Thursday, 21 December 2006

Al Jazeera English: Is the News Good or Bad?

"The latest weapon in the Middle East is neither a missile nor a bomb. It is a Television Station."

I read this the other day in an editorial in Business Monthly, a journal brought out by the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt.

The editor who was talking about Al Jazeera English going live goes on to say that by all reckoning, the slickly produced news broadcast is more powerful than the 170,000 coalition forces in Iraq with the potential to destroy administrations and topple governments.

Al Jazeera English was launched on 15th November 2006 as the first global English language news and current affairs channel headquartered in the Middle East. The channel is already available all over the world and free to air in most of them (perhaps in all of them) They claim to reach over 80 million cable and satellite households worldwide. It is also potentially available to the one billion users of the Internet worldwide as a live stream.

Headquartered in Doha, Al Jazeera aired its first exclusive on the 20th of November - news footage of Naypidaw in Myanmar - formerly Burma - and a high level interview with the Minister of Information, Brigadier General Kyaw Hsan.

Al Jazeera English was granted exclusive access to Naypidaw - a first for a foreign broadcaster. The interview ranged from Aung San Suu Kyi's detention, the roadmap to democracy, the move to Naypidaw, insurgencies around the country, and the effect of sanctions and the lack of aid to Myanmar's people.

Al Jazeera English's SOP states,

Broadcasting from within the Middle East, looking outwards, Al Jazeera English will set the news agenda and act as a bridge between cultures. With unique access as the channel of reference for Middle East events, and broadcast centres strategically placed around the world in Doha, Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington DC, Al Jazeera English will balance the information flow from South to North, providing accurate, impartial and objective news for a global audience from a grass roots level, giving voice to different perspectives from under-reported regions around the world.

Al Jazeera English is building on the ground-breaking heritage of its sister Arab-language channel - Al Jazeera, which was responsible for changing the face of news within the Middle East, now extending that fresh perspective from regional to global.

Viewers of "Western" News Channels will find the formats abd imagery quite similar. They even have the familiar faces of David Frost (ex BBC) and Riz Khan (ex CNN Correspondent).

Reactions to Al Jazeera English here in Egypt have been mostly positive, considering that a lot of the population here has friends, relatives or acquaintances among the nameless and faceless people who are simply collateral damage to the American War on Terror. These people who are dying on "the other side" are simply statistics and numbers to the "Western" media. Forever to remain unnamed.

Hence Al Jazeera's tag line of "Watch the Other Side of World Events, Hear the Other Side of the Story" has found its mark. Their other affirmations like "We want to change the News Agenda - It's a Fundamental Goal," "Do the Right Thing for the Right Reason," all have found their mark at least among the English speaking population of MENA.

They don't seem to be heavily slanted in their perspective as of now. Someone mentioned that it's somewhere between the spectrum of FOX News and Hezbollah's Al Manar Channel and will slowly find its gradient on this scale of extremes.

The editor of Business Monthly summed it up brilliantly when he said,

Western Governments will need to carefully consider their political strategy - the World has a New Perspective and it comes from the people on the receiving end of their Foreign Policy.

Published on

Saturday, 8 July 2006

Ramadoss Running Amok ?

In a shocking Development, Dr. P Venugopal, leading Cardiologist and Director of the prestigious AIIMS, Delhi was unilaterally sacked on July 5th. This seems like a predestined conclusion to the long running feud between the "Honorable" Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Anbumani (sometimes spelt Ambumani) Ramadoss and Dr. Venugopal.

The Delhi High Court, stayed the Dismissal on Friday. So, the striking doctors of AIIMS got back to work after 3 days and patients are being taken care of again.

To get back to the issue, The background to this story is a 2 year old battle between the two. They've been at loggerheads ever since Ramadoss, a doctor himself, was appointed minister and he took over the AIIMS guest house for a lengthy period till he was allotted an official bungalow. The institute's grapevine is laden with stories about frequent clashes between the minister and the hospital administration over the lavish renovations at the guest house (which the AIIMS budget had to fund), the meals that went beyond the regular menu and the constant stream of visitors who had nothing to do with medicine.

Then, there was that ugly incident when Ramadoss decided to pay a midnight visit to the casualty ward. He didn't like what he found, summoned Venugopal and upbraided him and other senior doctors publicly. They've been at daggers drawn since. The friction exploded in a lightning strike by Class IV employees of the hospital, for which the faculty grapevine blamed some associates of the minister. Quick health check needed : Credit : DNA

Dr. Venugopal was ostensibly dismissed because of his soft stance on the Reservation issue. Those of you who followed Phase II of the Reservation protests (2006) in India, would remember that, the Medicos against Reservation was spearheaded by Medical Students at AIIMS on the AIIMS campus which was also the site for a Hunger Strike.

Ramadoss fired another salvo at the end of June. when an order pertaining to pay of striking doctors, issued by Dr. Venugopal, was described as 'null and void' by an official junior to him.

This entire "Reservation + Strike" issue gave Dr Ramadoss (as Health Minister, he also holds the position of president of AIIMS) the ideal excuse to sack Dr. P Venugopal.

After a 3 hour long meeting, the 17-member body of AIIMS passed the resolution for Venugopal's ouster despite three members expressing a voice dissent, said senior BJP leader V K Malhotra. He also said that Ramadoss suddenly brought in a supplementary resolution seeking removal of Dr Venugopal. In his generosity, Ramadoss offered that Dr. Venugopal be given 3 months salary but his services would be terminated immediately.

If this was just one vendetta of Dr. Ramadoss against Dr. Venugopal perhaps it could be forgotten in time as all other foibles of Indian politicians are. But Dr. Ramadoss seems to be using his office to massage his own ego.

If you look back at June of last year, Ramadoss proposed a ban on smoking in films and TV serials Now although there is ample proof against tobacco being bad for you, logic says that you should prevent the production and sale of tobacco, if you really are concerned about the health of a billion plus population. This was exactly the argument of Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi. But Ramadoss was not willing to listen to reason. . .

It is a well known fact that his father, PMK leader S Ramadoss has had spells of bitter duels with filmstar Rajnikanth including a murder charge. Anyone who has watched a Rajnikanth movie or visited Tamil Nadu would know of his trademark style of throwing a cigarette in the air & catching it between his lips. This proposed ban seemed like a direct salvo against Rajnikant.

Fortunately, Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi said that while all measures need to be taken to discourage smoking, "content of a character (in any artistic venture) cannot be dictated or interfered with".

Looking at these cases, it seems that Ramadoss is hell bent on using his time in power to settle old scores and the new ones that he creates for himself.

