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WEEKLY MAGAZINE, DECEMBER 11, 2011 Free with your copy of Hindustan Times

At 17 million views (and counting), Kolaveri Di is the biggest Indian viral hit. But what makes a video or a blog go viral in the first place?

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Serving An Ace

Food may be the key, but served without warmth, it’s worth nothing PLAY

Bang Bang; You’re Dead On any social avatar of the World Wide Web, a couple of videos are raking in the shares, likes and tweets. But is the popularity real or can it be manufactured? Whichever you want!

Special 5 Part Series: Tales of The First Firangis

We’re Logged On

Gaurav Kohli I disagree with the point regarding Film Cameras. The current digital cameras are no where near the film cameras in terms of resolution and image quality. Ronak Bhatt When I was 4-5 years old i watched movies on VCR. now it has been replaced by a DVD player. I believe that is outdated because now everyone just downloads movies.

Beauty And Brains

The sex symbols of our age don’t just rely on their bodies; they use their heads as well LISTEN

Caution: Astral Weeks when heard for the first time can cause fandom

Get Back Your Life

If you have a stereotyped notion of an ‘addict’, read on to be proved wrong

Last Part – Niccolao Manucci, The Siddha Vaidya of Madras



The actor All New Questions! comes clean on his gluttony, his hatred for fur and the rumour of being the father of teenage kids!

A Venetian historian, a Mughal artilleryman, a vivid food diarist – both Indians and Europeans claimed Niccolao Manucci as their own With today’s piece, we conclude the five part series: Tales of The First Firangis

Calling All Tweeple @zubinarora DC was a lovely read! Its one column I wait for every week. A cherry on top if it covers The Rolling Stones:) #SanjoyNarayan #JustBrilliant @Proud_Leonian@AzmiShabana loved the way you described twitter ‘kam bolo, samajh ke bolo’ in HT Brunch. @Shalz75 Brunch profile the ‘new’ avatar or #ektakapoor - bit too much really! HT needs to rethink what kind of interviews its been putting in this. @SKSudhir What we wear says lot abt who we r but it also says a lot about how we want to be perceive. Good column by @seemagoswami in todays HT Brunch. @NikksNatioN HT Brunch u r #superwsome like #me,,:) Write to For marketing and ad-related queries, contact



The Morrison Of Many Instruments

Uday Kumar Liked Ekta’s statement in interview saying : I care abut my work more than anyone else . Secret revealed abut her success so far Raman Saini It is said that theater is an art, cinema is a business and, TV is a furniture..and it seems that Ekta is trying to fit the furniture into the business infrastructure. She should remember one thing that business has many dimensions to be looked at. It is not a sort of job to be handled in in saas bahu style..with close ups and costumes.

Is the dizzying pace of technology making devices obsolete too fast?

BRUNCH ON THE WEB Farhan Akhtar and Vidya Balan caught LIVE! Mission Party: B-Town joins Tom Cruise’s bash!

The Brunch team had a great time at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, held in Delhi. Hanging out with the dishy Farhan Akhtar and the talented Vidya Balan, we managed to sneak these video interviews from their busy schedules. Hear Farhan croon live for us and Vidya answer the dodgy marriage question! PHOTOS: RAJ K RAJ


The who’s who of SLIDESHOW Bollywood including Aamir Khan, Preity Zinta and Sonam Kapoor attended the bash hosted by Anil Kapoor in honour of Tom Cruise’s arrival in India for his upcoming film Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Log on for eye candy!

Have you seen our Brunch Quarterly photoshoot with Vidya Balan yet? Log on for this and an all-access pass to your favourite stories from this and previous Brunch Quarterly issues.

EDITORIAL: Poonam Saxena (Editor), Kushalrani Gulab (Deputy Editor); Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi, Mignonne Dsouza, Veenu Singh, Parul Khanna Tewari, Pranav Dixit, Yashica Dutt, Amrah Ashraf

FEED BACK Legendary tales

SANJOY NARAYAN meticulously shared his experience through his article, On A Roll (Download Central, 4 December) about Ólöf Arnalds, a young female songwriter, singer and Icelandic musician who covered famous songs by popular singers of the 1970s like Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Arthur Russell, Gene Clark and Bruce Springsteen. His input about the golden jubilee concert by the Rolling Stones, to be performed in 2012 with famous band members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, was also very helpful. But the moot question which arises is whether this beautiful, young blonde will manage to win the hearts of true music lovers or not. Will her voice combined with audio-visual effects justify lyrics like Solitary Man, She Belongs to Me, With Tomorrow and I’m On Fire written and composed by these legendary musicians? Saying anything about Neil Diamond and Bob Dylan is almost like showing a small candle to the sun. Tracks like Song Sung Blue, Red, Red Wine, Play Me and Sweet Caroline (supposedly inspired by Caroline Kennedy) all written, composed and sung by Neil Diamond, have a soothing effect on one’s mind, body and soul. And the same applies to other songs composed in the 1970s, which I still enjoy listening to on an LP record player. I remember an incident regarding the 1968 hit track Words written by the Gibb brothers (Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb) of the Bee Gees which originally was to be performed by Sir Cliff Richard. Unfortunately that never happened and the song was performed by various female and male musicians including the Bee Gees later. Ironically, the song didn’t get acknowledged until 1996 when the same track (after minor changes) was composed and performed by the Irish band Boyzone. After which it became so famous that it was declared a number one hit in the UK and became one of the band’s most successful numbers. I hope upcoming musicians take the lead and avoid recomposing and remixing old melodies and lyrics, thus preventing grave injustice being done against these legends. — AS MALHOTRA, via email

DESIGN: Ashutosh Sapru (National Editor Design), Swati Chakrabarti, Rakesh Kumar, Ashish Singh, Saket Misra, Suhas Kale, Shailendra Mirgal


Cover design: Malay Karmakar



ASPECIAL FIVE PART SERIES: Last part – Niccolao Manucci


KEEPING WATCH An effigy of Pope John Paul II benevolently looks over Chennai from atop the Parangi Malai hill

A Venetian historian, a Mughal artilleryman, a vivid food diarist – both Indians and Europeans claimed Niccolao Manucci as their own text and photos by Jonathan Gil Harris


HAT MAKES the firangi more Indian: the acquisition of Indian languages, knowledges, and ideas, or the consumption of Indian foodstuffs, drinks, and medicines? The best view of Madras, now Chennai, is from the top of St Thomas Mount, near the airport. An effigy of a smiling Pope John Paul II stands by the rails at the summit; behind him, you can see the megacity sprawling all the way to the horizon. The hill’s name in Tamil, Parangi Malai, means “Firangi Mountain.” It allegedly commemorates one of the first firangis in India, the apostle St Thomas, who is said to have evangelised on the Malabar and Coromandel coasts from 52 A.D. before being martyred twenty years later on the hilltop. But Parangi Malai was also the home of another remarkable firangi some 1,600 years later – the Venetian runaway, English servant, Mughal artilleryman, and Madrasi siddha vaidya or physician, Niccolao Manucci. Manucci’s biography reads like something straight out of a swashbuckling romance. He was born to poor parents in Venice in about 1639. At 14, he stowed away on an Asia-bound ship carrying an English aristocrat. This lord took a shine to Manucci, retaining him as a page. But shortly after arriving in India in 1656, the Englishman died, leaving the young teenager master-less. Manucci eventually found employment with the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s son Dara Shikoh, whom he loyally served as an artilleryman in the succession battle with his brother Aurengzeb. After Dara’s defeat, Manucci successfully tried his hand as a

