Siliconeer: March 2000

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MARCH 2000
Volume I •
Issue 2

About Us:

We are a magazine for Silicon Valley South Asians with special focus on the Infotech industry in particular and science in general.

In addition, it will also look at the broader aspects of South Asian hi-tech life – covering an all encompassing gamut that can include issues as diverse as law, philanthropy, health care and relationships. We are not above throwing in a mouth-watering recipe to add zest to your dinner table.

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Main Feature

A Helping Hand?
The State and India’s Software Industry - By Romi Mahajan

As the Indian stock market sends Information Technology stocks soaring and India exports software worth billions of dollars, free marketeers are clamoring for the state to go jump in the lake. Not so fast, cautions Romi Mahajan, who argues with verve that the state has a key role to play in ensuring the long-term sustenance of India’s IT bonanza.

A friend of mine was recently commenting on the fact that the year 2000 ushered in one of the worst phases in the recent history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Her next comment was even more interesting to me: She mentioned that an entire generation of stock brokers and stock investors had never really seen bad times — “They don’t have any conception of what is happening; they’ve never had to witness falling markets!”

I nodded appreciatively and smiled. But what she didn’t know is that I was thinking about the Indian market when she made the comment, not the U.S. market.

Anybody who has been watching the Indian stock markets knows that the indices have soared to dizzying heights and that the bull market has been propelled largely by Information Technology stocks, of which software stocks are the leading lights. In addition, a few Indian companies have listed their shares on the NASDAQ and anybody who got in to those shares (INFY and SIFY) early is sitting pretty. The New York Stock Exchange estimates that as many as 10 Indian IT companies will list on U.S. exchanges this year and many people I know are making cash available to invest in these upcoming issues.

But hold your applause.

This go-go market has unleashed free-market orthodoxy of the most extreme kind, with a convenient intellectual sleight of hand that ignores the pivotal role the Indian state played in nurturing India’s software potential. Silicon Valley tycoon Kanwal S. Rekhi, a 54-year-old IT entrepreneur who made $300 million before he retired, told the New York Times in a Feb. 29 article that “he went to America so his brain wouldn’t go down the drain in socialist India,” and added condescendingly that his business trips to India are “missionary work.”

And recently at an address at Stanford University by India’s deputy planning chief B.C. Pant, Rekhi harangued Pant with the caustic remark that the government should get out of planning anything, period.

Luckily for Rekhi, the advice could not be applied retroactively. For if it were indeed applied retroactively, then the much derided Nehruvian planning would have been jettisoned in the 1950s, and there would be no IITs. No IITs means no coveted degree for Rekhi and hence no $300 million.

This sort of remark is typical of the ostrich-in-the-sand myopic fulminations that are clouding common sense.

The reality, whether in India or in the U.S., is that the state role has been crucial in the development of IT industry — don’t forget that in the West, two of the key elements of IT both came from the public domain — the internet from the U.S. Defense Department, and the world wide web from the Geneva-based European physics research organization CERN.

And lest history vanish into thin air, destroyed by PR and rhetoric, it is important to remember that the great ascendancy of the U.S. in high-technology is largely due to the government’s role in nurturing the incipient technology companies of Silicon Valley and Route 128.

In India , the intellectual knowhow to tap the vast potential of IT has sprouted in the plethora of state-funded engineering training institutes of which the IITs are just the acme.

It is important, though, to remember a few things here as well:

  • The entire edifice of higher education in India is increasingly moribund; despite an enormous pool of science and technological manpower, India’s contributions to innovation are trivial.

  • Even the much-vaunted IITs are not comparable to the dynamic institutions of the West (Caltech and MIT being prime examples.) Any institutions that get the brightest few thousand kids from a country of one billion people are bound to look good since, no matter what, these kids will go on to become successful. Still, the Indian state must be given bouquets and not brickbats for having the foresight to create these institutions and make them almost without exception affordable.

It is through a complex and fruitful interaction of the state and the market that the long-term health of India’s software industry can be guaranteed.

Yet the market frenzy has drowned all sense of perspective.

In India, trading volumes are at all-time highs and companies that were quoting below Rs. 100 a share a mere two years ago are now quoting in the thousands. As Rajneesh Mahajan, director of Composite Securities, a Delhi-based brokerage house, told me, “With IT scrips in this incredible bull run, we are finding that investors feel that they can’t afford NOT to be in the market. These are heady times — volumes are stratospheric and despite commissions being razor thin, profitability is high as well.”

Judging by the markets, one would think that Indian software companies are the best, most innovative companies in the world.

But just like the stockbrokers and investors who have never seen bad times, investors in Indian IT stocks who have entered the market in the past two years may get a rude awakening if Indian companies can’t justify their lofty valuations.

Now let me be clear. I am not predicting a stock market downturn and am not trying to begrudge Indian software companies their enormous success over the past decade. In fact, I am optimistic about these companies because I know from direct experience that many of them (certainly not all) are managed professionally and employ technical talent that of extremely high caliber.

I also know that there are increasing forays into international markets (especially the U.S.) that are allowing Indian companies to grab market share in the biggest software markets of the world (the U.S. market is itself responsible for between 40 percent and 50 percent of world demand).

But what gives me pause is the fact that Indian software companies are still at the low end of the value chain and are not innovative; furthermore, there is little sign that they are moving up the value chain because they compete on one factor alone -- comparative cost advantage.

In the fast-moving world of technology which itself is embedded in an increasingly competitive global economy, competing on cost advantage and not on the ability to innovate is not sustainable. Without innovation and constant striving to move up the value chain, India’s competitive advantage that may for a while be derived from cost advantage will erode as technologies evolve, terms of trade and patterns of investment change, and as new locations spring up that can undercut India on price.

While the stock market bulls may call me a naysayer it is useful to consider the following:

  • If one digs, one finds that Ireland’s total software exports exceed that of India;

  • India’s share of the global software market is by most estimates about one half of one percent only;

  • Software development is not an indivisible black box — the nature and constitution of the software work done in India forces one to rethink the very basis of the much-touted success of the Indian software industry — it is largely well-defined, low-level work that is offshored by Fortune 500 companies. Nikhil Sinha, CEO of iDLX Technology Partners, insists that “grabbing offshored work is not the answer. Only low-end work can be offshored — non-creative, portable type work. India needs to compete on skill sets and domain knowledge, not just cost.”

“We are trying a new model at iDLX — we are not an offshore company. We compete for the high end of the U.S. value chain.”

To understand what is at issue, it is useful to look into some of the more theoretical aspects of technology and economic growth.

Scholars generally agree that technology is a driving force for economic growth and international competitiveness. In fact it has become a truism that countries that can create and deftly adapt technology into usable processes and products have an advantage over countries that cannot sustain innovation. The Nobel laureate Abdus Salam in fact averred that what distinguishes the developed world from the developing is “the ambition, the power, the élan which…. stems from their differing mastery and utilization of present-day science and technology.”

Using the Indian software industry as a platform for analysis, it is useful to understand that the science and technology gap or innovation gap results not just from constraints to innovation in developing countries imposed by a world system of unequal exchange, but also as a result of institutional incapacity in countries like India to manage innovation.

Simply put, India does not have the institutional capacity to create a milieu of innovation on the model of a Silicon Valley. The reasons for this are manifold and complex, but it is important to understand them at a qualitative level.

There are three issues that are of particular salience here: Product Cycle Theory, international subcontracting/offshoring, and lack of domestic demand.

Product Cycle Theory states simply that products pass through phases during their life cycles in which the necessary inputs for production change in their relative importance. Witness the now ubiquitous Walkman. First developed by Sony in Japan, it was truly an innovation in consumer electronics; most readers will recall that when it first appeared on the market, it cost over $50 and wasn’t as functional and sleek as the Walkman is today. But as the market grew and the production process became increasingly rationalized, production of this product was offshored to low-cost South East Asian countries. Now, one can get a Walkman for $10 that has more functionality than the original. In other words, as different factors of production are emphasized, the geographical location of production migrates from advanced to developing countries.