If you want to write to the Minister himself, the Ministry for Health & Family Welfare site lists the following contact details :
Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare Nirman Bhavan,
Maulana Azad Road
New Delhi - 110011

Published on

Thursday, 29 June 2006

Dastangoi - The Lost Art of Story Telling

Photo credit: Mumbai Mirror
Mahmood Farooqui (right) and Danish Husain performed the Dastangoi at the NCPA last Friday, 23rd June.

I initially read about "Dastangoi" in Time Out Mumbai, my source of knowledge for events in Mumbai. Then Dan Hussain posted an invite on the Caferati message board.

I exchanged a couple of mails with Dan in which he told me I didn't need to understand the language to enjoy the performance. I was a bit sceptical, but thought why not attend ? The performance at NCPA was free, so could leave at the interval if I could not make sense of it. Plus inlaws were in town and they love theatre and understand a fair amount of Urdu.

So the six of us bundled ourselves into the car at 4:15 to reach NCPA by 6:30.

The next two hours were completely spellbinding. My knowledge of Hindi is recently acquired and I can barely manage the colloquial stuff, so I was wondering if I would be able to understand any of the proceedings. Inspite of Dan's assurances, my doubts persisted until Mahmood began to weave his tapestries.

Dastangoi is very difficult to describe. It needs to be experienced. But let me try to give you an idea of what to expect. It's a cross between a theatre performance and poetry reading. The words are wonderfully descriptive and conjure visions in your head. The perfomers are seated but use expressions, gestures, tone of voice and a myriad other techniques to transport you into a realm of fantasy consisting partly of "tilisms" (alternate worlds), aiyyaars, sorcerers and magicians.

Farooqui on his blog explains :

Dastangos were those who told 'dastans' (stories). Recounting tales of Amir Hamza, the Prophet Mohammed's uncle, they told narratives of his battles with infidels, sorcerers and other pretenders to divinity.

In the dastani worldview, good and bad are evenly matched, infinitely. When an evil sorcerer dies, a new one rises to replace him. When someone on the righteous side is killed, another one is quickly found to replace him. Hamza is the lead character, he is the Lord of the age.

Dastangoyee is about four things: Razm -- warfare, Bazm -- assembly of singing, dancing and seducing, Tilism -- magical effect or artefact created by the sorcerer, and Aiyyari -- chicanery, trickery, disguise. The aiyyars, the tricksters, are employed by both sides.

If you would like to read more about the subject, do read
Mahmood's interview with Mumbai Mirror
Mahmood's interview with DNA
Mahmood's interview with Tehelka

If you would like to watch a performance, you are in luck. If you already caught the NCPA perfomance, then consider this the next couple of episodes.

Dastangoi: A Presentation of the Lost Form of Storytelling
(A Part of Katha Collage II)

Photo credit: Dan Hussain

The Sea of Eloquence - An Evening of Dastan-e-Amir Hamza
July 1 & 2, 2006 at 9:00 pm, Prithvi Theatre, Juhu, Mumbai

Tickets available at Prithvi on the day of performance itself.

The oral narration of Dastan-e-Amir Hamza was a popular past time in most parts of Central, Western and South Asia and North Africa since medieval times. Originally composed in Persian, the Dastan-e-Amir Hamza describes the battles of Amir Hamza, the Prophet Muhammad's Uncle, against infidels, sorcerers and other pretenders to divinity.

As anecdotes of Mir Baqar Ali, the last known Dastango of Delhi, testify, their performances required an exceptional command over rhetoric, delivery, mimicry, ventriloquism and spontaneous composition.

The performances have come about as a result of a collaboration between S.R. Faruqi, the foremost living authority on these Dastans and the only person to possess a full set of all the 46 volumes,
Invitation Credit : Mahmood Farooqui, New Delhi

Mahmood Farooqui is a self-trained actor and performer whose most recent foray into acting consisted of a role in Mahesh Dattani's English film, Mango Soufflé.

Photo credit: DNA

Danish Husain has done theatre with the best names in the country - Habib Tanvir, M.S. Sathyu, Barry John, Rajinder Nath, Sabina Mehta Jaitley, Aziz Quraishi, et al in a wide variety of roles.

Get to know the performers better at
Mahmood Farooqui's Blog
Dan's poems and his Discontents
Dan's Proseonama

Published on

Friday, 23 June 2006

Ok Tata Bye Bye

Hi Everyone,

I'm so excited.

I've been shortlisted for a travel contest. Which involves traveling
& Blogging. Hardly ever been selected for anything earlier :)

Check out the contest and my profile on

(Yes they have spelled my name wrong in the link, trying to get them to correct it)

The final selection is next week. I'm not sure how they will do it.
But have a vague feeling that they may do so based on popularity of
the contestant & ability to draw viewers.

Requesting you to please view my profile & drop me a comment, even if
its just to say "All the best, Kim" or "Don't think u should go" But
please comment.

Hope there's a lot of you looking for something to do on a slow Friday

Please, please, pretty please. :)

Kim - the XL Blog

Monday, 5 June 2006

PVR In Bombay/Mumbai at Juhu Sucks Big Time

Where do I start with how terrible the Bombay version of PVR is ?

Maybe sequentially is best.

Ticket booking :

A little counter at the side of Dynamix mall on a one way street with no parking.
If you decide to use the parking of the mall before buying your ticket in advance, be prepared to shell out 30 bucks for waiting in line for 10 minutes to park your car and another 20 minutes to get it back. Rs. 1 per minute that you wait.

Advance booking rating : -10

Parking :
As mentioned above, it takes approximately 30 minutes for parking if you have visited the cinema for advance booking. During the shows, be prepared to wait 45 minutes to park your car and 1 hour to get it back unless you are prepared to miss the final 10 minutes of your movie, come rushing down and collect your car before the rest of the crowd comes out.
There is just one entry/exit point and 3 valets struggle to keep up. This when only 2 of PVR's 5 screens have been opened for viewing.
Don't even think of parking on the road. The area around is home to some high profile neighbours like Mr. Bacchan himself and Mr. Dev Anand which ensures police patrols on a regular basis and the possibility of bumping into a mamu looking for his daily bonus is very high. 30Rs parking or minimum 100Rs bonus - you decide.
Parkng Rating : -10

