The area of biotechnology associated with agriculture is hotly debated in India. Activists have echoed Western environmentalist concerns about how profit-driven biotech giants like Monsanto are throwing caution to the winds in their thrust to penetrate world markets, but policymakers are increasingly inclined to take a more considered view as the grapple with challenges in agricultural productivity. In this months lead article, as we explore the issue, we discover once again that even apparently esoteric scientific issues are invariably overshadowed by socio-economic compulsions. Environmentalists are saying that the impact of genetically engineered cotton goes beyond the immediate environment and could potentially affect human and animal health because in several Indian states cottonseed oil is the primary edible oil and the seed cake is used for animal feed. Farmers, in the meantime, are hamstrung by low productivity and many are keen to try the new GM strain, which has already shown a dramatic increase in productivity.
This issue pays tribute to N.R. Narayanamurthy, who retired from Indian information technology giant Infosys March 31. Narayanamurthy is a true Indian hero. Its not just that he helped to usher in Indias triumphant global success in information technology. In the loftiest traditions of civic responsibility, like Indias Jamshedji Tata and HPs William Hewlett in the U.S., he brought a refreshing, compassionate and deeply ethical ethos to his work. Infosys started a laudable tradition in truly caring for its employees, empowering them and giving them a sense of ownership. His vision went even beyond that, and he believed in the broader civic and public responsibility of the privileged to society, a sentiment all too rare in the dog-eat-dog corporate culture today.
Panacea or Pandoras Box?
GM Cotton Enters India By Deepak Goyal
The Indian government has just given the go-ahead to allow genetically modified cotton to be grown in India. Backers of the move are making rosy promises of skyrocketing agricultural productivity, but environmentalists and activists are crying foul. Deepak Goyal explores.
The Indian government has just given clearance to genetically modified Bt cotton for commercial agriculture. On March 26 the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, a unit of the Environment Ministry, gave the clearance. (The) GEAC has approved the release of Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) cotton into the environment of the country with certain conditions, said chairman A.M. Gokhale.
The move was hailed by the textile industry and farmers who say this will boost cotton production and provide much-needed to relief to farmers hamstrung by poor productivity.
Environmentalists, however are crying foul, saying the government has thrown caution to the winds, and GM cotton poses unforeseen perils.
Bt cotton has been developed by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto and is marketed in India by Mahyco, the Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company. Mahyco has been conducting large-scale field trials of its GM cotton variety in collaboration with Monsanto.
Developers claim the advantage of the new seed is obvious: For years, Indian cotton growers have suffered from the effects of heavy bollworm infestations that have destroyed crops across the country and deprived them of profits. Growers can now feel confident that they have a solution to help them fight this pest, said Mahyco managing director Raju Barwale.
Monsantos patented Bt cotton seed Bollgard introduces a soil organism, Bacillus thuringiensis, in the seed genetically so the genetically modified seed releases the same toxin as the soil organism to kill the cotton farmers dreaded parasite, the bollworm.
According to estimates by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. growers who planted Bollgard cotton reduced their insecticide application by 1.6 million pounds in just one year, says Monsanto. In contrast, each year American growers of conventional cotton were forced to spray on average two and one-half more insecticide applications per acre than growers planting Bollgard, Bt insect-protected cotton.
Growers who plant Bt cotton, which provides better than 95 percent control of bollworm and budworm, can eliminate the sprays they use for those insects, says Texas A&M agro economics Prof. Dr. Ronald Knutson. In 1998, 2 million fewer pounds of insecticide were used to control bollworm and budworm than in 1995, before Bt cotton was introduced, the National Agricultural Statistics Service said.
In India, cotton yields are already low, and farmers are suffering. Market sources said if new seeds are adopted on a large scale, Indias annual production will easily cross 200 million bales of 170 kg each in the coming years.
Depending on the quantum of shift in acreage to Bt cotton, there will be a definite increase in cotton production in the next two years on account of higher yield, bollworm resistance and reduced expenditure on pesticides, Indian Cotton Mills Federation chairman Rajaram Jaipuria told PTI.
Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann said this will encourage farmers to get out of the wheat rice cycle and cultivate more of cotton.
The agricultural sector in the wake of globalization is trying to reach global standards and become world class agriculture, said peasant leader Sharad Joshi, chairman of the Kisan Coordination Committee.
Environmentalists scoff at all these claims. Bacillus thuringiensis is a reliable and sustainable pest control agent, but when engineered into plants to produce Bt-cotton or Bt-corn, the toxin leads to rapid emergence of resistance in pests, requiring more than 30 percent land to be put under non-genetically engineered crops as refugia under U.S. EPA recommendations, says Vandana Shiva.
26th March 2002 will go down as a black day in Indias contemporary history, her Dehra Dun-based Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology said in a scathing press release. Ironically, in spite of the fact that a Supreme Court case challenging the 1998 field trials is ongoing and that there were numerous irregularities and violations of biosafety laws and guidelines in previous year field trials, the GEAC have cleared Bt cotton.
The clearance comes months after the government ordered the uprooting and burning of Bt cotton in 11,000 hectares in Gujarat. It was GEAC itself, the release points out, which told the Delhi High Court: The crop which is standing may pass to the soil modified genes which it contains. The effect on soil microorganisms can not be estimated and may cause an irreversible change in the environment structure of the soil ... The destruction by burning is to ensure safety to environment and human health and to obviate any possibility of cross-pollination. The destruction of the cotton produce as well as seeds harvested from this plant is also equally necessary. The cotton, which has been produced, is genetically modified cotton the effect of which i.e. allergenicity and other factors on mammals are not tested. The precautionary principles would require that no product, the effect of which is unknown be put into the market stream.
