When Lux began to use ladies of the silver screen to sell soap, they probably didn’t realise, decades later, that celebrity endorsements would be as lucrative and researched as the star’s day job. Sometimes looked down in the advertising industry as a sure sign of inadequate creative or a generic product in a saturated market, celebrity endorsements are nevertheless worth big bucks – for the stars, for the manufacturers and for the agencies.
However, a combination of an evolution in the definition of ‘celebrity’ and a hefty pay rise for exclusive brand ‘ambassadoring’ now necessitates strategic pairings between product and face. Today, a clutter of advertising bombards the viewer, hoping, in a flash of cognition, to weld brand name and celebrity equity, resulting in actual sales.
Equity is the operative word. Successful brand endorsement rests on four concepts – familiarity, relevance, esteem and differentiation – known by the acronym FRED in ad lexicons. The target market must see the celebrity as a familiar, trustworthy face, must find his/her link with the product believable and relevant, must associate the celebrity with credibility, and must finally see him/her as different, someone who stands apart. Saleable faces are achiever faces – you must jack up the scoreboard tally – win a medal or rule the box office, and only then will top brands line up at your doorstep. A string of duds and you lose out.
So, in the high-churn world of celebrity brand endorsements, oh-so-current Katrina replaces the Bachchan bahu for Nakshatra, Deepika Padukone speaks for BSNL instead of Preity Zinta and size-zero Kareena Kapoor slides in niftily where Soha Ali Khan stood for Globus. Outside Bollywood, on-field performance, pretty much influences off-field endorsements – Sachin, now too ‘old’ for Pepsi, is supplanted by young’uns, Dhoni and Sreesanth.
G. Sanjay, DGM Marketing of Hyundai Motors India limited believes success as a brand ambassador depends on their own successes, “I would put achievements at 70 and looks at about 30.” The company banked on Shahrukh Khan’s talent 10 years ago, and fortunately for them, Khan was phenomenal. “He broke the clutter of small cars, introduced Hyundai and Mr. Kim to India and has delivered the messages of style and youthfulness efficiently”, he adds.
Anurag Batra, editor-in-chief of the marketing/advertising publication exchange4media agrees that hipper, chipper, more charismatic faces are more about feats than about facial features. “I see it as a positive phenomenon”, says Batra, “what has worked out in favour of advertisers today is that India has many more heroes than just top notch movie stars and cricketers – Sania, Karthikeyan and now Abhinav Bindra are options as are the likes of Raima Sen and Abhay Deol.”
Role models are chosen after careful deliberation, “either because they are Bollywood beauties or they are cricket champions or most recently they are Olympic winners”, states ad icon Alyque Padamsee. But, he tempers the three-medal fervour with a word of caution, “All this hoohaa about Olympics will die soon. Cricket and Bollywood are perennial favourites. This is the factor when we talk about big bucks. Every time a cricketer scores runs on the field, the hammer price goes up. Every time an actor delivers a hit, the price goes up again. Olympic champions have to wait for four years before they can prove themselves again.”
Batra further elaborates on the product/celebrity-pitcher association, “In conversations with brand managers, they are clear that even in the evolved way of looking at celebrity endorsements, there is no change in the way brand custodians look at celebrities for their brands. Traits that a celebrity is known for has to fit with what the brand stands for. Like Vishwanathan Anand for NIIT because he is about intellect and excellence, or someone like Lalit Modi endorsing a luxury brand.”
Ad filmmaker and film director R. Balakrishna sees an even subtler evolution in the use of celebrity equity and achievement. “You decide on the idea that you want to project and then the fit of the celebrity to that idea. For instance when Cadbury wanted to project credibility when they had that little issue of something wrong with the chocolates, they chose Aamir Khan to get the message across, which worked very well. Parker shows class, and Dabur Hajmola and Chyawanprash are both about going on, so Amitabh Bachchan fits them very well.”
Ironically, Big B and L’il B’s short stint at hawking the B-segment van, Versa is now advertising history as an example of a classic mis-match between product and celebrity. The campaign made no effort to illustrate the plausibility of their endorsement. Result? Nada.
Brands that lean too heavily on mere celebrity quotient to market their product will find themselves sold short. To succeed, campaigns must work on brand and message recall, believability, credibility, all of which must translate into a final intent of purchase. Clearly, an achiever makes for better credibility than just a handsome face. And if you can have both – terrific!
“Achievements do count, but they also have to go hand-in-hand with looks and personality”, avers Padamsee. “Vijender Kumar got a bronze medal and there is a lot of song and dance about him because he is good looking. Abhinav Bindra will probably get lesser offers than Vijender because he is a rather plain looking young man.”
So it follows that ace boxer Vijender Kumar was roped in as the brand ambassador of Bajaj Allianz right after he won the Olympic bronze. But, earlier, in an immature market, Indian advertisers may have used popular faces sometimes indiscriminately; a charming Tabassum could make an instant success out of a United pressure cooker, never mind if she looked completely out of place in a kitchen.
“Simple pretty faces don’t work any more,” asserts celeb photographer Vikram Bawa. “You have to have something more, charisma or achievement. Aamir and Akshay are at the top because of the constantly new ways that they present themselves. There is an edge to their films and ads and they are both constantly reinventing.”
Aamir is certainly making news. Every look is new, every message that he drives seems clear as bell. CEO & Managing Director of Tata Sky Ltd Vikram Kaushik shares, “Aamir has been chosen because his brand persona resonates with the brand values of Tata Sky. Both brands are known for high integrity, trust and constant striving for perfection.” Of course, they had to choose someone who was “an actor of the highest calibre and excellent standing in the entertainment industry”, as Kaushik states.
The brand wars continue to hot up. As Indians begin to excel in unprecedented ways and territories, every triumphant rainbow will come with its promise of gold. Instead of rewarding just the dancers-round-trees, our new heroes will come stomping home, not with the spoils of war, but to the promise of great wealth – for being inspiring rather than just entertaining.
Top of the charts
Aamir Khan is endorsing Tata Sky, Samsung, Parle Krack Jack and Titan. He allegedly charged Rs 6 crore for the Tata Sky commercial.
Akshay Kumar’s rating has gone up with a string of five superhit films recently. He’s endorsing Levi Strauss, for launching its brand Levi’s 501 in India apart from Thums Up and Microsoft X Box 360. Market sources say he charges anywhere between Rs 5-6 core per endorsement and has now entered the big league of Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan.
Kareena Kapoor charges around Rs 3 crores per endorsement. She’s replaced Soha Ali Khan for Globus. Other endorsements include Citizen watches, Head n Shoulders shampoo, ITC soap Fiama Di Wills and Emami winter care.
Deepika Padukone has been signed up for Levi Strauss Signature, Tissot, Parachute, Kingfisher, Close up, Limca, Maybelline, Pepsi and BSNL. She’s replaced Preity Zinta for BSNL advt. Her fees is reportedly Rs 2 crore plus.
Katrina Kaif can boast of a string of hit films, thanks to Akshay Kumar as co-star and her brand value too has sky rocketed. She’s replaced Aishwarya Rai for Nakshtara diamonds, reportedly paid Rs 3 crores for it, something that took the Bachchan bahu by surprise. She has many adwalas lining up outside her door. Her fee is reportedly Rs 3 crores.
Vijender Kumar is the latest entrant in the ad world. Companies associated with action, youth and machismo are eager to leverage his success at the Olympics. His endorsements may include motorcycle, apparel, deodorant and soft drink brands.
Is the end near, as Nostradamus predicted?
By Dr M.S. Sivraman
The famous 16th century French astrologer Michel de Nostradamus has predicted that the world will encounter innumerable calamities from the second decade of the 21st, for about 20 years.
He considered that this point of time would portend enormous changes in all fields of human existence (social, economic and religious). Many nations would face water crisis. The climate in all parts of the world would be unpredictable. Middle east and Russia would kindle the fires for battles around the world. He always fancied these two regions as trouble spots. It is an indisputable fact that nearly 500 of his 1000 predictions have come true in the past 400 years.
