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Volume VI • Issue 10

NAATAK’s Ten Years: Indian Theatre in Bay Area

As NAATAK celebrates 10 years this December with its 22nd production, founder Sujit Saraf writes about his experience directing and producing plays in the Bay Area

Katrina’s Wallop: Bangladeshis in New Orleans

The devastatation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina hurt the expatriate Bangladeshi community in New Orleans particularly bad, writes Partha Banerjee

Reshma’s Story:
Helping Kids Learn
Promise Worldwide provides education and the priceless hope of a better life for needy kids in Kolkata, writes Jaya Basu

EDITORIAL: Indian Theatre in the Bay Area
NEWS DIARY: September
ANALYSIS: Katrina and Mumbai
CINEMA: SF S. Asian Film Fest
MUSIC: Kronos Quartet & Asha |
Pakistan’s Alamgir
THEATRE: Baby Taj: Love in Agra | ENAD’s ‘Baaki Itihas’
HEALTH: Dragon Boating
MARKETING: Ideas for Small Business
EXHIBIT: Real Estate India 2005
ENTERTAINMENT: Sangeet Awards in San Francisco
COMMUNITY: News in Brief
AUTO: 2005 Ford Freestyle AWD
| Film Review: Chocolate
TAMIL CINEMA: Anbe Aaruyire
RECIPE: Dilkushar Burfi & Aloo Tikki Chaat
Staging live theatre is one of the most challenging of performing arts. So it is no surprise that compared to the huge number of classical music and dance concerts that South Asians can enjoy, live theatre is relatively rare in the San Francisco Bay Area.

To the great joy of South Asian theatre buffs, that changed when NAATAK was born ten years ago.

Over the past decade, this group of theatre enthusiasts have delighted Bay Area theatre aficionados with their superb productions of plays in Hindi, Tamil and English. NAATAK has gone about its work with a passion and commitment to excellence that has drawn avowed admirers who turn up by the hundreds whenever it presents performances.

This year, as NAATAK celebrates ten years, we asked founder Sujit Saraf to tell our readers what it has been like to take on a daunting artistic challenge. Sujit writes about his experience with Naatak in this month’s cover story.

Natural calamities, alas, aren’t anything new or unexpected for Bangladeshis. Every year, monsoon rainfall and floods overwhelm that deltaic nation, and Bangladeshis cope with it as best as they can with what little resources they have.

However, little did expatriate Bangladeshis expect a hurricane of the might of Katrina to hit them when they came to New Orleans, yet that’s exactly what happened recently.

When Katrina hit, Bangladeshis were affected like everybody else in the Big Easy. However, just as the suffering depended on how poor or rich you were, Bangladeshis, being overwhelmingly of modest means, faced enormous hardships. For students or undocumented workers, their circumstances are even more fraught.

Partha Banerjee, a veteran immigrants rights activist, talked to many of the survivors of Katrina who have fled New Orleans. Some have lost everything they have, and are not sure how they are going to rebuild their lives. Bangladeshis in Baton Rouge have reached out with a helping hand, but many are themselves stressed by the huge influx of refugees.

Partha writes a poignant article about the plight of the Bangladeshis who fled New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina lashed the city.

When you think about heavyweight charitable organizations like, say, the Salvation Army or United Way, the modest efforts of a small Indian American nonprofit called Promise Worldwide may not seem like much.

But don’t jump into hasty conclusions. Started single-handedly by an expatriate Indian family in Los Gatos, Calif., a few years ago, the group now supports several schools in some of the most deprived areas in West Bengal.

Jaya Basu writes about the nonprofit which began its first project in the slum of Atghara in Kolkata. It started with 13 children. Now Promise supports 60. It has also improved the quality of its services. It provides the children with two nutritious meals a day instead of one, and has hired three more teachers to tutor the children. Promise will sponsor one young student to go to Jadavpur University to study engineering.

It may sound like a drop in the bucket in terms of the huge needs of the impoverished, but it is nevertheless a heartwarming, inspiring story of compassion and commitment. Promise Worldwide has managed to cross a crucial hurdle – the moral and social apathy of the privileged – for which we warmly commend it.

And last but not least, a very warm wish for Deepavali to all our readers, supporters and friends.

Ten Years of NAATAK: Bringing Indian Theatre to the Bay Area
By Sujit Saraf
Ten years ago, seven people met at the International House of the University of Berkeley, writes Sujit Saraf, who helped found NAATAK, which celebrates 10 years this December with its 22nd production. In the intervening years it has produced plays in Hindi, Tamil and English as well several films.

Scenes from NAATAK plays: Clockwise from top left: Sujit Saraf in Mohan Rakesh’s “Aashaadh Kaa Ek Din” (Apr 1998); Vijay Rajvaidya, Monica Mehta Chitkara, Harish Sunderam Agastya, Shobhna Upadhyay and Navjoti Sharma in Bhisham Sahni’s “Muavazey” (Nov 2004); Harish Sunderam Agastya and Aniruddha Bhosekar in Sujit Saraf’s “Tathaa Kuru” (Feb 2004); Ranjita Chakraborty and Monica Mehta Chitkara in Jaywant Dalvi’s “Arey Shareef Log” (Jun 2005); Parthasarathy Mamidipudi in Vijay Tendulkar’s “Khaamosh! Adaalat Jaarii Hai” (Feb 1996); Rajiv Nema (left) and Alok Kuchlous (right) in Sujit Saraf’s “Aath Ghante” (Feb 1997).

NAATAK began in the fall of 1995, when a friend and I started looking for ways to indulge our love of theater. We had fond memories of plays we had staged while in college, and we wondered if it was possible to re-create those days. The Bay Area was home to many community organizations and cultural festivals, but we found no group focused entirely on theater, on the reading and staging of full-length plays. It became obvious that if we were to regularly participate in plays, we would have to start our own theater group.

We decided that the most efficient manner of creating a theater group was to simply stage a play, and hope that the group would form itself around the event. So, instead of announcing the formation of NAATAK, we announced an audition for Vijay Tendulkar’s Khaamosh! Adaalat Jaarii Hai. We sent out emails, posted notices on newsgroups, and hoped for the best. On December 2, 1995, seven people collected in a lounge in International House, my dormitory at Berkeley. We read the entire play, slowly, over four hours. In the next audition, held the next day, we attracted a few more people, and I assigned roles. We were unable to find a full cast through our auditions. We also had no idea how many people would come to watch our play, and we did not yet have a theater. We began rehearsing anyway, and I soon became aware of the challenges we faced. Although most of my actors could speak Hindi fluently, none had read Hindi in the last few years, so they struggled with the script. Then there were the complications of transport and scheduling. Half my cast lived in the South Bay, and the other half in Berkeley. Those in the South Bay were engineers available only on evenings and weekends. Those in Berkeley, including myself, were graduate students without cars. To distribute the inconvenience, we split our rehearsals between the Berkeley and Stanford campuses. Much time was spent on BART trains, getting picked up and dropped off at BART stations, fixing rehearsal times, adjusting those times to accommodate project deadlines, exams, quizzes and semesters. After a few chaotic weekends, we were able to find an opening at Cubberley Theater on February 16, available only because that was President’s Day weekend. We simplified our sets to wooden frames covered with cardboard, and one of my actors manufactured them in his apartment in Berkeley. We varnished and painted the frames together. Through a combination of spamming and cajolement, we were able to sell eighty tickets in advance. On February 16, I was pleased to see a modest queue form at the box office. We staged Khaamosh! Adaalat Jaarii Hai. Two hundred and five people watched the play, and NAATAK was born.

(Clockwise from top left) Divya Jain and Amit Garg in Dharamvir Bharti’s “Suuraj Kaa Saatwaan Ghodaa” (Feb 2003), adapted for the stage by Vipul Srivastava; Rajiv Nema and Pritha Chatterjee in Vasant Kanetkar’s “Kasturi Mrig” (Dec 2003); Brajesh Upadhyay, Aniruddha Bhosekar, Amit Nanavati and Abhijit Chakankar in Sujit Saraf’s “Vande Maataram” (Aug 1998) and Anshu Johri and Sujit Saraf in Vijay Tendulkar’s “Khaamosh! Adaalat Jaarii Hai” (Nov 2002)
Ten years later, we will stage our twenty second production in December. We have produced three films and eighteen plays in Hindi, Tamil and English, entertaining an ever-growing audience of theater lovers in the San Francisco area. As it happens, our twenty second production opens on December 2, exactly ten years after that first audition. Much has happened in the last ten years around us, including the boom and bust in Silicon Valley. Our members, most of whom are professionals in the software industry, have prospered and suffered with the boom, but NAATAK has somehow continued to grow. Membership is free and informal. All auditions are open to the public. Anyone who has participated significantly in one NAATAK production and has a good script is eligible to produce or direct a play after committing to abide by NAATAK principles in good faith. This has created a large pool of directors, actors, set-designers, make-up artists, sound and light experts, publicity and marketing teams, which NAATAK draws upon for every subsequent production.

When NAATAK began, I was conscious of the legacy of our theater days in Delhi, where we usually staged British and American plays, such as John Mortimer’s The Dock Brief, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire and Sam Shepard’s True West. There are many reasons, not all defensible, why theater groups in India insist on staging plays they cannot identify with, but I was certain I did not want to repeat those mistakes in selecting plays for NAATAK. Now that I was actually living in the West, it seemed silly to try and penetrate the mind of Tennessee Williams. How could I stand on stage and pretend to be Stanley Kowalski, when someone in my audience might actually have grown up in the French Quarter in New Orleans? It was one thing to play at being Stanley Kowalski in far-removed Delhi and quite another to do so in Palo Alto, among those who certainly knew better. We decided, therefore, to stick to plays by Indian playwrights.

(Above) Ram Padmanabhan and Mark D. Hines in Mahesh Umasankar’s short film “The Seine.” (May 2005); (Below) Navneeth Rao in Sujit Saraf’s full-length feature film “Asphyxiating Uma” (Mar 2002). NAATAK’s first film was “Bugaboo” (Jul 1999), a quirky, full-length feature film on the foibles of desi Silicon Valley techies.
This was easier said than done. There is a dearth of good theater scripts in Indian languages, especially in Hindi. Indeed, many good Hindi plays are translations from Marathi or Bengali. Also, the same reasons that kept us away from Tennessee Williams also put many Indian scripts beyond our reach, because the characters in those stories lived in an environment too far removed from ours. Our own life experiences lay somewhere between the Indian-ness of a Sageena Mahato and the American-ness of a Willy Loman. Were there any scripts at all that we could call our own? Over the years, we tried to find these “middle scripts” and imagine the lives of their characters. Sometimes we hit the right combination, sometimes we did not. When we found no scripts, we wrote our own. Our upcoming production in December, Everyone Loves A Good Tsunami, is in fact our own script, set in the Bay Area among people we understand very well.

This distance from our stage characters often extends to our audience which, after all, is the very pool from which NAATAK actors are drawn. I remember the first ten seconds of our first play, Khaamosh! Adaalat Jaarii Hai. The play begins with the entry of Samant, a villager, and Leela Benare, an actress in a visiting drama troupe from Bombay. “This is the hall where your play will be staged,” says Samant as he enters the stage wearing a kurta and a dhoti. As soon as Samant said this, the audience began to laugh. Standing backstage, I was puzzled. Why were they laughing? What was funny? Had Samant’s dhoti slipped off his waist? Had Leela Benare stumbled? Had we already doomed our theater group in its first few seconds? But of course, none of these things had happened, and our audience had not laughed in derision. They were merely amused to see a man wearing a dhoti, they were pleased to hear Hindi spoken on stage, and they were tickled at the sheer improbability of watching a Hindi play in Palo Alto. The experience was novel, so they expressed their approval with laughter. While these were reactions I may have expected, they had nothing to do with the play. They superseded the play and defeated its purpose, at least in that one opening scene. I was disappointed. It appeared that, just because we had staged a Hindi play in Palo Alto and reminded everyone of home, they were prepared to say it was a “great show”, regardless of the quality of our performance. All that was expected of us was the soft scent of nostalgia. How would we ever stage a good play?

Fortunately, this was not entirely true. One cannot expect novelty to entertain an audience for two hours, as was proved by the emails, several critical, that I later received. I now realize that we were fortunate. We were not, and still aren’t, professional theater artists. We are engineers and homemakers who love theater, watch plays and stage them. Over the years, we have acquired many of the skills that professionals might possess, but perhaps not to the same degree as people who do this for a living. We have learned a lot on the job, but if our audience had not been forgiving while we learned, we may never have found the will to continue. After ten years, no one finds it amusing merely to be watching a Hindi or Tamil play. No one thinks it funny when a man walks out on stage wearing a dhoti. Our audience expects a full-blown play and is quick to criticize. There are now many more theater groups dedicated to producing good theater, and we are much more confident in our ability to stage elaborate productions. The same non-professional status that undermines our dedication to theater also frees us from the constraints that usually bind a professional theater group. Because NAATAK members do not depend on theater for their livelihood, we are able to select plays that we really like, and stage those plays exactly as we prefer. We are able to remain faithful to our central goal of producing intelligent, thought-provoking plays, and doing so in a tasteful manner. At NAATAK performances, there are no promotional gimmicks, no elaborate speeches, no chief guests, no sponsorships, no banners, no announcements and no exhortations to buy anything. Every show begins with a short introduction to the play, usually offered by the director or producer. Although most NAATAK profits have been given away to other non-profit organizations, the audience is not subjected to a harangue about proceeds going to this charity or that, on the assumption that people come to watch a play on the merits of the play, not the cause it indirectly supports.

