Monday, December 01, 2008

Tragedy in Mumbai...

A lot of news has been published about the tragedy in Mumbai. It
saddens many but some like myself are also angry and afraid.

Angry that the terrorists have the gall to shot and kill as they
please, destroy the lives of innocent citizens and wreak havoc on a
peaceful way of life. Angry that these terrorists think they can play
god and change the way of life. Angry that the terrorists are not
being contained and eliminated.

Afraid, not of the terrorist but of what the repercussions of an
action like this might be, the aftermath, the political unrest, the
religious tensions. Afraid that the Hindu fundamentalists might
retaliate and the lives of innocent muslims might be in danger, afraid
that the ruthless politicians might use this to their advantage,
afraid that two countries that need to chill out are being forced into
tense relations.

Besides the numerous news stories, there were several insightful
editorials on this incident. A few that caught my eye can be accessed
at the links below.

NY Times Editorial titled "The Horror in Mumbai"

"What they hate about Mumbai" an oped by Suketu Mehta

A factual Associated Press story on the chronological sequence of
events in the Mumbai attacks-

SAJA has held several insightful radio interviews on this topic and
that can be accessed at--

Monday, November 24, 2008

India Milkmen Angry Over Prices

"Hundreds of milkmen gather in Bhubneshwar, India, to protest over price cuts which they say have made milk cheaper than water. The Milk Producer's Federation in Orissa state first increased the price of milk, but the cut prices again. Farmers say they aren't making enough money to feed their cattle," reports Basmah Fahim of Reuters.

India in 25 years...

What would India look like 25 years from now?

Read this article by Mira Kamdar in the World Policy Journal, at

The website for the World Policy Journal is here-

V.S. Naipaul - A Biography

One of the most celebrated and controversial writers of Indian descent
has had a biography written about him by none other than the English
journalist/writer Patrick French. The New York Times Book Review says
, "French's authorized biography of Mr. Naipaul. It's a handsome
volume, jacketed in silver and black, with a disarming cover
photograph of Mr. Naipaul stooping, with a gap-toothed grin, to tie a
loose shoelace.

Flip Mr. French's book over, however, and you confront this
Voldemortian clump of words from Mr. Naipaul's old nemesis, Mr.
Theroux: "It seems I didn't know half of all the horrors." Cue the
scary organ music.

Well, the reader thinks, here we go: Mr. French's 550-page biography
will be a long string of bummers, a forced march through the life of a
startlingly original writer with an ugly, remote personality.

The good news is that Mr. French, a young British journalist, is
certainly unafraid to face unpleasant facts about his subject. But the
better news about "The World Is What It Is" is this: it's one of the
sprightliest, most gripping, most intellectually curious and, well,
funniest biographies of a living writer (Mr. Naipaul is 76) to come
along in years."

From the Boston Globe Review --
"When he went to Oxford from the Caribbean in 1950, at age 17, V. S.
Naipaul was a British subject of Indian descent who resided in the
West Indies, specifically Trinidad, an "accidental occidental Indian
from the most amusing island that ever dotted the sea," as one wit put

The question of identity is as crucial to Naipaul's books as it was to
the man himself. He wanted to be called not a West Indian, but "a
Trinidadian of Hindu descent." His small size (5 feet 6), dark skin,
and island profile made this brilliant writer a touchy,
class-conscious character all of his life.

To say that Vidia Naipaul was merely complicated seems an
understatement. In his authorized biography "The World Is What It Is,"
Patrick French shows us a man at once "angry, acute, open,
self-pitying, funny, sarcastic, tearful." It is high testament to
French - as well as to the acceding Naipaul - that the writer insisted
on being as impeccably objective as possible and that he chose to
"expose the subject with ruthless clarity."

An asthmatic, Naipaul was the pampered oldest son in a successful
family of girls and one younger brother. He wanted to be wealthy. He
wanted to succeed. "I like luxury," he said. "I take to it easily, and
feel it is mine by right." This ambitious fellow, who would eventually
receive a knighthood, become a multimillionaire, and win the Nobel
Prize for Literature, knew early that he was meant for larger things,
and as French puts it, he certainly "did not want to be classified
alongside people who climbed off banana boats wearing zoot-suits and
wanted jobs in factories."

An admitted snob, Naipaul was at odds not only with the Third World
but with pop entertainment, pop politics, pop lifestyles. "He detested
hippies, yippies, beatniks, free school, flower power, Black Power,
flag burning, hair growing, sit-ins, be-ins, teach-ins and love-ins,"
states French. He bewailed the attention the Beatles received,
angering many readers of the Saturday Evening Post when in an essay,
"What's Wrong With Being a Snob?," he lamented that "entertainers from
the slums [have] replaced the Queen as a cause for national pride."

Moreover, Naipaul was famously frugal. He did his own accounts and
bookkeeping (with his first wife's help) and was more than happy when
possible to take advantage of offers for extended stays in various
friends' houses or flats to save money."

The New York Times Review is at this link --

The Boston Globe Review is at this link--

The First Chapter of the biography is available at this link --

Sunday, November 23, 2008

In the world's biggest democracy, homosexuality is illegal

Several prominent Indian authors, professors, and other professionals
choose not to live in India because they are unable to reveal and live
with their sexual bent.

From the Boston Globe --

"Even with the white horse rented, his gold-speckled turban fitted,
and the wedding hall lined up, Mahesh did not feel ready to get
married, at least not to a woman.

The shy computer engineer is gay.

But Mahesh went ahead with the elaborate ceremony in May because
someone he had befriended online blackmailed him - threatening to tell
his parents unless he paid $5,500.

Severely depressed and suffering from insomnia, Mahesh recently
swallowed a dozen painkillers. He survived. But his blackmailer heard
he was in the hospital and demanded more cash to keep his secret.

Three months later, Mahesh said he is broke and taking several
antidepressants. He is still married.

"I really don't want to die. But I also don't want to keep lying,"
said the 24-year-old, who spoke from a counseling center and asked to
be called by his first name. "I feel so trapped. According to the law,
my blackmailer can report me and have me arrested."

That's because in the world's biggest democracy, homosexuality is illegal.

The Indian penal code describes the act as "against the order of
nature" and declares it punishable by 10 years to life in prison,
longer than most rape or murder sentences.

But several human rights groups are making a historic challenge to the
law, imposed by the British in 1860, in the New Delhi High Court. The
effort to repeal the law is seen as a test case of India's commitment
to secular democracy, with some legal specialists saying that moral or
religious arguments cannot trump constitutional rights in a democratic
society. A verdict is expected before the end of the year."

Read the full article at--

Indian American Gunman Kills One at a Church in New Jersey

Another example of a crime in which an Indian American was involved.
As written in the New York Times --

"A gunman invaded a small church in Clifton, N.J., during services on
Sunday and killed his estranged wife and critically wounded two other
people with shots to the head in what appeared to be the climax of a
violent domestic quarrel that had reached from California to India to
New Jersey over
As more than 100 worshipers dived under the pews of St. Thomas Syrian
Orthodox Knanaya Church, the assailant, after an argument in the
foyer, fired four shots from a silver handgun, striking his wife, who
had refused to leave the church with him; a relative who had recently
taken her in; and a man who either happened upon or tried to intervene
in the confrontation, the police and witnesses said.

The shootings happened at 11:44 a.m., a witness said.

The gunman ran from the church and drove away in a green convertible
Jeep Wrangler with a black soft top and the California license
5JHD200, said the police, who identified him as Joseph Pallipurath,
27, of Sacramento. He remained at large Sunday night as the New Jersey
State Police and law enforcement authorities in northern New Jersey
widened a manhunt on highways and at transportation terminals.

The victims were taken to St. Joseph's Medical Center in Paterson,
where Mr. Pallipurath's wife, Reshma James, 24, died about 4 p.m., the
police said. The other victims, both listed in very critical
condition, were identified by church members as Ms. James's relative,
Silvy Perincheril, 47, of Hawthorne, N.J., who is the principal of the
church's Sunday school, and Dennis John Malloosseril, 23, a church

Read the full article at--

Saturday, November 22, 2008

If we are here, what are they doing there?

"It was five years ago that I left America to come live and work in
India. Now, in our family and among our Indian-American friends, other
children of immigrants are exploring motherland opportunities. As
economies convulse in the West and jobs dry up, the idea is spreading
virally in émigré homes.

Which raises a heart-stirring question: If our parents left India and
trudged westward for us, if they manufactured from scratch a new life
there for us, if they slogged, saved, sacrificed to make our lives
lighter than theirs, then what does it mean when we choose to migrate
to the place they forsook?

If we are here, what are they doing there?" writes Anand Giridhardas
in an essay in the New York Times.

A very interesting read at --

Friday, November 21, 2008

Insurer Offers Option for Surgery in India

The trend is getting more popular, reports the New York Times --

"The health insurer Wellpoint is testing a new program that gives
covered patients the option of going to India for elective surgery,
with no out-of-pocket medical costs and free travel for both the
patient and a companion.

The program is being tested at Serigraph, a printing company in
Wisconsin whose managers have been looking for ways to curb rising
health care costs, said Dr. Razia Hashmi, chief medical officer for
national accounts for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which is
affiliated with Wellpoint.

