IN THIS ISSUE
The Aftermath of Y2K: What it Means for Programmers
By Punam Nair
Srinivas Ramanujan: The Man and the Genius
By Deepak Goyal
The Exciting World of Software Testing
By Mikhail Portnov
Publisher’s Memo • Java World: Insider’s Tips • Opinion: These Murky Times
Law: H-1B Visas • Finance: Planning Ahead • Innovation: Internet Dosti
Communication: Media Revolution • Health: Dental Care • Yoga for A Techie's Life
Self Help: Guide to a Better Life • The Gift of Mentoring • Culture: What is Raga?
Bollywood • Telugu Cinema • Recipe: Shahi Paneer • Horoscope
Publisher's Memo : Welcome to Our World
On the information superhighway, South Asians are in the fast lane. Nowhere is it more evident than in the heartland of the information technology revolution Silicon Valley.
A torrent of skilled, intelligent South Asians overwhelmingly Indian are flooding into Silicon Valley, powering the IT industry here.
As the community grows, so does the need for media outlets that nurture it and help it flourish.
Several print and broadcast organizations have appeared over the years, eager to take on the challenge. Some do excellent work, too.
However, for a community that prides itself on its formidable technological prowess, oddly, science in general and information technology in particular takes a back seat in the community media. When these areas are covered, articles are often couched in esoteric language or relegated to the business pages.
We want to tell the stories of our community, explore the challenges it faces. We want to take a moment to look at the scientific heritage of South Asia.
We want to tell these stories in a way that is fun, accessible, responsible and informative.
And we want to do it with style.
We come from a region rich in its artistic heritage.
From Konarak to the Hoysala temples of Karnataka, from the exquisite Mughal miniature to folk art on the walls of humble Rajashtani adobe villages, art is part of our lives.
We want our publication to be a worthy representative of the land of the rangoli and kolam.
While we will have a special focus on technology and professionals who serve it, we wish to cast a wider net, as you will be able to tell when you peruse this magazine.
Our community is many splendored, and its interests are diverse. From law to health to Bollywood, nothing will escape our scrutiny.
We make no claims about presenting to you a perfect product, but we do say that we aim to put in your hands every month a magazine that will be the result be a labor of love.
In the end, you will decide whether our efforts are worthwhile. Our success depends on how well our relationship evolves.
Together, we can build a great magazine.
The Aftermath of Y2K
What it Means for Programmers - By Punam Nair
The Y2K bug was a $100 billion bonanza for the infotech industry. Now as the hoopla dies down, how will programmers fare in the post-Y2K era? Punam Nair explores.
Critics are beginning to wonder whether the Y2K problem the potential inability of computers to read the year 2000 accurately was overhyped. All over the world, the glitches were more quirky than dangerous.
A 105-year old woman in Oslo, for instance, was offered a place in a Norwegian kindergarten after a millennium bug knocked a century off her age.
“When our list showed she was born in ‘94 we just assumed it was 1994 rather than 1894,” Olga Moerk, in charge of a project offering free day care to 5-year-olds in central Oslo, told Reuters.
A journalist in Germany’s Cologne checked his on-line banking account on New Year’s Day and an unexplained deposit of $1.56 billion (3 billion marks) beamed out at him from his computer screen. His joy, alas, was short-lived.
Up to 30,000 older model cash registers throughout Greece were hit by the Y2K bug and were printing receipts showing the year 1900, the Associated Press said, quoting media reports.
Hardly the stuff of a futuristic nightmare.
Even in the U.S., major Y2K glitches have included relatively minor problems: A Defense Department spy satellite system hobbled by a glitch on the ground; double-charging snafus in credit card processing; and a weather system shutdown in Chicago.
“I think there was too much hype made about Y2K,” says Paula Prusty, a computer engineer with FileNet Corp. a company based in, Orange County, Calif. Prusty, of Indian descent, has been a programmer for 13 years. Like many other programmers she was on call from Dec. 31 through Jan. 2.
If the transition was smooth, it came with quite a price tag: In the U.S., government agencies and the private companies threw money at the Y2K threat like there was no tomorrow: The Commerce Department estimated in November that combined U.S. private-sector and government Y2K upgrades would cost about $100 billion by next year, or about $365 for every man, woman and child in the United States.
As companies and agencies scrambled for competent hi-tech workers to pore through masses of programming to fix the Y2K bug, computer programmers had a field day. California alone spent more than $800 million on Y2K computer fixes, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Moinuddin Alamgir, a computer programmer who works for a company in Berkeley, Calif., had a close view at the ground level, though he hastened to add that he was a relative newcomer to the industry.
His company, which employs 350 people now, worked furioiusly to tackle the Y2K bug, Alamgir said. The infotech industry had to spend extra resources, he says, but a lot of it went to outsourcing and contractors who only hire programmers on a temporary basis.
India was a huge beneficiary, but a good number of Indian programmers also came to the U.S. on temporary visas to work on the Y2K bug.
Himanshu Pande, an SAP consultant with a software consulting group in Southern California, estimates that about 39,000 programmers were brought to America for the Y2K bug, but adds it is too soon to tell what the real figures are.
Now the Y2K honeymoon seems to be over. Y2K projects are being wrapped up, and according to the Orange County Register, 100,000 programmers were laid off in California during the first week of 2000.
Pande is not losing any sleep over Indian programmers running around for a job. He says most of the Indian programmers who were brought here were smart enough to realize that Y2K would only be temporary. “Many Indian programmers upgraded their skillls even before the transition,” Pande says. “They knew if they depended on Y2K for jobs, it would be short-lived.”
Anthony Dymond, who has been a contractor for programming projects for over 10 years, says the overall picture of Y2K and its effect on programmers is a bit complex.
“I think two things happened with Y2K,” says Dymond, whose company, Dymond & Associates LLC, is involved in projects of data-warehousing and data-mining.
“One was that all of the regular employers and contractors working in the field were diverted from their projects to Y2K projects. Secondly, there was a very large increase in demand for additional contractors for Y2K work.”
The flurry of new work that was generated either went offshore or went to programmers here.
While Y2K itself was a temporary project, the demise of the Y2K project will not necessarily result in dampening the programming job market, Dymond says. “Y2K has come to an end and a lot of these contractors have been released, but at the same time Y2K put a lot of other projects on hold those projects are now going to be coming back online (and) will rehire a lot of the contractors.
“Secondly, during the Y2K problem, as projects went through remediation, a lot of them went through enhancements as well, and those enhancements have also created a lot of additional work.”
Programmers, he says, have little cause to worry. His confidence is borne out by the numbers. In 1999 Indians received 46 percent of all H1-B visas issued in the first six months.
“I think (computer programmers) are going to be in great demand,” Dymond said. “ There is a bit of a gap here as we close down Y2K and bring the other projects up there is a period in here where people may have a hard time finding something to do or they might have to find something that was just a short-term job to tide them over, but as these other projects come back online, I think it will be fairly easy at least in this area because it is a very intense labor market here. There is a great demand for programmers.
“There is some discontinuity here and people might be moving around a little bit: I don’t think that it implies a glut of programmers. The amount of work that needs to be done is very large. I think that anybody who were to actively look for work would find work very shortly.”
The Man and The Genius - By Deepak Goyal
“The mortal blow to the assumption, so prevalent in the Western world, that white is intrinsically superior to black, that has survived countless humanitarian arguments...was struck by the hand of Srinivasa Ramanujan.” So said his contemporary E.H. Neville. Deepak Goyal presents a profile.
Imagine an impoverished twenty- something clerk. His formal credentials were even less than modest. To put it bluntly, he had twice flunked the F.A. exam roughly equivalent to the U.S. high school diploma.
His poverty was grinding, and he was not always in good health. Hardly a resume to impress, but this man, who lived only till he was 32, went on to Cambridge and left a legacy in mathematics that is recognized today internationally as a lasting contribution.
Srinivasa Ramanujan’s contribution transcends mathematics. He presented an inspiration for his nation, then still ruled by the British, by proving by example that Indians were the intellectual equal of the West.