Sujit Saraf is a writer, theatre activist and a software engineer.
He lives in San Jose, Calif
As befits a theater and film group, NAATAK is celebrating its tenth anniversary by staging plays and producing films. The Seine, a film directed by Mahesh Umasankar, premiered in June this year, followed by Jaywant Dalvi’s hilarious play Arey Shareef Log, directed by Rajiv Nema, which concluded a very successful run in Palo Alto and Hayward in June and July. The celebration will be completed by Sujit Saraf’s Everyone Loves A Good Tsunami, an irreverent look at the fund-raising fever in America, which will be staged in December.

NAATAK has grown organically in the last ten years. More than two hundred people have participated in our plays and films. Our vision for the next ten years is that Indian theater will become a regular part of life in the San Francisco area. People will say over dinner,“Let us go and watch a NAATAK play”, just as they go and watch films. Instead of being a rare and occasional indulgence, “going to the theater” will become a common form of entertainment, to be enjoyed with discrimination and taste. And, through it all, NAATAK hopes to continue staging mature, creative plays, again and again, without much fanfare, but with great artistry and craftsmanship.

Information on NAATAK auditions, play readings and future productions can be found at http://www.naatak.com.


Wallop: Bangladeshi Victims in New Orleans - By Partha Banerjee
Hurricane Katrina hurt the expatriate Bangladeshi community in New Orleans particularly bad, writes Partha Banerjee.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s satellite image of New Orleans following the floods unleashed by Hurricane Katrina. (NOAA photo)

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and destroyed the city Aug. 29, it also devastated the city’s thousands of immigrants and their lives. Many of these immigrants came to the U.S. from countries ravaged by Katrina-type storms and their aftermaths. Now they are faced with similar experiences, all over again.

The Bangladeshi immigrants of New Orleans is one community that got wrecked.

“We see this back there all the time: havoc, misery because of the big monsoon storms. We never believed we’d see such a catastrophe here that turns our lives upside down,” said Moti, an undocumented immigrant from Sylhet, Bangladesh. He would not disclose his full name.

Moti fled Metairie, a northern suburb of downtown New Orleans the Sunday before the hurricane struck. He left behind all the belongings in his first-floor apartment that was inundated with five or six-foot-deep water. He doesn’t believe he’ll be able to put his life back together soon. He believes many others like him had a similar fate.

“I didn’t have much in the first place,” he said. “But now, I don’t even know where to begin. I lost it all.”

The Bangladeshi students attending various schools including Tulane University also left the Orleans Parish en masse the day before the city was evacuated. Most of them are now staying at friends’ or relatives’ in Houston, Texas, Jackson, Mississippi, Mobile, Alabama, or Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Apart from losing their belongings that include books, term papers, bikes and blankets, these students also lost their meager income, which worries them a lot.

Top: Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Huerta hoists two children into a Coast Guard rescue helicopter in New Orleans. Others watch from below as the children are among many New Orleans citizens to be rescued from their rooftops due to flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Bottom: Members of the Coast Guard Sector Ohio Valley Disaster Response Team and the Miami-Dade Urban Search and Rescue Team mark a house in New Orleans to show that it has been searched for survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

“Students’ biggest worry is that, if New Orleans is shut down for a long time and they can’t go back to their schools designated by immigration [authorities], they’ll be considered illegal, without valid papers,” Mohammed Shahed, a part-time Tulane Student, said. International students study in U.S. at schools specifically mentioned on their I-20 immigration papers. Under normal circumstances, while on their student visa, they’re not allowed to study anywhere else. They’re not allowed to work outside, either. ”I think these students should be relocated properly just like any other American students [impacted by Katrina],” Mamud, another student at Tulane, said.

Shahed fled New Orleans in the nick of time only to find himself and some twenty other students huddled in a Bengali doctor’s house in Hattiesburg, Miss., a town that took the hit of the deadly hurricane’s eye. He thought out of an estimated 1,000 Bangladeshis in Greater New Orleans, a few long-time immigrants, lost everything. According to him, a couple of doctors living close to the interstate highway near the hurricane eye saw their houses completely blown away.

“We’re lucky to have survived,” Shahed said. “But (in spite of the) generosity provided to us, it’s not the happiest situation. We have to find a way to put our lives back together soon,” he said.

Shahed described how the city residents and its immigrant students did not really get any serious warning about the oncoming storm. “Tulane students just got one five- or 10-minute alarm, and basically that’s it,” he said. “We were playing soccer with a bunch of kids even on Saturday. Never thought it was going to be so bad.” Two days later, Hurricane Katrina walloped the city. New Orleans residents, who are used to relocating to nearby places at hearing official warnings, did not know what was coming at them.”

Partha Banerjee is a community activist. He is executive director of the Newark-based New Jersey Immigrant Policy Network.
“We moved to Houston three or four times before,” Mariam Nessa, a Bangladeshi immigrant mother from Kenner, another suburb of New Orleans, said. On Sunday, just the day before the hurricane stormed the city, she left with her husband and child for Houston again, to stay with some friends. This time, however, she doesn’t know when she can go back to her home, if ever again.

“They tell us now that we can go check on our home in Kenner, but I’m afraid we’d get mugged or something if we went,” she said. “I don’t know what to do. They say houses are being vandalized and the water to drink is not safe. I have a child and I’m afraid.”

Hurricane Katrina impacted Bangladeshi immigrants in Baton Rouge, a city about 50 miles northwest of New Orleans. “Our population has suddenly gone up twice, three times because of the people who escaped New Orleans and came here,” Khasruzzaman Chowdhury, a university professor, said. “This is unprecedented—traffic jams and all. Where are they going to put up so many people in grave needs?”

Chowdhury and his family had no electricity for nearly a week since Katrina hit Louisiana. “We moved from friends’ to friends’ to eat because we have an electric oven and couldn’t cook,” he said. “But our discomfort is negligible compared to theirs,” he agreed.

Chowdhury and his wife are now helping Bangladeshi and other South Asian immigrants to rehabilitate. He’s using his connections to help those who need it. “We’re also reaching out to other poor communities,” he said. “I have students from poor families and they’re in serious trouble.”


NEWS DIARY: September Roundup
‘Dead Women’ Elected in Pakistan | South Asia Meet to Be Landmark Summit | Free Rice for the Hungry | Fresh Charges against Lalu Prasad Yadav | Indian Women and HIV | Rape Remarks Stain Musharraf | Sensex Hits New Peak |

'Dead Women’ Elected in Pakistan
Pakistani Police have opened a probe following complaints that two dead women were elected in August’s local elections. The women were elected in two separate constituencies of Upper Dir district of North West Frontier Province.

Women voters queue in Pakistan town.
A quota system for women at the elections was intended to boost their representation at a provincial level.

But the elections were marred by violence and claims of vote-rigging.

According to reports. one of the women has been dead for 13 years and the other for three years.

Khushalzada Khan, assistant election officer in Upper Dir, told Reuters that fresh voting would be ordered in the constituencies if the women were found to be dead.

Supporters of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf claimed victory in the local elections. But opposition parties and groups like Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission said the elections were marred by extensive vote-rigging.
|Back to NEWS Diary|

South Asia Meet to Be Landmark Summit
New Delhi says members of the South Asian regional group SAARC want their meeting in November to be a “landmark summit” and will probably discuss asking Afghanistan to become a member.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran (r)
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit will be held in Dhaka against a backdrop of sharply improved relations between its biggest members, India and Pakistan.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said foreign ministers representing the seven SAARC nations met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York recently.

“We all agreed the SAARC summit will be an important and landmark summit,” he told a news conference. “We have agreed we should have a substantive agenda ... move SAARC from making declaratory statements to doing some collaborative work.”

All SAARC members must agree on Afghanistan’s admission.

SAARC, which groups Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, was founded in 1985 with the aim of fostering closer economic and social ties.

But tensions between India and Pakistan have hamstrung economic cooperation and development in one of the world’s poorest and most populous regions.

The last SAARC summit was in 2003 where leaders agreed to launch a free-trade area from 2006 and draw up a social charter.
|Back to NEWS Diary|

Free Rice for the Hungry

Bangla Army distributing rice.
The Bangladesh army has begun distributing rice as part of the government’s biggest-ever feeding program. About 15,000 soldiers are helping deliver rice to thousands of poor families in Bangladesh who face hunger in the nation’s biggest ever free rice distribution program. The program was introduced amid fears of an annual food shortage.

Rice, the staple for Bangladesh’s 140 million people, is beginning to get prohibitively expensive ahead of Ramadan after a poor harvest.

Officials say a situation of near famine is looming, particularly in the north. Every autumn food stocks run out before the rice harvest in December.

Officials say the program reflects the government’s recognition that high prices of rice are hitting the poorest hardest. Keeping rice prices affordable for the country’s poor — the vast majority of the population — is one of the biggest political challenges for any government in Bangladesh.

Deputy Food Minister Asadul Habib said the free food distribution program was aimed at ensuring that rice was available to the poor. He said the government expected the free rice to contain rising prices as poor people would not need to rush to the markets to buy food. He said an estimated 20 million people would benefit.
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Fresh Charges against Lalu Prasad Yadav

Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav
It seems the ghosts of the Bihar fodder scam have come back to haunt India’s Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav again. The feisty former chief minister of Bihar has been charged with embezzling millions of dollars in a long-running corruption case.

The charge refers to the fodder scam, which first came to light in 1996, when Yadav was charged with embezzling state funds intended to be spent on animal fodder while he was chief minister.

The treasuries from which money was allegedly stolen are situated in Jharkhand, which was split from Bihar as a separate state in 2000. Two special investigative courts in Ranchi, state capital of Jharkhand, charged Yadav and others, including former Bihar Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra.

In the first case, the court charged Yadav and Mishra with misappropriating $41

million of state funds. A second case accused the two men of illegally withdrawing $200,000 from the treasury in Deogarh.

In one of the cases, Yadav insisted on pleading his own case. He said that it was perhaps the first case in India, where the initial complainant had become the accused. The fodder scam had first come to light while he was heading the state government in Bihar, he said.
|Back to NEWS Diary|

Indian Women and HIV
India already has over five million HIV-positive people. Nearly two out of five of them are women. Health workers fear unless there is a massive campaign to combat the widespread ignorance of HIV, especially among women, the situation will soon get much worse.

Not only illiterate women, but so-called educated women also are not aware of HIV/Aids.

“That is the pity of the situation among women here,” says Dr Deeksha, the medical director of Vasavya Mahila Mandali, which — in addition to running a home for vulnerable women — also works to promote HIV awareness and cares for women in Andhra Pradesh.

Sex is still largely a taboo subject in India, which makes education even more difficult, according to Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.

“We are trying to sensitize the husband in the first phase, saying don’t do this and don’t do that and try to be faithful and abstinent,” he told the BBC.

However, Aids activists say the government is not doing enough. “I think it’s pretty much out of hand as far as I’m concerned,” says Anjali Gopalan of the Naz Foundation. “We’re seeing a tremendous rise in numbers of people who are living with HIV.”
|Back to NEWS Diary|

Rape Remarks Stain Musharraf

Women protesters in Karachi
Pakistan’s President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has been the darling of the West since the Sept. 11 terror attacks with his sober, moderate comments, so his recent comment on rape came as a shock.

Musharraf recently told The Washington Post that many Pakistanis see rape allegations as a way for women to make money and get visas to leave the country.

His comments caused an outcry among human rights activists.

“Violence against women is a universal problem,” said Kamila Hyat, co-director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “Many governments have taken serious steps to deal with it. Pakistan hasn’t.”

She called Musharraf’s reported comments “insensitive and rather pointless.”

“There are thousands of victims of rape in Pakistan,” she said, “and as far as I know, none went abroad” other than a doctor who claimed she was raped by a military officer. Musharraf later backtracked and denied saying that activists profited from making rape accusations, but the newspaper said the recorded interview proved he was correctly quoted.
|Back to NEWS Diary|

Sensex Hits New Peak

Bombay Stock Exchange
India’s benchmark Bombay Stock Exchange index has breached the 8,500 point level to reach another new high. The BSE sensitive index recently closed up 55.44 points at 8,500.28.

The Sensex has gained more than 25 percent this year, spurred on by foreign investors who are pumping money into Mumbai’s stock market.

Banks were the biggest winners, with the government-owned State Bank of India and private sector ICICI Bank both rising strongly.

