Notwithstanding the spectacular strides India has made in information technology and software in particular, manufacturing excellence or innovation isnt something that springs to mind when India is mentioned.
As a matter of fact, Indian business houses have been notorious for not spending money on R&D. With liberalization, they have preferred to ride piggyback on foreign partners in joint collaboration ventures.
The result has not been encouraging: technology transfer has often been minimal or non-existent; and critics have often charged that foreign partners have often tried to dump yesterdays technology.
So one has to ask: Does the government have a role to play here? Free market ayatollahs may shudder in horror, but the fact is, even in the advanced countries, there are examples of the government stepping in and giving research a fillip. The National Science Foundation in the U.S. and the all-powerful Ministry of International Trade and Industry in Japan are two good examples of how this can work fruitfully.
Which doesnt mean a government role in India isnt fraught with pitfalls. It is, thanks to our penchant for turning bureaucratic red-tape into a fine art.
But this months cover story shows that doesnt have to be the case. A government funding agency is actually funding an IIT project, and we are talking about real money here, several hundred crores of rupees. The technology is also chosen to meet Indias specific needs: A prototype lighter-than-air airship which costs much less to develop and use yet which holds great promise for the remote hilly regions of the country.
Some of the finest Indian brains will be working on it and in three years plan to have an actual prototype. Now thats action, not words. Quite delightfully the opposite of what India is known for, isnt it?
Airships for Uttaranchal
Building a Prototype By Rajkumar Pant
Technology of a bygone era? Think again. Indian scientists hope to manufacture an indigenous version of the lighter-than-air helium-filled airship and use it to boost the communications and economy of Uttaranchal, writes IIT Prof. Rajkumar Pant.
The northern state of Uttaranchal is hilly and beautiful, but its communication isnt very good. Air communication can improve matters, and airships the most commonly current form is the advertising blimp are a better alternative than conventional aircraft.
The objective of our program is the indigenous design and development of an airship and delivery of at least one flight-worthy operational prototype. We plan to do it in three years. Our program is funded by the Technology Information, Forecasting & Assessment Council, an autonomous organization under the Indian governments Department of Science and Technology.
The prototype developed during this program will be a "proof-of-concept" vehicle, certified by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation under the experimental category. Flight test evaluations will establish the efficacy of airships as a safe, reliable and economical mode of transportation in Uttaranchal. Appropriate design documentation will also be provided, so that certification under transport category can be obtained in a follow-up program, paving way for series production.
Uttaranchal topologically consists of three regions: Kumaon, consisting of Nainital, Almora, Bageshwar, Pithoragarh and Champawat districts; Garhwal, consisting of Chamoli, Pauri, Tehri Garhwal, Rudra Prayag, Dehradun, and Uttarkashi districts; and plains, consisting of Hardwar and Udham Singh Nagar.
The coverage of the region by major roads is quite sparse, and Garhwal and Kumaon regions of Uttaranchal have negligible rail infrastructure. Roads are narrow mountain roads, with limited width and load-bearing capacity, hence average vehicle speeds are quite low. Due to hilly terrain, the total road distance is many times larger than the aerial or "as the crow flies" distance.
The initial costs in setting up a rail or road infrastructure are very high, especially in hilly terrain. In such areas, the aviation sector has the capability to connect remote places in a speedy and efficient manner.
Safe and reliable air transportation infrastructure promotes international tourism, trade in high value items, perishable goods, and foreign direct investment. On the other hand, bottlenecks in the aviation sector can negatively affect international trade, imports, and exports.
Good air transportation can create several new industries, the export of fresh tropical fruits from Latin American countries and from the Caribbean to Europe being cases in point. There are several spin-off benefits as well. It leads to lower time-cost of trade and quicker movement of goods and cargo, and attracts new businesses to far-flung regions.
Uttaranchal is a good candidate for the development of an aerial transportation network for movement of goods and passengers. However, one has to ask whether an underdeveloped state like Uttaranchal can really afford to set up a conventional aerial transportation network which is expensive due to the extremely high cost of setting-up and operating support infrastructure.
Fortunately, its a different story with airships. It is true that the initial costs of imported airships can be quite high, because the fabrication of an airship is labor-intensive.
However, costs can be drastically cut by indigenous manufacture. The capital investment, technical skill and expertise required to manufacture an airship is far less than that required for manufacturing an aircraft or a helicopter.
An airship is an airborne vehicle obtaining most of its lift from lighter-than-air gas, usually helium, contained in the envelope. Additional lift can be provided by vectored thrust from the engines but since most of the lift is derived from the helium, the engines are needed mainly to drive the vehicle through the air and to provide power for the on-board systems. The result is considerable fuel economy when compared with heavier-than-air machines. It also allows an airship to be more environmentally friendly. An airship usually has a three-axis control system to enable it to go to the desired destination. A gondola is attached below the envelope, inside which the passengers/goods are located.
Airships are fundamentally different from aircraft, since they do not have to rely on the relative motion between the aircraft and the surrounding air to generate the lift force. Hence, airships can fly safely at very low speeds, and can even remain stationary at a specific point in space. They can attain speeds as high as 150 kmph in level flight. Airships can climb to an altitude of more than 7,000 ft above mean-sea level, but when operated from higher altitudes, their climb capacity is somewhat diminished. Hence, they are usually flown 1,000 ft above the ground level. This feature makes them very attractive for aerial sightseeing by tourists. Since airships are capable of vertical takeoff and landing, their infrastructure related requirements for operation are minimal. Airships can be safely operated during reasonably calm conditions and even mild rain. However, due to their large size, their dynamics is adversely affected during heavy winds, especially during takeoff and landing. Their large size also poses problems in their storage.
Building airships will create employment opportunities for the local population. If airships prove to be useful for transportation needs of hilly areas, many new markets can open up, such as Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Nepal and Bhutan. Airships developed in Uttaranchal could then be supplied to these markets.
How We Will Do It
IIT Bombay will be the nodal agency for carrying out the program. The program will be carried out in three phases: conceptual design phase (six months), preliminary design phase (12 months), and detailed design and development phase (18 months). Preliminary cost estimates for the total program (including 3 prototype airships) is Rs. 100 to 125 crores (Bought out airships of this class cost around Rs. 30 crores per airship).
During the conceptual design phase, a National Program Team consisting of professionals from IIT Bombay and other R&D establishments and industries will carry out a detailed literature review of past, current and state-of-the-art airship development programs and identify the technical and operational requirements for the proposed airship for operation in Uttaranchal. Airship manufacturers in Russia, Europe and the U.S. will be contacted and visited for obtaining additional data and detailed information, and exploring the possibility of joint development. Conceptual design of the prototype airship will be carried out, i.e., the layout, configuration and sizing of the lifting envelope, gondola, power-plant and control surfaces, and other issues.
During the preliminary design phase all the major technical decisions related to the prototype will be taken. This will include determination of seating and payload capacity, designing the operating speed and geometrical sizing of all major components, aerodynamic and structural analysis of the configuration, sizing and layout of the power-plant and design of the vehicle control system.