He was influenced by occult Jewish literature. His family descended from the tribe of Issaachar. The tribe had acquired great skill in understanding the cycles of sun, moon and other astrological patterns. Josephus described this tribe as “Knowing the things that were to happen”.
Jean who was the grandfather of Nostradamus taught him astrology. Thus, Nostradamus became a renowned astrologer of his time and hence he sidelined his real profession, the art of healing or the practice of medicine.
Kings, queens and peers consulted and rewarded him very well. But it was the age of inquisition and so he dared not to publish his prediction openly. There was always the fear of prosecution for predicting the future in a Catholic country.
He wrote them in enigmatic verses called quatrains. Only a few who devotedly study them can understand the predictions.
Astonishingly, he has predicted many international events like rise and fall of the British Empire and rise of Napoleon and his banishment twice. His Quatrain no. 100 on British Empire runs as follows.
“There will be a great English empire all powerful for more than 300 years”.
It must be noted that at his time the notable powers were Spain and France. Britain was a secondary power and it had no empire.
Coming to the Gulf War of 1990’s he had predicted the rushing of American and British Marine fleets to the Middle East. In his Quatrain no. VI – 44 he predicted that event.
“In the Arabian Gulf a great fleet will founder.”
And in the Quatrain no. IV 23 he predicted the marine fleet will start the war:
“The legions in the marine fleet will burn lime, Magnesia, Sulphur and Pith.”
In ancient times quick lime mixture was used for sea-battles, as it gives rise to heat when coming into contact with water. And it burns when wet.
He also predicted the victory of America against Iraq during Senior Bush-regime. In Quatrain IV 95 he predicts:
“The victor then born on American soil.”
It is astonishing that America had not been discovered yet.
The advent of the age of crisis, according to Nostradamus, will be heralded by an attack upon New York city and state-with a highly combustible material. In his quatrain IV-97 he predicted:
“The sky will burn at 45 degrees. Fire pproaches the great new city. Immediately huge, scattered flame leaps up.”
The state of New York lies between the 40th and 45th parallel in USA. Anyone, who had seen the media depiction of the devastating plane attack on World Trade Centre, New York on the black Tuesday, will recollect how realistic the forecast happens to be.
He predicts the timing of the commencement of the age of present crisis. Volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, droughts, famines, rioting (Century IV, Quatrain 67); these will be the indicators of the start the decades of crisis.
There will be widespread famines and droughts, and social upheavals in unexpected places. Nations that are considered prosperous and powerful, particularly western nations, will be weakened. They will be torn with civil strife and rioting as people migrate to areas that have water and can support crop-growing as water for irrigation would be scarce.
The social upheaval and weakening of political structures will help the dictators seize power in many countries and regions. A great and rich power (USA) will be subject to serious natural disasters, particularly earthquakes and flooding, and rend the nation from end to end, causing enormous conflict, despair, and misery.
The wealthy power will be bankrupted attempting to deal with its disasters and fiasco from communication breakdowns.
There will be estrangement in relations between two powers (USA and Russia) (Century II, Quatrains 35 and 48). Russia may use nuclear weapons against an European country.
Are we nearing the age of crisis that Nostradamus had foreseen?
Wish fulfilment after death
By Veenu Sandal
Do we have a free will after we die, and if so, to what extent? By all accounts, there are rules in “after life”, but what governs who can return to earth while still in the “other world” to take revenge or right a wrong or fulfill a wish? We know through several well substantiated accounts that spirits do return to earth to avenge a wrong, either directly or by persuading or coercing someone to achieve their end.
Spirits have also been known to return to earth to fulfill an intense desire, such as being present at a favourite son’s wedding or to ensure completion of a dream house or repay a debt. We also know that in most cases such visitations don’t happen, and settling the right or wrong issue or fulfilling a wish is left to the karmic cycle which is linked to the wheel of time and can take many births and re-births. There are also documented incidents where someone takes birth with the avowed purpose of righting a wrong. Amongst the most recent ones that made headlines was what is now often recalled as the Hathras case, Hathras being the name of the town in Uttar Pradesh where this most intriguing incident occurred.
Briefly, a young boy claimed that he had taken birth again with the aim of avenging his murder. The murderer had been caught shortly after killing him, the boy said, but after that the case seemed to have got marginalised and his murderer had still not been convicted.
Key officials were impressed with the boy’s account, and the case was moved to a fast track court where the boy not only identified his murderer, but described in great detail how and where he had been killed, and the exact spots on his body where injuries had been inflicted. Not just those present in the court, but even the magistrate was spellbound with the vivid details provided by the boy. Unfortunately, however, the law has no provision for recording the testimony of a victim or a witness from an earlier birth and the overall case continues to remain on the pending list.
In both the cases – of a soul returning as a spirit to carry out a certain task, and a soul being reborn on earth to complete something unfinished, as in the Hathras case – what determines such a return in specific instances?
Actually, the occurrence of souls returning to be with loved ones on certain occasions to share special moments is quite frequent and many readers of this column too have been e-mailing their experiences to me over the years.
At the recent Olympics held at Beijing, German weightlifter Matthias Steiner, after winning the super-heavyweight gold and becoming the strongest man in the world held up a picture of his late wife Susann, holding back tears over the promise he made to her that he would fulfill their Olympic dream. “She is always with me, in the hours before the competition, she’s there,” said Steiner, who made the pledge to Susann at her bedside in hospital while she lay dying after a car crash in July 2007. “I’m not the superstitious type, don’t believe in higher powers, but I hope she saw me,” said Steiner.
In specific instances, an analysis of known cases, accounts of those who have died for a while and revived, information from spirit guides and highly evolved living people with a unique understanding of life and death transitions, all reveal that amongst other factors intensity levels play a major role as a determinant. According to one of my spirit guides, the separation of the soul from the body and the interlinked stoppage of communication links with loved ones is a deeply moving process unless one is prepared for it, particularly so in the case of a mother being separated from a young child.
This intense, sensitive transition period is an inescapable common process that most people who die undergo and spirit guides and the souls of dead relatives and friends usually minister to a person who has left the physical body and is in the adjustment stage.
In this connection, I have written earlier about the fascinating out-of-body experiences of a man in his 40s who died and returned. He reported that after floating out of his body and seeing himself inert and doctors trying to revive him, he saw a Being of Light:
“Next to this Being I could also see what I would describe as an opening, very much like a tunnel. A channel of light seemed to connect the Being with the opening to the tunnel. I was drawn towards the tunnel by the energy radiating from this channel of light. As I drew closer to the tunnel, the intensity of the light increased not twofold, but more like four to six times its previous brightness and the tunnel and the channel of light both expanded in diameter, and I was able to penetrate deeper into the dark unknown.
As I continued on my journey, I could see spirit bodies at different levels, some above me, floating close by in the air, others beside or behind me. All of us seemed to be connected, like we were holding hands, but not with our hands. It was more like our individual outer boundaries became thinner and thinner until we joined into being one entity.
I looked more closely at the spirit bodies connected to me. Actually, it wasn’t so much that I could see them but rather knew how their appearance made me feel. Later, I learnt that these spirit bodies with their brightness and energy accompanied one also to minimise any shock people might experience at learning they had died. Many people, I discovered, were allowed to become aware of their deaths in their own time, at their own pace. All were allowed to gradually move through the tunnel to a place where they were greeted by and reunited with friends, relatives or helpers. There were also special techniques to ease dead people’s communication with those who were waiting to assist them. This process, I realised, is very important.
The intensity levels of a departed soul become greatly heightened if something untoward has happened shortly before or at the time of death or if some cherished or deeply moving task has been left unfulfilled. This too is a common process as countless people who die who fall under this category.
Once they become better aware of their spirit form and the dynamics prevailing in after-life, their earthly bonds which act as a drag and prevent further progress for the soul gradually loosen their hold. It is only when it is observed in some cases that the intensity levels refuse to lessen despite prolonged counselling and the soul’s journey is suffering a blockage, which is harmful, that a soul can return to earth as a spirit or in a reincarnated form.
Being at peace is important, and when there is no way for a departed soul to be at peace and move on, exceptions from the normal processes are made and deviations take place.