"This is a first for us," Dr. Hashmi said. "We will be monitoring
every aspect of this very closely, to make sure everyone is satisfied
and there are good clinical outcomes."

By the year 2010, more than 6 million Americans annually will be
seeking medical treatment abroad, according to the Deloitte Center for
Health Solutions, a consultancy. The potential savings are
significant. Knee surgery that costs $70,000 to $80,000 in the United
States can be performed in India for $8,000 to $10,000, including
follow-up care and rehabilitation, Dr. Hashmi said. Similar savings
could be achieved for such common procedures as hip replacements and
spine surgery."

Read the full article at--

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Serious Monkey Business?

"An Indian man has come up with a novel way of making ends meet - he dresses as a monkey to scare away monkeys for money.
Acchan Miyan, alias Gudde, is employed by the railways administration in Lucknow, in India's northern Uttar Pradesh, to stop monkeys menacing passengers. His skills have proved invaluable at Charbag railway station of Lucknow," reports Reuters.

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire, by the British filmmaker Danny Boyle has been
getting rave reviews from the press. The New York Times calls it "a
part-vérité, part-magical journey into ground zero of the Indian dream
— a Mumbai slum — with a film that tells the story of love, pluck and
greed through the eyes of a child forced to grow up too soon."

"Slumdog Millionaire" is ostensibly about a young contestant on the
Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." The story of his
short but rich life unfolds in a series of flashbacks, one game-show
question at a time. Foreign audiences will find some of those
flashbacks to be brutal, even revolting, but such is an Indian slum
dog's life. And Mr. Boyle, 52, the maker of films as varied as
"Trainspotting," "The Beach" and "28 Days Later," does not flinch from
it. He sees this as a movie about memory, each remembrance pulling the
hero closer to the woman of his dreams," says teh review in the New
York Times.

Read the full review at --

More reviews and details about the film at--

Indian Americans - Coming home

Yet another interesting article in the American Diversity Report about
Reverse Brain Drain.

"The United States has the best educational infrastructure and has the
biggest market for goods and services. Indian companies aspiring to
grow sales in these markets find it difficult to manage the cultural
intricacies and subtle communication for negotiations. Thus Indian
companies have hired an increasing number of American citizens to give
that insight among marketing to that market. Similarly countries
wanting to enter the Indian market are happy to hire Indian Americans
who are aware of working in both cultures. This is also especially
true in the outsourcing sector where Indian Americans who have
returned are in great demand, because they have the expertise as well
as the networking needed,"says this article.

Read the full article at --

U.S. Slowdown Dulls Sparkle of India's Diamond Capital

"The global capital of the diamond-polishing trade is losing its
luster. For more than two decades, this coastal city in the western
Indian state of Gujarat has been a crucial way station in the world's
diamond trade: Eight of every 10 finished diamonds in the world are
cut and polished here before export to markets such as the U.S. At its
peak three years ago, the industry generated exports of about $12
billion a year.

But while wages elsewhere in India have risen, the owners of
diamond-cutting businesses have kept a tight cap on pay, prompting an
exodus of workers for more lucrative jobs. Now the industry is bracing
for another blow, this one from the slowdown in the U.S., which as
recently as two years ago imported roughly half the diamonds finished
in Surat," according to an article in the Wall Street Journal titled
"U.S. Slowdown Dulls Sparkle of India's Diamond Capital."

Another example of how hte US slowdown is affecting various segments
of industry worldwide.

Read the full article at --

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bombay Gourmet

An interesting article by math professor and skilled fiction witer
Manil Suri in the New York Times titled "Bombay Gourmet" begins thus
"Growing up in India, I lived with my parents in a single room, part
of a flat shared with three other families. Although we were middle
class, there were times when our finances dipped to the change I
collected in the slotted metal box by my bed. Still, my parents
managed to scrimp enough to put me through an elite private school —
my ticket to a better future, they said. It was a bittersweet parting
when I received a scholarship to study mathematics in America; my
parents knew I was leaving behind everything in the life I shared so
closely with them. For the next eight years, I industriously
assimilated myself into America. Then in 1988, a seven-month research
sabbatical took me to Paris.

Now that I had made it to this third continent, a whole new culture
awaited exploration. I sat at cafes sipping Pernod and speaking
French. I splurged on a nice apartment. (Look, Mom and Dad, my own
place in Paris!) I started putting mousse in my hair, then styling
foam as well. With Europe on my résumé, my promotion from Immigrant to
World Citizen seemed within reach.

What truly drew me in was the food. I explored every marché I could
find and ate at starred restaurants I could ill afford. I learned to
tell the difference between Bordeaux and Burgundy, Brie and Chaource.
Watching the just-released "Babette's Feast" near the end of my stay,
I had an idea: Wouldn't it be great to prepare a multicourse French
meal for my parents in Bombay to give them a taste of the new world I

Continue reading this entertaining essay at --

Thursday, November 13, 2008

India's Colleges Battle a Thicket of Red Tape

"Loosening the Indian government's famously bureaucratic "License Raj"
when it comes to governing businesses has helped spur an economic
surge that has transformed the country and its standing in the world.
In contrast, critics say India's educational system remains mired in
red tape that stifles expansion and innovation.

The system falls far short of meeting the demand among young people
for places in good colleges and universities. And it deprives India of
the ranks of well-educated graduates it needs to supply crucial
industries such as information technology and pharmaceuticals," says
an article in the Wall Street Journal titled, "India's Colleges Battle
a Thicket of Red Tape"

As someone who understands how the educational system in India works,
the more that is written about the red tapism, the reservation system
and the dire lack of a meritocracy, articles such as these are a
welcome read. The more that everyone understands the problems facing
education in India, the more the chances of the awareness bringing
about solutions.

Read the full article at --

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sinus Sufferer Turns Nasal Spray Project Into Sales Leader

An Indian American doctor couple have made it big with their new
product, Sinus Rinse.

"The soft-spoken Dr. Mehta and his wife, Nina, are the masterminds
behind Sinus Rinse, an over-the-counter nasal irrigation product that
has relieved millions of sinusitis sufferers from throbbing headaches
and the nose-clogging effects of seasonal sinus infections.
Since 2000, their privately owned company, NeilMed Pharmaceuticals,
has evolved from a pet project into a 250-employee player in Santa
Rosa's $1.5 billion medical technology sector and a leader in the $6
billion United States market for sinus treatments.

Much of this growth has come in the last two years. Although the
Mehtas declined to disclose revenue figures, Dr. Mehta estimates
NeilMed has tripled sales of Sinus Rinse and its other products during
that time. The gains came as the company expanded from its regional
base to sell its line of nasal-oriented wares nationally in
supermarkets, drug store chains and big-box outlets like Wal-Mart and
Costco, as well as in Europe, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

"There is no huge secret to what we are doing here," said Dr. Mehta,
NeilMed's founder and president. "It is a simple product and a lot of
people can copy it; what sets us apart is the way we execute our
plan," says an article in the New York Times

Read the full article at--

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rescuing Cultures of India, From A to Z

In the midst of financial crises and technological advances, rescuing
cultures is not be forgotten.

"In an academy deep in the agrarian countryside of western India, five
students were writing briskly in ruled notebooks. They were in their
early 20s and newly enrolled, but there was no discounting the gravity
of their assignment: When they are finished, the world will have five
more documented languages," says an article in teh NEw York times
titled, "Rescuing Cultures of India, From A to Z"

The article says, "One word at a time, they are producing dictionaries
of languages with which they grew up, but which scarcely exist in the
rest of the world. These are oral languages, whose sounds have perhaps
never before been reproduced in ink.

"If we make this, those who come after us will profit from it," said
Kantilal Mahala, 21, taking a brief respite from his work on the
Kunkna language. "In my village, people who move ahead speak only
Gujarati. They feel ashamed of our language."

It is not only obscure languages that these students are trying to
chronicle and preserve, but also cuisines, sartorial habits and other
significant elements of rural culture. Like drivers heading downtown
at rush hour, the students see everyone else going the other way. A
swelling class of Indian aspirants from small towns and villages like
Tejgadh sees urban life and the English language as pathways to
affluence, security and respect.

Had it not been for Ganesh Devy, a former professor of English
literature who founded the academy more than a decade ago, the young
people in this rural community might have gone down that path. He
created the school, known as the Adivasi Academy, with a burning
question on his mind: Why do we wait for cultures to die to
memorialize them?

"There is a continent of culture getting submerged, and that's why I
wanted to take the plunge," Mr. Devy said.

With financing from the Ford Foundation and other philanthropic
groups, the Adivasi Academy tries to preserve a culture by steeping a
new generation of villagers in their own quickly disappearing

Read the full article at--

Sea of Poppies

Amitav Ghosh's latest book "the Sea of Poppies" was nominated for the
Booker Prize and is getting rave reviews from the press.

"At its heart, Amitav Ghosh's epic novel, Sea of Poppies, is a book
about seeking freedom and renewal in breathtaking, daring ways.

Written in a polyglot language of 19th-century sailors — where Hindi
and English mixed freely — the novel tells the stories of a disparate
group of seafarers aboard a former slave ship that has been
retrofitted for the opium trade and its human cargo," says NPR.

