Siliconeer: November 2001

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NOVEMBER 2001
Volume II • Issue 11

IN THIS ISSUE

MAIN FEATURE
A Way Out of the IT Bust: Romancing Hardware
BY MIKHAIL PORTNOV


COMMUNITY
FIBA's Diwali At Great America: Rebuttal to Slander
BY BIREN CHOWDHARY


COMMENTARY
Paradise in Trouble: Reflections on Fiji
BY ARUN CHAUHAN


Publisher’s NoteInfotech India
Communication: The Joys of TeliVoice
BAPS Honors WTC Victims

Auto Review: 2002 Mercedes-Benz C230K
BollywoodTamil CinemaRecipeHoroscope

Publisher's Note:

If the dizzying heights scaled by the dot-com economy marked the zenith of Silicon Valley’s rollercoaster ride, the hangover has hit everyone particularly hard now that the party is over. Particularly vulnerable are those who flocked from India as Silicon Valley beckoned. Their H-1B visas are like a millstone around their necks as high tech companies scramble to slash jobs. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some have actually packed their bags and gone back to India. Of the thousands who are still here, a substantial number live life dangerously as they wonder when the axe will fall.

Yet at a time when IT jobs are particularly hard to come by, an old Silicon Valley hand is sounding words of hope. Russia-born Mikhail Portnov has years of experience preparing novices for IT jobs in the Bay Area. He concedes that times are hard, but says that as software has sucked in the bulk of IT professionals, the hardware industry has a whole slew of openings for those who are willing to retool their skills. Portnov talks about it in greater detail in our cover story this month.

This month we also carry an angry comment by Biren Chaudhary, president of the Federation of Indo-American Associations of the Bay Area. Chaudhary and his organization are furious at what they say is a scurrilous hatchet job by ethnic Indian weekly India Post, which carried a story where a disgruntled former FIBA office bearer called the entire FIBA board corrupt.

As charges and counter charges fly, all we can say is that it’s extremely unfortunate that personal ego clashes should mushroom into these unseemly public spats. While we are not in a position to judge who is right and who is wrong, we do know this—FIBA pioneered Diwali at the Great America amusement park in Santa Clara last year, and despite challenges, did it again this year, and it was a huge, unexpected success.
We wish our readers a very warm Diwali—and we wish to add that we have just refurbished and updated our Web site—please do visit us.
We apologize for an unintended error in our previous issue—we misstated the date of terror attacks on the World Trade Center.

As always, we welcome your suggestions, critiques and comments.


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Main Feature

A Way Out of the IT Bust
Romancing Hardware –
By Mikhail Portnov

Times are hard for information technology professionals, particularly programmers, testers and systems administrators. As the chill winds of economic downturn blow over Silicon Valley, many have lost jobs, many more are teetering on the brink, and job interviews are getting rarer than hen’s teeth. This is exactly the time to consider shifting attention from software to hardware, writes Mikhail Portnov

The first round was seven years ago, during the last recession. Many people were on welfare and few of them had the kinds of skills that would make finding a job easy. Suddenly I came into the picture with a new profession — Software Quality Assurance. Many refused to believe it even existed. Programmers scoffed: "We do our own testing… what QAs, who are these QAs?"

Over the past seven years, we sure started taking for granted that if there is a will there is a way. You push yourself just a little, study for about half a year, and voilà — you have your nice middle class salary, handed to you on a silver platter! And in another two to three years, you are making so much, you hide it from your friends outside the computer industry, lest they think you a lying braggart — and who would believe a figure of somewhere a little under a hundred thousand a year for someone with under three years of experience. Of course, some got lost in the shuffle. Well, they could not be bothered to push themselves or study hard. They came to every other class, mostly to chitchat with the other students, then, almost as a joke they sent out a few resumes, went to a few interviews, smiled to the hiring manager, and landed a job.

But today, we can but look back at the "good old days" with a sad reminiscence, for the world of software development has turned its back on developers, testers, and system admins. And it is especially rough for those in the industry who cannot boast some 10-15 years of experience. The new bear economy has taken its toll. Some have been out of a job for the past six months. Some took a cut in pay. Still others have had to move to another state. Yet even those who are still employed as they were during the best of times, feel uneasy, as they face a very real possibility of losing their jobs.

It is too early, and certainly unwise, to discount entirely the professions of programmers or testers. Although the prognoses vary, all agree that they will bounce back. There are some who say that the market will improve by the end of this year. Others do not expect changes until the end of next year. Nobody knows when, but it is clear that one day, inevitably all will be better. The question is, what is one to do in the meantime? Where should someone with no experience go? Or even someone who had been a tester for the past two years, and now, following a layoff, for the fourth month in a row has barely been to any interviews? Should they go back to pizza delivery or to driving a taxi? Recently, even those venues are not so easy to pursue, as the competition for these jobs steadily rises. Nor is it truly a solution for many, who are used to a luxurious salary, with the costly mortgage and car payments weighing them down.

So we had a look around, to see what other kinds of jobs there are in the world, jobs that would require under six months of training, jobs where the pay is right, and, most importantly, jobs that are still marketable, even in the recent economy. Our wish list grew long.

But let me cut to the chase — we looked, and looked, and we found it! And when we found it, we were surprised beyond belief. Our first question was: "Where have we been all this time?" And the answer came quickly: We were exactly where we had to be, since it is far more difficult to train someone for this profession than for a position in SQA. Testing was less time consuming, required less effort, and the price was consequently much lower. Facing such an inexpensive and affordable alternative as testing, any other course would not have been able to compete. How many schools for programmers have you known over the past seven years to have been founded and to successfully function to accomplish their goals? I will tell you — there were none.

The Profession

Have I yet failed to name the profession? I shall correct that momentarily, just give me a minute to collect my thoughts. Right next to the world of "software" there exists the world of "hardware." Most people are familiar with just a narrow vein of the "hardware" world, insofar as they are familiar with computers. That, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. Whether we use a cell phone, VCR, or a kitchen stove, we rely on electronic devices. And electronics are just as widely used in industry. Electronics are utilized in maintaining temperature in incubators, quality control in manufacture, security systems, and in many other fields. A computer is only one of the examples of the useful application of electronics. It is certainly a very convenient one. We can write millions of programs for the personal computer. Then we can install and use these programs, consecutively or simultaneously, as you please.
But most regular electronic devices do not require multiple programs. They are programmed just once with just one task, sometimes quite a complicated one, which they will then carry out, day in and day out.

Initially, electronic devices were based on vacuum tubes. Then, came the semiconductors, based on transistors and diodes. And finally, as the latest in hardware technology innovations, we have the integrated circuits. To give you some idea of the progress that has taken place, I will tell you that one such integrated circuit today can store as much information and functions as a large warehouse full of transistors could 30 years ago.

