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JULY 2002
Volume III Issue 7

Publisher's Note:

After several years of spectacular growth, information technology in India could be headed for its first setback. But observers say that India is poised for another knowledge-driven boom — in the cutting-edge field of bio-informatics. This is a relatively new field, essentially resulting from the huge mass of data unleashed by mapping the human genome.

All of that data is in the public domain, and scientists have access to it, but utilization of this information requires codifying and sifting data on a gargantuan scale, and this is where information technology comes in. India’s foray into this area is still beginning, but with a solid scientific base in both biological research and information technology, and the vital benefit of lower costs, India is well poised to become a global player.

However, there are also significant hurdles. One is a lack of trained personnel, the other is the fact that India is still at the low-end market of biotechnology. However, with smart leadership and entrepreneurial foresight, another big bang could be waiting to happen. Our cover story this month provides a detailed report.

This month we also carry a story on a Web design contest for schoolchildren by the Tamil Internet Conference. We think it’s a wonderful example that deserves to be noted and emulated. Indian languages seem to be falling through the cracks amid all the hoopla about information technology; Tamil speakers deserve special commendation for having the vision to develop the tools to prepare Tamil for the digital age. Language has an intimate relation with culture, even identity. Many Indian languages have been woefully left behind in the IT revolution. As we move progressively to a digital age, we face a real danger of the loss of our languages and culture. The effort of Tamil-speaking IT experts is a welcome ray of hope.


Main Feature

The New Hi-tech El Dorado
The Promise of Bio-informatics
By Deepak Goyal

The new field of bio-informatics is where genetics and information technology intersect, and India is all set to take the world by storm if it plays its cards right, writes Deepak Goyal.

What does the Human Genome Project have to do with India? An awful lot, say experts in both the biotechnology industry as well as the information technology field. And some firms in India are getting ready for the action.

Take Wipro, India’s heavyweight software giant. Wipro and Hyderabad-based research organization Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology are already talking about a possible foray into a hot new field — bio-informatics.

The bio-informatics center may be set up in Hyderabad or Bangalore. The research center will sign a memorandum with Wipro Healthcare and Life Sciences Ltd, a subsidiary of Wipro. Wipro is interested in acquiring domain knowledge with the assistance of CCMB. Wipro hopes to utilize the recently set-up proteomics lab at CCMB, the first of its kind in the country. The proteomics lab would facilitate Wipro in systematic separation, analysis and identification of several hundred cellular proteins. Wipro is also interested in exploiting different biotech equipment solutions like slow cytometer, centrifuge, etc.

Wipro will also be engaged in all CCMB research activities in bio-informatics which include functional genomics, structural biology, sequence analysis, molecular modeling, genome analysis and patent information.

The Confederation of Indian Industry says that the Human Genome Project could turn out to the next big thing since Y2K for Indian IT companies. What does biology have to do with IT, you ask?

A heck of a lot, because as the human genome is decoded scientists are getting buried under an avalanche of data. After a fierce proprietary dispute, the data is available in the public domain. Scientists everywhere can access data, but having access to this mountain of data is like having the keys to a huge library without a catalogue.

The potential of this data is enormous. Revolutionary new drugs and therapies await development, but before any of this can be done, the data needs to be classified, codified and analyzed.

This is pretty much the domain where information technology and genetics meet — bio-informatics, and it has the potential of exponential growth.

“The global bio-informatics industry clocked an estimated turnover of $2 billion last year and this figure is expected to grow to $60 billion by 2005. If industry and government work together, it is possible to achieve a 5 percent global market share by 2005,” says CII deputy director Dr. Sandhya Tewary. Do the math, and that’s a cool $3 billion.

Tewary says biotech and pharmaceutical companies will need tremendous software support. The biotech industry last year spent 36 percent on R& D. “Success for many will mean a drastic reduction in R& D costs,” she said. “Thus, biotech companies will be forced to outsource software. Since the cost of programs for handling this data is extremely high in the West, Indian IT companies have a great business opportunity to offer complete database solutions to major pharmaceutical and genome-based biotech companies.”

This couldn’t come at a better time for India. The global economic slowdown, the sluggish economy of the U.S. and the panic triggered by Sept. 11 terrorist attacks last year have all conspired to threaten the growth of the IT industry. Many IT professionals who were flocking to the U.S. a few years back to fulfill what seemed then to be an insatiable U.S. need, have returned by the planeload after the dot-com speculative bubble burst in Silicon Valley.

In an echo of the advent of the IT revolution in India, it is once again the South where it’s all beginning to happen.

In December last year, the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation and U.S.-based Genome Technologies signed an agreement to set up a 4.5 billion rupee bio-genomics and bio-informatics project at Chennai. In neighboring Karnataka, the Institute for Bio-informatics and Applied Biotechnology is being set up at the Whitefield Tech Park. Start-ups as well as established companies in Bangalore and other emerging IT hubs, such as Hyderabad, are getting ready to join the worldwide race for a slice of the bio-informatics pie.

India’s advantages are similar to its strongest suits in IT: It has a pool of talented scientists and software programmers. Together, these two groups “can develop work towards the understanding of genetic disorders, reduce the drug discovery life cycle, and improve the effectiveness of the drugs administered for a particular disease,” says Kshema Technologies CEO Ananth Koppar. The firm is one of the first Bangalore IT companies to attempt to tap the potential of bio-informatics.

Kshema has 150 professionals and the health care area contributes more than a fifth of the total turnover of the company. “We have serviced internationally known health-care companies. We have worked in critical-care information-management systems, development of a response system for rapid medicare deployment, a Net-based high-security patient information-gathering system and diagnostic software for mass spectrometers,” says Koppar.

Hyderabad-based Satyam Computer Services is one of India’s leading software companies. Like Wipro, it has also linked up with the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology to develop tools to sift through masses of genetic material in search of vital DNA fragments. Satyam hopes that the products will be money-spinners, and it will share profits with CCMB.

For the process of drug discovery, work is under way on projects like genomic database creation and gene annotation, and small-molecule database creation. Satyam has set up a Strategic Business Unit in one of its development centers — Satyam Technology Center — near Hyderabad.

Bangalore-based Strand Genomics, founded by a group of Indian scientists, is also working on developing tools to accelerate drug discovery. Already, this start-up has won a million-dollar research contract from a U.S. company and has attracted venture-capital funding of $2.5 million.

Strand Genomics CEO Dr. Sreenivas Seshadri says he hopes his company will be a global tools and products company in the area of bio-informatics within a few years.

“The key challenge is to keep in touch with international customers; to design, architect and implement products of relevance to them, and successfully market them,” says Seshadri.

However, while the potential for a bio-informatics boom is enormous, there remain significant challenges as well.

