Gaga Over Yoga

24 Aug

Gaga over yoga

One of India’s greatest contributions to the world is yoga. And in this new age of fitness, the ancient science of yoga has kept pace with time with its new and unique avatars like Dance Yoga, Face Yoga, Power Yoga and, believe it or not, Naked Yoga.

Attempting to combine the best of both worlds, these variants are breathing new life into an otherwise commonplace and all-too-familiar milieu of the world’s oldest discipline.

Among the latest of entrants to the new age yoga scene is facial or Face Yoga, which has literally converted botox believers into yoga disciples. Face Yoga is now being touted as a way to attain the fountain of youth (at least when it comes to the face). The methodology involves specific exercises tailor-made for the face, which involves relaxation and stress busting routines. These procedures are said to be very helpful in fighting wrinkles and thereby defying age.

YogaLife at Defense Colony, New Delhi, is a place where one can undergo a specialised course in Facial Yoga. Apart from this, there are world-renowned practitioners like Madhavi Padhy, a former consultant in stress management and yoga for the United Nations, who conducts private classes both in India and Singapore. And devoted fans of this technique comprise big Hollywood names like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Victoria ‘Posh’ Beckham.

Speaking about Face Yoga, actress Shriya Saran says, “In today’s world, all you need to do is attach beauty to a product and you know it will sell. I personally don’t believe that you need to do Face Yoga in order to look beautiful. Even a normal session of yogasanas can help you achieve that inner glow.” She adds, “I have been practising yoga for quite some time now. I haven’t opted for any new age course, but I stick to my regular Surya Namaskar asana. I strongly believe that in these stressful times, one needs to have an outlet to relax and meditate and yoga helps in that. It’s also a health investment of sorts as it’s one exercise you can do at any age, unlike the gyms where you can’t pump iron after 70.”

While some forms are more popular in the western world, there are those whose seeds were sown in the very soil of the country. Consider the case of Dr Neelam Verma, a yoga practitioner based in New Delhi, who runs an institute called Cosmic Rhythms. Her speciality is Dance or Natya Yoga, which is basically an amalgamation of Kathak and Yoga. Elaborating on it, she says, “The breathing routines in the dance form are akin to those you would undergo in a fitness class. My style involves incorporating Sanskrit mantras and songs into Kathak dance moves.”

Bollywood starlet and Big Brother winner Shilpa Shetty, who arguably boasts of one of the most lithe and lean bodies in the Indian film industry, recently launched her yoga DVD in India. Titled Shilpa’s Yoga, the video is shot against the picturesque backdrop of Kerala where Shilpa demonstrates simple and easy to follow techniques that according to her can help one look beautiful from both inside and outside.

Speaking about the impact her DVD made in the overseas market, Shilpa says, “It was phenomenal the way Britons and foreigners lapped up the DVD on its international release. Due to the efforts of people like Baba Ramdev, millions in the western world have developed a respect for and an interest in yoga. In fact, I feel privileged to be in the legion of those who have actually helped yoga become a household name.”

Talking about the impact of yoga on her life, the actress said, “It’s a management system for life and it is the most holistic approach to life that I have ever come across. It works on body, mind and soul by strengthening, toning and curing from within. Yoga has had a spectacular impact on my life.”

Dr Ganesh Mohan, son of A.G. Mohan (who was a disciple of T. Krishnamacharya for 18 years) and a practitioner of traditional yoga exercises says, “In my opinion, the pervading trend these days is understanding the limitations of one’s discipline, seeing a potential strength or benefits in yoga and then combining them both to cater to a certain target group.” He adds, “One of the new variations in yoga is combining yoga with martial arts. It is similar to Tai Chi to the extent that both disciplines have breathing exercises done in a standing pose.”

Apart from this there is also Power Yoga, a rigorous workout routine modelled on the basics of Ashtanga Yoga. This routine is also known to have made yoga popular in gyms in the Western world. It’s also a favourite among celebs like Sameera Reddy and Madonna. However, unlike the original, Power Yoga is focused more on attaining strength and flexibility.

For those looking forward to indulging in a therapeutic retreat of sorts, there are places like Purple Valley Yoga Retreat in Goa. Similarly, Bharat Thakur, a celebrity guru in his own right and husband of actress Bhumika Chawla, runs a company called Artistic Yoga which conducts workshops, group and private classes for hi-profile corporate clients and high fliers. He conducts his sessions at yoga studios in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Moscow and Dubai, and his clients comprise actors Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif.

From the time The Beatles took that one big step which embedded eastern spirituality in a typically western consciousness, the image of yoga changed forever; transforming its appeal from being merely a new-fangled, exotic form of meditation to the larger, multi-ethnic, culturally inclusive context of a different lifestyle altogether. With international proponents ranging from rockstars like Sting and Carlos Santana to Hollywood beauties like Eva Longoria and Nicole Kidman, yoga has found a voice that is echoed by millions across the world, choosing to take a road whose foundation stones were laid more than 2,000 years ago.

Of course, there are also controversial variations to the world’s oldest form of meditation, something that is now gaining popularity in the western world: Naked Yoga. It is believed that the form originated in New York City in the late 90’s when a US national who was rather conspicuously named Jayadev, founded a group called Midnight Yoga for Men. The speciality of this group was a ritualistic naked practice of yoga in the presence of the infinite, akin to the Naga sadhus of India. However, later imitators of the all-male naked yogis got unwillingly associated with the gay community. And many were only too eager to jump onto the yoga bandwagon.

Practitioner Neelam’s programmes are tailor-made to the requirement of an individual – from a basic two-day introductory programme to a three-month long course (which costs Rs 1,000 per class). Narrating her experiences about how she developed the discipline, Neelam says, “As part of my research in medicine, I came across several young professionals suffering from a similar set of ailments – heart diseases, blood pressure, sleep deprivation and hypertension. That’s when I was struck by an out-of-the-blue idea of combining my knowledge of dance with yoga to come up with a new concoction of therapy. I have a yoga studio where I conduct my classes and I have also come up with a Vedic Gram, which is built on an area of about 50 acres in Gurgaon. It’s a natural environment where people can come to get rejuvenated by dance yoga. It should be fully operational by October or so.”

Whenever an art is adapted for a different target group, changes are inevitable. Twenty years ago yoga belonged to the category of an ancient science, now it is considered trendy. And with its new avatars gaining popularity, yoga is on a roll.


Power Yoga: A series of poses in rapid succession. (Sameera Reddy, Sting, Madonna, Woody Harrelson, Willem DaFoe)

Facial Yoga: A series of exercise for your facial muscles to make your face look taut, radiant and beautiful. (Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Victoria ‘Posh’ Beckham) Oneness Yoga: Based on the principal of oneness of the individual with the universe. (Shilpa Shetty, Richard Gere, Manisha Koirala Gerard Butler (of 300 fame), Uma Thurman)

Bikram Yoga: Known as Hot Yoga, practised in a heated room, to clean toxins. (Kareena Kapoor)

Ashtanga Yoga: Fast, intense, physically demanding, requires rapid movement from one asana to the other.

Small symbols hold big truths

The setting sun cast its orange hues across the sky as I strolled back from an evening walk. My steps moved forward, crushing the dried leaves under them as I soaked in the ambience of the evening, a beauty at once both peaceful and sombre. Awakened from the flight of thoughts by the beep of an SMS from my daughter, I found that the message was brief but explicit: a heart pierced by an arrow.

I found myself smiling at the intensity of feelings of my little one who was not so little anymore but a full fledged woman in her own right. Life seemed to have crashed to a dead end as a relationship headed towards its inevitable culmination. Was this her second? Or if you counted the crush in primary school, probably the third? And yet deep within I felt the pain of the soul thirsting for its own homing. The fleeting involvements of the youth may appear so superfluous, and yet reflect a yearning universal to the human heart – of discovering and uniting with its other half. As I turned the key to the front door of my house, the sun set signalling the end of one more day.

Life would be dreary and colourless if the material world with its kaleidoscopic images did not connect one to the profound insights of the soul. Dessicated would be a mind which on registering a fragilely beautiful butterfly did not remember the transience of life. The human individual has a range within which he perceives the outer world. However, there are higher truths the eyes cannot see nor the hands touch (normally that is).