Electronic devices require precise design, which can be achieved with the help of computers. Specific hardware description languages (HDLs) are used for programming hardware. The most popular ones are Verilog and VHDL. A Digital Design Engineer must be proficient in one or both of these languages. However, the languages are not the integral part of the profession. Most important is the ability to create circuits for the electronic devices. Such ability presumes a very profound level of expertise. On the one hand, an engineer uses ready-made "blocks" to develop the schematic for the future device. This process is similar to a construction worker building a house from bricks, or a programmer applying well-known commands or using a library of functions to write a program. On the other hand, the world of hardware is quite different from the world of software. Here, an engineer needs to be an expert in the intricacies of the physical and technical processes of chip preparation, as well as in many others.

As you know, a lot of programmers came to the industry from other professions. Among them are former musicians, economists, and mechanical engineers. And finally, there are just children. A bright kid sits himself down in front of a computer at eighteen, and in just a few years, he is a miracle programmer, making $80/hour or joining a start-up as a Senior Architect.

This is not the case with hardware. Outsiders are a few, and generally have prior training in microelectronics and other sciences integral to this domain. Continuing with our software-hardware parallel, a Digital Design Engineer would be the crème de la crème of the Software Engineering community. However, everybody has to start somewhere. And, although this world is not closed to the outsiders, the starting mark in this career is higher. Not everyone can master the subject in six months. An education in physics, mathematics, electronics or programming is very helpful. If you worked as a tester, system administrator and have some basic programming skills, you, too, are definitely a candidate, just give it time.

Just as in the Software field there are Developers and there are Testers, here there is a distinction between the person who designs the circuits and the one who verifies them. The latter is called a Verification Engineer. An unfamiliar term, isn’t it? Doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily as Tester or SQA Engineer. Well, that’s all right. Give it a few years.

The Verificator’s task is to make sure that a circuit functions smoothly, which is certainly an important task. There are several levels of testing involved here, mostly due to the fact that the designed circuit must eventually be realized into a chip. How do Verificators do this? They utilize specific software. They do not use a screwdriver or a soldering iron. The Verificator needs to have a general concept of design, not be a designer himself, just as a tester should understand programming, but does not need to program on a professional level. The beauty of a career in Verification Engineering is that you’ve got a wider entryway to maneuver into than in Design Engineering. It allows people to familiarize themselves with the occupation faster, requires less effort in retraining, and substantially lowers the cost of education. Smaller companies do not have as radical a division of labor as do the larger companies. Thus, to find a job in a smaller company, one often needs to know more.

The Job Market

I expect a skeptical reader will ask me, and reasonably so, "So what about the job market? Isn’t the hardware industry suffering with the best of them? Aren’t designers and verification engineers losing their jobs as well?" Good question. I asked myself the same thing before I made the first step towards developing the new curriculum or interviewing instructors. Here is what I’ve discovered. Let’s analyze the job market at its peak — October 2000. For 10 listed testing positions there was 1 resume. Given this ratio, an average graduate of short-term courses spent at most two weeks on a job search.

Now, try to conduct a search on DICE using Verilog as a key word for area codes 415, 650, 408, 510, 925. 1,400 positions come up. If I do a search for the number of resumes to match, and restrict it to this region, I find 58.

I spoke to a dozen experts in the field, as well as some recruiters specializing in it. Almost all of them reflected on last year as being far better. In short, they are feeling sorry for themselves. However, the ratio for testers and programmers that was once 10:1, today plunged to 1:1, and theirs still remains at 20:1, which is twice as high as we saw in the best of times. Now, allow me to demonstrate a curious occurrence. While conducting a search with two key words, Verilog Verification, I came across 890 positions and only 15 resumes. This turns our ratio, since we are only interested in Verificators, into 60:1, no more, no less. One resume to match sixty positions.

The Salary

Those who become interested in the "new" profession should check the Internet for average Verificator’s levels of qualifications, as well as the pay scale. I recommend using ASIC, FPGA, VERILOG, VHDL, DIGITAL DESIGN, VERIFICATION, as the key words. It is enough to say that the wages are no less than those of the SQA Engineers. The real numbers will appear in time after the first graduates of the new program start working.

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Infotech India

SURVEY ON MOBILE COMPUTING

Internal efficiency instead of consumer demand will be the greatest driver of mobile computing investments, according to a survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and Infosys Technologies.

The survey, released in Bangalore Oct. 31, said 60 percent of the respondents reported that increasing the efficiency of businesses was the main driver of their mobile computing plans. Against this, 31 percent cite customer pressure.

Don Durfee of the Economist Intelligence Unit, editor of the report "Mobile Computing: Uncovering the Real Value," in a release, said that mobile computing would indeed create value, but not in the area that most assume.

"It had been the prospect of selling directly to customers over mobile devices. However, our research had found that most companies would derive the greatest benefit from using the technology to become more productive," he added.

The survey report looked at the future of wireless technology in North America and Europe and explored how companies should incorporate it into their operations.

The report drew inputs from survey responses from 172 senior executives in retail and financial service companies. Besides, 22, in-person interviews as well as peer group meetings in New York and London were also held.


WIPRO TO HELP CORIO

Wipro Technologies Nov. 7 announced an outsourcing agreement with Corio, a leading U.S.- based Application Service Provider.

Announcing this in Bangalore, Wipro said it would help Corio to establish a joint development center to extend Corio’s world-class ASP services.

Wipro Technologies had a focused ASP business division that offers a range of services targeted at Application Service Providers to meet the requirements of an ASP for security, billing, infrastructure management and application integration services, a Wipro statement said.

Wipro also announced its membership to the ASP Industry Consortium, which is an international advocacy group of more than 725 companies across 28 countries, formed to promote the ASP industry.


CATOONS AT IT SHOW

The response to the fourth edition of IT.Com was lukewarm, but a 41-year-old cartoonist stole the show at the continent’s biggest such fair on the sprawling Palace Grounds of Bangalore.

Commissioned by IT.Com, Prakash Shetty was kept busy — unlike custodians at most other kiosks — with requests to draw their caricature. Shetty’s pen has drawn the caricatures of Karnataka Gov. V.S. Rama Devi, Chief Minister S.M. Krishna and Orissa Chief Minister Navin Patnaik among several prominent personalities.

Shetty, who had worked for The Week magazine till a year ago, was happy with the new assignment. "It will give me an opportunity to popularize the art. I am happy when the person leaves the place with a smile on the face," he said.

"There are scores of people around me, observing when I draw. Sadly, I am not able to cope with the demand," added Shetty, who drew several caricatures at the event.

Shetty, who has been drawing cartoons and caricatures for nearly two-and-a-half decades, said it was for the first time that a spot caricature event was held at this kind of a show.

"I saw a lot of good faces for a cartoonist at the show," he noted with a smile.


ISO SEAL FOR SSI EDUCATION

SSI Education, India’s leading software education provider in emerging software technologies, has been awarded the ISO 9001:2000 certificate for its delivery of training on IT and related products and services to individuals and corporates.

