Siliconeer: October 2002

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OCTOBER 2002
Volume III Issue 10


Publisher's Note:

Regular readers of our magazine may sigh in exasperation at this month’s cover story. Computers for slum kids? There Siliconeer goes again. We plead guilty. We confess that the intersection of high technology and the less privileged is an issue dear to our hearts. The digital divide is an issue of enormous import for India, which has world class scientific talent as well as the largest number of the world’s poor. India’s future success will depend on how well it manages to answer the challenge of integrating high technology with the socio-economic needs of a highly stratified society.

Our cover story deals with a marvelous, small step in that direction. But let’s not kid ourselves. This is just an example of the kind of work that needs to be done, a pilot project. The actual task of addressing the digital divide is nowhere near being addressed.

This issue also carries an eloquent, trenchant critique of the new world order by activist author Arundhati Roy. What a long, long way she has come since the days when all the world knew about her was that she was an author who had got a whopping advance for a first novel which went on to win the Booker Prize. Today, she provokes strong feelings, not always adulatory, in her new avatar as a fiery radical activist. We carry her article because we think she raises important issues all too often smothered in this nation’s surprisingly monolithic press. We feel her views are important even when we don’t always agree with her. Their dissemination is even more important because dissent is the lifeblood of a vibrant, intellectually robust society.


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Main Feature

Child’s Play
Katha, Computers and Slum Kids
By Deepak Goyal

New Delhi-based NGO Katha has joined hands with Intel to build a space for slum children to become acquainted with computers, writes Deepak Goyal.

How far is MIT from a Delhi slum? Oh, you could do the math and figure out the exact distance in miles as the crow flies, but that wouldn’t even begin to measure the psychological distance. When a gap like that is bridged, it surely isn’t an exaggeration to call it historic.

Three children in Delhi’s Govindpuri slum have have attended a workshop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in August.

“This is the first time slum children from India have been selected for such an international workshop, which will focus on computer skills,” reported BBC online’s Ayanjit Sen before the kids set off for the U.S.

“The economic condition of families in Indian slums makes it almost impossible for many children to go to school, let alone college.

But the three young people are soon to set off to the United States on the opportunity of a lifetime.”

The Intel-supported program aims to improve fluency in technology, build leadership and communication skills and share ideas with other participants. It is spearheaded by a remarkable New Delhi-based NGO called Katha, which tries to bring down the socio-economic walls that keep the poor from education as well the fruits of information technology.

In Katha’s words:’“The Intel Computer Clubhouse at Katha is an exciting and innovative programme for children who belong to families living in Bhumiheen, Navjivan and Jawahar Camps in Govindpuri, New Delhi. Club Members learn how to use a computer as a friend for life, as a means for peer learning, and for economic and social advancement – seeing the whole field of IT as one which demolishes class structures and rewards true merit – and fosters the participation of a whole community in the building of a classless, merit-based civil society.

“The ICCHA Curriculum reiterates Katha’s philosophy of education which form the core of the culture and work at Katha since 1993.””

Designed for children in the age group between eight and 18, the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network is based on the Computer Clubhouse learning model created by the Museum of Science, Boston, and the MIT Media Laboratory in 1993. Intel provides financial assistance and technical expertise while mentoring the project. The company intends to set up 100 such Computer Clubhouses worldwide, which will provide creative and safe after-school learning environments to youth in under-privileged communities.

The Clubhouse has been set up under Intel’s “Innovation in Education” program in India . Katha has been running community-based education programs since 1990. Technical training has always been part of Katha’s community development program.

Children at Katha develop and design learning material using the computer for those in the junior and preschool levels. They also design blueprints for urban homes and in the process, develop skills using computer-aided design and related software. They carry out surveys, work on maps and learn to work on data management techniques and financial packages.

“The idea is to learn by doing rather than learning to do,” Deepa Mahajan, IT project head at Katha Khazana, told India’s Dataquest magazine. Mahajan is an IT engineer with 10 years’ experience. Now she works with Katha. “It is very fulfilling to nurture these children and to provide them tools to enhance their learning experience,” she says.

Teenage student Razia, who also lives in a slum housing more than 150,000 people, is the second of seven sisters and two brothers. She is one of the three youngsters selected for the U.S. trip.

She lives with her sisters and brothers in one of the two rooms in a house. But before her trip to the U.S., she had no time to think about that. She was more worried about the clothes she would take to the U.S.

Razia, who had heard a great deal about America, never expected to visit the country herself.

Her mother said that she along with her husband would try their best to help Razia to get a good job after her studies.

Razia’s father barely earns $60 a month for the entire family with his job re-cycling domestic waste.

The Katha Web site says of the Intel clubhouse: “Members work cooperatively to become empowered individuals who can bring their education to the service of themselves and the society they live in. We see the Clubhouse fostering values that develop character, citizenship and holistic idea of development and growth. Members learn more about computers and through computers get hands-on expertise in various life and living issues“– promising interesting project work and personal adventures.”

– Deepak Goyal is a freelance writer.
He lives in Kolkata.

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Infotech India

BSNL Mobile Service

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will launch Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd’s mobile services in India Oct. 19, BSNL chairman and managing director Prithipal Singh said Oct. 12 in Pune.

The entry of BSNL into mobile telephony may result in a further slash in air-time rates, he said, but declined to reveal the tariff plan.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a seminar on the “The Wireless Conclave,” organized by the Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management here, Singh said every year BSNL provides nearly six million fixed lines and its subscriber base was growing in leaps and bounds.

However, this year, BSNL will be giving only three million fixed lines while two million will be wireless, he said, adding that they expect wireless services to grow faster.

Ernst & Young Honor

Software giant Infosys chairman and chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy was conferred the coveted Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for 2002 at a glittering function attended by corporate bigwigs and top executives in Bangalore Oct. 10.

Murthy will represent India at the Ernst and Young’s World Entrepreneur of the Year Award Ceremony at Monte Carlo in June 2003, it was announced at the function, where he was cheered and hailed as an icon for the new generation of Indian entrepreneurs.

He will also attend the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year International Conference at Palm Springs, Calif., Nov. 21-24 this year.

Karnataka Large and Medium Industries Minister R.V. Deshpande and former Union Law Minister and BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley presented the award to Murthy, who described it as a “big gift” that must have been shared by seven other co-founders of Infosys and its employees.

“It (the award) is an affirmation of my belief that I have received much more from society than I have given to the society”, he said.

Now in its fourth year in India, the award was conferred by a jury chaired by Rahul Bajaj, chairman and managing director of Bajaj Auto Limited, which had shortlisted 19 finalists representing the best entrepreneurial talents in India.

LIC to Go Online

All Life Insurance Corporation branches in the country would be interconnected under the Metro Area Network inaugurated Oct. 10 in Kottayam, Kerala.

K Vaidyalingam, LIC southern zonal manager, said 1,500 branches would be getting covered under MAN in which the premium amount of the policy-holder could be remitted in any branch. Besides, the policy-holder gets his status report, policy position, revival and quotation from the network. The system will get updated every hour, he said.

In the southern region, there are about 1,000,000 new policy-holders with a business of Rs 65 million. About settlement of claims, 92 percent of policies were settled on or before maturity, he said, adding that LIC was in a better position and 100 percent connectivity was taking place.