The foundation raises the following issues on Bt cotton, based on a test conducted in India:
Impact of Bt toxin on Non-Target Beneficial Species
The study shows that the trials have been carried out with zero populations of beneficial species in both Bt and non- Bt varieties. Impact on non-existent populations of beneficial insects is not proof on no significant difference in impact but evidence of no significant study on impact. Moreover, Bt cotton is designed to be resistant only to cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) while the cotton crop in India is faced with a complexity of pest attacks. Pests such as whitefly, jassids, aphids and pink bollworm have emerged as major pests in the last few years with crop losses being as high as those caused by the bollworm. Consequences can severely threaten to jeopardize other ecologically sound methods of pest control and eventually prove devastating to the farmers. Farmers have been forced to apply all kinds of pesticide cocktails to control pest infestation. As seen in Andhra Pradesh, when these costly chemicals fail, thousands of farmers are forced to commit suicide. Genetically engineered Bt is more like a biological trap.
Resistance in Boll Worm
No studies have been carried out on insect resistance to Bt cotton Experience with Bt crops from around the world shows a quick buildup of resistance, which has become a main concern in the U.S. and Canada, and has been detected even in China. Farmers have to spray pesticide to control third and fourth generation of American bollworm insects. In Australia too, farmers have now been advised to go in for more sprays because of a drop in expression levels. With the insect increasingly developing immunity against the Bt toxin in the plant, GE seed companies are now suggesting farmers to adopt refuge method that is now reported to be fifty percent of the transgenic field.
It is falsely claimed that the trials indicated that both yield increase and cost savings have been the major benefits of Bt cotton to the farmers. This is misleading because (i) In data reported that the yield of the non- Bt LNH 144 is higher than the Mech 184 Bt variety; (ii) Cost savings need to be compared not to chemical agriculture but to organic agriculture. Savings are as high as Rs. 4350/acre and costs can be reduced upto 80 percent compared to the 50 percent cited in the case of Bt cotton.
The impact of genetically engineered cotton goes much beyond the immediate environment to potentially affect human and animal health because in several Indian states cottonseed oil is the primary edible oil and the seed cake is used for animal feed, the foundation says.
Deepak Goyal is a freelance writer based in Kolkata.
Indias leading Information Technology and software companies have showcased their wares, strong points, capability and capacity before investors and venture capitalists at the NASDAQ.
During day-long presentations April 4 by several companies, captains of IT industry highlighted the advantages India offers for foreign investors and companies cost effectiveness together with high productivity and quality service by IT professionals.
The network meet was organized by Indias National Association of Software and Services Companies in association with NASDAQ.
Speaking on the occasion, Information Technology Minister Pramod Majahan highlighted Indias ambitious plans for the expansion of the IT sector and said NASDAQ would be an attractive option for the companies to register.
At present, only three Indian companies are listed on NASDAQ but it expects their number to expand substantially over next five to ten years as investors confidence in the capacity and capability of the Indian companies increase.
Mahajan, who visited the most modern stock exchange in the US, said he expected several Indian companies to register in NASDAQ and New York Stock Exchange.
Satyam Infoway Limited, Indias premier Internet networks and e-commerce company, announced April 3 that it has received clearance to launch Internet telephony services after its ISP license was amended to include VoIP Voice-over Internet protocol services as of April 1.
The company is in the process of finalizing agreements with Internet telephony service providers to land PC-to-phone international calls, as well as installing the interface, billing and metering software necessary for making the service widely available.
The service is being launched in a few I-way brand cyber cafes in Chennai on a pilot basis April 3, and may be launched across the chain countrywide shortly.
Internet telephony services will also be made available to SatyamOnline ISP subscribers shortly, said a company release
The Chennai Electronic and Infotech Traders Association April 6 said the revised sales tax structure on electronic goods announced in the latest state budget had dealt a severe blow to the electronic industry.
Speaking to reporters here, CEITA general secretary H. Chandaliya said the sales tax structure on electronic goods had been revised drastically, ranging from 10 to 12 percent against the uniform four percent tax levied earlier.
Following this, most of the outstation buyers who used to source electronic components from this city had started looking for other states where the taxes were less, he added.
He said the government also unfairly mixed electronics and electrical (goods) for the purpose of taxation.
The association has sought to meet Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to air their views.
Tamil Nadu Foundation Inc USA, a non-profit organization by NRI Tamils, is offering free computer training for school and college students on MS Word for one week (10 hours) from April 8.
Interested students can join the course by paying a registration fee of Rs. 20.
The foundation also conducts courses on Win-98, MS Excel, MS Powerpoint, MS Access, MS Outlook, Internet, Tally, Unix C, C++ and Visual Basic at subsidized rates.
Further details can be had from the secretary of the foundation at New No. 27, Taylors Road, Kilpauk, Chennai-600010 (Ph: 6446319, 6460061).
Enron Internet Sold
Bankrupt Enron India has sold its city-based Internet Data Center to Reliance Infocom for an undisclosed amount.
This was Enrons foremost and only broadband initiative in the country. It has now been sold to Reliance Infocom, sources close to the deal said here April 5.
The IDC, located in Mumbais midtown area of Parel, was owned by Enron Indias wholly-owned subsidiary Broadband Solutions Private Ltd and was formed to carry out the energy majors plans to develop a broadband-based national Internet backbone.
The Mumbai IDC was set up in January 2001. The company had plans to follow it up with five more IDCs in Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and Ahmedabad, which, however, were later abandoned due to the global slowdown in the IT sector.
Wipro, IBM deal
Indias Infotech giant Wipro and the worlds largest server firm, IBM April 4 inked a strategic alliance agreement to address customer needs in India and the Asia-Pacific region.