Expression being our innate nature, the human psyche unravels and intelligently uses some signs, pictures, sounds which go beyond representing the surface truth to a deeper, sometimes difficult to logically grasp, reality. Such an instrument of consciousness is called a symbol and has continued

to fascinate the doctors of the mind and healers of the soul.

A symbol is a sign, picture or word which represents more than the obvious and literal meaning to suggest a connotation which is not so apparent. For instance, a plus sign signifies addition. Consciously it has been utilised by the mathematician, the physicist and the astrologer to convey scientific and mystical formulae.

Despite the rich diversity of human expression, stripped of externals the human heart is strangely universal. At its core is a longing for a love which embraces and an identity which includes all.

Religion the world over is the endeavour of the human heart to assuage its mortal loneliness and the human mind to make the ever exciting discovery of its true identity – Who really am I? Just a spark of life which will be extinguished one day, or a flame which will live forever? In this quest we have been aided by religious symbols, some shared and some specific.

A cross brings to mind the suffering of Christ which continues to redeem us. But a cross as a symbol is the amalgam of material and spiritual which entail unavoidable suffering. It is easier to renounce than to strive for perfection in the face of heartbreaks, bereavements and the ironical quirks of life we call injustice.

Similar is the significance of the lotus. The swamp that the lotus is anchored in is the strife and challenge of daily life. The lotus grows valiantly towards the sun and is the most beautiful flower despite its dirty abode. The lotus is exceptional since it is one flower which bears the fruit and the seed simultaneously, signifying that every cause has lurking in itself the inevitable effect and that every event vibrates with the energy of the original cause. (In fact, Mira Alfasa, the Mother of Pondicherry, has done a whole thesis on a wide variety of flowers and their deep and hidden significance.)

The swastika, an extension of the cross, has been used to denote the cardinal directions and solar power. In Sanskrit the word swastik is split into 2 parts: su meaning well, and asti meaning to be.

It is used as a symbol of elephant-headed Ganesha, each portion of whose resplendent form has a meaning. The huge head of Ganpati is for the complex cerebral cortex of the evolved human and his sharp intellect. The trunk represents our skill at the grossest to most subtle and refined tasks. The small eyes stand for penetrating insight and the large ears for being a good listener. The pendulous abdomen of Ganesha is for keeping confidences and successfully assimilating the good and sorrowful experiences of life. The one intact tooth (the other being broken and missing) causes him to be called Ekadanta (the single-toothed one), the meaning conveyed being one who is not swayed by the opposites – praise and censure, prosperity and decline, birth and death.

The swastika is an emblem of auspiciousness or kalyan, as also is Ganesha who represents the contemporary enlightened individual, the new-age sage who is simultaneously capable of upmarket strategies as well as diving within in meditation.

The parents of Ganesha are Shiva (symbolises Supreme Consciousness) and Shakti (Supreme Power) whose union creates Ganesha (the wisdom to overcome obstacles). The lingam, the most widely used symbol of the attributeless Absolute Shiva, is a word which itself translates as ‘sign’ or ‘symbol’. Worship of the lingam which has its lower portion fixed in the yoni (symbolic of the changing manifestations of the static eternal reality) is said to untie the knots of all accumulated causes and liberate one from samsara (never ending round of birth and death).

In fact the art and science of tantra (meaning expansion of the mind to liberate it) considers the human body as a temple of the divine, with the soul being Shiva or supreme awareness, Parvati being the buddhi (discriminatory intelligence), the vital life force and its divisions being the attendants of the cosmic couple. By adorning herself with the red bindi or dot on her forehead, the lady of the house carries a subtle reminder that she is a reflection of the Shakti she worships. On the other hand, a man wears a tripundara tilak which consists of three lines and a bindi/dot. The three lines are indicative of the three fundamental qualities of nature/a human being -tamas (that which veils the luminosity within), sattva (that which reveals it) and rajas (the force by which they act on each other).

Simple rituals at the time of worship are means for purifying the element represented, eg. offering sweets purifies and energises the earth within us, water serves to cleanse and raise emotions, the diya or lamp signifies our undying aspiration to journey from perfection to greater perfection, the sound of the conch connects us to the ether within and without, whereas the fragrance of the incense activates the air or vayu tattva. Bhasma or ash applied on the third eye serves as a reminder that one is not the body which ages, decays and dies but the unborn, perennial consciousness which dons one garment (body) after another.

A particular aspect of tantra is also the sensuality of the act of physicality becoming the object of dhyana for a man and a woman and an expedient means for their liberation.

Thus symbols are the keys to the mysteries of the unfathomable spirit, the beauty of the finer layers of the mind and powers of the multi-faceted energy of the universe. Rituals are symbols which bridge the gap between man and the perfection within, which he conceives of as God. If God is a concept or symbol created by the human mind to grasp the elusive Truth of existence, all that we see in the universe including the sun, the stars, the little creatures and the powerful giants are all symbols of That which caused it all!

A symbol can silence the human mind till it looks back to suddenly realise that it is that which it was looking for, all this while.

The writer is a psycho-spiritual counsellor, alternate therapist, medical specialist and pathologist

‘Vipassana set me free, made me fearless’

Few books had a tremendous impact on me and got me closer to the presence of divinity. Like the Autobiography of a Yogi, Living with the Himalayan Masters, Touched by Fire, the Vedanta Treatise, the Gita, and many other works and writings of Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Chinmayananda, to name a few. Spiritual discourses by learned teachers, directly or through the recorded audio route always leave me seeking for more.

But a 10-day Vipassana meditation course taught by my teacher Shri S.N. Goenkaji left a great impression on my mind. It was in 1999 when I was the joint commissioner, Police Training, in Delhi Police. I had seen a positive effect of these courses on prisoners and the staff when I was with the Tihar jail. Whoever did the course changed for the better in innumerable ways. All this while, I was only inspiring people to do the course, and this was the first time that I personally went for it.

I so wanted to go for it. And most of all, I wanted the cops to do it too. And without my doing it they would not have done it. It would have been one more forced order. And this one had to be voluntary. My doing it made them curious. Hence they followed. The 10 days of total silence, no reading, no writing, no talking, no viewing of the television, no visitors, no external communication was amazing and unbelievable.

It was all about self-observation during those 10 days. All the traffic of thoughts, which were constantly travelling in my mind, were controlled. All that I clung to was observed. All that angered me was realised. All that I thought I could never be without was experienced and observed. All the people I resented, surfaced and faded into oblivion.

I could get up by four in the morning absolutely fresh and sleep at night meditating, observing body sensations. The discourses given by my teacher were life altering. I learnt about the fundamentals of life and the inviolable laws of nature. I saw how we burn our energy wastefully clinging on to temporary issues, how we continue to live in the past and make the present also the past. This course made me move on. It truly set me free. It made me fearless. I completed the course with the clarity of thoughts. I could now regulate and direct my mental traffic. I was trained to observe its flow and channel it. Then, I started valuing silence. I learnt to listen to myself more. Even my silence spoke. I could see things more dispassionately. I became more forgiving. It raised my internal levels of peace. Most of all, it made me more detached.

As told to Shruti Badyal

Krishna is all for dancing, singing

Krishna is utterly incomparable, he is so unique. Firstly, his uniqueness lies in the fact that although Krishna happened in the ancient past he is really of the future. Man has yet to grow to that height where he can be a contemporary of Krishna’s. He is still beyond man’s understanding; he continues to puzzle and baffle us. In the background of serious and sad religions of the past it is Krishna alone who comes dancing, singing and laughing.

A religion accepting life is yet to be born

Religions of the past were all life-denying and masochistic, extolling sorrow and suffering as great virtues. A laughing religion, a religion that accepts life in its totality is yet to be born. Every religion, up to now, has divided life into two parts, and while they accept one part they deny the other, Krishna alone accepts the whole of life. That is why India held him to be a perfect incarnation of God, while all other incarnations were assessed as imperfect and incomplete. And there is a reason for saying so. The reason is that Krishna has accepted and absorbed everything that life is.

