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Kareena Selebriti Paling Popular 2008

30 Dec

KAREENA meraih 40 peratus sokongan dalam tinjauan selebriti paling popular di India.

Ungguli senarai aktres pujaan Bollywood

MUMBAI: Aktres terkenal Bollywood, Kareena Kapoor, menduduki senarai teratas tinjauan selebriti paling popular di India diikuti Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra, Deepike Padukone dan Bipasha Basu, menurut laporan, kelmarin.

Dalam tinjauan itu, Kareena meraih 40 peratus sokongan diikuti Katrina (38 peratus), Priyanka (10 peratus), Deepike (tujuh peratus) dan Bipasha (lima peratus), lapor akhbar.

Kareena yang mendapat tumpuan ketika ini kerana tinggal sebumbung dengan aktor Saif Ali Khan, dianggap layak berada di singgahsana paling popular selepas filemnya Jab We Met bersama Shahid Kapoor dan arahan Imtiaz Ali mendapat sambutan hangat.

Popularitinya dijangka meningkat apabila filem Kambakkht Ishq disiarkan turut dibintangi Akshay Kumar serta aktor terkenal Hollywood, Sylvester Stallone, Brandon Routh dan Denise Richards.

Katrina Kaif pula mencuri tumpuan menerusi filem Yuvvraaj, walaupun ia tidak meletup dari segi kutipan tiket. Sekurang-kurangnya, beliau berganding dengan teman lelakinya, Salman Khan buat kali pertama.

Katrina juga diundi sebagai wanita Asia paling seksi pada 2008 serta nama paling kerap dicari dalam senarai Zeitgeist oleh Google.

Priyanka pula tidak memulakan 2008 dengan baik apabila filem lakonannya, Love Story 2050, Chamku, God Tussi Great Ho dan Drona mendapat sambutan dingin.

Tetapi, beliau kembali menyinar dalam filem Fashion arahan Madhur Bhandarkar dan semakin hangat menerusi filem arahan Karan Johar, Dostana selepas beraksi seksi memakai bikini.

Sementara itu, Deepike menyaksikan reputasinya melonjak selepas filem kedua, Bachna Ae Haseeno mendapat sambutan. – Agensi

Berita Harian

Size Me Up!

7 Sep

Size me up!

A model glides down the ramp at a swishy fashion event. Tall, elegant and almost a size 0. The women in the audience sigh with envy. It would take them months of sweat and strain, and maybe even starving, to get into the designer’s creations. So why do designers create clothes only for the slim and svelte and not for the normal women with curves?

This debate has it pros and cons but before we argue it out, a look at fashion through the last century will give an idea on how social norms and behaviour has influenced fashion. The early 1900 was an era of long gowns with enhanced bosoms and bottoms. The 1920s were rebellious times, when hemlines soared above the ankles and bosoms were flattened out. Then came the 1950s with Dior’s New Look of clinched waistlines and the hourglass figures. Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren were the sexy glamorous sirens of the 1960s and 1970s who gave the voluptuous body the thumbs up. In the 1980s designer Azzedine Alaia known as the King of Cling brought lingerie out into the open and the advent of lycra turned fashion into tight figure-hugging creations that needed the perfectly toned Amazon body. Into the 1990s and the New Millennium gymming, health clubs and spas became ideal hot spots and everyone from 6 to 60 years wanted a figure like Angelina Jolie, Kareena Kapoor or Bipasha Basu.


So can one blame fashion designers if their collections cater at times to the fit and fabulous only? Designers Lina Tipnis and Narendra Kumar Ahmed create for all sizes but admit, “There is an aspirational value connected to fashion. Women want to look slim all the time. Mass brands create larger sizes but for high fashion sizes 34-36 work better on the ramp and for photographs.” But Lina offers sizes 40-45 and has a 30per cent sale in big sizes with size 36 being the bestseller. Narendra Kumar is creating workwear for the Westside stores which will have waist sizes from 30-34 inches.

Rocky S who works with Bollywood beauties adds, “As a designer I like to create for all sizes. Experimenting with cuts, styles, colours and fabrics is a designer’s forte and it is not always that a particular style suits everyone. Keeping in mind that size is a limitation for some, I ensure that my collections have certain styles that most people can carry off well. I feel a designer’s core success lies in his ability to be able to dress and style all kinds of people.”

The market share in mass fashion for the normal size women is roughly estimated at 70 per cent while for slim women it is 30 per cent but growing rapidly. On the high fashion designer front the ratio is 65 per cent for young fashion and 35 per cent for bigger sizes. On the other side, brands like Barcode, a ready-to-wear label catering to the working women, has a 40 per cent sale for normal sizes and 60 per cent for slim women.

Meena Pophale of Barcode reveals it is easier to make clothes for slim women. “It’s slightly tougher to design for a full-bodied woman as the hips, stomach and bust have to be fitted well.”


But Nisha Somaia of Revolutions, the only brand that pioneered the super size concept in India, makes thought-provoking comments. “Around the world most designers are gay and in love with little boys, so keeping that in mind they reduce women to androgynous bosomless models on the ramp and force girls to be skinny. Many girls around the world and even some in India are turning anorexic and swear by the ‘two fingers’ theory which leads to bulimia. Today the media is focusing on obesity; but obesity has not increased, only healthy eating has decreased. Women need to love themselves as they are. There is more emphasis given to the hundreds of diets but why don’t these work all the time?” she says.

Revolutions which started in 2001 has designs for waist sizes from 28-46 inches and has 12 stores in India and one in Dubai and keeps abreast with the latest fashion trends for its collections.

Nisha also informs that Charlotte Coyle, UK’s super size supermodel who is a rage in Europe, and Fat Fashion shows on TV are very popular. “Our emphasis should be on good health and not be caught up in external appearances or social opinions affecting us. Personally, I feel Kareena looked better in Ashoka than in Tashan. Now her head looks too big for her body. We are chasing an unrealistic dream which could affect us mentally and physically,” warns Nisha.

Lina however feels, “I don’t know how gay designers know what women want. They may be preferred by women because women love their personality and the pampering they probably get and these designers are trying to create one more category of clothing which women will feel is really original. But there are many female designers who dress women like women should be dressed.”


So are smaller sizes at times encouraging women to turn anorexic? “As much as I would like to disagree, it’s true that a certain section of the youth believes that anorexic is beautiful. Following such a trend gives them a chance to ape their role models and wear the kind of attire they do. Size 0 has become an uncalled for trend in itself. Although there is a strong celeb influence, I personally feel that curves accentuate a woman’s body beautifully and size 0 is unhealthy and unattractive. Preferentially a well toned, fit body would be able to carry off almost everything confidently,’ states Rocky.

Lina however queries. “What is size 0? I don’t think there is anything like that. It’s something women in the front rows love to talk about. It’s like OCD (obsessive compulsive disease). At times women who are size 36 want to be 34 or 4 to 2.”

Narendra feels, “The fitness boom is big right now so as women get slimmer they want to show their well-toned bodies. It is the evolution of the woman’s body from the days of the curvaceous Meena Kumari and Madhubala to Kareena Kapoor and Eesha Deol. Women in show business have definitely become icons whom the normal women want to ape.”

“Kareena may photograph better but this fad is probably amongst page 3 socialists,” argues Meena Pophale.


The argument of what came first – the fitness boom or slim fashion is similar to the egg and chicken story. The mushrooming of health clubs, gyms, spas, exercise DVDs could be termed as the cause for better figures and a conscious attempt to stay slim. Designers however feel that both these trends are responsible for each other; but couldn’t comment on which came first. At times a skinny dress may have encouraged a woman to be more conscious of her weight. “But women are intelligent, many may want to get trim and slim for health reasons and not just to wear a dress,” hopes Narendra.

So let’s not blame the designers in the country for what is hanging on the racks of stores if you can’t get into the dress you liked. Soon it will be fashion for the space age era when clothes will be baggy, sporty and just right for cyber travel; in which case figure-hugging tiny minis will be a thing of the past. But remember bodies will have to be fit and fabulous to stand the rigours of outer space.

Myths mirror reality

Once upon a time, there was Cinderella. Her stepmother and stepsisters were wicked and ill-treated her. One day the prince announced a grand ball. The stepsisters preened and went for it, leaving poor little Cinderella in front of the cinders of the chimney. With a wave of her wand, the fairy godmother transformed Cinderella’s rags into a pretty dress with dainty glass slippers. But she was not to stay on beyond midnight, else the magic would wear off.

Those of us who grew up on fairy tales are familiar with how Cinderella on forgetting this condition ran from the prince’s eager arms, dropping one of her slippers behind. The prince decided he’d only marry the girl whose foot fit the lost slipper. And his hunt led him to Cinderella. Needless to say they all lived happily ever after, because not only did the prince whisk her away to his palace and marry her but Cinderella forgave her erring family and took them into the fold.

In China, legend has it that there is a torrentially powerful waterfall known as Dragon Gate. At the foot of the waterfall there gather many a carp (an edible freshwater fish) with the hope that they will be able to climb the waterfall and be transformed into dragons. Treacherous is the climb with most of the aspirants being swept away, a few fall prey to carnivorous birds and the remaining are caught in the net of a fisherman. Out of the tens of thousands who attempt, it is an extremely rare carp which succeeds in scaling the waterfall against such overwhelming odds, and becomes a dragon.

What does the Cinderella story and this legend about the carp have in common? Do fairy tales, myths and legends have a relevance to human consciousness or are they entertaining fabrications of a wild imagination? Are they a skillful means employed by the mind of a visionary/prophet/poet to touch and fire the consciousness of fellow humans in order to grant them a tantalising view of the inevitable destiny and destination of what it means to be truly human?

Rishi is a Sanskrit word with Dri as its root. The syllable dri means to see and a Rishi is one with an insight which surpasses the physical eye and an understanding which penetrates the many layers of human existence – the material body, the passion and desires, the medley of thoughts – to go to a depth in the consciousness where we are connected to all that there is in the universe. There is a place in one’s consciousness, deep within, where every event and memory of the universe is recorded and stored, which has been witness to every holocaust, war, glory and dissolution. In other words, each of us, by silencing the mind through meditation can access from within our psyche certain universal patterns of Hunger, Flight/fright, Abundance and Alchemy, which are our collective heritage.

These patterns or energy imprints in the deep consciousness lead to certain instinctual behaviour that anybody from any part of the world, regardless of culture and belief, would enact. For instance, a person would grab food with the same ferocity if he had starved for 48 hours regardless of which country or social class he belonged to. The radiance of integral wealth of money, power and thoughts would reflect on the face regardless of details of name, gender and language.

Carl Jung labels these moulds of energy in the collective consciousness of the human race as archetypes, and says that they have an existence, form and personality of their own, independent of the surface mind. As we still the wavering mind and cultivate equipoise in daily life, we experience some of the archetypes – like that of prosperity (the mythological counterpart being Lakshmi).

The ambition to refine and purify oneself, to move from our limitations to be powerful, to ride on the crest of the wave called fate is the archetypal agni of the fire sacrifice or yajna. The warrior who goes into a bare-handed combat with the evil within is called The Hero archetype by Jungians.

The Vedic/Puranic seer would have found the hero’s energy a flash of Durga’s sword that vanquished the mahishasura of arrogance and selfishness within. Svabhavo vijayatee iti shauryam is a Sanskrit maxim that translates as – The true hero is one who conquers his own inner nature.

As we discover more of the darkness within and allow a tug of war between the positive and negative, we participate in the Vedic myth of samudra manthan (churning of the ocean). The story has the devas approach Vishnu (the divine which preserves the universe) for recovering Sridevi (the energy of Prosperity and true wealth).

When Durvasa rishi’s curse caused Sri to be banished, vegetation dried up, animals and beings perished. Vishnu’s counsel to the devas: “Take the help of the asuras (the dark forces of violence and hatred within us) to churn the primordial consciousness (ocean).” Interestingly, to reveal Sri from the depths of the ocean, the help of asuras was indispensable, thus accentuating the importance of the centrifugal force produced by the friction of contraries.

Perfection at any level of the being – physical beauty, intellectual brilliance, good fortune, or the richness of human bonds – everything wears off and gets its light from the sun of the atman within. What arises from the unfathomable ocean of primordial consciousness is Sri, the pattern of the energy of integral wealth and with her emerge the fulfillment of desires, pleasures of the aesthetic, sensual and spiritual variety. A myth, according to Joseph Campbell, is a dream of the universe and a dream a private myth of an individual. Be it Cinderella, the carp who got transformed into a dragon or Sri who arose in all her splendour from the ocean, each character represents something within you and me. Something which is vital, is living and awaits its birth.

Each protagonist is relevant and the expression of each is a milestone towards the individual’s complete and perfect expression. The transformation of Cinderella from the doormat she was to the beautiful princess that she became, and the carp magically changing his genus to manifest as a dragon is the quantum leap from being a human to a siddha or realised person.

‘Life is following the course of nature’

My belief in God comes from the holy teachings of Islam. I believe in Allah and follow the guidance of Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him). My faith in the Almighty has always been strong and I also believe that the biggest reality of life is death. I feel every being on earth is God’s own creation.

Why does the sun set, and the moon come up to add a glow to the darkness? It’s not only science. It’s the design of life by Allah. My connection with God dates back to the time when I was two years and six months old. I almost died as a kid. I drowned in a water tub and nobody noticed.

Eventually, when I was pulled out, I wasn’t breathing. But miraculously, I survived. I still remember it very clearly. Since that day, I believe it was he who saved me. He knew it wasn’t my time to go. I had to grow up to be the person I am today.

I believe the Almighty has carved a life map for all of us, as he had for me. Till today, I feel that I’m God’s special kid. He has never given me anything the easy way. I have always strived hard to get what I want. And I trust him. I feel that God puts his loved ones through tests. And we all have to do well in that test. And when you pass through those tests, he gives you rewards through blessings.

Life for me is following the course of nature which has been designed by God. Every morning I wake up thanking Allah for this beautiful life that I’ve been given and go to bed doing the same.