IBM Asia-Pacific region president Kakutaro Kitashiro and Wipro chairman Azim Premji signed the agreement and announced the alliance at a press conference here.
As part of the alliance, Wipro will market and integrate IBMs wide range of server and storage products in India, including pSeries (UNIX servers), xSeries (Intel-based servers), iSeries and zSeries.
In addition, IBMs full portfolio of storage products covering enterprise storage systems (ESS), liner tape open (LTO), network attached storage (NAS) and iSCSI products will also be offered.
It is a unique alliance and first of its kind in India, Kitashiro, who flew into the city from Tokyo to sign the alliance agreement, remarked.
He said he met Premji recently and was impressed by the achievements of Wipro, which has focused on quality customer service, and added that IBM also has the same culture.
Premji said it was obvious that the alliance was important for Wipro and IBM and this has been demonstrated from the fact that Kitashiro has flown from Tokyo to announce the alliance.
Megawati in Cyberabad
Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri April 4 had a glimpse of the IT prowess of Andhra Pradesh at the HITEC Hyderabad Information Technology and Engineering Consultancy city complex where she was briefed about IT-related initiatives of the state government.
Accompanied by a 40-member delegation, Megawati, on a four-day state visit to India, went round HITEC City, christened Cyber Towers that has come to symbolize the IT-savvy image of the state.
In association with Chennai Online
Farewell, Indian Hero
Narayana N.R. Murthy Retires By Vivek Das
Narayana N.R. Murthy is an Indian titan. His contribution is more than leading infotech giant Infosys to become a billion-dollar company and the first to be listed in NASDAQ. He brought a lofty, compassionate vision, almost reminiscent of ancient scholar-kings. Vivek Das presents a fond tribute.
Narayana N.R. Murthy retired March 31 from infotech giant Infosys, the billion-dollar company he helped found with five others including the 45-year-old Nandan M. Nilekani, who took over as CEO. He is only 56, but he said he wants to leave the helm of the IT behemoth to make way for younger people to take over when they still have the energy and the ambition left in them.
This shy, modest son of a Brahmin math school teacher in Karnatakas Kolar district leaves a legacy of delightful paradoxes. Sitting atop a company worth over $8.7 billion, his personal lifestyle is almost ascetic. In the brash, self-promoting big-talking world of IT, he shuns publicity.
He has become the archetype of corporate capitalist success in the liberalized India, yet he has been assiduous in sharing that wealth, creating at least 400 millionaires in his company. Thats U.S. dollar millionaires, not rupee-millionaires.
His frugal personal lifestyle contrasts with the unheard-of facilities he gives his employees, a veritable cornucopia of stock options as well as gym and food courts at a beautifully landscaped workplace in a 42-acre campus in Bangalore.
For too long we have emphasized matters that are personal and familial, he told the New York Times once in an interview. I have a fetish. I am extremely fastidious about anything public. In my personal life, as long as its clean, its O.K. In this country people have to start putting the public ahead of the personal good.
In the tradition of Indias ancient scholar-kings, Murthy brings a rare and lofty sense of commitment to the public good. As he once remarked: Im a capitalist in my mind, a socialist in my heart.
He gave away all his money in the 1970s and founded Infosys in 1981 with seed money of the princely sum of Rs. 10,000. Today, almost 21 years later, the company has grown from its seven promoters in 1981 to 10,663 people and Rs. 23 billion in turnover.
It hasnt always been a cakewalk for Infosys. When it started, it took Murthy nine months to get the companys first telephone line and three years to persuade the bureaucracy to allow Infosys to import its first computers. Whenever anyone in the company needed to travel abroad, they had to get government permission.
It got a major break when General Electric supremo Jack Welch scouted for a software partner in India in 1987 and chose Infosys, but even in 1991, Infosys was still a company of 162 people. New CEO Nilekani reminisces about the challenge in those days: We needed a certain physical infrastructure and a new way of doing business. The company realized that unless it built a top-tier brand name, it wouldnt be able to compete with its bigger competitors in the market. To meet this challenge, the company decided to raise funds and grow big. The company went public in 1993, and Infosys hasnt looked back since.
Today, while he has retired as CEO, Murthy is not really leaving Infosys. He will become the companys chief mentor, identifying and guiding people with leadership potential.
If we want this company to be successful over the long term, and Im talking about the next 50-100 years, we have to be ready with newer leaders, Murthy told the Times of India recently. As a mentor, Ill be interfacing with the various thought leaders, technologists, corporate leaders, et al, to enhance the companys brand equity. In addition to my work at Infosys, Id like to see if the benefits of IT could be made available to the common man. But I wouldnt like it to be plain rhetoric. It has to be something where plans are drawn, people review progress, and they are held accountable.
What is a leaders greatest asset? Murthys response: The only successful leaders are those who are in touch with ground reality, not those who sit in their ivory towers. In developing countries in particular, successful leaders are those who are willing to make sacrifices. I remember my son asking me years ago, why were we successful in the freedom struggle and why arent we successful today? My answer was: during the freedom struggle, all that was required was sacrifice. Thats why it attracted the finest people. All of them made such enormous sacrifices. But after independence, people saw money in the government. Barring an infinitesimal percentage, the government has attracted the worst talent.
Vivek Das is freelance writer
based in Bangalore.
Planning for Future
New IRA Options By Ashok Gupta
April is tax time, and as we all take stock of our finances for Uncle Sam, its also a good time to look at how to plan for retirement with new options, advises Ashok Gupta.
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 investments 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.
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 employers 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 tax at the ordinary income tax rates.
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.
