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SUNDAY MAGAZINE, JULY 24, 2011 Free with your copy of Hindustan Times

INSIDE Explore Kashmir with native son Vikramaditya Singh

st o m al ge r a id gua , the v a D h lan ater d i l v glis a s r D , n ea – and 6 y E 2 6 d d Age kstarte India. 2 ploded ore kic ng in as ex for m i ry h ack h s i l b pub indust idar is Dav

JULY 17, 2011 E, NEW DELHI, Times SUNDAY MAGAZINcopy of Hindustan Free with your

2 4 . 0 7 . 1 1



Abira Pathak Couldn’t agree more with Seema Goswami on the ‘Storm in a T-cup’. Unfortunately this happens to be the stark truth which remains as however much we boast of ‘women empowerment’ men absolutely LOVE to pick up this most unique way of shutting women up. The softer targets happen to be the “SELF-INDEPENDENT” women who believe in fending for their own. Saakshi Saini Hats off to Kavita Devgan! I read that “IT’S IN A BATH” article just before I was going to take a shower. I massaged my body, finally used that lavender perfumed oil I bought about a week ago and applied moisturiser and I actully felt really good & my skin is sooo soft :). Jyoti Mali BRUNCH is becoming my every Sunday dose.. esp Tavishi... your articles are fab... add me to your fan list :) i would love to read your next article if cud b on ‘Friendship’...



@jaipal999 i read the tapeworm story – its creepy to even think about !

Is Italian The New French?


In the quest for the perfect shape, body contouring gains steam PERSONAL AGENDA

Angad Bedi


YOUR ARTICLE Kamla Comes Home was very close to reality, in fact, a reallife experience for me. I had been a bank officer for eight years but had to quit my hard-earned prestigious job as I had two young kids to take care of. But, can’t we help Kamla? Can’t we stop her from coming home?After all, hasn’t she worked hard to earn that job. If only the in-laws were more considerate, if only the housemaids were encouraged to do their work more sincerely, if only the bosses didn’t take their grudges out on womanhood, and if only women were actually serious about their careers, we could have stopped Kamla from coming home. Our nation needs Kamla for its development.

Great myths and actual truths – decoded 22

EXCLUSIVE: You won’t be able to resist these mouth-watering shortbread cupcakes. Try this simple, easy-tocook recipe, HOT straight from OFF THE Maria Goretti’s OVEN! kitchen!

THE COVER story (Kamla Comes Home, July 10) by Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi was an interesting read and an observant speculation. So many real life ladies have spoken about their stay-athome status. A surprising trend among all such ladies in the article, those around me as well as in society at large, is that women have two choices as they are not the main providers. The ladies interviewed for the article said there was no need for the extra income as the family was comfortably managed with the salary from a single income. I, however, was not interviewed. As a working mother of two small girls, who was earlier a stay-at-home mom for about four years, I have a tiny objection to this concept of ‘need for job’. Other than the financial need, there is another, a more personal need – the need for an identity. An entity in the society other than X’s daughter, Y’s wife and Z’s mother. This need is making me work for peanuts in a local school. I have my own identity independent of my husband and social recognition as well. This is missing in the life of Kamla when she stays home. — POUSHALI G RAUTH, via email


Band-Age Boom

After last week’s road bump, Delhi’s local band scene makes good LIVE

Tweet Your Children Well...

Sometimes Twitter resembles nothing more than a schoolyard



Does the future of European food in India – as in the West – look Italian?

Tech’s Tallest Tales; And The Real Truth (Part 1)

Read the actor/TV anchor’s wildly funny take on the weirdest thing to enter his mouth and his favourite freedom fighter! POINT, CLICK, SNAP! The HT Brunch Photo Contest Our Facebook wall is abuzz with your amazing responses on 'Monsoon Magic'. Now upload your pictures for the next theme: ‘Perfect Pets’. Visit for details. And don’t forget to check back next week for last week’s results.

Don’t miss weekly blogs by the funniest voices in the Indian Tweet-o-sphere: Gursimran Khamba, Rajneesh Kapoor, The Fake Jhunjhunwala and Rahul Roushan. And an all-access-pass to your favourite stories from this and previous Brunch issues!

Write to



True to form

@OhTeri_BhenDi Is this like an equivalent of the Ghanta Awards?

@sangeethsivan @udaychopra @HTBrunch @DalaiLama @BeingSalmanKhan @narendramodi congrats :) did c it today ..


Meet Diana Preston, one half of writing duo Alex Rutherford

@udaychopra This is hilarious

@BhavnoorSB @RajivMakhni ofc ppl make ur vacation hell if u r gadgeted


‘Anyone writing about Mughal history is very lucky’

@TrendsmapIndia HT Brunch, is now trending in India

The man, written off as a flamboyant philanderer just before the World Cup, silenced his critics with performances that not only fetched him four man of the match awards, but also the man of the tournament trophy.

In his first stint as a publisher, David Davidar almost singlehandedly changed India’s literary scene. Now, the former head of Penguin India is back with his own firm. What can we expect?

Calling All Tweeple

@Durish Tejas & Swati excelled in capturing the true essence of Mumbai Lifestyle by their articulate illustrations! kudos guys!


Kamla misses office

The Next Chapter



You remember Yuvraj Singh’s victory call post team India’s World Cup win, but do you know how he reached there? Read an exclusive preview from Brunch Quarterly!

We’re Logged On


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

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



Influenca syndrome

IN SEEMA Goswami’s article (Have Money; Will Spend, July 17 ) she struck the right chord to illustrate that the medical affliction infuenza has now been left way behind, while the more deadly sting ‘affluenza’ is hitting the middle class ans encouraging it to spend. But it needs to be augmented with another phrase – ‘influenca’, the shopping mania to impress others. — R.L. PATHAK, New Delhi

Cover design: Swati Chakrabarti. Cover photo: Getty Images. Inset image: Vikramaditya Singh

Brunch Date


MET HALF of Alex Rutherford at the Park hotel in Connaught Place, Delhi, last week – Diana Preston, a sharp, nattily dressed woman. “I’m afraid it’s just me. Michael doesn’t do interviews,” she said, very British indeed. The husband-wife duo write under the name of Alex Rutherford, and their latest books, Empire of the Moghul, a quintet about the rise and fall of the Mughal empire, are very popular in India. The books begin at Babur, and go all the way to Shah Jahan via the heads of Humayun, Akbar and Salim, in the style of a page-turner. Three of the five books are out and the couple is hard at work on the next one. Both Michael and Diana studied at Oxford, reading History and English respectively.

The Mughal era has a wealth of detail and compelling stories, says Diana Preston, one half of writing duo Alex Rutherford by Pranav Dixit do, which is go to Agra and see the Taj. But when we saw the mausoleums, the palaces, we wanted to know more about the people behind them. So we explored that in our non-fiction book. But you just can’t start in the 17th century when the Taj was built. We did our research and realised there were extraordinary, interlocking stories, that, to understand, you had to go back to a blank piece of paper. You couldn’t come up with something more dynamic or compelling than the Mughals. Nothing was more magnificent than their courts. And then you have this irresistible story of family dynamics uncoiling with the horrible inevitability of a great tragedy.

Who’s Alex Rutherford? Alex Rutherford is me, Diana, and my husband Michael. We’ve always written together, mainly How did you manage to get such intricate details? non-fiction. We spent two years researching a non-fiction book about the Taj Mahal (A Teardrop The sources are very rich. Anyone writing about On the Cheek Of Time, Random House) some Mughal history is lucky in that aspect. For Babur, years ago and decided we wanted to draw on we drew a lot from the Baburnama. It’s so frank things we had seen and experienced here. and there’s a lot of detail in there, not just about We chose a pseudonym to differentiate our nonwars, but even his gardens, fruits and flowers. fiction stuff from our fiction. I’d love to say there Also, you have paintings and miniatures about was a logical reason behind that era. The difficulty, the name, but there’s nothing sometimes, was understandIT’S PLAY TIME! like that. We chose ‘Alex’ ing a series of events rather because it’s androgynous and than how people lived. Why do we lack historical fiction Rutherford happens to be one in India? Your books are a blend of fact of our favourite atomic scienMany Indian historians spent a lot and fiction. tists. We see Alex Rutherford of time reconstructing history after as younger and more advenTo keep the narrative tight, independence, thinks historian S turous than ourselves – quite we sometimes conflated Irfan Habib. “Fiction wasn’t high on rugged, kind of like a younger time, condensed events and anyone’s priority.” Author Madhuliversion of Indiana Jones. overlooked events. But the ka Liddle, who dabbles in historical Mughal families are real, the fiction herself, says, “I think Indians What is so fascinating about main battles are real. We are a forward-looking people. We the Mughals? were always conscious that don’t want to have anything to do On our first visit, I’m afraid we were writing for general with the past.” we did what most foreigners readers.