Kottayam stood third in premium collection during the period between April and August 2002, the first being Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram in second position in the southern region.

Book on Nuke Power

Former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Dr. M.R. Srinivasan, has said nuclear power capacity, which was only 3,000 MW now, was expected to go up to 20,000 MW by 2020.

The long-term projection is that by 2050, nuclear power may have to contribute some 100,000 MW. Taking this into account, a very big task and challenge would be in store for future nuclear engineers and scientists, said Srinivasan, presently member, National Security Advisory Board. He was speaking at a function in Udhagamandalam Oct. 9 to release his book

“From Fission to Fusion: The Story of India’s Atomic Energy Program.”

Paying tributes to his fellow scientists in the nuclear field, he said his book laid stress on India’s nuclear achievements and the saga of building self-reliant capabilities in a very advanced and demanding technology.

The foundation for this great achievement was laid by training of a large number of scientists, engineers and technicians, to which the late nuclear visionary, Dr. Homi J. Bhabha, laid special emphasis.

Top Ten

The World Bank’s intranet site, designed and developed by Satyam Computer Services, has been ranked among the world’s ten best intranet sites by the reputed U.S. agency Nielsen Norman Group, a Satyam statement said Oct. 9.

The NN Group is a Web consultancy organization that specializes in helping companies to evaluate and restructure their web strategies, it said, adding that it was headed by Jakob Nielsen, the famous usability evangelist who is credited with accurately forecasting some of the most significant trends in Web design and usability.

The top ten sites were selected from a list of 118 nominations from around the world, it was stated.

The WB has an ongoing project with Satyam’s UXM (User Experience Management) Solutions group, based in India, both in the implementation of the design of input and display templates that are made available to the Bank’s staff for publishing, navigation and search.

BPO courses

IT training giant Aptech in associa-tion with iflex Solutions has come out with a suite of courses called ACPG, which focuses on the expanding BPO (business process outsourcing) industry.

“The ACPG suite includes courses on call centre, banking and sales and marketing industry for students who look forward to BPO as a serious career option,” Pramod Khera, director and CEO of Aptech, told reporters in Chennai Oct. 10.

He said response to the ACPG call centre course had been tremendous after it was introduced recently.

According to him, Aptech expected to have an early edge in this segment of IT training
.

In association with Chennai Online

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Business Skill Incubator
TiE Institute
– By Gayathri Sreenivasan

TiE, the pioneering powerhouse organization of desi hi-tech entrepreneurs, has opened a training institute, reports Gayathri Sreenivasan.

The Indus Entrepreneurs, the mother of Indian American organizations of top desi hi-tech Silicon Valley honchos, has launched an institute to develop entrepreneurship.

“Over the years, TiE has dedicated itself to providing networking, mentoring and education for its members,” said its press release.” “Consistent with its mission, TiE is pleased to announce the launch of the TiE Institute.“At the TiE Institute, we are committed to developing more holistic, value-centered business leaders through concrete and interactive education, which is entrepreneurial in spirit, ethical in focus, and global in orientation.“TiE envisions the institute to become a source of actionable knowledge in soft skills and entrepreneurship for entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, professionals and students.”

TiE Institute held its first workshop Oct. 3 in Palo Alto, Calif. This workshop focused on”Managing Successful Transitions which will be conducted by Dr. Prasad Kaipa, Director, TiE Institute.

“This launch coincides with the celebration of the tenth anniversary of TiE in Silicon Valley.  The Institute will form yet another dimension of value to TiE members by offering workshops in soft skills and entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Kailash Joshi, president, TiE Silicon Valley. Some examples of”soft skills are – leadership, communication, creativity, negotiation, teamwork and conflict resolution. Added Dr. Kaipa, “During the initial phase, the focus will be on soft skills, which are as essential as professional or technical skills for successful entrepreneurship and personal growth.”” 

TiE’s press release added: “TiE Institute draws its world-class faculty from its charter members, sponsors, and their networks cultivated over the years. This faculty, students, and guest speakers, working together in an interactive manner, are expected to create a unique environment to advance skill-set, address societal challenges and pursue organizational and personal fulfillment.”  

Interested readers can visit the TiE Web site at www.TiESV.org for more information or email to Mahesh@tie.org

Gayathri Sreenivasan is a freelance writer
based in San Mateo, Calif.

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Naked Designs
Sexism and Advertising
By Jaya Padmanabhan

Jaya Padmanabhan bristles at the crass manipulation of the female body by overzealous marketers whose desire to shock is greater than their scruples.

Three women, a billboard and a startup. Ingredients for a scandal? The brouhaha over the e*ecad billboard on Highway 101 is bringing a lot of attention to a hitherto unknown company. The Santa Clara, Calif., company focusing on electronic design automation features three women each representing a payment option for the company — the prostitute (hourly), girlfriend (term) and bride (perpetual). The advertisement drew a lot of negative publicity, including one women’s group, GraceNet, bestowing it the “DisGraceful Award in Advertising.” The righteous wrath of women’s groups has drawn attention to the company and the business.

Is the campaign successful? Any agency would argue that some negative publicity is good for awareness, but where does one draw the line? The InfoUSA advertisement to sell the company’s database product depicted a dominatrix wielding a whip. The ensuing controversy resulted in the firing of the entire marketing team that created the advertisement. That has not stopped agencies from delivering advertisements crossing the lines of respectability.

The prevailing misogynistic view of the ad world is spawning agencies whose sole function is to evaluate the potential degree of sexism that advertisements generate. In Britain one particular advertisement for a perfume featured a naked model on a billboard. The advertisement received more complaints than ever before received and had to be removed. In France, a watchdog organization, Chiennes de Gard (Guard Bitches) has exhorted people to boycott products associated with sexist advertisements. One such advertisement for chocolate has a nude model and the words: “You say no; we hear yes”

The e*ecad advertisement obviously did not target women. All the advertisement has done is to generate resentment among the female sex, many of whom are in positions of power.

On the other hand, I can well see how startup evangelists may want to feverishly pull out their PDAs and jot down the name of the company featured in the billboard in order to contact the advertising agency. Some would argue that the recognition that comes with the shock-factor in advertisements can only be compared to months of campaigning with a conservative, play-it-safe ad. Having said that, no company wants to be associated with the negative branding that comes with over-the-top ad spots. Bad for the company, bad for the image, bad for the business. So why are there so many such advertisements?

In 1980, UNESCO researchers have surmised that repeated exposure to sexist advertisements is a “contributing cause to havoc in society and many social problems, including such behavior as violence against women and sexual harassment to eating disorders.”

In today’s advertisement world it does seem like sexism sells. If at some point women need to protest at the stereotypes that affect our children as well as our society, a hue and cry plays right into the hands of the advertisers. I would agree with Chiennes de Gard that the only way out is to boycott the product. If the success of an advertisement is reflected in the revenues generated, then make sure the revenues for the company do not reinforce the success of sexist advertising.

Asian Accent
Customized Skin Care
– By Sonali Merchant

A study shows Asian women’s skin is different. Sonali Merchant writes about Esolis, a line of cosmetics to address their needs.

