Cyclone Biparjoy: At least two people dead as storm hits India

At least two people have been killed and 22 injured after Cyclone Biparjoy made landfall in western India near the Pakistan border.

The storm weakened after hitting the Gujarat state coast on Thursday night, but is still moving across the state bringing strong winds and rains.

It has uprooted trees, ripped out electricity poles, and damaged roads in some districts.

The full extent of the damage is still yet known, say authorities.

Pakistan’s Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said the country was largely spared the full force of the cyclone.

Coastal areas of the Sindh province were inundated because of high sea levels “but most people had been evacuated to safe ground,” she said.

In India, the Press Trust of India reported two cattle farmers in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar city- a father and son – were swept away as they entered a flooded ravine to save their goats.

Not a single life was lost after the cyclone’s landfall on Thursday night, the country’s national disaster management agency chief said.

More than 170,000 people in the two countries had been evacuated from the coastal regions before the arrival of the cyclone.

Makeshift shelters were also set up in school auditoriums and other government buildings in both countries.

Cyclone Biparjoy, which means “disaster” in Bengali, first hit India’s port city of Jakhau in Gujarat on Thursday packing winds up to 125 km/h (78mph).

The India Meteorological Department has since reduced the classification of the storm from “very severe” to “severe”.

Authorities had, however, been unable to start rescue operations due to heavy rains and strong winds in Gujarat’s Mandvi district, the district chief told the BBC.

India’s weather office said heavy rainfall is expected to continue in the neighbouring Rajasthan state till Saturday as the cyclone moves northwest.

Gujarat officials said around 99 train services would remain cancelled as the storm barrels across the state.

Cyclone Biparjoy was classified as a category one storm, the least severe on a scale of one to five, but forecasters had said it could be the area’s worst storm in 25 years.

Cyclones, also known as hurricanes in the North Atlantic and typhoons in the north-west Pacific, are a regular and deadly phenomenon in the Indian Ocean. Rising surface temperatures across the Arabian Sea in recent years due to climate change have made the surrounding regions even more vulnerable to devastating storms.

At least 33 deaths were reported in Pakistan last week due to heavy rains, while seven deaths were reported in India this week amid downpours.

Leela Row Dayal: The first Indian woman to win a match at Wimbledon

Row seen on a tennis court wearing a t-shirt and shorts
Image caption,In 1931, Leela Row won her first All India Championship title

By Meryl Sebastian

BBC News

A writer, dancer, playwright, mountaineer and a national tennis champion, Leela Row – the first Indian woman to win a tennis match at the Wimbledon – was as prolific as they come.

In his 1966 book My Contemporaries, art critic Govindraj Venkatachalam recalls meeting Row as a young girl.

“Timid and nervous, she was shy of strangers,” he wrote. “Little did we realise then that this slip of a girl, would at an early age, become an all-India figure and one of the world’s champion tennis players.”

Born in December 1911, Leela Row was the daughter of Raghavendra Row, a renowned physician, and Pandita Kshama Row, one of the foremost Sanskrit scholars of her time.

Row was raised in India and educated at home by her mother. The family would go on to travel in England and France, where Row also studied the arts.

She began learning classical Indian dance at the age of three to improve her physical strength after a bout of malaria.

Venkatachalam met Row through mutual friends of their family and described her as “very versatile”. As a young girl, she was trained in violin by a master in Paris and had a passion for the stage.

It was from her mother that Row inherited her love for tennis.

European sports had gained popularity among Indian women as part of a broader movement for emancipation, Boria Majumdar and JA Mangan write in their book Sport in South Asian Society.

In the 1920s, Kshama Row was among the first few women tennis players in the country – she won the singles title at the Bombay Presidency Hard Court Championships in 1927.

Row soon followed in her mother’s footsteps, dominating the tennis circuit in the country as a singles player while also playing doubles matches with her mother.