The aim in the detailed design and development phase is to see an airship flying in the sky. The specific tasks to be carried out during this phase are: acquisition of on-board equipment, fabrication of components and sub-systems, integration and final assembly, pilot conversion training, flight trials, estimation of fabrication and operating cost.
A National Advisory Council consisting of eminent persons will be created whose support and help for the speedy and successful completion of the program is considered invaluable. The faculty members of IIT Bombay and Aerospace Department in particular will play a major role in the design and development program as internal consultants. They will take up specific areas of design and development based on their area of expertise and research and will be assisted by program team members attached to them.
Uses for Uttaranchal
The direct end-user of the airships will be Uttaranchal, who could use them for a variety of applications, like:
- Transportation of tourists from major getaway points to the various locations of tourist interest.
- Alternate mode of transportation for passengers between major cities of the state, or from the major cities to towns.
- Transportation of essential items such as foodgrains, vegetables, LPG cylinders to remote areas.
- Transportation of perishable goods and agricultural produce from remote areas to the point of sale.
- Provision of relief supplies and medical/paramedical staff and associated equipment during natural disasters such as landslides and earthquakes and emergencies.
- Aerial inspection and survey for geological, ecological, forestry applications.
- Control of illegal activities like poaching and tree-logging.
This program will result in development of a knowledge base, pool of expertise and technology that is essential for design and development of airships within the country. Apart from transportation of goods and passengers, airships can be used for various other civil and military applications, at various other locations. Hence, the development of a few "proof-of-concept" prototype airships through this program is likely to lead entrepreneurial ventures related to indigenous production and operation of airships. This will not only lead to economic of the region, but also generate new employment opportunities. Once the technology relevant to this niche product is mastered, there also exists a tremendous export potential for global supply of airships.
Dr. Rajkumar S. Pant is associate professor of aerospace engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay. His proposal for building a prototype is being funded by Technology Information, Forecasting & Assessment Council, an autonomous organization under the Indian governments Department of Science and Technology.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Jan. 30 announced hefty reduction in airtime charges for roaming on cellular phones to Rs. 3 per minute as ceiling from the existing about Rs. 10 per minute.
The authority has also decided that there should be no entry fee for roaming, while specifying a maximum limit of Rs. 100 for monthly rental for national or regional roaming.
The new charges would be in effect from March 1, 2002, a TRAI statement said here.
"While airtime rate in the subscribers' home network have been declining over time, airtime rates charges for roaming have generally remained stable at Rs. 10 per minute," it said.
The authority, therefore, considered it desirable to examine the underlying costs and provision of roaming.
"A maximum surcharge of up to 15 percent has been allowed, but this surcharge can be applied only for the airtime component and not on the fixed line charge component," TRAI said.
In general, roaming attracts two charges, a fixed charge for access to the facility and variable charges that depend on usage. The fixed charge comprises an entry fee and a monthly rental.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has said he is working to make the state a "knowledge state," and the capital Hyderabad as a "knowledge hub."
Information technology was being used extensively in his state to empower people and efforts were on to move towards e-governance by providing one-stop services on the Internet, he said.
Addressing a meeting of business leaders and investors at a meeting organized jointly by the Asia Society and Confederation of Indian Industry, Naidu said his government was also looking towards other promising knowledge-based industries such as drugs and pharmaceuticals.
He told the investors that many large companies were already functioning in this sector in the state.
IT, he said, was being used to cut down corruption by bringing in greater transparency. In this connection, his government was planning to enact "Right to Information" legislation soon.
Besides, a Centre for Good Governance was also being set up to train legislators and bureaucrats, he added.
Wipro Feb. 2 inaugurated an "Employees skills upgradation program" that leads to an MS degree in a chosen subject, from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani.
The three new courses are the MS programs in the areas of software engineering, telecommunications and software and microelectronics.
The program would not only bring education closer to the employees, but also sharpen the learning required for business needs, a Wirpo press release said.
The Learn While You Earn programs caters to the aspirations of acquiring a higher degree, it said, adding that about 90 Wiproites had already enrolled in the three courses, launched Feb. 2.
The program was inaugurated at Wipros Floating Learning Centre at Electronics City campus by Pratick Kumar, who is WIPROs corporate vice-president of human resources.
Communication satellite INSAT-3C is expected to reach its orbital slot by Feb. 8, as solar arrays that generate power for the spacecraft and antennas were deployed by the space scientists.
Deployment of the appendages (solar arrays and antennas) were completed Feb. 1 morning, Dr. P.S. Goel, director of the Indian Space Research Organization Satellite Centre, told reporters.
"All the systems of INSAT-3C have been performing well and as per predictions," he said at the Master Control Facility here which controls the satellite.
The entire operation, right from the launch to the orbit-raising maneuvers, completed this morning, went in a "copybook style," Goel said.
The satellite, launched onboard Europes Ariane-4 rocket from Kourou space station in French Guyana on Jan. 24, has been placed in the 3-axis stabilized mode, he said.
Testing of individual transponders would commence soon after which the satellite would be ready for regular services.
Race for VSNL
Tatas and Reliance today vied with each other for acquiring control of Videsh Sanchar Nigam as they submitted their price bids for the 25 percent government stake in Indias international communication carrier.
Sterling, the third short-listed bidder, however, opted out on the last day of the closing of the bid complaining that it was not given more time to come up with its proposal.
The Disinvestment Ministry will now take the bids to the Core Group of Secretaries after completing evaluation and the Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment will decide on the strategic buyer.
The government is offloading 25 percent of its 53 per cent stake in the telecom monolith.
Setback to Bharti
In a major setback to Bharti, the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal Jan. 31 stayed telecom regulatory body TRAI's order on sharing of "default mobile traffic" with BSNL even though Bharti maintained that the development would not affect their association with other cellular operators for carrying the traffic.
The stay came after BSNL moved the tribunal a day before against a TRAI order, stating that revenue occurring due to default calls, where customers do not specify choice of their call carriers (here in reference to state-owned BSNL or private operators like Bharti), would be shared equally between existing operators.
During the course of the stay, all default STD calls on mobile phones, where the consumers do not specify the choice of carrier, would be routed through BSNL as against the earlier arrangement where it was to be distributed equally between Bharti and BSNL.
In association with Chennai Online
3. Visual Basic .Net Overview By Kamal Arora
In the third part of his continuing series. Kamal Arora writes about the new features of Visual Basic .Net and its uses. He strongly suggests VB applications to VB .Net.
