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Volume VII • Issue 11

EDITORIAL: At the Festival of Books
NEWS DIARY: October Roundup
AWARD: Honor for Grameen, Yunus
SUBCONTINENT: Policing E-Crooks
CULTURE: Kathak Fest
COMMUNITY: Celebrating Pakistan
SCHOOLING: Help with Homework
FESTIVAL: Shubh Deepavali | Durga Puja
CULTURE: California Desi
TRAVEL: Extreme Yosemite
HEALTH: Dealing with Hypertension
COMMUNITY: News in Brief
BUSINESS: News in Brief
AUTO REVIEW: 2006 Corvette Z06
BOLLYWOOD: 2006 IIFA Awards |
Guftugu | Hindi Film Review: Don
RECIPE: Shahi Toast

Please Join us as we
welcome veteran
South Asian advertising guru Prem Dutt to the Siliconeer family.
Email Prem

Call Prem: (510) 797-8315

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A Festival of Books

India’s growing visibility in the West no longer raises any eyebrows, whether in India or in the West. Still, it’s nice to know that the world’s largest fair for books specially set aside space and time for India — and according to reports, India made quite a splash at the book fair.

The Indian preeminence in the Western world of books is not a new thing. Indian authors writing in English have been attracting attention for quite a while now, in a trend started decades ago by Salman Rushdie and followed by the likes of Amitav Ghosh, Amit Chaudhuri, Vikram Seth, Vikram Chandra and many others.

But that preeminence has not been without controversy. Valid questions have been raised of whether what is only a small segment of Indian literature (authors writing in English), is mistakenly being considered to be the entire canon of modern Indian literature (Rushdie must definitely take some of the blame for making ill-considered remarks on this issue).

The book fair’s homage to India could surely go some way towards rectifying that. Indian authors in English were there, to be sure, represented by the likes of Amitav Ghosh and Shashi Tharoor, but so were regional language titans like Mahasweta Devi and U.R. Ananthamurthy.

Frankfurt Book Fair director Juergen Boos made a particularly perceptive observation about the value of Indian literature in regional languages, and the warm welcome he proffered to India will warm the hearts of all South Asians. Our cover story gives more details.

Amartya Sen is rightly celebrated by Indians — South Asians, too, particularly Bangladeshis hold him in high regard — for his Nobel Prize-winning work in economics, but he has recently been in the public eye for a somewhat different reason.

In recent times, he has tirelessly spoken and written against growing sectarian schisms in the world, arguing that this goes against common sense and reason. Sen says diversity is not just something that characterizes human society, diversity of manifold identities is inherent in each individual human being as well, and we must guard against attempts by sectarian thugs to hijack reason and impose on us one preeminent identity or the other and sow discord, hatred and violence.

What’s so remarkable about Sen is that although he brings a lot of passion to his speeches and his writing, he is never polemical. Eschewing hyperbole, he prefers to present meticulous arguments, peppered with historical and cultural references that cut an astonishingly wide swath.

Sen was recently in the Bay Area to deliver the Sidhartha Maitra Memorial Lecture at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and while it has to be admitted that some of his arguments had a familiar ring — he had given a two-day lecture not too long ago at the University of California at Berkeley where he had similar points, perhaps his message of an abiding, deep humanism, a respect and celebration of pluralism, is one that deserves, nay, demands repeated iteration in these dark days of sectarian schism.

Sen is a pleasure to listen to and read — not only because of his meticulous arguments, polymath interests and invariable courtly, old-world manners, but also because he himself embodies the ethos he champions — a product of the Bengal renaissance that produced titans who had mastered the fine art of balancing one’s cultural identity on one hand with a vibrant curiosity and openness to all foreign ideas, producing a synthetic identity that was at once Bengali and universal. We carry a report of Sen’s lecture in this issue.

Indians love to take pride in their democracy, as they should. But perhaps a more pertinent question is what kind of democracy does India have? One of the more exciting developments in recent years has been grassroots movements working towards making government more accountable and transparent, and surely the most significant among these is the Right to Information Movement. Started off by activists in Rajasthan to shake up corrupt state and local governments as they cheated the very people in whose name they governed, the movement grew into a nationwide mass movement whose moment of crowning glory came when the Indian Parliament passed the Right to Information Act in 2005.

Well, anybody who expected India’s crafty bureaucrats and politicians to sit back and applaud was living in a fool’s paradise. The empire struck back indeed — with a slew of amendments that aimed to knock the teeth off the law that, for the first time, gives the ordinary citizen the tools to find out what her or his government is actually up to.

As the battle rages over the proposed amendments, we carry an article in this issue that explains exactly what is at stake and what grassroots activists are doing about it.

Readers may remember that Siliconeer carried an article on the issue by our India editorial consultant Sandeep Pandey, who had gone on a five-day fast against the proposed amendments.

Do drop us a line with ideas and comments about how we can make Siliconeer better serve you.

A Festival of Books: India in Frankfurt

Mahasweta Devi, U.R. Ananthamurthy, Vikram Seth and Amitav Ghosh and were some of the literary luminaries at the Frankfurt Book Fair where India was guest of honor. The fair celebrated India with contemporary films, modern dance and theatre, new music, contemporary art and the art of bookmaking and cartoons. A Siliconeer report.

Top: A reader looks at a book on India at the Frankfurt Book Fair; workers put finishing touches on a mural showing Rabindranath Tagore and Einstein (bottom, left); a poster specially published in honor of India, the Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair (bottom, right).


There’s a buzz about India, there’s no doubt about it. In the world’s largest book fair Oct. 10-14 at Frankfurt this year, India was the guest of honor. Indian authors took centre stage as the fair opened and aptly enough a romantic comedy based on outsourcing was released.

Thousands of people thronged the 58th Frankfurt Book Fair which has attracted over 7,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries, including 200 from India, as it was opened to the public, a day after being formally inaugurated by India’s Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh.

“Once Upon a Timezone” by Neelesh Misra was released by Singh at the main function on the first day of the exhibition where leading authors from India and around the world assembled.

Right: U.R. Ananthamurthy; Below: Amitav Ghosh (l) with Gunter Grass; Bottom: South Asian visitors at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Singh also released “Partners in Freedom: Jamia Millia Islamia” by Prof Mushirul Hassan. Misra, a journalist with a leading Indian daily, and Prof Hassan are among 70 Indian authors present at the fair. Mahashweta Devi, the 80-year-old grand dame of Indian literature, Kiran Desai, Amitav Ghosh and Shashi Tharoor, who quit a bid for UN Secretary General’s post, were also attending the four-day fair.

“The Frankfurt Book Fair is a great celebration of plurality, of linguistic diversity of mankind and of creativity, knowledge and wisdom, of anxieties, insights and concerns which mark our period,” Singh said in his inaugural speech. “Personally I am a modest book-lover having deep and abiding faith in pluralism and it gives me a kind of spiritual satisfaction to be here.

“We are grateful for this honor and appreciate the German generosity for doing this. India is one of those countries which could be said to be the most abiding celebration of human diversity and it is very appropriate that India should be here this year in a big way at a book-fair which is itself a most forceful assertion of human and civilizational

The focus on India brought “a huge program of literature, art, music, film and dance to the Fair,” said a book fair press release. “Around 70 Indian authors (brought) insights into their literary cosmos in a symphony of the 24 languages officially spoken in their country. With a population of more than a billion, a total of 120 regional languages and dialects and 80,000 new publications a year, India is not just a cultural giant, but a rapidly growing book and media market as well. More than 150 Indian publishing companies in an area of 1,400 square meters exhibited at the Fair, alongside a separate Indian collective IT stand.”

In an earlier welcoming message, Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair urged visitors “to experience India from a wide range of perspectives covering 2,500 square meters.”

“India is a truly fascinating country,” he said. “With more than one billion people and 24 official languages, India offers unsurpassed diversity and contrast. To us in Europe, India is a faraway country, but in many ways it is also a familiar country. We are already familiar with many facets of its history, with its religious and spiritual traditions, yet also with the problems of the country — we practice yoga and watch Bollywood films.

“Many German publishers have acknowledged India’s Guest of Honor status by including more Indian books and books about India in their programs. We are particularly pleased that translations from India’s regional languages make up more than one-fourth of the new literary releases. Among the list of 44 literary titles newly introduced on the market in 2006, 14 titles were translated from regional Indian languages, and there were three anthologies translated from English and the regional languages.

(Above, r): Classical Indian dancers were part of an elaborate cultural program to supplement the exhibit of Indian books at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Above, l: The official poster of the fair.

“The regional languages in India are by no means languages spoken only by a few. This applies primarily to Hindi, which is spoken by more than 350 million people, but also to Bengali with 69 million, Telugu with 72 million, and Urdu with 47 million speakers. Many literary treasures undoubtedly remain to be discovered in these languages; the curiosity and fascination are certainly strong. The fact that the reception for Indian literature up to now has been concentrated on authors who write in the English language is merely due to the fact that there are hardly any literary translators who can translate literature from Malayalam, Marathi, Kannada and the other regional languages of India.

“I would hope that the presentation of India as the Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair will serve to launch a more intense awareness of the entire literary spectrum of the country, and will stimulate license trading between India and European countries. Ensuring that this is more than just a flash in the pan, however, will require that all partners continue with their commitment to promoting translation and industry networking which began with the signing of the Guest of Honor agreement two years ago.

Right: A busy Indian visitor at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The fair showcased India this year.

“Seldom has a guest country received the kind of media attention in the German press that India did: special supplements in many papers, one-hour-long programs on television, unprecedented crowds on the public days,” wrote Urvashi Butalia in the Business Standard. “Everywhere you turned at the fair, you met an Indian academic, or author, or dancer, or playwright, or television personality. And yet, there was a constant rumble of discontent, principally among those who make books.

“The only country to be invited as Guest of Honor twice (the first time in 1986) to the world’s largest book fair (more than 7,000 exhibitors from 111 countries, and hundreds of trade visitors), India put on an impressive spectacle, showcasing art, theatre, popular culture, food, authors — everything, in fact, except the real business of the fair, books and publishers.”

However if the fair was a success as a showcase, it fell short as a business enterprise, she wrote.

“More than a year in preparation, and with extensive initial consultations with different publishers, a Rs 20 crore budget, a number of pre-Frankfurt workshops — all this augured well for what is essentially a trade event, a business opportunity for publishers to showcase their work, and their authors, to sell and buy rights, to discuss deals, to establish partnerships,” Butalia wrote.

“If some of this happened, it did so, in the words of one Indian publisher, ‘not so much because of the National Book Trust (the organizing body), but despite it.’

That said, as a showcase for India, the fair was a roaring success, she adds: “There’s little doubt that the show put on at Frankfurt, and in other cities of Germany, was impressive, popular, colorful, varied, and it caught the attention of the media.”

Rooting for Reason: Amartya Sen Lecture
Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen’s current focus is not economics but the violent sectarian schisms that bedevil our present times. He recently delivered the Sidhartha Maitra Memorial Lecture at the University of California at Santa Cruz. A Siliconeer report.

(Above): Amartya Sen speaking at Santa Cruz. (Bottom, r) UCSC foundation president Anuradha Luthra and acting chancellor George Blumenthal

What’s an economist doing speaking out against intolerance and sectarian schisms? It would be a valid question only for those unfamiliar with the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen. Another Nobel Prize winner, Kenneth Arrow, called him “the conscience of economics.”

Currently professor of both economics and philosophy at Harvard, Sen has never been one to keep quiet when his conscience bid otherwise.

In an increasingly troubled world torn by sectarian, divisive tendencies, Sen has spoken — and written — passionately against a tendency to focus on one aspect of a person’s identity at the expense of others. He champions a diversity that inheres in every one of us – a diversity that each person embraces with a multiplicity of identities that should, if reason prevails, militate against sectarian violence. He pointed this out when he delivered the Sixth Annual Sidhartha Maitra Memorial Lecture at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

The ordinary fact is that the same person can be without any contradiction whatever, many different things—an American citizen, of Malaysian origin, with Indian ancestry, a Tamil, a Christian, a liberal, a woman, a vegetarian, a long-distance runner, a historian, a school teacher, a novelist, a feminist, a heterosexual, a believer in gay and lesbian rights, a theatre lover, an environmental activist, a tennis fan, a jazz musician and someone who belongs to an outer space club where members take the view that aliens from space are widely present on earth because of illegal immigration from outer space that had been going over the centuries and these aliens are hard to detect because they do look just like us, though here is the good news: They can be unmasked by making use of the fact that these space wetbacks are particularly fond of reciting Shakespeare.

That’s vintage Sen for you. Meticulous argument, delivered without polemical hyperbole, and leavened with a gentle wit.

Just how can this sense of multiple identity play out in an enlightened society? Sen gives the example of India, not without a touch of pride:

I think India has a lot of failures, but in terms of democracy we have reason to take some pride in the fact that if you look at the three principal positions in a country with more than 80 percent Hindu population, the fact that the president is a Muslim, Abdul Kalam, the prime minister is a Sikh, Manmohan Singh, and the leader of the ruling party is a Christian, a Catholic, namely, Sonia Gandhi—not one of the three principal positions is occupied by the majority community—it’s interesting that that does not appear at all peculiar and there is no reason why it should be, because they are not seen just as representatives of their communities at all. Abdul Kalam is a scientist, Manmohan is an economist as well as a great administrator and Sonia Gandhi is a tactician and politician and a visionary statesman who brought the secular identity very strongly to the elections in 2004 following the Gujarat riots which was a tremendous transgression and in a sense, allowed the voters to do what they did, namely reject the party which was in office responsible for that. I think that has become possible when one can think of each other not in sectarian terms and for that you need civil society—without a media, without interaction, I don’t think any of these would appear as natural as they do in India today.

Sen is the first to concede that despite a reality that suggests otherwise, the notion of a single-minded, sectarian identity has been gaining ground. He calls it the tyranny of singular identity, and warns about its dangers.

The tyranny of a singular identity in a world of manifestly plural affiliation may be contrary to common sense, and yet it is very successful, alarmingly so, sometimes with extremely bloody consequences.
The cultivation of a singular identity to the exclusion of all other manifold association not only serves as an instrument of incarceration that tyrannizes our lives, it can also generate some terrible consequences. A strong and exclusive sense of belonging to one group can go with the perception of distance and divergence from other groups. Within-group solidarity can help to feed between-group discord.

Sen does not reserve his criticism just for sectarian fanatics. He is equally critical of an odd tendency among Western policymakers and leaders to implicitly accept the fanatic’s unifocal definition of identity:

It’s really not surprising that inciters of riots and terrorism like to reduce many dimensional human beings into one particular identity only suitable for instigation and recruitment.
What is really tragic and sad is when those who want to resist violence and defeat terrorism fall for the same denuded, miniaturized and I believe dehumanized view of people.
For example, the recent British use of singular partition of the British population based on religion, separating out British Muslims, British Hindus, British Sikhs and other newcomers drastically miniaturizes human beings and their many affiliations related for example to politics, civil society, citizenship, occupation, linguistic background.
This reductionism not only involves an epistemic failure in understanding the nature of human identity, it also entails political befuddlement.
To take just one case, Bangladesh’s emergence as a new country was not linked with religion but mainly with the Bengali language and culture and with commitment to secular politics for which a great many people, hundreds of thousands, in fact, gave their lives. But now, in official reckoning, the Bangladeshis in Britain of Muslim origin are defined simply by a single category of being British Muslims, whether you come from Morocco, or Bangladesh, Pakistan or Sudan.
On the 7th of July, 2005, after the bombs went in London, when the government was asking British Muslims “to get their act together,” a Bangladeshi Muslim friend of mine in Britain, a British citizen, as it happens, totally shocked by the events, but also a little startled by the governmental invitation that followed it, told me, “The political leaders of my country, Great Britain, want me to act not as a British citizen, not as a member of the Labor Party, nor as someone active in civil society, nor as a secularist of Bangladeshi origin, but as a Muslim, who must act within what the government has defined as my community.”