Asian skin and Caucasian skin are fundamentally different, a scientific study conducted by a global cosmetic company has shown. The company which conducted the study is Ada, Mich.-based Alticor, which owns or manages companies in over 80 countries in the world with an annual sales of over $4 billion. Amy C. Zimmerman, the scientist who conducted the study, won an award for this study.
What are the main differences? The study revealed that:

  • Hyperpigmentation is the first sign of aging in Asian skin, and not wrinkles — the first sign typically found in Caucasian skin.
  • Asian skin is more prone to irritation — especially from ingredients frequently found in U.S. cosmetic brands. Commonly used preservatives, fragrances and alcohol suitable for Caucasian skin can actually cause irritation when used on Asian skin.
  • Asian skin has larger pores than Caucasian skin. Asian skin has a greater need for daily exfoliation to minimize the appearance of pores and even out skin tone and texture.
  • Asian skin is more prone to acne. Certain cosmetic grade oils and esters are not suitable for Asian skin because they are easily trapped in pores causing a blockage of cellular debris and acne.

The company’s answer to its research findings has been to launch Esolis. Alticor says that after two decades of worldwide research it has launched Esolis, a comprehensive line of facial and body care products scientifically formulated to meet the special skin care needs of Asian women in the United States. Alticor announced the launch Sept. 12 in Los Angeles.

“We are committing to providing effective skin care solutions specifically meeting the needs of Asian women here in the United States,” Esolis president Tara Reinink said at the launch event Sept. 12.

“Our scientists have searched the world over for the purest and the most effective ingredients that enhance Asian skin. We are very excited to address our significant findings by introducing a range of products that utilize clinically proven advanced technologies to brighten skin, to bust the skin’s natural ability to repair solar damage and protect the skin from solar exposure.” Reinink added that Esolis products are “dedicated to blemish care and control; products that restore moisture and help reverse the signs of aging.”

The scientists responsible for formulating the Esolis product line have over twenty years’ experience in the formulation of skin care products for the Pacific Rim, Alticor says. They have participated in several industry publications and presentations at the American Academy of Dermatology and the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. The lead scientist for Esolis, Amy C. Zimmerman, received the Shaw Mudge award for best paper presented at the Society of Cosmetic Chemists 1998 Annual Scientific Seminar on the topic, “The Differences between Asian and Caucasian Skin.”

For Asian Americans, the issues remain pretty much the same, Zimmerman said at the launch event.

“There are very similar characteristics between Asian skin in Asia and Asian skin in this country,” she said. “Very humid environments tend to promote acne and therefore I believe there maybe a higher level of acne in Asia than in this country.

“Our products tend to be very light, and easily absorbed and specifically designed for Asian skin to absorb quickly. Change of food habits and change in environments really doesn’t affect differences in skin. That’s the whole reason this product line is made, because Caucasian skin care products do not address the needs of the Asian Americans.

“Stress affects the skin like every part of your body. When you are younger and you are stressed, you are guaranteed you will get acne blemishes. As you age and become stressed you get much, much more dry spots on your skin. The way to take care of that is consistent skin care that follows the needs of your skin as your body changes.”

Sonali Merchant is a freelance writer.
She lives in Dublin, Calif.

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The Physics of Power
An Author’s Dissent
By Arundhati Roy

Activist author Arundhati Roy takes a sweeping, historical and global view in this provocative, trenchant critique of the terrible human toll taken by wars of hegemony.

There can never be a single story. There are only ways of seeing. So when I tell a story, I tell it not as an ideologue who wants to pit one absolutist ideology against another, but as a story-teller who wants to share her way of seeing. Though it might appear otherwise, my writing is not really about nations and histories, it’s about power. About the paranoia and ruthlessness of power. About the physics of power. I believe that the accumulation of vast unfettered power by a State or a country, a corporation or an institution - or even an individual, a spouse, friend or sibling - regardless of ideology, results in excesses such as the ones I will recount here.

Living as I do, as millions of us do, in the shadow of the nuclear holocaust that the governments of India and Pakistan keep promising their brain-washed citizenry, and in the global neighborhood of the War against Terror (what President Bush rather biblically calls ‘The Task That Never Ends’), I find myself thinking a great deal about the relationship between citizens and the state.

In India, those of us who have expressed views on nuclear bombs, big dams, corporate globalization and the rising threat of communal Hindu fascism - views that are at variance with the Indian government’s - are branded ‘anti-national’. While this accusation does not fill me with indignation, it’s not an accurate description of what I do or how I think. An ‘anti-national’ is a person is who is against his/her own nation and, by inference, is pro some other one. But it isn’t necessary to be ‘anti-national’ to be deeply suspicious of all nationalism, to be anti-nationalism.

Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the 20th century. Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s minds and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead. When independent, thinking people (and here I do not include the corporate media) begin to rally under flags, when writers, painters, musicians, film makers suspend their judgment and blindly yoke their art to the service of the ‘nation’, it’s time for all of us to sit up and worry. In India we saw it happen soon after the nuclear tests in 1998 and during the Kargil war against Pakistan in 1999. In the U.S. we saw it during the Gulf war and we see it now, during the ‘War against Terror’. That blizzard of made-in-China American flags.

Recently, those who have criticized the actions of the U.S. government (myself included) have been called ‘anti-American’. Anti-Americanism is in the process of being consecrated into an ideology.

The term ‘anti-American’ is usually used by the American establishment to discredit and, not falsely - but shall we say inaccurately - define its critics. Once someone is branded anti-American, the chances are that he or she will be judged before they’re heard and the argument will be lost in the welter of bruised national pride.

What does the term ‘anti-American’ mean? Does it mean you’re anti-jazz? Or that you’re opposed to free speech? That you don’t delight in Toni Morrison or John Updike? That you have a quarrel with giant sequoias? Does it mean you don’t admire the hundreds of thousands of American citizens who marched against nuclear weapons, or the thousands of war resisters who forced their government to withdraw from Vietnam? Does it mean that you hate all Americans?

This sly conflation of America’s culture, music, literature, the breathtaking physical beauty of the land, the ordinary pleasures of ordinary people with criticism of the U.S. government’s foreign policy (about which, thanks to America’s ‘free press’, sadly most Americans know very little) is a deliberate and extremely effective strategy. It’s like a retreating army taking cover in a heavily populated city, hoping that the prospect of hitting civilian targets will deter enemy fire.

There are many Americans who would be mortified to be associated with their government’s policies. The most scholarly, scathing, incisive, hilarious critiques of the hypocrisy and the contradictions in U.S. government policy come from American citizens. When the rest of the world wants to know what the U.S. government is up to, we turn to Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Howard Zinn, Ed Herman, Amy Goodman, Michael Albert, Chalmers Johnson, William Blum and Anthony Arnove to tell us what’s really going on.

Similarly, in India, not hundreds, but millions of us would be ashamed and offended if we were in any way implicated with the present Indian government’s fascist policies which, apart from the perpetration of state terrorism in the valley of Kashmir (in the name of fighting terrorism), have also turned a blind eye to the recent state-supervised pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat. It would be absurd to think that those who criticize the Indian government are ‘anti-Indian’ - although the government itself never hesitates to take that line. It is dangerous to cede to the Indian government or the American government or anyone for that matter, the right to define what ‘India’ or ‘America’ are, or ought to be.