Tennis Players Helen Jacobs and Dorothy Rand leaving the courts after Rand defeated Jacobs in the Wimbledon finals on July 10, 1934.
Image caption,Dorothy Round (right) won the woman’s singles tennis title at the 1934 Wimbledon Championships

In 1931, she won her first title at the All India Championship. She went on to win six more in the following years.

Through the 1920s and 1930s, Row frequently made news for winning matches at championships across the country.

In 1934, she became the first Indian woman to win a match at the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon with a 4-6, 10-8, 6-2 victory over Gladys Southwell of Britain. She lost to France’s Ida Adamoff in the next round.

Row was back at the tournament the next year but lost in straight sets to Britain’s Evelyn Dearman in the first round.

It would be 71 years before another Indian woman – Sania Mirza – would compete in the senior ladies’ draw at the Wimbledon.

“She lived the kind of elite Indian life that could have only taken place in the years between the two World Wars, when the highest echelons of Indian society could simultaneously keep one foot firmly planted in the country of their birth, but another just as firmly, in the broader international networks of the British empire,” writer Sidin Vadukut wrote of her in 2018.

In 1943 , Row married Harishwar Dayal, a civil servant who had represented India at the UN and was then the deputy at India’s embassy in Washington DC.

Row continued to play exhibition tennis matches during her time in the US.

But by the late 1940s, she had turned to her other love – writing about and documenting art.

he English Wightman Cup tennis players at Wimbledon, London, 11th June 1936. From left to right, Freda James, Dorothy Round, Mary Hardwick (1913 - 2001), Evelyn Dearman, Nancy Lyle and Kay Stammers. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Image caption,Row returned to Wimbledon in 1935 but lost to Britain’s Evelyn Dearman in the first round (fourth from left)

From her mother, who was considered a pioneer of modernism in Sanskrit, Row had also inherited her love for the language. She adapted several Sanskrit poems written by her mother for the stage.

While she was not a professional dancer, she wrote several books in English and Sanskrit on Indian classical dances.

Her book Natya Chandrika delved into the art of Indian dance and drama, while another one, titled Nritta Manjari delved into the dance sequences of Bharatanatyam.

Natya Chandrika was the first book by an Indian author to be archived by the US Library of Congress, the LA Times reported in 1958.

She also wrote a book on the origins and techniques of the Manipuri dance form, which one reviewer called “a charming introduction” to a “rich and varied treasure of classical Indian dance”.

By the late 1950s, she had spent 20 years researching Indian dance forms and written five books on them. For some of these, she’d posed for the illustrations to demonstrate the form and movement.

“I want to bring out in drawings what my ancestors did in sculpture in the temples of Southeast Asia,” she told the Windsor Daily Star.

In 1963, Row published a children’s book she wrote by hand and bound herself. The book told the story of the mystic poet Meerabai and was based on a Sanskrit poem written by her mother. Row illustrated the story with delicate line drawings in black.

A senior librarian at Singapore’s National Library called it “one of the most treasured possessions in the Asian Children’s Literature collection”, which has some of the oldest and rarest children’s books from Asia.

Row and her husband were “passionately fond of the high mountains,” she wrote in volume 26 of the Himalayan journal. So the couple were happy when Dayal was posted as India’s ambassador to Nepal in 1963.

During her time there, she’d write about the country’s art and architecture.

Row would often go on treks to the mountains, sometimes with her husband or alone.

“It was always some political crisis which prevented us making the trips or returning earlier than expected,” she wrote.

On a trek in the Khumbu region of Mount Everest, Row writes of visiting the Thyangboche monastery – “the first visit of an Indian woman” – and the pleasure of seeing Mount Everest every day.

She called trekking up the Taboche ridge “the biggest thrill of my life”.

“My life’s dream has been fulfilled,” she wrote in the journal.

Dayal died in 1964 while the couple was on another trip to the Khumbu region.

There is little information on how and where Row spent her last years and on her surviving family members.