‘Anyone writing about Mughal history is very lucky’


When I was reading the books, it didn’t seem like it was a foreigner writing. That’s what we were aiming for. It’s a mixture of things: perhaps it’s the amount of time we spent travelling, the people we talked to, the museums we visited, the pictures we looked at. We had a lot of help from the Archeological Survey of India. We also tested chapters on our Indian friends. Basically, we forgot we were writing about the Mughals in the 16th century. We looked at it as a story with universal themes of the rise and fall of dynasties, human motivations and politics. Why end with Shah Jahan? What about Aurangzeb? It was the Taj Mahal and Shah Jahan that inspired us to write the series, so ending with him seemed natural and dramatic. Also, I don’t think I’m in Aurangzeb’s head right now (laughs). Do you worry about people being offended? Our objective was to be true to the characters, as we believed them to be from our sources and research. We didn’t have any intention of making any didactic point or a historical statement. So no hate mail? Not at all! In fact, we get far more letters challenging the non-fiction we’ve written! We get mail to clarify certain points, like whether Akbar was called Akbar when he was born or given the name later (turns out he was, after his maternal grandfather). But that’s it. We saw Jodhaa Akbar, by the way, and thought it was a movie to die for.


Hungry for more? Read the complete interview on our site!

In his first stint as a publisher, David Davidar almost singlehandedly changed India’s literary scene. Now, the former head of Penguin India is back with his own firm. What can we expect?

I was hired by Penguin

in August 1985. I was working as executive editor with Gentleman

magazine at that time and I was bored. I was at a loose end. I decided to do a book publishing course from Harvard since it was very highly rated. It was six weeks on campus and then some months interning at a publishing house. But I had no money to pay for the course. Luckily that year Penguin was offering a sponsorship and I got that. Peter Mayer, who I consider my guru, delivered the keynote lecture and I was introduced to him. We talked. I was the only Indian in a group of about 85 people. Peter said that they were starting Penguin in India, would I like the job? I was 26 years old. I said yes immediately. I took a small flat in Gulmohar Park in Delhi which had a teak boardroom table, easily the most expensive thing in the house! At that time, general book publishing was almost non-existent. Oxford University Press was doing a few books. Vikas was doing a bit. Rupa were mainly distributors. I remember R K Narayan telling me, ‘You’ll be done in two-three years.’ I was very young. I didn’t know any better. I was very excited. That enthusiasm and lack of knowledge carried me through. This was the late Eighties. It was when the greatest writers of our time had their beginnings. Salman Rushdie had got the Booker. There was Upamanyu Chatterjee, Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth. Pupul Jayakar was part of the first

The Next Chapter 8






Editorial Director, Vintage India (Random House India)


Editorial Director, Ebury India (Random House India)

1. The first major change since the early ’90s would be 1. The pool of international publishers like talent among Random House, Hachette, writers and and so on expanding their publishing sales and distribution busiprofessionals ness, and setting up shop in is much larger the country. With more playnow, which ers in the market, the busihas made a ness is more competitive. healthier creative 2. The second significant environment, and change for me is the surge in more choice for demand for commercial nonreaders. fiction books, be it diet, fit2. Also, I think ness, health, lifestyle or busiIndian readers ness. Readers have lapped experiment more up authors like Rujuta Diwith the kind of wekar, Rashmi Bansal and books they read. Payal Gidwani Tiwari. And I feel this is just the beginning. lot of books we did. I got Dom Moraes who was an old friend to do a book of poems. Then I published Shiv K Kumar who did a novel for us. In the first year we did six or seven 1books. There was no one on the staff but me and an assistant. I was the only editorial employee. I got a lot of attention. Slowly things started picking up. I met Vikram Seth at the Austrian Embassy. I didn’t know him. I asked him to give us a book of poems. He said, “Why should I give it to you?” So I said, “Because I will give that personal touch, passion to publishing it.” I sent him an offer in a sonnet form. He replied likewise. (Vikram was very loyal. Actually once upon a time authors were loyal to their editors. And over time, all of Vikram’s books came to Penguin.) I asked Vikram what he intended to do next. He said I could come to his house and read his new novel but I couldn’t take it away. So I went to his place, he took me to this shed-like room which had carton after carton of his new book. It was A Suitable Boy. I read enough of the book to know it was a work of genius. In the history of publishing there is no book which has achieved perfection. But there are great books, exceptional books. Then there are the good books and mediocre books. It’s all subjective of course. There’s no objective criteria. There’s no formula. A Suitable Boy was exceptional. If you get an exceptional book, you must grab it at all costs.


Publisher - Allen Lane and Portfolio, Penguin Books India

Chief editor, HarperCollins India

1. The huge growth in readership for mass market publishing, expanding to B and C towns and reaching segments of the population who are not traditional book buyers. This market was always there for textbooks, but for trade publishing to have reached it is a major achievement. 2. The clear growth of general non-fiction, business and self-help books which have become the preferred form of reading for a majority of readers, rather than fiction.

1. The biggest change is the growth of mass market books, reaching readers who have never been part of the traditional book-buying market. 2. Then there’s the growth of online bookshops. It’s changed the way people buy books. And if I can sneak in a third change, there’s also the growth of lit fests and new prizes that are making things exciting for us publishers!

We made a very generous offer to Vikram. The book was a huge success. It got great reviews, sold very well. It created tremendous buzz. You know, you can have a great book launch (and India has the grandest book launches in the world!) but there’s only one surefire way for a book to do well – word of mouth. Reviews don’t matter. They’re addressed to people who are already converts. A Suitable Boy was a turning point, I think. Then we published writers like Arundhati Roy, Upamanyu. We wooed all of them. In non fiction, there was Maximum City by Suketu Mehta and P Sainath’s Everyone Loves A Good Drought. In the case of Shobhaa De, I went to her and asked her to write a book. Publishers must have copies which move very fast. She wrote Socialite Evenings and it sold in six figures. The market was growing very slowly. But you must remember, we had started from a very small base. In the first six or seven years, nothing much really happened. But then things started picking up. I hired Ravi Singh from Delhi Diary. Then I hired V Karthika, Meru Gokhale and many others. They have all done so well subsequently. I enjoyed building my team. I never had a problem hiring smart people. By ’97, other publishing houses had started com-



ing up, such as Harper Collins. I became CEO of Penguin when I was 39 years old. I was increasingly doing things like running Penguin India, DK India, etc. For the last 12 years I have had very little to do with actual publishing. I missed that. I wanted to get back to making books. I love publishing. That’s why I decided to set up my own company Aleph, along with Rupa (they have the best distribution network in the country). I’m 52 years old now – another 15 years and I will have no stamina to do the things I want to. At Aleph, I want to do brilliant books and sell them to their potential. I want to keep it small and beautiful. If you grow too big, you start getting into problems. You can’t pay attention to your books. I want to do about 15 to 20 books in the first year, take it up to about 40 in year two and 60 to 70 in year three. We will do fiction and non-fiction. Also borderline commercial. Like, I would like to publish books of the sort Stieg Larsson wrote. See, the US is a very mature market so you have a lot of genre fiction. India is a very young market, but it will happen. Right now, I have just hired an editorial assistant. I bounce ideas off Kapish (Mehra, of Rupa), my wife, my friends. I’m thinking of hiring people by the end of the year. Though I’ve been away for many years, I’ve been keeping track of the growth of the market here. So it’s not a shock at all. Today there are tons of young, new, writers. There are so many litfests, which didn’t exist back then. I had attempted to start something of the kind, but it didn’t happen. There is a time for everything. If you’re too far ahead of the curve, it won’t happen. But hats off to Namita (Gokhale) and Willie (Dalrymple) for having organised the Jaipur Litfest so successfully. How you buy books today has also changed so much. The chain bookshops are big well-lit spaces but they don’t have the range that indie bookshops do. In the US, once Amazon came, the chains were in trouble. Indie bookstores used to be 50 per cent of the market, today they account for only 11 to 15 per cent. They were first destroyed by the chains, then by online buying. But I think indie bookstores will come back. Online buying can’t replicate the human touch. Chain bookstores usually have very ignorant staff. Everything is in a state of flux right now. It’s difficult to say how things will settle down in the next two or three years. But I’ve always liked change – I see it as an opportunity, not a threat. People are reading and that’s not just a notion. Sales are up. India is the only English language market that is growing. Here it’s growing at 15 per cent, so there’s room for many players. The other thing is digital publishing. Anyone can upload a book and become a WRITE CHOICE writer, even if only two people read your David Davidar is also the book. All you need is a computer and an author of two books. A third, Internet connection. Ithaca, will soon be out (As told to Poonam Saxena)


