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Volume IV •
Issue 1

Publisher's Note:

Siliconeer is delighted lead this month’s issue with a story about a project of which it is a proud sponsor. The Digital Bangla Project, a $30,000 fundraising program, aims to make Bornosoft, a revolutionary state-of-the-art phonetic Bengali word-processing software, a free download by Feb. 21 this year. On this date in 1952, Bengali youths died in Dhaka in an agitation to establish Bengali as the state language of erstwhile Pakistan. This proved to be the genesis of a nationalist movement that culminated in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, guided by an enlightened, humanist and inclusive Bengali identity.

That spirit is again becoming evident in the Digital Bangla Project, which has garnered a small but growing list of donors which includes distinguished U.S. college professors from West Bengal and Bangladesh, Bangladeshis working in top U.S. investment banks, and U.S. raised Bengalis.

The software itself is no less exciting. BornoSoft is a phonetic software that uses an easy-to-learn transliteration system which can be mastered in an hour.

This issue also carries an article on the golden jubilee celebrations of the Indian Institute of Technology. This remarkable institution has given the world a dazzling array of researchers, academics and entrepreneurs.

The diverse talent of IIT has also spilled over to integrating technology with India’s grassroots needs, and Siliconeer has carried several cover stories on this. Just how diverse this talent can be is epitomized by another article in this month’s issue by Sandeep Pandey, a former IIT Kanpur faculty who writes about the continuing Ayodhya crisis.


Main Feature

Unleash Bengali!
The Digital Bangla Project
By Ashfaque Swapan

Civic-minded philanthropy and savvy business and technological know-how must combine to bring Bengali up to speed in the digital age, writes Ashfaque Swapan.

Only about 40 miles south of where I live lies Silicon Valley, the heartland of America’s digital revolution. The recent dot-com debacle may have robbed some of the sheen of its glamour, but the fact remains that information technology has most profoundly changed the way we live and work.

Among other things, Silicon Valley is also diverse. People from all parts of the world work here, and fortunately professional success transcends divisions of racial, ethnic and national origin. When you put together Bangladeshi and Indian Bengali engineers, the number of Bengali-speaking high-tech professionals is not inconsiderable.

Yet you know the odd thing about it all? Even in this most tech-savvy of places, you would be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of Bengali speakers who can write in Bengali in the computer. The Web sites of the local Bay Area Bangladesh Association or the Silicon Valley chapter of the American Association of Bangladeshi Engineers and Architects are in English (the West Bengal expat association is only marginally better). Understandable, perhaps, because this is after all an English-speaking country. But not even a word in Bengali?

Now I don’t intend to begin a boring tirade on how we neglect our language. I raise this issue to make an important point about the challenge that Bengali faces.

It is not that these Bengalis do not love their language. Most do. Many are avid listeners of Rabindra sangeet, some are fans of poetry, there is even a monthly periodical published with much care by Bangladeshis, Porshi.

To realize the predicament of Bengali, you have to consider the broader picture. In a world where English reigns supreme, everything is easier and more convenient in English. Whether it is the latest news in current affairs, or academic research, or simply searching information on the Web, we all are lured by the seductive ease of the language which has become the de facto lingua franca of the world.

Whether it is a good or bad thing is beyond the scope of this essay: suffice it to say that this is the reality. And it is not just Bengalis who have succumbed to the siren call of English. Other South Asians are equally susceptible, and so Hindi, Gujarati and Urdu speakers in the U.S. also are gradually losing the key vehicle of their culture, their mother language.

In Bangladesh, it’s different. With a sigh of relief, we can proudly say that Bengali indeed reigns supreme here. Official correspondence is in Bengali, the nation has a vibrant Bengali language press, the Ekushey book fair is something we all take pride in.

West Bengal, with its distinguished literary and publishing tradition, is not far behind, though Bengali’s position here is made a bit more complicated by the fact that it is a state in a multilingual country.

Yet for all the success that Bengali enjoys in Bangladesh and West Bengal, take a closer look, and you will realize that there is considerable cause for concern. The revolutionary change in language communication that has swept many languages with the advent of electronic communication has not, I am afraid, touched Bengali as well as one would like. Oh sure, desktop publishing has taken hold fairly well, but that is not what we are talking about here.

You see, language communication has radically changed in the Western world since the computer became a household item. Everybody now types documents, whether it is a research paper, a love letter or an office report. Gone are the days when only secretaries and writers typed and everybody else had to hire a typist.

Bengali appears to be locked in that ’60s time warp today. And no one should be surprised, because Bengali presents formidable challenges for the software developer. Not only are there 200 characters, but on top of that the letters are not typed left to right (E-kar comes before the consonant, the ba-fala is tucked in underneath the consonant, the ref is put on top of the matra, and so on.) The result has been unwieldy keyboards and minimal dissemination of Bengali word-processing skills.

Currently the most popular Bengali software programs all require mastering a separate keyboard. This works for professional typists and typesetters, but has few takers otherwise. The result is a paradox: In a nation that celebrates its language and has made the UN recognize Ekushey as the International Mother Language Day, only a tiny fraction of computer users can type in Bengali. In West Bengal, the situation is not much better.

This has grave implications for the future. If there aren’t enough Bengali users, software applications will not develop, and Bengali computing will fall further behind. Today there may be a number of Bengali web sites, but don’t let that fool you. Sites either use the PDF format, or you have to download specific fonts. You cannot do a web search in Bengali.

Yet most information today is archived, transmitted and catalogued digitally. We have to take the initiative to create the conditions in which Bengali will also find its place in the globalized, computerized world.

This is the reason IIBB has undertaken the Digital Bangla Project (www.digitalbangla.org). The point is not just to make a Bengali software free, but the kind of software that will best serve the interests of Bengali computing in the long run.

There are some Bengali word-processing software programs which are already available free, you can also download fonts and start typing. What makes BornoSoft so special is its ease of use. You just need to use the 26 lower-case letters of the QWERTY keyboard (the standard keyboard that we all use) and the accent key (‘) and learn a complete and logical phonetic system of transliteration, (it takes an hour at most), and you can type Bengali as fast as your English typing skill will allow.

Sounds hard to believe? Download the software by sending an email to download@bornosoft.com and check it out for yourself.

You do not even need a computer to master the transliteration system, which in the context of West Bengal and Bangladesh with limited computing facilities, is particularly welcome.

Obviously, if our project is successful, BornoSoft stands to benefit as well. We have no problem with that, because our aim is to move Bengali computing to the next stage, a stage where Bengali word-processing is free and accessible, and software developers continue their work in developing new and better applications for that software.

An advanced commercial version of BornoSoft already has a spellchecker, one-click PDF facility and HTML facility for web page designers.

Some have objected to the use of an English keyboard for typing Bengali. We do not agree with that objection. Many other languages like Chinese, Japanese and Korean already do it, and it works well. Anybody who uses a computer HAS to know the QWERTY keyboard, you simply cannot work with a computer without this knowledge. Even when we learn in Bengali, we learn the rudiments of the roman script (and a few Greek letters too) when we study algebra, geometry, physics or chemistry. As a matter of fact, wide acceptance of BornoSoft offers great possibilities for promoting computing, because with a basic knowledge of computer commands and familiarity with the English alphabet, any literate Bengali speaker can use a computer.

