Indian researchers sort this spider into Gryffindor!


Just when you thought you could give Harry Potter a bit of rest after Fantastic beasts’ release, here is a revelation – Gryffindor house has a new entrant! No, it is neither a wizard nor a half-blood or even a muggle that joins that magical trio Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, this time. Meet Eriovixia Gryffindori, a spider christened by Indian researchers after Godric Gryffindor, founder of the Gryffindor House.

What makes this tiny creature, measuring seven millimetres special, is that it has a resemblance with the sorting hat from the movie.

Researchers say it is the spiders’ resemblance prompted them to name it after the Harry Potter character. The species has a hairy shell and sleeps during the day.


“As a youngster, I was very fond of reading Harry Potter books. So, when I encountered this tiny spider, I thought of the magical hat,” Javed Ahmed, one of the researchers, was quoted saying the Times of India.

Meeting Geet Sethi after 20 years…


A lot can happen in 20 years. Sadly, unlike the witches and wizards from the world of Harry Potter, we muggles (non-magicians) don’t possess a time turner, with which we can travel back in time. But, a few of us are lucky enough to relive the moments once again. I turned out to be one of those luckier ones, when I met cueist Geet Sethi at a Sports convention on September 18 this year, after a span of 20 years.

When I first met Geet Sethi in 1996, I was four years old; too young to remember the details or even to recognize the person I was meeting! I realized how lucky I was, only when I chanced upon an old photograph clicked by my father during the World Championships held in Bhubaneswar, in which Geet Sethi had held me in his arms. The reality bit me and I wished I was a smart kid then, to have at least smiled in the photograph, which is now a priced possession!

Years later, when I took up journalism in Delhi, I thought it might be the chance to undo my previous mistake. Unfortunately it couldn’t materialize, and I almost gave up on the thought of meeting him.

It was until this September, when I received the invitation to attend the 39th Sports Journalist Federation of India convention in which Geet Sethi was one of the speakers, I knew the moment had arrived. This time, not letting the opportunity go, I reached the convention venue much before time.


When Geet Sethi finally arrived, I approached him and narrated the story of how I met him as a child and he looked surprised as well. I was a bit sorry for not carrying the previous photograph, but nevertheless, he spoke to me at length about the 2016 Rio Olympics, his foundation Olympic Gold Quest, about the sports scenario in the country and much more.

By the end of the evening, I knew I had made already made it up for the mistake which I committed when I was just four years old!

Open letter to Mr. Katju

katju-uploadDear Mr Katju,

I feel out of place writing this to you. Your credentials are unmatched, so it is better I don’t even dare speak about it. At the outset, I know I am no one to write this to you. But, your comment about Odisha prompted me to go ahead. I know many Odias, whom you in your Facebook page had referred as ‘poor chaps,’ could have written this better. Their in-depth knowledge of the State could have helped you understand us better. Trust me, I almost gave up on writing this letter, but the extent to which you exercise your freedom of speech, inspired me to express my views as well.


Let me repeat – I am no pundit, just an ordinary citizen, proud of my State. Seriously, that’s it. I was born here and have spent my childhood in Bhubaneswar, which, for your information, is the Capital of Odisha.


Yes, my State is poverty-stricken sir. In fact, even as I am writing this to you, a district called Malkangiri, approximately over 600kms from Bhubaneswar, is battling with Japanese Encephalitis disease. As per media reports, 50 infants have already died in 35 days. I am sure, you would have come across the image of a tribal named Dana Majhi, who walked around 10kms carrying the dead body of his wife on his shoulders. That was also in Odisha. And there are many more. The people, us, are battling with a host of issues. But, to make fun of it, is no solution.


Mr Katju, I am trying hard not to deviate from the topic, but I realize there is so much to write that I can’t channelize my thoughts. So, let’s begin with what you stated- the one about Emperor Ashoka. You mentioned the battle of Kalinga, didn’t you? Honestly, it is strange for you to have written what you have, because, all these years, children have been taught that it was this battle that had brought about the change in Ashoka, prompted him to take Ahimsa. Yes, there was bloodshed and loss to Kalinga, but Sir, it was Kalinga war that changed the course of history. History books say, the warriors of Kalinga had vowed to die, but never surrender before enemies.


You mentioned Mahapatras, Patnaiks and Patras. Please spare me from writing anything on these, because I have never supported caste system. For me, the three are mere titles and nothing else. Just to add, I am lucky to have many friends from each of the titles.


