Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kamothe man Bhandari is passionate about poetry since he was 9

Kamothe man is passionate about poetry since he was 9

Bhandari began writing in earnest 2006, and his book got published in 2009. You can check it out online at as well. The book is a collection of 62 poems

33-year-old Bhandari got the Chandradev Sharma award for 1999-2000 from the Rajasthan Sahitya Academy Considering that this was the first book he has written, Bhandari did not expect it to get selected Apart from writing poems, Bhandari is into yoga and participates in social service camps teaching acupressure to people

Kamothe resident Pramod Bhandari's first poem got published when he was 9. This gave him oodles of confidence and encouraged him to focus on writing. However, his biggest breakthrough came in March this year, when his first poetry book 'Ujale Ke Ankur' got the Shabda Vibhushan National Award. Bhandari's book was chosen for the award from among 150 other books at an event organised by Shabda Pravah Sahitya Manch at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh.
Bhandari began writing in earnest 2006, and his book got published in 2009. You can check it out online at as well. The book is a collection of 62 poems divided into seven sections. Each section has poems on subjects like love, motivation, relationships, nature, values and tragedies.
Talking about his love for poetry, Bhandari said, "I come from a small town called Deogarh in Rajasthan. There was no television during my childhood so we used to read books at the public library in our spare time. Eventually I took a great liking towards hindi poetry. I started participating in a number of competitions in school and college as well. I wrote my first poem at 9 when I was just in class IV. My teachers appreciated it a lot and I started sending poems to local newspapers. I went to Udaipur for higher studies and participated in poetry programmes there as well. Soon, my poems started getting broadcast on All India Radio in Udaipur and I began to fall more and more in love with poetry."
Bhandari, 33, got the Chandradev Sharma award for 1999-2000 from the Rajasthan Sahitya Academy. Considering that this was the first book he has written, Bhandari did not expect it to get selected. "It was a great feeling to be selected from among 150 books and compete with prominent writers across India. I dedicate this award to my parents, my hometown Deogarh, the beauty of Mother Nature and struggle of common man which inspires me to write something through which I can touch the heart of every person," adds Bhandari.
Apart from writing poems, Bhandari is into yoga and participates in social service camps teaching acupressure to people. His wife Rekha encourages his passion for poetry and supports his passion. His 5-year-old daughter, Bhoomi, also inspires him to write better.

This Fine Arts student is a master of designer rangolis

This Fine Arts student is a master of designer rangolis

Rangolis made up of different colours inspired Nerul local Priya Shukla

Be it outfits or jewellery, we all would vouch for designer products; since they are not just specially made but customised as well. In fact, one can also avail designer accessories these days like bags, belts, foot wears, etc. How about some designer rangoli? got to be, as Nerul resident Priya Shukla makes rangolis that enchants everyone with its unique beauty.
She has created several masterpieces in the past, and her art is one that not just deserved appreciation but boosting as well. Come home to the colourful world of designer rangolis with Priya Shukla.
A second year Bachelor of Fine Arts student at JJ school of Arts, Priya has always been passionate about drawing and painting. However, she has recently discovered this unique talent within her, as she wanted to explore the various aspects of art. "I have seen various types of rangoli in the past, and they attracted me a lot. Being a student of Fine Arts, it's but natural to experiment with drawing and colours. In fact, I have seen experts draw up great lifesize rangolis using such beautiful colours that make it look vibrant and lively. That's what inspired me to create something on the same lines," exclaims Priya.
The first designer rangoli that she created was during Ganesh festival; and it was a 2.5 ft Ganpati on a white background. Colouring is Priya's speciality and she decided to use her painting and colouring techniques in making the rangolis.
The art of blending various shades and forming secondary colours from primary ones is something that she masters in. This year, Priya has created a beautiful 5 ft rangoli of goddess Lakshmi with a swan. "Although swan is not the vehicle of goddess Lakshmi, I decided to blend the two aspects as swan represents intelligence since it carries goddess Saraswati; and Lakshmi represents prosperity," she added.
The best part was that the rangoli looked nothing less than a painting done with oil or pastel colours. Powder colours are quite difficult to blend since they do not have a water base; however the way Priya mixes powder colours, they look flawlessly beautiful. She fills the colours inside the borders carefully without smudging them; which makes every rangoli a masterpiece indeed.
It took Priya four hours to make the Lakshmi rangoli on Diwali. She is passionate artist who loves to explore the art of making rangolis in every possible pattern. When asked about her dream rangoli she says, "I want to make theme based painting from rangoli, one that would look like a portrait. Every painter chooses his canvas, and I have chosen the floor to be my second canvas to explore my ideas.
I am glad that my canvas provides for a warm welcome for my home." Priya's parents are happy about the way she has tried and experimented with art and her talent; they say that she has the potential to reach great heights. Have a look and you too will want to have something like this in front of your door next Diwali.

Residents of Seawoods Estate Phase II celebrated Diwali by organising various contests like singing, fancy dress, drawing, best out of waste and lantern-making. A magic show was the main attraction for the tiny tots

A Diwali carnival at Seawoods

Residents of Seawoods Estate Phase II celebrated Diwali by organising various contests like singing, fancy dress, drawing, best out of waste and lantern-making. A magic show was the main attraction for the tiny tots

For residents of Seawoods estate Phase 2, Diwali was a totally different ball game. The society members celebrated it in very grand style this year with a magnificent carnival held in their lawns. The Diwali carnival was attended by more than 2,000 people. More than 150 children participated in the various competitions which were held and 100 kids performed live on stage. The event was put together by members of the society along with help from a professional event management agency.
Seawoods estate phase 2 is a recently-formed society. For the first time ever, the society was organising a grand event. For children, a number of rides were organised along with appetising food stalls. The cultural committee of the estate (phase 2) who was looking after the management of the event, had set up an entire food court which included all kinds of food — from tandoori to continental.
"All the rides for children were free of cost. We gave the event management agency the concept and theme of how we want things to be done, and they did a fantastic job. The best part was that although it was for the first time that we were doing something of such a kind yet everything went off absolutely smoothly," says Sandeep Bangia, head of the cultural committee. He further adds, "The carnival was a good opportunity for residents of the estate to interact with each other and get to know about the members a little more. We had even invited members of phase 2 to join us at the carnival."
Every kid who performed on stage was given a prize for the effort they had put in. A number of competitions were organised, which included singing, fancy dress, drawing, best out of waste and lantern-making competitions. There was a magic show as well which was conducted and enjoyed by all the kids thoroughly. It was a complete festive atmosphere at the complex with colourful lights shinning bright all over the complex, a grand stage and a dance floor with lights on it was the USP of the event. The kids particularly enjoyed getting their photographs clicked with stilt walkers and cartoon characters such as 'Donald Duck', 'Noddy' and many others. The children seemed particularly fond of the Dinosaur that was set up. All the games, entertainment, rides and activities were completely free. Handsome men and lovely women sashayed down the ramp for the best dressed male and female awards. Apart from this, there were spot awards such as man with the biggest belly, tallest lady and much more.
Samir Shah, a builder and a resident of the estate, said, "Something I remember about this six hour long extravaganza is that the kids were just seen having so much fun. The adult members of the estate also did enjoy themselves but the gleam on the children's eyes was so exciting."
"We at Phase II are a new society and we wanted to offer our residents a Diwali evening to remember where all the families get to know each other and entertain ourselves together. We are glad that we were able to provide all of that on a scale that is unprecedented anywhere in Navi Mumbai. I wish to thank all the residents who made it a super success," said Netra Shirke, chairperson of the complex.

एव्हड्या टोकाचा अहं असल्यावर 'को-ऑपरेटीव्ह ' हा शब्द फक्त नावालाच उरणार.

बँकेत लाख पैसे आहेत तुमच्या ;पण ऐन वेळी मदतीला माणूसच लागतो.नुसती बँकेची पुस्तक पाहून समस्या सुटत नाहीत. अलीकडे सगळी काम पैशाने होतात---- हा भ्रम वाढत चालला आहे.त्यामुळे एकमेकांवर विसंबून मार्ग काढण्याची सहकरुणा हरवत चालली आहे. घाटात गाडी बंद पडल्यावर एखादा फाटका ट्रक ड्रायव्हरच मदतीला येईल.त्या क्षणी खिशातल्या नोटा काहींही करू शकत नाहीत. सहकारी सो.मध्ये कित्येक अपघात एकमेकांत मोकळा संवाद असेल तर कमी होऊ शकतील.सर्वांचा संवाद असेल तर संभाव्य घातपात टळू तर शकतीलच ,शिवाय एकमेकांची केव्हढी सोबत होईल!!! सोसायट्यांची नाव नुसती 'आनंद ','समाधान' शांती ,सुगंध असण्यापेक्षा नात्यातून ते नाव फुलायला हव.

प्रत्येकाच्या मालकीचे ब्लॉक असले तरी त्या मालकीला मर्यादा आहेत.हि मालकी जागेवरची असली तरी दुसऱ्याच्या अस्तित्वावरची नाही ,हे
उच्च विद्या विभूषितांनाही कळत नाही. भयानक कर्कश आवाजात टेप लावणे .....कुणाचीही परवानगी न घेता स्वताच्या घरात वाटेल तो बदल करणे..... 'हि' भिंत तोडली ,'ती'तिथे उभारली ..... हा ओटा फोडला तिथे बांधला ...... या सुधारणा स्वताच्या घरात करताना पूर्ण इमारतीला बसणारा हादरा सर्वांना सोसावा लागणार हे या लोकांच्या जाणीवे-पलीकडे असते.