The assessment was carried out by KPMG India and the certificate was issued by KPMG Assessment and Registration Services in New Jersey.

Commenting on this achievement, SSI Education CEO Bala Gopal Menon said, "Quality management is an integral part of our knowledge development and delivery cycle. Our internal quality objectives are aimed at continuous process improvement and innovation in all our product and service offerings."

SSI Education has a dedicated Quality Assurance Group that focuses on internal and external customer satisfaction through three independent teams, the operations audit group, the school of technology circle.

SSI Education vice president Naresh Vasudhev says: "Quality management is a strategic tool that builds a quality focussed culture within the organization and enhances the organization’s ability to manage its processes and systems in such a way that it delivers significant value to its customers.

"At SSI Education, our quality management systems are optimized to ensure that our customers, the students, are assured of consistent high quality IT training globally."


VISA'S MAGIC MOMENTS

Visa International, the world’s No.1 credit card payment system, is wooing consumers in Diwali with India’s largest ever promotion for debit cards — Magic Moments.

The campaign tries to increase debit cards use in the country. Debit cards are the fastest growing financial product category in India and the future potential is enormous.

Visa Magic Moments brings together 750,000 Visa Electron cardholders, 25,000 participating merchants across over 35 cities, and 5 member banks under I Mega promotion.

This is the second year that Visa is holding this promotion. Last year’s promotion with HDFC Bank in Mumbai was a huge success. This year the promotion is on a much bigger scale with five participating banks including HDFC bank, ICICI Bank, BNP Paribas, HSBS and the Standard Chartered group.

For cardholders, Visa Magic Moments gives the opportunity to enjoy sixty minutes of free shopping every day for sixty days. All they have to do is use their Visa Electron card for their purchases at any of the 25,000 Visa Electron merchants across over 35 cities. If the purchase is made during the Visa Magic Moments — 12 randomly selected five-minute slots every day, over 60 days – the entire purchase is absolutely free.

The promotion runs from Nov. 1 – Dec. 31, 2001.
Announcing the launch of the promotion, Santanu Mukherjee, country manager, Visa International, South Asia said, "Visa International is committed towards growing the payment card industry. The best way of popularizing payment cards, in a country where 99 % of all personal expenditure is still through cash, is to have cardholders actually use their cards and experience the convenience, safety and simplicity of a card transaction. Visa Magic Moments will do just that."

In association with Chennai Online

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FIBA's Diwali at Great America
Rebuttal to Slander By Biren Chaudhary

A dastardly attack was unleashed on Oct. 11, 2001, upon a well-meaning and dedicated group of Indo-Americans in the Bay Area.

The perpetrators of this attack were ex- FIBA members Rakesh Sharma, Dev Bhatia and Chandru Bhambra, India Post publisher Romesh Japra and India Post reporter Jagdish Seth. The attack was unleashed in a scathing front-page article in the Oct. 12 issue of India Post.

The false and libelous article sought to defame the Federation of Indo-American Associations of Bay Area and also sought to cast aspersions on the executive officers of FIBA.

What were Sharma, Japra and the others trying to achieve? From the timing of the article, the answer is obvious. The article appeared in the Oct. 12 issue of India Post, which reached Northern California readers on Oct. 11— two days before FIBA’s big event, "The Festival of Lights" at Paramount’s Great America Park in Santa Clara, Calif.

Sharma and his group apparently wanted to damage FIBA’s reputation in the hopes that it would somehow have a severe negative impact on the attendance at this event. To further make sure that their objectives were achieved, several hundred copies of the India Post newspaper containing the damaging article were dropped at the park entrance and at some of the booths at the festival.

Inspite of all their negative efforts, the event was a thundering success. The tragedies of Sept. 11, and the short time that FIBA had to organize the event notwithstanding, the turnout still exceeded everyone’s expectations.

We at FIBA feel that Sharma and his group’s actions need to be dealt with in a firm and decisive manner. Sharma had declared his intentions of becoming president of FIBA a few months ago. We told him he would have to wait until the next elections which were due in 2002. The only way he could fulfill this desire earlier, was to break away from FIBA and form his own organization. This he did, and assumed the presidency.

And what better way to get his new organization off to a resounding start than by staging an event that has already proved its potential of being a huge success? We are referring to the Festival of Lights celebration at Great America Park which FIBA organized last year and which proved to be highly successful.

The Vice President of marketing of Paramount’s Great America was brought to one of the FIBA meetings in July of 2000 by radio show host Arun Chauhan. She was allowed to speak, and in her address she invited FIBA to come and do an event at their amusement park.

FIBA accepted the offer and in due course appointed Rakesh and Ranjana Sharma to act as coordinators of this event which was to take place in October 2000. The Sharmas had basically been assigned the task of interacting with PGA officials as agents of FIBA.

Although the Sharmas acted as co-ordinators, more than 80 percent of the work to put on the festival was executed by other FIBA officers.

In April of this year, at the conclusion of one of the weekly FIBA meetings, Rakesh Sharma approached Ramesh Murarka and urged him to leave FIBA and join the new group that he was about to form. Sharma declared his intention of usurping the Festival of Lights celebration away from FIBA for his own benefit.

Murarka not only declined Sharma’s offer, but also told him that he would oppose him vigorously in any such act of disloyalty.

On April 9, 2001, Murarka sent a letter to PGA expressing his concerns over what Rakesh Sharma had stated. PGA responded by saying, "Thank you for bringing the matter to our attention. We will look into it and get back to you, as we want to continue to maintain good relations with your organization and with the Indo-American community."

All the FIBA officials then got busy in putting on the August 5 Festival of India at Mission College in Santa Clara. While the FIBA officials were busy, Rakesh began his efforts of trying to mislead PGA officials into believing that he was the true representative of the entire Indian Community.

As soon as the festival was over, Murarka approached PGA again to start making preparations for the Festival of Lights celebration on Oct. 13.

Murarka was informed that the Sharmas had pretty much convinced PGA that it was they who had organized the festival last year and that FIBA had played little or no role whatsoever. In light of this, PGA was seriously considering signing a contract with the Sharmas for the festival.

Many in the community had suggested using a mediator to try and resolve this issue. FIBA did agree to this and requested prominent Santa Clara attorney Mohinder Mann and political activist Annie Dandavati to mediate.

However, the mediation meeting held in Mann’s offices failed to produce any results. On August 15, FIBA directors decided to approach their legal counsel who sent off a letter to the Sharmas cautioning them that their actions amounted to a breach of trust. The letter said, "While breach of trust and theft of trade secrets are abhorrent in any context, your proposed conduct is even more despicable given that FIBA is a non-profit entity serving the Indo-American community of which you are members."