“Ramanujan’s career, just because he was a mathematician, is of unique importance to the development of relations between India and England,” according to his contemporary mathematician E.H. Neville, a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.
“India has produced great scientists, but (J.C.) Bose and (C.V.) Raman were educated outside India, and no one can say how much of their inspiration was derived from the great laboratories in which their formative years were spent and from the famous men who taught them.
“India has produced great poets and philosophers, but there is a subtle tinge of patronage in all commendation in alien literature.
“Only in mathematics are the standards unassailable, and therefore of all Indians, Ramanujan was the first whom the English knew to be innately equal of their greatest men.
“The mortal blow to the assumption, so prevalent in the Western world, that white is intrinsically superior to black, the offensive assumption that has survived countless humanitarian arguments and political appeals and poisoned countless approaches between England and India, was struck by the hand of Srinivasa Ramanujan.”
In an arithmetic class, a teacher said: “If three bananas are given to three boys, each boy would get a banana.” The teacher generalized this idea. Then Ramanujan asked: “Sir, if no banana is distributed to no student, would everybody still get a banana?”
In his schooldays he was passionately involved with numbers, devising magic squares, and by the eighth grade he had mastered Loney’s Trigonometry, a standard undergraduate text.
When he was 16, he got hold of a book of pure mathematics, G.S. Carr’s A Synopsis of Elementary Results.
He passed the matriculation exam equivalent to 10th grade in 1904. Although he joined the Madras Govt. Arts College for its two-year pre-university F.A. program, his passion for mathematics at the expense of everything else cost him dearly.
He failed the year ending examination, and lost his scholarship in 1905.
He entered a very trying period of his life. He took the F.A. exam privately in 1907, but did not pass, despite getting a perfect score in math.
Between 1906-1912 Ramanujan was constantly in search of a benefactor and a job to support himself. He tutored students in mathematics in Kumbhakonam, later even sought employment as a tutor. He lamented to a friend that he was probably destined to die in poverty like Galileo.
Happily, he was proven wrong as a host of distinguished Indian and British math lovers joined hands in slowly but surely rescuing this brilliant mathematician from obscurity.
In 1910, Prof. Ramaswamy Iyer, founder of the Indian Mathematical Society, was at Salem. Ramanujan went to him and asked for a clerical job.
All he had was notebooks filled with magic squares, prime numbers, infinite series, divergent series, Bernoulli Numbers, Riemann Zeta Function, partitions, hypergeometric series.
Iyer was impressed. He sent Ramanujan to Madras with a letter of introduction to Prof. P.V. Seshu Iyer at Presidency College. Seshu Iyer, equally impressed, sent him to a lover of mathematics, Dewan Bahadur R. Ramachandra Rao, the district collector in Nellore.
Ramachandra Rao remembered Ramanujan as a “short uncouth figure, stout, unshaved, not overclean, with one conspicuous feature shining eyes, (who) walked in with a frayed notebook under his arm.
“He was miserably poor. He had run away from Kumbhakonam to get leisure in Madras to pursue his studies.
“He never craved for any distinction. He wanted leisure, in other words, simple food to be provided for him.”
Rao undertook Ramanujan’s expenses in Madras for some time.
Meanwhile Seshu Iyer presented the earliest contributions of Ramanujan to the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society.
Ramanujan lived in a small house in Madras, accepting reluctantly monthly assistance from the Nellore district collector for a year. Later, he declined assistance and ended up as a clerk in the Madras Port Trust.
S. Narayana Iyer, manager of the port trust, helped him. He was key in getting Ramanujan the lifelong support of Sir Francis Spring, chairman of the Madras Port Trust.
Narayana Iyer’s son recalls how his father and Ramanujan worked on math problems.
Every night his father and Ramanujan used to work on two big-sized slates, sitting in a parapet upstairs, till about 11:30 p.m., he said, ruefully adding that “it was a source of nuisance to other inmates who used to sleep in adjoining rooms. I distinctly remember the noise of the slate pencils which used to be background music for my sleep.
“I have seen Ramanujan get up at 2 o’clock in the night and note down something in the slate in the dull light of the hurricane lamp.
“He used to work at mathematics in his dreams and now he was jotting the results on the slate.”
At the suggestion of Seshu Iyer, Ramanujan wrote to Godfrey. H. Hardy, a world famous mathematician who was a Fellow of the Royal Society and a math lecturer at Cambridge.
Ramanujan wrote his historic letter Jan. 16, 1913, and thus began an enduring mathematical partnership.
Hardy’s reply dated Feb. 8 was the starting point of Ramanujan’s recognition in the Western world.
Dr. Gilbert T. Walker, a former Cambridge Trinity College fellow, during a visit to Madras, was impressed with Ramanujan’s work and wrote to the University of Madras registrar that Ramanujan’s work was “comparable in originality with that of a mathematics fellow in a Cambridge college, though lacking in the precision and completeness necessary in establishing the universal validity of the results.”
Walker said the university should enable Ramanujan for “a few years at least to spend the whole of his time on mathematics without any anxiety as to his livelihood.”
The university agreed, and in May 1913, the 26-year-old Ramanujan, who had failed its F.A. exam twice, became the University of Madras’s first research scholar with a stipend of Rs. 75 per month for two years.
Meanwhile in Cambridge, Hardy was keen to get Ramanujan there, even though Ramanujan was initially reluctant.
Mathematician E.H. Neville, another Trinity fellow, was a visiting lecturer to Madras in 1914.
Neville wrote to the governor of Madras, and the University of Madras agreed to give Ramanujan a scholarship.
Unfortunately his stay in England was overlapped by World War I, which may have resulted in his getting less attention than he deserved.
But Ramanujan’s mathematical acuity was never in doubt.
For instance, at a lecture of elliptical integrals at Cambridge, the instructor was working out some formulae. A glance at Ramanujan’s face, alight with excitement, caused him to ask whether he was following the lecture and whether he had anything to say. At this Ramanujan went to the blackboard and, much to everyone’s surprise, wrote down some of the results which were yet to be proved.
Life for an orthodox Brahmin was difficult in other ways, but Ramanujan persevered.
He initially asked for South Indian food items like tamarind and coconut oil by post parcel, as well as from a company in London but in January, 1915, he wrote to a friend: “Now as well as in the future I am not in need of anything, as I gained control over my taste and can live on mere rice with a little salt and lemon juice for an indefinite period.” Milk and fruits helped.
After about a year and a half in Cambridge, Hardy wrote to the University in Madras: “Ramanujan is beyond question the best Indian mathematician of modern times. He will always be rather eccentric, but of his extraordinary gifts there can be no questions.
“In some ways, he is the most remarkable mathematician I have ever known.”
In June 1916, in an official report Hardy wrote to the to registrar: “It is already safe to say that Mr. Ramanujan has justified abundantly all the hopes that were based upon his work in India and has shown that he possesses powers as remarkable in their way as those of any living mathematician.”
Although his health was reasonably good for the first three years in Cambridge, in May 1917, he was first admitted to Cambridge nursing hostel for five months. He suffered from night fever, malaise, weight loss and fits of depression so severe that he once tried to commit suicide. Modern biographers speculate that he might have been suffering from amebiasis.
He was in and out of tuberculosis sanatoria. After considerable treatment for TB, he improved in 1918.
In the same year he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society and elected to a Trinity College fellowship worth £250 annually for six years, both firsts for an Indian.
After five years in Cambridge, he left England in February 1919.
He arrived in India four weeks later pale, emaciated, but with a scientific standing and reputation unprecedented for an Indian.
At his request, the University of Madras granted him a scholarship of 250 pounds a year for five years.
Unfortunately his health did not improve.
He relapsed, with severe bouts of stomach pain, depression, and even had a premonition of his death. He was brought for expert medical treatment in January 1920. His end came April 26, 1920. He was 32 years, 4 months and 4 days.