India has a host of public institutes and a good research base in biotechnology but is still stuck in the low-end market. Indian bio-informatics is still largely concerned with the more staid structures of molecules rather than sequences— the study of how and why molecules link to each other to form genes. “Much of India’s $2.5 billion biotech market focuses today on low-end products like vaccines, not cutting-edge genomics or proteomics. But that will hopefully change as the new start-ups take root,” says Business Today.

To bring itself up to speed India will also need trained personnel. “One problem is a lack of trained personnel in this interdisciplinary field, which bridges biology, medicine, mathematics, statistics and computer science,” says Ram Mynampati, COO of Satyam’s Healthcare Business Unit. “Most professionals are self taught, having migrated either from wet biology into computing or computing or from the more physical or mathematical sciences into biology, attracted by the explosion in data and the intrinsic value and importance of the data.”

Bangalore-based Kshema is taking the initiative to expand the base of local expertise. Kshema has set up a research Chair in Bio-informatics at PES Institute of Technology, one of Bangalore’s leading engineering colleges, in association with MDS Sciex of Canada.

CII has already outlined the key areas where India needs to focus: adequate bandwidth for IT-enabled services for genomics, increased funds for R& D, validation and product and market development, a focus on functional genomics and proteomics, a modern, efficient patent office, and liaison between the ministries of health, biotechnology, science and technology.

With so much riding on this, policymakers and business leaders need to get their act together: the prize could be another dazzling knowledge-led boom.

Deepak Goyal is a freelance writer
based in Kolkata.


Infotech India

Aalayance, Dataskill

Aalayance, an application development company, with its main development centre in Bangalore, has signed a strategic partnership agreement with Dataskill Inc., a U.S.-based enterprise integrator and Web services developer.

As part of the partnership, Aalayance would provide distributed development teams and work with Dataskill to provide effective software solutions to Dataskill’s growing list of clients, a company press release said.

E-Supreme Court

Chief Justice of India Justice B.N. Kripal said July 1 the Supreme Court will introduce e-Court within a couple of months to facilitate filing of cases through electronic medium and addressing arguments to the apex court, thereby dispensing with the necessity of establishing benches in different parts of the country.

Speaking after the foundation-laying stone ceremony to set up two centers of Research Studies on Environmental Law and Intellectual Property Rights at the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research here, he said the apex court was considering the projects submitted by Microsoft, NIIT, WIPRO and others.

Justice Kripal announced that the Supreme Court would introduce the law clerk system, providing one clerk for each of Supreme Court judge. Fresh graduates from national law schools would be preferred for these posts who would provide research assistance to the judges, he added.

The chief justice expressed concern over growing litigation as it was causing serious difficulties in judicial system and pleaded for amending the Civil Procedure Code to provide for compulsory transfer of cases pending for more than five years to Lok Adalat.

Fallout for VSNL

Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited has said it is in constant touch with its U.S.-based lawyers as well as Worldcom, the second largest American long distance service provider which is facing federal investigation, to ascertain the outstanding amount to be settled between two sides.

“We are collating the information as to how much traffic Worldcom carries from VSNL and a clear picture is expected to emerge in the next few days,” VSNL sources said in Mumbai June 29.

“We do not deny the possibility of the U.S.-based telecom company, which is likely to file a suit for bankruptcy, owing money to a Tata group company,” the sources said.

Meanwhile, VSNL suffered a setback on the Bombay Stock Exchange after reports of the Tata company losing money due to the financial trouble faced by Worldcom. The scrip fell by Rs. 11.80 to close at Rs. 147.40. The scrip was among the top five losers on the national stock exchange at Rs. 147.70 The U.S company is facing financial ruin and federal and state investigations which could lead to criminal indictment for overstating profits of almost $ four million from the investors.

VSNL sources said, “The Worldcom executive vice president has assured us of cordial and professional relationship and he believes that it will come out of its current crisis.”

VSNL, acquired by the Tata group in the federal disinvestment program, faces payment default, which could go up to Rs. 5 billion with WorldCom admitting that its profits were overstated.

Education Satellite

The Indian Space Research Organization plans to build “Edusat” satellite dedicated to meet the needs of the education sector in the country, ISRO chief Dr. K. Kasturirangan, said July 2.

“The satellite is being planned in view of the challenges faced by the nation in the field of education and the potential of using satellite communication to support education,” Kasturirangan said while delivering the 7th Annual Prof G. Ram Reddy Memorial lecture in New Delhi, which was organized by the Indira Gandhi National Open University.

The satellite would be ready 30 months after the day of approval from the government, Kasturirangan said, adding that Edusat had been especially configured to meet the requirements of education in the country at all levels.

Sun Market Share Up

Sun Microsystems India June 27 announced that it had increased its revenue market share in the RISC/UNIX server market in India in the first quarter of 2002, further extending its lead over the competition.

According to the International Data Corporation Q1 2002 Enterprise Server Tracker Report, Sun’s RISC/UNIX server revenue market share in India grew to 48.4 percent in the first quarter of 2002 from the 34.6 percent achieved in the full year of 2001, according to an official statement.

On a year-on-year basis, Sun’s RISC/UNIX server revenues increased 20.5 percent in the first quarter of 2002 compared to the same quarter last year. Sun’s unit shipment market share was at an impressive 64.3 percent, the statement said.

Andhra Call Centre

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited will introduce a state-of-the-art centralized call centre, the first of its kind in the country, in Andhra Pradesh by August, AP circle general manager A. Ramayya said June 28.

He said this centre would be similar to the one set up by the global telecom giant GE. To start with, commercial information would be provided to its 3.1 million customers from this centre at Hyderabad.

In the second phase, a unified complaint redressal mechanism would be in place and this would be converted into a full-fledged transaction centre through the BSNL Web site later. With this, the practice of customers going around various offices in search of a telephone connection would become a thing of the past, he added.

McAfee Products

New York Stock Exchange-listed Network Associates Inc June 27 opened a global development centre in Bangalore which will initially develop McAfee anti-virus products, including its flagship product McAfee VirusScan. The 20,000 sq ft centre is expected to be 100-engineer-strong by this year-end. NAI plans to invest $5 million this year and $15 million in 2003 towards its labs, R&D infrastructure and people, it was stated.

In association with Chennai Online


Celebrating Entrepreneurship
TiE Conference 2002
– A Siliconeer Report

The Silicon Valley is facing harsh times now. So what? Entrepreneurial opportunities still abound, said experts at The Indus Entrepreneurs conference. Here’s a Siliconeer report.

The message was straight out of Dickens, though the organization is anything but Dickensian. Charles Dickens was a poignant chronicler of the Victorian age of gross social and economic inequality, while The Indus Entrepreneurs prides itself for being a crucible for entrepreneurs in the cutting-edge technology world of Silicon Valley.

