Mohua Das

Assistant Editor at The Times of India, Mumbai | Formerly with The Telegraph, Calcutta 

Couldn’t believe what the newspapers said and so I became a journalist! It's been 14 years since and what a life-coach it's been as I wake up to it’s power and value, every morning. A good story isn't always about the president or popstar but everyday people and places with compelling tales. Those are the stories I hope to tell... and find the extraordinary in the ordinary!

Keema is losing the mutton, and bhurji its anda

Guess the meal these ingredients make when you blend wheat, rice, gram and quinoa flour; throw in beetroot powder and some pea protein; a dash of garlic, onion, salt and dhania; a smattering of binders; and then toss the mix into a hot kadai? A bowl of what its creators call the “unmutton curry”. One part plant, one part tech-engineered meat and one part activism—this jigsaw aimed at making it easier for meateaters to embrace a world-saving movement—comes in the shape of a kebab, omelette and sausage.

'Champions' and 'Mitras' address mental health issues in rural areas

According to Internet wisdom, the best response to a troll is indifference. But not always. A fortnight ago, a flippant social media post — “I have never ever seen anyone suffering from depression in villages and small cities... people suffer from depression in the big cities and film industries only” — saw mental health experts leap into a thread of discussion on the “medical malinformation” simply to debunk popular misconceptions such as these surrounding mental illness among rural folks.

The ‘influencers’ waging a hashtag war on Bollywood

#BoycottBollywoodDruggies — this insidious hashtag with its implication of a rampant culture of drugs and addiction in Bollywood — made social media jump in outrage on Monday. Barely a day had gone by when #BollywoodDirt picked up the baton. A third hashtag chimed in the next day — #BollyDawoodKilledSSR. A closer examination threw up a few recurring names that start and steer this bloodsport on Twitter, daily. Although a few men do not a movement make, a chat with some of the people behind these handles to understand who they are, why they do this, and how they hold sway over social media.

How sunshine is bridging e-learning gap for Ladakhis

Turning on a computer isn’t that difficult. Except, if one doesn’t have the power supply to begin with. While the pandemic era is turning out to be the biggest experiment in remote learning, many children didn’t even get on the starting grid, especially those living in the high mountain desert of Ladakh where schools lie scattered across 60,000 sq km without electricity, phone connectivity or roads, and take anywhere from two hours to three days to reach. Now, a project is using abundant sunshine to combat some of the challenges faced by schoolchildren of Ladakh, especially during the lockdown.

Child marriages in Maharashtra soar during lockdown

When Mitali Sathe stepped out of her home in Latur decked in a yellow sari, the mehendi and green glass bangles gave her away. A member of an adolescent girls' protection group spotted the 15-year-old before her marriage to a man four decades her senior. After her elder sister's death, Mitali was the sacrificial bride on offer to the 50-year-old widower: he needed her to care for the children. With the protective shield of a school gone, job loss rampant among daily wagers and reduced surveillance of district machinery currently focused on Covid-19 management, many families in rural areas are stealthily marrying their minor daughters off as a survival strategy.

Kerala is one of the most exciting culinary destinations, says chef Gordon Ramsay

Just weeks before the world was turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, British chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay was in Coorg climbing trees of peppercorn and catching karimeen in Kannur’s backwaters. A chat with one of food television’s most recognised faces offered a glimpse of what keeps bringing him back to India, brain food, women’s place at the table and his friendly charm, a far cry from his barbed tongue. Excerpts...

After Covid and cyclone, it’s visarjan before Ganpati for Pen idolmakers

Sunil Sawale, 59, counts his gains and losses as his eyes scan idols of the elephant-headed, mouse-chauffeured god—in various stages of completion—from a corner of his workshop at the Nandimal Naka of Pen in Raigad. By July, they’re usually ready to file out, but this time, they remain half-done, in-waiting or simply rejected in the backdrop of the Covid outbreak that forced his buyers from nearby towns to faraway countries to drop their orders.

Telemedicine takes off, clinics on cloud nine

Sitting at his Mira Road home, Mohsin Khan tapped his cellphone and out popped on his screen, his gastroenterologist perched in front of his laptop staring down at Khan from a few miles away in south Mumbai. The awkwardness subsided after a minute or two. Following a brief chat, Khan saw his phone transform into a DIY medical tool as the doctor-on-camera guided Khan’s finger to move up, down, poke and prod his own abdomen before sending out a photograph of the prescription.

Eye in sky is police ally in fight against Covid-19

“Oh red-shirt-waley, jo cricket khel rahe ho! Ghar jao warna police aapke khilaaf karwaai shuru karegi,” a voice booms in the air above Dharavi. The boy in red looks up wide-eyed at a flying machine buzzing above his head, and scurries off. “Aur ghar jaake haath dhona mat bhul na!” the voice trails off. A synthesised boom bap beat-led voice courses through the sky a little later in the day, rapping. For over a month, Mumbai’s skies have been dotted with swarms of light and small, unmanned aerial vehicles popularly known as drones.

Transgenders in Mumbai left with no straws to clutch at

Access to physical and emotional security has always been a struggle for the transgender community, but coronavirus has made it worse. With a majority of them battling poverty, the odds are further stacked up. Apparently fighting to “make ends meet”, a trans person committed suicide at her Malwani residence last week. She is among the hundreds of transgenders across the city locked in their tiny houses with no access to basic supplies, money or family support.

Moo over nature, ‘Gauri Donor’ mothers better cows

Move over Vicky Donor, Gauri is here. Cows, like humans, take about nine months to carry a calf to term. At five years old, Gauri should have had two calves. But this Gir cow resting on a hot afternoon at a cattle barn in Vadgaon-Rasai near Pune has knocked it out of the park with 56 pregnancies in a span of six months without actually having to birth a single calf, thanks to the growing use of IVF technology on livestock.

How foreign adoptees are finding their Indian birth parents

David Kildendal Nielsen, a 40-year-old bond trader in Denmark was sitting at home when a photograph popped up on his computer screen last June. It was of a young woman with two toddlers by her side. The woman was David’s birth mother, Dhanalakshmi, who is now 68 and works as a cleaner in Chennai, and the other child was his brother that he never knew he had. The six-year-long search by David, born Santhakumar before he was adopted at 16 months from an orphanage by Danish parents, culminated in a meeting a fortnight ago.

Snake bites: The deadly health crisis that's hidden from our gaze

Every year the rains unleash a season of fatal snakebites, a neglected tropical disease that is crying for attention. When clouds float in and pelt down as rain, they bring respite from the heatwave, bountiful harvest, floods, traffic snarls — and snakes — emerging from their lairs to hunt and breed. Seeking refuge in dry and cool places or in pursuit of a mate they land in the path of humans resulting in a season of fatal snakebites every year, deaths from which are estimated at close to 50,000 a year in India, the world’s highest.

I'm drag... and proud

Alternate sexuality was flamboyantly out of the closet and in the spotlight at a tony nightclub in suburban Mumbai – on the night that queer India was celebrating a year of having reclaimed their sexual rights following the Supreme Court’s quashing of Section 377. While a long line of queer hipsters waited to be granted passage through the velvet ropes, inside on a makeshift podium, men in lingerie and embellished dresses with their crotch concealed and flat-chested women with beards took turns under the spotlight to strut, sing and banter in this extraordinary moment of queer nightlife.
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