Sen is also critical of the broader tendency in the West to look upon democracy as a uniquely Western tradition, waiting to be exported to the rest of the world.

Democracy cannot be seen as a purely Western cultural condition. Democracy is political decision-making and participatory public reasoning and there’s a widespread history in the world of varying success in the cultivation of that value. It has had ups and downs everywhere including in the West and the fact that the West has been able to make excellent use of that mode of decision making over the last two and a half centuries or so is a matter for global celebration rather than for it being used as the basis of a parochial theory of a purely Western notion of democracy ignoring our global past. It’s particularly important to see that democracy does demand not just voting but also a civil society that is not fragmented into little boxes of communities.

Sen questions the very notion inherent of a debate of whether Western countries can “impose” democracy on Iraq or any other country.

While he is the first to concede that modern democracy and public reasoning have been tremendously influenced by the European Enlightenment, the French revolution and the American revolution, he dismisses the attempt to extrapolate backwards from this and posit a quintessential dichotomy between the West and non-West. Sen says it makes more sense to take a broader view of the social and political context which makes democracy possible.

Democracy is not about ballots and votes but about public deliberation and reasoning by what John Stuart Mill called government by discussion. While public reasoning did flourish in ancient Greece, it also did so in several other civilizations, sometimes spectacularly so. For example some of the earliest open general meetings aimed specifically at settling disputes between different points of view took place in India beginning in the 6th century BC in the so-called Buddhist councils, the first having been held in 6th century BC where adherents of the different points of view got together to argue out their differences. Ashoka in Pataliputra also was the author of the first primitively formed Robert’s Rules of Order about how to conduct a discussion and how to listen to each other.

Public deliberation and reasoning flourished in the Middle East as well, he said.

Middle Eastern history and the history of Muslim people also include a great many accounts of public discussion and political participation through dialogue. In the Muslim kingdom centered around Cairo, Baghdad or Istanbul, or in Iraq or India, or for that matter Spain, there were many champions of public discussion such as Caliph al-Rahman III of Cordova in the 10th century whose prime minister, incidentally, was a Jewish intellectual called Hisdai ibn Shaprut or Emperor Akbar of India in the 16th century.

In fact, when at the turn of the 16th century Emperor Akbar was completing his codification of the right of religious freedom for all, and also arranging dialogues between Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Parsees, Jains and others including atheists, the heretic Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in Rome in Campo de Fieri, in fact, because of apostasy exactly at the same time.

(Right): Prof. Amartya Sen with the UC Santa Cruz Foundation medal, the highest honor awarded by the university.

In today’s troubled world, the need was to rekindle in our tense, riven societies a more tempered, nuanced and reasoned view of society and its members that acknowledges and accepts our many different identities, instead of drawing lines on the basis of one particular aspect, Sen urges.

The hope of harmony in the contemporary world lies to a great extent in a clear understanding in the pluralities of human identity and in the appreciation that they cut across each other and work against a sharp separation along one single line of hardened and impervious division.

After his lecture, Sen was presented with the UC Santa Cruz Foundation Medal — the highest honor awarded by the university. Acting chancellor George Blumenthal noted that this tribute is granted to “individuals of exceptionally distinguished achievement whose life and contributions to society illustrate the ideals and the vision of UC Santa Cruz.”

The Sidhartha Maitra Memorial Lecture at UCSC was established in 2001 by Foundation president Anuradha Luther Maitra to honor the memory of her late husband who was a distinguished scientist and visionary entrepreneur. His lecture was followed by a screening of Satyajit Ray’s Ghare Baire (The Home and the World).


NEWS DIARY: October Roundup
Royals in Pakistan | House Speaker Hastert Meets Evangelist | Delhi Shopkeepers Strike | Pakistan Erupts in Protests after Madrassa Killing | Spice Therapy | Deadly Clashes | Editor Detained | Court vs Parliament

Royals in Pakistan

Prince Charles speaking at the Prime Minister House in Islamabad.

Britain’s Prince Charles held talks with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf but local officials said he did not raise the controversial case of a man on death row in the Islamic republic.

Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, met military ruler Musharraf after arriving in Pakistan for a high-profile and-high security tour lasting five days.

British sources would not say if Charles and Musharraf talked about Briton Mirza Tahir Hussain — whose hanging was scheduled during the visit but later delayed — but Pakistani officials said they did not.

“This issue was not discussed. Neither did they want to talk about it nor did we want to talk about it,” Pakistani Information Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani told AFP.

Musharraf thanked Britain for its help after the October 2005 Pakistan earthquake, which killed more than 74,000 people, officials said. Charles and Camilla are due to visit the disaster zone.

Camilla also held talks with Musharraf’s wife Sehba and the wives of other senior officials. She wore a cream silk tunic, matching trousers and a dupatta scarf.

The royal couple also met Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and discussed issues including a youth business scheme that will echo Charles’s Prince’s Trust initiative in the U.K.

Later in the week the royal couple are expected to visit the northwestern city of Peshawar where Charles will address a college and one of Pakistan’s controversial madrassas.

They are also scheduled to attend an ‘interfaith meeting’ in Lahore, in keeping with Charles’s well-publicized interest in religion.
|Back to NEWS Diary| |TOP|

House Speaker Hastert Meets Evangelist

Evangelist K.A. Paul (l) with Hastert

An Indian American Christian evangelist who boasts he persuaded warlord Charles Taylor to give up the Liberian presidency came to House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s home on a similar mission: to get the Republican leader to step down over the congressional page scandal.
Hastert welcomed Houston evangelist K.A. Paul, founder of the Global Peace Initiative, at his door and spent about 30 minutes inside with him. Later, Hastert declined to comment on the meeting, saying, “That’s a privileged conversation.”

Paul said the two prayed together and he told the speaker he should resign.

“You need to for the sake of the country and for the sake of your future,” Paul said he told Hastert. “You pray within your heart and you do it.”

Why Hastert would agree to meet with Paul mystified Dan Busby, an executive of an accrediting group that found problems with one of Paul’s charities.

In 2005, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which has more than 1,200 members, terminated the membership of Paul’s Gospel to the Unreached Millions for failing to meet financial accountability and governance standards.

“I find that more shocking than surprising,” said Dan Busby, vice president of the accrediting council. “It would mean Dennis Hastert or his people didn’t do their homework on the history of this organization.”
|Back to NEWS Diary| |TOP|

Delhi Shopkeepers Strike

A shopkeeper shouts slogans in New Delhi.

Police used water cannon to disperse thousands of shopkeepers and traders protesting in New Delhi against the state government move to shut down shops operating illegally in residential areas.

The protests came at the start of a planned three-day strike that shut markets and businesses across the city of 14 million.

A similar protest turned violent last month when at least three people were killed in the demonstrations and police action.

Over 5,000 businessmen marched to the state assembly and burned straw effigies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress party which also holds power in Delhi state.

“Stop the sealing, stop the sealing,” “Clean Delhi, Don’t Burn Delhi,” “Sealing is no solution,” the protesters shouted and clapped as they broke through one security cordon.

“If they don’t stop the sealing I will have no option but to tell my workers to go and burn these officials,” Chopra said.

The civic clean-up drive began nearly a year ago after the Supreme Court said shops on at least 2,000 city roads, which pass through residential colonies, were illegal and should be closed.

Deep Mathur, information officer of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi which is sealing the shops, said the body was ready to resume closing illegal premises as ordered by the court.
|Back to NEWS Diary| |TOP|

Pakistan Erupts in Protests after Madrassa Killing

Activists in Peshawar protest air strike.

Wild scenes have erupted in Pakistan as funerals took place for the 80 people killed in an air raid in October in northwest Pakistan.

According to Pakistani military officials, the attack by army helicopter gunships in Chingai, destroyed a madrassa which they say was used by militants as a training camp.

Army spokesman Gen Shaukat Sultan told reporters the strike killed militants only. “There was no collateral damage,” he said.

However, as funerals took place in the region later in the day it was apparent that was not the case. Pupils and teachers were killed in the attack, said local witnesses.

According to a BBC report, the leader of the madrassa, radical cleric Maulana Liaqat, was among the dead. An eyewitness told the BBC that the madrassa was filled with about 80 local students who had resumed studies after the Muslim Eid holidays.

Journalists trying to get to the scene were being turned back as they tried to enter the Bajaur region.

In Islamabad, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, an opposition political leader, blamed the U.S. for the attack and said claims that the madrassa was a terrorist training center were “rubbish.” Thirty children were among the dead, he said.

“It was an American plane behind the attack and Pakistan is taking responsibility because they know there would be a civil war if the American responsibility was known,” Ahmed was quoted by CNN as saying.

Thousands took part in protests against Pakistan’s alliance with the U.S. chanting “Death to Bush” and burning American flags, the Associated Press news agency reported.
|Back to NEWS Diary| |TOP|

Spice Therapy

Chicken curry

Curry could be good for you, U.S. research suggests. Extract of a spice used in curry could help prevent rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, as lab work by University of Arizona researchers, published in Arthritis & Rheumatism shows that turmeric’s curcuminoid extracts have a therapeutic effect.

Experts say new drugs may be found, but eating more spices is unlikely to work.

The researchers said clinical trials were needed before turmeric supplements could be recommended for medicinal use.

Earlier work by the University of Arizona team showed turmeric could prevent joint inflammation in rats. In their latest study, they set out to find exactly what ingredient in turmeric was having the anti-inflammatory effect.

They prepared extracts from the root of the turmeric plant, and compared them against the commercially available products that contain turmeric extracts.

A version of turmeric extract that was free of essential oils was found to most closely match the composition of the commercial supplements.

And it was this extract, containing curcumin, that was most effective at blocking the onset of rheumatoid arthritis in the rats.

Dr Janet Funk and her colleagues believe their findings also suggest turmeric extract could treat other inflammatory disorders, including asthma, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Professor Robert Moots, professor of rheumatology at Liverpool University and spokesman for the Arthritis Research Campaign, said people with arthritis will have to wait to see if the study results in new treatments.

“It will come as no surprise if naturally occurring compounds have a drug-like effect,” he said.
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Deadly Clashes

Awami League supporters burn an effigy of former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia during a protest in Dhaka.

Bangladesh’s police chief has vowed there will be “zero tolerance” of violence following a political crisis that sparked deadly clashes between rival parties.

His comments came as the country braced for further bloodshed after the opposition called nationwide protests over President Iajuddin Ahmed’s decision to name himself head of a caretaker government to oversee elections due in January.

At least 15,000 police were on the streets of the capital Dhaka and thousands more were deployed nationwide after three days of protests led by the leftist main opposition Awami League that left at least 21 people dead.

“There will be zero tolerance of further violence. Anyone who tries to disrupt law and order will be punished,” Inspector General of Bangladesh Police Anwarul Iqbal told AFP.

“We have now enough police and paramilitaries all over the country and the situation has improved markedly,” he added.

In the capital Dhaka, private cars and buses were off the roads although offices and shops remained open and no fresh clashes were reported, police said.

Rallies and small marches by the outgoing ruling party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, and the Awami League passed off peacefully, police said.

Awami League activists burned an effigy of outgoing prime minister and BNP chief Khaleda Zia, an AFP photographer said.

An isolated clash was reported on the southern island of Bhola that left at least 35 people injured, according to the private ATN Bangla television channel.

Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina Wajed met the president Monday in his capacity as the new interim head and asked him to reform the voters list and the election commission by Nov. 3, adding that the opposition would suspend protests until then.

“He has to prove his neutrality through his activities and he has to remove all suspicion about lack of neutrality,” she told reporters.
|Back to NEWS Diary| |TOP|

Editor Detained

Immigration officials at Dhaka airport have prevented a Bangladesh newspaper editor from leaving for London after journalists at the paper complained that he was fleeing without paying them.

Shafiq Rehman, editor of the Bangla-language daily Jai Jai Din, was taken off an Emirates Airlines flight on Saturday night, airport officials said. Rehman holds a British passport and was carrying five airline tickets, they told reporters.

The journalists said Rehman had suspended publication of the paper indefinitely on Friday and sacked 104 journalists and other employees without notice.

Police later took Rehman away as the sacked journalists demonstrated at the gates of Zia International Airport.

“He was trying to flee the country without paying our dues. We can’t allow him to do so,” said Jai Jai Din journalist Amit Habib. The staff had filed a complaint against him with police.

The daily hit the news stands only last June.

Rehman was unavailable for comment, but relatives said he had been going to Britain for medical treatment.
|Back to NEWS Diary| |TOP|

Court vs Parliament

The Indian Parliament Building in New Delhi.

A row has broken out in India between the judiciary and parliament over whether the courts have the right to overturn laws passed by parliament.

It comes after several recent judgements by the country’s Supreme Court which overturned government decisions on the grounds that they were against the constitution.

Politicians argue that laws passed by parliament should be protected from judicial review since MPs are the people’s representatives.

But this is being challenged especially after a recent report showed that nearly a quarter of Indian parliamentarians are facing criminal charges.

The row is splitting apart two of the pillars of Indian democracy — parliament which has more than 500 elected representatives and the judiciary which has earned a justifiable reputation for independence.

At the heart of the matter is the question of who has a right to finally determine what becomes law under India’s constitution, which was drawn up more than 50 years ago.
In recent months, India’s Supreme Court has challenged a number of government decisions saying they are unconstitutional.

Earlier this month, the court ruled that affirmative action quotas for disadvantaged groups should be capped at 50 percent and that prosperous members of these groups should be excluded from benefiting.

And the court has also made a number of rulings which have struck down moves by the government to protect illegal businesses and ordered that their premises be demolished.
The court’s interventions have been applauded by many Indians who see it as a way of keeping the government in check.

These decisions, and other similar ones, have been opposed by the country’s political parties who are concerned that it could hurt them politically.

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The Right to Know: Fighting for Transparency
The Indian government’s attempt to amend the Right to Information Act has unleashed a public outcry, writes Nityanand Jayaraman.

Left: Activists sing at a Jan Sunwai. The Right to Information Act has drawn remarkable public support.

Nityanand Jayaraman is an independent journalist and researcher who writes on human rights and the environment.

Less than two weeks after the government announced a cabinet decision to exempt “file notings” from the ambit of the Right to Information Act it passed 10 months ago, public interest groups in India and U.S.-based NRIs have made it clear that they mean to defeat the proposed amendment.

In one week, more than 3,500 people have signed an electronic petition against the amendment. Veteran Gandhian and social reformer Anna Hazare said he will return his Padma Bhushan award in protest to the president Aug. 9, the anniversary of the Quit India day. The U.S.-based Association for India’s Development said it will mobilize entrepreneurs, alumni and NRIs to flood the PMO with phones and faxes. They have also said that they will hold demonstrations outside Indian embassies if the government doesn’t back down on the amendment. Industry lobbies such as PHDCCI have condemned the amendment saying that this “censorship will render Right to Information meaningless”. And Arvind Kejriwal, winner of the Magsaysay Award for 2006, says, “It is sad that while the entire world recognizes India’s Right to Information Act as important, the government is trying to kill the Act.” Kejriwal, a former bureaucrat, runs a Delhi-based NGO, Parivartan, which has successfully used the Act to help people fight for their fundamental rights.