God is the only one who is always watching our every deed. Allah always keeps us in his caring lap. And it’s not just humans, but God governs the entire cycle of life. Just like parents take care of their kids, God takes care of us as children of his own creation. Today, I’m in a very happy position. After all the rough patches which life brought my way, I’m a very positive person and love and enjoy each second of my life, all by the grace of God.

I’m grateful to Allah for everything that I have today. Islam says that there is no form of God. For me, God is the greatest force. I feel that everyone believes in God differently and this is my faith in him. For me he is the creator. I believe in His existence.

Make your life worth living

Responsibility is not an obligation, responsibility is not a duty, it is a capacity to respond. A man who wants to know what life is has to be responsive. That is missing. Centuries of conditioning have made you more like machines. You have lost your manhood, you have bargained for security. You are secure and comfortable and everything has been planned by others. And they have put everything on the map, they have measured everything. This is all absolutely foolish because life cannot be measured, it is immeasurable. And no map is possible because life is in constant flux.

Life is not a railway track

And the ways of life are very zig-zag. The ways of life are not like the tracks of a railway train. No, it does not run on tracks. And that is the beauty of it, the glory of it, the poetry of it, the music of it and that it is always a surprise.

If you are seeking for security, certainty, your eyes will become closed. And you will be less and less surprised and you will lose the capacity to wonder. Once you lose the capacity to wonder, you have lost religion. Religion is the opening of your wondering heart. Religion is a receptivity for the mysterious that surrounds us.

Don’t try to fix life

Don’t seek security; don’t seek advice on how to live your life. People come to me and they say, “Osho, tell us how we should live our life.” You are not interested in knowing what life is, you are more interested in making a fixed pattern. You are more interested in killing life than living it. You want a discipline to be imposed on you.

Life is precious, live it

The first thing is: don’t ask anybody how you should live your life. Life is so precious. Live it. I am not saying that you will not make mistakes, you will. Remember only one thing, don’t make the same mistake again and again. If you can find a new mistake every day, make it. But don’t repeat mistakes. A man who can find new mistakes to make will be growing continuously and that is the only way to learn.

Look at the moon directly

Seeking truth in scriptures, seeking truth in philosophies, is looking at the reflection. If you ask somebody else how you should live your life, you are asking for misguidance, because that man can only talk about his own life. And never, never, are two lives the same. The real moon is always there in the sky waiting for you. It is your moon, it is your sky, look directly.

Courtesy Osho International Foundation/

I’m not the roses and chocolates kinda guy

Who says love goes out of the window when you are married for a few years and reality strikes? It’s not true at all. Of course, priorities change when you are together for a long time, it’s about the family, the kids and your job too. But its important not to lose focus from the fact that you are with your partner because you love your woman and want to spend the rest of your life with her.

Mehr has completed me and my life so beautifully that I sometimes look at my life in amazement and wonder, ‘How lucky could I have been?’ It helps that Mehr is also one of my closest friends and we understand each other perfectly. After all these years together, we don’t have to even say anything to each other, but we know what the other person is thinking. There is no overt display of affection, where you see couples stuck to each other like Siamese twins.

But I believe real chemistry is when two people are sitting in different corners of the room not even looking at each, but you can feel that vibe between them. Mehr and I have that, and even if you don’t know that we are together, you will sense that chemistry between us.

She is much more calmer, wiser than I am and I’d say much more accomplished too. She’s one of the first supermodels our country has ever seen. For her to give up the limelight and take care of my family, out of choice, is a tremendous effort for me. At the same time I keep telling her, there is so much more she is capable of and can still do with her life. It was a revelation to work with her when we made I See You.

She was the best producer I could have asked for my film, and she was extremely professional. They say couples shouldn’t mix their professional and personal lives, that’s rubbish. Mehr and I got closer during the making of our film and I got to see another side to her.

Of course, we have our own set of fights and arguments, but the best part about it is that we take it as an understanding process. Every argument tells you that much more about your partner. And it’s healthy for the couple too. But we believe in resolving our issues and not let them fester. There is nothing that can’t be resolved with good communication.

And then there’s something very romantic about making up. In fact, every once in a while we need to make a romantic gesture here and there to tell your partner that you love her. I am not the roses and chocolates kind of a guy, but I like to cook at home sometimes for her, or just take a few days off and spend quality alone time with her. Whenever I am on an outdoor, I speak to her few times a day.

And then of course, there are the family holidays, with my daughters, which are a must for us. I am often asked, if there is temptation when it comes to working in a glamorous industry and so many beautiful actresses.

I agree, the actresses we work with are beautiful, but Mehr is the best thing to have happened to me, and I feel I’m so lucky because of that. When you feel that way, you count your blessings and not mess things up.

What not to wear

To show skin, or not to show skin? Now that is the question! Should the gents button down their shirts to show off their sprouting chest hair?

Should women prance around in tiny miniskirts? With loads of cleavage? Or do you prefer them covered up? What to wear (or rather what not to wear) is one tough conundrum. Emails fill my inbox requesting information on what to wear for first dates, what not to wear to the races, how much skin is appropriate, and what an outfit says about the type of person you’re dating (white shoes, pink shirts and a peek-a-boo navel – apparently all big-time turn-offs).

Yet in an age where celebrities are going pole dancing in hot shorts and platforms for exercise; where Paris Hilton-esque outfits are ubiquitous, and where less is often viewed of as best, I wonder when it comes to dress sense, what is most appealing to the opposite sex?

When the bestselling book Why Men Marry Bitches (Simon & Schuster) came across my desk the other day, I expected to be flabbergasted by what I was about to read. Girls were required to be bitches in order to snag a man?

Pah! Not according to any of the men I’ve dated. But alas, the book actually made perfect sense when it came to the chapter on dressing up (with no bitchiness in sight). “Men see how you dress,” writes author Sherry Argov, “and then make assumptions about your relationship potential.” So in other words, should we watch how we frock up? Apparently so. As Sherry notes, “Once he reduces you to one dimension, he’ll keep you there.”

Yet it works the other way around too. The dress, the shoes and the stockings (especially the stockings), can all effectively hook them in. In fact I’ve heard many a case where a man has confessed that it was love at first dress. “I fell in love with her knockout red skirt”, “Oooh, she looked so hot in that tight black dress”, or “Did you see those fishnet stockings? Grrr.”

But the question that is often asked is this: what’s more appealing? Skin or no skin?

A man named Doug explained: “It makes a woman more attractive if she’s showing less skin. It makes you want to find out what’s underneath. A guy doesn’t want to get to bed and think, ‘No big deal. I’ve already seen this.’ You want her birthday suit to be a surprise. That’s half the excitement.”

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

The Merry go round
By Ayush Maheshwari

Last week I was in New York City. Four of my closest friends flew in from different parts of the US for the weekend. It was a blast I must say. Nice late summer weather, a couple of Broadway shows, brisk walks in central park and a fantastic Sushi dinner on the Upper East Side, it was great.

Five single friends together making the best of what life has to offer. We made sure that we got into Manhattan by 4 pm on Friday evening. Once we checked into our midtown hotel we quickly got all dressed up to go to one of the most happening happy (at a gay lounge) hours in town. Wall Street investment bankers, hot lawyers, artsy people, models and models to be, regular men from the block, tourists, dreamers and more. The happy hour had a potpourri of men sipping martinis.

Every time the five of us get together we take a wow that we are together to spend time with each other and surely not looking for any sort of alliance with other men. Well the strength of the promise surely starts to falter with a couple of drinks in the system. What is interesting is that no matter where you go in the world it’s pretty much the same scene at a gay bar. Wandering eyes, a lot of un needed attitude, a subdued insecurity in the air and living life for the moment feel.

Suddenly I started talking to a guy named Dan. I am always quick to survey the contestants. Dan looked decent and intelligent. With my usual confidence I approached Dan. Dan is from Miami and was on a business trip to New York. My imagination quickly saw myself on South Beach sipping Mai Tais with Dan on a lazy summer afternoon (trust me being single for a while makes your mind really imaginative). Dan was courteous to me and said that he is flattered and appreciates the attention. However I am not his type but he doesn’t mind being friends. (this is what I call a graceful rejection).

Well suddenly I felt like Cinderella after the clock strikes twelve. He proceeded to say that he thinks my friend John is hot.

However, John was busy checking another guy out. I quickly excused myself from Dan and went up to John to inform him of his new admirer. John gave one look to Dan and was crystal clear that Dan was not his type.

Paul is the name of the guy John was checking out and Paul suddenly surprises us by making a ‘nasty’ announcement letting us know that he has a boyfriend. Oh well, by now my friend Deepak finds Dan cute. All this while Deepak was talking to this guy Jeff but suddenly feels that Jeff is too short and nerdy for him (Dan is much taller). However Dan extends his graceful rejection to Deepak as well.

The point I am trying to make is that even though everybody is looking for something, but more often than not nobody seems to want to give a chance to that someone who likes them. Is dating like a merry go round these days? Does it have to be? Can we or can we not look beyond the exterior? Should we? I cannot help but wonder at what point in our lives do we get off this thrilling ride we are on? Does that mean we compromise?

I am not sure about that but here is what I do know – at some point in life we got to say ‘this is it’.

You can email your experiences to

Smoke Alaram
By Raghava KK and Netra Srikanth

Want a really good recipe for becoming a total social pariah in most of today’s world? I’ve got just the thing for you: Bad breath, yellow teeth, smelly hair and clothes, not to mention a hacking cough, countless health problems and the power to kill harmless innocents. And how, you may ask, can one achieve this? Well it’s easy, really. Just take up smoking. That’s right, follow the same trend that seems to have swept our teenagers off their feet.

Restaurants, bars, and clubs in most parts of the world have banned smoking indoors so that non-smoking diners are not subjected to the horrible smell or to the danger. It’s rather disturbing to notice that while smoking is on the wane in the developed world, thanks to a sudden realisation of its grossness and proper education about the health threats it poses, it still seems to be the key way for Indian teenagers to fit in and feel “cool”. It’s quite a mind-bender for the two of us, who both always vowed that we’d never date a smoker. How could we dream of kissing a cigarette mouth?

Here is our rant. As non-smokers, we find it very difficult to go out for a meal in this city. Wherever we sit, indoors or outdoors, at a lone table or in the middle of the crowd, that second-hand smoke somehow finds its way into our nostrils. And, unlike abroad, where smokers will immediately put out their cigarettes if they see a pregnant woman or a baby, our Bangalorean smokers keep puffing away with total disregard for those around them.

So we started asking around, and were surprised to learn that the chief motivation for starting to smoke was to be part of a group culture, to be one of the crowd. It’s just an extra addition to wearing the right clothes, sporting the right hairstyle, and speaking the right way. Just another way to subjugate oneself to the horde of clones we so recently observed at a lounge bar. And we always thought it was cool to be different.

But as easy as it is to blame people for their conformist stupidity, we can’t forget the power of the media. Our world seems to revolve around doing what we see pictured on the TV and in our image-obsessed culture, people are lining up to get plastic surgery that will make them look like their favourite star, so it’s no wonder that they’re all wearing the same brands too. What’s next? It seems we’re just a few steps away from the age of the robot.

Designer’s studio

This shoot was for my Autumn-Winter 2008-09 collection. Contours in the collection are a study in body lines and form. The art of Ren
 Lalique and Pablo Picasso as subconscious inspiration, creates lines that are baroque, intense and relentlessly elegant. Draped and constructed jerseys lent a new world grandeur and sophistication to the line. Engineered pintucks melt into shaped pleats to create a decadence that is nascent and unplacable.

I wanted a similar mood for the shoot, minimal but lively. Technically, it was an interesting experiment to light the background and still have the model and design detail come in focus without creating an obvious halo.

Tinu was the perfect choice for the shoot. Her body language, skin colour and attitude were all reflective of the design process and philosophy.

The photographer’s ability to capture what was going on in the designer’s head, the simplicity of the environment and the subtle flamboyance of the clothes came together cohesively in the shoot.

It is hard to say where the clothes end and the background begins in the images. The whole object seems to melt into one form and this visual statement makes this shoot my favourite so far.

By Naresh Sadhwani and Deepak Jhangiani

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

iPhone, the latest rage for the status conscious gizmo aficionados, is based on the touch screen technology which is not really a new technology. Touch screen technology is quite old in fact and has been in existence in many forms during the technological evolution of the TV and mobile.

Among the earliest gadgets to have internalised this technology were the computer screens that could respond to and depict the images written and drawn on these screens with the help of the light pens. Of course the usage and hence the popularity was limited to art directors/engineers and mainly the CAD CAM family. The most successful of the consumer gadgets of that time was the PDA with the touch-sensitive screens and the impressive looking styluses that wrote/drew/or just punch telephone numbers on the dial pad.

The next step was the tablet laptop that had foldable screens which opened out to present a mini blackboard to write on. But the most successful usage of this technology is to be found in portable gadgets.

In the last issue, we talked about the growing demand for portability in audio video products, all of which necessitate touch-screen technology.

Simply put, size is paramount when it comes to portable gadgets. Be it the portable PDAs or handhelds or even web connected mobile phones, the key requirement is to reduce size to make portability possible. By incorporating touch screens, gadgets do away with the need for the keyboards which take up a lot of space and make portability a reality.

Some of the smart new devices that incorporate the touch-screen technology include the WiFi enabled portable phones and handhelds, the Prada phone, the iPod and of course the iPhone.

Blu-ray Superior

The on-going war between Sony’s Blu-ray hi-definition DVD format and the rival HD-DVD format from Toshiba may well be in its closing phase. Both boast a host of performance pluses, and both formats use blue lasers to store and retrieve much larger amounts of data than conventional DVD which makes it possible to store an entire hi-definition movie in just one disc.

However, like in any war, only one side can win and in this case it looks like the Sony Blu-ray may finally prevail.

While both the majors have announced that significant price reductions are in the offing, it has been established that the Blu-ray discs can store 25 gigabytes on each side of the disc, while HD-DVD discs can only store about 15 gigabytes on each side. The difference of 10 gigabytes per side and a massive 20 gigabytes per disc seems to have decided the issue in favour of Sony. As if to confirm this understanding, come market reports that Blu-ray discs have been outselling HD-DVD discs by two to one. Whoever loses, technology and the consumer wins.