राहायचं एका ठिकाणी ,एकत्र असण्याचे फायदे हवेत आणि ते फायदे घेऊन झाल्यावर मात्र एकमेकांसाठी थोडी झीज सोसायची तयारी मात्र नको.
  एका अत्यंत उर्मट फ्लाट-धारकाला एकाने सुनावले ,अहो....मेल्यानंतर तरी ४ मानस लागतीलच ना तुम्हाला ? तर तो तेव्हड्याच एरंदेली स्वरात म्हणाला "मला कशाला लागतील? मी तर मेलेलो असेन , तुम्हालाच मी घरात पडून राहाण परवडणार नाही ".आता एव्हड्या टोकाचा अहं असल्यावर 'को-ऑपरेटीव्ह '
हा शब्द फक्त नावालाच उरणार.

माणसांमधला असा बदल अनुभवत असताना प्राण्यांच्या जगात 'माणूस-कि 'टिकून असल्याच अचानक
कळलं. "सद्गुरू सेवाश्रम येऊर च्या भगवानराव पटवर्धनानी सांगितलं "मध्यरात्री एका वाघाने वासरावर झडप घातली .....
जवळच्या २ बैलांनी प्राणपणाने गळ्यातली दावी तोडून वाघाशी मुकाबला केला . त्या वासराला वाघाच्या जबड्यातून
सोडवलं.इतकंच नाही तर रात्रभर वासराला मध्ये ठेवून एखाद्या संरक्षका प्रमाणे दोन्ही बाजूला दोघे शिंग रोखून उभे होते. पुन्हा वाघ आला च तर तयारीत असायला हव म्हणून.

मानस बैलासारखी वागतात ,अस का म्हणतो आपण ? बैल एव्हड शहाण्यासारखं वागताना पाहिलं कि वाटत, आपल्यातच पुष्कळ सुधारणा
  व्हायला हवी.

शेजाऱ्याच्या व्यथेवर फुंकर घालायला जो दरवाजा उघडत नाही ,तो आपल्यासाठीही जगाचे दरवाजे बंद करतो.आणि आपल्याला कधीच
 कुणाची च गरज लागणार नाही ,अशा मिजाशीत असणाऱ्यांना परमेश्वराने सतत सुखीच ठेवावं; एव्हडीच प्रार्थना आपण करू शकतो ,दुसर काय?

प्रवीण दवणे.... More Here......

Swami BS Tirtha was invited for vedic chanting at British Parliament

Swami BS Tirtha in London

Swami BS Tirtha, founder of Gaudiya Vaishnava Association (GVA) at Navi Mumbai, which also has a centre at London, was invited by Hindu Forum of Britain for vedic chanting at British Parliament on the occasion of Diwali.
Kamlaksha Das, a GVA trustee, said, "It is a moment of pride for us that Swamiji has been invited on this pious moment to chant at the British Parliament. Today Diwali is celebrated across the globe in NRIs homes and communities. Diwali is also celebrated through a carnival at Trafalgar Square."
At Britain's biggest Hindu temple, the Swaminarayan Temple in London, NRIs come from all over Europe to participate in Diwali and get blessings. In Leicester, the streets are lit up with thousands of lights.

'First 3 hours very crucial for stroke patients'

Stroke patients can control permanent nerve damage within the first three hours of stroke with proper treatment thus reducing the chances of paralysis, doctors say.
Navi Mumbaikars who worry about stroke and the ensuing paralysis have hope. "If a patient is managed in a dedicated stroke unit within three hours, the chance of a full-functional recovery is very high," says Dr V Iyer, endovascular neurosurgeon, from a prominent hospital in the city.
"This means that a person can walk home without any part of his body being paralysed. And we have clot-buster drugs that can remove the blocks in the brains," he says.
What is stroke?
A stroke which is actually a brain attack is most often confused with heart disease. It Is caused when the blood vessel in the brain is blocked or ruptured leading to slowing down of blood supply to the brain. It is the rapidly developing loss of brain function that can cause death or in several cases severe paralysis.
In India, 130 per 1 lakh is the calculated incidence rate of stroke and 12% of the patients are less than 40 years of age. And less than one per cent of the patients get timely treatment even in big cities. Timely treatment and early initiation of preventive treatment reduce the risk of recurrent stroke by 80%.
"Patients of diabetes, obesity, hypertension (blood pressure) and smoking are under the high risk category. Globally it is the second most leading cause of death and most frequent cause of permanent disability is case of patients older than 45 years," says he.
However, according to Dr R Kulkarni, a surgeon at a leading hospital, it is more important to treat the causes of stroke to cure it permanently. "Stroke is caused by hypertension, diabetes, smoking, alcohol and its important to treat these root causes for a 100% recovery," he says.

Train ticket on waiting list? Simply fly with it!

Train ticket on waiting list? Simply fly with it!

Portal scheme helps people fly after paying nominal fees on train tickets

Getting a confirmed rail ticket is one big challenge for passengers during holiday season

Swati Gore, 35, a resident of Sanpada, had booked two train tickets to Delhi to visit her in-laws during diwali. But her name was on the waiting list and the wait was killing. "While checking out the airfare on various travel portals, I came across this website, where we learnt that our train ticket could help us fly," says Gore. "I immediately entered my PNR number and paid Rs499 as upgrade charge per ticket and got a flight ticket for Delhi," says she.
Like Gore , railway passengers tired of waiting for their tickets to get confirmed on the waiting list can avail of this service by paying the required upgrade charges. "This saves us from the last-minute hassle and confusion at the railway station when our ticket may or may not get confirmed," says Gore.
Every year, 45 million passengers travel by domestic airline in India while millions travel by Indian railways. "Out of this, one lakh train passengers are on waiting list while 30-40,000 airline seats go empty as seat occupancy in airlines is 70-75%," says Vinay Gupta, chief executive officer (CEO), "So to bridge this gap between demand and supply we came up with this feature of flight upgrade," says he Thus, according to the flight upgrade feature a railway passenger on the waiting list has to go to, enter his railway PNR number, email id and mobile phone number. People from the portal will then call him up and inform of the availability of the flight and the upgrade fee he needs to pay. This will be highly beneficial to passengers during holiday season like Diwali or summer vacation. And also those who prefer to pay extra money to get their railway ticket confirmed to their agents.
For instance, for an AC-Tier II train ticket for Mumbai-Delhi or Bangalore-Delhi the railway fare is Rs2,600 approximately. "The passenger has to pay an upgrade fee of Rs499 on this route. Thus, he gets a flight ticket for Rs3,000 and he no longer has to wait to travel," says Gupta.
However, the upgrade fee depends upon the sector travelled and the airfare on the availability of flight seats. The person has to pay the transaction fee online or they can also go to the 20,000 travel agents or Via outlets in 2,400 towns and cities across the country.

An annual Diwali Marathi literary treat A 103-year-old tradition of festival magazines has an uncertain future

An annual Diwali Marathi literary treat

A 103-year-old tradition of festival magazines has an uncertain future

Despite the growth of new media, the 103-year old tradition of Diwali annual magazines in Marathi lives on, and according to enthusiasts, is still flourishing.
This Diwali, over 400 annuals covering subjects including fiction, literary essays, poetry, science, cooking and humour were sold. The tradition of festival annuals is shared by Bengalis too, who have Durga Puja specials.
Poet Arun Shevte who has been editing Ruturang said the tradition of annuals has become stronger with the decline of literary magazines. "There are no literary magazines in Marathi anymore, so people turn to the annuals," he said. This year's Ruturang which had 'home' as its theme, featured a poem by Gulzar that was translated from Urdu to Marathi. Shevte said that 10,000 copies were sold.
Other popular magazines include the literary Lalit, Kathashri which is a collection of short stories, Chandrakant which features short novellas, Vigyan Patrika, Dhananjay and Mauj.
In many households, these annuals are compulsory purchases during Diwali. Sometimes, they form part of Diwali gift bags that are given to relatives and friends. The average cost of an issue ranges between Rs70 and Rs100. Then there are libraries like the one run by Neha Nachne from Thane, that offer 30 titles for a Rs350 fee for a three-month period.
Shashikant Sawant, a contributing writer and editor said, "There was a time when people only read the special annuals during Diwali and newspaper sales would go down." Issues are even preserved and passed on. Dr Meena Vaishampayan, honorary secretary of the Asiatic Society and a regular contributor gets responses to articles even three years after it appeared in a Diwali issue. "Earlier authors waited for the Diwali issue because it gave them fame," she said.
The titles have a high mortality rate and while many of them have responded to changing reading habits by featuring shorter articles, many fold up after a few years. Shevte said that Diwali annuals are a good opportunity for writers. "Since newspaper articles are now limited to a few hundred words, writers prefer to write for the annuals as the length of the features can be between 3000 and 5000 words," he said.
While the magazines are doing well for now, some readers are worried about the future. "For my generation — educated in Marathi-medium schools — reading Diwali specials is a passion. The newer generations who have attended English-medium schools find it tedious. When my generation readers gone, I do not know whether these specials will still flourish," said Nachne.