The theatre is located on the 3rd Floor of the mall with entry through the mall itself. To put it in perspective, the mall is solely a Shoppers Stop outlet.
The elevator is difficult to locate as it is hidden behind huge barriers of display material of Shoppers Stop. Even if you do locate the elevator, it only goes upto the 2nd floor (basement, ground, 1st & 2nd).
The escalators as in any mall makes you complete half a circambulation before you can take the next level up.
The elevators and escalators are stopped at 9pm. So if you plan to catch a show later than that, be prepared to walk up 3 flights of stairs and a walk around and around half a kilometre of shuttered window displays. If that wasn't bad enough, imagine doing the same while helping your parents and grandparents on this yatra.
Entry Rating : -10

Time Management :
The show we picked was the 10.30pm show of Fanaa. Its a given in multiplexes, that the theatre doors are opened a minimum of 5 minutes before the printed show timing. Most multiplexes give you around 10 minutes. So logically you would arrive at least 15 minutes before the show is supposed to start. If you have been forewarned, then you would come at lesat 45 minutes earlier to be able to park your car.
At 10:30, there were no signs of the doors opening. 10:40 and you can still hear the muffled sounds of something playing inside the hall. 10:45 a couple of people from the previous show start coming out. At 10:50 they want to shut the doors to clean up the hall. But the 500 people who have been STANDING outside since at least 10:15, are in no mood to wait any longer, so they just start barging inside.
Time Management Rating : -30 (for each extra minute)

Facilities Management :
As mentioned above, the hall doors were forcibly opened by irate customers who had been standing outside for more than 15 minutes after the time the show was supposed to start.
Essentially you have 500 people waiting in a space which has seating for about 45 and no air conditioning running. There is standing space, but the air was getting staler by the second.
Once inside the hall too, the air conditioning was turned off. For the first 20 minutes it was cooler than outside, where we had been standing for 45 minutes, but it soon became quite stuffy inside too and the movie in true Yash Chopra style meandered for 3 whole hours (with interval)
Facilities Management Rating : -20

Snack Bar / Candybar :

Have you ever had the popcorn at PVR in Delhi ? The best in the country. PVR in Bombay ? Don't even go with zero expectations. The popcorn is soggy not crunchy. The caramel flavoured version has an extremely watery caramel. This isn't a "Bombay's humidity" problem. If Cinemax, Imax, Fame Andheri, Fame Malad and Fun Republic all within a 5 km radius can give good crunchy popcorn, then why not PVR?

The samosas just look huge, the filling? Lets just say I've had better food in hostels.

The burgers - terrible. The chicken burger patty only feels like potatoes patty so be ready for a carb overdose.

If you need napkins, you need to ask specifically for them.

Chilled water - not available - only room temperature.

Most snacks are served cold. You need to specifically instruct them to heat up food if you want it at a decent temperature. Then be prepared to wait another 10 minutes while the sole microwave struggles to keep pace.
Snack Bar / Candybar Rating : -30 (nothing is edible)

Washrooms :
Only 3 stalls in the ladies loo. So although they are slightly wider than most other cinema loos, be prepared for a long wait for your turn. Also be prepared to miss part of the movie. Cleanliness can be judged by the people to loo ratio. Now you can get an extremely vague idea as to what people in slums have to adjust with in their common loos.
Washrooms Rating : -10

Exit :
No matter which show you attend, be prepared to climb down 3 levels of stairs, since there is no other exit option. Even to get inside the main mall is not possible once you get in the Exit stairwell.
Exit Rating : -10

Overall Rating : -130

PVR definitely needs to do some drastic revamping if they want their customers to come back and are even considering opening the next 3 screens. (4th Floor) PVR Priya, Saket, Anupam and the other one in Gurgaon used to be my favorite movie multiplexes. But Mumbai ? Me, I'm not going back even if they give me a free ticket to visit.

If inspite of this post you still want to visit the theater,

Dummies guide to watch a movie at PVR Bombay :
Go early - at least an hour earlier. You can then pick up your tickets at the same time. Park in relatively less time.
Eat at Brio downstairs before you go up.
Use the washrooms on the groundfloor next to Crossword.
Choose an early show & go up before the escalators and elevator stops working.
Unfortunately you have no option but to climb down. Unless you carry a crutch and ask them to let you out from the entry door, then take the escalator to the second floor and the lift t the ground floor.
Leave 10 minutes before the climax so you don't get stuck in the return crowd at parking.
No parking woes if you use autos.

Disclaimer :

All images used in this post are for illustration purposes only. PVR has not sanctioned or approved of this post. The views expressed are those of the author alone.

Published on

Saturday, 27 May 2006

Review/Photo Essay: Eternal Gandhi - A Multimedia Exhibition

At a time when Gandhiji's ideas seem to have become relegated to tomes of history textbooks, the Eternal Gandhi multimedia exhibition helps to bring his ideas back into focus in a medium that makes it easy for today's kids to relate to and understand.

The exhibits explore Gandhiji's philosophies, the books that moulded him, his ashram stays and other thoughts through computer generated designs and interactive installations. It is an attempt to explore and convey how Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi became the "Mahatma".

Conceptualised and directed by Ranjit Makkuni and his team at Sacred World Research Laboratory, the exhibition first displayed in Delhi and then moved to Bombay a couple of months ago. For awhile it was exhibited at the Cowasji Jehangir Hall.

But since the last month it has been displayed at the CSMVS. You still can catch it until the end of this month.

The Birla Trust has helped bear part of the costs of the exhibition.

What you can expect to see:

  • Raghupati Xylophone: The notes are pre-arranged to play Gandhiji's favourite bhajan. You don't need to be a musician to play it.
  • Laser India Harp: Allows the visitor to trigger music by touching the laser beams.

  • Pillar of Castelessness: Embodies "United we stand and Divided we fall" by lighting up when all around the pillar hold hands and turning dark when they let go.

  • Stambha: 11 rotating discs. Each triggers a visual clip of Gandhiji's principles of Satyagraha.
  • A wooden replica of Sabarmati Ashram:

    Each Pillar when touched starts an audio visual presentation of Ashram Life.

  • A Mural of Raja Harischandra's Story

  • A fibre optic Jail Cell to mimic the one Gandhi was imprisoned in, which has his Jail journal beamed across the cell floor.

  • The Charaka is everywhere,

  • as a motif, as a theme, as a background, as an exhibit....

  • And an extremely life-like wax figure of Gandhiji which could have you thinking its a real person sitting there (the webbed toes gave it away),

  • ...among other exhibits.

    The exhibition is best summed up by a kid I overheard at the exhibition "Mommy, mommy! This is so much fun!!!"

    To be relevant and speak to today's generation of kids, you need to involve them in the discovery process by stimulating not just their minds but by appealing to their visual and auditory senses too. Since the experience also combines a tactile dimension, it succeeds on all counts. The exhibition is equally appealing to adults too, it shows that we can make Indian museums a better leisure experience.