And that’s the way it should be.Readers are invited to email their queries/suggestions/comments to

Matrimony on the move

Are you finding it difficult to find the perfect match? Are you tired of logging onto matrimonial sites everyday, and need a medium that can give you access to these sites anytime any day? Don’t worry, here is some good news. Those of you who are busy posting your profiles on matrimonial portals on the Internet, can now do the same with your mobile phones, as mobile service providers and matrimonial websites have joined hands to provide customers with what according to them is “mobile matchmaking”.

This concept of “matrimony on the move” will enable mobile service users to post and view profiles of other members without logging onto the Internet. Mobile users would also be able to browse through profiles, express interest in members, send personalised messages to prospective matches a lot more simply through their mobile phones. With more than 300 million cellphone users in India (the numbers drops down to 11 million when it comes to having access to the Internet), market analysts are seeing this venture as mutually beneficial for both the mobile service provider industry as well as online matrimonial portals.

“There is hardly any doubt that this is a very innovative concept. The cost of the calls and SMSes (which are a bit high) will add to the profit for the companies. Moreover, matrimonial sites will also get publicity through this venture, and would be able to provide services both online and offline,” says Ronvijoy Gohain, a telecom market analyst.

While mobile service providers and matrimonial portals are considering this initiative as “a very important service to add value to customers’ lives”, many are not satisfied with the quality of service this venture is offering. While some are complaining about the dearth of proper statistics and lack of images in the service, others are cribbing about the high cost of calls.

Says Ashish Khetriwal, a stock broker, “The call charges are quite high for a prepaid user. Calls are for Rs 6 per minute and SMSes are Rs 3 per minute, and by the time you finish browsing, you will end up spending all the balance on your cellphone. I think spending Rs 30 per hour in a cyber cafe is a better option.”

Technology seems to have brought serious issues like finding a prospective match to one’s fingertips. Marriage counsellors and social scientists are of the opinion that technology is making a sacramental issue like marriage over-commercialised.

“Now that one can find a prospective match through cellphones, I would say they have made marriage a product. Yes, we can say the effectiveness of the process is losing its significance,” opines Dr Kamal Khurana, a marriage counsellor.

However, according to social scientist Dr Beena Thomas, there needs to be a balance between both technology and tradition. She says, “In today’s hi-tech world, nothing is possible without technology, but there should be an amicable combination of everything. There is no harm finding the perfect match through mobiles or any medium for that matter, but one should remember it is not something like fast-food. Marriage is a life-long commitment that involves not only the parents, but also the society one lives in.”

Whatever people may say, this first-of-its-kind venture is sure to lure those who are mostly engrossed in hectic work schedules, and have no time to go online scouting for prospective matches. Simply switch on your mobile phone and find your perfect match.

‘I’ve always been ambitious’

Just two years ago, Priyanka Chopra was riding high. She had a string of successful films including Krrish and Don, in which she was paired with two superstars – Hrithik Roshan and Shah Rukh Khan.

The media, especially the film glossies, had projected her as the next No.1. But then things changed. She had a few disastrous releases – starting from Salaam-e-Ishq last year to her boyfriend Harman Baweja’s Love Story 2050 and God Tussi Great Ho this year.

“It was never in my head that I was the next No.1,” quips Priyanka. “It’s you people in the media who put such tags on us. It is not like it was my burning desire to be No.1”

Having said that, Priyanka goes on to admit that she is pretty ambitious in her own way. “I have always been ambitious, but my ambitions don’t necessarily have to match up to people’s expectations of me,” she says. “I am very content with what I have at the moment, and it may not be in terms of rankings or how much money I am making but the kind of work I am doing, I am thoroughly satisfied with that.”

Is that a dig at the highest paid ladies in B’wood such as Kareena and Katrina? “No, not at all,” she denies. “I am just talking about myself here. Don’t get me into any further controversies please.”

Priyanka seems to have resolved to tread her own path and even negotiate her way out of past troubles. She is working with Karan Johar in Dostana though the director had been cut up with her for quite some time.

“Well, I am really happy to be working with Karan,” she smiles. “He has the best production team. There may have been a misunderstanding in the past, but today we hang out on the sets and laugh throughout the day.”

But has she sorted out her differences with Salman Khan like she did with Karan Johar? “Things are perfectly normal,” she says.

And what about the reported catfight with Kangana on the sets of Fashion? “Yeah, I sharpened my claws and went at her,” she gestures. “I find such stories really funny. It’s like people expect us to have a problem and so we must have it.”

Talking of camaraderie on the sets, how easy or difficult was it to work with her boyfriend Harman Baweja? “It was easy and difficult, for the same reason,” she says.

“Unlike any other newcomer, Harman has thoroughly learned his craft. So it was easy to work with him. But I could not have on my way in the sets either since Harman was all pro and seasoned.”

And does she have huge expectations of him? “Oh huge,” she says. “But he won’t find it difficult to make it, as he is a phenomenal actor, a great dancer, and a level headed guy. And being good looking also helps.”

But she becomes circumspect when more questions on Harman pop out. “Why do we need to put a tag on relationships?” she asks. “When I started in the film industry as a newcomer, all my fellow actors were special for me. Similarly, I am happy that I am Harman’s first co-star.” Priyanka is now looking forward to Drona with Abhishek Bachchan and Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion.

For all you know, she may be crowned Queen Bee again by the media in a matter of months.

Sanjay plans a dream home for Manyata

Back in the city Sanjay Dutt is on a mission. He is looking for a property where he can build a bungalow for his ladylove Manyata. The couple currently lives in Dutt’s family home, but the grapevine has it that since the Dutt sisters and Manyata don’t really get along, Sanjay is trying to keep them out of each other’s space.
He has asked all his close friends in the industry to look for plots in Bandra, where he currently lives, for his bungalow. And no, a bungalow up for sale wont do, because Manyata wants to build a dream abode to her own liking and do it up her own way. Now after screening through scripts for Sanjay, organising his date diary, designing his clothes et al, looks like Manyata is taking over the architect’s job too.

Deepika says ‘no’ to harman

Deepika Padukone is riding high at the moment, working with the best of banners and heroes in the industry. And she wouldn’t want to spoil her stakes working with a debutante, who is yet to succeed, would she? So, Harman Baweja is ruled out from the list of co-stars she’d be working with in the near future.

The only glitch is that when Love Story 2050 was up for release and there was a buzz about Harman, Deepika had already agreed to do a film with him. But now when the maker went back to her to get the dates, Deepika flatly refused. In fact, she is said to have developed amnesia regarding the project in question and was asking the director if she’d ever agreed to do the film in the first place.

Totally zapped the hapless director is scouting for his female lead and might eventually settle for Jiah Khan, who has no qualms about working with Harman. Equations in this industry change every Friday, one hit can make you the most popular person in the industry, while one flop reduces you to a loser.

Next match on centre court is H’wood Vs B’wood
By Vikram Bhatt

The talented filmmaker offers an exclusive ringside view of the Bollywood industryῠ through his column.

A very famous director once said that stories don’t change, only the villains in the stories change. Truer words were never uttered. Look closely and you will see that new villains make new stories. The shark makes Jaws, the dinosaur makes Jurassic Park, the Nazis make Schindler’s List, Gabbar makes Sholay and Shakal makes Shaan.

All stories change with the circumstances that the villain heaps on you but what is strange is that while villains in movies have been constantly changing, there have been villains to the films in general.

Through all times the movies have had to fight a new villain every few years. In my life I remember the coming of colour television and people suddenly deciding to be at home and then, to make matters worse, came the video. Video almost killed the industry when people stopped coming to the theatres. Then came the DVDs and people preferred the pleasure of their plush homes to the dilapidated theatres and so the theatres had to change themselves and they became the super cool multiplexes that lured the audiences out of the homes and into the movie halls. A new audience came into being.

Finally cinema breathed a sigh of relief! The multiplex experience is now the best experience but there is another enemy that lurks for the Hindi film industry. The enemy is quiet now, stealthy creeping ever so slowly behind the Hindi film and the Hindi film is not waking up to the reality of the situation yet.

This piece of mine is a prediction and a warning but the warning first. What is slowly creeping behind us is the foreign film and more essentially the Hollywood film. You might laugh and think that I am being ridiculous, you might think that the Hollywood film was always here but pause as I take you through the inner workings of my prophecy.

With the coming of the multiplexes came an elite audience of the urban India, the multiplexes brought in more screens and more shows and so the Hollywood biggies crashed into our theatres and there is an audience for it. You might have Tashan playing in one screen but Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the crystal skull plays in the other so our action better be as good or perhaps better if that is possible than their films. One screen might have Dhoom 3 but beware of the other screen that will show Hancock 2 or the latest Bond flick. In every genre except for the Indian song and dance the Hollywood film is going to compete with us.

With the growing Indian buying power the west will see us as a huge market. They will flood our markets and the audience will pay for the ultimate experience and they are only loyal to their experience.

So on this day I wish to make a prediction and that is that Hollywood films will creep up and beat us at our own game if we are not careful. Every week one or two American films have begun to release here. This week more shows were given to Angelina Jolie’s Wanted than to Mukhbiir.

I am happy about one thing though and that is that when the competition gets fierce you have no choice but to better your best and so this will be a great time for cinema audiences. Get ready for the mother of all contests. Hollywood versus Bollywood is the next match on the centre court.

Explaining England

A Field Guide to the British
By Sarah Lyall,
W.W. Norton & Company,
$24.95, pp 289

Foreigners are a funny lot. Italians communicate using extravagant gestures, Greeks are untrustworthy, Russians doleful and soulful, the Chinese inscrutable. And as for Englishmen! They are sexually confused, they were “terrorised” by feminism, their dental hygiene is appalling. In England hotels are freezing, judges deliver verdicts wearing “moth-eaten” wigs, journalists are foul-mouthed drunken louts, while male members of Parliament are so undone by the existence of women (never mind women M.P.’s) that some “snickered when the issue of cervical cancer came up during a debate on cancer funding”.

It is possible that one or two did, as Sarah Lyall recounts in her book The Anglo Files (the anecdote has no source), though it is equally likely that the rest would have disapproved of the puerile antics. Throughout her frequently amusing account of living in England as a reporter for the New York Times, Lyall takes refuge in roomy generalisations that are hard to refute while at the same time being, at best, half true.

“Is it any wonder,” she asks after a discussion of the abuse suffered by some pupils at elite public (i.e., private) schools, “that Englishmen – particularly British men of a certain class – are so mixed up about sex?” There is a kernel of truth in it somewhere, but first we need to know whom we are talking about.

The Anglo Files is unclear about its subject of study. Is it about the English, as the title has it, or “the British,” as claimed in the subtitle? Someone who has lived in the country since the mid-1990s surely knows that the words are not synonymous, and that to proceed as if they are is asking for trouble.

In his 1945 essay Notes on Nationalism, George Orwell wrote that “Welsh, Irish and Scottish nationalism have points of difference but are alike in their anti-English orientation.” A sentence beginning, “Englishmen – particularly British men of a certain class…” has stumbled into a cross-border dispute before the reader has had time to decide if it’s true or not.

The urge to play up the exotic aspect of everyday activities has proved the bane of many travel books, and it causes Lyall’s judgement to falter. Her idea that cricket is “as important to Britain’s view of itself as baseball is to America’s” is inflated, even if you refrain from pointing out that in Scotland, where I come from, it is not popular at all. (Orwell called it “not in reality a very popular game in England,” which is true if you behold the nation at large and not just people “of a certain class.”)

For Lyall the sport exposes class division, anti-Americanism, evidence of English self-deprecation – another national trait – and even hankerings for empire. All this is piled on thick, of course, to provide a colourful backdrop to the adventures of an innocent abroad. To a British reader, however, the most eccentric feature of Lyall’s book is her use of the word colonial in reference to herself. This would seem a peculiar chip on the shoulder at any time, even if it wasn’t written at the end of a period during which a British prime minister was regularly denigrated as “Bush’s poodle.”

On the other hand, there were many moments while reading The Anglo Files when I felt initially defensive about my adopted country (let’s agree that Lyall’s intended subject is England), only to realise that I had been expressing similar opinions for years. Her observations on subjects like youthful binge drinking, the quality of service in shops and the food at sandwich bars – “Sometimes I’d walk out of the office to try to scrounge up some lunch, and find nothing that seemed remotely edible” – are dismayingly accurate, just as her funny horror story about a stay in a hotel in the Midlands has a familiar feel. It involved no heating in the room, no taxis when she tried to leave and no trains at the station when she managed to persuade a driver to take her there. Welcome to England, where only the immigrants want to work. (The generalising habit is catching.)

The Anglo Files unfailingly comes alive in the vignettes involving Lyall’s English husband. She is married to the writer and former editor in chief at Faber & Faber, Robert McCrum, who is described as being “like something out of ‘Brideshead Revisited’,” who speaks in a way she can barely understand, while exuding a “charismatic arrogance.” He also has “the native constitution of a mushroom,” habitually shaving in the dark, and striding out into a storm without raincoat or umbrella.

He is capable of relishing a soccer match that ends with no score, and seems the right recipient for a gift of a cartoon from the New Yorker showing a man on a couch saying to his therapist, “Look, call it denial if you like, but I think what goes on in my personal life is none of my own damn business.” Here Lyall is on recognisable territory – not because England is a nation of McCrums, but because whenever she scrutinises her husband (with charming affection each time) she is forced to forsake the general for the particular.

“You can’t really pin down the British character,” she admits – nor, for that matter, the Italian, Russian, Chinese or American character, no matter how much fun you might have in the attempt.

Why should one imitate others?
By Sunil K. Poolani

Many readers have been writing to me, asking certain things they have been curious to know about the publishing business in India, and also about books in general – and where we are headed towards. As I had said earlier, readers’ mails are what I really look forward to and cherish every time my column appears in this paper.

I try to answer some of their questions and, ah yes, I really like the effort they take to write to me. So here they go:

The number of books especially novels that are published in India is skyrocketing, and how. The rub is that most of them aren’t quite good and would never have passed through editors a decade ago. So what has changed in the publishing industry?

