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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.

FORMS OF YOGA, AND CELEBS WHO SWEAR BY THEM

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/www.osho.com

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@ gmail.com

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 asksambrett@gmail.com)

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 sadhwanis@vsnl.com

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.

Tailpiece

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 poolani@gmail.com

‘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.

Fundamentals
 
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 senjam@gmail.com

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)

Answers

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

 

 Features of the Week

 

 

Deccan Chronicle

Blogbusters

10 Aug

Blogbusters
 

Who says Bollywood stars are an insulated lot? Not their fans at least. Ever since the baap of all actors, Amitabh Bachchan publicly announced that he has started blogging on Bigb.bigadda.com, his blog is inundated with messages from thousands of fans. Bloggers have found the perfect medium to bridge the gap and stay tuned into updates on their favourite icons’ lives. Fans believe this is an intimate form of communication, almost like an entry into the star’s inner world.

No wonder star blogs have become hopelessly addictive. Be it aamirkhan.com or mynameiskaran.com (Karan Johar) or duskadum.blogpsot.com (Salman Khan), or rgvvarma.spaces.live.com (Ram, Gopal Varma)῅Bollywood personalities are hooked to this medium as they find it a personal canvas to vent their emotions and express opinions. Amitabh Bachchan, who is currently on his Unforgettable tour in the US, has been blogging at all odd hours every single day. Sometimes his entries are short and crisp and he’s instantly apologetic about lack of time. There are other days where he finds it hard to conceal his elation at the response to the tour. His childlike glee is evident in an excerpt from his blog:

Day 95

LOS ANGELES!! LOS ANGELES!! LOS OF ANGELES!!

What an audience! What a show! What response! Simply incredible!

It has been the best ever for me. And all the credit goes to the utterly fantastic fans and audience at the LA Sports Arena, that packed the venue right up to the rafters and just egged and shouted and screamed us into a performance that all of us will remember for a lifetime.

I popped every antibiotic available, every energiser around, prayed as hard as I could and gave it all I had. I don’t know how it all happened, but it happened. I stand up in salutation to the people at the venue, to the people of Los Angeles, to all the fans and well-wishers. You did it! And I humbly bow down to you with the deepest respect and love. Thank you!!

We need your prayers and wishes,

Amitabh Bachchan

Actress Koel Purie believes that the film fraternity has always set trends. “Since blogging has become such a huge trend, why should the industry be left behind? If Mr Amitabh Bachchan sounds articulate, it is because that’s the way he speaks. If Salman sounds blunt it’s because he speaks from the heart. I’m not surprised that blogs have become popular because it is a direct interaction between the star and his fans. I have a professional blog called onthecouchwithkoel and the feedback has been heartening so far.”

The web page of director Karan Johar’s blog offer a visual treat for fans who get to see Hrithik and AB in conversation, Jaya and AB sharing an intimate moment, SRK and his daughter Suhana in a tight clinch. Here’s an excerpt:

Reel Reminiscing

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 12:47:04 PM

The other day at home sifting through piles of memories, I came across some pictures that instantly transported me to a time in my life that meant so many things to me, and the people surrounding me. The making of my second film, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham was a larger than life experience. The scale and opulence of the film has been talked about for years, but in truth, the film had a cast that we may never see together on screen again. The characters had lives that were unabashed and indulgent, and my actors played that with confidence. Most importantly, it was the film of mine that my father loved the most.

Bollywood super brat Salman Khan seems to have a one-point agenda. His blog has largely been used to clear conceptions about himself. And going by the controversies the star seems to be involved in, it is a full-time job.

While enough has been written and televised about the famous feud between Sallu and SRK on Katrina Kaif’s birthday bash at Olive in Mumbai, our stud of a star wanted to have the last word. And what better way to express his anger than the blog. Here’s a recent update:

Day 37 – 10 Ka Dum

Friday, July 25, 2008

For the next few days you will hear and read a lot of shit about me, a lot of it. Keep on reading it῅but don’t react to it. I don’t. Like sometimes when you are travelling in a fast car and you find a dog chasing your car῅barking away. You don’t stop the car and start reacting to the dog῅u don’t῅there’s no point. I don’t wish to react. I don’t have the time for it. Besides, I don’t understand the language of dogs, except for my two – Myson and Myjaan.

Unfortunately, in our industry the developing trend is not to celebrate others’ success῅ every time another person is successful there will be someone trying to pull him down. You don’t increase your own efforts to become successful but try to always decrease someone else’s success῅ that’s the mantra of the industry.

I chose to remain silent. I do not have the time to spend reacting. But even silence speaks. Silence makes more noise than thunder. ῅Bandar sher ko chidhata hai῅. Sirf aawaaz kar sakta hai… Kabhi sher ko maar sakta hai? He can’t do anything. But when the lion roars, a whole pack of monkeys fall from trees!

So keep on reading῅read all the negatives῅read till they get tired of writing. Everyone goes through this῅but not for long. I say just look good, feel good and do good, that’s it. I love you all.

But film critic Deepa Gahlot, who has been at the receiving end of filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma’s ire, feels that this trend is short-lived. “It will fizzle out soon as none of these personalities have that kind of time. An Amitabh Bachchan takes time out of his daily schedule to blog. However it’s more of an one-sided affair. For instance, Ramu accused me of peddling scripts to filmmakers and when I sent him a rejoinder denying it, he didn’t carry my reply. If you want clarification, ask me questions through a public forum and I’m willing to reply. But it doesn’t happen that way,” she says.

Ram Gopal Varma claims that he is not net-savvy but believes that blogging is the medium of the future. “This is the perfect way for celebrities to represent facts correctly. I believe that anyone who is interested in personal and first-hand information gets it straight from the horse’s mouth,” he says. Here’s an excerpt from the director’s blog:

Ram Gopal Varma

Reactions to reactions:

Instead of reviewing reviews of Contract I decided to do that on my series of reactions henceforth. If the idea is to react to the reactions of various people on my thoughts and works, then why should I give special attention to the Khalids and the Deepas of the world? I find more juicier, bitchier and insightful comments coming from others. Come on guys. Let’s have fun!

But what about the allegation that stars use blogs to hit out at critics? “At the end of the day, a blog reflects the actor’s personality. Something in my blog that some perceive as rude could appear funny to others. It is a matter of perspective. At any rate I’m not as articulate as Mr Bachchan and what I express are my random thoughts,” he says.

Actor Akshay Kumar is all set to start his blog but has admitted in a televised interview that he will not use the medium to take pot-shots at his colleagues.

However there are some actors like a Shah Rukh Khan who simply do not have the time or inclination to blog, and others like actor Arjun Rampal have started getting interested in the medium. Says Arjun, “I think it’s cool and a great way to stay in touch with fans. I haven’t read any of the blogs but I’m sure they are fun. I personally haven’t looked at blogging yet but who knows I might do so sometime soon.”

While all star blogs are accessible, one has to create a special user name and password in order to gain entry to Aamir Khan’s blog. This is a new development. Wonder why Khan feels the need to make his netizens compulsorily create an ID. Perhaps the info on his blog is exclusive and the finicky Khan wants to ensure that only die-hard fans log onto his blog. Will the rest of the Bollywood fraternity follow this trend? Let’s wait and watch.

Rocky relationships run deep
 
By Dr Sharda Batra

My niece Jea has had a constant feature in her life – her trials and conflicts with a classmate she just cannot get rid of or wish away. Her friend/enemy has continued to bully, tease and torment her since kindergarten. Jea has tried reasoning, arguing, ignoring and complaining about her. Nothing seems to work.

Naina, an attractive married woman and mother of two, was intensely attached to her broad-shouldered dad and instinctively searched for him in any man she related to, including the one she married. On going through some therapy sessions including one of past life catharsis, Naina broke down while recounting an incident from her childhood.

Apparently, her father had left her mother for another woman who already had a daughter. One day, her father invited her for a nature camp. Naina, who was all of nine years, was delirious with joy at sharing a good time with the man she loved so dearly. However, when she reached there she found that her father was accompanied by his new family and probably had invited her to introduce her to them. Naina said she would never forget how she sat alone under the stars and wept as if her heart would break. Her father was not really interested in her for her own sake, the purpose of this outing was a practical one and not motivated by sheer love. Naina felt terribly let down. The hurt and expectation of the same flavour of love from her man continued to mar her relationships.

Most times we are related to or associated with people who bruise us not just physically, but also our fragile sense of who we are, our social images and professional standings. Generally, such people are very close to us, like a parent or lover is. At times it could be a colleague, a market competitor or even a house-help. This someone knows how to feather touch your feelings till your emotions overwhelm and carry you away in their powerful and blind current. Reason and logic fail, perceptions turn wonky, and the overruling emotion is of being rejected, humiliated, pushed or manipulated, depending on the person and situation.

The threads of such a relationship form a web and you find yourself inextricably trapped in the net. And if one actively gets out of the relationship, one finds that though the name and form of the next contender changes, the web and its pulls and restrictions remain the same. The prison remains the same, only the prisonkeeper changes.

Why is it that human lives and relationships follow some archetypal themes? Why does loving someone often hurt? Why do we suffer most at the hands of those we trust the most? What are the impulses which attract us to some people and is there a technique to detach from painful patterns?

Each of us has an awareness or consciousness, which has many layers. The most superficial layer is of thoughts and perceptions. Deeper are symbols, dreams and memories. Deepest is raw energy and a connection to all beings and every event.

Life is eternal and we get attracted to the same person, group of people again and again, driven by invisible forces and intangible threads of energy created by past actions, forgotten words and ignored thoughts. Some karmic debt of give and take and the law of this karmic exchange make sure that we encounter the same person. The material universe is governed by some laws – the law of gravity, the law of magnetism, etc. The law of cause and effect is one such infallible law. Every cause has an equal and opposite effect, says Newton and the sage nods wisely in assent. Past Life Regression has revealed instances where a man cheats on his wife causing her immense anguish. The triangle is replicated in another lifetime and the wife and the other woman swap roles with the other woman now playing the wronged spouse. Or a violent husband and his wife may exchange actions. However, all karmic replays are not so simple and the guru or the best friend may be born as an only child to a couple and by his untimely demise hasten the evolution of their spirit.

As you sow so you shall reap with intention being the most important factor in judgement.

It is startling (to say the least) when one realises that one has been in the same drama with probably the same person for lifetimes. The purpose of this drama and replay is to rise above it, through it. For accounts to be squared, one or both/all the parties involved have to transcend the conflict by allowing the pain to deepen their understanding of the universality of human nature.

For any of us caught in an unhappy karmic exchange the steps to follow would be:

1. Remind yourself that you yourself have attracted this person/situation in your life by some causes and energies that you have created.

2. That what you intensely love or grossly abhor, in other words whatever disturbs you in the other, is a projection of attributes deep in that part of your consciousness that is universal. All that I detest is something I am capable of. I need to accept this.

3. Train your mind and body to retain their equanimity at every stressful juncture. So conquer your inner nature and do not lose your cool. Neither does it help to clam up and withdraw.

4. Acceptance plays a key role. Accept that if you are unique so is the other person, and give him the space to express his uniqueness.

5. A deep compassion and unconditional love flows which either heals the relationship or carries you to another frequency where you now attract someone of that frequency.

If you introspect, allow yourself to undergo a cathartic flushing, there is always something which has to emerge from the deep recesses of your consciousness to be manifested in daily life.

An increasing awareness of who you are, your shadow areas and also the strengths, are thrown into visibility by the friction of this interaction. A seasoning of the personality and ripening of the soul is catalysed by this ceaseless interaction and energy (karmic) exchange over lifetimes.When you view a relationship from this perspective and take responsibility for your change, slowly there is realisation which clarifies and consoles. More than a squaring of karmic accounts, is the fact that the ferment of the emotional exchange in a relationship adds maturity to the soul and brings a realisation of its true identity.

Gradually, it dawns that the other is another aspect of you and that all relationships have a purpose – to guide you to your self.

Each one is here on his own trip and yet we are together in the journey – to aid, to teach and train and enlighten ourselves through the other. Like Gibran said – “Be like the pillars of a temple. Let there be spaces in your togetherness.”

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

God inspired me to move on
 
By Ritu Kumar

I see God in the rising sun, in the raindrops slapping on the ground, in the snow settling on the mountains, and in my inner self. I have always believed that it has to be more than just science to make these things happen. Although this understanding might surpass us, as we are human beings who are limited and bound to material bodies, there’s someone watching all of us for sure. He is someone who is more than just a creator of this universe.

Looking back to where I started my journey of spirituality, my memories take me back to the time when I was 26. I started working from Serampore, a city in the Hooghly district in West Bengal. That was the place where I learned printing. The city is very close to my heart. My first sari was printed in the same place when I was 26. After 10 to 15 years, around the time when my block prints became a rage among designers and many industrialists, people started stealing and duplicating my designs.

I acknowledged that the mills in Varanasi and Surat were not only copying my designs, but also started selling them and were making big moolah. I felt dejected. It was a very low phase of my life as my exclusive designs were everywhere in the market, without my name. I decided to enter the combat zone and take these mill owners to court. The journey was so arduous that I sometimes feel that God cradled me in his own hands at that point of time. From there, a fight began and I won the first copyright case in the country.

Since I was given the copyright for my prints, we started raiding many industries and factories, which were stealing my designs. One day, in Serampore, a premise was raided. I was taken aback to see how the designs which were carved out of my soul and heart, were conveniently being copied and sold out like trash. We successfully shut the place down, but the grief clung to my heart.

On my way back, when I crossed the Ganges, I decided to stop by Belur Math, the city that was founded by Swami Vivekananda. It was there that I realised it wasn’t the end. Sitting there, on the banks of the holy river Ganges, God gave me the inspiration to move on. That event signalled that I was ready to move on with my life. While it didn’t mean the end of my grief, that evening on the banks of Ganges brought me a peace I hadn’t experienced before. It felt as if God whispered into my ears that I’m not alone, and there’s a long way to go before I give up. That knowledge was no small thing. Up until then I’d experienced a roller-coaster of emotions, many of which centered on rage and fear. My process of healing began from that very moment.