Mukesh moved into Antilla 2 months ago Had conducted a mega puja over 10 days to beat Vastu dosh

Mukesh moved into Antilla 2 months ago

Had conducted a mega puja over 10 days to beat Vastu dosh
Billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani's official postal address: Antilla, Altamount Road, Mumbai. Sections of the media had speculated recently on why Ambani hadn't shifted to his new home, and even conjectured that he may never move in because it did not satisfy Vastu requirements. But the businessman had actually moved to Antilla nearly two months ago after addressing the Vastu dosh through a series of rituals and pujas.
One of the reasons for misleading reports circulating in themedia was that the shift was a low key affair for Ambani, with the house warming already done in November 2010. And Mukesh was conscious about not appearing to be showing off, and attract media glare on the controversial structure.
DNA had first reported on May 1, 2011, that even though the building was ready for habitation, Ambani wasn't moving in because of Vastu dosh. Ambani's family had preferred to stay on in their old residence at the 14-storey Sea Wind in Colaba. Mukesh's wife Nita is a staunch believer in rituals, and did not wish to take any risk that might put the Ambanis in trouble.
However, in June this year, almost 50 renowned pandits were invited to conduct pujas and address the Vastu dosh in the newly constructed building.

Sources close to Ambani revealed that the mega ritual went on for almost ten days under the guidance of their family priest, Pandit Ramesh Ojha.
"Now, Mukesh, Nita and their younger son are staying together in Antilla. There is a separate floor for Mukesh's mother, Kokilaben Ambani, but she has chosen to stay back in Sea Wind. However, she does come here occasionally," said a close family friend, adding that a few pandits continued to visit the Ganesh temple in Antilla to conduct prayers. "It will help to maintain the right spiritual atmosphere and ward off evil spirits."
Ambani has employed nearly 200 attendants in his mansion to look after his family and the occasional guests. While Mukesh is known to be a foodie, Nita is diet-conscious. So they have employed four chefs — two to prepare the food, while the other two's responsibility is to decide and manage the menu and ingredients for a healthy diet. Sources estimate the monthly running costs of Antilla at Rs2.5 crore.

It's the first race on an unknown track that separates the more skillful racers from those who cruise to victory on superior cars,

Who's the purest racer of them all?

There has been no shortage of publicity in the build-up to the inaugural Indian F1 Grand Prix (GP) this weekend. We have everyone from Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandok (the two F1 drivers India has produced to date) to anyone remotely connected with motorsports holding forth on what the
Buddh International Circuit (BIC) and an F1 race means for India and the Indian racing fan.
In fact, Narain, who will get to put in a special appearance by replacing HRT lead driver Vitantonio Liuzzi for a race drive today, has gone on to say BIC in Noida would certainly figure among the top five drivers' circuits in the world. For the uninitiated, some of the other top racing circuits that drivers unanimously like include Spa Francorschamps in Belgium, Monza in Italy, and Suzuka in Japan. The reason the above tracks have been popular with racers over the last two or three decades is the fact that all of them have challenging sections of the track with medium to high speed corners that test the limits of any driver in terms of pace, skill, overtaking ability and endurance. Once upon a time these tracks used to test the limits of F1 cars as well but, somewhat boringly, F1 cars in recent years never seem to break down unless they run out of fuel or a driver decides to crash-test it!

Despite Om, Osho, Gandhi, Indians skip Wall Street protests

For nearly every day the past month, there is one ritual that a section of the campers at Zuccotti Park, New York — the epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street protests — have participated in without fail: a 20 minute 'flash meditation' session led by Alokananda aka Aloka. The session weaves in a medley of yoga, Qi Gong, laughter therapy and deep breath meditation. A certified yoga instructor and Reiki master who has trained in India, Aloka, a native New Yorker, leads his audience into several rounds of 'Om' chanting and follows it up with Osho: "Society is just a word, it is the individual who makes the difference." A huge hit with the Zuccotti Parkers, Aloka, who is as much at ease with Sanskrit as he is with Shamanism, claims his "meditation flash mob" keeps the protestors' energies running high, their enthusiasm soaring, and their spirits aligned with their bodies.
They may be several generations removed from the Beatles, but it comes as no surprise to see yoga and Gandhi fitting right into the spirit of the Zuccotti Parkers. Almost all the protestors invoke terms such as civil disobedience and non-violent protest and quote unfailingly from Martin Luther King. Some like Jason Ahmadi from California speak passionately about ahimsa and satyagraha. Others like Kathryn Adams from Wisconsin speak about "bloodless resistance where you conquer through reason, not weapons."
You would, however, be disappointed if you looked for too many Indian faces among the protestors. Neither the vibrant eclecticism of the protests nor the rapidly declining job market figures has been enough make America's 'model minority' throw in their lot with the protestors. Considering the outpouring of online support for Anna Hazare from Indians in the US — nearly 300 people gathered in New York's Times Square during the peak of the 'Occupy Jantar Mantar' phase — this lukewarm response has come as a disappointment to some of the more involved Indians among the protestors.

Anup Desai, one of the protest organisers, interprets this as the typical Indian complacency over things that do not immediately disrupt their world. Desai, who teaches Philosophy and Geography at the City University of New York, does not hide his disappointment when he says, "Indians are among the most successful people in the US; they work hard and make it to good jobs. Their participation in a movement such as this would bring in a lot of good perspective. But I am yet to see many Indians doing this."
Writer and documentary filmmaker Priya Reddy who has been videographing the protests from day one agrees, "Not just Indians, many other ethnic groups are also missing from the protest. We need more people, especially Indians, to let go of the status quo and come forward, considering that many them have been seriously affected by rising unemployment."
Not all "successful" Indians agree though, and especially those employed by Wall Street itself. "The protesters have not been able to come up with an organised rationale for their protests even after 40 days. Agreed that not all is well with Wall Street, but this is only a symptom of a larger malaise. Wanting to tear up Wall Street without fixing up the system at large may get them all the attention they need, but that is where the buck will stop," says stock analyst Vikram Khandelwal. His cynicism, though, does not stop him from dropping by occasionally at Aloka"s meditation flash mobs.
Some of the organisers see no need for stratification among protesters along racial and ethnic lines. "It would be good to see more diversity among the protesters, but that is not a serious handicap. We are growing everyday, everywhere. This is a global movement and that is how we would like to be identified," says Carter H, one of the core group of protesters.
What does seem to strike a chord with Indian students in the US are reports that suggest that the protesters may eventually be seeking a rationalisation of student loans. Despite funding drying up for many universities, and tuition fees showing no signs of abatement, the US still continues to receive more Indian students than any other country in the world. On the New Jersey train back home, NYU student Mahesh Panicker says the anti-Wall Street protests are "really not his kind of thing." Panicker has been interning with a firm in the financial district and aims to join the investment banking industry. "However, if they want to do something about student loans, they have my support."
It may take more than just Om, Osho and Gandhi to bring Indians to Zuccotti Park.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Centre stingy with use of RTI publicity funds

The UPA government appears to have put its most vocal campaign the Right to Information (RTI) Act on the silent mode. This comes in the backdrop of growing clamour within a section of the government to review the Act.
The RTI Act, which was enacted in 2005, has been the main factor behind major scams exposed in the last couple of years.
According to official statistics tabulated by the personnel, public grievances and pension ministry, the funds earmarked for the propagation of the RTI scheme have been grossly underutilized. With the 11th five year plan (2007-12) just five months away from termination, only 73 per cent of funds released under the RTI publicity had been utilised until September 30 this year.
An analysis of the government spending on propagating RTI showed a consistent decline. As per the ministry's accounts report , the actual spending last fiscal was 80% of the allocated budget. However, in 2008-09 and 2009-10, the utilisation was 94.68% and 96.72 % respectively. A total of Rs24.16 crore was allocated to the RTI under the 11th plan.
This development has angered votaries of the RTI Act. Expressing his concern over under utilisation of funds, information commissioner ML Sharma said, "After six years of enactment, this is the most crucial time for publicising the Act as maximum citizens are still unaware of the stipulations of this Act."
Sharma further demanded an increase in the allocation of funds for the propagation of the Act to help realise its true potential. He said that because of lack of proper information on various provisions of the RTI Act, several irrelevant applications had got filed with the CIC.
"Proper and sustained information on the Act and its use have to be the top priority to ensure that the Act reaches every home in the country," he added.
Demanding more publicity for the Act, RTI Activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal said, "This (under utilisation of publicity funds for RTI) is really sad and the government should look into it. The propagation of the RTI Act should be in the hands of the Central Information Commission."
Rather than spending on publicising their own personalities, politicians should look for raising funds for the publicity of the RTI Act, he said.