“Though I had no idea at that time of what kind of mathematician Ramanujan was, or indeed what scientific achievement meant, I can still recall the gladness I felt on the assurance that one brought up under circumstances similar to my own, could have achieved what I could not grasp.
“I think it is fair to say that almost all the mathematicians who reached distinction during the three or four decades following Ramanujan were directly or indirectly inspired by his example.”
Ramanujan’s contribution to mathematics is hard to describe in nontechnical terms, but what can be said is that his reputation has become internationally secure over the years.
In 1927, Cambridge published 355 pages of Ramanujan’s Collected Works of almost everything he published and the floodgates opened as the wider mathematical world took notice. In the next few years dozens of papers like “Two Assertions Made by Ramanujan,” “Note on a Problem of Ramanujan,” appeared in journals.
Ramanujan’s hypothesis or the Tau Conjecture, presented in a 1916 paper, kept mathematicians in knots until Belgian mathematician Pierre Deligne proved it in 1974, an event described as “one of the celebrated events of 20th century mathematics,” which won Deligne the Field Prize, the mathematician’s Nobel prize.
A 1917 Hardy-Ramanujan paper is considered the founding document in the field of probabilistic number theory.
“For the decade ending in 1988, a computer search of the literature revealed, some three hundred papers referred to Ramanujan in their titles or their abstracts,” according to Ramanujan biographer Robert Kanigel.
Norwegian Atle Selberg, the world’s most famous number theorist, came upon an article by Ramanujan in 1934.
He has said that it was “a revelation a completely different world to me, quite different from any mathematics book I had ever seen with much more appeal to the imagination. It was really what gave the impetus which gave the impetus which started my own mathematical work.”
Later his father presented him with his own copy of the collected papers of Ramanujan which he carries with him still.
“That was the wonderful thing about Ramanujan He discovered so much, and yet he left so much more in his garden for other people to discover,” says mathematician Freeman Dyson, who first discovered Ramanujan’s work in the 1940s. “In the years since that happy day, I have been intermittently coming back to Ramanujan’s garden. Every time when I come back, I find fresh flowers blooming.”
- Deepak Goyal is a freelance writer.
The profession of Software Tester, or Software Quality Assurance Engineer, came to life in early nineties. I myself stumbled upon it quite by chance in the summer of 1993, when I was looking for a job in the computer industry. Within the first week of my job search as a tester, having sent out only seven resumes, I realized I had exhausted my possibilities. The demand was simply not there. Seven years have passed, and just last week I, when I did a quick search on the Web, in an instant the search engine brought up over two thousand open positions in the same geographic location. In the past years, demand for testers has been growing exponentially. The question on people’s mind: How long is it going to keep growing? What if that software testing fever suddenly ceases, disappearing as spontaneously as it sprang up? To this my answer is this: You can relax. I’ve been hearing the same concerns voiced for the last five years, yet the fears are absolutely groundless. From year to year the job market demand for software testers consistently grows.
So, who are those thousands upon thousands of software testers filling the cubicles of Sillicon Valley software companies? You may well be scratching you head right now, wondering whether something has changed since your college days, and whether now there is actually an undergraduate degree in that field offered by accredited colleges and universities. Please trust me when I say: “There isn’t.” If you want to get trained in the field all you have available in the Bay Area are just about 5 or 6 relatively small vocational schools, which together release to the job market no more than 1,000 graduates a year. Half of them, by the way, are very far from being fluent in English. How do I know? I am running one of the schools.
Among software testers, then, there are a lot of people who do not have degrees either in Computer Science or even in related fields such as Electronics or Mathematics. The fact of the matter is that one could be an excellent software tester with professional or educational background in accounting, music, teaching, biology, foreign languages, health sciences, mechanical engineering, … you name it.
So why is Software Testing so attractive to people from all walks of life, striving to enter the computer industry? There are several reasons:
Previous professional experience counts.
For example, those with experience in accounting, bookkeeping, banking, finance, or economics have a greater probability of getting hired by a company that produces financial software, than someone with a degree in computer science and no financial background. A working knowledge of the professional area, of its specificity, will produce a better tester than in-depth knowledge of computer programming. For thousands of testing jobs programming skills are not a must. I personally know at least 20 software testers with backgrounds in microbiology, biochemistry, medicine and pharmaceutical fields. Almost all of them are working for companies producing software for healthcare, the pharmaceutical industry and medical research.
All it takes is just hard work and determination. If these are in place, then 200 hours of training is all a beginner needs to learn the field and enter the job market. People with solid user skills can achieve the same results after only 100-120 hours of training. This does not include the thousands of people who found jobs without any training at all. Sometimes fluency in Japanese or stock brokerage experience in combination with basic computer skills is more than enough to get a job as software tester.
If an experienced 50 year old accountant asks me about his chances of becoming an entry-level Java developer after taking some classes, I would say good luck. At the same time, I know many people well over 50 who have successfully entered the software testing arena after short-term training at my school.
An experienced software tester in today’s job market can earn around $100,000 per year. Beginners with a college degree (in some field, not necessarily computer science) may easily count on $40K+ a year. People with two-three years of experience and an aggressive marketing strategy can hope for an income in the $50K-75K a year range. I won’t deceive you testers certainly make less than developers, but, on the other hand, their job isn’t nearly as intensive either.
Among the people entering the software testing field there is a significant numberes of foreign nationals (holders of H4 visas) whose spouses are authorized to work in the United States. Many of them are highly educated and are willing to work. One has to also consider the difference between one and two adult incomes per family may be the difference between renting an apartment and buying a house.
The software testing boom continues as we speak. The Land of Opportunities is offering those who are used to hard work and have passion for quality another chance. Does that describe you?
- Mikhail Portnov has 10 years experience in the
Programmers worked hard to make sure that the world kept running after we hit the 2000 mark. Those who were involved did wonderful work.
It turned out not to be the end of life as we know it, but the beginning of a new century filled with both challenges and successes. It is now time to look to the future and prepare entry into the new millennium.
For many of you in the information technology industry, it means moving deeper into the Web and using important programming languages such as Java and C++.
In this article you will see some sample areas of current applications and learn what skills will put you in a strong position to do well in this field.
Industry reports forecast a need for about one million new developers and Web engineers in the next five years. This is “growth industry,” with the Web slated to continue growing at a phenomenal rate.
People often ask me: “How is all this technology being used in the real world?” A great place to find an answer is a Web site where Sun Microsystems lists current applications: http://industry.java.sun.com/casestudies/
Large security training operations such as Salomon Smith Barney; the nation’s largest provider of home healthcare services, Home Medical of America and GTE currently use Java applications.
Now that you are convinced that Java and the Web are in the real world and here to stay, what are the important topics you need to understand to do serious Web development?
The Java programming language was developed at Sun Microsystems in the 1990s by James Gosling with support from his associates. Java was first used in consumer electronics and unexpectedly took off when the internet had a clear need for a programming language that was platform independent. What this means is that the language must work on different operating systems and on computers in the same way an internet software works on all of them. If your company has a Web site, you want customers with PCs to be able to access it, as well as those who might work on a Solaris or SGI platform.
Webscripting languages are used to instruct a Web browser such as Netscape or Internet Explorer how to display the different items in the page. I first saw HTML or Hypertext Markup Language when I was doing some research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology about 15 years ago. (Note: Some people don’t consider HTML to be a Webscripting language, but since it is used for display on the Web, I am including it here.)
At that time, HTML was used to display pages. If you had a page with a topic on American presidents, you could click on any name and find out more information about that president. Today, things have become more sophisticated. These pages can change in response to user input. If you are conducting stock transactions, you could select different stocks and prices to be shown. The information on the page would change with each user request for a stock.
UML or the Unified Modeling language, also developed in the last decade, is a special notation for doing design work in Java. For example, before you write your code, you would first design your program and then generate some of the code which you would later fill in. The notation is a good way to design a system as well as to learn about one after it has been created.
Well, you have seen the applications, what you need to learn and where you need to learn it. What are you waiting for? Get going.