As told to Shruti Badyal

Democracy needs a certain context
 

I love democracy, I love freedom. But to transform a country which has lived for 2,000 years in slavery is not possible through democratic means; it will take 2,000 years or even more. The mind of India has become accustomed to slavery, and when you give freedom suddenly to slaves they go berserk. It is like suddenly throwing open the doors of a prison and releasing all the prisoners, making them free.

l Democracy needs a certain context which is missing in India

We have more problems than we had before. We have not been able to solve a single problem; we have created thousands of other problems.

The slavery has gone into the very blood and bones, into the very marrow of the nation. To uproot it, something surgical is needed. Just telling people to be free is not enough. And how can the surgery be done if democratic means are adopted? Because “democratic means” simply means just telling people to be more understanding, to be more democratic, to be more independent. But that is not going to help. It is like telling an ill person to be healthy.

l A surgery is needed

Something drastic is needed, something radical is needed, not only medical treatment but something surgical. That is possible only if for 15 years at least the country lives under a benevolent dictatorship. Then compulsory birth control can be imposed on the people. Otherwise their freedom to reproduce is going to create so many problems that no government can ever solve them. By the time you solve a few problems, thousands more people will have arrived with all their problems.

l Poor people cannot be democratic

And when there is so much poverty, so much starvation, talking about democracy is all nonsense. It is like playing a beautiful song on the flute before a hungry man. The song is beautiful but to play the song before a hungry person is absurd, it is ridiculous.

The so-called Indian democracy helps only to increase its problems, to increase violence, because when people are hungry they become violent. These communal riots and all the rape, murder, arson, these show that the animal is surfacing.

l Democracy is borrowed from the west

This democracy helps only the politicians. It is better to drop this empty word “democracy”; it is just a beautiful word borrowed from others. In fact, all the great Indian leaders were educated in England. They saw democracy working beautifully there. They came back to India; they had seen democracy functioning perfectly well. It can function in England, but where is the context here? India should think first about its own tradition, history, past, and in that context we should create a government.

Courtesy Osho International Foundation/www.osho.com

Ash is everything I could ask for
 

When I am asked how does it feel to be married, I have to think hard because not much has changed really. I am living with my best friend, who is a great companion and she has made life easy for me. Ash is all proper, and correct, while I can be clumsy and a bit all over the place. As it is I don’t think it’s easy to live with men, and Ash has fit in perfectly with my life. Everyday is a learning and growing experience, and when you are with someone like her, there is bound to be a lot of exchange of experiences, stories which keep every day interesting and challenging. Sometimes I do have to try and match up to her, you can’t always let the wife have the upper hand, can you!

Marriage has been a slow, natural and gradual progression for us – first we were friends and then we started getting to know each other and became close to each other. But I won’t say we are still in our honeymooning period, because I have been constantly working through the last year and so has she. So whenever she’s away shooting, I try and be with her and vice versa. Every married couple would try and do that, to try and snatch a few more quality moments with their partners. There’s nothing wrong with that.

It’s not like Ash stops me from hanging out with my friends. But having said that, once you get married and have someone to go back home too, it’s natural that your priorities change. But I haven’t deserted any of my friends as it’s claimed, neither are we staying aloof from the industry. It’s not like we have become an island in ourselves or something. This whole thing about us laughing at Priyanka and Harman on stage is a ridiculous allegation – that would be very ill mannered, and neither of us is brought up that way.

We understand there’s always going to be speculation about us as a couple because of who we are. And I wouldn’t be foolish to say that our relationship is just like any other ‘normal’ couple. Firstly, I don’t understand what normal is. And secondly, given the external factors that constantly play a hand, it affects the scenario. Ash was hoping things would cool down for us in this regard after we got married, but I always knew it was just the beginning.

Now we are getting used to hearing stories of our fights, public showdowns… which are so untrue. If I have to pick a fight with Ash, I won’t choose a hotel lobby to do so. Give us that much credit at least. Of course, we have our differences and we argue and discuss things, but we also have a rule that we sort out the issues before going to bed rather than letting them fester while sleeping over it.

Ash is everything and more than what I could have asked for. Does she cook for me? No, she doesn’t have the time. But does she look after me; give me a sense of perspective on things? Yes.

Is my marriage affecting our work? How can it? It’s not like we are constantly glued to each other and only working with each other. There is no brand Bachchan as it’s made out to be. There is nothing one is trying to prove to any one. Not when we are making an appearance, not in the shows we are doing at the world tour, nor in the statements we make. Life’s just bliss right now, and nothing can change that.

Family Fission Goes ‘Critical’
 
By Ranjan Kamath

On August 15, India enters what in the 21st century is deemed ‘middle age’; a time when we consider our achievements and contemplate the legacy we confer on our children – India’s next generation.

Our Prime Minister will pride our imminent membership of the nuclear club, from the ramparts of the Red Fort but what will not find mention is the Indian nuclear family ‘going critical’.

My parents and other children of independence selflessly provided us ‘nuclear’ security built with the brick and mortar of tradition and values.

Meanwhile our children, for whom we create this future energy, deplete emotionally while we revel in the empowerment of having achieved critical mass with our knowledge economy.

The price paid for this bacchanalia of empowerment, is the ‘nuclear fission’ of the family; cocking a snook at the continuity of tradition and undermining familial security sans social safeguards.

Under imminent threat is the atom of the nuclear family – the child.

Our constitutional fathers cannot be faulted for not anticipating this sorry status; else they would have guaranteed children fundamental rights to both parents at all times.

In 1990 with India signing the internationally legally binding UN Convention on the Rights of the Child http://www.unicef.org/crc/ India committed itself to ensuring children’s rights and accountability before the international community.

With divorce becoming the rule, rather than exception, children are subjected to parental abuse in custodial battles. They are reduced to disputed ‘property’ rather than ‘hearts and minds’.

For five years I was a father to two sons, before being plunged into the insanity of a custody battle. Instantly, black coats oversaw my mutation from loving father to social psychopath. Blind Justice sanctified my ‘guilt’, generously affording me time to establish my innocence.

My ensuing campaign was not for child custody – never having lost the hearts and minds of my children but for the restoration of my children’s rights to a father, fighting for the right to fulfil my parental duties and responsibilities.

I was advised to “move on, get married and sire more children”by well-wishers who considered mine a losing battle. Feminists and social workers scoffed at my determination, legally secure in the “infallibility of the woman”.

A female officer of justice, admonished me for “going against Dharma” by seeking access to my children, till I reminded her we were in the precincts of law῅ not Dharma!

Five years later, when my sons opted to “stay with Papa”, the State Womens’ Commission ineffectually attempted to ‘lynch’ me with justice. As a man and father, I had ‘violated’ the rights of a woman by depriving a mother of her children.

While the judicial system yawns awake from its anachronistic slumber the processes of justice remain punitive for children, with custodial matters taking years to resolve. Men are legally emasculated by the urban woman who abuses the protection granted by the justice system -to her rural counterpart -to wreak vengeance on husband and father.

Skilful lawyers scavenge on the remnants of a nuclear family in its death throes, earning handsomely from warring couples who could have invested instead in their child’s education. Feminists and social workers reduce all men to village drunks and brutish wife-beaters to justify their raison d’etre ignoring the social dichotomy of rural and urban India. Ofcourse, the rights of the ‘vulnerable’ child are being ‘protected’ too, by denying it a father!

In my encounter with child rights’ organisations, I was comforted with the information that abuse in the eyes of the law, includes child labour, physical and sexual violence, not mental and certainly not parental abuse!

If we continue to ‘split our atoms’, we will nurture a dysfunctional generation of youth with explosive potential beyond our social control.

So, let not fathers and mothers seek votes of confidence to safeguard our atomic interests; if we cannot prevent fission between parents, let us prevent fall-out by evolving parenting protocols to insulate our atoms, so that India can envision an energy rich nuclear future.

You can mail your responses to ranjan.kamath@ gmail.com

Women men won’t commit to
 

“I am always attracted to the men that have commitment issues,” said a recently dumped friend, valiantly trying to figure out what went wrong. “I think I’m just attracted to the type of man who isn’t into a relationship. I get too emotionally attached but all they’re really after is a quick shag and then they want to move on to their next conquest.”

But I wasn’t so sure. The last three men she’d dated had all started out desperately wanting to shack up with her in connubial bliss. (After all, she is 6-foot with a hot Pilates bod and a tomboy streak that sends any man’s pheromones spinning in a tizzy.) Yet after dating them for around three to four months, everything suddenly goes pear-shaped. All three have whipped out the age-old antiquated axiom: “I’m just not ready for a relationship.”

While she’s currently sitting at zero-for-three and mightily confused, it could be easy to conclude a pertinent message that has emerged: It’s not them, it’s her. Coming on too strong, perhaps? Too emotionally needy?

When I suggested to this little fact to her, she wasn’t buying it.

“Maybe it’s because subconsciously I don’t want to commit,” she retorted. “I’m repeatedly asked out by the Mr Nice but I’m just not interested. He doesn’t give me that excitement I crave either.”

There are many women around the world that are complaining of the same conundrum: They simply can’t snag a boyfriend (let alone a husband) or even a relationship that lasts more than the four-month mark. So what is it about these women that makes an eligible man run a mile?

In trying to come up with a shortlist of things of things women shouldn’t do to get a man to commit, I decided to consult a bunch of folks to determine where the women are going wrong.

Women who are too needy. When women try desperately to get their man to commit, she tends to turn (in his eyes) into a bonafide bunny-boiling psychopath who is trying to cramp his style and close him in. A continuous stream of phone calls, barrage of text messages, invitations, outings with her folks (and temper tantrums if he wants to see his mates), is enough to make him all but run away to the desert to remain celibate for all eternity.

The writer is an author, columnist & dating expert

(You can mail your responses to asksambrett@gmail.com)

Music tunes in to video games
 

Jayprakash Mehta always had a passion for classic rock. He was the guitarist of his college band, and now after 20 years, he is passing on his passion to his children, but in a playful manner. “Thanks to video games,” says Jayprakash. “I always wanted my children to feel the music, the way I do. Thanks to Rock Band, today both me and my children share a common interest in music,” adds Jayprakash. Recently, video games have proved to be the trusted missionaries of music, and in a way are promoting music of the bygone era, immortalising legendary names among the younger generation. After the Internet, musicians today are looking up to video games to reach out to their fans, and this venture has been mutually beneficial for both the musicians as well as the video game manufacturers.

Testimony to the popularity of the games are international acts like Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith, Metallica, Guns ‘n’ Roses to name a few. In the coming years, Harmonix’s Rock Band-II game will feature Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Shackler’s Revenge from their most anticipated album Chinese Democracy along with tracks by AC/DC and Rush. Another game manufacturer Activision, recently released a version of Guitar Hero dedicated to Aerosmith, and another version based on metal gods Metallica is due by next year. There are bands like Motley Crew and Rush which are re-mastering their hits after making endorsement deals with various video game manufacturing companies.

So, are video game manufacturers looking at music as the new tool to promote games or is it the other way round? Says Chirag Srikant, a game developer from Jump Games, “Though music is a very important part of video games, I don’t think games can do without it. Endorsing musicians for background scores in video games is a unique business model. Games like Rock Band and Guitar Heroes have only a few characters and levels in them, so they are banking on music to help them do good business.” However, the popularity of music in video games has also given way to a new genre of music called “video game music”. Today the web has a number of artistes who are termed as video game musicians, and the list seems to be incorporating new names on everyday basis (Mark Griskey, Inon Zur to name a few).

Though this “newly-found-friendship” between music promoters and video game manufacturers are creating waves in the international market, it is yet to catch up in India. “The Indian market for games is picking up. However, a majority of Indians still take gaming casually, a change in this attitude can help India experience a boom in gaming, and this can eventually help the musicians in the long run,” says Jessy Rapczak, a US-based game developer, who is currently setting up his business in India.

So, with a recent boom in animation (both in Bollywood and ad films), are Indian musicians ready to follow this international trend and promote their music through video games? “I don’t have a problem, as long as the games maintain an international standard. If given a choice, I will go for a game that will have a global appeal both in terms of the quality of animation and subject,” says Ehsaan Noorani from the composer duo Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Game developers too are echoing the same notes. Gautam, a mobile game developer for Jump Games says, “It is true that Indian animation has undergone acute changes in the recent past, but we are lagging behind when it comes to meeting international standards. The first priority should be to develop games that have an international appeal, only then we can focus on promoting Indian musicians on the global forum.”

However, there is hardly any doubt that Indian gamers are awaiting this welcome change, and so are the musicians. So, which genre of music will dominate the Indian “gamosphere”? What will be the response of the record labels, as such a joint venture will demand an amicable relationship between record labels and game manufacturing companies? Will this “progressive alliance” be profitable to our musicians, and how will it contribute towards revamping today’s ailing music industry? To this Ehsaan says, “I donthink record labels will have any problems with this venture. In fact, I think they will be more than happy to welcome game manufacturers and promote their games.”

Stressing on the fact that “India is the only country in the globe where record labels retain the intellectual copyrights of a musician”, Ehsaan sees this venture more profitable for record labels than musicians. He adds, “As the copyrights are with the record labels, musicians are bound to follow labels’ decisions. But yes, in terms of royalty, the musicians might get something more than what they usually get.”

So, if you are a die-hard gamer, and have a need for speed for pentatonic guitar arpeggios, this “progressive alliance” between the musicians and video games is sure to sweep you off your feet.

A guide to what’s new in the audio, video world
 
By Naresh Sadhwani and Deepak Jhangiani

Consumer Buying Habits

An international study by A.C. Nielsen has found that worldwide customers prefer to scan the web for their specific requirements of consumer electronic items and a good 80 per cent buy from a store whose website they visited first. So don’t be surprised if the Indian retailer also wakes up to this fact and spruces up his website almost as lavishly as he does his retail outlet.

Technology

eReading is a fast growing market, whereby a single eBook reader can now replace a library of books. Till now the screen size was a limiting factor leading to eye strain. Sometime back we spoke about the future of e-books and how they would soon come in foldable models. Now using a polymer (instead of the conventional silicon) technology Polymer Vision (a spin-off of Philips) is promoting a Readius with a foldable display. And with its mammoth memory you can now carry a whole library virtually in your pocket. Many other conveniences accrue: like comfortable reading while in motion/reading books at the airport, train station, park, anywhere without carrying the load of book/s. Even better is the fact that the battery carries a large charge which can last up to a week. Paperless offices now transform into paperless reading.

Readius΅.