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 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: (1) distributions in the event of IRA owners death; (2) distributions in the event of the owners disability; or (3) distributions used to pay qualified first-time homebuyer expenses for the IRA owner or the owners 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 neither the purchaser or his or her spouse has 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 individuals 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 owners income, and may be subject to the 10% federal income tax penalty. As with the traditional IRA, however, exceptions to the 10% penalty exist. Withdrawals may be made penalty-free when distributions are (1) due to the owners death; (2) due to the owners disability; (3) used by unemployed individuals to pay medical insurance premiums; (4) used to pay qualified first time home buying expenses, as discussed above; or (5) qualified educational expenses. 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 its time to begin taking IRA money. Others may be better off with the traditional version.
When the Roth 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 taxpayers 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.
Another new twist on the IRA, the Education IRA, is designed for those saving for a childs 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 taxpayers 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 beneficiarys qualified higher education expenses (which includes college tuition, other qualified costs and fees, and for students attending at least part-time, certain room and board expenses) incurred in the year of the distribution. The gain portion of any distributions not used for qualified higher education expenses are subject to both income tax and the 10% federal income tax penalty. (Different rules may apply with regards to state income tax.) Earnings on 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.
Prudential does not render tax or legal advice. Please consult with a professional for advice concerning your particular situation.
Ashok Gupta is a registered representative with Pruco Securities, a subsidiary of
The Prudential Insurance Company, and is based in San Jose, Calif.
A Sages Insight
The Power Within By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Those who lust for power suffer from an impoverished soul, says spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
Why are people hungry for power? People are hungry for power because they want attention and recognition. Power is a means, just like money. Passion is for an end. People who do not see power or money as a means, but see it as an end in itself, do not live, they simply exist.
If you do not realize that YOU are the power then you crave for power.
You crave for attention and recognition if:
You dont have any talents,
You have no love or passion,
You are not innocent and childlike.
If you dont have any talent and you are not contributing anything substantial to society, like an artist or a scientist, or a teacher, then you are hungry for power.
If you dont have love or passion to bring about transformation in society, then you are hungry for power.
If you are not innocent and childlike and dont have a sense of belongingness with the whole world, then you are hungry for power.
The true power is the power of the spirit; real confidence, strength and happiness all spring from the spirit. And one who knows this and has this is not hungry for power at all.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a spiritual leader from South India and the founder of the international Art of Living Foundation, a United Nations NGO.
A Sitarists Holi By Shashirekha Alur
Holi is one of the most joyful festivals of revelry and kinship in India, and Bay Area sitarist Habib Khan tried to recreate some of that magic at an event here, writes Shashirekha Alur.
Spring was in the air, with cherry blossoms in full bloom, and the colors of Holi filled the air as adults and children alike partook in a celebration marked with colors, food and music. It felt like India had descended on America.
Noted Bay Area-based sitarist Habib Khan and his wife Shobha Khan have for many years nurtured their students through not only the teaching of music but also by making them all feel part of a large sharing and caring family. They wanted their students families, especially the kids here, to experience the Holi festival in the Bay Area. They organized a Holi celebration at the Memorial Park in Cupertino, Calif., March 24.
Holi is a Spring festival celebrated around the full moon day of the month of Phalghun (Feb-March), when the blooming flowers and tender leaves herald the season of spring and love. It also signifies the victory of good over evil in the mythology of the story of Prahalad. According to Hindu legend, King Hiranya Kashapu in his stupendous ego ordered his people to worship him as god. His son Prahalad defies his fathers orders and continued to worship Vishnu. Several attempts to kill his son failed and finally the kings sister Holika, who is said to be immune from burning, sits with Prahalad in a huge fire. However, Prahalad emerges unscathed while the kings sister burns to death.
Ustad Habib Khan has helped his students to understand the joy of sharing and friendship. The unity in all religions is also a constant theme in his compositions: a timely message for our time and for all time. His composition on Holi reflected that well:
Holi Ayi Re, Ayi Re, Holi Ayi Re,
Mai To Nachungi, Nachungi Tere Sang Sang
Rang Daalo Tum Rang Daalo,
Rang Mein Tum Mujhko Itna Rang Do,
Rang Na Uttare,
Gale Se Mujhko Lagalo Tum
Sub Ek Rahe, Sub Ek Rahe,
Na Jaath Paath Ka ho Jhagada,
Na Dharm Ka Ho Bandhan
Atma Ho Jism Ke Saath
Aise Milke Rahenge, Hindu Muslim,
Holi Me Jaise,
Rangon Ka Hota Milan
Holi Ayi Re, Ayi Re Holi Ayi Re
Shashirekha Alur is a student of sitarist Habib Khan
Auto Review: 2002 Saturn Vue V6
Innovative, Impressive By Al Auger
Saturn isnt known for being innovative, but their new sports utility vehicle is a delightful break from the past, says our automotive editor Al Auger.
When Saturn was first created by the normally tradition-bound General Motors as an autonomous arm of GM and instituted the then radical marketing devices of no negotiating on price and a 30-day money-back guarantee, the industry and media were taken somewhat aback. The obvious point was its target: the female car buyer, who had a rather smirking, and sometimes, fearful attitude of the car sales forces awaiting them.
It has certainly worked even with Saturns notoriety of being over conservative in bringing new products on the market. The forces at Saturn lived and profited by the homily, If it aint broke, dont mess with it. That view has been changed for the 21st century. One of the most provocative is their brand new baby, the Vue compact sport utility vehicle.
As we mentioned earlier, Saturn has been a favorite badge amongst female buyers. But, with the Vue it was interesting to see the majority of curious onlookers were men. And, by and large, they were most impressed. One person told me, with great enthusiasm, about the new Vue his brother-in-law had just bought. You could easily see where his mind was heading.