The New York Times review says--

"At the start of "Sea of Poppies," Amitav Ghosh presents two indelible
visions: a tall-masted ship 400 miles from the Indian coast and a
voluptuous agricultural crop, a profusion of flowers capable of
warping the world. The crop, the livelihood of a woman named Deeti and
her neighbors, is opium poppies. The ship is named the Ibis, and at
first it seems a pipe dream, a figment of Deeti's imagination. But
during the course of this novel, the first installment in his
projected Ibis trilogy, Mr. Ghosh turns the ship into something
robustly, bawdily and indelibly real.

Deeti's family is one of many that supply produce to a British-run
opium factory in Ghazipur in colonial India. It is 1838, a pivotal
year in the annals of the opium trade, when Mr. Ghosh's story so
vividly begins. Poppy farming is considered a perfectly legitimate
line of agricultural work, especially by the businessmen who find it
so profitable. And the Ibis, which will become a rowdy and imposing
vessel as this novel gets under way, transports both drugs and
outcasts to far-flung corners of the world.

Originally a slave ship making raids in West Africa, the Ibis is not a
prized vessel. Even in a new, improved incarnation, it is "a
hell-afloat with pinch-gut pay," in the words of a crew member named
Zachary Reid, a freed slave's son from Baltimore. Yet this ship
becomes home to Mr. Ghosh's sparkling array of eccentrics, blowhards,
runaway lovers and people seeking new leases on life. One of its most
memorable passengers is a raja, seen at the height of power and
privilege as the book begins. Later, humiliated and exiled, he sails
aboard the Ibis past the fief he once ruled.

And although none of these people know it, their ship appears to be
headed toward the fight that will be central to Mr. Ghosh's extended
story: the Opium Wars, waged between Britain and China over the
British East India Company's monopolistic drug trade. "Sea of Poppies"
is pointed toward that conflict, in a series perhaps headed for the
thick of the fray. This opening book concentrates affectionately on
its oddly matched characters, explaining who is aboard the Ibis and
the curious, roundabout way in which each has wound up adrift in this

The tale told engagingly by "Sea of Poppies" is hardly a
straightforward one. Beyond the clever circuitousness of Mr. Ghosh's
narrative there is also a language barrier to be surmounted. "Sea of
Poppies" is written in thick, polyglot jargon that is made more or
less self-explanatory by its context but still gives the book a
mischievous linguistic fascination. For instance: "Wasn't a man in
town who could put on a burra-khana like he did. Sheeshmull blazing
with shammers and candles. Paltans of bearers and khidmutgars.
Demijohns of French loll-shrub and carboys of iced simkin. And the
karibat!" Many such passages also have a cryptically obscene ring.

"Sea of Poppies" comes equipped with a lexicon of sorts, an addendum
that Mr. Ghosh calls "The Ibis Chrestomathy." If you need to pause to
contemplate what chrestomathy means (one dictionary definition: "a
selection of literary selections, especially in a foreign language, as
an aid to learning"), it won't be the only time "Sea of Poppies" slows
you down. Mr. Ghosh uses this lexicon to provide elaborate
amplifications of his favorite (though by no means all of the book's)
turns of phrase and to connect those words with the characters who use

Listen to the NPR story at--

Read the NYT review at--

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Mumbai, Striving and Sinking

This has always been one of the Indian paradoxes, one that is
increasing with the countries growing economic status. One that
exhibits characteristics of a capitalistic society where the rich get
richer and the poor get poorer. An interesting article about the
growing city of Mumbai, one which is seeking to attain the status of
"World Class City."

From the New York Times essay --
"This city, before it was a city, was a dusting of seven islands in
the choppy brine off India's western coast. Beginning nearly three
centuries ago, it was gradually reclaimed from the sea, seven masses
forging one, and claimed by the teeming country at its back. Dangling
in the Arabian Sea, it has become Mumbai, India's stock-trading and
film-making capital and its window to the world.

But if the reclaiming was complete, the claiming never was. The city
was tethered to the subcontinent by a land bridge in the northern
suburbs, 20 miles from the upper-crust stronghold of South Mumbai,
where mainland India felt remote. The rich were in India but not of
it. When news arrived of distant floods and famines, malfeasance and
malnutrition, they told themselves that theirs was a world apart.

Escapism was constant. In the 1960s, young elites observed the Western
music hour on All India Radio like a religion. In the 1980s, wealthy
women flew to London to avoid the steamy bazaars. Recent years have
brought diversions like gelato, sushi, fashion shows with Russian
models, velvet-rope nightclubs, restaurants that cook the
ever-less-sacred cow medium-rare.

Here the highest social boast is that you "just got back" from abroad;
the loftiest praise for a restaurant is, "It's like you're not in
India." Mumbai's globalized class hungers for it to be a world city,
and its leaders pledge to make it Shanghai-like by 2020; the plan is,
to put it gently, behind schedule. The rich blush when Madonna dines
at Salt Water Grill and Angelina Jolie drinks at Indigo: portents,
they say, that Mumbai will join New York, London, Paris in that
coterie of names emblazoned on the epidermis of boutiques everywhere.

Arriving from overseas, one encounters first this outward-looking
city. But in the layers below, a strange truth is buried. If the elite
live in virtual exile, seeing Mumbai as a port of departure, the city
teems with millions of migrants who see it as the opposite — a
mesmeric port of arrival, offering what the mainland doesn't: a chance
to invent oneself, to break destiny.

For the writer, the Dickensian lens offers an easy view of Mumbai:
wealthy and poor, apartment-dwelling and slum-dwelling, bulbous and
malnourished. In office elevators, the bankers and lawyers are a foot
taller, on average, than the less-fed delivery men.

Luscious skyscrapers sprout beside mosquito-prone shantytowns. This is
at once a city of paradise and of hell. But Mumbai's paradox is that
it is often the dwellers of paradise who feel themselves in hell and
the dwellers of hell who feel themselves in paradise.

What you see in Mumbai depends on what else you have seen. For those
who grew up in Westernized homes, the standard is New York. That
comparison is hard on Mumbai.

To be sure, in my five years here, which are now ending, the city has
inched toward world-city status. Restaurants began to serve
miso-encrusted sea bass. Indian-Western fashion boutiques started to
attract global jet-setters. The air kiss became as Indian as not
kissing once was.

But it takes a muscular suspension of disbelief to pretend that
Mumbai, which used to be called Bombay, is what its elite wishes it
were. Residents will tell you that Mumbai is "just like New York,"
before launching a tirade about why it isn't: nowhere nice to eat,
same incestuous social scene, no offbeat films, no privacy. There is a
sense in this crowd of a city forever striving to be what it isn't.

Still, minute after minute, migrants pour in with starkly different
pasts and starkly different ideas of Mumbai."

Read the full article at--

An Artist in Exile Tests India’s Democratic Ideals

Freedom of speech and expression, clearly needs to be better defined.
PAinters, writers and other artists push the limits, but what are the
limits, and where are they defined?

Somini Sengupta writes in the New York Times, " Maqbool Fida Husain,
India's most famous painter, is afraid to go home.

Mr. Husain is a Muslim who is fond of painting Hindu goddesses,
sometimes portraying them nude. That obsession has earned him the ire
of a small but organized cadre of Hindu nationalists. They have
attacked galleries that exhibit his work, accused him in court of
"promoting enmity" among faiths and, on one occasion, offered an $11
million reward for his head.

In September, the country's highest court offered him an unexpected
reprieve, dismissing one of the cases against him with the blunt
reminder that Hindu iconography, including ancient temples, is replete
with nudity. Still, the artist, 93 and increasingly frail, is not
taking any chances. For two years, he has lived here in self-imposed
exile, amid opulently sterile skyscrapers. He intends to remain, at
least for now. "They can put me in a jungle," Mr. Husain said gamely.
"Still, I can create."

Freedom of expression has frequently, and by some accounts,
increasingly, come under fire in India, as the country tries to
balance the dictates of its secular democracy with the easily inflamed
religious and ethnic passions of its multitudes.

The result is a strange anomaly in a nation known for its vibrant,
freewheeling political culture. The government is compelled to ensure
respect for India's diversity and at the same time prevent one group
from pouncing on another for a perceived offense. Ramachandra Guha, a
historian, calls it "perhaps the fundamental challenge of governance
in India."

The rise of an intense brand of identity politics, with India's many
communities mobilizing for political power, has intensified the
problem. An accusation that a piece of art or writing is offensive is
an easy way to whip up the sentiments of a particular caste, faith or
tribe, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, an Indian political scientist, points out.
He calls it "offense mongering."

Read the full article at--

Friday, November 07, 2008

Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger

A interesting review of the Booker Prize winnning "The White Tiger" by
Aravind Adiga in the New York Times reads thus --

"Balram Halwai, the narrator of Aravind Adiga's first novel, "The
White Tiger," is a modern Indian hero. In a country inebriated by its
newfound economic prowess, he is a successful entrepreneur, a
self-made man who has risen on the back of India's much-vaunted
technology industry. In a nation proudly shedding a history of poverty
and underdevelopment, he represents, as he himself says, "tomorrow."