“It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times,” wrote Dickens in his “Tale of Two Cities.” That was the same message that came out of the TiE Conference in Santa Clara June 14-15, as speakers insisted there was a silver lining in the dark clouds of economic slowdown that have descended here at Silicon Valley after the previous years of giddy growth.

It’s back-to-basics time, experts said, as the good old days—or should one say the bad old days—are over, when venture capitalists were happily throwing money at business plans that defied the old-school business rules of revenue and profits. Today, any plan must have the fundamental business strategy right, but if it does, it’s a good time to do business.

Silicon Valley Indian American icon Vinod Khosla said entrepreneurs had a better chance of succeeding than two years ago, provided they were trying to establish what Infosys founder N. R. Narayana Murthy described as firms which had a goal to be lasting enterprises.

The TiE Conference has become the mother of all conventions for entrepreneurs, and this year over 2,500 attendees got together at the two-day event which presented 130 speakers. The conference also showcased over 100 companies.

The conference roped in heavyweights like R. Glenn Hubbard, chairman of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers who said that the U.S. had a recovery underway.

Narayana Murthy, the Infosys founder, was the keynote speaker. He charted the growth of Infosys to a $8 billion behemoth today. The great lesson of Infosys, he said, was that wealth could be created ethically.

In an inspired departure, the conference hosted a session on using entrepreneurship to address social problems. The session was moderated by SMART Modular co-founder Lata Krishnan, who is also president of the America India Foundation. To date, AIF has raised over $7.5 million including $1 million for victims of the World Trade Center attacks.

Hyderabad-based Swayam Krishi Sangam CEO Vikram Akula presented an interesting case of state-of-the-art technology assisting the poor. Inspired by the success of loan programs for the poor introduced by Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank, he began a similar loan program for the poor in the Andhra Pradesh district of Medak to aid villagers who were paying money lenders extortionate rates approaching 1800 percent. As he began his loan program, he established a digital equalizer program, which uses smart cards and personal digital assistants to keep track of loan payments and cuts loan management fees. Transaction time has been cut in almost half.

As slides showed Andhra village women sliding smart cards and using Palm pilots, Akula announced that the loan program has a 99.7 percent repayment rate.

Another noteworthy feature of this year’s conference was the participation of delegations from India. Clearly, news of TiE’s clout has reached India, because this year delegations from Punjab and Rajasthan and the chief minister of Chhattisgarh attended the conference.

Calling Tamil Web Prodigies
Worldwide Contest for School Kids
By Mani M. Manivannan

What better way assure a language’s future in the digital age then getting kids into the act? Tamil Internet is doing exactly that, casting a global net for school kids who can design Web pages in Tamil and English, writes Mani M. Manivannan.

The organizers of the Tamil Internet Conference & Exhibition 2002 — Tamil Internet 2002 — which will be held in Foster City, Calif., Sept. 27-29, have announced a world-wide competition for school children to design Web pages in Tamil and English languages.

Tamil Internet 2002 is the fifth in the conference series which began in 1997. Centered on the theme “Bridging the Digital Divide,” this event will focus mainly on technical, professional and business issues related to Tamil Internet and Tamil computing. This year the event is organized by the U.S. chapter of the International Forum for Information Technology in Tamil, the leading global organization dedicated to IT development in Tamil.

In conjunction with Tamil Internet 2002, the organizers have created a global competition for school children who will be encouraged to create Web pages relating to Tamil language, culture and heritage.

Through this competition we would like to generate widespread interest in Tamil internet and Tamil heritage among Tamil school children. In a medium dominated by English language content, this will be a small step in providing information in Tamil. The competition themes on which the Web pages should be created include

  • Our Tamil heritage
  • Local music, art, craft forms
  • People that inspired me/us
  • A book that inspired me/us,
  • A place that I/we love
  • Wonders of the world
  • Wonders of the sky
  • Tamil as a global citizen,
  • Sports that Tamils enjoy
  • Internet

While teachers and parents may act as project leaders or mentors, the basic research and design must be done by students. The students may be from any grade below pre-university level.

The competition is open effective June 10 and all entries must reach the organizers by September 1st 2002.

The entries will be judged by a panel of international experts and their decision will be final. Winners will be announced Sept. 29 at the conference. Winners will be notified by the organizers by email and also through mass media where possible. Prizes will be distributed through the respective national representatives of the International Forum for Information Technology. Every participant will also be given a certificate of participation through mail.

INFITT is planning to compile a selection of the entries into an online book that will be accessible around the world. Hopefully it will be an inspiration to other Tamil children to pursue their language and culture.
The full details of this competition may be viewed at http://www.infitt.org/ti2002/competition/

The International Forum for Information Technology in Tamil is a not for profit, non-governmental organization that was founded in 2000 to coordinate scattered efforts in Tamil information technology development and promote standards for Tamil IT. Tamil, an ancient language with an unbroken literary tradition of nearly 2000 years, is spoken by over 75 million people worldwide.

INFITT’s worldwide individual and institutional members are drawn from the pioneers and leaders of the Tamil internet and computing industry, universities, governments, investors and international organizations. It hosts an annual Tamil Internet conference and provides an international forum to address the issues influencing the evolution of Tamil in internet through its several working groups. For more information about INFITT, please visit its Web site at http://www.infitt.org. To contact INFITT, send an email to secretariat@infitt.org

Mani M. Manivannan is chair of the U.S. organizing committee for the
Tamil Internet Conference and Exhibition 2002.


Bengal and Beyond
Towards a Plural Society
– By Rashbihari Ghosh

The Berkeley-based International Institute of Bengal Basin hosted a conference to reflect on sectarian violence in Bangladesh. It also considered the broader challenge in South Asia, writes Rashbihari Ghosh.

On June 1 this year, with the support of the Department of Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley, we gathered a number of distinguished speakers including a cultural activist from Bangladesh to speak on crimes against humanity in Bangladesh, and the humane, progressive efforts to combat it. The conference was organized by the International Institute of Bengal Basin.

I am proud of my homeland, Bangladesh, and continue to remain optimistic about the potential for affirmative change in my beloved country. But many of us have been pained by recent attacks on minority Hindus in the aftermath of elections in October last year. Innocent Hindus were attacked, women were gang raped, and none of the culprits were brought to book despite public knowledge of who the perpetrators were. They are still at large today.

Nobel laureate physicist Charles Townes gave the keynote address. “The Bangladeshi government must exercise action to protect the Hindu minorities against attacks and bring to justice the perpetrators despite their positions in society,” he said.

I am aware of the sensitivities of many Bangladeshis to criticism, and I sympathize with many of them who are tired of Bangladesh being portrayed in the Western media as a perennial land of poverty, squalor and natural disasters.