physician – the profession of many European visitors to India, thanks to a widespread misapprehension that firangis were especially knowledgeable about medicine. This physician is more famous now as a historian. Manucci authored the four-volume Storia Do Mogor (History of the Mughals), a chronicle that includes his eye-witness account of the battle between Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb. Despite its several glaring factual errors, the book is a fascinating read, thanks to the vividness with which Manucci records his experiences in Mughal India – a vividness that has earned him favourable comparisons to his better-known contemporary, the London diarist Samuel Pepys. Amongst other things, Storia Do Mogor is a foodie’s dream: Manucci spends considerable time documenting his pleasurable gastronomic experiences. For example, he offers a long, dramatic description of his first encounter with pulao. Manucci’s fascinated attention to the effects of ingesting Indian substances may also be partly responsible for his ultimate success as a physician – and not just any physician, but a medical practitioner conversant with Indian as well as European traditions. Manucci certainly started out as a quack, but he was a quick study; his knowledge and reputation grew in Lahore, where he practiced successfully as a physician from 1670 to 1678. Here he honed his mastery of not just European but also Mughal medicine. In 1678, he joined the retinue of Shah Alam, the future Mughal emperor who was at that time Aurengzeb’s governor of the Deccan. But Manucci eventually fell into disfavour with his new


PRINCELY CHARM Of Manucci’s two surviving pictures, one is a Mughal-style miniature portrait where he is seen in complete Indian garb




HALF STEP DOWN The multi-cultural Manucci lived in what is now called Broadway (above) in Chennai, situated at the division between Fort St George and Black Town

POTIONS FROM THE PAST The Siddha Central Research Institute (top) and the Siddha Medicine dispensary (above) still feature powders and potions that would have been familiar to Manucci

employer. In 1686, despite threats from Shah Alam, Manucci daringly escaped to the French colony of Pondicherry, just south of the European merchant colonies of Fort St George (England) and São Thomé (Portugal), now both part of Chennai. He was to stay in this region for the rest of his life, until his death in 1717. In 1686, after more than thirty years in India, Manucci confided in Pondicherry’s governor, François Martin, that he was finally ready to go back to Europe. But Martin retorted that Manucci had become too used to the Indian climate to survive a return, and recommended that he stay and find a local wife. Heeding Martin’s advice, Manucci married Elizabeth Clarke, the half-Portuguese, “country-bred” (possibly part-Indian) widow of an

English merchant. This merchant had been the only Englishman in Madras living outside Fort St George, in the so-called Black Town populated by Indian weavers who made textiles for the East India Company. Through Elizabeth, Manucci inherited the merchant’s house and garden; its location in Black Town may have appealed to the trans-cultural Manucci, who possibly preferred this halfway space that was neither fully European nor fully Indian. Soon Manucci acquired a garden property on the slopes of Parangi Malai, close to the European colonies but also at a safe distance from them. It was here that he wrote Storia Do Mogor; it was here also that his services were repeatedly sought as a negotiator in the growing skirmishes between the Europeans and the Mughals. Both sides believed Manucci to be one of them. He won a reputation amongst the English and Portuguese as a man of Christian virtue; but his fluency in Persian and preference for desi clothes meant that Manucci was legible to the Mughals as an Indian. As he remarks in his Storia Do Mogor, the Mughals (including Shah Alam, with whom he later reconciled, and who briefly stayed in Manucci’s Parangi Malai house as his guest) did not think of him as European. Indeed, one of the two surviving pictures of Manucci is a Mughalstyle miniature portrait; wearing Indian garb, he twirls a flower. In his case, however, the flower may be less the traditional Mughal sign of aesthetic refinement than evidence of the kind of material he worked with as a physician. Having a garden attached to his Parangi Malai property was doubtless a professional necessity for Manucci. In it he could grow the flowers and herbs he used in his medical practice, which he resumed upon moving to Madras. Europeans and Indians alike valued his medical skills in potions and cordials. Especially in demand was his efficacious concoction, “the Manooch stone,” made of a substance called lingam. No, this substance was not what one might think: no precious parts of male anatomy – human or divine – were damaged in its manufacture. This lingam was, rather,



cinnabar, known to western chemists as mercuric sulphide. The substance was a staple of the siddha vaidyas, Indian doctors skilled in an antique form of Tamil medicine close to ayurveda and unani. Siddha medicine traditionally employed herbal, inorganic, and animal drugs to treat disruptions of the body’s proper balance in relation to external elements such as climate and foodstuffs. On the evidence of his “Manooch stone,” Manucci seems to have embraced the knowledge of the local Tamil doctors. Much of siddha philosophy would have resonated with Manucci’s bodily experiences in India. His decision to heed Martin’s advice not to risk his life by returning to the cooler climes of Europe is a case in point, as is his conviction that eating certain Indian foods contributed to his physical health as much as his gastronomic pleasure. Searching for traces of Manucci’s three decades in Tamil Nadu is a near-impossible task. The Madras in which he lived is enormously different from the Chennai of today. The one was a tiny European outpost ethnically segregated from the community of Indian workers who sustained it; the other is a sprawling, traffic-clogged megacity of nine million that constantly and insatiably swallows up its past – including the historical remnants of the Portuguese colony, now remembered only in the name of the Chennai suburb Santhome and its church. The cannons Manucci describes seeing at Fort St George survive; but his two houses and gardens are long gone, their foundations destroyed or buried deep beneath the rickety buildings of Broadway near China Bazaar Road and the army barracks near St Thomas Mount. What remains, though, are the Indian gastronomic and medical cultures absorbed by Manucci. The pulao that so bewitched him is a north Indian dish, but I tasted a very fine descendant of it in The Residency, the restaurant of the Sheraton Park Hotel on TTK Road, Chennai. And siddha medical practice is also still very much alive in the city. In Chennai’s leafy suburb of Anna Nagar, I located the Siddha Central Medical Research Institute. Its dispensary features all sorts of powders and potions that would have been familiar to Manucci, including ground lingam. Manucci’s body was transformed by India’s food and climate, as François Martin noted. But Manucci also transformed others’ bodies with his medicines. More accurately, he created new, hybrid bodies – his own mixed intellectual body of Indo-European knowledge and the mixed physical bodies of his patients, treated with IndoEuropean materials. And he did so not as a European colonist, but as a firangi-turned-siddha vaidya whose life-story reminds us that what we might think of as “Indian” has always been a mix of the indigenous and the foreign. Casting one’s gaze over Chennai today, its cityscape full of signs in English and Tamil, street names that commemorate Europeans named Sterling as well as Indians named Annadurai, and a sacred mountain that has both an Anglo-Portuguese and a Tamil name, we might see how the mixed bodies that the Italian-Indian Manucci produced are prophesies of the sprawling mixture that is Chennai – and, indeed, India itself. This concludes our five-part series Jonathan Gil Harris is Professor of English at George Washington University in Washington, DC. The author of five books on William Shakespeare’s plays and culture, he is currently spending a year in India researching a new book about European travellers to India in the time of Shakespeare



Viralfever Despite the number of avenues available (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter), it’s not easy for songs, videos or blogs to get noticed on the Net. Yet some of them go viral and become urban legends. What’s the secret? by Pranav Dixit