    Posted on

Friday, 19 May 2006

Is India Turning Litigious Like The USA ?

The Telegraph Reports :
Foul cry over XLRI entry route

Jharkhand Education Tribunal (JET) today served a showcause notice on the XLRI School of Management, Jamshedpur, over alleged irregularities in the admission process.

The chairperson of the tribunal, Justice (retired) L.P.N. Shahdeo, today gave 15 days to the premier management institute to respond to the petition filed by a resident of Noida, Raj Gandhi, whose son had appeared for XAT this January.

In her complaint, Raj claimed that despite qualifying in the written exams, her son, Samrat, was not given admission to the institute.

Accusing the director of the institute and chairperson of the admissions committee of handling the admission process arbitrarily, she claimed that her son had secured 96.3 per cent marks in the written exam conducted in Jamshedpur and should have qualified even if he failed in the interview.

Samrat did not make it after he could not crack the interview round, a reason that has not satisfied his mother who blames his exit on the rampant irregularity in the admission process.

Expressing shock, XLRI sources said the student had approached the institute after not finding his name on the list of successful students and was conveyed the reason for his rejection. "Usually the ratio of the number of candidates called for interview and the number of seats is 5:1. So obviously there is a great chance that a good written score might not see the candidate in," sources said, adding that this was the first time such a charge was brought against the 57-year institute.

"His parents had come to me with a request for admission. But, we could not admit him as he did not qualify the interview. The All-India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) rules say the candidate must qualify both. We cannot ignore the guidelines," said XLRI director Father N. Casimir Raj.

He said the institute was yet to receive the showcause notice issued by the JET, which has said it will admit the case only after hearing out both sides.

Fortunately the JET has said it will admit the case only after hearing both sides.

Is India going the US way? Frivolous law suits are popping up all over the place.

Christian organisations secured a temporary stay on"The Da Vinci Code" a work of fiction because they feel people might believe it to be true.

Why are we so insecure in our own lives? What are we trying to prove? What are we trying to hide?

Lets look at the Mother of Samrat Gandhi: Mrs. Raj Gandhi.
She feels that just because her son has secured 96.3% in the XAT common entrance, he should automatically be given a seat at the institute. She says the selection process is arbitary.

In fact XLRI is one of the few management institutes in India which has done away with the GD process for selection, because they felt that the GD was arbitrary. A lot of potential students attend GD development classes & simply try to drown out the other participants voices. The ones who have good points to contribute but are too polite to shut down the others don't get a chance to speak.

Now lets look at the interview as a selection process. Specifically the XL interview process : There is a panel of 3 professors from the college. These professors have taught generations of students and are skilled in human behavior (at least one is normally from the OB stream) They are a 100 times better & more skilled at finding the right student than the triplet judges on a host of reality shows.

Just because someone has great marks it doesn't make them a great person or a great manager. (fyi: there are potentials who secure 99% too) In India the education system at the school level seems to focus only on marks and not the all round development of the child. Mrs Raj expects the same to hold at post graduation level too.

To be a great manager, you need some amount of intellect, some amount of empathy, some amount of maturity, some amount of logical reasoning and a few other things besides.

I think that : if Mr Samrat takes after the mother, quite a few of these qualities would be missing.

Unable to handle rejection, she has gone running to the courts, much like an American citizen who sues the city muncipality if he falls down on the street. That he might have been drunk is besides the point.

Mrs. Raj Gandhi needs to examine her own son & realistically consider his plus & minus points before rushing to the courts. Otherwise this may set off a slew of law suits against educational institutions & corporates too by candidates who interview with them (thinking themselves to be the cat's whiskers) and don't get selected.

Published on

Who hasn't heard of Ratnagiri ?

Famed for its Alphonso/Hapus Mangoes....

The drive from Mumbai (Bombay) was 8 hours long with a couple of breaks along the way, but the scenery more than made up for the long journey. I hear the train journey has some beautiful views too.

We stayed at the wonderful "Kokanes Kohinoor Samudra Resort" Located on the Ratnagiri - Pawas Coastal Highway, its away from the city, situated on a cliff, sprawling over 2 kilometres from end-to-end, it has the most brilliant view from every room in the multiple buildings.

The town of Ratnagiri is pretty small & so easy to navigate after driving around in Mumbai.
We first headed towards the Thibaw Palace - which was built for the exiled King & Queen of Burma (now Myanmar) in 1910-11. They lived here until they died. This would be a familiar name for those who have read "Amitav Ghosh's - The Glass Palace"

It has also been partly converted into a museum. The museum is rather pitiful as it has only 4 rooms. One on the ground floor which has some old sculptures salvaged from the Ratnadurg Fort. The 3 rooms on the first floor have some old, badly damaged copper vessels, old photographs and the last room is an attempt to recreate the grandeur of the palace. The sad part of it is that, although the furniture is still solid (being made of Burma Teak) the furnishings are terrible. Synthetic bright curtains drag your attention away from the intricate light fixtures.

These 4 rooms and 2 used for offices are currently the only usable rooms in the palace. there are plans to renovate & strengthen the remaining buildings. Hopefully it will be sensibly done.

A short drive away is the scenic Thibaw Point

Do stop here for some wonderful views and to click some really outstanding pictures.

If you are already hungry, a quick drive away is Hotel Amantran which serves up the most amazing Malvani food. At approximately Rs.65/- for a Non-vegetarian thali, you can't beat the price either. The food is much better than the Mahesh's, Gajalees & Highway Gomatak's. Its that great. And the sea food is absolutely fresh & comes from relatively unpolluted waters.

Then take a slightly longer drive to the Ratnadurg Fort. Start with a visit to the Bhagwati Mandir

On the way to the Fort, if you pass throught the city you will see the Majestic Shivaji on a Rearing Horse.

The Ratnadurg Fort itself has a lot of crags, nooks & corners. There are brilliant views to be seen from certain vantage points. But be careful & look out for crumbling rocks.

You will be able to see the Lighthouse in the distance. If you are so inclined you can even travel upto it.

Another sight is the Ratnagiri Cement Factory and Jetty

If The Indian Freedom Struggle and its fighters interests you, Ratnagiri is the birthplace of both Sri Lokmanya Tilak & Veer Savarkar. Both their houses are within a few feet of each other within the city.

Sri Lokmanya Tilak's Janmasthan has been converted into a museum in his honor. It is open through the day. The house has been preserved as it is. And its a pleasure to walk barefoot on the cowdung smeared natural flooring. His topi & a few clothes are also on display within the museum.