Why 1962 will not be repeated

On October 20, very few in India remembered that 49 years ago, the Chinese People's Liberation Army massively attacked India. Tawang district, Arunachal Pradesh, bore the brunt of the aggression. Since then, the names Thagla ridge and the Namkha Chu have become synonymous with defeat, humiliation and shame.
The wise man will say, 'the past is past'; but the question remains, could the debacle be repeated?
In recent months, the Indian press has been full of reports about the amazing infrastructure development to the north of the LAC: new airports, four-way highroads, five-star hotels, and a railway line coming closer and closer.
Wanting to find out for myself, I travelled to Tawang. Though most of the border areas are still 'restricted' to ordinary citizens, after spending a few days in Tawang and listening to the local people, one gets a fair idea of the situation.
The answer to my question is definitively, 'No, 1962 will not be repeated.'
During the last decades, many things have changed in India. Just after independence, the principles of the administration of the Northeast were laid down by Verrier Erwin, the guru of soft integration of tribal areas: "We should avoid imposing anything on the local people."
It had disastrous consequences as far as infrastructure was concerned. In October 1962, when the Chinese entered Indian territory, north of Tawang, Nehru was forced to wake up from his romantic dreams.
In January 2008, during a visit to Itanagar and Tawang, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a Rs24,000 crore package for the state. Priority was given to roads (in particular, the construction of a Trans-Arunachal Highway).
With the road being enlarged between the plains of Assam and Tawang, one drives on the messiest imaginable construction site. It is the favourite topic of local jokes: some say if the Chinese dare to come again, they will break their vehicles and their noses; others curse the army's Border Road Organisation for having started work on all the stretches simultaneously.
The fact remains that the present state of the road is not propitious for an armed conflict. There are other differences between 1962 and 2011. The then foolish leadership did not dare to use the air force, it will not be the case today; especially after a full squadron of Sukhoi-30 aircraft have been deployed at the Tezpur air base in Assam (another squadron has been brought to Chabua in Upper Assam).
Further, the IAF is planning to open six Advanced Landing Grounds, as well as several helipads in areas close to the border.
If India was attacked today, it would not remain a localised conflict like in 1962; any Chinese misadventure would trigger an 'all-out' conflict. The Chinese are aware of this. It has been in the public domain that two new infantry divisions (with their headquarters in Zakama, Nagaland, and Missamari, Assam) have been raised and that the government is looking for a place in the Northeast to set up the headquarters of the Mountain Strike Corps.
Walking in the bazaar in Tawang, one has a feeling of a harmonious relation between the army and the local population. This is a crucial factor that was not here 50 years ago. I was told that some villages fully supported the invading Chinese troops in 1962. This explains how the PLA was able to build a road from Bumla, the border pass, to Tawang in 18 days. One can imagine the amount of accurate intelligence required for this feat. Such a situation does not exist in Tibet where the alien PLA has to deal with a resentful local population.
Though it cannot be construed as a sign that nothing untoward could happen, today there is relative peace and bonhomie on the border. Indian tourists can get a pass from the deputy commissioner's office for a darshan of Tibet at Bumla border post. I was told that on October 1, 300 Indian and Chinese visitors participated in a mela on the occasion of China's Republic Day.
The general comment was that Chinese noodles are not as good as Indian parathas and sabzis.
Lastly but most importantly, the local Monpa population is among the most patriotic in India. Though the Chinese propaganda calls this area 'Southern Tibet', this will never be accepted by the local population. Once, there was a demonstration of the local population chanting 'Dudh mangoge to kheer denyenge, Aruncahal mangoge to chir denyenge' (If you ask for milk, we'll give you kheer; if you ask for Arunachal, we'll give you arrows).
If China wants again to 'teach a lesson' to India, it will be a Himalayan task, and in the process, the PLA may get a 'bloody nose', as they say in the army.

New railway site to counter IRCTC

Fed up with the increasing complaints about the IRCTC website on railway online bookings and reservations, the Indian Railways is now setting up its own parallel railway reservation website.
The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) website is quite popular and has set records in business.
The railways' move would not only be competition to the IRCTC website but also take off burden of rail bookings from the IRCTC.
Last week, DNA reported about a litany of complaints from commuters about transactions on the IRCTC website with many of them not getting refunds and money being debited and tickets not being booked.
The new site will play a dual role and will give consumers a choice. It will have additional facilities like enabling booking of retiring rooms and other passenger-related requirements.
The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation website allows commuters to book, reserve and cancel railway tickets from any internet connection with simplicity, but now it is getting overloaded and there is need for a parallel and a stronger interface.
The word IRCTC was one of the topmost searches conducted by Indians in 2010 according to a survey by Google.
The new site is being developed by Centre for Information and Systems, the IT arm of Indian Railways that now maintains the servers of Indian Railways.
Work on the website is halfway through and it should be ready in six months.
"The new site will have the facility of booking retiring rooms online from the comfort of your home. The CRIS has designed a software programme that will allow a confirmed ticket holder to book a retiring room and this will be linked to the new site. Retiring rooms are railway hotels where a passenger new to the city can stay overnight in air-conditioned comfort," an official working on the project said.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Map of India during Ramayana Era

Following Map Shows How ShriRamchandra travels from Ayodhya to SriLanka

For the purpose of bringing out the full philosophy of the Ramayana, one has to closely follow the part played by the (1) King Dasaratha (2) Manthara ---the maid servant of Kaikeyi (3). Kaikeyi-- the youngest of the king Dasaratha's consorts (4) Ravana the demon king of Lanka (5) Hanuman--Minister of the Vanara chief Sugriva (6), Sita the beloved wife of Sri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya (7) Lakshmana --brother of Sri Rama and (8) Sri Rama --the hero of the great epic.

On the eve of the coronation of Sri Rama as the Crown Prince of Ayodhya, the whole scheme was shelved because of the pressure brought on Dasaratha by his wife Kaikeyi under the instigation of her maid servant Manthara and the King's submission to the dictates of his wife whereby Prince Rama was exiled to the forest for fourteen years.

In this context, King Dasaratha is to be compared to the ordinary man of the world placed in an atmosphere of pleasure and plenty falling a victim to the promptings of his vicious mind ( Manthara) infatuated by sense objects (Kaikeyi).

The ten headed Rakshasa, Ravana, in the absense of sri Rama and Lakshmana steals away Sita from their forest- dwelling. Here Ravana with his ten heads is to be compared with the ten sense organs--five organs of knowledge, and five organs of action. Stealing away of Sita is to be compared to the loss of reasoning power of the worldly minded, deluded by Maya. The golden deer Maricha is Maya which deluded both Lakshmana and Rama and they lost their power of discrimination (Sita).

Hanuman , the intellectual giant and strong celibate, is an invincible power which indicates that if one has to achieve success in all his undertakings one has to cultivate truth, simplicity, purity, selfless service, devotion to duty,and establish oneself in absolute Bramhacharya.

Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya!!!!

Apple's iOS 5 is more catch-up than forge-ahead

As impressive as it was for Apple Inc to sell four million new iPhones last week, millions more users will be affected by another release: iOS 5, the latest version of the operating system that runs every iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
I've been testing the software and a lot of its claimed 200 new features for a couple of weeks and find it generally impressive. But unlike the iPhone 4S, with its breakthrough Siri voice-based personal assistant, iOS 5 feels more catch-up than forge-ahead.
Many of the new features — secure texting, tabbed Web browsing, pull-down notifications — may already be familiar to users of devices running Google Inc's Android software, Microsoft Corp's Windows Phone 7 and Research In Motion's BlackBerry.
As usual, Apple's contribution is to polish the concepts, making them seamless and painless. That doesn't necessarily extend to setting up iOS 5, which wasn't as smooth as it should have been. When I updated my iPad 2, my Mac continued to display a "Restoring iPad apps" message long after the iPad itself was telling me that everything had already been installed.
At the end of the process, I was presented on my Mac with an obscure, Windows-worthy error message. The new software finally appeared on the iPad, more than an hour from when I started. After that, things got a lot better.
Demoting the computer
The importance of iOS 5 is the way it reduces the personal computer's role as hub for all your digital devices, the vital middleman for transferring and synchronising information. Now, it's just one more spoke on the wheel, while the hub becomes iOS 5's new iCloud feature.
iCloud automatically stores your content and data on Apple's remote servers, where they are accessible by all your enrolled devices. Take pictures with your iPhone and a new feature called Photo Stream will automatically push them up to the cloud, then down to your iPad, where they will pop up almost immediately. Documents, apps, media and contacts work the same way.
The iCloud service is free and replaces Apple's paid, problematic MobileMe. You get five gigabytes of online storage free, and can buy more; photos as well as content purchased from Apple's iTunes Store and App Store don't count against your storage limit.
In my testing, iCloud generally performed well, and it was liberating to be cut loose from the computer. When I took a photo I liked, I no longer had to e-mail it to myself or rush back to sync devices and ensure that I had a fail-safe copy.
About the only downer was the difficulty I had migrating my existing MobileMe account to iCloud; even days after the launch of iOS 5, I continued to run into a "please try again later" message, blaming the volume of requests. I didn't think MobileMe was that popular.
Among the other new features of iOS 5, a couple stand out. One is iMessage, which allows you to directly text other iOS 5 users. For those using an iPhone, the service is fully integrated with the device's existing text app. And iMessages don't count against any message limits in your wireless-phone plan. In addition, iPad and iPod touch users also can use those devices to text iPhones and each other.
Integrated tweeting
Then there's the Notification Center: Swipe your finger down from the top of any screen, and a windowshade-like overlay displays your alerts and reminders. And Twitter users will appreciate the ability to tweet directly from within Safari as well as the camera, photo, YouTube and map apps.
One thing I couldn't try was iTunes Match, which the company says will launch later this month. For $25 a year, Apple will scan your entire music library, looking for tunes you might have ripped yourself from a CD or downloaded from some source other than iTunes. If Apple has the same song, you'll get access to it on all your devices via iCloud; if not, it will upload your copy of the tune and give you full access to it.
Though it isn't being billed this way, the service is essentially offering absolution — at a nominal cost — to people who have illegally downloaded music. And they'll get access to Apple's high-quality versions even if their originals were of lower quality. It's a way to gain a benefit and assuage a guilty conscience at the same time.