Conditions apply to such a return, the chief one being the time duration will be limited, but that’s another story.
Don’t expect too much out of life
One basic thing about suicide is that it arises only in people who are clinging very much to life. And when they fail in their clinging, the mind moves to the opposite pole. The function of the mind is of either/or: either it wants the whole, or none of it. The lust for life cannot be fulfilled totally, because life as such is a temporal thing; it is bound to end at a point, just as it began one day at a point. You cannot have a line with only the beginning; somewhere or other there is bound to be an end.
People want to grab life in totality
So the people who commit suicide are not against life; it only appears so. They want life in its totality, they want to grab it whole, and when they fail – and they are bound to fail – then out of frustration, out of failure, they start thinking of death. Then suicide is the only alternative. They will not be satisfied with whatsoever life gives them; they want more and more and more.
Desires are too many, unfulfilled
Life is short, and the series of the desire for more and more is infinite, so the failure is certain. There is bound to come a moment when they will feel they have been cheated by life. Nobody is cheating them – they have cheated themselves. They have been asking too much, and they have only been asking, they have not been giving anything, not even gratefulness. In anger, in rage, in revenge the pendulum of the mind moves to the other end – still they do not know with whom they are taking the revenge. They are killing themselves: it does not destroy life.
People are afraid of life
Once you are afraid of death you are bound to be afraid of life. But death is difficult, very difficult. Have you watched it? Except man, no animal can commit suicide. It is not possible for any animal even to think about committing suicide. Have you thought about it? Have you heard of any tree committing suicide, any animal committing suicide? No. Only man, man’s intelligence, can make it possible that a man can commit suicide.
Only man is capable of committing suicide
That is the glory of man. Only man can be capable enough to think that life is not worth living, only man is capable enough to reflect that this life is simply futile. Ordinarily when people commit suicide, they don’t do it because they have understood life’s futility, they do it only because they have understood this life’s futility – and they are hoping that in another life somewhere else things will be better.
Courtesy Osho International Foundation/www.osho.com
My wife doesn’t nag me
I met my wife Adhuna for the first time in a discotheque, and pretended to have lost my keys to get her to drop me home. She was dating someone at that time. I really wished that she would break off with that guy so that I could be with her for the rest of my life. Fortunately she did.
Adhuna is the kind of person who understands me, gives me the space to do my own thing. She does not nag me at all. That’s why we get along well. She does tell me occasionally about how to look and what to wear but I guess everyone does that. She is confident, very creative and takes good care of me. Certain things about her are adorable.
Every relationship is based on trust and respect. I respect Adhuna’s creativity and she respects mine. She is one of the best hair dressers in the industry and in the country too. At the same time she respects what I do and the way I work. So there’s a mutual respect and that’s what every relationship needs.
She is my wife and hence she is special.
I cannot comment about relationships of other people, on whether they are frail and fickle. I don’t think I am the right guy to answer such complicated questions. The fact is that I am no love guru. But every relationship be it friendship or love between a mother and child or father and child has to have the respect and trust that it deserves. You need to work on every relationship and give it time and space and the freedom that it needs. No relationship can survive where there are suppressions and limitations. I try to follow this in my relationship with my parents, my wife and my daughters.
I want my daughters, Shakya and Akira to grow up as happy human beings. I do not know what they will become. I hope they grow up to be independent, happy and take their own decisions in life.
‘What goes around comes around’
By Ayush Maheshwari
I have been in Mumbai for a while prior to which I spent most of my time in the US. Three years ago I met Rob. We met online and started to date instantaneously. Rob is one of the nicest guys I have ever met – caring, loving, attentive, understanding and a sweet heart.
My friends loved him, my family loved him and I ‘loved’ him, but I was never ‘in love’ with him. It is very flattering when someone falls head over heels for you. Being a sensitive person I think I got too carried away and we started to date (me knowing very well that the spark was missing from my side). Rob’s unbelievable dedication and my desire to be in a relationship resulted into a ‘partnership’ which was hard to break.
Six months into the relationship, Rob started to notice that I was ‘just not into him’. I cared for him a lot but I just could not see him as a life partner. There was this unbelievable ‘soulmatish’ connection, but I wanted to sustain it on a platonic level only. Rob wanted more. We should have broken it off at that time (it should have never started in the first place). I tried but did not have the heart to be very assertive about it. I was completely honest to him about my feelings but we strung the relationship along hoping that things might change. What is never meant to be, will not be.
While I was still maintaining this ‘platonic’ relationship with Rob I started to date other people. Rob knew about this but still wanted to wait and see. A couple of months back I met Vikram in Mumbai. I really fell head over heels for him. I was totally into him. I thought he was into me as well. That’s the impression he gave me.
We dated for a month and then I had to go the US. Vikram was sad that I was leaving and sent me all sorts of ‘miss you baby’ messages etc.
As always I met Rob when I was in the US. This time I made the decision that I will have to break it off (maybe it was the Vikram effect). It was very tough for both of us. I wanted Rob as a ‘friend for life’ and I once again told him that.
This time Rob seemed to be more comfortable with the idea (but I realised after my return to India that he was devastated).
On my return to Mumbai, Vikram was just not available for me. Suddenly the guy who was going to pick me up from the airport, put a birthday bash for me, was going to go on a holiday to the backwaters with me was not even taking my calls. Finally I received a three word SMS from him, ‘let’s be friends’.
I just couldn’t believe it. I was pretty upset. After a week or so I picked myself up right in time for my birthday. I got a call from Vikram on that day. He says, ‘Ayush I am sorry, this is the best I can do. By the way when we meet next I will give you your birthday gift. It’s a 34 inch waist jeans. (he knows I wear a 48 size).’ I hung up.
Well I did not know that gifting smaller sized clothes is a sign of friendship. I have always believed that whatever goes around comes around. Maybe this is what they call the cycle of karma.
What happened was not that cool. It’s so important to just let go of things at the right time. Better yet it would save us a lot of heart burn if we just did not get into relationships our hearts are not into.
– You can email your experiences to firstname.lastname@example.org
Soulmate or multiple mates?
One of the time-honoured quests in the romantic world is the ploy to meet a ‘soulmate’ – someone who you’ll instantly click with, are dying to shag and will do anything to hold on to them, even if you’re in the throes of a dating sabbatical.
While it all sounds a little dubious to me, considering the fact that over half of the population are yet to discover their ‘one’ true love, Greek philosopher Plato had other ideas.
He promised that if we met our soulmate, (which he described as our ‘other half’), we’d become lost in an amazement of “love and friendship and intimacy and one will not be out of the other’s sight even for a moment”. By his reckoning, there’s only one type of this person out there for each of us and neither one will be complete until they find each other.
Yet unlike Jerry Macguire’s declaration to Renee Zellweger’s character that she “completes” him, my womanising friend Ted has a different hypothesis. In his mind there’s a multitude of soulmates for everyone, and they come in and out of our lives at different times depending on when we need them the most.
Hence while Ted is dating one woman, he refuses to remain monogamous in fear that he could potentially avoid meeting another. Of course the women he dates aren’t too impressed by Ted’s constant looking over his shoulder, (although some have been known to be turned on by his seemingly philosophising ways), but nevertheless he seems to rarely be dumped, with a multitude of women flocking to be part of his sexual entourage.
Finding your soulmate is one of life’s biggest enigmas. And while there are a myriad books, seminars, websites and theories on how to best go about it, it seems there is one underlying factor: you won’t find your soulmate until you have found yourself.
While this may sound a little Dr. Phil-like in its mantra, the fact is that there are a number of people searching for someone to fill in the blanks in their lives, with the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University discovering that 94 per cent of never-married singles agreeing that when they marry, they want their spouse to be their soulmate.
In lieu of any proof that one actually does exist, I asked sexpert and psychic Stacey Demarco to proffer up an explanation. She says the idea of soulmates is pretty much a romantic or a spiritual notion and as such, it relies upon our own belief system to determine whether it’s ‘real’ or not.