The juice of life is in the body

But it was unfortunate that we did not allow Krishna to influence our life in a broad way. He remains a lonely dancing island in the vast ocean of sorrow and misery that is our life.

Up to now, man’s mind has thought of and looked at life in fragments – and thought dialectically. The religious man denies the body and accepts the soul. And what is worse, he creates a conflict, a dichotomy between the body and spirit. He denies this world, he accepts the other world, and thus creates a state of hostility between the two. Naturally our life is going to be sad and miserable if we deny the body, because all our life’s juice – its health and vitality, its sensitivities and beauty, all its music – has its source in the body.

Krishna accepts total life

Krishna alone accepts the body in its totality. And he accepts it not in any selected dimension but in all its dimensions. Krishna has a great future. Krishna alone seems to be relevant to the new awareness, to the new understanding that came to man in the wake of Freud and his findings. After Freud the world of religion is not going to be the same as it was before him. It is so because in the whole history of the old humanity Krishna alone is against repression. He accepts life in all its facets, in all its climates and colours.

Courtesy Osho International Foundation/

Life with Kishore Kumar

More than 20 years have passed after legendary singer Kishore Kumar died. But his golden voice is still with us, reverberating down the corridors of time. A new generation has ecstatically rediscovered him. Recently, on the occasion of his 79th birth anniversary, his widow Leena Chandavarkar announced his biopic, to be directed by Shoojit Sarkar in collaboration with UTV. Later she shared vignettes of her life with the eccentric and lovable Kishoreda.

On Kishore’s marriages Well, he was like a child at heart. He always took life very easily. His only legal and planned marriage was to me. The rest were impulsive acts. When he got married to Ruma Guha, his brother Ashok Kumar asked him about it. Kishore quipped: “I just got it registered in the court.”

When he proposed to me, I was going through a hard time myself. My first husband had died and I was very depressed. Kishore was then making a movie called Ajnabee. He called me up and told me he wanted to cast me opposite him. I first said no. Then he told me in a poetic way – Hamaari yeh zid hai ki hum tumhe zaroor payenge (I am adamant that I will have you). I just laughed at this.

A month later, when I finally called him, he just picked the phone up and said, “Yes, Leena, tell me.” I was very surprised. I asked him how he knew it was me on the line and he said, “As soon as the phone rang my heart told me it was you.”

One fine day, I accepted his proposal. He forced me to come out of my depression, forget the past and move on with my life. I now realise that he was so right in the way he handled things. He didn’t waste his energy on things that didn’t matter. He always took life as it came.

His eccentricities

I remember one day our bungalow was raided by income tax officials. I was so worried. But Kishore was busy singing. He had a shower and went straight to the puja room. Then he came out of there and went looking for the IT officials. The officials were sitting outside. He told them, “Why don’t you check the third tile? Why don’t you dig here? I have hidden a treasure down here.” After some time he took them to the garden and started pointing at a tree and said, “Look there is a big hole in the tree. That is where I have hoarded loot. In fact, the winter birds made it their nest.” I wasn’t in a mood for jokes and so I yelled at him and asked him how he could make jokes at such a time. The worst part was that the IT officials took him seriously.

His confidence

I would sometimes jokingly tell him that he was not a good singer and would be forgotten as time passes. “Time and tide wait for no one,” I would say, “With new entrants in the music world you will be gone and forgotten.” Then he said, “Singers will come and go. But one thing I know is that my fans will always remember me and even the coming generations will know who I was. I will not be forgotten even after I am gone.”

How right he was! Whatever he did, he did with a clear conscience. He was so like a child – so simple and so appealing and charming. I wish he was still here with us.

On his divorces

Well, Ruma Guha didn’t ditch him as is generally believed. It was in his destiny to marry four women. No one person is ever at fault when a relationship fails. It takes two to tango.

The legendary miser

Kishore enjoyed spreading stories about himself. He would tell everyone, “I am a miser and I am mad too.” People took him seriously and started spreading these stories. But contrary to his image, he was actually a spendthrift. He liked to spend money on others. He couldn’t see anyone suffering. In his biopic, we will try to show his real self – good and bad

As told to Lipika Varma

A Sporting Life

Hearing the Indian national anthem in an Olympic stadium after 28 years, I was transported to a future Olympics, when I would be amongst many hundred Indian fathers applauding our children winning medals for India.

Growing up in a familial environment exposed to diverse sports, I too nurtured sporting dreams, but in a socialist India some decades ago such spirit was incongruent with opportunity, unless you were in the army or a government undertaking.

My earliest experiences of sport were watching my mother coach the erstwhile Mysore basketball team to victory from atop Dad’s shoulders, then aged 5 being dispatched into the depths of the Dhakuria Lakes in Calcutta – by a lifeguard, serving as my aquatic initiation.

Rishabh and Ahan, my sons now ten and nearly nine, enjoyed a comparatively benign baptism aged 18 months, cradled in my palms across a clear swimming pool. Aged four, they were cycling round the block and a year later collecting cardboard ‘golds’ for athletics at school.

Having learned more about teamwork, camaraderie, competition and failure from the sports arena than the classroom, I was resolute in sharing with my lads the experience of sport.

Discovering a new sport continues every summer. Rishabh’s overconfidence has met with comeuppance; playing with 40 aggressive children fighting for a football transformed his attitude when learning cricket. Ahan’s reticence while learning basketball conceded to brimming confidence under the guidance of a paternal hockey coach.

Some years earlier, touching 40, I embarked on a journey of mind and body, learning Kalaripayattu – the ancient martial art – that young boys in Kerala start at 7. During my first weeks of training, my bones crackled like a bamboo grove in a storm, and I discovered muscles and parts of the anatomy through aches and pains. Ofcourse I wanted to throw in the towel on a daily basis but the battlefield expertise of Kalaripayattu instilled a mental toughness.

Training under Nisha Millet converted swimming for fun into a passion for my sons. Simultaneously, they were introduced to Kalaripayattu – protesting in contrast – unable to understand the intangibles of the torturous learning curve. With practice is revealed the importance of focus to confront the challenges and solitude of competition.

The hunger to push the performance envelope in the swimming pool whetted by a voracious appetite for competition fuel their training at an aquatic centre of Olympic excellence in Basavangudi. A partnership of parents, government and the private sector makes striving for Olympics 2016 a dreamable dream.

What might seem an unorthodox approach is actually returning to the psycho-physiological regimen devised by the Dronacharyas of yore to produce Arjunas and Eklayvas.

The ‘spin off’ is in academics with more learning achieved in less time affording the boys more time for recreation. Term exams or not, they find time to swim, cycle and play a game of pool with each other, since their friends are quarantined in study.

For our national anthem to resonate alternately with China’s in every stadium by 2020, we have to rehabilitate our traditional psycho-physiological knowledge from obscurity into our education syllabus. Our children need parks not malls; we have to metamorphose from a country of crabs and forge a national character of impeccable quality to distil five hundred of the finest for Olympics 2020. Sport cannot be reduced to a means to obtain a college admission or access job quotas but considered a reputable profession.

You can mail your responses to ranjan.kamath@

Who talks more? Why men and women are lost in translation

She talks too much!” is apparently the reason George Clooney gave the world for dumping his waitress-turned-model girlfriend Sarah Larson. And while women are generally blamed for jabbering on too long and too loud about nothing much at all, apparently it’s not our fault either.

Instead it’s all in our DNA. If only we could keep our chit-chat under stricter control, perhaps the men wouldn’t be scared away faster, and we could tell them about our new diet or latest bout of bowel movements.

Scientists have often proved what we’ve long suspected – that women talk a whopping amount more than men chalking up 20,000 words a day, while men utter just 7000.

Yet, if we look at the facts, the consensus is out on who talks more as the numbers seem to differ everywhere you look. Dr Scott Haltzman says women use about 7000 words a day and men use about 2000. Ruth E. Masters reckons women use 25,000 words per day while men use 12,000. And James Dobson says that “God gives a woman 50,000 words a day, while her husband only gets 25,000”!

Either way, we speak more quickly, more animatedly and more nonsensically than the blokes. In order to discover why we love speaking so darn much, I decided to consult body language expert Allan Pease, author of Why Men Don’t Listen And Women Cant Read Maps, who says that it’s because our brains are hardwired differently to a man’s that makes us light up with the prospect of getting to jabber.