Given that we use computers mainly for browsing the internet and light document work, stylish and more portable tablets seem more appealing thanlaptops. R Krishna weighs the pros and cons oflaptops and tablets

With the amount of attention tablets are getting these days, it isn't surprising that many of us are confused about what mobile device we should opt for. Earlier, it was a simple choice — you had a desktop PC at your home and the workplace, and a laptop if you travelled a lot. Today, laptops are preferred to desktops at home. Plus, there is a range of netbooks which are cheaper, lighter and offer a great battery life. And tablets have touch interface and cool apps.
So, when it comes to upgrading your laptop or PC at home, which device makes more sense? Do we really need the full computing power of a laptop when all we use it for is basic document editing and browsing the internet? In that sense, do the stylish and lightweight tablets offer better value for money? Let's see how the two stack up in real life scenarios.
Editing documents
There are many quality apps — like iWork for iPad or cloud-based services like Documents To Go — available for creating and editing documents on tablets. But no matter how nifty the app, typing on the scrunched keyboard on a 10-inch (or less) tablet is inconvenient. And though this is subjective, I prefer the good old mechanical keyboard to the touch keypad while working long hours on a document, presentation or spreadsheet. Of course, there are external keyboards and mouses that you can use with the tablet. But these need to bought separately and are cumbersome to carry around.
However, tablet typing won't hinder shorter correspondence, like writing emails, tweeting, or updating Facebook.
This is where the tablets and their touch interface come into their own. Browsing on a tablet is like holding a website in your hand like a book. It gets you far more involved, especially when it comes to viewing videos. Swiping across the screen to scroll through websites and touching links instead of clicking them, makes the mouse look outdated. Moreover, companies like The New York Times and Facebook among many others have built dedicated apps for the tablets, which use touch interface to enhance the browsing experience.
Watching videos, reading books
The keyboard of a laptop is redundant when it comes to viewing videos or listening to music. Whether on the go or on the comfort of your couch, watching videos is much better on tablets — that is, if you don't have a TV around.
Tablets can also be used to shop for and read e-books. The Kindle application, for example, is available both for laptops as well as, say, the iPad. But the latter allows you to swipe the screen to turn pages — a far superior experience compared to the laptop.
Connectivity and storage
A tablet allows you to connect to WiFi and 3G networks. And there is one slot to connect to your laptop. That's it. There are no USB ports to connect your camera or printer. You cannot read DVDs or CDs. To keep the weight light and operation fast, tablets use flash drive for storing files. But the maximum storage capacity that they offer is 64GB — a minuscule amount compared to the 500GB or even more storage on laptops.
It goes without saying that tablets and laptops have their own strengths and weaknesses. But there is one important distinction between the two — tablets are ideal for consuming content while laptops are ideal for generating it.
At times, we do have to work from home. Even normal users will sometimes edit photos using higher end software like Photoshop. CDs and DVDs aren't disappearing anytime soon. And a wider range of computer peripherals like printers, scanners, etc, are compatible with laptops rather than tablets.
While hardware and software solutions exist to make tablets more complete, these are at times cumbersome to implement. So for the time being, a laptop will still serve you best as the main computing device. However, if you have a decent enough laptop or even desktop PC, a tablet will make an excellent choice as your secondary computing device.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Paragliders to fight terror Indian army learns French anti-terror tricks at joint exercise in Uttarakhand

Paragliders to fight terror

Indian army learns French anti-terror tricks at joint exercise in Uttarakhand

In a bid to strengthen its combating power, army has decided to use paragliders to launch offensive against enemies, especially in a hilly terrain. The army has learnt this technique during the recent 15-day-long first ever Indo-French military exercise 'Shakti 11' at Chaubatia in Ranikhet.
"Paragliding is a new technique which we have learnt from the French troops, who came here to share their expertise with us to improve counter-terrorism and counter insurgency skills. Use of paragliders for aerial attacks will cut time to move troops from one place to another in hilly terrain silently," Major General Rajesh Arya, GOC 6 Mountain Division told.
Brigadier Gen Herve Wattecamps of the French army said they were using paragliding for the past ten years to carry out operations at unsuspecting hideouts of terrorist. "We cover long distance faster and silently,'' he said.
If India learnt from France, French Army, too, had a lot to take home. "My men would take forward what they have learnt from here to train the Afghanistan National Army. We are fighting terrorism in Afghanistan," he said.
Maj Gen Arya said tactical moves aimed at enhancing combating skills, inter-operability between the two forces and most importantly, sharing each other's experiences in mountain warfare which could be used successfully in anti-terror and anti-insurgency operation in the world.
The participating contingents were 60 French troops of the elite 13 Mountain Battalion and an equal number of personnel from two Bihar Regiment, under the aegis of 99 Mountain Brigade.

Our chopper strays into PoK; returned Bad weather, pilot error reasons; India, Pak open channels, avert row

An Indian army helicopter with four officers on board strayed into Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) while on its way from Leh to Bhimbat in Drass sector, Kargil, because of bad weather and pilot error on Sunday afternoon. The Cheetah helicopter landed in Olding sector of Skardu in the northern areas of PoK and triggered alarm on both sides.
The issue could have escalated into a major diplomatic and military row had Pakistan detained the crew — two Majors, one Colonel and a junior commissioned officer — even overnight. However, India and Pakistan — countries with a volatile past — showing exemplary restraint and understanding, acted promptly and used both military and diplomatic channels effectively to resolve the situation within hours.
Pakistan accepted India's version that inclement weather alone was responsible for the incident. India, in turn, appreciated Pakistan for not escalating the issue.
The Indian crew was interrogated for over six hours by Pakistani officials. The four officers were let off by evening after hectic discussions between the director general of military operations on both sides and intervention at the diplomatic level.
"The matter has been resolved and the helicopter and its crew are back at their base in Kargil," Indian army spokesperson Virender Singh told DNA. "We are relieved that our officers and helicopter are back in India. We greatly appreciate the manner in which Pakistan worked with us in resolving the matter," said Vishnu Prakash, spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs.

National Security Advisor SS Menon and defence minister AK Antony apprised prime minister Manmohan Singh of the developments.
Earlier on Sunday, the external affairs ministry had confirmed that an army helicopter had strayed across the Line of Control due to inclement weather. A detailed statement later said the helicopter was on its way to Bhimbat in Drass sector to repair a technical snag in another army helicopter. "The helicopter inadvertently crossed the line of control due to bad weather and pilot error," a senior army official said.
Brigadier Sanjay Chawla of the Northern Command headquarters at Udhampur told DNA that it was an administrative flight that encountered bad weather and went missing. There was, however, little clarity from the Indian army on whether the helicopter made an emergency landing or was forced to land. It was also not clear as to how the helicopter strayed almost 20 kilometres inside the Pakistani territory.
"Cheetah helicopters do not have a navigation system and usually use valley maps for navigation. Efforts are on to replace them with more advanced helicopters," an army official told DNA.
The airframe life of a Cheetah helicopter is about 4,500 hours, but most of them have already clogged over 6,000 flying hours. The engine life of the chopper is 1,750 hours and most of them have gone past that too.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

New Books in Town

The Templar Salvation
Raymond Khoury

The Templar Salvation is the sequel to
Khoury’s The Last Templar. The action packed
story is told in two parallel threads: The first
narrative is set in 1203 in Constantinople
where a group of the Knights Templar infil
trate the imperial library and escape with
valuable artefacts. But they are killed before
they can learn the secrets the artefacts hold
The second thread is set in present day Vati
can City. Tess Chaykin, archaeologist and
partner to FBI agent Sean Reilly has been kid
napped. To save her, Sean must infiltrate the
Vatican’s Secret Archives of the Inquisition
that holds the explosive secret to the Tem
plars’ extermination
Table For Four
K Srilata

Maya, Sandra and Derek live in Uncle Prithvi’s
apartment in Santa Cruz. They’ve been house
mates for three years through graduate stud
ies. With the course over, and the three all set
to leave the apartment the next day, Maya
Sandra and Uncle Prithvi sit down at the
table, waiting for Derek to return. They start
swapping life stories. And because it is their
last night together, they reveal their deepest
fears: Sandra talks about growing up in an or
phanage; Uncle Prithvi regrets abandoning his
daughter for a life in the US, and Maya, who
has a secret crush on Derek, can’t bring her
self to talk at all
The Mind’s Eye
Oliver Sacks

Neurologist Oliver Sacks narrates stories o
people he’s met in his practice: a patient who
can write but can’t read, one who has lost the
power of speech after a stroke but can stil
communicate, one who viewed the world as
two-dimensional until her 50s, etc. And then
there’s the case of Oliver Sacks himself. Sacks
has face blindness — he can’t recognise
faces, a consequence of brain surgery. One
time, he was grooming his beard in a restau
rant window only to realise later that the per
son on the other side was a grey bearded
man. He tries to explain how the brain works
and what happens when this is interrupted
Tender Hooks
Moni Mohsin

Set in Pakistan high society, this is the story
of a girl named Butterfly (from The Diary Of A
Social Butterfly). The story is told through
Butterfly’s diary entries. Her aunt — Aunty
Pushy — has asked Butterfly to find a suitable
bride for her recently divorced son Jonkers
Butterfly sets about scheming her way
through social events, kitty parties, weddings
and the like to find her cousin Jonkers the
wife his mother wants him to have: a rich, fair
beautiful, “family type”. But even while she’s
on the hunt for a sister-in-law, her cousin has
ideas of his own of what to look for in a wife