There is a solid case for this as the Vue has a number of innovations as well as some nicely done traditional tricks of the trade. Three of the hidden advantages is the space-frame construction, dent-resistant polymer bodyside panels (I didnt put this to the test, so I just took their word for it) and an advanced continuously variable transmission. There is also optional head-curtain airbags. Our V6/AWD model trim featured a long roster of standard equipment on including all the interior comfort items, 5-speed automatic CVT transaxle, auto dimming mirror, daylight running lights and all-wheel-drive, etc.
The Saturn Vue comes in two levels of trim: front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive. Standard power is a 138-horsepower 4-cylinder engine with the V6 optional with the FWD model. The 3.0-liter V6 is a sweet, easy-breathing twin-cam, 24-valve engine rated at 181 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of steroidal torque. The Vue does the 0-60 marker in 8.4 seconds, which aint bad for a heavy utilitarian vehicle. If there is one shortcoming, it is the middling sound dampening from the engine bay.
One of the most oft mentioned attribute from the male admirers was the generous headroom both up front and in back. In this same context, storage space behind the rear seats is also quite spacious. The rear seats fold flat 70/30 and the passenger seat also folds flat for even more cargo area.
Four-wheel independent suspension, a unique electric variable power steering system and large 16-inch all-weather tires add to the ride comfort and road response. For some reason, I felt more comfortable taking the Vue off-road than almost all the others on the market, both compact and full-size. The Vue seem more responsive and combative when it comes to challenging situations. Another reason I think is the 5-speed CVT, which adds a great deal of flexibility and mileage over the traditional 4-speed. A bit more esoteric, maybe, but the Vue looks more substantial than the burgeoning Hollywood profiles of many competitors. I liked the Vue, a lot.
Todays Test Drive
2002 Saturn Vue V6/All-Wheel-Drive
- Base price: $22,575
- Price as tested*: $23,375
- Engine: DOHC, 24-valve, S-I, V6
- Displacement: 3.0-liter (2198cc)
- Horsepower: 181 @ 6000 rpm
- Torque: 195 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
- Transmission: Continuously Variable 5-speed
- Drive system: Front engine/All-wheel-drive
- EPA Class: Special Purpose
- Wheelbase/length: 106.6/181.3 inches
- Curb weight: 3,491 lbs.
- EPA fuel economy (est.): 19 city; 25 highway
- Extras: 24-hour Roadside Assistance; 30-day/1,500-mile money back guarantee; 100,000 mile tune-up schedule.
- E-mail: www.saturn.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.
After Madhuri Dixit married a U.S.-based NRI surgeon, Bollywood made the usual sexist assumption: Yes, she was a great film star with looks and talent, but as far as movies go, she is yesterdays news. Now its time for her to be the perfect bahu and raise babies.
Not so fast, says Madhuri. Recently she was in Kolkata to promote a new line of cosmetics named after her. Looking dapper in a blue business suit, she also took a moment to talk about her film career, which, as far as she is concerned, is anything but over.
She is particularly excited about the upcoming Devdas, Sanjay Leela Bhansalis lovingly crafted film version of one of the most popular Indian novels of unrequited love. She plays Chandramukhi, a courtesan.
Working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who had the guts to make a film on this celebrated and oft-filmed theme, was a very good experience, she told news agency PTI. It should work up some magic to get back the craze of my Ek, Do, Teen days. While it is true that her latest film Gajagamini tanked in the box office, but that was more due to the zany direction of painter M.F. Husain. Consider her powerhouse performance as a nautanki performer in Lajja, and you know that behind those winsome good looks lies a lot of talent.
I am playing a courtesan for the first time in my film career, she said about her role in Devdas. It is, no doubt, a very challenging role especially since Bhansali does not compromise with quality.
Heres to hoping that the feisty Madhuri makes the male chauvinist Bollywood wags eat their words. With her wondrous acting skills, it looks like thats exactly what she will do.
Amitabh the Great
Lock kiya jaye? Well not quite. But heres a piece of news that will make you sit up and take notice. After Lagaans Oscar foray so what if it didnt make the final cut now comes the news that Hollywood enfant terrible Oliver Stone is toying with the idea of getting the Big B to play Alexander the Great. Stone was in India with his entire pre-production crew to scout for locations in Ladakh and Leh, and when he stopped in Mumbai, he asked good friend Gulshan Grover if he had any suggestions. Grover suggested Amitabh, and Stone is seriously considering him, if rumors are to be believed.
What a wondrous comeback it would be for the great star who virtually came back from the dead with the game show Kaun Banega Crorepati. He oozed class and sophistication in the show, and his final punch line: Lock kiya jaye? is now part of the colloquial Indian lexicon.
A little cynical aside: Alexander the Great, for those of you whose history is a bit rusty, was born in 356 BC and died in 323 BC. Okay, youre no Einstein in math either, so we will spell it out for you. That means he was 33 when he died. He was 29 when he invaded India. Now one could well ask how appropriate Big B would be as a choice. But what the heck, maybe some of Bollywoods merry disregard for verisimilitude has already rubbed off onto Stone. Besides, Stones own record of adhering to historical truth isnt so hot either, right?
What is it with Bollywood stars these days? Film stars seemed to be falling over each other to pop up on sets for brief cameos, doing guest appearances. Remember Rani Mukerji in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham or Bipasha Basu in the just-released Aankhen?
A little bird tells us that Aishwarya Rai has been bitten badly by the guest appearance bug. In addition to a fleeting appearance in Sunny Deols Bhagat Singh, she will do an item number for another film. Item number, for those less familiar with Bollywood jargon is a curious Bollywood confection means a film song that has absolutely no relation with the film, even by tenuous Bollywood standards. This one is going to be for Boney Kapoors Shakti-The Power (talk about tautology). Critics claim these special appearances please all parties: Stars make a quick buck, and producers get a bit of high voltage star glamour for a fraction of the price it would take to go whole hog.