India’s economy, one of the fastest-growing in the world, is forecast to grow by 7 percent this year, despite concern over rising oil prices.

The strong market performance has come as a boost to India’s Congress-led coalition government, which is under pressure from its Communist allies to roll back some of its economic reform plans.

Just over a year ago, when the party was voted into office, Indian share prices recorded their biggest fall in a single day’s trading over concerns that the new government would stall economic reforms.

“Black Monday” wiped billions of dollars off the value of India’s listed companies.

But India has continued to enjoy strong economic growth, lifted by growth in exports and further market reforms.
|Back to NEWS Diary|

Katrina and Mumbai:
The View from Delhi - By Siddharth Srivastava
The wrath of Katrina, and disaster management in its aftermath has raised troubling questions about the world’s only superpower, writes Siddharth Srivastava.

Top: Aerial view of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina broke open its levees. (U.S. COAST GUARD/ KYLE NIEMI photo)
Bottom: A Mumbai BEST bus going under torrential floods.

Even as the U.S. has struggled to come to terms with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina that has destroyed New Orleans, there is a sense of shock in India. Pictures of victims begging for food, reports of looting, rapes, racist attacks, an ineffective disaster management routine has revealed the innards of America that many believed never existed. After all, making it to America, the land of opportunities, freedom and quality lifestyle, remains one of the most enduring of Indian dreams. New Orleans is a modern city and a tourist destination.

It makes matters worse, when the prediction about the hurricane had already been made the necessary precautions were not taken. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced with thousands probably dead. Damage is estimated at $25 billion and disruption to U.S. refineries has pushed oil prices to record highs above $70 a barrel.

The images beamed all over the world along with reports of desperation are generally associated with Africa or less developed countries in Asia. Two pictures displayed prominently by newspapers here spoke of the tragedy with telling eloquence. One is a photo of an African American woman lying dead on the roadside while a police car whizzes past. Another photograph is of a large group of women lunging for food being distributed.

Some of the voices continue to resonate and haunt: “I really don’t know what to say about President Bush,” said a 60-year-old Vietnam veteran. “He showed no lack of haste when he wanted to go to Iraq, but for his own people right here in Louisiana, we get only lip service.”

“They died right here, in America, waiting for food,” said another affected person.

Many in India have been talking about the recent natural disasters in India—the tsunami in December and the unprecedented rainfall in Mumbai in July which was perhaps dealt with much better, now that one can compare disaster management with that in New Orleans. In Mumbai, the government agencies were found severely wanting, but there have been innumerable tales of people pitching in to help citizens with food, shelter and transport that checked casualties. There have been some reports of vehicles stalled in water being burgled, but no arson and looting to the scale that happened in New Orleans. A couple who spoke to this correspondent talked about the help they received when their car was flooded. The locals in the area arranged for their night stay and assured that nobody would harm the car. Two days later, the couple went back to find their car intact. There have been many, many such stories which have been covered on TV as well as the print media.

Similar was the case with the tsunami, where the governments of the coastal states actually did a better job in providing relief than in Mumbai, apart from the citizen and private initiatives.

Top: U.S. President George W. Bush (c) receives a briefing from Coast Guard Capt. James D. Bjostad (r) on the status of search and rescue operations staged out of the Coast Guard based in Mobile, Ala. (U.S. COAST GUARD/ NYXOLYNO CANGEMI photo)
Bottom: Cars pile up in a flooded Mumbai street after the city recorded its highest rainfall ever in July.
Comparisons have also been made to the response to the London blasts in July this year. The emergency services in the city responded with a zeal that was commendable. Ordinary people chipped in. Although the police got it horribly wrong by shooting a Brazilian youth, by and large the response of the government agencies has been quite good. Just like natural disasters, it is near impossible to prevent suicide attacks of the kind that al-Qaeda. It is reactions post-tragedy that can go a long way in mitigating suffering.

In a reversal of usual roles, India has offered a comprehensive assistance package to the U.S., the world’s largest relief donor. An estimated 70 nations, from Azerbaijan to Venezuela, Afghanistan and Thailand have offered cash contributions to the Red Cross totaling more than $100 million, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said. The American people, too, are responding with massive donations.

India’s three-pronged package attempts to export a combination of materials and expertise, given its experience in handling large-scale disasters. Apart from a $5 million contribution to the American Red Cross, India has offered to send Army medical teams, rather than civilian, given the law and order problems. This is apart from expertise in water purification and consignments of medicines.

Many questions are being asked post Katrina: Has America become too obsessed with other countries, ignorings domestic interests of its own? Has the administration gone too far in pursuing its war on terror, its battles in Iraq and geo-strategic games to stamp its might, at the cost of its own people? Has President George W. Bush committed too much resources in the battlefield that has led to the absence of adequate manpower to protect American citizens? Have Bush’s tax cuts to please the rich and corporate America harmed the nation?

A news agency has analyzed census data that shows that the residents in the three dozen worst affected neighborhoods in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were disproportionately minority and had incomes $10,000 below the national average.

However, issues of poverty and racism are a thorny issue in every society. Mumbai has its share of poor and caste/regional/religion barriers. Yet respect for law and individual dignity has to be nurtured even within these constraints, especially during a crisis.

“What we are seeing in the U.S. is complete chaos,” said Farida Lambe, a social worker involved in relief during the Mumbai floods. “My assessment is that many of the problems arose as the people are not used to facing calamities. They expect complete efficiency and find it difficult to cope if it does not come about.”

One has to wonder: Had not the Bush government been so embroiled in the war in Iraq as well as keeping an eye on suspected nuclear weapons in Iran, North Korea, would matters have been dealt with in a better way? While the federal government deserves considerable blame, in fairness, it wasn’t just the federal government that failed Katrina’s victims.

Critics are already pointing out that national resources drawn from the American taxpaying public are being spent on warfare in Iraq at the expense of domestic needs.

September 11, 2001 changed the U.S. It forced the country to look for the enemy out there, with Saddam Hussein the convenient scapegoat. Most agree that terrorism in the name of Islam has influenced youth around the world, whether in Britain, Europe or America, but the solution does not lie in going for more wars. The rise of Islamic terrorism the world is grappling with today is itself a product of the Cold War played out in countries like Afghanistan.

To say that it’s time for the U.S. to learn from countries like India and the United Kingdom may be overstating the point, but it cannot be gainsayed that U.S. disaster relief performance in relation to India and Britain stands in stark contrast to its overwhelming geopolitical superiority as the only remaining superpower strides the world like a colossus.

Hurricane Katrina could well be a wake up call, and if it makes American policy makers look inwards, it won’t happen a moment too soon.

- Siddharth Srivastava is India correspondent of Siliconeer. He lives in New Delhi.


Reshma's Story: Helping Kids Learn -
By Jaya Basu

For kids in India whose families earn less than a $1 a day, Los Gatos, Calif.-based Promise Worldwide provides education and the priceless hope of a better life, writes Jaya Basu.

Attentive children doing their lessons in a school in West Bengal supported by Promise Worldwide.
It is said that education is the surest route to a better future. This is particularly true of the Third World. In India, millions of children have no access to even the most basic schooling. We are talking about a situation where acute and widespread poverty enfolds the lives and thoughts of a large segment of the population.

Our story is about a small and desperately poor village called Atghara in the Rajarhat Gopalpur municipality in West Bengal—a village that is intruded upon by the expanding metropolis called Kolkata. Jolpara in Atghara is bounded by Kolkata’s international airport and a new multilane expressway, facilities that bring no real long-term advantage to this depressed area. At Jolpara, where the nearest high school is over half a mile away, and the closest hospital is over nine miles away, life goes on without amenities most people take for granted. Opportunities for earning money usually stop at ragpicking.

Promise Worldwide:
Assisting Underprivileged Kids

Two children at a school supported by Promise Worldwide in Atghara, Kolkata.

Founded in 2001, Promise Worldwide is a Los Gatos, Calif.-based U.S. registered non-profit organization which aims to educate and empower underprivileged children across the world.

“Our mission is to help children born in poverty to gain access to basic amenities and education so that they can regain their childhood and grow up to be responsible citizens,” the group’s founders say in its Web site. Its first project in Atghara, Kolkata has grown to a community of 60 children. The first group of sponsored students is appearing in the school final examination in Summer 2005.

It also supports the Shiksha Mandir School in Gurup, 60 miles from Kolkata. Medical camps promoting health education and free surgical procedures to local residents are provided in this campus.

Promise Worldwide has just begun assistance to a school in a red-light district in Lokar Math near Hazra crossing at South Kolkata to provide evening classes and activities for the children in that neighborhood. Currently, there are no public institutions of learning in this area.

Promise Worldwide welcomes volunteers and donations for its cause. Donations are tax-deductible. More information is available at its Web site at www.promiseworldwide.org

Entire families scavenge through mountains of garbage separating reusable material. The better off pedal rickshaws for hire. Our story features a little girl, Reshma Khatun. Like thousands of children in her community, Reshma comes from a family whose average daily expendable income Rs. 25 (about 50 cents) for five persons. What makes Reshma special is her brilliance in studies. In Reshma’s community, 98 percent of the people are unskilled laborers. Most of Reshma’s friends who need academic supervision belong to families that are not able to give their children two square meals a day, so they cannot imagine providing educational guidance to their young ones.

One organization that provides this is Promise. Promise is a non-profit organization which brings hope to 50 children in the neighborhood. Hope for a better education and the warmth of a full meal. The meal is the immediate attraction. Most families send their children to the Promise project for the free lunch, but there are other long-term benefits. Youngsters like Reshma have to be encouraged, because they suffer from serious economic disadvantages. Reshma’s father, for example, recovered from tuberculosis only two years ago, and now works as a night watchman on very low pay.

Studies are of primary importance. All the children go to school. Coaching and careful supervision help them get the most out of their lessons. Apart from this, Promise allows the children to learn discipline and teamwork. The accent is on cleanliness.

Jaya Basu is one of the founders of the non-profit Promise Worldwide. She lives in Los Gatos, Calif.
Not much can be said about the general hygiene about the area in which these children have grown up. There is one large pond in the locality covered with water hyacinths and contaminated with arsenic. Clothes and utensils are washed here.

After Promise came into the area, women in Jolpara have started to use other water sources to wash utensils. It is the children who have taken civic values and hygiene from the classroom to their homes. Lunch at Promise is a simple but wholesome affair. The daily staple is rice, lentils and vegetables. At the start of the project, available funds permitted only a single banana, a quarter loaf of bread and a boiled egg for each child. Financial assistance may bring further items to the lunch tables here.

When lunch over, the children go home to the world outside Promise. They carry with them their dreams and the hopes of the Promise project. Every day, as they go to school, Promise believes that the children have taken another small but significant step towards a better tomorrow. However, there are many more children who await a helping hand.

Through Indian Eyes
: 1-800-INDIA - A Siliconeer Report
The PBS show Wide Angle explored the experience of young Indian women who work 80-hour weeks at call centers in a recent documentary. A Siliconeer report.

Minal Varma (top), and Ekta Jaiswal (bottom), featured in “1-800-INDIA,” at work in an Indian outsourcing company, GECIS. (ANAY MANN photos)

As India emerges as the leader in the rapidly growing global market for white-collar “outsourcing” jobs, up to half a million American jobs may have been “lost” to India in recent years through outsourcing, and some analysts project that the number will soon reach a million, as Indian and Chinese back-office sectors expand by 30 percent a year.

In 1-800-INDIA, Thirteen/WNET’s Wide Angle shows the transformation taking place inside India. Traveling to Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi and home to India’s first call center, 1-800-INDIA follows four women who work for GECIS, the nation’s largest BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) company, with over 13,000 employees. Profiling these young women working at well-paid, demanding jobs that require long hours, late-night shifts, and Westernized work habits, 1-800-INDIA reveals the personal and cultural impact of this sweeping global trend.

The documentary premiered Sept. 13 on PBS.

Through the stories of the four GECIS employees, 1-800-INDIA reveals the changes outsourcing is bringing to the evolving landscape of Indian cities and towns, to the Indian economy, and to the aspirations and daily lives of young Indians entering the new globalized work force. “What I love about it is I think it’s given India confidence. Confidence is a huge thing,” says Pramod Bhasin, president and CEO of GECIS and a pioneer of the outsourcing industry in India.

1-800-INDIA producer Anna Cater has produced a wide range of documentaries for ABC Australia, CBC Canada, the BBC, and others. Director Safina Uberoi’s recent film My Mother India, about her Australian mother’s love affair with India, won 11 major international awards including the New South Wales Premier’s Award, Australia’s highest literary award for script writing.

Wide Angle anchor Bill Moyers conducted a post-film interview with Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Economic Strategy Institute in Washington, D.C., and author of “Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East.” They discussed how the geo-economics of outsourcing are reshaping the lives of Americans, and the opportunities and challenges America faces in the new global economy.

Wide Angle is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York for PBS. Stephen Segaller is executive producer. Pamela Hogan is series producer. Andy Halper is senior producer.