“It’s a popular ideal that there is ‘one person’ for all of us, somehow linked by fate or karma and connected on a ‘soul’ level,” she says. “Yet biologists and sociologists would differ somewhat and say that there are any number of well matched people for us. You just have to find one or some of them!” And finally, the answer to the question on everyone’s lips: how to find your soulmate.
Stacey’s Top 5 Tips:
Plan ahead. Know the kind of person you really want. Do a list of attributes if necessary and match these to the person!
*ῠKnow yourself. Be very aware of your emotions and your intuition. Gut feel is important to the concept of soul mates.
* Know the difference between chemistry (physical attraction) and something deeper.
* Relax. Fear blocks flow and the attraction of most good things!
* If you see someone you are really attracted to for some reason, act upon it. Talk to them. Explore the reasons why you are attracted.
She also has a final word of warning for those of the broken heart: “Beware if you think that you will never love again because someone who you thought was your soul mate has broken up with you. This is the surest way of not grieving a breakup in a healthy way. Everyone deserves and needs to love again.” Amen to that.
The writer is an author, columnist & dating expert (You can mail your responses to asksambrett @gmail.com)
I was proud to be an Indian
A tube of premixed henna and a group of girls from different parts of the world – that is all it takes to bring out the Indian in me, as I recently learned. I was at an orientation trip for all the inbound exchange students in my Rotary district in Brazil, to introduce and familiarise us with one another. Three days with 40 students and no adults can really do wonders!
We all bonded over swimming, volleyball, capoeira, horse riding, and of course singing songs together. And we all learned how different we were from one another and yet so alike! Being with people of so many various nationalities and backgrounds is really an eye-opener. And it made me feel proud to be an Indian.
I had just returned from a swim with Samantha (the Canadian) and I entered my room to find Tegan (Australia), Siri (America), and Laura (Finland) there, with Allie (America) trying to apply henna to her foot with the help of a safety pin. I volunteered to help, since I was the only Indian around, and mehndi is something we Indian girls have grown up with.
The mehndi had been bought by Allie at an Asian market in America, and as the tube proudly stated, it was ‘Made in India’. Before I could begin though, we needed to make a cone. A plastic bag, scissors, tape and voila! Next we needed to decide what she would like to get on her foot (since that was the most convenient place, as we had not eaten dinner yet). After establishing the fact that I was not an artist by any means, and so it would be best to keep it simple, she said that she would like to have her name written in Hindi.
I first wrote it with a pen for her to decide if she liked how it looked or not, and she was not sure whether to believe that I had actually written her name and had not randomly drawn a pattern on her foot. But she finally believed that it was her name, and agreed that it did look beautiful, so I got to work. Within five minutes, it was ready, and she was very happy.
But it did not end there. After seeing how it looked, Siri, Laura, Samantha and Tegan wanted one too. So I spent the next hour writing their names in Hindi on their feet with henna, as they debated who’s looked better. I think that by the end of the night they were all happy, my hands were stained with the green henna, and we had all become friends. I was amazed to see how those pretty little patterns that we take so lightly back home in India, could generate such curiosity and awe in people from around the world.
At dinner that night, they all proudly showed off their henna tattoos and soon everyone wanted one, so I spent the rest of the night applying henna, which until that day I did not consider a real talent. And at that moment I was proud to be an Indian, because we grow up with so much art and culture infused in our blood, that it becomes natural for us, and does not need any learning.
And we do not realise how rich and beautiful our lifestyle is, until we are exposed to other lifestyles. I am satisfied to have given them something they will remember about the ‘Indian girl’ and to have brought them a bit of India, even if it was only a wee bit.
My friend’s daughters
My favourite shoot was in July 2007. It featured Alisha and Aditi Mehra, the lovely daughters of a dear friend who lost her life in a tragic car accident exactly a year before.
I remember their mother telling me once that if she ever lets her daughters model for a fashion shoot or walk the ramp, it would be either for me or Tarun Tahiliani.
So, when I approached the girls just before the fashion week last year, they were all excited and willing to experiment.
Ashish Chawla was brought in as photographer and Shikha Goel did their makeup. We used silhouettes which were essentially western so that the girls would be comfortable and decided to wrap up the entire shoot within four hours.
To enhance the comfort factor we shot at their home in the garden. The day was particularly humid but both Adi and Ali gave us perfect shots without a murmur.
Ashish and I were both amazed to see how professionally they managed the shoot. It was their virgin shoot and still remains the only one they did.
What made this shoot so special is anybody’s guess. It was an extremely poignant day for all of us and when we looked at the pictures, our eyes glistened with tears and we wished their mother Seema, who was my contemporary, had been with us to see how fabulous her daughters looked.
As parents-to-be, we’ve suddenly become wise to the all-pervading influence of media in our lives. Thinking about raising a child in today’s world can be quite a daunting exercise. With so much input bombarding all of us and so much exposure to the good and the ugly inevitable at an early age, it’s no surprise that modern children grow up far faster than we ever did. And we’ve realised just how much we are controlled by what we as a society, coached by the media, believe is acceptable.
We were surprised to find that this carries over even into art, a field in which we’ve professionally immersed ourselves. As artists, we too are dictated by current media trends. Recently, we did some research on the portrayal of the female nude throughout the history of art, and were shocked to learn that artists as far back as the ancient Greek and Roman times were encouraged to create unreal and idealised forms in their work. These perfect streamlined bodies, so it was believed, were universally acceptable and were what people wanted to see. And so the nude in art became a portrayal of what society deemed ultimately desirable. They were not an image of what truly exists in the bodies of the majority of humans. Just imagine the chagrin of the voluptuous model, fatigued from several hours of posing, upon discovering she’s been reduced to a fraction of her density on the canvas.
And so, the female nude in art has marched side-by-side with every era’s pinup girl, mimicking her form and figure and titillating the art-viewing public with her glossy perfection. However, what we often fail to realise is that by creating nudes with fashion-magazine like perfection in our artwork, we are actually sucking the humanity out of our subjects. There is no individuality. Every dimple, every fold, every blemish has been systematically obliterated and smoothed into a stroke of porcelain texture.
Eager to portray the most raw and honest human experience on the canvas, we have chosen to use natural bodies as our subjects. But our images of the flawed and imperfect human form are simply not digestible by a vast majority of public. However, despite the reactions of disgust that our work seems to evoke, we’ve decided to stick to our guns and to continue to use nude subjects who stray far from the acceptable ideas of beauty. For we believe strongly that not only are they more beautiful than today’s size zero, but that they contain a far greater wealth of expressive possibilities than the bodies of say, Britney Spears or Paris Hilton.
DTH scene hots up
By Naresh Sadhwani and Deepak Jhangiani
Moser Baer introduces LCD TV range
Moser Baer, the well-known brand in movie VCDs and DVDs, is now going in for some vertical integration by launching its own range of LCD TVs comprising eight models. The company known for its advanced technology promises to up the ante in TV features/looks and performance.
Personal Video Recorders on DTH
The DTH scene is hotting up. To improve service the Essel Group-owned DishTV is set to launch its own satellite, which will further increase the channel capacity to 400 from the current 200 channels. Also recently launched is their end niche Personal Video Recorder (PVR) which will provide a recording facility so that a user can programme this device to record a TV programme as per one’s convenience. Tata Sky will be launching its PVRs later this year.
The entire world is addicted to and enchanted by the mobile magic. This mini marvel, which a couple of years ago was the prerogative of the rich and famous is now within everyone’s reach and an indispensable gadget for all. However, the average consumer feels cheated when the cheap price and the promise of additional features leads to performance problems and innumerable visits to the warranty centres only to be put on hold. Many complaints continue to lie unattended at these service centres during the entire warranty period, and thereby hangs a tale of fights and frustrations.
Question of the week
I have a moderately priced flip mobile phone which randomly keeps on going on and off while I am talking on it. In spite of repeated servicing, the problem persists. What can I do?
These flip phones and slide phones have their display screens and the main circuit board linked by flexible pre-wired strips, which flip and slide with the movement of the screen. These strips have a certain lifespan depending on the capacity of the number of flips and slides the strips can handle, and this depends on the quality of the strip. The expensive branded phones use high quality strips which last for a much longer time than the cheaper ones which fail to withstand the flip and slide onslaught and soon develop connection problems resulting in intermittent switching problems. The best solution would be to have the strip replaced.