Meet Amish. He’s a financial services professional and the author of The Immortals of Meluha, the first book in his Shiva trilogy, which has sold 1,25,000 copies since it first hit the bookshops in early 2010. His publisher has just placed an order of another print run of 50,000. Also meet Ashwin Sanghi. He’s a businessman and the author of The Rozabal Line and Chanakya’s Chant. The latter has sold 50,000 copies since it got to the bookshops in February 2011. If it wasn’t for their strong belief in the stories they had to tell, chances are you’d never have heard of these two authors, let alone read about their pretty impressive sales fig-

‘India is the only English language market that is still growing’


SELF-BELIEF Best-selling novelist Amish published his first book himself


irst there was the bookshop. It was usually independently owned and had just one outlet. By the ’90s, some of the big bookshops, had expanded into chains. Now online bookshops, such as, and others, let you order online and deliver to your doorstep. So even if there are no bookshops worthy of the name in your city, you still have access to the books you want. Books have become more easily available than ever before. However, there is a ‘but’. And it comes from what you – the reader – wants. Internationally, over the last few years, first chain bookstores began putting independent bookstores out of business. And now chain bookstores are themselves being put out of business by online bookstores – and by e-books. In India, the situation is not quite as dire but it is headed that way, says Ajit Vikram Singh, owner of Fact and Fiction, an independent bookshop in Delhi. “Ten



ures. Because both of them, when they sent their books to publishers here and abroad, were rejected repeatedly. Ashwin sent out hundreds of manuscripts to publishers and literary agents and heard from only about 15 of them (the answer was a resounding no). Amish says he lost track of the number of rejections he got after 20. “My literary agent had told me publishers are a rather fractious lot. No one ever agrees on anything. But in my case, there was a rare unanimity. No one wanted my book,” Amish says. That could have been that for the two of them, but they were stubborn. Both Ashwin and Amish decided to put their money where their hearts were and self-publish their books. In 2006, which was when Ashwin finished the Dan Brown-ish thriller, The Rozabal Line, he went in for a publish-on-demand option on The idea was that if any reader wanted to buy the book, one copy would be printed for her or him. If no one wanted it, nothing was printed. Marketing the book himself, Ashwin managed to sell about 1,000 copies this way on Amazon. “I blogged furiously at the time, and offered other bloggers free copies of the book if they’d review it,” he says. And then one copy of Ashwin’s self-published book landed up in the hands of Hemu Ramaiah, then the owner of the Landmark chain of bookstores, and head of the books distribution agency, Westland, which now also owns a publishing firm with the same name. “I got a call from her and she said she would pass the book on to Westland,” says Ashwin. “She also said that it would need a little work, and I said, sure.”

years ago, there were one-third the number of bookshops in India than there are now,” he says. “But readership hasn’t gone up three times.” Given that basic situation, independent bookshops feel threatened by online bookshops, he says. For instance, you’d go to any particular independent bookshop because you know you will find certain kinds of books there. “But two things have happened in the last 10 years,” says Singh. “For one, as more international publishers set up in India, the variety of books we’re allowed to import has reduced. Earlier, we were getting parallel editions of books – the UK edition and the US edition. Lots of US books are cheaper than their UK editions. Also, the US is a much bigger market, so there are more books to choose from. But now, the international publishers in India have stopped the SELL, SELL, SELL: Authors use online social media to market their books

‘I blogged furiously after I self-published my book and offered other bloggers free copies if they’d review it’ — ASHWIN SANGHI, AUTHOR

So Westland re-published The Rozabal Line and also published Ashwin’s second novel, Chanakya’s Chant. In 2010, when Amish finally finished The Immortals of Meluha, the first book in what was meant to be a trilogy based an imagined life of Lord Shiva as a mortal, he was luckier. After all the rejections from publishers – which included discussions in which Amish was asked to sub-

import of books from the US.” Online bookstores have no such restrictions. And they have low overheads. The retail space that any physical bookshop needs is expensive. But aside from space for their offices, online bookstores are out there in the ether. And the ether is where much happens these days. No one with business sense can ignore it. That’s why Sachin and Binny Bansal founded in 2007. Because: “It looked like India was ready to shop online, and not just for books,” says Sachin Bansal, CEO, Selling six books every minute, according to Bansal, Flipkart can offer its customers discounts because of the sheer volume of sales. “The online business model directly means savings in the form of low overheads,” explains Bansal. “We sell in large volumes and therefore

BUY, BUY, BUY: E-books have begun to out-sell physical books on

stantially change his book – his agent, Anuj Bahri of the bookshop Bahri Sons in Delhi, decided to publish the book himself, with Amish responsible for the marketing. “In four months, we’d sold 4,500 copies of the book and then many of the publishers who’d turned me down before came back,” says Amish. “But I decided to go with Westland because they had been our distributors.” Neither Ashwin nor Amish hold grudges against the publishers who turned them down. “Publishers and literary agents get hundreds of manuscripts every week,” Ashwin says. “So where do they have the time to read everything they get? You have to be very lucky to have your manuscript picked up and read.” Amish agrees: “Publishers don’t really have the bandwidth to deal with the number of manuscripts they receive.” So both of them are gung-ho about self-publishing. “I see nothing wrong with putting your money where your convictions are,” says Amish. “The concept of quality control by a supreme council of editors is not important. Did you know that Jane Austen was rejected by publishers and self-published her books? Suppose she hadn’t. Can you imagine a world without Pride and Prejudice?” Self-publishing will become more prevalent in India in the next five years or so, says Ashwin. “Soon, people will be able to directly publish for e-readers like Kindle and so on,” he says. “There’s a huge difference between 2006, when I self-published, and today. Now, social media is much more available, and new authors can build up their own readership. For instance, I have 2,25,000 friends on Facebook and 55,000 followers on Twitter. Those numbers were impossible to get in 2006. Self-publishing will just get easier.”

receive deep discounts from our suppliers. This means cost savings, which we are able to pass on to customers in the form of discounts. And the fact is, discounts do play a large role in determining choice of shopping destinations for a lot of customers.” This doesn’t mean that online bookshops will completely kill independent bookshops, as even Bansal acknowledges. “Online is not a substitute for people who love the experience of browsing through books / titles before they make a purchase,” he says. “That is still best done offline.”

COSTS, COSTS, COSTS: Online space is cheap compared with physical retail space

‘We started Flipkart because it looked like India was ready to shop online’

CONVENIENT TRUTH: Customers find online shopping simpler and cheaper





In the eternal quest for the perfect shape, body contouring has taken the country by storm by Yashica Dutt


Some people worry about the strangest body parts

SHAPE UP! Shilpa Shetty’s curves are the most envied

The auxiliary fat bag under the armpits: Who knew that a baconstrip sized roll of fat could give someone sleepless nights? The one place we thought we’d never have to worry being judged about is apparently a cause of grave concern for body contouring fans.

Cankles: When Chelsea Clinton got married in 2010, there was something more pressing than the guest list and her gown doing the rounds of the tabloids. Mum Hillary’s – *cue for gasp* – chubby ankles or cankles! So women around the world had one more ‘fat area’ added to their list. Lobe reduction: This could actually be the least insane on this list. Gaping pierced holes in the ears, thanks to ultra-heavy costume earrings, make us bite our nails a bit too. But would you go so far as to have surgery/contouring done to make your ears look pretty?




Breast reduction: Hang on, isn’t the whole world crazy about big, mammary glands? Isn’t that what Kim Kardashian and Pamela Anderson based their careers on? But it’s true. Women are CURVES AHEAD lining up to The Kardashian have their sisters openly admit breasts reto contouring their duced by havfabulous figures ing the excess (above). Demi fat removed Moore’s knee lift from the top was hot tabloid and the sides. fodder (below) Knee lifts: We might not have believed the widespread rumours of Demi Moore having resorted to it few years ago, but the popularity of this particular area forces us to rethink. Evidently, no one wants to see their knees sag at the cruel hands of time.