The .Net framework is based on CLR (Common Language Runtime) that provides unified environment for all .Net programming languages. So any language designed for .Net needs to support CLR and also some common features like inheritance, multi-threading, etc. Visual Basic .Net has various significant changes that support the above features. Though VB .Net has evolved from VB6 it is a different Language. The code in VB6 will not load without conversion to .Net and can be converted through Microsoft Migration Wizard that converts VB6 code to VB .Net. Lets see some of the significant changes that have been incorporated in Visual Basic .Net that were not there in Visual Basic 6:
- Supports inheritance, overloading and overriding
- Structured error handling using Try
. Catch instead of Go To
- Improved memory management. The objects that are not in use are checked by CLR and the process of garbage collection takes care of it
- Variables can be initialized when declaring
- Migrating Visual Basic Applications to Visual Basic .Net
As Visual Basic .Net is much more powerful and has enhanced capabilities users might want to upgrade existing Visual Basic applications to Visual Basic .Net. Since it is an updated language with new development environment it may be little difficult to upgrade from previous versions, however careful planning after analyzing the advantages and with enhanced development environment can ease the task of upgrading VB code to VB .Net.
Advantages of Migrating to Visual Basic .Net
The advantages of Migrating are same as the new functionalities added to Visual Basic .Net. Here are a few:
No DLL Hell: You will use Xcopy to deploy Windows applications so you dont have to worry about DLL versioning issues. No more shutdowns are needed if you just want to replace some DLL for your Visual Basic .Net applications.
Language integration with other .Net Languages: Visual Basic .Net code now integrates with code written in other .Net Languages such that you can take advantage and reuse the code written in other .Net languages. I explained the whole concept of reusing the code in my previous article. It has now same types of arrays, variable types, and classes as in any other .Net language that uses CLR.
Object Oriented Language: Some of the inconsistent features like GoSub/Return have been removed and now it supports inheritance, overloading, overriding and other features of a true Object Oriented Language.
XML Support: XML is an open standard managed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). XML makes it easy to exchange data and in Visual Basic .Net you can easily expose any function as an XML web service.
In this article I have given you an overview of Visual Basic .Net, the new features that have been added to Visual Basic .Net and how they are useful. I then explained the advantages of migrating VB code to VB .Net. My recommendation for migrating to VB .Net code is to review the advantages first and once you decide to go for it, take small applications to convert instead of jumping directly to big ones. If the applications are not in VB6, first convert them to VB6 and than attempt converting to VB .Net and finally look for help and Web resources released by Microsoft and other partners.
Kamal Arora is a software professional based in Milpitas, Calif.
H-1B Visa Employees By Sandeep P. Prabhu & Gwen E.B. Kennedy
Tax time that dreaded time of year is rapidly approaching, so Sandeep P. Prabhu and Gwen E.B. Kennedy put together some pointers to help you navigate the U.S. tax system. They cover some of the issues commonly faced by Indian nationals working in the U.S. under an H-1B visa.
As a starting point, we assume you earned income in 2001 from either a U.S. employer or from services performed in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign employer. Under U.S. tax rules, there is no distinction between the two both types of income are subject to tax in the U.S. The only exception is if you earned less than $3,000 and this amount was paid directly by a foreign employer for services rendered in the U.S., and that employer doesn't maintain a U.S. presence, and your stay in the U.S. was less than 90 days. In this case, the amount earned is not subject to U.S. tax. If all three conditions are not met, then the entire amount received is considered U.S.-source income.
To determine the extent of your tax liabilities, you need to consider your position under U.S. tax rules, Indian tax rules, and the U.S.-India tax treaty.
Determining Your U.S. Tax Status
Non-resident Alien vs. Resident Alien: The IRS classifies foreign citizens as "aliens" and this may not be too far from the truth in certain parts of Sunnyvale... All kidding aside, the first distinction to make is between a Nonresident Alien ("NRA") and Resident Alien ("RA").
This difference is critical because NRAs are taxed solely on their U.S. source income, and file their returns on Form 1040NR. Different forms of income (e.g. passive investment income vs. active personal services income) are treated differently. The U.S.-India tax treaty (discussed below) is an important document for determining your NRA tax liabilities in the U.S. NRA income is divided into 2 separate categories:
- Income that is effectively connected with a trade or business in the U.S. (e.g. active income earned by providing your services). Such income is subject to U.S. tax at the same (graduated) tax rates as for U.S. citizens.
- Income that is not effectively connected with a trade of business in the U.S. (eg. passive income such as dividends, interest, and royalties). Such income is generally subject to a withholding tax at the source of payment, generally at a maximum rate of 30 percent unless reduced by a tax treaty (see below).
RAs are subject to U.S. tax on their worldwide income and report their income on the standard Form 1040. In all material respects they are treated as U.S. citizens for income tax purposes.
These rules are separate from your immigration status although, in certain cases, actions you might have taken during the year to change your immigration status in the U.S. may effect whether you are considered an NRA or RA.
How to Determine Your Status
General Rule: If you are not a U.S. citizen, you are considered an NRA unless you pass the Green Card Test or the Substantial Presence Test, or make a first-year election to be treated as a RA.
Green Card Test: You pass the Green Card test if you possess an alien registration card ("Green Card") issued by the U.S. INS. If you obtained a Green Card during 2001, see below under "Dual-Status Tax Year".
Substantial Presence Test: You have a "Substantial Presence" in the U.S. if you were physically present in the U.S. on at least 31 days during the current calendar year (2001), and 183 "days" over the last three years (1999, 2000, and 2001). The 183 "days" are calculated on a weighted basis as follows: full weight for 2001, 1/3 weight for 2000, and 1/6 weight for 1999.
Students under F, J, M, or Q visas are considered exempt individuals for purposes of the Substantial Presence Test; therefore, days spent in the U.S. under such status need not be included in the above calculations of days present.
Notwithstanding whether you fall under the Green Card and Substantial Presence tests, you may still qualify for NRA treatment if you: (a) are present in the U.S. for less than 183 days in the current year, (b) maintain a "tax home" in a foreign country during the year, and (c) have a closer connection to that "tax home" than to the U.S.
First-year Election to be Treated as a Resident: For new residents of the U.S., there is a special provision allowing you to elect treatment as an RA, even though you may not meet the Substantial Presence test in your first year of U.S. residence. This election can be beneficial in reducing your overall tax bill because RAs are allowed more liberal deductions/allowances (such as for dependents, mortgage interest, moving expenses, eligible to file joint returns, etc.), otherwise unavailable to NRAs.
You may qualify for this election if you meet all of these conditions:
- You are present in the U.S. for 31 consecutive days
- You are present in the U.S. for at least 75 percent of the days in the remainder the year, starting with the first of the 31 consecutive days in condition (1)
- You meet the Substantial Presence test in the following year
Because of condition (3), in order to claim this election you'll have to request an extension of your tax filing date or else file a revised tax return. If you make this election, it is effective for that part of the year beginning with the first of the 31 days.
Dual-Status Tax Year: If you were both an NRA and RA during 2001, you are considered a "Dual-Status" taxpayer, with the following consequences:
Inbound Moves: Residency Starting Date: In the first year in which you meet either the Green Card or Substantial Presence test, you must determine your "residency starting date". After this date, your income will be taxed on the same basis as a U.S. citizen your worldwide income must be declared in the U.S.