And then comes Lord Jagannath. So, we pray him every day for revenge on Biharis? Sir, Lord Jagannath is ‘Lord of the Universe.’ We have much more issues to seek his help than to bother him with revenge filled prayers for our fellow Indians. Sir, please don’t belittle our Lord with such petty things.


I wanted to write all positive things about my State. But then, please excuse me, for ending this in haste. By the time I have written all these, I don’t think I need to add more. I would rather request you to visit Odisha (which you might have earlier) and travel this incredible State to know more about it yourself.


Ours is a small State, stricken with poverty, but rich in culture and traditions.




A Proud Odia


P.S. – Once again, I am nobody. I love my State as much as I love my India. And I shall never think of filing any case against you.

A Cuttack Pandal is honouring Uri martyrs this Durga Puja


As the country celebrates the victory of good over evil this Durga Puja, there is one Puja Pandal in Cuttack, which is celebrating the festival in its true spirit, by honouring the martyrs of the Uri attack.


One of the oldest in the Silver City Cuttack, the Khannagar Puja Committee has created a model representing the Tiger Hill, with miniature replicas of soldiers and tanks, depicting their difficult daily life. There is ‘Amar Jawan Jyoti’ also, with the photographs of all the 18 valiant soldiers who were martyred in the Uri attack.


“We wanted the people to remember the sacrifices our jawans are making. With this, we are paying a tribute to our brave soldiers. We want to convey a message that we are with them in their fight and we will always support them. Our soldiers are our real heroes. We salute their bravery,” says Prafulla Kumar Sahoo, General Secretary of Khannagar Puja Committee, adding that the Puja Committee will donate Rs 25,000 for the Defence Welfare fund.


The thoughtful theme, while sending a powerful message, has also caught the fancy of hundreds of visitors thronging the Pandals.


“It is because of our soldiers that we are able to celebrate Durga Puja with great fanfare. This Durga Puja, my family and I have prayed for the safety of our soldiers. Like Maa Durga discarded the evil, we pray our soldiers also emerge victorious,” says Snigdha, a visitor.


The gate has cost the Puja Committee Rs 10lakh and while the total budget of Khannagar is Rs 30lakh.


When I met Gandhiji on the streets of Bhubaneswar


Meeting Sairam was a coincidence. I had almost wrapped up my story for the International Yoga Day on June 21, when I spotted someone in the garb of Gandhi. With the journalist I am, curiosity drove me to know his story. He was talkative too, and within minutes I knew he was a theatre student at Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya in Bhubaneswar, who loved enacting Gandhiji. In fact, he had been doing it ever since he was in his fifth standard in school. He told me he would be travelling close to 65 kms by foot from the holy town of Puri to Bhubaneswar, stopping at the villages on the way and spreading the message of ‘Swachh Bharat’ (Clean India).

‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ was yet another idea of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which had garnered widespread praises and headlines. So, it meant I was going back to office with two stories.

Days after the episode was forgotten, one fine morning I chanced upon a newspaper advertisement, calling for entries for a ‘Swachh Bharat Film Festival.’ After much thought, I rang up a diligent cameraman friend, to partner for the short film contest. Readily he agreed and we rounded up on focusing on Sairam.

On the first day of shoot, we picked up Sai from his friend’s house and went atop Dhauligiri hills to begin the shoot for the film. A theatre student that he was, Sai was more comfortable with the camera than I expected. For a short film which had to be made within 3 minutes, Sai spoke elaborately for over 20 minutes, giving every bit of details on how Gandhiji became his idol.

The second day, we recorded his visuals as he went about spreading the message of cleanliness in a village close to Bhubaneswar. He had been to the place before and it was strange to see the happiness among the villagers when he entered. It was almost as if he was the ‘Real Gandhi;’ people bowed to him, greeted him and listened to every word as if it was a sermon.

After days of editing and scripting, we sent the short film, anticipating it might click with the audience for its concept. However, we failed and what disappointed us most was Sairam’s efforts. He had thought the short film would help spread his message of Swachh India far and wide. But, like a true Gandhi, he lifted our spirits and encouraged us to do better next time…