HAHID AND Kareena might not have walked into the proverbial sunset but together they created a monster so potent that it continues to proliferate long after the death of their relationship. Body consciousness: a fad, which men call sixpack abs and women, size zero. While Ms Kapoor starved herself into a stick-thin figure for the role of an anorexic waif for Tashan, Mr Kapur worked out three times a day to ripple and run alongside a horse (and actually look better!) in Kaminey. It was then that the whole nation got into ‘me too’ mode. And thus arrived a new era of botox, liposuction, cosmetic surgeries and now – the latest trend – body contouring. Body contouring is a procedure that has been popular ever since actress Shilpa Shetty’s contour-perfect body ‘bounced’ on a motorbike in that memorable song in Dostana. It is primarily about creating curves

where none exist, which can be done by reducing fat or adding fat where it’s needed. Differing from plastic surgery, which usually focuses on enhancing or reducing a particular area, contouring concentrates on toning, tightening and lifting the skin to create a perfect curve. An average session, depending on the area to be worked on, can cost about R10,000R15,000, with multiple sessions required to achieve required results.


Marketing executive Rachna Grover decided to try body contouring since she couldn’t get her tummy to be washboard flat despite a strict workout regimen and a no-oily/junk food policy. “I am very thin otherwise, but always struggled with a tiny tube of fat on my lower abdomen which I could never get rid off,” she says. “And working in a place where the dress code is formals, including

What is body contouring? It’s not plastic surgery. It’s that and a bit more. Body contouring is the process of getting curves that might have been lost owing to extreme dieting or weight gain. “Contouring gives shape to your body,” says cosmetologist Dr Rashmi Shetty. “You could be fat but have a great contour thanks to the 10-inch difference between your waist and hip, while someone could be really thin and have no contours at all. It’s

about more than just losing weight. It gives a certain silhouette to the body.” Body contouring combines both surgical (liposuction, fat tissue removal) and non-surgical procedures like laser, radio frequencies, cryogenic freezing of fat tissue, suction, fat breaking injections and Thermage (tightening of loose skin) via frequencies.



high-waist skirts, and where I’m surrounded by extremely fit colleagues, made me desperate to do something about it.” Over three sessions that cost about R10,000 each, Grover eliminated that seemingly in-eradicable roll of tummy fat. “People noticed almost instantly and almost everyone talked about it when I wore a body-hugging dress at an office party,” says Grover. “Of course,” she adds, “I just said that I was working out harder.” Aside from removing lumps and bumps, the body contouring process also uses fillers and botox injections to readjust/create curves and contours where necessary. And why is this necessary? Well, says cosmetologist Dr Rashmi Shetty, while exercise and diets can help you lose weight, you can’t select which area to lose weight from. So, in order to have curves with a super slim figure, body contouring is necessary. “There are

ABS-OLUTELY NOT! Tara Reid regretted a botched tummy tuck that left her skin loose and saggy

MIND BODY SOUL also some areas which do not reduce despite exercise,” adds Dr Shetty. “But these bumps of fat can be removed with a number of procedures. For instance, clinical procedures like lipo-dissolve use injections to soften fat cells that can be burned by working out, along with focused ultrasound. Also, localised freezing of the fat cells and deep tissue heating work really well in these conditions.” It’s not only about losing fat. Body contouring can help you look toned as well. Those of us who’ve lost a lot of weight know this: once the kilos go, loose skin remains – skin that once covered all that fat. Sometimes this loose skin can extend to metres. But a patent procedure called Thermage can sort this out, says Dr Simal Soin, dermatologist and cosmo-physician. “It’s a one-time session that tones up loose subcutaneous fat that doesn’t go away from gymming alone,” she says. “It uses radio frequencies to restore the broken collagen. Though the results appear only after two or three weeks, they are more permanent than other procedures.” The Thermage treatment could cost between R85,000 to R1 lakh for the entire body. For excess fat in areas like the arms, lateral fat bags in the thighs and stomach, and shoulder fat pouches, a combination of diode, suction and radio frequency procedures works best, says Dr Swati Srivastav, head of dermatology, VLCC. “The suction helps bring the layers of fat closer to each other, while the diode heats the fat calls and burns them and the radio frequency simultaneously tones the area,” she explains.


Most doctors advise body contouring only as part of a weight loss plan that already includes diet and exercise. It should never be seen as an alternative to diet and exercise. “You can’t get surgery or a clinical procedure done, and then continue to lead an inactive, unhealthy lifestyle,” says cosmetic physician Dr

Jamuna Pai. “It has to be supported with proper diet and exercise in order to sustain the results.” That’s a lesson that 35-year-old sales and marketing head Sameer Khurana learned the hard way. “I really wanted six-pack abs,” he says. “I wanted to look my best as looks are really important in my line of work. But I had never stepped into a gym and thought I’d take a short cut with a contouring procedure. It worked, but to maintain it now, I have given up all my favourite food items and work out for an hour every day.” But it’s worth it, he says. Having paid R30,000 per session for three sessions, Khurana completely surprised his wife who couldn’t believe it when she saw him with a moviestar abdomen overnight. “The price didn’t matter so much,” he says. “Even if a risk was involved, I would still have gone ahead with it.” Though all doctors say that there are no risks involved in the procedure, they also add that it’s important to know what you’re getting into, and that whatever treatment you opt for, it should be done by a surgeon of repute. “This is specially important for any procedure that involves general anaesthesia,” says Dr Pai. Further, Dr Swati Srivastav cautions obese patients against making body contouring their first option. “I tell them to lose the extra weight and only then get contouring done for a better result,” she says. Dr Rashmi Shetty also refuses to treat teens. “A lot of kids ask me to contour their slightly chubby cheeks into a model-like, chiselled jawline. But I turn them away,” she says. But the greatest risk of all is a possible addiction to surgery. “Once people notice good results from one procedure, they want to keep doing procedures,” says Dr Pai. “A minimum interval between two procedures when they are done in the same area is about three months. But often, patients insist that I work on them much before that.”


Flights of good health


on a plane, your ability to move is oday, more of us are travelling drastically reduced. This results in more than we’ve ever done stomach distention, delayed gastric before. We travel on business emptying and a lot of discomfort. and for pleasure, and as we become Plus, the food that you should idefrequent fliers, we realise that, ally eat while on a flight is precisely health-wise, there are a huge number the food that is not available. On a of challenges to face. plane, you should eat fruits, light These include: meals like sautéed vegetables, ■ A tendency to binge eat as we dumplings, boiled corn and so on. are not sure when we’ll next be able But except for fruit and fruit juices, to eat a comfortable meal. these are not available. ■ A tendency to overload on the Try to avoid very oily food on the fatty, oily foods served on flights or at flight as it creates digestion problems airport restaurants. and gas and builds up high choles■ Muscle pain, circulation probterol, especially if your liver is weak. lems and knee pain due to sitting in Also, try to avoid mixing foods incorone place for long hours. rectly. For instance, drinking fruit ■ Dehydration on long flights. juice with dinner will ■ Sleep problems create gas and cause you due to odd travel to belch. timings and jet lag. Exercise But you don’t need Try to do as much stretchto suffer these probing as possible during your lems if you take cerflight. You can achieve this tain precautions that by walking up and down will make travel more comfortable and less THINKSTOCK the aisle. Some simple exercises are also possible while daunting. These include: seated – ankle rotations, forward Drink bending and raising and stretching On any long duration flight, it is the arms. important to hydrate yourself adeSleep quately. So while on the plane, drink Rather than sleep long hours at a lots of water, soda-free drinks and stretch, it’s advisable to take power juices. Soda-free drinks are impornaps of 45 minutes to two hours. tant as they cause less stomach gas This will ensure you get some rest and discomfort. Plus, carbonated without giving you a stiff neck. beverages tend to have a lot of If you travel for more than a week sugar, which can result in a every month, you need to build travel headache. You can drink tea or cofstamina and health. So: fee, but only in moderation because ■ Run / walk / jog regularly to build these beverages tend to dehydrate calf muscle circulation. the body and also may lead to ■ Detoxify your liver to prevent headaches. cholesterol build-up. Include amla, Eat aloe vera and vegetable juices with On a plane, your body is unable to tomatoes, cucumber, fruits and green digest food well. This is because you leafy vegetables in your diet. aren’t able to move about freely. ■ Exercise to strengthen the back. Body movement aids gas expulsion and normal bowel movements, and

