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NEWS DIARY

Granny, 105: Sarson Da Saag Secret of Longevity | Benazir Mourned by 150,000 on Death Anniversary | Hum Do, Hamare Do(g) | Bangla Surfer | 100-floor Tower | Tourists Flock | Lanka Victory | Gaza Indians Safe | Indians in British Jails | Attackers Surrender

Granny, 105: Sarson Da Saag Secret of Longevity

(Right): Sarson da saag (mustard greens).

An appetite for sarson da saag at least once a week is the secret of long life for Leicester-based Nami Kaur, who celebrated her 105th birthday recently.

Kaur, who was in her 60s when she arrived in the U.K. from India in 1967, has received a birthday card from Queen Elizabeth.

Parneet Kaur, her grand-daughter-in-law, told the local media: “She swears by a cup of tea first thing in the morning and a cup of tea with toast before she goes to bed”.

“She has a spinach curry (saag) at least once a week. It's her favorite dish and she always asks for it. She used to make it for everyone. She has a very good diet and a routine,” she said.

Kaur arrived in the U.K. with her youngest son, Surjit Singh. They lived in Coventry, before moving to Newcastle, and settled in Leicester in 2001. She helped out in her son's shop in Newcastle.

She has three children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

“Looking after all her grandchildren kept her fit and active. Even at her age, she'll ask me if she can make me a cup of tea — she's fantastic,” Parneet said.

Her grandson, Pardip Shoker, said: “At family gatherings she is the centre of attention, whether it be for her special style of humor or mesmerizing stories.

“We all feel extremely privileged and fortunate to have been blessed with our gran's love, kindness, care and advice for all these years. The wealth of knowledge she has passed on to us has been invaluable.

“When I think about the changes and experiences that Nami has witnessed over the past 105 years, it amazes me,” Shoker said. 

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Benazir Mourned by 150,000 on Death Anniversary


Supporters pray around the grave of slain former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Wailing and beating their chests, tens of thousands of people paid homage to Benazir Bhutto recently on the one-year anniversary of her assassination — an event that dashed U.S. hopes the moderate Muslim politician would regain power and galvanize the campaign against al-Qaida.

The commemoration came amid heightened tensions with India, though Pakistan's leaders used the occasion to call for peace.

“We don't want to fight, we don't want to have war, we don't want to have aggression with our neighbors,” Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a televised speech.

Bhutto's widow, President Asif Ali Zardari, in a speech honoring his wife, insisted Pakistan was battling the “cancer” of terrorism.

“We ourselves have accepted that we have a cancer. Yes we will cure it,” said Zardari. “They (terrorists) are forcing their agenda on us.”

Zardari took over the party after Bhutto's death and was elected president in September, vowing to maintain her legacy and return the country to democracy after almost ten years of military dictatorship.

“We will take Pakistan forward following the path of our martyr Benazir Bhutto,” Zardari told a gathering of party activists and her family close to the mausoleum.

Many of Bhutto's mourners had walked for hundreds of miles (kilometers) in the bitter Pakistani winter to her family mausoleum, where they jostled for a chance to kiss her grave or toss rose petals.

“We have an unconditional attachment and love for Benazir,” said Nazir Ali, a 35-year-old donkey cart driver who had hiked for 15 days. “I am tired, but will keep trying to get into the mausoleum to have a glimpse of her tomb.”

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Hum Do, Hamare Do(g)

The Chandigarh Municipal Corporation plans to allow only two pet dogs per family, saying it is fed up with the growing number of canine bites and quarrels between neighbors over unruly pets, reports the Kolkata Telegraph.

Any family that has more than two dogs must shell out a tax of Rs 1,000 a year. Nobody will be allowed to keep more than three.

The civic body also proposes to book dog owners if their pets defecate in public places or damage anyone’s property, or enter any public area or place of sight- seeing. “No dog” zones are being identified across the city.

“The idea is to ensure that dog owners know how to make their pets behave. The city is full of ferocious dogs that can kill humans,” a corporation official said.

Dogs can be taken out only on a leash, and those walking them must carry a stick. Owners must also register their dogs with the corporation by paying a one-time fee of Rs 500. A licensed dog will be issued a metal badge that it must wear on its collar.

A survey by the administration in 2003 had put the city’s canine population at 13,950, including 5,408 stray dogs. “Bites by pet dogs are increasing by the day. Over 4,000 cases of dog bites are reported every year,” the civic official added.

Since it is the rich who own multiple dogs, they will have no problem with the Rs 1,000 tax for the third dog. But they will be forced to send their fourth and fifth away to relatives, or their farms in Haryana or Punjab.

But what happens when pet dogs have puppies? The civic body seems not to have worked that problem out yet. An official said it was usual in Chandigarh to give puppies away to relatives or friends.

But what if the friends already have dogs of their own?