- Marian Corcoran is president of Technical University of Silicon Valley. She consults and teaches Java, C++ and Windows. She has taught at Stanford University and UC Berkeley.
U.S. unemployment rates dropped another 0.1 percent last year, bringing current unemployment rates down to a healthy 4.0 percent. Few college graduates with technical degrees from Silicon Valley universities such as San Jose State University go through a job seeking period. Even before they have graduated, career placement counselors have arranged interviews for them with top high tech companies in the valley. Graduating students pick and choose the best opportunity and reject all the others.
With such high demand for skilled workers, employers have to look elsewhere to source the best. Quotas for new H-1B visas are released each year in October. Until 1998, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service allowed 65,000 visas to be issued each year. It used to be that visas began reaching the cap around September. Then the caps were reached earlier and earlier. Struck by this severe lack of skilled technical manpower, the industry jostled its way to 115,000 H-1B visas with the understanding that in year 2000 this temporary increase would go back to the original number.
We are barely into February this year, and immigration lawyers say that the cap should be reached in a few days. So for the next eight months, no new visas will be granted.
This is one side of the issue. On the other, we have gross manipulators of the system.
Cases in which H-1B sponsors pay the workers rates way below the prevailing market rate abound. There is much outrage about exploitation in these cases. However, many of the workers that come into the country have done so fudging their papers. Neophytes from obscure training units, who have spent a few days in a team working on projects for a large company, will often, without any pangs of conscience, write into their resumes that they were employed by the large companies.
Despite the fact that companies are supposed to sponsor workers for specific projects in hand, it is not uncommon to see contract workers “sitting on the bench,” (read “without a project”). These body-shopping companies bring in workers apparently as their own employees to work on their own projects and then “rent” them out to the highest bidder.
Problems like these create a general attitude of distrust towards us as a community. When our H-1B workers are handcuffed and paraded like common criminals as they recently were in San Antonio, Texas, we are traumatized and outraged. Whether this action in this particular incident by the INS was justified or not is debatable, to say the least. While one cannot condone such severe action, it should make us reflect on our own actions that create such distrust.
Take Pasand restaurant-chain owner and wealthy Berkeley landlord Lakireddy Balireddy. Reddy was in custody he is now out on a $10 million bail as prosecutors prepare a case against him for faking documents and bringing in women (barely older than children) into the country as skilled high tech workers and using them literally as his sex slaves.
What a mockery some make of the laws of the land we have adopted as our home, whether temporarily or permanently. Indians in the U.S. wield considerable clout, mainly because of our high degree of technical skills and our strong work ethic.
Let us adhere to these lofty ideals and not allow ourselves to be perceived as a bunch of devious manipulators of the law. Undoubtedly Reddy’s example, whether eventually proved or not, has led to closer scrutiny into our immigrant workers for possible misrepresentation. For every legitimate case, persecution of innocent groups, workers and organizations are almost a foregone conclusion.
Resentment from the mainstream society as well as officials could well result. Our safest defense lies in standing out and protesting loudest ourselves when we see obvious misuse of a system that works largely because it works on honor and trust.
Nandini Pal is vice president of GlobeWire NorthAmerica, Inc.
What is H-1B Visa?
It is an employment or work visa. People from a country outside the United States, who would like to work in the United States temporarily to perform services in a “specialty occupation,” may apply for an H-1B visa.
The following criteria must be met:
Who can sponsor
An employer can be any person, firm, corporation, contractor, or other association or organization in the United States that enters into an employer-employee relationship with you. The employer must have an IRS identification number, a need and the financial ability to meet the obligation.
If the employer is from another country, he may use a United States agent to act on his behalf in hiring you as an employee. The United States agent may be the beneficiary’s employer, the representative of both the employer and the beneficiary of the petition, or some individual or entity acting for or in place of the employer.
Individuals cannot petition for themselves. You can be the beneficiary of more than one H-1B petition and work less than full-time on one or more H-1B jobs. And if you own your company and the company meets the above-referenced requirements, it can sponsor you.
The employer must submit a certification from the Department of Labor showing that it has successfully filed a labor condition application with DOL, which makes certain statements, about complying with several reasonable requirements. The employer also has to meet with several record-keeping requirements.
The employer must also submit documentation of the applicant’s H-1B qualifications.
A person must have a U.S. degree or a foreign degree that is determined by experts to be the equivalent of an U.S. degree. A person must submit the academic degree, legible copies of school records, diplomas, or transcripts. This documentation can be supplemented by affidavits from school officials and with school catalog excerpts giving course descriptions.
You can show that you have the education, specialized training, or experience that is equivalent to the training acquired by attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree. The employer must show that the position needs to have a degree requirement and a description of the duties that highlights that the job title fits the actual duties that the employee will perform.
The employee must submit diplomas or other university credentials showing that the employee has the appropriate degree(s). The employee must submit legible copies of school records, diplomas, and transcripts. The employee can submit affidavits from school officials and special awards won. The employee can also include school catalog excerpts giving course descriptions.
The initial H-1B petition is granted for three years. Extensions of stay are granted for up to three additional years. Therefore, you can remain in the United States for a total of six years.
The employer must be an U.S. employer and can be a person, firm, corporation, contractor or other association or organization in the United States with an IRS tax identification number. And the employer must file the H-1B petition with the INS on Form I-129 and its H supplement along with the company support letter. The employer must give you a company letter of support. Here, the employer must describe your job duties for the position; and detail its usual practice (or the usual practice of the industry) in only hiring specialty occupation personnel for the position. The employer needs to explain why it needs the services of a specialty occupation worker. The employer should also discuss your prior education, training, or experience to show that you have the credentials required by the H-1B category. The employer must also submit the employment contract or a summary of the agreement. The summary should have a statement of the temporariness of your employment.
The filing fee for Form I-129 is $110, whether it is an initial petition, an amended petition, an application for a change of status, or an application for an extension of stay.
Most employers who file H-1B petitions on or after Dec. 1, 1998, and before Oct. 1, 2001, must also submit a special H-1B fee of $500 when they file for an initial grant of H-1B status; an initial extension of stay for individuals currently in H-1B status; or authorization for a change in H-1B employers for individuals currently in H-1B status.
The H-1B petition can be filed up to six months before you intend to begin employment. It is suggested that you file no later than 45 days before you intend to begin employment.
A request for a petition extension cannot be filed if the visa has expired. The maximum time given on the initial H-1B petition is three years. Extensions of stay up to three additional years can be obtained. Therefore, the maximum limit of stay is six years. Any further extension is not possible.
If you have “overstayed” your period of authorized admission, you will be required to submit your visa application at the consulate located in the country of your citizenship. A third country consulate will not process the application unless you can establish “extraordinary circumstances.”
If you travel abroad after expiration of your original H-1B visa and you want to reenter the United States you must obtain a new visa. You can renew your visa in person at the United States consulate. You must submit documentation that all the pertinent facts regarding the treaty business remain the same.
If you are currently maintaining a valid H-1B status and were previously issued an H-1B visa prior to admission to the United States then you can seek renewal of the H-1B visa through the Visa Office in Washington, D.C. This is unavailable to people whose status has been changed to the H-1B category after initial admission to the United States, because those people have not yet obtained a visa in the new category at a consulate. In order to obtain the renewed visa by the Visa you must intend to travel outside of the United States and will reenter with the new visa after a temporary absence abroad.
When you change employers and want to continue maintaining your H-1B status the case is treated as an extension of stay and a new petition has to be filed.
If you have H-1B status for one employer and you want to work for a new employer the second employer must file Form I-129 and H supplement to obtain INS permission for the employment.
- Raja Ahluwalia is an immigration attorney
Organization. Discipline. Sense of Purpose. They sound like qualities a football team would stress in preparing for the next weekend’s opponent, but they can also be virtues in helping you achieve your financial goals.
Ideally, you should consult with a professional financial planner to map out a comprehensive strategy. But with personal commitment and perhaps some sacrifice, you can take several steps on your own to build a successful financial game plan.