If you met the Substantial Presence criteria for the first time in 2001, your "residency starting date" is generally the first day in 2001 in which you are present in the U.S. However, under certain circumstances you may be able to exclude up to 10 days of temporary residence in the U.S. in determining your "residency starting date". This could be invoked, for instance, if you had a temporary business trip (of under 10 days) to the U.S. in early 2001, and then took up residence in the U.S. during a later part of the year.
If you do not meet the Substantial Presence test but do meet the Green Card test, your residency starting date is the first day on which you are present in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident.
If you meet both the Green Card and Substantial Presence tests, your "residency starting date" is the earlier of the two.
Restricted Deductions: A "Dual-Status" filer is subject to a number of restrictions on the amount of deductions and exemptions he may claim. For example:
- You must itemize deductions
- You cannot file a joint return
- You cannot take advantage of the lower tax rates for married joint filers or heads of households
- You may be restricted in the amount of exemptions you can claim for your spouse and dependents
First Year Choice: Given these restrictions, you may find it advantageous to elect RA treatment for the entire first year in which you become an RA.
Filing Requirements: If you attained RA status in 2001, you must file the standard IRS Form 1040 declaring your income for the part of the year you were an RA. In addition, you must attach a separate statement to your IRS Form 1040 declaring the amount of income you earned in 2001 as an NRA.
Outbound Moves: If you left the U.S. during 2001, your "residency termination date" determines when you cease to become an RA. In the year you leave, you must declare and file a return. In addition, you must file a statement with the IRS stating your departure details, new tax home, etc., which will serve document your residency termination date.
Filing Requirements: If you left the U.S. in 2001, you must file IRS Form 1040NR. In addition, you must attach a separate statement to your IRS Form 1040NR declaring the amount of income you earned in 2001 as an RA.
Determining Your Indian Tax Status
You're not in the clear yet! You also need to determine your residency status under India's tax rules. Under India's Income-tax Act, 1961 individuals are categorized into 3 principal classes of taxpayers:
You should also note that these determinations are made on a 'tax year', not a 'calendar year'. The tax year in India runs from April 1March 31.
Non-Resident Indians ("NRIs"): Chapter XII-A of the Income-tax Act, 1961 sets out preferential tax and filing rules for income earned by Non-Resident Indians, defined as non-residents who are Indian citizens or of "Indian origin". You are considered to be of "Indian origin" under the Act if you or either of your parents or grandparents were born in undivided India.
Filing Requirements: As an NRI you are not required to file income tax returns if your income consisted solely of investment income and/or capital gains, and the appropriate withholding (if any) was made at source.
U.S.-India Tax Treaty
Residency Rules: If you qualify as a resident of both the U.S. and India, you need to refer to the US-India tax treaty to determine your residence status.
The U.S.-India tax treaty came into effect in 1991 and sets out rules providing relief from double taxation, as well as reduced rates of withholding tax on various categories of payments to non-residents. There are also provisions for sharing taxpayer information between the tax authorities of the two countries, a typical feature of a tax treaty.
Article 4(2) of the treaty sets out rules to determine which country will "claim" you as a resident.
- In the first instance, you are considered resident where you maintain a permanent home.
- If you have permanent homes in both countries, the treaty then seeks to determine your "center of vital interests" by reference to where your personal and economic interests are closer.
- If this secondary screen is still unclear indeterminable, or you don't have a permanent home in either the U.S. or India, the treaty looks to where you maintain your "habitual abode".
- If you have a habitual abode in neither or both countries, then your nationality will determine your state of residence.
- If you are a national of neither the U.S. nor India, then your residency will be determined by mutual agreement between tax authorities of both countries.
Treatment of Income and other Payments: The U.S.-India tax treaty also governs the rates of withholding and tax inclusion.
Withholding tax is 25 percent for portfolio dividends, and 15 percent for interest and royalty income.
Of interest to H1-B consultants is Article 16 "Dependent Personal Services" which states that if the services are performed in the U.S., then they are taxable in the
U.S. regardless of whether the employer of record is an Indian company.
Filing Requirements: If you are claiming tax treaty benefits you may also need to file IRS Form 8833 in addition to your 1040NR.
The discussion is not meant to provide definitive advice in any particular tax situation, but rather to highlight issues you may want to investigate further with your professional tax advisor. Sandeep P. Prabhu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Gwen E.B. Kennedy can be reached at email@example.com
Sandeep P. Prabhu and Gwen E.B. Kennedy are partners in
Interstice Consulting Corporation, an international financial and legal consultancy
based in Jersey City, N.J. Prabhu is an accountant and Kennedy is a tax attorney.
Weep for Bengal
Bangladeshi Fundraiser By Asim Chakraborty
Bay Area Bangladeshis rallied in support of Hindu victims of post-poll violence at home, Asim Chakraborty reports.
The hallmarks of a Bengali cultural show were for all to see: songs by Tagore and rebel poet Nazrul Islam, with a few recitals of poems thrown in. Little children sang "We Are the World," and a packed audience sat and listened in a makeshift auditorium Jan. 27 in a club house of a makeshift auditorium in Mountain View.
But it was a very different show and a milestone for the South Asian community. A group of Bay Area Bangladeshis had hosted the event to raise money for the aggrieved Hindu minority which has been attacked in appalling sectarian violence following recent elections in November, and the response it drew was heartening indeed. At the end of the event over $9,000 was raised, which will be used to support some of the worst affected Hindu families in Annada Prasad village in Bhola, Bangladesh. Just two days ago another event, also organized by Bangladeshis, had raised $2,000.
You would think a fundraiser for victims of violence would be a cause around which everybody could rally. Perish the thought. Such is the murky world of subcontinental politics that the issue has become a political hot potato with bitter, fevered charges flying thick and fast. Bangladeshis who are protesting atrocities against Hindus are being called unpatriotic and worse.
Yet the organizers have stood firm. And they did not mince words at the event. The most poignant moments of the show came when a slide show presented images of old people being beaten, young girls who were rape victims.
"We are all painfully aware of the unprecedented communal persecution unleashed upon our hapless minority community of Bangladesh immediately following the general election of 2001," organizers said in their program guide. "We are extremely saddened and enraged at the extent and ferocity of this crime against humanity. Almost two hundred women were raped and hundreds of families were rendered homeless."
The cultural segment of the event also evoked themes that were in keeping with the cause. Particularly powerful was the recital of an anti-communalism poem by Bangladeshs unofficial poet laureate Shamsur Rahman. "Sudhangsu jabe na," (Sudhangsu Wont Go) is a wonderfully life affirming poem where the poets expresses his solidarity with a Hindu victim of communal attacks, and the recital with background music was done with great flair and feeling. Songs included well-known songs of harmony, unity and patriotism, and were presented both in chorus and occasionally solo.
The event was part of a U.S.-wide campaign by Drishtipat, an expatriate Bangladeshi organization, called "Cheye Dekho" (Look and See). The campaign plans to raise $26,000 for Hindu victims in Bangladesh. Similar fundraisers are scheduled in New York and Chicago.