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Is Italian The New French?

rude food

Vir Sanghvi


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If big restaurants like the Delhi Le Cirque succeed, then the future of European food in India – as in the West – is distinctly Italian



Y SOME coincidence I went to a preview of Le Cirque at French chef Daniel Boulud who later left Le Cirque to create his the Delhi Leela, hosted by Conde Nast Traveller, just as own restaurant empire around the globe. I had finished reading John Mariani’s new book How The most famous dish invented by Le Cirque (my view; judging Italian Food Conquered The World. by his autobiography Maccioni thinks there were several others) Despite its title and despite Mariani’s eminence as a food writer, was Pasta Primavera, a dish that is now served all over the world the book is not really about Italian food and the world but more about but which was unknown in Italy till it was imported from New York how Italian restaurants found a new respectability in America over in the 1990s. Though the dish has always struck me as being slightthe last decade and a half. Even so, it is a great read and I’d recomly French in its richness (five and a half tablespoons of butter, a full mend it to anybody who cares about European or American food. cup of cream, half a cup of cheese etc.), Le Cirque’s French chef Mariani devotes a couple of pages to Le Cirque in New York and, used to refuse to cook it and it was always finished at the table by in some ways, that restaurant’s transition is symptomatic of the Maccioni or a captain. global change. Le Cirque was started by Sirio Maccioni, an Italian These days, Le Cirque’s New York menu is much more Italian (as distinct from Italian-American) captain at New York’s society than it used to be and though the Delhi menu is still being given its haunt, The Colony, who wanted to create a clubby, expensive restaufinal shape (the official opening is the first of August but this being rant for the rich and famous. But because Italian food was considthe Leela, I’m reluctant to believe any dates provided), my guess ered too downmarket in the Seventies, Maccioni opened Le Cirque is that there may well be more Italian food than there is French. as a French restaurant, partnering with a French The shift in focus by Le Cirque is part of a global trend but also HIGH SOCIETY chef. one that we have repeatedly witnessed in India. The only proper Le Cirque In his autobiography, he explains, “To me, the French restaurant I can think of in Bombay is the Zodiac Grill and (below) was way Italian food works, in the kitchen, on the plate many people think that it is past its sell-by date anyway. I haven’t started by an is the best. Salt, olive oil, pepper, that’s it… been to a single good French restaurant in Chennai Italian captain Sirio When we opened Le Cirque, there and the one contender – Patio – has now been replaced Maccioni (left), was no way to present that kind of by an Italian restaurant. I don’t know if Graze – which who wanted to food in a restaurant. I mean you could was French and good – still exists in Bangalore but create a clubby, not do it. Who needs chefs? I could all the other candidates are more modern European expensive go back to the kitchen, put a little olive than French. There isn’t a single French restaurant restaurant for oil in a pan, sauté a fish, bring it out in Calcutta that I can think of. And the only good the rich and on a plate and lay it in front of Mrs French restaurant in Delhi, the Orient Express, is a famous Colgate. She would have had a heart special occasion sort of place. attack. Right or wrong, the way of On the other hand, Italian restaurants continue restaurants in America was French.” to thrive and flourish. The Hyatt’s La Piazza in Delhi, Le Cirque quickly became the place which changed the paradigm, still has a dedicated for ladies who lunch (in the Eighties, it following. Bombay’s Trattoria, which set the trend was to New York what Wasabi is to for Italian food, continues to pack them in. Stella, GAINING GROUND Bombay today or what Threesixty is in at the Bombay Leela has – for my money – some The book is about how Delhi) but the food remained resoluteof the best Italian food in Bombay. The two fancy Italian restaurants found a ly French and among Maccionis’s greatOberoi Italians – Vetro in Bombay and Travertino est triumphs was the mentoring of the new respectability in America in Delhi – are huge successes. The Park chain’s 14



ZODIAC GRILL The only proper French restaurant I can think of in Bombay is the Zodiac Grill LUNCH ROOM In the Eighties, Le Cirque was to New York what Wasabi is to Bombay today





once be unthinkable. If you can get good fish, meat or vegetables (which you can these days in India), then you don’t need to do very much to them. So, simple Italian is easier than complicated French. The third theory is also India-specific – and it is one I’ve often propounded. Indian cuisine is carbohydrate and starch heavy. We TASTE OF ITALY like wheat and rice – and lots of both (Chinese people are always The most famous dish bewildered when Indians insist on ordering fried rice and noodles invented by Le Cirque along with the main courses). To some extent, this is true of other was Pasta Primavera, a Asian civilisations where vast quantities of rice are consumed. OLD FAVOURITE dish that is now served French food, on the other hand, is a meat-and-potatoes kind of The Hyatt’s La Piazza in Delhi, which changed all over the world cuisine. Till recently, the French were not keen on starch – hence the paradigm, still has a dedicated following Le Cirque’s problems with Pasta Primavera – while the Italians have always enjoyed pasta and risotto. One reason why Italian food works well in India is because we love the carbohydrates. The vast majority of Italian restaurants that succeed in India (and this is especially true of the stand-alones) are those that concentrate on pizza and pasta. Many stand-alone Indian chains specialising in Italian food have gone with an Italian-American model where you push the carbs and keep the red sauce coming. Two Sundays ago I went to Spaghetti Kitchen at Select Citywalk in Saket. Spaghetti Kitchen is part of a chain helmed by Bill Marchetti, formerly of West View at Delhi’s SIMPLE TASTES Maurya and the rate at which it is expanding (new outlets seem to We long for the things that Americans were not ready to accept in the 1980s: a open all over India each month) tells us something about the Indian lightly grilled piece of meat with herbs (above right), a carpaccio (above left) etc love for carbs. The day I went, I thought the food ranged from acceptable to signature restaurant brand is Italia. The Delhi Imperial has the heavy-handed (and this is despite the fact that Bill sat with me part excellent San Gimignano. And the Grand Hyatt in Bombay has of the time) while the décor and the staff seemed to all have been always been known for Celini. bodily lifted from a Kwality’s in Ludhiana in the 1960s. (Bill says What accounts for the rise of Italian food all over the world? I that the restaurant is due for a makeover and that other branches have three theories. The first is borrowed from Mariani, but should are much better.) Nevertheless, the outlet was nearly full, which be self-evident. We have all tired of the complexity of French cuitells you something about the Indian appetite for Italian food. I’m sine. Maccioni says that in the French-dominated heyday of Le not good at making predictions but I’ll make one anyway. My guess Cirque, 18 different sauces were readied for the is that the future of European food in India is dismise-en-place in the kitchen each night. Unless the tinctly Italian. sauces were ready, the chefs could not make the What we will see in the months ahead is a mushdishes on the menu. rooming of pizza-pasta-red sauce places in the In this day and age, we long for the things that stand-alone sector. This will create problems for Maccioni says Americans were not ready to accept some of the hotel restaurants (the La Piazza kind in the 1980s: a lightly grilled piece of meat with herbs, of place) which are known for the quality of their a carpaccio, a simple fried fish etc. We like to taste pastas and pizzas because this kind of food will be our ingredients and do not want lots of sauces or available all over India at much lower prices. even too much fussing around with the food. What remains to be seen is whether the upmarTo that, I will add a second theory. Until about ten ket Italians can rise beyond this formula and do years ago, it was almost impossible to get good ingregood, Italian food using quality ingredients. The dients in India: in the 1970s, it was a struggle even two Oberoi places (Vetro and Travertino) have to source the cheese for pizza. Though Indian chefs already made the jump but they are smallish restauGREAT PROTÉGÉ (and especially the purchase departments of large rants with a dedicated base of hotel guests. Among Maccionis’s greatest hotel companies) are still not sufficiently conscious If big restaurants like the Delhi Le Cirque suctriumphs was the mentoring of the of the need for good quality ingredients, the ceed, then in India – as in the West – Italian will French chef Daniel Boulud (above) situation has improved to an extent that would be the new French.





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Tech’s Tallest Tales; And The Real Truth (Part 1) The myths that aren’t and the tech wisdom that’s outlived its expiry date

Rajiv Makhni

Don’t buy a plasma TV, the gas inside freezes in winter Every mobile phone has a secret battery that can be unlocked ■ If an LCD TV gets punctured, liquid will flow out ■


EXTINCT AID You don’t need to get this whole kit to get your CD working again


HE WORLD of technology has some of the greatest myths, urban legends and tales banded around it. The funny part is that the more outlandish ones are actually true and the simpler ones are the usually tall tales. Here’s a two-part look at some of the biggest tech tales and the real truth behind them.