“Aren’t very good” is an understatement; most of the books published here are not even worth the stationery they are written upon.

Have the criteria for getting books published changed over the last one decade?

Without doubt. These days every scum you can imagine sells; mediocrity is the catchword. Also, thanks to lack of serious reading, the mindset of the urban youth is not programmed to read anything heavy; a reason why Paulo Coelho or Arindam Chaudhary sell well. Since there is a clientele, mediocre writers churn out stuff to cater to that segment. And publishers are not complaining as at the end of the day they do not want empty coffers.

But is it not a passing phase?

For bad of course, the change is happening. In the last one decade numerous national and international publishing houses have set up shop here and since there is an acute lack of good writing, and since these publishers want to tap the local market, they have to publish and promote run-of-the mill work, which is in abundance.

Is the profile of the author and the target audience more important than the story?

Yes. Sometime back, I read about an invitation by a publishing house which said, only men and women who are good-looking need to submit their manuscripts. Also, if you are a celebrity or someone who walks the ramp or is a starlet or is the daughter of son of a celebrity chances are that not only do you get published but you are on Page 3; and, yes, sell voluminously too.

And quality? What is that?Has language taken a backseat, by becoming more simple and easy to understand? Are we catering to the SMS and email-addicted public?

Language has not become simple and easy, but it has deteriorated to the nadir that it is a tease to whatever intelligence we are left with. You can blame so many things: fast life, gadgets, television, nuclear families, lack of enthusiasm to appreciate quality literature.

What are the main criteria these days that publishing houses apply when choosing manuscripts?

Saleability. Cookery, self-help, children’s colouring books, beauty and fitness guides, these are money-spinners. And the no-nos are quality books penned by I. Allan Sealy or Mukul Kesavan.

Any new writer who has shown promise of becoming India’s next Salman Rushdie?

Rushdie? Why should anyone try to imitate him? Leave him alone. Develop your own style. To answer this query, there are many who are promising, but, then, who is interested? Sad it may sound, but that is, guys, the truth.


Talking about Salman Rushdie, here is what one of my friends had to say, “This ‘genius’ has not published anything readable since The Moor’s Last Sigh. What he has been painstakingly churning ever since is either verbal vomit or constipated prose. The way things are going he may not need fatwas from the Iranians, but some good lover of literature might do the honours.” Well, I hope this would not happen, but what Rushdie can do is to take a break and write something other than his nubile wives, divorces and libel issues.

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

‘Ghalib is my eternal special’

I read books for knowledge and I believe that by reading books one can understand life better. Reading helps a person in many different ways. It’s like travelling. When a person goes to different places and meets different people, he becomes aware of things around him. One knows more about humanity and every other aspect of nature. While reading, one experiences aspects of other people’s life and their thoughts.

In my younger days, I used to read a lot. But these days it happens rarely. Though I take a look at every other book that comes out, I read only once or twice in a month.

I like reading fiction. These days I rarely get time to read an entire novel at one go. Since poetry takes less time, I try to get hold of a book by a new poet both in Hindi and Urdu. One of my favourite new Hindi poets is Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh. Ghalib and Firaq Gorakhpuri are among my eternal specials.

Besides Hindi and Urdu, I like reading Latin American and American poems as well. When I was young I had a craze for all the poems of Dylan Marlais Thomas, T.S. Elliot, W.H. Auden. I’ve a recorded version of all the poems I like. Whenever I feel like going through them once again, I listen to them.

I like many novels, so considering one as my favourite is tough. But one novel that I read almost every year is The Book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow. I read it quite often because in every phase of my life, it has given me a new meaning. It’s a book that though has a very private story, is written in a public era. The book depicts two stories – how the political scenario affects the life of a brother and sister and the life of orphans. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Opera extraordinaire
By Christine Pemberton

Last summer we were staying with a friend in the south of France in her little cottage surrounded by lavender fields, and overlooking vineyards. Over lunch one day, she said, “How would you like to go to the opera tomorrow?” Opera? In a tiny French village? How could that be possible?

Mais oui, c’est possible.

Cut to the pretty, hill-top village of Lacoste in the Lub
ron, in south-east France, a short drive away from where we were staying. Lacoste village is almost too pretty to be true, one of the picture-postcard variety. The oldest building dates back to the 9th century, there is a Roman bridge, there are mountains on the horizon, and everywhere you look, there are vineyards, cherry trees and poppies.

Lacoste, however, does have a dark side. The village is famous, or rather infamous, for its best-known resident, the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), the man who scandalised 18th century Paris society with his behaviour, and gave the words “sadism” and “sadist” to the world.

In 1771, the Marquis de Sade fled from Paris, to escape the many scandals created by his erotic writing and his outlandish behaviour. He came to Lacoste, seeking refuge in the 11th century ch•teau, which belonged to his grandfather.

Following a series of incidents involving, amongst other things, an orgy with local women, the Marquis finally fled the country. He was later captured and imprisoned. His castle was partially destroyed in an uprising in 1779, and was later looted and plundered by locals.

As if all the heady mix of scandalous past and picturesque village architecture were not enough, for a few weeks every summer, some of the world’s finest opera and theatre companies beat a path to Lacoste, to be part of the village’s art festival.

The festival is the brainchild of 85-year-old French fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who is now, without doubt, the second most famous resident of the village.

In the early 1990s, Pierre Cardin bought the ruined chateau, and set about renovating it. He spent lavishly on the hill-top chateau, restoring it and founding L’Espace Cardin there, establishing it as his business office.

Having also bought the old, disused village quarry, Pierre Cardin converted it into an open-air auditorium and then set about attracting world-class artists and performers.

This festival, inaugurated in 1994, runs concurrently with the larger festival in nearby Avignon, making that little corner of France a summer mecca for opera and music lovers.

Pierre Cardin has also bought many cottages in the tiny village, which is slowly leading to controversy, since locals feel priced out of the housing market, but none of that simmering village drama was in evidence when we went to see a performance of Verdi’s “La Traviata”.

The evening was picture perfect. Warm evening sunshine, as only Europe in summer can do.

People milled around with glasses of chilled white wine, and, as the sun slowly began to set, the orchestra began tuning up. The red velvet curtains parted, and the opera began.

The quarry makes a brilliant open-air theatre. Great slabs of rock form the stage, and the seating rises up, not always in neat, even rows, since the quarried stone has been left as much intact as possible. The natural feel all adds to the charm of the evening.

All too soon, the evening was over. The “bravos” were shouted and the encores were sung.

We wended our way afterwards through the pretty village, under a lingering navy blue sky, listening to the babble of languages around us. Lacoste may only have 400 permanent residents, but that night, it felt like the most charmed, cosmopolitan place in the world.

Getting there

By Air: The main international airport, Roissy – Charles de Gaulle is your port of entry if you fly into France from outside Europe. CDG is the home of Air France (AF), the national company, for most intercontinental flights. Some low-cost airlines, including Ryanair and Volare, fly to Beauvais airport situated about 80 km northwest of Paris.

By Road: There is no single national bus service. Furthermore, buses are limited to local mass transit or departmental/regional service.

By Train: The French rail company, SNCF, provides direct service from most European countries using regular trains. French train tickets can be purchased directly from RailEurope, a subsidiary of the SNCF. The Eurostar service uses high-speed to connect Lille and Paris with London, the later via the Calais-Dover channel tunnel.

Tourist information: Maison de la France/The French Government Tourist Office
825 Third Avenue, 29th floor (entrance on 50th street)
New York, NY 10022

Hotels come in 4 categories from 1 to 4 stars. This is the official rating given by the Ministry of Tourism, and it is posted at the entrance on a blue shield. Rates vary according to accommodation, location and sometimes high or low season or special events.

Penguins & parties in Melbourne

I have done pretty crazy things in my life, like jumping off long distance trains in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country and wandering around to find a beautiful location or a waterfall or something. I have gone backpacking through Europe on road trips, sometimes hitchhiking, meeting some wonderful some strange people at times.

I have been advised against it, but there is so much I have learnt through those experiences that it feels like a lifetime already.

Also after going through the Tsunami experience when I was in Thailand on a holiday, and meeting Ness in the process has changed my life forever. I don’t think the traveller in me will ever rest.

After having a passport that looks like a log book thanks to your work, it’s difficult to pick one favourite holiday spot. But if I had to, I think it would be Australia because I feel at home there now. While shooting there for Salaam Namaste I was so well-acquainted with the place already that I could show Saif and the entire crew around.

Melbourne would be my favourite city in the world. It’s called the cultural capital of Australia, but from the energy, the look of the city and friendliness of the locals, you can safely call it the cultural capital of the world.

It has the most multicultural, diverse and cosmopolitan culture with Greeks, Asians, Italians and their respective cultures integrated very sensitively into the social fabric.

One of the best means to see the city is on bike. There are some scenic trials marked out for tourists on bikes, and especially the Yarra River trail that runs along the omnipresent river of the city through some beautiful parks is worth the trip.

Exploring the city through long walks or trams that run through the heart of the city is also an option. Despite it being a major city, Melbourne doesn’t really get crowded even during peak hours, which makes the walks pleasurable. If you like knowing the history of places you visit and like reading in general, go to the state library which is the biggest library I have ever seen. And you will bump into some literary geniuses from Australia sitting in the cafes there and one usually ends up having an interesting conversation.

Melbourne is a great place for shopping, and I don’t just mean clothes, but practically everything. The central business district houses some of the best stores, bars and restaurants in the city.

The sports stadium is also in the area and has some bars set right across the riverbanks, and you can sip on your drink taking in the beautiful views.

The people here love sports, so if there is a major sporting event like a cricket or rugby league match, the whole area turns into a carnival and it is the best time to be there.

There is also the Queen Victoria market where you can pick up souvenirs and knick knacks. Here you will find some really unique artefacts for the house, made by local artists at ridiculously cheap prices.

If you walk though the Carlton district of the city, you will feel like you are probably in Italy because it has a majority of Italians based here, and the streets are lined with Italian restaurants.

There is also a museum depicting the Italian migration and history in Australia, which is very interesting. You can also take your kids to the city zoo. They have jazz music evenings at the zoo and music lovers can stay back after the sunset and enjoy a musical night.

You can also take couple of days off after your city tour of Melbourne and visit the Grampians National Park outside the city, which is a huge tourist attraction. And also visit the Philip Island, which attracts tourists for Penguin parades.

From penguins to parties, it is all here in Melbourne, a place where you can have a nice relaxed holiday.

By Senjam Raj Sekhar

Kutub Quizzers recently had a quiz on Delhi. The quiz was conducted by Doc aka Bhatta aka Dr. Bhattacharya.

Rounds had interesting names relating to Delhi. The connection round was called Rishtey hi Rishtey, then there was the Dry rounds – closed on all religious holidays. Even the break in between had a name, it was called Rukawat Ke Liye Khed Hai, in old Doordarshan style.

Some questions from Dilli quiz are excerpted here.

Dilli Quiz – Kutub Quizzers

1. Delhi ended up winning Santosh Trophy only once when they hosted it in 1943, amidst controversies as alleged by their opponents Bengal. What exactly were the so called controversies?

2. Sawan Mal was the Diwan of Multan and a top commander in Ranjit Singh’s army. He is known for wresting Multan from the Afghans in 1823. However, we know him for his invention of a famous sweetmeat made of desi ghee and corn flour in Delhi & Multan. What is it?

3. Keval Malik was the trendy, & fashionable daughter of Teja S. Malik the chief contractor who built Lutyens Delhi. She however created ripples when she ignored worthy fellow suitors like P.C. Lal (71 war Air Chief) and Bharat Ram of Sriram group and selected a then little known struggling lawyer of Lahore High Court. Identify him.

4. When faced with a prospect of a massive rally by Jai Prakash Narayan, at the Ram Lilla grounds what ingenious method was employed by then PM Mrs Indira Gandhi to keep away the crowds from the rally?

5. Winifred Selina was an amateur landscape artist whose suggestions were even valued by Edwin Lutyens esp. with regards to laying of the gardens in Persian Charbagh style. Mughal Gardens, Delhi was in fact dedicated to her by Lutyens. Identify this society lady.

6. Born Stella Charnaud in Constantinople in 1894 where her father worked for the British Foreign Service. There, she met the Viceroy Rufus Isaacs, whom she would marry in 1931. Women’s Voluntary Service or WRS founded by her, recruited female volunteers before and during the war & did lot of social, medical work in Peshawar & Delhi. Identify her?

7. Who was the first Christian martyr and patron saint of Delhi?

8. This festival celebrated for marital bliss, well-being of spouse and children. It is a three-day-long celebration that combines sumptuous feasts & fasting. This festival is dedicated to Parvati, and named after a red ground dwelling insect akin to ants.Which festival is this?

9. This Doon School and Wharton aluminus opened the first fashion boutique in India. His own brand label is known as, Ahilian. He has designed for a number of celebrities and was widely acclaimed for his Jemima Khan’s wedding collection?

10. They were biggest owner of Lahore city bus fleet in pre-partition Punjab and later having pioneered farm mechanization in the country. They have been a major player in the railway equipment business in India for nearly five decades whose product offering includes brakes, couplers, shock absorbers, rail fastening systems, composite brake blocks and vulcanized rubber parts. Identify?

11. Which 1986 movie written by Gulzar starred Shashi Kapoor A.K. Hangal, Sharmila had music of Louis Banks and cinematography of Subrata Mitra?

12. Its roots can be traced back to 8th century Persia. Amir Khusro is credited with fusing the Persian and Indian musical traditions to create this. The formal name used for a session of this is Mehfil-e-Sama In Arabic, it literally means “utterance (of the prophet.”

13. In 1947, a Marathi Karhade Brahmin became Chief Minister of the United Provinces, which he renamed Uttar Pradesh. He abolished the zamindari system. He was called on to succeed K.N. Katju as Home Minister in 1955; in that position, his chief achievement was the establishment of Hindi as an official language of the central government. In 1957, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna. He also established Birla Vidya Mandir.