The letter urged the Sharmas to consider working with FIBA once again to put on the event. Rakesh and Ranjana Sharma failed to respond to the offer. Instead, on August 17, India-West received an invitation from Parveen Maheshwari (secretary of IABC) inviting India-West to a press conference on August 23, where a new organization called "Indo-Americans for a Better Community" formed by Rakesh Sharma would announce plans for the upcoming Festival of Lights celebration at Great America Park.

In the weeks that followed, PGA officials arranged several meetings and tried their best to bring about a situation wherein the Sharmas and FIBA could somehow work together again. Whereas FIBA kept accepting all of the proposals presented by PGA, Rakesh Sharma kept rejecting them all.

While meetings and negotiations were going on, FIBA began to sense that this matter might have to be resolved in a court of law. FIBA instructed its attorneys to prepare a lawsuit against the Sharmas and be ready to file it in court.

The attorneys prepared an exhaustive 23-page complaint with FIBA as plaintiffs and Rakesh Sharma, Ranjana Sharma and I.A.B.C. as defendants. The complaint alleged 11 causes of action against the Sharmas including false advertising about the event, trademark infringement on the name "Festival of Lights," misappropriation of trade secrets and goodwill.

The lawsuit asked for a trial by jury and an unspecified amount in punitive damages.

However, before this lawsuit could be filed, PGA’s attorney arrived from North Carolina and had discussions with FIBA’s attorney as well as the attorney retained by the Sharmas, in an effort to try and resolve the dispute.

After Sharma repeatedly kept rejecting all of the proposals placed on the table by PGA’s attorneys, PGA finally decided to hand the organization of the festival back to FIBA in its entirety.

FIBA officers have received hundreds of phone calls in the past few weeks from concerned members of the community who have seen the article.

It is curious to see how India Post has suddenly become so interested in FIBA affairs. India Post has never covered any FIBA function during the
past two years.

By not getting the complete story, by not attempting to verify any of the accusations, and by not giving FIBA a proper opportunity to respond to the allegations, India Post has violated every conceivable principle that governs the ethics of fair journalism. Our attorneys will be making a demand for a complete retraction and an apology from India Post, failing which the matter will be brought before a jury in a court of law and, more importantly, before a public-opinion jury comprising of the entire Indian community in the United States.


Biren Chaudhary is president of Federation of Indo-American
Associations of Bay Area. He lives in Newark, Calif.

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Paradise in Trouble
Reflections on Fiji
Arun Chauhan

A chance trip to the Pacific island led to a long-standing affection for Fiji and its people, says Arun Chauhan, who writes about the poignant circumstances of the island’s Indian population.

Over 15 Years ago I was sent to Fiji by a great family friend, Wahid Ali, who was a Fiji travel agent and who wanted me to learn the "market." As Ali put it: "You should experience the land you are selling." The trip did what it was supposed to do. I not only came back a fan of Fiji but also became an advocate of Fiji causes and an activist of Fiji culture.

Fiji is a group of over 250 islands. The islands can be whatever one wants them to be; other than two large islands Viti Levu and Vanua Levu some islands are so small that they can be walked around in 10 or 15 minutes.

It can be a great pleasure to walk on a really small island almost like walking into a Indrajal comic book. No wonder Fiji was once called the Paradise of the Pacific.

The British colonial power brought great changes to the group of islands when contracted or indentured labor was brought to Fiji for the first time on May 15, 1879. The first arrival of Indian immigrants included women and children and numbered about 60,000. The port of exit from India was Kolkata and the first group was from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Immigrants were processed on the beautiful, tiny Island of Naklau where now the Indian-baiting terrorist George Speight remains in custody.

When the world was welcoming the new millennium, some people in Fiji plotted to destroy its democratically elected government. The reason was frankly racist—Mahendra Chaudhury, Fiji’s elected prime minister, was of Indian descent.

Similar to an earlier coup in 1987, failed businessman George Speight took over parliament by force and held elected officials hostage for more than a month in May, all in the name of championing the rights of indigenous Fijians.

Satendra Nandan, a intellectual, poet and author of Fiji, says May has always been of great importance to the islands. May is the month when Indians first arrived to Fiji. May is when Fiji was taken over by Sitiveni Rabuka in 1987 and the Fiji population were first introduced to a coup.

The impetus for the coup was the ostensible sidelining of the indigenous Polynesian population, Speight and his thugs have said, but the reality is different.

The beauty and simplicity of native Fijian life style is readily evident. Natives, known as Kaibiti, live off the best oceanfront lots in small communes called Koro. A short walk into the ocean gets a handful of fresh fish, a small climb gets a dozen fresh coconuts and dig a foot, and you can get some taro roots. For festivals and the Lobo [Hot Stone pit cooking] there are plenty of pigs.

Over 90 percent of the land is owned by natives and Fiji Indians have not only accepted Fijian ways but also their food habits including serving Kava on social and religious occasions. Kaibitis have also started making Indian food and the most popular Fijian fast food is roti and tarkari.

To protect Fijian culture from other cultures including Indian influence the Great Council of Chiefs were given special powers. This was to make sure that there would always be indigenous Fijian dominance in the Fiji political system. At the time before the coup, the Indian population was very close to 50 percent of the total population of Fiji.

The latest version of the constitution has been passed in 1997. It allows rights to multicultural residents of Fiji Islands. The constitution was adopted after a long debate and was blessed by the Great Council of Chiefs.

But Fiji is facing tough times. Sugar, the Fiji economy’s mainstay, is not nearly worth as much as it used to be, and so Fiji’s top income source tourism.

Mahendra Chaudhary, cruelly deposed, had brought Fiji to 20th century. His reforms led to economic recovery and he brought accountability to governance. Loans for businesses were not being given on the basis of race but on a need basis so the poor really benefited out of it. Large and small companies were asked to clear up their old corporate tax accounts.
Indians adapted very well in the new Fiji. They have worked hard and have only asked for their fair share of money and social and political representation. Through sheer hard work, Indians have been able to transform the island nation’s rugged, barren terrain into sugarcane farms.
But after two coups, a lot has changed for Fiji Indians. After 1986 a lot has changed in Fiji and some changes are not positive. Not only is law and order a growing concern but the racist police chief has recruited criminals and the Army has intimidated its own population. The army is 98 percent Kaibiti and the population is still about 40 percent Fiji Indian. Suva is deserted after sunset.

The population locks itself in its homes. Laucala Bay and other good residential area residents have erected tall fences around their houses. Vicious dogs are in short supply.

As this article is being written Fiji Indians are not even allowed to have a peaceful demonstration in the streets of capital Suva. They are constantly being intimidated, harassed on the streets. Beggars do not beg, they demand money out of Fiji Indians.

CSR Sugar, Fiji’s sugar giant, has vacated the scene, only to be replaced by multinationals. It will be too late by the time native Fijians realize that their beautifully polished Kava bowls have been replaced by multinationals with Coke bottles.

After is all is said and done, many of us have a dream.

We dream one day Fiji leaders will realize that the cancer of discrimination has been planted by those who will benefit out of separation of races.