CDs are still prized possessions and were supposed to last a lifetime. Unless of course, you got them all scratched up. Then they were nothing more than a tacky reflector at the back of your bike. While CD recovery kits and polishes were sold by many brands, they were nothing more than snake oil. But one tall tale has always survived. Boiling your CD. Throw your CD into boiling water and take it out immediately. Apparently it melts and smoothens the plastic and takes care of the scratches. My experience – rarely works! What does work is putting your CD on top of a thin stream of hot steam, aimed at the scratches – works 9 times out of 10 on CDs and DVDs. So finally get that face steamer you bought to do some real work.

HAVE NO FEAR It’s a key, it’s a USB stick and it won’t die if you pull it out (above); The grip of death is more exaggeration than truth (right)

open, awaiting more. Thus you could lose that data if you pulled it out without a safe eject. It’s best not to have a folder open on the USB drive or a data transfer on; other than that – it’s all pretty much okay even without a three-step eject process.


Laptops can cause your fertility to go all haywire. It’s true, though it’s not the laptop that does it; it’s the heat. Almost any kind of heat hanging around in that section will cause the male sperm count to take a fatal plunge. Laptops are usually the only thing we tend to keep there for long hours – thus they’ve been termed ‘the Sperminator’. Use a laptop mat or cooler and make sure the little boys have a free run.



The bars on your phone screen show you how clear your call will be. Well, not really. All it’s telling you is how well you’re connected to the closest tower. The rest is all dependent on that tower. Thus a full signal connection to a tower that has too much traffic and is super congested will still make you hear a splitter-spatter-spurt call. Also, some companies don’t have a very accurate reading of the bars in the first place and report extra bars just to make it all look good. Sneaky, sneaky!

NO LILY-LIVERED TOOL Use a laptop mat to save those little boys (above); Only an industrial-sized magnet can torture your media now (below)


Steve Jobs may have made it famous when he said all phones have a grip of death and any phone gripped tightly can drop a call. The underlying logic was that almost all phones have their antennas inside, thus your finger positioning can kill a signal. True and untrue. While it’s true that every phone’s antenna performs weirdly if your fingers are wrapped around them – it seems the iPhone 4 is way too sensitive to the ‘grippy’. I tried this on many phones and I was never able to get them to drop a call.


Pulling out your USB stick or hard drive without ejecting it will make you lose your data and kill the drive. Not really true anymore. Earlier technology used to leave the last file that you put on a USB


Defrag your hard drive regularly. Yes, you should, if you have some old equipment. The theory was that older systems and hard drives tend to write data all over the place and it takes that much longer to seek out all that info, thus making read-write operations longer. First, if you have a Solid State Hard drive – this is all redundant. Second, the newer OSes have better algorithms to make better use of the drive real estate and more RAM helps here too. Third – over defragging is a bigger killer as each hard drive has only a certain number of readwrites it can do. You may just be butchering it with your overzealous daily auto defrag.


Magnets can ruin gadgets, your USB drive and all your storage media. Once again, not really true anymore. This carries on from the time of the floppy disk and the fact that you weren’t supposed to take photographic film through an airport scanner. Current media would really need an industrial strength magnet to do damage. After all the iPad 2 uses a magnetic cover as part of the ‘feature’ set. You're pretty safe with all your stuff unless you live with a mad scientist with a death ray magnet machine. Lots more to come from this amazing world – where great ideas are dismissed as tall stories and silly myths are taken to be the gospel truth. Next week we’ll go deep into the world of expensive HDMI cables (give a better picture?), gadgets that fall into water (can they be revived?), mobile phones on an airplane (can you really crash that giant thing?) and of course the infamous and always asked question – do you really have a secret battery on your mobile phone that can give you juice when unlocked with a code? All shall be revealed next week. 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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Band-Age Boom

After last week’s road bump, Delhi’s local band scene makes good with groups like Half Step Down


STEP UP HERE IS something infectious about Dhaval Mudgal and Half Step Down obviously love what they’re doing – playing gigs – and when a his band, Half Step Down. When they perform on stage, band enjoys that, it almost always ensures that you get to listen to great music they have great fun and that spreads quickly to the audience, sceptics included. After a none-too-great experience as many genres as the band does and the attitude – he’s friendly, interat a live gig by another one of Delhi’s rock bands, I was coaxed into active with the audience and he and his band members seem to enjoy dropping by at the city’s Hard Rock Café to see Mudgal and his band. good chemistry: a perfect precondition for a good band. It helps too I didn’t regret it. What I did regret though was why I hadn’t bothered that they have a good lead guitarist, a great drummer and an equalto seek out this fine five-year-old band before. ly great bass guitar thwacker. I was told that the full band has a keyThe Hard Rock Café – like many other city venues that regularly boardist but I never got to see him on the night I caught them at HRC. hold gigs – isn’t the best in terms of acoustics. In February last year, They did get some guest musicians to join them on songs. Such as I’d heard Hurricane Bells, a band from Brooklyn, New York, play Mumbai band, The Circus’s talented guitarist, Arsh Sharma, who there. They were a good band but the acoustics at the venue did lithopped on stage to play a very fiery lead on an instrumental track. tle to flatter their performance. So, I wasHalf Step Down is not a new band and, n’t expecting anything great this time too. as I said, I should have discovered them Surprise! Not only did the sound system much earlier. Better late than never, I guess, at HRC seem to have been spruced up – and I’m looking forward to their next Delhi everything sounded clear and sharp – the gig, which I’m told is on August 5. band hooked you instantly. Half Step Down A first-floor nightclub in the middle of a obviously love what they’re doing – playbadly-designed raggedy Gurgaon shopping ing gigs – and when a band enjoys that, it sprawl isn’t the ideal venue to catch a gig almost always ensures that you get to lisbut in my new-found zest for discovering ten to great music. Dhaval is Half Step local bands (and being prepared for both Down’s frontman and singer (and, as their pleasant surprises and rude shocks), I viswebsite tells you, lyricist and manager too). ited a place called Attitude. The six or sevenHalf Step Down plays a refreshingly eclecmember band, all dressed in black, was CIRCUS COMES TO TOWN tic mix of genres – blues, alternative rock called Toya and Friends, and the audience Arsh Sharma, the talented guitarist of Mumbai band The and funk. On the night I saw them, besides was a mix of middle-aged couples, young Circus, brought the house down with his fiery lead their own compositions, they did excellent kids and neighbourhood stags. Toya and covers of classic tracks, including Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower Friends are a band from North-East India, although I couldn’t find and The Beatles’ With a Little Help From My Friends. out exactly from where. And they seem to be like a house-band at this I have always thought covers of well-known tunes are a true test neighbourhood watering hole. Very crowd-friendly, the band gauged of how good a band is. If a band is confident of being able to tweak, what the audience was in the mood for (hits from the Seventies and improvise or adapt a famous song and carry it off, it is likely to be a Eighties: Queen, The Doors, Abba, Bryan Adams and Simon & good band. At the top of the best cover versions that I’ve heard is, of Garfunkel) and dished out just that, competently. I have nothing against Sweet Home Alabama or Cecilia or Summer of 69 but I wouldn’t course, Cat Power’s 2000 album, The Covers Record, which almost entirely comprises covers of others’ songs. And they all sound so difexactly seek out a band playing all of that at 11.30 pm on a weekend ferent. You should, if you haven’t already, check out Power’s version night. Yet, it felt good to see a vibrant trend of nightly gigs by bands of the Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. Half Step Down did a – some really great and other quite good – in Delhi and its outlying great take on All Along The Watchtower, more Hendrix-ish than suburbs. There is hope. Dylanesque, and their cover of the famous The Beatles song veered more towards the version you must have heard Joe Cocker play at To give feedback, stream or download the music mentioned in this column, go to Woodstock., follow argus48 on Twitter or visit our It helps that Mudgal has the perfect voice for songs that straddle website: SWARNABH GHOSH

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Sanjoy Narayan



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Sometimes Twitter resembles nothing more than a schoolyard: bullies, cool kids, class monitors, et al

FIGHT FOR SPACE There’s nothing that Twitter resembles more than a disorderly schoolyard with everyone jostling for space and attention