“At the end of a day full of problems, a man’s mono-tracking brain can file them all away,” Pease explains. The female brain does not store information in this way – the problems just keep going around and around in her head.”

Hence the only way to stop this buzzing in our brains is to spill it all out. When we do talk, a rush of serotonin fills our brains, giving us emotions akin to what a heroin addict would feel on a high. (No wonder we like to do it so much!) And yet, as Pease notes, when we do talk at the end of our day, it’s not to find solutions but it’s to discharge the problems. Hence making no sense to the men whatsoever. The trouble, as Christo, a radio presenter, so aptly puts it, is that we talk so much that men have stopped listening.

“Most men just say ‘yes’ and nod a whole lot to whatever you’re saying and pretend like they’re listening,” he says. “I call it being ‘mensitive’; sensitive in a manly way without actually being too sensitive. The best part is women are none the wiser; they just continue to talk.” But not listening to us is not the man’s fault either. Dr Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain, explains that testosterone reduces the size of the section of their brain involved in hearing – allowing men to become “deaf” to their wives and girlfriends. And while they’re busy nodding their heads without listening to a word we’re harping on about, they’re doing something far more important: thinking about sex. So what’s the solution? How do we get men to listen to us? By using the KISS principal. Of course actually kissing them, instead of talking, would solve all our woes, but the old “Keep It Simple Stupid” will do wonders. Keeping it simple, getting to the point and avoiding long-winded tales (unless we make it funny and visually pleasing) and not talking to him when he’s watching TV, playing X-Box or having beers with his best mate.

Oh, and never try to talk to him after sex either. Because while it might be the one time he’s not actually thinking about it, he’s going to be dozed off before you can ever get to the point of the story …

The writer is an author, columnist & dating expert (You can mail your responses to

Sexist, yet a must watch

We have all heard the phrase ‘Everything is fair in love and war’. But it seems like the popular music channel – MTV has taken it a bit too seriously with its new weekend soap Splitsvilla, where love is war. The name itself gives you an insight into the kind of show that it is. To explain it briefly, there are 20 girls who have to perform tasks to impress the two guys, so that they are not ‘dumped’ that week. The show started off with the intention of having two girls winning and getting the prize money of 2.5 lakhs each and the chance to host a show on MTv, as a couple, with the guy who picked them.

But due to the response that the extremely male chauvinist setting generated, the producers of Splitsvilla had no choice but to modify the rules to have only one winning girl who gets to choose which guy will win. This show has become a rage with the younger generation today. You love or you hate it – but you just can’t ignore it.

My first impression of the show was that it was the most sexist show on national television. I mean, whatever happened to the integrity and self respect of women? How could they reduce themselves to such a level? And how can any of the girls and guys actually fall in love in this setting of deception and plotting? But on the other hand, I must admit that after catching a few episodes of the show, I too found it hugely entertaining. The tasks that the girls have to perform, which could range from rock climbing to a sensuous dance, mud wrestling to a bikini photoshoot, whatever it is, they always manage to make it interesting.

The ‘Dumping Zone’ is where the weakest girls every week are put. They then get a ‘second chance’ to go on a date with the guys and convince them not to vote them out. And every week one girl or two girls are dumped (which I think is an extremely demeaning word to use) and leave the show, gradually reducing the number until only one girl is left.

As far as I can see, the girls don’t care about the love aspect of the show anymore. What started out as a fight for love has become a craze for money, lust and fame. But the extreme rivalry between the girls often takes the tasks to a new level all together, having them physically, emotionally and verbally stripping each other. And girls being girls, the plotting, groupism and bitchiness was bound to happen.

So all in all, the show is an entertainer, which has been successful in its mission to get us youngsters hooked on to it. Raghu Ram, the mastermind behind this show, certainly has his formula for a good show right. But what really needs to be questioned is that is this show having a bad influence on the youth of today, with its theme of disloyalty, mistrust, plotting, meanness and sometimes physical violence, the obvious answer is yes. This season of the show has almost come to an end with only three weeks of it left to air. But I am sure they will be back soon with the season two – bitchier, meaner and tougher. So finally, even though I do consider the show to be demeaning to women, I just can’t help but enjoy it.

(The writer is a teenager)

How to catch a confirmed bachelor

Confirmed bachelor: one who has sworn to remain free of the ball and chain of the “evil fiend” woman. By the time he had reached the age of 20, Raghava was sure he would remain single for life. In his mind, women were trouble and girlfriends the stuff of immature teenagers who could afford to waste their time fighting about forgotten birthdays and un-returned phone calls. Sour grapes?

So every time he met a girl, whether or not she might have been girlfriend material, Raghava relegated her to his ever-growing list of Rakhi sisters. The very first time I met Raghava, I was just about to start 9th grade, and I decided immediately after meeting him he was the type of guy that might some day make good boyfriend material for some girl (you might wonder whether I’m kicking myself now and wishing I had known better.)

Considering the awkwardness of most teenage boys, I was very impressed with the fact that he had actual social skills. Wow! Here was a boy my age who could talk to a girl, and that too, a strange girl, without mumbling, fumbling, or trying to act cool. Unfortunately for Raghava, when I met him later on in New York City, I decided that it was time for me to put his boyfriend-worthiness to the test.

Instinctively, I was sure I could catch this confirmed bachelor. I understood his psychology perfectly. I just needed to start slowly. You may wonder how I convinced Raghava that having a girlfriend was not the end of life as he knew it. I discovered that the trick was to make him so utterly dependent that he didn’t even know where his wallet and cellphone were. Unfortunately, I was so successful with my bright idea that I’m stuck with the job of being the money-carrier, cellphone carrier, passport carrier. No cute tiny purse for me. Bring on the backpacks and shoulder bags.

And so our adventure began. Somehow, I extracted a promise out of poor Raghava that he would spend as much time as possible in the US, literally move his base there, until I finished my undergraduate degree four years later. As a little treat, I promised that all holidays, no matter how short, would be spent in Bangalore. Lucky for him, I fell in love with the place in a matter of minutes.

The ultimate transformation had occurred. The confirmed bachelor was no longer a bachelor. In fact, he took to domestication beautifully – he was cooking, entertaining, and running one of the cleanest houses I’ve ever seen. In fact, he instituted mandatory spring-cleaning sessions every weekend throughout the fall, summer, and winter too and forced me to join him in drudging around with mop and broom.

He sometimes reminds me that he thought he’d be a bachelor his whole life. And I remind him how lucky he is that I snatched him from between the jaws of pathetic boredom.

Designer’s studio

Our best photoshoot was at Neemrana fort palace in Alwar, Rajasthan with model Simar Duggal. The reason we chose Neemrana fort was because it was very regal and at the same time showed the spirit of Rajasthan magnificently. Photographer Akhil Bakshi shot these pictures in 1997. The collection has Rajasthan as the theme. The garments we designed for this collection were very ethnic and celebrated the heritage of Rajasthan. The lehengas had beautiful threadwork with embellishments like pearls and mirrors. The dresses were very colourful and we teamed them up with beautiful Indian jewellery. The makeup was kept subtle and Simar looked pretty in the Indian dresses and posed exactly the way photographer asked her.

For this particular collection, we chose the vibrant colours of the desert and blended it with gold to give it a very royal look. We stayed there for two days and waited for sunset and sunrise to shoot the pictures. The photographer did a wonderful job and played with the natural light beautifully. All the pictures turned out very well and this collection was a big hit.

Woes of the AV Servicing Industry
By Naresh Sadhwani and Deepak Jhangiani

There was a time when the main USP of the consumer electronics manufacturers was the strength of their after-sales-service. Almost all major brands set up elaborate service centres in every potential market area and boasted same day service. This era spawned many independent techno-entrepreneurs with multi-service centres providing service to multi-national brands. The main products that required regular and frequent servicing were the amplifiers, spool tape recorders, cassette recorders, car stereos and black and white televisions. Soon came the era of the heavy duty VCRs sand colour televisions which further added to the work load of the service industry.