Take inventory of your finances. Calculate your assets cash, IRAs, mutual funds, real estate, life insurance - and your liabilities, like a mortgage or consumer debt and deferred income taxes on investments. Prioritize your objectives by what’s most important to you: retirement planning, saving for college, increased investment returns, risk management, etc. Determine your current tax bracket and understand its implications for your strategy.
Assuming an average 8 percent annual return and a retirement age of 65, every dollar saved at age 25 is worth nearly five times as much as a dollar saved at 45. Probably the first thing to do is make sure that you’re subscribed to the maximum in any qualified savings program offered by your employers. Don’t miss out on the “Triple Treat” of an initial tax deduction, matching employer contributions and tax deferred earnings offered by most 401(k) or 403(b) plans.
It’s been demonstrated that investments in the stock market produce the best returns over time. Mutual funds are probably the best way to start in the stock market. Find one that’s well managed and meets the risk profile you will be comfortable with. If you can, sign up for the built-in discipline of a monthly automatic investment program. This will not only allow you to take advantage of dollar cost averaging, but may help you avoid the investment minimums otherwise required by some mutual fund companies. (Of course, a periodic investment plan such as dollar cost averaging does not assure a profit or protect against a loss in declining markets).
Also, if you choose a fund, plan to stick with it for a while. Remember even the best financial pros have trouble timing the market.
If your total monthly debt payments (excluding your mortgage payments) are 20 percent or more of your monthly take-home pay, you’re probably overextended. Analyze your debts and see if any of the interest rates are more than the after-tax return on your invested savings. If they are, it makes sense to pay off these loans out of your savings. If you can’t pay off your credit cards in full every month to avoid paying interest, shop around for the card with the lowest available rate.
If you come up with a significant lump sum a bonus, an inheritance, or maybe even a mid-size lottery win try to resist the urge to buy the hot sports car you’ve always dreamed of. Your long-term financial future will probably be a lot rosier, although not quite so dashing, if you plow at least part of it into a mutual fund or an IRA.
Financial markets are a dynamic, fluid environment. That, combined with the impact of major life events such as births, deaths, inheritances, or new jobs, make it imperative that you carefully review your strategy every year or so. Naturally, your review should be rigorous and disciplined, just like any successful game plan.
- Ashok Gupta is a financial planner.
IndiGO is an innovative integrat-ed search and communications tool on the Internet, is revolutionizing on-line communication.
IndiGO lets you see all the people that are on the same webpage or site. Chat with an individual or a group on the same page. Tailor your mood (choose from happy, mellow, fabulous, bored, etc.) to find like minds. Adjust your profile (single, single but busy, married, widowed, etc.) to locate kindred spirits.
Find a friend by an IndiGO ID number, add them to your friends list, and instantly see when they’re online. Send instant messages, exchange URLs, share files, and post notes on web sites. Keep a record with the history feature and the recent contact list.
IndiGO includes the Homepager, which alerts you when someone is visiting your homepage (or favorite site).
With IndiGO, you can quickly see the most popular sites. You can also search for popular sites by topic, like computers or travel. A directory of more than 10,000 categories makes it easy to find the hottest pages in a multitude of subjects.
IndiGO runs in the background, requiring minimal resources and bandwidth. While you surf the web, IndiGO alerts you when there other surfers with you on the same site.
How does IndiGO work?
It’s simple. When you install IndiGO, the program asks you to register, where you receive a unique IndiGO ID. You choose a user name and have the option of entering more specific details, such as your interests, the languages you speak, and your homepage URL. This allows other IndiGO users to recognize you when you log on, and to let other surfers find you when searching for people by interest a sure way to find a chat topic.
Once you’ve registered, you can start surfing the web in a totally different way. IndiGO waits quietly in the background without interrupting other applications in use. It automatically detects when you log onto the Internet and announces your presence to your friends. IndiGO subtly alerts you when there are other IndiGO surfers in the same site as you.
- Raj Baronia is chief of Genius Technologies based in San Ramon, Calif.
We are sharing an extraordinary moment. The passage to a new century. It is a great milestone for the world. But it may be a bit more special for our industry.
Digitalization and parallel technological advances are accelerating the pace at which information technology is emerging. The Internet is helping to revolutionize the management and analysis of the wealth of data by applying novel computational techniques designed to identify new tools and enhance existing strategies.
Think back. A century ago, new vehicles (train, plane and automobiles) set the template for access to the world’s services. These breakthroughs defined the last century. Now our products, especially digital technology will define this new millennium. The dawn of the digital century gives us a chance to pause, to grasp what we are bringing to the world. We are creating links. Our intensely competitive industry assures that even the poorest in society will have equal access to information and entertainment. Broadband integration is in the immediate future. How content and internet service providers will bundle digital TV, Telephony and PC technologies and deliver to offices and homes over cable, wireless and satellite remains unclear. Successful strategies are likely to focus on-how well they maximize real-time bandwidth.
Multimedia a combination of text, graphics, audio and video has emerged as the preferred ISP content. High speed DSL is on the verge of exploding into the mainstream. Cable modems are struggling their way into acceptance. Digital compression (MPEG2 in case of video and MP3 for audio) has opened the gate for entertaining enterprises to expand at an exponential rate. Multiple audio and video channels, whether via satellite or internet, are extremely economical. Incorporation of firewire in digital video systems enhances the productivity. eBook invites readers to a paperless world. Digital television has definitely sparked consumer interest, yet many are still only slightly familiar with the technology and most, quite frankly, are confused. E-Commerce has broken all the boundaries. Interest in buying traditional consumer technologies online is expected to grow by a minimum of 135 percent in the next two years and by the maximum of 439 percent.
Infrared keyboards are gaining favor as the way to access internet content via television. The overall trend is toward wireless communications. It utilizes RF frequencies, microwave or operates via satellite. Led by two players, DirecTV and Echostar communications (DishNetwork) BDS has become one of the fastest-selling consumer electronics product ever. They stepped up their relentless drive against cable by showing off powerful new digital equipment. They have demonstrated set-top boxes with built-in PRVs, High Definition TVs and DVDs. One of the biggest technology stories in 1999 was the advent of personal video recorders. The idea behind these PVRs is to allow consumers to set their own TV schedule. Tivo’s and Replay networks grabbed the limelight backed by range of media companies.
The year 2000 will be a critical time for various operators to determine exactly what their role in home networking will be. In addition, Security, encryption and privacy issues will need to be dealt with sooner than most think.
- Idrees Munir is in a satellite televison business based in Milpitas, Calif.
Dental health begins with good oral hygiene. This requires professional care and guidance provided by your dentist and dental hygienist, combined with proper care at home by you.
Why should I see a dentist regularly?
Regular dental visits are essential to maintaining healthy teeth and gums. For maximum benefits, a good home care regimen must be supplemented with teeth examinations at least every six months.
The interpretation of these x-rays allow the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities such as cavities, bone loss, impacted teeth.
Prophylaxis (professional cleaning) is the scaling and polishing procedure performed to remove plaque, calculus and stains. It helps to prevent gum disease and improves the appearance of your teeth by making them look clean and bright.
Plaque is the sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms constantly on your teeth. After you eat, the bacteria in plaque produces acids. Over time, these acids break down tooth enamel and cavities may form.
You can prevent cavities by following these tips:
How do I know if I have gum disease?
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease is the inflammation or infection of the gums and bone that surrounds and support your teeth. It is caused by the bacteria in plaque.
Look out for these warning signs of gum disease:
What causes bad breath?
Bad breath can be caused by certain foods, poor oral hygiene, gum disease, a dry mouth, tobacco products or a medical disorder. Contact your dentist to determine whether the cause is of dental origin.
When your child is about a year old, it’s time for a visit to the dentist. The dentist will examine your child’s teeth and gums, and show you how to clean your child’s teeth properly and identify your child’s fluoride needs.
Regular examinations allow you to detect and correct small problems before they become big ones.
- Prakash Advani is a dentist who practices in Sunnyvale, Calif.