ROWING UP we were told that school was the perfect training ground for life. This is where we would begin to socialise with other kids; learn to rub along even though we often couldn’t bear to be in the same room together. This is where we would learn to share our stuff so that we became a tad less selfish. This is where we would form friendships to sustain us in the future. And this is where we would learn the life skills that would help us survive once we left the safety of the classroom: the ability to stand up for ourselves; the sense to distinguish between right and wrong; and the desire to fight the good fight. Well, at least, that was the way it was supposed to work in an ideal world. But now that my school days are but a distant memory – but still have the power to traumatise me deeply when I’m least expecting it – I have realised that while all that time in school helps you cope with Real Life, it is also great training for when you finally bite the bullet and get on Twitter. Because when you think about it, there’s nothing that Twitter resembles more than a disorderly schoolyard (and that’s on a good day) with everyone jostling for space and attention and not worrying too much about whom they hurt in the process. And if you care to look closely, you will see the same dramatis personae on Twitter as you would see in your average school – except they are now all grown up and have the potential to wreak much greater damage. In fact, the social pecking order here is also frighteningly similar. At the top of the heap are the Cool Kids (celebrities, mostly) whom everyone wants to be friends with. These people know their worth though, and don’t bother to engage with the unwashed masses, unless they are responding to fulsome compliments and may deign to throw back a ‘Tks’ (apparently when you are famous it’s too much of a drag to type out a whole word). They prefer to engage with the other Cool Kids, being all witty and charming with one another, in the certain knowledge that their every tweet is being lapped up by their massive fan base. Where there are Cool Kids, there are bound to be Suck-Ups (or Teacher’s Pets as we called them back in school). These people spend all their time tweeting to their idols, praising them for their recent exploits, telling them how wonderful they are, and asking for validation in the form of a tweet back. And you’d be surprised how often this strategy works. While flattery may not get you everywhere, it often does get you a follow-back. At the other end of the spectrum are the Cyber Bullies, who hide behind the safety of anonymous Twitter IDs to shower abuse on whoever takes their fancy. These function like those feral gangs in school who would form a posse to bully those who were most vulnerable. They would trip them

up on the driveway, punch them in the nose, shove them in the back when they were standing at the top of the stairs, spread vile rumours about them (or their mothers). Just as it was in the schoolyard, so it is on Twitter (even if the wounds are only psychic). And when things get particularly conCOOL FACTOR tentious on Twitter, these Cyber At the top of the heap are the Cool Bullies tend to transform into Kids (celebrities, mostly) whom Lynch Mobs, where anyone who everyone wants to be friends with doesn’t agree with them is a fair target for vile abuse. Those of us who have experienced being heckled at the school play or on sports day know exactly how this works (and feels). But while you can cope with these types by blanking – not to mention, blocking – them out, the ones that really irritate me are the GoshAren’t-I-Wonderful types. These are the kids who always had their hands up with the right answer in class, who always topped every exam – and then said how they simply couldn’t understand it, given that they hadn’t even studied for the damn thing. (Grrrrr...) On Twitter these people content themselves with RTing every bit of praise ever flung in their direction, by telling us how wonderfully their movie / play / music album / book is doing, and giving us little glimpses of their wonderful life. Fortunately, these Over-Achievers just restrict themselves to sharing their highs, higher and highest. The Over-Sharers, on the other hand, want you to know every detail of their life: when they woke up; what they ate for breakfast; how they made their way to work; what they are wearing; what they are thinking of eating for lunch... You can imagine the interminable essays they wrote after the summer vacations: “What I did in my school holidays”. I feel for their teachers, I truly do. And then, bringing up the rear – and trying to bring about some sort of order – you have the Class Monitors. In school these kids were assigned the thankless task of keeping a few hundred kids quiet while the principal addressed the school assembly. And even now, they can’t bear it if someone speaks out of turn. That old childhood conditioning kicks in and they butt in with well-meaning attempts to restore order. Don’t use bad words. Treat a lady with respect. Don’t intrude in conversations that have nothing to do with you. Don’t be racist. Don’t be communal. Of course, just as it was in school, nobody pays a blind bit of attention to anything they have to say. But I still love them for making the effort PHOTOS: THINKSTOCK


Seema Goswami



18 Follow Seema on Twitter at



Come home to


The valley is still a treasure house of natural and spiritual beauty; its people as warm and hospitable as ever Text and photos by Vikramaditya Singh

E FORE! The newly redesigned golf course at Pahalgam (top) SITE FOR SORE EYES A view of the Hirpur river en route to Pir Ki Gali (above)



Jammu and Kashmir


ARLIER THIS year I made plans with my family to visit our summer home in Srinagar and I am delighted to have done so. As I sit on the balcony of Karan Mahal and watch the shikaras go by on the Dal Lake, I realise how privileged and blessed my family is, to have this magnificent home to come back to in this pristine valley. Karan Mahal was built in the 1920s. It was the home of Sir John Wakefield who worked in the government of Maharaja Hari Singh. Later, it become home to my father, Dr Karan Singh, and his English guardians. From 1950 to 1968, while he was Sadar-e-Riyasat (head of state) and right up until the mid 1980s, Karan Mahal played host to several visiting dignitaries, heads of state, royalty and movie stars. After seeking blessings at the two holy shrines of Shankracharya and Kheer Bhawani, we decided to drive extensively in different parts of the Kashmir Valley. The valley stretches 100 km wide and is 15,520 square km in area. My aim was to explore especially those areas that had been made inaccessible over the last 20 years as a result of militancy. There has been an overflow of tourists in the valley this year and it is advisable not to plan trips out of Srinagar on the weekends, as all the popular places get very crowded with both local and visiting traffic. So we decided to make our first trip out to our all-time favourite destination, Pahalgam, on a weekday. I have to say that it is sad to see the kind of unabated construction that has happened over the last 20 years in this valley. The drive to Pahalgam seemed most unfamiliar till I saw the gorgeous

Lidar river and the bold signage that proudly says: ‘Welcome! Pahalgam Development Authority.’ I had heard about the newly redesigned 18-hole golf course and couldn’t wait to see it. It had just been inaugurated by chief minister Omar Abdullah. As I walked onto the course, I couldn’t help but gasp in awe of the beauty that surrounded me. It was like being in any of the top golf courses in England or Scotland, with undulating meadows and forests and contrasting shades of green that almost hurt the eye! I felt an immense sense of joy and pride. Joy, to see the stunning natural beauty that surrounded me and pride to see our ability to create a top-class international golf course using that natural splendour.


We then had lunch and proceeded beyond Pahalgam to a popular fishing area in upper Aaru. You go past a picturesque spot where the Aaru and Pahalgam rivers meet. We had booked the fishing lodge there and spent the better part of the evening looking at the iris in full bloom along the river. Needless to say we had a large overdose of homemade walnut tarts, cookies and cakes. And to make the consequent digestion easier, doused ourselves with large quantities of sweet kahwa with an extra dose of sugar, almonds and saffron! Sitting by the river, it was so easy to forget that these were areas where no one dared to venture until two years ago. On our return, we were very keen to visit the ancient Martand temple in Matton village dedicated to the sun god. My son is named after this



temple built by the Hindu King Lalitaditya Muktapada in AD 724-61. This excavated monument is under the Archaeological Survey of India. The temple is unique for its size and grandeur. We reached just as the sun was setting. You could see multiple hues of blue and pink in the sky and the last rays of the sun falling on the arches and the massive gateway. It was as though time had stopped and you had entered a gateway to a different dimension. Martand was happy. One afternoon we went to Manasbal Lake that lies between the towns of Ganderbal and Bandipur, just over an hour’s drive from Srinagar. It is soothing to see this large body of clear blue water free of toxic waste and pollutants. There has been a conscious drive to keep the waters clean and to develop a pedestrian pathway along the shores of the lake. We were told that some of the tastiest freshwater fish in the valley comes from here. It was interesting to see the partially submerged ancient Hindu temple close by, surrounded by a perennial source of crystal-clear spring water. As you cruise on the lake, you can see just the parapet of what was once a Mughal garden ascribed to Empress Nur Jahan. The lake comes alive on moonlit nights. That would have to be a whole different trip!