The full display measures 127 mm; it displays 16 shades of grey and has 4 GB of on-board memory for all your e-books. The folded unit is 56mm x 100mm x 21mm. It has about a ten-day battery life and has USB, GPRS/EDGE and DVB-H connectivity to download data wirelessly. Already in the trial mode, the device is expected to hit the stands soon and will change reading habits forever.

TV Picture Quality

The march of technology goes on unabated. The latest fad in the market is the ‘telescopic Pixels’ an organic LED which is slimmer than the conventional LCD with far superior picture and sound quality. The technology works on the principle of several tiny mirrors which help to spread the light and thus increase the brightness and enhance the overall picture clarity.

Readers are invited to email their queries/suggestions/comments to sadhwanis@vsnl.com

Indian-Born Confused American
 

What will it be? The Orange and Green? The Star Spangled Banner and Pledge of Allegiance? Having spent a significant amount of time in both the United States and India, having loved and hated aspects of both, we’ve been trying to decide where to raise our child.

After much brain-racking and discussion, there are some very significant differences that we’ve uncovered in terms of the value systems of India and the US. We find ourselves perched somewhere in between, see-sawing from side to side depending on the issue at stake.

In the US, it’s very clear that the individual comes first. Children are reared to look after themselves and their own interests, sometimes to the absurdly extreme point of not sharing their toys with others for fear they may catch some infectious germs. That is great, because as parents, we know our child will protect himself and won’t suffer great hurt. As a continuation of this self-protection, there is a focus on civic responsibility and caring for one’s infrastructure.

Littering is a no-no, taxes a must, and looking after the environment you live in is paramount. But in exchange for the sparkling cleanliness and ease, there’s a lack of humanity and warmth. Since we’re looking at extremes, we can say that in India, on the other hand, it is common practice that the individual be subordinated to the common good. Family is important and parents are always right. A child’s individual needs can be dismissed with the snap of a finger and a wave of the hand. And it doesn’t end even if you move out of home. Parents, in-laws, and a battalion of aunties, uncles, and self-dubbed “well-wishers” are only too ready to guide your every move. Here in India, there’s no civic responsibility, no care for the surrounding environment. But although we often do things to make others happy, we are blessed with the love and concern (and two cents!) of any number of people, starting from the milkman, who has been around since the day we were born.

Finally, we decided not to choose. Why deprive our child of either when we’ve been lucky enough to have the best of both? Schooling, friends, lifestyle, everything can be transnational. In today’s age, he can study the same syllabus whether he’s in Timbuktu, China, or Antarctica. In order to achieve this, we’re making a conscious effort to live in both countries. So even though his accent might be a little confused, we’re hoping he ends up appreciating the best and understanding the worst of both India and the United States and everywhere in between.

Designer’s studio
 

The moment I’m asked about my favourite photo-shoot, images of my latest collection flash across my mind. Infused with energy and vigour, this collection is one that makes me feel proud of having created it.

And its shoot was very exciting.

I remember being keyed up about the shoot since I was going to meet Indrani Dasgupta for the first time after her wedding. And as expected, the glow on her face was mesmerising. Stylist Ashima Kapoor made her look even more stunning with natural and light makeup.

We planned to do the shoot in my garden and I think that is the main reason why we all were relaxed and things went on pretty smoothly. It was one of those times when things naturally fall into place, just the way you like them to be. Even the weather was wonderful, breezy and cool – perfect for an outdoor shoot. I remember noticing a certain feminine aura about Indrani. The preparation and the shoot happened in a lovely flow, it felt as if even the weather was complementing the garments.

‘Now, I’m an actor and singer too’
 

New age filmmaker Farhan Akhtar, who has directed films like Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya and Don, has now taken to acting, much on the lines of Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt and Aamir Khan – who’ve been extremely successful as both, actors and directors. Farhan reprises the role of a rock star in his very first film, Rock On, which will release this month end.

“I would like to believe it’s my burning passion for acting that led me to act in Rock On! The film’s music is also of the genre that’s closest to me in terms of personal preference – rock. The character was exciting and it was challenging to sing the songs. The time also felt right and it was the next step in realising my creative goals. I am a writer, producer and director – now actor and singer too,” says Farhan.

What was it like to produce a film starring himself?

“The director, Abhishek Kapoor, was very sure he wanted his lead actor to sing the songs. But when I heard the script, regardless of whether I were to act in it eventually depending on how well I sang, I wanted to be a part of it and be associated with it in some way. It was special so I decided to produce it. This script took me back to the Dil Chahta Hai space emotionally, which was a wonderful zone to be in after eight years. It also released the little pent-up musician in me!” says Farhan who plays the guitar with some degree of professionalism.

Farhan is also playing the lead part in The Fakir of Venice directed by Anand Surapur and his sister Zoya’s Luck By Chance. The Fakir of Venice was started before Rock On began. The makers of that film have a certain release strategy in mind; it’s bent more towards the international audience. I play the central character and Annu Kapoor plays the fakir. It’s a black comedy based on a true-life story – how scams, shams and lies are a part of our life. Luck By Chance does not have the conventional format of a hero – it’s an ensemble cast comprising Konkona Sen Sharma, Rishi Kapoor me and some other characters which are integral to the movement of the story,” explains Farhan.

Given he’s doing full-fledged acting parts in these films, did he ever want to be an actor in the first place? “The biggest memory of my growing up years was the hero – the amazing man who could do anything and I was so influenced by films that this was the logical thing to do. But my ideas changed as I grew older and I decided to create films, rather than just be a part of someone else’s film. In fact I have watched actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan at close quarters when I directed them in my films and we discussed scenes and how they would approach them, albeit in their own different ways. It was very educative. All that information comes to good use as an actor today. I now sub-consciously plot my points according to my scenes,”says Farhan.

Is he confident enough to direct himself? “I don’t know if I can direct myself. It’s difficult for me to focus on just one thing. I need an associate/partner who can look into other aspects when I am acting, but I haven’t found that kind of creative link up yet. Direction takes too much and I haven’t reached the stage where I am so comfortable as an actor to know how to approach my role with ease and direct also. I’m still searching,” says the father of two.

How do his daughters react to him – as a director or an actor? “Shakya is eight years old and she pretty much knows what I do. Akira is only 17 months old but she has taken to the music of Rock On like Shakya had to DCH’s music. I take them along to my sets so that they know what daddy does and understand why he stays away for long spells of time. Akira gets spooked when she sees my promos on television and sees me sitting in the same room!” says the the director-turned actor, smiling. So, what’s easier – directing or acting? “What’s easy is subjective. I feel anything you enjoy doing is easy. Both jobs are very demanding, but direction takes a lot more and is more difficult,” says Farhan who after working with his father Javed Akhtar in Lakshya, is now collaborating with his mother, Honey Irani on a script called Beauty Parlour.

And it’s back to calling the shots come November, for his next directorial venture, Voice from the Sky.

Harman mum about rumours on his split
 
Film news

When the rumours of Priyanka-Harman split broke out, Harman was in Rajasthan shooting for Victory with some of the Aussie cricketers who he’s been good friends with. When his relationship drama was played out in the papers, there was a sympathy wave coming his away and the cricketers were insistent on taking him out on a boy’s night out to cheer him up.

Co-star Amrita Rao apparently went a step further almost offering him condolences over the split. According to a unit hand she had even written him a card saying something to the effect that it wasn’t the end of the world and he would bounce back and should keep his chin up.

Initially, since all of them were being so sweet to him, Harman didn’t want to burst their bubble and played along hoping they would realise that no such thing had happened.

But then when things didn’t stop, he was going red-faced trying to explain that things weren’t as reported in the press and he wasn’t heart-broken at all. Imagine the embarrassment his co-stars suffered. But they do deserve credit for actually making Harman admit that he is seeing Priyanka, something the media hasn’t been able to do.

Vidya takes her designer to task

Vidya Balan’s woes continue with the recent flak she received for her awful dress sense in Kismat Konnection. Probably that’s why she was seen taking her new designer to task on the sets of her next film produced by Vishal Bharadwaj.ῠ The hapless designer who had reached the sets with a bagful of clothes for Vidya to choose from was shocked to see her not liking any of the outfits specially made for her.

Designers mumble, ‘somebody please tell Vidya, given her limitations with the western attire there is only so much a designer could do’. But Vidya was smarting under negative feedback she had just received for her latest film and like they say hell hath no fury like a woman criticised. Vidya’s tirade against the designer and her refusal to shoot in outfits given to her, held up the shoot and the director himself had to come to her van and cajole her to relent. She did, but only when she was allowed to use her own outfit that was quickly organised to avoid any further delay.

Does life imitate art or vice versa?
 
By Vikram Bhatt

August 3 was friendship day and co-incidentally my classmates and I happened to arrange an evening together after about 13 years on that same day. It was a nice coming together and then as the evening wore on I wondered that if I put this in a film that school friends met after years on friendship day, the critics would say how very corny and I would never hear the last of it. and yet it was true and it happened.

Later as I drove home I wondered if life imitated art or did art imitate life? This has been an age-old discussion and one that has many consequences.

Last week after the Ahemdabad blasts a journalist from a magazine called me and asked me if I felt some blasts were inspired from the recently released film Contract. I begged ignorance and said that I had not seen Contract and don’t have a clue about the sequence in question. Though I had this to say to the journalist, considering that Contract released only a week before the blasts, it would be really scary to know that a terrorist outfit could plan, fund and execute a bombing in less than a week. Then this would be a really unsafe place to live in and yet I know that this cannot be true. So itjust a mere co-incidence that the film and the blasts all came together, or will we never know the truth?

I had a sequence in my film Ghulam where Aamir Khan runs towards an oncoming train and the sequence we called Dus Dus ki Daud. Later people told me that the youth were indulging in this kind of activity on the tracks after the film, but when I spoke to my writer he said he got the idea from youth that was already indulging in this kind of activity. So once again, does life imitate art or does art imitate life?

There are two things that I really muse about in this realm and the first one is that why is that if life imitates, it only imitates the wrong doings of the protagonists and not the right doings? They say that people start smoking and drinking after their on-screen idols do the same but why don’t they respect elders like the heroes and come first in class in all the subjects and fight for the innocent and the down trodden and save the girl from hooligans? So can we say that cinema only inspires the bad and not the good? Is that not really convenient? Blame it on the movies boys, a good whipping horse what?

And then my other point is, cinema is only about a hundred years old and there is nothing in the world that did not happen before the coming of the movies. There was betrayal, deceit, addictions, rapes, dacoits, intense sexuality, wars, politics, incest – just about everything and so how is life imitating cinema?

Anyone who claims to be original is lying. There are ideas that inspire ideas for sure but nothing inspires our imaginations like life does.

Cinema is a medium that freezes the events of life for everyone to see and keeps them ingrained in celluloid for generations. We cannot be blamed for inspiring the wrong doings, for immortalising them, we stand guilty.

The stuff of legends
 

There have been many biographies of Sir Richard Burton, the renowned and enigmatic Victorian explorer, ethnologist, archaeologist, author, translator, and one of the greatest linguists of his era. Curiously, however, there have been no major novels based on Burton’s extraordinary life. Iliya Troyanov, in a remarkable German novel Der Weltensammler, has corrected this omission. The English translation of his work, The Collector of Worlds, has created a sensual adventure, and an exploration of Burton’s behaviour.

Burton was a brilliantly charismatic scholar and adventurer. Even from an early age he set out to learn all he could about swords and guns. Duelling, riding, smoking, gambling and experiments with various forms of debauchery propelled him through a precocious adolescence, at the end of which, despite an obsession with the acquisition of languages, especially Arabic, he was sent down from Trinity College, Oxford.

But the loss of one opportunity signalled the beginning of another and he joined the British East India Company in 1842, aged 21, as an ensign – the lowest rank of commissioned infantry officer. India held the immediate appeal of having many languages. Burton soon mastered Persian, Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Marathi, and over the next seven years greedily took in all he could find: delving into tantric Brahmin rituals; converting to Sikhism and then Islam; enjoying Eastern erotica; keeping native mistresses; and writing.

Once he began, he kept on writing for the rest of his life. He even gave in to the first stirrings of a lifelong love of disguise, learning the secrets of those with whom he mingled. Burton’s controversial army career (he served under General Charles Napier) ended dramatically because a report he had written on the boy brothels of Karachi came to the attention of Napier’s successor and was considered disgraceful because it was so accurate as to suggest participation on the part of the reporter.

Burton’s departure from the army threatened to destroy him, but he went on to further adventures around the world. He famously entered Mecca in disguise (1853), was wounded in Somaliland, sought the source of the Nile on two separate eventful journeys (1855 and 1857-58) and in 1860 crossed America to visit the Mormons in Salt Lake City.

Immediately after his marriage to the staunchly Catholic Isabel Arundell he embarked on a turbulent diplomatic career, being posted to Fernando Po (1861), then to Santos in 1865 and Damascus (1869). He was sent to Trieste in 1872, where he remained until his death 12 years later. Isabel then burned many of his documents and manuscripts, perpetrating one of the greatest literary crimes of the century.

Troyanov’s sympathetic novel is the product of immense research and understanding. We are led into the author’s imagined history of actual events as seen first through the eyes of Burton’s Indian servant, who introduced him to the languages and mysteries of the East; then from the viewpoint of the Ottoman governor of Hijaz, who conducts an enquiry with the men who accompanied the disguised Burton on his journey to Mecca; and finally we have the account of Sidi Muburak, the former African slave, who led Burton and his companion John Hanning Speke on their ill-fated journey to find the source of the Nile in 1857.

Iliya Troyanov himself is a collector of worlds. He was born in Bulgaria, fled to West Germany with his family to escape persecution, and grew up speaking German before emigrating to Kenya where he learned English.

He is the author of Mumbai to Mecca, an account of his own pilgrimage to Mecca, and in The Collector of Worlds, he has painstakingly followed the outline of Burton’s cryptic career, but unashamedly elaborated on the many frustrating gaps. It is a fascinating revelation, and speaks as much of Troyanov’s personal approach to Burton’s mystery as to any real solution.

In doing so it invites us to share Burton’s passion both for geographical discovery and for the unknowable and the unthinkable.

One of the great values of this absorbing novel is that we are allowed to discover for ourselves the passionate curiosity that shaped Burton’s entire life, where he used language and religion as his passports to a hitherto forbidden world, and where his zeal for adventure knew no bounds.