Balram's triumphal narrative, framed somewhat inexplicably as a letter
to the visiting Chinese premier, unfurls over seven days and nights in
Bangalore.It's a rather more complicated story than Balram initially
lets on. Before moving to Bangalore, he was a driver for the
weak-willed son of a feudal landlord. One rainy day in Delhi, he
crushed the skull of his employer and stole a bag containing a large
amount of money, capital that financed his Bangalore taxi business.
That business — ferrying technology workers to and from their jobs —
depends, in turn, on keeping the police happy with the occasional

As a parable of the new India, then, Balram's tale has a distinctly
macabre twist. He is not (or not only) an entrepreneur but a roguish
criminal with a remarkable capacity for self-justification. Likewise,
the background against which he operates is not just a resurgent
economy and nation but a landscape of corruption, inequality and
poverty. In some of the book's more convincing passages, Balram
describes his family's life in "the Darkness," a region deep in the
heartland marked by medieval hardship, where brutal landlords hold
sway, children are pulled out of school into indentured servitude and
elections are routinely bought and sold.

This grim world is far removed from the glossy images of Bollywood
stars and technology entrepreneurs that have been displacing earlier
(and equally clichéd) Indian stereotypes featuring yoga and
spirituality. It is not a world that rich urban Indians like to see."

Read the full review at--

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Indian Cowboys Rope Them In!

And you thought cowboys were an American thing!!! Read this excerpt
from a New York Times article.

"Brajveer Singh does not own a wide-brimmed hat, leather boots or a
pair of jeans. He has never ridden a mechanical bull.

Cow catchers rely on rope lassos and brute strength to capture the
cows, whose slaughter is banned throughout most of India.
But he can lay claim to being a real-life urban cowboy. Mr. Singh is
among the dozens of men who spend their days roping cattle on the
streets of this city as part of a long and frustrating battle to rid
India's capital of stray cows.

There is perhaps no more stereotypical image of India than that of a
stray cow sauntering down the middle of a busy city street, seemingly
oblivious to the traffic swerving around it.

Hindus consider cows sacred animals, and their slaughter is banned
throughout most of India. Cows are frequently allowed to wander where
they please, even in cities, where Indians tend to view them much the
way Americans and Europeans regard pigeons — an unpleasant but
intractable part of the urban landscape.

But in New Delhi, many residents long ago lost patience with the
thousands of stray cattle. In 2002, after citizens petitioned the
courts to do something about them, judges ordered the cattle cleared
from the roads.

Six years later, however, the cows are still here. In September, the
government missed the latest in a series of court-ordered deadlines
for their removal, but officials say the city is committed to solving
the problem before the Commonwealth Games, which will be in New Delhi
in 2010.

Meeting that goal is up to Mr. Singh and the city's 164 other "cow catchers."

One recent morning, Mr. Singh and the seven other men in his team
gathered near their truck in Old Delhi, the capital's ancient heart.
Seven of them squeezed into the cab, while one stood scraping day-old
manure out of the truck's long, high-sided bed.

They set off looking for cows.

This is dangerous work. Only on the rare occasions when a trained
veterinarian accompanies them are the cattle catchers allowed to use
tranquilizer darts or a stun gun. Instead, they rely on rope lassos
and brute strength to capture the beasts, which often charge into
traffic or kick and buck violently in an attempt to escape.

On this particular day, Mr. Singh literally seized a young bull by the
horns, wrestling him into position for roping.

"The key is, once you have the horn in your hand, try hard not to let
go," he said with a grin.

He and the other cow catchers all have tales of being injured on the
job, suffering everything from rope burns to broken bones. One even
lost an eye when he was gored by a bull.

But far more dangerous than the cattle, according to the cowboys, are
the people they encounter. The cow catchers have been involved in
fistfights with drivers enraged that the cowboys have blocked traffic
while trying to remove cows from a busy road. Religious Hindus, who
sometimes feed the stray cattle found near temples, have on rare
occasions been known to pelt cow catchers with stones.

"It's an occupational hazard," said the city's most senior cow
catcher, Virpal Singh, who is no relation to Brajveer Singh."

Read the full article at--

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Signs in Asia of Tsunamis That Struck Centuries Ago

From The New York Times--
"A mega-tsunami rivaling the deadly one in 2004 struck southeast Asia
more than 600 years ago, two teams of geologists said after finding
sedimentary evidence in coastal marshes.

Researchers in Thailand and Indonesia wrote in two articles in the
journal Nature that the tsunami hit around 1300 or 1400, long before
records of earthquakes in the region began to be kept.

"Tsunamis are something we never experienced before, and after 2004
people thought it was something we would never experience again,"
Kruawun Jankaew of Chulalongkorn University in Thailand said in a
telephone interview.

"But from this, we are able to identify that the place has been hit by
a mega-tsunami in the past," she said. "So even though it is
infrequent for this part of the world, it still happens and there is a
need to promote tsunami education for coastal peoples."

The tsunami in 2004 left 230,000 people either dead or missing across
Asia, from Sri Lanka and India to Thailand, the Maldives and
Indonesia. More than 170,000 victims were in Aceh Province in

Ms. Jankaew's team studied a grassy plain on Phra Thong, an island
north of Phuket in Thailand, where the 2004 tsunami reached wave
heights of 65 feet above sea level.

A separate team led by Katrin Monecke from the University of
Pittsburgh looked at sedimentary records on coastal marshes in Aceh,
where the waves reached 115 feet.

They explored low areas between beach ridges called swales, which are
known to trap tsunami sand between layers of peat and other organic
matter, and discovered a layer of sand beneath the most recent layer,
from 2004, that was from an event that occurred 600 to 700 years ago.

Scientists are trying to determine the scale of the tsunami that
happened long ago. "We will look at the thickness and grain size of
the sediment and we can calculate how fast the tsunami was, how far
inland it went and the floor depth," Ms. Jankaew said."

This article is at--

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fly Me to the Deity

An interesting opinion essay by Tunku Varadarajan in the New York
Times about Chandrayaan below--

"An unmanned spacecraft from India — that most worldly and yet
otherworldly of nations — is on its way to the moon. For the first
time since man and his rockets began trespassing on outer space, a
vessel has gone up from a country whose people actually regard the
moon as a god.

The Chandrayaan (or "moon craft") is the closest India has got to the
moon since the epic Hindu sage, Narada, tried to reach it on a ladder
of considerable (but insufficient) length — as my grandmother's
bedtime version of events would have it. So think of this as a modern
Indian pilgrimage to the moon.

As it happens, a week before the launching, millions of Hindu women
embarked on a customary daylong fast, broken at night on the first
sighting of the moon's reflection in a bowl of oil. (This fast is done
to ensure a husband's welfare.) But reverence for the moon is not
confined to traditional Indian housewives: The Web site of the Indian
Space Research Organization — the body that launched the Chandrayaan —
includes a verse from the Rig Veda, a sacred Hindu text that dates
back some 4,000 years: "O Moon! We should be able to know you through
our intellect,/ You enlighten us through the right path."

One is tempted, in all this, to dwell on the seeming contradiction
between religion and science, between reason and superstition. And
yet, anyone who has been to India will have noted also its "modernity
of tradition." The phrase, borrowed from the political scientists
Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph, might explain the ability of devout Hindus
— many of them, no doubt, rocket scientists — to see no disharmony
between ancient Vedic beliefs and contemporary scientific practice.

The Hindu astrological system is predicated on lunar movements: so the
moon is a big deal in astrology-obsessed India. That said, the genius
of modern Hinduism lies in its comfort with, and imperviousness to,
science. A friend tells me of an episode from his childhood in
Varanasi, the sacred Hindu city. Days after Apollo 11 landed on the
moon, a model of the lunar module was placed in a courtyard of the
most venerable temple in the city. The Hindu faithful were hailing
man-on-the-moon; there was no suggestion that the Americans had
committed sacrilege. (Here, I might add — with a caveat against
exaggeration — that science sometimes struggles to co-exist with faith
in the United States in ways that would disconcert many Indians.)

Of course, the Chandrayaan is also a grand political gesture — space
exploration in the service of national pride. This kind of excursion
may provoke yawns at NASA, but judging from round-the-clock local
coverage it has received, the mission has clearly inflamed the
imagination and ambition of Indians. Yes, even moon-worshipping ones."

Read this essay at the NY Times Website at--

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Students abroad, it turns out, are not outperforming Americans

While the documentary "Two Million Minutes" is gettitng a lot of media
attention, the following essay titled "Grade Change" which appeared in
the Boston Globe paints a different picture.

An excerpt --

"OH, LOOK. THERE'S a new film that portrays American teenagers as
distracted slackers who don't stand a chance against the zealous young
strivers in China and India. It must be an election year, when
American politicians, egged on by corporate leaders, suddenly become
indignant about the state of America's public schools. If we don't do
something, they thunder, our children will wind up working as bellhops
in resorts owned by those Asian go-getters.

The one-hour documentary "Two Million Minutes" was conceived and
financed by Robert A. Compton, a high-tech entrepreneur, and can be
ordered on DVD from his website, It follows two
teenagers in Carmel, Ind., as they sporadically apply themselves to
their studies between after-school jobs and sports. The film cuts to
similar pairs of high schoolers in India and China who do little but
attend classes, labor over homework, and work with their tutors. "Two
Million Minutes" has become a key part of the ED in '08 campaign, an
effort by Bill Gates and other wealthy worriers to persuade the
presidential candidates to get serious about fixing our schools.