Perhaps the most exciting of all my explorations was the drive to Pir Ki Gali on the ancient Mughal route. This stretch of road starts from Shopian in south Kashmir, going up to the mountain pass called Pir Ki Gali (the passage of the saints) situated at 10,600 ft. As you drive along the Hirpur river on the 45-km stretch of highway, it’s awesome to know that you are on the route once used by Mughal and other caravans to cross over from Kashmir Valley to the lower regions of Rajouri, Poonch and Jammu. As you peer down the steep mountainsides, you catch a glimpse of the ruins of the original Mughal sarai or resting place. Today it is used by shepherds as they traverse these mountains to graze their cattle. A lot of the road is still under construction and makes for ideal four wheel driving conditions. As you approach the pass, you begin to see vast areas of gently undulating hills and meadows with lush green grass. These regions all form part of the traditional grazing lands of the Gujjar/Gaddi communities whose families have travelled deep into the mountains for centuries. This deep understanding of the high altitude mountainous terrain makes them very good guides and trackers. This special ability has been exploited in the recent past by security forces to gather information and also by militants still hibernating in remote areas.


HEAVEN ON EARTH A view from Pir Ki Gali or Passage of the Saints (above) RIVER RIDE A magnificent houseboat on the River Jhelum (right)


The historic Jhelum river originates at a spring in Verinag and meanders through the old parts of Srinagar city. It then flows through the border town of Uri from where it crosses the line of control (LoC) into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. There are seven bridges over this river connecting different parts of the town. These wooden structures were made during the reign of Muslim rulers and some are still standing strong. The tourism department has recently started the ‘Jhelum river cruise’ that takes you from ‘Zero’ bridge to fifth bridge at Fateh Kadal. We decided to take this hour-long boat ride one sunny afternoon. I have to say that the authorities have made a concerted effort to clean up this section of the waters and its once heavily encroached shores. As you cross each bridge, you see some very interesting architecture and ruins of monuments. You come across dilapidated old buildings still inhabited by people. If you look carefully, you can see sections of precariously poised bay windows, arches and facades that are still intact. The intricate woodwork on the jharokhas and cornices reflects the richness of Kashmiri artisans. When you approach the older sections of the town, the Persian influence on Kashmiri architecture starts to become evident. It is a photographer’s delight! I couldn’t stop hopping from one side of the boat to the other in an attempt to capture that perfect shot. I am not sure if I got it! It was an emotional moment for me when we



crossed the old Rajgarh City Palace built by my ancestor Maharaja Ranbir Singh in 1900 on the shores of the Jhelum. My grandfather, Maharaja Hari Singh, moved out of this palace in the 1920s and set up home just outside the city overlooking the famous Dal Lake. Sadly, I never got to see this palace in its full glory. A large part of it was burned down in a fire 25 years ago. The rest is occupied by government offices. I am told that entire walls were adorned by exquisite papier mache work and the ceilings were decorated with the traditional Kashmiri woodwork called Khutambandi. Between the third and the fourth bridges you approach the Khanqah of Shah Hamadan. This mosque in Feteh Kadal forms the oldest part of the city. Said to be a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad, Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani came from the city of Hamadan in Persia during the reign of Emperor Akbar and set up his monastery on which the present day mosque stands. The Persian influence on the architecture of this beautiful building is very strong. The structure is made of huge wooden planks filled with small brick tiles and oddly enough, reminded me of a monastery I recently visited in Paro, Bhutan. It was during his time that the process of conversion to Islam began. Kashmir


HERE COMES THE SUN The remains of the ancient Martand temple, dedicated to the sun god (far left) ANCIENT SPLENDOUR The Shah Hamadan mosque in the oldest part of Srinagar (left) DELICATE BEAUTY Papier mache frescoes on the buildings lining the River Jhelum (below)

was predominantly Hindu before that. After shooting pictures from every nook and corner like a possessed person, I decided to settle down to say a small prayer. By now the sun had begun to set over the river and the light was filtering through the chinaar leaves onto the mosque. I asked for blessings for my family and peace for the people of Kashmir. I returned home that evening with a sense of reinforced belief that there are powerful spiritual forces at work all around us that most of us are not tuned in with. Every now and then when you visit special places like Shah Hamadan, regardless of their religious affiliation, it opens up your sensitivities to such forces. I felt settled and at peace with myself.


No trip to Kashmir is complete without visiting the Dachigam National Park nestled in the mountains behind the Harvan reservoir, a 40minute drive from Srinagar. This was a private hunting reserve of the maharajas and only a select few guests were ever invited to hunt here. The ‘hangul’ or Kashmir stag as it was popularly referred to, was amongst the prized trophies. Leopard, Himalayan black bear and the musk deer also continue to thrive in this habitat. It

WATCH THEM BLOOM Iris flowers on the banks of the Aaru river

was declared a protected area as early as 1910 by the maharaja. Strict guidelines and rules were laid down for the preservation and protection of its precious forests and diverse wildlife. Till date the local administration follows a lot of these norms and keeps the entry restricted through the office of the chief minister. My best childhood memories are of frolicking in the sunny afternoon with my parents in the main garden, then setting off to spot the bears. There was an old forest guard called Wani who used to hug and kiss us and claimed that he had worked under Maharaja Hari Singh. As kids we never knew whether to run in the opposite direction when we saw him or to be equally

affectionate and risk being smothered by this old man! That was always a tough call! This trip of mine was special in more ways than one. To begin with, I was a little apprehensive about what I would discover whilst here, but then I decided to keep an open mind, to spend more time listening to what people have to say than go in with preconceived notions. I met and spoke to people in Pulwama, Shopian, Khannabal, Pahalgam, Daksum, Ganderbal, Kheer Bhawani and in Srinagar city. I remembered what my mother always taught me, to show compassion and understanding instead of being harsh and judgemental. I believe that if most people coming to visit Kashmir exercise the same expressions, it will help create a better understanding of where each side is coming from and what we can do to achieve common goals. The interlocutors appointed by the central government are working overtime to gather consensus on key areas of disagreement. They have only a couple of months to present their recommendations. On the other hand, the people of Jammu & Kashmir are anxiously waiting to see what package is offered to them. This will play a critical role in shaping the course of events in Jammu & Kashmir in the near future. I hope the government of India realises that this is the last chance the country has to broker peace in this complex state with such distinct regional and ethnic aspirations. Meanwhile, I extend a warm invitation to those of you who have been inspired to visit your Kashmir this year and enjoy its treasure of immense natural and spiritual beauty and the warm hospitality of its beautiful people.





He likes cricket; after all, Angad is the son of the renowned cricketer Bishan Singh Bedi. But though he was part of the Delhi Ranji team, Angad soon realised that he “couldn’t be as great as his legendary father”, and that talking about cricket and being in front of the camera was more to his taste. Having hosted shows like Emotional Atyachar 1, Extraaa Innings etc., on TV with great elan, Angad made a foray in Bollywood with the film Faltu. And now, with more projects coming up, he is just beginning his next innings One word that describes you best? Dhiskyon!!

If a traffic constable hauls you up, what will you do?

Lapse into my ‘fluent’ Marathi and hope the cop is amused enough to let me go.

What makes you feel sexy?

The one law you would break if you could get away with it? Murphy’s law.

What did you do with your first pay cheque?

Which superhero would you like to be and why?


If you could have a star perform at your wedding, who would it be and why? Rakhi Sawant for sure.

Three cheap compliments in a row.

‘Batman’... mostly cause my dad was a bowler!

The last movie that made you cry? Taare Zameen Par. Love is...

...Where lust isn’t.

I love luv stories, especially the ‘Dharma’ kind.

Choose: Air India or Indian Railways? Indian Railways! Kyunki usme ‘mamta’ hai!

A tune you can’t get out of your head?

What is the weirdest thing that ever went into your mouth?

Do you love Luv Storys?

Whatever I heard last, and I even ‘hear voices’.

If you could be born either rich or intelligent, which one would you choose? You can’t say ‘both’. Rich for sure. Word is that we use only 20 per cent of our brain anyway.

Share a secret with us… you can trust us, we’ll only print it!





...Worth writing home about.

You get high on?

Earth’s crowded and full of trash. Choose another planet.


Your first kiss was...

Any cheap compliment will do just fine, thank you.

It bounced! No kidding.




An ‘insect’... of course no one else dare call my ex that. Hahaha.

What makes your day? Wake-up sex.

What screws it up? Make-up sex

If you were the last person left on earth, what would you do? Start looking for Eve.

— Interviewed by Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi



Hindustantimes Brunch 24 July 2011  

Hindustantimes Brunch 24 July 2011

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