N THE evening of November 21, 2011, a strange-looking 10-letter word became the number one trending topic on Twitter. No one knew what it meant but everyone was suitably intrigued. The word read #kolaveridi. Clicking on it opened up a series of tweets, all with links to a YouTube page. Loading the video revealed a wholly unremarkable-looking man singing strange lyrics to a catchy beat in a recording studio as two pretty women looked on. Closer inspection revealed that one of those women was actress Shruti Haasan. Then, the dam exploded – something happened along the way (God knows what!) – and the song Why This Kolaveri Di from an upcoming Tamil film called 3 went viral. It broke all records to become the number one searched-for song on YouTube from India. In less than two weeks, it received 17 million views and more than 75,000 comments from over 130 countries. Kolaveri, a chilled out, irreverent song about heartbreak, became the national anthem for a generation of ‘soup boys’ who ensured its popularity by playing it 24/7 on cellphones, in cars, as dialer tunes and more; and Dhanush, superstar Rajinikanth’s son-in-law, went from being a South Indian star to a household name. “It was like magic. Like some superior power was at work. You can’t predict these things. Never,” he says. Indeed, the video has sparked hundreds of spin-offs, sequels, spoofs and remixes, each of which has gone viral in its own right – there’s a heavy metal version of Kolaveri Di, a Marathi version, a female version, a cute-as-hell version by


Sonu Nigaam’s four-year-old son and even one that stars – go figure – Adolf Hitler! The Japanese are dancing to it; heck, there’s even Kolaveri merchandise. And despite some criticism – lyricist Javed Akhtar called it a song with an ordinary tune, substandard singing and words that insult sensibilities – the juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down. So what makes things go viral on the Internet? As it turns out, there is no easy answer


Viral videos are videos with a high percentage of social views. They are videos that become popular – no, larger than life – through sharing. The hits come from external links, embeds, typed or copied URLs. You would typically stumble upon virals on your Facebook wall shared by friends, in your Twitter stream and sometimes, in your email. But there really is no science to figure out why videos go viral. “Trying to predict which videos are going to ‘go viral’ is a bit like catching lightning in a bottle – extremely hard to predict!” says a YouTube spokesperson (and you thought at least they would know!). Sometimes, a video can be on the site for months (the famous ‘Double Rainbow,’ a 2010




video about a vivid ‘double rainbow’ at Yosemite National Park in the US that now has over 31 million views) before it is picked up. Others, like the hilarious ‘David After Dentist’ (a video about a little boy with a cute lisp describing what happened at the dentist) had 10 million views after just two weeks. The most viewed video on YouTube is ‘Charlie Bit My Finger – Again’, which got 85 million views in the first year and now has a massive 250 million and is the most watched video on YouTube. “The only thing that we can say about viral videos is that they tend to share a few characteristics,” says the YouTube spokesperson. “Like any news story, they are authentic, surprising and often topical.” To be fair, 99 per cent of the videos on YouTube don’t get anywhere near Kolaveri’s 17 million views. Most are lucky to get even a thousand. 2008’s hilarious ‘Benny Lava’ video that featured Prabhudeva is still shy of 30 lakh views even after almost four years. So what makes a video stand out from a crowd? Last year, a company called Dynamic Logic that analyses Internet trends studied popular online videos to solve the mystery. According to them, any viral piece of content should have the following characteristics: ■ It should be unique, something that has never been seen before ■ There should be considerable shock value ■ A local or global community participates and becomes a part of it ■ It has a compelling and heart-touching message All of which, we think, Kolaveri does exceedingly well. “I think the song appeals to so many

people for a number of reasons – the music is hummable, the lyrics are really simple and heartbreak is an emotion that appeals to everybody. We put it up on the Internet because somehow, we were sure that the song would travel beyond its core markets of Chennai and South India,” says Arjun Sankalia, director, special projects, Sony Music India. The way in which a piece of content begins its long and arduous journey to becoming a sought-after viral is fairly innocuous. A creator – the person who creates the content, either for the express purpose of posting it online or simply on a whim – uploads the video to a site like YouTube (or a blog) and starts sharing it in the usual hubs on online activity – typically social net-

KILLER WAVE Just how big is Kolaveri? In a word: gargantuan. Here’s what the stats looked like when we went to press

17,116,183 VIEWS on video streaming site YouTube

5.5 million SHARES on social networking site Facebook

30 TIMES DAILY average rotation on music channels

ONLY TAMIL SONG to feature on national radio

working sites like Twitter and Facebook. “This initial seeding is extremely important and is the toughest part,” says Simarprit Singh, internet evangelist and founder of “The trick is to subtly push your content but not shove it in people’s faces.” The first 1,000 views are the most difficult to get, says Singh. “If you reach 10,000, you’re slowly getting some traction. If you reach a hundred thousand, you’re really on a roll. And if you cross a million, boy, have you made it!” he says and adds that he expects Kolaveri to peak at about 25 million views before the hype slowly dies down.

VIRAL HOT FAVOURITES NATIONAL Overweight Kid Dancing to Dhinka Chika We almost feel sorry for him! 1,399,726 views

Benny Lava If you haven’t seen this, you’ve been living under a rock 2,634,292 views


Adman Prahlad Kakkar has a completely different take on viral content. “One, you must remember that the viral phenomenon is nothing new,” he says. “Before the Internet, it existed as word of mouth. Later, it existed as chain emails. The only difference today is that what took a month to propagate now takes less than 24 hours.” Kakkar believes that the rise of viral videos today is the beginning of a new war – the war between the suits and the yahoos, as he calls it. “Conventional advertising,” he muses, “or publicity, is essentially done under a brief from a (suitably) suited corporate honcho who handles the money. It is the complete anti-thesis to viral. These ‘suits’ cannot realise the potential of something going viral unless they are willing to become unconventional and break all the rules that the yahoos (the creative people) yearn to break all the time.” Viral videos are essentially successful because they are in essence non-conformist, anticonvention, anti-establishment, thinks Kakkar. “The viral phenomenon is a free beast by nature. The content is viral because it takes on a life of its own. Then, it is not in the creators’

Flash Mob Mumbai – CST official video Flip to page 12 for more on this 1,486,300 views

INTERNATIONAL Charlie bit my finger – again! The most watched YouTube video of all time! 394,343,342 views

David After Dentist Even Lady Gaga thinks this one is cute 103,391,270 views

Giant Double Rainbow at Yosemite Yup... we bet you never saw two at the same time before! 31,730,538 views

‘THEY WANT US TO MAKE VERSIONS OF KOLAVERI... MAYBE EVEN A SEQUEL’ Dhanush, the man behind the ‘funny’ lyrics of Kolaveri Di, on how it feels to be part of a viral phenomenon think it has become such a rage?

From South Indian star to global viral phenomenon! Are you on top of the world?

I really think it’s because of the funny lyrics…

It feels REALLY nice, especially because this is not something that we were aiming at. It was a humble, honest attempt and it paid off splendidly. I must say that the response we got was completely unprecedented.

You wrote them yourself, right?

Yes, I did. I just strung together the most commonly used English words in the Tamil language. The irreverence of the song, the Tamil accent, the mood, the simple tune… I think these are the things that broke all barriers and made it work. It’s crazy to be a part of something like this!

Whose idea was it to record a video of a recording session and put it up on YouTube? Well, what happened was that a rough version of the song was somehow leaked from our computer on to YouTube. We didn’t want to the public getting their hands on an unfinished version like that. So we decided to release it officially on YouTube as well. It was around midnight and we were exhausted after an entire day of shooting for 3. But we still managed to shoot and record it in about 30 minutes. To tell the truth, we simply recorded a regular jamming session. It’s not like we laboured over the lyrics and the composition for hours. We didn’t rehearse, there were no retakes or anything like that. I think that the video reflects the simplicity of the song itself.

When did you realise it had gone viral? In about two or three days. Suddenly, we were getting swamped with calls and messages.

Have you sung playback before? Oh yes, I’ve sung about six to eight songs in various Tamil films here and all of them have been hits regionally.

So what’s next? Bollywood?