The documentary's argument is quite common, verging on a truism. You
hear it in Rotary speeches and see it on cable news: Beware, the
rising Third World powers are going to eat our lunch. This assumption
shapes the American educational debate and feeds popular views (and
fears) about our country's place in the world. Its many prominent
promoters include former IBM chief Louis V. Gerstner Jr., New York
Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, and former Colorado governor and
Los Angeles school superintendent Roy Romer.

I share what I imagine is Bill Gates's distress at seeing Carmel
High's Brittany Brechbuhl watching "Grey's Anatomy" on television with
her friends while they make halfhearted stabs at their math homework.
But the larger truth is that American education is vastly superior to
the stunted, impoverished school systems of China and India, which,
despite impressive surges of economic growth, are still relatively
poor, developing countries. Our best public schools are first-rate,
producing more intense, involved, and creative A-plus students than
our most prestigious colleges have room for. That is why less-known
institutions such as Claremont McKenna, Rhodes, and Hampshire are
drawing many freshmen just as smart as the ones at Princeton. The top
70 percent of US public high schools are pretty good, certainly better
than they have ever been.

The widespread feeling that our schools are losing out to the rest of
the world, that we are not producing enough scientists and engineers,
is a misunderstanding fueled by misleading statistics. Reports
regularly conclude that the United States is falling behind other
countries - in the number of engineers it produces, in the performance
of its students in reading or in mathematics. But closer examinations
of these reports are showing that they do not always compare
comparable students, skewing the results.

For those who look carefully at the performance of our schools, the
real problem is not that the United States is falling behind, or that
the entire system is failing. It is the sorry shape of the bottom 30
percent of US schools, those in urban and rural communities full of
low-income children. We have seen enough successful schools in such
areas to know that these children are just as capable of being great
scientists, doctors, and executives as suburban children. But most
low-income schools in the United States are simply bad.

Not only are we denying the children who attend them the equal
education that is their right, but we are squandering almost a third
of our intellectual capital. We are beating the world economically,
but with one hand tied behind our back."

Read the full article at--

Monday, October 06, 2008

Meet Neel Kashkari: The Man With the $700 Billion Wallet

Excerpt From the Wall Street Journal --

A Goldman Sachs Group alumnus in charge of the nation’s economic rescue? How unusual.

Except, of course, it isn’t. As The Wall Street Journal’s Deborah Solomon reported today, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is promoting Neel Kashkari, the Treasury’s assistant secretary for international affairs, to be the point man overseeing the $700 billion financial bailout as the interim head of Paulson’s Office of Financial Stability. The full appointment would need Senate confirmation, which is unlikely to come given the short remaining tenure in this Administration.

The move essentially puts a new title on what Kashkari he has been doing since he joined Treasury in 2006–examining the consequences of an economic housing fallout. Kashkari was one of three Treasury staffers–including general counsel Robert Hoyt and head of legislative affairs Kevin Fromer–who stayed up until 4 a.m. last Sunday putting together the $700 billion bailout bill that was shot down by House Republicans the next day.

Kashkari is an Indian-American who has a few things in common with Paulson (above right). Both are former Goldman Sachs bankers, though Kashkari, at 35 years old, is much younger and was just a vice president-level banker in Goldman’s San Francisco technology banking effort when Paulson tapped him to join Treasury. Both also are Midwesterners. Kashkari grew up in Stow, Ohio, and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Paulson was raised in Barrington Hills, Ill. And both sport similar hairstyles– or lack thereof.

Kashkari didn’t take a conventional route into banking. He started out as an aerospace engineer at TRW, developing technology for NASA projects like the James Webb Space Telescope, the replacement to Hubble, which is scheduled to launch in 2013.

He earned an M.B.A. at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. While there, one of his professors was Michael Useem, who liked to put students through grueling, Outward Bound-type strengths of endurance and strategy. Kashkari participated in one Army simulation in 2002 at Fort Dix, where he was quoted in this 2002 Philadelphia Inquirer article in a comment just as applicable to today’s financial crisis as the project he was working on: “We were all taught to play nice,” Kashkari said. “So who’s going to fight in the sandbox?”

After Wharton, Kashkari joined Goldman and worked in San Francisco, where he advised companies that create computer security programs like antivirus software. He and his wife, Minal, still keep a house in California.

Read the full article at --

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Most Dangerous Job On Earth!!!

"What a job it is. If Pakistan is the most dangerous country on earth,
a phrase no less true for being a commonplace, its presidency is one
of the world's least enviable posts," writes Roger Cohen in an
editorial in todays New York Times, titled "The Most Dangerous Job On

He writes, "Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's new president and the widower
of Benazir Bhutto, does not mince words about the growing Taliban

"It is my decision that we will go after them, we will free this
country," he told me in an interview. "Yes, this is my first priority
because I will have no country otherwise. I will be president of

After the massive bomb attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad,
that's a fair question. Its finances in a freefall, its security
crumbling, nuclear-armed Pakistan stands at the brink just as a
civilian takes charge after the futile zigzagging of Gen. Pervez
Musharraf's U.S.-supported rule.

I asked Zardari, who took office this month, if the assassination of
his wife motivated him to confront Islamic militancy. "Of course," he
said, "It's my revenge. I take it every day."

He continued: "I will fight them because they are a cancer to my
society, not because of my wife only, but because they are a cancer,
yes, and they did kill the mother of my children, so their way of life
is what I want to kill; I will suck the oxygen out of their system so
there will be no Talibs."

Are you afraid? "I am concerned; I am not afraid," Zardari, 53, told
me. "Because I don't want to die so soon, I have a job to do."

Read the full editorial at--

Sunday, September 28, 2008

In India, Lessons on Yoga and on Life

"My wife and I have come to Pondicherry in southeast India mostly for
the yoga. The classes used to be held in one of the many parcels of
the Sri Aurobindo Ashram scattered across the colonial city. But for
this retreat, there's a new venue, and to get there you have to be on
Ajit Sarkar's bus by 5:45 a.m. There are 20 or so of us, nearly all
from France," writes Kyle Jarrard in today's New York Times Travel
article titled "In India, Lessons on Yoga and on Life."

"Ajit, in his 70s now, grew up in this famous ashram with his parents,
who went into the retreat founded and inspired by the yogi and guru
Sri Aurobindo and his vision of universal consciousness and peace. In
this idyllic world, Ajit learned everything from ballet to track to
gymnastics, but especially yoga, a skill he has taught with acclaim
for decades both in India and in France. His official retirement since
2003 is a fiction of contentment," he adds.

This is a beautiful essay about one persons personal journey, one worth reading.

Read the full essay at --

Monday, September 22, 2008

Indians Savor Samosas and U.S. Election

"Forget the war in Iraq or even neighboring Afghanistan. The U.S.
elections are pretty much the only international news being
consistently followed in Indian media. There are even editorials about
Sarah Palin. "Choosing Ms. Palin as his running mate is nothing short
of recklessness," opines the Kolkata-based daily, The Telegraph. The
Times of India comments that Palin "served up the domestic red meat
for a mostly white audience." writes Sandip Roy in New American Media.

He writes, "Novelist Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi is not surprised by
the attention the race is getting. Indians love politics, and this is
one helluva race. "The American election enjoys narrative muscle, and
neither Obama nor Palin are afraid of flexing their abs," quips
Shanghvi. "The interest is there because the story has meat on the

"It's now like a high at the end of the day," says Swati Ramanathan,
who runs the NGO Janaagraha along with her husband, Ramesh. "We rush
home to see what happened. What did Palin say? What did Stephanopolous
say? We don't get ABC, NBC, Fox here. But thank god for YouTube."

Read the full article at--

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Temples Where Gods Come to Life

"Few things in India express the continuous presence of the gods
better than the ancient, massive temple complexes of Tamil Nadu. Walk
through any city there and what catches your eye first are the soaring
temple entrances known as gopuras, sacred skyscrapers decorated with a
phantasmagoria of Hindu statues of multi-armed, bug-eyed gods,
mythical beasts and chiseled warriors," writes Edward Wong in a New
York Times Travel article about temples in Tamilnadu titled, "Temples
Where Gods Come to Life."

Another excerpt from this article about the Meenakshi temple in Madurai---

"THE god was ready for his night of conjugal bliss. The priests of the
temple, muscular, shirtless men with white sarongs wrapped around
their thighs, bore the god's palanquin on their shoulders. They
marched him slowly along a stone corridor shrouded in shadows to his
consort's shrine. Drumbeats echoed along the walls. Candles flickered
outside the doorway to the shrine's inner sanctum. There, Meenakshi,
the fish-eyed goddess, awaited the embrace of her husband,
Sundareshwarar, an incarnation of that most priapic of Indian gods,

Along with hundreds of Indians clustered around the shrine entrance, I
strained to get a glimpse of the statue of Sundareshwarar, but green
cloths draped over the palanquin kept it hidden. Worshipers surged
forward in mass delirium, snapping photos with their cellphones,
bowing to the palanquin and chanting hymns. They stretched out their
hands to touch the carriage. Priests ordered them back.

