Mr Sakthibalan Balathandautham won
The Straits Times Singaporean of the
Year 2021 award on Wednesday for
donating 23 per cent of his liver to baby
Rheya, who was diagnosed with a liver
disorder soon after her birth in 2019.
REPORT ON PAGE 4
THE STRAITS TIMES SINGAPOREAN OF THE YEAR WINNER
SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
FEBRUARY 11, 2022
MCI (P) 034/10/2021
RIGHT TIME TO
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V.K. Santosh Kumar
Channel Excellence Lead
Biggest state holds election in key
test of Modi’s popularity
India’s most populous state Uttar
Pradesh began voting on Thursday in
the first of a series of local elections
that will be a key test of the
popularity of Prime Minister Narendra
Modi and his ruling party.
With a population almost as big as
that of Brazil, keeping power in the
bellwether state would give the
Bharatiya Janata Party a boost in its
bid for a third successive victory at
nationwide parliamentary polls due
Students block roads as row over
hijab in schools mounts
Hundreds of students in Kolkata on
Wednesday chanted slogans and
blocked roads in protest against a
hijab ban in Karnataka, as a row over
wearing the head covering in schools
in the state intensifies.
Local media reported last week that
several schools in Karnataka had
denied entry to Muslim girls wearing
the hijab citing an education ministry
order, prompting protests from parents
Hindu students mounted
counter-protests, flocking to schools in
recent days in support of the ban,
forcing the state government to shut
schools and colleges for three days to
Parliamentary panel asks govt
to change code GAY
The Parliamentary Committee on
Public Undertaking has asked the
Central government to change the
code GAY for the Gaya International
Airport as it is inappropriate for the
holy city in Bihar.
It said the government should try to
replace the code with an appropriate
one and also suggested an alternative:
Civil Aviation Ministry officials said
IATA, the trade association of world
airlines, has expressed its inability to
change the code without a “justifiable
reason primarily related to air safety”.
Himalayan avalanche kills
A Himalayan avalanche killed seven
Indian soldiers in Arunachal Pradesh
near the China border, a defence
ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.
The avalanche struck in the Kameng
region on Sunday.
“Search and rescue operations have
now been concluded. Bodies of all
seven individuals have been recovered
from the avalanche site,” Lieutenant
Colonel Harsh Wardhan Pande said.
Man lynched in Uttar Pradesh
after hitting cyclist
A 30-year-old man was allegedly
lynched in Uttar Pradesh’s Bhadohi
city last Friday after he lost control
of the tractor he was driving and hit
When Mr Munshi Gautam tried to
flee, he was caught by the locals and
beaten to death. The police have
arrested one man and registered cases
against three others.
Woman, 78, accuses husband, 82,
of dowry harassment
A 78-year-old woman in Chakeri,
Kanpur, has accused her 82-year-old
husband of harassing her for dowry.
The woman also said her husband
beat her up and threw her out of the
Acting on her complaint, the police
have registered a case against six
people, including the husband and
Kerala’s famous snake catcher
discharged from hospital
Kerala’s famous snake catcher Vava
Suresh was on Monday discharged
from the Kottayam Medical College
hospital after battling for his life due
to a cobra bite.
He termed his survival a “second
phase of life” and expressed his
gratitude to his well-wishers and
medical professionals for helping him.
“I will continue with snake catching
as that has been my profession and my
passion,” he said.
The state government took care of
his entire treatment.
All-women news organisation
elated at Oscar nod
The pioneering team at an all-women,
rural news organisation in Uttar
Pradesh said they are ecstatic after a
documentary film on their crusading
reporting, especially around the
hardships faced by lower-caste
communities, won an Oscar
nomination on Tuesday.
Writing With Fire, a 93-minute film
about the women behind the online
news outlet Khabar Lahariya –
meaning News Waves in Hindi – was
nominated in the Best Documentary
Feature category for this year’s
India approves Russia’s one-shot
Sputnik Light Covid-19 vaccine
The Indian government has given
regulatory approval to use Russia’s
one-shot Sputnik Light Covid-19
vaccine after it authorised Russia’s
main vaccine – the two-dose Sputnik
V – last year.
Sputnik Light, the first component
of the Sputnik V vaccine, can be used
as a booster shot with other vaccines.
Man with gold buttons in mouth
held at Jaipur airport
Customs authorities at the Jaipur
International Airport on Wednesday
arrested a man who tried to smuggle
in gold buttons worth Rs5.79 lakh
($10,384) by hiding it in his mouth.
He arrived from Dubai.
“On suspicion, we stopped him,”
said an official. “A thorough personal
search, revealed gold buttons in his
mouth and beneath his tongue.”