Readers are invited to email their queries/suggestions/comments to email@example.com
Indian masters prefer foreign sound studios
If you like going through the album covers by Indian artistes thoroughly, you must have noticed one thing common in them – they are either recorded or mastered abroad. It won’t be right to term it as a recent trend, as musicians from this part of the world have been doing it for quite sometime now. From budding pop stars, independent musicians, desi rockers to established Bollywood composers, everybody prefers going abroad to either record, mix or master their albums. It is ironic that despite having so many recording studios all over the country, foreign recording studios are cashing in on Indian musicians.
So, what is so enticing about these foreign studios that our musicians can’t think beyond them? Though musicians have different justifications, a majority of them agreed that studios abroad are technically more advanced than the ones we have in India. “They are definitely far more advanced than us in terms of sound quality. It depends on what the composer wants. If he has composed westernised music, it is advisable to mix and master it abroad than India, because they know more about their kind of music than us,” says music composer Aadesh Srivastav.
However, independent musicians blame the lack of equipment as a major factor. “We don’t have mastering hardware in our studios, that is one important reason why most musicians don’t prefer to master their albums in India, as our studios use software to do the same,” says Raghu Dixit, who mastered his recently released debut album in New Mexico.
Vasu Dixit, the frontman of band Swarathma says, “There is a definite dearth of professional sound engineers in India.” However, Aadesh is of the opinion that we do have expert engineers in our country, but there are only a few of them, and most trainees are more interested in earning money than completing their sound engineering courses.
Grammy awardee Bickram Ghosh gave an alternative point of view saying that there is no concept of mastering in India, and majority of the musicians think everything in terms of mixing. He says, “Mastering requires a set of certain software which is usually not used in India. Abroad they have proper mastering studios with all the required equipment. This is the reason why I master my albums in Los Angeles, as I have no other choice.”
Even if one considers the financial aspect, going abroad to master or mix an album is an expensive option, as foreign studios charge high prices in comparison to what our desi studios do. “Frankly speaking, it has become a craze among today’s composers to go and master their albums abroad. It is very expensive, but in Bollywood everything depends on what the producer wants,” elaborates Aadesh.
Many are of the opinion that this is one of the reasons why more and more musicians are coming up with their own recording studios. So, what are advantages of owning a recording studio? “Reduction of cost is the basic advantage. Mastering an album abroad is very costly, and if you are a budding musician, you have to think twice before opting to do so. When you are doing mastering with preliminary set ups and equipment, it is advisable to spend as much time as possible to get perfection. And that’s when having a studio of your own helps,” says Bickram.
With a market worth approximately Rs 700 crore all over the world, it is strange why we don’t have any mastering studios in India. “No, they are coming up. A few of them have come up in Chennai, and I am hopeful there will be more in the years to come,” says Bickram.
Why don’t the record labels set up mastering studios, as that will enable them to do everything from recording, mixing, mastering to distribution by themselves? “I don’t know why they are not doing it. At a time when even regional albums are sent abroad for mastering, it is high time we think about this,” opines Bickram.
‘I don’t see anyone as competition’
Imran Khan, nephew of Aamir Khan, hit the jackpot with Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na in July and the number Pappu Can’t Dance Saala from the film almost became the anthem of the youth.
But a month or two is a long time in filmdom and much has happened since then. For instance, Ranbir Kapoor has made it evident through Bachna Ae Haseeno that he is not a one-film wonder. And Pappu is no longer being hummed as before.
But Imran Khan, who is playing a brawny villain in the upcoming Kidnap, is cool about all this. What does he feel now that the hysteria over Jaane Tu has settled down? “You know, this so-called hysteria never really hit me,” he says. “It wasn’t like I was floating in the air and needed to come down to earth.”
However, Imran feels that with his first film, he has set a benchmark for himself. “I have to match it or better it every time,” he says. “There will be expectations from people, which I will have to live with.”
Has it been a cakewalk after Jaane Tu? “Well, no, I wouldn’t say that,” he smiles. “To be honest, I haven’t really got the cream of projects. I am doing the best of the films I am getting. So I am not really spoilt for choice.”
The transition from a soft lover boy to cold-blooded kidnapper in the next film was unexpected. But Imran vouches that it was not pre-planned.
“It couldn’t have been,” he reasons. “It might seem that way but I had already signed Kidnap before Jaane Tu happened. I have really had to work hard for Kidnap since you have to try and get into the kidnapper’s psyche. Also, I had to work hard on my body. I hope I have managed to do well.” And it also enabled him to work with his childhood idol Sanjay Dutt. “I was totally freaked out, sharing the screen with him,” he says. “I used to constantly keep looking at my director Sanjay Gadhvi for moral support. There’s a scene where I am holding a gun to Sanjay Dutt’s head, and I completely froze on the sets. But he really made me feel comfortable and gave me a hug and asked me to relax. It was rather sweet. He is such a softie.”
But with Ranbir being back in the reckoning, industrywallahs are predicting a tough race to the top for Imran.
“I don’t think it’s that easy to get to the top,” says Imran. “There have been only very few people in the last many years who have managed that.”
And what about Ranbir? “I don’t see Ranbir as competition,” he adds. “In fact, I don’t see anyone as competition. I really don’t.”
Imran does have the X-factor which makes stars. Now all he needs is a bit of help from the goddess of fortune. So maybe it is no coincidence that the next film he is shooting for is titled Luck.might just be able to ‘Kidnap’ fate for good!
Sush plans a cricket academy in Kolkata
Sushmita Sen, besides endorsing products, going on and on about Rani Laxmibai – a project that doesn’t seem to take off -ῠ and doing a dance show with cricketers, has other plans for the future. And they include India’s favourite sport too. According to close friends, Sush will be opening a cricket academy in Kolkata soon. She has been making frequent trips to her hometown off-late and has been in touch with some ex cricketers to work on her project.
What does her ex boyfriend, Bunty Sachdev, manager for many cricketing talents, have to do with it, we can only guess. But Sush who herself is a big fan of the sport, is taking personal interest in the making of this academy, which will coach kids who often don’t have the resources to take up the sport professionally.ῠ And as it was a trend with film stars last year, she might be the first one to jump the bandwagon this season and buy a cricket team in one of the cricket leagues. The question is, with SRK and Mithun Chakravarthy buying the Kolkata franchises of the rival leagues, where will Sush’s loyalties lie?
Kajol is Ajay’s heroine again
It’s show-time again for Ajay Devgan. After keeping a low profile since U, Me Aur Hum, he had taken time off to be with his family and to work on his new script – for which he had assigned nearly a dozen writers. According to wife Kajol, the problem with his directorial debut was that since it was an adaptation of a Hollywood script, many found it difficult to relate to in India.
So Ajay is keen on having an indigenous script for his next venture, and from all the scripts that were being written, he has picked one and is ready to wear the director’s cap once again. The film is said to be a love story (again!) and will of course feature him and Kajol in the main leads. The shooting for the same will commence soon.ῠ Kajol has already been going through strict training to look her part for the role, and Ajay is to leave on tours of foreign countries for location-hunting. The script might be indigenous; the locations though, have to be foreign, don’t they?
Zayed to open lounge bar in Bengaluru
Another man who has been out of the news lately is Zayed Khan. After Mission Istanbul tanked miserably, his close aides reveal that Zayed has been feeling very low and hasn’t been out of the comfort zone of his home lately. He is only spending time with his wife and his baby, and has put out a strict ‘Do not disturb’ sign to the filmmakers. He’s probably licking his wounds in his den before going out for the kill again.
A lot might not be happening on the film front for him, and neither is the dude painting the town red with his partying ways, but Zayed is making plans for the future. He plans to open a lounge bar in Bangalore, where his family already owns an estate and where he is comfortable.