When I saw the number of views on YouTube, my heart jumped into my mouth.

You have your fair share of critics who say that the song isn’t really that special. Why do you

(Laughs) You know it’s funny. Last year, I won the National Award for Best Actor for my Tamil film Aadukalam. No one there knew my name. It’s amazing now that when I visit other parts of the country, people say “Oh, you’re the Kolaveri guy!” That said, I’m getting a lot of offers to cut an album… they want Anirudh (the composer of the song) and I to make different versions of the song…maybe even a Kolaveri sequel! Also, the pressure to release the film nationally has now gone up, so we’re looking into that as well.




HOW TO BECOME AN INTERNET CELEBRITY (WHETHER YOU MEAN TO OR NOT) Brunch tracks down the people behind two of the latest Indian viral sensations and finds out just how they did it

Shahana Nair-Joshi (24)

Claim to fame: Wrote an open letter to a Delhi boy that went viral in September this year about the Internet… everyone is always looking at the next big entertaining thing. That said, we did NOT expect it to become so popular. We thought we would get about 10,000 views tops.

At what point did you realise it had become so popular?

Oh, even before putting it up! People at the station had recorded us on their cellphones and even those videos were getting over 20,000 views in a matter of hours! So I knew ours would really rock.

Shonan Kothari (23)

Claim to fame: Organised a flash mob at Mumbai’s CST station which saw 200 people dancing to Rang De Basanti right in the middle of the station

Wasn’t it difficult getting permissions to shoot at CST?

How did the idea for the CST flash mob video come about? I wanted the city to just liven up. I wanted us to laugh more. I thought we needed to have more art in the city, popular art, citizen art, etc. Cities all over the world have a lot of cultural activity. I felt that Bombay needed that.

Why do you think it went viral?

I think the fact that it was done with no agenda was very important to its success. It’s very pan India; everyone can relate to the location and the song (Rang De Basanti). I think what makes viral videos go viral is spontaneity. That’s the thing


on YouTube. 5,572 comments hands what happens to it. And I will tell you this: anything that is designed to go viral is designed to fail. You can never plan these things. The success of Kolaveri is nothing but a gigantic stroke of luck for its makers,” he says. Being spontaneous, believes Kakkar, is 90 per cent of the battle. “If you don’t have an open mind and if you plan things in advance, you will never, ever go viral,” he says and cites the example of the popular ‘Nothing Official About It’ campaign for Pepsi (the longest running campaign in the history of advertising at 25 years). “We were given total creative freedom; we wrote all the lines on the spot on the sets minutes before shooting those commercials,” he laughs. So is there no secret sauce? “None, whatsoever.


It certainly was time-consuming and involved talking to a ton of people! But quite contrary to my expectations, all of them were extremely cooperative and heard me out. So getting permissions was fairly easy. Also, I didn’t have to pay anyone off like I thought I would have to!

Has life changed after the video? Yes, lots of people have written to me and there has been such an outpouring of wishes that it’s like a dopamine high! I have been interviewed by the The New York Times and the BBC World Service. Celebrities like Abhishek Bachchan and Akshay Kumar have tweeted about the video too!

It’s luck, luck, luck all the way to the end (or the bank). Whatever they teach you in marketing schools is b******t.” Meanwhile, at the offices of Sony Music India in Mumbai, a party is on in full swing. Even as you read this issue of Brunch, the official soundtrack of 3 is already hitting your neighbourhood music store, due to release tomorrow. On iTunes in the US and the UK, digital downloads of Kolaveri are going through the roof. “We’re releasing a number of products and exclusive merchandise across the country. We are even going to focus on the Hindi-speaking market now and not just South India,” says Arjun Sankalia. In the first five days, cellphone service providers saw more than 22,000 downloads; and thousands have Kolaveri as their new dialer tune. Revenues for a single have never been better. You remember when we said that getting a video to go viral on the Internet is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle? Well, the Kolaveri guys just caught it.


So what was with the VERY caustic letter to a Delhi boy? Nothing particularly. I was bitching about Delhi boys with a girl friend so I wrote it on a whim and posted it to my (recently created) blog. It wasn’t based on anything at all, just a rant.

When did you realise it had gone viral? I didn’t even know what viral meant when it did. I didn’t even have a Twitter account – I was made to open one after I woke up that morning and saw over 7,000 comments on my blog! It became too much and I had to get four friends to moderate and respond to those. Then, I saw #OpenLetterToADelhiBoy trending on Twitter and that’s when it hit me.

We heard you received death threats post the letter going viral! Oh yes, I did. And once, I was sitting in a coffee shop and I heard two girls whisper “Isn’t that the Madrasan (my screen name)?” I was a little overwhelmed and I thought somebody was going to hurl something at me any time.

So you become a reluctant Internet celebrity…

Yes, and there are a few pluses: my blog has become really popular, I have a Facebook Fan Page and I have been approached to write by various publications. I am still trying to figure out exactly WHY my letter went viral and I think the humour just clicked with people.

Do you think going viral is simply about getting your 15 seconds of fame? It depends. I think it’s up to you to sustain it. For example, I have been regularly blogging ever since the letter. I write at least one post a week. I also take requests from readers and write about the topics they care about most. I have got a fairly decent following on Twitter now. I have also discovered a lot of new bloggers since the incident and follow them regularly. I’ve even been offered advertising space on my blog by a lot of people!


on her blog, 7,000 comments

indulge eat

TAKE A BOW For many years, the classic example of great service in England was Le Gavroche, whose manager Silvano Giraldin, took every order personally

Serving An Ace

Restaurant managers are hardly noticed, rarely valued and nobody cares when they come and go. But, though the food is always the key, the manager is often the man who can make or break a restaurant


ONG BEFORE the chef became the King of the restaurant, the manager was the real emperor. These days, we write about chefs, print their pictures on our pages and treat them as celebrities. But there was an era when chefs were kept locked up in the kitchen and the manager prowled the restaurant like some conquering tiger. I was one of those who complained about the tendency of restaurant managers to act as if they ran everything when, in fact, it was the chef who was responsible for the single-most important aspect of the experience: the food. So I can hardly complain that these days chefs hog all the credit and that managers are neglected. But I can’t help feeling that the balance has now tilted too far towards the chefs. Restaurant managers are hardly noticed, are rarely valued and nobody cares when they come and go. But, though the food is always the key, the manager is often the man who can make or break a restaurant. Long before chefs started creating restaurants around their own reputations, it was the managers who went on to become great restaurateurs. America’s most famous restaurateur, Danny Meyer, built his empire without functioning from inside a kitchen. In England, Chris Corbin and Jeremy King re-invented the modern restaurant. Alan Yau taught the English that Chinese could be trendy with his Hakkasan and Yauatcha. In France, Jean-Claude Vrinat (Tailevent) and Claude Terrail (La Tour D’Argent) were nonchefs who ran massively influential restaurants. To some extent, that was true of Sirio Maccione of New York’s Le Cirque. In India, too, we’ve had non-chefs who started out as managers and went on to build great restaurant empires. The most notable of them is Jayaram Banan, who started out working in a canteen as a dishwasher and now runs an empire of over 80 restaurants. But there’s also Nelson Wang, who was never a chef but nevertheless transformed Bombay’s attitude to Chinese food with his enormously successful China Garden in the 1980s. When you go to a restaurant that is run by a great chef, the chef himself may or may not be there. (In the case of Gordon Ramsay or Alain Ducasse or Joel Roubuchon they never are.) But when you go to a restaurant that was started by a manager, you will find traces of the manager’s style everywhere. Sirio Maccione used to take orders at Le Cirque as did Jean-Claude Vrinat at Tailevent. Alan Yau was at Hakkasan most nights – till he sold the chain. Corbin and King are regular fixtures at their restaurants. Few of these great restaurateurs ever threw the tantrums associated with great chefs. Most have always been willing to clear a table or to pour the wine. It is the same in India. One of the rea-