This is why IIBB is so excited about the Digital Bangla Project. We will raise all the funds in the U.S., and we are quite determined to make this software free on February 21. We have little patience for those who say computers are too high-tech for Bangladesh. According to the Bangladesh Computer Samiti, 96,000 computers were sold in 2000. The expected growth of sales is a whopping 25 percent per year. Let’s face it, computers have become a necessity. The challenge is to integrate this technology with the socio-economic realities of a developing country. Look at what Grameen Phone has done with the cell phone, the epitome of state-of-the-art technology.

We have a broader goal that goes beyond promoting Bengali. Good, honest governance, efficient infrastructure for commerce and education, all these are necessary for our country to develop, but there is something else which is also important.

We all know the U.S. for its world-class technology and its affluence, but there is also something else that has helped this country flourish. Take Stanford University, which is about 60 miles from where I live. This world-class university was founded by Leland Stanford Jr, a big tycoon in his time. He could have willed his wealth to his children, but he chose to endow a university instead. Public philanthropy can play a pivotal role in addressing key social and economic needs, and public giving is a highly regarded and widely practiced habit in all developed nations. Obviously our goals are much more modest, but we hope to engage Bengali lovers in this habit. The aim is to broaden our vision, to learn to define our interests more widely than our immediate family, to recognize that the well being of our society is just as vital as our own personal material progress.

What is most heartening for us is the initial response to our appeal. We have just started, but if you take a moment to visit our Web site and take a look at the donor/ supporter list, you will find that though small now, it already represents the Bengali expatriate community in all its diversity: It includes world-class professors from Kolkata, medical doctors from Bangladesh, budding second-generation entrepreneurs, Bangladeshis working for top U.S. investment banks.

In the wake of the terrible attacks of 9/11, when newly unleashed sectarian schisms continue to poison the world, this is for us is a truly heartening development which we vow to nurture and nourish.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Star, Dhaka’s leading English daily newspaper. Readers are welcome to send their comments to Ashfaque Swapan by email at banglapremee@aol.com. Details about the Digital Bangla Project are available at its Web site at www.digitalbangla.org

– Ashfaque Swapan is California representative of the
International Institute of Bengal Basin.
He lives in Berkeley, Calif.


Infotech India

Mobile Rates Fall

In a bid to compete with limited mobile services by basic service providers, cellular companies Jan. 2 announced a uniform mobile-to-mobile STD rate of Rs. 2.99 per minute.

Announcing the new tariff package on behalf of cellular operators, Communication and IT Minister Pramod Mahajan told reporters that this was the first installment of the new rates and the industry would announce many more concessions on a weekly basis to “kill rivals in installments.”

In the new tariff structure, all the STD calls from mobile-to-mobile, irrespective of distance (beyond 50 km) and time, would be charged at a flat rate against the peak of Rs. 9 a minute charged till now for calls beyond 500 km.

The charges for distance up to 50 km would remain unchanged at Rs. 1.20 per minute.
So far, subscribers were being charged Rs. 2.40 for calls up to a distance of 200 km, Rs. 4.80 for distances up to 500 km and Rs. 9 for distances beyond 500 km, Mahajan said, adding that while charges were double during the day, subscribers paid single rate during the night.

“Now nobody has to wait for the night to make STD calls. It is the death of both distance and time,” he said.

Order from Fujitsu

Chennai-based Encour Technologies has bagged a major order from Fujitsu India for the supply of software for CDMA WLL system.

Fujitsu India has placed this order with Encour to meet its contract with MTNL for 50,000 lines for supply, installation and commissioning of CDMA-based WLL network in Mumbai.

“A prestigious project and a first for Encour, this will mark the company’s foray into the telecom industry,” Encour CEO R. Karthik said in a release in Chennai Jan. 2.

Encour Tech is an ISO 9001:2000 certified total solutions provider with focus on enterprise application integration arena.

Karthik said System Telecom and Data Services, a fully owned subsidiary of Encour, already had orders from Verizon and Idea cellular.

Exodus Curbed

For the first time in over five years, the Defense Research and Development Organization has recorded a reduction in the flight of its defense scientists, which officials attribute to the slowdown in the IT sector.

“For the first time in years we have a sufficiently trained manpower and in year 2002 we had a sort of records recruiting over 750 young scientists,” V.K. Aatre, scientific adviser to the defense minister said in New Delhi Dec. 31.

He said for several years the DRDO had almost 2,000 uncovered vacancies with as many as 350 scientists leaving each year for better IT pastures in the United States or being poached by

The DRDO with 69 laboratories has an effective strength of 6,000 scientists and 35,000 staff strength, Aatre said adding by the 10th plan its scientists strength was to be expanded to 7,000 scientists.

He attributed the swell in DRDO to campus talent recruiting as well as getting better inflows from regional engineering colleges.

The scientific advisor said after signing a number of MOU’s with a number of Indian universities, the DRDO was now looking at concluding similar MOU with foreign universities, the first one being signed with the University of Pennsylvania.

TCS Bank Solutions

Software giant Tata Consultancy Services Dec. 30 signed an agreement with the City Union Bank to provide core banking and market rich solutions for the bank.

Under the agreement, TCS would provide quartz-based core banking software solution to the bank, City Union CEO S. Ramadorai told reporters in Chennai.

It is for the first time that quartz-based core retail solution was being made available in the Indian market.

TCS would not only provide software but also assist the bank in setting up the hardware and system software, he said.

The implementation of the project would enable the bank to carry out “any-branch banking,” he said.

Airtel Improves Roaming

One of the major mobile service providers, Airtel, Dec. 30 announced its local direct dialing , which would generate substantial savings to both the “roamers and the callers.”

By LLD, the calls made to a roaming subscriber visiting the Tamil Nadu circle would be routed directly to his mobile phone instead of traveling via his home network, S. Venkataraman, chief operating officer for Bharti Cellular’s Tamil Nadu circle, said in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.

Saying that calls through the LLD route enabled subscribers to make substantial savings on their call rates, compared to regular STD/ISD rates, he said while Tamil Nadu and national “in-roamers” could save up to 65 percent, international “in-roamers” could save up to 63 percent on LLD calls.

The benefits of this facility, available from New Year onwards, could be availed of by keying in codes, for which there would be no additional charges or rental, he said.

Broadband for Kolkata

Commercial operations of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited’s first broadband service to provide high speed Internet, video on demand, satellite TV and video conferencing through a single telephone line, would begin in the metropolis on Jan. 26 this year.

The chairman of BSNL, Prithipal Singh, told reporters in Kolkata Dec. 30 that the service would be later extended to Bangalore and Pune, and by August 15 next year, one city in each telecom circle would have it.

Singh was in the metropolis to visit the pilot project of the broadband service at Ambuja housing complex.

Asked about the tariff of the broadband service, the BSNL chairman said that it would be decided in the next month.

The service, he said, would be retailed by private parties on behalf of BSNL on a revenue sharing basis.

Primentor Launched

Primentor, an advisory company focused on outsourcing consulting for clients and providers, was launched by Jaya and Phaneesh Murthy.

Primentor, which is derived from the phrase “Prime Mentor,” is structured as a mentoring organization and the four Ms in the logo show the power of mentoring in all directions. The formation of Primentor has been to a large extent influenced by the spate of requests for help/ advisory/executive positions that have been coming Phaneesh’s way in the last few months.

