Destitute ‘heir’ of India’s emperors demands royal residence

Sultana Begum works on a garment inside her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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Sultana Begum works on a garment inside her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
Sultana Begum reacts while holding a picture of last Mughal Emperor of India Bahadur Shah Zafar in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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Sultana Begum reacts while holding a picture of last Mughal Emperor of India Bahadur Shah Zafar in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begum reacts while talking in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begum reacts while talking in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begum walks by an alley in the locality she lives in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begum walks by an alley in the locality she lives in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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Updated 30 December 2021

Destitute ‘heir’ of India’s emperors demands royal residence

Destitute ‘heir’ of India’s emperors demands royal residence
  • Sultana Begum's case rests on her claim that her late husband’s lineage can be traced to Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last emperor to reign
  • After a massive rebellion blamed on an already frail Zafar in the 1850s, British forces executed 10 of the ruler's surviving sons despite the royal family’s surrender

KOLKATA: A destitute Indian woman who claims she is heir to the dynasty that built the Taj Mahal has demanded ownership of an imposing palace once home to the Mughal emperors.
Sultana Begum lives in a cramped two-room hut nestled within a slum on the outskirts of Kolkata, surviving on a meagre pension.
Among her modest possessions are records of her marriage to Mirza Mohammad Bedar Bakht, purported to be the great-grandson of India’s last Mughal ruler.
His death in 1980 left her struggling to survive, and she has spent the past decade petitioning authorities to recognize her royal status and compensate her accordingly.
“Can you imagine that the descendant of the emperors who built Taj Mahal now lives in desperate poverty?” the 68-year-old asked AFP.
Begum has lodged a court case seeking recognition that she is rightful owner of the imposing 17th-century Red Fort, a sprawling and pockmarked castle in New Delhi that was once the seat of Mughal power.
“I hope the government will definitely give me justice,” she said. “When something belongs to someone, it should be returned.”




Sultana Begum reacts while holding a picture of last Mughal Emperor of India Bahadur Shah Zafar in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP) 

Her case, supported by sympathetic campaigners, rests on her claim that her late husband’s lineage can be traced to Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last emperor to reign.
By the time of Zafar’s coronation in 1837, the Mughal empire had shrunk to the capital’s boundaries, after the conquest of India by the commercial venture of British merchants known as the East India Company.
A massive rebellion two decades later — now hailed as India’s first war of independence — saw mutinous soldiers declare the now frail 82-year-old as the leader of their insurrection.
The emperor, who preferred penning poetry to waging war, knew the chaotic uprising was doomed and was a reluctant leader.
British forces surrounded Delhi within a month and ruthlessly crushed the revolt, executing all 10 of Zafar’s surviving sons despite the royal family’s surrender.
Zafar himself was exiled to neighboring Myanmar, traveling under guard in a bullock cart, and died penniless in captivity five years later.

Many of the Red Fort’s buildings were demolished in the years after the uprising and the complex fell into disrepair before colonial authorities ordered its renovation at the turn of the 20th century.
It has since become a potent symbol of freedom from British rule.
India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted the national flag from the fort’s main gate to mark the first day of independence in August 1947, a solemn ritual now repeated annually by his successors.
Begum’s court case hinges on the argument that India’s government are the illegal occupants of the property, which she says should have been passed down to her.
The Delhi High Court rejected her petition last week as a “gross waste of time” — but did not rule on whether her claim to imperial ancestry was legitimate.
Instead the court said her legal team had failed to justify why a similar case had not been brought by Zafar’s descendants in the 150 years since his exile.
Her lawyer Vivek More said the case would continue.
“She has decided to file a plea before a higher bench of the court challenging the order,” he told AFP by phone.

Begum has endured a precarious life, even before she was widowed and forced to move into the slum she now calls home.




In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begun walks by an alley in the locality she lives in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)

Her husband — who she married in 1965 when she was just 14 — was 32 years her senior and earned some money as a soothsayer, but was unable to provide for their family.
“Poverty, fear and lack of resources pushed him to the brink,” she added.
Begum lives with one of her grandchildren in a small shack, sharing a kitchen with neighbors and washing at a communal tap down the street.
For some years she ran a small tea shop near her home but it was demolished to allow the widening of a road, and she now survives on a pension of 6,000 rupees ($80) per month.
But she has not given up hope that authorities will recognize her as the rightful beneficiary of India’s imperial legacy, and of the Red Fort.
“I hope that today, tomorrow or in 10 years, I will get what I’m entitled to,” she said.
“God willing, I will get it back... I’m certain justice will happen.”


Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan meets delivery rider after act of goodness goes viral

Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan meets delivery rider after act of goodness goes viral
Updated 11 August 2022

Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan meets delivery rider after act of goodness goes viral

Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan meets delivery rider after act of goodness goes viral
  • Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed earlier posted viral video as an Instagram story, inviting the public to help him identify the rider

DUBAI: Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has met with delivery rider who went viral on social media after removing two concrete blocks from a busy intersection while on duty.
Abdul Ghafoor Abdul Hakeem gained widespread admiration on social media after a video captured the delivery rider waiting for trucks and vehicles to pass before rushing to remove two concrete blocks dangerously laying in middle of the road.
“An honor to meet you Abdul Ghafoor, a true example to be followed,” tweeted Sheikh Hamdan.


Sheikh Hamdan had earlier posted the video as an Instagram story, inviting the public to help him identify the rider.
“An act of goodness in Dubai to be praised. Can someone point me to this man?” he captioned his story.


Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue

Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue
Updated 11 August 2022

Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue

Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue
  • A team of 80 people tried to save the animal’s life by transporting the cetaceous into a refrigerated truck to the port in Ouistreham, in Normandy region.

PARIS: A beluga whale that became a French celebrity after a wrong turn took it up the Seine River had to be euthanized Wednesday after experiencing health complications during an urgent rescue operation, authorities said.
The sparkling white marine mammal appeared deep inside France last week, having accidentally veered off the normal ocean migration route that takes belugas to and from Arctic waters.
Fearing the malnourished creature would not survive in the Seine much longer, a wildlife conservation group and veterinarians planned to move the lost whale to a saltwater port in Normandy, from where they hoped to return it to the open sea.
A team of 80 people assembled to try to save the animal’s life, and it was successfully moved Tuesday night from a river lock in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, west of Paris, into a refrigerated truck for the 60-kilometer (99-mile) journey to the port in Ouistreham.
But during the drive, the 4-meter-long (13-foot-long) whale started to breath with difficulty, according to Florence Ollivet Courtois, a French veterinarian who worked on the rescue operation.
“During the journey, the veterinarians confirmed a worsening of its state, notably in its respiratory activities, and at the same time noticed the animal was in pain, not breathing enough,” Courtois said.
“The suffering was obvious for the animal, so it was important to release its tension, and so we had to proceed to euthanize it,” she added.
Environmentalists had acknowledged the plan to move the beluga risked fatally stressing the mammal. But marine conservation group Sea Shepherd said that it couldn’t have survived much longer in the Seine’s fresh water.
The group and veterinarians noted the whale had responded to a cocktail of antibiotics and vitamins over the last few days, making them hopeful it would recover once it was back in a saltwater environment.
A necropsy is planned on the whale, which weighed about about 800 kilograms (1,764 pounds).
Rescuers had hoped to spare the whale the fate of an orca that strayed into the Seine and died in May. In 2006, a bottlenose whale — nicknamed “Willy” — swam up the Thames River as far as London and died during a its attempted rescue.
Another complicating factor during the beluga’s rescue attempt was the extreme heat gripping France. Authorities tried to keep it cool and wet with soaked towels and moved it at nightfall when temperatures are at their lowest.
The sad end to a saga that gripped France in recent days came after experts determined the whale “was too weakened to be put back into water,” Guillaume Lericolais, the sub-prefect of France’s Calvados region, said.
Rescuers tried to feed the whale fish without success since Friday. Sea Shepherd France said veterinary exams after the beluga’s removal from the river showed it has no digestive activity.


Iraqi actress Enas Taleb, fat-shamed by The Economist, set to sue British magazine

Iraqi actress Enas Taleb, fat-shamed by The Economist, set to sue British magazine
Updated 10 August 2022

Iraqi actress Enas Taleb, fat-shamed by The Economist, set to sue British magazine

Iraqi actress Enas Taleb, fat-shamed by The Economist, set to sue British magazine
  • In July, the British publication used an image of the actress for an article titled ‘Why women are fatter than men in the Arab world’

LONDON: Iraqi actress and TV host Enas Taleb is suing The Economist for using her image in an article about the epidemic of obesity among women in the Arab world, according to Newlines Magazine.

In July, The Economist ran a feature titled “Why women are fatter than men in the Arab world,” in which it pointed blame at socioeconomics — on the grounds that the cheapest local foods are usually the unhealthiest — and pervasive social conservatism in the Arab region.

The British magazine chose an image of Taleb performing at Iraq’s annual Babylon Festival to go with the piece, portraying the actress as an example of such obesity, with a line in the last paragraph stating “Iraqis often cite Enas Taleb, an actress with ample curves (pictured), as the ideal of beauty.”

In an interview with Newlines Magazine, Taleb said she was preparing to sue the English publication.

“I have decided to take legal action against The Economist for their cover story. I am demanding compensation for the emotional, mental and social damage this incident has caused me. My legal team and I are arranging the next steps,” Taleb told Rasha Al-Aqeedi of Newslines Magazine.

“Audiences have loved me for many years. It was disappointing to see an international outlet label me as if all my accomplishments mean nothing. I am healthy and happy with the way I look, and to me that is all that matters,” she added.

The Economist did not respond to questions from Arab News.