Troyanov’s scholarship has given us a new understanding of Burton’s world. It is an intensely passionate journey, and a wonderful piece of storytelling.

End of imagination?
 
By Sunil K. Poolani

While growing up reading good literature, it was not books that really fascinated us, but literary journals in which not just stories, poems and essays by the cr
me-de-la-cr
me of the writing world appeared, but those publications also carried analyses of and interviews with great writers, and reviews of their books. Armed with those journals, we debated and literally fought for hours, days, weeks and months together about the contents.

In those pre-liberalisation days, we could not afford the price of those journals (between Rs 2 and Rs 15), and at least 10 poor souls used to savour one single copy; by the time that copy did that tortuous round, it resembled an opponent in a Schwarzenegger movie.

Then, unlike today, many large-selling publications from the stable of big media organisations devoted a fair amount of space for good writing. In English, there were the venerated Illustrated Weekly and the Bombay magazine; both closed shop long time back, thank you. But it is heartening to know that some regional languages still follow that tradition – like Mathrubhumi in Malayalam and Desh in Bengali.

Also, there were these brilliant ‘little’ magazines that originated, since centuries, in far-flung areas like Santiniketan and Karimnagar, espousing issues as diverse as Rabindra Sangeet and Naxalism. They had the lives of fireflies but they burnt bright when they were alive, and every death encouraged another firefly to take shape and shine.

In English, apart from the government-sponsored daft efforts, there were, in the last two decades, some great journals that made a deep dent in literary minds. Civil Lines was one. Founded by the indomitable Ravi Dayal, Civil Lines swiftly became the abode of quintessential new Indian writing. Later, it was edited by the talented duo, Mukul Kesavan and Kai Friese. Nonetheless, like its brethren across the spectrum, it too died an immature death, but not before leaving an indelible mark – challenging the till-then norms by refusing to publish to a set schedule.

There were also similar literary endeavours (some still do exist, just in case) like Chandrabhaga, Biblio, Kavya Bharati, International Gallerie and Yatra. All these followed the model of their international ‘Bible’: the esteemed Granta, the UK-based journal which continues to whet many a connoisseur’s taste for new and good writing across the globe.

Today, literary magazine is a diminishing trade and a difficult passion to indulge in; no serious publisher in the world would risk burning her/his fingers in it today. In the last four years, the third issue of my ambitious ‘quarterly’ journal, Urban Voice, just came out. I, nevertheless, would like to bring it out periodically.

So that is why I watch with rapt admiration when I come across two amazing ventures, Atlas and Little Magazine. The former is brought out by the talented poet and prose writer Sudeep Sen and the latter by a dynamic duo, Antara Dev Sen and Pratik Kanjilal.

Little Magazine has, so far, stood the test of time, and has carved a niche of its own – offering, issue after issue, some of the best original writings in English and translations from even remote Indian tongues. Atlas is just two issues old, and Sen was explaining to me the vicissitudes of all kinds while producing a volume of this oeuvre. “It’s a tough game, unless you have loads of money.”

Hope these last vestiges of intellectual sanity live on in an arid land of crass commercialisation.

Tailpiece

C.P. Scott, the founder editor of The Manchester Guardian, once said, “News is sacred, opinion is free.” If our newspapers hardly believe in reporting news and resort to concocted opinions, a new breed of Indian novels is today banking on contemporary issues and polity for cheap, titillating fictionalisation. What next? I will leave it to you.

The writer is the publisher and managing editor, Frog Books, an imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd, Mumbai. Write to him at poolani@gmail.com

‘I value the words used in a book’
 

I am an avid reader. I cannot be away from books at all. Almost three books are always with me at a time. Presently, I’m reading Barack Obama’s autobiography and I found it amazing. For me, language matters the most. Being a daughter of an author, I have always been associated with books since my childhood. I value the words used in a book the most.

I like reading poetry and non-fiction. Fiction and bestsellers are least fascinating to me. Though selecting a favourite author is a bit difficult as there are too many I like, Amitav Ghosh, Kiran Nagarkar and Salman Rushdie top my list of favourites. I like the style and depth in their writing.

One book that I have read numerous times is Sare Sukhan Hamare, the collected works of Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. I read this book again and again, and every time I discover a new meaning from Faiz’s beautifully composed verses. I like this book because I have heard Faiz recite many of his poems many times. Moreover, at different stages in my life, every poem comes out with completely different meanings.

Another book that has been truly fascinating is Two Alone, Two Together: Letters Between Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru 1940-1964. It presents the rich inheritance of the Gandhi family. It has all the lessons that Indira Gandhi learnt from her father and later Nehruji learnt from his daughter. It is a beautiful presentation of a father-daughter bonding with a perfect combination of legacy.

Shakespeare’s stratford
 
By Christine Pemberton

Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, is one of those places that you feel you already know well, even if you are visiting the pretty English town for the first time. It must be all those years of studying Shakespeare at school, that somehow makes everything seem so familiar.

There are streets lined with pretty black and white gabled Elizabethan houses, of which five have special historic significance, since they all relate to Shakespeare’s life.

Visit Hall’s Croft, which used to be the home of Shakespeare’s daughter, Susannah; Nash’s House, and New Place, where Shakespeare died.

Just a short drive out of the town are Mary Arden’s House, the family home of Shakespeare’s mother, and the iconic Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. This much photographed beautiful thatched cottage in Shottery village was the home of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, before her marriage. We visited Anne Hathaway’s cottage early on a sunny, summer morning, the first people there, just beating a bus load of camera-happy Japanese by a whisker. We wandered through the panelled rooms, stooping to enter the low-beamed doors, and then visited the beautiful gardens. Amongst all the flowers, there is a pretty little arbour with a rustic bench, and you can sit there, press a discreet button, and listen to a private recital of some of the best known Shakespearean sonnets. A real treat.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust manages these five houses, and easiest and most economical way to visit these historic properties is to buy a combined ticket, allowing you to visit them all. If you only have the time or inclination to visit one of these homes, then make it Anne Hathaway’s cottage.

Back in town, take a short stroll along the banks of the river, past the barges and the over-fed ducks, which brings you to the pretty and equally much-photographed Holy Trinity Parish Church. It is here that William Shakespeare was baptised, served as a lay rector of the church, and was buried in the church in 1616.

Although the historical sites are a must, for me the real heart of Stratford is the unpretentious Royal Shakespeare Theatre on the banks of the River Avon. We pre-booked our tickets for Julius Caesar on the Internet, as well as the absolutely fascinating and not-to-be missed backstage tour. We did the tour in the afternoon, and so saw the props and the scenery for the play that we would see later that same night.

They show you everything that is involved backstage, from the sound system, the sets, to the dressing rooms, and the racks of costumes, wigs, boots and costume jewellery. You get see how the props are laid out at the side of the stage, all labelled and meticulously organised – the scroll for this character in this scene, and the sword for that character. Then, much to the childrens’ delight, we went on stage, and saw the set for the opening scene and looked out at the empty auditorium. It really gives you a great feeling of how a theatre works, and that evening when we watched the play, there was an added element of awareness and understanding.

The rhythm of Stratford revolves around the theatre. Restaurants serve early dinners for theatre-goers, all timed to the second, so that you can eat and be in your seat for curtain-up. Pre-order a glass of wine for the interval, and wander out onto the wide terrace on the river bank. Boats drift past in the wonderful light of an English summer’s evening, the ducks are so lazy they can hardly bother to eat the bread people toss to them, and with a little bit of imagination, the scene would hardly have changed since Shakespeare’s time.

The next morning, we wandered round the town centre, pottering around the shops, and then strolled down to the river, fed the ubiquitous ducks, and watched the lock gates open to let barges sail through.

But wait. What was that sound? Tinkly sounding bells. The rhythmic stamping of feet. Clapping. To my great delight, and much to the mystification of the Indian contingent in my family, there was a display of Morris dancing taking place. Morris dancing really is the English at their most eccentric best (I am English, so am perfectly entitled to say this!). Men and women, wearing extravagant clothing, with layers of bells round their ankles and sporting some of the fanciest head-gear you will ever see, dancing around in a circle: a bearded man with his face blackened, and wearing a hat decorated lavishly with flowers – it doesn’t get more eccentric than that.

Watching this display of English mid-summer revelry, I couldn’t but wonder if the great man himself hadn’t watched the same traditional dances, on this very spot by the river, some 400 years ago.

Getting there

By Air: The airport operates flights daily from over 60 national and international destinations. Alternatives include Heathrow Airport, East Midlands Airport and Coventry Airport. The Birmingham International Airport is located a mere 20 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. Multiple shuttle, coach, and limousine services offer transportation to your final destination.

By Road: To get to Stratford-upon-Avon from London, take the M40 motorway and get off at Junction 15. Distance 102 miles (164 km), journey time approximately 2 hours.

By Train: Stratford-upon-Avon train station is located around half a mile west of the town centre. The town is easily accessible by foot from the station. There are regular services to Birmingham Snow Hill station (around an hour), Warwick (around 30 minutes) and London Marylebone (around two and a half hours).

Tourist information: Stratford-on-Avon District Council

Elizabeth House, Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6HX

Email: info@stratford-dc.gov.uk Tel: 01789 267575 Fax: 01789 260 007

Accommodation

Stratford has four star hotels in Stratford Upon Avon which will suit most hi-end travellers seeking accommodation in Stratford Upon Avon.

Grab the free stuff
 

Whether it is New York’s Staten Island Ferry or London’s National Gallery, free activities are a welcome bonus for travellers of all ages and incomes. Travel website Travelandleisure.com has come up with a list of the world’s best free stuff for travellers.

n Free sightseeing: Get the inside track on a city from someone who knows it best, a local. These volunteers want to show off their town, and won’t demand a tip. Greeters can be scheduled via e-mail or telephone and should be arranged several weeks to a month ahead.

n Free bicycles: Zip around town on two wheels. In Copenhagen, Zurich, Bern, and Helsinki, you can borrow a bicycle from stands stationed around the city. Each program requires a nominal deposit which is returned after your ride when you lock the bike up. Many cities, including Paris, Vienna, Rome, and Lyon, offer free bikes for the first half hour (after that you’ll have to fork over some cash).

n Free podcasts: Download podcasts to your MP3 player and get a step-by-step narration of some of the world’s hottest spots. In Europe, Rick Steves will guide you through the Louvre, Versailles, the Coliseum, the Sistine Chapel, the Uffizi Gallery, and other sites. Zevisit has free downloadable audio guides to scores of European cities. Author Peter Caine has a free podcast based on his book, Walking the Da Vinci Code in Paris.

n Free public transport: In Europe, 27 InterCity Hotels throughout Germany and one in Vienna offer free local public transportation to guests while visitors to New York can’t beat the spectacular view of the skyline during the 25-minute ride on the Staten Island Ferry.

n Free Accommodation: A hotel can be the most expensive part of a vacation so try living in someone else’s home while they live in yours. List your house or apartment on a vacation-exchange site like Only in America. To go global, the International Home Exchange Network features listings all over the world.

n Free Skiing: Try the Utah package where an early morning flight to Salt Lake City provides a boarding pass on which you can ski all day at Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort, and The Canyons Resort. In Colorado, several resorts offer some type of free-skiing program to reward volunteer work and Quebec give a one day pass to anyone who dresses like Santa on Santa Claus Day.

n Free Sports events: Each year, dozens of Olympic teams train at the Utah Olympic Park, while at Lake Placid, New York, you can watch Olympic and professional figure skaters and hockey teams training for free.

n Free Museums and Zoos: Some of the world’s top museums don’t charge a cent. The national museums and galleries in England, Scotland, and Wales are free and you can’t miss the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Tate Modern and the Victoria and Albert. In Washington DC, admission to all 19 Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo is free.

n Free Concerts: Top-notch music from world-class performers can be a pricey affair but in rare spots around the globe. In South Africa, the precursor to the annual Cape Town Jazz Festival is the free concert on Greenmarket Square, which kicks off the main festival. At Antibes, France, take in the finale free concert at the celebrated Jazz a Juan International Annual Jazz Festival.

n Free Movies: In Paris every summer, the ultramodern Parc de la Villette outside the city draws movie lovers with its giant outdoor screen and free Open Air Cinema festival. In Baltimore, The American Visionary Art Museum sponsors Flicks on the Hill, an outdoor film series featuring free outdoor movies while Pismo Beach, California presents cinema under the stars every other Wednesday.

Fundamentals
 
By Senjam Raj Sekhar

Karnataka Quiz Association (KQA) celebrated its silver jubilee with style. ASKQANCE 2008, the 25th anniversary quiz festival held in the last week of June featured nine quizzes held over two days. The quizzes included subject specific quizzes like entertainment, sports, science etc and also quizzes for school and college going quizzers. The Open Quiz was a national affair with five out of the eight places taken by non-Bangalore teams. The quiz was eventually won by We Are Like This Wonly (Movin Miranda, Anustup Datta, Ochintya Sharma and Thejaswi Udupa).

This week we excerpt some questions from the informal sports and science quiz.

Write with your suggestions, questions (with answers) to D4/11 (GF), Exclusive Floors, DLF Phase-V, Gurgaon 122 002 or email senjam@gmail.com

Askqance 2008

1. Connect: Vienna, Catalan, Sicilian, Dutch, Indian, Scotch, Manhattan, Berlin, Belgrade, Leningrad, Dragon, Hedgehog and Stonewall?

2. The Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx), became extinct in the wild in 1972 from the Arabian Peninsula. It was reintroduced in 1982 in Oman but poaching has had negative effects. Further populations have been reintroduced in Qatar, Bahrain, Israel and Saudi Arabia, with a total population in the wild of about 886 in 2003. About 600 more are in captivity. In modern sport how has the Oryx been reintroduced to the public?

3. In June 2002 about 50,000 fans gathered in front of the historic Kwanghwamoon gate to greet a motorcade carrying him. He reportedly walked away from that episode richer by some $1 million and an honorary citizenship to boot. Today he towers above the street on successive adverts outside the Hotel Moskva, and is seen popping up on posters all over town in Moscow, usually promoting Samsung. Name this “cheerleader-in-chief”.