Furore over male tailor taking
women’s dress measurements
The Andhra Pradesh police got
involved in a controversy in Nellore
on Monday, after a male tailor was
found taking women constables’
measurements for stitching their
Visuals of the incident made their
way to social media platforms and
netizens and opposition political
parties criticised the police over the
The district police authorities soon
made arrangements for female tailors
to take the measurements.
Railways to educate people
against dropping food on tracks
The Southern Railway has decided
to create awareness among commuters
to not drop food leftovers and garbage
on rail tracks for the safety of
A study conducted by Kerala’s
retired principal chief conservator
of forests G. Harikumar has shown
that elephants and other wild animals
get attracted to the railway tracks by
the smell of food leftovers dropped
by passengers and often get run over
IPL’s new Ahmedabad franchise
named Gujarat Titans
The Indian Premier League’s new
Ahmedabad franchise has been named
Gujarat Titans, the cricket team
announced on Wednesday.
The 15th edition of the world’s
richest Twenty20 league will be a
10-team affair with the inclusion of
the Titans and Lucknow Super Giants
franchises, who paid a combined
US$1.71 billion ($2.3 billion) to be
part of the competition.
Global companies in fracas over Kashmir tweet
Members of the youth wing of
India’s opposition Congress party
protesting outside a Hyundai
showroom in Ahmedabad on
Thousands of Indian social
media users and others sought an
apology from the South Korean
car manufacturer after its
Pakistani partner expressed
support for disputed Kashmir in
a social media post. The
automaker later apologised,
saying it deeply regretted any
offence caused to Indians.
Japan’s Suzuki Motor,
majority owner of India’s biggest
carmaker Maruti Suzuki, Honda
Motor and Isuzu Motor, South
Korea’s Kia Motors and Yum!
Brands’ KFC also issued
apologies as criticism grew on
Twitter over the social media
The row erupted on Sunday, a
day after several companies
posted messages on social media
to mark Kashmir Solidarity Day,
commemorated annually by
Pakistan on Feb 5 to honour the
sacrifices of Kashmiris struggling
India and Pakistan control
parts of Kashmir but both claim
the Himalayan territory in full.
Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan’s prayer (right) for
legendary Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar at her
cremation in Mumbai on Sunday has triggered a
massive row on social media over the manner in
which he prayed for the departed soul.
After videos came out of Shah Rukh reading a
dua (prayer) next to the mortal remains of Lata,
several Twitter users, including Haryana’s Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) information technology in-charge
Arun Yadav, questioned if the actor spat during his
Another user also alleged that Shah Rukh did spit
while paying tributes.
On Sunday, Shah Rukh arrived at the Shivaji Park
crematorium in Mumbai to bid farewell to Lata.
Many other prominent Indians were in atten-
dance, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi,
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray,
cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and actor Aamir
As Shah Rukh stepped on the stage along with his
manager Pooja Dadlani to bid a final goodbye to the
legend, he raised his hands in dua and then took off
his mask to blow air. He then folded his hands and
encircled her body to pay respects.
The act of blowing air after the prayer has been
falsely interpreted as him “spitting”, reported India
Professor Akhtarul Wasey, a member of the
Department of Islamic Studies at the Maulana Azad
National Urdu University in Jodhpur, said he cannot
comment on specifically which prayer Shah Rukh
recited. But the gesture of blowing air after reading a
dua is a traditional Islamic practice during funerals.
“When a Muslim attends the last rites of a near
one, they read a prayer and then blow air like (Shah
Rukh did),” said Prof Wasey. “This is their way to
say a final goodbye. This shouldn’t be seen in a
Mufti Fuzail Akhtar, the chief preacher at the
Jama Masjid in Bhagalpur, explained that it is a
well-known practice that is followed by people and is
also referred to as “dum karna”, which translates to
blowing of air. “When someone dies, we go to their
grave or funeral and say prayers to ensure that Allah
blesses their future journey,” he said. “There are
some prayers that are said at this point, such as the
Surah Fatiha, and then people blow air.
“There is no logical explanation behind why this
is done but it has been a belief in people that
blowing air will ensure the prayer goes from the
mouth of the person reciting it to the person it is
intended for. This practice is documented in books.”
Several others tweeted the video, saying that it’s
an act of faith. These included Congress leader B.V.
Srinivas, actress Urmila Matondkar and Bollywood
film producer Priya Gupta. “As a society, we have
deteriorated so much that we think praying is
spitting,” Urmila told India Today. “You are talking
about an actor who has represented the country on
various international platforms. Politics has reached
such low levels and it’s really sad.”
Some social media users even tried to explain the
act by sharing a clip from the 2010 Karan Johar-di-
rected film My Name Is Khan, in which Shah Rukh’s
character is seen blowing air on his son after a
After the outrage on Twitter over the actor’s
“bigotry”, Mr Yadav claimed that he only enquired
what Shah Rukh did, but the criticism of his tweet
only showed that “opponents” of Mr Modi and
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath don’t
like his work in “national interests”.