Major funding for Wide Angle is provided by PBS, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Jacob Burns Foundation, Ford Foundation, the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation, Pilar Crespi Robert and Stephen Robert, and Bernard and Irene Schwartz.

A Feast of Cinema
: South Asian Film Fest - By Ivan Jaigirdar
Ritwik Ghatak’s classic Meghe Dhaka Tara, Shonali Bose’s awardwinning AMU, Ali Kazimi’s poignant documentary on the 1914 voyage of Indians on the Komagata Maru, the San Francisco South Asian Film Fest has it all, writes Ivan Jaigirdar.

Clockwise from top: Scenes from “Khamosh Paani;” “AMU;” and “Meghe Dhaka Tara,” which will be screened at the South Asian Film Festival.

It has been a rich year for South Asian film, and 3rd I’s annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival will be showcasing more cutting-edge new films as well as the full breadth of South Asian cinema, including and highlighting works by South Asian women filmmakers.

The festival arrives this year Nov. 11, 12 and 13, giving Bay Area moviegoers a sample of classic Indian cinema, hard hitting social documentaries, innovative features and the latest in Bollywood sizzle.

SFISAFF features a number of premiere screenings with appearances by filmmakers and stars at a reception at the Castro theatre. The program opens Nov. 11 at the Roxie theatre with a diverse compilation of South Asian short films from the Bay Area filmmakers, followed by Sunset Bollywood, a new documentary which explores the meteoric rise and fall of three of Bollywood’s biggest stars.

Ivan Jaigirdar is one of the founders of 3rd I. He lives in San Francisco.
Later screenings include Ritwik Ghatak’s 1960 classic masterpiece Meghe Dhaka Tara (Cloud-Capped Star); It’s My Country Too (UK,  2005), a revealing look at the richly diverse Pakistani American Muslim community, as seen through the eyes of Pakistani American Rock star Salman Ahmed of Junoon; Shonali Bose’s feature film AMU (India/USA, 2005); the documentary No More Tears, Sister: An Anatomy Of Hope And Betrayal (Sri Lanka/Canada, 2004) by Helene Klowdawsky; and Ganges: River to Heaven (India/USA, 2004) by Gayle Ferraro. Junoon’s Salman Ahmed and filmmaker Shonali Bose will attend the festival in person.

So round up all your friends and come on over to enjoy!

For information about the festival and films visit the festival Web site at www.thirdi.org/festival or www.thirdi.org or call (415) 835-4783.


MUSIC: You’ve Stolen My Heart: Kronos Quartet and Asha Bhosle
Evergreen playback queen Asha Bhosle hooks up with San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet to present the deliciously campy hits of the unforgettable Bollywood composer R.D. Burman. A Siliconeer report

The cutting-edge San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet and evergreen Bollywood playback queen Asha Bhosle have joined hands to pay homage to some of the biggest smash hits of yesteryear by Bollywood composer R.D. Burman.

Inspired by Burman and Bhosle, Kronos have launched their new music album, “You’ve Stolen My Heart,” augmenting its acoustic sound with keyboards, percussion, and other instruments, all played by the Quartet members. Longtime collaborators Zakir Hussain (tabla and a variety of other percussion instruments) and Wu Man (Chinese pipa and other stringed instruments) also lend their virtuosity.

Now they are taking their homage to Bollywood to Carnegie Hall in New York, before performing live at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Sept. 22 and 23, UCLA in Los Angeles Sept. 24 and the Barbican Center in London Oct. 7. The Carnegie Hall performance in New York is scheduled for April 8.

The Kronos Quartet (l-r) — Hank Dutt, John Sherba, Jeffrey Zeigler, David Harrington
A versatile genius, R.D. Burman borrowed from everywhere to create a sound that was all his. It was hip, cool and deliciously campy. As the East Bay Express said: “Nothing can beat hipster-composer R.D. Burman’s songs from ’60s and ’70s Bollywood, an era when Indian women wore beehives and high heels with their saris, and rock guitar vied with the sitar for popularity. Burman helped introduce the swinging ’60s to India, writing daring film songs that drew on an eclectic mix of rock, Hawaiian music, and American soul as well as Indian classical and folk music. His wife, Asha Bhosle, became the voice of risqué Bombay, singing suggestive lyrics that by the time the early ’70s rolled around, sounded extremely hip and contemporary. More than three decades later, these songs sound just as racy and high-spirited.”

“Kronos has explored the marriage of music and film for many years, so immersing ourselves in the music of R.D. Burman’s Bollywood was natural,” says Kronos Quartet violinist and artistic director David Harrington. “Burman’s music transcends any categories of ‘Bollywood’ or ‘film music.’ To me, it stands on its own as some of the most inventive, far-reaching, and fun music of the late 20th century. In working with Asha Bhosle, Kronos has experienced not only Burman’s living legacy, but also one of the most talented and generous artists I know of. Asha truly is the Queen of Bollywood.”


Pakistan’s Alamgir: Still the King of Evening
- By Ras Siddiqui
Pakistani pop legend Alamgir Haq’s recent performance deserves kudos for enriching expatriate musical lives, writes Ras Siddiqui, who offers the singer a warm dhonnobad, shukriah, gracias and thanks for taking him on a trip down memory lane.

Pakistani pop legend Alamgir performing at Chandni Restaurant in Newark, Calif.

It has been quite some time that we have reported on the legendary Alamgir. It seems like only yesterday when he and a skinny Iranian-Pakistani by the name of Mohammad Ali Shehki ruled the pop charts in Pakistan and were almost dethroned by the late Nazia and her brother Zoheb Hassan from the United Kingdom. But time is relative to those who live their immigrant lives in segments. For some of us, the Pakistani segment (as opposed to the American) cannot be forgotten, thanks to Pakistan’s entertainment industry which once enriched our lives. When some of us left, Pakistan had quite an active film and music industry. I guess that we have to be thankful that the music side is still flourishing there.

This chance encounter happened because of three reasons. While talking with Raana Faiz of the Hamrahi Radio Program that is well known in the San Francisco Bay Area, I came to know of Alamgir’s upcoming performance in the area. It had been years since our last meeting on a boat ride to the Golden Gate Bridge, where more than a book was launched (so to speak) by our local Urdu poet Javaid Sayed.

The second reason was that the hosts of the party were quite accommodating to our inclusion. And last but not least Mrs. Farah Siddiqui is also a big fan of Alamgir, a legend of Pakistani pop music. So without hesitation, Farah and I left for the Chandni Restaurant in Newark Sept. 2. We try never to pass on the chance of the combination of good food and great entertainment. And on this evening we were not disappointed in either department.

We met the bespectacled “young man” while he was discussing his music with the sound engineer. I write “young man” here because like a number of other entertainers, Alamgir looks just about the same as I saw him last about a decade ago. We conversed a little and even exchanged a few pleasantries in Bengali, but easily judging my limited vocabulary in that language he switched to Urdu and English. His latest city of residence is Atlanta.

Alamgir started his performance by asking everyone to stand up and observe a moment of silence to remember the victims of Hurricane Katrina. His first two songs were dedicated to the wedding couple. The third, a ghazal “Paas Aa Kar Koi Dekhe to Pata Lagta Hai” was quite moving as was the “Kabhi Tum Idhar Se Guzar Ke To Dekho.” But it was with his presentation of the late Ahmad Rushdi’s “Ko Ko Korina” that a certain transformation took place on stage. The glasses were gone and Alamgir was the King of the Evening.

The first of two evening songs presented was the ballad “Shaam Sey Pehle Aana” where he pulled out his favorite harmonica and played it in between the lines. And with “Maine Tumhari Gagar Se Kabhi Paani Piya Tha” his control over the attention of the audience was complete (Gori Tum Woh Din Yaad Karo).

Not to disappoint fans from across the border he sang his version of Bollywood’s “Main Hoon Na” and for local Americans an English number “Where do I begin” from the movie Love Story.  But our favorite and the next song that launched his career, “Dekha Na Tha” which electrified us.

Ras Siddiqi is a Pakistani American community activist. He lives in Sacramento, Calif.
The stage at this time became a gym for Alamgir and his moves during the Punjabi “Mainu Lai Chal” had even our community seniors swaying.
One of his most famous songs from the Platinum Jubilee movie Aina, “Mujhe Dil Se Na Bhulana,” brought back many memories as did his Spanish number “Quanta La Mera” (Plus Albela Rahi) his first song on TV. “Nasha Yeh Pyaar Ka Nasha” with its heavy disco beat was very energetic. And last but not least the song that some of us traveled many miles to hear, “Yeh Shaam Aur Tera Naam” made our day.

We were there for more songs and Alamgir was still going strong with a tribute to Ghazal legend Mehdi Hasan as we were leaving, but we stop this writing at “Yeh Shaam” because it made Alamgir an inseparable part of Pakistani pop.

Alamgir Haq deserves kudos for enriching our musical lives. Dhonnobad, shukriah, gracias and thanks. It was just great to take a trip down memory lane with you at this program and to reflect back on a time when guided by our youth and once lofty ideals we left our homes for America. And now after all these years, we think back and can only smile as Alamgir, once the King of our Pakistani evenings (shaams) makes both Bangladeshis and Pakistanis think about their home countries while living here in North America.

Baby Taj: Love in Agra
- A Siliconeer Report
Playwright Tanya Shaffer explores the many splendored, bittersweet fruits of love in a cross-cultural comedy set in Agra in her upcoming play. A Siliconeer report.

Left: Lesley Fera (l) and Sunita Param in “Baby Taj.” Right: Sam Younis (l), Lesley Fera and Sunita Param in “Baby Taj.”

The romantic Taj Mahal is the next assignment for Rachel, an American travel writer whose failed romances have led her to ask: Why not have the baby she craves — on her own? She finds an unexpected answer among the glittering legacies of India’s past, discovering new truths about love, family, and commitment. Alive with the vivid sounds and vibrant colors of a remarkable country, Baby Taj is a play that is a comic tale of mischievous matchmaking. Written by Tanya Shaffer, the author of the Bay Area hit Let My Enemy Live Long, the play premieres at TheatreWorks in Mountain View, Calif., this month.

It’s a landmark cultural breakthrough of sorts, because it’s rare for mainstream American theatre to set plays in India, and Baby Taj is set for the most part in Agra, with a substantial Indian American cast.

Rachel is a thirty-seven year old single Jewish straight woman who wants to have a child. She makes a pact with her best friend Anjali, a single Indian lesbian, that they will both become pregnant and raise their children together. On the eve of Rachel’s insemination by anonymous donor sperm, she becomes paralyzed by doubt. A passionate travel junkie, she sets off on a solo journey to clear her head and make a decision. She travels to India, where she spends several weeks in the home of Anjali’s extended family. The contrast between Rachel’s life in the U.S. and the lives and choices of the people she meets in India results in comedy, romance, and deep reflections on the particular choices and challenges Rachel faces as a Western woman at this moment in history.

Baby Taj has had public readings in Berkeley, Calif. in New York City and in Mountain View, Calif.

Tanya Shaffer is a writer, actor, solo performer, theatre producer and a travel buff,, with a penchant for turning her travels into art. She has toured to over forty cities with her solo show Miss America’s Daughter and her play Brigadista.

More information is available at www.theatreworks.org

ENAD's 'Baaki Itihas": Bangla Theatre in the Bay Area

Bay Area Bangla theatre buffs had a rare opportunity to enjoy a superb production of a play by Badal Sircar. A Siliconeer report.
Above and below: Scenes from Enad’s performance of “Baaki Itihas”

Bay Area –based Bangla theatre company ENAD presented two superb performances of Badal Sircar’s classic Bangla play Baaki Itihaas Sept. 10 in Palo Alto, Calif. This is ENAD’s seventh production.

Baaki Itihas is a play that is best described as an exercise in psychoanalysis.  A headline in a newspaper stimulates a thought experiment between a literary couple.  What begins as an intellectual exercise, soon morphs into a stifling commentary on mankind’s selfish, complacent existence, and on his darkest thoughts—the kind that drives him to write those pages of human history that were best left unwritten.

Badal Sircar, an engineer by profession, is a leading theatre personality who rose into prominence with the 1970s wave of street theatre. He revolutionized Bengali theatre with his angst-ridden, anti-establishment plays during the Naxalite movement in a city ridden by traumatic upheavals.

Not only does his work revolve around larger social issues involving the masses, he also travels in and around Bengal and takes up issues specific to a particular community or locality and creates plays on the spot.

Enad was established in 1999, and staged its first production in 2000. In 2002 we produced its first play based on original script. “We try to produce contemporary, thought-provoking and relevant plays,” the theatre groups says in its Web site. “Our regular audience particularly value our disciplined productions.”

For more information on Enad and its productions, visit: www.enadonline.org.


Dialogue with Change Agents: UN AIF Summit
- A Siliconeer Report
Sun Microsystems COO Jonathan Schwartz and University of Michigan distinguished professor C.K. Prahalad headlined a summit to address India’s challenges in meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals. A Siliconeer report.
Some of the attendees at the UN-AIF Summit.

Philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations and corporate leaders from across the globe gathered to discuss innovative ways to address development challenges in India at a summit Sept. 23 at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, Calif., hosted by the American India Foundation in partnership with the United Nations Millennium Campaign. This is the third annual summit. The summit was open to the public.

Featuring Jonathan Schwartz, president and chief operating officer of Sun Microsystems Inc., and C.K. Prahalad, University of Michigan distinguished professor, the summit highlighted issues at the intersection of AIF’s and the UN’s development work in India, including the universalization of elementary education, the use of microcredit to improve women’s livelihood and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in India.

UN Millennium
Development Goals

  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Develop a global partnership for development
These key topics were addressed in panel discussions with leaders from both Indian and American foundations, grassroots Indian NGOs, and academic and business leaders from the United States. Indian NGOs that have received AIF grants were also featured.

Attendees also examined how progressive leaders in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors are working to integrate social, environmental, and economic considerations into their organizations.

“The American India Foundation and the United Nations Millennium Campaign are committed to promoting the ideals of sustainable development and grassroots movements that are key to the long-term empowerment of the underprivileged in India,” said AIF president Lata Krishnan.

“Real progress, whether in education, science, business, or even public policy, requires collaboration across boundaries,” said Sun COO Jonathan Schwartz. “As we seek solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues, the act of connecting participants accelerates both social and economic development opportunities.”

The American India Foundation is an international development organization charged with the mission of accelerating social and economic change in India. AIF has raised over $26 million since its inception in 2001.

HEALTH: Dragon Boating: 2,000-Year-Old Sport- By Dr. Marlena Tang
Dragon boat racing, a millennia-old Chinese sport, has recently taken off in California and is improving people’s health, writes Dr. Marlena Tang
Dragon boat racing, a sport that began over 2,000 years ago in China, has recently taken off in California as a popular sport and a festive cultural event — and is improving people’s health. It’s an impressive sport to watch: an elaborately adorned dragon boat surges towards the finish line with twenty paddlers pulling hard with every stroke in perfect unison to the drummer’s beat and calls of the boat leader.

The sport evolved from re-enacting a 2,000-year-old legend about Qu Yuan, a scholar and advisor to the emperor of the Chu kingdom who jumped in a river in despair and protest of a corrupt government. According to legend, local fishermen raced out with their boats in an attempt to save him. To prevent his body from being eaten by the fish and “water dragons” they beat their drums and pounded the waters with their paddles and threw rice dumplings wrapped in silk into the river to distract the dragons away from his body.

Dragon boating is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. There are over 40 annual festivals held across the United States including major cities such as New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Its popularity is due to its accessibility. The challenge of propelling a 48-foot long, 700 pound boat by 20 paddlers for 500 meters can be met by novice paddlers and the highly skilled, the young and old, male and female.

Playing a sport like dragon boating regularly and over a long period of time helps prevent health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, obesity and depression.

Dr. Marlena Tang is an emergency room physician at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco. She is a paddler for the Kaiser Permanente dragon boat team. Email Dr. Tang at doctors-word@kp.org
Dragon boating has even been linked to helping women recover from breast cancer. A study in 1995 by a University of British Columbia sports medicine physician showed that rowing helped reduce the incidence of swelling of the arm — a disorder that sometimes occurs in breast cancer survivors who have had lymph node removal or radiation therapy. One dragon boat team, the Los Angeles Pink Dragons, have dedicated their boats to breast cancer awareness.

This year Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente, a non-profit health care provider, is sponsoring the 10th annual San Francisco International Dragon Boat Festival, organized by the California Dragon Boat Association. Nearly 100 dragon boat teams, each with 20 paddlers, are expected to participate in the races, drawing a crowd of over 15,000 spectators.

Brian Soo, senior physical therapist at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco and a rower on the Kaiser Permanente dragon boat, says dragon boating is a full-body exercise, requiring all-out effort for up to 3 minutes. He recommends that paddlers prepare for the race by exercising regularly to build muscle strength, cardiovascular strength and flexibility.

“You need to have strong arms to grasp and control the paddle, a strong torso or core to rotate and drive the paddle through the water, strong legs to brace yourself in the boats, and a strong mind to focus on timing,” he said.

Kaiser Permanente is sponsoring the event as part of its healthy living campaign that encourages all Californians to thrive every day. Activities like dragon boat racing can be fun, social and great exercise — and even incorporate healthy ancient traditions.

Savvy Marketing: Ideas for Small Businesses
- By Ashok Gupta
Launched your small business? Ashok Gupta offers some tips on how to take on the challenge of getting your business off the ground.
Now that you have launched your small business, how do you get the word out that you exist to consumers? The challenge of getting your business off the ground and, at the same time, maintaining a strategic marketing program can be a struggle.

However, experts agree that a small business without a marketing program in place will have a tough time staying afloat. No matter what stage your business is in, even a small marketing budget and well-organized efforts can pave the way for your company’s growth.

Bear in mind: These tips are also a great refresher for established businesses seeking to get back to the basics of what makes their product or service stand out.

To build a savvy marketing program, you have to ask yourself some key questions.

What am I really marketing? Consumers are interested in buying benefits and often think, “What’s in it for me?” To answer this question, a mandatory task for any business owner is to identify the features and benefits that the product or service they are offering provides.

To accomplish this task, create a vertical list on a piece of paper that will allow you to work through what you have to offer consumers. On the left side, create a column for “features.” On the right side, create a column for “benefits.”

For example, if one of the features of your company is that you have been in business for more than 20 years, the obvious benefit for consumers is that you are a seasoned expert in the industry and have strong credentials to prove it. And, for consumers, that equals peace of mind.

This exercise determines what you have to offer consumers and how you stand out amid competition. By the end, you will have a solid grocery list of what makes your company unique.

Who is going to want to buy what I am marketing? Now that you know what your competitive advantage is and what bottom-line benefits you have to offer, identify the best audience to go after. For a small business with a tight marketing budget, a focus on the narrowest target segment of consumers is the best use of your time and money.

Build marketing efforts to reach prospects actively pursuing the kinds of products and services you offer. Identify your key prospects and go after them where they are looking for information on your specific product or service.

One simple marketing idea for reaching out within a specific industry is advertising on e-newsletters that are circulated to a large, “opt-in” segment of your target market. For minimal cost and effort, you will be reaching consumers that are requesting information on what you offer.

Why will consumers want to buy from me? To ensure that you speak directly to consumers, business owners need to position their businesses by creating an ongoing marketing program for the sales cycle.

Categorize your prospects into cold, warm and hot leads. Prospects should be “touched” at least eight times during the sales cycle. A mix of marketing efforts including direct mail, media relations, paid online searches and traditional and non-traditional advertising will ensure that you are staying top-of-mind with your prospects.

If you have relied solely on direct mail in the past, expand your marketing horizons by using non-traditional efforts, like advertising on baby-changing stations or hanging posters in local gyms. Even small businesses with tight budgets have dozens of options on how to connect with consumers and ensure that they will want to buy from you. Mix it up and reach out to consumers on a consistent basis.

A final step to motivate your hottest prospects is one-on-one interaction. E-mail, direct mail, face-to-face meetings often can make a hot prospect a happy client.

Based on the “Big Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses: Get Your Biz Out There!” program from the Women in Business Teleclass Series. For additional information visit www.principal.com/women.

- Ashok K. Gupta is a financial representative of Principal Life Insurance Company and a registered representative of Princor Financial Services Corporation.


Builders’ Bazaar: Real Estate India 2005
- A Siliconeer Report
India’s real estate industry is taking off. Some of the top realtors and builders from the national capital region in India are bringing a road show to North America. A Siliconeer report.
Structures with stunning exterior (top) and interior design are now commonplace in Noida. (Prakash Advani photo)

Some of the top realtors and builders from the national capital region in India are bringing a road show to North America, and they will showcase their residential projects and the strengths of the Indian real estate industry in their exhibit, according to a press release.

For the first time development authorities from the National Capital Region and Noida, Greater Noida and Indirapuram along with 25 developers are coming to North America to present Real Estate India 2005. The exhibit will be held Oct. 8-9 in San Francisco, Oct. 12-13 in Chicago and Oct. 15-16 in Toronto.

“The event presents contemporary residential developments, built to international standards through direct arrangements with the developers and also to highlight the historical success exhibited and the currently underway initiatives which are expected to further augment the attractiveness of Noida, Greater Noida , Indirapuram & Ghaziabad,” the release added.

“The exhibition is a platform to highlight the market dynamics — including development agencies for each of these hubs and some of the most prominent developers who continue to work tirelessly to provide a better and holistic environment to live and work.”

Twenty-five real estate developers from Noida, Greater Noida, Indirapuram and Ghaziabad will display properties ranging from developed plots, luxury apartments, villas, penthouse and offices for end users and investors from the U.S. and Canada.

India’s economic dynamism following its economic reforms have made the world sit up and take notice. Currently the fourth largest economy in the world, India has been moving on at a robust clip with a GDP growth rate of around 5.5 percent for more than a decade.

Keeping pace, the Indian real estate industry is rapidly maturing and is ready for global reach. Today, new mega developments with international lifestyle and quality standards are redefining the urban lifestyle in Indian metros and is ready to address the surge in new residential property buying interest in overseas Indian community.

Nowhere is this more evident than the National Capital Region of India, clustered around the capital New Delhi, now one of the world’s largest urbanized zones (spread over an area of 33,578 sq km). NCR has also developed as a center of new-economy industries including information technology, international commerce, banking and insurance. In response to skyrocketing demand, the maximum development activity in the past few years has happened in satellite townships including Noida, Greater Noida, Indirapuram and Ghaziabad.

The Real Estate India 2005 is presented by Relio Quick Advertising & Marketing Services, India’s first TUV certified ISO 9001:2000 and INS accredited Advertising Agency.

Sangeet Awards: Celebrating Excellence in Music

Sahara’s second annual music awards was hosted Sept. 24 at the Oakland Arena.
A photo essay by Som Sharma.
Click here to View photos from the Sangeet Awards event in SF and the kickoff party


COMMUNITY: News in Brief
Music Beyond Borders: Ghulam Ali and Talat Aziz Concert |
At the California State Fair |
Towards Better Indo-Pak Ties | New Job Portal |
Tiny Miss First Princess |
Fulbright Scholar to Work in India | Teaching Award | Navratri in New Jersey

Music Beyond Borders: Ghulam Ali and Talat Aziz Concert
Noted ghazal singers Talat Aziz from India and Pakistan’s Ghulam Ali presented Sada-e-Ghazal or “Music Beyond Borders” to a sold-out audience of over 900 people at the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple. Temple organizers said over $11,000 was donated to the American Red Cross to support victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Ghazal singers Ghulam Ali (l) and Talat Aziz in concert at the Hindu Temple in Community Center in Sunnyvale, Calif. (Shashi Desai/DreamSnaps photo)

The two ghazal singers performed individually as well as together. Both Talat Aziz and Ghulam Ali are doing their bit for the Indo-Pak peace initiative with a series of joint concerts that started in March this year spanning seven weeks across fifteen cities in the U.S. The singers have hit upon a novel fusion technique where they render their popular ghazals with songs of both countries merged and sung like duets.

Ghulam Ali’s evergreen, “Chupke Chupke,” “Hungaama Barpa,” “Faasle Aise Bhi Honge,” and “Kal Chodwi Ki Raat Thi” mesmerized listeners, as did Talat Aziz with his memorable “Kaise Sukoon Pao Tujhe Dekhne Ke Baad,” “Aaina Mujhse Meri,” and “Zindagi Jab Bhi Tere Bazm Mein.” and a new one for audience here in a folk style “Peete Hai Nazar Se Roz Magar, Hothon Pe Koi Jaam Nahin.”

Their song for fraternal unity, “Kadam Mila Ke Chalo, Ab Kadam Mila Ke Chalo,” earned enormous audience applause.

At the California State Fair

Clockwise from top, left: Candice Prasad dancing to a popular number “Kajrare, Kajrare” from the film “Bunty Aur Babli”; Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancers Savitri and Nagaveni, both are visually impaired; Baby Sonal singing a popular Bollywood song; Hitesh playing dhol.

Sacramento Valley nonprofit Indo-American Cultural Heritage and the Samarthanam troupe of visually handicapped entertainers delighted California State Fair goers with a soothing cup of chai and exhilarating entertainment.

Indian activities at the fair kicked off Aug. 16 with a warm welcoming cup of traditional Indian chai prepared by eight-year-old old Jasvir Kallirai who took part in the Tasting California Kid’s Kitchen multicultural activities.

The chai was followed by a display of the celebration of rakhi by Sohini Sharma, Mohini Sharma, Jasvir Kallirai and Mahavir Kallirai.

The first week’s Indian American activities concluded with a variety entertainment program Aug. 21 with local artists and the Samarthanam troupe entertaining fair attendees with a colorful display of Indian dances.