4. It is derived from the 17th century French word meaning “to arrange” or “bring about”, and in modern usage, its verb form stands for deception, trickery, or subterfuge. In sports parlance it is used to indicate a bridge hand that is void of trumps. It is also a speed limiting device, with its widespread usage in the past few years being a consequence of Ayrton Senna’s tragic end. Identify the term.

5. In the 2nd Test of the Ashes series at Lord’s in 1934, Australian wickets fell in a heap. Hedley Verity took 7 for 61 and 8 for 43. This led to a major change in the commentators’ box in the next test at Old Trafford. What was the change?

6. George Lohmann (born June 2, 1865 in London, died December 1, 1901 in Worcester, Western Cape, South Africa) created a record that lasted for 61 years, from 1895-96 to 1956. Which record and who broke it?

7. It is the name of an alternative rock multi-platinum selling band from Jacksonville, Florida. The World Health Organisation issues a vaccination certificate with the same name. The rules of engagement issued to UK troops serving in Northern Ireland are also called thus. In sports it is used as a part of a language-neutral system designed by a Britisher Ken Aston, and found its first use on 31 May 1970.

8. The place of his birth was an important garrison town for the East India Company forces. Located on the Grand Trunk Road, it is now a well connected industrial center. His dad represented United Provinces in Ranji Trophy. He played most of his cricket in a town about 55 miles east-southeast of London, famous as a pilgrimage destination for Christians. Last year he was one of the recipients of the Sitara-e-Imtiaz. And he allegedly is the only man to have witnessed both Brian Lara’s innings of 501 not out vs Durham and Hanif Mohammed’s 499 in Karachi.

9. Connect (1) an Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem witch trials written in the early 1950s during the time of McCarthyism, when the government blacklisted accused communists, and (2) a number of different techniques for making steel alloy by slowly heating and cooling pure iron and carbon (typically in the form of charcoal) to a South Yorkshire building designed in 1971 by Tanya Moiseiwitsch that has a 980 seat auditorium.

10. “Camels ordinarily sit down carefully. Perhaps their joints creak. Possibly early oiling might prevent premature hardening.” What is this?.

11. This science was so dominated in Britain in the 19th century by Edward Tylor, that it was known as “Mr Tylor’s science”. It has 4 sub-fields – Biological, Socio-cultural, Linguistic and Archaeology. What is it called?

12. Scientist and Pulitzer Prize winning author Jared Diamond calls it the biggest mistake in history. In his book Guns, Germs and Steel, he argues that along with this practice came “the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism that curse our existence”. What practice is it?

13. The first appearance of this popular probability puzzle was in a Martin Gardner column and was called The Three Prisoner Problem. It is now named after the producer of the TV show that used it. Marilyn vos Savant analysed it in Parade magazine. Her answer was roundly criticised by thousands, with Math Professors writing in to say they had a good laugh at her ignorance. However, recent simulations show her analysis to be mostly right. What is the name of this puzzle that has caused embarrassment to many professional mathematicians?.

14. The west coast of India was not in line of sight of the epicenter of the 2004 Sumatra earthquake. Yet waves of up to 1m struck parts of the west coast. What one word physical phenomena made this happen?

ANSWERS

Askqance 2008

1. Opening defences/gambits in chess 2. Orry the Oryx was the mascot of the 2006 Doha Asian Games 3. Guus Hiddink, current coach of the Russian national football team 4. Chicane, from the French chicanerie meaning “trickery” 5. Till then, there was no scorer in the commentary box; this match started the practice 6. Best bowling figures in a Test innings. Lohmann took 9-28 which was overtaken by Jim Laker’s 10-53 7. Yellow Cards 8. Bob Woolmer 9. The Crucible. It is the venue for the annual World Professional Snooker Championships 10. Mnemonic for geological eras/periods. Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian etc 11. Anthropology 12. Agriculture 13. Monty Hall Problem 14. Refraction. In air, difference in refractive index causes light to bend. In the oceans, the differences in depth of water plays the same part, with waves travelling much faster in deep ocean and slower in shallow water.

 

 Features of the Week

 

 

Deccan Chronicle

March Of The Bachelorette Brigade

3 Aug

March of the bachelorette brigade
 
By Narayani Basu

In just the last one decade, the Indian woman has come of age. She now toasts her freedom, revels in her sensuality, commands her finances, chooses her wines, lives life on her own terms, and flaunts her singlehood.ῠ When Sex and the City premiered on television back in the 90s, everyone sat up and took notice – particularly women. The series tackled topics like sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), safe sex, multiple partners and dozens of other issues that helped women emerge out of the shadows and into the light of changing societal traditions. And when the series came to India, it met with mixed reactions. There were groups who waved the flag of women’s independence and individuality. And yet, underneath it all, the old stereotypes were, and are, still alive and kicking.ῠ

There is, more so in Indian society, a tremendous pressure to find a man and settle down. Despite progress in nearly every sphere, there is still a belief that without a man, nothing can be achieved or accomplished. You’ve made it if you marry into a good family. However, a closer look shows that even though the change is slow, it is steady. The new Indian woman is all about exploring the various facets of her personality. She isn’t just able to afford holidays to London, or own designer clothes, but she’s able to actually make decisions about her life – when, what, and how – all without the help of a man. The change isn’t only restricted to the younger generation either. Women in their late 30s and early 40s are breaking out of the conventional mould into which they were so carefully sculpted – all with the support of the dreaded ‘traditional Indian family’.ῠ

As a result, men have had to force themselves to change as well. It’s no longer enough to be a man – you need to be proficient on both the professional, as well as the domestic front, especially if you’re married to today’s modern career woman. As a result, divorce rates all over the country are shooting up. According to the Tribune, there was a 150 percent rise in the divorce rates in conservative states like Punjab and Haryana in 2007, while in New Delhi there were 8000-9000 cases in the same year.ῠ

So it’s obvious that marriage is no longer the low-risk option that it once was for a daughter. Take the case of Anita Sahgal (name withheld on condition of anonymity). Sahgal, who was married for 15 years before she got a divorce, manages her own media consultancy. Though she started her company while she was married, Sahgal says that her job did not mean much to her husband. “I was working out of home initially, but as my job gained momentum and there was hardly any support from my husband, I had to think of a way out.”

The only way out was a divorce and Sahgal admits that it was the most painful decision she had to make. By this time she had two children and the going was hardly easy. Besides, at this time, Sahgal had entered what she calls a “professional plateau”. She was hardly paying attention to her work as a result of trying to manage her personal front and it was taking its toll on her. “It took me 15 years to come around to the decision,” she says, “but the kids were grown up by this time, and though it was very hard, I decided to go ahead with it.”

The good thing about it all? “Undoubtedly, my kids and my family. My kids were completely non-judgmental and my whole family gave their support unconditionally,” she says, “My work is now back on track and so is my life. In fact, I’m taking a break and going abroad for a holiday with my mother and daughter.”

However, being a single woman isn’t all happiness and light. Consider, for instance, the fact that you have bills and there isn’t anyone to settle them but yourself. Sunita Jain, 56, a former employee with the Bank of Tokyo, who now works as a freelance investment consultant-cum-lecturer, agrees, “Being single at any age for any woman in Indian society is difficult, but you need to accept the situation as you find it and adjust accordingly. If you can do that and take each day as it comes, you’ll be fine.”ῠ

Jain, who comes from an orthodox Jain family, was married and divorced at an early age. That, she says, surprisingly wasn’t a problem. “I, along with everyone else, was a critic of divorce back then, but it wasn’t something I could prevent, and surprisingly, when I told my family of my decision, they were behind me all the way,” she says. “I knew life would be better without him and no one in my family would have had me believe otherwise. A divorced woman used to be ill regarded and divorce was a stigma, but my family, especially my sister, showed me off as proudly as they would a single daughter. Whether it was at parties or family gatherings, I was never left alone for a minute. I can’t thank them enough for that.”

But what about financial support? Though Jain was working at the time of her marriage, her husband wanted her to give up the job. She remained adamant on the issue, but when the divorce came through, she was left to fend for herself. Here again, her family turned up trumps. “My father and my brother were more experienced than I was back then,” she admits, “and they guided me wonderfully. I began to learn more from the job I was in, and invested my savings wisely. Now I can stand on my feet, financially and otherwise.” The issue of companionship is another monster that often rears its head. Some women may worry about being alone for the rest of their lives. Jain says that that is just a question of one’s state of mind.

“I have plenty of friends, male and female,” she says, “Life doesn’t stop because you’re a single woman, nor should you expect it to. And if it boils down to the issue of sex, then it all depends on how you play.” Radhika Sachdev, 40, who works with a publishing house, quenched her need for companionship in another way. She adopted a child, Aarzoo. “I would have adopted even if I had been married,” she says, “It was a decision I had been working towards as I grew older. I don’t feel the need for a man, just to have kids. Kids aren’t the only basis of a relationship.”

Sachdev wasn’t worried about raising any eyebrows either. “All that mattered to me was that my parents would accept my decision and my child. Luckily for me, they did without any questions. They helped me set up the infrastructure that I needed to get Aarzoo into my life.” But hurdles presented themselves in the form of schools. “Most schools that I applied to were biased because I was a single mother and because she was adopted,” says Sachdev. “It was a very tough period for me, because I don’t believe that you discriminate against children who are adopted or women who are raising them single-handed. It’s not anyone’s fault,” she says. Innumerable rounds, and a letter from Sheila Dikshit later, Aarzoo was accepted into Somerville School. “I’m happy that they accepted her,” says Sachdev, “It’s a good school and she’s very happy there. That’s all I want.”

Being single isn’t exactly a joyride. There are ups and downs to every side of life, but that comes even if you are married or in a relationship. For now, most Indian women, be they young or old, are embracing a lifestyle that, while it is independent, in no way cramps their style. An online blog post says it all: “Then there’s the deep contentment of turning the key in your own front door on a Friday night, slamming it behind you, pouring a glass of wine and settling down to watch a favourite movie with no one else commandeering the remote control and channel-flicking during the breaks.”

Bipasha Basu When in a relationship for a long time, it feels like you are already married, because you are leading your lives as married couples would – sharing responsibilities and being together. What matters is whether you can maintain your identity even after marriage. There are couples who’ve been together for 10 years and then decided to tie the knot. And what happens? Soon after they get married, they split.ῠ They say, people’s expectations change.ῠ Although I do want to get married eventually, I would want to be independent.

Advaita Kala (writer) For me, per se, there is no set guideline. I think it’s really about being with someone who gives you the space to grow and evolve. I read once a long time back, and in fact used it in my book as well, that, “Marriage is like one long conversation.” I agree with that. To be with someone who mentally invigorates you and keeps you aware and invested is great. I think when and if I do decide to marry, it will hopefully be to someone who is not afraid of change, is kind and cares about the world we live in.

Sushmita Sen: The idea behind marriage is age-old – to find happiness, a sense of security given the norms of the society then. Of course society and the times have changed now. Is it then right to carry these age-old traditions and beliefs forward? Why is it so bad for a girl who is 30-something to not be married? I have girls writing to me saying families, usually distant family, get on their nerves, hounding them about marriage. Why can’t we just let people be? I want to know how many married people are truly happy? If marriage doesn’t guarantee happiness, is there even a point discussing this?

Brides who showed the door to grooms
 
By Amita Verma

Four young girls in Uttar Pradesh proved this month that it doesn’t take education or financial strength to stand up for women’s emancipation – it just takes mettle, and the strength to put one’s foot down. Meera, Soni, Raman and Renu are young semi-educated girls, belonging to the lower middle-class. They have never met each other, yet these girls created a furor this month when they stood up for their rights and refused to bow to social pressures.

Meera, who lives in Badaun district, sent her groom back because he did not bring a band with the wedding procession. “If the girl’s family is made to spend money in decorating the venue, why can’t the groom spend money on the band?” she demands. Soni, in Farukkhabad district, refused to marry when she learnt that the groom lisped and stammered. “The boy’s parents hid his speech disability and it was this that made me revolt,” she says in protest. In Mahoba district, Raman found that her groom was a middle-aged man and not the boy she had been shown earlier. She stormed out of the mandap and refused to go through the marriage rituals. In Maharajganj district, Renu found the groom groping around with his hands and discovered that he was partially blind. She stood up and told the elders in the family that she would not marry the groom. The baraat had to return without the bride.

Sway to the rhythm divine
 
By Neha Rathi

Letting your body sway to the rhythm of musical beats isn’t just pleasure. It also helps relieve physical ailments, fosters mental peace and gives rise to a feeling of contentment. Throughout the ages and across cultures, dance has been a medium to express a plethora of powerful emotions. Some dance in celebration, some to let go of bottled feelings, some for fun while some dance in devotion. Dance is energy in motion, and when infused with devotion, it becomes a way to reach out to God.

Indian mythology reserves a special place for dance. Shiva’s Tandava Nritya, the most famous dance in the pantheon of Hindu deities, is considered to be the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. The dance of Krishna with gopis, known as Raas Leela, is symbolic of the harmony and bliss of love. The dervishes swirled and swayed in an ecstatic love of God. The bauls of Bengal strummed their dotara, tapped their feet and twirled in praise of the Almighty.

Besides expressing joy and devotion, dance can also bring the mind, body and soul in perfect harmony. Dance therapy is a treatment in which choreographed movements of body are used to treat social, emotional, cognitive and physical problems. With the premise that emotional anxiety results in muscle tension and constrained movement, the therapy works towards healing in a rhythmic manner. Conceived as a marriage of sorts between modern dance and psychiatry, the therapy was pioneered by Marian Chace, a dance instructor who established her own studio in the US in the 1930s. Since Chase’s dance classes provided unique opportunities for self-expression, communication and group interaction, psychiatrists began sending patients to her. Later she founded the American Dance Therapy Association and became its president.

Dance therapy treats patients suffering from diabetes, stress, hypertension, cervical spondylitis and migraine headache using the communion of the body-mind factor. Says A.V. Sathyanarayana, a Bangalore-based dance therapist who has founded the Shristi Institute of Dance Therapy, “Dance therapy is founded on the premise that the body and mind are interrelated entities and the state of the body affects the mental and emotional wellbeing of a person in diverse ways. It helps bring out the inner feelings of the participants and helps them develop a healthy personality. The joyful rhythm invokes positive emotions and visualisations of the beauty of nature.”