Yet in times of crisis, I think it is important for us to call a spade a spade. What has happened in Bangladesh is an insult to its people. I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Bangladeshis are against assault of minorities. However, what is needed now is to stand up and be counted.

This has happened in a remarkable way in North America, with a Bangladeshi human rights organization, Drishtipat, mobilizing against the outrage and raising $25,000 for aggrieved Hindu families. Drishtipat is almost unique in that an organization of members overwhelmingly representing the majority community has decided to stand beside the minority community at a critical moment.

I have always believed that this is not an issue of Hindu or Muslim, or for that matter one of majority or minority community. This is a war between sectarian bigots and humane, progressive people who believe in a plural society, and this is as true in Bangladesh as it is, in a broader context, in South Asia.

Events in Bangladesh have been eclipsed by the ghastly slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat following the brutal killing of Hindu train passengers. These events further strengthen the need to recognize that progressive humane people have to rally in support of victims of bigotry. Our conference reflected that realization, and we invited our progressive activist friends from India to reflect on the challenges they are facing.

Rabindranath Tagore, South Asia’s poet laureate, had once said, “It is a sin to lose faith in man.” Even in our direst moments, I think we need to remember that. In many of our speakers, both Bangladeshi and Indian, we saw the brighter side of our identity: compassion and a commitment to promote a spirit of peace and sectarian harmony.

We were privileged to have among our speakers Khairul Anam, one of Bangladesh’s foremost exponents of Nazrul songs. Anam is also the secretary of Chhayanaut, a distinguished organization that has been in the forefront of nurturing and promoting an enlightened, inclusive Bengali cultural ethos. In his thoughtful speech, Anam talked about Chhayanaut’s continued commitment to this goal and expressed optimism that in the end, the enlightened values of Bengali culture will militate against sectarian prejudice.

We were delighted and heartened by Kathak master Chitresh Das, who brought his students and showed how he put his humane values to work through his instruction.

Celebrated Bengali author Sunil Gangopadhyay inspired us with a supportive video message; he had to cancel his plans to attend due to an accident from which he is recovering.

Historian Dilip Basu gave a very well-considered and thoughtful historical overview of Hindu-Muslim relations in Bengal and highlighted the humanist tradition in Bengali communities. Raka Ray, a sociologist and an activist with the Bay Area-based Indian organization Coalition against Communalism, made an impassioned plea to combat sectarian prejudice. Berkeley-based activist Akhila Raman appears to be doing the impossible: When India and Pakistan are trading insults and saber-rattling, she has formed a group of Indians and Pakistanis who are committed to resolving disputes through dialogue.

At the end of the conference, we listened to Khairul Anam perform. We were also fortunate to have Anup Ghosal, one of Kolkata’s top Nazrul singers, who performed as well. It was a fitting end to our day’s events. Nazrul is almost unique among Bengali poets and composers in being equally at home in Hindu and Muslim culture. His broad, humanist cultural values are a beacon for all of us who are trying to establish a plural society in these troubled times.

Rashbihari Ghosh, an environmental scientist with Cal EPA,
is the founder-chairman of the non-profit
International Institute for Bengal Basin.


Celebrating Our Culture
India Festival 2002
By Biren Chowdhary

This year, the Federation of Indo-American Associations of Bay Area
will host a parade, mela and cultural activities. In this reflective essay, festival coordinator Biren Chowdhary talks about it.

Every year, as August 15 returns, Indians all over the world pay homage to our noble freedom fighters who freed our beloved country. Over 50 years have passed, but their dedication and sacrifice will be forever etched in our hearts.

The Indian diaspora, of which we are a part, is a huge, powerful and vibrant community spread all over the world. With joy and pride, we are witnessing the continuing growth of the affectionate ties between our beloved motherland and its sons and daughters who criss-cross the world.

What tremendous success India’s sons and daughters have achieved abroad! Led by illustrious icons ranging from Silicon Valley tech whiz tycoons, scientists and entrepreneurs to prime ministers in Caribbean nations, movers and shakers in Britain, Nobel laureates like Subrahmanyam Chandrasekhar and Amartya Sen, the community has a deserved reputation for being hard-working, talented and an invaluable asset to whichever nation it has adopted as its home.

Yet we are all worried when our beloved nation is in peril. The prospect of conflict between India and Pakistan, the scourge of terrorism, and the continuing poverty for a large section of the population despite wondrous strides in information technology puts a heavy burden on the hearts of every Indian, wherever she or he may live. We all hope India can resolve all these challenges peacefully and honorably.

Here in the U.S. the challenge of keeping our cultural and emotional ties with the old country alive and healthy is considerable. America is a golden land of opportunity, but we all know there is no free lunch here. Nor have we ever asked for one.

Consequently we all get caught in the grind of work and family obligations. We Indians are ambitious, we set our goals high, so we work really, really hard. Yet amidst all this, our affection for our land and culture remains with us, and we strive to maintain our ties however we can.

The Federation of Indo-American Associations of Bay Area has been delighted to serve the community over the past few years with gala events like the India Festival 2002. This year we are again hosting an elaborate parade, mela, banquet and cultural activities on Aug. 9-11.

Our fondest wish is undoubtedly to pass on our love for our culture and traditions to our younger generation, and this year FIBA has taken special efforts to involve our youth. In addition to our regular slate of activities, we have added, for the first time, a youth awards night that will recognize and honor outstanding high school seniors, an essay competition and a sit-and-draw competition for our young ones.

As anyone organizing even a private get-together of friends knows, any public event takes enormous hard work, patience and team spirit. I take great pleasure in saluting FIBA’s selfless volunteers who have donated their time and effort to make it possible for us to present an event of this scale. I have no doubt that all FIBA volunteers will join me when I say all our hard work is worth it when we see the Bay Area Indian community come together to spend a few days in joy and fellow feeling.

So come and join us in a celebration of our beloved land and culture and let’s all reaffirm our own bonds of friendship.

Jai Hind, and God bless the United States of America.

Biren Chowdhary is president of
Federation of Indo-American Associations of Bay Area.

Auto Review: 2002 Audi S6 Avante
Redwood Expedition
By Al Auger

Why just take a new car for a spin on the freeway? Our automotive editor Al Auger decided to take the new Audi S6 Avant to Sequoia National Park, and says the vehicle and the destination were perfectly suited.

So there we were, be-bopping down ol’ Highway 99, me and Sal Paradise, Dean Moriarity, Carlo Marx and all the rest of the beat souls of the world heading for Sequoia National Park. Our chariot, a muscle-bound Audi S6 Avant station wagon. I wonder how many people have ever been at the wheel of an apparently suburban blah machine with a 190 mph speedometer.

To be truthful, Jack Kerouac (Sal Paradise) and his name-changed beat friends were on an audiotape edition of his classic “On the Road.” They were great company as I cruised down what is probably the most boring and inescapably the ugliest stretch of asphalt in California. But even ol’ 99 couldn’t diminish the adventures of the creators of one of the most seductive times of the 20th century. Nothing could lessen the synergy of driver and machine.