Then the priests veered into the inner sanctum, carrying the unseen
god toward the eager arms of his wife. They too had a night of divine
pleasure ahead of them, so we were all ushered out as the guards began
locking up.

This union of Meenakshi and Sundareshwarar is a nightly ritual in
Madurai, the second-largest temple city in the southern state of Tamil
Nadu, drawing feverish crowds of Hindu devotees. In much of India, the
gods are not creatures of distant myth to be worshiped as
abstractions. They exist in our world, in our time, and are fully
integrated into the daily lives of Hindu believers. They move
simultaneously through the world of the divine and the world that we
inhabit, and are subject to all the emotions and experiences that we
humans are all too familiar with — including carnal desire."

Read the full article at--
A correction to this article can be seen at --

Friday, September 19, 2008

DreamWorks, Reliance close deal

Articles from Variety and Wall Street Journal below.

DreamWorks, Reliance close deal. Pact completes
Paramount exit - Variety


DreamWorks has finally closed the deal with India-
based Reliance to leave Paramount Pictures and
create a stand-alone production company.

DreamWorks principals Steven Spielberg, David
Geffen and Stacey Snider are severing ties with the
Melrose studio. Though the deal has been anticipated
for some time, what had been unclear was the fate of
DreamWorks' executives, who would have been
contractually obligated to remain employed by
Paramount. In a surprise move, Paramount waived its
right to keep DreamWorks' execs in its fold.

"To facilitate a timely and smooth transition,
Paramount has waived certain provisions from the
original deal to clear the way for the DreamWorks
principals and their employees to join their new
company without delay," Paramount said in a

It remains unclear which executives DreamWorks will
take with them to their new venture. It is unlikely the
new company will keep its current roster given that it
will be working under a tighter budget. Prior to
DreamWorks' exit, Paramount was paying $50 million
a year in overhead for DreamWorks, according to

"We congratulate Steven, David and Stacey, and wish
them well as they start their newest venture,"
Paramount added. "Steven is one of the world's great
story-tellers and a legend in the motion picture
business. It has been an honor working closely with
him and the DreamWorks team over the last three
years and we expect to continue our successful
collaboration with Steven in the future."

DreamWorks Team, India's Reliance In $1.2 Billion
Film Company Deal - Wall Street
Journal (


The principals of DreamWorks SKG have completed a
long-anticipated deal with one of India's largest
entertainment conglomerates to set up a new $1.2
billion film company, according to people familiar with
the matter.

The deal gives DreamWorks co-founder Steven
Spielberg and DreamWorks Chief Executive Stacey
Snider the financial support they need to leave Viacom
Inc.'s Paramount Pictures and start their new venture.
Under the signed agreement, Mumbai-based
Reliance ADA Group will invest $500 million equity
and provide another $700 million in debt through J.P.
Morgan Chase & Co. toward the new venture, which
will produce a slate of about six films a year.

The new film company will be led by Stacey Snider
and Steven Spielberg. News of the talks between
DreamWorks principals and Reliance first surfaced in
June, but an agreement wasn't finalized until now,
these people said. The new company will be headed
by Mr. Spielberg and Ms. Snider.

A DreamWorks spokesperson had no comment.
Rajesh Sawhney, head of Reliance Big Entertainment,
also declined to comment.

Now that the DreamWorks team has sealed the
agreement with Reliance, attention will quickly shift to
the question of where the new company will distribute
its films. General Electric Co.'s Universal Pictures,
where Mr. Spielberg began his career, is thought to be
a top choice, though an agreement has yet to be
reached. The DreamWorks team also plans to strike a
new deal with HBO.

Once those deals are in place, DreamWorks principal
David Geffen is expected to resign from Paramount,
where the DreamWorks camp has been stationed
since DreamWorks was sold to Viacom in 2006. Mr.
Geffen isn't expected to be part of the new venture.

Even after Mr. Spielberg and Ms. Snider depart
Paramount, they will continue to work with the studio
on a number of movies. The two parties share rights
to many projects, including upcoming "Transformers:
Revenge of the Fallen," a sequel to the blockbuster hit.
While it was once thought that the DreamWorks team
would try to take some projects with them to the new
venture, it is now more likely that those films will
remain at Paramount, with Mr. Spielberg receiving rich
compensation for his involvement.

The marriage between some of Hollywood's biggest
names and an Indian conglomerate is less surprising
than it seems. The new deal comes in the wake of a
financial drought in Hollywood, with the industry
looking to foreign investors to replace some of billions
of dollars that Wall Street poured into film financing in
recent years but has since evaporated with the
crumbling credit markets.

In Reliance, Mr. Spielberg and his DreamWorks team
have found a willing investor more immune to the
problems on Wall Street. But Reliance, which has
interests in telecommunications, financial services,
and entertainment, is hoping to use the new
partnership to create a name for itself in Hollywood,
and then build that out into a global media empire. At
the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, the
conglomerate's entertainment division, Reliance Big
Entertainment, announced it would invest $1 billion
over the next 18 months to help create that empire.

The divorce between the DreamWorks team and
Paramount will conclude one of Hollywood's most
closely watched battles. Since the DreamWorks
principals sold the company to Viacom for $1.6 billion,
Messrs. Geffen and Spielberg have clashed with
Paramount's Chief Executive Brad Grey. Tensions
boiled to the surface last fall when, hearing rumors
that Messrs. Geffen and Spielberg might depart,
Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman publicly
called any such departure "completely immaterial" to
the financial outlook of the company.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sanjaya Malakar's New Gig

Sanjaya Malakar, who became popular with his participation on American
idol, "turns 19 on Wednesday" reports the New York Times and "is
featured in a commercial for Nationwide Insurance that is part of the
next installment of a campaign carrying the theme "Life comes at you
fast." There is also a special Web site where visitors can customize
photographs of themselves with different looks sported by Mr. Malakar
on TV; the results can be shared with friends and family. The rise of
Mr. Malakar last year from unknown Seattle-area teenager to national
sensation as a finalist on the sixth season of "American Idol" was
meteoric enough to generate new words like "Sanjayamania," for the
ardor of his supporters, and "Fanjaya," for the most truly devoted of
his acolytes." Now his tryst with modeling for Nationwide insurance.

The ad can be viewed below--

Read the full article in the New York TImes at --

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Renowned Industrialist K.K. Birla Passes Away at 89

From the New York Times --

"K. K. Birla, the patriarch of a renowned Indian industrial empire,
died on Aug. 30 at his home in Calcutta. He was 89.

The cause was age-related ailments and pneumonia, his family said. His
close associates said he was grief-stricken by the death on July 29 of
his wife of 67 years, Manorama Devi.

Mr. Birla built on the company started by his father to establish one
of India's biggest business conglomerates, with interests in
industries like sugar, fertilizers, chemicals, heavy engineering,
textile, shipping and media, among many others.

He was the chairman of one of India's biggest national daily
newspapers, The Hindustan Times, which became a successful media
company under his stewardship.

As a leading figure in both the humanities and technology in India, he
established the K. K. Birla Foundation, which gives awards in many
fields and focuses not on the English-speaking middle class of urban
India, but on the achievements of its rural population.

The K. K. Birla Academy does scientific, historical and cultural
research and has been planning a scientific museum. He was the
chancellor of Birla Institute of Technology and Science, created by
his father in the desert of Rajasthan, expanding it from Goa and
Hyderabad to Dubai.

He was also a prominent three-term member of the upper house of the
Indian Parliament and was close to Indian political leaders like
Indira Gandhi, Rajeev Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. Loyal
to the Congress Party, which his father helped finance, he had friends
across the political spectrum."

Read the full article at --

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Are the 3 Olympic Medals Enough Inspiration for India?

India's three Olympic medals (it's first ever gold and 2 bronzes) are
seen as an inspiration to the youth of this country. A country of 1
billion people wit little or no governmental emphasis on sports, like
China or the others.

The 3 medalists however are seen as those who provide a glimpse of the
new India, "One is the son of a prosperous businessman with an
Olympic-size shooting range in his backyard. Another grew up in a
dusty village, sparring with his brother for use of a shared family
bicycle. A third spent most of his youth in a musty, mouse-infested
room at a wrestling camp here in the capital," says the New York

The New York Times also reports that, "India's three winners have shot
from obscurity to sudden fame. Abhinav Bindra, 25, from the
northwestern city of Chandigarh, won a gold in the 10-meter air rifle
competition. Vijender Kumar, 23, a bus driver's son from a village
about 80 miles from here, won a bronze in boxing. And Sushil Kumar,
24, who learned to wrestle in the dirt on the outskirts of Delhi, also
won a bronze. The Indian Express this week called it a reflection of
"India's grassroots aspirations."

Let us hope and pray that this gives the Indian government renewed
impetus to focus on some of these athletes who can easily become world
class players, with the right kind of training and support.