About the benefits of the therapy, he adds, “This therapy benefits performers without them even realising it. All types of classical and folk dances, right from Bharatnatyam to the Gujarati folk dance Dandiya, have body movements that can be used in this therapy.” The music is a blend of Carnatic, Hindustani, jazz and folk, focusing on specific beats. And the dance steps include Bharatnatyam steps, snake and peacock movements. “We try to show the participant the positive aspect of a creature or an object. He or she should be proud of enacting the creature, like the curvaceous body of a snake or the beauty of a peacock. The snake dance in particular helps in curing respiratory problems,” he says.

If you do something, go the whole way
 

Commitment brings energy. If one wants to live an intense life, full of energy and power, one needs deep commitment. If you are not committed, the energy is not challenged. Everything is just okay, so-so; one continues in a lukewarm way, and one lives just on the periphery. So make this insight a tacit understanding in you. Life is a commitment, because only those who commit themselves, live. Others simply drag. They are born and die but they never live. Only people of commitment rise to high peaks of energy, rise to their climaxes.ῠ

Each moment has to be a commitment Then the energy will flare up and will become a bigger and bigger flame everyday. The more you bring it out, the more it will become available to you, and deeper and higher will be the sources that are available to you. Man can have as much energy as he needs. But if you don’t need it, there is no point in having it. If you have decided to crawl on the earth, it is up to you. If you want to fly in the sky, that too is for you to decide. Your energy is already ready to do what you want to do, but the first thing is that you have to want to do it.

Experience everything fully Whenever you want to experience something, do something, go the whole way. Either it is useless and you understand it, or it is useful; then too you have an understanding of it. Either way you are profited, benefited. Make this a rule for everything; let it be a golden rule. If you love a woman, then love. Go all the way so that you can come to an understanding of whether love is worth-while or just foolishness. And whatsoever the conclusion, it will be good for you. If you come to realise that it is a very significant experience, then you can open many doors. There is no other way than experience.

Love unconditionally Ordinarily love is a relationship, and when love is a relationship you breathe only towards a certain person. You breathe him or her, but the passage is very narrow. The universe is so vast and love gives so much; why make it so narrow? Let it expand and be unconditional, because whenever there is a condition, love becomes ruined. When it is unconditional, it becomes divine. And love is never satisfied unless it becomes divine because that is the deepest urge in every human being: to be so full of love that whatsoever the condition, the love goes on showering.

Courtesy Osho International Foundation/www.osho.com

At home with ghosts
 
By Veenu Sandal

Critics cite instances of some so-called paranormal groups that mimic the methodology of a traditional ghost/demon hunting team. However, their primary goal is to frighten the homeowner/client into a belief that they are in danger and that immediate action to cleanse the home is imperative. These groups will act quickly to confuse the homeowner/client by pointing to certain items in the home as being “possessed” and will then offer to remove said items to make the home safe. Typically, these items are antiques, relics, or family heirlooms that will later be put on display in a paranormal museum hosted by the said group where a charge is incurred for admission to view such articles.

Yet, despite criticism, the fact remains that ghost-hunting groups around the world are swelling with members – their popularity fuelled by television shows, the Internet and the increasing availability of high-tech equipment and detailed books like Ghost Hunting: How to Investigate the Paranormal. A common sense approach toῠ investigating ghostly happenings, including apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists are avidly read by many ghost-hunters. This particular book, written by Loyd Auerbach, director of the Office of Paranormal Investigations, covers the investigative process from the initial call and assessment to the on-site investigative techniques and technology.

ῠIt explains how to come up with solutions and resolutions and ways to get rid of the phenomena and goes on to discuss fraudulent cases besides looking at other non-ghostly happenings with paranormal explanations. The book also includes use of technology and the use of psychics in paranormal investigations and explores if anyone can prove the existence of ghosts. Finally, the book covers information resources and organisations that the new ghost-hunter and the person who encounters a ghost can find to learn more about the subject and for help with cases they’re investigating or phenomena they’re experiencing. For obvious reasons, new ghost-hunters find this a very useful book.

According to encyclopeadic sources, individuals engaged in ghost-hunting and paranormal investigation have varying motives for their activities.ῠ

* Some ghost-hunters consider themselves hobbyists whose primary motivation is the excitement of the hunt and the thrill of possibly experiencing something supernatural. Many of these individuals enjoy spending significant time pursuing their hobby.

* Others consider themselves serious researchers who follow a number of scientific protocols and share documentation of their research with other groups in an effort to discover proof that ghosts exist. They often go about their pursuit in a prescribed manner in order to gather evidence of paranormal activity at a given location, or debunk false positive reports of hauntings. Many established groups fall into this category.

* Still others consider themselves to be providing a service, and focus their investigation on offering comfort and assistance to individuals who feel they are experiencing unexplained or paranormal activity at a home or other location. These investigators approach a location with the goal of alleviating the fear and discomfort of the occupants by listening to their experiences and providing advice and reassurance.

Generally, ghost-hunting groups are a mix of several differing outlooks and motives. These days, most advertise their services online, but the majority do not charge for investigations in hopes of finding new and interesting places to explore. Summarised by other groups, there are four basic classifications of ghost-hunters, though many groups can fall into one or more categories. 1. Scientific, generally out to either prove or disprove paranormal phenomena such as ghosts through the use of scientific protocols. 2. Interactive, using both science and practiced beliefs to form an answer about phenomena. This group can include students of crptozoology, UFOs and conspiracies. 3. Chasers/Busters, avid believers out to prove by any means that a phenomenon does exist, even regardless of evidence. 4. Religious/Spiritual believers who specialise in religious beliefs or occult beliefs and who fight against the practices of negative forces, such as demons and evil presences. There are other groups too such as those who have an open mind about the existence or non-existence of ghosts. The starting point for this group seems to be the innumerable ghost stories that have been published down the years and told by word of mouth “surely they can’t all be fiction”. Then there is the group of die-hard ghost believers who were once die-hard critics or skeptics and were converted by actual, first hand encounters with ghosts or ghostly happenings at haunted places or other very personal paranormal experiences. Read about their fascinating, gripping experiences in the next column.ῠ

Learning through seeing
 
By Ranjan Kamath

Whenever a student enrols for speech and drama training, I can anticipate the parent introduce the youngster saying, “My child just doesn’t read῅ it is cartoons, cartoons all the time!” The refrain has become so distressingly constant that it persuaded me to understand my own cultivation of the reading habit to suggest solutions.

The Calcutta I grew up in was a paradise for the poet, artist, book-lover and the cineaste. but in the ’70s, aged under ten, I was none of these and certainly no cineaste. The famous Metro Cinema held morning shows on Sunday, for which my father took me zealously. Whether it was 101 Dalmations, Cat Ballou, or Hatari – at the sound of the first bark or, gunshot I was under the seat, looking askance at a censored vertical frame from between Dad’s legs.

On Thursdays – our weekly school holiday -we were shown films at school. Tom and Jerry always preceded the main attraction, which included Flipper the Dolphin, John Wayne’s westerns, Lawrence of Arabia and Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace. During the scary bits, ‘under the seat’ was not an option in the company of peers, so eyes were kept shut.ῠ Pa never explained why he persisted in taking me to the movies when I made his life utterly miserable but with those faltering beginnings, my future transformation into a filmmaker confounded us both. To add to his misery I insisted he read the same fire-engine story at bedtime (ad nauseum). Every night a new ‘film’ premiered in my imagination, with the variations Pa brought to the story.

It took me four decades to realise that my dad and my school had unknowingly initiated me into visual literacy, expanding the visual vocabulary of my imagination. While reading 101 Great Lives, Enid Blyton, Conan Doyle and Alistair MacLean, my imagination was assisted by the visual imagery of the movies. I conveyed the movie contagion to my children, exciting them with films about flying like Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines and Battle of Britain. Films aroused a curiosity about Montgolfier’s balloon and Supermarine Spitfires which hooked them onto reading.

Rounding off the story-telling experience, I had preserved my fire engine storybook that I read to my sons at bed-time. Inspired by Pa, I too adopted circuitous narrative routes to realise that they too were enthralled more by the story-telling than the story.

In retrospect, I had not realised the importance of visual imagery in encouraging reading, till I began teaching speech and drama. When reading poetry or prose, words remained text on a page; not triggering cinema in the imagination. Reading was associated with the tedium of studying rather than the enjoyment of learning.

If we want our children to read, we have to read stories to them; read with them. Television, cinema and the internet are resources that complement the reading habit, not marginalise it. To view programmes or a film together with our children fortifies them against the subliminal shock and awe of visual bombardment – creating the curiosity to ‘find out more’ through reading. Every weekend, my children and I travel across continents and centuries from the Rome of Ben Hur to the Japan of the Last Samurai; from Lawrence of Arabia to Saving Private Ryan on the Normandy beaches. In two hours a lesson in history, geography, art and culture has been accomplished offsetting a lacklustre school syllabus.

In a world abounding in knowledge resources, it is tragic to hear a young mind say, “I am bored!”ῠῠ Wouldn’t it be gratifying if we inspired the young mind to curl up in a bean bag at the library, consumed by the ‘cinema paradiso’ of his imagination, lost in a book?

ranjan.kamath@gmail.com

Sexual seduction comes back to haunt you
 
By Ayush Maheshwari

Iῠ want to thank all my readers for sharing their experiences with me. It has been an unbelievable learning process. Recently, one of you shared with me your experience of being sexually abused as a child repeatedly and the immensely negative impact it has had on your life. My heart goes out to you and I can completely relate with you: You are not alone. I was sexually abused as a child as well and till date, it haunts me.ῠ Hearing your story has given me the courage to talk about mine. I know while I am writing this week’s column, some child somewhere in this world is getting abused. and it just has to STOP.

Here is what happened: I was around 13 years old when I visited my aunt’s house during my summer vacation for two months. My aunt lived in a joint family. My uncle’s younger brother, Ravi, who was in his late 20s at that time, was always very friendly with me. Touching me, holding me, and making me feel very special. He gave me a lot of attention which I normally wasn’t used to. Being an overweight child people would often make fun of me. So here I am getting all this super star treatment from an adult. It felt nice. My aunt had a big house and we all had our own rooms to stay in. One weekend, however, she had some guests over and Ravi had to move into my room.

I remember every moment of that night. Talking about it till date (this was 18 years ago) shakes me up. It was the darkest night of my life. I was lying on the bed when Ravi came in. He closed the door and said that he does not want anyone to see the surprise gift he is going to give me. But before that I need to sing him a song. Ravi said, “Ayush, can you please sing Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko” (he knew I loved singing.) I started singing. Slowly he came closer to me and started kissing me. I immediately stopped singing. He said, “You are so sweet, keep going, don’t stop.” He said, “Everyone calls you fat and ugly but I think you are the most beautiful person I have ever seen. I just want to be close to you. Nobody loves you Ayush, but I love you.”

What followed is something I would rather not talk about right now῅ even thinking about it is very painful. This incident was not an exception. It happened over and over again in that trip. Since then for years to come, I would look for this false affirmation to know that I was ‘good enough.’

Then why didn’t I tell someone? Why didn’t I try to stop it? Didn’t I know that I was being wronged? Looking back, I did not understand what was going on. It was all very confusing. At that time, it made me feel wanted and cared for. But the reality is – it made almost permanent damages to my self-esteem. The closest I have come to understanding what was going on is when I heard Oprah talking about child abuse on some of her shows. She calls it ‘sexual seduction’ rather than sexual abuse. As a child, you don’t know any better. children who are abused are often seduced to believing that they are being ‘loved’.

The thought of this fact of my life is like a hen which keeps pecking at my soul. With time and a lot of healing, this pecking has become less frequent. Next week we will discuss more in detail the multiple techniques I adopted to start my healing process. It started with the realisation that even though I am not responsible for what happened, it’s my responsibility to heal my soul. I cannot help but wonder if there is anything more powerful than empowering the self.

You can email your experiences to ayush@bigindian.inῠῠ

Ayush Maheshwari, more popularly known as ‘Big Indian’. He is an IT wizard, motivational expert, pop singer, TV performer and a social worker.

‘Those 3 magic words’
 
By Samantha Brett

Je t’aime. Ti amo. Ani Ohev Otah. I love you.

When the famous Polish pianist Arthur Rubinstein mused that we should “love life and life will love you back… love people and they will love you back”, he was obviously unfamiliar with the modern dating game. Tell the object of your affection those three magic words and you run the risk of the quizzical stare, the nonchalant “er … thanks” (without any sign of reciprocation), or worse – them explaining to you that they’re enjoying the no-strings-attached casual liaison ‘wayyy’ too much to shift gears into mushy couple territory. “Why ruin a good thing?” they muse while your heart crumbles.ῠ Back in high school, I found myself making the crucial mistake of declaring my love a little too prematurely for comfort. “Love? Pfft! You don’t even know the meaning of the word,” scoffed my boyfriend at the time before giving me the flick – via a text message nonetheless.

“Love is complicated,”ῠ he wrote. “I just don’t think I’m ready for the words.” (He certainly seemed ready when I caught him canoodling with his ex-girlfriend the following weekend, but that’s a whole different column.)ῠ I suspect a similar gut-wrenching experience is to blame for the fact that so many of my fellow singletons stick to the mantra that the ‘L’ word is not something to be uttered unless the question has been popped, the rock’s been purchased and both parties are fully aware of each other’s bathroom, belching and belittling habits.

“Unless I know he’s right for me and that I’m prepared to accept his ways -foibles and all – only then will I proclaim I love him,” says one single femme, vociferously opposed to any lovespeak until there’s a ring, a white dress and a picket fence firmly in sight. “Even when he says it to me, I gush ‘thank you baby’ and then quickly change the subject. And I stick with ‘luv’ or ‘loving you’ in texts or emails.”

E! News presenter Giuliana Depandi (http://www.giulianadepandi.com) says she’s doing just the right thing to lure in a bloke for good. In tip #47 in her tome titled Think Like A Guy: How To Get A Guy By Thinking Like One, she jettisons the idea that women should never say the “L” word first, let alone initiate the kids, marriage and move-in-together conversation. (Oops!)

Male portal AskMen.com advises its male readers similarly, chastising any bloke who declares his true feelings for a woman. It says those three magic words are “evil words that have brought generations of clueless men worldwide to their demise”. Ouch!