To call someone ‘anti-American’, indeed, to be anti-American, (or for that matter anti-Indian, or anti- Timbuktuan) is not just racist, it’s a failure of the imagination. An inability to see the world in terms other than those that the establishment has set out for you: If you’re not a Bushie you’re a Taliban. If you don’t love us, you hate us. If you’re not good you’re evil. If you’re not with us, you’re with the terrorists.

Last year, like many others, I too made the mistake of scoffing at this post- September 11 rhetoric, dismissing it as foolish and arrogant. I’ve realized that it’s not foolish at all. It’s actually a canny recruitment drive for a misconceived, dangerous war. Every day I’m taken aback at how many people believe that opposing the war in Afghanistan amounts to supporting terrorism, or voting for the Taliban. Now that the initial aim of the war - capturing Osama bin Laden (dead or alive) - seems to have run into bad weather, the goalposts have been moved. It’s being made out that the whole point of the war was to topple the Taliban regime and liberate Afghan women from their burqas. We’re being asked to believe that the U.S. marines are actually on a feminist mission. (If so, will their next stop be America’s military ally Saudi Arabia?)

None of us need anniversaries to remind us of what we cannot forget. So it is no more than coincidence that I happen to be here, on American soil, in September - this month of dreadful anniversaries. Uppermost on everybody’s mind of course, particularly here in America, is the horror of what has come to be known as 9/11. Nearly three thousand civilians lost their lives in that lethal terrorist strike. The grief is still deep. The rage still sharp. The tears have not dried. And a strange, deadly war is raging around the world. Yet, each person who has lost a loved one surely knows secretly, deeply, that no war, no act of revenge, no daisy-cutters dropped on someone else’s loved ones or someone else’s children will blunt the edges of their pain or bring their own loved ones back. War cannot avenge those who have died. War is only a brutal desecration of their memory.

To fuel yet another war - this time against Iraq - by cynically manipulating people’s grief, by packaging it for TV specials sponsored by corporations selling detergent or running shoes, is to cheapen and devalue grief, to drain it of meaning. What we are seeing now is a vulgar display of the business of grief, the commerce of grief, the pillaging of even the most private human feelings for political purpose. It is a terrible, violent thing for a state to do to its people.

It’s not a clever-enough subject to speak of from a public platform, but what I would really love to talk to you about is loss. Loss and losing. Grief, failure, brokenness, numbness, uncertainty, fear, the death of feeling, the death of dreaming. The absolute, relentless, endless, habitual unfairness of the world. What does loss means to individuals? What does it means to whole cultures, whole peoples who have learned to live with it as a constant companion?

Since it is September 11 that we’re talking about, perhaps it’s in the fitness of things that we remember what that date means, not only to those who lost their loved ones in America last year, but to those in other parts of the world to whom that date has long held significance. This historical dredging is not offered as an accusation or a provocation. But just to share the grief of history. To thin the mist a little. To say to the citizens of America, in the gentlest, most human way: welcome to the world.

Twenty-nine years ago, in Chile, on the September 11, 1973, General Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in a CIA-backed coup. ‘Chile shouldn’t be allowed to go Marxist just because its people are irresponsible’, said Henry Kissinger, then President Nixon’s national security adviser.

After the coup President Allende was found dead inside the presidential palace. Whether he was killed or whether he killed himself, we’ll never know. In the regime of terror that ensued, thousands of people were killed. Many more simply ‘disappeared’. Firing squads conducted public executions. Concentration camps and torture chambers were opened across the country. The dead were buried in mine shafts and unmarked graves. For 17 years the people of Chile lived in dread of the midnight knock, of routine ‘disappearances’, of sudden arrest and torture. Chileans tell the story of how the musician Victor Jara had his hands cut off in front of a crowd in the Santiago stadium. Before they shot him, Pinochet’s soldiers threw his guitar at him and mockingly ordered him to play.

In 1999, following the arrest of General Pinochet in Britain, thousands of secret documents were declassified by the U.S. government. They contain unequivocal evidence of the CIA’s involvement in the coup as well as the fact that the U.S. government had detailed information about the situation in Chile during General Pinochet’s reign. Yet Kissinger assured the general of his support: ‘In the United States as you know, we are sympathetic to what you are trying to do’, he said, ‘We wish your government well’.

Those of us who have only ever known life in a democracy, however flawed, would find it hard to imagine what living in a dictatorship and enduring the absolute loss of freedom really means. It isn’t just those who Pinochet murdered, but the lives he stole from the living that must be accounted for, too.

Sadly, Chile was not the only country in South America to be singled out for the U.S. government’s attentions. Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, Peru, Mexico and Colombia; they’ve all been the playground for covert - and overt - operations by the CIA. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been killed, tortured or have simply disappeared under the despotic regimes and tin-pot dictators, drug runners and arms dealers that were propped up in their countries. (Many of them learned their craft in the infamous U.S. government-funded School of Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, which has produced 60,000 graduates.) If this were not humiliation enough, the people of South America have had to bear the cross of being branded as a people who are incapable of democracy - as if coups and massacres are somehow encrypted in their genes.

This list does not of course include countries in Africa or Asia that suffered U.S. military interventions - Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Laos, and Cambodia. For how many Septembers for decades together have millions of Asian people been bombed, burned, and slaughtered? How many Septembers have gone by since August 1945, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary Japanese people were obliterated by the nuclear strikes in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? For how many Septembers have the thousands who had the misfortune of surviving those strikes endured the living hell that was visited on them, their unborn children, their children’s children, on the earth, the sky, the wind, the water, and all the creatures that swim and walk and crawl and fly?

September 11 has a tragic resonance in the Middle East, too. On September 11, 1922, ignoring Arab outrage, the British government proclaimed a mandate in Palestine, a follow-up to the 1917 Balfour declaration, which imperial Britain issued, with its army massed outside the gates of the city of Gaza. The Balfour declaration promised European Zionists a national home for Jewish people. Two years after the declaration, Lord Balfour, the British foreign secretary said: ‘In Palestine we do not propose to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country. Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-old traditions, in present needs, in future hopes of far profounder import than the desires or prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit this ancient land’.

How carelessly imperial power decreed whose needs were profound and whose were not. How carelessly it vivisected ancient civilizations. Palestine and Kashmir are imperial Britain’s festering, blood-drenched gifts to the modern world. Both are fault-lines in the raging international conflicts of today.

In 1937 Winston Churchill said of the Palestinians: ‘I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance that a great wrong has been done to the red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place’.

Israel’s staunchest political and military ally is and always has been the U.S. government. The U.S. government has blocked, along with Israel, almost every UN resolution that sought a peaceful, equitable solution to the conflict. It has supported almost every war that Israel has fought. When Israel attacks Palestine, it is American missiles that smash through Palestinian homes. And every year Israel receives several billion dollars from the U.S..

What lessons should we draw from this tragic conflict? Is it really impossible for Jewish people who suffered so cruelly themselves - more cruelly perhaps than any other people in history - to understand the vulnerability and the yearning of those whom they have displaced? Does extreme suffering always kindle cruelty? What hope does this leave the human race with? What will happen to the Palestinian people in the event of a victory? When a nation without a state eventually proclaims a state, what kind of state will it be? What horrors will be perpetrated under its flag? Is it a separate state that we should be fighting for, or the rights the rights to a life of liberty and dignity for everyone regardless of their ethnicity or religion?