In the early or innovative phase of a product’s life cycle, high skill-intensity personnel are important, sophisticated R&D systems are necessary, and proximity to the main market is crucial. Quite clearly, this implies that the innovative stage will occur in advanced countries, with large markets and an abundance of highly trained humanware. This theory suggests that high-end steps in the creation of software are done in advanced countries and the low-end, portable steps are offshored to countries like India, where medium and low-level task can be performed at a fraction of the costs reigning in the advanced countries.

The issue of offshoring is important in any analysis of the Indian software industry. Trans-national companies are happy to outsource low-end work to Indian companies since software programmers in India earn about 10 percent of what they earn in the U.S. These companies subcontract “job-work” to Indian companies that compete only on the basis of cost.

While subcontracting certainly brings great promise in the short-term, dependence on subcontracting for revenue also brings great peril. First, well-defined, project-oriented job-work may pay handsomely, but it does not create a recurring stream of revenue. Second, it creates a sense of technological stasis in the subcontracted firm since it is generally low-level, labor-intensive work that is subcontracted. Third, it creates technological dependence on the multi-nationals that actually design, produce, and market high-end products and systems that subcontractees have to buy. Thus, a constant diet of low-end, subcontracted work militates against the need for and creation of an innovative base within India itself.

Still, if they want business, Indian firms must scramble for subcontracted work since the domestic market in India has not shown the buoyancy that pundits have been predicting since 1991: During the last fiscal year, the total internal demand was a paltry $1.25 billion. The lack of domestic demand is perhaps the single largest constraint on innovation in the Indian software industry. Close proximity to a large source of demand is critical in order to encourage and sustain the types of feedback loops that are necessary for innovation.

Clearly, there are enormous odds against the creation of innovative milieus in India, but there is no reason to believe that these are permanent features of the Indian economic landscape.

I started this article with talk about markets; I will conclude it with a warning about markets.

There are two worrisome trends in Indian economic discourse that compound the already existing problems of India’s low place on the value chain. Both of them have to do with markets. First is the constant invocation of comparative advantage principles — from which it is argued that since India’s advantage is cheap labor, India should do its best to grab low-end, outsourced work and not worry about high-end, innovative areas since cheap labor hardly helps in these areas. This market-dictated, static view of comparative advantage has never stood any country in good stead.

Second is the mantra of the “market,” adopted with the vast reforms in the Indian economy staring in 1991. Implicit (often stated) in the rhetoric about the market’s ability to push India out of the economic doldrums is that the state must recede from the productive milieu. My research indicates that such thinking is wrong-headed, even disingenuous.

Even a casual stroll through the history of technological innovation over the last century and a half leads to the conclusion that the role of the state in promoting innovative enterprises is of singular importance — whether you look at Silicon Valley and Route 128, the M3 Corridor, or Tokyo.

Second, only the state, an actor that still strides like a Colossus on the economic scene, can preside over (in concert with other actors) the types of institutional reconfigurations needed if India is ever to create an innovative base and truly compete on equal terms with other countries.

What other entity could manage what planners refer to as “social re-engineering?” What other entity could make proper investments in education, health care, the legal system and a host of other institutions that are necessary for the creation of a skilled populace not completely burdened by the existential issues that necessarily arise in an environment vitiated by scarcity?

Markets are important to the upward pushes of any economy, but market fundamentalism will lead India down the wrong path.

What we really need in India is an honest assessment of our social, economic, and political institutions. Only after such an assessment is made can we hope to set processes in motion that will allow the economy to prosper.

While the Indian software industry has had considerable success over the past decade, there is a large task ahead.

Only if we heed the lessons of other countries and create a framework in which the state, a reconfigured and recast state certainly, can work synergistically with educators, politicians, entrepreneurs, and other actors will we be able to move up the value chain.

I do not wish here to make specific recommendations (though I do that in my consulting work). The aim in this piece is to make a broad point: I want to reintroduce in the state to the agenda in policy discussions.

The question, “Can Indian software be innovative?” can only be answered truthfully once India creates the basic preconditions for innovation.

Though riding high now (and rightfully so), the Indian software industry must take the long view and expend energy and resources into creating structures and institutions that make moving up the value chain possible.

– Romi Mahajan is an associate of the
Telecommunications and Information Policy Institute
at the University of Texas, Austin. He is editing a book on
Indian software to be released November 2000 by Penguin.

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Learning Java
Introductory Lesson - By Marian Corcoran

Java is the hottest programming language today. In last month’s issue Marian Corcoran gave an introduction about how it is used in the real world. In this issue she begins a series of articles that walks you through the basic concepts of this cutting-edge language.

Part I: A Basic Introduction to Creating Classes in Java

This begins a series of articles on an introduction to Java, starting with an introduction to classes and inheritance.

This introductory article assumes no knowledge of object-oriented programming and is designed to get you thinking in terms of how to create classes. I won’t use the exact syntax of Java yet. It is most important to get the idea of thinking in classes first.

Classes

The most important construct in the language is the class. It is used as a way to structure and organize your program. Think of how you would separate things in the world. Think of one thing, a person perhaps. What attributes might a person have? Name, age, height, etc. You would combine these things into a class doing something like:

class Person

name

age

height

You would create a specific instance of the class by filling in the attributes. One specific instance of a class might be:

name : Sriram

age : 28 years

height : 5’9”

You could think of yet another instance of the class:

name : Mary

age : 37 years

height : 5’8”

Another item might be an employee:

class Employee

name :

SocSecNum:

A particular example of this would be:

name : Sing Lei

SocSecNum:0983451234

Inheritance

The concept of classes allows them to be put together as building blocks to model the real world. In Java and other object-oriented languages, the construct to model the real world is inheritance. Inheritance allows you to extend the functionality of the class. For example, there are specific kinds of employees: managers, software engineers, human resources.

The class for the manager might include the department he or she manages. The class would be:

class Manager

extends Employee

department:

A particular instance of the class Manager would include the properties from the class Employee plus the property from the class Manager, so you would have something like:

name : Sitaram

SocSecNum:1234567890

department: research and development

You could also create a class SoftwareEngineer to extend the Employee class:

class SoftwareEngineer

extends Employee

languages:

A specific instance of the class would be the properties from the class Employee plus the properties form the class SoftwareEngineer:

name : Jack

SocSecNum:0987654321

languages: Java, C++, Fortran

In the above examples, you have seen how to create classes and specific instances of a class from a conceptual point of view. You have also learned how to extend the functionality of a class by creating another class, using inheritance.

Next month, you will learn about getting started using a Java compiler and some basic language constructs of the Java syntax.

Marian Corcoran can be reached at marian@centeradv.com

- 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.

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eBUSINESS:

The World at Your Web:
Managing IT Resources – By Amber Cargile

In today’s Internet-driven business world a smooth running information technology system can mean the difference between survival and failure. Servers, networks, applications must be monitored on a 24/7 basis and glitches have to be fixed with the promptness of freeway accidents. Costs big bucks, you think? Start-up Silicon Valley company @Manage begs to differ, as Amber Cargile reports in her story about this company led by a feisty Indian American CEO.

Ask Ron Faulkner, vice president for customer service technology solutions at Cotelligent, about the impact a good Management Service Provider can have on a company and he’ll sing its praises.

Cotelligent was one of the beta customers for @Manager, a service recently introduced by a rising-star MSP called @Manage, based in Sunnyvale, Calif. A software professional services firm that provides information technology consulting and outsourcing services, Cotelligent conducts operations from offices in 27 metropolitan areas across the United States.

“Cotelligent was having problems with its network, “ said Faulkner. “We were troubleshooting problems and trying to patch it up, but couldn’t figure out why the network wasn’t working properly. With the help of @Manage, we got a handle on the problem. They monitored our system and documented how many times our server was down and impeding our flow of business. With this hard data, we were able to justify additional hardware to top management which eliminated all down time on our system.”

Cotelligent appears to be on the right track. According to Gartner Group analyst Stephen Elliot, using such services is a good strategy for companies that want to gain control of their internal information technology infrastructures. Elliot, who coined the term Management Service Provider, said MSPs eliminate the need for companies to buy, maintain or upgrade management systems. In a recent article in Networld Fusion, Elliott said that by allowing the MSP to take over responsibility for monitoring, measuring and reporting on its servers, networks and applications, a company is able to fully focus on its core competencies, while still maintaining control of its network resources.