The Bald Truth
Bollywoods bad boy is at it again. This time Salman Khan is not crashing his car against lady love Aishwaryas car, so thank God for small mercies. Nor is he shooting endangered species. Apparently he has turned on himself. Or his hair, to be more precise.
Salman has stunned Bollywood and shocked film producers by shaving his head. And if appearances are to be believed he seems mighty proud of it, too. Apparently there is a method in his madness, because insiders say that Salman did it to help his hair grow better. He was already getting worried about his thinning hair.
Aishwarya isnt the least bit pleased, and producer Bubby Kent is in the unenviable position of having to postpone shoots, and is now obliged wait to till Salman grows his hair. Which is a heck of a lot worse than watching the grass grow, particularly when you are sitting on a mountain of debt and moments are ticking by while you wait for your top star to get his hair back.
Salman couldnt care less, observers say. But then, being sensitive has never been his strongest suit, has it?
Yes, we mean roles that amount to more than running around trees, or getting drenched in rain, so that frontbenchers do not have to exercise their imagination unduly to figure out the contours of the female anatomy. Raveena Tandon is ready to put her foot down after a tepid Bollywood career which has been all downhill since her sizzling performance as the mast mast girl in Mohra. She has decided to be careful in choosing her roles, and it seems fair to say that the National Award for her performance in Kalpana Lajmis Daman has given her morale a much-needed boost.
She is looking forward to the upcoming Satta, which is a remake of the Sanjeev Kumar-Suchitra Sen classic Aandhi. She says she is trying to strike a balance between commercial and meaningful cinema. But are Bollywood producers listening? The only balance they ever seem to understand is the balance sheet, which has lately been deeply in the red. Such are the ironies of life: Bollywood producers who blindly chase money throwing good taste and intelligent filmmaking by the wayside are apt to find money all the more elusive. For Bollywoods sake and Raveenas, we hope Raveenas search for good roles is anything but elusive.
Kamal Haasan is making a lot of news these days, and all of it off screen. On screen, his Abhay proved to be a dud, but off screen his shenanigans have the Tamil press in an uproar. His wife Sarikas recent accident raised a lot of eyebrows. Now the news is that the two are separated and Kamal is having a raging affair with Southern starlet Simran.
Which, alas, sounds like déjà vu all over again. Fourteen years ago, Kamal Hasan married Sarika after the birth of their first child. When the two fell in love, he was married to Vani Ganapthy. His spurned first wife is not surprised at all. She says this is exactly what happened to her. Kamal, it seems, is a truly gifted actor who brings his skills to bear off camera as well, though the results are much less satisfactory.
We dont mean India here, of course, but the diamond-tycoon and film financier Bharat Shah. After prolonged wrangling in court, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Maharashtra government hadnt made a strong enough case that Shah was involved with the underworld during of the making of his film Chori Chori Chupke Chupke. Which means Shah can seek a bail for Rs. 100,000. His office has been flooded with congratulatory calls of well-wishers. Shah, meanwhile, is in a hospital where he is being treated for neurological disorders.
Is there life after Bollywood? You bet there is. Just look at Reena Roy. Remember her? She marriedand divorcedPakistani cricket star Mohsin Khan after quitting Bollywood. Of course, many would say she left films at a point when it was hard to tell whether she was quitting Bollywood or Bollywood was quitting her.
But you cant run a spirited woman down. Like the cats proverbial nine lives, Reena Roy seems to reinvent another persona when the previous one falls apart. So what if Bollywood didnt work out and the marriage fell through? Theres always politics. So there she was, right in the middle of the action during recent municipal elections in Delhi. And the thumping victory of the Congress has pleased her no end. She said she had joined the Congress a month ago. Has she found at last her true métier? Time alone will tell.
However, as Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna have shown, success in Bollywood does not necessarily translate into a sustained political career. And Reena wasnt a huge success in Bollywood to begin with.
Hindi Film Review
Three Blind Men
Producer: Gaurang Doshi
Directed by: Vipul Shah
Music: Aadesh Shrivastav
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Sushmita Sen, Akshay Kumar, Arjun Rampal and Paresh Rawal
Truth is stranger than fiction, the main character in the film, played by Amitabh Bachchan, says a few times, but he left out an important point: even truth cant hold a candle to a Bollywood filmmakers imagination.
This is a story of three blind men trained to rob a bank, and the story has more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese. Okay, one deserves what one gets if one goes to see a Bollywood film expecting any intelligent approximation of reality, but events in the story simply fail to add up and make no sense at all, so the drama and suspense also fails to compel.
Debut director Vipul Shah intended to make a heist movie following Hollywood models and apes the style of Western cinema with varying degrees of success. Where he fails utterly is to give his films an iota of credibility, so all that effort in high production values, which is occasionally impressive, come to naught.
Vijay Singh Rajput (Amitabh Bachchan) is a decades-old bank executive with a distinguished record. He catches an employee trying to rob an aged customer out of Rs. 100. He unleashes the most ferocious mayhem, beating him mercilessly. The bank fires Rajput, and a seething Rajput decides to get even, planning to rob the bank by training three blind men.
Even by the time the story gets this far, try as you might, you have a really hard time believing the story. How on earth can an executive who has been a high flyer for decades lose his cool like that after two decades of service? Since when do bank officials in India sport tacky green shirts and ties that make them look more like five star hotel clerks than bank employees? Where on earth is a bank executive ever fired publicly in an assembly of over 100 employees which looks like a panchayat court?