The 2002 Audi S6 Avant 4-door station wagon sports a 340 horsepower, DOHC V8 nestled within the wonders of Quattro, Audi’s notorious all-wheel-drive system supported by their all-aluminum, sport-tuned suspension system. All this power is delivered through the 5-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic manual shifter as an alternative. What’s more fun is playing Grand Prix driver with the shift paddles on the steering wheel fascia.

Turning left off 99 onto Highway 180 East, the fun really began in earnest. Into the foothills of the Sierras, we began the ascent pumped by the adrenaline of the snake roadway taking us to the Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park. The road climbed and curved its way to the 7,000-foot level, the S6 never complaining nor missing a beat. Our aim was to keep a seamless run between 45-50 mph simply by thumbing the Tiptronic between 3rd and 4th gears.

Named after the tribe of American Natives who populated the region thousands of years ago, the Wushaki Lodge complex is the first half of the envisioned $15 million complex as planned by the operators, Delaware North State Services and the National Park Services. Open year-round, the lodge houses a full service restaurant and cocktail lounge, plus administrative offices and guest services. Across from the lodge are three buildings with 102 rooms. DNSS also serves as the official concessionaire at Yosemite National Park.

The oldest national park and second oldest in the country, the sheer drama found in every corner of the park represents California and America. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times one visits Sequoia; the mammoth redwoods stretching to the sky are always awesome and humbling. Centerpiece is the legendary General Sherman Tree, which stands 274.9 feet tall and is estimated to weigh 2.7 million pounds. Relatively young at 2,100 years, like America, it is still growing; the General Sherman Tree is one of the five largest living giant sequoia trees in the world. Sequoia National Park is also home to the highest mountain in the continental U.S., Mount Whitney at 14,494 feet.

Climbing Moro Rock (400 steps and 500 feet elevation change), we could see a 360-degree panorama of the Great Western Divide that is literally breathtaking. we looked down at the entry road curling its way up the 7,000-foot elevation of the lodge and remembered similar roads in the Italian Alps. Looking down on the never-ending series of hairpin bends and full-drift roundabouts brought back the exhilarating drive the day before.

High Mountain country is Audi country. Under the hood of this placid-looking family conveyance lies an all-aluminum, dated by the 190-mph speedometer; top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph – “for North America,” the fine print says. Can you imagine what the European edition can do?

Our trip gave us the chance to check out its autobahn cruising style and its ability to conquer sinuous backcountry roads with its twin-cam, 5-valve-per-cylinder, 4.2-liter, V8 pumping out 340 horses and 310 lbs.-ft. of torque. Its metabolic rate is driven by the torque power that peaks at a low 3,400 rpm’s and continues to the 7,000 rpm redline.

Muscle is nice, but you need a full complement of attachments and creative intelligence to make it all work climbing this kind of intimidation. The Audi S6 has been gifted with a splendid array of such stuff. Quattro, of course, Audi’s famed all-wheel-drive, the electronic differential lock covers your posterior in extreme situations by applying the proper braking intervention at the corners where it’s needed most.

Power is distributed intuitively between the front and rear wheels by the self-locking Torsen center differential. The 5-speed automatic with Tiptronic shifting practically thinks for you. Their Dynamic Shift Program has a range of more than 200 shift patterns to match the driving conditions with the drivers’ characteristics.

The all-aluminum, beefed up suspension and larger stabilizer bars puts the S6 Avant 20 percent lower than the standard A6 suspension. Undulating through the ever-increasing curlicues we were beginning to feel like a Formula One driver with the Triptronic shift paddles on the steering wheel and the transmission set in “sport mode,” The 4-way ABS disc braking system will stop you on the proverbial dime. I quieted the adrenaline flow thinking of the coming up trip down this road on our way home.

Luxury and comfort were ideal partners with the Waksuchi Lodge and the silky smoothness of the Audi S6 Avant. How much better can it get than to travel surrounded by mellow sounds from the in-dash, 6-CD in-dash, 200-watt Bose sound system, leather seating, heated seats (optional in the rear), 12-way power front sports seats and visual adornments such as gray birch wood trim. And with the secure feeling of standard dual airbags, seat-mounted front side airbags and sideguard curtain airbags.

One trip to this national treasure cannot do it justice. Along with the comfortably posh accommodations of the Wushaki Lodge, Sierra National Park has is a veritable cornucopia of adventurous outdoor experiences. Campers and RV enthusiasts are a natural audience. Hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are but a few of the seductions that give Sequoia National Park its individual signature.

Today's Test Drive:

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.


Community News in Brief

President’s Award for Exports

Jamal Qureshi is president of Hayward, Calif. -based JQ American Corporation, which has been awarded the U.S. President’s Award for extraordinary efforts and promotion of exports from the U.S.

JQ American Corporation is an industrial services company which specializes in the supply and services to the oil and gas, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, including supply of laboratory and medical products to hospitals and institutions. Its services include supply of machinery, laboratory equipment, chemicals, industrial supplies, spare parts, oil field supplies and services.

Qureshi, who worked in the Middle East for 15 years before starting JQ American, was familiar with the business practices and culture of the market. Getting started wasn’t easy — the company’s first year sales totaled only $950. Luckily, Qureshi’s business savvy led him to the Oakland U.S. Export Assistance Center, where he began working with center director Rod Hirsch.

JQ American now has customers in markets across the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. The company is currently expanding into Turkey, Egypt, North Africa and Latin America. Exporting is still the company’s only line of business, and its sales are better than ever.

South Asians Honored

The Asian American Business Development Center handed out its Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business honors June 24 at the New York Hilton. The event celebrated the best of Asian American entrepreneurship. The honorees, several of whom were South Asian Americans, represented “a diverse pool of multi-talented individuals engaged in a wide range of business interests” according to John Wang, president of the center.

The keynote speakers of the event were Farooq Kathwari, chairman and chief executive officer, Ethan Allen Interiors, Inc., and Melanie R. Sabelhaus, deputy administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration.

Indian Americans honored at the event included Sunil Hali and Kriti (Kenny) Desai.
Hali, chairman and CEO of CineMaya Media, was recognized for his vision and pioneering work in integrating media services. He launched The Indian Express North American edition in June 2000 through an agreement with the Express group, India.

He has expanded CineMaya Media into radio broadcasting with EBC radio on 1680AM (formerly ESPN) in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

This seven days twenty-four hour radio serves more than 400,000 listeners.

Kriti (Kenny) Desai, president of the $40 million TAK Group of Companies, was recognized at the event. TAK Group of Companies provides general construction and construction management services, and has real estate holdings in a commercial and health facility. Desai was named Minority Contractor of the Year in 1999 by the Department of Commerce.