The feature sparked outrage among Arab and non-Arab readers with some accusing the publication of double standards.

“In reaction to the piece in The Economist, some readers voiced their incredulity at what they described as a double standard in the conversation about women’s bodies in the West versus in ‘other” cultures,’” Al-Aqeedi wrote in her piece.

“Plus-size artists such as Lizzo and models like Ashley Graham are celebrated for their role in making the body-positive movement mainstream. It is difficult to find an example of an internationally respected publication that has held up a photo of a ‘fat’ Western woman as a means of shaming her,” she added.

The article was widely criticized across the Arab world for falling short in examining the factors that contribute to the obesity issue, where women in particular are affected.

Even though there seems to be a general consensus about the issue, the reality is more complex.

An outdated vision of Arab women being “mere sedentary housewives,” the rise of globalization, which brought significant lifestyle changes and rapid urbanization across the Arab region, and a general predilection for staying up late at night, are all considered contributing factors to the epidemic in the region, which The Economist failed to address.

Despite the magazine’s backhanded compliment to the Iraqi star, Taleb claims The Economist’s piece was an insult not just to her, but to all Arab women.


Was pineapple a topping too far for Domino’s in Italy?

Was pineapple a topping too far for Domino’s in Italy?
Updated 10 August 2022

Was pineapple a topping too far for Domino’s in Italy?

Was pineapple a topping too far for Domino’s in Italy?
  • The US restaurant chain has decided to take a bight of humble pie and withdraw from the birthplace of pizza

DUBAI: Mamma Mia! Did Domino’s go a topping too far when it started selling pineapple pizza pies in Italy?

Whatever the reason, the US restaurant chain has decided to take a bite of humble pie and withdraw from the birthplace of pizza.

The world’s largest pizza chain called it quits in Italy after closing the last of its 29 stores, only seven years since struggling – but failing – to win over the hearts and stomachs of locals with the American versions of the pie.

With an ambitious plan of distinguishing itself from local restaurants by providing a structured national delivery service, plus a promise to use purely Italian ingredients including “100% tomato sauce and mozzarella,” Domino’s strategy appears to have failed to satisfy the palates of Italians overly protective of their cherished national dish.

But notwithstanding the pineapple pizza, Domino’s pizza varieties suchas Mexican, cheeseburger, kickers BBQ and BBQ chicken failed to impress Italians who profess for their unending love for simple and traditional pizzas like margherita and marinara.

The American chain’s exit from Italy was met with derision on social media for even attempting to establish a foothold in the birthplace of pizza.

“Trying to open Dominos Pizza in Italy is like trying to sell snow in the North Pole,” one Twitter user said.

Domino’s ambitious expansion gameplan was seriously unhinged at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which practically shut dine-out businesses in all of Italy, and the scaling up of home deliveries by traditional pizza makers through third party services such as Deliveroo, Just Eat Takeaway.com or Glovo.

“We attribute the issue to the significantly increased level of competition in the food delivery market with both organized chains and ‘mom & pop’ (independent) restaurants delivering food, to service and restaurants reopening post pandemic and consumers out and about with revenge spending,” the company reported in its fourth-quarter 2021 results.

Franchise holder EPizza was earlier granted protection from its creditors for 90 days as part of its bankruptcy process it filed in April, but that protection ended last month.

The company had $10.8 million of debt at the end of 2020, according to the latest audited annual reports.


New Dubai Hindu temple goes digital with QR-coded bookings

New Dubai Hindu temple goes digital with QR-coded bookings
Updated 10 August 2022

New Dubai Hindu temple goes digital with QR-coded bookings

New Dubai Hindu temple goes digital with QR-coded bookings
  • The online booking system for visitors was launched with the aim to prevent crowding in the area and ensure the safety of visitors, officials said

DUBAI: A Hindu temple, set to open in Dubai later this year, will be accepting QR code-based appointment bookings for visitors, officials told national daily, Gulf News

The online booking system for visitors was launched with the aim to prevent crowding in the area and ensure the safety of visitors, officials said, adding that the temple accommodated about 1,000 people. 

“We will be opening the booking system through our existing website and a new app that will be launched by September 1,” temple trustee Raju Shroff told Gulf News. 

The temple – an extension of the Sindhi Guru Darbar temple in Bur Dubai – will open on Oct. 5, but bookings can be made starting from September. 

The 70,000-square-feet temple and community center is located in the Corridor of Tolerance in Jebel Ali that houses several churches and the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara, the report added. 

Temple officials said it would be opening in two phases: the place of worship will open in October and the rest of the facilities will open by Jan. 14. 

The facilities include a 4,000 square-foot banquet hall, a multipurpose room, and a knowledge room. 

The knowledge room is open to interfaith leaders who want to organize on-site and online sessions, the officials added. The temple will also organize celebrations for Hindu festivals such as Diwali and Navratri after the official opening.