In another part of the Middle East, September 11 strikes a more recent chord. It was on September 11, 1990 that George W Bush Sr, then president of the U.S., made a speech to a joint session of Congress announcing his government’s decision to go to war against Iraq.

The U.S. government says that Saddam Hussein is a war criminal, a cruel military despot who has committed genocide against his own people. That’s a fairly accurate description of the man. In 1988 he razed hundreds of villages in northern Iraq and used chemical weapons and machine-guns to kill thousands of Kurdish people. Today we know that that same year the U.S. government provided him with $500m in subsidies to buy American farm products. The next year, after he had successfully completed his genocidal campaign, the U.S. government doubled its subsidy to $1bn. It also provided him with high quality germ seed for anthrax, as well as helicopters and dual-use material that could be used to manufacture chemical and biological weapons.

So it turns out that while Saddam Hussein was carrying out his worst atrocities, the U.S. and the UK governments were his close allies. Even today, the government of Turkey which has one of the most appalling human rights records in the world is one of the U.S. government’s closest allies.

The first Allied attack on Iraq took place in January 1991. The world watched the prime-time war as it was played out on TV. Tens of thousands of people were killed in a month of devastating bombing. What many do not know is that the war did not end then. The initial fury simmered down into the longest sustained air attack on a country since the Vietnam war. Over the last decade American and British forces have fired thousands of missiles and bombs on Iraq. Iraq’s fields and farmlands have been shelled with 300 tons of depleted uranium. In countries like Britain and America depleted uranium shells are test-fired into specially constructed concrete tunnels. The radioactive residue is washed off, sealed in cement and disposed off in the ocean (which is bad enough). In Iraq it’s aimed - deliberately, with malicious intent - at people’s food and water supply. In their bombing sorties, the Allies specifically targeted and destroyed water treatment plants, fully aware of the fact that they could not be repaired without foreign assistance. In southern Iraq there has been a four-fold increase in cancer among children. In the decade of economic sanctions that followed the war, Iraqi civilians have been denied food, medicine, hospital equipment, ambulances, clean water - the basic essentials.

About half a million Iraqi children have died as a result of the sanctions. Of them, Madeleine Albright, then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, famously said: ‘It’s a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.’ ‘Moral equivalence’ was the term that was used to denounce those who criticized the war on Afghanistan. Madeleine Albright cannot be accused of moral equivalence. What she said was just straightforward algebra.

Now, almost 12 years on, President George Bush Jr has ratcheted up the rhetoric once again. He’s proposing an all-out war whose goal is nothing short of a regime change. The New York Times says that the Bush administration is ‘following a meticulously planned strategy to persuade the public, the Congress and the allies of the need to confront the threat of Saddam Hussein’.

Weapons inspectors have conflicting reports about the status of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and many have said clearly that its arsenal has been dismantled and that it does not have the capacity to build one. However, there is no confusion over the extent and range of America’s arsenal of nuclear and chemical weapons. Would the U.S. government welcome weapons inspectors? Would the UK? Or Israel?
Recently the U.S. played an important part in forcing India and Pakistan back from the brink of war. Is it so hard for it to take its own advice? Who is guilty of feckless moralizing? Of preaching peace while it wages war? The U.S., which George Bush has called ‘the most peaceful nation on earth’, has been at war with one country or another every year for the last 50 years.

After September 11, 2001 and the War Against Terror, the hidden hand and fist have had their cover blown, and we have a clear view now of America’s other weapon - the free market - bearing down on the developing world, with a clenched unsmiling smile. The task that never ends is America’s perfect war, the perfect vehicle for the endless expansion of American imperialism. In Urdu, the word for profit is fayda. Al-qaida means the word, the word of God, the law. So, in India some of us call the War Against Terror, Al-qaida vs Al-fayda - the word vs the profit (no pun intended).

For the moment it looks as though Al-fayda will carry the day. But then you never know...

In the last 10 years of unbridled corporate globalization, the world’s total income has increased by an average of 2.5% a year. And yet the numbers of the poor in the world has increased by 100 million. Of the top hundred biggest economies, 51 are corporations, not countries. The top 1% of the world has the same combined income as the bottom 57% and the disparity is growing. Now, under the spreading canopy of the War Against Terror, this process is being hustled along. The men in suits are in an unseemly hurry. While bombs rain down on us, and cruise missiles skid across the skies, while nuclear weapons are stockpiled to make the world a safer place, contracts are being signed, patents are being registered, oil pipelines are being laid, natural resources are being plundered, water is being privatized and democracies are being undermined.

This is an abridged version of an article that originally appeared in the London Guardian Sept. 30. To read the full version, click here.

Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy’s latest book
‘Power Politics’ is published by South End Press

Auto Review: 2002 Miata SE Roadster
Little, but Big in Spirit
By Al Auger

Small imported sports cars were an almost an endangered species until the pert, feisty Mazda Miata stormed the market, writes Al Auger. The new model continues to charm, he adds.

By the year 1989 the small imported sports car had virtually become an endangered species. MG’s, Triumphs, Austin-Healeys, Sprites, Fiat Spiders, all the exotic marques that had become such a phenomenon after WWII were gone. Even many of the Jurassic Park American convertibles had been sent to some automotive perdition. But, that was also the year fearless Mazda of Wankel notoriety once took again the automotive world by surprise and introduced the 1990 Miata sports car.

This little machine was a direct line from those well-loved badges that had been so unceremoniously dispatched. Little, but big in spirit. The 2002 version continues in the same vein, carefully exploited evolutionary changes in the mechanics and design but even after 12 years, it still carries the same easily recognized exterior. Under the bonnet (some of us still think in sportscarspeak) is the basic twin-cam, multi-valve, fuel-injected, 1.8-liter, in-line 4-cylinder power plant. Rear-wheel drive for the straight-ahead driving experience and, just to keep up with the 21st century, a lovely 6-speed manual shifter.

The Miata is a pure driver’s machine, powerful enough to move with enthusiasm, but its secret ingredient is the driver. Each element plays against the other. Your connection to the Miata is your posterior in the seat, your hands on the wheel and the foot on the go-pedal. The command center is the tachometer ably assisted by the 6-speed shifter. What makes the new Miata such a joy is the 6-speed spreads the proper revolutions evenly across the torque band. Driving at around 40 mph is about 2500 rpm’s in 5th gear. Peak 142 horsepower reaches all the way to the 7,000 rpm redline. The gift is you can do so many combinations of speed, rpm’s and up-and-down shifts, the Miata reacts far beyond its anticipated output. It’s just a bucket of smiles over the miles.

The interior is both Spartan but nicely appointed with all the necessary instruments, comfort zone appliances and the added appeal of a sharp Nardi leather steering wheel. The seats hold securely and are extremely comfortable as well. Feet and pedal space is a bit narrow for those with a Shaq-size foot. The soft top is a one-hand operation that can be lowered and raised without leaving the cabin. The requisite industry look is well done with aluminum-like appointments and drilled pedals and dead-pedal.

Outside, the powers-that-be at Mazda had gussied the bright sparkly yellow sheet metal with the optional rear spoiler ($295) and the Appearance Package 1 ($800) consisting of an aggressive front air dam and large side sills and rear mudguards. When I drove up next to a starker mid-90’s model I could see how dramatic the cosmetic additions made the 2002 Miata look. Four really good-looking alloy 15-inch wheels helped all this.