Other users sought to allege that Shah Rukh was
trying to “normalise culture with non-believers”.
Condemning the trolling of Shah Rukh, Shiv Sena
MP Sanjay Raut said: “It is shameful the way people
are trolling him. Some people are doing politics in
the name of religion.”
Shah Rukh’s fans have also been voicing their
support for the actor.
Indo-Asian News Service
Lata Mangeshkar’s funeral procession in Mumbai.
Voice that connects millions
Last Sunday, millions of fans across the
globe woke up to the news of Lata
She is among the very few Indians
whose name strikes a chord in almost
every corner of the world.
The singer enthralled generations of
Bollywood audiences as the voice be-
hind many actresses’ performances.
Aged 92, she died at the Breach
Candy Hospital in Mumbai due to
Covid-19 complications, according to
the doctors who treated her.
“She has left us,” said legendary
Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan.
“The voice of a million centuries has
left us, her voice resounds now in the
Indian movies and songs have had a
great impact on my life since child-
hood. At home, the standard playlist
included numbers by Lata (who is
fondly called Didi – older sister),
Kishore Kumar, R.D. Burman and Mo-
My mother’s maiden name was
changed by her in-laws after marriage
to Hemlata – a combination of Hema
(Didi’s actual name) and Lata. Such
was the influence the singer had on my
My grandma used to say that God-
dess Saraswati is in Didi’s voice, a
divinity that could only be felt and
cannot be expressed.
Known for her soft-spoken nature,
sari attire and hair parted in two
schoolgirl-like braids, people called her
Melody Queen, India’s Nightingale and
Voice of the Millennium. But she was
simply Lata Didi to many.
Her body of work is overwhelming.
Whether it is an intricate classical num-
ber like Mohe Panghat Pe, a seductive
Bahon Me Chale Aao or the romantic
Tere Liye Hum Hein Jiye, she rendered
them with ease and perfection.
When she sang, it reflected the
emotions of the actress on screen
perfectly. Incredibly, in her 70 plus
years of singing, Didi had never sung a
wrong note. The revered Hindustani
classical vocalist Ustad Bade Ghulam
Ali Khan once lovingly uttered in
happiness: “She doesn’t sing out of
tune even by mistake.”
Women empowerment is the new
buzzword. But Didi was the flagbearer
when it came to ensuring that her
voice was heard in the industry. She
accomplished a level of perfection that
In a career spanning 73 years, she
sang more than an estimated 25,000
songs in 36 languages.
Her singing talent was accidentally
discovered by her father Deenanath
Mangeshkar, a musician and theatre
artiste, when she was only five.
She honed her skills in Mumbai
under Ustad Aman Ali Khan.
Initially she was rejected by film-
maker S. Mukherjee because he found
her voice “too thin”. But destiny had
something else in store.
When she sang the haunting
melody Aayega Aanewala (Mahal,
1949), it bonded her with the nation.
She went on to endear with the
timeless Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya
(Mughal-e-Azam, 1960), the playful
Piya Tose Naina Laage Re (Guide,
1965) and the tragic Inhi Logon Ne
She also sung several patriotic gems,
including Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon
in 1963 that reduced India’s first prime
minister Jawaharlal Nehru to tears.
The 1960s also marked the begin-
ning of her collaboration with the
composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal with
whom she released more than 700
songs over 35 years. Most of them
were huge hits.
The same period saw her record
duets with Mukesh, Manna Dey, Ma-
hendra Kapoor, Rafi and Kishore, and
work with successful composers such
as Naushad, Anil Biswas, S.D. Burman,
Shankar Jaikishan, Salil Chowdhury,
Madan Mohan and Khayyam.
She was also the voice for a range
of actresses – from Madhubala to
Waheeda Rehman, Hema Malini,
Rekha, Kajol and Madhuri Dixit.
Classically trained, she moulded her
voice to the demands of Bollywood
movies, even representing an actress
who was much younger to her.
Didi dominated the Hindi film indus-
try for almost five decades until the
2000s along with her younger sister
India’s Prime Minister Narendra
Modi said he is “anguished beyond
words” by her death.
He tweeted: “The kind and caring
Lata Didi has left us. She leaves a void
in our nation that cannot be filled. The
coming generations will remember her
as a stalwart of Indian culture, whose
melodious voice had an unparalleled
ability to mesmerise people.”
Didi’s “golden voice” mirrored our
every emotion, moving us to tears of
joy and sorrow. Her songs covered the
gramophone age to the digital age.
With her death, India has lost one
of its most prolific artistes – the last of
Purnima Kamath is the founder and
CEO of De Ideaz, a pioneer events
company in Singapore.
LATA MANGESHKAR (1929-2022)
Shah Rukh didn’t spit but ‘ blew air’ near Lata’s body
February 11, 2022
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