It is difficult to find voices openly supportive of the amendment, especially given the lack of specific information regarding the proposed amendment. Retired bureaucrat and currently Tamil Nadu Chief Information Commissioner S Ramakrishnan, for instance, says, “The exemption may reduce transparency, but the positive aspect is that it will also reduce resistance amongst bureaucrats. To that extent, the exemption may strengthen the Act.”

File notings, which are at the heart of the controversy, are comments made on green pages that are inserted in every “current file” containing official correspondence such as minutes of meetings, or orders. When a file is put up to an officer, she writes her comments or decision on the green pages called a “note file” and forwards it along with the “current file” to the next officer, who does the same. “Any officer who takes arbitrary or illegal decisions, or who sits on the file for too long will be exposed through file notings. By exempting file notings, the government is only protecting corrupt and dishonest officials,” says Kejriwal.

Announcing the decision, the government said the amendment was made to “remove ambiguities and strengthen the Act.” However, Anna Hazare says that “the exemption actually takes the soul out of the Act. If we are truly free and living in a democracy, we need to know what decisions were taken, and how and why they were taken.”

Already, the Central Information Commission has ruled several times that under the Act, the word “file” means both the note file and the current file. “The note file is key to understanding the rationale behind a decision,” says A.K. Venkatsubramaniam, a former civil servant and founder of Chennai-based NGO Catalyst Trust. “Often the government gives only one-line orders. A petitioner will never understand why the order was made unless he sees the file notings.” According to the retired bureaucrat, keeping file notings in the public domain will “inculcate a lot of responsibility and protect civil servants.”

According to informed sources, bureaucrats who stand to lose the most if decision-making were to become transparent have been the principal source of pressure to amend the Act. “The UPA government had the political will to introduce the Act. But this political will seems to have succumbed to bureaucratic pressure,” says Kejriwal. But don’t paint bureaucrats with one brush, he cautions. “The honest bureaucrats actually welcome the law. Many officials have said that their life has become easier, because they can tell politicians ‘If you want something, give it to us in writing; otherwise, we’ll be blamed when people learn about it through RTI.’”

In mid-2005, a sensational expose by Parivartan nailed the World Bank’s interference in the bidding process of the capital’s water utility, Delhi Jal Board. Parivartan found that the World Bank had rigged the tender process to ensure that PriceWaterhouseCoopers secured the consultancy contract for a project to revamp the utility. According to Parivartan, the consultancy was to facilitate the privatization of the water utility. File notings revealed how the bank had strong-armed the utility to bring up PriceWaterhouse’s bid from the tenth position, forced cancellation of bidding processes and changed selection criteria to favor the consultant. As an upshot of this and other revelations, the privatization contract was cancelled.

Ironically, the cabinet decision came even as a massive nationwide Right to Information campaign was in progress. Between July 1 and 15, in virtually all states and union territories of India, and between July 10 and 25 in Tamil Nadu, voluntary collectives, trade unions and public interest organizations organized awareness drives and RTI consultation camps in about 150 locations around the country. More than 20,000 applications were filed. In Tamil Nadu alone, more than 70 organizations came together to train over 2,500 persons in using and helping others use the RTI Act. Organizers of the Tamil Nadu Right to Information Campaign claim that through direct pamphleteering and media campaigns, nearly a million people in the state have been informed about the Act.

“Wherever the Act has been used, there are good results,” says Hazare. “People are slowly beginning to experience freedom. Common people are able to see justice; government functioning is becoming more transparent, and corruption is decreasing.”

The accountability forced by the Right to Information Act, as revealed by nine months of experience, has facilitated many a rickshaw-driver to get his long-pending ration card, or a widow to get her pension. Many say the Act is good for the image of an emergent India, and that efforts to emasculate the Act would tell people that transparency and accountability are mere catch-phrases.

“I think most people in the United States do not know much about India other than the Taj Mahal, IIT, call centers and software engineers. But those who know a bit more are a little wary about the arbitrary manner in which the government functions in India,” says Sudarshan Suresh, a Silicon Valley-based software professional and volunteer with Association for India’s Development. Suresh says this move will discourage entrepreneurs whose primary reservation against moving to India is corruption and lack of accountability.

While industry groups may have joined the fight to save the Act, the legislation itself is a direct result of a pitched and protracted battle begun in the early-1990s by indigent landless laborers in Rajasthan. When the rural poor in Rajasthan questioned why they failed to get minimum wages even after a day’s work at the drought relief camps, they were told that they had not worked, and that the proof of this lay in the records. When they asked to see the records, they were denied on grounds that this was an official secret. This triggered a massive campaign that spread across the country and resulted in the enactment of the first Right to Information laws in several states.

Organizations working among the poor now realize that access to records and information facilitates the fulfillment of basic rights such as minimum wages, ration entitlements, appropriate healthcare, and better treatment at the hands of the police. That is in line with the Indian Supreme Court’s repeated assertions that the constitutionally guaranteed rights to life and freedom of expression are meaningless without the Right to Information.

The proposed amendment is to be introduced in parliament during the ongoing monsoon session. It will have to pass through the two houses of parliament and secure presidential assent before it becomes law. If what people’s organizations claim about their plans to mobilize public opinion against the amendment is true, the UPA government has just bought itself a whole lot of unpopularity.

A Nobel Enterprise: Honor for Grameen, Yunus

Self-described ‘banker for the poor’ Muhammad Yunus and his pathbreaking Grameen Bank have won the Nobel Peace Prize. A Siliconeer report.

Left: Bangladesh’s first Nobel laureate, Prof. Muhammad Yunus, receiving an honorary doctorate from Complutense University in Madrid.

Muhammad Yunus is not one to let the grass grow under his feet. Joyous congratulations poured in from all over the world with messages from world dignitaries including another Bengali economist who has won the Nobel Prize, Harvard Prof. Amartya Sen, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as well as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Bangladesh has been in a national frenzy of celebration, but just a few days after receiving news of the award, Yunus has been off to Seoul to accept another award, then on to Beijing to harangue the Chinese to set up microcredit for the poor.

Now comes the news that his message of lending to the poor could have a worldwide impact. His followers have announced that they’re determined to help 175 million people living on less than $1 a day get small loans by the end of 2015, The Associated Press reports.

Organizers of the Microcredit Summit Campaign had intended to reach its initial goal of 100 million people by last December, but fell short by about 18 million.

Still, 82 million people have received the loans since the campaign was launched in 1997. And that credit — to purchase basics such as a cow for milk or a mobile phone to sell calls — has improved the lives of 410 million family members, said campaign director Sam Daley-Harris.

An estimated 1 billion of the planet’s people live on less than a dollar a day; another 3 billion are believed to subsist on $2 day, or half the world’s population.

Yunus, will address the opening of the Microcredit Summit Campaign conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Nov. 12, when some 2,000 delegates from more than 100 countries review their efforts and launch the next round of goals for the campaign.

Yunus, with a doctorate in economics from Vanderbilt University, was the head of the economics department at Chittagong University in his impoverished South Asian homeland in 1974.

(Right, top): A phone lady in a Bangladesh village. Grameen phone, one of Grameen Bank’s projects, has revolutionized telephone communication in Bangladesh.
(Right, bottom): Prof. Muhammad Yunus with members of Grameen Bank. Female empowerment has been a key outcome of Grameen’s efforts.

He dispatched his students to conduct a survey to find out why so many workers around the campus were beautiful, useful bamboo stools, yet didn’t appear to be getting ahead.

He believed they could buy their own materials and cut out the middlemen who sold them the bamboo, but also took so much of their profits. He experimented by giving 42 villagers small loans that totaled $27. They all paid him back, little by little, every last taka.

Yunus ultimately founded the Grameen Bank and coined the term microcredit. Yunus shares the Nobel with Grameen, which means “rural” in Bangla.

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton was a vocal advocate for the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Yunus. In a speech given at University of California, Berkeley in 2002, President Clinton described Dr. Yunus as “a man who long ago should have won the Nobel Prize [and] I’ll keep saying that until they finally give it to him.”

Well, perhaps the Norwegian Nobel Committee was listening. In giving him this year’s Nobel Prize for Peace, which he shares with the Grameen Bank, the committee said it was recognizing “Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for their efforts to create economic and social development from below. Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.

“Muhammad Yunus has shown himself to be a leader who has managed to translate visions into practical action for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh, but also in many other countries,” the Nobel Committee said. “Loans to poor people without any financial security had appeared to be an impossible idea. From modest beginnings three decades ago, Yunus has, first and foremost through Grameen Bank, developed micro-credit into an ever more important instrument in the struggle against poverty. Grameen Bank has been a source of ideas and models for the many institutions in the field of micro-credit that have sprung up around the world.

“Every single individual on earth has both the potential and the right to live a decent life. Across cultures and civilizations, Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development.

“Micro-credit has proved to be an important liberating force in societies where women in particular have to struggle against repressive social and economic conditions. Economic growth and political democracy can not achieve their full potential unless the female half of humanity participates on an equal footing with the male.

“Yunus’s long-term vision is to eliminate poverty in the world. That vision can not be realized by means of micro-credit alone. But Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that, in the continuing efforts to achieve it, micro-credit must play a major part.”

A Selected List of Honors
  • 2006 — Nobel Peace Prize, shared with Grameen Bank
  • 2006 — 8th Seoul Peace Prize
  • 2006 — Mother Teresa Award instituted by the Mother Teresa International and Millennium Award Committee, Kolkata.
  • 2004 — Winner of The Economist magazine’s Prize for social and economic innovation.
  • 1998 — Winner of the Sydney Peace Prize
  • 1998 — Received Prince of Asturias Award
  • 1997 — Received award from Strømme Foundation, Norway
  • 1996 — Winner of the UNESCO Simón Bolívar Prize
  • 1995 — Winner of the Max Schmidheiny Freedom Prize
  • 1994 — Winner of the World Food Prize
  • 1993 — CARE Humanitarian Award
  • 1989 — Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Switzerland
  • 1987 — Shwadhinota Dibosh Puroshkar (Independence Day Award), Bangladesh
  • 1985 — Bangladesh Bank Award, Bangladesh
  • 1984 — Ramon Magsaysay Award, Philippines
  • 1978 — President’s Award, Bangladesh1978 — President’s Award, Bangladesh


Policing E-Crooks: India Amends IT Act
Buffeted by foreign criticism of online data theft and fraud, the Indian government has decided to tighten its laws, writes Siddharth Srivastava.

Stung by international concern about online data theft and fraud that can negatively impact business prospects, the federal government has amended the Information Technology Act, 2000. The government has moved to send the powerful message to firms that outsource work to India that the country takes their security worries seriously.

“Concerns have been raised within the country and by customers abroad regarding the adequacy of data protection and privacy laws in the country,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi said after the cabinet decision. “Thus, there is a need to strengthen legislation on data protection and privacy.”

The amendments are aimed at preventing computer misuse like video voyeurism, identity theft, e-commerce frauds like phishing, cheating on online auction sites, sending offensive e-mails and multimedia offences, Dasmunshi said.

The new provisions include greater focus on digital signatures, new security practices and procedures for e-governance and other technology applications. The amended rules will apply to the Indian corporate sector and other organizations with local operations, and will now proceed to Parliament for approval, though the law stands changed already.

The amendments provide more teeth to the courts. Any company found leaking sensitive information would be liable to pay damages of up to Rs. 50 million to the affected party. The scope of Section 72 of the Act is also being expanded to provide for criminal liability in case of leak of information.

Section 43 has been amended under which a person involved in hacking of computers will be liable for punishment of up to two years or fine of up to Rs. 500,000 or both.

A person can now be liable for five years imprisonment and up to Rs. 1 million fine for publishing “sexually explicit material” for the first offense; five-year imprisonment with fines for impersonation; fines and a two-year jail sentence for sending offensive messages through PCs or other communications devices; new sections will inserted in the Indian Penal Code for crimes like e-commerce frauds through wrongful use of digital signatures.

There is also an emerging consensus that IT laws should be technologically neutral in tune with the codes laid out by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Model Law on Electronic signature. Such proposal will promote development of alternative technologies for authentication of electronic records and will not warrant legislative changes each time a new and equally effective technology is evolved, Dasmunshi said.

The amendments follow Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s assurance to international investors during a recent visit to Britain where many of the complaints of online fraud have originated, that India will strengthen the framework against online data theft.

In a statement, the National Association of Software and Services Companies has welcomed the changes: “We have been working closely with the government to secure the legislative framework for security practices in the Indian business process outsourcing industry. We understand that the amendments have incorporated most of the recommendations, and are hopeful that this will lead to better handling of cyber crime by enforcement authorities.”

Indeed, technology and communication have opened a new world of crime, financial embezzlement and invasion of people’s privacy that have made the changes overdue.

Recently, after registering a case against an employee who had allegedly stolen data, the Gurgaon-based IT firm Acme Telepower Management decided to stop operating out of India and move to Australia. Acme Telepower has claimed a national loss of Rs. 7.5 billion due to data theft and cancelled proposed investments of $10 million.

In another related crime, a computer analyst with the crucial National Security Council Secretariat allegedly pilfered secret data from computers reportedly at the behest of the CIA. The NSCS relates with the intelligence agencies, makes assessments about security and has knowledge about India’s nuclear plans. It collates information from the foreign ministry, Defense Intelligence Agency and Military Intelligence

Call centers that provide a window to the external world have had several instances of fraud as well. Last year, a group of Indian call center executives sweet-talked American customers into letting out what should be a well-kept secret — codes and passwords for their credit cards and bank accounts.

Employees at MphasiS, a leading outsourcing firm located at Pune, fraudulently accessed secret passwords and codes of Citibank customers in the U.S. and transferred close to half a million dollars into fictitious accounts in India.

In June 2005, the British tabloid Sun, following a sting operation by one of its reporters, claimed that an employee of BPO unit Infinity e-Search, divulged personal details of over 1,000 Britons for $5 per head. In August 2005, the Australian Broadcasting Corp said that employees of a Gurgaon-based call center were illegally selling personal information of thousands of Australians for as little as 10 Australian dollars (less than $ 8) per person.

This year in the month of June, three high-profile foreign companies, Apple Computers, British energy giant Powergen and Texas-based Pervasive Software pulled out of India, raising questions about high costs (read salaries), quality of customer service, rising employee turnover and inadequate manpower.

In a bizarre case of impersonation, Kenneth Corley, who lives in New Mexico, met a girl from Delhi on the Internet, fell in love, and wanted to marry her. The girl, known to him as Anita, sent her photograph and promised to fly down to the U.S. Corley repeatedly sent her money towards traveling expenses.

But she never turned up. Neither was there any message from her. Desperate, Corley sought help from the Delhi Police to track him/her down. The police realized the American had been cheated when the photo sent was of top Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai.

Indeed, there is a lot at stake in an increasingly wired world. The full-year exports of software and information technology-related services is expected to be around Rs 1.4 trillion rupees ($31 billion), 33 percent more than last year. However, countries such as Canada, China and Philippines are challenging India’s position as a favored outsourcing destination.

Internet usage is also rising at a fast pace. The number of Internet users in India has reached 37 million in September, up from 33 million in March. During the same period, the number of active users has risen from 21 million in March to 25 million in September. India’s software lobby NASSCOM estimates that the number will cross 100 million by 2010, mostly driven by people under the age of 35. E-commerce is fast throwing up big business options.

The predominant opinion has been that frauds of the kind that have afflicted the Indian outsourcing industry are quite common, and rather rampant internationally. However, given the strong anti-outsourcing voices abroad, it is important for India to ensure that the services available from here are better than the best anywhere, and more secure. This is the only way to stave off competition as well as political opposition.