Rear wheel drive, easy-breathing, high revving engine, 4-wheel double-wishbone independent suspension, highly flexible 6-speed shifter and fearless trajectory in the snakiest of roads make the new Miata a proud remembrance of those ghosts that still haunt my memory bank. Small, seemingly underpowered toys that were all heart with ballet-like grace that humbled many a bigger adversary.

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.

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Talk Too Much
Cell Phone Giveaway
— By Vishwesh Ranganathan

A cell phone where you can call as much as you like? Sounds unbelievable, you may say, but it ain’t so, says Vishwesh Ranganathan.

MetroPCS has a plan that sounds too good to be true: unlimited calling for $35 a month. But it is. Welcome to the first “all you can eat” plan for cell phones ever.

The Dallas-based company is offering a great deal for those who can live with its restrictions — unlimited calling only applies in the company’s Northern California territory. Long-distance calls outside Northern California cost 5 cents a minute.

Here’s how it works:

You buy a Sony Ericsson phone for $149 (no substitutes, as restaurants often say); the purchase price includes the first month of service and 10 minutes of long distance. You then pay $35 in advance each month, either by cash or credit card, to keep the service going.

For an extra $3 a month, you can get voice mail, Caller ID and call waiting. Throw in another five bucks and you get unlimited text messaging to other MetroPCS customers.

You can talk as much as you want, any time of day, anywhere in the MetroPCS territory across Northern California, to any number in 10 Northern California area codes — 209, 408, 415, 510, 530, 650, 707, 831, 916 and 925. Calls elsewhere in the U.S. cost 5 cents a minute. Long-distance service must be purchased in advance in increments of $10, $20 or $30.

The one big weakness in the MetroPCS approach is “roaming,” which means using the phone outside of the MetroPCS network. Roaming costs $1 to $2 a minute and requires a credit card, and the credit-card number must be entered into the phone each time you want to make a call.

But there are many people who will love MetroPCS. High-school students, who rarely need to call long-distance, could easily spend hours a day on the phone. Oops, somehow it doesn’t seem like such a great idea after all. (Just kidding.)

Vishwesh Ranganathan is a freelance writer
based in Livermore, Calif.

Immigrant Children
Family-Sponsored Provision
By Raja Ahluwalia

The Child Status Protection Act ensures parents who petition for their growing children are not disappointment due to the long wait in getting a family-sponsored visa, writes Raja Ahluwalia.

Before the Child Status Protection Act was passed, many legal immigrants faced a Catch-22 situation, only it wasn’t even remotely funny. Even when parents petitioned for an immigrant visa for their children before the cut-off limit of 21-year age, the long wait for a family-sponsored visa ensured that for many, by the time their priority date became current it was too late.

Well, the good news is that this is not the case anymore. Under the Child Status Protection Act, when a legal permanent resident petitions for a child under the 2A preference category, spouse and minor children of legal permanent residents, the child’s age is calculated as his or her age on the date when the 2A visa number becomes available minus the time the child’s petition was pending. For the child’s age to be calculated in this way, the child must try to obtain LPR status within one year from the date the visa number becomes available under the 2A category.

Example: Hari, an LPR, petitions for his twenty-year-old daughter Laxmi under the 2A preference category in 1992. The petition pends for six years until the priority date becomes current in 1998 and an immigrant visa becomes available for her. Under the old law, she would have aged out and fall under the 2B preference category when she turned 21. Under the new law, the Child Status Protection Act, she remains in the 2A preference category. The amount of time her petition was pending (6 years) is subtracted from her age (26) at the time that her visa number came up. Thus, her age is frozen at 20 (as long as she applies for permanent residence within one year of her visa number coming up).

The chart below illustrates how to calculate the age of the example shown above:

Priority Date: 1/1/1992

DOB: 1972

Date Current: 1998

Age when current: 26

Years Pending: 6

Age for 2A: 20

Qualify: Yes

Raja Ahluwalia is an immigration
attorney based in San Francisco, Calif.

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A Poem on 9-11

It was the day our World Trade Towers fell down
And our brave people said prayers as they hit the ground
Americans held each other hand in hand
We all thought what has happened to our land
Innocent men were about to lose their life
They wondered what would happen to their children and wife
All different religions became just one
Everyone thought why did those people think destroying was fun
Americans became stronger, and even more true
Everyone sang together “Red, White, and Blue!”
Together we pray for the people we have lost
For it is the way we repay our cost

By Anooshka Prasad. The 10-year-old elementary school student read this poem in the Silver Oak School assembly and has sent a copy to President George W. Bush.

Anooshka T. Prasad lives in San Jose, Calif.

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Photo Essay:
Diwali at Great America
– By Subhash Bagga



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SiliconAndhra’s
Andhra Cultural Festival 2002
– By Shanti Ayyagari

Over 2,000 people attended the day-long Andhra Cultural Festival 2002 in Cupertino, Calif., says Shanti Ayyagari.

SiliconAndhra was born a year ago to promote Telugu culture, spirit and tradition in the Silicon Valley. In the heart of Silicon Valley Oct. 5th, 2002, at the prestigious Flint Center in Cupertino, Calif., SiliconAndhra kicked off the Andhra cultural festival at 1:00 sharp with 2,000 people in attendance. The event began with Vedic chants and “Vande Maataram.” Cupertino Mayor Richard Lowenthal, Telugu film celebrity Dharmavarapu Subrahmanyam, SiliconAndhra president Anand Kuchibhotla, Andhra Cultural Festival 2002 Chairman Dilip Kondipatri and others were also on stage.

A daylong celebration included children dancing to an Adavi Thalli song, Hari Katha and a comedy, “Maa Aayanaki” a traditional Andhra bhojanam (meal) prepared by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Banjara Indian Cuisine, was served.

Sunnyvale Mayor Fred Fowler opened the post-lunch session. Narsing Rao and Srinivas of the Nruthyanjali academy in Hyderabad, who spent over a month to train children and adults for dance performances, were felicitated.

In the evening, after Kondipatri offered prayers to Ammavaru (the goddess of power). Local artists presented the Telugu classic “Kanya Shulkam,” which was directed by Kondapatri.

The curtains came down with a vote of thanks by Ravi Nyalakonda.

The Andhra Cultural Festival 2002 is a testimony to the dedicated and tireless efforts of the scores of volunteers in the Bay Area. Despite limited resources, SiliconAndhra left no stone unturned to make the festival a memorable day.

SiliconAndhra thanks sponsor Western Union and the Bay Area Telugu-speaking residents for their faith, support and patronage.

Shanti Ayyagari is a SiliconAndhra volunteer.

Elephants in Berkeley

The Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California at Berkeley began a three-month exhibit on the elephant Oct. 5. The exhibit runs through Jan. 12.

“Take a tour of 50 million years of elephant history,” the Hall of Science Web site exhorts. “This exhibit uses interactive displays, touch-and-feel specimens, video and audio stations as well as mounted skeletons and full- size reconstructions.

“Focusing on the fossil record as well as modern elephants, the exhibit addresses issues such as conservation, habitat loss, mythology, elephant relatives, and dwarf and pygmy elephant populations. The exhibit features many ‘first-time-on-tour’ casts of rare and outstanding specimens.”