Zayed is making sure that everything goes right with the planning of the bar. He doesn’t want it to be just another celebrity-owned hangout in town. His brother-in-law, DJ Aqueel, has been entrusted with the job of scouting prime properties in Bangalore, and also planning out a strategy to make it one of the hippest lounge bars in the country. With Zayed’s own experience on the party scene, we can safely assume that this mission will be a resounding success.
Bebo’s wish is Saif’s command
Recently, while Kareena Kapoor was shooting in Paris for a foreign magazine, she was suddenly in the mood to shop and put the shoot on hold. Boyfriend Saif, who was by her side, was ever so indulgent and wanted to fulfill her commands but he was stumped by what he heard next. In spite of being in the fashion Mecca of the world, Bebo wanted to drive down to the Queen’s land, and pick up her goodies from Selfridges.
Maybe she just wanted to enjoy a long drive with Saif from Paris to London, but that put Saif in a spot, because he didn’t want to be the over indulgent boyfriend and that too at the cost of the magazine she was shooting for, since the shoot would have to be held up for a couple of days. But a man’s got to do what he’s got to do. And when Kareena demands, you just bow down and obey.ῠ Luckily, for the magazine guys, Saif managed to pull a few strings and get last minute flight tickets for the couple to fly down to London, and promised that they would come back for the shoot early next morning, which is exactly what they did. What was it, that Bebo shopped for in London overnight, we won’t ask.
Twists & turns in marriage
If you’ve spent any part of the past year watching the spectacular train wrecks of celebrity marriages, you will know that recent public displays of carnage include the spattered bits of Mr and Mrs Charlie Sheen, Mr and Mrs Bill Murray, Sir and Mrs Paul McCartney, and Mr and Mrs Christie Brinkley. Watching the wealthy and famous bicker over children, vacation homes and Tupperware invariably leads one to the same question: Why bother? At a time when more than 40 per cent of all marriages end in divorce, why not simply move to a system of short-term leases?
Various state supreme courts have been grappling with this conundrum as they try to determine whether to expand the definition of marriage to include gay couples, a question California voters are poised to answer in November. This has forced groups on both sides of the issue to struggle to define the essential purpose of marriage. Is it a religious sacrament or merely a civil allocation of property rights? Is marriage a way of optimising the rearing of children or an ancient way of enforcing female chastity? In legalising gay marriage in 2003, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts insisted that marriage encourages “stable relationships over transient ones” and promotes “a stable setting for child rearing”.
It’s a testament to our confusion about the purpose of marriage that the courts can toggle this way between four or five rationales for such a union in a single judicial opinion, with little regard for any one coherent principle.
In I Don’t: A Contrarian History of Marriage, Susan Squire explains that this is because there is no single coherent principle behind modern marriage. As currently practiced, the institution is a hodgepodge of biblical, classical, courtly and Christian rules and mores. What we know as “marriage” is rooted in warring historical efforts at regulating procreation; tamping down sexual lust (especially female lust); and – only relatively recently – celebrating companionship and romantic love. Those of us who speak reverently about the sanctity of marriage must also acknowledge that modern matrimony is less a sacred vessel than a crazy quilt.
Squire begins quite literally In the Beginning, reminding us that the book of Genesis contains not one but two versions of the creation story. Yes, it’s true. While Genesis 3:16 got us off on the wrong foot for centuries with the fateful words “your husband… shall rule over you,” Genesis 1 in fact had already offered a less dramatic, ribless version of creation in which God creates man and woman simultaneously and commands them to “fill the earth and master it”, together.
The second version of creation, the one with the serpent and the apple and the betrayal of all mankind by womankind, makes for better theatre. But according to Squire, it also gained cultural and literary dominance because it highlighted the earliest rationale for marriage: control your women, or they will rule over you. It’s all downhill from there.
I Don’t leads us through the many twists and turns of marital history, starting with the biblical Israelites’ tradition of matrilineal descent and polygamy and the ancient Athenian system of something akin to gold, silver and bronze wives. The Greek orator Demosthenes put it this way: “We keep hetaerae” – mistresses – “for our delight, concubines for the daily needs of our bodies, wives so that we may breed legitimate children and have faithful housekeepers.” It may not sound perfect, but there would be a lot fewer political careers in tatters today had such hard-headed pragmatism survived in America.
Squire links the fall of the Roman Empire, at least in part, with the spread of a form of trial marriage called usus that required no solemnisation, no transfer of authority or property, and that seems to have given Roman women considerable sexual freedom (even if they remained under the control of their fathers).
The author is at her wickedly funniest in her descriptions of what would soon become (in the words of Heinrich Heine) “the starvation diet of Christianity.” For centuries, the church characterised marriage as a highly distasteful “lust containment facility,” as Squire puts it, for those who could not achieve the ideal of childless celibacy, putting love of God ahead of love of family. In Squire’s version, from Paul’s admonition that “women should be silent in the churches” (although in general Paul favoured mutually respectful marriage) to the second-century theologian Tertullian’s declaration that “woman is the gateway through which the devil comes,” Christian marriage becomes one necessary evil that constrains yet another necessary evil: women. Throughout the Dark Ages, the church closely regulated every aspect of sex and marriage, meting out punishment for, among other transgressions, seeing one’s wife naked, slipping one’s husband an aphrodisiac or having intercourse on a Wednesday, Friday or Sunday. According to Squire, the church was so fanatically in favour of joyless, loveless, sexless marriage (while doling out all manner of indulgences for the deep-pocketed unmarried celibates who strayed) that it would take a noisy revolution to shake its control.
That revolution began with the rise of the cult of courtly love among the aristocracy, which was resentful of the church’s meddling in their mating habits. It picked up steam during the Black Death, which shook ordinary believers’ faith in church doctrine by killing off the righteous alongside the wicked. And it achieved perfection in the miraculously happy marriage of a 42-year-old virgin named Martin Luther. Luther, a monk, had long railed against the evils of celibacy, believing that church doctrine had resulted in corruption and fornication. But he became his own best advertisement when he was dragged out of his monastic solitude by a 26-year-old runaway nun named Katherine von Bora. When his Katy bears and raises six children and four foster children, hauls them to the Holy Land on pilgrimage, tends his garden and makes his home-grown medicines, exterminates the mice in his barn and makes him wine and beer, all while playing hostess to a houseful of reverent disciples and acolytes, Luther is the happiest of spokesmen. And so, as part of his war on the corrupt church, he ushers in a new era of marriage, shunning celibacy and exalting companionship, procreation and fidelity. The 1,500-year-old idea of marriage as a necessary repository for the filth of human desire comes to an end.
It’s not always easy to follow the hops and skips of Squire’s logical structure, and at times her penchant for one-linery gets in the way of her argument as opposed to helping it along. But I Don’t is a charming book and a wonderful resource for those who think they have a bead on why the church and everyone purporting to speak for the church got themselves so firmly entrenched in the marriage business in the first place.
As we head into the presidential election, you may find yourself channelling Squire as you puzzle out your feelings about the Obama marriage (two parts Martin Luther, one part ancient Rome?) as well as that of the McCains (one part Eleanor of Aquitaine, two parts ancient Greece?).
By Sunil K. Poolani
Phew! Honestly, ever since I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1,400 pages) and Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (1,488 pages), I have never read a book as voluminous and equally tiresome as Darkmans. Like its above two brethrens, Darkmans (Harper Perennial; Rs 495; pp.838) cannot be read in one go – main reason for me to write about this book late since the book came out some months back – it has to be tasted in bits and pieces. That doesn’t mean the taste is altogether good; only in bits and parts. More of it later.
The raison d’tre behind the book getting reviewed across the globe and, in the process getting sold despite its sheer shape, is because, you guessed it right, it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2007.
Barker’s novels and stories have this quality: they are occupied by protagonists and characters who can’t stand each other. In the initial pages of Darkmans, a Kane gets irritated with Elen, a chiropodist. The reason? She hates the way he uses his mobile phone. This prompts him to believe that she lives without technology and chatter.
Then there is Daniel Beede and Kane is his drug-peddler son. Kane employs Gaffar, a Kurd who dislikes salad. Then comes Kelly Broad, who has a broken leg and is Kane’s ex-girlfriend; Gaffar wants to bed her. There’s Elen, Beede’s chiropodist and her husband, Dory, who is German. They have a son, Fleet, who is a child prodigy and a brat.