Read the full article at --

Sunday, August 24, 2008

An Essay on Language Aptly Titled "Namaste"

"'At the beginning of class, we stood at the front of our mats and let
out a long, dirgelike moan," the first-time yoga student recollected.
"Then the teacher yelled, 'Chili-pepper pasta,' and everyone hit the
floor." Sanskrit, the language of yoga, is said to unite sound and
meaning; that is, saying the word gives the experience of its meaning.
But for the novice yogi (the word for male as well as female
practitioners), whose ears need to be tuned to a new frequency, that
experience can be as elusive as an overnight parking spot in
Manhattan. Thus, chaturanga dandasana (four-legged staff pose, which
looks like the bottom of a pushup, your body hovering inches above the
floor) might become "chili-pepper pasta" if you've got dinner
reservations at the latest outpost of the latest fusion craze. And the
ear-twisters don't end there. So let's do some untwisting," reads the
first paragraph of an essay titled "Namaste" in the New York Times.

This fascinating essay, which is primarily about language uses Yoga as
away to delve into Sanskrit word usage. "First off, that "moan" at the
beginning of class was the mantra Om. It's the vibration that existed
at the birth of the universe and is all-pervading still and is chanted
as a reminder of the interconnectedness of all life — human, animal,
plant, insect, mineral, etc. A mantra is a word or phrase that
protects the mind. From what? Well, from itself, because a mind has .
. . a mind of its own. A mantra keeps it from wandering ("Oy, I forgot
to call my mother back"; "Is it really verboten to date your yoga
teacher?") during meditation by giving it something to focus on. Not
that it still won't wander — that's the nature of the mind — so don't
get your chakras in knots when it happens. (Chakras are energy
vortexes, and meditate on "chocolate," not "shock," when you say the
word.) Meditation, the practice of stillness, might be a moment (or
more) of silence at the beginning or end of class or not a part of
class at all, but do try this at home or even (especially) on the
subway at rush hour.

Most of the yoga on the menu at your local studio or gym is a form of
hatha ("ha" = sun, "tha" = moon) yoga, whose goal is to harmonize and
channel opposing forces — positive/negative, yin/yang, male/female —
in the body in order to achieve yoga, union of the self with the
divine (supreme consciousness), otherwise known as enlightenment. The
word hatha (pronounced "ha," as in "that's funny," and "ta," as in
"see ya"; "see you later" would be "taaa") is often employed to denote
"gentle" when in fact it is a vigorous physical practice and means
"the path of force": its present-day roots go back to the Nathas, an
Orc-like breed of mercenaries in medieval India who resurrected the
methods of hatha yoga in the hope of developing the supernatural
powers, like invisibility, associated with it, which could come in
mighty handy on the battlefield; in the process, the Nathas became so
enlightened that they didn't wanna go to war no more. (Hmmm, I know a
head of state or two who could take a page from the Nathas.)"

Read the full piece at--

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Indian Players Master Chaturanga

For those of you, who like me were not aware of this, here is a piece
of Chess trivia, from the New York Times, "Nobody knows with certainty
where and when chess was invented. A widely accepted theory is that it
developed out of an Indian game called chaturanga that was created in
the sixth century."

"Yet India was not among the world's chess powers until Viswanathan
Anand, the current world champion, appeared on the scene in the late
1980s. His success started a chess revolution in India, which now
produces great players with regularity," reports the Times, "In
addition to Anand, India has two other players, Krishnan Sasikiran and
Pentala Harikrishna, ranked among the top 55 in the world, and a
third, Humpy Koneru, is No. 2 on the list of female players. She could
soon become the second woman to break into the world's top 100."

"India's growing influence was on display at the World Junior Chess
Championship, which ended last weekend in Turkey. Three Indians did
well: Abhijeet Gupta captured the title, Harika Dronavalli won the
women's title, and Parimarjan Negi, the second-youngest grandmaster in
history, was a half point behind Gupta. (Negi also tied for first last
month at the World Open in Philadelphia.)," reports the Times.

Read the full article at--

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Flush With Cash, Bollywood Glows"

An interesting article titled, "Flush With Cash, Bollywood Glows," in
the New York Times, by writer Anupama Chopra, who is also the author
of the much publicised book on Shah Rukh Khan, says, "Five men
dominate the business in Bollywood: Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman
Khan (the Khans are not related), Akshay Kumar and Hrithik Roshan.
Each of these stars function almost as a one-man studio, with an
in-house production company. Two of the most successful films in 2007
— "Om Shanti Om" and "Tare Zameen Par" ("Stars on Earth") — were
produced by the companies of Shahrukh Khan ("Om") and Aamir Khan
("Tare"). The last holdout to the production game, Mr. Kumar,
co-produced his latest release, "Singh Is Kinng," which set a
Bollywood record by making $15 million in its opening weekend earlier
this month. Revolving around these stars are favored directors,
producers, writers and stylists. And if their films aren't playing in
cinemas, the actors are on television selling products or presenting
shows. (Mr. Kumar, Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan are among India's
highest-paid television hosts.)"

""A star guarantees the first weekend box office, and it is this
business which decides all the other revenue streams," said Kishore
Lulla, chief executive of Eros International, Bollywood's largest
overseas distributor. "Without a star it's too risky." Eros plans to
produce and finance 50 films over the next year. The company raised
$100 million from the Alternative Investment Market on the London
Stock Exchange and another $100 million from Citibank and is
redirecting substantial funds into several star-led "business
adventures," to use Mr. Kumar's expression," writes Chopra.

Read the full article at --

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Verizon's Bollypop Video Dance Contest!

According to a Verizon Press Release, "Bollypop Video Dance
Competition Open to all U.S. Residents; Grand Prize Winner Gets Trip
To India and an Appearance in a Bollywood Film."

"Aspiring dancers can enter Bollypop, an online dance competition
sponsored by Verizon to help showcase the growing amount of Bollywood
movies and music videos the company offers its FiOS TV and V CAST
customers. The Bollypop ( contest is open to
all U.S. residents and is maintained by Saavn, the largest digital
distributor of South Asian movies, music videos, audio tracks and
ringtones. Contest entrants can be either individuals or dance troupes
(maximum of four performers) and must submit a video of any dance
moves to one of 11 Bollywood songs.

The video with the most votes will win the grand prize, which includes
airfare, hotel and transportation to Mumbai, India, and an appearance
in a Bollywood film. Additionally, the grand prize winner or winners
will get a three-day trip to New York City to attend a celebration in
their honor.
"We're excited to bring this fun contest to our customers," said,
Shruti Joshi, director of marketing for Verizon. "As Verizon expands
the number of international movie and music channels on FiOS TV and
offers more South Asian content, contests and programs such as this
one will allow us to connect with the growing base of customers who
enjoy Bollywood movies."

Bollywood is the name of India's film industry, which produces more
than 1,000 movies annually. Bollywood movies are typically musicals
that feature six to eight songs and major dance sequences. Reflective
of the popularity of Bollywood movies, the category has become the
highest-grossing foreign film sector in the U.S.

Acclaimed Bollywood choreographer Rujuta Vaidya, said, "Like Latin
music did a few years ago, Bollywood is on the cusp of becoming part
of the mainstream; because Bollywood fuses all forms of dance
including hip-hop and classical Indian music, it appeals to a wide

Read the full release at --

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Natalie Portman As Sita

A new video from Devendra BAnhart, features his girlfriend Natalie Portman as Sita... Very interesting!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

ICICI Considers Expanding Globally

"ICICI Bank, one of the largest in India, is considering acquisitions
to expand outside its home market at a time when many foreign rivals
are struggling because of tight credit markets, two of the bank's
executives said in an interview on Wednesday," reports the New York
Times. At a time when Indian businesses are thick into M&A's and
foreign expansion, it is very interesting to see a succesful Indian
bank getting ready to take on Global expansion, at a time of economic
crisis in the US.

According to the New York Times, "Like many banks in India, ICICI,
which is based in Mumbai, has remained relatively unscathed by the
financial market turmoil and now has about $5 billion in cash on hand
to spend on an international expansion that could include the purchase
of a "large consumer franchise" in Britain, Canada or Germany, said
Sonjoy Chatterjee, an executive director who is responsible for
international business.

ICICI, which initially focused on serving people of Indian origin in
India and abroad, already offers online saving accounts to non-Indian
customers in those three countries and is keen to build a global brand
as rising interest rates slow the growth of its consumer lending at

ICICI operates in 19 countries outside India, including the United
States, and those markets account for about 25 percent of the bank's
assets, or $30 billion.

"There is an opportunity out there because of the current market
situation," Mr. Chatterjee said in an interview in London. ICICI's
chief executive, K. V. Kamath, added that even though banks are cheap
now, "they come with huge challenges and we need to see whether we
want to take those or how to go about it."

Read the full article at--

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fashion Models With A Difference

"Tabla drums warbled and lights beat down as the woman glided down the
runway, her sari billowing loosely and her hair pulled tight. As
fashion shows go, the sashay-spin-repeat sequence was fairly routine.

But the background of many of the models at this event on Wednesday
evening, held in a fourth-floor dining room at the United Nations, was
anything but.

Known as Dalits, or "untouchables," the women have such a low social
standing in their native India that they are below the lowest rung of
the officially banned but still-present caste system.

In fact, this particular group of women — 17 on stage, an additional
20 or so in the audience, all with dresses that were pool blue, to
honor the official shade of the United Nations — once cleaned septic
systems for a living," reports the New York Times.

Many of these women are real dark beauties who are shunned merely
because of the caste that they have been born into. It is wonderful to
see that they could be transformed, like a caterpillar to a

Read the full piece at--

Monday, June 30, 2008

Is The Cycle Rickshaw Making a Comeback?