Sri Veer Savarkar's house has been turned into a kind of library which is only open between 4 & 6 pm.

Round up the day with a nice quiet evening on the beach, Ratnagiri is famed as the "Black and White Beaches Some beaches in the area have black sand and the others have white. The tide here is quite reliable and you can bathe in these waters.

There are a lot more temples and other places to explore in Ratnagiri if you are so inclined. you can also make a lot of short excursions to nearby places like Ganapatipule, Pawas, Dapoli, Guhagar, Karde, Murud and Ladghar

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Friday, 12 May 2006

Movie Review : Ice Age 2: The Meltdown

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown is a really good sequel to Ice Age.
It's a really cute, funny, family movie. Take the kids & watch it. No kids of your own? Take your sibling's kids or your cousins or the neighbour's kids. They would enjoy the movie thoroughly and this is likely to enrich your own experience. No one trusts you with their kids? Just enter a theatre. With the summer holidays on, you can be assured that at least half the audience comprises kids.

Take your parents if you like, they too will enjoy the movie. I saw office groups coming in together for some team bonding too.

Scrat has a larger role in this installment. He's still trying to get his acorn & his journey is even more painful than it was in Part 1. Scrat even reaches acorn paradise only to be rudely pulled away from it.

Manny (Ray Romano), Diego(Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo) have got down to a routine at the new settlement. But, the ice is melting with the possibility of the entire basin flooding and Fast Tony (Jay Leno), a prophet of doom, is trying his best to capitalise on it.

2 new villians. 2 new brats (possums......) and a female mammoth (Queen Latifah) to give Manny company. Only problem: She thinks she is a possum! Right down to hanging from a branch by her tail when sleeping.

Lots of jokes relate to Americanisms, but even someone not familiar with this has enough to enjoy. The fat jokes had the kids laughing the loudest. Each time the squirrel's acorn jumped out of reach, the audience groaned & then laughed collectively.

I'd like to write more about the jokes and story line, but that would spoil your experience of the movie. I'll just let you know that, there's a nice surprise waiting for Manny in the end.

So, definitely watch this movie, preferably in a group and even better if there are some kids around.

Published on

Friday, 5 May 2006

Movie Review : Munich

Munich, directed by Steven Spielberg, is a brilliant, serious, hard hitting movie. It could almost be a documentary with the amount of facts that it feeds you. But it's a very well presented, excellently told story which has you on the edge of your seat very often.

The movie is set against the backdrop of the 1972 Munich Olympics, at which Israeli athletes were massacred by Black September. Israel's secret service the Mossad, forms a squad to assassinate all the people who had a role in that massacre. Mossad gives this squad monetary resources and then disclaims knowledge of their existence. This squad painstakingly has to locate each target and neutralise him. A slow cat and mouse game is played out with international politics forming part of the intrigue. Spielberg gives you glimpses into the key protagonist's family life to humanize the sacrifices and pressure faced by members of the squad.

The editing is really taut and this turns the movie from an excellent flick into a Brilliantly Outstanding Masterpiece. Spielberg handles international political intrigue much better than Syriana. Why compare these two? They both have terrorism at the core of the story. Both stories span continents, nations and races. Both are key elements of political master plans. But Munich ends up far superior to Syriana.

Syriana tries to convey so much in a short time that you can't really get into the skin of the characters, the movie keeps flitting about all over the place. Speilberg's characters are each well etched and you can really become one with each of them. You can feel each one's fears, you understand each one's motivations.

Especially when Avner is waiting for one of the targets to turn off the lights, you
actually empathise with him so much that you can feel what he is feeling, his nervousness, apprehension and fear since Spielberg makes you wait for the event and makes you want it to happen and happen quickly.

Munich moves you, Munich makes you empathise, Munich gives you logic, Munich makes you think. All qualities of a great movie.

Munich was nominated for five Academy Awards (Oscars) including Best Director for Spielberg, Best Movie, Best Editing and Best Writing, but sadly did not win in any of the categories.

A lot of Israelis have protested the movie saying that it portrays them in a bad light. I don't think so. I think the Israelis did what they had to do to protect their own.

Even if you are a non-violent person, you can see the logic behind why Israel did what it had to do. And in the long run, it seems that they did the right thing, because no one wants to mess with Israel any longer.

Maybe India could learn from this. When K Suryanarayana's beheaded body was flown back from Afghanistan a couple of days ago, there were a lot of cries for India to take a harder stance at terrorism against Indians, in and outside of India. Maybe there are some things other than those pertaining to agriculture that we can learn from the Israelis.

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Music Review: Double Check (Piranha), Stella Chiweshe

When British colonizers tried to stop mbira sessions in what is now known as Zimbabwe, the police were so enchanted by the music they lost track of their mission. That is the story told on the song "Kusenini," from Stella Chiweshe's latest CD Double Check Piranha Musik. Chiweshe is as unstoppable as the music she has become famous for playing. The colonial power's ban on mbira ("thumb piano") music, the missionary church's decree that it was "the work of the devil," and the Zimbabwean tradition forbidding women from becoming mbira players, could not keep Chiweshe from becoming the "Queen of Mbira," or Ambuya Chinyakare (Grandmother of Traditional Music). As one of the most internationally well-known mbira artists, she is often considered Zimbabwe's cultural ambassador.

Chiweshe explains that the song "Ndinogarochman" contains "a rhythm of the drum that I always heard inside me when I was young." She first heard the mbira from an old man when she was eight years old, and began the process of making her inner rhythm known to the world. "I was always making a rhythm - on the door, on a dish - I played it on everything. I also liked to sing very much, and loud," she told Afropop Worldwide.

Her foray into mbira music was as much spiritual and political as it was musical. Mbira holds a special place in Zimbabwean culture and identity: it is sacred in origin, but was almost extinct by the 1930s due to colonial suppression. However, thanks to artists like Chiweshe who kept the tradition alive, the sound had a huge revival with the independence movement of the 1980s and has become the "national" sound of Zimbabwe.

While Stella has made her way from her native village to the stages of international music festivals and European concert hall stages, her roots are in spirituality and the healing power of music. She began her career playing at ceremonial gatherings such as weddings, healing ceremonies and funerals in the countryside. At one point, the spirit medium at one of the ceremonies turned to her and said, "I'm going to tell you your tasks in this world...go to the city people, and introduce this music to them." In spite of this mandate, she has attracted a fair share criticism for this breaching of the boundaries of the spiritual and the popular.