A woman called Peta Borough argues that modern life has become medieval. She connects the modern obsession with gratuitous consumption to medieval feasts and suggests that ‘courtly love’ literature is mirrored by the popularity of sequences such as Harry Potter and Star Wars.
Barker’s character, predictably, believes the locus of change is language, with several plays on the way that text-speak and pop-culture references resemble the mutability of medieval spelling. Her interest in sociolinguistics has long been part of her fiction, but here this concern is central to the plot.
The hip, the square and the crazy trip over their pasts and each other in this boisterous latest from Barker, The primary focus of the novel, set in Ashford, England, near the Channel Tunnel, is on two families. Kane is a cool prescription-drug dealer. Beede is stuffy, civic-minded and pedantic; he supervises a hospital laundry. They tolerate each other warily; their one great crisis occurred when Kane’s mother (Beede’s divorced wife) died painfully after a botched suicide attempt.
The other family consists of Dory, Elen, Fleet. Dory is a complete mess, narcoleptic and paranoid. He suffers dangerous episodes of which he has no memory. At times he is possessed by a medieval jester called John, who once burned down a barn with people inside. Tiny Fleet is weird, too (he knows about John).
The sane one is Elen, who radiates calm and commonsense. She’s a podiatrist who has treated Beede and Kane and is the link between the families. There is a third family, the Broads, a collection of lowlifes. Foremost among them is punk, anorexic Kelly; she has a big mouth but a good heart.
The novel generates heat but no light. The hijinks (searching in a haunted forest for Dory, for example) are enhanced by playful typography and counter pointed by erudite riffs on, among other things, similarities between the medieval and modern worlds. The past weighs heavily, even on the Broads.
The questions pile up but go unanswered; projected climaxes (a rooftop encounter between Dory and John) fizzle out. As in her previous work, Barker is still seductive, idiosyncratic and infuriating.
Barker pursues many other interests, including chiropody, scratchcards, sex, dogs, gardening, religion, cars and class. Although her characters, on the whole, travel only small physical distances, they constantly make mental connections back and forth in time and space, living in fear of psychic forces that seem to lead to the “darkmans” of the title.
People come and go like you witness in Victoria Terminus, the narrative leads off in one direction before fizzing out and being, sometimes, resumed at a later point. There are ambiguous interjections in paragraphs – mostly just monosyllabic grunts and the whole prose is weighed down by a knowing overuse of clich
, adverbs, and speech tags.
Darkmans, like many of Barker’s other works, is all about chatter. Her characters launch into aggressive conversation as they meet, and in their anger and frustration resemble characters from drama as much as literature, refugees from Mamet or Pinter.
This chatter is amplified by Barker’s digressive, gossipy authorial voice, which prevents the reader from feeling any distance. There is a constant sense she might launch us into the mind of one of her psychotics and leave us there, and this gives her books a fearsome energy.
Buy Darkmans and read it if you have a 10-day vacation and nothing important to do.
The writer is the publisher and managing editor, Frog Books, an imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd, Mumbai. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
‘A good book can change you forever’
I am an avid reader since my childhood. I remember I was reading William Somerset Maugham, O. Henry and Daphne du Maurier at 12. I found reading an activity that gave me the most pleasure. My educational choices, a Masters in English literature and the other in mass communication, only whetted my innate appetite for reading.
I am always reading two or three books at the same time. I make sure to read everyday. I don’t think I can be away from a book for more than a couple of days.
I have very eclectic tastes. I like reading works by everybody from Amitav Ghosh to Agatha Christie, from John Fowles to John Grisham, from Toni Morrison to Vikram Seth, from Jhumpa Lahiri to Milan Kundera, from Shakespeare to Vijay Tendulkar and so many, many more.
Like all other forms of art, a good book could belong to any category, it just needs to be good writing, illuminating and the prose should surprise and thrill you and of course it should have something to say unless it’s just a page turner. I love poetry by Pablo Neruda, T.S. Eliot, R.D. Lang etc and I read a lot of plays. I am not a big science fiction or horror fiction fan. But I have just started enjoying autobiographies and biographies.
My all time favourite novel is Daniel Martin, a wonderful novel by John Fowles. Shogun by James Clavell is a cult classic like The Catcher in the Rye. The Fountainhead is another book I liked. It is an epic that explores human relationships against a wide background of history and philosophy and is very compelling and completely unforgettable.
I feel that a good book not only gives you great pleasure, it often transports you to another world and illuminates the life you live, enriches you and makes you look at the world anew. And if it is an incredible book, it can change you forever.
The sunshine city of St. petersburg
n n suchitra chakravarty
Straddling the banks of the Gulf of Finland, St. Petersburg can give Paris a run for its money as the romance capital of the world with its mist shrouded spires and majestic architecture. It is a pedestrian friendly city with many landmarks within walking distance.
On the tourist trail is the Peter and Paul Fortress. Founded in 1703 to defend St. Peter’s against enemies, the complex includes the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the tallest spire in the city, a lithograph museum among others. It is also a favourite place for sunbathers to catch some sun during the famed “White Nights” in the summer months.
If you want to see the latest collection of the world’s leading brands then head for Gostiny Dvor on Nevskiy Prospekt.
Not to be missed in the city tour is the Hermitage Museum. One of the world’s greatest museums founded in 1764, it occupies several buildings. The collection contains three million items and is absolutely spectacular. Considering the city is only around 300 years old, entry to most places on the tourist map are a high 1,000 rubles (around Rs 3,000). Even art galleries charge an entry fee of 150 rubles. So be prepared as ATMs are few and far between.
The Palace Square is closeby and is the city’s central square and one of the world’s most perfect architectural ensembles. It includes the Winter Palace, General Staff Headquarters building and the Alexander Column.
Off the tourist track are the many islands off the city. A must visit is the Vasilevskiy Island. The Kunstkammer was St Pete’s first museum and is commonly described as Peter the Great’s personal freak show. The view over the frozen tundra from the avenue of Morskaya Naberezhnaya is a chilling reminder that the city’s on the same latitude as Alaska.
Back in the city don’t miss the Church on Spilled Blood. A beautiful onion domed structure with exquisite gold carvings and peaceful interiors.
Another cathedral that should definitely be on your list is St. Pete’s oldest, Our Lady of Vladimir. Russian Orthodox custom expects you to wear a head scarf when you enter, so be prepared. Service here is very long, almost two hours, but if you have the time, why not? Close to the cathedral are the open markets and cheap street shopping. A far cry from the plush surroundings of Nevskiy Prospect.
You can get a magnificent view of the city from the colonnade of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Also just walking down the Neva river bank is such a pleasure, it almost makes you feel you are in wonderland. All signs are in Cyrillic, so take a map along or you will surely get lost. Also the city is well connected by tram and tube but again, the signs are a maze in themselves.
Vegetarian need not worry in this city as there are a lot of options. Blinis (a kind of pancake), Borshch (porridge), potato dishes (Russians are crazy about this), beetroot soup, hung curd and of course pasta. Only remember to say Vigitirianskyida before ordering since they are a bit slow on the uptake.
St. Pete’s has a host of restaurants serving cuisines from the former Soviet Republics. A must try is the Urartu at the Erivan restaurant. This gastronomic novelty is a square of lamb, grilled with rolls of cheese and spinach with a special sauce and served on a pillow of potatoes and wild rice. You will also be serenaded by the sounds of the Duduk, the Armenian national instrument while you eat.
Another interesting restaurant is Triton which makes you feel you are underwater. A favourite with the locals, this seafood place serves pretty good Russian vegetarian as well.
St. Pete’s is home to many avant garde art galleries. A stronghold of free culture and creativity is the Pushkinskaya which exhibits works by 20th century contemporary artists as also upcoming ones.
Culture vultures can also get to see opera and ballet performances at the Mariinsky theatre every evening. So take your pick from Swan Lake, Don Giovanni and so many more.
In summer months the city is reminiscent of Venice with its canals and boats. A popular ride is the one to Peterhof, the summer retreat of Peter the Great.