Our dreams include that one day when the Great Council of Chiefs will realize that Fiji Indians never brought a piece of land with them and do not wish to take it with them to India either, their attraction for Fiji is the result of three generations of sweat that has been lavished on the land.

Arun Chauhan, who has a Ph.D. in sociology and has co-authored a book on social changes in Canada, produces Saaz Aur Awaaz, a weekly Indian radio show in the Bay Area. He lives in San Bruno, Calif.

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Bringing Families Together
The Joys of TeliVoice
– Urmi Ghosh-Dastidar

The days are gone when the entire joint family gets together for dinner. Indians are all over the world now. However, their need to keep in touch any less. An astonishingly low-priced voice message service could be just the solution far-flung families are looking for, writes Urmi Ghosh-Dastidar.

The Indian family has long since left the days of cozy proximity of the extended family. Gone are the days when parents, married children with daughters in law, and grandchildren all live under the same roof. Today retiree parents may be in Ahmedabad while a son may be a whiz IT entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. A daughter maybe going to college in Chicago.

Which is all great, because nothing broadens the mind like traveling, but the fact is, the cozy filial ties still tug at the heartstrings of family members no matter how far apart they are. Yet calling all the time to keep in touch can be prohibitively expensive, and somehow communication suffers if one has a meter ticking away at the back of one’s mind.

What if desi family members could leave each other long, voice mail messages at the cost of a local phone call? Well, you know what, they can, thanks to TeliVoice.

TeliVoice, the popular voice messaging service, is again available between the United States (and other global locations) and India. TeliVoice helps dispersed families keep in touch daily through recorded voice communications which are sent and received with just a local call. Voice messages are exchanged between family and friends located in any service area including virtually every city in the United States, ten (10) major cities and their surrounding regions in India, Canada (Vancouver and Toronto) and Australia (Sydney).

"TeliVoice is revolutionary in its simplicity. The service brings the benefits of email technology to the people of India and their families around the world – without requiring access to a computer, which is still uncommon in India. All you need to stay in close touch is your telephone," says Suhas Patil, co-chairman of TeliVoice. Less than 5 percent of the population in India used the Internet in 2000, according to IDC-India.

TeliVoice is a membership service that allows an entire group of people to share one account. A member in the United States sponsors the account. Thus, Indian Americans use TeliVoice to give the gift of voice mail to their family and friends in India so that everyone can keep in touch frequently, conveniently and inexpensively. The basic subscription is $5/month for any number of participants.

"Our customers tell us how TeliVoice lets them share the gift of simple, frequent and very personal communication their family located around the world," Patil says. "Perhaps most importantly, your family in India can initiate the conversation. Now you don’t have to meter out what news or information to share because you are concerned about long distance phone charges."

TeliVoice erases the issue of time zones. Members make a local telephone call from within the TeliVoice service area and use TeliVoice to send voice messages to family and friends located all over the globe. Recipients can listen and reply in their own time zone. Even non-members can send messages for any TeliVoice member – which gives anyone in India a way to send a message to someone in the United States just by making a local call. Plus, any member can send a voice mail to virtually any phone in the United States.

Sabeer Bhatia, TeliVoice co-Chairman, says, "TeliVoice is as essential to families today as their home telephone or email. TeliVoice fills in the gaps between live conversations and gives everyone – in India and in the United States – the power to initiate messages as well as reply without expensive calls."

TeliVoice suspended operations in India during June 2001 after new regulatory requirements from the Government of India required an additional business license. The appropriate licenses have been obtained. "We thank the officials at the various DOT and other Government agencies who were helpful to us in obtaining our new license, and we look forward to again serving the people of India with the valuable and important global voice messaging service from TeliVoice," Bhatia says.

A free trial is offered to new TeliVoice members of 25 free voice messages (or 30 days) with no obligation. Monthly subscription for TeliVoice is US $5/month and billed in US dollars. More information and registration for the free trial is available at www.telivoice.com

TeliVoice is available in ten (10) Indian cities: Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata (Calcutta), Ludhiana, Mumbai (Bombay), Pune and Vadodara (Baroda). Surrounding areas to each of these cities have access to TeliVoice using the economical "dial-95" service.

TeliVoice is provided in the United States by Navin Communications, Inc., based in San Jose, California. Navin was founded in 1999 to provide important, convenient and inexpensive global voice messaging services between India and other regions of the world.

Urmi Ghosh-Dastidar is a freelance writer
who lives in Berkeley, Calif.

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Walkathon for September 11
BAPS Honors WTC Victims
A.J. Patel

Every year the Milpitas BAPS temple hosts a family walk for family values. This year the walkathon had a different resonance, and BAPS volunteers used the occasion to pay tribute to the victims of the terror attacks, writes A.J. Patel.

A cry of "Jai United States" echoed around Fremont Central Park as the Milpitas BAPS Hindu Temple launched its 4th annual walkathon Oct. 20 with over 350 participants. Usually billed as a "Family Walk for Family Values" this year's theme was "A Walk for the Families of Our Heroes" in the wake of the tragic events of September 11. The proceeds gathered from this year’s Walkathon will be donated to the various recognized charitable organizations assisting the neediest families affected by the tragedy.

The event began with a short Hindu prayer. Various political and civic figures, including Fremont Mayor Gus Morrison, were at hand. Morrison praised the efforts of BAPS and spoke of the diversity that makes America. Fremont is a city where "130 languages and dialects are spoken in the home and it is a city in which 20,000 people are from India," he explained.

Milpitas Mayor Henry Manayan spoke of the walkathon as a "wonderful gesture at humanitarian efforts towards the September 11 tragedies, something that has affected people from over 60 nations." San Jose Councilman Chuck Reed also ran in the Walkathon, and San Jose Congressman Mike Honda praised the youth for participating in the walkathon

BAPS spiritual leader Kaivalyamurti Swami said: "In India we very strongly believe that the whole world is one big family and the recent tragedy that shattered many families in many parts of America has shattered our hearts as well because we consider them to be our families and for that reason BAPS has dedicated all 21 BAPS walkthons all over America for the families of the victims that were affected by this tragedy." He quoted BAPS spiritual leader Pramukh Swami: "If the individual improves, the home improves, if the home improves, the society will improve, if the society improves , the country will improve, and if the country improves the entire world will improve." The walkathon inauguration commenced with a passionate rendition of the National Anthem by Sundip Patel head of the BAPS youth wing followed by a flag presentation ceremony by invited speakers to the youth of BAPS.

BAPS WTC Tragedy Response Timeline

  • On the evening of Sept. 11, following the terrorist attack, BAPS Care organized a prayer vigil at the Milpitas Temple. Supervisor Pete McHugh was the main guest. More than 150 people attended the prayer vigil.

  • On Sept. 16, 2001, all 136 BAPS centers based in the United States held a National Day of Prayer, in which the community at large was invited to pray as one. Prayer session (Shanti Sabha) was also organized at BAPS Milpitas Temple where representatives from several Indian organizations' also attended.