The event is almost unique. When was the last time you heard a South Asian organization raise funds for the minority community? Already, pro-government people and newspapers are already skewering them, but organizers have kept their focus clear.
Drishtipat calls itself an Internet-based activist group. "It will be hard to find an expatriate Bangladeshi who doesn't browse the Bangladeshi newspapers on the net at least once a day," Its Web site declares. "As we read the . . . news, we get sad... we get angry... we get depressed. There are (a) few times (when) we feel the urge to step up and to do something about it. This was one such moment when we thought, why not give it a try...that's how we started Drishtipat."
Drishtipat is an Internet-based activist organization of expatriate Bangladeshis for providing assistance to victims of human rights violation in Bangladesh. The mission of Drishtipat is to be very proactive in creating mass awareness in the Bangladeshi community, bringing pressure on the authorities and to provide logistic support to help and/or rehabilitate the victims of a specific case of human rights abuse, its organizers say.
Interested readers can visit Drishtipats Web site at www.drishtipat.org
Asim Chakraborty is a freelance writer based in Foster City, Calif.
To Home, with Love
Sending Money to India Anjali Arora
Forget weeklong waits or extortionate fees. A new system helps NRIs send money quickly and cheaply, writes Anjali Arora.
There may be any number of successful NRIs in the U.S., but lets face it, we are not Ollie North. So when it comes to moving money from one end of the world to another, the choices for lesser mortals are few and none-too-pleasant. You can either send a bank draft and wait for weeks, or pay a hefty fee. Or you better have deep pockets so that you are able to give your beneficiaries in India access to an account in an Indian bank.
For those with less scruples, there was always the murky netherworld of hawala but after the ghastly attacks of Sept. 11, dont even think about it unless you want federal agents whisking you off to enjoy the governments hospitality.
Amid all this comes a classic case study of a clicks and mortar success story. Remit2India was started as an online service brought to consumers by the Times of India group and Citigroup. It is fast emerging as the best way to remit money over the Internet and has now carved a special niche among NRIs wanting to send money to India.
Remit2India is currently the only online remittance product that has been approved by the Reserve Bank of India. The service offers three modes to send money Check Mate check delivery in 8 working days flat, 48-hour express, a wire transfer via bank and overnight delivery for beneficiaries with a bank account with UTI Bank. Priced at a flat fee of $10 per transaction, Remit2India offers great value for money best exchange rates, low turnaround time, unique rewards, special offers from time to time in short, Remit2India is more bang for your buck. Whats more, the service delivers to over 1,000 locations across the length and breadth of the country.
Remit2India will soon launch its ACH-based solution, which is faster and cheaper. Remit2India will also be available to NRIs in Canada and Hong Kong within the next month.
Interested readers can visit their Web site at www.remit2india.com.
Anjali Arora is a freelance writer based in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Republic Day Marked
Indian Americans as well as Indian consular offices marked Indias Republic Day Jan. 26. Indias San Francisco Consul General H.H.S. Viswanathan held an official reception which was attended by leaders of the Indian American community.
FIA Northern California marked Republic Day in association with the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple with an extensive cultural program, a mela and activities for children.
Bay Area-based South Asian womens helpline and support group Narika held a fundraiser Jan. 27 at Fremonts Naz Cinema.
The event, which screened Mira Nairs Monsoon Wedding raised $12,500. Biren Chowdhary of the Federation of Indo-American Associations of Bay Area handed a check of $5,000.
ICSC Math Wizard 2002
Santa Clara, Calif.-based Indo-American Community Service Center held a math contest for school students in grades four through eight Jan. 26. Vandana Kadam, a middle school math teacher, organized it.
The following won first prize: Sonali Patil (4th grade), Kedar Iyer (5th grade), Vidya Kaipa (6th grade), Siddharth Chandrasekhar (7th grade) and Hailey Lam (8th grade).
Auto Review: 2002 Thunderbird Convertible
Ford's Retro-heaven By Al Auger
Our automotive editor Al Auger is mightily impressed with Fords new Thunderbird, and says it strikes a perfect balance between retro chic and contemporary style.
In over 35 years of driving a cornucopia of cars, theres going to be a lot of exotic machines in the mix. But, I cant think of one single badge that engendered such enthusiastic responses than the 2002 Ford Thunderbird retro-machine. It seemed as if everyone has been waiting for its emergence. I wont bore you with the stories of the bevy of ladies I had to fend off as a spin-off benefit.
Ford made sure we would be noticed by supplying U.S. with the brightest happy-face yellow paint job this side of the Beatles Yellow Submarine. First and foremost, the artists and designers at Ford turned out a handsome and seamless connection between the legendary classic Tbird and the contemporary world. The egg-crate grill, the big, round stoplights and headlamps, the subtle blending of lines, both modern and emotional are all together in one striking package. Even the wraparound windshield is the product of a special technology invented for this purpose alone. The fit of the exterior sheet-molded-compound and sheet metal is tight and without gaps.
Ive never been a great fan of chrome wheels, but the 7-spoke, 17-inch optional wheels on our machine are, admittedly, exceptional. The power top follows the curved lines of the body. The one-hand handle makes this one of the easiest tops to lower on the market. A removable hardtop is also available, complete with the requisite portholes.
Under the hood, highlighted with a non-functional hood, is the pragmatic foundation of the esoteric Tbird: a twin-cam, 3.9-liter, all-aluminum V8. Cranking out 252 horsepower and 267 lb.-ft. of torque, the power plant is muscular and responsive emitting a lovely burble on acceleration though exceptionally quiet at cruising speed. Transmitting all this to the rear wheels is a close-ratio 5-speed automatic transmission with an overdrive 5th gear. The gearing is so responsive, there is no glaring, obvious need for a manual transmission.
The Thunderbird was never a sports car, nor was it designed to be. But, as a GT, it was a graceful and lovely piece of transportation. The newer version goes well beyond that description. A nicely balanced suspension system, rear-wheel drive (naturally) and sensitive variable-assist steering add up to a master of curves and bends. My only complaint would be with its linear reflection of road discrepancies that created more jounce and bounce than necessary. Overall, the new Thunderbird is rather a joy, especially at speed in the backcountry.
Originally, when the idea of reincarnating the ephemeral kinetic beauty of a true legend came up, some of the "suits" suggested a 2+2 cab to romance the up-and-coming young, rich dot-commers with new families. Fortunately, the creative minds held forth and the reborn Tbird is still a two-seater and these new dot-coms are now dot-gones, as is their wealth. In the all-black cab the people at Ford have kept heavy hands off. There is just a hint of its predecessor, but the brushed aluminum trim and ergonomically laid-out instrument panel adds a contemporaneous ambiance. Leather is abundant and the drivers seat is 6-way power adjustable with manual lumbar control. Ford even remembered the art of tuck and roll from the original. Turbulence with the top down at speed is surprisingly minimal considering the spacious cab.