Up in the air, scientifically

Once the initial fascination for planes and flying wear off, air travel turns monotonous. Unlike in train journeys, which are usually day-long affairs, on a flight, you don't get the time to connect with fellow travellers, see the changing landscape or explore numerous stations en route your destination.
However, plane journeys can be equally interesting, contends Brian Clegg, author of Inflight Science, which draws attention to the science surrounding air travel. At the security check-in, during take-off, inside the aircraft, and the sights outside among the clouds — there are enough things to keep the mind engaged.
Take, for instance, the most basic fact that we encounter while in air — flying. How does the plane manage to stay in the air? The engine is powerful enough to provide acceleration and we vaguely know that wings have something to with it. But exactly what? Clegg suggests an experiment. Fold an A4-size paper first along its length and then its breadth. Tear it into two halves and hold one of the halves at one end so that the paper droops. Now blow over the surface. Instead of drooping further, the paper will rise. The same principle applies to the wings of a plane. The reason, Clegg explains, is that a wing is shaped in a way that it changes the direction of the wind blowing over its surface downwards. As per Newton's third law of motion, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The downward acceleration of the wind in turn gives the wing a lift, keeping the plane in air.
Not every fact Clegg shares has to do with physics. Radars, for example, are crucial for navigation. This technology was deployed by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, which helped British pilots fly in the night. To keep the technology a secret from the Germans, British authorities spread misinformation that eating a lot of carrots improved their pilots' vision.
Then, there are the things you can see outside the aircraft window. Here, the scope of the book expands — from the bottom of the ocean to the distant galaxy. While the facts by themselves hold your attention, the writing is inconsistent. At times, the book reads like a textbook. This is apparent in the part where Clegg explains why rivers meander. No doubt, this is a fascinating question, but a person less inclined towards science will find it difficult to keep up with the discussion on angular momentum. The section on clouds doesn't go much beyond defining each cloud type.
You get a feeling that in a bid to cram too many facts, there isn't enough space to get into the details — especially of the more complicated phenomenon.
Despite these failings, the book presents science in a scenario you can relate to.

A daughter from the past - A Scandalous Secret

The title, A Scandalous Secret, is misleading as it has a whiff of sensationalism. The scandal and the secret might be the leitmotiv of the book but that's not all there is to Jaishree Misra's novel. Briefly, the story is about 18-year-old Sonya Shaw's quest to know why her biological mother, Neha Chaturvedi, had abandoned her when she was a baby. Sonya was adopted by the most loving parents a child could ask for, but there is a simmering anger within her against the woman who had donated her to a foster home. Born and brought up in Britain, Sonya decides to travel to India to accost Neha, now the gracious wife of one of Delhi's influential socialites.
Through the lives of Sonya, Neha and their respective families and friends, Misra creates two diverse worlds: provincial England and aspirational Delhi. Misra's depiction of the simple Shaw family, the glamorous Chaturvedi couple, the student fraternities of different generations, the gregarious, enterprising Mrs Mahajan who lets out a room to foreigners ('home-stay' is the new buzzword), and a host of peripheral characters, is warm, intimate and peppered with satire. Refreshingly, she describes a contemporary India minus the stereotypes. So, though the taxi drivers of Delhi might still be a manic lot, its international airport is the new, slick one. Agra might still be a tout-infested nightmare but Marari Beach, a few miles north of Cochin, is a tourists' paradise. Sonya and her friend Estella come to India, armed with a Lonely Planet guidebook, so they don't face any of the cliched problems.
Against these different worlds, complex relationships evolve. Sonya's search for the truth is initially spurred on by pure, unadulterated anger. How this antagonism towards Neha gives way to sympathy is a tour de force on the part of the writer. How Neha's husband comes to terms with her past is another track that is skillfully handled The insecurity that Sonya's foster parents feel when she traces her biological mother is heart-warmingly described. Friendship plays a significant role in this book, preventing it from becoming a maudlin, weepy story.
The story grows organically, dictated by the characters that people it. It's a page-turner because you want to know how the different characters will solve the dilemmas of their lives. Barring the few proof-reading errors, the odd factual one (the Taj Mahal is referred to as a palace), and the rather melodramatic strap-line on the cover ("The truth will tear them apart"), A Scandalous Secret is more than what the cover promises.

Finding the 'lost' leader Netaji Subhashhandra Bose

Finding the 'lost' leader

While historian Sugata Bose draws on previously unused family archives to produce a great piece of historical reconstruction, independent researcher Romain Hayes focuses on the dangerous and inexplicable alliance Bose tried to forge with Nazi Germany,

Here are two books on one of the most fascinating figures of the Indian national movement, with different emphases. Sugata Bose's is a meticulous biography of Subhas Chandra Bose, while Hayes focuses on the dangerous and inexplicable alliance Bose tried to forge with Nazi Germany, and therefore with Italy and Japan, the Axis powers, in the midst of the Second World War.
Sugata Bose, who teaches history at Harvard and is a grandnephew of Subhas Chandra Bose, offers rare and compelling insights into the stalwart leader's life. Starting with the (in)famous incident at Presidency College where an English professor was beaten up by students — Subhas might have been involved in the planning or even in the execution — and Subhas' subsequent rustication, Bose offers us a wealth of detail in mapping Subhas' politicisation.
Starting off as a protégé of Chittaranjan Das, Subhas was active in Calcutta politics and the freedom movement in the city. He tasted British prison air for the first time in 1921, and would go to prison a total of 11 times in his career. Moving on to the national stage, supported emotionally and financially by his elder brother, Sisir, Subhas made his presence felt in the Congress with his fierce patriotism and uncompromising stance on the modes of revolution. Bose's heroic escape from Calcutta, disguised as a Pathan, in 1941 and his travels in Europe and Germany make for fascinating reading.
Sugata Bose also gives us a peep into the personal life of this fiery nationalist — documenting his secret marriage to Emilie Schenkl, their travels through war-torn Europe in 1942, her pregnancy and delivery of a son without Subhas by her side, and Subhas' total commitment to the Indian freedom struggle despite his passion for his 'first love' for Emilie.
Sugata Bose makes visible Subhas' political allegiances: his preference for Nehru, whom he saw as a 'progressive', rather than Gandhi; his controversial friendship with Italian fascists, and the problematic alliance he sought with Nazi Germany despite his clear discomfort with its racist propaganda.
The final days, where Subhas' life was under serious threat in Singapore and later in Bangkok, saw him continually courageous and willing to put himself through enormous strain and risk, notes the biographer. Persuaded to leave, Subhas took the risky route out of Singapore, and the Japanese plane that took off from Saigon, carrying India's most charismatic leader after Gandhi, crashed near Taiwan, according to Sugata Bose's account. Habibur Rahman, who was on the plane with Netaji, survived (Rahman was one of the officers prosecuted at the historic trial in the Red Fort in 1945). The "flaming sword forever unsheathed in defense of the land he worshipped," as Sarojini Naidu put it, stayed inspirational, though the life was spent. Burnt and badly injured, battling for life in the hands of Japanese doctors, he asked Rahman to take his word to Indians: that they should continue to fight for freedom. (It must be noted here that the Mukherjee Commission appointed to probe the death concluded in 2006 that Netaji didn't die in the plane crash and may have escaped to the USSR: a report Sugata Bose and family have rejected, and the controversy still isn't over, as evidenced by Mission Netaji, an organisation researching the death of Subhas.)
Hayes' work, less a biography than the elaboration of a political moment in Subhas' career, seeks an explanation for Subhas' strange attempts to ally with the Axis powers and Hitler. Though Hitler offered Subhas only one meeting, in 1942, the two were more than aware of each other, with Hitler okaying a draft declaration, written by Subhas for Germany's Foreign Office, in which Germany promised total support to India's anti-British struggle, so that "the goal of liberty may be reached without delay." Hayes begins by noting Subhas' anxiety over the anti-Indian attitudes of Germany's civil society — the Indian students in Germany had been harassed and Subhas himself had been called a 'negro' on the Berlin streets — and his rather hesitant steps towards a political alliance with what was clearly a racist state. Japan, Italy and Germany coordinated a policy on India in 1941-42, with Subhas sitting on the German side at the meeting of December 1941, as a prime mover in bringing to the tripartite table the anti-colonial struggle in India. Hayes notes that Subhas might have been "naive" in believing that "Germany was out to destroy the British Empire." His recruitment of the Azad Hind army was motivated, even nervously so, by news of Japanese military successes in south east Asia, notes Hayes.
Valuable documents constitute the appendix in Hayes' racy book: the 9 April 1941 'Plan for Co-operation between the Axis Powers and India', the Minutes of the Bose-Ribbentrop Conference of 29 November 1941, and others reveal Subhas' strategic alliance-making in the troubled years of World War II. Hayes defends what, in retrospect, but surely even during the tumultuous years of 1939-1942, seems a bewildering Subhas fascination for Nazi Germany. Hayes argues that Subhas was "bothered with little more than India throughout his life", and concludes with: "had he been exposed to German atrocities, there is no doubt he would have reacted with revulsion and that all of his former reservations regarding Nazi ideology and racism would have come to the fore." It was also easy, Hayes suggests, for Subhas to focus on the death of Indians rather than on the "fate of unknown peoples [the Jews] in Europe."
Sugata Bose's is an exhaustive work, and will surely be the definitive biography of an enigmatic and mesmerising leader. Hayes' book, while limited in scope, is no less compelling for the attempt to reconstruct Subhas' true political inclinations. The former is a great piece of historical reconstruction, while Hayes' is a drier if quicker narrative.
Pramod K Nayar teaches English at the University of Hyderabad