The downturn came with the advent of the Microprocessor based AV products with hardly gave any problems. Since these products had minimum movable parts and max ICs the failure rates were significantly reduced prompting companies to targetting 0 per cent failure during and after warranty periods. With lower failure rates and falling prices of electronic products and increasing overheads it soon became unviable for companies to maintain their own service centres, many resorted to shutting down these set ups to reduce costs. Others outsourced their service obligations to individual service operators.

More international brands/standard quality and price wars not only resulted in lesser demand for service but made replacing a better option than repairing, sounding the final death knells for the now widespread entrepreneur driven service set ups.

However, today heralds a new birth for the service technicians. Price wars and fierce competition have necessitated that even strong brands opt for the cheaper Chinese products to reduce price. Lower price means non-standard quality and frequently these low priced gadgets give way in their very first week of operation, ergo a new birth for the service technicians to fulfill warranty obligations. Has the AV service industry come a full circle? Only time will tell.

Readers are invited to email their queries/suggestions/comments to

Good old DD days…

It might be raining new television shows and entertainment channels, but the present generation of actors still look back fondly at the early days of India’s soap culture. They recall the thrills and highs of watching the classic serials on Doordarshan.

The first among these shows were Ramayana and Mahabharata based on great epics of Hindu mythology. Many viewers started worshipping the actors portraying the roles of Ram and Krishna. But there was much more than this that attracted people towards the newly introduced 35mm shows. Serials like Buniyaad, Nukkad, Hum Log, Circus, Fauji and Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi are few names that can easily be remembered with delight.

For actor Rohit Roy serials like Buniyaad and Hum Log will always be cherished. Though he accepts that the entertainment industry has gone through a transformational phase over the years, he says that it’s always in quantitative terms rather than qualitative. Recalling the old series Hum Log, he says, “Earlier, the basic concept of the serial used to be to depict the real picture of our country. Can a middle-class woman relate to any of the characters they see in serials being telecast today? Unfortunately, the answer is no.” He adds that most of the serials are shot in huge houses, with actors adorning expensive clothes and in the name of plots what you get to see are the same cliched stories. “Most of these illusory things don’t exist in our real society at all. Hum Log was the story of a lower middle-class family and its trials and tribulations. Similar was the case with Buniyaad,” he says.

Actor and singer Karan Oberoi agrees. He appreciates the technological development in the industry, but feels the storyline of most of the shows have seen a drastic decline. According to him, there’s no zing in the present roles. Moreover, he thinks 10 years down the line no one will remember the serials that are being made today, but everyone who witnessed the initial days of TV would remember the classic series that appeared on Doordarshan. “Can any actor stand at par with the comic role that Satish Shah portrayed in Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi?” he says, comparing the quality of acting in both periods. “There’s no one,” he adds. However, Karan reacts positively about the initial shows on private channels. “The earlier shows that Zee TV came up with were good. Later, Sailaab and Saaya were among those few serials that can be considered as a benchmark before the rapid deterioration of the content in the serials,” he says.

Among the fresh bunch of actors, while many think the old industry was good, there are some who are happy with the present industry as well. Sharad Malhotra, who gained popularity through his serial Banoo Main Teri Dulhann and Rucha Gujrati of Bhabhi fame are happy with the way the industry is growing. Rucha believes that the present day industry is providing a wide platform to many youngsters.

“It is wrong to compare the periods of TV, every period has its own charm and relevance,” says Rucha. “Back in the 80s, we started from scratch. It had nothing that it could be compared with, but no one can deny the progress that the current industry is witnessing,” she adds. Sharad adds, “In the 80s, one of the reason that TV got so popular was the novelty factor. Now, it has grown massively both financially and technically.”

Though, these actors praise the existing industry, they can’t deny the popularity of classic shows. “Circus, Gul Gulshan Gulfam and Nukkad are some of the serials that come instantly to my mind when I think of the good old days of Doordarshan. Those were phenomenal days when people gathered in crowds to watch the telecast of these serials. The golden era can never come back,” says Sharad.

Interestingly, Rucha considers herself the “branch” of that tree whose seed was sown in the 80s. She says that the content of the shows during that era can’t be reinvented. “I feel that the same old magic can be revived if the plots are given utmost importance instead of the lavish sets and dizziness-arousing camera movements. The script-writers should try to experiment and present us with something innovative beyond the saas-bahu sagas that have ruled the television industry for so long,” says Rucha.

‘No question of a sabbatical’

Aishwarya Rai is on cloud nine. She married the most eligible bachelor in town and has been getting rave reviews for her performances in her recent movies. And in The Unforgettable Tour, the whole world is her stage. The most beautiful woman of the world cannot keep the excitement out of her voice when she talks about all this, especially her world tour with hubby Abhishek and pa Amitabh.

“No matter what anyone says, the response has been phenomenal,” she says, ridiculing detractors who have termed the show a flop. “But that was expected when pa is involved. He is an institution and people love him wherever we go. All of us might be standing on stage together, but the audiences just want more of him. He is bigger in stature than all of us put together.”

What about the talk that these shows are about the Bachchans trying to flex their muscles and show their clout in the industry. “Says who?” counters the bahu. “Come on, does Mr Amitabh Bachchan need to prove a point to anyone? All that’s been said is just ridiculous and unnecessary.”

If reports are to be believed, then audiences are enthusiastically responding to Aishwarya and Madhuri Dixit dancing together to Dola Re on stage. The two had not hit it off well during the shooting of Devdas. Is it better now since both of them are married actresses? “That’s an interesting observation,” laughs Aishwarya. “It is not like we had a cold war during Devdas. I have always respected Madhuri as my senior and as an amazing actress. But we didn’t have a lot in common then to talk about and the media pitted us against each other. Today, as you say, we are both married and are actresses; we already have two things in common.”

And Ash and Mads have also been spending time together during the shows. “We also have a passion for dance and it is showing in our performances,” says Aishwarya.

But is Aishwarya also planning a sabbatical as Madhuri did after marriage? “Well, life changes after marriage and that’s an understatement,” she laughs. “But sabbatical? Hardly. I am in fact very busy after marriage. First, there was the shooting of Jodhaa Akbar and Pink Panther 2, and then Sarkar Raj. Then we started preparing for the tour. There’s been a whirlwind of activity and I can predict there’s more to come.”

If that is so, why are reports appearing that she is hesitating to do Shankar’s Robot with Rajnikant? “There’s no dilly dallying,” she says. “Rajnikant is an institution like Pa and I will be honored to finally work with him. We have come close to working together in the past, so let us not talk about it too soon.”

And as usual she fields questions about her marriage with aplomb. “No interview is complete without scribes wanting to know how things are between us,”she says. “Things are great. Abhi is amazing, and has been very supportive of me. We understand each other perfectly and that makes life so much simpler.”

“People are saying whatever they feel like,” she adds. “If we start denying each and every allegation, we will have nothing else to do. But no, I am not pregnant and neither are we fighting and pulling each other’s hair apart.”

But there must be some truth in the rumours that Abhishek has lost his female fans after he tied the knot with her. “Really?”asks Aishwarya. “You haven’t seen the girls screaming his name at the shows.”

Actors indulge in sadism, not stardom
By Vikram Bhatt

Elia Kazan once said that star tantrums did not bother him but what bothered him was their “genuine concerns”. This only means star tantrums dressed up as genuine concerns. I am angry as I write this piece and I am angry because for too long the mid-level stars have got their kicks on the poor hapless producer’s expense.

I read in the newspaper that Govinda had left a shooting schedule incomplete in London and returned. Apparently he had genuine concerns about some mid course corrections in the script and was not willing to do a dance sequence that showed him dancing in front of the Queen of England. He did not think it was politically right for him to do so. Probably not and I do agree that if it was a last minute change then he had all the right in the world to refuse to do it though I don’t think the Queen of England knows who Govinda is or gives a farthing for his dance sequence in her presence. We are talking about a Queen that has taken a movie by the same name based on her and her human conflicts on the chin and even went as far as appreciating it. So no, I don’t think she gives a damn about Govinda and his dance sequence but anyways Govinda thinks that she does and so we have a problem.