@Manage, which recently received $1.2 million in first-round funding from NetAngels and other strategic investors, is the only Web-based MSP that remotely monitors and manages IT infrastructures for small to mid-market companies. In addition to Cotelligent, @Manage clients include Oracle Business Online, Fannie Mae, Washington Post.com, HotBiz, and Chipshot.com.@Manage delivers its management services to clients through its suite of tools, which includes @Manager and @Monitor, services that are currently powered by Sun Microsystems and hosted on servers co-located at Exodus Communications.

The company was founded in 1998 by CEO Paras Gupta,along with VP for business development Christine M. Flores, CIO Xun Fang, and CFO Derrick L. Arias, all former Exodus employees. Under their leadership, the company is realizing its vision to provide a cost-effective enterprise management solution for e-businesses that monitors and manages anything, from anywhere, anytime, over the Internet.

Using Web technology, @Manage customers can get a desktop, consolidated view of their IT resources, right on their Web browser. “One of the great aspects of our services is that management can access the information anywhere, anytime,” said Gupta. “An administrator can be laying on a remote Polynesian beach, sunscreen in one hand, wondering how his system is running, dreading the sound of his beeper. All he or she has to do is go back to his hotel room, fire up the laptop, connect to the Internet, and voila!, the administrator can get a consolidated picture of the status of his or her IT resources, in real time,” he said.

For many clients the biggest appeal of using an MSP is the bottom line, which can translate into big dollar savings. “@Manage believes information technology should support the growth plans of businesses, not hinder them,” said Gupta “However, many top-tier enterprise management solutions require considerable investment of resources that most growing companies cannot afford. This puts this kind of capability fiscally out of reach for many small to mid-size companies. And of course finding qualified IT professionals is a major challenge as well. But our services make that kind of critical protection an affordable reality for our customers,” he added.

“Our services help management on many levels, from ensuring they know about their IT problems before their customers do, to ensuring the company’s vendors are performing up to their service level agreements. This is essential in a business environment where a company must literally operate and respond to problems on Internet time in order to survive, ” said Christine Flores, co-founder and vice president of sales & marketing.

@Manager monitors and manages networks that contain equipment from a variety of vendors and over different operating systems. It provides real-time monitoring, reporting, and alerting for Internet, Extranet, and Intranet IT resources. It offers advanced functionality that ensures ongoing availability and performance of servers, networks, applications, and services. By continually monitoring IT resources, @Manager identifies potential problems before they impact operations, thus ensuring that IT resources continually deliver responsive service to the end users.

Businesses using @Manager can view a graphical representation of comprehensive metrics for key IT resources and also have direct access to raw data that can be exported to third party analytical tools for further analysis. IT resources are color-coded and handicap-enabled to designate the overall status of each resource.

These graphs empower system and network administrators to control and respond to IT problems before their end-users experience any disruption in services. Automatic alarms can be set based on user-defined thresholds and @Manager immediately reports conditions that require corrective action and can send alerts to appropriate personnel via either an “event console”, a pager, or e-mail.

For a limited time, @Manager is offered at $199 per IT device per month for a one-year commitment.

The company’s @Monitor service, offered for free, was introduced last year and provides hourly, daily, weekly, and/or monthly graphs to measure performance and utilization and allows for trend analysis and capacity planning of IT resources. This helps to ensure high availability and performance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for e-Commerce, email, file servers, database servers, and ftp servers.

@Monitor also performs diagnoses on key system components such as CPU, Memory, and File System for UNIX, LINUX, and NT Servers. Secured browser access to all performance and historic data allows for trend analysis.

The key benefit to using @Monitor is the ability to run leaner systems with predictable costs and scalability. The system provides immediate implementation and return-on-investment, solutions that reduce the costs of technology ownership, and additional valuable time that can be spent on other aspects of managing and operating a business. It also helps avoid the risk of errors in costly technology planning and implementation.

“We recognize that effective monitoring and management of networks, systems, applications, and services is critical for businesses—by using an MSP, companies are buying a technological insurance policy against the uncertainties of the future,” Gupta said.

MSP ADVANTAGES

  • Comprehensive Reporting – A wide range of standardized, easy to understand reports are available and ad-hoc capabilities provide the flexibility to create a wide variety of customized reports.

  • Improved Service to End-Users – Delivers a high level of service to users through improved control over IT resources.

  • Optimal Availability – Enables better planning and allocation of hardware, software and network resources.

  • Reliable, Consistent Management – Provides a consistent, corporate-wide management solution to the distributed environment, enabling critical management information to be provided through a common user interface.

  • Reduced Costs & Increased Productivity – In the case of a Web-based MSP like @Manage, it reduces the total cost of ownership by monitoring the entire enterprise from the Web. An intuitive graphical interface allows administrators to become more productive immediately.

  • Quick Isolation of Problems – Uses advanced event correlation to help system and network administrators immediately pinpoint the root problem.

  • Minimized Overhead – A lightweight nonintrusive architecture that requires only minimal system CPU and network traffic.

  • Customized Data Presentation – Metrics are easily exported to third party tools, enabling complete customization of data presentation.

  • Support for Heterogeneous Environments – From the smallest organization with a simple web-server to large global multi-vendor environments, can efficiently manage even the most distant resources.

  • Cost Effective Solutions – Empowers businesses to pay only for the resources they want monitored today, with the knowledge that when they need to monitor more resources it is only 5 minutes away.

@Manage: The Players

Paras Gupta, CEO – Born in New Delhi to a family of entrepreneurs, Gupta attended a private, English-language school in India before heading to college near Des Moines, Iowa, where he majored in computer science and computer engineering at Graceland College. Gupta worked in both Kansas City and Minneapolis before settling in Silicon Valley and pursuing his own business and entrepreneurial dreams.

Inspired by the success he witnessed first-hand at Exodus Communications, Gupta first set out on his own with the successful Unify Consulting Group, which he formed with his fellow Exodus comrades Christine Flores, Xun Fang and Derrick Arias. The four segued their experience and successes at Exodus and Unify Consulting into founding @Manage and recently securing $1.2 million in first-round funding.

Christine Flores, VP of Business Development – Flores was previously the VP of Sales for Unify Consulting, where she was responsible for sales, marketing and business development. As strategic account manager at CompuServe, she was responsible for managing over $6 million in revenue from Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Symantec and Borland. She also worked with Exodus Communications, MCI and Informix.

Flores, as chair of the board for the Center to Develop Entrepreneurs, oversaw the successful launch of over 60 new businesses in high tech, biotech and consumer retail industries as president for the Center to Develop Women Entrepreneurs from 1996 to 1998.

Xun (Shawn) Fang, CIO – Fang is one of the principal architects and strategists for @Manage’s distributed computing environment and associated services. With the others, Fang co-founded Unify Consulting Group and was responsible for leading all technology initiatives there, including managing R&D and Operations.

Fang has extensive experience in software design & development. His expertise includes programming in JAVA, C++, TCP/IP, object-oriented methodology and database application development.

Derrick Arias, VP Operations – Prior to co-founding @Manage with Gupta and company, Arias was CFO and co-founder of Unify Consulting Group Inc. There he was responsible for leading the company’s financial and operational strategies and was instrumental in securing seed capital for the company from the SBA. At Exodus Communications, Derrick was a senior systems analyst.

- Amber Cargile works for a
Silicon Valley-based public relations firm.

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LAW:

Visas and Viraha:
Spouses of Immigrants - By Anu Gupta

If the person you choose to marry plans to live in the U.S. permanently, chances are you will have to suffer the pain of viraha – separation – before you get a visa. Immigration attorney Anu Gupta walks you through the various legal steps you have to go through.

If you decide to marry a person who is a permanent resident of the United States, and you want to immigrate to the US, there are “/images/transpcr.gif”numerous steps you must take. First, upon marriage, get a court license/certificate of license as proof of your married status. Apply to the US Embassy/Consulate of your city for your immigration as the spouse of a permanent resident. At the Embassy, you will be required to fill out Form I-130 and will have to provide documentation to prove who you are and proof of your marriage. After your application is processed, you will be entered in a que. This que is based on a quota system. Each country is allocated a certain number of green cards in each family based permanent resident category each year. Your “number” (“priority date”) is the date upon which the US Embassy/ INS received your petition. This date is stamped in the left hand corner of your Notice of Receipt that INS will send to you.