The twentieth century is marked by the exponential growth and advances in science and technology. The quest for knowledge has led to advancements in fundamental knowledge of genes. The probe into the interstellar space of planets, stars, black holes and galaxies have enriched human knowledge in understanding the origin of life and the origin of universe. The desire for happiness and comfort of human life has resulted in incredible advancements in all walks of life business, science, technology, medicine, bio-engineering and many others. The human mind has been and continues to be harnessed at an exponential rate for the benefit of mankind.
These scientific and technological developments have also brought tremendous pressures on the human mind and body to cope with the demands of the modern world. More and more is demanded from an individual to meet the growing needs. Indeed in the race for success, it is only the fit that will survive! To be ‘fit’ is to be productive in whatever endeavor one is involved. And the prerequisite for being productive is to have a healthy body and a balanced mind.
In the course of your normal work, for example, after sitting in front of the computer screen staring at the monitor and exercising your brain for hours, you must have felt your brain go for a high speed spin blurring your eyesight and blanking your mind. Your body is tired and the brain becomes a mush. You need a ‘reset’ to refresh your body and to realign or regain your thoughts. And you need an ‘upgrade’ to handle the load.
It is indeed a good idea to go out to breathe in fresh air and take a walk to relax. At times our schedule is so hectic that we just do not have the time to go out or circumstances may not let us do so due to bad weather.
Relax. Help is on your way and it is easy, effortless and free. A total reset and upgrade of your system (mind and body) is available, all in one short package. This is an ancient trick that does wonders. Just try it. Here are some simple techniques you can use any time, any place.
The techniques which you are going to practice are based on the yogic breathing technique called Pranayama. Prana, meaning life-force, and yama, meaning control. Pranayama is to breathe consciously. When we breathe consciously we are able to absorb more oxygen. Along with the oxygen, we are able to preserve a great amount of life-force (prana) in the system. Equally we are able to release the tension and free bio-chemical radicals in our body which helps restore our health. Inability to release these built-up tension and free radicals causes mental fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, and imbalance in the nervous system.
We normally breathe without paying attention to our breaths as involuntary systems do the job. But it is important to know that when we are under stress the breathing channels and other parts of the body associated with the breathing get stiff with tension as mind and body work together. This physical fatigue further affects the thinking as the system is starved of oxygen.
To break this vicious cycle, try to practice any one or more of the breathing techniques described below.
How long should you continue?
Note: You can also practice this breathing while walking, driving and performing daily duties as this is focusing on your natural breath. This will prevent you from getting exhausted at the end of the day due to the constant storage of energy prana throughout the day.
The next step is very important. As you are breathing in, focus your mind on the chest expansion. Notice, you need not expand your stomach in the process. Just loosen the pulled in stomach muscles as you breathe in. Stomach automatically comes back to the normal position.
How long should you continue?
Note: You can also practice this breathing prior to going to work, while walking, or whenever you need to restore abundant of prana in your system.
How long should you continue?
Note: This holding the breath technique can exceptionally upgrade the entire system as prana is absorbed by each and every and cell and organ.
For a moment, stop and think. You start your day at 6:00 a.m. rush out of home, hit the rush-hour traffic, work hard, rush home, cook, eat, watch TV, hit the bed and start another hectic day. Have you become a socially accepted zombie living for everyone but yourself? Is this the life you dreamed of while growing up?
Created by the expectations of society, we are conditioned to settle for the second best. Losing our identity, we are pressured by society to mold ourselves to conform with others’ expectations of us. Your way of life may certainly be accepted by society but is this what you really want?
Deep inside us lies the passion to conquer the world and reach to heights no one has ever achieved. Then why is it that some of us succeed but others don’t?
The answers lie in looking beyond our conditioning. To conquer the outside world, we must conquer our inside world because our outer world is a reflection of our inner world. Once our inside world is in tune with our true self, our outer world becomes beautiful beyond our imagination. Every circumstance we attract in our life is in direct relation to how we think and feel inside. We must have a good process internally to create great circumstances around us.
How do we know which emotion is predominant in our life? From the time we are born, our environment, belief system, values, experiences, and influences from others create deeply embedded patterns in our subconscious mind. It is not uncommon for a person, who believes that life is a struggle, to always attract struggle in his or her life. If we live with similar recordings from the past, my suggestion would be to create new recordings. Remember that your life is a projection directly related to your internal programming.
It is our responsibility to move beyond our conditioning and break away from destructive patterns to blossom to our unique self.
The following are a few recommendations to discover the unique you:
Investing in Our Society’s Future - By Jessica Niland
Mentoring is a great way to give back to one’s community, says Jessica Niland.
Computer whizzes, domestic engineers and college students throughout the East Bay have found something to give back to the community.
The Mentor Project, in conjunction with local school districts, works to pair local adults and students in a one-to-one mentoring relationship. It has been shown that students with mentors gain the skills and self-confidence necessary to become productive, and contributing citizens in the community. The gift of mentorship that lasts forever.
Mentors are matched with same-sex students for nine academic months and are asked to spend four to six hours per month with the student. The time can be spent focusing on school work, job shadowing, going to museums or other outings, or just talking. Surveys conducted by Students In Business Inc., show that over 90 percent of students who sign up for the program have someone to listen, advise and support them.
Students In Business, Inc., is a Fremont-based, nonprofit organization that sponsors the Mentor Project. SIB was recently awarded several state grants, requiring the match of 200 students and mentors in Fremont, Hayward, San Lorenzo and San Ramon School Districts, and Castlemont High School in Oakland. “It has been a challenge to find an adequate number of adults to match with the ample supply of students waiting for a mentor,” says Jessica Niland, Mentor recruiter for SIB.
SIB has been in business since 1992 and has helped more than 300 students but as Toral Mehta, another Mentor recruiter says, “There are more students joining and not enough mentors signing up to help these students.”
The success stories from this program are, however, innumerable as Marissa Decena, a 17-year-old Washington High School student in Fremont, says: “It seems like now, things are really starting to come together. I’m not nearly as confused as I was before. I’m well on my way to being the first person in my family to graduate from college.”
If you would like to be part of this program please contact the Students In Business or the Mentor Project at (510) 795-6488, ext. 6184,or e-mail Marge Buck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The classical music of India is not only a great art form it is also a deep and effective spiritual practice or sadhana. Indian classical music (of which the Raga is a basic form) has been developed over hundreds of years to reflect and to be completely in tune with the Divine and with the Divine’s manifestation in nature. Mother Nature, with her many moods that change not only with the seasons but even with the times of day and night, may be considered a reflection of a Higher Reality, or even as a projection or manifestation of God. When we sing or play the ragas upon which the classical music of India is based, we tune ourselves to a specific aspect or quality of God. When that tuning is perfected, that part of the Divine Reality manifests through our music.
The sages of ancient India realized through their meditation what modern scientists are only now beginning to learn, that nature, on the most fundamental level, is made up of the vibration of energy. Sound is also produced by energy vibration and, according to the sacred texts of India, God created the material world by first setting into motion the primordial sound vibration called Nada Brahma. From the expansion of this root vibration, all other energies and their corresponding manisfestations were generated. The world, then, is actually a great collection of sound vibration.
A raga is a set pattern of ascending and descending notes or swaras which, when sung or played correctly, resonate exactly with the sound vibration of some aspect of God as manifest in material reality. Because of this resonance, a raga can both generate the mood of some particular quality of nature, such as a season or a time of day, and also effect the material world, causing real changes to happen in the physical environment. Of course, to produce a raga perfectly is difficult, but when through our sincere practice we achieve this, we can truly change the material world. The power of sound is so great that, in ancient times, very adept people could even use sound vibration (through mantra) as weapons of war.