CAN I HELP? Nelson Wang (left) will happily carve a duck at a table or take a dinner order himself at his restaurant


rude food

Vir Sanghvi

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sons that the Defence Colony Sagar is such a phenomenon is because Banan goes there himself every single day. You can feel his touch in the way his managers behave. When such regulars as myself ring Swagat with a takeaway order, the man at the other end of the phone remembers our preferences and makes us feel like part of the family. When Nelson Wang is at one of his China Gardens, his staff tip-toe around him and Nelson himself will happily carve a duck at the table or take a dinner order himself. Unfortunately, professional managers are beginning to lose the vision that made the original restaurateur-managers great. At most five-star hotels, I find that the standards of restaurant managers is uniformly mediocre. Few of them contribute to a memorable experience and even regulars hardly notice when one manager is replaced by another. What is it that a manager should do to ensure that guests remember him? I asked my friend, Ritu Dalmia, a chef-restaurateur, why she values Niju Verghese, her manager at Diva, so highly. Though Ritu is a terrific chef, the truth is that I don’t actually miss her when she is not at Diva. But if Niju is off, the experience is never the same. Why, I asked Ritu, does somebody like Niju have this abil-





indulge sive was that while Silvano was willing to discuss the menu in detail with guests, he never took a single note. And yet, Le Gavroche never got an order wrong. It was, I was later to discover, a classic magic trick. When Silvano took your order, he was pretending. A waiter was positioned ten feet away but within earshot of the conversation. It was his job to note down the order and to deliver it to the kitchen. But because Silvano was such a master magician, few guests ever worked this out. We don’t have many Silvanos in India but we do have managers who win you over with the genuine warmth with which they run their restaurants. When Tejinder Singh was F&B manager of Delhi’s Maurya he heard that some regulars were coming to the restaurant’s coffee shop for a Baisakhi SHOW AND TELL festival. He knew that the sarson ka With his Hakkasan and Yauatcha, Alan Yau saag on the buffet that day was comtaught the English that Chinese could be trendy petent but not authentic enough to WELCOME BACK ALWAYS THERE please hard-core Punjabis. He called his mothPawan Nair (below), the The Defence Colony er, asked her to cook some saag herself, and sent manager of the new Set’z Sagar is such a phenoma hotel car to get it from his house. The regulars operation soon to open at enon is because Jayaram loved the saag, praised its authenticity and asked Delhi’s Aman, mastered his Banan (right) goes there Tejinder how he had found a chef who could craft at Iggy’s in Singapore himself every single day make saag of that quality. Only then did Tejinder reveal the truth. (I know because I was there when it happened.) In my experience, it is the restaurants that depend on regulars that tend to have the best managers. (Or perhaps, it is the other way around: guests become regulars because the managers are so good.) For instance, when you join the crowds at Bombay’s Trishna, you will discover that the restaurant is like one of its famous crabs: big and not terribly authentic. The managers will be competent but rarely memorable. If, on the other hand, you go to Gajalee at Vile Parle – which has as many regular guests as Trishna has foreign tourists – the experience will be defined not just by the quality of the food (the best crab in the world) but by the shy warmth of the service. These are not fancy managers trying to offer an experience that approximates ity to command the loyalty of so many of her regulars? five-star quality. These are decent people serving real families who Ritu’s answer was that the most important quality for a restaucare about the cuisine. rant manager was that guests had to like him. Too much is made I always think that the difference between a really successful of the technical skills required of a manager, she said. In fact, runstand-alone restaurant and one that is merely acceptable is the ning a restaurant is not rocket science. But the difference between quality of the service. One reason why Set’z has been such a speca competently-run restaurant and a good one is the warmth that tacular success is because Prasenjit Singh takes care to hire and the manager adds to the experience. Niju’s great skill, Ritu said, is nurture fabulous managers. Some of his stars have been poached. that people like him because he, so clearly, likes people himself. For instance, Pawan Nair, the manager of the new Set’z operation I thought about what Ritu had said and decided that she was soon to open at Delhi’s Aman, mastered his craft at Iggy’s in probably right. One of the problems with so many five-star hotel Singapore, one of Asia’s best restaurants. On the other hand, Pankaj restaurants is that the managers rarely display any warmth. Many Joshi, who is the manager at Cha-Shi, the Asian cafe on the function like automatons. Some are downright snobbish. And very ground floor of Delhi’s Emporio, is a Set’z graduate, havfew bother to treat ordinary guests well while simultaneously maning joined as a waiter and then working his way up to his aging to suck up to celebrities and high rollers. current position. But a great restaurant is not one that treats celebrities well. Finally, I guess, it is what Ritu said. In this day and age, It is one where every guest feels like a celebrity. For many years, it is not that difficult to run a restaurant. What’s difficult the classic example of great service in England was is to run it with a caring approach that makes guests feel Le Gavroche, whose manager Silvano Giraldin, took special. If it’s just another job for the manager or if he every order personally. What was most impresregards himself as being superior to the majority of his guests, then the restaurant has no chance of EAT, LOVE becoming truly memorable. America’s most famous restaurateur, Danny Meyer, built Food may well be the key. But food served withhis empire without functioning from inside a kitchen out passion and warmth is worth nothing.




WHO’S THE BOSS? Though Ritu Dalmia (left) is a terrific chef, the truth is that I don’t actually miss her when she is not at Diva. But if Niju Verghese (far left) is off, the experience is never the same





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Bang Bang: You’re Dead


Rajiv Makhni

KNOCK OUT! High quality gaming is now on phones and Tablets. So gaming consoles will go kaput?

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Is the dizzying pace of technology making great devices obsolete too fast? Hmm. It sure looks that way


EPPUKU. IT’S a Japanese word that forms an integral code for a Samurai class warrior. It basically means self-slaughter. And the world of technology seems to have entered a ritualistic suicide phase. New technology comes in at a frightening pace and within a short period of time, even newer technology comes and makes sure that the ‘old’ technology commits honourable suicide. LP vinyl records lasted about 80 years, CDs are dying in less than 15. Is the dizzying pace of technology making great devices obsolete too fast? Are these giddy new cycles of products, devices, versions and gadgets leaving most of us breathless with excitement and confusion? What great feel-good and comforting technology is about to commit Seppuku?


CWS: If the CD dies, so does the player. If all our music is digi-

tal then all we need is a player with a USB plug-in. Who wants the hassle of sorting and flipping and changing CDs? RWF: We won’t even need a USB player in the car. Net-connected players are already making an appearance. All your music up in the Cloud, your car with a Net connection, play what you like. Also, the death knell for FM radio. Net streaming radio gives more quality, choice and options. COS: This one is a goner. Dead in about four years!

NOT ALL GONE Vinyl records (top) lasted 80 years; CDs lasted 15. Your car audio player will soon be replaced by a Net-connected player (above). But watches (left) will stay in style


COS: Another goner, your wallet’s going to be mighty thin in about two years from now.

PWLAUF Product we’ve loved and used forever


CWS Conventional wisdom says RWF Real World Facts COS Chances of Survival


CWS: This small clunky box is silly old technology that has no

room in a high tech world. Infrared? Confusing button layout? Impossible to use in the dark? Five or six remotes in each room? You’ve got to be kidding! RWF: Will get hard hit from multiple areas. Touch screen phones and Tablets are the best new interface for remotes and new equipment works on WiFi with them. Some new phones and Tablets have infrared built in so they can work with all your old stuff too. Gesture control is the other biggie. Your body is the best remote control ever invented. COS: Dead as a dodo! And the sooner the better.