On the client side, advisory services would include partner/vendor selection, deal structuring and ongoing contract administration. On the vendor side, consulting services would include strategy consulting, service definitions, brand consulting, blueprints for the future, sales, and account management training.

Commenting on the venture, Phaneesh said, “I am excited about the possibility of helping multiple companies achieve world-class excellence and global stature. Not enough service companies have paid sufficient attention to these aspects.”

Jaya Murthy added, “I am looking forward to the prospect of increasing India’s share of the world market in technology and BPO services through the advisory services offered by Primentor”.

Polaris for Arbitration

Polaris Software board Dec. 30 recommended initiating “arbitration proceedings” in Singapore to resolve a commercial dispute with Indonesian bank, Artha Graha, whose complaint led to the detention of the IT company’s CEO, Arun Jain, and another official in Indonesia recently.

The Chennai-based company’s board also recommended approaching Indonesian courts to quash any criminal charges under their laws, the entity informed the Bombay Stock Exchange.

The company would pursue all legal actions and has appointed a legal team to oversee action against Bank Artha Graha, it said.

The board reviewed the future course of action on the unlawful detention of its chairman and managing director and CEO Arun Jain and senior vice-president Rajiv Malhotra.

Airtel Slashes Rates

Airtel may slash its mobile telephone rates next month in response to the limited-range WLL telephony launched by Reliance.

“We will give a response early next month and that response should delight customers,” Sunil Mittal, chairman of Bharti Enterprises, which runs Airtel, told Star News during a discussion.

Stating that Indian market was “very, very price sensitive,” he said rates of STD, ISD and mobile telephony had been slashed to a great extent in the recent past.

Participating in the discussion, Reliance Industries CMD Mukesh Ambani claimed his company “will represent 64,000 villages in the country” in the near future as a caterer of WLL telephony.

“Rural market in India is very attractive and has the highest growth potential,” he said, adding the infocom market was very big for several players to co-exist.

In association with Chennai Online


Celebrating Excellence
IIT Golden Jubilee
– A Siliconeer Report

IIT alumni are hosting the mother of all bashes headlined by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and Stanford president John Hennessey. All IIT directors will also attend. A Siliconeer report.

When Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and Stanford president John Hennessey, get together, you know something big is happening. Well, no surprise here, because when alumni of Indian Institutes of Technology all join together, the earth moves.

From Fortune 500 CEOs to distinguished academics in the world’s top universities, the world’s leading institutions in science and technology are liberally peppered with India’s sharpest and savviest hi tech whiz kids.

On Jan. 17-18, alumni of the Indian Institutes of Technology are holding a landmark event on to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the institutes. The event, the first of its kind, will unite premier executives and leaders in higher education to celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of IIT’s prestigious alumni. The IIT50 event will serve as a forum for leaders and alumni to discuss the past, present and future of the IITs. In addition to Bill Gates and John Hennessey, U.S. Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill, India’s Human Resources Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi and all IIT directors will attend the two-day event.

The Indian Institute of Technology is a leading global educational and research institution, focused on excellence, innovation and leadership. It offers undergraduate and graduate programs in various technology, engineering, science and management disciplines. Admission to its programs is through an unusually selective entrance examination process, with an admissions rate of well under 3 percent of all applicants. Its seven campuses are spread across India – in Mumbai, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Chennai and New Delhi, and in the recently added Guwahati and Roorkee campuses. IIT alumni have established a track record of professional success and contributed significantly to the U.S. and Indian economies.

Over 2,000 IITians will attend this largest-ever IIT event, and interactive panel discussions will present a formidable set of IIT-alumni in the fields of business innovation, corporate leadership and value-creation. In addition, all IIT directors will discuss their collective vision going forward.

Around 300 VIPs and key executives from leading U.S. Corporations will be guests where organizers will showcase the IITs.

In a message to event organizers, Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, himself a distinguished scientist, lauded the achievement of IIT graduates.–“India is proud of the achievements of these prestigious educational institutions that have more than fulfilled Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s ambition of building globally competitive technology education, research and training centers for developing young people into the intellectual elite of the country,” he said.

IIT graduates have made such a great impact on the U.S. that even mainstream commentators have taken notice. Michael Lewis, in his 2000 book on Silicon Valley, talks about how Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jim Clark depended on Indian hi tech professionals.

“Clark had a thing for Indians,” Lewis writes in”“The New, New Thing.””“He thought of the young Indian men who had taught him the tools he needed to program his sailboat as some of the sharpest technical minds he’d ever encountered. ‘As a concentrated group,’ he said, ‘they were the most talented engineers in the Valley … and they work their butts off!’”

Lewis says that IITs have been key in developing this talent. “(Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru) created a ruthlessly efficient mechanism for finding and exploiting Indian technical talent. It was called the Indian Institute of Technology.”

The IITs were created in the early 1950s with foreign aid. Two of them, at Kharagpur and Chennai, were funded by Germany, another in Mumbai by the erstwhile Soviet Union. The IIT in Kanpur was funded by the United States, and the one in Delhi by the United Kingdom. Two new IITs in Roorkee and Guwahati were indigenously funded.

“The IITs became the funnel through which young Indians who finished high in a nationalized standardized test passed on their way into Nehru’s game of catch-up ball,” writes Lewis. “The force of their attraction was spectacular. It was as if a nation of 900 million people has set out to find the few among them most able to program a computer. By the time the Nehru regime finished engineering Indian society, every parent in the country wanted his son to become either a doctor or engineer.”

But that’s just the beginning. IIT’s achievement lies in what it did with that talent. It turned this raw intellectual power into some of the world’s best scientists, teachers and entrepreneurs who today grace the top board rooms and universities. IITians have also done remarkable work in breakthrough research and are giving back to society in both exploring ways of integrating technology to India’s grassroots needs as well as social upliftment work.

IIT graduate Arun Netravalli’s recognition by U.S. President George W. Bush and former IIT Kanpur faculty Sandeep Pandey’s recent Magsaysay award are just two examples of a long, distinguished list of IIT graduates who have made a difference both in our knowledge of the world we live in as well as the quality of our lives and societies.

IIT50 is not only a celebration of this considerable achievement, but also a reaffirmation of IIT’s commitment to excellence as IITians around the world seek to take on the myriad challenges of a constantly changing world of breakthrough technologies.


Peace in Ayodhya
Campaign Against Hatred
By Sandeep Pandey

The Sangh Parivar’s campaign to build a Ram Temple has few takers in Ayodhya, whose people want outsiders to stop poisoning their long history of communal harmony, writes Sandeep.

Equal respect for all religions has been Ayodhya’s culture. This is the reason that important religious institutions of Hindu, Islam, Jain, Baudh and Sikh religion are located here. Ayodhya has been largely free from the communal tension seen in other parts of the country. But some people want to convert Ayodhya into a place of religious intolerance which the local sadhus, saints, maulvis, fakirs, sufis and intellectuals are opposed to. The country can progress only when there is harmony. The basic problems of the country are starvation, poverty, unemployment and corruption. These can be tackled only in an environment of peace and harmony. That is why we have to oppose the forces responsible for creating religious intolerance.”