Dilli Quiz – Kutub Quizzers

1. The Bengal team was allegedly duped into climbing of Qutb Minar and were exhausted.
2. Sohan Halwa
3. Khushwant Singh
4. Mrs Gandhi showed BOBBY on DD.
5. Lady Hardinge.
6. Lady Ripon
7. St  stephens
8. Teej
9. Tarun Tahliani
10. Nandas of Escorts
11. New Delhi Times
12. Qawwali
13. G.B  Pant

 Features of the Week

Deccan Chronicle

Powers Of Darkness

17 Aug

Powers of darkness

Skulls, bones, incantations, spells, magical powders, chicken, lime… These are ingredients for magic with a sinister connotation. Something lies just beyond that closed door, beyond the physical world we know, understand and live in.

In each society and civilisation, feared and revered, shamans, priests, tantriks and witches have all claimed contact to the spirit world. Good they might do, but in essence, black magic has been a tale of practicing evil – an apparent reflection of the dark side that lurks within each human being. You might want to cast a spell on a lover, or ruin a rival’s business, or settle scores.

Sounderajan Swamigal of Chennai has been practicing Siddhi since he was eight. He reveals that one simply has to take the name of the rival, repeat his/her parents’ names and the date of birth and say what he wants to do to the person. Siddhas like him perform certain rituals to make the wish come true.

“Siddhis are intrinsic powers. The intentions are different for practicing Siddhi and black magic. The power that is worshipped is the same. When you offer milk, fruits, flowers and coconut to God and worship with devotion, it gets converted into positive prayer. When you worship the same God with liquor, fish and meat and with the intention of doing harm to someone, the power gets converted to negative energy,” Sounderajan says.

Which brings us to the distinction between Tantra and black magic. Delhi-based astrologer Pandit S.P. Tata says, “Tantra comes from the words Tanoti Trayate, which mean to expand our inner consciousness and bring about liberation and oneness with God. Just as there are certain decibels beyond our audible range, there are powers that only the spiritually evolved can perceive. Such people can easily learn about the future, cure illness, bless the childless with children etc.”

Where there are believers, there are also skeptics.

Sanal Edamaruku, president, Indian Rationalist organisation, dismisses all religious beliefs as baseless superstitions that exploit gullible people. He says, “It is not just simple villagers who give credence to black magic. Urban educated people do too. Turning to black magicians doesn’t get you out of the situation but you get more deeply entangled.”

Which actually sounds innocuous when compared to news reports of horrifying crimes in the name of witchcraft like ‘teacher sacrifices teen girl for son’, ‘a villager beheads and carries around the severed head of an elderly woman whom he believed to be a witch, little children killed in abstruse rites’ – these incidents justify Sanal’s concerns.

He has quite a task ahead of him, as believers in sorcery are from pretty much everywhere. For instance, Shahid Afridi shocked some, when he confided to a close few that his poor performance on field is due to a black magic spell.

Film choreographer Saroj Khan told a Mumbai-based tabloid a few years ago that her family was reeling under the effects of black magic. “someone has done some jadu tona on me as a result of which I am undergoing problems,” Saroj reportedly said then. When asked now, she did a volte-face. “Where did you hear this story? I have never suffered due to black magic, neither do I believe in it.”

The deep sway that sorcery holds on people is often reflected in films. Ram Gopal Varma’s latest film, Phoonk is based on black magic.

Says Varma, “I am not a staunch believer in God. But a few incidents occurred around me that compelled me to seek explanations. A few years ago, we had a guest with a kid. My mom and sister told me that this kid has been empowered with the force of some baba and whatever he writes happens to be correct. I do not believe in any such powers but others do. Being a storyteller I am attracted to this subject.”

Students of the occult have complicated rituals that have to be religiously practiced for years before they can lay any claim to success. Tantriks worship Shiva and Shakti, with specific rules for abstinence, offerings, mantras and homams. Says Pandit Tata, “Shiva as Dakshinamurthy was the original tantrik, and Sri Chakra is the king of tantra. Patanjali’s Yog Shastras, Atharvaveda and many other ancient scriptures contain details of tantrik worship, which are meant to be positive.”

Kerala actually has a school that teaches Tantra, the only one of its kind. The state is also home to the belief in Kutty Chatan – a demi-god who is often turned to for malignant intents. Krishna Kumar is the head of a family near Calicut that has worshipped the deity for generations. Firmly asserting that they have never entertained any malicious requests, Krishna says, “Kutty Chatan is like a family God and is actually a manifestation of Durga Devi. Sage Parasurama gave the mantra to my ancestors, and we are one of the few families of Kerala worshipping him ritually.”

The mantra is given only to male members of this vegetarian Brahmin Namboodri family. “We chant it everyday and should have the will power to withstand the power. People come to us with a lot of requests for success in business, marriage, children and lawsuits. However, the family’s motto is to use the power only for good.”

All believers of voodoo, witchcraft, tantra, straddle the grey areas between good and evil, the physical and metaphysical, the living and the dead. They worship Satan, Kali, Hanuman, Durga, djinns and spirits of the dead. Startling similarities, in fact, can be found between what a tribal in Ghana might do and what an amil might do in a remote village in Pakistan. Each would use body fluids, hair or nails of the one to be harmed, make a rough doll using dough and straws to depict him or her, and chant incantations. The victim would often have no clue of the cause behind a sudden turn in his/her fate.

A housewife in Kolkata recounts such a tale. “I was 12 when a man fell in love with my sister. He resorted to black magic when she didn’t reciprocate.” Unwilling to be named, the lady adds, “I tasted the tainted food by mistake and then I had marks like blade cuts appearing on my body. My clothes would develop burns and tear on their own. We called a priest for help and the evil power threatened him too. Finally he was able to overpower the evil after all night prayers.”

Practices are bizarre, often macabre. It is not a faith for the faint. The Aghoris of Varanasi, for instance, are an ultra-secretive cult that eats half-burnt corpses from cremation grounds, in the belief that it will grant them longevity and supernatural powers. They lead lives not too different from the cavemen, for whom every sunrise and starlit night was a mystery fraught with danger.

Though we have unraveled most of what perplexed these cavemen, there are certain things that are meant to remain at the periphery of our perception. Perhaps it is just as well, for these are darknesses that we cannot fathom.

Are you a Victim?

Watch out for these symptoms

*ῠYou display a changed personality. * You feel depressed, angry and irritable. * Memory loss and temporary blackouts. * You dream of dead bodies, snakes and people who want to harm you. * You experience sudden chills, goose bumps and fatigue. *l Relationships suffer.

Spirit activities are believed to increase 2-3 days before the dark moon nights and the full moon nights. Check if your condition worsens then.

In tune with almighty

According to Indian philosophy, all art forms are somehow related with spirituality or have a connection with the Supreme. Legend says that music has an age-old association with all the established religions of the world, and for eons it has been looked upon as a tool to bridge the gap between deities and their devoted disciples.

So, can music really bring one closer to God? If so, then why isn’t everybody using it as an instrument to connect with the divine? Is playing a musical instrument or listening to one’s desired music enough to experience the Supreme, or is there a “rigid” process that one needs to follow to accomplish that goal? These are a few questions that pop up every time one talks about experiencing divinity through music. Elucidates Swami Ullasa from the Isha Foundation, “Yes, music can get one closer to a higher consciousness. We can use sound as a medium to create a meditative state of mind, it is the science of mantras and vibration. Satguru defines this whole existence as nadha brahma (meaning sound), which Einstein termed as energy through which one can experience a greater power within oneself.”

So, is there a definite process to utilise sound for higher consciousness? “There is definitely a process (might not be a rigid one) to attain nirvana through music. In terms of Indian classical music’s tradition, first of all you need to have a guru to help you attain that state. You can learn the mantras by yourself, but only a guru can transfer the right energy to you, and this applies to all the art forms, when learning is concerned,” says Sangeet Natak Academy awardee, santoor player Abhay Rustam Sopori.

Flipping through the pages of history, one will find that right from the days of the Sama Veda, music in the form of hymns and chants have been sung to please religious deities, and are considered sacred. Much has been written on the musical Riks of Sama Veda, and how music itself can bring forth the blessing that rites and rituals intend to bestow on one. Similarly, Sufi saints from time immemorial have been advocating for music as the ultimate medium to feel closer to the Almighty. So, is there a particular genre of music through which one can experience God? Answers Swamijii, “It can be any genre of music. One has to be open and receptive to experience the divine. In simple terms it is about one’s limit of involvement.”

Unlike musicians in other parts of the world, here many consider religion synonymous with music. One will find many Indian classical maestros referring to their gurus as God, and music as meditation. Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar was once quoted as saying, “In our culture we have so much of respect for musical instruments that they are like parts of God.” So, is Indian classical music the only genre through which one can attain religious wisdom? Answers Abhay, “In my opinion, I would say it’s about individual choice. Being a classical musician, I think Indian classical music is very meditative in nature. It has a kind of crescendo that can elevate the listener to a divine level, and help him feel delighted. However, it will vary from person to person depending on what kind of musical genre he thinks can offer him the right ambience and space to attain religious wisdom.” Swami Ullasa, however, gave an alternative view saying, “There are many different genres of music through which one can experience a divine level, but unlike other cultures, in India classical music is used as something more than just mere entertainment. It is more of a spiritual tool, its sound and vibrations are scientifically articulated and this makes it a meditative medium.”

If you know how to live a moment you can plan your life

The problem with the mind is, it starts living in the future. It starts thinking of beautiful golden days that are coming. That is not planning; it is daydreaming. I can understand planning, but remember, planning for the future is not equivalent to living in the future. Planning is a present moment activity. And the more you are present, the more you have clarity and transparency. Mind cannot exist in the present and when there is no mind there is clarity, and with this clarity you can see into the future; then something of immense importance will happen to you.

Postponing living, in the name of planning

You should live, not postpone. You should live the moment and while you are living the moment, you can visualise. It is not mental activity. You can visualise a better moment that is coming to you. You have lived this moment, you know you can go even deeper, you know you can rejoice more. And when the next moment is coming you immediately go deeper into it, more rejoicing, more playful.

And you have only one moment at a time. So if you know how to live one moment you can plan your whole life in that very living. But there is no need to plan for it, because in planning you will forget to live.

Live the future through the present

To the man who lives spontaneously two things happen: one, he never postpones; second, his future is lived through his present, through his experience of the present. Then planning is not a mind activity, but an expansion of consciousness, an understanding of life that goes on deepening every day more and more. And the deeper you are, the more beautiful, more human, more fulfilled will be your actions.

Your mind wants to know where the wind is blowing, because your mind has its own plans against existence. It wants the winds to blow towards the west and they are blowing towards the east. Then the mind is frustrated.

Be spontaneous like the weather vane

The man who is spontaneous, just like the weather vane – the weather vane never worries whether the wind is blowing south or north or east or west – wherever the wind is blowing the weather vane simply turns towards that side. It shows in what direction the wind is blowing. It has no resistance. It is absolutely free to move in any direction. It does not fight with the wind. It is absolutely spontaneous and never lives in the past, nor in the future. It simply represents the present.

Courtesy Osho International Foundation/

Tales of men and ghosts
By Veenu Sandal

The arguments of ghost critics and skeptics and the beliefs and activities of ghost believers and ghost-hunters were categorised in the last column. 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. Most accounts of this last group appear to have enough substance to provide meaty answers to many of the questions raised by ghost critics and skeptics. The case of Ann Walker, for instance, is well-known, and I have written about it several times before, but since it is a documented case and most interesting, it is always worth repeating for new readers. It seems that late one night in 1681, a miller, James Graeme, of County Durham, England, was accosted by the hideous ghost of a young woman. She was drenched with blood and had five open wounds on her head. She told Graeme that her name was Anne Walker and that she had been murdered, with a pick axe, by one Mark Sharp acting on instruction from a relative of hers, also named Walker, by whom she was pregnant. She made it clear to Graeme that unless he gave the information to the local magistrate she would continue to haunt him.

Refusing to believe what he had experienced, Graeme did nothing. But after the apparition appeared, pleaded and threatened twice more, he went to the authorities with the grisly story. A pit identified by the ghost was searched, and Anne Walker’s body was found. Sharp and Walker were arrested, tried, found guilty and hanged. Anne’s spirit, thus avenged, did not appear again.

Then there is the case of the Ghost Bus (Frank Smyth, Ghosts and Poltergeists, p.60). “I was turning the corner and saw a bus tearing towards me,” the motorist testified before the police. “The lights of the top and bottom deck, and the headlights were full on but I could see no sign of crew or passengers. I yanked my steering wheel hard over, and mounted the pavement (sidewalk), scraping the roadside wall. The bus just vanished.” The motorist who made the report to the local authorities in North Kensington, London, in the mid 1930s may have been drunk, hallucinating, or dreaming at the wheel when he had the accident. But if he was, so were hundreds of other motorists who complained of being forced off the road by a phantom bus careening round the corner from St. Mark’s Road into Cambridge Gardens, near the Ladbroke Grove underground station. After one fatal accident, the local coroner took evidence of the apparition and discovered that dozens of local residents claimed to have seen the spectral double-decker.

In fact, there had been many ordinary accidents several of them fatal, at the notorious junction. Eventually the local council straightened the road there, and the accident rate was greatly reduced. Thereafter there were no more reports of the ghostly red bus.

There are other similar cases on record and in my travels into the interiors of India, I have been told about many instances when justice was dispensed due to the intervention or revelations made by a spirit. In several cases, panchayats, unaware of a crime, were made aware of it by the spirit of the person who had suffered, and taking note of the spirit’s testimony, carried out investigations on their own and were able to nail the culprits. In all such cases, the disclosures were made voluntarily by the spirits concerned.

To be continued

‘Failure brought me closer to God’

Maine apne irradon ke tootne se allah ko pehchana.” These words are the inspiration of my life. They taught me how to live with acceptance of things around me. And I have lived each word of this quote over the years. It all goes back to those days in 1987 when I started making Rumi.

The film was my dream, it still is. It all seemed so easy back then. I invested all that I could in the movie. Be it infrastructure, funds, music, craftsmanship, technicians and all that it takes to make an excellent film. We had to complete the movie in four sequences, two of which were already shot. The government supported us and everything was available for the movie’s release until 1989.