CWS:HD video connection will be through a wireless base; all your speak-



n’t even understand the need for strapping on something like that. When every device has a watch, when your phone has it right there on the front screen, why have an extra bangle dangling on your hand? RWF: Watch sales haven’t gone down. Makes no sense to fish out your phone, tap a button to wake up the screen and then check the time when all you have to do is glance at your wrist. Watches are also a fashion and status symbol and those aren’t going away any time soon. COS: It’s not time up for watches!

ers will be wireless as will your charging of phones, laptops and Tablets. RWF: Well, not all wire is gone. Heavy equipment power will still be from a cable. Also, while the technology is improving, audiophile level sound will still be cable-based for a while. COS: It’s an unsightly mess, it’s a dust collector and it made your house as ugly as it can be. But the wire and cable’s days are truly numbered.

CWS: Should have died a long time back. Why should you call a building if you can call a person? It’s antiquated, unsightly and makes no sense in a world on the move. RWF: It’s still what you fall back on when you need to be in a voice-critical conference call, it’s still your best bet for true broadband in your home and it’s still the only way to not tear your hair out over dropped calls. COS: Nope, this one will stay till they sort out spectrum issues, make mobile calls crystal clear and get over the greed of wanting too many customers on an already exhausted, wheezing and over-loaded network.



CWS: High quality gaming has made its way onto phones

and specially Tablets. As quad core processors are around the corner, graphic intensive games will easily move to this carry-with-you platform. Also, online gaming has reached new heights. With 4G and true high speed broadband, the most demanding game will be available on any device when you want it, where you want it. Why be chained to a gaming console? RWF: Easy to call this one as mobile gaming has hit numbers that defy all calculations. COS: One more round of console wars and they are kaput! There are others with their heads on the chopping block. Television as we know it (no prime time, no show schedules, watch at will), video and digital cameras (as optics on phones become better, these are redundant), LCD/Plasma/LED (taken over by the low power, super bright pictures of OLED), 3D with glasses (naked eye 3D is round the corner) and ebook readers (Tablets have already hit this almost new technology and Amazon seems to agree too with the Kindle Fire). By the way, your phone and Tablet are also on their way out. They’ll be eaten up alive by a flexi screen hybrid. Give it five years. If I’m wrong, I may just commit Seppuku.



CWS: All will die due to NFC technology, a secure system in your

phone or mobile device that is far more efficient and safe. Touch phone door to enter your house, tap billing machine to pay and touch phones to exchange contact information. NFC, along with biometric security, is the future. RWF: Most new phones have NFC (with some companies still holding out), lots of pilot projects already on, it’s more secure and safe once you get over the initial hesitancy.


CWS: Nobody under the age of 19 uses them; the new generation does-

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at



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Beauty And Brains The sex symbols of our age don’t just rely on their bodies; they use their heads as well NOT IN CONTROL Despite the power she exerted over men, Marilyn Monroe seemed strangely powerless when it came to staying in charge of her own life

HARD SELLING! Madonna used sex to sell herself to the audiences



Seema Goswami

PLAYING DIRTY Vidya Balan is outstanding in her portrayal of a south Indian sex symbol in The Dirty Picture


Y NOW, all of you reading this column will probably have seen The Dirty Picture. And whatever your views on the merits of the movie itself, you will agree that Vidya Balan was outstanding in her portrayal of a south Indian sex symbol who may or may not (for legal reasons) be Silk Smitha but is called Silk in the movie. I have to confess that I haven’t seen the movie as yet but I did watch Vidya Balan captivate the audience at the recent Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. And the one phrase among the many witty oneliners she cracked has stayed with me. Talking about Silk and whether it was easy to identify with such a character, Balan confessed that what had really annoyed her at times was the fact that Silk was really only about her body. That she didn’t seem to use her head at all. And that, said Balan, made no sense to her. As Balan famously declared at the Summit, she liked to ‘celebrate and enjoy her body’ – but she always used her head as well. If you ask me, that one phrase encapsulates the difference between the sex symbols of previous generations and the sex symbols worshipped by our own. Unlike the femme fatales of yore, who were all about the body, the sex symbols of our times use their brains as well. Perhaps the difference is best explained using the example of Silk Smitha herself and contrasting her with a latter-day equivalent like, say, Mallika Sherawat or even Rakhi Sawant. Silk Smitha may have been the break-out star of her generation, she may have sold a movie on the basis of her name alone, she may have made more money than she ever dreamt of, she may have been desired by millions. But for all her fame and her success, in the ultimate analysis she was a victim. She was exploited by the men close to her, she seemed to have no control over her own destiny, and in the end, she was in such despair that she took her own life. In many ways, her life mirrored that of the greatest sex symbol of them all: Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn too was the biggest boxoffice draw of her time, her name sold a million movie tickets, and every red-blooded man in the world was in lust with her. But despite the power she exerted over men – including the most powerful of them, John F Kennedy, then President of the United States – Marilyn seemed strangely powerless when it came to staying in charge of her own life. She drifted from one disastrous relationship to another, sought comfort in drink and drugs, and in the end, when nothing seemed to work to numb the pain, she

killed herself (or was killed by the Kennedys because she was An Inconvenient Woman, if you believe the conspiracy theorists). Now take a look at the life of Madonna, who modelled herself on Monroe during her Peroxide Period. Even though she had launched herself as a singer before branching off into acting, it was sex that Madonna used to sell herself to the audiences. Her stage performances were more about raunch than rhythm; she mimed masturbation on stage; wore outfits that left little to the imagination; hell, she even produced a book of soft-porn images of herself, titled Sex which rapidly became a best-seller. But in all this, there was only one person in charge: Madonna herself. She had absolute control over her career, she decided just how titillating each stage show would be, she decided which movies to sign, and she personally cleared every sexually-charged image of herself before it went out to the public. And every dollar that the Madonna machine earned went to Madonna herself. Today, Madonna may be on the wrong side of 50 – though you wouldn’t think so to look at her – but she remains one of the wealthiest entertainers in show-business and firmly in charge of her own fortune which has only multiplied over the years. If you’re looking for a contrast to the image of sad victimhood that Marilyn Monroe projected in her last years, it really doesn’t get better than this. In India, too, there are several contrasts to the Silk Smitha stereotype in our entertainment industry. First up is Mallika Sherawat, who has founded an entire career on her breast implants and the ability to churn out shocking quotes about sex on demand. She knows that all she has to offer is an in-your-face sexuality, but boy, does she make it work for her! The same goes for her smallscreen equivalent, Rakhi Sawant, who has become a reality television superstar because she goes boldly where no TV starlet has ever gone before. But while Mallika and Rakhi are really fringe players at best, even mainstream Bollywood heroines have taken control of their sex symbol tag and run with it. Take Bipasha, for instance, who made her debut in Jism and then went on to excel at what Hindi cinema euphemistically dubs ‘bold’ roles. Or Priyanka and Deepika, who see no shame in making the most of their sex appeal. And then, of course, there’s Balan herself, who has no problems ‘celebrating’ and ‘enjoying’ her body. But unlike the sex symbols of the past, who never really seemed in control, these women are in charge of their own lives. And tellingly, it’s not their bodies that define them, but their body of work.