The highlight of the program was the Samarthanam troupe of visually handicapped entertainment artists. Performances included music from movie classics like Sholay with visually challenged Amit on keyboards, his brother Vishal on percussion and Jaisingh on guitar. Troupe singers Asha and Thyagaraj charmed the audience.

Savitri and Nagaveni, both trained by renowned teachers Anupama Jaisimha and Sathyanarayan, are accomplished Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancers who presented performances. The two dancers learnt the art by means of the touch and feel method as they are both visually impaired.

Towards Better Indo-Pak Ties
Alka Bhatnagar, famous Bollywood singer, actress and dancer, is a heartfelt supporter of better ties between India and Pakistan. She is a much loved and respected performer at expatriate Pakistani cultural events.

Alka’s favorite singer is legendary Pakistani singer of yesteryear Noor Jehan and there is hardly any musical concert where she does not sing Noor Jehan songs. Most of the time she opens up her show with, “Allah He Allah Kia Karo, Dukh Na Kisee Ko Dia Karo,” and ends up with “Dama Dam Mast Qalandar.”

Alka Bhatnagar (l) was born in a family with a long tradition in music in Meerut. Gifted with a melodious voice, she learned music from her father, B.N. Srivastava, a great exponent of classical and light music in his days. She was selected as one of the best 20 artists in India to participate in the famous Sur Singar Samsad at Mumbai in 1977 where she was presented with a special memento by late Raj Kapoor.

Alka and her brother Sandeep, a talented ghazal singer, have given numerous performances in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the Middle East.

“People of India and Pakistan are one and the same and I want to see them live in peace and harmony as they have done for centuries,” Alka said. Alka will have an opportunity to perform in front of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and intends to thank him for creating a peaceful environment between the two neighbors.

New Job Portal
BharatMatrimony group — pioneers of the online matrimony industry in India and owners of Bharatmatrimony.com — have announced the launch of a job Web site: ClickJobs.com. ClickJobs.com is the first ever ISO 9001:2000 certified job portal in India.

Announcing the launch, CEO Murugavel Janakiraman said, “ BharatMatrimony.com has been a pioneer in the online space and we have created the online matrimony market in India. We have consistently redefined the online matchmaking business and have credited ourselves with many path-breaking initiatives. Our vision of becoming the No.1 Online business group in India has inspired us to expand organically through diversification into other lucrative online businesses and the launch of ClickJobs.com is the first step in that direction. ClickJobs.com aims to redefine this online space and become the most preferred brand for both employers and jobseekers.”

Clickjobs.com will feature thousands of job opportunities and a healthy list of corporates within the first three months and then scale-up in a phased manner. The employer profiles will cut across different industries ranging from IT, ITES, services, manufacturing, etc. Some of the leading corporations already partnering with the group include Yahoo!, Sasken Global, Sundaram Infotech, TVS Electronics, Team Lease, Logica CMG and many more. Headquartered in Chennai, Clickjobs.com will have zonal offices in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore with international offices in the U.S., Canada and Dubai.

Tiny Miss First Princess
Two-and-a-half year old Chaiya Chatkara (l) of Fremont, Calif., participated in the Hawaiian Tropic West Coast Finals during the Labor Day weekend in Anaheim, Calif., and won the title of Tiny Miss First Princess, besting over 80 other toddlers from the entire West Coast including Hawaii.

Chaiya was invited to participate when she won the regional finals in San Ramon, Calif. in August. She was crowned the Summer Queen, Third Princess and Most Beautiful Hair. Chaiya is the first Indian American toddler to win all four titles.

Chaiya is the daughter of Dinesh and Dr. Ritu Chatkara of Fremont, Calif. She takes ballet, tap and gymnastics classes and attends a parent participation pre-school.

Fulbright Scholar to Work in India
Pritesh Gandhi (r) of Woodlands, Texas, has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship for 2005-2006. Pritesh will use the Fulbright grant to work for Pratham Niramaya’s Health Project in Mumbai, India.

After graduating from Tufts University in May 2004, Pritesh, 23, is a student at Johns Hopkins University where he has enrolled for a course next term at the School of Public Health entitled “Water and Sanitation Needs in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies. In his final year at Tufts University, Pritesh was part of a seminar class, “Humanitarian Policy and Public Health,” in which various issues affecting the developing world were discussed, including complex humanitarian emergencies. After spending a year studying development at the London School of Economics and Political Science, he worked in the slums of Cape Town, South Africa, where he conducted HIV/AIDS testing and post-test counseling. Pritesh feels he has sufficient background experience to truly produce something worthwhile and more importantly, beneficial for the community for whom he wants to work with, in this case, Pratham Niramaya.

Founded in 1994 as a UNICEF initiative, Pratham is a grass roots non-profit organization dedicated to improving the primary education, health and hygiene access of the underprivileged children in India.

Teaching Award
Sunil Bhatia (l), Connecticut College associate professor of human development, received the John King Faculty Teaching Award for teaching excellence during the college’s 91st convocation ceremony Sept. 1.

Bhatia joined Connecticut College in 1999. His research focuses on the development of self and identity within the context of postcolonial migration, globalization and formation of transnational diasporas. It attempts to reformulate the concept of culture and identity in cultural psychology and human development by showing how critical concepts, such as diaspora and transnational migration, force us to redefine theories of culture, identity, cultural difference and development.

He is finishing work on his book, “Terms of Difference: Culture, Identity and the Indian-American Diaspora,” which is based on an extensive, two-year ethnography of the Indian diaspora in southern Connecticut.

Navratri in New Jersey
The Indian American community in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and beyond will have the opportunity to participate in Navratri Dandya Raas Garba in October at the Garden State Exhibit and Convention Center in Somerset, N. J. After a lapse of thee years, Pradip (Peter) Kothari is spearheading efforts to revive the event under the auspices of India House, a newly acquired community center in Iselin, N.J.

For more information readers can call Pradip (Peter) Kothari at (732) 259-6874 or visit www.indiahouseusa.org.

BPOs Eyeing U.S. Healthcare | Indian Infotech Engineers Heading to Japan? | Bangalore: We’re Sorry Our Infrastructure Sucks | IT Bull into China Shop | Cable to Lanka
Debut in Beijing | Training Chinese | Growth Projected | Exports up 25%

BPOs Eyeing U.S. Healthcare
Indian business process outsourcing companies involved in healthcare are increasingly eyeing a niche business in the U.S. healthcare sector.

The healthcare sector in the U.S. is undergoing a sea change due to the need for compliance to the Health Insurance Profitability and Accountability Act, which might result in off-shoring a substantial amount of work to other countries like India, according to analysts.

“The verticals such as healthcare administration, medical management and imaging are in high demand in the U.S. and India can make this a niche BPO area,” a top functionary of Atlanta-based STI knowledge told PTI.

As of now outsourcing to Indian companies can offer cost saving to the tune of 20-30 percent. “For every healthcare dollar spent, 21 cents go to administration. The average margins for publicly traded healthcare firms are under pressure,” he adds.

Apart from administration and paper work, imageology also offers business promises to India, say analysts. As per the HIPAA verticals like electronic transactions and electronic claims attachment frameworks are being revamped and offer immense business opportunity to India BPOs.

Apart from administration and paper work, imageology also offers business promises to India, they say.

Indian Infotech Engineers Heading to Japan?
Yes, you heard it right. Many IT professionals are headed towards Japan from India. And its not just from India alone. Softbridge Solutions Pte Ltd., a venture enterprise in Tokyo’s Kanda area, is inviting IT technicians in India for a seminar to teach them Japanese and business practices before they come to Japan, where they work for Japanese companies.

Prashant Jain, 37, of India, established Softbridge Solutions in June 2002.

“The United States is saturated as a place to export software and personnel,” he said. So far, his company has provided Japanese businesses with about 50 technicians.

“There are many ambitious young people who want to graduate from good schools and become successful,” Jain said. “The young generation will be more globally active.”

Toppan Printing Co., a Japanese printing company, has hired 10 Indian technicians from Softbridge. They are engaged in software development, forming a team with Japanese employees.

Toshiro Masuda, director of the e-business department, said the Indians’ ability is 30 percent higher than that of his Japanese employees, and personnel expenses for them are 30 percent less.

Anuj Agarwal, 29, has been in charge of developing mobile phone content at Toppan Printing for two years.

“In the future, I want to return to India and set up a company using my experience in Japan,” he said.

India, with annual economic growth of close to seven percent, has produced more than 100,000 highly educated IT technicians. Many of them are seeking jobs at European and U.S. enterprises.

But after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, young technicians have increasingly sought work at Japanese companies because the U.S. government is more tightly regulating the issuance of visas to IT technicians.

Technicians from other Asian countries are also coming to Japan.

Le Viet Linh, 28, is from Vietnam and in charge of plate-making at a printing company in Osaka city. “Japan and Vietnam are culturally close, and Japan’s image was what I thought before coming to Japan,” he said. “It is easy to do work and live.”

Bangalore: We’re Sorry Our Infrastructure Sucks
Okay we’re sorry, don’t go away, city and state officials are saying about Bangalore after angry business leaders threatened to boycott a tech conference.

Authorities in India’s technology hub promised to improve the city’s sagging infrastructure after business leaders protested the state of the city’s crowded, potholed roads, an official said.

The Karnataka state government agreed to repair 19 potholed roads in Bangalore within the next few weeks, build new roads in fast-growing neighborhoods and speed up transport projects, such as expanding the bus network, said Shankaralinge Gowda, who heads the state’s information technology department.

The announcement came one day after some members of the city’s $6 billion software outsourcing industry and its main trade body, the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce, threatened to boycott the government-sponsored annual technology convention in November if the city’s infrastructure was not improved.

“With this, we hope that the issues raised by the industry over the past week have been resolved,” Gowda said.

For more than two years, business leaders have complained that the city’s infrastructure has not kept pace with its economic growth, and its emergence as the favorite destination for Western outsourcing.

Narrow, potholed roads are the biggest problem — workers often arrive late for work due to traffic congestion — but companies also have to suffer an aging bus system and frequent power outages. Karnataka, which has 60 million residents, has only one-tenth of the electricity-generating capacity of California, where about 35 million people live.

With the government’s latest promises, business leaders have calmed down.

“Officials now appear to be action-oriented and we are very happy with the steps they have promised,” said Ananth Koppar, president of BCIC.

“It is a good sign the government has made these promises, but we have to make sure they are also executed,” said Mohandas Pai, chief financial officer of software exporter Infosys Technologies.

IT Bull into China Shop
The Indian software industry took China by storm when a high-powered delegation of IT captains visited to participate in Nasscom’s executive council meeting last month.

The who’s who of Indian software was in China Sept. 22-26 to attend the event. “This is for the first time that a 25-odd strong delegation of mostly CEO-level professionals from the Indian software industry, including representatives from Infosys, Wipro, TCS, IBM, Mastek, among others, will visit China,” Nasscom vice-president Sunil Mehta said. “We will be touching Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou during the five-day tour.”

This is the first time that Nasscom had an executive council meeting in the neighboring country which has always been perceived as the closest threat to the future of the Indian software sector.

“The intent is to take the Indian software message across to China by interacting with the government, multinationals operating out of there and the Chinese software companies. It will be a remarkable opportunity for the Indian companies to chalk out growth strategies and also develop inroads into the government corridors,” added Mehta.

Only a few days ago China came out with data which pegged the Chinese software sector to have surpassed the Indian software figures. However, Mehta clarified that “there is no doubt that the Chinese domestic market put together with the exports is much bigger than the Indian industry. But as far as the exports are concerned we stood at $17 billion last fiscal whereas Chinese software exports barely touched a billion last year.”

Cable to Lanka
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and Sri Lanka’s main telecom company SLT have signed a deal to lay a three-million-dollar submarine cable connecting the two countries.

The fiber optic cable system will be established between Tuticorin coast and Mount Lavinia, just south of Colombo, the two companies said, adding that the line will be in operation in the second quarter of 2006.

BSNL chairman and managing director A.K. Sinha and Shuhei Anan, chief executive officer of SLT, signed the agreement in Colombo.

The fiber optic cable will replace the existing radio link. After the new cable is laid, both BSNL and SLT will be able to access other countries through existing and future cable systems such as SMW3, SMW4 and vast internal terrestrial networks of BSNL, the two companies said in a statement.

The new connection will further extend the broadband IP backbone network to allow higher speeds and more effective transfers between the two countries.

Debut in Beijing
Wipro technologies, one of the world’s top IT services companies, plans to open its first software development centre in Beijing soon to cash in on the expected boom in the services sector.

“We plan to have a software development centre in Beijing within two to three months,” said V. Sreedhar of Japan and China Centers of Wipro (Shanghai) limited, V Sreedhar said.

“The Chinese market is a different game altogether, right now it is a manufacturing sector and there will be shift towards knowledge or the services sector. So the real momentum is going to come may be in two years down the line,” he said.