“Well, they can send their dogs away to their farms,” the official said. “Anyway, puppies will be allowed to stay with the owners for a certain period that will be worked out. The idea is to end the nuisance created once the dogs are on the streets unattended.”

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Bangla Surfer

(Right): Zafar Alam, Bangladesh’s first surfer.

Surfing is normally associated with places like Hawaii, California and Australia's Bondi Beach, but the sport has now even reached as far as the coast of Bangladesh, reports the BBC.

Cox's Bazaar, in the country's remote south-east, boasts of having, at 78 miles, the world's longest unbroken sandy beach.

According to the man who claims to be Bangladesh's first surfer, Zafar Alam, it also has great surf. “When I'm riding the waves it feels like I'm on a speedboat and I just love that feeling,” he says.

Before Zafar, the only people who surfed here were the occasional, intrepid foreign tourists. Ten years ago he was able to persuade one of them, an Australian man, to leave him his board.

“In those days I didn't know how to stand up on the board, and it was very difficult because I didn't have a leash,” he said. A leash is the string that attaches the board to the surfer's ankle and prevents it from being dragged away by the waves and the tide.

“I then saw people surfing on the television so I knew what to do and the next morning I tried to stand on the board for the first time.”

His family was terrified because they had never seen anything like this before. Many fishermen and Bangladeshi tourists drown here every year.

“My mum sometimes cries. She thinks I will die in the ocean. But I tell her it is ok, that I love surfing.”

In fact, Zafar used his new skills to save an astonishing number of lives — he says he has dragged 70 drowning people out of the water.

“Most Bangladeshis don't know how to swim and the currents and the waves here can be dangerous. All the time I have to rescue them.”

In 2001, Zafar was spotted by Tom Bauer, a surfer from Honolulu, Hawaii, who runs Surfing the Nations, a charity “that seeks to give communities... a message of love and hope through the sport of surfing and acts of selfless service.”

He believes that “surfing can be used as a powerful tool to bring about positive change.”

In Bangladesh that has meant enough equipment for Zafar to set up the country's first surf club, and an annual surf tournament. He now coaches about 70 young men and women.

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100-floor Tower

Bangalore will soon be home to India’s tallest tower, reports the Economic Times. The Karnataka government proposes to construct a 100-storeyed trade centre on the lines of New York’s World Trade Center. Proposed locations are either the Race Course or the Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Ltd land at Rajajinagar.

Promoted by Large and Medium Industries Minister Murugesh R. Nirani, an industrialist himself, the project is envisaged as a public-private partnership. “Nearly 10 investors have evinced interest in partnering with the government to build this skyscraper,” Nirani said.

Chief Minister B.S  Yeddyurappa is said to have given consent to the idea.

Nirani said financials of this venture have not been worked out, especially revenue-sharing with the private developer. “Very soon, an expert agency will be involved to give a feasibility report,’’ Nirani said. Project work is expected to commence by March. The tower will offer office space, observation decks, restaurants, clubs, public parks, jogging tracks, multi-level shopping and parking areas.

According to the plan, a small portion — less than six acres — of the 64-acre Race Course would be used for the tower. Race Course is being considered for two reasons: it’s in heart of the city and because Bangalore Turf Club has been asked to shift to the outskirts by December 2009.

Nirani said, “Even if this skyscraper takes less than six acres, rest of the Race Course area will be reserved for lung space.’’

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Tourists Flock

(Right): Tourists in Kathmandu's Durbar Square.

Two years after the end of Nepal's brutal civil war, more tourists than ever visited the Himalayan country in 2008, officials said Jan. 2.

Tourism brings vital foreign currency into the young republic governed by former rebel Maoists who won elections last April with pledges to lift Nepal out of dire poverty.

“With nearly 550,000 tourists in 2008, arrivals have increased by just over four percent compared to the previous year,” said Aditya Baral, Nepal Tourism Board spokesman, adding that 2007 set the previous record for the highest number of tourist arrivals.

Officials had been expecting higher numbers, but the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and recent unrest that shut down Thailand's main international airport have taken their toll on arrivals, the spokesman said.

Indians account for one quarter of Nepal's tourists, and have been arriving in lower numbers since the attacks, Baral said.

Bangkok is a major gateway to Nepal for tourists from Australia and Southeast Asia, and the number of arrivals declined due to the political disturbances there,” the spokesman said.

The former rebel Maoists who now govern Nepal have made tourism central to their economic reforms.

Tourism provides jobs for around 300,000 people and contributes around four percent of GDP. The government has announced that by 2011 it plans to attract one million tourists annually.

The effects of the global financial crisis on Nepal's tourism have yet to bite, the tourism spokesman said, but he expressed concerns that the downturn will hit next year's arrivals.

“The impact of the financial crisis will be seen in Nepal in the next three to four months as belt-tightening Westerners economies on their 2009 holidays due to the ongoing financial crisis,” said Baral.