Each raga has a very specific mood or personality that generates a particular aspect of God or Nature. For example, Raag Miyan ki Malhar was created by the great musician Miyan Tansen, court musician to Emperor Akbar, to perfectly reflect the mood and qualities of the tropical rainy season the fresh green hills, the sweet songs of birds, the newly sprouted crops and the promise of a rich harvest to come. This raga’s vadi note Ma reflects a gentle awakening of nature, and the large gaps in the aroha or ascending scale created by the absence of Ga and Dha give a feeling of the sprouting of new life, while the complete or sampoorna descending scale of avaroha, along with the raga’s use of Sa as samvadi, keeps this raga very grounded in the natural world. There are several other features of this raga that give it its distinct personality but, to fully appreciate this, one must listen to the raga.
When Miyan Tansen sang Raag Miyan Ki Malhar in the darbar of the great Emperor Akbar, he actually caused rain to fall. How was this possible? For Tansen, music was more that just an art form; it was his way to God. When he sang, he completely lost consciousness of the world around him, because he offered his music as a prayer to God rather than as a performance for an audience. Tansen transported his music from the Emperor’s darbar to the court of God Himself, where through his music he tuned his own intention to the will of God so perfectly that his will became God’s will. Because everything in the world is produced through the vibration of energy, Miyan Tansen was able, through his intense devotion, to generate rain by producing the vibration of his perfectly-tuned Raag Miyan ki Malhar.
This is how classical music of India is meant to be practiced and presented, with deep sincerity and devotion to God and to music practice. Because music can link us so profoundly with the Divine, its practice can lead us to moksha, or liberation. Real music practice is meant to be a lifelong spiritual practice, not just a small hobby incorporated into an otherwise busy life.
Once one of my students asked me whether it is possible to practice an evening raga in the morning, as this was the only time he was free to practice. I told him, that although each raga is associated with a special time of day and with a specific season, any raga can be practiced at any time if it is practiced as a sadhana or way to God, and if it is presented as a prayer.
This is the most important quality of music practice, and such practice will definitely reveal the deepest meaning of any raga to a sincere and humble student.
Rakesh Roshan is supposed to have been receiving threatening calls for quite some time now, and the fact that Kaho Na Pyaar Hai has made over 90 percent box office collections only resulted in aggravating the trouble. Rakesh Roshan, while recuperating in the hospital, has come up with the idea of carrying a gun henceforth.
Now, this we call a true hero.
No, neither are we talking about Kareena Kapoor, Shamita Shetty or Abhishek Bachchan. This is from strange quarters, our very own Punjabi Jat and Dream Girl’s eldest daughter Esha Deol.
Yes, it seems mama Hema Malini has given her the go-ahead, and according to the rumor mill, Esha has already signed up producer Boney Kapoor’s new project directed by Vinay Shukla. Now, we must admit that Boney moves fast. With the right script and right version of the Dream Girl, all that remains to sort out is this: Who the two main leadsare. Any takers?
Hum Dil De… sets the record as being the first commercial Hindi film to be screened in the “International Forum of New Cinema.” Seems like our Miss World Aishwarya Rai, who won the Screen Awards for Best Actress, is all set to win world appreciation yet again.
No, we are not speaking of Badal with Bobby Deol, but of Kamal Haasan’s bilingual Hey! Ram. Slated for release Feb. 18, the trailers are already being screened on television. Sporting a huge red bindi, draped in cotton saris, Rani is playing the part of a Bengali wife. From what we have seen of the stills, and the steamy kisses with Kamal Haasan, her performance would definitely be something to watch out for.
Hindi Film Review
As in Yes Boss, this time we are talking again about an over-ambitious youth who sacrifices morals and conscience for wealth and fame, in the process forgetting all about upholding the cause of the common man, being a good citizen and being loyal to the nationalistic spirit.
Ajay Bakshi (Shah Rukh Khan) is an ace reporter working for the television channel K-TV. He is known more for his daredevil attitude and his killer instinct when it comes to both news and women. As for the value of news? It is important only as long as it brings him to the limelight.
The rival group Galaxee employs beautiful Ria Banerjee (Juhi Chawla) who appears certain to pull Ajay down from his pedestal. They are constantly pitted against each other, making way for an absurd, a nonsensical brand of humor that is not in the least bit funny.
Each one tries to outdo the other by stealing the other’s news stories and scoops. After some histrionics in the first part of the film, the time arrives for the duo to turn over a new leaf. And the leaf comes in the form of a commoner, Manoj Joshi (Paresh Rawal), wronged by a stereotypical Bollywood brand of eternally corrupt politicians.
When Joshi openly guns down his daughter’s rapist, the other politicians label him as a national “terrorist” to suit state politics. Now an escaped convict, Joshi ends up earning the sympathy of the star cast, besides awakening their conscience. They take up the cause of Joshi a man representing the weak proletariat who cannot hold his own against the praetorian system. Even as they set about the job, seeking constant help of wannabe don Pappu Junior (Johnny Lever), somewhere along the way (as expected) the professional rivalry between Ajay and Ria turns into love. Commercialism is the name of the game here. Politicians’ corruption, boisterous consumerism among the media and the advertising fraternity has been blown out of proportion.
Making a mockery of a man going to the gallows, companies sponsor the event with models displaying their products with a noose around the neck.
The masses taking to the streets for a fellow citizen and the governments’ apathy to do something worthwhile are themes that have been done to death on the Bollywood scene, and no longer kindle any kind of patriotic fervor.
Of the cast, Shah Rukh unfortunately is not at his best, while Juhi has nothing to do but look pretty. A great talent like Paresh Rawal has been wasted in the movie.
Among the comedians, between Satish Shah, Dalip Tahil and Johny Lever, Johny of course, takes the cake. But none of the characters have even a touch of reality. Santosh Sivan’s cinematography is as usual commendable, while Sharmistha Roy’s colorful sets are the only other noticable aspect of the film. Yes, we Hindustanis do have a heart of gold. To be able to watch the movie in the theatres and not complain, we have to have a dil that is Hindustani.
Rating: * (Poor)
The recent attack on eminent actor-film-maker Rakesh Roshan might affect the production of films this year as in 1998, when India produced an all-time low of 693 movies. However, by 1999 the film industry had recovered from its worst fears of the underworld threat that loomed large in 1997-98 with the killing of the music baron Gulshan Kumar of T-Series.
Despite a series of flops and an overall slump in economy and business, the Indian film industry increased its output in 1999 to 764 films in various languages, leading to an upward trend by 71 movies or an increase of 10.17 percent from its all-time low in 1998.
Barring a slight decrease in production in Malayalam by four films, Punjabi by six, Bhojpuri by four, Rajasthani by one and Oriya by four, there was a substantial increase in the production of Tamil by 20 films, followed by Kannada 15, Hindi 13, Gujarati 12, Telugu eight, Nepali seven, Marathi six, Bengali three, with two each in Assamese and Manipuri.
According to the figures supplied by the Central Board of Film Certification, the break-down figures of the 764 feature films censored during 1999 is as follows: Telugu 132 (124), Tamil 153 (133), Hindi 166 (153), Malayalam 65 (69), Kannada 87 (72), Marathi 24 (18), Punjabi 5 (11), Nepali 11 (4), Gujarati 27 (15), Bengali 51 (48), Bhojpuri two (6), Rajasthani three (4), Assamese seven (5), English six (5), Manipuri four (2), and Oriya 15 (19), the figures within brackets being those of the year 1998. Other films censored included one each in French, Maithili, Hindustani, Chotanagpuri, Kashmiri and Haryanvi.
The import of foreign films also shot up to 203 as against 180 in the previous year. However, there was a drop in the import of short films from 365 in 1998 to 227 in 1999. The CBFC censored a total of 967 feature films, 1,203 Indian and foreign short films in all its eight centres.
Out of the 764 certified, censors had classified 594 feature films as socials, 58 as crime, 22 as horrors, 25 as actions and 10 as comedies. However, mythologicals were reduced to one film in 1999 and historicals to three.
Among the 138 Hindi film releases, 127 were flops and only 18 were successful. While Biwi No.1 and Hum Saath Saath Hain were all-round hits, others like Sarfarosh, Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain, Kachche Dhaage, Hasena Maan Jayegi, Sirf Tum, Hogi Pyar Ki Jeet, Daag The Fire and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam did well in only certain territories.