Training Chinese
Infosys Technologies, which previously announced plans to hire 6,000 people in China, has said it will train 100 students from China at its Global Education Center in Mysore, Karnataka.

The training is part of a memorandum of understanding between the Indian company and the Chinese government.

Indian software service companies like Infosys have been setting up development centers in several cities in China over the past two years, in order to gain access to global customers who have a base there and to reach out to Japanese customers.

While none of the other companies that have centers in China — including TCS, Wipro, Zensar, NIIT, and Mphasis — have gone so far as to bring Chinese engineers to India for training, this could mark the beginning of a long-term relationship between two countries long seen as competitors.

Last year, Infosys trained 100 students from Mauritius at the same campus, reportedly the largest corporate training facility in the world. Infosys set up the $60-million facility on a 270-acre plot of land. A large percentage of the Mauritian students were later hired by Infosys at its software development center in Mauritius.

Growth Projected
Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, India’s top software services exporter, said its orders were increasing as customers outsource more of their office tasks.

Girija Pande, Asia Pacific director for Tata Consultancy Services, also said fast growth in domestic wages, which has undermined profit margins and threatened the industry’s rapid expansion, would moderate in the coming year.

“The global order pipeline is healthy and increasing,” Pande said at the Reuters Asia Technology and Telecoms Summit.

Companies such as General Electric Co. are turning more frequently to TCS for software services to cut costs and increase efficiency. Demand for such services is also surging in Asia.

“Asia had been a slow taker of IT (information technology) services. Only now companies are going into using IT as a competitive tool to increase productivity, so you see substantial restructuring that is going on in various sectors,” Pande said at the summit, held at the Reuters office in Tokyo.

Growth has been robust in the banking, telecoms and manufacturing sectors, he said.

Exports up 25%
Export of computer software and services, including ITES, is estimated to have grown by 25 percent to touch Rs. 200 billion during the April-June quarter of this fiscal.

“In absolute terms, export of computer software and servicing, including ITES, is estimated to have touched Rs 200 billion (US dollars 4,454 million) during the first quarter of the current fiscal against Rs 160 billion during the same quarter in 2004,” according to the Electronics and Computer Software Export Promotion Council.

The ESC said 20 per cent export turnover of the year had already been achieved in the first quarter, which made the yearly target of Rs 1,000 billion achievable. Usually, the export surge was often seen during the last quarters of the financial year.

In a statement here, ESC said Indian companies in recent times had laid focus on moving up the value chain in software development, especially in the financial sector that helped push up exports in the industry.

Exuding optimism over the fact that most of the Indian BPO units were on a hiring spree and in a mode to expand their infrastructure, ESC said these companies must have got attractive orders which would have bearing on export in the next few years.

Stylish Crossover: 2005 Ford Freestyle AWD - By Sally Miller Wyatt
The Ford Freestyle is a crossover, a blend of minivan, SUV and sedan. It may be a good choice for the family with growing teens who wish their parents would drive something slightly “hipper,” writes Sally Miller Wyatt.
When I learned we would be test driving the 2005 Ford Freestyle, I told the kids we’d be driving around in a minivan this week. When the children were younger, they loved minivans. Have you noticed teenagers don’t find them quite as, well, cool? So, when I walked out onto the driveway to check it out, my first reaction was, “Whaaaa? That’s a minivan?”

Easy mistake to make. The Ford Freestyle is not the Ford Freestar. The Freestar is a minivan, straight up. The Freestyle is a crossover, a blend of minivan, SUV and sedan. That is immediately apparent when you walk around the Freestyle, with its sleek, somewhat lowered lines. I started thinking that this may be a good choice for the family with growing teens who wish their parents would drive something slightly “hipper.”

Take a quick peek inside and you see something that will warm a mother’s heart: Seven seats that are large enough to accommodate those growing teens and adults, even in the dreaded third row. Now you have the seats a mother craves, and an exterior design that the kids will love.

Ford intentionally designed the Freestyle to be a crossover vehicle. They didn’t start with an existing minivan or sport utility platform and work around it. It was built from the ground up to offer more room for those seven passengers, plenty of versatility and all-wheel drive capability.

There are three models in the Freestyle line up: the SE, the SEL and the Limited. The base SE is well-equipped and offers an added touch: 17-inch wheels. The SEL adds appearance accents, and such niceties as dual-zone air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a premium sound system. The top-of-the-line Limited includes all that and heated exterior mirrors, perforated leather seating and heated seats for the driver and front seat passenger. You can also opt for such extras as a reverse sensing system, power moon roof, and a DVD entertainment system.

The Freestyle’s seating is flexible enough that it offers dozens of configurations, to help out when you’re hauling cargo, people or any combination of both. They designed the vehicle so that it would be easier to get in and out of, which it is, because doors open out wide and doesn’t have the higher platform of an SUV.

The third row of seats folds down into the floor, and when that row of seats are in the upright position, they offer good knee and foot room, although the seat backs are a bit stiff. Ford notes that the leg room in both the third and second rows is the best in its class, and that the competition can’t beat the Freestyle’s overall combined passenger room dimensions.

Ford also placed a 3.0-liter, V6 engine under the hood, which was powerful enough to haul the passengers and cargo. The all-wheel-drive capability is also something that consumers indicated they wanted, and Ford delivered.

Overall, we thought the Freestyle was a great family vehicle. There was plenty of room in there for the whole tribe to stretch out. We could fold the seats flat to make room for enough stuff to fill a dorm room. The ride was quiet and the view unobstructed. Ford was aiming for fun and functionality, and they hit the mark.

- Sally Miller Wyatt is a freelance writer who writes family-oriented auto reviews for newspapers, magazines and the Web.



Myth and Mallika
The Haryanvi Jathni is thrilled with life. Here we had one plucky gal from the hick town of Rohtak, who by sheer grit, guts, and quite naked ambition—wink, wink—has come a long way.

Now she has gone all phoren, has Mallika Sherawat, shooting in China and hanging out at the Toronto Film Festival, with Kung Fu star Jackie Chan eating out of her hands. Arre bhaiya, kya baaat hai!

Front bench Bollywood aficionados are much enamored of the sultry star who has had a penchant for showing more skin than talent in the likes of Murder and Khawish, but suddenly, after starting to work for Jackie Chan’s The Myth, she decided to put on a goody two-shoes act. Suddenly it was all about acting.

Acting? Mallika? Whoever heard of such a thing? However bemused fans could relax once again. At the Toronto fest, Mallika was telling anyone who would listen that Jackie was “a rogue.” Why? Because when she got topless for a scene, he wouldn’t close his eyes.

Now that sounds like the old Mallika. Welcome back, gudiya.
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The Stork Comes Visiting
You would think he’s had some smash hit or plum assignment, the way Hrithik Roshan (seen here with wife, Suzanne) walks these days. There is a swagger in his walk a spring in his steps. So what gives?

Well the wonderful news is that the matinee idol is soon going to be a father. So maybe it’s a plum assignment after all, huh.

Is it any wonder he is off singing “Koi Mil Gaya?” Wife Suzanne is in the family way, and the little bundle of joy is due to arrive sometime in April 2006.

Grandfather-to-be and filmmaker Rakesh Roshan was recently spotted in Singapore beaming at everyone he could lay his eyes on.

He is just as thrilled. He is currently shooting for Krrish, but has no plans to hurry to allow Hrithik more time for the child.

Waxing nostalgic, he says: “I myself have been an actor and a father at the same time, so I don’t think there should be any problems for Hrithik since we’ve faced the same situation before.”

Reminiscing about his own experiences as a father, Rakesh Roshan recalls, “Hrithik and Sunaina used to accompany my wife and me during their vacations.

“It’s not a big deal to make time for kids because you do get used to it slowly. Hrithik himself is quite a homely person and is often at home, so he won’t have any such problems.”

Congratulations and all the best, Hrithik.
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Salman, Lies and Audiotapes: The Saga Continues
Remember the big brouhaha caused by alleged tapes surfacing that had Bollywood’s enfant terrible Salman Khan letting poor Aishwarya Rai have it on the phone? Entire tinsel town was in a tizzy. The dialogues were pretty racy, it must be said, and Salman critics were baying for blood.

“If the transcripts are true, then it is really a very serious issue and the government must take action against the culprits,” fumed BJP leader Gopinath Munde said in the Maharashtra assembly.

The tapes ostensibly had Salman Rushdie haranguing Aishwarya, in language that would make a sailor blush, exhorting her to do a show promoted by an underworld kingpin, and boasted about his connections with the underworld.

Well, it turns out now that it was all a storm over a teacup.

The Forensic Science Laboratory at Chandigarh has said in a lab report that the voice samples of the two stars do not match the voices in the alleged tape, which had Khan threatening Rai of dire consequences if she did not perform in a show organized by members of the underworld abroad.

Aishwarya and Salman can heave a sigh of relief, but what of the Hindustan Times? It was its Mumbai edition which hyped the story to prop the circulation for its inaugural issue, and now with egg all over its face, is it contrite at all? Don’t’ hold your breath.
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A Tale of Love
A little bird tells us that just maybe, love is in the air. We’re talking about Esha Deol and Aftab Shivdasani. Old story, you say? Well, it is, in a way. It is true that the two were somewhere in the no man’s land between friendship and love a few years ago when Esha was launching her career, and curiously enough, no filmmaker used this juicy morsel of gossip to spin into possible moolah.

That’s all ancient history now, and whether it was friendship or an abortive romance, all it forgotten and forgiven, and Esha and Shivdasani have signed in for Vikram Bhatt’s Akhir. The film is supposed to be based on the director’s own life and his relationship with Sushmita Sen, where Esha apparently plays the other girl.

Esha herself is rather coy. “Yes, I am doing the film. About the role I don’t want to say anything now, but I am really looking forward to this project. That’s all I have to say.”
| Return to Bollywood | TOP |

Time to Kill?
Sometimes it’s the real stuff in Bollywood that’s cheesier than a slice of Amul cheddar. Take the story of Bollywood starlet Preeti Jain. She created quite a ruckus, if you remember, with allegations of filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar raping her — which the filmmaker vigorously denied. Preeti had drawn a sordid scenario of the much maligned casting couch, with Madhur hanging the carrot of a good role and sexually exploiting the aspiring starlet.

Well, it turns out that that’s just the prelude to a chain of events that now looks increasingly like a full-blown masala Bollywood potboiler. Cops are now after Preeti, who they say gave supari (initial deal) to a contract killer to finish off Madhur!

Preeti, arrested for allegedly giving contract to an aide of gangster-turned politician Arun Gawli, has now gone through brain-mapping and lie-detector tests at the Forensic Science Laboratory in Bangalore.

Gawli’s aide Naresh Pardeshi has also been arrested for allegedly hatching a criminal conspiracy. Jeez. If somebody hadn’t told you, you would have thought all this stuff was the result of the fevered, inebriated imagination of a Bollywood scriptwriter. Reality, it turns out, is even more masaledar.
| Return to Bollywood | TOP |

At the Emmy Awards
Blockbuster filmmaker Subhash Ghai is proud as punch. No, not because any recent new smash hit of his has the cash registers ringing (that hasn’t happened lately, but let’s not think naughty thoughts, people), but because an international honor has come his way, and he is thrilled to bits.

The filmmaker will be representing India on the jury panel of the 2005 Emmy awards. The maker of blockbusters Taal, Pardes and Kalicharan has been invited to be part of the jury panel judging the TV movie/mini-series category. The annual International Emmy awards will be presented in New York City Nov. 21.

Well done, Subhashji.
| Return to Bollywood | TOP |

Reality Cinema
No we aren’t talking about cinema verite or any such artsy stuff. We are talking about Bollywood getting a reality check. We know, it sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true. The fact is real life is apparently getting to be colorful and zany enough for Bollywood screenwriters to take a quick look at what’s happening around them.

So here comes a film directed by Faizal Saif. It stars Hrishita Bhatt (seen here with Madhavan (r)) and the issue is … the casting couch. Remember the brouhaha about actor Shakti Kapoor getting on tape telling a reporter decoyed as a starlet how the casting couch was a reality?

Well, the film is about stuff like that. Based on real-life incidents, no less. Hrishita plays an actress who is at the receiving end, if you get my drift. Reportedly there are a lot of bold scenes in the movie. Oh, tell me something I don’t know. According to Hrishita, the exposure will not be just for the “sake of it.” Yeah, sure.
| Return to Bollywood | TOP |

There Goes the South Again
Another Tamil film star has decided to try his luck in the rough and tumble of politics, and who can blame him? South India has a great tradition of idolizing film stars, and Indian politics isn’t a lot unlike its films—a lot of dialoguebaazi and cant mixed with a lot of behind-the-scenes maneuvering.

So give a warm welcome to Vijayakant who has launched his new vehicle to glory—the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (National Progressive Dravida Party). At a party conference in the sleepy town of Thoppur near Madurai, he held a party conference to announce his launch.