  • On Sept. 14, Pramukh Swami sent a letter of sympathy, solidarity, prayers and support to various leaders such as President George W. Bush, Governor George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

  • Immediately after the attack, BAPS Care NE region called up the New York mayor and offered a team of 15 doctors ready to be called at 3-hour notice. BAPS also offered help of 250 trained volunteers who were ready and on standby to go to work at ground zero in the search and rescue efforts. The doctors and trained volunteers are registered with the State Emergency management Office

  • BAPS Care have organized a blood donation drive in all the centers across the nation and it hopes to have more than 1,000 donors donating blood.

  • Immediately, following the attack, BAPS Care made a pledge to donate $51,000 and decided to collect at least $250,000 to be donated to recognized charitable organizations assisting the families affected by the tragedy. For this purpose, BAPS Care has established the BAPS Care- US Relief Fund.

A.J. Patel is volunteer with BAPS.
He lives in the Bay Area.

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Making Yuppie Heads Turn
2002 Mercedes-Benz C230K
Al Auger

DaimlerChrysler has been a late entrant in the mid-to-high $20,000 automobile market niche, preceded long ago by the likes of Accord, Camry and Taurus. Its new entrant in the field is an intriguing mix of pleasant surprises and the odd blemish, says our automotive editor Al Auger.

What is a 2002 Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor Sport Coupe?

Is it a Sport Coupe? Is it a 3-Door Hatchback? Is it an economical Mercedes-Benz? Is it all of the above? Obviously it’s all of the above and more—and less. A self-canceling answer? Not exactly.

Apparently the poobahs at DaimlerChrysler took Satchel Paige’s advice and looked over their shoulder and saw Accord, Camry and Taurus enjoying all the fun of the mid-to-high $20,000 automotive niche. But Mercedes-Benz went just a step or two further. The C230K (for Kompressor) Sport Coupe brings a whole different concept to the upscale/mid-price bracket.

A definitive combination of muscular power, nimble road handling plus utilitarian hatchback flexibility. Underneath the rakish hood is a 2.3-liter, DOHC, 16-valve 4-cylinder engine enhanced by a Rootes type supercharger (Kompressor) cranking out 192 horsepower and 200 lb.-ft. of torque. The secret is in the long, flat curve of the torque spanning from 2500 to 4800 RPMs.

We weren’t fortunate enough to have the assist of the standard 6-speed manual transmission, but who can fuss about the 5-speed automatic with Touch Shift ($1,300) as a manual option? Just a touch to either the right or left and you have total control of the drive train. Upshifts or downshifts are put down with the mere flick of a finger.

If the combination of a hatchback and sport coupe sounds like an oxymoron, the designers put that idea to rest with a slick, all-new profile and bodywork. The C230 Sport Coupe seems to squat in readiness for a launch even at rest. Every line, every curve, leans forward from the aggressive high tail to the sloping elliptical headlights. There’s practically no overhang front or back. Supporting all this are 10-spoke aluminum wheels mounted with fat 16-inch low-profile tires. So slippery is the body it sports a coefficient of drag of 0.29.

It’s with the interior where the "more or less" conundrum takes over. Not unexpectedly the C230 business office is crammed full of wonderfulness and overarching sophistication. Beginning with the panoramic sunroof that offers a view to both front and rear passengers, the C230 is packed with people stuff such as dual-zone climate control, heated rear and drivers&Mac226; mirrors and multi-functional steering wheel. This latter is most intriguing and deserves a fuller description.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel controls or adjust more than 50 different functions from trip odometers to the audio system to operating messages and diagnostics. Simple, easy to operate illuminated rocker buttons is convenient and minimally distracting.

It may sound like a bit of nitpicking when you factor in all the performance levels and quality ingredients of the C230 Sport Coupe, but it’s hard to imagine a Mercedes-Benz with manually operated front seats as standard equipment in addition to seatbelts set so far back they are a hassle to reach. Add to this the rather garish black and gray patterned upholstery, and one realizes the more cache a motorcar has, the more you look to the "little" things that sum up its rationale.

But it’s the open road that gives the C230K it’s Sport Coupe appellation, and rightly so. The C230 brings together form and function in an unexpected seamless package. Drop the clubs in the large cargo space and take the long, roundabout way, swallowing up those fast bends and sharp corners with ease and arrive at the club with your adrenaline peaked for competition.

Mercedes-Benz is going after the affluent young crowd with a winner out of the gates. Just check the head turning that accompanies you as you cruise through the country club lot or stop at the Nieman-Marcus valet parking.

Today's Test Drive

  • Mercedes-Benz C230K Sport Coupe
  • Base price: $24,959
  • Price as tested*: $27,535
  • Engine: DOHC, 16-valve, SFI, supercharged 4-cylinder
  • Displacement: 2.3liter (2,295)
  • Horsepower: 192 @ 5,500 rpm
  • Torque: 200 lb.-ft. @ 2,500-4,800 rpm
  • Transmission: 5-sp. automatic w/Touch Shift
  • Drive system: Front engine/rear -wheel
  • EPA Class: Compact
  • Wheelbase/length: 106.9/178.3 inches
  • Curb weight: 3,540 lbs.
  • EPA fuel economy (est.): 21 city; 28 highway
  • E-mail: www.mbusa.com
    *Includes destination charge

Al Auger, our automotive editor has been writing about cars for over 30 years.
He has spent 20 years as a race driver and public relations specialist.

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Bollywood

Guftugu

POET AT HEART

He is drop dead gorgeous, and on top of that a poet? Well it’s in reel life, actually, where Hrithik Roshan will perform a spot of shayari before an Udit Narayan song in his upcoming Aap Mujhe Achchhe Lagne Lage.

The Mohan Kumar-directed film has Amisha Patel in it, and Mohan says Hrithik has recited the poem beautifully.

Ah, we can almost hear young females swoon in ecstasy in the cinemas when the film releases. And who better then Hrithik to pull it off? After all his grandfather Roshan and uncle Rajesh are well-known music directors, so artistry is something that’s in his genes.

MOTHER RULES

She may ooze oomph but the svelte Shilpa Shetty is at heart a little girl who looks up to her mother for guidance. And mama Mrs. Shetty is only too happy to comply. Take Sunny Deol’s latest film Indian. During the film’s promotion in Delhi poor Shilpa made herself scarce. Apparently Sunny wanted her to be the "surprise package," and Mama Shetty said okay.

But that was not all. Mama Shetty appeared to hog the limelight, with Sunny seeking her advice about just about everything. Apparently in addition to being the all-powerful mother of Shilpa, Mrs. Shetty reads tarot cards and is an amateur astrologer. Now in Bellwood, perennially dependent on the vagaries of a fickle public, that’s real power.