The 2-sided album Double Check shows both sides of the artist: her spiritual roots and her show-stopping popular classics. She recorded the drum-centered songs of her ancestors for the first time in her 40-year long career on Disc 1: Trance Hits. She says, "For a long time I have always started my shows on stage with this traditional sound, but now I've thought I should bring this drumming sound out fully. This new album is much more rooted...and rootsy. It's older because guitar music came much, much later into my life.... I knew the drums and mbira long before I got to know the guitars and marimba." Disc 2: Classic Hits features a collection of these guitar-and-marimba tunes that have made her famous.

Chiweshe firmly believes that the gentle mbira timbre is "closely related to the sound of water, something that is innately familiar to all people, and therefore the mbira is instantly memorable and comforting. It is a total form of therapy in itself." She uses the spiritual element in her performance, sometimes going into a trance on stage. According to Afropop Worldwide's Banning Eyre, her look also conveys mystique: "With her penetrating eyes, habitual snuff-taking, ankle charms, and dreadlocks falling in front of her face, she has a powerful presence."

In Disc 1: Trance Hits, she journeys through the world of her ancestors, preserving their traditions. This is how trance should be played. I've never been a fan of trance as played in pubs across the world, but Chiweshe's music is different. It has a primitive tribal beat and rhythm. The beat is hypnotic without the mindlessness and mind numbing properties of a lot of music that passes for trance today. The first song "Wanyanya" translating into "That's too much" is actually a little too much since its repetitive for 6:14 minutes but that's the only piece that I did not like in the album, although this is Stella's favourite track. It's for the spirits of the baboons because the baboons are the guardians of her people. "Kuseniseni" or "Early in The Morning" has English lyrics and a much better beat. Apart from "Wanyanaya" all the compositions have enough variations in between to stop the listener from getting bored.

The Mbira with its sound of flowing water relaxes and tranquilizes the listener. The music hypnotises you and draws you in. Some songs have ululations that may seem familiar to Bengalis.

Stella says "The songs on this CD are newly recorded but that doesn't mean to say that the music is new."

In Disc 2: Classic Hits, she revisits the urban streets in Harare and calls on the younger, westernised generation to take pride in their own culture. And this CD has made me a Stella Chiweshe fan. It's very much in the easy listening genre. The beat and feel is that of the Goan bailas and instantly lifts your spirits. The music is energizing with some interesting instruments and variations. "Machena" even has dogs barking in the background, possibly because it's about "Whiteness" - A Dog Gone Astray.

The songs on Classic Hits feature her vintage band Earthquake. Each song has a story behind it. If you would like to know the stories, buy the CD, the accompanying booklet has the background and backdrop of these lilting songs.

If you would like to sample the music before you rush for your own copy, click on the following links.

"Madzokero (How he came back from his hunting spree)"
from Double Check: Two Sides of Zimbabwe's Mbira Queen CD1 -Trance Hits (Piranha).

"Zvinonhamo (Here comes poverty once more)" from Double Check: Two Sides of Zimbabwe's Mbira Queen CD1 -Trance Hits (Piranha).

To learn more about Stella Chiweshe visit the Stella Chiweshe official site.

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I'm desicritic of the day

Hey all loyal readers. I'm desicritics "Desicritic Of The Day" today.

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Thursday, 4 May 2006

Music Review : Romica Puceanu & The Gore Brothers, Sounds From A Bygone Age Vol.2 (Asphalt Tango)

Romica Puceanu is called "Billie Holiday of the East" since she was the voice of the Gypsy blues, she gave voice to the life of the poor suburbs of Romanian towns in the same era that Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and Sarah Vaughn were doing the same for Black urban neighborhoods across the Atlantic.

Mark Hudson of the UK Telegraph calls Puceanu a "Balkan Marlene Dietrich" for her larger than life personality & voice that he says is "Simultaneously seducing, comforting and cajoling"

Puceanu so loved singing to her own people, mostly at cafes and traditional weddings in the urban ghettos of Romania, that the rest of the world has been unaware of her music until now. Asphalt Tango Records is unearthing some of Eastern Europe's musical treasures, re-issuing old records that are hard to get outside their countries of origin. Romica Puceanu & The Gore Brothers: Sounds From a Bygone Age, Vol. 2 is the latest in this eponymous series, aimed at introducing international audiences to the great voices of Eastern and Gypsy music.

In this album, which is being released posthomously from archives (Romica died in a tragic car accident in 1996) on May 9th 2006, Puceanu combines with her cousins Aurel (violin) & Victor (accordion) Gore to create some mesmerising & haunting Gypsy music. The Gore brothers had their own successful band, the Taraful Fratii Gore, when they discovered their 14-year old cousin singing in local cafes in the Floreasca & Herestrau quarters on the outskirts of Bucharest. Their first album was recorded in 1964 at Electrecord's Tomis Studio.

The family has a legacy of music. Gore Ionescu, father of Aurel & Victor Gore, played his voiln at exclusive Bucharest restaurants. His traditional style was so well known, that until his death in the late 1950's, he was regularly invited to make recordings at the "Bucharest Folklore Archive"

By the sudden, tragic end of her life, Romica Puceanu had become the most popular and best paid singer of her genre, and was considered the veritable incarnation of Romanian lautari music (repertoire of Gypsy music, comprising pieces from a rustic environment, interpreted with great virtuosity and urbane arrangements for a very mixed audience in the town). The Taraful Fratii Gore sold thousands of records in Romania up to the present day, but never achieved great wealth. Victor Gore lives today in a small two-room apartment in Bucharest and relives his memories of the golden years of the old days. Victor remembers, "When we played slow, sad songs the Gypsies wept, and nobody could eat a thing!" But, in spite of her talent for bringing her audiences to tears, Puceanu was a lively, funny woman, who never turned up at the studio without her teapot - filled with cognac.

Romica's signature was the slow improvised mournful ballad, which she filled with expressive melismas, ornaments, and incredible soul. She sang melodies with stirring words, in which she described the everyday life, longings, and sufferings of the simple folk. This compilation is a combination of these ballads with more lively gypsy music.

The first impression one gets on listening to this album is "Exotic". Other than the "Gypsy Kings", I cannot easily recollect a famous gypsy performer whose records are easily available. Other performers have drawn from Romanian & Gypsy music influences, so some of the tunes may have a familiar beat or part of a familiar tune.

The only drawback in this album is that the slow & fast tracks are alternated. One song puts you in a melancholic frame of mind & the next makes you want to kick up your heels & dance in circles around a fire waving a colorful gypsy skirt. I love both styles, but wish they could have been clubbed together according to their feel, so I didn't have to go through a mood see-saw.