Cricket Fever in Bay Area
Western Conference Tournament
By Venkatraman C.K.

Northern California’s cricket organization helped host a tournament that could lead to an historic U.S.-wide cricket tournament, writes Venkatraman C.K.

The United States of America Cricket Association with the help of its member association, Northern California Cricket Association, conducted the first ever Western Conference Tournament in Santa Clara, Calif., and San Jose, Calif. The Western Conference Tournament marks a milestone for cricket in the United States, which will lead towards the first nationwide championship tournament. The tournament was conducted during the Memorial Day Weekend, May 25-27, 2002.

The Western Conference included the North West Region, South West Region, Central West Region and Central East Regions. The Western Conference Tournament was played in a round-robin league format to determine a Champion Regional team. Each regional team is a representative side fielding the best cricketing talent from the participating associations in their region.

The inaugural game was marked by a brilliant century by the current U.S. national and South West Region player Rashid Zia against the Central West Region.

The local fans were treated with good cricket by some of the best talent available in the Western Conference. By the end of the second day, both South West Region and North West Region, which includes the host association NCCA, were unbeaten. A keen tussle ensued on the final day between them. North West won the toss and elected to bat. Youngster Varun Janeja hung around and crafted a neat 30. With useful contributions from Ahmed Shah and Kulwant Virdi North West region made a modest 128 against a tough bowling line by the South West Region. U.S. national player, Aijaz Ali, Clive Samuels and Harpreet Dhaliwal grabbed two wickets apiece for the South West. South West Region, with help from experienced stars like Hyder Raza, Aijaz Ali and Clive Samuels, cruised through to a six-wicket win. Aijaz Ali’s overall performance during the tournament earned him the Most Valuable Person award of the tournament.

In the game that determined the third and fourth spots, Central West beat Central East Region handily to take the third spot. Central West did give a South West Region, the eventual champions a run for their money in the inaugural high scoring game. Wicket Keeper Sunil Srinivasan was notable in his performances for the Central West Region.

B.V. Jagadeesh, president and CEO of Netscaler, an avid cricket fan and contributor, accepted the last minute invitation among his busy schedules and distributed the prizes.

Venkatraman C.K. is a software engineer and secretary of the
Northern California Cricket Association. He lives in Sunnyvale, Calif.


Planet Bollywood Opens

Bollywood film star Gulshan Grover, aptly enough, opened the Planet Bollywood restaurant in Milpitas, Calif., June 30. Gurbaksh Chahal, its 27-year-owner, has added extra appeal to his restaurant with a dash of Bollywood glitz: Five-foot-tall posters of Aishwarya Rai, Kajol and Madhuri Dixit adorn the restaurant while large plasma screens showed latest Bollywood songs. A huge poster of Shah Rukh Khan, the Badshah of Bollywood, on a Harley Davidson motorbike, was placed in the central seating area.

The restaurant will serve an eclectic mix of Indian, Chinese and French cuisine, said Chahal, who has completely refurbished the 10,000-square-foot facility that was formerly a Vietnamese restaurant..




Truth is Stranger Than Bollywood

Will the children manage to do what their parents failed to do? Here’s the story: Bollywood actor loves Bollywood actress. Their love is deep, but social commitments outside the relationship oblige them to part.

Fast forward a few decades. The son of the actor loves the daughter of the actress. But the daughter loves someone else. Then they act in a film together, and daughter realizes her true feelings. The two are in love!

Nope, this isn’t another unoriginal Bollywood plot, it’s actually happening. Esha Deol and Tusshar are in love. Esha had been seeing Aftab before, but during the making of Kya Dil Ne Kaha, she realized that Tusshar was the true one for her.

Jeetendra and Hema Malini were once in an affair that almost led to marriage, and now here’s the final Bollywood filmi touch: Both families have accepted the match, so keep your eyes peeled for the happy ending a la Bollywood, too.

So next time snooty critics carp about how silly and mawkish Bollywood film plots are, tell them about Esha and Tusshar.

Bombay Beefcake

In June 29, he had women swooning, not for the first time, and surely not the last. The place was the cavernous Nassau Coliseum in New York, and Salman Khan, Bollywood’s enfant terrible, had the ladies oohing and aahing.

He performed at the Bollywood Awards with a slew of Bollywood stars like Fardeen Khan, Urmila Matondkar, Anil Kapoor, Raveena Tandon, Saif Ali Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Mahima Chaudhary, Diya Mirza, Arbaaz Khan, Sohail Khan, Tusshar Kapoor, Vasundhara Das, Anupam Kher, Jeetendra, Karan Johar, Vashu Bhagnani and Amrish Puri.

So what if he has a bad reputation for temper and assault? Apparently bad is good—as the shrill yells of the fairer sex proved as Salman made a daredevil entry into the show. The passionate peals of desire continued throughout the show as Salman, sporting his freshly bald pate, belted a few Bollywood hits.

Angry Ash

The fictional Devdas, for all his sorrow, had an easier time, but poor pity Sanjay Leela Bhansali. While making Devdas, the quintessential Indian classic, Bhansali had a hard balancing act with two prima donnas of Bollywood, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit.

In the novel, Devdas’s love for Paro is unconsummated, and courtesan Chandramukhi loves him. Aishwarya thought she was going to hog the limelight with Paro’s role, but Madhuri apparently makes an unforgettable appearance even with her smaller role as Chandramukhi.

So what has any of this to do with Bhansali, you ask? Everything, says a sulking Ash who is fuming about Bhansali deleting many of her shots in the final cut. Bhansali apparently has nothing to say about this. Insiders say he has had just about enough of Ash’s little temper tantrums. If Ash is going about town saying she will never ever work with Bhansali, the filmmaker’s silence is speaking volumes. For once, silence is rather less than golden for Ash, it would seem.

Baby on the Way?

Ajay Devgan has a lot to be happy about. If his recent smiles have a smidgen of self satisfaction, it’s not only because he is winning rave reviews for his performance in The Legend of Bhagat Singh. A little bird tells us that there is going to be an addition to the Ajay-Kajol household in several months.

This can only be wondrous news, given the fact that Kajol’s last pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. The mother-to-be has learned her lesson, and isn’t taking any chances this time around. Film shoots are also out.

Here’s a sincere hope that all ends well and a charming little baby joins this talented Bollywood couple.

Lovebird Amisha

Aap mujhe acche lagne lage (I’m beginning to like you.) Nope, we are not talking about Amisha’s film. We are talking about what she’s probably telling upcoming director Vikram Bhatt.

Well, although she has managed to keep her fling with Vikram under wraps, she should have known better. Bollywood nosey parkers would put both the CIA and the KGB to shame, and rumors are flying around that the two have been spotted recently enjoying each other’s company quite openly.