When we started shooting the other two sequences during that year only, serious problems clouded over Kashmir. The destiny of Kashmir changed, so did the fate of my movie. The government withdrew its support because of the conditions in Kashmir, and my life changed. It didn’t take me away from God, but brought me closer to him. I started believing in destiny.

It felt like everything you plan is not bound to result as you charted it. Suddenly, in that year, everything came crumbling down to pieces. Only a filmmaker would realise the pain. It was more than shattering for me. It felt as if in a fraction of seconds, life turned the other way round. All the support, by the government, and various other areas vanished. No one encouraged the idea of the movie anymore, just when we were half way through.

I have been very attached to Kashmir. I always found God in the silent beauty of the place and wanted to bring forward its plight in front of the world. I still believe that if the movie had been successfully completed, it would have created history in the Indian film industry. With each failure in my life, I came closer to God. I feel whatever God does, it’s always for the betterment of mankind. Even though the failure of not completing Rumi defeated me in a big way, it wasn’t the end. God gave me the courage to move on. This incident brought me close to Sufism and I feel blessed.

My tattoo is a mark of commitment

I DON’T believe love happens only once, you can fall in love more than once. It’s because as you grow, love means different things to you as a person. It’s not the same fluffy idea of romance that you once had as a 16-year-old when you grow up. The intensity of your love may vary, but you cherish all your loves equally because they mean a lot to you.

The idea is not to give up on love; no matter what stage of life you are in, and how many unsuccessful relationships you have been in. You never know when love can knock on your door again. And yes, I am talking from my experience because I found love with Bebo when I was least expecting it to happen. The funny thing is, I have worked with her in the past, but we never saw each other from a romantic point of view. So it hit me like a bolt from the unknown but I must admit, it’s been a pleasant surprise.

The sign of a good relationship is that it brings out the best in you, something that you probably don’t even know existed in you. Kareena is way too mature beyond her age, contrary to popular belief and perception. What’s great about her is that she constantly keeps me on my toes. There is not a single dull moment when Bebo’s around, she’s extremely motivating and pushes me to work harder. I think it’s her ambitious nature that is rubbing off on me now, because I have been guilty of being laidback in the past. But Bebo always wants the best and that sort of inspires me to give everything my best too. I always wanted to start my production company and grow in that respect, but Kareena, I have to admit, has been the charging force behind to an extent.

We’ve not had it easy in the initial phase of our relationship because of the constant speculation around us, and Bebo was very affected in that period. But we had to make peace with the fact that it’s a part of our profession and it has not only made us stronger but brought us closer. You know when you are facing a trial right at the onset, the rest seems like a cakewalk. Touchwood, it’s been smooth sailing and I have to really be grateful to have someone like Bebo in my life – she is very understanding and not overtly worried about my past.

We understand that we need to give each other space and take our individual needs into consideration. Bebo is at the peak of her career and things are only getting better for her. In such a scenario I only have to be supportive of her. We are very clear that we won’t let out professional and personal lives come together and she doesn’t have to be a part of all my productions. She doesn’t expect to or have time for them either.

There are no insecurities, professional or personal between us and we’d rather keep it that way. The only issue is, since we spend so much time apart shooting in different parts of the world, it becomes imperative that we make adjustments and take time off to be with each other. We have successfully managed that so far. And there’s no need to rush things. We aren’t thinking about marriage, but there is a sense of commitment from our sides.

Getting my tattoo was entirely my decision, and in a way it’s a mark of commitment, it’s something I wanted to do. But honestly, I don’t expect Bebo to do the same, because firstly I am aware of her feelings for me and I don’t want to be burdened with expectations because they can be spokes in the wheel. And why would I want that when it’s all smooth sailing now?

The big Brazilian adventure

Sitting in sociology class, I was wishing I could just meld into the furniture as the professor continued his lecture on Henry Ford (which isn’t the least bit interesting when it’s in Portuguese!). Just then the office secretary of my school, Col
gio Londrinense, walked in with the results of the Vestibular. The Vestibular is a test that every Brazilian has to take to get into college. This test is extremely difficult and passing it means you get to go to a public university, which is much better and free – the private ones are not as good and are also very expensive. The number of seats being extremely limited, it is considered great if one passes the Vestibular.

As the students waited with eager anticipation, it turned out that there was one lucky boy this time – Philippe. Only one from our class of 80. Exams and results are almost a part of everyday life for us Indian students, and success is celebrated by distributing sweets, or a party with close friends. But that is not enough when it comes to the Vestibular. Passing not only means a huge party to which probably your whole class, family and neighbourhood will have to be invited, but also a custom, the Trote – that I would never imagine to be a form of celebration – began in class.

Seeing my shocked expression, my classmates Luana and Guilhereme, explained what was happening. The Trote is a custom where if you are a guy who has been accepted at a public university, then your friends, as a sign of congratulations (a bit of jealousy at your good luck, I guess) get to shave your head there and then – wherever you may be at the time of your result.

They even go to the extent of autographing your scalp and creating artworks on your head. The girls though are spared such similar gestures of “affection”.

The next 20 minutes were total chaos. Poor Philippe’s head was being shaved by his friends in the worst possible fashion. The whole class was in splits. As for myself, I was speechless. We would never dream of doing that to someone in India if we wanted to be on speaking terms with that person ever again.

After all the noise had died down and everyone had returned to their places (and the “lucky boy” had disappeared into the men’s room), I looked up to see the professor was still very engrossed in giving his lecture to the few first-benchers who had not been able to escape into the madness behind. Had something like this taken place during a lecture back home, the professor would immediately stop his lecture and call for disciplinary action against the students. Or he would probably also have a seizure!

But this is Brazil. And as every Brazilian believes, a little “fun” never killed anybody.

I smiled – this is one sociology class I would never forget!

Suddenly single? Stages of overcoming a breakup

Litres of champagne, boxes of Lindt Chocolate and many a one night stand have been had in trying to overcome a break up. And no matter how many times people may tell you that “everything happens for a reason”, or that “there’s someone infinitely better around the corner” or that “you’ll meet someone else when you least expect it” (does this ever truly happen?), breaking up is never easy.

No matter how bad or toxic the union had become and no matter how much gumption it took to finally make the break, the prospect of never again being able to sleep with, speak to or confide in the other person is a gigantic shock to the system.

Ask someone that’s recently been separated or divorced and with gentle exasperation, they’ll tell you they’re “doing fine”, when you know all too well that underneath their facade, they’re crying out like an injured animal desperate to get back to their matrimonial cave quickly.

By the reckoning of authors Marni Kamins and Janice MacLeod of The Breakup Repair Kit (Canari Press), there are eight stages of a breakup which can affect the newly single. The authors also dictate that in order to move on from the whole ordeal and come out alive on the other side without too much baggage or resentment we need to let the stages simply run their course instead of battling against their elements.

So with the rising divorce rates, the prevalence of affairs and the toxic break ups abound, we proffer up to you the eight stages of a break up in hope you can identify what’s coming, where you’re at and know that you’re not alone but that if you ride it through, you will survive.

Stage 1: Shock: “Did this really happen?” Aside from the inevitable question of what the heck you’re going to do on Saturday night, let alone how you’re going to find a date to your cousin’s wedding or work out who is going to share the rent, the realisation that you’re alone again and have to traipse the single’s scene is enough to send anyone running for the Britney Spears’ loony bin. Thus instead of focusing on what was, why not go for what I like to call a jubilant “breakover”? It’s a makeover most common after a break up that sees a change in your hair colour (red signals you’re having a vibrant new sex life while blonde declares you’re out to have more fun); hit the gym and tone up (with a very real prospect of meeting your future soulmate on the treadmill) and treat yourself to an entire new wardrobe. Your new mantra? “Hello world, I’m back!”

Stage 2: Denial: “They still love me, right?” After the initial shock wears down and you’ve realised your breakover isn’t getting as noticed as you’d have liked, your head will start denying the break up. You start to torture yourself over what went wrong, conning yourself into believing that things can be resurrected if only you put in a little more effort and encouraging you to stalking your ex just in case they catch a glimpse of you and decide they’ve made the biggest mistake of their lives. In this stage, make sure to always wear dark glasses and a baseball cap when you’re out in public.

Stage 3: Fooling yourself: “I’m okay to be alone…, I think?” Just when you think you’re doing fine with the break up, authors Kamins and MacLeod tell us that our mind is actually playing tricks on us. In fact we’re not fine at all, but rather we’re numbing out the pain of losing the love of our lives. Apparently during this stage, a good long nap is the best remedy. Stage 4: Depression: “I’ll never meet anyone again” These are the first thoughts that will pop into your head during the stage of fear. Fear that you’ll wind up an old maid with a house filled with cats and a life of meaningless sex fills your mind as you go on one failed date after another.

Stage 5: Resentment: “Screw them!” Fears are suddenly transformed into anger as you blame your ex for everything from your weight gain to crappy job to not allowing you to follow your goals. Now is a good time to change your life around without having anyone to blame on the way.

Stage 6: Depression: “I want the world to swallow me whole” Sadness seeps in and suddenly you find yourself in a deep black hole that is only threatening to swallow you up with each day that passes. Keep a tub of ice cream on tap and go easy on the vodka. Drunken phone callsῠ to your ex aren’t going to bring them back.

Stage 7: Understanding: “Okay, so maybe I am better of without them” Finally you’re out of the black hole and into the zone of understanding that certain people come into your life at certain times to teach you important lessons and then it’s time to move on.

Stage 8: Regaining confidence: “I’m single and fabulous” Now you’re ready to accept the fact they weren’t “the one”, that there are other fish in the sea and that the world is your oyster filled with eligible singles all desperate to meet you. Get out there and start dating again and show the world how fabulous you are.

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

Nurturing my soul
By Ayush Maheshwari

In my last article I shared with you my own experience of how I was sexually abused as a child. It has been a tough rollercoaster ride since then.

I didn’t even realise I was being abused till my late teens. I knew something was going on but wasn’t sure what it was. Often the pain and damage follows later. When I was around 18 I started to realise that something in my life had really affected my self esteem. I was always willing to please, always checking if what I did was ‘good enough’, trying to get affirmation all the time.

A couple of years later I went to the US to study. A lot of my realisation happened during my college days. My first reaction was that I was wronged and that I am responsible for it. I hated myself for a long time. The question which kept coming to my mind was why did I allow myself to be victimised. I went through several relationships at that time and they were all very unstable. I would constantly doubt the guys I would date. I would always try to make sure that they ‘loved me’. This put way too much pressure on the relationships. I wanted to get to the root of the problem.

After doing a lot of research and reading on this issue I realised I have to ‘make a conscious decision’ to heal myself. I convinced myself to stop holding myself responsible for what had happened and stop referring to myself as a ‘victim’. My mom is a very understanding, unconditional supporter. I am very grateful to her for actually listening to me without asking too many questions and most importantly not judging me. It was tough for her too.

Also, I started to talk to a professional therapist. This was very difficult as well. You sit there in front of this third party and suddenly you have to talk to them without holding anything back. It took multiple sessions for me to actually get comfortable to even begin talking about it. However I knew it would help me and hence I kept going back. There were sessions where I would just stare at the wall and cry. Gradually I started talking to my therapist. Each session was like another step closer to a ‘stronger’ mind. Along with this I started a journey of falling in love with myself, to tell myself I am worthy of being loved, to tell myself I am thankful for the life I have.

Nothing changes over night. After years of adopting these techniques I feel I am at a much better place than I used to be. My professional and personal achievements reflect that. There are times when I feel upset and angry. It’s very human. But what is more human is to actually turn those negative thoughts into positive actions of nourishment.

You can email your experiences to

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


Enabling, interacting and engaging the viewer is the name of the new game and the DTH channels are not far behind in introducing newer and more innovative services for their subscribers. Yes, the TV invades the most sacred and private spheres of your life, marriage.

Matrimonial services which were earlier the secured domain of pandits and community matchmakers soon became public domain by websites offering partner details in alluring colour. Some even introduced interactive chat platforms for prospective partners. Now coming to your comfortable sofas is this same service courtesy the two DTH providers, the Zee DISH TV and the Tata Sky Ltd DTH platforms.

DishTV is launching the interactive Shaadi Active in association with the matrimonial portal The new service boasts of a large inventory of profiles which can be viewed on your TV screens. There is even a search mechanism in place by which the subscriber can define the parameters of selection and search by the criteria of age, community, caste, profession and complexion. The trials are on and the service will soon be on air. Following suit is the Tata-Sky platform with their Active Matrimony launched in association with This service is expected to feature 1,000 new matrimonial listings every week and can be accessed on a 24×7 basis.

Questions of the week

What is the difference between a CD burner and CD writer?

Both are related phrases and both refer to a CD recorder. The CD recorder can record data on to your CD disc if the data recorded is a sound file. You can playback the recorded sound when played on your CD player. So also if it is a video file you can view the picture when played on your VCD player and if it is a data file you can read the data.

In the recording process the data is actually etched on to the disc with a laser. Hence the nomenclature of burner. Presently the term used for the same is CD writer. However, today the CD writer is practically obsolete and replaced by DVD writer, which can record both CDs and DVDs and are termed DVD writers.

Though I have recorded songs on my digital audio player it displays a message “no data” and I am unable to playback my music. What could be the problem?

All the digital players are software driven, and have to be formatted before you can use them. At times the software gets corrupted and players start malfunctioning.

If you reload the software, your problem could be solved. Use the Driver CD which comes along with the original package and reload the CD on to your player and your problem may be solved. Most digital equipment like cameras, printers come with their specifics driver CDs. It is always advisable to preserve these CDs since they are very useful when the software of your digital device gets corrupt and when you need to reload the software.

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

Animation industry gains steam

After the BPO, the Indian animation industry is going global as overseas giants like Cartoon Network, Warner Brothers and Turner Entertainment Network are flocking the country for budget-friendly, but world-class services. According to Nasscom reports, the country’s Rs 1,200 crore animation industry is set to grow to Rs 4,200 crore by 2009 with its revenues projected to double up to almost $1.5 billion by 2010. The industry is riding on two factors: low cost of production and talented labour. For example, the total cost for making a full-length animated film in the US is estimated to be $100 million to $175 million whereas in India, it is $15 million to $25 million.