Asia is home to approximately 40,000 elephants. The elephant is a significant cultural and religious symbol for the people of India and Thailand, as well as Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.

The “Celebration of the Asian Elephant” festivities Oct. 12 included the creation or a special elephant-themed Rangoli by instructors who assisted visitors in creating “floor art.”

Readers can find more information by visiting this Web site: http://lawrencehallofscience.org/exhibitsz/elephants.html

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Bollywood

Guftugu

Iffy IFFI

It’s 50 years since India has been independent. Its film industry is one of the largest in the world. That should have added up to one hell of a film festival, but thanks to India’s bureaucratic talent of making a hash of organizing, the International Film Festival of India has again critics carping.

Lack of long-term planning and poor networking means the films that ultimately get shown are largely mediocre.

This year the 33th film festival was held in Delhi, which is like the bureaucracy’s kiss of death. Oh sure, the desi art crowd honchos were there in full force, but if a festival is more about films then the folks who make them, it must be said the pickings were slim this year.

Exactly what is the criteria for selection? Now that is a question that even god cannot answer. As for us lesser mortals who would like to see what is new and exciting around the world, well, perish the thought.

While critics carp, organizers defiantly claim success, or in a rare moment of (partial) candor, spew out a laundry list of alibis. Where are the funds, they ask.

That may be the only good thing about IFFI, if it’s true. At least it’s a less expensive mess.

Not a Preity Story

Remember Aamir Khan, the Mr. Perfect of Bollywood? His name had been a byword for professionalism, sobriety and probity. Well, all that’s history now.

With the news that his marriage is in the rocks and the explosive rumor that Aamir’s affair with Preity Zinta may well end in marriage, his life is beginning to look appallingly similar to cheesy’ desi soap.

Now stories are beginning to surface about philandering, too. Oh dear, dear. This from the perfect gentleman whose sternly proper public persona stood in such stark contrast with the torrid affairs and ever-changing partners that is commonplace among the filmi glitterati. It’s almost like a law of physics, one would have to conclude. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, Bollywood abhors probity. Bye, bye, Mr. Perfect.

Big B Birthday

Can you believe it? This guy has just turned 60, and he still can make women swoon! Amitabh Bachchan, the angry young man of yesteryear, was neither angry, nor young on his birthday at a celebratory bash where his eyes filled with tears when he thanked his family, friends and fans.

“It is difficult to hold back tears in moments like these... It is difficult to explain what all my fans mean to me and why they shower me with such love. But I continue to reciprocate to their love and affection every time I come before the camera,” he said. “At 60 there are challenges to be faced. It is important for an artist to keep moving, to keep creating... and I want to continue working.”

It was not all mushy and tearful though. His wife Jaya presented him a coffee table book that she had written on him and he was asked how he felt on becoming a senior citizen. “It is wonderful to turn 60 and have your wife write a book on you,” he quipped.

Hurt Manisha

This is a real bit of bad news. Poor Manisha is hurt. And we don’t mean her feelings here. She was physically injured on the sets of Paisa Vasool.

After her heart, now it’s her body that’s been mauled, poor star. It has hardly been long since she was all over town ranting against indecent exposure in Ek Chhotisi Love Story, and now this.

Here’s what happened. On the sets in Sakinaka, in suburban Mumbai, she was supposed to be on a horse cart for a shot. But the cart toppled over, injuring poor Manisha, who was whisked off to Lilavati Hospital. She had fractured a bone in her back, and was advised bed rest for at least two weeks.

First a fractured ego, then a fractured heart (she had roped in Bal Thackeray and Shiv Sena to get her way, all to no avail, to nail Chhotisi…director Shashilal Nair) and now a fractured sacral bone. Now
that’s a whole lot of wounds to heal.

Until Further Notice

The engagement ceremony of Abhishek Bachchan and Karisma Kapoor has been postponed indefinitely.

According to family sources, Kareena is in New Zealand shooting for Rajshri’s Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon and she was unlikely to make it to the ceremony. The new date for the ceremony will be announced later.

Strange are the social morales of Bollywood. Why plan an engagement with so much hullabaloo and then postpone it indefinitely? It’s that “indefinite” bit that’s the most concerning.

Whatever.

Stork Visits

Crowning professional success is now being matched with happy news at home for evergreen star Madhuri Dixit, who stole the thunder from Aishwarya Rai in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s expensive extravaganza Devdas.

Dixit is set to become a mom, a little bird tells us.

Now, now no snickers please. Yes, the last time rumor had it she was pregnant, it was just a few months after her marriage, and yes, it turned out to be untrue.

But this time around Madhuri herself has confirmed the news. With her reality TV show of matched marriages sinking in audience ratings, maybe it’s time for her to raise a kid.

Fasting Rajni

In Tamil Nadu, the drama is happening off the screen. On Oct. 13 Rajnikant sat on a nine-hour fast in Chennai demanding Cauvery waters from Karnataka.

Clad in a white kurta and pyjama, the actor, who began the fast at 8 a.m., was joined in the fast by actors Vijaykumar, Abbas, music director Ganesh and others. Former union minister P. Chidambaram inaugurated the fast by presenting a shawl and garlanding the actor.

Speaking to reporters at his residence before his departure to the fast site at Chepauk in front the state guesthouse, Rajnikant said he was undertaking the fast demanding Cauvery waters as directed by the Supreme Court.

This is a parallel show of protest by the actor. The previous day Tamil film industry organized a huge rally and a public meeting in Neyveli on the same issue.

The water feud between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has reached boiling point with little sign of any early resolution
.

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Hindi Film Review:
Hitting the Right Note


SUR

Director: Tanuja Chandra
Music: M.M. Kreem
Starring: Lucky Ali, Gauri Karnik, Simone Singh, Achint Kaur, Divya Dutta, Ehasan Khan, Harsh Vasisht

For not a few old-timers, this film will seem like déjà vu all over again, as the inimitable Yogi Berra had once said. Flashback of Amitabh Bachchan’s powerful performance as the ego-driven crooner who cannot handle the talent of his lover and protégé, casts a long shadow on Tanuja Chandra’s excellent film. It is not only to the credit of the director, but it says volumes about singer Lucky Ali that Big B’s performance notwithstanding, Sur holds its own quite well when compared to Bachchan’s Abhimaan, and Lucky Ali brings such a captivating intensity and passion in his sensitive portrayal of a man torn between his pride, vulnerability and love for a protégé who appears to be a threat to his career, that he pretty much carries the film on his shoulder.

Here’s how the story goes: Vikramaditya Singh (Lucky Ali) is a middle aged singer who has name and fame, but as a music teacher is still searching for an heir, musically speaking, who will carry his name. In a happenstance encounter he runs into Tina Maria (Gauri Karnik) a Goan choir singer who has magic in her voice. Here at last, muses Singh, I have found my heir.

As the Greeks say, sometimes the gods punish us by giving what we ask for. After Singh takes the young Maria under his wing, while he does get very attached to her emotionally, he begins to fear her talent and his insecurity and jealousy comes to the surface. He undermines Maria, and destroys her confidence. A devastated Maria leaves the school, and enrolls in a school to become a nun.

Singh now realizes his own appalling behavior, and goes out in search of Maria. When he finds him, a deeply penitent Singh beseeches her to return and go back to singing.