OSCAR YATRA

Mr. Perfect sets another milestone. Edging tough competitors like the phoren award winning Monsoon Wedding (Best Film in Venice) by Mira Nair, Bawandar by Jagmohan Mundhra (Best Film in a California film festival), and Santosh Sivan’s extravaganza Asoka, it’s Aamir’s production Lagaan, directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar, which is going to be India’s official entry for the upcoming Oscars for Best Foreign Film.

And it was a unanimous decision by the 14-member panel of the Film Federation of India, too.

But it’s hardly a time to sit on their laurels for the film’s producer. If anything, Aamir has got his work cut out for him. Oscar awards are as much a result of hype and orchestrated buzz, and so the Lagaan team is already busy at work touting the film for the upcoming British Academy of Film and Television Awards and the Golden Globe awards.

If the great Khan can bring his formidable powers of attention to detail and commitment to excellence in promoting the film, don’t be surprised if Lagaan manages to ultimately nab the award.

SOUTHERN BREEZE

A lot of people may call R. Madhavan the Hrithik Roshan of the South, but R. Madhavan is not one of them. A refreshing dash of humility and plain old-fashioned down-to-earth attitude makes this Southern superstar so likeable that one almost wishes him all the success in the world.

Well, if it does happen, it may take a while in Bollywood, because the Southern matinee idol’s Hindi debut hasn’t exactly taken movie-goers by storm. However, the fact that his Bollywood debut film Rehna Hai Terre Dil Mein appears to be going nowhere may not necessarily mean the same fate will befall the Southern charmer.

If he is in for the long haul, things may look up in the end. For his sake, we certainly hope so.

ANTHRAX SCARE

First it was the turn of Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal. Now it’s Rangeela sizzler Urmila Matondkar. Nope, we are not talking about some stalker here (who on earth would stalk Mr. Bhujbal?), we are talking anthrax. Well, we are talking about some powdery substance, at any rate. Apparently the Bollywood siren has received an anonymous letter with the dreaded powdery substance and is beginning to wonder if it contains the dreadful spore. Nothing has been confirmed yet, so for all you know, it could all be a hoax. For the sizzling star’s sake we certainly hope so
.

ANGRY ORISSA

Santosh Sivan’s Shah Rukh Khan-Kareena Kapoor historical epic Asoka has folks in Orissa up in arms. Former state assembly speaker Yudhistir Das has joined a chorus of experts charging that Asoka is not, well, very historically accurate.

What a surprise! The naivete of Oriya intellectuals would be touching were it not so absurd. They expect a Bollywood film to be a history lesson? Come on, guys, wake up. We are talking about a world of cinematic license so elastic that lovers may kiss in Mumbai one moment and start dancing around trees in the Swiss Alps the next. Since when has logic ever stood in the way of a good masala film?

Well, Oriya intellectuals are in a huff and demanding a state ban on the film until it is cleared by a panel of experts. The Odissa Mukti Sammukhya, a cultural organization, is saying that by no stretch of the imagination can Asoka be called a historical film.

Now this is where they are wrong. Of course it can be called a historical film in Bollywood, where the imagination can be stretched up to infinity.

TADA TROUBLE

It’s a case of life imitating art in Sanjay Dutt’s case, who plays macho action hero with chilling realism. At least so the Central Bureau of Investigation maintains. The CBI has included Sanjay in its list of 123 suspects it has implicated in a conspiracy that let to the notorious Mumbai bomb blasts in March 12, 1993 which killed over 200 people. In its submission to designated Judge P.D. Kode, the CBI said Sanjay and the other suspects participated in a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts under orders of underworld kingpins Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon.

On the involvement of Sanjay Dutt, CBI says he has admitted to have possessed a AK-56 rifle, and other confessions show that film producers Samir Hingora and Hanif Kadawala had gone to Sanjay Dutt's bungalow to deliver the weapons in January 1993.

Sanjay's statement of confession also showed "guilt" in his mind because he had allegedly instructed his friend Yusuf Nullwalla on telephone from Mauritius to destroy the AK-56 rifle kept in his house, the CBI argues.

SEXIST BOLLYWOOD

Bollywood is nothing if not sexist. Male stars can grow old but can still cavort with adolescent nymphets, but just let a female star get married and tongues are wagging. Some wonderful female stars have managed to buck this double standard with the sheer heft of their talent—Dimple and Rekha, for instance, but the double standard is well and truly alive.

Take Kajol, the effervescent delight who has married Ajay Devgan. Tongues are already wagging that the star is set to take another role after her forthcoming Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, and this one’s a real life role—that of motherhood.

Of course, nobody has any idea whether it’s true or not, but these rumors do have the obnoxious whiff of traditional Bollywood sexism that implies that motherhood today virtually assures oblivion tomorrow.

Well, Kajol may prove all of the naysayers wrong. Those who have seen previews of K3G are absolutely ecstatic about her performance. It will be sweet revenge if this adorable star proves once and for all that a woman can be a mom and a top Bollywood star.

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Hindi Film Review
Confused Extravaganza

Arclightz & Films
Asoka

Director: Santosh Sivan
Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Ajit Kumar, Suraj Balaji, Rahul Dev, Hrishitaa Bhatt, Danny Denzongpa, Subhasini Ali, Gerson Da Cunha, Johnny Lever
Music: Anu Malik

When you think Bollywood, you don’t think poetic license. You think licentious carte blanche to play fast and loose with facts, logic. So what? If it’s a ripping good yarn, the Hindi film audience, indulgent to a fault, will forgive anything.

However, we are at the end of a year which has given us films like Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai, and that has whetted the appetite of the more discerning Hindi movie buff (now, now, the term is not an oxymoron, so wipe that smirk off your face). In a year of general despondency when a slew of Hindi films have been consigned to the box office graveyard with deserved dispatch, these two films proved that it is possible to respect the constraints of commercial Bollywood cinema and still make a wholesome, compelling film with decent artistic values.

So when one hears that ace cinematographer Santosh Sivan is going to make a historical epic on Emperor Ashoka, expectations are high. This, after all, is the man responsible for the exquisite photography of Dil Se, and made the unforgettable Terrorist, which was a minimalist gem of a movie whose wondrous images spoke volumes.

Asoka has been hyped to the hilt. It is being described as a cross-over film, and it has been released with great fanfare in the U.K. and the U.S. along with its Indian release.

So is it anywhere near what its makers crack it to be? Not by a long shot, alas. Oh, sure, it has its strong points—the photography and settings are often breathtaking, sometimes spectacular, snatches of performances are quite good, the music, though not extraordinary, is adequate. But the film lacks that intrinsic something that makes a film soar from its run-of-the-mill siblings, one might say that the film lacks soul.

But before I dwell on that let’s take a brief look at the story.
Asoka is based loosely (we’re talking really loose here) on the emperor who was the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya and ascended the throne of Magadha in the third century B.C. The historical facts available on him are few, doubtless causing relief to the makers of the film. Asoka is known in history to have waged one of the bloodiest wars in history against neighboring Kalinga, leaving it devastated.