According to Vineet Bakshi, head of graphics, News X, “The future is bright for the country’s animation industry. Apart from the cheap services, the talent that India offers interests the international firms. The advantage also lies in the fact that the country has specialised professionals for specific branches of animation.” As of today, the country has about 200 animation centres, 40 VFX and 35 game development studios and more workstations are expected to come up to make the best possible use of the potential that the industry has.

Filmmaker Ketan Mehta, who is at the helm of the Maya Academy of Animation Cinematics (MAAC), Mumbai, agrees that in spite of being in its infancy, the industry is growing tremendously. “India is taking a fast stride though the animation industry which is only about a decade old. Apart from producing an independent film, we at MAAC have several international projects in hand. We are also providing services to international television channels like BBC,” informs Mehta. Even Bollywood is quickly adopting the animation fad. The industry was recognised as a full-fledged genre after the first animation blockbuster Hanuman of Percept Picture Company and Sahara One. Encouraged by its huge success the company is geared for another epic titled Hanuman 2. The success of the animation movies has even lured the “masters of melodrama” Yash Raj Films to take up the international venture. Their much-awaited Roadside Romeo, produced in collaboration with Walt Disney is set for release in October. “Yash Raj has a first-of-its kind tie-up with Walt Disney to produce one animation film a year of which Roadside Romeo is the first one,” said a spokesperson of the Yash Raj Films. The film will feature the voices of Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor, and is expected to be released in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Since animation seems to be the order of the day, the superstar of South, Rajnikant’s big budget Sultan the Warrior, is being produced in collaboration with Adlabs. According to industry insiders, about other 80-90 animation releases are set for the next year.

“And as a career option, even those kids who have grown watching animations are taking it up as a serious profession. Going by the rate with which the industry is expanding, India will need 25,000 more professionals by the close of next year. The industry currently has only a little over 10,000 professionals working in this techno-creative field. Many aspirants are attracted towards it for the creative freedom that the industry offers,” says Mehta.

An extra affirmative change that the industry has witnessed is that several leading Indian animators working abroad have shifted their base back home. For instance, Chetan Deshmukh, who worked as an animator and special effect expert for the Hollywood films Chicago and Shanghai Knights, shifted from the US to Pune. Jesh Krishnamurthy, after working for 13 years with several leading animation companies abroad, returned to India to float his own company.

UK-based Turner Entertainment Network tied up with three Indian production houses – Miditech, Graphiti Multimedia and Famous Studios to produce local CG animated feature films and television series.

Walt Disney Studios collaborated with Yash Raj Films to produce a film annually.

Pritish Nandy Communications (PNC) has stuck a Rs 180 crore ($45 million) deal with DQ Entertainment (DQE), one of the world’s leading animation and gaming production companies, to co-develop and co-produce six animation movies over the next three to four years.

PNC had also signed a five-movie deal with Motion Pixel Corporation (MPC), a Florida-based animation company that has its animation studios, Estudio Flex, in Costa Rica.

MTV has added India to its outsourcing hub.

Love is spontaneous but one must maintain it

Kapoor scion Ranbir is getting into the sway of things in Bollywood with a bagful of films and a gorgeous girlfriend, Deepika Padukone, by his side. So how has the journey been so far?

“I’m confident but at the same time there is a little anxiety. It can get scary too because the expectations are so high, and if I fail, the fall will hurt even more. I am working very hard, hoping that people will appreciate my films. Give me a chance and not compare me to anyone, treat me as an individual. I have not tried to copy or mimic anyone so far. I am still learning,” says Ranbir.

Both his films, Saawariya and Bachna Ae Haseeno, have portrayed Ranbir as a romantic hero. Even his parents, Rishi Kapoor and Neetu, thrived on the image of a romantic pair in their heydays, but Ranbir doesn’t want to get typecast yet. “I do not want to stick to a particular genre. I am 25 years old and want to pick the best of whatever comes my way and suits my age. My parents were youth icons in their prime. They were very spontaneous actors and developed their own style. In today’s times, there are many successful romantic pairs. I am just two films old, it is too early for me to decide what kind of films I will be comfortable doing since I neither have the time nor inclination to sit down and analyse. However, I must say I am a great Rishi Kapoor fan. I would love to share some screen space with him,” he says.

Bachna Ae Haseeno is the first film that Ranbir and Deepika have done together, and is obviously special. “This film is special to both of us. Deepika and I fell in love during the shooting of the film in Sydney. We had a great time shooting together, away from the madding crowd. We got to know each other very well. It’s also the second film for both of us. I was a little nervous in the beginning because Deepika was already a big star thanks to the box office success of Om Shanti Om. But she was very helpful, supportive and made me comfortable,” he says, praising his lady love.

What’s his take on relationships in today’s scenario?

“I am part of today’s generation. I have also been in relationships; some of which worked, some did not. You just cannot forget them. They are a part of your life, and memories often linger in your heart. I value every relationship that I have had in the past. For me love is spontaneous – it just happens in a moment but one has to maintain it. You have to work hard towards building the relationship. You cannot take it for granted. You have to give a lot and adjust a lot too to maintain it,” he says.

His debut venture Saawariya may not have been a success but Ranbir begs to differ. “Saawariya will always be a special film. I owe my existence in the film industry to that movie. Besides, every film is a challenge. All actors want their films to do well. Today, if I am being offered great roles and big banners, it is because of Saawariya,” he says.

Ranbir’s interest in cinema is not restricted to just being in front of the camera. “I take a keen interest in the recording, the costumes and the sets. I like to get involved right from the beginning. It is a great experience. I would recommend that every budding artiste should work on the sets,” says the actor who wants to revive his family’s banner, RK Films.

“We are working on scripts for the time being. If something interesting turns up we will definitely make a film. Right now I am looking forward to some great films ahead. There’s Rajneeti with Prakash Jha, Karan Johar’s next tentatively titled Wake Up Sid, Rajkumar Santoshi’s Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani for which I have already started shooting, Shimit Amin’s Rocket Singh, Sajid Nadiadwala’s next to be directed by Siddharth Anand along with Saif Ali Khan and Vikramjit Singh’s Mera Jahan,” he rattles off.

Ash livid with Bipasha

Bipasha Basu is a self-proclaimed Katrina foe, but in a bizarre twist Aishwarya Bachchan is seething with rage towards Bipasha, giving her something in common with Kats after Salman. Bollywood being a small world, friends and foes switch sides before you bat your eye and the same happened to Ash, who considered Bips a friend after working with her in Dhoom 2.

But recently, while trying to justify her age difference with Ranbir Kapoor for Bachna Ae Haseeno, Bipasha dragged Abhi-Ash into the picture commenting on the age difference between them. Bipasha should have known that if she didn’t take too kindly to being referred to as the older woman, neither would Ash. Sitting far away in the US of A, for her Unforgettable Tour, Ash was livid when she was told that her name was being unnecessarily dragged by Bipasha into the picture. What makes matters worse is that Bips is a friend of Abhishek and he’s the one trying to keep Ash calm on the matter.ῠ And knowing the non-confronting Ash nature we aren’t surprised that she’s keeping mum but be ready for the famous Scorpion sting sooner or later Bips.

Kareena to sell designer brands

Kareena Kapoor is busy looking for a space in Mumbai to open her dream designer boutique, something she’s been aspiring to do for a while now. Mom Babita and sis Karisma have been supportive of her dream and in fact it’s Karisma who has been meeting with realtors to look for a spacious pad for the store. Bebo as usual wants everything done in style and is aiming at bringing some of the high end luxury brands to India. Although there’s been an onslaught of foreign designer brands making it to Indian shores, the high range products have still eluded our subcontinent, and Kareena is hoping to set things straight. She’s been having meetings with agents of various fashion houses as she is in LA shooting for her next film. She has asked for services of her designer friend Manish Malhotra to source products that will cater to the jet setting clientele of South Mumbai and Manish himself will be making some exclusive designs for the Kapoor kudi. From movies to fashion, Kareena does things in style.

Yes, the awards are a sham
By Vikram Bhatt

It’s a beautiful evening in the cold months of the beginning of the year and the whole film fraternity has gathered in their evening best. There will be performances by the who is who of tinsel town on stage. There will be media and razzmatazz but most of all there will be hopes and dreams. There will be the hope that since you are one of the nominees your name will be hidden in an envelope ready to be announced on the stage. The spotlight will fall on you. There will be a thundering applause. You will walk up on stage and another star will hand over a statue to you. Then you will get the chance to read the speech that you have been saying to yourself in the loneliness of your dreams a million times. The moment comes῅ the envelope opens and the award goes to῅ someone else!

You are devastated. You realise that you are still not good enough and you hang your head but clap gleefully lest the media catch the dejection on your face. When you lie in bed that night you wonder if you will ever get nominated again and if that speech that you have said to yourself in the mirror will ever get heard at all. And the award for the best director goes to…

Then the next day you start with a whisper that awards are a sham and that they are unfair. By the evening that whisper has become a scream and there will be a lot of people who will agree with you till of course the next winter months and the next nomination῅

The question is then that are awards a sham?

I must tell you a story. In the year that I was nominated for Ghulam as best director Karan Johar was also nominated for the best director. Then there was also the category of best debutante technician where Karan was nominated again being a debutante talent and so was my friend Tanuja Chandra for her film Dushman.

Now Tanuja is someone I have a very old friendship with and so this is not about her at all but a certain logic or a lack of it for that matter. The award for the best debutante technician was announced and it went to Tanuja and this was great and then when it came to the director it went to Karan for Kuch Kuch Hota Hain, which was also great but if he was the best director then by default was he not the best debutante also? How can he not be the best debutante but be the best director? I asked around and someone said that since Karan was getting the best director they decided to give Tanuja best debutante. Not that Tanuja did not deserve the award but this was like a-keep-everyone-happy scenario!

Yes, the awards are a sham!

All the awards are usually hosted by huge media entities and they have to nominate the big stars or else no one is coming for their show! So it does not matter how good your film is but what matters is how successful your film is! The hit film gets nominations and the flop good film with some good performances will go unnoticed! Such is the way of Moviedom!

I was on the jury of an award function once and made it a point to see every film that I was asked to see but I saw that many jury members had not seen all the movies that were on the list.

Award functions are about glamour, they are about television rights, they are about stars making their way to the stage, they are about everything that you think they are about but they are not about promoting that unknown yet great talent. Have fun and watch the awards but don’t think even for a moment that anyone on that stage is the best. They are only the most noticeable.

Truth and Beauty? Only in Afterlife

When John Keats died in February 1821, just 25, his friends believed that it was the reviews that killed him. In truth the critics could hardly have been less kind, especially about Keats’s second book, Endymion. “We venture to make our small prophecy that his bookseller will not a second time venture 50” (pounds) “on anything he can write,” a reviewer for Blackwood’s Magazine wrote. “It is a better and wiser thing to be a starved apothecary than a starved poet. So back to the shop, Mr John.”

There was a political agenda here – Keats was a liberal, and Blackwood’s was stuffily Tory – as well as class condescension toward a poet who was the son of a stableman, a prejudice shared years later by Matthew Arnold, who found in Keats’ writing “something underbred and ignoble, as of a youth ill brought up”.

The reviews stung, but what really killed Keats, of course, was tuberculosis. He had been sickly for months when in the winter of 1820 he coughed up blood. Keats, who had trained as a junior surgeon and whose mother and brother Tom both died of TB, recognised the blood as arterial and knew immediately that he had been sentenced to a premature death. He said to Fanny Brawne, his fianc
e, “If I had had time, I would have made myself remembered,” and a year later, on his deathbed in Rome, he dictated a seemingly self-piteous epitaph, “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” The measure of poetic greatness then was epic verse, and by that standard Keats had failed; he may have hoped, but couldn’t really believe, that he had reinvented the lyric with something like epic grandeur.

Yet as Stanley Plumly points out in Posthumous Keats, his moving and perceptive book about him, there is something elusive, mysterious and attention getting about the epitaph, which is after all inscribed in stone in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome; it’s as if Keats were stage-managing his reputation from beyond the grave. Keats’s publisher, John Taylor, thought the inscription could be the basis of a great publicity campaign until, 25 years later, he sold Keats’ copyrights for next to nothing, and he was virtually out of print.

Plumly’s book is, in part, a study in the vicissitudes of poetic reputation. Keats’s friends and contemporaries, Plumly points out, cherished the idea of him as a fragile blossom, too sensitive for this world, and the image was elaborated on by the Victorians, who rediscovered Keats, and loved the ballads and romances, The Eve of St. Agnes especially – the luxuriant, almost treacly Keats. They saw him as a sort of tragic Tim Burtonish figure, pale and languid, and wasting away in feverish reverie. This was the Keats that Arnold and, later, Yeats turned against, with Yeats cruelly comparing him to a schoolboy mooning outside the sweet-shop window, and for good measure repeating the bad-breeding slur. The Keats we revere, the Keats of the great odes, some of the most nearly perfect poems ever written, didn’t fully emerge until the 20th century.

Keats composed those poems in one amazing burst from April to September of 1819, and then he pretty much fell silent, unless you count an outpouring of passionate, tortured, jealous and sometimes abusive letters he wrote to Fanny Brawne. That he couldn’t live with her – literally, because he was dying – made him crazy.

Mr Plumly, himself a poet, has carefully chosen not to tell Keats’s story in linear or chronological order; his book is a series of interlocked essays that circle (sometimes repetitiously) around certain themes. And he keeps returning to Keats’ other posthumous life, the one he had while still alive, and about which he wrote in November 1820, “I have an habitual feeling of my real life having past, and that I am leading a posthumous existence.”

It took Keats a year to die, and though there were moments of seeming reprieve, of false hope, it was mostly a long, dwindling fall into darkness. At the end, barely able to lift himself from bed, he was subsisting, on doctor’s orders, on a single anchovy.

