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 --