But I wonder this: in a time of mass communication with more gadgets, gizmos and whiz-bang widgets that enable us to tell someone we love them in more ways than ever before, surely it’s time we were able to express our feelings freely? Be unafraid to open up our hearts?

Or are we simply too afraid of rejection to take the plunge… even if it means getting the “L” word in reply ῅

The writer is an author, columnist & dating expert

(You can mail your responses toῠ asksambrett@gmail.com)

Vernacular rock on a roll
 
By Debarun Borthakur

If you are a die-hard rock music fan and are cribbing why Led Zeppelin didn’t sing in Hindi, don’t worry; the times are changing. Bridging the linguistic gap to popularise rock among desi music lovers are a bunch of rockers who swear by distorted guitar riffs, and are determined to express their thoughts in their mother tongue. Though “hind-rockers” (singing in Hindi) are common in the country, vernacular rock is what’s sweeping the Indian janta off their feet. Today one will find many Indian rock outfits singing in regional languages, and are slowly but steadily gaining ground in the contemporary Indian music scene.ῠ “If you ask me, music doesn’t have any language. Whether it is Tamil, Kannada, Bengali or any other language, the priority for a musician is to put across the right message, even if it is in some African language,” says singer Usha Uthup.

There are a number of names in contemporary Indian music scene who follow the same ideology. They believe music to be a universal unifier, and don’t consider language as a barrier in this context. “Just like any other college-goer, initially, I too started singing in English.

But eventually I realised how difficult it is to connect my people to it. Singing in one’sῠ mother language helps a singerῠ connect to his roots which I feel is a very important factor to put across the desired message to your audience,” says Raghu Dixit, who recently launched his multi-lingual debut album in English, Hindi and Kannada. So, why did he choose to sing in different languages, is that a rational decision or is it something that came naturally to him? “It was in Belgium where I first sang a few of my own compositions, and you won’t believe the audience there went crazy. Their overwhelming response instigated me to come back to India and be a musician. In fact, the whole experience changed me as a human being,” says Raghu, who has also composed for a Kannada movie Psycho.

Punjabi rocker Rabbi Shergill too believes that music doesn’t have any language. “Composers generally depend on what comes naturally to them. I think in Punjabi, so I prefer penningῠ my thoughts in the same language. It’s about presenting the right expressions to the audience,” adds Rabbi.ῠ

So, how do the record label companies respond to this? Do they consider promoting vernacular music a safe bet in Indian contemporary music scenario? Says Raghu, “Not really. I got lucky because Vishal (of the composer duo Vishal-Shekhar) appreciated my compositions and asked me to come up with an album under their banner. However, everybody is not that lucky. Market is the first priority for established record labels. They are hardly concerned about the sensitivity of music. Though I won’t name any label, many of them turned me down saying I am not good-looking enough for them to promote my music.” Rabbi, however, thinks vernacular music has a great future in India. Though he restrained from commenting anything on the record labels, he believes vernacular music will bring about a new wave in the Indian music market.

So, if you are trying to figure out which language you should choose to pen your thoughts in, don’t think. Just write down your thoughts in any language as it’s not the language that will make your music a hit, but the perfect blend of music and expression.

Unplugged
 
By Naresh Sadhwani and Deepak Jhangiani

A guide to what’s new in the audio, video world

The channel slugfest is on My programmes are better in quality, in content, in the stars that we attract, etc. These are the claims being bandied about by all the channels tom-tomming about their superiority over the other channels. The sad truth is that there is still no clear winner and the discerning Indian viewer is asking for more and the channels are scrambling to find that ‘new’ niche which will attract more eyeballs. From bigger and better the new claim is International, so while UTV World Movies features international movies with English subtitles, NDTV is working on their own world cinema channel, NDTV Lumiere. Now Indian viewers will be able to see cinema from as many as 160 countries. Now globalisation of the Indian viewer’s sensibilities.

Viacom18’s GEC Colors has been launched amidst much fanfare and controversy surrounding the much-heralded Khatron Ke Khiladi, the Indian version of the Fear Factor on AXN. The channel is eager to be unlike the others and is calling its content strategy “disruptive and differentiated”. Whether this will work or not, only the third “d” i.e. demand will tell. ῠ From Oil to Air? Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL), the country’s second largest oil marketing company, plans to diversify into the already crowded DTH business. With crude oil prices putting a dent in their bottom lines the company is now looking to the other avenues to make it good. BPCL has always been a distribution major. Earlier it was oil, now it will be TV programming.ῠ ῠ Question of the week Everyone is talking of 3G mobile phones. What is that?

Akshay

Presently wireless technology used in India and most other countries for mobile phones is GSM and CDMA which are still evolving. they fall under the 2G or 2nd generation technologies. however, newer technologies are now being employed which are faster and can add on more utilities. 3G therefore, is the generic term covering the range of these future technologies namely: cdma2000, UMTS, GPRS, WCDMA and EDGE. The new I-phone 3G from the Apple farm which has been creating sales history in the USA delivers the best of the 3G world namely these advanced technologies which in layman’s language this means faster speeds, wider bandwidths resulting in better reproduction of sound and picture.

Readers are invited to email theirῠ queries/suggestions/comments toῠ sadhwanis@vsnl.com

My hasty decisions have been my failing: Zayed
 

As I watch Zayed Khan getting ready to play a rich, spoilt brat on the sets of Subhash Ghai’s Yuvraaj in Film City, I can’t help but think aloud, “You seem to slip into this character quite easily!” to which he laughs and says, “Yeah, I identify with the character, Danny Yuvraaj Singh. He’s like Main Hoon Na’s Lucky on steroids. His life is a big party, having everything money can buy. Danny’s got this whole vanity-insanity groove going on.” The young actor has worked with Shah Rukh Khan in Main Hoon Na earlier and now, with Salman Khan in Yuvraaj. His eyes light up as he says, “It was a dream come true to work with SRK so early in my career. He came across as an institution to me and I’ll never forget what he’s done for me. Salman is like an elder brother and I always knew I would have a great time working with him. He’s the ultimate cowboy and I admire his supreme confidence. Both of them are fantastic human beings.” Even though Mission Istaanbul, where he played the role of a journalist, hasn’t exactly set the bar for successes to come, his optimism is unfazed. “I’ve learnt over a period of time that you must take what’s yours. Never be too subservient because you never know when the rug might be pulled from under your feet. After Main Hoon Na, Mission Istaanbul was my big one. I worked very hard on it last year and I am very proud of the film,” says Zayed. Do you regret any career decisions? “I have taken hasty decisions in the past which has been my biggest mistake. Also, I have realised that working with good directors makes all the difference. I don’t really have regrets regarding what I have done. But I think my hastiness and inexperience has been my failing and that is something I have rectified now. I am going to be more careful from here on. A film’s success has got a lot to do with the right team, with people who can extract the best from you. Film is a director’s medium, you have to get along with the director to pull off the character – otherwise you can always be Zayed Khan. In fact, I have been partying more on screen than off screen now,” he says, but not before adding, “But parties follow me wherever I go. I reckon it’s my charm! But it’s my son Zidaan whom I like to spend most of my free time with. In fact my wife Malaika and he accompanied me to my Bahamas outdoor for my film Blue. It was such a joy to have him around.” The new daddy is going the whole hog – feeding and changing diapers and acting silly around his baby. “There are plenty of bloopers too like when he barfed all over my tee shirt at the airport and I got all messy. Zidaan can stare for hours without blinking, expressionless, and I find that amazing. I want to support his personality when he grows up rather than force mine on him,” he says. When asked about brother-in-law Hrithik Roshan, he says, “Hrithik is a perfectionist. When we get together, we work out as we both love to exercise. We talk about our kids. Sometimes he talks about my film performances and I talk about his. I share a warm relationship with him and I am proud to have this wonderful guy in my family,” he says.

Mads back to Mumbai soon
 
Film news

Madhuri Dixit who is a part of the Unforgettable Tour for the US leg, will soon be returning to India according to sources. No, she has not finally said ‘yes’ to another Yash Raj film that Yash Chopra has been insisting her to do. She will be in India to launch a clothing line for a major international brand that is coming to India. The brand will be catering to the working Indian woman and the styling is modeled over Mads’ jackets and pin striped pants wearing character in Aaja Nachle. Mads has also been busy with the designing team in the US, personally looking into the designs and giving inputs for clothes that she thinks would cater to an Indian market.

It is also said that she will stay in Mumbai for three months after the round of shows to promote the brand and she is putting her kids in a nursery school in Mumbai. With Mads all set, the city can’t wait to welcome its favourite aamchi mulgi, and needless to say neither can Bollywood.

Jiah Khan vs Aamir Khan

Jiah Khan is one unhappy lady. After having finished shooting for Aamir Khan’s remake of Ghajini, she isn’t too excited with the final cut. From what we hear, her role has been extensively chopped from the first narration of the film that she has seen and Jiah is feeling disillusioned about it and has addressed her grievances to Aamir. But what has got this sassy actress most upset is the fact that her voice has been dubbed for the film. Aamir wasn’t too happy with her heavily accented dialogue delivery and has dubbed it in spite of Jiah’s requests to let it remain. She defends that if her voice wasn’t a problem in Nishabd, why should it be now. But perfectionist Aamir is having none of it and asked Jiah to stay nishabd on the subject. But knowing fiery Jiah, she won’t keep mum and there could be another Khan vs. Khan battle on the cards. Shiney seeks divine help

Once touted as the next big superstar, Shiney Ahuja has found the going tough with no backing in the industry. He is currently banking on Har Pal with Preity Zinta and Hijack to bring him back into the horizon. And it looks like even Shiney knows he needs divine intervention to bail him out of his bad phase. Shiney is currently not signing films apparently at the behest of a family guru, who has asked him to go on a pilgrimage to seek blessings before taking up new work. Taking the guru’s word to heart, Shiney set out on a temple tourism expedition, a la the Bachchans. He has been seen hopping from one temple to another across the country. But Shiney has also managed to be discreet about the fact that he is fretting over his current box-office status. Even his wife Anu has kept away from the holy tour at the pretext that she’s looking after their baby daughter, but according to close friends, she doesn’t believe in all this and despite Shiney’s insistence, has preferred to stay at home. But the industry believes that if Shiney sorts out his attitude problems, it would be the answer to half his problems. Priyanka to turn producer

Priyanka Chopra is soon turning producer like many other actresses who are taking the baton in their hands. After Vidya Balan and Katrina Kaif, it is Priyanka’s turn to start producing films she believes in.ῠ Priyanka was apparently having long discussions with friend Karan Johar on the sets of soon-to-release Dostana about the nitty gritties of producing films and Karan has promised his complete support to her new ventures.

Although the thought is still in its nascent stages, Priyanka has started hunting for a suitable location for the office of her upcoming company. She is equally enthusiastic about a couple of scripts that were narrated to her but didn’t find any takers with producers in the past. She has summoned those young directors and writers to bring their projects out of the bins and start adding finishing touches to them.ῠ Her friends however, hope Priyanka is moving in the right direction, because post Love Story 2050, she sure needs damage control.

it’s all about work, chance and luck
 
By Vikram Bhatt

So Shah rukh Khan and Salman Khan have had a fight, well at least at the time of writing this piece and by the time you read it they might have even kissed and made up. but as I write this there is a war going on. The media loves it and the people love it.ῠ What better than two super stars slugging it out? One magazine even called me and asked me how this would affect the film industry. I thought for a moment and then could not think of one single way that it could.

They are not doing films together or are in business together. They have their own set of directors and banners. So where was the conflict? Sorry, no tragedy here and no loss to filmdom. It might be sad that they fought and all that but there is nothing that the collective will suffer for here.ῠ Tragedy is when great productive teams break up. That is a great loss.

Salman’s father Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar ruled the film industry with their gritty writing. They were the ones who put writers on a pedestal and rightfully so. Sholay, Deewar, Trishul to name just a few was surely part of cinema history and yet they parted ways. No one knows the real reason except for a few, I suppose, and yet this was a tragedy.

Not that they did not do good work after they parted ways. Salim Khan had Naam and Javed Akhtar had Betaab, Arjun and Dacait to name a few of their films but yet it was no Salim-Javed. More recently music composers Jatin and Lalit who I had worked with on my films Fareb and Ghulam parted ways.

Lalit worked with me on Life mein Kabhie Kabhiee and I did try to ask him once what went wrong between the brothers and what I got was a really lukewarm excuse of an answer, certainly not the true story but again such talent and such tragedy. This place is filled with such examples – people who do great work together and then go their separate ways for reasons best known to them or some that we may guess. I remember the time that Laxmikant-Pyarelal almost broke up their team. It was all over the media and the industry mourned and yet if I remember correctly it was Subhash Ghai who brought them together within days and did not allow the split. The industry owes him a huge one for that.

What makes these teams go their separate ways? It would be silly of me to guess because they might all have their reasons but the most common reason that I have seen is success.ῠ It might sound odd but success has one problem and the problem is called, a part of my homemade theory book, spotlight theory. The spotlight theory is that people feel that there is only place for one under the spotlight.

After the spotlight hits you, you want to elbow out the other person to be in that glow alone. I don’t mean to say that the teams I have mentioned here are a victim to this theory but I have seen enough here that are. I remember this one incident very clearly. I have mentioned Waman Bhonsle in a previous article. He was the most brilliant editor I have met. He was the editor to Gulzar, Boney Kapoor, Shekhar Kapur, Mukul Anand, Raj Khosla. The list is endless.

Prolific and brilliant, he worked in a team with his editor partner Guru Dutt Shirale and it was always Waman-Guru. Everyone in the industry saw Wamansaab, as I call him, toil away more than Guru.ῠ One day someone asked him if he felt like breaking away from Guru since he did all the work at which he smiled and said, “who knows, it might be my work and Guru’s luck!” I can never forget that because in a place where it is all about talent and chance, work and luck, we will never know who the top gun is really!

The Young Turks of cyberspace
 

ONCE YOU’RE LUCKY, TWICE YOU’RE GOOD:

The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0 By Sarah Lacy, Gotham Books, $26, pp 294

The drumroll leading up to the publication of Sarah Lacy’s book about the 20-something entrepreneurs who brought us such familiar websites as Facebook was certainly impressive. For months, Lacy demurred when asked to reveal the title yet talked up her project at every opportunity, causing the prepublication buzz in Silicon Valley to build. By golly, it was as if the author herself had created the next YouTube.