Catch a boat from the banks of the Neva and get ready for an unforgettable experience. 18th century Baroque palaces coupled with numerous fountains, gilded sculptures and gardens make you feel you are in the presence of heroes and gods. The sunset over the Gulf of Finland from here is spectacular – perfect before the nocturnal charms of vodka begin to take over.
From palaces, art and baroque finery to austere architecture, icy vistas and good food, St. Petersburg has something for everyone’s palate.
By Air: Emirates flies from Bengaluru to Moscow Domododevo via Dubai. Change at Domododevo for local flight to St Petersburg Pulkovo airport.
By Bus: St. Petersburg has a relatively extensive and growing system of buses. Commercial buses, which are somewhat more expensive but nevertheless relatively inexpensive and less-crowded are distinguished by the letter “K”. Bus stops have yellow signs with dark lettering which are distinguished by the letter “A”.
By Metro: Although not as extensive or extravagant as Moscow’s Metro, the St. Petersburg Metro leaves most other metro systems in the dust, and is a very popular form of transport in the Northern Capital. The system’s four lines and more than 50 stations are open and are relatively cheap.
197046 Russia, Saint-Petersburg, Michurinskaya st. 19
You may rent a high-class apartment in the centre of the city. It’s not only convenient, but also advantageous. Apartments in St. Petersburg feature all the necessary amenities for comfortable staying in the city. Serviced apartments have become a great alternative to the hotels for those who prefer home comfort and a comprehensive choice of amenities for rest and work. St. Pete’s has excellent hotels to suit all budgets.
Indulge in the sinful After Nine chocolate
By Marryam H. Reshii
Some day I will actually have a long stay in Mumbai and then I’ll be able to do all the things that I set out to. Until then, my flight into the city is spent in planning a military siege. For I have the unenviable task of trying to extract an hour or two from an invariably packed schedule. The reason is that I salivate 24×7 about the pastries and chocolates at Theobroma, and one of the chief reasons for visiting Mumbai is to overdose on them.
Let me tell you a bit about the girl who owns Theobroma. Kainaz Messman, who is probably in her 20s, is a total Francophile who trained at The Oberoi School of Management and then worked with the chain some years ago. Since then, she has apprenticed in Paris under la Moulin de la Vierge to learn about macaroons and croissants, and then in the town of Angers, under chocolatier Roland Reaute. She has come back not only with fluent French but also with an understanding of pastry and chocolate-making that you only rarely see in this country.
I have been for a trade exhibition in Paris earlier this year and was surprised to run into none other than Kainaz. I did not see food and beverage managers or chefs from the large hotels. Instead, I met a young girl who owns her own confectionery shop-cum-caf
in Mumbai’s Colaba Causeway, which has all of 20 seats. And what brought her to a strictly professionals-only trade show half-way across the world at her own expense? Passion alone. Passion for her work is what has made Theobroma the iconic store that it is. The counter is manned by an army of Kainaz’s family members, the counters can never be really full: no sooner than a tray of White Chocolate with Vodka and Chilli comes in than the crowds swoop down on it and polish it off, so whatever else is the strong point of Theobroma, displays are not. The worst part about a visit here is that it takes forever to get a seat; demand always exceeds supply, even nearing closing time which is 12 midnight.
It is for that reason that my task in Mumbai becomes so difficult. Because I have to match my free time to what Kainaz can offer me at that time. My two favourites are Lemon Mountain and After Nine. The former is a generous square of light-as-air sponge filled with a generous amount of lemon curd and topped with an addictive lemon icing. What I love about it is that the sweet-ratio never varies an iota. After Nine is a dense chocolate cake with a thick layer of chocolate ganache, that has obviously been made with superior chocolate. The ganache is flavoured with mint, and like the lemon in the Lemon Mountain, the proportion never varies from one visit to another.
My biggest challenge is to time my visit when both these things are still on the shelves.
By Senjam Raj Sekhar
The college quizzing season has started in campuses across India. Here are a few rolling out in the next few days. Delhi: Pulse, the annual cultural festival of AIIMS takes place from16th to 22nd September. There are a variety of quizzes every day except the final day. Take your pick from a variety of subjects: Movie, science, India, western, literature, sports and also a rare specialized quiz on medical trivia.
Rendezvous, the festival of IIT Delhi will be held from 17th to 21st September. Quizzes here include Sphinx, the general quiz; Jeopardy (Quiz in format of the Jeopardy, the popular TV quiz show) and Zoom In (Audio visual Quiz). Also, there is Kombat – a General quiz open to everybody (Not just college students)
Bangalore: The Rotary Club is organizing an Inter Collegiate Sports Quiz on 15th Sept startingῠ 5 pm. Venue: Rotary House of Service, 16th E Main, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar Contact phone 2526 7014
This week’s theme questions relate toῠ famous paintings. Write with your suggestions, questions (with answers) to D4/11 (GF), Exclusive Floors, DLF Phase- V, Gurgaon – 122002 or email email@example.com
1. One of Picasso’s most famous painting is Guernicaῠ that shows the bombing during the Spanish Civil War by Nazi Germany of the Basque city of Guernica on 26 April 1937.ῠ What is significant about the bombing in military history?
2. What is the colour of Mona Lisa’s eyelashes and eyebrows?
3. In which painting would you get to see the Oslofjord Bay as viewed from the hill of Ekeberg in Oslo?
4. A painting of the harbour of the city of Le Havre in France inspired a famous art movement. Which one?
5. Which painting that has inspired a popular song shows the village of Saint-R
my under a swirling sky. It was painted when the artist was in the sanatarium?
6. Which painting covers the back wall of the dining room of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a church andῠ a convent in Milan in Italy?
7. The celing of the chuch where the papal conclave, the ceremony by which a new Pope is selected,ῠ is held, is known for which world famous painting?
8. This NYSE listed company under the symbol CPB is perhaps the onlyῠ corporate in the world to have inspired an iconic painting series. Name the company?
1. Which is the first element to be named in honour of a living person?(NV Suguna, Chennai)
2. Which is the first Olympics where India did not get a Olympic Gold in hockey, after it began participation?(N V Nityananda, Hyderabad)
3. Which capital city other than a US capital which is named after a US President?(Ravikumar C.,ῠ Jolarpet)
4. In the World Cup 1999, some matches were held outside England.ῠ Two of them were Ireland and Scotland. Which is the third country? (Selim Ahmed, Barasat)
5. Papal Nuncio is the name given to official ambassador of which country? (Abhijit Basak, Dum Dum)
6. What fashion statement on the body connects Madonna, Scarlett Johansson, Sania Mirza and Nandita Das? (Sushil Kumar Poddar, Kolkata)
7. Which tennis Grand Slam has been played on grass, clay and hard courts? (Dr. Ravi Bhatia, Udaipur)
8. Who is the only player to score two triple centuries in Ranji trophy till date? (Mitraditya Dasgupta, Secunderabad)
9. Which cricket Stadium is nicknamed “The Bull Ring”?. (Sanjay Nair, Noida)
1. This was the first-ever aerial bombardment of a city. The casualties were huge – around 1,600 people dead and some 900 injured.
2. Monalisa’s face is completely hairless. She has no eyelashes or eyebrows
3. ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch
4. Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet. The impressionist movement was named after this painting.
5. Starry Starry Night’ by Vincent Van Gogh. Inspired the song ‘Vincent’ by Don McLean. ‘Vincent’ is also known by its first lines ‘Starry Starry Night’
6. The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci
7. This is the Sistine Chapel. The 12000 sq feet ceiling of the chapel has Michael Angelo’s most famous paintings including God creates Adam.
8. Campbell Soup Company. It inspired the famous series called ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’ by Andy Warhol
1. Seaborgium named after Nobel laureate Glen Theodore Seaborg
2. Rome Olympics, 1960
3. Mornovia, Capital of Liberia named after 5th US President James Monroe
6. Pierced nose
7. The U.S.Open
8. VVS Laxman
9. The Wanderers, Johannesburg
10. Tahitian Pearls
11. Levis 501
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