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The Morrison Of Many Instruments

Astral Weeks (and I say this with a lot of shame) lay around somewhere in my collection for months before I put it on for the first time. I instantly became a fan of Van Morrison


HAVE read that when Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks came out in 1968, it created hardly a ripple. That enigmatic album, perhaps Morrison’s best work, took some time before it was critically acclaimed and then became the one album that you just had to have in your collection. Van Morrison, who has made nearly 40 albums in his 50-plus-year career, and whose music has been categorised variously as soul, R&B, Celtic, folk, country, rock and so many other labels, was 23 when Astral Weeks was released 43 years ago. Three years back, on the 40th anniversary of that album, Morrison, then 63, did a live performance at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl where he performed the eight songs on the album and a few more. That album, Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl, was released in 2009. But, although Van Morrison’s live performances are heady and an other-worldly experience (I have never seen him sing live but just listening to his live recordings can transport me to some other place), the live version of Astral Weeks is not a patch on the 1968 album, a recording that I often reach out to listen to with my eyes shut tight. The other album by the Irish singer and multi-instrumentalist (Morrison can play the guitar, harmonica, keyboards and the saxophone but REUTERS more than anything else, he has a hypnotic voice that always transfixes you) that I love is Moondance, which came out in 1970. I can listen to those two albums on continuous repeat for hours. So, in what was otherwise a frenetic week

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Sanjoy Narayan

TELEPORTATION Morrison’s live recordings and concerts transport one to an other worldly place

filled with too many things to do, a couple of late nights and barely enough time to do what I like most – listen to music – I was reaching a point of near-despair when out of the blue dropped a free download, a live recording straight from the soundboard of a concert at the Beacon Theatre on November 30, 1989. There are 28 songs in the recording, including three where the legendary bluesman, John Lee Hooker, joins Van Morrison, including one that’s a medley of Gloria and Smokestack Lightning. The first one, Gloria, is the wellknown Van Morrison composition that’s been covered by many, while Smokestack Lightning is a Howlin’ Wolf composition. The thing about the concert – it’s called 1989 The Unabridged Concert – is that unlike other bootlegs, it is of great quality. The recording is shiny and clean and the sound boasts of very high fidelity. I haven’t seen a commercially released CD of this concert but going by the quality of the recording that has been doing the rounds, it would be a breeze to put one together. I’ve tried collecting as many Van Morrison albums as I could. Besides Astral Weeks and Moondance – and, of course, the bootleg concert that I just mentioned – I have Tupelo Honey, Into The Music and Avalon Sunset, which makes up for a smallish fraction of what he has released during his long career. I feel a little sheepish about the fact that I got to hear Van Morrison rather late in life. It was only in 1989 or 1990 that a friend of mine passed on Astral Weeks and said to me: “There are not many albums that are better than this.” At that time, I was steeped in psychedelic music, too busy preferring space jams and guitar noodlings and bass voyages to be listening to a guy who, I was told, melds blues and R&B and country and soul and Celtic folk music to make something singular. Astral Weeks (and I say this with a lot of shame) lay around somewhere in my collection for months before I put it on for the first time. I was jolted by what I heard and instantly became a fan of Van Morrison. Much later I read about how he had influenced legions of younger rock bands and singers, including a man with a surname that matched his. Yes, I am referring to Jim Morrison of The Doors. Before he went solo, Van Morrison’s band, Them, toured the US in 1966 and played for a few weeks at L.A.’s Whisky A Go Go nightclub where The Doors was their supporting band. I have read that the two bands jammed on Gloria and that Jim picked up many mannerisms from Van. I’m not sure whether that’s one more apocryphal rock story but it sounds nice, doesn’t it? To give feedback, stream or download the music mentioned in this column, go to, follow argus48 on Twitter or visit our website:







Get back your life

We all like the occasional drink. Or two. Or three. We also know when to stop. Well, most of us, anyway. But for some of us who have an addictive personality, three isn’t enough. And it doesn’t even have to be alcohol. It could be drugs. Or cough syrup. In 2009, the Narcotics Control Bureau estimated the number of addicts in the country at 7.5 crore. If you have any stereotyped notions of what an ‘addict’ is, now would be a good time to banish them. We got three men and women, former addicts, to tell us their stories

by Pranav Dixit REHAN

Cough syrup addict

“I AM AN ADDICT. I DIDN’T HAVE ISSUES WHEN GROWING UP. In fact, it was a happy, upper-middle class childhood. Neither was there any alcoholism in the family. My dad drank every day but in moderation.

It was on a school trip in my 11th standard that I tasted beer for the first time. I hated the taste. But I was still getting sloshed every single day. By my twelfth standard, most of my core group was using hash, grass and cough syrup. I looked down on every friend of mine who did drugs. About six months later, a new friend pushed me to try cough syrup. Nothing happened initially. I went home and that’s when it hit me. It was such a strong feeling, I couldn’t shake it off. In time, I experimented with marijuana, pills, and alcohol – but it was cough syrup that kept pulling me. At my peak, I was downing about six bottles daily. I hid it very well and no one found out. It took me a long time to admit I had a problem. At one point, I told my dad. He said “Buri aadat hai, bete, par chhoot jayegi.” I wanted to scream no, I’m reaching out for help. I came to know about Narcotics Anonymous in 1995. During my first days, I thought, this isn’t for me. I was sure I could quit on my own. My friend kept pushing me to attend the meetings. At one point, I accepted that I can’t fight it on my own. A year and a half later, I was clean. The first day was difficult. There were withdrawal symptoms. Now, it’s been over 12 years. Today, I am a marketing professional; I have a beautiful wife, a two and a half year old daughter; there’s another baby on the way; I have a wide circle of friends; what more do I need, honestly?



‘One in 10 patients is an addict’ One in every 10 patients that come to him is an addict, says Dr Himanshu Saxena, senior psychiatrist at Jaipur Golden Hospital, New Delhi. “The older ones are mostly alcoholics, the younger ones do everything from booze to hash and smack,” he says.

How do groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) help addicts?

Getting labelled as an addict is the equivalent of being a ‘bad’ person in the eyes of society. Suddenly, your social support disappears and if you relapse, it’s worse. With every relapse, addicts feel more and more lonely. With groups like NA, addicts get to meet people who are like them. That’s encouraging.

How is that different from going to a rehab facility?

Rehab comes after a person has been detoxified and counselled on all counts – personal, social, financial and occupational. You


check in to rehab before joining society; there, you are taught how to handle life on the outside like a normal person. Unfortunately, many rehab centres in our country have no qualified people.

People who have been helped by NA claim that simply by attending meetings and sharing their experiences with fellow addicts helped them get over their addiction. How does that happen?

Most people cannot overcome addiction on their own because of withdrawal symptoms. When you join something like NA, two things happen: one, you gradually taper off your addiction. Two, you are with like-minded people so you get reinforcement from your peer group. These are people that addicts can relate to more. It’s this support that plays a big part in helping them overcome their addiction.

CELEBRITIES WHO OVERCAME THEIR ADDICTION ANGELINA JOLIE: In a 1998 interview, Jolie confessed to doing “just about every drug possible.” Since then, she has become an Oscar-winning actress, a mother of six and even a UN Goodwill Ambassador.

DREW BARRYMORE: By 11, Barrymore was an alcoholic. By 12, she was doing marijuana, by 13 cocaine. She went to rehab twice and attempted suicide at 14. Today, she is a accomplished actress/ producer.

ROBIN WILLIAMS: It’s hard to believe that the comedian was once a cocaine addict. It was only after the death of fellow comedian John Belushi that Williams checked into rehab.


RITESH Marijuana addict


stressed out for some reason. Normal people go from school to college to a job. I went from school to college to not passing out of college and doing drugs.