India is trying to meet the challenge; the amendment of the IT Act is one such move in the direction.

Kathak Fest: Celebrating an Ancient Art

Kathak maestro Chitresh Das achieved in San Francisco what has never been done in India itself; he brought together some of the most illustrious experts together at a grand conclave at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. A Siliconeer report.

(Above): Kathak maestro Birju Maharaj. (ALL PHOTOS BY EDWARD CASATI)

After the mind-boggling, three-day celebration Sept. 28-30 of Kathak at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, you had to marvel at the vision, imagination and sheer chutzpah of the man who had made it happen.

Kathak maestro Chitresh Das had done what no organization, not even governments had ever done before — he had brought the world’s greatest living legends of this ancient performing art under one roof while at the same time celebrating the work of today’s most talented Kathak performers who will carry on the guru-shishya parampara and go on to become tomorrow’s masters.

(Right): Chitresh Das, whose vision resulted in the Kathak festival

The Chitresh Das Dance Company/Chhandam School of Kathak Dance, in collaboration with Chhandika, Boston, and Chhandam Nritya Bharati Institute, India presented “Kathak at the Crossroads — Innovation within Tradition,” a three-day international festival including main stage performances, smaller showcase performances, academic presentations, lecture demonstrations and panel discussions relating to the history, evolution and current ecology of Kathak in its artistic, cultural and global contexts.

With a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and an official delegation from the Indian government, the event had the imprimatur of two governments, a rare distinction.

The Indian government sent an official delegation led by Jayant Kastuar, secretary of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, three Kathak experts and three musicians to the festival.

In fact, the Indian government partially sponsored the festival through four different government agencies: the Sangeet Natak Akademi, Kathak Kendra (India’s National Center of Kathak dance), the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, with additional support from the Indian Consulate of San Francisco.

While it is true that it was the stellar assembly of Kathak practitioners that gave the festival its glamour, it was in some of the poignant human touches that made it truly memorable.

Take the case of Madhuri Devi Singh, one of the last living baijis (descendents of the courtesans of the courts of North India). Not only did she come to the festival, she performed for the first time outside India.

She brought with her a slice of history — a history that Kathak exponents are all too keen to sweep under the rug. It is ironic that Kathak, which had to pay a price in terms of middle-class acceptability in the days of the British Raj when the Victorian mores of that time cast a jaundiced eye on the kothi and tawaif, still faces a similar unstated opprobrium in terms of its artistic origins.

Chitresh Das has defied this taboo headlong in his festival, in his affectionate introduction of Madhuri Devi Singh at the festival, whom he introduced as his sister.

“‘Kathak at the Crossroads’ is a major convening of the international Kathak and performing arts community and is the first festival created with emphasis on the traditional Kathak solo, the reasons for and implications of its decline and what can be done to increase the visibility of the performance tradition,” organizers said in a press release. “Each of the symposium’s three days comprise of alternating panels, lecture demonstrations, scholar presentations and showcases with evening master solo performances, duets and group choreography open to the public.”

Some of the most distinguished scholars and exponents of Kathak assembled at a guru panel including (l-r) Pandit Chitresh Das, Pandit Bachhanlal Mishra, Pandit Tirath Ram Azad, Dr. Sunil Kothari, Pandit Birju Maharaj, Kumudini Lakhia, Jayant Kastuar and Pandit Krishna Mohan Mishra.

The festival and symposium included artists, scholars, teachers, presenters, critics, funders, students and other dance enthusiasts from around the world. Invited artists included the foremost practitioners of Kathak today including: Birju Maharaj, Kumudini Lakhia, Chitresh Das, Bachhanlal Mishra, and Saswati Sen, as well as emerging dancers.

The festival also brought together academics to offer a scholar’s perspective of Kathak in the broader context of contemporary culture.

Syracuse University ethnomusicology Prof. Carol Babiracki spoke about the sorry predicament of nachnis in Jharkhand. The nachnis mix Kathak style with folk elements, and have a lifestyle similar to devadasis in Orissa. Their current plight epitomizes the challenge faced by a classical art form as it faces the onslaught of a modern, urban culture.

Santiniketan-trained musician Amie Maciszewski spoke about two dancers in Varanasi and their dire situation. “We want to do our thing, what we like,” one of the dancers said in a video clip. “If that means we go without a meal a day, that’s fine.”

“In 2004, Dr. Birendra Sinha presented the first international Kathak festival in the U.S. at the University of Chicago,” Chitresh Das said in a message. “With his support and the support of many others, I am humbled and honored to be able to present this festival and symposium in San Francisco.

“I grew up in the 1950s and 60s in Kolkata, India, learning under my Guruji, Pandit Ram Narayan Mishra. I was trained in the old school, traditional style of the guru-shishya parampara (a life-long, one-on-one study with one Guru). I was trained in the traditional Kathak solo, in which a Kathak dancer was required to go on stage without any prior rehearsal and perform improvised rhythms, compositions and gat bhao (storytelling) for two to three hours. It was a feat of body, mind and spirit for an artist to be able to captivate the audience as soloist. Now fast forward to the current day, and as I perform and teach in India and the U.S., I have begun to see this tradition gradually being replaced by Western-influenced choreography and high production-value performances. Fusion has led to confusion, or has it? It is a tragedy to lose this great tradition, or is it? The guru-shishya parampara was the only way to learn for me, but should Kathak adopt the Western learning process of institutions and workshops with many gurus? As the nature of Kathak dance is a solo art form, if one does not do choreography, is he or she restricting him or herself from the evolution of Kathak in modern-day society? My goal with ‘Kathak at the Crossroads’ is to bring together a diversity of generations, gharanas, styles and genders, and to demonstrated that perhaps there is room for all.”

Das was true to his word. The performances — all dazzling spectacles of superb quality — embraced the traditional along with the innovative. On the one hand you had stalwarts like Birju Maharaj, Sunayana Hazarilal and Bachanlal Mishra exemplifying Kathak tradition at its purest, on the other hand you had Chitresh Das pushing the envelope as he presented a stunning performance with tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith.

For more information about the Chitresh Das Dance Company, readers can visit the company’s Web site at http://www.kathak.org.

Celebrating Pakistan
: I-Day Marked in Sacramento
When Pakistani Americans celebrated the old country’s independence day recently, they were joined by Indian, Bangladeshi and local friends as well as a few lawmakers, writes Ras H. Siddiqui.

(Clockwise from l): Pakistani pop singer Shehzad Roy flanked by event organizers Sohail Shahzad and Nadeem; A vendor showing his wares at the Pakistani festival; and Humaira Arshad performing at the event. (ALL PHOTOS BY RAS H. SIDDIQUI)

The Pakistani-American Association of Greater Sacramento’s celebration of Pakistan’s Independence Day drew over a thousand Pakistani-Americans along with their Indian, Bangladeshi and local friends. Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo and State Assembly member Dave Jones were on hand.

“Pakistanis” have lived in California’s Central Valley (Lodi, Live Oak, Sacramento, Stockton, and Yuba City) for almost a century as Muslims from Punjab and the North West Frontier of British India settled here.

After a recitation from the Quran, the national anthems of Pakistan and the United States was performed.

Association president Bashir Choudhry said: “I am proud to be part of this great and vibrant community. Last year we were very active in helping our brothers and sisters in Pakistan who got struck by a devastating earthquake. Collectively we raised more than $250K and one container load of clothing.” A message from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was read out.

The cultural show began with the rap of Zaki and Zeeshan. Janice Miller, a Texan, has made a career out of singing the songs of Pakistan’s Noor Jehan and India’s Lata. She started with “Sohni Dharti” and ended with “Dil Dil Pakistan.”

Laiba Ali (granddaughter of poet Josh Malihabadi) sang “Sajna,” Noor Jehan’s “Nehr Wale Pul Te Bula Ke” and a number of Punjabi hits. Humaira Arshad started off with a slow Urdu song but then introduced popular Punjabi numbers. “She closed with “Mast Qalandar” and encore “Gal Sun.”

Pakistani pop music star Shehzad Roy oozes charm and his is an extremely polished act. And not since Junaid Jamshed’s “Vital Signs” days have we witnessed such a dedicated female following. He started off with a superb Urdu ballad while playing the guitar. But as soon as he played “Teri Soorat” (Your face) Sacramento’s “girl power” took over and it turned out to be quite a closing for this program. Shehzad made an appeal for his Zindagi Trust project, which has established over 40 schools in Pakistan.

Educating Kids: Help with Homework
Mark Schurmann offers concrete tips on how to provide better help with homework.

As the new school year gets underway, how do care takers — parents, grandparents, foster parents, babysitters — help students with homework when language is a barrier and subjects are unfamiliar?

Below are some concrete tips offered by parents and teachers to enable caretakers to better help with homework.

Set aside a quiet space exclusively for doing homework. A long-time teacher of ESL in public schools, Paquita Bass says a simple and effective method to help with homework is to set aside a separate workspace at home. “It can be a desk, a table, a TV tray in the corner of a room or in the back of a family run business. When parents give their kids a separate space to work kids understand that schoolwork is important.”

Bass recommends that books and written material need to be a visible part of the home-magazines, books, newspapers-in English or even the language spoken at home. “Kids should think reading is a natural part of their environment.”

Encourage your kid to ask questions in the classroom. “It’s amazing how many kids are afraid to ask for clarification,” says ESL teacher Bass. “Teachers have the tendency to assume that kids are getting it when they’re not.” Bass advises all caretakers—parents, grandparents, foster-parents, babysitters—to encourage kids to ask questions in the classroom.
“Kids have a right to understand and they should bug their teachers.”

Establish a strong relationship with teachers at the school. Dennis Guikema currently teaches English at Ralph J. Bunche alternative high school in Oakland, Calif. Communicating with parents is key, he believes. “I always start conversations with parents focusing on our common goals — the success of the student — so that we all start in the same place.”

Guikema observes that parent-teacher communication may begin to ebb as students get older. “High school may be more intimidating than elementary or middle school. The curriculum becomes more challenging and some parents begin to lose confidence…school resources are stretched really thin. However, with good communication parents and teachers can seal those gaps.”

When phones fail, use e-mail to communicate with a teacher. E-mail can be a valuable tool to minimize the difficulty of distance and accessibility to a teacher.

“I’ve been able to build a relationship with a grandmother who HAS recently been reunited with her grandson through e-mail,” says high school teacher Dennis Guikama. “He was having behavioral and attendance issues and she wanted to get involved in his turnaround.
“Due to her involvement with her grandson and her communication with me, he’s earning A’s in class.”

Know the resources in your community. “If I’m having car problems then I need to find a mechanic,” says Deacon Noe Gonzalez , teacher and volunteer coordinator for the Leo Center in Oakland. Parents and caregivers need to know the educational resources that exist like the Leo center which offers a safe and quiet environment for junior high and high school students to do their homework. “Kids who are able to finish their homework are going to be more confident about attending school the next day,” says Gonzalez.

Time spent going to and from school may be the best time to talk. “Conversations in the car, that’s when people get real,” says Shirley Yee, a consultant for the Oakland Unified School district. Commuting time to and from school may be the best time to communicate with kids. “It’s informal time — a good time to be receptive, especially with teenagers.”

The daughter of immigrant parents and a parent herself, Yee understands how difficult communications can be between immigrant parents and their American-born children. Cultural conflicts are made worse when parents work long hours.

“You need to ask your child, ‘What can I do? Where do you think I can best support you?”

Let your kid be the teacher. Allegra Harrison is a social worker in San Francisco and a single mother of two children — a son aged 20 and daughter, 13. She uses a role-reversal strategy to help her daughter learn subjects she herself is unfamiliar with. “I ask her to test me. She asks me the questions a teacher might ask her and then she searches for the answer.” The strategy has a double benefit allowing both Harrison and her daughter to become more familiar with the topic. “In the end I allow my daughter to teach me.”

No substitute for the love and support of family. Writer Richard Rodriguez remembers his parents’ difficulty in helping him with homework. “I write in ‘Hunger of Memory’ of the awkwardness that results when the child of slightly educated parents begins to learn language and number skills that his parents do not possess.”

For Rodriguez though, the calming effect and closeness of family eased those difficulties. “Though I learned not to ask my parents for help with my homework, I can remember having my parents nearby — my mother ironing, for example — while the family of children worked at the kitchen table.

My mother liked to save money by having us all work in the same room (using the same lights). The result was that I never felt alone as a child, but was always surrounded by the assurance of family. Even when my education later began to separate me culturally from home, I knew that my parents wanted me to succeed in an America where they could not follow.”

For more tips on helping your child in school and other education-related information, please visit the California Teachers Association website at www.cta.org.

FESTIVAL: Shubh Deepavali!
As Indian Americans celebrated the Festival of Lights with gaiety and fervor, the White House and NASDAQ joined in as well. Here’s a photo essay of Diwali celebrations in the San Francisco Bay Area, the White House and NASDAQ.

Clockwise, from top left: Lamp lighting ceremony at a special White House Diwali event; inauguration of Diwali in Cupertino, Calif.; Abhijeet performing at Sunnyvale Temple; and temple devotees participate in a ratha yatra to celebrate Diwali.

Clockwise from top, left: Vasundhara Das, Aadesh Shrivastava at the Mountain View, Calif., Diwali festival; NASDAQ celebrates Diwali; Debojit performing at Sunnyvale Temple., Hemchandra in Mountain View, and the festive audience joining Vinod Rathod (holding microphone, with kid in arm) in Mountain View. (PHOTOS: SOM SHARMA | SUNNYVALE TEMPLE | CUPERTINO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE)

Durga Puja: A Bengali Tradition
The Durga Puja festivities at the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple drew over 12,000 people, organizers said. A photo essay by Swagato Basu Mallick.

Clockwise from top: The traditional idol of Durga; women engaged in sindoor khela; performers presenting a dance; and children, costumed and made up, ready to perform.

California Desi:
Bhangra at the State Fair
Chai, lassi, Bhangra, Bharatanatyam, Dandia, Bolly-pop — a flamboyant mix of cultural flavors greeted visitors at the California State Fair. A Siliconeer report.

From top downwards: Youths performing a Bollywood dance; an Indian classical dancer; and a team of youths presenting a joyous bhangra.

What’s more quintessentially American than a state fair? For a real slice of Americana there’s no better place than a fair which celebrates all that is great and good in the state. The California State Fair wrapped up its 153rd year on Labor Day Sept. 4, in traditional State Fair style – with a nightly fireworks finale and corn dogs.

“This year’s fair was a tremendous hit with fairgoers,” said Norb Bartosik, general manager of California Exposition & State Fair. “We celebrated 22 days of art, culture, and diverse entertainment. Plus we reminded people that there is a superstar and superhero in each of us.”

Fair officials report total attendance of 941,502 — up more than 20,000 people from the previous year’s attendance of 920,768. But, when it comes to California State Fair, success is not judged by attendance alone.

Preliminary figures suggest that commercial, concessions and carnival revenue are all up from 2005.

“The numbers show that families are coming to the fair and enjoying the wide range of food and entertainment available here,” said Bartosik.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian American community in the greater Sacramento area, a large dash of spice was added to the California experience, as chai and mango lassi happily shared space with cotton candy and hot dogs.

The California State Fair, held every year at CalExpo, Sacramento, has over the past few years expanded the entertainment offerings with a cultural mix which is representative of its diverse communities.