Here is the link to the short film -

Danish gets a lifeline

A major surgery, months of rehabilitation, a lot of mental strength and prayers were required for Danish Mujtaba to recover from a career-threatening knee injury.
With several important tournaments lined up this year, making a comeback at this juncture is like a second coming for the midfielder.
When the squad for Commonwealth Games was announced last week, Danish was busy getting into peak condition ahead of the big event.
“I have waited for more than a year to get back. When I was injured last year just before the World Hockey League semi-finals in Rotterdam, the doctors had given an ultimatum – either go for surgery or risk never playing again. I knew it was difficult for a player to return after a serious injury like this. But, I also knew that all my life I have only wanted to play hockey. I agreed to go for surgery and after a year, I have succeeded in regaining my place in the team,” Danish told Mail Today.
Although declared fit before the Hockey India League, Danish was hardly allowed on the field. In fact, he made it to the World Cup’s list of probables, but failed to make it to the final squad.
But he proved his mettle during the Commonwealth Games trials and impressed head coach Terry Walsh and the selection committee.
“Physiology is not Danish’s strongest suit which always puts his selection under doubt. But he has worked on his weaknesses and overcome all the shortcomings. For a tournament like the Commonwealth Games, we need experience and Danish is a senior player,” Walsh said.
It is not the end of the battle yet for the Allahabad boy. Making it to the squad is the first step. With pressure on the team to perform well after the World Cup debacle, Danish awaits the opportunity to repay the faith shown in him.
“The World Cup was disappointing but we have left that behind. The Asian Games is a big target for us as it gives us a chance to qualify for the Olympics directly. The training has become more focused now. A medal at the Commonwealth Games will give us the perfect boost before the Asiad,” he said.

Published in Mail Today on 7th July’14.

Indian School Badminton League

For Tanmay Bikash Gouda, Assam’s under-11 badminton champion, playing at the huge Thyagraj Stadium itself is a big deal. Accompanied by his coach and eight other participants from his state, Tanmay is one among the thousands who have registered for the Indian School Badminton League (ISBL).

The one-of-its kind initiative is open to students across India, brings players of various levels on a common platform.

“We came up with the idea of starting an inter-state school level league to attract more children into badminton and improve the game at the grass-root level. The league was kept open so that any child interested to play can do so,” Ashish Srivastava, the man behind the concept, told Mail Today.

The league is divided into age-group of under-11, 13, 15, 17 and 19. Apart from singles, doubles and mixed-doubles, there is a team competition as well.

 “My daughter started playing badminton only a year ago. It is nice to see young players getting a platform like this,” said Meeru Mehta, whose daughter Kiah is participating in the under-13 category.   

Students from 20 states are participating in this league.

“We knew badminton is getting more popular in the country, but we never expected such a large turnout. After looking at the enthusiasm here, we are already in talks with some other countries to take this league to the international level.” 

(For Mail Today)

Malaysian tour morale-booster says skipper Ritu Rani

Indian hockey is not going through its best phase. The dismal performance of the men’s team at the World Cup, resulting in ninth-place finish, has been another disappointment.

While this put administrators back into the familiar routine of reviewing ‘poor performance’ and making necessary changes, the women’s team has subtly managed to garner some praise after their successful Malaysian tour.

In the six-match series against the hosts as a build-up for the Commonwealth Games, the Indian girls swept home all the matches with comprehensive margins.

“The Malaysian tour was great for the team. We were consistent in all the matches. Every player did what was expected of her. The clean sweep has given us a lot of confidence,” skipper Ritu Rani told Mail Today on Saturday.

With the Commonwealth Games starting next month, the series win comes as much needed morale boost for the team. In fact, the preparation for the Glasgow Games as well as the Incheon Asiad began gathered speed earlier this year when they played a three-match series against Ireland and the FIH Champions Challenge in Scotland.

“The preparation for the CWG is good. We had at least three tours prior to the event. We won the series against Ireland. Though we lost all our matches at the Champions Challenge I, the Malaysian tour was a big success. So, the exposure has been good,” Ritu said.

Despite training under Australian coach Neil Hawgood for the last two years, the team has not been able to compete on equal terms with the better teams in the world. Ritu, however, denies any coaching concerns.     

“Every coach has a different approach to the game. Neil is relatively new and his coaching style is different from our previous coaches. We have spent two years with him. It takes time to get used to a different style of play.”

India women have a decent record at the Commonwealth Games, winning a gold in Manchester (2002) and silver in Melbourne (2006). This time, they are placed in a comparatively easy group with South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada and New Zealand, two of whom are ranked below India.

“I will not say that the draw is easy. At the last edition, we crashed before the semi-finals on goal difference. So, the lower-ranked teams are not to be taken lightly. In fact, we will not leave anything to chance and try to score more goals in every match.”

Eyeing a medal this year, Ritu is looking at 2002 as inspiration.

“Reaching the final is the target. We are aiming for a medal. It has been a long wait. We won a gold medal in 2002 and silver in 2006. 2010 was unfortunate. We will look at the previous victories as inspiration and try to get on the podium.”

(Story written for Mail Today)