Once when your priority date becomes current, you will be interviewed at the US Embassy and if your petition is approved (if the marriage is genuine), you will be given a “Green card”. Generally it is a number , starting with “A–” stamped on your passport at the Consulate. You will also be given a package to be given to the INS officer at the airport at which you land into the US. Based on this, your “Green card” will be mailed to you at your local US address within 6-8 weeks after you land in the US.

The green card that you are given is temporary, valid for 2 years. Within 3 months of your approaching this 2 year date, you need to re-file for a permanent green card. You basically must prove that you and your sponsoring spouse are still married and living together. You and your spouse will be interviewed by INS and you will be approved for a permanent green card unless INS suspects fraud.

TimeLine:

After filing with INS/US Embassy or Consulate abroad, it takes approximately 6 months for your petition to be processed. After this period, you are in a que. Currently the que for India exceeds 4 years. This means you will be outside the US for approximately 4 years before you can join your spouse in the US.

In the meantime, you will be denied an non-immigrant visa because, by filing for an immigrant visa, you have proved your intention to immigrate permanently and have lost the non-immigration intent. Non-immigrant visa basically includes tourist, student and business visas.

There may be other options that you may have available to you:

  • If your spouse has been in the US and has been a green card holder for close to 5 years, she/he may apply for citizenship. Depending on which state the spouse lives in, their citizenship may be processed in 1-3 years. If you have your petition sponsored by your spouse (as a green card holder) pending with the INS, it will get upgraded to the petition for a spouse of a citizen and you will be able to rejoin your spouse shortly after they get citizenship.

Options if you do not get married.

  • If you have a college degree and related experience, you may be able to get employment in the US and may be able to get a H-1B visa processed. The time for this is normally 8-12 weeks.

  • If you are currently employed by a company with offices in the US, you may be able to get transferred to the US, again on a H-1B visa. Again you will complete the process in 8-12 weeks in most cases.

  • If your current employer has a US office or wants to open a US office/ or if you are self-employed, you may be able to visit the US prospecting for business opportunities. You will first get a business visa (B2), then upon entering the US, apply for a L-1 visa. If approved, after a year of L-1visa, you may apply for a green card. After being approved for a L-1 (normally 8 weeks processing by INS), you can get married. However, note that if you leave the US, you may have trouble coming back.

  • If you want to study in the US, you may apply for a student visa (F1). This is tough to get, but if you do get it, you can come to the US, you can get married in the US and file for a green card through your spouse. However, if you leave the country in this situation, you most probably will not be allowed back into the US.

- Anu Gupta is an immigration attorney
based in Fremont, Calif.

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IT COMMUNICATIONS:

DSL:
Newer Faster Internet – By Murali Bhat

High quality Internet connections are no longer exclusively a hi-tech concern. Everyday folks have come a long way from the days when they used the Internet just to send E-mail to grandma. DSL – the new fast way to the Internet – is exciting a lot of people. But what is it, what it can do, what it cannot do and what the other choices are – these are all frequently asked questions. Murali Bhat has the answers.


Digital Subscriber Line, or DSL, is a technology for bringing high-bandwidth connectivity to homes and small businesses over ordinary copper telephone lines. xDSL refers to the family of digital subscriber line technologies, such as ADSL, HDSL, and RADSL. Connection speeds for DSL typically range from 1.544 Mbps to 512 Kbps downstream and around 128 Kbps upstream. In addition, a DSL line allows for one line to carry both voice and data signals, and for the data part of the line to be continuously connected. DSL achieves higher data transfer rates by utilizing more of the available bandwidth spectrum. Ordinary telephone service only makes use of the 0 - 3400 Hz frequency range, which accounts for the 56 Kbps speed limit on standard analog modems. DSL eludes the 3400 Hz frequency boundary by outmoding the digital-to-analog conversion that modems perform and connecting both ends digitally. Hence, larger bandwidth is available, allowing higher transfer rates.

DSL’s use of the existing twisted pair infrastructure makes it cheaper to install than other services which require additional cable to be laid. And unlike cable modems, DSL is not a bus technology, so the bandwidth available to the end user is more consistent. However, despite all of its positive attributes, DSL is not without flaw. For instance, in order to be eligible for DSL, the end user must be geographically within a certain distance from the central telephone office, otherwise the signal degradation is too great and DSL is unfeasible (for ADSL that distance is two miles.) In addition, numerous standards still exist for DSL, hardware is still comparatively pricey, and service is available only in limited areas. Despite these drawbacks, DSL is still a faster alternative to analog modems and ISDN, and should rival cable modems as far as actual bandwidth offerings.

What is DSL?

DSL is the acronym for Digital Subscriber Line technology. DSL is a relatively new technology that makes use of the old copper phone lines to significantly increase bandwidth between the phone companies and their customers. DSL is a service that everyone should have if they are using a standard dial-up connection and want faster internet. Remember DSL uses your existing phone line and does not require an additional phone line. The DSL service uses your existing phone line. This gives you 24 hour access and does not tie up your line and cause it to have a busy signal if you’re on the web. In its various forms — DSL offers users a choice of speeds ranging from 32 Kbps to more than 50 Mbps. These digital services can and will be used to deliver bandwidth-intensive applications like video on demand and distance learning. Today DSL is putting high-speed Internet access within the reach of homes, small and medium-size businesses. DSL takes existing voice cables and turns them into a high-speed digital link. Over any given link, the maximum DSL speed is determined by the distance between the customer site and the Central Office. Most ISPs offer a range of speeds so customers can choose the rate that meets their specific business needs. At the customer premises, a DSL modem connects the DSL line to a local-area network (LAN) or an individual computer. Once installed, the DSL modem provides the customer site with continuous connection to the Internet.

DSL, Analog, Cable, or ISDN?

Analog Modems use a telephone network as is. That is, there are no special provisions that are required to use analog modems in today’s telephone networks. Analog modems simply allow digital data to flow over the telephone company’s already analog network by performing a digital to analog conversion for transmission onto the network and vice versa on the receiving end. The only necessity for analog modems is that each end of the call must have a compatible modem. In essence, this makes analog modem connections the most ubiquitous form of data communications available today. However, analog modems are thus limited by the telephone company’s voice bandwidth service. Current analog modems are struggling to achieve rates of only 56Kbps. With only a bandwidth of about 3,000 Hz, there is a extremely small finite limit on the amount of data that may be encoded and sent reliably through this network. User requirements far outstrip what analog modems can obtain today.

ISDN is a telephone company technology that provides digital service typically in increments of 64Kbps channels. ISDN has been around for many years, but it’s popularity is now only beginning to increase due to the limitations of analog modems and the rise of Internet usage. ISDN requires the phone company to install services within their phone switches to support this digitally switched connection service. Roll out of this service initially got off to a slow start and was stalled by high costs, lack of standards and low acceptance rate by consumers.

DSL is technology backed by telephone companies to provide next generation high bandwidth services to the home and business using the existing telephone cabling infrastructure. DSL to the home over existing phone lines promises bandwidths up to 9Mbps, but distance limitations and line quality conditions can reduce what will actually be achievable. DSL technologies will use a greater range of frequencies over the cable than traditional telephone services which in turn allow for greater bandwidth with which to send and receive information. This technology is still in the early stages of roll out with standards and products just getting under way. Driving this market is the competition from competing access providers and the pursuit of your Internet access dollar.

Cable modems are devices that attach to the cable TV network connection in a home. This broadband technology is being driven by the cable companies to provide services beyond traditional broadcast cable TV such as Internet access. Along with xDSL, it is still in the early stages of development. There are a number of challenges faced by this industry, including return path capabilities, customer service issues and standards. However, potential bandwidth estimates range upwards of 30Mbps from the service provider to subscriber. Cable networks are inherently different in design than telephone networks. Cable networks are broadcast oriented, with each subscriber in an area receiving the same signals as all others in that area. xDSL is circuit oriented so that each connection is independent of all others. Cable networks are inherently hierarchical in nature and thus require two paths, one for downstream and one for upstream. This requires either a second cable plant for upstream or a second frequency band allocated onto the existing system.