Srinagar-based journalist Afsana Rashid's book "Widows And Half Widows" deals with cases of torture

Bodies of evidence

Srinagar-based journalist Afsana Rashid's book Widows And Half Widows deals with cases of torture, extra-judicial arrests, and killings spanning over two decades in the Kashmir valley.
Rashid, with the help of sociologists, doctors, lawyers and human rights organisations like the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), has not only compiled cases of enforced "disappearances" of ordinary Kashmiris, but also followed-up on the cases, only to find the victims and their kin denied justice by the courts and the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC).
Rashid documents how the police beat up women from APDP who sought information about their missing kin. And how Nobel laureate and head of APDP Parveena Ahangar once tried to erect a memorial for the 10,000 missing in Narbal, but an FIR was filed against her and the memorial material seized. These instances make it seem as if the state aims to obliterate, by force, every memory of human rights violations in the region.
Rashid writes that, according to the international NGO Doctors Without Borders, not a single family has escaped the trauma of violence. And she documents innumerable cases. To take an example, the deaf and mute Zaytoon lost her husband in 2003 and was left with three children to feed. According to her eldest daughter, her father died due to continuous torture by the army. "Every time he was arrested, he was tortured brutally, and one day he turned insane and finally passed away." Death might have offered Samad (Zaytoo's husband) relief from pain and torture, but we continue to live and suffer, laments Zaytoon in the book.
Another typical case is that of Mohammed Shafi Dar, a student of class XII from Batamaloo. He was abducted by the BSF, along with his friend, during the night of May 22-23, 1990, as per the police reports. His friend was released eight days later from the Joint Interrogation Center (JIC) at Hari Niwas, but Dar went missing. The SHRC maintains that the student was not connected to militancy, and recommended monetary interim relief to the family. But so far the family has not received relief.
When thousands of mass graves were discovered in the region in 2009, the SHRC broadened its investigation to look into 2,717 unidentified graves in Pooch and another 1,127 in Rajouri. In August 2011, in north Kashmir, the SHRC found 2,730 unidentified bodies — 574 of which were of local residents who had "disappeared". The International People's Tribunal on Kashmir (IPTK) stated, "Not taking Poonch into estimation of averages (because the number of graves is almost double those of other districts), an average of approximately 1,000 graves/district and 1,100 bodies/district can be predicted. If similar estimates are applied to other districts that were affected during militancy… the total number of graves and bodies fall approximately to around 10,000 and 11,000 respectively."
This reverses India's long-time insistence that the dead were all militants killed in Kashmir's two-decade-long struggle for self-determination. Yet, despite these numbers, on September 27 this year, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said, "There are no mass graves in Kashmir. It is important to put the record straight."
Widows And Half Widows will serve as an eye-opener for all those who want to know more than what a jingoistic national media lets on about the region.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bringing faith onto the storyboard

The lives of Mohammed Ali and Mohammad Arif Vakil are like a script straight out of a comic book — they are real estate developers in the day and comic book artists by night. The duo released their book, 40 Sufi Comics, at the Comic Con Express at the World Trade Centre at Cuffe parade on Saturday. The convention is hosted by the Indian Comic Con, which brings writers, artists, publishers and comic book enthusiasts together. 40 Sufi Comics consists of comic strips about spirituality in Islam.
The Bangalore-based siblings grew up in Dubai and went to a madrasa in the evenings where they heard stories about the benevolence of the Prophet and his disciples. This, coupled with the influence of comics on Indian culture and mythology, motivated the siblings to bring out the comic book.
It all began with a book, says Ali. "I once read How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci, and it explained how drawing improves the power of observation. That's how I began practising art and realised that it could be put to good use, too."
Ali and Arif then came up with small comic strips which talked about Islamic history and traditions. "There are many misconceptions about what is taught in madrasas and what Islam is about. That's when we thought we should put this together and look at Islamic history and tradition through the art of comic books," Ali says.
Two years ago, the brothers put up some comics on their blog as an experiment and gathered visitors. Soon, many madrasas insisted that they publish the comics.
"I do the artwork and, when it comes to writing, my brother and I discuss it and come out with a script," says Ali. They put in their own money for first volume, but, soon, the response was overwhelming and the siblings now plan to come out with a second volume by next year and put out animated films online. "We are also looking at getting these comics translated in other languages, too. We recently received a request from a madrasa in Reunion Island, around Madagascar, to translate them into French," he said.

Comic Con defies all conventions Indigenous comics publishers thrive as bigwigs like DC and Marvel Comics take a back seat

Comic Con defies all conventions

Indigenous comics publishers thrive as bigwigs like DC and Marvel Comics take a back seat

Mumbai's comic-loving sub-culture crawled out of its subterranean lairs on Saturday to make its presence felt on the first day of Comic Con Express, the city's first comic book convention.
The event saw many indigenous publishers as the titans, DC and Marvel, may very well have been taking a long intergalactic flight in Wonder Woman's invisible plane. Prashont, 19, said he was slightly disappointed but happy that a fresh perspective involving "desi twists" would come out to play.
Indeed. A wide range was showcased, from Vimanika Comics that are strongly rooted in mythology to Level 10 Comics that made a conscious shift away from mythology, placing zombies in Bangalore with The Rabhas Incident.
Jatin Varma, founder of Comic Con India, said, "Many comic book readers tend to dismiss an artist if, say, he's written for Tinkle or some other Indian title. But we want to show people that if you just interact with the artists, there's a lot you can learn about Indian comics."
Among them is Abhijit Kini, a freelance illustrator who created a set of merchandise from his old artworks especially for the event. "If all is sold, I'll only just break even. But the idea is just to get my stuff out there. There's only so much visibility a byline in a newspaper or magazine can give you. This takes it to a whole different level."
Visitors to the convention ranged from the mildly curious to connoisseurs with high expectations. Most, of course, came to revel in unmitigated geekery. Just ask the guy skulking around as Darth Vader or the curvaceous Wonder Bai mascot.
For the organisers of the Comic Con Express, it's still a learning experience. Jatin Varma, founder of Comic Con India, points out a very discernable difference in the kind of audience both cities have attracted. "Most people who've come so far are college students and young professionals. In Delhi, we were unprepared for the large number of families who turned up. So we ensured that this convention had enough options for children, but it turns out we missed the mark on that one."
Aalok Joshi, a prolific comic book collector, believes for a Comic Con in India to be comparable to those held in the US and UK, an organic growth of the industry is necessary. "Comic book illustrators and writers are still coming into their own. Yes, a Comic Con overseas is much more about fans getting to meet writers and artists and getting their autographs. But then again, in India, comic book professionals are considered artists at the most. Over there, they are icons, like rock stars."

Why does India shun these Malayalis? They sought a livelihood in Pakistan, now they find they are not accepted back home

Why does India shun these Malayalis?
They sought a livelihood in Pakistan, now they find they are not accepted back home

For 80-year-old Mohammed Haji, every ring of the phone and every chime of a bicycle bell on the street arouse great expectations. He looks up in hope when he hears a noise at his doorstep — only to feel disappointed when it turns out to be someone else, and not the postman bringing him the news he's been waiting to hear.
For the past two years, Haji has been awaiting an answer from the High Court to a simple question: Can he die as an Indian in his motherland, or will he have to continue living with the threat of deportment hanging over his head?
Haji, a Pakistani national known among his acquaintances as 'Karachi Mohammed', lives in Machinjery, a small town in Kerala's Malappuram district. He is one among the many Pakistani Malayalis scattered across Malappuram and other districts of Kerala like Kannur, Kasargod and Kozhikode, which have large Muslim populations.
In the 1950s and 1960s, these Malayalis, most of them in their early twenties, crossed the border illegally and travelled to Pakistan in a bid to escape the extreme poverty back home. In Karachi, they took up small jobs in restaurants and tea shops. "I went to Karachi in 1950 and worked as a helper in a hotel," says Haji.
But once in Pakistan, without any legal documents, making a trip back home became a huge problem. "My wife was alone and I have no kids," says Haji. He (and others like him in Karachi) was advised by an agent to get a Pakistani passport. Barely school-educated, the illegal migrants did not realise that a Pakistani passport will deprive them of their Indian citizenship. But Haji had to visit his wife in India, and since there was no other way out, he became a Pakistani passport holder. After that, he travelled from Karachi to Kerala many times on an Indian visa.
Ten years ago, at the age of 70, Haji moved back to Kerala, hoping to spend the last few years of his life at home. "I was born in India. This is my country. But I am considered a Pakistani here," says Haji. Two years ago, Haji sent a petition to the High Court, requesting for Indian citizenship. He is yet to hear from the Court.