Needless to say, Ford hasnt experienced a great 2001 year. The Wall Street "pundits" have all been scurrying around to the numerous Talking Head shows with their message of gloom and doom. Its not been a pretty picture, but there have been some bright rays of sunshine peeking through the black clouds. Ford has turned Jaguar around, especially with their S-TYPE and new X-car. Im not going to miss the Escort and the new Focus is the worlds best selling car and the S-TYPE-based Lincoln LS has set new levels of luxury and quality. I was hoping the Mercury Cougar, a bright and youthful automobile from Fords more conservative division, would make it, despite the lack of promotion.
The 2002 Thunderbird is available in two models, the deluxe and our test machine, the Premium. Both come with the hardtop as an option. A special Neiman Marcus Edition is a limited trim (200 pre-production models were offered in the N-M Christmas catalog and were sold out in 2 hours and 15 minutes).
The option list is almost non-existent with only the traction control, parking lamps, upgraded audio system, 7-spoke aluminum, `17-inch wheels and a series of interior accent packages available. Major standard equipment includes 4-wheel disc anti-lock brakes, the 5-speed automatic transmission and all the basics such as climate control, cruise, etc.
Unlike so many "special editions" that are primarily nothing more than short-term promotional pieces, the new Thunderbird just might stick around for a while. This is a neat machine that is just what the Ford folks said it was going to be.
Todays Test Drive
2002 Ford Thunderbird Convertible 2-Seater
- Base price: $38,465
- Price as tested*: $38,995
- Engine: DOHC, SMEFI, all-aluminum V8
- Displacement: 3.9-liter (240 CID)
- Horsepower: 252 @ 6100 rpm
- Torque: 261 lb.-ft.
- Transmission: 5-sp. automatic w/O.D.
- Drive system: Front engine/rear-wheel
- Wheelbase/length: 107.2/186.3 inches
- Curb weight: 3775 lbs.
- EPA fuel economy (est.): NA
- E-mail: www.fordvehicles.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.
A Gurukul for Music By R.V. Giridhar
No matter how much we thrive in material success, it is in our traditions that we find the essence of our identity, and Bay Area sitarist Habib Khans gurukul tries to restore one of Indias most revered traditions, writes R.V. Giridhar.
The word gurukul brings to mind an ancient school in India. In this tradition, the gurukul is a place where the guru imparts complete education to his students in a peaceful, loving and supportive atmosphere. The students are removed from the hustle and bustle of daily life to focus on learning in a surrounding where the students are at peace and one with nature. The guru is at the center of this educational system.
Ustad Habib Khan learnt music in this type of environment in India. He studied under a guru whom he revered and held in the highest regard. When a student has complete faith in the teacher the teacher is able to impart the highest level of knowledge by unleashing the potential within the student.
In America, Habib Khan wanted to create a gurukul similar to the one he studied in, to provide his students a rich learning experience similar to his own. Habib Khan and his wife Shobha have put in love, energy and their lifes earnings into building a Saraswati Mandir and gurukul. The gurukul has a performing stage and is equipped with the latest high quality audio equipment. In the gurukul, Habib Khan provides his students an opportunity not only to learn music, but also provides an opportunity to the students to perform in front of an audience. Habib Khan believes that in so doing the students gradually gets rid of their fear of performance and is able to showcase their talents. The students in turn learn the art of encouraging fellow students, learn from each other, and watch with wonder as children and adults alike grow in this art form.
Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia inaugurated the Saraswati Mandir and gurukul. The opening was held Dec. 8. Chief guests Prakash Bhalerao and Sujata Bhalerao lit the diyas in the Saraswati Mandir.
A Ganesh vandana followed this. Zeeshan Khan, Rishi Basu, Neha, Sarika Vora, Geeta Bharathi, Ayush Jain, and Ankhit Agarwal, all child artists, delighted the audience with a rendition of a composition in Raag Behag. Swati Vora and Shashirekha Alur sang a composition, Chota Khayaal, by Habib Khan in Raag Malkauns in Vilambit teen taal, Madhya laya ek taal followed by Tarana in teen taal. The sitar students of Habib Khan, David Gray, Apurv Joshi, John, Sneha Jain, and Rohit played his composition in Raag Pilu. Abhishek and Anooshka Kumar presented a ghazal, Yeh Baat Kisise Na Kehna Main Tumko Chahata Hun, a composition by Habib Khan. The last item of the evening was a ghazal by Manjari Aravamuthan.
It is Habib Khans belief that music is a blessing of Saraswati and Ganesha, and it is his desire to continue to hold such concerts to benefit all his students and the audience at large. The language of music transcends the language of words, he feels. When we are absorbed in music, all else dissolves and for the moment we have the opportunity to experience something larger than ourselves, he said. The daily concerns, issues and schedules melt away and music permeates our conscience.
R.V. Giridhar is an engineer. He lives in Saratoga, Calif.
Bye, Bye Love
Well, not quite love, but newcomer Fardeen has apparently dumped girlfriend Ruheen. The grapevine has it that Fardeens "good friend" Amrita Arora no longer fits that definition, if you get my drift, and thats whats causing all the problems.
Not that the break up is any secret. Anything but. Ruheen had a very public showdown with Fardeen at a party and left in a huff all the way to Delhi.
Fate has a cruel sense of humor. The triangle almost never happened. Amrita got roped in at the last moment for Kitne Door Kitne Paas after things didnt worked out for Mahima Chaudhry who was signed in first. And it was during the shooting of the film that the two got close, say those who make it their business to keep track of such things.
Dont ask Fardeen whats going on. Somebody recently did, and he said the only thing he cared about now was his career. As for who he is seeing, thats only his business, he curtly added.
Karisma Trying to Get Pregnant
Come again? Yeah, we knew that would get your attention. Well, were talking about reel life, silly, so dont get all worked up. Give credit where credit is due. At a time when Bollywood heroines think twice about before taking on any role that may hurt their image, the Kapoor queen has been proving her acting abilities by taking challenging roles in films like Fiza and Zubeidaa. The films bit dust at the box office, but critics raved about Karismas performance.
Enter Los Angeles-based Jagmohan Mundhra and surprise, surprise, the sultan of soft-porn wants brain not bosom. He is making Bardasht, where Karishma plays a childless woman who struggles in a male-dominated world to deal with the stigma of being a barren woman. I suppose Jag Mundhra deserves some slack, after all his Bawander has won rave reviews, and in the mountain of sexy flicks, if you look close, you will find Kamla, another gem he had made with Smita Patil. So maybe he has an artists heart after all, does our Jag. You just have to look really, really hard.
This aint Luke Skywalker we are talking about, but our homegrown phillum stars. As in Big B. As in Aamir. All roads seem to lead to Lucknow as major parties gear up to thrash it out in the upcoming state polls in Indias larges state Uttar Pradesh.
The Samajwadi Party of former Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav has roped in Amitabh Bachchan, no less, to campaign for his party, and thats making the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party antsy.