This statement has recently been collectively signed by a number of Hindu saints, people’s representatives, organizations and intellectuals of Ayodhya-Faizabad. Among the people who have signed this statement include Sardar Mahendra Singh, chairperson of the Ayodhya Town Area, Acharya Satyendra Das, the head priest of Ram Janam Bhumi, Mahant Gyan Das of Hanuman Gadhi, Mahant Kaushal Kishore Sharan alias Phalahari Baba of Rajgopal Mandir, corporators Maduwan Das (of Ram Janam Bhumi ward), Anil Srivastava and Rajesh Kumar, Sheetla Singh, editor of popular local daily Jan Morcha, Khalik Ahmed, convenor of Helal Committee, Sadiq Ali of Ayodhya Muslim Welfare Society, Gautam Kumar, president of Lord Buddha Club, Faizabad and former M.P., Nirmal Khatri.

Why do the people of Ayodhya have to issue a statement like this? Because they are fed up of Sangh Parivar organizations using the Ram Janam Bhumi issue in Ayodhya for their political purposes. They do not want the activists of VHP, in the name of Kar Sewa and or Ram Sewa, to invade Ayodhya and disturb its peace. “Ayodhya” literally means a place free of any struggle. Ayodhya has a long history of communal harmony. In 1992 the violence which took place was done by Hindus who had come from outside for demolishing the mosque. In spite of Sangh Parivar’s sustained attempts to convert the Babri Masjid-Ram Janam Bhuni dispute into a political one and thereby vitiate the communal atmosphere, even this day there is a ward in Ayodhya with a majority 80 percent Hindu population which elects Asad Ahmed, a Muslim, as their corporator. The chairperson of the Ayodhya town Area is a Sikh. Sangh Parivar has left no stone unturned to spoil the communal atmosphere of Ayodhya but the people of Ayodhya refuse to give up their culture of harmony. People from other parts of the country need to learn from the Ayodhya example. We should not allow organizations like VHP and Bajrang Dal to exploit our religious sentiments. If we allow ourselves to be carried away by their rhetoric then it will result in more hatred and violence. We have to learn to be patient like the people of Ayodhya. It is quite shameful that the Sangh Parivar has exploited a dispute in peaceful Ayodhya for its political ends and spread communal hatred throughout the country. The violence which took place in Gujarat was justified by everybody in the Sangh Parivar including Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee by saying that it was a reaction to Godhra. But the crucial question is why did Godhra take place? What was the need for VHP and Bajrang Dal to invite their ‘Ram Sewaks’ to Ayodhya for the declared objective of Ram temple construction when the court had not even delivered a judgement in favour of construction of the temple and when the people of Ayodhya-Faizabad do not welcome any outside intervention of this nature which almost always results in long curfews imposed on Ayodhya, disturbing the normal routine life of its citizens? The behaviour of the so-called Ram Sewaks in Sabarmati Express on Feb. 24, 2002, three days before the Godhra incident, with Muslims and vendors on the railway platforms was a blot in the name of Hindu religion and Lord Ram. In fact, the kind of activities that these so-called Hindutva organizations indulge in are now creating a situation in which either the larger liberal Hindu society will have to dissociate from them or will have to boycott these organizations.

On June 23, 2002, a historic meeting took place in the Bhagvatacharya Smarak Sadan of Ayodhya which was addressed by prominent citizens like Mahant Gyan Das, Jagannath Das of Nirmohi Akhara, Swami Haryacharya, Dharam Das, who not till long ago was with the Ram Janam Bhuni Trust, Mohammed Yunus of Babri Masjid Action Committee, Khalik Ahmed, Hashim Ansari and Mahendra Singh. Almost everybody emphasized the need for preserving the communal harmony of Ayodhya and declared that they were perfectly capable of solving the Babri Masjid-Ram Janam Bhumi dispute on their own which in their opinion was a local problem. Mahant Gyan Das announced the expulsion of Ram Chandra Paramhans Das, the Mahant with a criminal background, who is still supporting the VHP movement, from the community of sadhus and sants of Ayodhya. Ashok Singhal was warned not to enter Ayodhya and the VHP was advised to stay out of the Ayodhya dispute. Two days later the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh leaders of Ayodhya met in Hanuman Gadhi and formed a Sarva Dharam Sambhav Parishad and took upon themselves the responsibility of finding a solution to the Ayodhya dispute. This important development has exposed the VHP’s design in which it has advertised to the entire world that it is the sole authority which can construct a temple in Ayodhya.

The ground reality today is that if the VHP was not offered protection by the local administration upon instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office every time, it cannot conduct any of its programmes in Ayodhya. We saw on March 15, 2002, the ridiculous situation in which after the Shila Pujan none of the over 50 mandirs and maths in Ayodhya were willing to keep the Shilas. The VHP took advantage of the absence of mahant of Dashrath Mahal and forcibly kept the shilas there. When Mahant Devendraprasadacharya returned from his Chattisgarh visit he was quite furious and the shilas had to be handed over to a government receiver called from New Delhi. Why are the Hindu mahants, sadhus, sants and local Hindu population refusing to cooperate with the VHP’s temple construction exercise in the name of their beloved Lord Ram? Because they are sick of the politics behind the temple construction. The Hindu community of Ayodhya is against the VHP’s Ram temple construction movement.

On top of it now the former trustee of Ram Janam Bhumi Trust, Dharam Das, is accusing the VHP of embezzlement of funds. According to him the VHP has not even deposited a large amount of money in its account that it collected from Hindus all over the world for the purpose of Ram temple construction. Their office bearers, past and present, have invested it in various businesses. The VHP has exploited the sentiments of the gullible larger Hindu society and it cannot be pardoned for this. The common Hindu has now understood the game where the VHP starts talking about the temple issue whenever some elections are around the corner and its actions result in communal tension and violence. The common human being doesn’t like a prolonged state of struggle and violence. He/she would like to live in an environment of peace and harmony. People who have participated in VHP’s earlier programmes in Ayodhya of mosque demolition exercise or still want a Ram temple built in Ayodhya are no longer responding to the calls given by VHP. This time on March 15, the Shila Pujan day, there was nobody from Ayodhya, Faizabad or even other parts of UP. ‘Ram Sewaks’ had to be brought in from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and far away places. When Ashok Singhal led a procession in Ayodhya on June 2, 2002, upon completion of the Purnahuti Yagya, there were hardly hundred people following him. Even that would not have been possible without the security provided by the administration. VHP has been exposed in Ayodhya.

The VHP and Sangh Parivar have to realize that no organization can sustain merely by resorting to hate campaigns, instilling fear in the minds of people, creating trouble and violence. These means will only encourage terrorism. The common people will sooner or later reject such programmes. The Sangh Parivar should desist from disturbing the peace of Ayodhya and the country.

Sandeep got his Ph.D from UC Berkeley
and taught briefly at IIT Kanpur
before becoming a full-time social activist.
He won the Magsaysay award last year

Science Jamboree:
Vajpayee Opens Congress
– By Deepak Goyal

With 5,000 delegates, including 80 scientists from abroad are joining the Indian Science Congress, India’s main annual gathering of scientists, writes Deepak Goyal.

Frontier science and cutting edge technologies came under focus as the 90th Indian Science Congress, the country’s main science event of the year, took off in Bangalore Jan. 3.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee set the tone for the five-day event with his inaugural speech to the annual congregation of scientists, technologists, industrialists, science managers, policy makers and the general public.

More than 5,000 delegates, including 80 scientists from abroad, registered for the ISC, organized by the Indian Science Congress Association and hosted by the Indian Space Research Organization and Bangalore University.

Organizers said the aim was to provide a stronger impetus and a more systematic direction to scientific enquiry, besides seeking to promote interaction of societies and individuals interested in science in different parts of the country.