Individually, each song is beautiful, as is each genre. Romica's voice caresses you. If Penelope Cruz' & Salma Hayek's accents intrigue you, Romica's accent will mesemerise you. Victor also lends his vocals to Pleaca O Nevestica N Lume and Adu Calu' Sa Ma Duc and its the vocalisation of melted chocolate. His is a smoothened Antonio Banderas voice. Inima Suparacioasa is slow and romantic. Vintule Bataia Ta will definitely get you on your feet & hopping around.

These songs & ballads originated under the influence of Turkish Ottoman music & were performed as early as the 16th century in the courts of Wallachian Princes.

Aurel Gore plays the Violin & Victor Gore plays the Accordion besides singing 2 of the songs on this album. n.n. also plays Violin. Marin Marangros was their regular "Cymbalom" player who had also played with Gore Ionescu. Grigore Ciuciu plays "Double Bass". The legend Costel Vasilescu contributes his bright trumpet tone to some of the titles. Maslina Vetol plays the Cobza (A lute with a short, backward curving fingerboard, upon which 4 strings are attached in reverse order and usually played with a quill.)

A wonderful album, worth buying, even if you can't understand the lyrics. The music touches your heart & your soul because Romica & the Gore brothers have given their heart to their listeners in their music.

If you would like to sample the music before you rush for your own copy, click on the following links.
"Hora Dinspre Ziua" from Sounds From a Bygone Age Vol.2 (Asphalt Tango)

"Unde O Fi Puiul De Aseara" from Sounds From a Bygone Age Vol.2 (Asphalt Tango)

For more "Sounds From a Bygone Age" visit Asphalt Records

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Wednesday, 19 April 2006

2003 IIMC Alumnus, Vinayak Lohani, Shows The Way

I recently became aware of efforts of Vinayak Lohani, an IIMC Alumnus (2001 -03) who opted out of placements and started a home for abandoned children in Calcutta : Parivaar

Image and video hosting by TinyPicThe Director IIM Calcutta Prof. Sekhar Choudhary in his 15-20 minute speech at the Annual Convocation on 1st April, 2006 spoke for at least 4-5 minutes on Parivaar. (excerpt of the Parivaar portion from his speech is reproduced below)

I am very happy to inform you that besides the Initiative for Community Action (INCA) which I just mentioned there is another very important social sector initiative taken by one of our recent graduates. 'Parivaar', a social service organization, was started by Shri Vinayak Lohani, an IIT Kharagpur and IIM Calcutta alumnus of the 2001-03 batch.

Shri Lohani did not seek final placement through the Institute's Career Development and Placement office. Inspired by the spiritual and humanistic ideals of Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekananda, he decided to devote his life to the upliftment of homeless children. It started with just 3 children in a small rented building with almost no financial resources, and today
there are currently 162 children who have found a new Home, Family and Future at Parivaar.

Parivaar Ashram at Bakhrahat, about 30 km from Kolkata in 24 Parganas (South) district, is spread over 2 acres of land. Currently Parivaar runs two (2) Bal Ashrams. A facility with a capacity of 400 hundred children is now under construction.

The children admitted into Parivaar Ashram can be broadly classified as homeless and family less and are from categories like orphans, abandoned children, street and pavement children, railway platform children, children from red light areas and other such highly vulnerable children. The children are admitted at a very young age (generally 3 to 8 years) and have no exposure to any kind of education. It is a great challenge to train them initially to enable them to get admission into a class that corresponds to his/her age in a quality formal education school. To achieve this the child admitted in Parivaar undergoes an in-house Rapid Learning Course for a period of one year. The admission into quality formal schools is not easy as the children have to go through rigorous competitive entrance examinations conducted by various schools. Thus the child has to compete on his/her merit.

Since the category of children Parivaar works with needs total rehabilitation, which includes meeting all living costs like food, clothing, education, recreation, etc., the average cost per child is very high compared to education and other day-care initiatives.

Parivaar works with the idea of providing support to each child with a minimum commitment of 12 to 15 years, right from his/her kindergarten stage till he/she grows up and makes good in life. Parivaar has been successful in this by attracting funds through financial contributions from individuals. A point to note is that 300 IIM alumni have enrolled as regular Parivaar donors and more than 200 IIM Calcutta alumni have donated to Parivaar.

For one who is so well qualified, having graduated from two of the most acclaimed institutions in the country getting jobs in top MNCs would have been a cake walk. However, Vinayak chose a life of sacrifice for a larger cause. For one so young such sacrifice is even more poignant. A visit to the Parivaar Ashram where the hitherto uncared for children are laughing, playing and living happily in gay abandon is a most humbling experience. The Institute community is extremely proud of the achievements of our alumnus Shri Vinayak Lohani.

A lot of us graduate hoping to be able to do something for Society somewhere down the line. Some of us feel the call a few years into a job. But it takes a lot of courage, to actually give up a well paying career & plunge whole heartedly into a social cause. Vinayak Lohani is one of these courageous people.

His attempt to start something to help these children at the Grassroot level is something that our Politicians can learn from. Improve basic standards of education & then there will be no necessity for "Reservations"

Parivaar is more than just a day care centre, it covers all living costs like food, clothing, education, recreation etc. Because of this, the cost of maintenance for each child at Parivaar may seem a little high when compared to other Social Organisations. But, rest assured that the money is well utilised with a minimum commitment of 10-12 years with each child.

Parivaar is registered under the West Bengal Societies Registration Act XXVI of 1961 and donations made to Parivaar, fall under Income Tax exemptions under Section 80(G) of the Income Tax Act

The costs per child at Parivaar vary as per the child's age but are around Rs 15,000 annually. However, in the Support A Child Scheme (SAC) they have kept the common contribution at Rs 12,300.

If you contribute to Parivaar, each rupee goes into the programs. This is not a case via a plethora of agencies interfacing between the end donor and grassroots that have a fundraising cost upto 40% of the total funds raised.

For more details on how you can contribute to a child's development at
Parivaar, visit Parivaar's web site

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Wednesday, 5 April 2006

Book Review : Ravan and Eddie by Kiran Nagarkar

I met the author, Kiran Nagarkar, recently and since he seemed like an interesting person, I thought it might be worthwhile to read the book.

Ravan and Eddie is a reasonably hilarious story about Ravan, a Maratha Hindu and Eddie, a Roman Catholic, growing up to adolescence on different floors of the Central Works Department chawl no. 17 in Bombay.