"We have none of the rights that Indians enjoy. We can't vote, we can't stand for elections, we can't own land, or even have a bank account. The Kerala government has to recommend us for citizenship to the central government. But for some reason, they aren't doing it." Haji, however, remains positive. "I keep thinking 'The order will come today.'"
Midnight raids
But the denial of a citizen's rights is only one of the many problems faced by the 'Pakistani Malayalis'.
Until four years ago, 68-year-old Pilayil Alawi didn't bother to fix a bulb in his house. Ever since he came home from Pakistan in 1992, Alawi and his wife Fatimah spent their nights at home in darkness, straining their ears for the sounds of a policeman's boot. They had their escape route chalked out before nightfall. Should a team of cops invade their home, one was to run and hide in the attic, and the other in the nearby paddy field.
Alawi, too, is a Pakistani national who now lives in a one-room house in Kundoor, another small town in Malappuram. In 1969, he slipped into Bangladesh (then a part of Pakistan) via Calcutta by foot. He was arrested at the border and put in prison. "I was in jail for eight months and badly beaten up," recalls Alawi. He made it to Karachi later, where he made a living as an electrician, and got himself a Pakistani passport.
But things took a turn for the worse when he returned to Kundoor for good. "The police kept harassing us by conducting midnight raids. My wife and I were always prepared to run the moment we heard a police jeep." Potential employers thought of him as a Pakistani spy. "Though I'd worked for many years as an electrician, I could never get a permanent job in Kundoor. I even went up to acquaintances and offered to fix their electrical appliances, but they wouldn't hire me. I was reduced to doing coolie work when I didn't have enough to support my wife."
During the Kargil War in 1999, local political parties tried to extort money from Alawi, telling him that if he didn't pay up, they would inform the police that he's a Pakistani and get him arrested. "I refused to pay, and was thrown into jail for 17 days," he says. Now an old man, and poor, Alawi dreads dying as a foreigner in India. "My Pakistani passport got stolen. My documents show I was born in India. My wife and I sent 50 letters to the central government asking for citizenship but they never replied."
In response to one of his numerous letters to the state government, the then Kerala CM VS Achuthanandan finally informed Alawi that the Superintendent of Police (SP) will approve his stay in Kerala. "The police don't bother me now," he says. "But like every Pakistani Malayali, I want to die an Indian."
Desperate measures
Until a few years ago, Pakistani Malayalis lived with a paralysing fear of being deported to Pakistan. "Some die, some get shot," says Malayalam filmmaker PT Kunju Muhammed, whose film Paradesi narrates a poignant tale about a Pakistani Malayali.
Many resorted to desperate measures to ward off all the attention. "I know of this Malayali who would not speak to anyone when outside. Even if people asked him something, he would glare at them and keep walking. Or he would ignore them. A few people suspected he was of unsound mind. But at home, he would talk very normally," explains Muhammed. "Some others say they have a disease and rarely step out of their house. Some with the late night police raids and constant harassment, are unable to fall asleep," he says.
At the SP office in Malappuram, Sankaran Kutty, junior police superintendent, says that these Malayalis no longer face the threat of deportation, thanks to the amendments that have been made to the Foreigners Act of 1946 and the Citizenship Act of 1955. "These Malayalis can now stay in India provided they have the right documents."
Yet, despite these amendments, they have to live under many restrictions and rules (they are prohibited from visiting certain areas; they have to inform the SP every time they leave their district, even if they are travelling within Kerala, etc) that even inadvertently flouting any of them could become reason enough for deportation. The threat of deportation will never be gone unless and until they get Indian citizenship.

British-era signal cabin now history Rickety Dadar South Cabin was pulled down last week

British-era signal cabin now history

Rickety Dadar South Cabin was pulled down last week

One of the last few hand-operated lever frame railway signal cabins near Dadar railway station was pulled down last week. Such cabins were inseparable part of the Bombay railways when tracks were changed to divert trains.
Called Dadar South Cabin, the structure belonging to the Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway (now called Western Railway) had also featured and documented in a number of railway heritage books and journals. The Dadar South Cabin was pulled down as it had become weak and could have posed danger to commuters in passing trains. "The Dadar South Cabin was crucial one as Dadar was one of the main interchange points between WR and CR," a retired official said.
The railways in Mumbai were the first ones in South East Asia and all the equipment used were brought by the sea route in steamers from London. "Early signaling in India was supplied from the UK. Many wayside stations were signaled in a style more associated with European practice," John Hinson, railway signaling historian based in the UK said.
Sources said with technological advancements in signaling and power supply, old lever-frame signal boxes are fast vanishing from the railways in Mumbai. "Only a handful of lever-frame signal boxes remain along the running lines today, though a few functional ones continue to slog along some lesser-known sidings and railway yards. Hand-operated levers can still be found at yards like CST, Dadar, Kalyan, Bandra and also along the old stretches of the port trust line,'' an official said.
The signal boxes were modelled on the British Railway signaling systems and the one at Andheri and Elphinstone Road were based on the London, Midland & Scottish Railway in Britain, with the track layout painted in white on a black background and manufactured by the Railway Signal Company in the UK. A similar signal box originally manufactured by Westinghouse Company of UK was also found at Kurla till recently.

Drink driving cases mark a fall

The traffic police's campaign against drink driving seems to be finally bearing fruit as the number of offenders sent to jail and licences suspended have dipped this year compared with 2010.
Until October 6, the traffic police registered 10,054 cases of drink driving in which 3,975 motorists were sent to jail, the licences of 3,902 offenders suspended and a total of Rs1.99 crore was collected as fine. In 2010, 16,290 cases were registered in which 10,262 motorists were sent to jail, the licences of 8,354 offenders suspended and Rs3.14 crore was collected as fine.
"The state government's decision to increase the severity of punishment and hike the penalty has created a sense of fear among motorists. We have also been strictly conducting the drive at major junctions," said Nandkumar Chougule, deputy commissioner of police, traffic.
In 2010, the government had increased the jail term for repeat offenders from six months to two years and hiked the fine from Rs2,000 to Rs3,000.
The traffic police, in collaboration with various NGOs, are also conducting awareness programmes in various schools and colleges and regularly conducting workshops for autorickshaw and taxi drivers and even private vehicle owners.
The campaign had started on June 20, 2007, after it was observed that most accidents were caused by motorists who were driving drunk. By December 31, 2007, the licences of 4,866 motorists were cancelled by the court and collected a total of Rs2.28 crore collected as fine.
"The campaign has created awareness among motorists, who avoid driving drunk," said Ashok Datar, traffic expert.
He suggested that the traffic police should start another drive to stop motorists from jumping signals and cutting lanes.

Convention for comic book lovers comes to city

This weekend, the city will play host to Comic Con Express, the travelling version of Comic Con India, the annual comics convention which began in Delhi last year. The convention will feature 47 exhibitors, including publishers and independent artists, and 15 exclusive comic book titles will be launched during the two-day event.
With the foremost aim of increasing local interaction between artists, publishers and readers, the convention also promises to be a treat for comic book lovers who will finally be able to put faces to the names of their favourite Indian artists and writers visiting the convention to interact with fans.
Highlights on Saturday include the relaunch of The Adventures of Timpa series about a teenage detective and his grandfather by Indrajaal Comics, the launch of three new Chhota Bheem titles and an interactive session with celebrated comics artist and writer Aabid Surti, the man behind characters such as Dabooji and Bahadur.
The organisers hope the convention will help people rediscover their love for comics. Jatin Verma, founder, Twenty Onwards Media and Comic Con India, said, "It would be great if people come and reconnect with comics like Amar Chitra Katha and Diamond comics which they read as children."
Comic Con Express will be held at World Trade Centre, Cuffe Parade on October 22 and October 23, from 10am to 8pm. Entry is completely free. A free bus shuttle service will be available outside Akashwani building, Churchgate on both days.

Not-so-happy diwali festival for animals

Imagine loud bombs are going off everywhere around you. You panic and run around blindly. Suddenly you're caught, and a string of firecrackers is tied to you. The crackers start going off burning the skin right off your sweating torso.
Every Diwali, the city turns into an apocalyptic nightmare for animals, especially stray dogs. According to the BMC census, there are 70,000 dogs in the city, most of them strays.
But, Canines Can Care, a canine welfare organisation, has taken it upon itself to make the streets a little safer for dogs this Diwali. They have started a campaign, Festival of Kindness, which aims to spread awareness in schools and firms about the havoc that crackers wreck on dogs. They are also counselling people on how to take care of their pets during the festival.
"We want to make sure that the festival is a happy time for all, animals included," says Madhvi Tangella, 33, a counsellor with Canines Can Care.
Such initiatives are very essential, said Sudnya Patkar, 64, who is the founder of In Defence of Animals. "The cruelty towards animals during Diwali is shocking. People tie crackers on the tails of dogs and donkeys and watch them run around in pain and fear. They burst crackers in front of bullocks and horses," said Patkar.
A dog's hearing ability is seven times that of humans. Certain frequencies of sound register 40 times more loudly in dogs than they would in humans.
Veterinarian cardiologist Sangeeta Vensarkar Shah said: "Every Diwali, you see scared stray dogs running on the streets. There is no one to comfort or look after them." The bang of a bomb is so loud that it can cause a heart attack among dogs, even if they are in the safety of a house.
"I once had a woman call me up frantically screaming that her dog dropped dead after a bomb went off in front of their house," said Shah.
Sunish Subramanian, secretary of the Plants and Animal Welfare Society of Mumbai, said that even birds and rodents are affected during Diwali. "Can we not celebrate without being cruel to the creatures around us? If a dog or a cat or a pigeon takes refuge in your building, don't drive them away they're just looking for a place to hide because they're scared," he said.

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