Will he reach the heights of the late M.G. Ramachandran of Tamil Nadu or N.T. Rama Rao of Andhra Pradesh’s Telugu Desam? Initial signs appear promising. The guy has got smarts, evident from his acute sense of timing. He has launched the party in time to gear up for the assembly polls in May next year.

Another sign of Vijayakant’s promise is the way the Tamil parties are wetting their pants. As both the ruling AIADMK and the opposition DMK worry about their vote banks being raided, politicians are issuing shrill, critical comments.

Vijayakant has a big following in the backward Vanniyar heartland, a PMK stronghold, which unsurprisingly, has criticized Vijayakant’s moves.
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No Way, King Khan
Hindi movie buffs are maha gussa at city authorities. Bollywood reigning king Shah Rukh Khan was supposed to perform live, but the authorities have said no.

The proposed concert has been cancelled after police and fire department refused said no way.

The show -- Temptations 2005 -- in which other stars like Rani Mukherjee and Amisha Patel also were to participate had been organized by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People to raise funds for its National Campaign for a Barrier free India.

“The show was to be held at the archery grounds outside the Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium, but the Delhi police refused permission, saying a crowd of 28,250 will cause a law and order problem,” NCPEDP executive director Javed Abidi said.

Even Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit could not get the cops or the fire service to relent.
| Return to Bollywood | TOP |

The cast of “Chocolate” (l-r) Arshad, Sushma, Anil, Tanushree, Irffan and Emraan during a performance at the IIFA awards in Amsterdam. (FOTOCORP photo)

Spice Team Entertainment’s

Produced by: Ragini and Vibha
Directed and co-written by Vivek Agnihotri
Music: Pritam
Starring: Anil Kapoor, Suniel Shetty, Arshad Warsi, Irffan, Emraan Hashmi, Tanushree Dutta and Sushma Reddy

You’ve gotta give the director his due. In my book, debutant director Vivek Agnihotri gets an A for attitude. His thriller has a feel and look that’s very hip and international; another sign that from the morass of potboilers that Bollywood tends to wallow in, every now and then films are beginning to emerge that give cause for hope and celebration.

The film’s name Chocolate is a play on words—it has nothing to do with the dark-colored sweetmeat, it’s a code for illegal ammunition.

Curiously enough, the film is dominated not by any star’s acting, though some have performed quite well—more about this later—but a city. The film’s great asset is how London is shown.

Oh yes, the film is set in London, but that is passé for today’s Bollywood fans. What with Bollywood starlets dancing around trees in Switzerland, or cavorting in parts of the world as far flung as Switzerland, New Zealand or the misty lochs of Scotland, a foreign setting has no special allure.

What’s special in this film is the way London is shown—very different from say, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which is the typical Bollywood style—in big gaudy colors.

Here London is a moody city—magical, mysterious, enigmatic, mercurial, at times even menacing or melancholy—and full marks to the wondrous cinematography of Attar Singh Saini, who had the insight and savvy to realize that a city’s various moods can add enormously to the richness of a film, and you don’t need every shot to be done on a bright, sunny day.

Not that the film itself is entirely original, not by a long shot. Both the story and the filmmaking style is lifted almost in its entirety from the Hollywood hit The Usual Suspects, but hey, that’s okay. We would much rather go for an intelligently made film, however much it is “inspired,” rather than a badly-made originally film. Drivel is still drivel, no matter how original.

Now let’s get to the story.

The story centers around five people in London brought together by their love of music. They have day jobs, but perform gigs at night.

One Christmas a bomb explodes in a boat and one of the victims is Rocker (Suniel Shetty) one of the five musician friends, whose body gets charred. Simultaneously, loads of cash get carted away in a heist. As cops rush in to investigate, they find clues that lead them to two of Rocky’s associates: Pipi (Irrfan Khan) and Sim (Tanushree Datta). Both are brought in for questioning.

Things aren’t looking good for the arrested pair. Enter journalist Monsoon (Sushma Reddy), who walks in to investigate and brings in cigar-chomping legal eagle Krishna (Anil Kapoor), a lawyer with lots of skill and even more attitude.

Krishna tells anybody who will listen that he has dealt with lowlifes, scum and crooks all his life—so it’s pointless trying to con him. He means it too, and as he coaxes the truth out of the two, the plot thickens every time Krishna detects a kink in their stories.

It’s quite a murky tale, it turns out.

Rocker, a guitarist, was deep in debt, and was knee-deep in crime. Two more musicians were killed, Tubby (Arshad Warsi) and Devaa (Emraan Hashmi.) Rocker was nuts about Sim, a sultry sex-bomb if ever there was one. Pipi, a composer, is a deep thinker.

The story is told in slices of real time and flashbacks—again, like The Usual Suspects—and Krish and Monsoon piece together the story of how this group of musicians got involved in a shady life of murder, drug-running, international terrorism and finally the heist and a shootout in the boat.

Okay, says Krish, let’s do it. He is true to his word, and manages to get the hapless two suspects out of jail, but the truth? That’s something else again.

The artsy, cutting-age storytelling style may confound the average gawar desi film buff—but the film is stylishly made. Snazzy dialogues add fizz, but there’s a bit too much of it. Anil Kapoor and Irrfan are superb, and shoulder much of the film’s weight, with Tanushree weighing in—it’s a good thing she’s such a nice piece of crumpet, it makes you forget her pretty ordinary acting.

The film is far from flawless, and the story has its share of loopholes, but having said that, it’s fun, stylish, intelligent entertainment. How often can you say that of a Bollywood film?

Rating: *** (Good)


Anbe Aaruyire: Unusual, Novel Concept

Director: S J Suryah
Cast: S.J. Suryah, Nila, Santhanam, Santhana Bharathy, Urvasi, Sindhuri, Mayilsami.

The film opens with producer-director-hero Suryah addressing the audience, giving a short gist of his narrative format, “to dispel any confusion related to the dual roles of the hero and the heroine that appear in the second half of the film,” he says. “They are the respective memories of the duo and I’ve given them human forms as their look-alikes,” he adds.

And from this opening the narration takes on an unusual style as the director tries to depict the conflict in the life of Shiva and Madhu, a couple in a live-in relationship. Their love and togetherness, their little fights and squabbles, Shiva’s possessiveness and insecurity as Madhu tries to strike out on her own in a joint business venture with Kishore, her friend’s brother, all snowballing into a major fight and separation, both unwilling to let go their stand.

And what’s a hero without some fight scenes? So there is the sub-plot of a bigwig and his nefarious activities, exposed in a sting operation by Shiva who is a journalist. Put behind bars, the man emerges in the closing scenes to have his vendetta, when the couple are just on the road to reconciliation.

With his slightly unusual treatment, the director manages to maintain pace and interest for the most part. It’s to Suryah’s credit that he’s depicted the live-in relationship in a matter-of-fact, non-fussy way. Also the concept of giving human forms to the memories of the duo, depicting them as their look-alikes and visible only to them is a concept novel for Tamil audiences.

For some of the shots here, Suryah seems to have taken inspiration from Ghost. The “memories” disturb the minds of the duo with fond past thoughts of their good times, rekindling them, and at times bringing in some comic relief. Like in the scene where a puzzled Santhanam, playing Suryah’s friend, helps a desperate Suryah push out of his house the invisible intruder Nila, visible only to Suryah’s eyes. With small roles in earlier films, Santhanam comes into his own here.

Suryah does his fights and dances as good as any other hero. But the actor looks famished and emaciated here. Again, while he gets the best out of his artists, he seems to need some guidance himself. More control over his dialogue delivery and voice modulation would have avoided the loud throw of his dialogue which is jarring to the ears. Nila (a Ms India) is a pale version of Simran, and for a debut performer, acquits herself creditably.

There are some interesting cameos. Mayilsami goes round the bend trying to figure out the reason for Shiva’s strange behavior. Then there is Urvasi, the psychiatrist. Suryah’s tryst with her is hilarious, thanks to the actress’ perfect timing.

Rahman’s tunes are nowhere near the peppy ones he’d given for Suryah’s earlier film New, nor is the picturization particularly impressive. Finally, what the film lacks is finesse, with most scenes handled in a crude way. Also the director’s penchant for double entendres is evident here too, some of the lines are censored, the muted dialogue leaving jarring gaps. Suryah, through his character in the opening scene, takes pot shots at himself and has a penchant for the ribald, but that doesn’t excuse him or help matters in anyway.

Diwali Delicacies: DilkUsHar Ki Burfi, Aloo Tikki Chaath
- By Seema Gupta

Wishing all of our readers a very happy diwali, Seema Gupta shows you how to prepare two dishes — one sweet, another savory — that are sure to delight visiting friends.

Dilkushar ki Burfi

4 cup chana flour (ladoo besan)
3 cup sugar
Pinch of saffron
2 tsp finely chopped pistachio
½ tsp cardamom powder
3/4 cup regular milk
2 1/2 cup powder milk
16 oz unsalted butter
1cup water

For making the khoya put 4 oz butter in a bowl and heat it in microwave for 2 minutes. Add powder milk and regular milk. Mix well and heat in microwave for 3 minutes. Again mix well and heat in microwave for 3 minutes.

Put 12 oz butter in a pan in medium heat. Add chana flour and stir well for 7-10 min until light brown color. Turn off stove. Add khoya and mix well. Keep it aside.

For the syrup, add 1 cup of water and 3 cup sugar in a pan, boil it for 5-6 min, Check to make sure the mixture looks like a syrup. Add into khoya and besan mixture. Grease a baking pan. Put the whole mixture, sprinkle cardamom powder, pistachio, saffron. Cut into diamond or burfi shape.

Aloo Tikki Chaat

1 cup boil garbanzo beans(mashed)
1 boiled potato (mashed)
½ tsp  black salt
½ tsp black pepper
Salt to taste
½ tsp garam masala
2-3 green chili chopped
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
½ tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp red chili powder
½ cup curd
1 tbsp imli chutney
1tbsp green chutney
1 tbsp thin sev
2 tbsp oil

Put boiled mashed potato in a bowl. Add mashed garbanzo beans, black salt, black pepper, salt, garam masala, chopped green chili, coriander leaves, lemon juice and red chili powder, mix well. Shape like a tikki , put oil in a pan in medium heat. Fry tikki on both side 10-15 min until red-brown in color. Put it on a plate. Sprinkle curd, imli chutney, green chutney and sev. Ready to eat.

- Seema Gupta is a homemaker. She lives in Elk Grove, Calif.


October 2005 Horoscope
By Pandit Parashar

ARIES (March 21 to April 20): You will be working towards a major career revamp. Everything will eventually work out. You will experience a surge in your creativity. Financially, you will be good shape with some easy cash coming your way. You will meet someone interesting.

TAURUS (April 21 to May 20): You might grab the opportunity and plan to relocate. A business trip will bear immediate fruitful results. You will require special medication to cure a health issue. You will have great ideas and successfully pass them to those who are willing to listen. An old friend will call.

GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): You will reduce your expenses and start saving. There is big money coming to you through a legal channel in the near future. You hear good news from your children. You will write several important letters. You will be energetic and make good use of your time.

CANCER (June 21 to July 22): You will be rewarded for all the hard work and patience you’ve maintained in the past. Changes in career will be beneficial in the long run. You will be writing a check to the government. Money could come through stock trade or lottery. You will buy high quality and luxury goods.

LEO (July 23 to August 22): You will be working on a major project. Guidance from a learned person will show you the right path. Money you’ve desperately needed will soon become available. A trip will be relaxing and informative. You will be the center of attraction at a party. You will do some religious or charity work.

VIRGO (August 23 to September 22): Spouse will spend way beyond budget. Outside influence will cause disturbance in family life. You will be working on a deal which will earn you extra cash. You will be invited to several parties. You will gain wisdom and actively participate in religious activities.

LIBRA (September 23 to October 22): You will be relaxed and look cheerful. People around you will notice a big change in personality. Some of you will start a new relationship but with some reservations in mind. You will spend lots of money on children.

SCORPIO (October 23 to November 22): Things will continue to be in your favor and you will achieve another milestone in career. Your efforts will be recognized. Boss will make the necessary recommendations. You will study interesting material. Availability of anticipated funds will be further delayed.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23 to December 22): Do not stretch your limits and do the math before you make a commitment. You will be working towards a big diversion in career. Long overdue money will arrive via mail. You will meet several old friends. You will be frequently calling overseas.

CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19): Spouse will work hard to meet deadlines. You will hear several encouraging news. Things will ease at work as a result of recent changes. You may invite a colleague at your place for dinner. You will lay hands on a big chunk of money.

AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18): Hard work and patience will pay off and you will finally get several lucky breaks. Positive trend will continue for several weeks so take your chances. You will make some useful contacts which will be helpful in your crusade. You will make money through speculation or win some money in lottery.

PISCES (February 19 to March 20): A big transaction will earn good profits. You will be strong and take a stand against all odds. In-laws will send valuable gifts. You will study useful material. Negotiations will go well and the final word doesn’t seem too far. You will visit an old friend.

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


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