With a cultural advisory council, the California State Fair management and staff have created a network for reaching out to California’s ethnic communities which may otherwise have been unrepresented. Members of the cultural advisory council work with staff and community members to provide fair goers with a cultural experience which is educational as well as entertaining. For members of the various communities this provides an avenue for bringing their culture to the forefront of Californian life.

Right: A youngster tries his hand at making mango lassi as a fellow American student looks on. Below: Children, dressed in colorful costumes, presented eye-catching performances at the California State Fair.

With the guidance of CalExpo management and helping hands of the staff, the Indian American community showcased its talent, skills and culture to thousands of fair goers throughout the three week period.

Activities began at the state fair with a steaming cup of garam-a -garam chai, prepared by Jasvir Singh Kallirai who took part in “Kidz preparing cultural cuisine.” On hot summer days “Kidz Culture Night” participant Mahavir Singh Kallirai prepared cool, refreshing mango lassi for fair goers who braved the summer heat.

Fairgoers were also entertained with dances from all over the Indian subcontinent. Classical dance was presented by students of Bhaskar Arts Academy dance instructor Meenakshy Bhaskar Schofield and students of Krishna’s Dance Academy .

During the Labor Day weekend a slew of activities included the “All India Dance competition” and “Kitchen ka raja/kitchen ki Rani.”

The “Kitchen Ka Raja/Kitchen Ki Rani” competition, sponsored by Sher-e-Punjab Restaurant of Carmichael, California required competitors to provide recipes for a dessert item, an item which would require no heating or cooling. Judging criteria included ease of preparation, presentation and taste. Gomathi Ramkumar and Anita Sudeer won first place.

The all-India dance competition attracted competitors from all over northern California. A diverse and dazzling array of dances, including Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Bhangra, Garba, Dandia and Bolly-pop dances, delighted fair attendees.

The judges panel included: Jatinder Dutt, an accomplished musician, singer and Bay Area Bhangra instructor; Meenakshy Bhaskar Schofield, a student of Bhaskar’s Art Academy, Singapore and a Sacramento valley dance instructor with Bhaskar’s Art Academy; Krishna Hamersley, of Krishna’s Dance Academy in the Sacramento valley, teaching dance and performing arts to local youth; Rebecca Chavez, UC Berkeley student service manager, holding a bachelor’s degree in music from Colorado State University; and Rachna Malhotra, Sacramento Valley community activist and dance choreographer.

The first prize went to San Francisco’s Dian Kurian, a Bhangra/Gidha team from the bay area. Second Prize went to Sacramento’s Bhangra 4.0, and Third Prize to Karina and Kristina Patel who danced to a song from the Hindi film Devdas.

The Indian American activities at the California State Fair were coordinated by Indo-American Cultural Heritage’s Vijay Kumar and Inderjit Kallirai. Inderjit Kallirai also serves as commissioner on adult and aging services as well as a cultural advisor for California State Fair.

The Indo-American Cultural Heritage’s objectives are to promote the culture and heritage of India and its people among the mainstream community. In appreciation of the efforts by the volunteers and sister organizations within the northern California region, IACH held its annual recognition dinner Sept. 3, when all 2006 sponsors and participants were recognized as well as the winners of the competitions. In addition to the recognition dinner, IACH offered three $500 scholarships to college-going and college-bound students who participated in showcasing their culture within the American mainstream with IACH.

Extreme Yosemite: Cruising on a Model T
Following the path of yesteryear’s pioneers, our travel writer Al Auger, explored the backroads of the spectacular Yosemite National Park in a 1920s Model T. He comments drily that they certainly don’t make them like they used to—and thank goodness for that.

Breathtaking views of Yosemite are never far; Below, l: Riding a Model T in the back roads of the valley is another way of experiencing the valley’s beauty.

When I was a mere tad of a lad, I remember my daddy sitting me on his lap while he told me of his adventures in the U. S. Army in World War I and follow up years in the U. S. Navy. And an adventure-laced tale of hitchhiking across the country to his home in Massachusetts when cars on the road were literally few and far between. He taught me the sailor time killer of macramé, fancy designs in string belts and wall hangings.

But the most intriguing was a story I had him repeat again and again. This story had to do with a cross-country trip he took following an urge, when he and mom drove across the U.S. in a 1926 Ford Model T to his home in Worcester, Mass.

Roads then were only slightly better than the original wagon trails. The underpowered, 2-speed Model T’s were incapable of climbing some of the more daunting mountain roadways and had to back up in reverse. Other stretches would be hub-high in mud or so full of ruts and rocks he was sure his kidneys would never function properly again.

As much as I appreciated the travails and troubles they endured, the actual concept never took hold in my mind.

Until, that is, on a recent stay at the lovingly restored Wawona Hotel and a jaunt through the backcountry roads behind Yosemite National Park in real 1920-era Model T’s. They sure don’t build cars the way they use to — thank goodness for that!

So there we were, traversing a mix of paved and unpaved roads giving us a fair representation of what the Model T drivers faced in those motorized pioneer days. Our T-Tour models were “top-of-the-line” with the foot instead of the steering wheel-located accelerator lever. According to David Woodworth, “Most buyers of the original Model T’s didn’t buy the option because it was too expensive — $2.50.” Our model also came equipped with electric starter and demountable wheels.

The ride was surprisingly soft, considering the spartan suspension system made up of solid axles front and back with springs and “Mae West” shackles (That sounds interesting). All this hooked to 30 x 3-1/2-inch wheels and tires.

The transmission was an interesting construct with adjustable bands and pedal-operated 2-speeds plus reverse.

The afternoon was spent whooshing around the deep bends in the roads and speeding down the straightaway at our safe top speed of about 30-mph. Speedometers were optional on earlier models and were pegged at 60 mph. Later speedometers went as high as 80 mph, but whether they ever reached this mark is debatable. Power is supplied by an in-line 4-cylinder engine cranking out 20 horsepower and 83 ft/lbs of torque. By and large it was simply a process of pushing the pedal to the metal and keeping it there.

Far left: Falls are a great attraction in season in Yosemite; the arduous demands of riding an Model-T (above) can be eased off in old-world luxury in the delightfully quaint Wawona hotel (center, above and below).

The big surprise was the quality and size of the interior. The favored group was those in the backseats. The seats were plush with good-looking imitation leather, supportive, and comfortable. Instrumentation, of course, was quite austere with an ammeter, light switch and dash light, but no speedometer or tachometer.

Most of the tour took place on old logging roads and supply routes of years ago. Everywhere we went, we were surrounded by deep forests of stately pine trees and California’s ecological celebrities: the giant redwoods. Giving all this arboreal delight verdant frames for the massive granite background of Yosemite Valley. We would stop often for Woodworth to show us hidden mountain falls or trails deep into the woods.

After the day’s tour and off track hikes, it was an utter pleasure to soak in a hot shower and gather on the expansive lawn for a cool drink and share our thoughts of the day. The most oft spoken experience was the idea of traveling through the untrammeled backcountry of Yosemite in such arcane vehicles.

In the same context of time travel were our lodgings at the stately Wawona Hotel, the oldest hotel in Yosemite and one of the oldest in California and a National Historic Landmark. Built in 1879, the Wawona offers amenities to fit the era. Some of the 104 rooms share a bath, but all have daily maid service and many antiques. The Wawona is not your high octane businessperson stop over. The quiet and serenity of Yosemite is kept intact with no telephones or TV.

Dining is thoroughly European with soft, white linen, the finest implements with friendly and quick service. You have your choices of dining either at their well-stocked deli or the gourmet Wawona restaurants. You can have your favorite and a moment of serenity at the Wawona Lounge on the spacious veranda overlooking the fountain or the crackling fireplace inside. Recreational facilities include golfing, horse riding, tennis, hiking and biking trails and swimming.

Woodworth has expanded his stable of old timey Ford products with the then revolutionary Model A. T-Tours has expanded their tour schedule to include, beyond the popular one-day rentals, to three, four and six-day tours. See box for information and prices.

It was déjà vu all over again as I spun back to all those stories on my daddy’s lap, and now experiencing, somewhat, what it must have been like traveling beyond the grocery store in those bygone days. All I can do is offer a Model T toast to all those hardy souls: OOOGAH!

The Silent Killer: Dealing with Hypertension
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, doesn’t cause symptoms unless it’s severely high but it causes major organ damage if not treated, writes Osvaldo Rodriguez, MD.

People say many things when they find out their blood pressure is higher than normal. “But doctor, I feel just fine,” “That blood pressure is normal for me,” “I just get nervous at the doctors,” and “I have lots of stress in my life.” Although these may be true, don’t be fooled — high blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a silent killer. It doesn’t cause symptoms unless it’s severely high and, without your knowing it, it causes major organ damage if not treated.

Fifty million Americans have high blood pressure — but almost one out of three don’t know it. And only one out of three are seeking medical help to lower their blood pressure.

What is high blood pressure? Your blood pressure has a high (systolic) and a low (diastolic) number. Those numbers measure the pressure in your artery when you heart is beating and at rest. Hypertension is when the high number is greater than 140 or the low number greater than 90. That is true regardless of age or ethnicity. Even if you are older you should still have a normal blood pressure. If you’re diabetic, your blood pressure needs to be less than 130 / 80.

Why is high blood pressure dangerous? Because it leads to strokes, heart attacks, kidney disease and many other illnesses. Although many patients tell me they’re not afraid of dying, these diseases can lead to suffering that doctors want our patients to avoid. Treating your blood pressure can lower your risk of stroke and heart failure by half.

Is it really hypertension if my pressure is only high at the doctors? When patients are monitored with 24 hr blood pressure monitor we find that over 80 percent have high blood pressures at home too. Because life has many stressful and anxiety producing situations, your blood pressure may be high at different points throughout the day. Having these high pressures still puts you at risk for strokes, heart attacks, and kidney disease. All the best data we have for improving patients’ lives are with measurements at the doctor’s office. Therefore, that is a good measure.

Why do I have to take so many medicines? Most people will require two or more medications to lower their blood pressure. It can take some time to find the right medications for you, so talk with your doctor about any side effects or changes.

What can I do about my blood pressure? A combination of lifestyle changes and medications is the best way to treat hypertension:
  • Talk to your doctor about your blood pressure, including any future risks.
  • Eat less salt (called sodium on nutrition labels), less than 2 grams per day.
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy foods.
  • Exercise daily, at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
  • Stay at your ideal body weight.
  • Drink no more than 1-2 alcoholic beverages per day.
  • Take your medication and follow up with your doctor.
  • Remember — Be in control of your life, be in control of your blood pressure.


COMMUNITY: News in Brief
New Priest | Cindy Chavez Running for San Jose Mayor | CMA President | Annakoot Marked in Sacramento | Punjabi Pageant | Founder Honored | Konkan Fest | SABANY Dinner | Named to Police Panel

New Priest
- By Shashi Nand

Narayana Swami, the new president and priest of the Sunnyvale Balaji Matha.

A Lakshmi Ganapati homa and program was held at the Balaji Temple in Sunnyvale, Calif., Oct. 14 to welcome and honor Narayana Swami as head priest and the new president of Balaji Matha, according to a temple press release.

The program commenced with a homa for the blessings of Lakshmi and Ganesha. Prabhu Dev welcomed and introduced the current president, Vishal Sangal, to the gathering. Sangal welcomed Swami as the new head priest, and shawls and gifts to honor him were presented by Shiv Kumar and Rani Mehta, Sanjeev Sahai, I.V. Rao, Chandranna, Lakshmi Vittala Dasi and others.

Sangal announced that he will take the position of vice president.

Narayana Swami gave an uplifting talk, inspiring the gathered devotees with prayers and quotes from the Bhagavad Gita and the Vedas. The theme of his talk was using life to realize God through selfless service. Swami wants to see an increase in the prayer programs and charity services (feeding the homeless) provided by Balaji Temple.

“I am very happy for the opportunity to join Balaji Temple and serve you all,” Swami said. “From now on, I will be here all the time to give my service to your temple. God is so great; He brought me to America in 1993 to Badarikashrama, in San Leandro. I served many years there and God gave me the opportunity to learn many things.”

Cindy Chavez Running for San Jose Mayor

Democratic Party activist and attorney Mohinder S. Mann (r) with San Jose, Calif., mayoral candidate Cindy Chavez and Democratic activists Rod Didiron (l) and Norman Mineta.

San Jose vice-mayor Cindy Chavez is running mayor in the Northern California city with formidable support from local state and federal lawmakers, according to a press release from Mohinder S. Mann, an attorney and Democratic activist.

Chavez has said that if elected, her priorities would include investing in the city’s public schools by ensuring that San Jose has the highest percentage of students graduating from high school and college than any other big city in America; promoting the local economy and protecting the local environment by sound environment-friendly policies; fostering San Jose’s businesses by creating the highest quality of life, making City Hall user-friendly and cutting red tape; and preparing San Jose’s residents for the region’s next emergency disaster through better planning and improving readiness.

Chavez has been endorsed by former San Jose mayors Susan Hammer, Norman Y. Mineta, Janet Gray Hayes, and Bob Doerr, San Jose’s entire state and federal legislative delegation, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, among others.

“Cindy has been to many Indian American events including the Diwali program at the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple, and San Jose Gurdwara,” says Mann. “She is supported by the great majority of Indian American leaders such as Annie Dandavati, Ash Kalra, Jaswant Hothi, Harry Singh, and Jaggie Kapoor.”

CMA President
The California Medical Association House of Delegates annual session Oct. 28-Oct. 31 celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding in 1856 in Sacramento, according to a press release. About 1,000 doctors — including 499 delegates and nearly 300 alternate delegates representing their geographic communities, ethnicities and specialties from throughout the state, as well as specialty association representatives, medical students and others — convened at the Sacramento Convention Center, J and 13th Streets.

The sesquicentennial commemoration included the inauguration of Anmol Singh Mahal, M.D., of Fremont as president of the 35,000-member physician organization. Mahal is a gastroenterologist, and the first CMA president of Sikh origin.

William G. Plested III, M.D., president of the American Medical Association., addressed the House of Delegates. Dr. Mahal also addressed the meeting as the newly elected CMA president.

Annakoot Marked in Sacramento

(Right, top): The dieties with a metal idol of Krishna in the center. (Bottom): A section of the food from the elaborate 56-course display.

Over 56 dishes were prepared to celebrate Annakoot mahaprasad — a 56-course (Chhapan Bhog) offering at the residence of Sudha and Ashok Gupta in the Elk Grove suburb of Sacramento, Calif. The event featured a traditional puja and havan and music and dance performances by the attendees followed by the mahaprasad dinner. It was the second such event in Sacramento ever, noted the priest.

Annakoot (which means a mountain of food) is a religious event in honor of the Hindu deity Krishna. According to Hindu belief, after lifting the huge Sri Govardhan Parvat (hillock) prior to Diwali, Krishna put it back and asked citizens of Gokul to worship it.

Krishna appeared in two forms: as the hillock itself, and as a resident offering food.

After the prayers, traditional worship and aarti, innumerable varieties of delicious food were ceremoniously raised in the form of a mountain before the deity as bhog, and after Krishna had his full, it was the citizens’ turn to approach the Mountain of Food and take prasad from it.

Punjabi Pageant
Indiva Productions presents the Miss & Mr Punjaban Global 2007 Worldwide Competition, the first ever Miss & Mr. Punjaban global pageant, according to a press release from organizers.

Applications for contestants are invited for the pageant, which will be hosted in February 2007 in San Francisco.

The pageant is open to all Punjabi-speaking male and female entrants, ages 16 and over and single, from around the world — religion is no bar. However, aspiring contestants must be Punjabi-speaking to be able to participate in the Punjabi segment of expression / question-answer. The pageant offers successful contestants an opportunity to become a celebrity overnight with attractive prizes, the release adds.