At home, Rajput practices planning his heist on a computer with superb, animated graphics which shows an animated figure of himself doing it. Oh, really. Is Rajput a graphics software whiz too? And where did he come up with the moolah to create animated software like that before the heist?
But wait, it gets better. Rajput now kidnaps the young, blind brother of Neha Shrivastav (Sushmita Sen), who teaches special skills to blind kids. He armtwists Neha into training three blind men he has hand-picked: a raucous, wisecracking Ilyas (Paresh Rawal), enigmatic Vishwas (Akshay Kumar) who has a sixth sense and Arjun (Arjun Rampal). Heres the cockamamie plan: These guys will train in a recreated studio that mimics the real thing and then go and do the actual robbing. Now tell me, can you think of anything more asinine? A bank heist requires an ability to make flexible moves and split-second response for unanticipated eventualities, and Rajput has Neha train these three blind men to follow a predetermined strategy. Just how he expects these men to fulfill this ironclad strategy in a crowded bank is one of the many mysteries of the film. The other mystery is how the blind men agree relatively easily to Nehas plan to rob a bank (Rajput doesnt want to let the blind men know it is his plot.) I mean, if you are going to risk life in prison or worse, you would at least ask a few questions, right?
Anyway, the training session begins at one point we are told that 38 days of training have passed. For a bank executive, Rajput seems to have unusually deep pockets.
On the planned day, the three enter the bank to carry out the plan. There are a few more plot twists until a rather gory end with a slew of corpses, but a pile of logical inconsistencies.
One eerie thing about all these characters: None of them seems to have a life. We never get a glimpse of any friend or relative of either the blind men, or Neha (except her kid brother) or, for that matter, Rajput. Whats wrong with these people? Dont the have families? Friends? Dont they hang out with near and dear ones? Where is everybody else in their life?
Take Akshay Khanna, a well-groomed blind young man. Or Arjun, for that matter. Both look middle class, well fed and kept, surely they dont do it all by themselves? Do their family members just pack them off to unknown places for an unspecified periods?
Ah, well. The sad fact is that purely on technical grounds, Vipul Shah gives good reason to believe that he has got what it takes to make a good, thrilling heist film. The photography is good, many action scenes are shot well, production values are quite adequate, and the acting, by and large is also alright, with Bachchan and Akshay looking quite good at certain moments.
Shah has also copied the accoutrements of Western thrillers well: Subtitles marking a countdown or telling us where the robbers are headed help create the tension of a thriller. However, all of this is wasted because the premise is so implausible to begin with. Shah has the skills to make a heist film, he just lacks the intelligence to master a convincing script.
In an odd sort of a way, the film itself is true to its premise: It is indeed about three blind men planning a robbery. It is the producer, director and the screenplay writer planning to rob your wallet and mine. Will they be successful? I sincerely hope not.
Tamil Film Review:
Muddled Story with Loopholes
Cast: Rishi, Rithika, Sriman, Charlie, Ramesh Khanna and Abhinayasri
Sabdam is the name of a music troupe, with members Rishi, Charlie, Ramesh Khanna and Abhinayasri. Their new singer is Rithika, and the one who runs the troupe is Sriman, the wealthy orphan, a sort of godfather to the gang.
The earlier scenes show some promise, with some heartening indications of the directors intention to be different. But then the director seems to lose focus, the characterization goes haywire, with the script having quite a few loose ends. In a futile effort to take the audience by surprise, the director who begins the film as a love story, suddenly turns it into a love triangle, only to reveal in the end that there were four players in the game. He thrusts in a murder, only to reveal later that it was suicide. He characterizes the protagonist as a hero only to turn him into the villain of the piece later. It is almost as if the director kept having afterthoughts as he went along, and kept changing his script accordingly, without bothering to consider what had happened in the film before.
Heres how the story goes, and you be the judge. Rishi finds himself drawn towards Rithika and his feelings are reciprocated. But before Rishi can reveal this to his best friend Sriman, the latter comes out with a shocker: He confesses that he loves Rithika. Rishi decides to play the martyr, and persuades Rithika to marry Sriman. Then comes another surprise: Sriman disappears on his wedding day, Abhinayasri is found murdered and Sriman is the suspect. Srimans confession, some reels later, only adds to the confusion and reveals the glaring loose ends in the script.
Rishi has presentable looks, but reveals little by way of expressions. Srimans character is so ambiguous that there is little he can do to salvage any credibility for it. Rithika yet again gets to play the traditional, shy belle. Charlie and Ramesh Khanna are the seasoned hands in the film and determined to make their presence felt. But the one who manages to impress despite the weak script is Abhinayasri, who does justice to whatever was given to her by way of a role.
Yet her performance is only a small bright spot in a filmmaking disaster that defies logic, reason and is an insult to the intelligence of a movie buff. One hopes the audience gives the film the stinging rebuttal at the box office that it deserves.
In association with Chennai Online
New CD Releases
Invocation by Pandit Jasraj
Music and chants composed and sung by Rattan Mohan Sharma
In the broad pantheon of Hindu beliefs and religious texts, the Gayatri mantra is the most revered. It essentially is obeisance to the sun.
Throughout the history of human civilization, the sun, as the paramount celestial body in the eye of man, has inspired awe and respect.
Times Music, producers of the CD, say: Beyond the myths of Egypt, Babylon, Persia and Peru . . . beyond the antiquities of Solomons Temple, Stonehenge and the Sun Temple in Konarak . . . beyond the mysteries of astrology, lies the preordained tryst with mankind with its most original perception of divinity: the light behind the sun, the spirit within the fire . . . the resplendent form of the benevolent mother of the universe . . . who as we know her . . . is Gayatri.