Wireless

There are a number of different wireless schemes proposed, planned and implemented throughout the world. Wireless access technology takes shape in a number of different forms such as via a satellite TV service provider or a cellular phone network. Wireless systems can provide ubiquitous access to a large number of subscribers in a relatively large area. Bandwidth can range from a few kilobits a second to many megabits and be either symmetrical or asymmetrical. Like all other technologies, there can be deployment issues which may include spectrum licensing, interference and noise problems, or bandwidth limitations.

How fast is DSL?

DSL speeds have a wide range. Typically ADSL users can expect maximum downstream rates of 1.5Mbps. Other DSL standards have their own specific speeds.

What type of DSL is best for me?

ADSL is generally best for home and small business use. This is because of its larger data rate downstream. This means that the typical user will be able to download faster than they can send data. Which, is very typical of most home users. Customers who require larger bandwidth might do better with SDSL or HDSL.

Murali Bhat is a software professional
based in Santa Clara, Calif
.

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FINANCE:

Savvy Planning:
Choosing and Managing Retirement Accounts - By Ashok Gupta

Education IRAs, Roth IRAs – The choices for saving wisely are many. Now a 1997 Act adds more flexibility. Ashok Gupta explains.

When saving for retirement, the first place many people look is toward Individual Retirement Accounts. Available in most types of savings and investment accounts, IRAs offer tax advantages over traditional savings vehicles.

Income tax deferred savings with long-term compounding make IRAs an effective way to accumulate assets for retirement. Because individuals control how they invest their money, they can manage the risk and reward just as they would the rest of their financial portfolio. A variety of vehicles that might include mutual funds, CDs, stocks, and bonds can be balanced in conservative to aggressive investments providing the diversity and growth that will help build savings toward a comfortable future.

Since the enactment of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, there have been more IRA choices and flexibility.

Traditional IRAs

All IRAs grow income tax-deferred until withdrawn, at which point the earnings in traditional IRAs are taxed as ordinary income. In addition to the tax, a 10 percent federal income tax penalty may apply to contract owners under the age of 59.

In some cases, contributions may be deductible from taxable income. But limitations exist.

In a traditional IRA, anyone with earned income can contribute up to $2,000 per year, until age 70. For a married couple filing jointly you could say it is up to $4,000 ($2,000 each) until age 70. If neither spouse is covered by a company retirement plan, the maximum joint IRA contribution of $4,000 a year is fully deductible, provided they meet the earned income requirement. Depending on their amount of adjusted gross income on a joint tax return, a participant in an employer’s retirement plan and his or her spouse may also be able to make deductible IRA contributions. To reinforce the focus on retirement savings, any withdrawal taken prior to age 59 may be subject to a 10 percent federal income tax penalty on earnings withdrawn, as well as ordinary income taxes.

As the government continues to push people toward managing their own financial retirement potential, there are two other kinds of IRAs that give people more savings choices. Most significantly, the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 included an alternative to traditional Individual Retirement Accounts, the Roth IRA.

Roth IRA

First introduced by Senator William Roth, this IRA does not allow tax-deductible contributions, but it does make all qualified withdrawals from the account, including earnings, federal income tax-free. While withdrawals from the traditional IRA will eventually get taxed at the then-current tax bracket of the IRA owner, qualified withdrawals from the Roth IRA will not be subject to federal income tax as long as the account has been held for at least five tax years, and the owner has attained age 59 or if certain other circumstances exist, namely:

  • Distributions in the event of the IRA owner’s death
  • Distributions in the event of the owner’s disability; or
  • Distributions used to pay “qualified first-time homebuyer expenses” for the IRA owner or the owner’s spouse, child, grandchild, or ancestor. “Qualified first-time homebuyer expenses” are limited to $10,000 (from all IRAs), and are defined as amounts used to pay for a principal residence where the purchaser has not had an ownership interest in a principal residence for at least two years. Different rules may apply with regards to state income tax.

Again, there are benefits and limits: anyone earning income or alimony can contribute $2,000 annually as long as the adjusted gross income is not above $95,000 for single filers or $150,000 for couples filing jointly. Contributions are phased out for single filers with adjusted gross income between $95,000 and $110,000, and for couples filing jointly with adjusted gross income between $150,000 and $160,000. This limit is further reduced by any contributions made to traditional IRAs maintained for the individual’s benefit (excluding Education IRAs). The Roth IRA allows contributions to continue past age 70 if the Roth IRA owner has earned income. Unlike the traditional IRA, distributions are not mandatory at age 70 on the Roth IRA.

If a non-qualified distribution is made, any earnings will generally be included in the Roth IRA owner’s income, and may be subject to the 10-percent federal income tax penalty. As with the traditional IRA, however, exceptions to the 10-percent penalty exist. Withdrawals may be made penalty-free when distributions are

  • Due to the owner’s death
  • Due to the owner’s disability
  • Used to pay medical insurance premiums
  • Used to pay qualified first time home buying expenses, as discussed above; or
  • Qualified educational expenses.

(Note that in the case of traditional IRAs, a distribution may be penalty free, but would not be income tax-free.)

These last two exceptions are key benefits that may make investors feel more at ease when beginning their retirement savings early.

The Roth IRA may be most beneficial to people who have a long-term investing horizon – 20 years or more - and to those who will be in a relatively high tax bracket when it’s time to begin taking IRA money. Others may be better off with the traditional version.

When the Roth IRA fits a savings strategy, it may be best to convert existing traditional IRA accounts into a new Roth IRA. In the year of conversion, the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income must be $100,000 or less (excluding the income from the converted traditional IRA). Ordinary income tax must be paid on the taxable amount the taxpayer chooses to convert; however, the 10 percent federal income tax penalty is not imposed on the converted amount.

Education IRA

Another new twist on the IRA, the Education IRA, is designed for those saving for a child’s future educational expenses. Up to $500 a year per child (regardless of any amounts contributed to a traditional or Roth IRA) can be contributed to an Education IRA on behalf of a child until the child turns 18. In order to make the maximum annual contribution of $500, the single taxpayer’s adjusted gross income must not exceed $95,000 ( $150,000 on a joint return).The qualified contribution phases out as earnings increase. Joint filers with adjusted gross income over $160,000 are not eligible to contribute to an Education IRA. Single filers with adjusted gross income over $110,000 are not eligible to contribute.

Distributions from Education IRAs are generally federal income tax-free so long as the distribution does not exceed the beneficiary’s “qualified higher education expenses” (which includes college tuition, other qualified costs and fees, and for students attending at least half-time, certain room and board expenses) incurred in the year of the distribution. Any distributions not used for qualified higher education expenses are subject to both income tax and the 10-percent federal income tax penalty. (Different rules may apply with regards to state income tax.) Amounts remaining in the Education IRA when the beneficiary turns 30 will be subject to income tax and the 10 percent federal income tax penalty unless rolled over to another eligible family member.

While each of these IRAs offers attractive options for retirement savings, it is best to think through the benefits and limitations according to each financial situation and plan. A tax advisor can provide full details on all tax-deferred and tax-advantaged accounts, while a professional financial services representative can help you determine which investments best fit your retirement savings and investment objectives.

- Ashok Gupta is a financial planner
based in San Jose, Calif.

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HEALTH:

Heartburn:
Why it happens, What to do about it – By Bhupinder Bhandari

Gastroenterologist Bhupinder Bhandari offers advice on a common ailment.

What Is Heartburn:

Heartburn is a feeling of burning or discomfort behind the sternum, on the anterior aspect of the chest. It is basically a symptom experienced when the acidic contents of the stomach flow back into the esophagus. It is the most common manifestation of gastroesophageal reflux. It is in fact not related to the heart at all.

Why Does It Occur:

At the lower end of the esophagus or the food pipe is a ring like muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter. When food is swallowed this ring opens to allow the food to pass in the stomach. It the tightens to prevent stomach contents to flow back in to the esophagus. When this sphincter muscle is not able to do it’s job the acid contents of the stomach flow back into the esophagus and cause irritation and burning sensation.

What Makes Heartburn Worse:

Eating fat rich food and alcohol make heartburn worse. Certain food items like mint, chocolate, excessive tea or coffee also make this condition worse. Certain medications can make heartburn worse as well. Large heavy meals, specially eaten late in the evening exacerbate heartburn. Heartburn is very common during the last few months of pregnancy.