Having never before been inside a Chawl, inspite of seeing plenty from the outside, this book seemed the ideal vehicle to be transported into a place I had never been before. Or at least that's what the blurb said.

The story starts off when Eddie is not yet born and Ravan is barely a year old. Eddie's father, Victor, tries to catch the eye of Ravan's mother, Parvathi, by gurgling at Ram. The thirteen month-old child, Ram, is so excited that he leaps towards Victor standing four floors below. Victor manages to save Ram but dies on the spot. This changes the entire life of Violet the new widow who is pregnant with Eddie at the time. Parvathi promptly renames her son Ravan, to keep the evil eye from falling on her cherub. All this happens in the first 5 pages and the remaining three hundred and twenty-five move as quickly.

The author then follows both children through the twists and turns of their growing up: the pleasure, the pain, the horror, the angst, the guilt, the questions ...

Eddie and Ravan are kept apart by a multitude of barriers - not least among them being that Ravan murdered Eddie's father as Violet will never let anyone forget. Other differences crop up from belonging to different religions, living on different floors, speaking different languages, attending different schools. But by a strange twist of fate, Eddie the catholic boy joins a Sabha and Ravan the Hindu boy joins Tae-Kwon-Do classes conducted by Mr. Billmoria.

Their lives run parallel to each other. Both experience an epiphany of sorts when Ravan watches Dil Dekke Dekko and Eddie watches Rock Around the Clock. One gets involved in black marketeering and the other starts receiving contracts to kill.

Kiran Nagarkar confesses upfront that he has a tendency to rat on his own earnestness with something farcial, bawdy or self-deprecatory. If you can handle that, you will love the book.

With the mill lands being sold off for Commercial gains, the only way we may know of Chawls and life in them will be through books like Ravan and Eddie.

Nagarkar breaks off in between the narrative to give the reader a "Harangue on Poverty", "a Digression on Afghan Snow", the "Great Water Wars", a "Meditation on Neighbours", the "History of Romantic Comedies in Hindi Films", and the "Shortest Survey ever of the Portugese Advanture in the Old World".

The "Meditation on Neighbours" is absolutely brilliant, even as a stand alone piece of writing. It elaborates on some elementary or critical differences between the Catholics and Hindus living in the chawls. The book is worth buying just to read this elaboration.

The language is simple, interspersed with a little Marathi and Hindi. The story line is quite easy to follow as it switches between Ravan's and Eddie's stories. In between, we are introduced to a lot of other characters like Pieta, Violet, Granna, Parvati, Shobhan, Lele Guruji, Prakash, Father D'souza. Each of these characters is more than a bystander and Nagarkar has done justice in giving each one of them layered dimensions.

The book is a very incisive look at life in the Chawls. It covers a gamut of subjects. Out-of-work husbands, the caste system, the other woman, start of the water wars, sexual abuse.... But Nagarkar's style is such that you don't ever feel that he is trying too hard to cramp everything together and say as much as possible within a word limit.

I am looking forward to buying and reading Cuckold and Seven Sixes Are Forty Three. Then maybe I can try to get my hands on his plays and screenplays.

About the Author :

Kiran Nagarkar was born in Mumbai. He wrote his first book in a language in which he had never written before - Marathi. The book was called Saat Sakkam Trechalis, recently translated as Seven Sixes are Forty-Three, and is considered a landmark in post-independence Indian literature. His novel in English, Ravan and Eddie, acclaimed as a literary bestseller, has been translated into Marathi. He won the Sahitya Akademi Award for Cuckold

Read an Interview with the Author Kiran Nagarkar here.

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Friday, 31 March 2006

Cuppa Cafe, Mumbai

I missed the Caferati meet here last Sunday, but decided to check the place out anyways after the Anurag Kashyap workshop because we were kinda fed up of the regular Coffee Day, Barrista coffee.

I'm so glad we went here. It is so different from the coffee shop chains. Its quaint, cute, interesting, different.

The furniture is a jumble of styles. Partly outdoors, partly indoors. Indoors they also sell some knick knacks that are ideal for gifting. Even if you wanna eat outdoors, you have to go in & check out the awesome tables with the marbles in one and the sea shells in the other. Also loved the trail of leaves climbing up the corner. As is mandatory for most joints in this area, there is a bulletin board covered with pics of TV stars who have sipped on a cup on location.

Coffee(Rs.30-80) & the soda pops (Rs.35) were yummy. Paratas (Rs.30)were some of the best I've tried in bombay. Sandwiches are overflowing with cheese(Rs.30-40) There are some lo cal snacks too that can be carried away.

But if diet be damned, then do try their desserts. The brownie is just right. No nuts or gooey butter to make u feel like u r sinning, but still absolutely tasty. Pack a box to munch on while watching TV or reading a book.

Cuppa Cafe,
Crystal Plaza
New Link Road
Opp Fame Adlabs
Bombay 400 058
Free Home Delivery 2674 2371 / 72

Wednesday, 8 February 2006

Kim's Story Short Listed @ Kala Ghoda Festival

Kim wrote a story for the Flash Fiction Contest being held at the Kala Ghoda Festival sponsored by the British Council.

The theme was "Black Horse"

Her Story was shortlisted among the Finalists.

In the twilight, Nazneen quickly walked past the Royal Hamam (bathing room) to reach the maids' quarters. She was wearing the harem guards' uniform. Those unfortunate castrated men.

She quickly changed into her royal robes and hoped that no one had recognized her at the stable. The eldest daughter of the kings favorite wife, there were restrictions on her deportment, dress & behavior that were just too much to bear for the hot blooded 16 year old princess.

She often wished that she had been born male for then she could have roamed the palace grounds freely, conversed, argued or consorted with whomever she chose. She would have had a 100 nubile maidens around to do her bidding. How unfortunate to have been born a girl was her constant grouse in life. And she always felt it the most when she wanted to visit the stables.

The young Madhavan called & beckoned to her even in her sleep. He was so handsome & virile. His smell was intoxicating & better than all the ittars & flowers sprinkled around the harem.

Madhavan could not come into the harem & so she was forced into donning the guards' uniform whenever she could get away for an hour or so without being detected.

She walked into her favorite maid Lalitha's room & saw that Lalitha was trembling on the floor too scared to look up. Nazneen turned right, to stare straight into the Maharani's furious gaze. “Ruin upon the royal family. That is what you have brought upon us, you filthy wretch!” She commanded the guards “Off with Madhavan's Head”

The next morning when the Maharani went to the Hamam, she found the body of her beloved daughter floating with the head of a black stallion.

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