With the stance of an insider given unparalleled access to her subjects, the starry-eyed Lacy tells the stories of a half-dozen or so young entrepreneurs who started websites like Facebook and YouTube, all driven by user-generated content. Together, those sites created a post-Google version of the “participatory” Web known as Web 2.0. Lacy has chosen to include, among others, Mark Zuckerberg, the 24-year-old founder of Facebook, the wildly popular social-networking site; and Max Levchin, 33, a co-founder of PayPal, the online payment system that eBay bought in 2002.

This disjointed grab bag of gossip has its elucidating moments, but as the definitive tale of the rise of Web 2.0, Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good serves as a reminder that the latter-day equivalent of Tracy Kidder’s 1981 book, The Soul of a New Machine, the gold standard for technology nonfiction, has yet to be written. The title promises an incisive, illuminating examination of just what it is that engenders serial success. Indeed, Lacy delivers on that promise with her profile of Marc Andreessen, who helped build one of the first Web browsers and made millions with Netscape, the browser company. He then started a software company, which Hewlett-Packard bought last year for $1.6 billion. Now 37, he has Ning, a social-networking company for which he has high hopes. Lacy draws a fascinating portrait of Andreessen and his need not just to best himself but to equal the successes of his mentor, Jim Clark, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who financed Netscape.

Otherwise, the title seems to bear little relevance to the book. For Lacy’s other subjects, repeated success has yet to be determined. For example, it is unclear whether Levchin’s new company, Slide, which makes “widgets” – small, single-purpose applications for websites like Facebook and MySpace – will end up making him more millions. And Mark Zuckerberg is still firmly entrenched in his first company. Yet Lacy seems hesitant to dwell on these points.

The writing is, at best, informal. For instance, the last time I checked the American Heritage Dictionary, in spite of how computer trade journalists might choose to use the word, “architect” was not recognised as a verb, to say nothing of “rearchitect.” And Lacy’s fifth-grade teacher would no doubt wince at the profusion of incomplete sentences. (“Probably a good thing few women work there.” And “The time Jay and Marc were chatting when Sumner Redstone sauntered up.”) Then again, everything happens so quickly in Silicon Valley that perhaps there is no time to write a proper sentence.

Some of the reporting is impressive in its sheer detail. Lacy obviously spent a great deal of time with these celebrated entrepreneurs. Her descriptions of their business meetings come complete with snatches of you-are-there dialogue, † la Bob Woodward. The reader also learns who wears boxers, who cuts his hair in a hip style and who shucked his nerd-wear in favour of jeans and Pumas.

But the details don’t add up to much. The reader hears a great deal about Levchin’s fear of swimming but surprisingly little about what has driven Levchin, who is from the former Soviet Union, to start companies. And rather than following a straight narrative arc, Lacy jumps from one story to another, then doubles back again – to confusing effect. Paradoxically, it is when Lacy gets impersonal, and dispenses with her name-dropping tone (she refers to Zuckerberg throughout as merely “Zuck”), that she is at her best. Her explanation of how venture capital works is instructive and clear, perhaps one of the best yet written for a general readership.

And she skilfully describes a tension intrinsic to the Web 2.0 world: thanks to low start-up costs, the newest entrepreneurs don’t need venture capitalists, and even view them with disdain for the role they play in diluting individual wealth. Yet Lacy offers vivid descriptions of meetings between entrepreneurs who eventually wind up strapped for cash and of the venture capitalists with the means to help.

A columnist for BusinessWeek.com and a co-host of Tech Ticker on Yahoo Finance, Lacy has a tendency to throw out numbers in too cavalier a fashion. For instance, she describes “the mighty $195 billion Google juggernaut” that bought YouTube in 2006.

Lacy’s book is an outgrowth of an article she wrote for Business Week in 2006. The unfortunate headline on the cover – “How This Kid Made $60 Million in 18 Months” – proved an embarrassment to the magazine. The cover photograph was of a young man sporting headphones, a T-shirt and a 5 o’clock shadow, smiling broadly and giving two thumbs up to the camera. It was Kevin Rose, who would become one of Lacy’s principal subjects in this book. Rose, 31, is a co-founder of Digg, a website that allows its users to collectively decide which news accounts on the Internet deserve top billing.

As it turns out, the $60 million referred to the estimated value of Rose’s stake in the company. He didn’t make 60 million of anything, and until the company is sold or goes public, the $60 million in question is as good as Monopoly money. One of these days, perhaps by the time Kevin Rose does indeed become wealthy, someone will write a richly textured book that chronicles with insight and acumen the rise of the most recent crop of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Sarah Lacy’s Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good is not that book.

‘I prefer reading intellectual books’
 
By Milind Soman

I am not a very devoted reader, but I read whenever I have time. Though my reading habit is totally dependent on free time, I manage to read almost 600 pages a week. I like reading fantasies or science fiction. I also like to read historical stuff. But I prefer reading books that are intellectual and stimulate me from within. Reading gives me a lot of perspective and insight into various aspects of life. It also gives me a general perception about the people I meet and a certain vision to approach them. Sometimes an experience attained by reading a book helps me take major decisions as well.ῠ Though I don’t have any favourite book in particular, Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham is one of the books I like the most. It’s a fantastic book and very realistic in its approach.

My favourite authors are John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Iain Menzies Banks, Isaac Asimov and Edgar Rice Burroughs. I like their writing because of their unbridled imagination. They have a certain understanding of human emotions. They also have a deep knowledge of social psychology. Being humane and practical in their approach, they have written masterpieces of literature. Reading these authors gives me immense satisfaction.

Worthy additions you will cherish
 
By Sunil K. Poolani

Since talking and cribbing about the foggy world of publishing week after week, I thought I should take a break – and, yes, you readers, too, would get a respite. So, this week I thought it is better to discuss some good books that haveῠ hit Indian bookstores recently. So here they go:

With the Tiger One who grew up with classic storytellers like Somerset Maugham, this impressive volume leads you on a trip down nostalgia lanes. For, With the Tiger (Harper Collins; Rs 295) is a graceful retelling of Maugham’s classic The Razor’s Edge. Where Baranay succeeds is the way she intersperses Maugham’s characters in Indian context with such brave and unwavering way, without losing the girth and grip of the narrative, cogitative most of the times. Baranay, as she admits, has followed Maugham’s structure exactly and named her characters for his. Brief: The charming young Larry (along with a host of other characters) returns as Australians; his life-altering occurrence is not as an underage enlistee in WWI, but during a teenage backpacking trip to India, where he converts himself into a mysterious hermit. A racy read, this is a worthy addition to your literary vocabulary.

Guardian of the Dawn Unlike any other year, the last two years have seen a gamut of historical novels set in India. After Rimi B. Chatterjee’s The City of Love, here comes Richard Zimler’s Guardian of the Dawn (Penguin Books; Rs 350), equally rich in talking about the atrocities and vengeance of colonial India. Zimler, nevertheless, takes a daring turn: he vivifies the Catholic Inquisition in Goa (we Indians, fearfully, never discussed this before, to remain politically correct), and how Hindus or immigrant Jews were strangled by executioners or burnt alive in public. Zimler presents a wide canvas of devotion and discrimination, peppered with lots of historical research and passion.

A veritable treat (the beginning may put many readers off, but as the novel progresses it becomes unputdownable), this novel is an enchanting and authoritative retelling of Othello. Zimler, an internationally-acclaimed author, has absolute command over the language which drags the readers into the realms of a barbaric system that we conveniently try to forget. Impressive.

Devil May Care: A James Bond Novel After Ian Fleming’s death, and when Hollywood is still regurgitating the Bond movies to charm the secret agent’s aficionados, Sebastian Faulks comes as a saviour to millions of Bond admirers across the world. Faulks, you will realise, is the best person, as you savour Devil May Care (Penguin India; Rs 395), to recreate the magic created by Fleming. One may argue why Faulks set the story of the present-day Bond (in this post 9/11 terror attack days) in the former USSR days. In this page-turner’s case the plot unfolds in the Cold War days.

But, as you would know most of the old Bond stories were set in the fifties, sixties and seventies – and Faulks, too, follows suit. Hello, there is nothing wrong in it, as one should realise Bond is not an evergreen hero, let alone immortal. To be frank, after a long time Devil May Care is one book that hooked me from page one. Seriously. And I get a feeling that Faulks, if he hones his skills further, which I am sure he will, can be a better writer than Fleming. Blasphemous it may sound, but it is the truth.

The writer is the publisher and managing editor, Frog Books, an imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd, Mumbai. Write to him at poolani@gmail.com

Sun, wine and dance in Auckland
 
Celeb Travel: Saif Ali Khan

Iῠ think when you are young you want to travel to the more happening places, the ones your friends tell you about or where all the buzz is. And I also think the meaning of travel changes at different times. If it means exploring the worldῠ in your youth, as you start growing up you understand yourself better during travels. That’s what my recent travels have done for me, and although I do visit all the happening and trendy places for film shoots and shows, there is always a place that calls out to you because you find yourself there. And for me that place is Auckland, a dream holiday destination as it has everything for everybody and yet, it is underrated as far as tourists are concerned, which in a way helps preserve its natural charm, and untainted beauty.

Auckland is a one of its kind geographical miracle, as the city is situated around 50 volcanoes, which are of course extinct but lend character to the city. Most people go to Auckland only when they have relatives living there or if they are in Australia and go to Auckland for the weekend or something. But I like going there for at least a week at a stretch if I have time. I usually rent a car for that duration and that is the best way to see the city, because it is not really known for its public transport and most locals have their own cars. Also it is a vast city and if you want to walk to the important sites, you end up losing a lot of time. Instead of hiring cars from rental services, look for locals renting out their cars during the season as that works out cheaper.

Auckland is an interesting mix of the old and the new world. The ancient Maori culture is preserved by the locals – try saying, ‘Kia Ora’, which means good day to a local and see their face light up. They instantly warm up to you.ῠ Waitakere ranges are the hidden treasure of Auckland, you just don’t expect to visit such beautiful ranges with stunning waterfalls, rugged treks in the heart of a big city. Not very far is Potiki, the area where you can get a taste of the Maori traditions, the war dance you see the Black caps perform before rugby matches can be seen done by kids in the neighbourhood. But it is advisable to have a local or a guide with you when you get into this district because the locals here might tend to keep a distance from you. If you are an adventure lover, take a jump from the sky tower and feel the adrenaline rush.

Everyone talks about the wine that the French or the Italians make. But try wine made here and take a ferry to Waiheke island close by. Spend the day soaking in the sun, and walking through the wineries, tasting some of the best wines in the world. A good evening can also be spent at the Caluzzi bar, where you can have a seven course meal while you watch floorshow and award winning acrobats perform Of course no trip to Auckland is complete without a ride up the imposing sky tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world. The view of the city from there is spectacular if you can be patient or beat the queues to get up there. If you are travelling with family, there are a few entertainment parks, which the kids will enjoy, or you could take them to the aquarium.

There are underwater tunnels, where you can see sharks swimming around you. If you have the time, take a trip to the museums, but do not miss the Saturday flea market. Also visit Made, the one of its kind supermall in the world that houses practically every clothing brand you can imagine, along with the couture of some of the local talents. The prices might be high but it’s worth every penny.ῠ But remember, do respect the traditions of the locals and don’t do or say anything inappropriate that might hurt someone.”

Echoes of Dharamsala
 
By Christine Pemberton

Last August, as I weepily counted down the days till my first fledgling flew the family nest, to go off to university in England, we received a message from a friend who works in Dharmsala. His Holiness the Dalai Lama would be in residence during the first three days of September. If we could be there during those exact days, we would be almost certain to get a few minutes alone with His Holiness.

There wasn’t even a moment’s hesitation. I stopped crying. Hari stopped excitedly packing, and the four of us drove all the way to Dharamsala through the fag end of the rains. As we drove up through the picturesque Kangra Valley, spirits soared, as we saw the famous railway, the picturesque station, and the ridiculously perfect views over lush valleys. Even the rains couldn’t dampen our spirits and we arrived in Dharamsala, feeling refreshed. The little town was damp and wreathed in cool mist, and crowded with Tibetans and foreigners alike, who had gathered to hear His Holiness preach.

We explored the main sights of Dharamsala, including the cemetery of St. John in the Wilderness, where the second British Viceroy, Lord Elgin, is buried. We wandered up and down the narrow, crowded streets, which were full of pilgrims who had come to attend the Dalai Lama’s sermons.

We went through several efficient, but extremely courteous and friendly security checks, and suddenly there we were, inside the compound. We would meet His Holiness just for a short time, we were told, when he walked from his home back to the hall where he was giving his discourses. Despite the friendliness of everyone around us, we all admitted later to feeling a little nervous. There were the four of us, two Singaporean Chinese and a young French man who was hitch-hiking around the world. Thrilled to hear us speaking French, the young man asked me to take a photo of him with His Holiness. Yes, I replied, just so long as you take ours. Avec plaisir, Ludovic agreed.

His Holiness’ ADC came to meet and brief us. We were to stand here, Ludovic was to stand there, and the two Singaporeans over there. His Holiness would stop and talk to us first, then Ludovic, and then the Singaporeans, who were busy lighting incense sticks. Suddenly there was a frisson of excitement, and a small group of people walked down the path towards us. First came armed policemen, looking rather incongruous amidst all the Buddhist robes; then a group of monks; then the tall, elegant ADC, and there was His Holiness, instantly recognisable and with his trademark beaming smile.

The Dalai Lama greeted us with the same huge smile that you see on every picture of him.ῠ The ADC explained who we were, and then we chatted for a few, precious moments. I told him I had just come back from Tibet and His Holiness asked what I had thought about his country. Beautiful, I replied, and was rewarded with another beaming smile. He then held my hand for the photo, and after a last smile, moved on down the receiving line.

We compared notes afterwards, and everyone – cynical teenagers included – said they were on a high, and we all agreed when my husband said that there was most definitely an aura surrounding His Holiness. The joy and euphoria of those few precious moments stayed with us during the long drive back to Delhi. Hours into the long wet drive back to Delhi, my daughter said “Mum, I still feel all happy and excited inside.”

Those few minutes of peace and blessing were beyond special. They were inspirational.ῠ And if you have to let your child fly the family nest, what better way than with the blessings of the Dalai Lama?

 

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