Ever since nursery school, I had a rickshaw driver, Arjunan, who would
pick me up each morning and drop me back at home. To him this was not
just a job, I was almost another daughter to him. He would always be
on time and would get upset if I was running late for school,
nevertheless, my security and safety was of primary concern to him.
Each time I visit India, I make it a point to look him up and talk
about the good old days, he is 80 something years old now.

With cars and two wheelers crowding the Indian roads, it seemed as
though the rickshaws were a dying breed. However, with rising fuel
costs, it sounds as though they are making a comeback. This article
about cycle rickshaws was a very interesting read for me.

An article in the Washington Post says, "The bicycle rickshaws that
weave through New Delhi's narrow lanes have long been scorned by
authorities here for congesting the city's already fierce traffic. The
creaking carriages crawl alongside luxury sedans, book hawkers,
horse-drawn carts, hulking buses and cows.

In this city and the other quickly modernizing capitals of South Asia,
governments have called the rickshaws backward, embarrassing symbols
of the Third World.

Now, however, in a time of $7-a-gallon fuel in New Delhi and growing
concerns about pollution, environmental activists and transportation
experts are pushing back against rickshaw critics. And rickshaw
cyclists are seizing the moment to tout the virtues of their trade.

"My rickshaw is my life. It's very cheap for my passengers," said
Saurabh Ganguly, a 27-year-old rickshaw cyclist whose shirt was sticky
with dirt and grime. He proudly observed a knot of traffic where about
50 rickshaw cyclists were jangling their bells, pressing their horns
and zigzagging past lumbering buses belching plumes of black soot. "We
don't even pollute," Ganguly said. "We should be allowed to survive."

Read the full article at--

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Growing Unrest in Darjeeling

Kashmir, one of the prettiest regions in northern India has been
ravaged by unrest and border troubles with Pakistan, now Darjeeling
another beautiful hill station is seeing growing unrest, ethnic
clashes and violence. These are places I have always wanted to visit.
Friends tell me Kashmir will never be the same serene beautiful place
it once was, will the same be true of Darjeeling?

The New York Times reports--
"A long-brewing separatist movement in the Darjeeling hills had, until
recently, receded into the past so thoroughly that it became fodder
for fiction, setting the backdrop for Kiran Desai's 2006 Booker
Prize-winning novel, "The Inheritance of Loss." Earlier this month, it
burst out into the open again, chasing away tourists, signaling the
prospect of ugly ethnic clashes and prompting the Indian government to
send in paramilitary forces.

By Indian standards, the violence has been limited, with sporadic
clashes between the Nepali-speaking ethnic Gurkhas, who seek an
autonomous state in the hills of West Bengal, and Bengali-speakers,
who dominate the plains. In early June, the separatist group Gorkha
Janamukti Morcha called for a strike in Darjeeling and told tourists
to leave. An official in Siliguri, an ethnically mixed town and an
important transport hub in the plains, told The Press Trust of India
wire service that 10,000 tourists had done so as of mid-June.

To make matters worse, groups representing Bengalis called for a
retaliatory strike, shutting down Siliguri for several days this
month. The Indian government deployed the Central Reserve Police Force
to try to quell the ethnic conflict, while the governor of West
Bengal, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi,
called for both sides "to maintain communal harmony." The Gurkha
group, though, resumed its strike in Darjeeling, shutting businesses
and schools."

Read the full story at--

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A New Cure For Diabetes?

A New Cure for Diabetes? Reuters reports that, "Indian scientists say cow urine can reduce blood sugar levels. Scientists at Bangalore Veterinary college say a new study shows that cow's urine may lower blood sugar levels."

Indian American Donates $11 Million To Alma Mater

"An Indian American, a native of Amritsar, has become the top
individual donor to a US university, his alma mater, by gifting it
nearly $11 million. John P Kapoor, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur,
bequested the money to the State University of New York at Buffalo,
which had offered him a graduate fellowship in the 1960s when the
Bombay University graduate could not afford to pay. The gift will
support construction of a new home for the Buffalo university's
nationally ranked pharmacy school, as well as to fund research,
student financial aid and an emerging-technologies fund. While making
the bequest, Kapoor said, "I owe so much to this university.
Fortunately, I am in a position to help, and the university is on the
top of my list." The Amritsar-born Kapoor earned his doctorate in
medicinal chemistry in 1972 at the university and went on to become an
entrepreneur in the pharmaceutical industry. But he never forgot his
alma mater. In 2000, he gave it $5 million, and increased it to $10.8
million last month," reports SIFY.

"John B Simpson, President of the university, and Wayne K Anderson,
Dean, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, thanked Kapoor.
"It's a point of substantial pride for us that our pharmacy school
provided the foundation for Dr Kapoor's remarkable career in the
pharmaceutical industry. It is very significant to our university that
he has chosen to honour his alma mater with another truly
extraordinary gift that will help us take the school to even greater
heights of excellence," Simpson said. Kapoor began his corporate
career on Grand Island, New York as general manager for Lyphomed, a
unit of Stone Container Corp. He was named president of the division
in 1980, and in 1981 he bought it for $2.7 million. He took the
company's sales from $4 million to $172 million, before eventually
selling it. With the profits, he formed EJ Financial Enterprises Inc,
which invests in healthcare startups.

Kapoor and his late wife, Editha, a Grand Island native, ran the John
and Editha Kapoor Charitable Foundation to support children and youth
services, higher education, hospitals and other causes in India. Since
1986, the Foundation has funded research, a state-of-the-art
instrumentation core and graduate fellowships at the Buffalo

Kapoor remembered that without the university's support "it would have
been impossible for me to come to the US to pursue higher education. I
received tremendous support and encouragement from the faculty at the
school as I tried to adjust to a different system of education. I also
learned a great deal about this country at the university," adds SIFY.

Read the full article at --

Bollywood Shakes Hands With Hollywood

With Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks and Reliance inking a $500-600
million dollar infusement, they have been in the global news radar,
with every major media outlet covering this story. Why not, when there
are more and more marriages occuring between Bollywood and Hollywood

From the New York Times--
" Steven Spielberg and other top executives at DreamWorks SKG may get
a boost from an ambitious Bollywood player, but their planned alliance
could be less grandiose than dreams past.
After a drawn-out tussle with the boutique film studio's owner,
Paramount Pictures, one filled with perceived slights over respect and
credit, Mr. Spielberg and his partner, David Geffen, are now in
discussions with Reliance Big Entertainment of India about a cash
infusion of $500 million to $600 million, say several executives
briefed on the negotiations.
That investment, and access to a revolving credit line of about $400
million, would allow them to split from Paramount, a unit of Viacom,
and make about six major movies a year. Yet for all the turmoil, they
could conceivably remain in business with Paramount, by having it
distribute their movies.
Any deal is still at an early stage, these people cautioned, and it
may be several weeks before an agreement is signed, if at all. The
talks were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
While $500 million is not a lot of money in Hollywood, executives
briefed on the negotiations said the commitment was favorable to the
DreamWorks team. Reliance, without gaining much control over the
enterprise, would be paying for a grand introduction to the United
States movie business.
"Why the Indians? It is all about terms," said one of the executives
who had been briefed. "These people are willing to pay a lot of money
for little more than the right to go sit at a premiere with Steven

From the Economist--
"BOLLYWOOD'S songs are hummed in Morocco, its films are rented in
California and its stars are cast in wax at Madame Tussauds in London.
But India's new money has an appeal even its melodrama cannot match.
On June 17th the Wall Street Journal reported that one of India's
biggest conglomerates, Anil Ambani's Reliance group, was in talks to
form a film-making partnership with Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks
studio, owned by Viacom, a media giant. Mr Spielberg and David Geffen,
the studio's co-founders, want to regain their independence when their
contract with Viacom ends, and are looking for funding.
Reliance had already announced at the Cannes Film Festival in May that
it would provide funding to eight film-production houses headed by
some big Hollywood stars. It hopes to develop some 30 scripts, and put
perhaps ten into full production. "We are re-enfranchising the
talent," said Amit Khanna, chairman of Reliance's entertainment
division and a talented Bollywood songsmith, last month. "We will
allow full creative freedom, but we won't allow creative anarchy.
Sometimes they just go crazy.""

From AFP--
"India's Reliance-ADA Group is in talks with Steven Spielberg's
DreamWorks on a tie-up that could help the director break free of
Paramount and boost Bollywood's presence in Hollywood, a source said
on Thursday.
A deal would give Spielberg money to assist in financing DreamWorks
SKG's exit from Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures and refashion it as a
company that again owns the films it makes.
"It is well known Paramount and Spielberg have a problem. It is well
understood DreamWorks is looking for new partners," said the source
close to the discussions, saying the Indian company was looking to
invest "hundreds of millions of dollars."
The source declined to say when the talks between Reliance-ADAG, based
in India's entertainment and financial capital Mumbai, and DreamWorks
might conclude. Some reports have said a deal is near. But another
industry official with knowledge of the talks told AFP they were still
at a "preliminary stage."

Read the New York Times article at--

Read the full Economist article at--

Read the full AFP article at--