How is Reflux Diagnosed:

Most often reflux can be diagnosed from a history of heartburn. A barium swallow that is ordered by doctors can also aid in the diagnosis. In this test X rays are taken after a special liquid is swallowed. A good test to assess the severity of reflux is called endoscopy. In this examination a stomach specialist introduces a flexible tube with a light at it’s tip into the food pipe and the esophagus. This allows direct visualization of the lining of the upper gastrointestinal tract and also help’s in diagnosing if there is a peptic ulcer. Further tests are available to evaluate patients with reflux symptoms that do not respond to usual treatments.

What is the Treatment:

Life style modifications are the first line of intervention against reflux. Loosing any extra weight is an effective measure. Diet modification with elimination of the above mentioned food items has a beneficial effects. Avoidance of late evening or large meals is also useful. Some people find raising the head end of the bed by a pillow or two quite useful.

If these simple measures do not suffice your physician may prescribe medications.. Many of these medicines work by reducing the acid content in the stomach. Some medicines work by promoting forward motility in the esophagus and by strengthening the sphincter.

In a small number of patients severe reflux will respond inadequately to medical regimens. These patients are carefully evaluated for treatment with surgery that results in tightening the junction between the food pipe and the stomach. This surgery can often be performed by a laparoscope and is similar to the key hole surgery for gall bladder removal.

How Can Heartburn be Prevented:

The best prevention against heartburn and it’s complications is to maintain a normal body weight, eat a healthy diet and avoid irritating foods.

- Dr. Bhupinder Bhandari is a gastroenterologist
based in Fremont, Calif.

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CULTURE:

Raag Marwa:
Twilight Mood – By Habib Khan

Sitarist Habib Khan describes a raga which captures the mood of sunset, when day merges into night.

Raag Marwa is an example of a raag with a very distinct personality. An early evening raag, Marwa expresses the mood of sunset time, when the whole world is in transition as day merges into night. As the sun drops low on the horizon, all the earth’s living things begin to shift from daytime activities into the slower and more restful pace of the evening.

This is the time when birds return to their nests, people put away their work and prepare to return to home and family, and even plants rest after their daytime growth. The sky is red, neither light or dark and sometimes both, and neither the late afternoon sun nor the early evening moon are visible at the same time. Marwa time is clearly a time of transition, reflecting the worlds of both day and night but having a definite place in neither.

At this time of day we feel a sense of loss — the sun and the day’s opportunities are leaving us behind, while at the same time we share an excitement in anticipation of what the night will bring. This experience of sadness tinged with expectation is reflected in Raag Marwa’s emphasis on the sorrowful note komal rishab, the unstable note tisra madhyam, and the hopeful note shuddh dhaivat. These notes are important because the juxtaposition of re and dha reflects the twilight merging of raat (night) and din (day). Raag Marwa rarely shows sa. This infrequent use of shadaj also indicates the instability of this time of day, when we feel as if we have no definite place to stand, because we have one foot in each of two worlds.

Marwa is a very difficult raag to perform, because its ascending and descending scales are the same as those for Raags Puritya and Soni. A musician must rely on the tonal contour of the raag to stay within its framework and to express its distinct character.

When perfectly rendered, Raag Marwa is like a jewel reflecting the muted late afternoon/early evening twilight.

- Habib Khan is a well-known sitarist based
in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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YOGA:

Simple Easy Exercises:
Yoga Eye Care – By Vasanthi Bhat

People spend time jogging or going to the gym no matter how busy they are, yet few spend time taking care of their eyes with just a few simple exercises, laments yoga expert Vasanthi Bhat.

“Health care and glasses linked to computer use costs companies and employers nearly $2 billion a year.”

– American Optometric Association (USA Today, Feb. 11, 1999)

“Seventy-five percent of video screen users reported occasional aching or burning eyes at work.”

– National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health finding (USA Today, Feb. 11, 1999)


It is common to overlook the needs of the eyes. People spend time to jog or go to gym in spite of a hectic schedule. But it is equally important to spend a few minutes everyday to stretch and relax the eyes. Just as stretching the body relieves tension, stretching eyes relieves tension in the eyes. Eye exercises can relieve tension by increasing blood flow to optic nerves while strengthening the eyes. Eyes help us to communicate and enjoy the wonders of the universe, so we ignore this vital organ at our peril.

Can you just imagine even spending seconds without proper eyesight?

Eye exercises are especially helpful for those who work long hours at the computer, have weak vision, or who read and write a lot. They are also beneficial for those who want to improve their eyesight (short and farsightedness), and prevent old-age eye ailments such as glaucoma and cataract. Best of all, eye exercises can be practiced any time, even after a heavy meal. They can be practiced by people of all ages.

“I practice yoga eye exercises regularly,” says kindergarten student Pooja Desai. “My favorite is the ‘clock exercise’ where I have to move my eyes in a circle without moving the head.”

The five-year old girl currently uses glasses.

“My eye doctor says, with regular exercises, my eyes will become strong, and one day I may not need any glasses,” she says. “So, to keep my eyes strong, I put eye yoga videotape and practice eye exercises and yoga postures which help the eyes.”

Today I try to assist people in keeping their eyes healthy, because I have struggled with impaired eyesight from childhood. I started wearing glasses for shortsightedness at the age of seven. My eyesight got progressively worse for years until I started practicing the eye exercises that I will now describe. Within 6 months, my eyesight improved, and I was able to get rid of my glasses. These exercises also helped me relieve my dry eyes that I had for many years. So far, I do not need reading glasses.

India Currents publisher Ashok Jethanandani says: “I have been doing netra vyayam, yogic eye exercises, for the last three years. My vision has improved from -3.25D to -2.00D. My ophthalmologist, who was initially skeptical about any improvement, is now quite interested in monitoring my progress. I do the exercises in an eye videotape, or frequently, when I don’t have much time, just do five minutes of the basic eye exercises.”

You need to do eye exercises if:

  • Your eyes get tired watching computer screens/TV screens.
  • You get headaches from working with computers or while reading.
  • You have dry and irritable eyes.
  • You think that you are suffering from insomnia.
  • You want to improve your eyesight.

Don’t think eye exercises take hours of practice.

The following exercises will definitely help you. They can be practiced any time of day even while taking a half-minute break from your work. These exercises have helped many computer professionals, children, and seniors. The exercises that you are going to practice are derived from yoga techniques.

Exercise 1

This simple exercise relaxes and relieves tension from the optic nerves.

  • Open your eyes wide and look up.
  • Hold it for 5-10 seconds.
  • Close your eyes and squeeze your eyes.
  • Hold it for 3-5 seconds.
  • Repeat as you please.

Exercise 2

This practice relaxes the optic nerves and helps improve eyesight.

  • Holding your head straight look to your right, and hold the position for about five seconds.
  • Repeat the movement looking to your left, looking up, and down.



Exercise 3

This practice lubricates and soothes dry eyes, and improves eyesight.

  • Place the tip of your index finger between the eyebrows.
  • Looking at the finger tip, slowly move the finger to the tip of your nose without blinking as you keep your eyes on it.
  • By this time eyes release tears naturally and you feel like blinking.
  • Repeat a few times.



Note: Sometimes you may feel like blinking your eyes as you practice, as your eyes release tears quickly. For some it takes many practices to feel the benefits if the eyes are very dry.

Benefits of eye exercises

  • Improves eyesight (short and farsightedness)
  • Soothes tired eyes
  • Lubricates dry eyes
  • Relaxes overworked optical nerves
  • Relieves irritability and itchiness
  • Improves eyesight
  • Alleviates tension headaches and insomnia
  • Helps people of all ages
  • Helps people with
  • Prevents glaucoma and cataract

- Habib Khan is a well-known sitarist based
in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Bollywood: | Guftugu | Hindi Film Review I | Hindi Film Review II |

Guftugu

Winner

From giving up drug addiction to braving two long years in prison to reestablishing himself as an actor, Sanjay Dutt has emerged a winner all right. After two decades in the industry, the junior Dutt has finally made the industry sit up and take notice of him once again.