So if the gossip of political insiders is to be believed, apparently the BJP is planning to rope in Aamir Khan, who is riding a new high after his Lagaan managed to win both critics and moolah. He will have good company, with Om Puri and Hema Malini roped in by the BJP as well.
So get ready for the real star wars in bhaiya-land, folks, and may the force be with you.
Bollywood hunk Salman Khans romance with Aishwarya Rai has been anything but smooth, but this is rough even by their standards. Recently on the sets of Rohan Sippys films Salman barged in and assaulted Aishwarya. When Ash refused to leave the sets with him, Salman went away and left with a parting shothe banged Aishwaryas car with his before leaving.
Now everybodys saying the relationship is over, and not a few people are heaving a huge sigh of relief. But wait, Salman apparently is keen to make up. Is it over or isnt it? Whatever it is, just about everyone now wants Salman to keep his macho antics strictly on screen.
Film Wins Hearts
For many Bollywood buff director Farhan Akhters stunning debut film Dil Chahta Hai is apparently aptly named, with its elegance and hip style, and fleshed out characters, the film seems to be what dil chahta hai. The film is still going great guns, and will soon finish 25 weeks, no joke at a time when a picky audience is more apt to drop a film like a dead mouse before you can say Bollywood.
And who can blame them. The drivel that has been coming out of Bollywood lately often deserves what it gets. When will film makers learn that all the filmmaking is not unlike cooking: all the masala in the world cant save bad cooking; on the other hand if you are willing to think differently, and respect the audiences intelligence by bringing genuine commitment and talent to making a film, you are going to make it. Just ask Farhan.
An Armful of Sunny
Are Punjabi school kids lucky or what. They get to carry Sunny Deol under their arms as they walk to school. Or Tabu. Literally.
You see, the brawny Punjabi has a new advertising gimmick. He has joined hands with a notebook and stationery manufacturer called Sundaram, which is flooding Punjab with exercise books whose cover features the hyperpatriotic Sunny and other co-stars from his latest patriotic saga Maa Tujhe Salaam.
"Arms alone are not enough to maintain peace. It must be kept by men," says the filmi warrior. So nobody will be surprised that one rupee from each sold notebook will go to help families of Kargil martyrs.
Ah, rumormongers, they never learn. Rumors were recently flying about Aishwarya Rai, who had apparently been hurt and in hospital, according to some TV reports. Well, the fact was that Ash was in Lucknow performing for Saharas Republic Day festivities, with Lucknow looking like a Bollywood Whos Who. And far from being in a hospital, she was dining with Shah Rukh Khan, Karisma Kapoor, Raveena Tandon, Rani Mukherjee and Aftab Shivdasani. And she sounded anything but injured, either. When reached by the media, she said she was having a wonderful time, with everybody feeling like one big family and the crowd response was just tremendous.
Oh my, my. The line between fact and fiction does seem to be blurring for Indian television, doesnt it?
Hindi Film Review:
Mildly Entertaining Thriller
Directed by: Vikram Bhatt
Starring: Dino Morea, Bipasha Basu, Ashutosh Rana, Malini, Shruti Ulfat and Vishwajeet Pradhan
This film is a copy, but then, one cant complain too much because everything is relative, and given the recent crop of dreadful films, originality is one of Bollywoods lesser sins. Vikram Bhatt decided to film a psycho-thriller based on Robert Zemeckis What Lies Beneath starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer.
So for those of you who have seen the Hollywood film, the story is known.
For those of you who havent seen the film, heres how it goes:
Sanjana (Bipasha) drags hubby Aditya (Dino) to Ooty, where once they had fallen in love, in a final attempt to save their marriage. However, the house where they choose to live in is haunted, at least Sanjana thinks so. Aditya thinks Sanjana is being paranoid. Enter the weird Professor Agni Swaroop (Ashutosh Rana), a professor of supernatural sciences (talk about an oxymoron). Sanjana meets him through a friend, and Swaroop helps to make the situation even creepier.
The spirit who haunts the home is of Malini (played by newcomer Malini), with whom Aditya once had an affair.
Malini keeps getting more possessive, and Sanjana, after a violent séance, figures out the truth. Aditya confesses, and guess what? After huffing and puffing about hubbys indiscretions, Sanjana follows the hallowed traditions of Sita-Savitri and saves Aditya from the possessive designs of her supernatural souten.
Bhatt deserves some credit for shooting some scenes with enough competence and style to create considerable suspense, but he goes quite overboard in the climax scene, where supernatural means exactly what you think it means: this spirit can do all sorts of things that nature doesnt allow us lesser mortals to do: she can make people fly, have blood pouring out from the chandelier and electrocute people.
Yet when crunch time comes, in classic Bollywood nonsense logic, the spirit fails to extricate herself.
The films general thrust is hampered by distracting storytelling detours, yet the background score and several scenes actually set up the mood quite well.
Bipasha Basus Sanjana is impressively convincing. This is only her second film, yet she shines. This portends well for her as well as Bollywood.
Alas, the same cannot be said for Dino Morea. In the tradition of hunks all over the world Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude van Damme His pectorals seem more capable of movement then his facial muscles. Maybe he can take heart from the fact that for Schwarzenegger and Damme, acting apparently is not a required survival skill in filmdom.
Nadeem-Shravans music is good only in patches and never extraordinary. Come to that, you can say the same thing about the film as a whole. I suppose you could go see it, and its not half as awful as some of the recent stuff that Bollywood has churned out, but I wouldnt kill myself trying to see it.
Actually, when you pause to think that barring the odd Lagaan and Gadar (OK, I will throw in Kabhe Khushi Kabhie Gham if you wish, though personally I consider it the most overhyped film this side of Titanic), the stuff that Bollywood has been churning out lately has been mostly quite execrable. Given that, Bhatt might even deserve the mildest of pats on the back. Like I said, its all relative.
Tamil Film Review:
Engaging Telugu Entertainer
Director: Krishna Vamsi
Cast: Mahesh, Sonali Bendre, Lakshmi, Satyanarayana
The films eponymous hero Murari is named after his grandfather. He is a happy-go-lucky and ambitious young man from a rich family in coastal Andhra. His family has been under a curse for the last four generations, which kills a man from the family once every 48 years. Now its the turn of Murari, the most loved and pampered boy in the family. While his grandmother is trying to save the boy from the curse resorting to all kinds of homas and poojas the boy falls in love with his cousin Vasundhara (Sonali Bendre). He teases her and woos her with passion. A clash between her family and the Muraris family has lasted for over two decades, but Murari resolves the dispute. Meanwhile the curse keeps chasing him but none in the family know it except the grandmother.
So heres the situation: Murari is in love with his cousin, and also has to deal with jealous rivals and the goddess's curse. Yet no one will be surprised to know that he comes out triumphant in the end. The film ends in a climax that will satisfy both the superstitious and the skeptics (no mean achievement).