Interested readers can e-mail punjabglobal@gmail.com for more information on the show and application forms.

Founder Honored

S.V. Acharya (2nd from l), who founded a trust to assist the Sankara Nethralaya hospital, receiving an award U.S. Consul General in Chennai David T. Hopper in Chennai.

The Sankara Nethralaya Oct. 14 honored Maryland-based S.V. Acharya with the prestigious Sankara Ratna Award for his outstanding work towards community ophthalmology at a special event in Chennai.

In 1988 the Sankara Nethralaya Ophthalmic Mission Trust Inc, U.S. was founded by Acharya in Maryland. The objective of the SNOM trust is to collect donations for carrying out the community services of Sankara Nethralaya in India.

U.S. Consul General in Chennai David T. Hopper presided over the event and presented the award.

The Sankara Nethralaya eye hospital is a 28-year-old charitable, not-for-profit eye
hospital, known globally for its expertise in ophthalmology, research and education.

More information about the Sankara Nethralaya is available on their Web site at: www.sankaranethralaya.org.

Konkan Fest

At the Konkan Fest in Chicago (l-r): Event chair Larry Mascarenhas and three judges — Dr. Merlyn D’Souza, Leena Mendonca and Rita Saldanha — judging the offerings at the food competition.

The Mangalorean Konkan Christian Association celebrated Konkan Fest 2006 here in Des Plaines, Ill., according to an MKCA press release. MKCA president Stan D’Souza welcomed chief guests Roshan and his wife Rosanne D’Souza, co-owners of the Web site Mangalorean.com, who flew in from Washington, D.C., to take part in the event.

The program included a food competition, singing competition and a fancy dress competition.

A feast with about 60 different dishes of food was presented for the competition and all of them were homemade by the contestants. Contestants competed in four categories: appetizer, main course, dessert and side dish. The three judges for the food competition had extensive background in preparation of authentic Mangalorean food. Event chairperson Larry Mascarenhas introduced the judges to the audience. Items like pathrade kadi, pathrade fry, kube mutlim, sporothel, pork indaad, kaanne (lady fish) jeerem-mirim kadi, pork bapad, chicken sukka, 65, masala, green curry, vada-chutney, Mangalorean bun, potato cutlets, variety of biriyani, maani, thoushyache mandass, galmbyanchi chutney — just to name a few — were among the typical Mangalorean dishes.

During breaks in between the competitions, Denzil Concesso, Lig Martis, Larry Mascarenhas, Lilly Fernandes and Fr. Henry Sequeira entertained the audience with Konkani songs and the crowd was thrilled to hear their melodious voice in Konkani in Chicagoland.

The South Asian Bar Association of New York commemorated its 10th Anniversary Sept. 23 with a gala awards dinner, according to a press release. The black-tie event, held at the W Hotel New York, included over 200 legal professionals and guests discussing topics ranging from rising South Asian business markets to the indefinite and mandatory detention of immigrants, a significant percentage South Asian, as a result of the federal government’s post 9/11 “special registration” program.

In commemoration of its tenth anniversary, SABANY inaugurated an annual Leadership Awards Program recognizing the leadership efforts of outstanding members of the South Asian community who have undertaken efforts to become leaders to enhance not just their own personal careers, but also for the professional development and social advancement of the South Asian community as a whole. This year’s gala honored three award winners exemplifying the theme, “Making Our Mark:” Alpesh Chokshi, senior vice president and general manager at the American Express Corporation, won the Corporate Leadership Award; Anil Chaddha, counsel on labor and employment matters for GE corporate headquarters, won the Legal Trailblazer Award; and Amrit Singh won the Access to Justice Award for her work in connection with ACLU v. Department of Defense, a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Chaddha also delivered the keynote address for the awards dinner.

In her opening remarks, SABANY president Sanjana Chopra, an Intellectual Property attorney at Winston & Strawn LLP, challenged the South Asian legal community to focus its efforts on mentoring its members in order to attain decision-making positions as a way to assist meaningfully in the promotion and success of its membership.

Like other bar associations, striking a balance between advocacy on behalf of the South Asian community and the promotion of South Asians in the New York legal market remains a challenging yet essential function of SABANY.

The gala featured keynote speakers Ronen Sen, ambassador of India to the United States

More information about SABANY can be found at www.sabany.org

Named to Police Panel
Rajan Zed
Rajan Zed has been selected as member of the Reno Police Chief’s Advisory Board, according to a press release. He was a journalist in India of rural Punjab origins before migrating to the U.S, the release added.

The board provides review and input on police programs, facilitates contacts between the chief of police and community members, helps resolve miss-communication and provide rumor control, etc. It currently has nine members drawn from various communities and groups. In a communication to Zed, Reno police chief Michael Poehlman stated, “It would be an honor to have you participate as a member of my Chief’s Advisory Board.”

Zed, who serves on the governing board of directors of Northern Nevada International Center and the board of directors of Nevada World Trade Council, is also a fellow of the Institute of Professional Managers and Administrators of Britain besides being on the Cultural Competency Action Plan Team of Washoe County School District. He has served on the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal, a Gannett newspaper; sat on the Academic Senate of San Jose State University, Calif., and represented the College of Business Administration in the Graduate Student Association of University of Nevada-Reno.

He is also running for the office of general improvement district trustee of Verdi TV District in the November elections.

BUSINESS: News in Brief
Lucy Pizano: Silicon Valley’s Top 40 under 40 | Etihad Begins New York-Abu Dhabi Service | Targeting South Asians | Paris-Beijing Automobile Adventure | Laughter Challenge | Lower Remittance Fees | New Branch

Lucy Pizano: Silicon Valley’s Top 40 under 40

Lucy Pizano

Tech CU has announced that its private banking manager Lucy Pizano has been named by the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal as one of the “40 Under 40 People to Watch” for finance and banking.

The 40 Under 40 list, produced annually, identifies the rising stars in Silicon Valley’s business community, the top 40 individuals under 40 years of age who are making a difference in their chosen fields and in the community.

At 25, Pizano’s achievements are a testament to her dedication to the community and commitment to work. Pizano is the daughter of a single, immigrant mother who came to San Jose, Calif., in 1981 with the tide of Vietnamese refugees escaping persecution, poverty and government reprisals in Vietnam.

She overcame the stereotype of being an “at risk youth” in high school and went on to become one of the top performers in her class, earning a scholarship to UC Berkeley and being the first in her family to attend college. In 2000, she transferred to Santa Clara University from which she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marketing.

In 2006, she joined Tech CU, becoming part of the team that launched the credit union’s private banking division, one of the first and most successful private banking programs of any credit union in the country. In just four years, the division has grown from zero to $400 million in managed assets for over 1,500 members. As a private banking manager, Pizano oversees more than $100 million in assets for 600 member accounts.

Technology Credit Union is a member-owned, full-service financial provider that offers services to technology and business professionals in California and their families, focusing primarily on serving individuals who work, live, go to school, or regularly worship in Santa Clara, Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Contra Costa counties. Tech CU was started in 1960 and is now among the top 1 percent of the nation’s largest credit unions.

Etihad Begins New York-Abu Dhabi Service

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, celebrated the official launch of its daily, non-stop, round-trip service between Abu Dhabi and New York recently, according to an airline press release. The launch was heralded by the arrival of an Etihad A340-500 aircraft at JFK airport’s Terminal Four.

As Etihad’s second North American destination after Toronto, the launch of the route to the United States’ key gateway city symbolizes Etihad’s long-awaited entrance into the American market.

“The launch of Etihad Airways in the United States further strengthens the relationship between the two countries,” said Michele J. Sison, U.S. Ambassador to the UAE. “Etihad’s presence in the U.S. offers enhanced economic and cross-cultural opportunities beneficial to both the United States and the United Arab Emirates.”

Passengers on the New York route will travel in the new purpose-built Airbus 340-500 aircraft. With last month’s delivery of its fourth aircraft in the series, 80 percent of Etihad’s fleet is brand new. Configured with two aisles, the aircraft can carry 240 guests in three zones: 12 in Diamond Zone, 28 in Pearl Zone and 200 guests in Coral Zone.

The Airbus 340-500 is one of Etihad’s first aircraft to offer the Diamond Zone seat which transfers into a completely flat bed and can be rotated 180 degrees when in an upright position. This enables passengers to hold meetings, share group meals and converse with one another.

Targeting South Asians

Scenes from Nationwide’s advertising campaign targeting South Asians.

As part of its plan to target South Asians, Nationwide and A Partnership, Inc., has created an advertising campaign launched late September, according to a press release.

“Connecting with the rapidly growing South Asian population is very important to us,” said Tariq Khan of Nationwide Financial Network, an affiliated retail distribution business of Nationwide Financial Services, Inc. “We wanted to create work that reflects scenarios and traditions that are relevant to them.”

Five TV spots will appear on South Asian networks, and a print campaign will run in major newspapers. There will also be online, in-theater and other out-of-home executions.

The ads use humor in good measure. For example, in “Reflection,” a young man is seen admiring his good looks in the bathroom mirror. After one last satisfied look, he opens his medicine cabinet to grab a hairbrush. When he closes the door, the reflection is no longer a handsome, 20-year-old, but an overweight, balding 55-year-old. As the baffled man continues to stare at his older reflection, the voice-over states, “Life comes at you fast. Plan your retirement with Nationwide.”

Nationwide sponsored the India Independence Day Parade and Pakistan Parade in August 2006 in New York, and hopes to continue its sponsorship in 2007. The company is also sponsoring the Diwali celebration this November in New York.

Paris-Beijing Automobile Adventure

Day 8 of an extraordinary long-distance journey - Stage 2 - the field of participants arrives in Moscow.

An extraordinary automobile adventure started Oct. 21 in Paris, France. In the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, 36 Mercedes-Benz E-Class vehicles powered by clean diesel started on a long-distance journey of over 13,600 kilometers to Beijing, where the fleet will arrive Nov. 17.

Mercedes-Benz said in a press release that it intends to use the diesel marathon across two continents to demonstrate the global potential of its drive technology. Over the course of the five stages, a total of 360 drivers from 35 countries will be seated behind the wheels of the E-Class models, which will cover a combined distance of more than 490,000 kilometers before arriving in the Chinese capital.

Laughter Challenge
Star One, a Hindi entertainment channel that comes as part of the DIRECTV package, brings to the U.S. the wit and humor of the Great Indian Laughter Champions in the form of live shows, according to a press release.

These comedians bring warmth, candor and an infectious joie de vivre into everyday living, the release adds. “Their inspiration is nothing short of the human condition and their interpretation is wild and wacky,” the release says. “With their homespun humor and earthy jokes, they make life seem like a fun ride.”

The popular show that brought live stand-up comedy to Indian television now makes its entry into the U.S. Artists from India and Pakistan come together as laughter champions like Ali Hassan, Irfan Malik, Rajkumar, Rauf Lala, Rajiv Nigam, Pratap Fauzdar and Rasik Maharaj show their stuff. The shows will be anchored by Bollywood actress Tejaswini Kolhapure.

“It’s a great opportunity to connect with the wider South Asian community, watch homegrown talent in action and have loads of family fun,” the release continues. “You can truly revel in the common knowledge that life maybe tough but it’s also bizarre and funny. Enjoy this light-hearted take on things and seize the chance to be part of a major community event and celebration of life.”

Readers can get information about booking a show by calling Sheetal Vyas at (917) 692-0288 or Nimesh Trivedi at (201) 790-1428.

Lower Remittance Fees
Xoom Corporation, whose Web site Xoom.com offers secure money transfers throughout India for pickup, deposit or delivery, has announced lower fees and an expanded partnership with Punjab National Bank that adds over 2,000 branch locations to its existing India pickup network, increasing its total footprint in India to 3,500 pickup locations.

“We are excited to bring one of the largest Indian financial corporations, Punjab National Bank, further into our network,” said John Kunze, Xoom’s president and CEO. “With Punjab National Bank, we make Xoom even more convenient for our customer’s beneficiaries.”

Xoom offers direct deposit to any bank in India and free home delivery via Blue Dart. Senders can continue to choose from a variety of accounts to fund the transaction online, including E-checks, credit cards or PayPal. Xoom customers can track their transactions on the Web and recipients can contact Xoom’s local customer support with questions about their transfer.

Xoom has drastically lowered its fees. Value service transactions, funded by e-check, are now fee-free for remittances above $700. Standard service transactions, funded by credit or debit cards, have been lowered to $8 to send up to $500.

Xoom Corporation was founded in 2001 in San Francisco and is backed by leading venture firms Sequoia Capital, New Enterprise Associates and Fidelity Ventures. Xoom.com allows individuals to send money from any Internet-enabled computer to friends, family and businesses worldwide.

Established in 1895, Punjab National Bank is the first Indian bank to have been started solely with Indian capital. The bank was nationalized in July 1969 and has 4,027 branches throughout India. PNB is a professionally managed bank with a successful track record of over 108 years.

New Branch

Opening ceremony of the Indus American Bank’s second branch in Parsippany, N.J.

Indus American Bank opened its second branch in New Jersey Oct. 15, according to a bank press release. The branch is located in Parsippany, on Route 46 eastbound in the Pathmark Super Center. The branch is open seven days a week, and offers the full range of products and services available from Indus American Bank, including Totally Free Checking and the Money Market accounts.

“We see the whole Parsippany area as a major growth region of the South Asian populace,” said Indus American Bank CEO Kevin Lenihan. “There is a significant business opportunity, as well as an occasion to provide a much-needed service to the local community. We have also come out with a great CD rate of 5.70 APY on a 6-month CD, and we are offering gift certificates to Pathmark Parsippany for new money accounts greater than $10,000. We are very excited about this location and the service it can provide to the community at large.”

Indus American Bank provides high-quality financial products and personalized services to a range of customers from individuals to business owners. At the Parsippany branch Indus American Bank offers the full product line including checking and savings accounts, as well as loan options and competitive rates on deposits. Manisha Amin has been appointed as the new branch manager.

Accenture: Hiring More in India | Capgemini Buys Kanbay for $1.25 Billion | Japanese Firms | Satyam: Profit Jumps 34% | Wipro Buys 3D Networks, Planet PSG in Cash Deal | Nilekani to Join Reuters Board | Lanka Woos IT Firms | Patni Profits Up

Accenture: Hiring More in India
Accenture plans to rapidly, organically ramp up its presence in India. The company may see its total headcount in the country zoom to about 35,000 people next year from just 4,000 staff three years ago.

Sandeep K. Arora of Accenture India told Economic Times: “We are looking at 50-55 percent growth in terms of headcount this year.” The IT giant had 23,000 people at the end of last fiscal (ended August ’06) had 23,000 people.

A 50-55 percent growth would mean that the company will be adding between 11,500 and 12,650 people across IT services, BPO and consulting by end of August ‘07, taking its total headcount to about 35,000 employees in India.

Accenture recently said that it plans to hike its headcount in India, China and Philippines to 50,000 people by FY08. A majority of this ramp up will be in India, said Arora.

“We want to have the flexibility of depending on other centers,” he added. Currently, Accenture’s global delivery network employs 52,000 people across 43 centers.

Of this, India already has 23,000 staff across 10 centers in six cities — delivery centers in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai, Pune, Gurgoan and a consulting office in New Delhi.

The IT firm is also looking at expanding in both the existing centers and new cities in the next 12-18 months. Accenture is exploring the option of SEZs in multiple locations, said Arora, adding that “much of our new space will be in SEZs.”