The solution – he leaves a crew in the lurch in England and comes back to India. I remember a line from Oliver Stones’ JFK. “Modern physics can prove that an elephant can hang from a cliff with its tail tied to a daisy.” Indeed, it is possible to find a reason for your most erratic behavior and if you are a star, people will keep quiet about it but how right is it? Here I am talking about the producer of the film. What was his fault? He has spent millions of rupees getting visas, permissions, airline tickets, hotels and so much more and suddenly it is all left incomplete. Is it fair to him?

The problem is that sometimes the film fraternity keeps quiet about these issues. They must get together and discipline the errant party. If the director is responsible, then he should be pulled up and if it is the star, he should be answerable too.

It is strange but this place is divided into two kinds of stars. The first, who will go to any extent to prove their stardom and the second, who will go to any extent to make their film a great film. The first kind is interested in being a star and the second kind is interested in acting. People come here for the love of fame and for the love of acting. Be careful of the one who seeks fame because he or she will be the self obsessed troublemaker and drive you out of your wits to prove their stardom.

I have worked with Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Amitabh Bachchan, Arjun Rampal, Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty to name a few stars that are professionalism personified.

They will report on time, go to any extent to make the film better for their presence and also dispel any doubts or concerns that they have in the most professional way.

The problem is that once the producer has invested a sizeable amount of money in a film, what choice does he have but to give in to any tantrum that anyone throws. He may swear to himself that he might never work with them again but apart from that kind of impotent rage, there is not much that he can do.

This is not stardom but sadism and I am sure everyone understands the difference between the two. If you are a star, then try and throw a tantrum with someone whose life does not depend on you and you will soon learn your place.

Akshay jumps to Katrina’s defence

Katrina Kaif and Akshay Kumar have proved to be the hit pair of the year. In fact, all of Katrina’s films opposite Akki have been hits. And this has set the rumour mongers wagging: Katrina is bagging all the roles because Akshay insists on it. “Keep Akshay out of this. He’s a married man,” said Katrina when asked whether it’s true that Akshay is smitten by her and is promoting her to all his producers.

When Akshay was asked the same, he, who has mastered the art of talking to the media now, says, “Why don’t you think it could be the other way around – Katrina has been recommending my name to the producers!”ῠ Getting defensive about his heroine, Akshay said, “Why are you guys picking on her? Nobody is behind anyone’s success. All credit goes to the individual alone. I am just a medium. It’s upon the other person to make the most of the situation.”

Shah Rukh Khan is Vidya’s lucky charm

Vidya Malavade’s career is on the upswing ever since she shared screen space with Shah Rukh Khan in 2007’s biggest film, Chak De. “I have come to believe that SRK is destiny’s child and everyone who comes in contact with him gets a bit of his luck. I guess that’s true for me too! Things have never looked so bright. I am truly excited about my career,” says Vidya whose next release is Sanjay Gadhvi’s Kidnap with Sanjay Dutt and boy du jour Imran Khan.

It only gets better for the actress who made her debut in Vikram Bhatt’s forgettable Inteha followed by the incredible success of Chak De. “I guess it does, I react to my instincts and take up assignments that excite me῅ Sanjay Gadhvi had faith in me and I have tried to do my best. In Kidnap, the star power of Sanjay Dutt and Imran Khan is just the bonus because the script, written by Shibani Bathija, is so exciting. I call Sanjay a gentle giant as he looks so deadly, but is so sweet to talk to. We shot Kidnap for over a year and he went through so much during that time but he’s like the Rock of Gibraltar – unshakeable. He really inspires you. Imran on the other hand is such a cutie! And he’s amazing in the film. My character will surprise the audience. I had a blast doing it and that goes for Chandan Arora’s next film, Striker, too. It breaks stereotypical moulds as far as I am concerned and tells filmmakers I am capable of more than I am being offered right now,” says the actress.

For someone who started pretty late in the business, does she have any regrets of not getting into the Bollywood fray earlier? “Bollywood happened by chance and though it took me some time to make a mark, I have no regrets whatsoever. I am just happy with the opportunities coming my way now,” she reasons adding, “There is so much to learn from my co-stars. From SRK giving a 100 per cent and more every time to Sanjay Dutt who stands tall against all odds to learning how to be spontaneous from Govinda. I have learnt from Nana Patekar that one can never learn enough, especially in acting; he is such an inspiration. And Suniel Shetty is an example of humility and I am lucky to be working with such talented and extremely wonderful human beings.”

My Beautiful London

One of the most revealing insights into Britain’s recent social history comes early in My Son the Fanatic, Hanif Kureishi’s tender and darkly prescient 1997 film. It’s morning in an unnamed city in northern England, and Parvez, a secular Pakistani immigrant taxi driver brilliantly portrayed by Om Puri, watches Farid, his increasingly devout college-age son, sell his electric guitar. “Where is that going?” Parvez asks Farid as the buyer drives off. “You used to love making a terrible noise with these instruments.” Farid, played by Akbar Kurtha, looks at his father with irritation. “You always said there were more important things than Stairway to Heaven,” he says impatiently in his thick northern English accent. “You couldn’t have been more right.”

This seemingly casual exchange cuts to the heart of almost everything that has animated Kureishi in nearly three decades as a playwright, screenwriter, novelist and essayist. This is, after all, the man who co-edited The Faber Book of Pop and whose films and novels – including My Beautiful Laundrette and The Buddha of Suburbia – are filled with raucous sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. But this is also the man who had the presence of mind to poke around in English mosques in the late 80s and early 90s, sensing that something might be stirring there, as indeed it was. Kureishi’s novel The Black Album, set in 1989 and named after a Prince album, explored the growing discontent, disenfranchisement and radicalism of some young British Muslims. Not so many people were paying attention back in 1995, when it first appeared, but 10 years later, when bombings rocked central London on July 7, the collective consciousness had begun to catch up. Now even the monarchy has taken notice.

This spring, Kureishi, who recently turned 53, paid a visit to Buckingham Palace, where the queen named him a Commander of the British Empire. (The same day, she also bestowed honours on the Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue and several dozen others.) Not bad for a boy who grew up watching sitcoms in Bromley, a middle-class London suburb, the son of a Pakistani father and an English mother at a time when mixed marriages were still rare. Kureishi was delighted by the honour; he and his three sons went to the palace dressed in morning suits, while his partner wore a splendid feathered hat. “Do you know what it says on the medal?” Kureishi asked in a phone conversation after the May 1 ceremony. “‘For God and the Empire.’ You can’t get better than that. The only causes are the lost causes – or the nonexistent ones.”

To many, Kureishi’s C.B.E. is a sign of needed change. His accolade, along with Salman Rushdie’s being knighted in June, indicates that these writers “aren’t voices from elsewhere, these are voices from here, these are our voices,” says Hannah Rothschild, a friend of both writers and a documentary filmmaker. “There’s no divide anymore. They are us, we are them.”

When Kureishi burst onto the scene in 1985 with My Beautiful Laundrette, his Oscar-nominated debut screenplay, few would have imagined that he would wind up with the initials C.B.E. after his name. The film, directed by Stephen Frears, detonated all kinds of cultural assumptions with its depictions of a gay skinhead (played by a wiry young Daniel Day-Lewis), various Thatcherite Pakistani businessmen and their wives and lovers. Today, Kureishi hasn’t quite mellowed, but he does seem to be enjoying his evolution to honoured eminence from angry young man – or from rebellious son to adoring father of three young boys, whom he talks about constantly.

Kureishi discussed his life with me and work with me not long ago as we sat in a cafe in Shepherd’s Bush, the now-gentrifying corner of West London where he has lived for years. “It was Blair, really, who started giving awards to trash,” he said, half-joking. “Rubbish entertainers, people from the arts. Before that writers didn’t get anything, really.” Then again, he added, “If it’s good enough for Kylie Minogue, it’s good enough for Hanif Kureishi, isn’t it?” With intent, dark eyes and spiky grey hair, Kureishi tends to look perpetually taken aback, as if he had just been struck by a cold blast of air. More reserved than standoffish, he’s often reluctant to discuss certain questions, preferring instead to deflect them with darkly comic self-deprecation. But when he seizes hold of an idea, the power of his insights is formidable.