In awe or anguish, whenever we have looked up at the sun, knowingly or unknowingly, we have also looked up to the smiling face of Gayatri, says Times Music.
Present in the Vedas as the universal prayer, the Gayatri Mantra is a distillation of the most powerful spiritual message in Hinduism.
Devout Hindus believe the supreme mantra Gayatri should be chanted during three time zones every day. It should be recited during three transition times: From the night to the day, from the morning to the afternoon and from the evening into the night. Chanting the mantra liberates one from the fruits of karma, the natural law of cause and effect which controls the cycle of birth and death.
Gayatri the deity is the personified unity of the triumvirate divinity of Gayatri, Savitri and Saraswati. Gayatri is also considered the mother of the Vedas.
The Gayatri invocation is sung by Hindustani classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj and written by Shyam Manohar Goswami. The music and the chants have been composed and sung by Rattan Mohan Sharma. The album contains the Gayatri Invocation, the Pranayam Mantra, the chanting of the Gayatri Mantra, the Stuti of Shloka I &II and the Gayatri Aarati.
Patel Scope II
After his chartbusting Patel Scope earlier this year Devang Patel presents this sequel. The formula is essentially the same: tunes and lyrics of international hits are parodied for some slapstick humor. This time around, Devang has thrown in parodies of hits from Josh, Taal and Kaho Na Pyar Hai for good measure. Although a bit loud at times, Devang sings with verve and there are some truly funny moments.
Devang first started acting and got involved with music during his school and college days. While at college in his hometown Ahmedabad, he participated in a number of Gujarati stage plays.
Comedy has always been his forte and he also wrote a few comedy plays.Earlier this year, he released Patelscope, a collection of eight spoofs of international hits and three original numbers, the album went on to become one of the biggest Indi-Pop albums of 2000, hitting No.1 on all the countdown charts. Much of the songs popular appeal came from the wacky videos made for the two medleys.
Recipe: Vegetarian Cake
Delicious Dessert By Seema Gupta
How many times have you been sorely tempted by a luscious piece of cake but felt helpless because you are a vegetarian and eggs are a complete no-no? For long-suffering vegetarians like you, heres a recipe for a delicious cake without eggs from the kitchen of Seema Gupta.
- For Cake
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 /2 lb flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
1 /2 tsp baking soda
A pinch of salt
3 tbsp ghee
- For Icing
1 /2 lb cream
1 /2 lb icing sugar
1 lb ice
- For Garnish/decoration
Cherry preserve, candy chips, nuts or garnish of choice.)
First whip the ghee till it is white. Pour the condensed milk and whip till it is smooth and lighter in color. Add 9 /10ths of the flour, salt, soda, baking powder and whip till it is a smooth mixture. Add the rest of the flour gradually and mix thoroughly. Gradually add the milk and keep mixing. The mixture should have the consistency of a smooth paste.
Grease a baking dish and pour the mixture. Pre-heat oven 200 degrees Celsius. Bake till it is slightly brown. Baking should take about half an hour.
Take a bowl and put ice in it. Put a smaller container in it. Put the cream and icing sugar and mix thoroughly till smooth. After the cake is baked, allow 5-10 minutes for it to cool.
Cut the cake horizontally in the middle so that you have two layers, one sitting on the other. Remove one layer and spread the icing mixture uniformly. Put the second layer on top. Now cover four sides and top of cake with icing mix. Add cherry preserve, candy chips or nuts to decorate the cake.
Seema Gupta is a homemaker based in Sunnyvale, Calif.
April-May Horoscope By Pandit Parashar
ARIES (March 21 to April 20): A solution to a nagging problem may not be available yet. Watch out for hidden enemies. You will change your financial strategy and try to get a property refinanced. People you trusted will disappear.
TAURUS (April 21 to May 20): You will have a tough time deciding on personal and professional matters. Money will be reasonably spent. Commitment towards kids will increase. Surgery may be the only cure to a health problem. You will enjoy an evening with old friends.
GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): You will be comfortable as you work on a great plan. It will materialize in time. You may have to replace electric gadgets at home. You will be invited to a big social event. You may also invest in a developing property.
CANCER (June 21 to July 22): Expenses and commitments will increase. Incoming payments will be delayed. You may be stressed because of a colleague. You, and a friend may launch a big project this summer.
LEO (July 23 to August 22): You job may be transferred to another department. A close friend will give good suggestions. You will be traveling. Speculation will be profitable. People working as brokers will benefit from favorable planets.
VIRGO (August 23 to September 22): You will be looking for a better job. Do not be demoralized. You will change travel plans. You will be calling long distance to inquire about somebodys health. Relax and spend time with children.
LIBRA (September 23 to October 22): Drive carefully and do not start any new projects for some time. You will get good advice but may not use it. It is a bad idea to buy old property. You will meet old friends. A child will get admission in a distant place.
SCORPIO (October 23 to November 22): A relationship may come to an end. Safeguard your belongings during a short trip. Some of you will switch jobs. Diplomacy can help defeat opponents. A big transaction will be key to financial freedom.
SAGITTARIUS (November 23 to December 22): You will face competition in business. You may be dragged in to a legal conflict. Bachelors will find a suitable match. You will participate in religious rituals.
CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19): Expect positive developments in career. You will be signing fresh a contract. Some of you may feel pain in stomach. You will obtain important information from a government agency. Spouse will have great ideas.
AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18): An unstable mind may make incorrect decisions. You will make a huge payment to government. Judgment in legal matters can be unfavorable. Speculations will yield small gains.
PISCES (February 19 to March 20): Money will come effortlessly. You will attend an entertaining social event with family. Long-term investments will be profitable in future. Watch out for a government agency that seeks information. It could lead to penalty or fine.