Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, meaning Pakistani authorities can now ask Google to remove content deemed objectionable.

On Monday authorities said the ban had been lifted.

“Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Monday directed the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to unblock YouTube with immediate effect,” a senior government official told AFP.

“The ban has been lifted after Google launched a country-specific version in which it would be possible to block blasphemous and offensive content,” the official said.

Wahajus Siraj, chief executive officer of internet service provider Nayatel Private Limited, confirmed receiving the instruction.

He added that he had checked and did not find blasphemous content on the website, saying that some videos came up with a notification that they had been blocked.

Google has said that it would review requests before taking videos down.

Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited, the country’s largest telecom provider, also announced the move on its Facebook page with a “Welcome Back YouTube” post.

Islamabad had been in intermittent talks with Google for several years over the issue. Internet users in Pakistan, meanwhile, simply circumvented the ban using proxy servers and Virtual Private Networks.

In 2010 Pakistan shut down Facebook for nearly two weeks over its hosting of allegedly blasphemous pages. It continues to restrict thousands of online links.

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Mad Street Den Launches Vue.ai, a Visual Recommendation Platform for Fashion Portals

Mad Street Den Launches Vue.ai, a Visual Recommendation Platform for Fashion PortalsChennai-based AI startup Mad Street Den, launched Vue.ai on Tuesday, which it said is the world’s first AI-based platform for fashion retail e-commerce powered by visual intelligence.

Vue.ai enables fashion startups to provide visual recommendations and visual search features on web and mobile, along with a host of deep learning and data-science driven features like personalisation, data analytics, and cross product recommendations.

Ashwini Asokan, Co-Founder, Mad Street Den told Gadgets 360 that while a few startups provide a use case or two, no fashion-based AI platform exists anywhere else. Asia is driving all the action the innovation in AI-based e-commerce, she said. “India has actually leapfrogged in AI in e-commerce in ways that world has not been able to leapfrog.”

The startup’s clients include Craftsvilla, Voonik, YepMe and Kaaryah, which are able to provide recommendations based on colour and dress patterns.

Founded in 2013, by Asokan and Anand Chandrasekaran, a husband-wife team, the Chennai-based startup currently has a global team of thirty-five people spread across San Francisco, and Australia has a motto of bringing AI to everyday life.

In an emailed fact sheet, the startup shared its intentions to crack generalised AI, as most deep learning techniques lack context. Its long-term road map involves teaching machines to see context like humans can.

“That context is the “real diamond in the rough. True context can only be achieved by delving into the next frontier of technology: artificial intelligence and machine learning,” the company said.

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Delhi Government Launches App to Make Citizens ‘VAT Inspectors’

Delhi Government Launches App to Make Citizens 'VAT Inspectors'

To boost Delhi government’s tax collection and bring in transparency, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Siodia Monday launched ‘DVAT BILL’ app and said that people can play an important role in governance through this mobile application.

The software has been developed by Delhi government’s Trade and Taxes department.

Sisodia, who also holds finance portfolio, said that through this app, people can become a “VAT Inspectors”.

“Today, technology gives power to any citizen to be as powerful as MLAs, minister or bureaucrat. We are extending the opportunity through this app,” Sisodia said.

VAT Commissioner S S Yadav said the scheme would be for bill or cash memo/retail invoice of not less than Rs. 100 for purchases made from a registered dealer in Delhi.

“To be eligible for the reward scheme, the taxable value of the goods purchased should not be less than Rs. 100,” Yadav said.

“The customer can upload the picture of bill/cash memo in the mobile or the send the snapshot of the bill on the application. A unique ID would be generated for each bill,” Yadav.

The bill should have the registration number (TIN) of the dealer, besides full name of each item purchased, apart from the rate of tax charged against each.

The cash award would be transferred to the bank account of the customer directly after verification of the purchases from the seller through ward VAT inspector.

The winner would be selected through a computerised lucky draw on 15th of every month using the unique IDs generated against each bill received by the department.

The prize amount would be five times the value of goods purchased (excluding tax), subject to a maximum of Rs. 50,000.

However, the scheme will not be applicable on the purchase of motor vehicle, petroleum product and tax invoice taxation between dealer and embassy sales.

According to the Deputy Chief Minister, honest traders don’t need to fear from this app.

“By this app, we will catch those traders who are evading tax. I want to assure that honest traders who give tax on time don’t need to fear…we have decentralised the power from VAT officers to the entire Delhi resident,” Sisodia said.

Chief Secretary K K Sharma and Principal Secretary (Finance) S N Sansom were also present in the event.

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