I first smoked marijuana in my first year because I hated engineering. My parents wanted me to go into the Merchant Navy, another thing I had no interest in. So marijuana was awesome. Slowly, I started using harder drugs. There came a point a few years later when I did not remember one moment from the next. I almost went senile. It’s not like I didn’t realise that my habit was getting out of control. Each time I used drugs, I promised myself that it would be the last time. It was only a matter of time before my parents found out. Fortunately, they were supportive. My mother asked me if I wanted to go into rehab and I said yes. Less than two hours later, I was in rehab. But 15 days later, I ran away. I roamed around all day in Delhi scoring drugs and doing them in an auto. Four o’clock on a Tuesday morning found me on a strange Delhi road with no money to pay the autowalla. That’s when the sense of guilt and shame hit me and hit me hard. I didn’t want to go back into the rehab but I had no choice.

MIND BODY SOUL AT THE REHAB CENTRE Addiction is severe dependence on a particular substance. Some addictions can be dealt on one’s own, but heavy use of opiates, cannabis, alcohol and psychotropic drugs requires patients to be sent to a rehabilitation centre. This process has three phases: DETOXIFICATION: To counter initial withdrawal and drastic mood swings, you need to detoxify the patient with vitamin supplements and lots of fluids. ABSTINENCE: The toughest part of rehab is to keep patients motivated to give up the addiction. You monitor their psychological behaviour and teach self-control. It is also important to make them confident so that they do not succumb again. Sometimes, group therapy is needed, and in severe cases, medication. MAINTENANCE: It is also imperative to counsel friends and family on how to deal with a patient after he or she is out of rehab. Rehabilitation is only successful when people around the patient treat him or her with respect and show support. A patient’s success is dependent on her or his willingness to change. Some addicts require continual support. — Dr Samir Parikh, HOD, department of mental health and behavioural sciences, Max Healthcare, Delhi

It was there that I found out about NA. I was told that you can’t go back to your old life. I stuck around because I did not have anything to look forward to. I was empty, fearful. After I got out from rehab, I did stay clean. But I still kept coming to NA meetings. They gave me a platform to be myself. I made friends. People wore nice clothes; they were happy! For the first time in three years, I laughed. My life is so perfect now I could never have imagined it. I was always afraid of relationships but I got into my first one at a meeting. I’ve always looked forward since then, never behind. I’ve been clean for four years now. I love to play music, I love to write. I am doing all the things I really wanted to do. Today, I don’t need a reason to laugh. I just do.



Drug addict


never enough; there was a lot of mental, physical, sexual abuse. I didn’t have a normal childhood.

I came to Delhi in my 11th standard, because I wanted to get away from it all. And in my first year, I had my first drink. I remember downing pegs of neat rum, puking and blacking out. It gave me an immense sense of relief. I felt complete. I started with alcohol and in a few years, I was having it all. A few years later, the downward spiral began. I lost my job; my boyfriend left me; my health went for a toss; at my lowest point, I thought I was going to die and not be found till way later. I was reading a book which mentioned Alcoholics Anonymous and I thought, maybe there’s a group like that for narcotics users. So I went online and discovered there was one in Delhi! So I went to a meeting. That was when I learned that addiction is a disease. But then, I realised that while I was not responsible for the disease, I was responsible for the recovery. Sometimes, I would do drugs before the meetings. But people said, just keep coming, one day, the miracle will happen to you. And one day, it did. Now my life has changed completely. When I stayed away from drugs for the first 24 hours, the relief is difficult to put in words. But just one day gave me the confidence to push myself. Today, I am a responsible person. I love my job. I take squash and salsa lessons. I have great friends . And my relationship with my family has never been better.


A society of recovering addicts who meet to help each other stay clean. Delhi: / 9818072887; Mumbai:; Kolkata: / 9836223071; Bangalore: / 9880590059; Pune:

Packed with power O

UR HEALTH depends on good nutrition, daily activity and a cheerful state of mind. This is all we need to stay healthy. In reality, we eat an unbalanced diet, are susceptible to food addictions, drink too many glasses of spirits and worry ourselves to ill health. In the initial chapters of ayurveda, the reason why cosmic knowledge was given to the sages was explained thus; that human beings over centuries shall fall from perfect states to the stage where they have imbalance in almost everything; therefore cosmic healing knowledge will assist the human race in recovering from their ill health. Several herbs and plants have special properties that can work in several ways within the body to effect improvement and change.

SEABUCKTHORN: This berry is difficult to harvest as prickly thorns surround it. And it cannot be eaten raw due to an astringent taste. Found in the Himalayan belt, it is a focus of interest of the Defence Research Development Organisation which uses it for soldiers manning the high borders. BENEFITS: It removes cholesterol and calcium plaques in the arteries and maintains circulation in micro blood capillaries, a great help in diabetes. It helps balance cholesterol through its action on the liver. It is also rich in beta sitsterol, carotenoids, vitamin B, flavonol and catechin.


RHODODENDRON: This plant’s beautiful large flowers have

an active compound that is healing for human beings. This plant is found in many areas, including Kashmir, Assam and Darjeeling. BENEFITS: The flowers are rich in antioxidants such as flavonoids, saponins and phenolic compounds. Their health benefits include protective effects on the liver, an anti-inflammatory effect and protection from cancerous mutations. It has been used over several generations by local people. PHOTO: MCT

GOTUKOLA: This ancient herb is known for its beneficial effects. Li Ching Yun was purported to be a Chinese master who lived a long life due to the regular use of this herb as a tea. In Sri Lanka, references have been found of kings using this herb to prolong memory and stamina. BENEFITS: It repairs nerves, calms the mind, improves memory and aids adrenal functioning, improving blood pressure control and relieving water retention. It improves blood circulation by its action on the nervous system.




Answering silly questions

School/ college DAV,

Chennai; Kirori Mal College, Delhi; SP Jain Institute of Management, Mumbai

Birthday April 17

Hometown Hyderabad

What are you doing currently?

Trying to make a living doing what makes me happy


Which character from Sholay do you most resemble and why?

The jailer. I always want everyone to follow me, with no idea where to lead them.

High Low point of point your life of your life Fortunately

Making a career in movies

You would turn gay for... A role as a gay man.

Your darkest fantasy?

I haven’t suffered a single low point

Being alone in the world. A happy version of I Am Legend.

The last line of your autobiography would read? I’ll be back!

One song that describes your current state of mind? Don’t think twice, it’s all right. What would we find in your fridge right now? A lot of food. Evidence of my gluttony.

How would you explain Twitter to your grandmother?

I would have to start by explaining the computer, then the Internet. I don’t think she would stick around till Twitter.

You wouldn’t be caught dead wearing… ...Fur.

The stupidest thing you’ve ever heard? That I have teenage children.

The one place you would never get yourself tattooed?

My entire being is strictly off limits for tattoos. Never. Not my thing!

If a spaceship landed in your backyard, what would you do? I’d ask for a lift to shoots to escape Mumbai traffic!

The most clichéd answer you’ve ever given in an interview? We’re just good friends.

Your most irrational fear…

That I will become irrelevant as an artiste.

The one lie you got away with…

…I’m still getting away with it, so it’s too early to confess.

If you could peep into anyone’s house, whose house would it be?







We have reality TV now, this question is so last decade.

Where did you spend your last summer? On location around the Godavari river. Beautiful. Very hot, but breathtaking.

How many pairs of blue jeans do you have? Never enough!

What’s the biggest surprise you’ve ever given your date?

The unpleasant truth. People want honesty but always take it badly.

— Interviewed by Amrah Ashraf



Hindustantimes Brunch 11th December 2011  

Hindustantimes Brunch 11th December 2011

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