Kureishi’s latest novel, Something to Tell You is his most ambitious book since The Black Album. A sprawling romp set in London, it centres on Jamal, an Anglo-Pakistani Freudian analyst confronting certain unresolved questions about his past. Along the way, his best friend, Henry, takes up with Jamal’s sister, Miriam, a petty drug dealer and distributor of porn videos and other items that fell off the back of a truck. Everyone is swept up in a wave of late-onset kinkiness. As in so much of Kureishi’s work, there’s a lot of sex here. Little is left to the imagination. At one point, Jamal goes to a basement sex club, its walls covered in whips and costumes, and asks a prostitute to dress like a British Airways hostess. While he waits for the Viagra and the painkillers to kick in, the prostitute tells him she’s working toward a master’s degree. “She was ‘doing’ decadence and apocalypse, always a turn-of-the-century preoccupation, along with calls for a ‘return to the family,'” Kureishi writes. “Unfortunately, this millennium, our fears had turned out to be realities. It had been worse than we imagined.”

In our conversation, Kureishi described the novel as “a critique of the notion of limitless pleasure,” a re-examination of the sexual revolution. “Is this what we thought we would be in the 60s when were dancing around with flowers in our hair wanting a more erotic and a more sexual life?” he said as he drank his peppermint tea. “If the society doesn’t install the values anymore,” he went on to say, “your happiness and your pleasure is entirely up to you; you have to work and earn it and install your own moral values”. This, he pointed out, accounts for a common “complaint of the West against radical Islam, ‘Why do they have to keep asking God? Why can’t they, as it were, make up their own minds?’ Well, it’s much harder to install your own moral values than to have them imposed by other people or by the system.” Things were “miserable” when he was growing up in the 60s before the sexual revolution, Kureishi said, but now, he added, “we’ve moved from repression to unrepression” – which comes with its own strictures.

Of raw life, math and show-off
By Sunil K. Poolani

Rereading Charles Bukowski’s Post Office after several years, one was remorseful to see the effort and pain our celebrity authors take to safeguard their feel-good reputation, to conveniently bury a “dubious” past, if any.

If Bukowski, that ever-so-iconoclastic writer, chose to meticulously demolish his own reputation in almost all his autobiographical books and fiction, our own trapeze artists hog the Page 3 circuit, putting on their best-ever smiles to conceal their bad divorces or past plagiarisms.

Born in Germany in 1920 to an American father and German mother, Bukowski grew up in Los Angeles, enduring a childhood and youth marked by bullying from other boys and regular beatings from his abusive father. If Bukowski smelled of cheap liquor, our ilk reeked of expensive French perfumes; if Bukowski chose to wear his jeans and T-shirt for more than a week, our tribe entered into designer suits five times a day; if῅

But Bukowski wrote much better than all our con artists put together. He won millions of admirers for his supremely visceral style; a style that is meant to be experienced more than read. Good writing is not about champagne and caviar, but local brew and boiled potatoes.

Math and fiction

I have just finished an interesting book. A Certain Ambiguity (Penguin Viking), by Gaurav Suri and Hartosh Singh Bal. Mathematics is like any other stream of arts, be it literature, performing arts or plastic arts. There is an infinity that is mind-boggling and there lies the beauty; a realisation that more you analyse and solve the mysteries of the game, the more the awareness that it is vastly and hugely endless. Galileo, Plato and our own Ramanujam realised it, so do most of the contemporary mathematical brains.

One reflective conclusion that can be drawn out of mathematics is how much ever ambiguous it might seem, the more you delve deep into it, with a pinch of modesty and decorum, and more are the chances of solving them and, in the process, enjoying them. It is true that mathematics, like any other art form, is losing its relevance; precisely for that reason this attempt to revive and regenerate interest in this stream of science should be welcomed.

Question ofῠ existence

There are people who publish books. There are people who sell books. And there are people who really read books. Finally, there are people who pretend to read books. You can see the last ilk all over around you: in malls, in snazzy coffee shops, in airports. Nothing worrisome, as long as the books are sold (see, I am a publisher).

What amuses me is the kind of books they carry with them these days. No, not Archer, Huntington, Sachs or even our desi Chetan Bhagat or Robin Sharma, but great classicists. I read a report sometime back which said George W. Bush has been advised by his spin doctors to carry Albert Camus’ The Outsider while on vacation so that he will look an intellectual.

A White House spokesman said Bush “found it an interesting book and a quick read,” and talked about it with aides. “I don’t want to go too deep into it, but we discussed the origins of existentialism.”

I haven’t stopped laughing since then. The French existentialist should be turning in his grave, crying why he wasted his life writing all those classics.


An editor in a publishing house was fed up of a mercurial assistant editor. He summoned her into his cabin and told her, “Hello, the way things are going I don’t think we will be working together from now on.” The assistant’s response, “Congratulations, Sir, so where are you joining?”

The writer is the publisher and managing editor,

Frog Books, an imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd, Mumbai. Write to him at

‘I’m truly in love

Books are perfect stress busters for me. I read a lot regardless of whether I am travelling or not. I feel relaxed after reading. I love reading Salman Rushdie’s books. He is my favourite author and I’m truly in love with him. His writing style and imagination is simply superb. Midnight’s Children is one of the novels I enjoyed the most. Recently, I discovered another author Tom Robbin whose writing impressed me a lot. He has a brilliant way of presenting things. His writing seems like a love poem. Once you start reading him you will find yourself completely involved.

Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins is another book I cherish. It is a crazy book. A story about the love affair between an environmentalist princess and an outlaw, the book will take you to another world. It has all the aspects that an avid reader like me would like to read. From romance to consumerism, from aliens to animals, it has everything to hook you to it.

Another book that I liked was The Last Song of Dusk by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi. I liked it because it has a very practical approach towards love. If it has the pleasure of love then it has also exposed the pain in love.

Gregory David Robert’s Shantaram is one novel that I finished and immediately picked up to read once again. I fell in love with the book, the author and even the characters. Reading it was an amazing experience for me.

Whitby Town of voyagers
By Christine Pemberton

There’s something about the holiday places you went to regularly as a little child that makes a return visit special. It goes beyond memories. It’s as though you are re-living those childhood holidays, when the beach and the sea and a plastic bucket and spade were enough to fill your heart to the full.

It was in that kind of spirit and mindset that I recently went back to the little town on the English coast, where, as a small child, I used to spend two weeks every year, in what always seemed to be perfect English summer weather.

Whitby is a picturesque little fishing village on the Yorkshire coast, with all the ingredients for a perfect holiday – beach, sea, an ancient abbey, a quaint harbour, and lots of history.

Whitby has very strong connections to Captain Cook, the 18th century British explorer who was the first European to make contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands. The Yorkshire-born teenager was apprenticed as a grocer, but when that didn’t work out, he was taken to Whitby in 1746, re-apprenticed to local ship-owners, and literally from that day on, never looked back.

James Cook was a man of his times, eagerly learning new scientific skills, and setting forth in search of adventure and discovery. And he did lots of both. Captain Cook made the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand, and gave his name to the Cook Islands as well as Cook Inlet in Alaska.

He sailed the world on three major voyages of epic discovery, only to meet his end in the warm waters of Hawaii, stabbed to death by a local. He ended his days, as he had begun them, by the ocean, but a warm ocean as far away from windswept Yorkshire as can be imagined. There is a statue of him on the cliff head, forever gazing out to sea, from the little town that nurtured him.

Captain Cook named Botany Bay and the Sandwich Islands, he ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, he charted most of the North West American coastline – more than enough to make him a hero.

Apparently, he was regarded as such a hero that the very Hawaiians who had killed him, kept his body, and, it was rumoured (but never proven), they roasted and ate some of his flesh.

You can see why this kind of history appealed to us as children, even when on holiday. Nothing like the “yuck” factor to make children remember history.

From the mid-18th century till the mid 1830s, Whitby was a major whaling port, and the giant whale bones on the cliff opposite the Abbey serve as a reminder of those days.

The whaling ships would sail to Greenland, and un-PC as it is now to glorify the whaling industry, there are some extraordinary sepia photos to be seen in Whitby galleries, of crews who braved harsh seas in search of a living. Whitby-built boats were strong – Captain Cook used them – and eminently suitable for the unforgiving North Sea.