The five-day event addressed concerns on the dwindling number of scientific papers produced by Indians, as well as the fact that an increasing number of students were turning away from basic science.

Highlights of the meet included plenary sessions on frontier technologies for sustainable energy development, emerging technologies in biosciences and genome research, nano-sciences and advanced materials, information science and technologies for a knowledge society, food, nutritional and environment security-challenges for the 21st century, future trends in medicine and immunization, a space summit and university meet.

The summit, ISRO chairman K. Kasturirangan said, brought together space agencies from 11 nations, including the United States, France, Germany and Russia, to discuss the future of space technology and its applications.

Kasturirangan said the university meet would focus on issues immediately concerning universities, with reference to cutting edge technologies, as well as the frontier science programs.

Vice-chancellors of various universities participated in the university meet and key presentations by eminent educators and VCs discussed the status and future perspectives of science education, capacity-building in universities for technology development and curricula development and research endeavor in universities.

“The congress addressed frontier science issues, the technology needs of the future, issues related to the path that the nation must embark on for an invigorated and high quality science that will help lay the foundation for frontier technologies of relevance to India,” Kasturirangan said.

As part of the science and technology extravaganza, a “Science Expo — 2003-Pride of India” was also organized, where major scientific and technological achievements of the nation and major government, private and academic institutions were showcased.

Deepak Goyal is a freelance writer.
He lives in Kolkata


FINANCE: Happily Ever After
Planning Pays — Literally
– By Ashok Gupta

If you think only millionaires need to manage their finances, think again. Ashok Gupta writes you can literally get a financial windfall by planning early for your future, and he has done the math for you to check it out.

The Advantages of Planning

Every time you turn around, there are immediate financial needs. Things that just can not wait — paying your mortgage, meeting car payments and funding your child’s education — all take priority. With all of these day-to-day needs competing for your limited funds, it is hard to find the resources — and the motivation — to plan for retirement.

But if nothing else, the cost of waiting to plan for your retirement is a strong motivator. Consider this example:

Ernie is 45 years old and plans to contribute $500 monthly to his retirement plans. Ernie wants to explore a couple of options. Plan A will begin saving today, assuming a 7 percent rate of return, and continue for 8 years. The account balance will then continue to grow to retirement from investment yields only. Plan B, on the other hand, will defer the start of saving for 6 years and continue to save until he has sufficient savings to grow to the same amount of money at age 65 as Plan A.

Compare how many years and extra savings dollars are need in Plan B to accumulate the same amount as Plan A potentially could accumulate in only eight years, simply by starting early.

Bob and Bill each plan to make a $5,000 annual retirement contribution for the next 20 years.
However, Bob starts at age 25, while Bill starts at age 45. Each of these $5,000 contributions earns a 7 percent annual interest rate and income taxes on the earnings are subtracted at the end of each year (assuming a 28 percent tax bracket). Because of the impact of compound interest over time, the difference between what Bob and Bill have for retirement at age 65 is significant: In fact, Bob would have an accumulated value of $446,268, while Bill would accumulate $174,398.

The results are even more dramatic if Bob also chooses a tax-deferred retirement funding vehicle earning a 7 percent annual interest rate (taxes on the earnings are subtracted at age 65 assuming a 28 percent tax bracket). Taxable contributions from age 25-45 would accumulate $466,268 at age 65, while tax-deferred contributions would result in $639,080 (subject to tax when withdrawn).

You really can’t afford to wait for the “right time” to start planning for your retirement. If you plan early and take advantage of tax-deferred products, you’ll have a better chance of making your retirement goals a reality.

Plan with your Partner

Given the choice, none of us would choose to learn about financial issues during a crisis like divorce, job loss or death of a spouse. However, that’s what many of us do. Sometimes, we think we’re helping our partner when we handle the finances alone. But nothing could be further from the truth. Like any business partnership, your partner in home finances needs to know how to carry on in case you die or become disabled.

It takes more than having a credit card in your name or knowing your net worth to control your finances. You should have:

  • A loan in your name that establishes a credit history
  • Individual and joint savings and investment goals
  • Your own income replacement plan in case of disability
  • Your own financial strategy for retirement, and
  • An understanding of joint Social Security and pension benefits for both you and your spouse.

You and your spouse should discuss the financial issues that you normally do yourself. Cover what you do month-to-month, why you do it, and where you keep the records. And don’t forget any stocks, bonds, mutual funds or CDs you may have.

In addition to short-term issues, review the big picture — long-term asset growth. Don’t make the common mistake of confusing day-to-day money management with building your savings.

Many of us are reluctant to even think about a disability or death — let alone actually doing something about it. Procrastination can literally leave you without the nest egg and safety net you need. Take advantage of finance classes, investment clubs and public seminars. Your library can also be an excellent resource.

Don’t leave your spouse in the dark when he or she is least able to cope. By sharing and preparing now, your partner can avoid the struggle with an unfamiliar financial jungle later.

Ashok Gupta, CLTC, LUTCF,
Principal Life Financial Representative,
Princor Registered Representative
is based in San Jose, Calif.

Auto Review: 2003 Toyota Prius
A Hybrid to Die for
By Al Auger

The Toyota Prius may be the harbinger of a new age of hi-tech energy-efficient cars, but what’s really nice is that it’s a great car in a traditional sense as well, writes Al Auger.

Serendipity can be such a fun phenomenon. About the time a 2003 Toyota Prius Hybrid 4-door sedan rolled up to the curb, I was reading an article about a seemingly startling revolution in the electric motor business. According to Gerald Yankie of G&G Technologies of Ventura in Southern California their ThinGap technology will become the (new) standard for electric motors. They weigh less and turn out more power with greater efficiency.

It struck me that ThinGap might well be a giant step forward in the future of such exotic appliances as the hybrid automobile, as well. While their work on this newest application has been directed at smaller motors for tools and such, Yankie told me the potential for automobiles is there and he was greatly intrigued by the idea.

What I think is going on here is the surprising success of the current hybrid automobiles such as the Prius (Latin for “to go before”) is just the beginning of a complete turnaround in the industry. If such technology as the ThinGap motor is but one of the elements in the beginning of an ongoing evolution, there is no telling where it might lead. Certainly the ivory tower boys at Toyota are constantly on the move to further improvements and creativity for the next generations of hybrids.

All that possible pie in the sky aside, today’s Prius is certainly a wonder to behold. And their acceptance into a culture that, by and large, is suspicious of anything beyond the traditional, has been a welcome surprise as well. According to Toyota, Prius sales have surpassed 30,000 units since it was first introduced in July, 2000. The Prius is now sold in 20 countries worldwide.

The Prius is a neat 5-passenger, 4-door compact sedan with surprising room in the cab. The ergonomics are not your traditional buttons, knobs and levers. The shifter for the CVT (continuous variable automatic) transmission is a joystick that protrudes from the dash. A screen illustrates what is going on with the 4-cylinder engine and electric motor. In addition, our chariot came with the optional cruise control ($240), side airbags ($250), daytime running lights ($40), full carpeting ($245) and compact disc deck ($335).

There is so much mechanical and technological alchemy going on with the Prius, it’s simpler to explain the operation without going into all the exotic details. Power comes from a 70-horsepower gasoline engine and a 44-horsepower electric motor. Primarily power comes from the engine with boost power from the motor under acceleration. Stepping on the accelerator from a standstill power is under pure electric power. As the vehicle accelerates, the generator starts the engine.