Capgemini Buys Kanbay for $1.25 Billion
European information technology consultant Capgemini has agreed to buy Kanbay, a company based mainly in India, for $1.25 billion dollars.

Though Kanbay is quoted on the NASDAQ market in New York, most of its staff work in India which will become the second-biggest base for Capgemini, taking its workforce there to 12,000.

Capgemini, which provides consultancy and IT services and is a specialist in outsourcing, employs 20,000 people in France. Kanbay has very similar activities to the Paris-based group.

Capgemini chief executive Paul Hermelin said that the acquisition would be carried out in cash at $29 per share.

The acquisition would boost net earnings per share by more than 5.0 percent in 2007 and by more than 10.0 percent in 2008, he told a telephone press conference.

“Kanbay will enable us to double our size in India and will represent 7.0 percent of the group’s budget,” Hermelin said.

He told the newspaper Les Echos that 80 percent of Kanbay’s work was for the U.S. market and 20 percent for the British market, notably in the financial sector. Its leading clients are the British bank HSBC and the Morgan Stanley bank.

Capgemini also released figures for its third quarter, when sales rose 12.4 percent to 1.881 billion euros from the same period last year.

Japanese Firms
Japanese information technology companies are mapping out a new base to outsource software development in India, according to Japanese daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun.

Japanese firms, which have long shifted their software development to China for low costs, are now faced with a lack of local engineers and have decided to expand their India operations.

With 2,000 engineers to be hired locally by 2009, Fujitsu plans to develop industrial software for Japanese financial institutions, while Hitachi is to increase the number of employees by 15 percent for development of more advanced software, the Japanese business daily said.

Fujitsu decided to directly hire 500 engineers who currently receive outsourced work at local developers to improve quality control and provide thorough training.

The company plans to hire 1,500 more engineers by March 2010 for its own development projects at the Indian operations of U.S. company Rapidigm, which Fujitsu acquired in February.

The Japanese electronics company is expected to increase its overseas employees by 2.5 percent to 5,000 people in India, China and the Southeast Asian region, the paper said.

Hitachi also plans to expand its engineering staff from 470 to 540 in India for development of middleware programs by the end of March 2007.

NEC Corp, which is to form a team of 400 engineers, plans to develop control software for mobile phones in a joint venture with a local partner to have India as its second hub for overseas operation.

Satyam: Profit Jumps 34%
India’s fourth-largest software exporter Satyam has reported that its second-quarter net profit rose 34.7 percent, beating market forecasts, as it won more clients on the back of an outsourcing boom.

Net profit totaled 3.2 billion rupees ($70.65 million) for the three months ended September on revenues that climbed 38.7 percent to 16 billion rupees.

Analysts forecast that Satyam Computer Services would post net profit of three billion rupees.
The New York-listed company revised its full-year revenue growth forecast to between 34.6 percent and 35.1 percent, an increase from the previous quarter’s guidance of 29.3 to 31.2 percent growth.

In the first quarter, net profit climbed 86.3 percent to 3.5 billion rupees.

“The 11 percent sequential growth in revenue ... is the highest growth witnessed by the company in the last five years,” said Satyam chairman Ramalinga Raju.

“We observe a healthy demand environment signifying greater adoption of the global delivery model and we believe, based on our interactions with key decision-makers, this positive trend will continue in the near term,” he said.

The United States contributed 65.8 percent of revenues followed by Europe with 18 percent.

Wipro Buys 3D Networks, Planet PSG in Cash Deal
Wipro Infotech has bought India, Middle East and SAARC operations of 3D Networks and Planet PSG in an all-cash deal. The deal includes a cash payment of approximately $23 million on closure of the transaction and additional performance linked payments based on achieving agreed financial targets over a two year period.

3D Networks, a partner of Nortel Networks, provides business communication solutions that include consulting, voice, data and converged solutions and managed services. The company’s specialized solutions are deployed in ITES/IT, telecom, banking and finance, government and service areas.

In India, 3D Networks has approximately 270 employees serving several marquee customers. During fiscal ‘05-06, the company earned revenues of approximately $36m, a growth of 39 percent year on year. A profitable entity, it commenced India operations in ‘01.

Planet PSG provides professional services on voice and speech platforms in the region. The closing of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

The acquisition is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2007. Wipro Infotech president Suresh Vaswani said, “India’s emergence as the outsourcing hub for global majors is fuelling demand for convergence solutions.

“3D Networks’ strong integration skills in convergence technologies, customer base and proven track record complements and enhances our existing comprehensive IT solutions and services. Customers will immensely benefit from our broad suite of offerings in converged space. Our acquisition strategy here was to add new practice competencies and enhance our broad suite of service and solutions portfolio.”

Nilekani to Join Reuters Board
Nandan Nilekani, the 51-year-old chief executive of the $20 billion Infosys has been appointed to the board of international newswire, Reuters.

Nilekani, the first Indian on Reuters’ board, would join on January 1, 2007, and will also be a member of the company’s audit committee.

Commenting on the appointment, Reuters chairman Niall Fitzgerald said, “Nilekani is one of India’s most successful business leaders and a key figure in the new global economy. He brings a deep understanding of technology, IT and globalization and will be a huge asset to the board of Reuters.”

The news and financial services firm appointed Nilekani with an eye on his expertise in technology and software services and knowledge of Asia, where it is registering the fastest growth. About 90 percent of Reuters’ revenue comes from providing information to financial services firms and its services embracing IT.

India is one of Reuters’ biggest markets, with about 10 percent or 1,500 of its employees based here. Its Indian business has grown 20 percent in the first half of the year. And its Asian business has grown at 11 percent year-on-year, Hungate said.

In January 2006, Nilekani became one of the youngest entrepreneurs to join 20 global leaders on the prestigious World Economic Forum Foundation Board.

Nilekani has been the chief executive officer of Infosys since March 2002. He is one of its founders. He has served as a director since its inception in 1981.

Lanka Woos IT Firms
Sri Lanka’s Science and Technology Minister Tissa Vitharana has invited Indian IT firms to invest in the island nation and help it replicate India’s success in the knowledge sector.

“We want to benefit from the IT boom India has been riding on and prevent our talented engineers from leaving the country for greener pastures in the absence of a strong technology base,” Vitharana told reporters at BangaloreIT.in, India’s premier IT event.

Visiting the exposition to gain a first-hand knowledge of the Indian tech industry, he said with about 95 percent literacy, Sri Lanka was in a position to create a knowledge workforce for software and IT-enabled services, including BPO and call centers.

“We want the Indian IT industry to make best use of our resources and assist our government in creating an eco-system for replicating India’s success story in the knowledge sector.”

The island nation is also interested in promoting high-tech industries, especially in nano-technology and chip design and semiconductor.

“Though our industrial base is small, it is quite flexible. We offer overseas investors fiscal incentives such as tax holiday, interest subsidy and freedom to repatriate profits, besides quality infrastructure, including energy and land,” Vitharana pointed out.

Patni Profits Up
Software services firm Patni Computer Systems reported a 37.7 percent jump in quarterly profit on increased outsourcing, sending its shares up more than 13 percent to a seven-month high.

But the company forecast a drop of 160-180 basis points in operating margins in Oct-Dec from the previous quarter on account of fewer working days, chief financial officer Surjeet Singh told Reuters in an interview.

“As we move into a normal quarter, first quarter (January-March) will be such, this effect will normalize itself and we will come back,” he said.

Consolidated net income of Mumbai-based Patni for the quarter to Sept. 30 stood at $22.3 million, compared with $16.2 million a year ago. Revenue grew 28.2 percent to $151.7 million.

In the Oct-Dec quarter, the company expects revenue to be $152 million and net income in a range of $20.4-20.6 million. Patni’s revenue for its fiscal year to December 31 was likely to rise 28 percent to $575 million as outsourcing momentum remained strong, Singh said.

Feisty Fantasy Car: 2006 Corvette Z06
There’s nothing typically “Mom-ish” about a Corvette, let alone the Z06 model. So what? Auto reviewer Sally Miller Wyatt decided to live out a fantasy life, if only for a few days, and she is still starry eyed.

This month’s test car has absolutely nothing to do with your traditional family vehicle. Really. Most would agree there’s nothing typically “Mom-ish” about a Corvette, let alone the Z06 model. While it’s true that many Moms spend their days racing to the grocery store, orthodontist appointments and soccer practices, it is not traditionally done in a vehicle that goes from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds in first gear.

So, what’s Mom doing in a Corvette this week? Well, living out a fantasy life, if only for a few days.

Corvette fans already know about the Z06’s pedigree. It is the fastest, most powerful Corvette ever built and it can reach speeds of up to 190 miles per hour. They’ll be able to quote you its specifications, such as the LS7 7.0-liter, 427-cubic-inch Gen IV V-8 small block engine that commands 505 horsepower at 6,200 rpm; its 475 lb.-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm; and its 7,000 rpm redline. They’ll point out the 10-spoke wheels and their huge, 14-inch cross-drilled front disc brakes with six-piston calipers and the 13.-4-inch cross-drilled rear rotors with four-piston calipers. They’re ogling over the Z06’s unique front fascia with its larger grille, cold-air scoop and lower air splitter. They know the Corvette’s curb weight of 3,130 pounds has been shaved down because of the use of so much aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber that cuts out ounces and pounds here and there. As one example, the passenger’s seat is adjusted manually, to eliminate the weight that a power mechanism would add.

And if you’re just agog at the notion of a vehicle with 505 horsepower, word on the street is that 2008 models will be ramped up to 650 horsepower.

“In many ways, the LS7 is a racing engine in a street car,” says Dave Muscaro, Chevrolet’s assistant chief engineer of the small-block V8 for passenger cars. “We’ve taken much of what we’ve learned over the years from the 7.0-liter C5-R racing program and instilled it here. There really has been nothing else like it offered in a GM production vehicle.”

This particular Corvette is “for the enthusiastic driver seeking super car performance in a vehicle that can be used as a daily driver with fuel economy estimated at 16 city and 26 highway,” the press materials continue. Practical Moms might say all that power may be wasted if you’re idling along the I-80 corridor in commute traffic. My neighbor disagrees. “At least you’re idling in a Corvette,” he says.

That just about sums up the allure this Corvette had on my husband, my neighbors, friends and complete strangers. After a few spins around town, my husband was already trying to convince me that we didn’t really need to fund our retirement accounts, or, with a little encouragement, our daughter may consider “home schooling” instead of college. A friend acknowledged not really paying attention to Corvettes before, but after circling around this car, his eyes took on a faraway look. A siren’s call, this Corvette.

Get behind the wheel and it is really hard not to heed that call. The car rumbles to life at the push of a button, and you’re off in a blink. Acceleration is so swift and effortless, you’re quickly pushing the speed limit in first gear. It is an unbelievable sensation, actually. Certainly that must be the thrill pilots feel every time they’re about to get airborne. It doesn’t take long to become addicted to the pure power and — yes — attention. So, if you do commute or even spend lots of time motoring around town, you’re certainly going to enjoy every mile of the ride.

While the Corvette Z06 has race-inspired engineering, there are many creature comforts on board, including leather seating, dual-zone air conditioning, a Bose audio system with an in-dash six-CD changer, telescoping steering wheel, heated seats, side air bags, HID lighting, fog lamps, and even XM Satellite Radio.

Being the practical Mom that I am, we did test out the Corvette’s trunk on a shopping trip to the Big Momma of stores: Costco. Yup, it easily swallowed up all those groceries, including a Costco-sized pack of paper towels.

While not everyone may agree that the feisty Corvette Z06 could serve as a family car, there are certainly several new converts in my neck of the woods who would argue otherwise.
Just ask my husband.

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


Bollywood’s top stars landed in Dubai for this year’s Indian International Film Awards gala in Dubai. Siliconeer presents a photo essay.

Clockwise from top right: Preity Zinta performing on stage, Aishwarya Rai; Hrithik Roshan performing on stage and Rani Mukerjee

Clockwise from top left: Jean Claude Van Damme; Salman Khan performing on stage; Amitabh Bachchan and Katrina Kaif

Khan is Hot | Choppy Trip for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie | Oh, La Lu! | Oscar Bound | Aish-Abhishek Rumors Target Filmmaker | Gandhi Prize | Basanti Speaks | Another Remake?

Khan is Hot

Salman in “Jaan-e-Mann”

So here’s another woman who says she thinks Salman Khan is hot. Tell us something we don’t know.

Actually, it’s not just any gal on the street. It’s the reigning Miss Universe, no less. Zuleyka Rivera, the Puerto Rican beauty queen, was in Mumbai recently to promote an AIDS awareness campaign. Guess who gives her a ride on his motorbike? Yeah, you guessed it.

‘’Yeah, I met Salman Khan,’’ she told the Times of India newspaper. ‘’Well, he is hot for sure. ‘He has an amazing body and a great sense of humor.”

My, oh my. Well, Miss Rivera, we don’t mean to spoil the party, but the fact is our Sallu is hot in more ways than one. He has been trying to keep away from jail, what with his past encounters with chinkara in Rajasthan and driving over sleeping janta in a Mumbai bakery.

So if you are just being nice, we have nothing further to add, Ms Rivera. But if you really have the hots, may we suggest a quick cold shower? Close encounters with Salman may not leave you quite unscathed, you know. Just ask Aish.
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Choppy Trip for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and their adopted child on an auto rickshaw in Pune.

Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are in India, but it hasn’t been a pleasant stay for them. Or for their neighbors in Pune . Or the media.

Unsurprisingly, the media has been all over them like bees over a honey pot. News of ugly scuffles with the stars’ security detail has put everybody in a sour mood early on.

Then came news of a helicopter ride that has the cops in a huff. The Hollywood star couple are in trouble after their hired aircraft landed at a palace hotel in Jodhpur without permission.

The celebrity couple are in India shooting for A Mighty Heart, a film about American reporter Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002.

The couple’s chopper landed at a palace-turned hotel after claiming it needed to make an emergency landing, the Times of India newspaper quoted a government official as saying.

“After speaking with the Umed Bhawan Palace (hotel) management, the district administration would now ask Jodhpur’s air traffic control for its report,” the Jodhpur official, Bhura Ram Delu, was quoted as saying.

Delu said the helicopter, operated by an Indian firm, did not have permission to land at the luxury hotel’s private helipad.

Socialite and author Shobha De has had enough of the celebrity couple. “This entire Brangelina brouhaha is beginning to get on my nerves, as it must be crawling up several other people’s nerves as well,” she wrote. “Enough of this rubbish. If super-celebrities do not know how to behave in a foreign country, then they should stay home. Or face the music.

“Really, you two, this is hardly the way to conduct yourselves and insult locals. It’s a case of truly terrible PR and whosoever your minders are, they ought to be pulled up and made to apologize.”

Sahi baat.
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Oh, La Lu!

Rakhi Sawant

Yep, you read that right, it wasn’t a typo at all. This may be very hard to believe, but Bollywood nymphet Rakhi Sawant is crazy for the roly-poly railways minister.

So what’s so hot about Lalu Prasad Yadav? Well, the crafty old politician from Bihar may not have the accoutrements of the metrosexual man, but power and success has its own glamour.

Don’t forget that the management gurus from Ahmedabad’s IIM are making a beeline to figure out what Lalu is doing to make Indian Railways, the perennial white elephant, turn a profit.

Our Rakhi’s pretty head is unencumbered by such deep thoughts, however. She just loves his lifestyle, rustic Hindi and body language. Body language? Go figure.

“Laluji is my favorite leader, I love him, he is the best leader I know,” Rakhi told reporters in Patna before her dance show.