1999 was the beginning of a new life for Sanjay Dutt as an actor. After the much recent Khoobsurat, where he alone with his performance held the film together, Sanjay is back in the reckoning with his soul-searching performance in Vaastav. Having won the Screen-Videocon award and the Filmfare award for Best Actor, Sanjay has begun a new life at forty.
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Mohnish’s Joyride

One more actor to have reinvented himself in the year 1999 is Mohnish Behl.

Nominated for Filmfare’s Best Supporting Actor for Hum Saath Saath Hain,

Mohnish lost it to Anil Kapoor in Taal. But the very fact that he stood out amongst his more well-known colleagues like Salman and Saif Ali Khan is noteworthy.

It’s commendable how this actor has without any hesitation moved into the villain slot, after having begun his career as the leading man, and then moving on to character roles. The latest we hear is that Mohnish is trying his hands at comedy in Shyam Bajaj’s Salman-Rani starrer, Kahin Pyar Na Ho Jaye.
|Return to Bollywood Index| |TOP|

Fire over Water

Deepa Mehta has done it again. Her penchant for picking up issues that need to be brought out in the open has again led to opposition from the self-appointed moral guardians of India. The shooting of Water, which deals with the life of the Varanasi widows in the 1930s, was suspended after an irate 200-strong group of the RSS wing demolished the sets at Dhobi Ghat and burnt a set at Bahdauni in Varanasi.

While Mehta maintains that the film celebrates the dignity of women and in no way besmirches Kashi, its people or the river Ganges, the fanatic pressure groups threatened self-immolation. But with generous invitations from other state s like West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Maharastra, Mehta might just be able to resume shoot soon.

For the show… has to go on.
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Tress-passing

Speaking of Water, one has to remember that earlier the movie was in the news for having the two main leads, played by the Fire team Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das, shaving and cropping their hair for the movie. While Shabana tonsured her head, Nandita Das happily cut away her lustrous, long tresses for a crew cut in preparedness for a shave. If our memory doesn’t fail us, this is precisely the reason that Bollywood actresses like Manisha Koirala chickened out on the offer, since director Deepa Mehta believed that only the original crop would give the film a touch of authenticity.
|Return to Bollywood Index| |TOP|

Flying high

With his performance in East is East, Om Puri has now gained international recognition. Something that we knew and recognized all along. Gaining recognition in Bollywood with his phenomenal performance in Ardh Satya, Om Puri is one complete actor that we know of.

From parallel cinema to commercial flicks, from a serious role to a comic characterization, Om Puri has been there and done it all. And as for the buzz that he has been spotted by David Dhawan to be cast in his next film, all we can say is “better late than never.”

For once Dhawan seems to have set his eyes on the right star.
|Return to Bollywood Index| |TOP|

Rosh(a)n-I

With Kaho Na… Pyaar Hai a star is born... No, we are not exaggerating, it’s a fact.

For Hrithik Roshan is the current heartthrob, finding a pedestal higher than the Khans of Bollywood put together.

It’s not just us, even the Khans think so. Or, at least one Khan does. No, he didn’t tell us so, but it was clear for all those who took to the television sets to watch the recent Filmfare awards ceremony.

When Hrithik took to stage, showing off his muscles and impeccable dancing talents, the cameraman wisely focussed on Baadshah Shah Rukh Khan’s taciturn, jaw-clenched face. Shocking, of course, for we thought the only Khan to be affected would be Salman, for Hrithik doesn’t even have to remove his vest and T-shirts to impress his brawn on the women folk.

Now, isn’t it a pity that the cameraman couldn’t spot Salman in the crowd?
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Star Kids

To substantiate what we have already stated as obvious is the fact that Hrithik has been signed up by the great showman Subhash Ghai for his next film Yaadein. Now if there’s one person who’s a master at spotting talent in the industry, it is the great godfather himself. Madhuri Dixit, Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff – history speaks for itself. There’s one more talent he seems to have settled his eyes on the star kid-sis of Karisma, Kareena Kapoor.
|Return to Bollywood Index| |TOP|

Hindi Film Review I:
Simply A Must-see Film

HEY! RAM

Director: Kamal Haasan
Music: Ilayaraja
Starring: Kamal Haasan, Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukerjee, Vasundhara Das, Naseeruddin Shah, Atul Kulkarni, Saurabh Shukla, Hema Malini and Girish Karnad.
Producer: Kamal Haasan

Hey! Ram goes on to reinstate the much established fact that Kamal Haasan is an actor par excellence. By producing and directing a movie that is way above average Hindi films, Kamal Haasan emerges a winner yet again. The cinematography, editing and set design is immaculate. He could have done with a tighter script, though, and have easily done away with some of the special effects which were a bit over-the-top.

Set in 1946, when the call for Partition tore Calcutta apart due to the ensuing communal riots, the story is told through the life of a common man Saket Ram (Kamal Haasan). The film looks at how personal loss and grief could turn a completely rational and educated archaeologist like Saket Ram into a murderer, bringing in mob psychology and the fact that there are always people ready to cash in on your weaknesses.

A South Indian Brahmin happily married to a Bengali woman Aparna (Rani Mukerjee), Saket Ram gets sucked into the turbulent times after witnessing his wife’s brutal death. Out on the streets avenging his wife’s death, Saket Ram has a chance encounter with a firebrand Hindu extremist, Abhyankar (Atul Kulkarni), who succeeds in converting him from a civilian bystander to a man on a mission.

Mahatma Gandhi’s decision to grant an independent Muslim state called Pakistan spurs Saket Ram to join a mission to kill Gandhi.

Of course, entangled with this tale is Saket Ram’s personal life story – the journey from the bloody streets of Calcutta to Chennai and his reluctant second marriage with Maithili (Vasundhara Das). Here is where the script could use a little editing. The passion with which they end up kissing every few minutes takes away from the main thrust of the story.

The entire story unfolds as a flashback while 89-year-old Saket Ram is being taken to a hospital for emergency treatment Dec. 6, 1999, as the city is once again engulfed in communal riots.

While there can be no comparison of Kamal Haasan’s performance except that he seems to be competing with and excelling himself with each successive film, the rest of the cast seem to have all come tailored for their respective roles. Rani Mukerjee, sans make-up and shorn of the short-skirt phenomenon wearing starched Bengali cotton saris, looks absolutely gorgeous as she fits the plump Bengali teacher-wife image to perfection. The endearing way she mixes up Bengali and English words with Hindi lends all the more credibility to her character.

Shah Rukh Khan as Amjad Ali Khan, a friend who compels Saket Ram to re-examine the choices he has made, has for once left all starry images aside. Here’s a truly restrained performance that is shorn of all Shahrukh’isms.

Whether it’s Atul Kulkarni, Saurabh Shukla or Vasundhara Das, everyone fits into the characterization effortlessly. Vasundhara Das, a model who makes her debut on the silver screen, slips into this talented crowd with ease.

However, Hema Malini, Om Puri, Girish Karnad and Naseeruddin Shah as Gandhiji seem sadly under-utilized.

But that does not in any way undermine the fact that it’s a meticulously researched and detailed film, with authentic sets that sport even advertisements on pavements that pertain to that age. A film that unbinds one’s thoughts, letting one figure out how and where hatred replaces love and trust, and how one’s hatred gives leeway for vested interests to take advantage of you.

Simply a must-see film.

Rating: **** (Superior)

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Hindi Film Review II:
Patriotic Potboiler

PUKAR

Director: Rajkumar Santoshi
Music: A. R. Rahman
Starring: Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Danny Dengzongpa, Namrata Shirodkar, Girish Karnad, Om Puri, Farida Jalal
Producers: Boney Kapoor, Bharat Shah

Yes, this is one more film in the line of civic duty and patriotism, making the most of the India-Pakistan bitterness theme.

Beginning with J.P. Dutta’s Border followed by Sarfarosh, Boney Kapoor’s Pukar just proves that the ISI stay at the Indian theater will be a long one.

The only difference here is:

  • There is a twist to the story – an obsessed love angle.
  • Though Madhuri Dixit was single when she started this movie, by the time of its release she had become Mrs. Nene.
  • Anil Kapoor single-handedly holds the entire movie on his shoulder, even as he belts out an absolutely brilliant performance.
  • It is a Raj Kumar Santoshi film, a flop China Gate notwithstanding.