Unlike what most people believe, the engine doesn’t primarily charge the battery. Applying the Prius regenerative ABS braking system causes the motor to function as a generator, capturing kinetic energy that is normally lost as heat through the brakes and transforms it into useable electricity to recharge the battery. I’m sure all that makes sense to some people. By the way, those are some brakes on the Prius; they stop on a dime, literally.

What we’re really interested in here are the basics: Mileage numbers like 52 city and 45 highway. I know, it seems backwards, but trust me on this one. What Toyota realized is the biggest loss of mileage numbers is in city driving, so they configured the Prius to primarily rely on the electric motor for city driving and the gasoline engine for highway travel. Sounds good to me. The EPA estimates the Prius will cost some $484 annually; the numbers just get better and better. Except for all the different graphics and informational output of the instrument panel, it’s difficult to realize the Prius is not a traditional compact automobile. Acceleration is surprisingly perky and cruising at highway speeds is excellent. Speeds well above the freeway limits can be reached quickly and cruising at speed is comfortable and very quiet.

Power can reach 98 horses when both the engine and motor are working in concert with each other. The twin-cam, 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine features Toyota’s efficient reliable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVTi), yet is limited to 4500 rpm. So clean is the emissions of the Prius, the California Air Resources Board has designated it the single Super-Ultra-Low-Emission-vehicle (SULEV). The ride is excellent and handling responsive.

While some critics have questioned the $20,000 price tag, let’s first consider all those magic numbers that come with the Prius. Then there is the multitude of federal tax help plus some states and counties also offer different programs to make the purchase price more attractive. Like we said in the opening, this is but the beginning, I believe, to a very interesting future in the automotive industry — finally.

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.



Nandita Marries

Sultry beauty Nandita Das has decided to bite the bullet. It was a quiet, private affair when she tied the knot with steady boyfriend Soumya Sen. Bollywood being what it is, nosey parkers have been forever speculating who Nandita has been seeing, and the list includes Raghuvir Yadav, Rahul Khanna and even Aamir Khan.

But give the woman credit. She has always kept her personal life tightly under wraps. Now that’s all changed, and Soumya, who is a hot shot ad executive, and Nandita make a pretty pair, insiders say. Here’s a sincere wish for everlasting happiness for the newly weds.

Goodbye, Politics

The Big B has learned his lesson. Recently at the picturesque fortress town of Jaiselmer, he declared that for all his fame, he wasn’t thinking of turning to politics.

“I have already played the game of politics. I left it, conceding defeat. There is no question of returning,” said Bachchan, who was in this Rajasthan town to celebrate New Year’s with his family. “I am an emotional person and politics does not have any place for emotions. Therefore, I am not fit for the game of politics.”

Now before naysayers jump all over Bollywood’s favorite icon and accuse him of being a chicken, Big B is not doing this to run away from a challenge. Take ABCL, his business debacle. Bachchan says he is seriously thinking of reviving his failed business which went bust over huge loans and failed pageants. Hardly the attitude of a timid man, is it?

Hollywood Beckons

Now quit grimacing, people. I know you are tired of hearing about Bollywood stars working in Hollywood and then seeing all these plans fizzle out. This time it’s for real, we are told.

Guess which Bollywood star is Hollywood bound? Shilpa Shetty, who has signed a Hollywood film with Dakota Delta Productions. The director is Mahmood Sipra who previously directed the movie version of M.M. Kaye’s novel “The Far Pavilions.”

Of course, critics are scratching their heads over this, and the less generous ones are wondering aloud what exactly made Hollywood consider Shilpa. “It can’t be her acting,” says one critic unkindly. “Perhaps the fact that she has a great body and isn’t inhibited about showing most of it is not entirely coincidental.”

Now that’s not fair, is it? Let’s wait until the film is released, then we can all draw our own conclusions.

Salman, Big B

Will the real Salman stand up? Who is this guy, really? Is he the bad guy everybody loves to hate, or is he the perennially misunderstood hero? Here’s a guy who runs away from a hit-and-run auto accident, got nailed for shooting protected blackbuck in Rajasthan, and is known for hassling ex-lover Aishwarya.

And yet. His brief incarceration brought out the best in him, with fellow inmates warmly remembering his humility, and several social welfare organizations have spoken up about his kindness and generosity.

At last, things are looking up for him, and he is set to hit the headlines for the right reasons. He is teaming up with the Big B, no less, in a film to be made by Ravi Chopra. The film is B.R. Chopra’s Baghbaan. And it’s no here-now-gone-now guest appearance either, if Ravi is to be believed. “It’s a significant, full-fledged role,” he said. Nor is Salman the last choice after Shah Rukh, Akshay Kumar or Akshaye Khanna as some Bollywood meanies are hinting darkly.

“We’d only approached Shah Rukh, who expressed his inability to do the film since he’s too committed with his home-productions,” Ravi says, “That’s when we approached Salman, who agreed instantaneously.”

That’s fantastic news for Salman’s fans as well. Okay, Sallu, there’s just one more thing. Keep out of trouble, now, you hear me?

Game, Set, Match

Pity poor Mahima Chaudhury. Here she was, going steady with tennis ace Leander Paes, and dreaming of building a family. Paes seemed keen too, and Bollywood was waiting for wedding bells to ring.

Sorry folks, but that’s not gonna happen, and its partly because Mahima simply pushed too hard. Paes got fed up with Mahima’s nagging, and when his tennis partner Mahesh Bhupathi got married, he turned up at the wedding alone.

Now Paes is back to tennis and Mahima is again eagerly telling anybody who will listen that she is available for good Bollywood roles. It wasn’t too long ago that Bollywood came a very poor second to the main role she sought: that of a bahu.

Back to Basics

Don’t let his macho screen persona fool you. There is an agile brain at work behind all that brawn that Bollywood beefcake Sunil Shetty likes to project.

His Bollywood career, alas, has been limited by his propensity to beat his enemies into a pulp on screen, but Sunil has been a savvy entrepreneur all along.

From apparel to event management to water sports and health resorts, he has tried his hand at a lot of things, and what’s more important, he has done well at it.

Now he is back to his first love, acting. And he is getting serious about it. Sunil is doing a negative role in Farah Khan’s Main Hoon Na, and many critics are actually saying that he has got what it takes.

Southern Comfort

Love, they say in Bollywood, is as fickle as fame, and it hurts when either disappears. Thank goodness those unlucky stars who are unsuccessful in love can bounce back with such alacrity.

Take Namrata Shirodkar. This pretty woman is headed south. Not her career, if that’s your mean guess. Namrata broke up with Deepak Shetty about three years back and since then she has been playing the field. Mahesh Manjrekar, Arshad Warsi all have been linked to her, but nothing got serious.

No more. Southern heartthrob Mahesh Babu apparently has swept her off her feet when she met him at a shoot for a Southern film. Even distance couldn’t dim the passion, and after hours of chatting over the phone after Namrata returned to Mumbai, now it’s official.

Mahesh has actually proposed, and the two might soon get married. Right now, though, they are too busy with each other to bother about the ubiquitous prying eyes who are noting down their every moment together.

Bye Bye Sanjay

Strange are the ways of the musical chairs game that Bollywood calls romance. Remember Celina Jaitley, the beauty pageant queen-turned-Bollywood starlet?