According to Pahlaj Nihalani, president of the Association of Motion Picture & TV Program Producers, production of films will increase this year too, in spite of cable TV piracy that has been threatening the box-office collections of all films. However, loss in the box-office was made up by films fetching more from overseas and from music rights of the films, besides satellite rights, he added.
The Khans Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir who rose to dizzying heights during 1996-1997 with big hits, suffered in 1999 as their films flopped miserably. This backlash started with Aamir Khan when Mann flopped and his second film, Deepa Mehta’s 1947 Earth, elicited a poor public response. Salman Khan, whose Biwi No.1, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Hum Saath Saath Hain did good business at the box-office, was topped up with a very miserable home production, Hello Brother, that effaced all his earlier hard work. The industry had pitched its hopes on Shah Rukh Khan’s Baadshah, his lone release in 1999, which was sold at Rs. 20 million per major territory, but the film bombed at the box-office.
Superstar Amitabh Bachchan continued to suffer in the box-office when Kohram, which went unnoticed, was followed by another flop, Hindustan Ki Kasam. Ajay Devgan, who produced Hindustan Ki Kasam, couldn’t cash in on either his or Amitabh Bachchan’s presence in the film. Even Devgan’s other quick production, Dil Kya Kare, bombed at the box-office. However his performance was appreciated in Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.
Sunny Deol dabbled not only in production but also in direction, spending three years in filming. He saw his Dillagi turning into a damp squib and his earlier film Arjun Pandit flopped too. Sanjay Dutt re-established himself by giving fairly good hits, winning the Screen Best Actor award for Vaastav, which was a big hit in the Mumbai circuit and did fairly good business in the domestic market. His other films, Haseena Maan Jayegi and Khoobsurat, also proved to be fairly successful.
A film which raked in big money was Rajshri’s Hum Saath Saath Hain which is reported to have fetched Rs. 2 billion. Though Rajshri Productions, famed for the superhit Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, tried to cash in on its earlier popularity and by covering a high price from overseas, the music rights as wll as from theatre owners who hiked the ticket price and increased its share, Hum Saath Saath Hain did not prove to be as big a hit as Hum Aapke Hain Kaun.
Subhash Ghai maintained his image as a hit film maker when Taal did good business, while hibernating Sanjay Leela Bhansali came out with a winner with his film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, that did exceptionally well at the box-office in India and abroad. Meanwhile, the success of both these films resulted in actress Aishwarya Rai turning into hot property overnight. What with Kajol’s temporary retirement after her marriage to Ajay Devgan, Aishwarya has currently been elevated to the position of Heroine No.1 in the industry.
The year 1999 also saw the emergence of low budget horror flicks and sex-oriented films. Among films like Kam Tantra, Mere Agosh Mein, Murda, Kamini Aur Kamdev, Hi Baby, Bechainee, Atank Raj, Aadmi Aur Aurat, Prem Shastra, only Munnibai was a runaway hit. Made on a shoestring budget of Rs. 1 million to Rs. 1.5 million and shot within a period of eight days to a fortnight, the films were sold for Rs. 200,000 to Rs. 500,000 per territory, and the producers were very happy with the small margins. Distributors who were losing out money in big budget films bought these films, which had a fairly loyal audience in the interiors. Even if they did not do well at the box-office, the loss on these films was minimal.
Hopefully, with new star kids like Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor and Esha Deol debuting this year, the industry might just take a turn for the better.
Raghaviah (Vishwanath) and Ram Mohan (Raganath) are brothers-in-law and are at loggerheads. Raghaviah tries to favor the villagers, Ram Mohan disapproves because of a family feud.
Raghavaiah holds a shastipoorti ceremony for his sick wife. At his wife’s request he invites his son’s family for the first time in 25 years. The grandson Raghu comes to Ramapuram from Mumbai along with his sister and mother. He receives a cold reception from the members of Raghavaiah’s family but meets Manga (Simran), his childhood sweetheart. They fall in love but never express their feelings to each other. Raghu wins the heart of all family members.
However, Raghu is shocked to learn deep secrets that have torn the family apart for many years. Raghu attempts to reunite the family and forsakes his love for Manga. But Manga is unwilling to give up her love for Raghu and follows him.
Does he reject her for the family? Are they able to resolve this conflict between love and filial duty? The remainder of the film addresses this.
Even though the story is thin, director Uday Shankar shows promise. There is never a dull moment or vulgar movement in the film. Shankar lifts some scenes from hits like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, but overall his effort pleases.
Venky did full justice to his role as Raghu. The peppy Simran as Manga is a treat to watch. Srihari excels as the brother, unable to forget his sister’s death. Numerous TV artists appear in small roles.
Paruchuri impresses with his dialogue. Mythological references are absent.
Music director S.A. Raj Kumar has lifted Ricky Martin for a song, and the background tunes are reminiscent of DDLJ. Other tunes sound familiar but are generally hummable.
Special mention must be made of the very good art direction, with convincing sets and locales.
In all, a wafer-thin story; but it is the treatment that makes all the difference. There’s never a dull or boring movement, and its no surprise that the film has been declared a hit. It’s a fun film to enjoy with the family.
Recipe: Shahi Paneer
Courtesy of: Chibber Distributors (Distributors of Nanak Paneer)
ARIES (March 21 to April 20): Concentration will stay mainly on career this month. Boss will listen to your ideas. You will get help from an influential person. Financial risks will pay off and you may lay your hands on some very easy money. Stress and all fears will go away. You will have some learning experiences.
TAURUS (April 21 to May 20): Partnership matters will take time to finalize. Any change at this time will not be fruitful. Do not take any financial risks this month. People will try to analyze your capacity and strength. You will be working on to get a very big contract. Some one in family will be sick.
GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): You will be taking big chances to make extra money. Gamble will pay off. You will be working on a major project which will ultimately open new doors. Spouse may feel stressed out for almost no reason. You may get some money back from government. Do not put off things for tomorrow.
CANCER (June 21 to July 22): There are couple of important trip brewing up for you. Decisions will be made putting emotions on one side. You will make big money through speculation and the value of your stocks will shot up. Some of you will be exploring another job because of every day increasing pressure.
LEO (July 23 to August 22): Prepare yourself for a major setback and attack from enemies in the first two weeks. You will regain confidence and turn the table towards end of month. Your spouse will be full of ideas but the approach will be negative. Relationships will become stronger and commitment will come soon.
VIRGO (August 23 to September 22): Success will come only after hard work and extra mental stress. You will be dealing with a big organization and people with power and important. Spouse may feel tired of extra running around and may need to relax. Weather may influence one of your child in negative way.
LIBRA (September 23 to October 22): You will be looking for solutions to man y problems this month. Results will just get delayed. You will have your eyes on a very lucrative job opening. A property deal could get some extra cash. A trip will be fruitful and business will start to pick up.
SCORPIO (October 23 to November 22): There will be major developments in your career this month. Suddenly you will be on the top. Do not take any financial risks at this time. Some anxiety about children will continue. Courageous actions will help beat competition and overcome all obstacles.
SAGITTARIUS (November 23 to December 22): It will be very profitable month for you. You will attain major goals in your career. You will be assigned an important task with greater powers. Your stock values will shoot up and you may cash a big part of it. You have a big refund coming this month.
CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19): Do not take matters lightly and try to attend to government matters on time. You may find yourself under sudden financial pressure and a big part of it may be caused by tax concerns. A business trip is also indicated. A planned move will be further delayed.
AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18): People in business should be careful. All speculations should be avoided for some time. You will start to pay more attention to your health. You may give up your hopes on a legal procedure. Someone close will try to ruin your image. Refrain from reacting and do not give them any opportunity.
PISCES (February 19 to March 20): It will be very expensive month. You will be spending money on a travel plan. Keep an eye on your subordinates. You will buy some electronic items and spend money on a property also. A reply from the government will not come on time. You will seek advice from experienced.
Bay Area-based astrologer Pandit Parashar can