Plumly writes beautifully and very movingly of these last months: the sea voyage to Naples, the journey to Rome (during which his companion, Joseph Severn, stuffs the carriage with wildflowers, as if Keats were riding in his own hearse), the final days on the second floor of 26 Piazza di Spagna, the room filled with the sound of vendors, the golden light of late afternoon. Art and life seldom imitate each other, but in Keats’s case they really do seem inextricably linked, and in those last days, Plumly suggests, it’s as if he were living out the last movement of one of the odes, To Autumn especially, with its sense of a lingering moment prolonged, before transpiring into mist. Those poems promise the eternity of art, the permanence of truth and beauty, but what they describe is the poignancy, the bitter sweetness, the fleetingness of mortality.

Write stuff, right stuff
By Sunil K. Poolani

Though I have written – and continue to write – for several national and international print and electronic journals, I have never received the kind of responses I get from the readers of the paper you are now holding in your hands.

The responses have been a torrent, if not mind-blowing, and they are of all kinds: prospective authors trying to send their manuscripts, criticisms (reiterating that my writing is pretentious), overwhelmingly patronising.

But I was touched when, last week, a Chakravarti from a small Andhra Pradesh town, wrote to me, requesting, I should bestow on him tips to improve his writing skills, and tell him which all books would eventually ensure that. He wanted to write a “good manuscript”.

I, a college dropout, am hardly a person to help him, I told him as much, but promised I would share some thoughts that had cropped up while delighting in some good writings that I have come across in my short life.

For me, George Orwell is God; he will always be. Apart from his 1984 and Animal Farm, those great political expositions in literature vivifying the traps of both capitalist and communist hegemonies, I was really fascinated with his non-fiction, which talked about the English language and its use.

For any writer worth her or his salt, Politics and the English Language, Why I Write and Writer and the Leviathan are must-reads that should be imbibed into the system. When I compiled the above three essays for a volume one year ago, Ramachandra Guha wrote in the Foreword, “(Orwell’s) clarity of language, his moral courage, and his principled independence from party politics set him apart from the other writers of his generation, and from those who have followed since.”

Orwell was always consistent with his claim that prose degenerated into purple passages whenever it lacked political purpose. And as Orwell once said, “(English) becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” He died an untimely death, and that is a pity.

Now, many readers may think this is a devious digression – from someone as meticulous and marvellous as Orwell to, well, a carefree and iconoclastic Hunter S. Thompson. But Thompson, mainly due to his irreverence to everything around him, shaped the way I thought and wrote. And I was particularly in awe of the company (of the New Journalism ‘movement’) he kept.

A great collection that I still admire is The New Journalism, edited by Tom Wolfe and E.W. Johnson. This comprised the best “literary” journalistic pieces I have ever read, written by – apart from Thompson and Wolfe – Rex Reed, Norman Mailer and Truman Capote. Fully doped, Thompson wrote The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, a seminal sports article; it still remains a marvel in both journalism and literature – a rare achievement.

Thompson’s much-publicised work is the Fear and Loathing series. Nevertheless, his short works, published mostly posthumously, really stand out. In The Mailbox he talks about his confrontation with the FBI and he sums the article thus, “Never believe the first thing an FBI agent tells you about anything – especially not if he seems to believe you are guilty of a crime.”

If you are in the august company of Orwell and/or Thompson, who needs to dope? Or a stiff drink?


I used to work with a national weekly some years ago. We were bringing out a special on Orwell on his 50th death anniversary. A trainee sub-editor was asked to make the page in which we were reproducing Politics and the English Language. When I was checking the page before sending it to the press I realised there was something amiss in the Orwell classic. What happened, I asked the scribe. His reply, “Well, the whole article did not fit in the page, so I had to edit it.” Now, that is what I call guts.

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

‘I like action, intrigue in a plot’

I am always surrounded by books. I often read two-three books at the same time. I always need to have a book around me, even if I don’t get time to read it, I just can’t stay away from books.

I like fiction and but I do read a little non-fiction too. I am very particular about action and intrigue because only then the plot is engrossing enough for me and allows me to forget everything that’s going around. Then it’s not just reading, it becomes an effective stress buster.

The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye is one of my favourite books till now. It beautifully chronicles the life and times during the British Raj and ends with the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel is another book I can read again and again. It has a simple almost childlike narrative and yet it is so profound. Its style has made it one of my most loved novels. While reading it, I had to put the book down every few pages and had to ponder on what I just read. Selecting one author as my best is a tough call, but probably Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the one I’d select. In his writing, there is a magical realism. He also has an extreme visual-graphic quality in his narration. His writing is so descriptive that you can almost touch and feel it.

When I read, I always associate with the protagonists of the novel. Our lives are so complex, one could easily relate to all the things the protagonist is going through and it is a unique experience.

A Sri Lankan rendezvous

The minute my plane touched down at the Bandaranaike Airport, Katunayake, the one thing that stuck in my mind was (of course, besides the picturesque island) the Sri Lankan air hostess Melissa’s sexy sari. She told me it was the Kandyan way of draping it. Interestingly, this three-piece wonder has a wraparound skirt, a pleated middle and a slim duppatta that is pinned in front. It is a heady mix of comfort and luxury and the sari’s bold peacock print further accentuated its appeal.

Well, I did manage to see a lot of saris in my seven-day stay in Sri Lanka (Sri for paradise and Lanka for island, so paradise island), but the thought of wearing and walking around in one deterred me from buying these three piece beauties. It can be a logistical nightmare for the inexperienced as the wrap is a complex garment to flaunt and carry around if you are not a professional at handling it.

Sri Lanka decoded

The worst time to go Sri Lanka would be the time I went, that is when the SAARC summit is on. So most roads were blocked, traffic diverted, a zillion check posts and (you can’t deny that the Air Force officers look rather dapper) most good hotels booked. So we had to make do with Brown’s Beach hotel, a little away from Colombo.

But the view was spectacular from my window, with the raging sea (I could also see lovebirds snogging at the beachside). That’s why they say – sun, sand and sex. We could not see much of Colombo, but the little that I saw I noticed that it was a bit upmarket and hugely expensive. And my driver Mohammed Rafi (no, not the famous singer) from Walkers Tours told me that house rents can go up to Rs 20,000 for an apartment and to keep your head above water you must earn at least Rs 50,000 (you won’t believe it that a kilo of rice costs Rs 150, so let us not even talk about veggies).

Rock climbing Sri Lanka style

Only attempt Sigiriya if you have nerves of steel, trust me I am serious. Sigiriya or the Lion’s Rock is an ancient rock fortress. Interestingly, the steep steps don’t challenge some but for me I gave up half way through after seeing the stunning frescoes, which they call the “Heavenly maidens of Sigiriya” (these are painted in earth pigments). There are “almost 2,600 steps” and as it was raining that day it made my climb more difficult.

Most of the steps have no railing on the sides and with the dangerous climb you are left to your own devices.

But when I saw a group of 60 plus women challenging the rain god I rolled up my jeans and told myself, “Never give up”. Well, my enthusiasm did not last long and neither did my breath so after lots of huffing and puffing, I called it quits, much to the amusement of my guide, Shane who was a major motivating factor.

Coming back to Sigiriya, it is a popular tourist destination and was built during the reign of King Kashyapa (477-495 AD) and is one of the seven World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka. The most fascinating part of this destination is the mirror wall, at a crazy height where it is said that the Kings’ servants used to write love messages for each other. The wall it is said gets its texture from a mix of egg white, lime and bee-wax, which is applied and left for 21 days for the final effect. The rock has a height of 200 metres and at the bottom you have the most spectacular man-made fountains and can you believe it they are still in a working condition.

As I walked out of the premises, I thought to myself without any new-age instruments or machines how did they manage to carve a huge rock 1500 years back.

But then the thought of having the chilled Three Coins (local) beer overtook everything else. And trust me when I tell you, the label at the back of the beer says, “A refreshing quencher, a tasty relaxant and a wholesome lubricant for social intercourse.” I was truly in Sri Lanka.

Satiate soul with Hainanese chicken rice

If you want to start World War III in Singapore, just ask a group of Singaporeans where to get the best Hainanese Chicken Rice. You will soon have to duck for cover at the furore that ensues. Hainanese Chicken Rice is something like the national dish of the tiny island state, and is said to be of Hainanese origin. Hainan Island, part of China, is where many Singaporeans trace their ancestry (the other two places are Hokkien and Teochew.

There is absolutely no food court either in a shopping mall or in the open air that does not offer Hainanese Chicken Rice. It consists of a pile of steamed chicken, a portion of flavourful rice that has been simmered in chicken stock, a serving of pounded red chilli sauce and one of chopped garlic. Most places add a couple of other things too: chopped cucumber, a sprig of coriander leaves, a bowl of soup that is supposed to contain chicken stock. Some add a tiny serving of Kecap Manis, the quintessential Malaysian sweet ketchup in addition. Because it is such an elemental dish, you would actually have to search for a place that serves a poor version. The trick to do is to find somewhere that is run by people from Hainan itself: not a particularly difficult task. I have my formula down pat. Because my trips to Singapore are usually short, I usually take a cab to Bugis Junction, one of my favourite hang-out places in Singapore. Air-conditioned walkways that lead off from the InterContinental Hotel, shopping malls for the young and trendy (where I shop for my teenage children’s clothes), a covered market for fruit, vegetables, food products, slightly ethnic restaurants, an extremely ethnic food court, foot reflexology and feng shui accessories, one leisurely stroll around this fascinating wonderland and you’ll know what I mean.

Then, I head to Purvis Street. It is where I have my favourite Hainanese Chicken Rice joint. Yet Con is not the only place on Purvis Street that is famous for its Chicken Rice, but it is the one that I always go to. Somehow, I trust places where I am the only foreigner: it makes me feel that the flavours are authentic. Plus, the elderly troupe who man the counters are from Hainan.

With so many places shiny and new in Singapore, it is almost a relief to enter the ever-so-slightly precincts of Purvis Street, which is two minutes away from the InterContinental Hotel. None of the many restaurants in this tiny street have encroached on the broad covered verandahs, and though there a few trendy restaurants, they are outnumbered by the traditional ones. My last port of call in this fascinating area is a pilgrimage to a slightly run-down building near the Chinese temple where I have a Chinese foot reflexology massage. The authentic experience can cure ailments and point out future problem areas, while being relaxing and comfortable: just what you need after a hard day’s shopping and dining.

By Senjam Raj Sekhar

Where would the romance of football be if it were not for club rivalries. Lazio and A.S. Roma or closer home, between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, all add to the excitement and thrill. This week we take a look at some of the most famous football derbies across the world.

Quiz News: Barasat Quizzards’ Forum is organising its inaugural quiz contest – “Quiz Olympiad-2008” on 24 August at Subhash Institute Hall, Barasat in both school and open categories. Open to two member teams. Contact Partha Gupta (9830318721) or Selim Ahmed 9231664533 for more details.

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

Football Derbies

1. The city of Birmingham in England features a traditional rivalry between two football clubs in the city. One of them is Birmingham city FC. Which is the other? 2. It is said that price of Hilsa fish in Kolkata goes up when East Bengal wins. Which food is linked to a Mohun Bagan win? 3. In Buenos Aires, the club rivalry is supposed to represent two clubs divided along class lines – working class and upper class. Boca Juniors is the working class club. Which is upper class one? 4. The Uruguayan city of Monte Video has one of football’s greatest rivalries between two club teams. Name the teams. 5. One of the biggest club rivalries in the world is also divided along religious lines – Catholics vs Protestants. Name them. 6. The Merseyside Derby, also called The Friendly Derby, features which two football clubs? 7. In Italy, the two biggest derbies are the Rome Derby and Genoa Derby. The Rome one features Lazio and AS Roma. Which two teams play in the Genoa Derby? 8. The derby in Sao Paulo in Brazil features two clubs, one of them founded by Italians. Name the two clubs. 9. Los Indos (The Indians) and Los Blancos (The Whites) are bitter rivals from the same city. Name the two clubs. 10. Persepolis FC and Esteghlal FC are two famed rivals from which city?

Anything goes

1. Whose army was considered to be the first to have used a regular uniform? (U. Narasimha Murthy, Secunderabad) 2. Who is the only cricketer to win World Cup both as a player and as a coach? (Selim Ahmed, Barasat) 3. In the 15th Asian Games at Doha, 2006, China dominated the medals tally. However, China did not participate in two of the 39 disciplines. One of them was Karate. Which was the other? (Dr Ravi Bhatia, Udaipur) 4. Whose production company is called Simian films? (Shovan Karmakar, Kolkata) 5. Who in 1901 became the first Indian to own a car? (Sushil Kumar Poddar, Kolkata) 6. Which was the first painting from an Indian artist to cross the Rs 10 lakh price tag in 1987? (Rajib Roy, Burdwan) 7. Which was the only film in which Marilyn Monroe played the role of a mother? (Probir Mitra, Kolkata) 8. Rajasthan Royals is not the only team where Shane Warne played the role of coach cum captain. For which other team did Warne don this role? (Partha Gupta, Barasat) 9. There is no Nobel Prize for Mathematics. Which prize is regarded as the Nobel Prize for Mathematics? (Sanjay Nair, Noida) 10. Vestas from Denmark is the number one company in which sector? (M. Sharma, Gurgaon)


Football Derbies 1. Aston Villa 2. Prawns 3. Atletico River Plate 4. Nacional and Penarol 5. Celtics vs Rangers in Glasgow. Rangers is identified with Scottish Protestant community and Celtics with Catholics. 6. Everton and Liverpool FC 7. Genoa and Sampdoria 8. Palmeiras and Corinthians. Palmeiras (earlier named Palestra Italia) was founded by a group of Italians in Sao Paulo.  The Italians used to be members of Corinthians. When they formed the new club, they became the betrayers. The derby started since then. 9. Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid 10. Tehran

anything goes 1. Oliver Cromwell’s during the English civil war. 2. Geoff Marsh (as a player in 1987 and as a captain in 1999) 3. Kabaddi 4. Hugh Grant 5. Jamsetji Tata 6. Safdar Hashmi by M.F. Husain 7. We’re not Married (1952). Marilyn plays the role of a young mother on the beauty pageant circuit 8. Hampshire county 9. Fields Medal 10. Wind energy

Funda of the week Taiwan. ‘Formosa’  means beautiful


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