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Lanka Victory

(Right): Sri Lankan army soldiers walk through a lagoon in recently recaptured Tamil Tiger rebel territory in Paranthan.

Sri Lanka's president said its troops captured the separatist Tamil Tigers' headquarters town of Kilinochchi, but within an hour of the announcement a suspected suicide bomber killed at least two people in the capital.

Troops fought their way into the Tiger stronghold of Kilinochchi deep in the north, in one of the biggest blows for the rebels in years. Details of casualties from the fighting were not immediately available.

“It was the constant dream of all Sri Lankans, whether Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, who are opposed to separatism, racism, and terrorism, and have always, sought peace, freedom and democracy. Today our heroic troops have made that dream a reality,” President Mahinda Rajapaksa said in a nationally televised address.

“A short while ago, our brave and heroic troops have fully captured Kilinochchi that was considered the main bastion of the LTTE.”

Soon afterwards, a suspected suicide attacker riding a motorcycle struck near the headquarters of the Sri Lankan Air Force, a military official said.

“At least two people were killed from the suicide attack near the Air Force headquarters,” a spokesman at the Media center for national security said, asking not to be named. Hospital officials said 30 people were admitted with blast injuries.

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Gaza Indians Safe

Indians in Gaza are safe and are taking precautions amid a massive Israeli military operation today that left 155 dead and more than 200 wounded. “Despite signal disruptions I kept on trying and have managed to talk to all the Indians living in Gaza. They are all safe and confined to their houses”, an Indian woman, Alka Toman, married to a Palestinian and living in the coastal strip for more than ten years told PTI.

There are about a dozen Indians living in Gaza, some of them married to Palestinians and others working at a centre affiliated to Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity.

All of them hold Indian passports and have often complained of problems going out of Gaza due to the restrictions imposed on Hamas ruled territory.

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Indians in British Jails

The number of Indians jailed in Britain has risen by 35 percent since September 2005 with about 350 presently serving their terms in various prisons across the country, the Ministry of Justice has said.

Indian prisoners in British jails numbered 350 in September this year, compared with 259 in September 2005, the ministry informed Members of Parliament in a written reply.

The number of foreign national prisoners has increased to 11,168 by September this year — an increase of 11 percent — from 10,265 foreign nationals in February 2006. The number of Pakistani nationals was 406.

Vietnam and Poland alone account for more than half of this increase. The number of prisoners from Vietnam has risen by 286 per cent, to 460 prisoners while the number from Poland by 192 per cent, to 452 prisoners.

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Attackers Surrender

With Nepal's ruling Maoists coming under growing pressure to act against cadres targeting journalists, two leaders of the party-backed trade union who allegedly led an attack on a private media house here last week surrendered to the authorities Dec. 26.

Ramesh Babu Panta, president of All Nepal Hotel and Workers Association and Ramesh K.C., vice-president of All Nepal Communication and Press Workers' Association, turned themselves in before the Lalitpur District Administration Office, police said.

The duo was named in a complaint filed Dec. 25 by the Himal Media group, which came under attack by a group of 40 Maoist cadres earlier.

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Click here to read in the CURRENT ISSUE in PDF format

COVER STORY
Afghan Treasures:
Asian Art Museum Exhibit

The Asian Art Museum is the only West Coast venue for an exhibit of Afghan artifacts. A Siliconeer report.


SUBCONTINENT
Lest We Forget:
A Bombay Diary

People of Bombay gathered in a remarkable public statement of solidarity with the victims of the terror attacks, writes Sapna Shahani.


SUBCONTINENT
Home: The New Workplace: Telecommuting in India
The global recession’s pressure on the bottom line has made working from home an attractive alternative for Indian IT companies, writes Priyanka Bhardwaj.



ENTERTAINMENT
IIFA Awards 2008
A Siliconeer Exclusive Photo Essay


OTHER STORIES
EDITORIAL: Hidden Afghan Treasures
NEWS DIARY: News Briefs
SUBCONTINENT: Bangladesh’s Historic Polls
POLITICS: House of Lords Debate on India
COMMUNITY: FOSA Vigil in SF
COMMUNITY: Celebrating Bangla Roots
TRIBUTE: Remembering I.K. Shukla
SUBCONTINENT: A Pox on All Politicians!
PHOTO ESSAY: 2008: Year in Review
AUTO REVIEW: 2009 Dodge Journey SXT
RECIPE: Szechuan String Beans
COMMUNITY: Recognition for Service: Dr. Bhupinder Bhandari
COMMUNITY: The Aligarh Spirit
BOLLYWOOD: Film: Slumdog Millionaire
BOLLYWOOD: Guftugu
TAMIL CINEMA: Abhiyum Naanum
COMMUNITY: News in Brief
INFOTECH INDIA: Tech Briefs
HOROSCOPE: 2009 Yearly Forecast

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