After the war, Asoka was appalled by the bloodletting and carnage and remorse led him to Buddhism, to which he dedicated the rest of his life.

Now here’s what happens in the film.

Asoka and stepbrother Susima are contenders to the Magadha throne. Asoka’s mother (Subhasini Ali), fearing for her son, packs him off to a village where he lives like a commoner and runs into Kaurwaki (Kareena) who reveals quite a bit of herself—literally—to win his heart. The two get married.

Asoka is lured back to Magadha in a trap, and later he is told that Kaurwaki has been attacked and killed in his absence. When he returns it is too late, and he vows to avenge her death. However, he is grievously wounded in an ambush, and is nursed to good health by Devil (Hrishitaa Bhatt), who also saves him from a murder attempt by stepbrother Susima. Asoka marries Devil.

Meanwhile, conspirators for the throne kill Asoka’s mother, which proves to be the last straw. Asoka is furious, and goes on a killing spree of his stepbrothers, only one of whom manage to survive and flees to neighboring Kalinga.

A bloody battle ensues, and although Asoka is victorious, his win is pyrrhic, because he is devastated by the massive killings. He renounces warfare and becomes a Buddhist ascetic.

So much for the story, but what about the execution. The film has a big problem, and it can be explained in one sentence: the director’s lack of self confidence. It is really hard to believe that this is the same director who made Terrorist, which has such overpowering originality, because entire scenes and costumes are lifted in this film from Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments. Even the bizarre body painting on Kareena is borrowed from the film. Why call a film Asoka if this is going to be the film maker’s modus operandi?

Shah Rukh is adequate in the role, and shows sincerity, but his performance is competent rather than spectacular. Kareena is adequate, which is more than you can say about her clothing.

The sad, sad fact is, the film is a classic example of an intimidated director cowed by the requirements of commercial cinema. Sivan would serve himself and the audience better if he is true to his artistic instincts the next time around—one can’t promise he will make a blockbuster, but one can be sure it won’t be a history-buster.

Rating: ***

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Tamil Film Review
Good Suspense Thriller


Ashokavanam

Director: "Thakkali" Srinivasan
Cast: Shriman, Livingston, Riyaz Khan, Rajashri, Mohanram, Baby Jennifer, Master Mahendran.

Suspense thrillers are his forte and this time actor-director "Thakkali" Srinivasan offers a psychological thriller with lesser-known actors who have played their parts well. Shriman, whom one has seen playing the hero's friend in many a film, gets his first major role and makes fine use of the opportunity. A mentally disturbed youth, obsessed with getting what he thinks should have been rightfully his, is played excellently by Shriman. The actor's quick change of expressions reveals his caliber.

A cozy family of four, husband Mohan, his wife Uma (Riyaz Khan-Rajashri) and their children Rahul and Priya (Mahendran-Jennifer) do not realize that they have in their midst a stalker who is keeping watch over their activities. So when Mohan finds the words "My car" scrawled all over his car, he thinks it is the handiwork of Rahul. And then he finds the words "My home" scribbled all over his house and this time takes it a little more seriously. But for some unexplained reason he does not mention it to his best friend Selvam, a cop. And when Selvam does come to know of it, it is too late. For, by that time Mohan's two kids have been kidnapped, his wife is missing and Mohan himself is seriously injured and in hospital.
All this has to do with an incident which took place a couple of decades back. Madhu, a little boy from an orphanage, had been adopted by a wealthy, childless couple and pampered silly. Basking in this newfound love, Madhu suddenly finds his world come crashing down when the couple later beget their own son Mohan. Madhu is dumped back in the same sordid surroundings, quite unceremoniously. Many years pass and Madhu's growing obsession to get back what he thinks should have been rightfully his, and that includes Mohan's family too, gets the mentally disturbed youth back into their lives. Whatever the motive, crime never pays and it is a tragic end for the imbalanced youth.

The closing scenes of the happy family strike a discordant note. But despite its flaws, it is a commendable effort by the director to do something different.

— Malini Mannath • In association with Chennai Online

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Butter Paneer
Vegetarian Delight
Seema Gupta

After a busy day, suppose you need a quick sabzi accompaniment with your meal. Not to worry. Here’s a recipe for something that’s quick, nutritious and delicious, says Seema Gupta.

Ingredients

  • 5-6 Tomatoes
  • 250 gm Paneer diced in small pieces
  • 3 cup curd
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp cream
  • 1 tsp chopped coriander leaves

Method

Sieve the curd and add the paneer pieces.

Blend the tomato into a puree and add salt. Add garam masala.
After five minutes add the curd and paneer to the tomato. Add the cream.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve.


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November-December Horoscope Pandit Parashar

ARIES (March 21 to April 20): Easy money is foreseen. You will receive valuable gifts. Do not take impulsive decisions in career. Travel plans may change at the last minute.

TAURUS (April 21 to May 20): ): Financial worries will keep you occupied as you look for new avenues to increase income. You will face obstruction in anything do. People you helped earlier will not help. Do not loose hope, changes are coming soon.

GEMINI (May 21 to June 20):
Financial prosperity is on the way. You will have bright ideas. Speculations and stocks will be profitable. You will be slightly worried about some one living overseas.

CANCER (June 21 to July 22):
Strong planets present an excellent opportunity in career. It pays to take chances. You may purchase a vehicle. Old payments are on their way. You will be enjoying an evening with family and friends.

LEO (July 23 to August 22):
A big opportunity is seen coming from a distant place. You will take a short trip. Competition will reduce as you enter into fresh contracts with business partners. You will do religious work and will visit a holy place.

VIRGO (August 23 to September 22): You will be signing fresh contracts and make easy money. Watch out for stomach disorders. A child will get involved in sports in a big way. You will receive gifts. Tension about job continues but no real danger.

LIBRA (September 23 to October 22): People will test your patience. You will be spending money on auto repairs or home improvement. Spouse will spend lavishly. Religious beliefs may change. You will be offered a big business deal.

SCORPIO (October 23 to November 22): Money will be spent luxury and entertainment. You will be in great demand in social circles. Courageous actions take you closer to your goals. You will also overcome a minor illness.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23 to December 22): Be very careful in money matters. Sign all documents carefully or you will pay heavily later. You will attend an important event. Concerns regarding a child continue. Religious activities can help.

CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19): People suffering from blood pressure should be extra cautious for a few weeks. Changes in career will happen. You will sign an important contract. Pay attention to a child who is sick.

AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18): You will meet interesting people. Some of you may launch a new project. You will consult an expert for guidance. You may take a short-term course to brush-up your skills.

PISCES (February 19 to March 20): You will sell assets profitably. People associated with chemicals will benefit from a favorable transit. You will spend on legal matters and on automobiles. Additional work may make things tough for you.

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