His beau restaurateur Sanjay Narang is still wondering what hit him as Celina has leaped into the arms of a gora hunk, a little bird tells us. Our prince charming is from the land of the cuckoo clock (and little else, if you remember Orson Welles’ snide remark in The Third Man), but what does Celina care? She met loverboy Alex through common friends, and the Dubai-based Swiss businessman is now the love of her life.

“Right now, we aren’t looking at marriage but I must admit we are having a serious relationship,” says Celina. “It’s a very interesting phase now in my personal life; I like him very much. I am even contemplating marriage with him if things go right but till everything falls into place, all I can say is that we are seeing each other.”

As for distraught dumpee Sanjay, all he is seeing is lots of stars.


Hindi Film Review
Charming Children’s Yarn

Directed by: Vishaal Bharadwaj
Music: Vishaal Bharadwaj
Cast: Shabana Azmi, Shweta Prasad, Makrand Deshpande, Alaap Majvankar and Dayashankar Pandey

If you think for a moment, Bollywood is pretty toxic stuff for kids. For a huge money-making industry what if offers for kids is nothing short of appalling. So what we end up with is little children growing up watching unbridled violence and six-year-old girls learning how to sway their hips to “Chhaiya Chhaiya.”

Amid this morass comes this gem of a children’s film from music director Vishal Bharadwaj, and for the attempt alone he deserves unreserved praise. But happily, Bharadwaj has done an excellent job, and though it is not quite perfect, the debut director can look back at quite an achievement.

The plot is novel, made with excellent production values, and is an enjoyable film for both children and adults. With a deft, light touch, Bharadwaj creates a world as seen through a child’s eyes, with a child’s fears, hopes, wishes and passions that is engaging to watch.

The story centers around twin sisters Munni and Chunni (Shweta Bharadwaj). Chunni is a little terror while her sister Munni is docile and well-behaved. Chunni’s partner in fun and crime is Mughal-e-Azam (Alaap Majgavkar), the butcher’s adopted son. Mughal does her homework, because little Chunni is too busy thinking up novel ways of aggravating her father, the butcher Kallu (Makrand Deshpande) and her masterji (Dayashankar Pandey). Her favorite trick is to pretend to be the docile Munni.

Chunni goes about her merry way until one day she goes too far. She gets her docile twin Munni to enter a haunted mansion. This is a mansion where a witch (Shabana Azmi) lives, and according to village lore, turns children into animals if the enter her mansion.

The witch apparently turns Munni into a hen, and Chunni is worried out of her wits.
She runs to the villagers and asks for their help, but villagers, used to all sorts of pranks, refuse to take her seriously. Eventually Ghanta and Banta, two cops, do take her seriously, but they offer too little too late.

So Chunni enters the mansion herself, and she confronts the witch. Munni was not at fault, she pleads, and begs the witch to withdraw her spell. The witch demands a hundred hens to turn Munni back into human form.

Chunni now has to use every trick in her considerable arsenal as she goes about trying to meet the witch’s demand, and the rest of the film deals with how she resolves this challenge.

The film is brought to life by Shweta Prasad whose acting skills pack quite a punch. A seasoned actor in television soaps, she plays the bubbly, effervescent and mischievous prankster without being annoying, and then she switches remarkably well into the persona of the innocent twin without seeming affectatious. Alaap Majgavkar’s Mughal-e-Azam is a hilarious foil, while Makrand Deshpande is quite funny as the harassed and angry butcher.

And then there is Shabana. Her appearance is relatively infrequent, but what a spell she casts! With wonderful make-up (her shriveled hands, giant lips and matted hair took four hours each day to put on) she adds her formidable acting talent to create an aura of terror from which even adults are not entirely immune.

One of the film’s minor flaws is an overdose of songs, and strangely for a film directed by a composer, the music is of indifferent quality barring one or two exceptions.

Having said that, the film is clearly a labor of love. Vishaal has written, directed, produced and composed, and that affection shines through. The film has the wondrous childlike wonderment and joy that is infectious, and despite its minor flaws, this is one of the best gifts ever for children from Bollywood.

One fondly wishes this will start a healthy trend, but only a fool will hold his breath.

Rating: *** (Good)


Tamil Film Review:
Style Over Content


Cast: Richard, Sridevi, Abbas, Raghuvaran, Manorama, Vivek, Jayamurali & Ratan

There are at least a dozen shots of a bright orange sun rising and setting. An equal number of shots of the blue sky, moving clouds, clusters of birds flying, and waves dashing against shores. All very picture-postcard pretty, and that’s no surprise. For filmmaker Kathir, it has always been the looks that mattered. A handsome lead pair, exotic locations, eye-catching backdrops, it’s all part of the package, but packaging goes only so far.

Except for his sensitively crafted debut film Idhayam, his subsequent films Kaadhal Desam and Kaadhalar
Dinam, and now his own production Kaadhal Virus, suffer from the same style-over-content syndrome.

So, while a lot of effort goes into style and gloss, Kathir doesn’t put in even a fraction of that effort in his scripting and narration. The screenplay is slipshod, the narration is jerky and leaves much to be desired. The director totally ignores time factor, continuity and logic between scenes. However, A.R. Rahman’s “Sonnalum...” is catchy, and debutant cinematographer Arjun Jena (who assisted P.C. Sriram and Jeeva) provides some eye-catching cinematography.

Here’s how the story goes: It’s love at first sight for aspirant director Deepak when he sets his eyes on Geetha. On a trip to his friend’s guesthouse at a hill station to write his script in peace, he encounters Geetha again. She happens to be his friend’s sister. He expresses his love, only to learn that she is engaged to another person (Raghuvaran). Why her wealthy family selects a much older man for their only daughter is never explained. However, the fiancÈ backs out once he learns that Geetha too has fallen for Deepak. Deepak leaves, promising to keep in touch, makes it big as a director, but loses touch with Geetha.

Next we’re told that Geetha is married to Rajiv, who was trying to get a chance to act in Deepak’s new film. We’re also told that Deepak and Geetha’s misunderstanding was caused by a besotted postman, who had stolen the letters Deepak and Geetha had written to each other. Wasn’t there a phone around to clarify matters? Anyway, Deepak, now willing to give a chance to Rajiv, his former beloved’s husband, throws out his hero and substitutes him with Rajiv. But his subsequent innocent actions lead Geetha to believe that Deepak is on a vendetta, and out to harm her husband. Amidst all the confusion and complications and Rajiv still ignorant of what’s happening around him, Deepak is stabbed almost fatally by his ex-hero. Geetha realizes she had been mistaken about her lover, but can she retrieve the situation?

Richard (actress Shalini’s brother) has the looks, but acting is something else again. Sridevi (popular child actress-turned-heroine, and daughter of star couple Vijaykumar-Manjula) is cute, emotes with ease, the camera panning her from top to bottom whenever she appears, and catching her in flattering close-ups.

— Malini Mannath
In association with Chennai Online


Recipe: Comfort Food
Paneer in Tomato Gravy
By Seema Gupta

Nothing like simple, home-cooked comfort food, says Seema Gupta, who offers a traditional dish that goes well with freshly-made rotis.


  • 1/2 pound paneer
  • 1 cup boiled peas
  • 2 cup ghee
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 5-6 tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 Green chillies
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste


Dice paneer into 1/2 inch cubes. Deep fry them in ghee. Remove after paneer pieces are browned.