The documented religious history of Whitby can be traced back to 657 and is much more sedate. Dominating the town, high on the steep cliff, are the spectacular ruins of Whitby Abbey, reached by a punishing 199 steep steps that lead up through the town and onto the cliff, with its views out to sea and down to the harbour far below.

I had remembered the steps, ritually counting them as children, each year, as we puffed up the hill. They were just as steep this time round. Memory doesn’t always play tricks.

Whitby beach, giving on to the North Sea, is not the place for sun-loungers and sun-worshippers, but, as compensation, it is the place for ammonites.

I distinctly remember walking along the shore-line as a child, and one day finding an ammonite.

I was thrilled and awed at the idea of finding a pre-historic fossil. Now, with cynical hindsight, I wonder if perhaps my parents bought it at one of the local souvenir shops and left it on the beach for me to “find”. But whatever the truth, I can still remember the feel of the cool, dark, smooth stone, and the thrill of being a small part of living history.

As a child, I always hoped to find a piece of the black jet for which Whitby is famous, but was never lucky.

Jet is found in the cliffs around town, and has been used since the Bronze Age to make beads. Whitby jet was especially popular in the mid-19th century, after it was favoured as mourning jewellery by Queen Victoria. Jet jewellery is still sold in the local shops, elegant and expensive

As if whales and shipwrecks and Captain Cook were not enough to fascinate holiday-makers, to round things off, there is even a Dracula connection, since a large portion of Bram Stoker’s famous novel was set in Whitby.

Greece beckons history lovers

I knew Athens is the birthplace of Olympics and the Greek Gods, and all that great history that goes with it, but I’ve to admit I was intrigued by the place after I saw the Hollywood blockbuster My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I found a lot of similarities between our culture and theirs, obviously the big families and weddings. It also helped that my sister Meghna was just about to move to Greece around the same time, and I took it as a sign to travel there. In fact, Meghna and I took a road trip across Greece, and bonded a lot when we traveled across the length of the country. Since Meghna had moved abroad when I was still in school, I really think of our trip as special because in many ways we got to know each other better. And if travelling can do that, when your nerves and energies are raw, tempers flared, then there’s nothing like it. Meghs and I had a ball on this trip, and Athens was our favourite spot on the travel map.

First suggestion, when you go to Athens is to drop all your baggage and pre-conceived notions you might have about the place, and enjoy it for what it is. And secondly, be careful of pickpockets, touts and hustlers, especially found in tourist areas. Meghna used to speak a few words in Greek, and that helps because they don’t think you are another dumb tourist who they can take for a ride. All the major tourist sites are in the small area called the city centre and you can walk around the place with ease.

If you have rented cars, like we did, it makes sense to park way out of the city because it’s very rare that you might find a parking spot in the city limits, and if you do, you will be paying exorbitant rates for that.

There are around a dozen hills within the city, which give the place a structure and the sense of ancient history. The famous Acropolis that has the beautiful marble temple of Goddess Athena is here. The city was as can be seen, named after the Goddess and Acropolis was really the ancient city. Then there are Plaka and Thissio districts at the base of Acropolis, which have the picturesque ruins of the Roman era. From there you can walk up to the main Syntagma square which has the Parliament building, which is a delightful mix of ancient and modern architecture.

In every nook and corner of the city you will find ruins of palaces and temples dating way back to hundreds of years BC. So make sure you keep your camera handy because I don’t know of any other place that gives so many photo ops. There’s the temple of Zeus nearby, and right next to it is the Olympics stadium, the birthplace of modern Olympics. With the Beijing Olympics, there are a lot of cultural events and fairs happening in Athens and I would have loved to be there now, but I can’t.

The travel industry is the biggest contributor to the Greek economy, so the government does a lot to encourage tourists. There are free bike tours on the weekends through the old parts of the city with your biker, who is a volunteer, shows you around and gives you a detailed history of the place. Athens is the focal point of travel to Greece, and you can always travel to the famous islands from there. Mykanos is not to be missed if you love partying and great music.

Also sample the exquisite Greek cuisine and be a little adventurous and flush it down with a sip of Ouzo, the traditions Greek drink made of aniseeds. If not, try the frappes they serve at stalls by the road and quench your thirst. One last thing, it’s important to remember that Greece, unlike the rest of Europe, gets extremely hot in summers, hot even for us. So, it would be wiser to plan your trip in spring when the weather is nicer.

As told to Chhaya S.

By Senjam Raj Sekhar

In this Olympics, Michael Phelps has brought the focus back on swimming. In this week’s theme, we take a look at Olympic swimming champions over the years. Write with your suggestions, questions (with answers) to D4/11 (GF), Exclusive Floors, DLF Phase- V, Gurgaon – 122002 or email

Aqua Warriors

1. Let me start with some Michael Phelps trivia. Phelps has two tattoos on his lower abs. One of them is the letter M. What is the other? 2. Which Jewish swimmer created waves for swimming with a moustache when the rest of the swimmers shaved all their body hair? 3. Johnny Weissmuller andῠ Buster Crabbe bothῠ were Olympic swimming champions, who followed similar career paths after the Olympics. What? 4. Which swimmer was nicknamed “Madam Butterfly” for her dominance of butterfly race? 5. Which swimmer nicknamed ‘Gomer’ was once arrested for driving under influence of alcohol and ordered toῠ serve 18 months probation? 6. Identify this swimmer: He went to secondary school at East Hills Boys School in Sydney, the same as Steve and Mark Waugh. His father, Ken, was an outstanding cricketer who, as a 16-year-old, played in a side with Jeff Thomson and Len Pascoe. In fact, he beat both of them into the Bankstown first-grade side in Sydney. 7. Who is the first black athelete to win a gold medal in swimming? 8. At 15,ῠ this schoolgirl, she won three individual swimming gold medals inῠ Munich, 1972. A year later, she retired from competition at the age of sixteen and disappeared completely from public life for 25 years. Name her? 9. Which Olympic swimming champion from Hawaii is better known as the person who popularized the modern sport of surfing? 10. Michael Phelps won eight goldsῠ in one Olympics – the only athlete to do so. He beat the record of Mark Spitz. who is the only other person to win seven medals in one Olympics?

Anything Goes

1. “It was Wang Lung’s marriage day” is the opening sentence of which classic? (Abhijit Basak, Dum Dum) 2. What was John Sholto Douglas’ contribution to boxing? (Rajesh Dubey, Mumbai) 3. Which is the only non Muslim nation that is a member of the OPEC? (Anurag Mehrotra, Hyderabad) 4. Which was the first eight-cylinder motor car? (U.Narasimha Murthy, Secunderabad) 5. Which fashion designer designed the uniforms of cricketers for the World Cup 1996? (Selim Ahmed, Barasat) 6. Which bird lives on the ground, is almost blind, lays only one egg each year and cant fly. Yet is survived for more than 70 million years? (Sushil Kumar Poddar, Kolkata) 7. This practise was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin to “save time”, and was first adopted by the USA during World War I to save electricity. It is now practised in several parts of the world? (Ashutosh Sharma, Bangalore) 8. Alan Mills autobiography titled “Lifting the Covers” is a fascinating account of tennis. What is his claim to fame in the tennis world? (Dr. Ravi Bhatia, Udaipur) 9. Where in India would you find the Royal Connaught Boat Club? (Raza Khan, Delhi)


Aqua Warriors

1. He has the Olympic rings tattooed 2. Mark Spitz 3. Both became actors and played Tarzan on screen 4. Mary Meagher 5. Michael Phelps 6. Ian Thorpe 7. Anthony Nesty, who incidentally won the first gold medal for his country Surinam 8. Shane Gould 9. Duke Kahanamoku 10 Matt Biondi (In Seoul Olympics, he won five gold, one silver and one bronze)

Anything Goes

1. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck 2. He was the Marquess of Queensbury who lent his name to the rules of boxing. (Queensbury Rules) 3. Venezuela 4. The 1929 Mercedes. 5. Sunit Verma. 6. Kiwi 7. Daylight Saving Time 8. He was the chief referee at Wimbeldon for many years 9. Pune


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