The film is a good example of how a love story can be interestingly weaved into a mythical theme, and yet the narration be given a peppy modern feel. Mahesh (son of Telugu hero Krishna) essays his role with easy confidence, his soft vulnerable looks endearing him to the audience. Keeping him company is the pretty Sonali Bendre. Added to that is the emotion-packed portrayal by Lakshmi.
The cinematography is a visual treat, doing full justice to the bucolic charms set in the picturesque village background of coastal Andhra.
In a word, the film is an engaging entertainer, dubbed from a successful Telugu film. The film is frequently reminiscent of director Krishna Vamsis biggest commercial hit Ninne Pellaadathaa. The goings-on in the joint family owe a distinct debt to the Hindi musical blockbuster Hum Apke Hain Kaun?
In association with Chennai Online
New CD Releases
Vocal: S.P. Balasubramaniam and Shankar Mahadevan
Ganesh is the most beloved of deities in the Hindu pantheon. In this CD, traditional Ganesh shlokas, stotras and stutis have been recited against the musical backdrop of symphony orchestra, which producers say is a first in the history of recorded music.
It begins with an aarti where Sanskrit lyrics are juxtaposed with a Western beat. "Pranamya Shirasa Devam" is a stotra by Narad Muni. "Shree Ganeshay Dheemahi," composed by Ajay-Atul, is a musical compilation of the names of Ganesh, taken from Shree Ganesh Sahasra Nam. "Shree Ganapati Atharvashirsha" is one of the Upanishads written by Ganak Rishi and of great importance to Ganesh devotees. "Shree Ganesh Chalisa" is based on the Brahma Vaivartha Puran and describes in 40 couplets the story of his birth and how he came to have an elephants head. "Sukhkarta Dukhaharta" is a popular Maharashtrian aarti.
Shanti is soulful music meant to relax the mind and soothe the soul. Abhijit Pohankar is a classical keyboard player. He is the son of classical vocalist Ajay Pohankar.
Abhijits sound on the keyboard is similar to a mixture of the piano and the santoor. He has received training from noted santoor exponent Shiv Kumar Sharma.
Though well exposed and trained to the rigors of Hindustani classical music, Abhijit is more eclectic in his musical repertoire and is open to outside elements which he infuses in his musical presentations. This album is a good example of that style.
Abida: Baba Bulleh Shah
Devotional songs by Abida Sultana
Baba Bulleh Shah (1680-1757) has had an enormous influence on Sufi culture and music. He was born in a poor but respected Syed family in Kasur, Pakistan. After preliminary education in a mosque, he went to his mentor Shah Inayat of Lahore, a Qadiri sufi, for spiritual training. Bulleh Shah chose poetry, music and dance to spread his message to the masses. His popularity spread throughout Punjab, and he is held in reverence by all Sufis in Sindh and Punjab even today.
Abida Sultana, considered by many to be the successor of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, is a noted exponent of Sufi devotional music. A Sindhi from Larkana, she began her musical training at a young age under Salamat Ali Khan. Her inspiration is Sufi saint Shah Abdul Latif, an 18th century poet and composer who blended folk music and classical ragas in a style called kafi.
A. Ramani Sastrigal and disciples
Rudram mantras are found in the fourth chapter of the seven known chapters of the Yajur Veda. They are all in praise of Shiva. In the Chamakam recitation, which follows the recitation of Rudram, one asks for boons from Shiva.
Other recitations such as Purushasooktham, Narayanasooktham, Durgasooktham and Srisooktham balance the praises of both the female and male principles of nature. These are parts of Tytriya Upanishads.
The ghanam rendering featured in the recording requires rigorous discipline and concentration. A. Ramani Sastrigal and his disciples demonstrate their expertise in what is just a sample in the album to give a sense of the legacy of ancient rishis.
Savory Chickpea Patties By Seema Gupta
It hardly takes a moment to prepare, and yet its a delicious accompaniment to a cup of tea, writes Seema Gupta.
- 2 cup garbanzo beans
- 1 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
- 10-12 finely chopped green chillies
- 2" piece of ginger finely chopped
- 2 pieces mashed bread
- 1 cup finely chopped mixed vegetable (carrots, french-cut beans, bell pepper)
- 1 large size onion finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp black salt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp chopped cashew
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- Salt to taste
Boil the garbanzo beans. Add all the ingredients and mix well. Heat the frying pan with oil. Shape the mix into round patties about 1" thick and 4" in diameter. Fry them until brown. Serve hot with coriander chutney or chilli sauce.
February-March Horoscope By Pandit Parashar
ARIES (March 21 to April 20): You may face difficulty with your plans. Money is on its way. You will benefit from new contacts. You might get a promotion. Legal matters will have a favorable end. You will spend time with children. Old friends may visit.
TAURUS (April 21 to May 20): Professional worries fade away. Time is favorable to make all financial decisions and cash out profit on stocks. Liabilities will reduce as a result of good planning. You will benefit from experienced people.
GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): You will explore new avenues and look for a major change. Worries will fade and you will be out of legal troubles. You may hear good news involving a child. Do not trust anybody at work. Control your diet and shed few pounds this month.
CANCER (June 21 to July 22): You may finalize a property deal this month. You have some money coming from the government. Speculation will be profitable and you should cash out for the time being. Some of you will be working on a major change in career. You will successfully handle a legal matter.
LEO (July 23 to August 22): You should maintain a low profile and stay calm for the first few weeks. Opponents will create hurdles. Do not disclose your intentions to anyone at work. You may end up making financial commitments that could increase your liabilities.
VIRGO (August 23 to September 22): An older family member may not keep well. Slow growth and decreased revenues will make a dent in savings. You have to increase your efforts to earning more. Get in touch with people. Health concerns about spouse will continue. There will be big changes in career soon.
LIBRA (September 23 to October 22): Car will need repairs. Your moving plans will take a final shape. Opponents will try hard to cause distraction but will not succeed. You will attend a religious ceremony and meet old friends after a long interval. You will postpone plans to buy valuables.
SCORPIO (October 23 to November 22): What appeared to be a setback would be a boon in disguise. There will be some improvement in relationships. You will be attending an important social event. You may buy a luxury automobile.
SAGITTARIUS (November 23 to December 22): You will be offered a new opportunity in career. Spouse will argue on small issues and may stay irritated for first few weeks. Your good deeds will earn the blessings of a holy soul. Competition will reduce considerably.
CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19): Stay within legal parameters and use caution when dealing with others. Some extra money is seen coming your way. Money will be spent on big-ticket items. You will invest in a long-term project. People will try to steal your ideas.
AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18): You will be making several big payments this month. Money could go towards repairs to property. There will be fortunate changes in life. Relationships will cause concerns. Change your financial strategy for a few weeks.
PISCES (February 19 to March 20): Good news calls for a celebration. Relocation plan could take a final shape. Do not take any chance with weather and consume enough fluids. You will be working on a new proposal. You will be lucky to escape from hurting yourself from machinery.