Well, Amisha must like her lovers to be well experienced. Vikram maybe just beginning his directorial career, but he has been about town. He had been living with Sushmita Sen, and tabloids have lately been talking about him and svelte Bengali beauty Bipasha Basu.

Amisha Patel, when asked about all this, has said that the whole thing had been blown out of proportion. Vikram and she were just “good friends.”

Yawn. One does wish Bollywood stars would avoid the biggest flaw of Bollywood movies: hackneyed lines.

Warrior Mode

You know Akshay Kumar, the macho hero who wears his machismo on his sleeve. Now don’t think it all comes easy. All those fight scenes and virile acrobatics—we don’t mean the bed, so get your mind out of the gutter—as he enacts daredevil stunts takes a lot of hard work. And give Akki the credit he deserves: he really works at it.

Take his latest release: Awaara Paagal Deewana. The film’s fight scenes may strain credulity, but that doesn’t mean Akki didn’t work hard. He took rigorous training in marital arts to do those stunts, and now he’s off to China.

You and I may have time to watch his movie, but he surely doesn’t. He is in Firoz Nadiadwala’s next film, and as you know, no one would dream of casting Akki in a romantic martyr who pines for his lover. Akshay means action, folks, so of he is in China to learn how the martial arts masters do it.

Boom Time

Looks like it is boom time for Boom, a film from the production house of Jackie and Ayesha Shroff. The film is being shot in one 35-day schedule by director Kaizad Gustad. The film already has three top models of Bollywood, now Jackie and Ayesha has roped in Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman and Hollywood actress Bo Derek.

Beautiful Bipasha

Bipasha Basu. She’s hot and she makes for hot copy. Recently she posed with Amisha Patel for the cover of Filmfare, and all hell has broken loose. The culture police are up in arms, because Amisha and Bipasha are too cozy for their comfort.

The curious thing about it all is that only Bipasha seems to be drawing flak for it. Amisha, well connected woman that she is—her family is quite a big mover and shaker in Mumbai’s social circuit—has managed to divert almost all the attention to Bipasha.


Hindi Film Review
Creditable Historical Biopic

The Legend of Bhagat Singh

Cast: Ajay Devgan, Sushant Singh, Akhilendra Mishra, Farida Jalal and Raj Babbar.
Director: Rajkumar Santoshi
Music: A.R. Rahman

On the night of March 23, 1931, after hanging Bhagat Singh and his comrades Sukhdev and Rajguru, the British secretly moved their bodies out of the jail. Such was their fear of the political and moral appeal of Bhagat Singh, that they hanged him and his two companions a day before schedule, and cremated the bodies themselves instead of handing it over to the families of the freedom fighters. Bhagat Singh was only 23 when he died.

It is this gripping tale that has inspired a series of recent films.

The idea of Bollywood going into historical foray isn’t a particularly heartening thought. Especially if the film is to deal with patriotic themes then the temptation for melodramatic overkill is simply too much for Bollywood to resist.

Filmmakers are forever casting a hungry eye on the applause from the front benches, and they will do just about anything to get it — mawkish melodrama, toilet humor, shrill drama — you name it.

Rajkumar Santoshi’s The Legend of Bhagat Singh is a wonderful exception. It is not entirely free of Bollywood flaws — a point to which I shall return — but it is, nevertheless, a heartening sign of how mainstream Bollywood cinema is coming of age. Santoshi presents a story that is far more nuanced, researched and tempered than one has come to expect. Raj Kumar Santoshi deserves considerable credit for this.

Bhagat Singh, oddly enough, has suddenly become Bollywood’s pet project. Why this sadly neglected patriot had become such a draw today is a bit of a mystery, but he certainly deserves the belated accolade.

At any rate, the slew of films on Bhagat Singh is not necessarily a handicap. In fact, for the better filmmaker, it can be an opportunity to show his excellence, and that’s exactly what Santoshi does. Compared to the almost simultaneous release of Sunny Deol’s film 23rd March 1931 — Shaheed, Santoshi’s work looks simply dazzling. Sunny’s film is a compendium of standard Bollywood failings — historical truth takes a back seat to the projection of film stars which Sunny, who plays the freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad and his brother Bobby who plays Bhagat Singh, and the film ends up being more about the Deols rather than Bhagat Singh.

Santoshi, on the other hand, concentrates more carefully on the story of Bhagat Singh’s gradual evolution amid a particular turbulent time in Punjab.

What a time it was to grow up! Bhagat was only 12 when the British massacred unarmed civilians in Jalianwala Bagh, causing nationwide furor — Rabindranath Tagore returned his knighthood. Initially attracted to Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent agitation, he was disillusioned when Gandhi discontinued the movement, and joined Chandrasekhar Azad’s Hindustan Socialist Republican Party.

It was a time when the British were brutal in suppressing the growing public demand for independence. Independence leader Lala Lajpat Rai died following an injury sustained during a police attack on an agitation. Bhagat Singh ultimately was involved in killing a British officer, and later with the help of friend Batukeshwar Dutt, threw a bomb at the central legislative assembly where the British were planning to pass two bills that would hurt India’s interests.

The last paragraph of the leaflet that he distributed (and wrote) in the assembly hall said: “We are sorry that we who attach such great sanctity to human life, we who dream of a very glorious future when man will be enjoying perfect peace and full liberty, have been forced to shed human blood. But sacrifice of individuals at the altar of the revolution will bring freedom to all, rendering exploitation of man by man impossible. Inquilaab Zindaabad (Long live the revolution).”

In their trial Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt stated, “If the deaf are to hear, the sound has to be very loud. When we dropped the bomb, it was not our intention to kill anybody. We have bombed the British Government. The British must quit India and make her free.”

On the day of his hanging, Bhagat Singh walked up to the hanging rope kissed it and put it around his neck to be hanged.

Rajkumar Santoshi carefully follows the story of Bhagat Singh’s life, providing also the turbulent historical context as he presents the story. The film has an authentic period look, and the acting is for the most part uniformly good.

Ajay Devgan’s Bhagat Singh is sardonic, understated yet so impressive that it will probably win him a slew of awards.

The film takes on the dubious reticence of Gandhi in seeking to save Bhagat Singh from the gallows. Gandhi’s argument may have been that he had a difference of principle, given his commitment to non-violence, but more cynical analysts have suspected that Gandhi was well aware of the enormous potency of Bhagat Singh’s appeal which could threaten him politically.

The fact of the matter is that the official Congress position on Bhagat Singh after his death has been little short of disgraceful, and the film’s readiness to take on the issue is laudable.

