Recently I’ve have been grazing through the videos by Chinese blogger Li Ziqi, who became an internet sensation after her videos on handicrafts, traditional cooking, and DIY from the countryside of Mianyang in southwest China’s Sichuan Province grew in popularity and caught netizen’s attention worldwide. What attracted my attention is the inherent calmness and the passionate composure with which each theme is made. It is in stark contrast with the heavily commercialized video bombardments, often largely obliquely spurious that we see on every video platform. Each video I’ve seen so far is so genuine and brilliantly captured. From what I’ve read in magazines, Li lives with her grandmother in a Chinese rural province. Orphaned at a very young age, she moved to city to work. After her grandfather’s death, she returned to the village to take care of her grandmother who fell ill. All her food and handicraft videos are often crafted from scratch and are prepared using authentic basic ingredients and tools making the best use of Chinese traditional techniques.
She initially started posting videos on Mepai, which is a very famous social platform in China and garnered great attention. In 2017, she started posting videos on Youtube which grew in popularity ever since. Her grandfather was a cook in the village. She learned how to grow vegetables, fish, carpenter handiworks, traditional dishes, and bamboo crafts. The well-made videos with its passion and subtle nuances give a wonderful experience of Chinese traditions and culture and her positive spirit on self-reliance sent by her life expertise has attracted warm international reception.
Her videos are unfeigned, lucid and basics from scratch and mostly don’t use any sort of modern technology or even electricity in most cases. She does everything on her own from cutting goat and rabbit fur for the brush hairs to chopping small trees to make paper. In one of the videos that I saw, she built a coffee table and two sofas using bamboo in its entirety using carpentry skills inspired by her grandfather. In some other videos, lip colors are prepared from fresh flower petals and honey. You’d be amazed by how she delves to the roots. The honey shown is not from a supermarket, but from a beehive in the village. She prepares her own deserts, sweet potato jelly, and pancakes from the sweet farm potatoes which she harvested on her own. A lot of traditional ways of preparations are shown.
The authenticity and fervent equanimity keep these visuals apart from the rest of the crowd and has truly impressed me. As we touched upon in our note on compassionate prudence, true magic ensues when people put in their signature on every single thing they do and when everything is done with love. Stories like this truly inspire!. God bless!
After recently seeing a South Indian flick revolving around the story of an army man and his valiant death in the service of the nation, I’ve been thinking of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan (15 March 1977 – 28 November 2008). He was an officer in the Indian Army serving in the elite Special Action Group of the National Security Guards. He was martyred in action during the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. He was consequently awarded the Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest peacetime gallantry award, on 26 January 2009. He was the only son of retired ISRO officer K. Unnikrishnan and Dhanalakshmi Unnikrishnan.
It’s been almost 10 years since his passing and I was looking at the narrations and thoughts of his proud mother. She gets a new T-shirt for her son on the day of his birthday. Recently actor Tovino Thomas visited their home after she expressed an interest to meet him after he starred in an army movie. She gifted him one of those T-shirts and cooked for him appam and stew, her son’s favorite dish. Probably because I was in the mood after watching the flick, but I’m deeply moved and ardently melted by these gestures and the strength of their family.
Over these 10 years, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s parents have grown used to spending a large part of their time travelling to events or meeting people. A few months ago, they were in Kerala to speak at a school, despite Dhanalakshmi’s nagging backache. “I will go and speak as long as my health permits,” she says. She has so much to share with people about her son. “After he has gone, we have only him to talk about.”
Upstairs in their two-storey home is a gallery, a labour of love for their son. “He would keep his things very carefully. So we were wondering what to do with them. And that’s how we created this,” she says. There’s an astonishing collection of personal articles and memories, painstakingly put together four years ago. A harmonica, a nursery-class gift from his father which Sandeep treasured; the first cup he won in a school sports tournament and several other accolades that followed; his clothes and shoes, all neatly pressed and polished, in a glass wardrobe; the Ashok Chakra medal and citation; the bag with a change of clothes that he carried into Operation Black Tornado and his entire kit; the dirt from the spot he fell, at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which the family visits every anniversary (a sofa from the room is now at the NSG’s headquarters in Manesar); the Indian flag his body was wreathed in.
On another side of the room, a glimpse of the personal side of a man dedicated to his profession—His 1999-model music system, an old point-and-shoot camera, his small collection of movies, among them Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. He had told mom to keep the CDs safe, and so she did. There are other mementos: the towel she wrapped her four-month-old baby in when the family moved to Bangalore in 1977; a T-shirt the one-year-old had worn. It is still work in progress, she says. There are so many more articles to add.
Every year on Sandeep’s birthday on March 15, his best friend from school brings a bouquet which his mother keeps alongside his photo until the next birthday. His military colleagues stay in touch and schoolmates, many abroad now, drop in with their kids. “Frankly, if you ask me, why was he so popular? I would say he deserved it,” says Unnikrishnan, who is in his mid-seventies. “Sandeep is living in many minds.” The family lives by the ideals that Sandeep set for himself. “We have learnt a lot from him,” says Unnikrishnan. “I always make sure I dress well,” his wife adds. “That’s how Sandeep liked it.”
Sandeep’s Ashok Chakra, the country’s highest peacetime gallantry award was received her mother and the citation in it reads:
“Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan led the commando operation launched on 27 November 2008 to flush out terrorists from Hotel Taj Mahal, Mumbai in which he rescued fourteen hostages. During the operation, his team came under intense hostile fire, in which one of his team members got grievously injured. Major Sandeep pinned down the terrorists with accurate fire and rescued the injured commando to safety. In the process, he was shot in his right arm. Despite his injuries, he continued to fight the terrorists till his last breath. Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan displayed most conspicuous bravery besides camaraderie and leadership of the highest order and made the supreme sacrifice for the nation.”
A beautifully done tribute to late former Indian president and aerospace scientist Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Beautifully shot by Matt Shaw and directed by Senthil Kumar, the video gracefully walks through his struggles and awe-inspiring journey in 6 minutes. My father had gifted his book Wings of Fire when I was in school and I was really inspired by his firm determination and hard work in working towards a dream.
Short Summary: It’s a stormy day on a bridge over the Indian ocean, to the island of Rameswaram, a night train delivers the morning newspaper to a newspaper boy who rides out into the storm to deliver the news and is the first to read the newspaper everyday as he reads all along his morning route, under the big banyan tree and sitting on the boat while his father rowed people from the island to the mainland. One day he sees the picture of a spitfire aircraft in a newspaper article about the Supermarine Spitfire, a fighter jet used by the British in World War II. He cuts it out, makes a paper rocket out of it and makes it fly and puts it up on his wall. This newspaper image became his life’s purpose. His dream was to fly a fighter plane as a young air force pilot but he fails the Indian Air Force Pilot entrance exam after India’s independence. The young man did not give up and went back to his reading habit, that helped him overcome his fear of failure. He switched lanes to become a rocket scientist on autopilot, flying missiles and testing nuclear weapons, and rising to the highest office in the country. And when he was President of India, from 2002 to 2007, he was the Chief of all the armed forces in the country. It was finally time for his childhood dream to come true. He was flying a fighter plane, at the ripe old age of 72 years as the President of the world’s largest democracy. One of the oldest men in the world to ever fly a fighter plane, which was his childhood dream. And that’s when he wrote the famous motivational line to all children : “Dreams are not what you see in sleep. Dreams are those that don’t let you sleep.” The story of a newspaper boy who woke up the country. A true story to ignite the power of dreams in a billion young Indians.