“I know Bihar as Lalu Bihar, for me Bihar means Laluji,” she added. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s supporters looked as if they had all swallowed a tablespoon of vinegar when she added: “I know little about Bihar’s new Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.”

Charisma, then, is not all being in power or having about six-pack abs. Our portly Lalu’s filmi fan list is long -- Manisha Koirala, Shilpa Shetty, Pooja Bhath, Nagma, Bhagyashree, Pakistani actress Meera, Suniel Shetty, Govinda, Chunkey Pandey, director Mahesh Bhatt and Sanjay Manjrekar to name a few.
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Oscar Bound

Sanjay and Arshad in “Lage Raho Munnabhai”

It may be just the first step towards an Oscar nomination, say fans. Lage Raho Munnabhai was the opening film at the University of Southern California’s first-ever Indian film festival. The film was screened before a capacity audience at the Frank Sinatra Auditorium Oct. 27 to rapturous response.

Students and faculty of the university, which has a very close association with the Hollywood film industry, clapped for minutes after the screening. A lively question and answer session followed with Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi, the producer-director-writer trio of the film. Almost all questions were prefixed with heartfelt praise for the film, with one member of the audience pointing out that the film was in the tradition of the great films of Charlie Chaplin in its capacity to make people laugh and cry.

Gurinder Chadha also attended the screening and spoke glowingly about the film.
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Aish-Abhishek Rumors Target Filmmaker

Aishwarya and Abhishek in “Umrao Jaan”

The rumors flying around Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan’s on again, off again romance has now targeted Bollywood filmmaker J.P. Dutta, who is more amused than angry.

Stories have been making the rounds that rumors of their impending marriage are actually a publicity ploy for the upcoming remake of Umrao Jaan, in which they star.

“What will I be held responsible for next? The Kargil war, just because I made a film about it? Honestly, such allegations don’t hurt me. I’ve seen enough offensive attacks from all quarters in the industry to be affected by such loose talk,” Dutta told the Indo-Asian News Service.

“But I must admit that the suggestion that I orchestrated the news about my Umrao leads’ link-up is a bit over-the-top. First of all, Abhishek is my own kid. I’ve introduced and nurtured his talents like a proud father. And, if today, he’s a superstar I feel very proud.”

“Seriously, ‘Umrao’ doesn’t depend on any star presence. It’s the story that works for the stars. The stars don’t work for the story.”
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Gandhi Prize

Actress and social activist Shabana Azmi received the International Gandhi Peace Prize at a function in Britain’s House of Commons recently for her work for disadvantaged women in India, particularly in the Mumbai slums.

British actress Vanessa Redgrave presented the award to Azmi in the presence of a distinguished gathering which included Professor Lord Bhikhu Parekh, Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics and Indian High Commissioner Kamalesh Sharma.

“The fight today cannot be between the Christian and the Muslim; the fight cannot be between the Hindu and the Muslim- the fight needs to be between ideologies -the ideologies of the liberal versus the ideologies of the extremist. The liberal Muslim, Christian, Hindu on the same side against the extremist Muslim, Christian, Hindu on the other,” Azmi said in her Gandhi Memorial Lecture, “Non-Violence is Possible.”

Azmi, who was chosen for the award for her work among the disadvantaged women in India, particularly in Mumbai slums, also talked about the communal violence in Gujarat and said victims were still waiting for justice.

Azmi said she felt humbled in being linked even in a remote symbolic way with Mahatma Gandhi, whose name the award carries.

“I am truly overwhelmed and humbled to receive the covetous award. My joy on this occasion has been doubled because Vanessa Redgrave, who has been my hero for many years, both as an actress of immeasurable talent and a woman of tremendous courage who has stuck her neck out of for her political convictions and issues of human rights and social justice, has consented to give me the award,” she said.
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Basanti Speaks

People are beginning to sit up and take notice after Basanti as spoken up. Yes, indeed, that tangewali Basanti of Sholay, who is in the habit of using five words when one will suffice has again spoken up.

Of course, it’s actually Hema Malini, who played the garrulous buggy-driver in the smash hit masala Western, who expressed doubts about the remaking of the film.

There is nothing wrong in remaking old movies, but classics like Mughal-e-Azam and Sholay shouldn’t be touched, the Bollywood star said.

The actress-dancer, who was in Bhopal to present her ballet Draupadi to mark the golden jubilee celebrations of the Madhya Pradesh assembly, told reporters: “The remakes of films like Sholay and Mughal-e-Azam will not be able to bring back the era in which they were originally made. They should be seen again and again and not made again.”

She said she was unhappy that classical music and dance was disappearing from films, but confident that this was just a temporary phase.

“It will return to the movies one day,” said the actress who hopes to open a classical dance institute in Bhopal one day.

She has two dreams — to act with Esha in a film and perform at the Khajuraho Dance festival where daughters Esha and Ahana had danced last year.
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Another Remake?

The remake bug has bitten unsuccessful actor Kamal Sadanah who plans to re-visit his father’s suspense flick Victoria No. 203.

The 1972 film, revolving around a diamond robbery, had Ashok Kumar, Pran, Saira Banu and Naveen Nishcol playing the main leads. Directed by Brij Sadanah, the film had music by Kalyanji-Anandji.

In the new version, Jimmy Sheirgill is to play the role of Naveen while Amrita Arora will take on the part played by Saira Banu. Om Puri will be cast in Pran’s role and Anupam Kher will play Ashok Kumar’s character. Ananth Mahadevan will direct the film.

Viju Shah, son of Kalyanji, will provide the music score for the film.

It may look great on paper, but our advice to Kamal is: Don’t do it! The recent remake spree has not turned out terribly well in the box office, and there is no guarantee Kamal will fare any differently. So, Kamal, just don’t go there, bhai.
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All Sizzle and No Steak: Don
(Rating ** Mediocre)
Begging the pardon of disapproving vegetarian readers for the headline, but what is one to do? That will be the likely instinctive reaction to Farhan Akhtar’s slick boondoggle of a film. Or if you prefer, here’s an appropriate line from the original and masaledar version: Don ko pakadna mushqil hi nahin, namumkin bhi hai. (It’s not just difficult to catch the don, it’s impossible).

Just what the heck did Farhan Akhtar think he was doing? Here he was, the boy wonder of Bollywood, who had dazzled us all with his remarkably fresh and stylish Dil Chahta Hai, and although his Lakshya somewhat missed its target, it could be written off as a good-intentioned attempt gone astray, but with Don, he really disappoints.

Oh, the film is stylish alright, with Shah Rukh striking poses that sometimes seems borrowed from James Bond, and the gizmos and gadgets fly thick and fast, but along the way Farhan to forget the fact that the film is a remake, for crying out loud.

Which means it has to have a relationship with the film it is based on. That doesn’t mean it has to ape it, but it has to have a structured, intelligent point of departure from the original.

For starters, it’s a bad idea to remake films, particularly cult favorites like Don. (Heaven help the other remakes in the offing—both Sholay and Umrao Jaan arguably have a greater cult following than Don.)

Even in Hollywood, it has never worked terribly well. All who have seen remade versions of Sabrina or Cape Fear or Psycho have invariably rooted for the original version.

There’s a reason for this. Of course filmmaking takes a lot of technical skills and vision, but even after that, there is a subjective element to it as well, and much-loved films have a kind of magic that is hard to recreate.

Now Don was certainly not a classic, but it was a blockbuster nonetheless, and particularly Big B’s “Khaike paan Banaraswala” is such a cult classic, Farhan had his work cut out.
He tries to use techno-glitz and stylish production values to combat the star appeal of the original, but that’s like stuffing masala into a lousy curry—it may be spicier, but it’s still lousy curry.

In fact the reenactment of the hit song “Khaike paan Banaraswala” makes it painfully clear—Shah Rukh is no Big B, and don’t even think of uttering the name of Udit Narayan and Kishore Kumar in the same breath.

So what does it leave us with? One can reflect on how the film stands up as a thriller on its own. Here, of course, we have another problem. The film is, after all, a remake, and the director and screenwriter have only limited leeway. Even here, the filmmaker and his team come up short—for all its phoren locations (Paris, Malaysia, you name it), the film lacks the fast pace of the original, which means the hapless viewer has lots of time to reflect on the film’s storyline’s gaping holes.

So what’s the story? Here’s how it goes.

The evil Don (Shah Rukh Khan) is a kingpin drug trafficker based in Malaysia who kills at the drop of a hat, rules with an iron hand with his henchmen (Pawan Malhotra, Rajesh Khattar) and is surrounded by pretty women (Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Isha Koppikar), two of whom want to get him.

Intrepid cop DCP D’Silva (Boman Irani) is out to get him, but it’s no easy matter. After failing disastrously, once he does manage to get him, D’Silva keeps the original Don unconscious while he gets an identical look alike (where would Bollywood screenwriters be without them?) to take his place. Vijay (Shah Rukh Khan again, of course) is a small-time singer, a street-smart kid who is talked into pretending to be the real thing, i.e., Don.

The deal is, the cop promises to put Vijay’s adopted kid in a top-notch school, and Vijay is game.

For a while Vijay has a great time playing Don, but soon enough, the chickens come home to roost. D’Silva dies in a car explosion and Vijay is faced with a double whammy—both cops and crooks are out to get him, the cops because they think he is Don, and the crooks because he is a fake.

The film has intelligent twists in the story line, but Farhan breaks the first rule of a thriller—the pace and tension are missing, so it doesn’t stand up at all as an independent thriller.

Cynics will point out that remakes are the rage in Bollywood because filmmakers want to cash in on the ready following, sometimes substantial, of Bollywood classics. Farhan’s Don shows there’s a scary downside to it. Few of today’s filmmakers can hope to match up with the old favorites, so they are better off making films with original stories.

Fast-Paced, Engaging: Varalaru
Director: K.S. Ravikumar
Cast: Ajit Kumar, Asin, Kaniha, Rajesh, Sujata, Pandu, Rajalakshmi.

This film is engaging viewing, thanks to its fast-paced narration with some interesting incidents weaved in, which doesn’t allow you much time to ponder on the flaws, and which masks the inadequacies of the script. The soul of the film is undoubtedly Ajit, who performs his three diverse characters with panache. The actor has put in much effort, demarcating each role with such finesse and understanding that it is a sheer delight watching him on screen.

There is Shiva, the aging business tycoon, bound to his wheelchair, sharing a strong bonding with his son Vishnu. Shiv is an indulgent father, while Vishnu whiles away his time with his cronies taking life easy. Suddenly Vishnu starts behaving out of character, his drunken bouts and acts causing his father much shame and embarrassment. When Vishnu professes to remember nothing of what he had done, the father takes him to a psychiatrist.

Jeeva, Vishnu’s look-alike, now appears on the scene, and he becomes the cause of Vishnu’s woes. Jeeva’s target is Shiva, and his motive is vengeance for the wrong done to his mother decades back. The flashback episodes has Ajit playing a classical dancer, and it is here that the actor scores. With his perfect body language in keeping with the character of the dancer, and the feminine mannerisms he adopts to go with it, Ajit is fascinating. His classical dance number is performed with such finesse that it takes your breath away.

While Asin peps up the scenes in the earlier part with her vivacious spontaneity, Kaniha gets the performing role as the older Ajit’s pair.

The songs are a bit too many and distracting, and most of them are so uninspiring that it’s difficult to believe that they are by composed by A.R. Rahman.

With Varalaru, Ajit has bounced back with a vengeance and re-established his credentials as an actor who can deliver if given the right role and projected suitably. The famished look of Tirupati is gone, and we get to see a handsome, eminently watchable Ajit here.

Director K.S. Ravikumar, who had struck the right chord with the actor (in a dual role) in Villain earlier, has done it yet again.

— Malini Mannath/Chennai Online


Royal Treat: Shahi Toast

South Asians love desserts, and Sudha Gupta shows you how to make one that is simple yet delicious.

  • 4 slices of white bread
  • 2 cups oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup powder milk
  • 50 gm butter (sweet, unsalted)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

    For Garnish:
  • A pinch of cardamom powder
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 tsp pistachio, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp almonds chopped
  • Rose petals

Heat oil in a frying pan. Cut bread slices in half, making eight triangles. Deep fry till golden brown. Drain excess oil from the fried bread by placing it on a paper towel. Lay the triangular slices on a tray as shown.

Boil water and sugar till it forms a thick syrup. Turn off stove. Dip the fried bread slices in warm syrup and lay them on the tray. In a bowl, mix milk, powder milk, butter and two teaspoons of sugar syrup. Stir well and heat in microwave for about one minute. Add a pinch of cardamom powder and saffron and stir well. Spread the paste evenly over the fried bread slices as shown.

Garnish with pistachio, almonds and decorate the plate with rose petals.

Serve at room temperature.

Serves: four
Preparation: 15-20 minutes.

- Sudha Gupta lives in Elk Grove, Calif.


HOROSCOPE: November By Pandit Parashar

ARIES (March 21 to April 20): Uncertainty will disappear and you will have better control over your career. Stocks purchased earlier will rise and it is advised to sell them and make some money now. Your concerns about a child will escalate. You may make a slight change in your travel plans.

TAURUS (April 21 to May 20): There will be favorable changes in career soon. Some of you may need to relocate. You may not get the entire credit for your hard work. Do not under estimate your opponents and beware of competition. People in business will spend heavily on advertising. You will have second thoughts about a relationship.

GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): An idea to initiate a law suit to prove your point will cross your mind and you will consult an expert about this. You may also sign papers related to a big and nice property. A journey will be relaxing and you will meet a very useful contact. You may also try to dispose off a business.

CANCER (June 21 to July 22): People dealing with the government directly or indirectly should be extremely cautious for the next few weeks. Saturn’s transit in second will make you waste money on legal matters. Some of you will be taking an overseas trip soon. Jupiter will give you the wisdom to handle situations diplomatically.

LEO (July 23 to August 22): If you take risks, it will hurt your image. You will try to opt out of a bad business deal. You will fix the potholes and start seeing money in the bank. You will be looking for an investment property. You will be busy with loads of work and also maintaining social commitments.

VIRGO (August 23 to September 22): Saturn’s transit in twelfth can cause sudden financial loss, be very careful. You will be constantly on the phone as you try to reach important contacts. People trying to switch jobs for some time now, will finally see success in their efforts. You will invite few friends at your place.

LIBRA (September 23 to October 22): You can see long term liabilities on increase. You may sign a contract to buy a beautiful house in a new developing area. Party will go well and your past efforts will be appreciated by every one. Health will keep improving with a changed and controlled diet.

SCORPIO (October 23 to November 22): Somebody will bail you out of a tricky situation. This will be the beginning of a learning experience as Jupiter starts transit in first. There will be rumors about you getting transferred to another department. There is a strong possibility of a long term relationship or an addition in the family.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23 to December 22): Business will pick up all of a sudden and you will develop the habit of putting some money as your nest egg for rainy days. People from political background will come to seek your help. This is the right time to launch a project. You will benefit from someone lot younger in age.

CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19): Commitments will escalate. You should restricted expansion. You will invite some people at your place for a small get together. A career change looks inevitable henceforth. You will be helping the rich and famous.

AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18): You may not like the new developments at work. Pressure will increase as boss becomes more demanding. Spouse will have totally different views on all subjects. A new member will be added in the family soon. You may dispose off some stocks for a decent profit.

PISCES (February 19 to March 20): A legal threat will get the job done. You will be on a path to recovery and may start a new career. Your image will improve and several people who disappeared in the past will call you. Too many bills will burn the bank. You will overcome all health disorders.

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


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