Maria is adamant at first. She considers her attempts to become a singer a failure fraught with trauma, and she is not willing to risk heartbreak again. But Singh is persistent.

He requests her, at the very least, to join him in a live concert. For those who may want to see the film, the rest of the story shall remain unmentioned, because this is a film you should definitely see.

It’s a pleasure to see Tanuja Chandra grow into a director of impressive skill and sensitivity, and both Lucky Ali and Gauri Karnik give powerhouse performances that makes the film soar.

In refreshing contrast with the maudlin sentiments of overripe romances so common in Bollywood films, the romantic undertone in the teacher-student relationship between Singh and Maria is understated, subtle and nuanced.

Maybe that’s what proved to be this superbly made film’s undoing in the box office. For an audience whose brains have been addled with human emotions that hit you in the face, be it love, hate, filial piety, a film which presents delicately nuanced, richly textured relationships are apt to appear too lightweight.

Aptly enough in a film that is called Sur, the film has superb music by M.M. Kreem.

Anyway, don’t let the box office takings fool you. To be sure, the film has its flaws, but if you see this film, you don’t only reward yourself with a few hours of intelligent entertainment (now when was the last time you could say that about a Bollywood film?) you will be also be giving a vote of confidence for good quality cinema.

Rating: *** 1/2 (Near Superior)

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Tamil Film Review:
Engaging Family Entertainer


Five Star

Director: Susi Ganeshan
Cast: Prasanna, Kaniha, Krishna, Sandhya, Mangai, Vijayan, Kartik

Some young promising talent, a story centered round youths and their aspirations, the fulfillment of some, the disillusionment of others and a sincere attempt to provide entertainment sans vulgarity and double entendres, makes Five Star a clean, fairly engaging family entertainer. The narration does lag a little at places, you feel the director is stalling for time, and there are a couple of attempts to make compromises — like including an unwanted fight scene and a dream song. But in the final analysis, journalist-turned-director Susi Ganeshan’s apprenticeship with Mani Ratnam seems to have stood him in good stead. The director, in his first release for his mentor’s banner, shows a lot of promise, and he has tried to infuse the narration with freshness and interesting little touches.

The story centers round five youths — three guys and two girls — who are bosom buddies in college and are determined to keep their friendship going throughout their lives. In the beginning all the five go to work in the same firm. The first to break away is Elango. Forcibly married to his rustic cousin Eashwari by his adamant father, even while in college, Elango does the vanishing act soon after getting his job. Six years pass and Prabhu, one of the group, meets a girl in a train and falls for her charm, only to realize later that she is Eashwari who is still hopefully waiting for her husband to return. Eashwari now becomes a part of the group. Prabhu’s attempt to trace Elango (a not-entirely-fortuitous chance for the director to shoot abroad), and the group’s shocking discovery forms the rest of the story.

Giving the director a supporting hand are the music director duo of Parsuram-Radha with their fusion of Western and classical Indian tunes. The eye-catching cinematography of Ravi Varman gives the pastoral ambience a fetching beauty.

Kaniha (a Ms. Chennai runner up) plays the role of the docile village belle who soon learns to assert herself after her husband’s disappearance, and later comes to terms with her fate. She is impressive. Debutants Prasanna, the vivacious Sandhya and Mangai (Sandhya is a former Ms. Chennai), and the good looking Kartik are at ease before the camera. Unfortunately, their characters lack much individuality as they perform more as a group, and hence don’t get much of a chance to test their skills of histrionics. Standing out is Krishna as Elango, who expresses his emotions like an experienced player, getting varied scenes to establish his credentials as an actor to watch out for.

— Malini Mannath
In association with Chennai Online

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Recipe: Khandvi
Gujarati Snack
By Seema Gupta

From the land of raas garba comes this delicious Gujarati snack. Seema Gupta has the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chana flour
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 tsp chopped cilantro
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped

Method

Add salt to chana flour. Mix thoroughly with buttermilk. Put a non-stick pan on a stove in medium heat. Pour batter in a pan and stir well for 15 minutes. Take a flat steel tray, lightly grease it with oil. Immediately pour the batter and spread it to º inch thickness. Wait till it cools. Cut it in 2” strips. Roll each strip.

Pour 1 tbsp oil on frying pan on high heat. Add mustard seeds, sugar, salt and chopped green chillies. Lower the heat after the chillies cook. Add a cup of water and bring the water to boil. Switch off heat. Pour this on the rolls. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot.

Seema Gupta is a homemaker
based in Sunnyvale, Calif.

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October-November Horoscope

ARIES (March 21 to April 20): You have a lot of issues to tackle. Do it in your usual way, do not step out of line. Low energy level may not bring much progress. Keep calm. This may not be the best time for romance.

TAURUS (April 21 to May 20): Relationships will improve. You will also be open to suggestions. There may be ill feelings that may surface later . Be careful in your dealings. You may not be in complete control of your life, there will be other factors that will ultimately rule.

GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): You will be happy. There is ample scope for romance, fun and games. Work pressure will mount, be prepared. Stick to your old friends. Do not demand too much, just flow with the tide. Watch your health, do not take any chances.

Cancer (June 22-July 22):
Life will be easier. Be careful if you are in anyway connected with other people's money. Social activities will keep you busy. You will enjoy quality time with children. Love and romance will be on the casual side. You will be healthy and energetic.

Leo (July 23-August 22): Mental faculties work full steam ahead. You will be concerned about buying and selling and travel plans as well. Accept the realities of your life. Keep your mental balance. There may be a drain on your resources. Try to cool down and let the situation speak for itself.

Virgo (August 23-September 22): You will be conservative. If you have a partner be on your guard. You might travel this month. Children will need proper attention. You will be full of energy but you may also suffer due to impulsive actions. Your health will be in excellent shape. You will have a lot of activities.

Libra (September 23-October 22): You will be optimistic. You will make changes in life style. Money matters may irritate you. You may feel frustrated as your actions may not give the desired result. You will achieve much more if you work in the background. Do not try to suppress any problem. Work things out patiently.

Scorpio (October 23-November 21): You intuitions will be good. Opponents will fail. The opposite sex may find you irresistible. You will make new friends. Do not take advice blindly. Do not get into any relationships, it will make matters worse.

Sagittarius (November 22-December 21): You will redefine your goals. Do not depend on your friends for any important matter. Cash in on your new-found confidence. Do not leave any task unattended. Be patient in your personal relationships. Watch your anger or you will repent the damage.

Capricorn (December 22-January 19): Focus on your career or profession. Hard work will be noticed by superiors. Work load will rise, comply with a smile and it will bring you positive results. Good news may be coming from far away places. If you are single you may find a suitable partner. Watch out for future difficulties at work.

Aquarius (January 20-February 18): You will be busy with matters related to insurance, studies or people connected with far away land. You may have a lot of work. It may not be a good idea to leave anything to chance. Keep your calm and do not be in a hurry.

Pisces (February 19-March 20): Take care of your children. Your health will be in good form and you will be able to address work related matters well. Deal with everyone tactfully. Accidents or minor sprains may occur, be careful.

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© Copyright 2006 U&I Marketing, Inc. • Siliconeer • All Rights Reserved • For Comments and Questions: info@siliconeer.com