Cook tomatoes in ghee. As tomatoes cook, add water if tomatoes dry up and cook well fro 5-7 min. Run cooked mixture through a sieve to get pureed soup-like texture.

Saute chopped onions in ghee. Slice green chillies longitudinally and add. Add red chilli powder and salt. Boil for 5-7 minutes. Add fried paneer pieces, boiled peas and cook for 5 minutes.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot with freshly-made rotis.

Seema Gupta is a homemaker
based in Sunnyvale, Calif.


Horoscope: Year 2003 At a Glance

ARIES (March 21 to April 20): Despite your best efforts, finances may not work out well as Rahu in second till the end of 2003 will drain your pockets. Investing in property is an option. Your assets will increase in the first half of 2003. You will take risks that will pay off well. Avoid legal conflicts till April 10. Saturn in third will help you gain major legal victories and improve working conditions. A member will be added in the family towards the year end. You will diversify in business after July. Lucky Numbers: 2, 13, 25, 27, 29 and 42

TAURUS (April 21 to May 20): Financially, it should be a great year. Domestic issues will be hard to resolve. Speculation will be rewarding. It is a good year for brokers. You may incur losses on an earlier investment. An overseas trip is foreseen during the months of April or May. As Saturn transits in second after April, you may face legal battles at work. Expect some celebrating news in family when Jupiter enters the fifth house after August. Lucky numbers: 3, 14, 15, 19, 41 and 43

GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): Watch your finances during the first half of 2003. Expenses will escalate. A trip due last year may take place in April or May. You will face very strong opponents as you ultimately overcome all of them. You will pass all tests with flying colors. Starting a new business will be profitable but exhaustive, specially during the second half of 2003. Children will do well in studies. You may move to a bigger house in June. An older family member’s health will cause concern in the second half of this year. Lucky numbers: 1, 17, 22, 35, 37 and 41

CANCER (June 21 to July 22): Saturn will restrict prosperity. Jupiter will make you mature and powerful in the society. You will start a new job or venture with a like-minded partner in the first half of 2003. Saturn could push you into a long legal battle. Do not buy and or start a business that involves any kind of gas. You should start taking your health seriously as planets can cause minor troubles which will be difficult to cure. It will be a very promising year for consultants and teachers. Children will need undivided attention. The second half of 2003 promises gradual prosperity. You may make money through stocks you recently purchased. Someone close in the past will be jealous and adopt a negative approach. Praying to Lord Shiva will eliminate negative impact and allow you to make considerable progress. Purchase of a house looks probable around October. Lucky numbers: 5, 9, 14, 26, 39 and 43

LEO (July 23 to August 22): Mars stays very strong throughout 2003. There will be positive developments in career. Some of you may sell an existing business and buy another one. Money will come and go equally fast. Value of your assets will appreciate. You will face strong competition in April and May. You may face difficulties when dealing with a government agency. An addition to the family can take place towards the end this year. You will go on an important trip in October. Jupiter in the first house after July 30 will help you get out of a difficult situation. Both your wallet and your body take on a bulging trend this year. Lucky numbers: 3, 13, 22, 32, 36 and 48

VIRGO (August 23 to September 22): Jupiter in the house of gains will trigger new associations. Business will improve. Uncertainty in career will disappear. You will change your car and enjoy life with family. You have a lot of money coming in April and May. Pending issues with government will clear in May. Issues involving a child will cause concerns during the first few months. You will win in gambling and make money through stocks too. Money will be spent on charity when Jupiter enters Leo during summer. A venture started in 2002 will take off and you will get good response after February. You will earn respect in your professional circle. Lucky numbers: 5, 11, 19, 28, 33 and 47

LIBRA (September 23 to October 22): Saturn’s transit in ninth will bring favorable changes in life. It will lead to a permanent move. You may have to make some sacrifices in your personal life. You may come under sudden financial pressure in the beginning but will recover soon. Changes in career will become permanent and you will start to feel comfortable. Some of you will find a better job in July 2003. Children will do well at school. You will get a large sum of money around May or June. You will change or purchase a vehicle for yourself. You will have overseas visitors. You will take a short term course to update your knowledge. You will overcome all hurdles in career. A long awaited reply from government will be positive. Lucky numbers: 8, 17, 32, 35, 41 and 48

SCORPIO (October 23 to November 22): Financially, things will improve. Liabilities and will reduce. New opportunities to make money will be offered. Legal matters will come to a favorable end. Chances of a settlement are strong in first half of 2003. You will be looking for a change in career around July and will find a better paying job. Since Ketu is afflicting your sign, anxiety and fear will haunt you but without any real threat. Since Mars will stay strong, you will take major risks. Efforts will pay off. Jupiter in ninth can fulfill your long cherished desire and your family will be complete. Relationships could be frustrating. You may move into your own home around October. Feeding birds will help overcome fear and obstacles. People in business will loose old contracts but sign new ones. Lucky numbers: 9, 11, 17, 29, 32 and 44

SAGITTARIUS (November 23 to December 22): Changes in career as well as residence are foreseen around July. Financially first few months look bad. Watch your health around February and March. Avoid lifting heavy objects and do light exercises. You will do charity work. You may travel abroad. You will have overseas visitors. Jupiter in ninth will bring fame. This is a good time to plan another baby. You may take short-term courses to improve your prospects. You will make long-term investments. Life will be tough but will gradually improve. There is money coming from a small litigation in October. People will make false promises and go back on their words and this will delay things during the next 4 months. Lucky numbers: 4, 16, 22, 26, 30 and 40

CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19): Be extra cautious this year. Saturn in sixth will try to hurt your health and wealth. You may be cornered by opponents in legal issues and it may get worse. Competition will grow as you feel the pressure. Jupiter in seventh can cause worries about the health of your spouse. A child may move out for education. Insurance money may be come during the second half of 2003. You will go on an important trip in April or May. Try to compromise with others and stay alert at all times. You will gain in overseas projects after July. You will borrow heavily for various projects. Loan will be available on time. You may also upgrade your home or start construction work. Lucky numbers: 6, 15, 19, 20, 22 and 27

AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18): Financially you will hold on till April. A few months after that will be slow. You will try hard, change strategies and recover slowly towards the end of July. Your projects will drain you out as money expected will not be available on time. Your earlier plans to move will we shelved because of a tight situation. Do not let professional stress affect your health. Watch you blood pressure during the second half of 2003. Wearing a copper band may keep health problems under control. You will travel overseas for a family reunion. Put everything in black and white and do not take anybody’s words for granted in a business venture. You will make some very useful connections. A government agency will be difficult to deal with for a while. Lucky numbers: 8, 13, 34, 42, 43 and 48

PISCES (February 19 to March 20): Financially it will be a great year. Business will grow. You will be recognized in your professional circle. Car and other machinery will need repairs throughout the year. You will receive job-related training. Mars will transit favorable houses till April giving you ample resources to a start new project. Consolidating your resources now will help you during rough times after July when Jupiter and other planets will stop helping for few months. Stress at work will affect your health after August but will be cured without a lot of medication. Second half of 2003 will be very expensive, prepare yourself accordingly. Lucky numbers: 9, 17, 22, 30, 31 and 44.

Bay Area-based astrologer Pandit Parashar can
be reached by email at: parashar@ix.netcom.com.

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