A Para Commando officer, stalwart Major Jaidev Rajwansh (Anil Kapoor), is a courageous soldier awarded and honored for capturing the dreaded terrorist Abrush (DannyDengzongpa). Even as childhood friend Anjali (Madhuri Dixit) is dreaming of getting married to Jaidev, he returns home only to promptly fall in love with Miss India Pooja Mallapa (Namrata Shirodkar) who also reciprocates his feelings. Deeply hurt and humiliated, and in order to win Jai’s love back, Anjali commits a mistake, which puts Jaidev’s life and reputation at stake.

Once out of prison, Abrush embarks on his earlier plan to bomb the huge town hall on Independence Day. Court-martialed and deprived of his rank, Jaidev single-handedly saves the nation, with a bit of help from Anjali who, at the crucial hour, clings from the pendulum of the town clock which holds the mechanism for the bomb explosion.

While there’s nothing new in the story and the situations are cliched, Anil Kapoor brings in a freshness and authenticity to the character, which is sure to put him in the next Best Actor award category. Madhuri Dixit retains her magic, though seems a bit disjointed in certain scenes. Rohini Hattangadi as Namrata Shirodkar’s overambitious mother and Om Puri as Anil Kapoor’s chief do their cameo roles justice, whereas veterans like Farida Jalal and Girish Karnad have little to do.

Thanks to the choreography of Prabhu Deva and the catchy tune, the film has a winner in the “Que Sera” song.

Worth watching for Anil Kapoor’s performance.

Rating: *** (Good)

Telugu Film Review:
Poor Direction, Insipid Music

Gayatri Films
VAMSODDARAKUDU


Screenplay & Director: Sarat
Music: Koti
Story & Dialogues: Parachuri Brothers
Starring: Balaiah, Krishnam Raju, Radhika, Saakshi and Ramya
Producer: M. S. Reddy

Suryam (Balaiah) is a physical director in a local college. His mother (Radhika) is a widow. The college in which Suryam works belongs to industrialist Sudarshan Rao (Charan Raj). Rao is the brother-in-law of business tycoon Raja (Krishnam Raju). Raja has two sons, Brahmaji and Ravi Babu.

Sudarshan Rao has a son, Srihari, and a daughter, Saakshi. Saakshi is a student in the college. Satyabhama (Ramya) works as a junior physical director in the college. Suryam and Saakshi, who used to have regular rich-gal-poor-guy fights, fall in love. Satyabhama loves Suryam too.

When they visit Khajuraho on a college tour, Satyabhama accuses Suryam of attempted rape. However, Sudarshan Rao had actually brought Satyambhama into the college to malign Suryam so that his daughter Saakshi hated Suryam.

Satya, it turns out, is the daughter of a conspirator, Giribabu. She is asked to trick Suryam to save her ailing father.

Sudarshan Rao agrees to the marriage of Suryam and Sakshi, but he wants to know why Suryam’s mother appears as a widow even though her husband is alive. Suryam, is not even aware that his father is alive.

Later on Suryam comes to know that Raja is his father. Suryam’s mother used to work as a maid in Raja’s house. When Raja got involved in a murder, she took the fall. Moved, Raja married his maid. Sudarshan Rao, brother-in-law of Raja, engineers a situation where the maid is thrown out.

Suryam decides to set things right and the rest of the film presents that story.

Balaiah does well, given his character’s limited scope while Ramya and Saakshi both play the roles of glamour dolls.

The story is old and cliched, and the film is suffers from poor and unimaginative direction. Paruchuri brothers’ dialogues have little freshness or punch. Koti’s music is insipid.

This film lacks quality both in terms of print and production, as post-production was compromised to meet the Sankranti deadline. The result was bad editing, insipid re-recording and no DTS.

Watching this film gives a feeling of watching a typical commercial film of the early 1980s. Balaiah unduly favored Sarat and Koti. S.A. Raj Kumar, who was the original music director for this film, was unceremoniously dropped to accommodate Balaiah’s favorite Koti.

The saving grace of this film is the massive popularity of Balaiah that drove the masses to this film. But once viewers are seated in a theater, they experience a rude shock. We have to wait and see how this affects box-office collections.

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Recipe:
Kashmiri Dum Aloo By Niti Sachdev

One of the famous vegetarian dishes from Kashmir, which is known more for its non-vegetarian food. It tastes good with almost anything but is mostly eaten with steamed rice. Niti Sachdev tells you how to cook it.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound small potatoes (red or white)
  • 1 tablespoon oil (veg, corn or canola)

  • Masala to be ground:
  • 4 tablespoons sauf (aniseed)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons jeera (cumin)
  • 7-8 cloves
  • 5 big black cardamom
  • 6 medium pieces dalchini (cinnamon)

  • Masala to be used without grinding:
  • 1/4 teaspoon hing (asafoetida)
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 1 1/2 katori (cup) yogurt, whipped
  • 1 tablespoon red chili powder
  • Water according to thickness of gravy desired.

    Method

    • Heat the masala slightly and then grind finely. Sieve.
    • Boil the potatoes and deep fry them till golden brown.
    • Heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add 3-4 cloves and the hing and immediately add red chili powder mixed with 1-2 tablespoons water. Stir. Add the yogurt and stir continuously to prevent clots from forming. Add the ground masala, potatoes and water.
    • Simmer for 30 min. till the gravy is of the desired thickness.
    • Remove from heat, garnish with coriander and serve hot.

    Niti Sachdev, a homemaker, lives in Fremont, Calif.

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    March-April Horoscope

    ARIES (March 21 to April 20): This is the right time to ask for favors from people in power as Sun transits house of gains. You will be attracted towards a person from the opposite sex. A trip will be fruitful and relaxing. Strong Jupiter will help you gain wisdom and knowledge. You will be learning new things in profession.

    TAURUS (April 21 to May 20): Grab the offer made to you recently. Sun in house of career and gains will get you the power and authority you always wanted in career. Venus will make love life exciting and you will be involved in religious activities this week. A reply from the government will come.

    GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): Mars will cause some tension at work. Avoid any argument with the boss or a colleague. Planets will give you a chance to grab some easy money. You will be helped by in-laws. Business will get better and profits will rise. Let someone from the past go and do not let memories haunt you.

    CANCER (June 21 to July 22): Money forgotten will be recovered. Some of you may cash stocks for a profit. Strong Venus could cause distraction in personal life because of outside influence. You will take a short trip to meet old friends. Some of you will be working on a big change in career.

    LEO (July 23 to August 22): Strong planets will help you make few good financial decisions. Some of you will be changing jobs and moving in near future. Offer is getting delayed but will not be denied. Do not associate with a person with shady past. Try to keep the promise you made with an important person.

    VIRGO (August 23 to September 22): Do not let opportunity slip away and grab the easy money. Spouse may feel exhausted and may not keep well. Try to settle the issues without getting into argument. Saturn, though weak, will not let real opportunity come closer for a few more months.

    LIBRA (September 23 to October 22): Jupiter may cause health problems to spouse. Look towards naturopathy for the cure. Competition will grow in business but cannot hurt in long run. You will meet some old friends at a social gathering. Rahu in tenth will help fulfil your political ambitions.

    SCORPIO (October 23 to November 22): You will receive some good advice from a learned person. Big changes in your financial strategy are seen. If you get out of the deal, you will suffer losses. Trip undertaken now will be useful. There will be some positive but small developments in career.

    SAGITTARIUS (November 23 to December 22): Soft planets will bring some extra cash through speculation. Some of you may go on a business trip this month. You will successfully convey your message and get the job done. Spouse may spend money on unnecessary items. Handle all machinery and tools with care.

    CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19): You may come under sudden financial pressure. You will be writing a few big checks. Career-related tensions will get resolved to your satisfaction. If you were looking for a better job, you will get one this month. Another member will be added in the family soon.

    AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18): You will need to deal with the government in some way. You will be applying for a loan to meet a commitment made earlier. There will be expected changes in career. You will have good time with family and friends. Stock values will rise.

    PISCES (February 19 to March 20): Try to relax and get a second opinion about plans, project and people you are planning to associate with. Mars can give some temporary blood pressure problem. A child will apply in far off places only. You will make new friends and enjoy the trip. Do not make financial decisions without consulting experts.

    Bay Area-based astrologer Pandit Parashar can
    be reached by email at: parashar@ix.netcom.com.

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