However, some of this criticism plays into the hands of the Hindu nationalist critique of Congress, which is nothing short of ironic. Bhagat Singh, a committed socialist atheist that he was, also had a worldview that was staunchly secular (or would that be pseudosecular?). It seems very unlikely that he would have any fondness for the sectarian militancy that has fueled Hindu nationalism in today’s India.

The film does suffer from a degree of Bollywood hyperbole in dialogue and scenes of confrontation, and the redundant romance, and some of the songs, were avoidable. A.R. Rahman’s background score is quite good, but his songs lack Punjabi flavor.

Having said that, in a sea of entirely forgettable Bollywood masala films, Santoshi’s biopic reflects a maturity of mainstream Hindi cinema that is a credit for both him and Bollywood.

Rating: **** (Superior)


Tamil Film Review:
Impressive Directorial Debut


Director: Arun Pandian
Cast: Vijaykant, Karthik, Arun Pandian, Meena, Kausalya, Sai Kumar, Asru Mochan Mohanty, Ajay Ratnam, Chandrasekhar.

Since his debut in Oomai Vizhigal, Arun Pandian has acted in 99 films. Devan is his 100th film, and Pandian marks this milestone with style. He debuts as a director, apart from producing, scripting and playing the title role. He plays the role of a man who avenges the humiliation following the brutal murder of his only sister. The action-oriented role suits the actor. As a writer-director too, Arun Pandian moves his scenes like a seasoned veteran. He presents an interesting screenplay, with suspense, action, and throws in the powerful tension of vendetta and patriotism. The male characters are well-etched, and the female characters given just enough scope to justify their presence in the film. The one flaw of the film is that it is a bit too lengthy and could have been trimmed a little.

Vijaykant makes an impact in the role of the CBI officer Ratnavel. Karthik’s live-wire performance as the crafty defense lawyer more than makes up for his late entry into the story. Sai Kumar, a popular actor of Malayalam films, plays the villain “Chetta” Raghu with suave panache. Meena is flirtatious and bubbly as the T.V. anchor, while Kausalya fits in well in her role as Devan’s gutsy sister.

The opening scenes of the murder of photographer Jeeva sets the tempo of the film. Jeeva, realizing he is cornered, shows presence of mind and positions his video camera to record his own killing. But unfortunately for Jeeva, the video fails to capture the killer’s face, the audio is unclear, and later on in the film it takes no time for a smart lawyer to discredit Jeeva’s dying declaration naming Devan as his killer. CBI officer Ratnavel zeroes in on Devan as the killer and apprehends him before he reaches his next target Chetta. The discovery of Chetta’s anti-social activities, particularly his hoarding and black-marketing of foodgrain and selling it to foreign agents when millions were facing starvation deaths in places like Orissa, makes a furious Ratnavel join hands with Devan and destroy the traitor. Crafty lawyer Chakravarthy is brought in to defend Devan and destroy the prosecution’s case against him. The scenes of the deaths in Orissa are well-crafted, with Oriya actor Asru Mochan Mohanty putting in a creditable performance. Ilaiyaraja’s background score enhances the tempo of the narration. 

, it must be said, is an impressive debut by actor-turned-director Arun Pandian.

— Malini Mannath
In association with Chennai Online


Recipe: Energy Kabab
Fuel for the Go-getter
By Seema Gupta

What’s the Indian reply to energy-packed Powerbars that joggers and mountain bike buffs love? Seema Gupta offers a desi version, and it’s all vegetarian, too.


  • 1/4 lb potatoes
  • 1/4 lb green peas
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 Thai chillies, chopped longitudinally
  • 1/2 finely chopped medium- sized onion
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tbsp bleached flour
  • 1 tbsp grated cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • Salt to taste
  • Cooking oil


Dice carrots. Lightly steam the peas and carrots. Boil potatoes in water, but don’t keep it too long in boiling water.

Brown chopped onion, chillies in ghee. Add peas and carrots and three teaspoon of bread crumbs. Add salt.

Mash potatoes and add salt. Make patties about 4” in diameter and 3/4 inch thick. Use the cooked vegetables as filling for the potato patties.

Mix flour with water to make a thin watery mixture. Dip patties in gruel then dust with bread crumbs. Fry until brown. Serve hot with mint chutney.

Seema Gupta is a homemaker based in Sunnyvale, Calif.


July-August Horoscope

ARIES (March 21 to April 20): You will want to do everything on your own. Take other people’s opinions. Concentrate on your profession. Beware of accidents, protect your children from unforeseen dangers. Be nice to your loved ones, they need it.

TAURUS (April 21 to May 20): Take care of your eyes. Lookout for people who want to alter your focus, it might be harmful. You will seek proper advice. Financial matters look favorable. Wedding plans will take shape for those in love. A member may be added to the family.

GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): Focus will be on family. Misunderstanding will hurt your loved ones. You will try sort things. You may feel restless. You may plan for a vacation which will be good for you and your family.

CANCER (June 21 to July 22): It will be a great month. Finances will do well. Savings will rise as you will change your otherwise spending nature temporarily. It will not last long and soon you will start spending as before. Health may need attention. Social activities will exhaust you. You might go for a short vacation.
LEO (July 23 to August 22): Professionally you will do well. Colleagues will be very cooperative. Forgive minor mishaps that others may cause to you. You will start feeling good as the month ends. You will be confident, do not get arrogant. Watch your temper. Romance will bloom. Watch out for hidden enemies.

VIRGO (August 23 to September 22): You will feel restless but gradually it will reduce. You would want to do everything yourself. Team effort will be a better option. You may lose concentration. Do not start too many things at once, have patience and you will be successful.

LIBRA (September 23 to October 22): Explore your creativity. Do not get swayed by what people say about you as it may leave you direction less. You will have a very hectic social life. Your popularity will increase. You will concentrate on education related matters.

SCORPIO (October 23 to November 22): It is a very favorable month. Control your mind as you will deal with too many things. Your wish to be in the limelight may cause a strong difference of opinion with people. You will lack energy. You need to deal with personal issues that you have avoided in the past. Good times are coming soon.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23 to December 22): Promising new avenues are foreseen. You may not be able to focus on the right one for now but as the stars are favorable it will guide you to your good fortune. New relationships will develop. Take things one at a time, do not exhaust yourself.

CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19): Watch your health. Minor changes will be made at work, some you may not like. You will make new friends and increase your social activities. Be careful with any upcoming financial decisions. Overall it will be a good month.

AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18): Life will be very hectic. People will ask you for favors. You will feel emotionally secure. Your motivation will be high and you will be in an adventurous mood. Watch your ego, be considerate or your loved ones may get hurt. Do not get into anything new.

PISCES (February 19 to March 20): A new project will start taking shape in your mind. Confidence will grow. Do not be overenthusiastic. Good luck seems to be with you. Speculations and lotteries will bring unexpected gains. Misunderstandings in the past will be resolved. You will be successful in motivating people.


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