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APRIL 2012 `25 An MBD Publication RNI No.: 23870/72

D E M O C R A T I C

W O R L D

WHO WILL BLINK FIRST? THE IMPASSE OVER

THE NATIONAL COUNTER TERRORISM CENTRE Page 30

CONSTRAINED CAPITALISM

CAN WESTERN ECONOMIC MODELS WORK FOR INDIA? Page 12

The

Turn of FATE LOOKING BACK WITH K.P. SINGH

His is a life built on ironic twists, magic timing and trumping all odds PAGE 14

PLUS:

GOOD KARMA WAREHOUSE LIFE IN TECHNICOLOUR PLATFORM


express


EDIT ORIAL SONICA MALHOTRA KANDHARI | editorial@democraticworld.in

Common Concerns in New India THE MONTH GONE BY has certainly had something for

everyone. Apart from elections, people have had to come to grips with phenomena ranging from Board exams to the Budget session in Parliament. It was interesting to see Finance Minister Pranab MukherDEMOCRATIC jee quote Shakespeare repeatedly during the session; admittedly, those bits were more interesting than the budget itself, which was too aam for the common admi. Budget 2012 did not sizzle at all (it sank like an arrowroot biscuit dipped in tea too much) but what did carry a spark was Whatever the Odds—a book launched last November and currently resting on my bedside table. A semi-autobiographical work co-written by Indian realty baron Kushal Pal Singh and journalists Ramesh Menon and Raman Swamy, Whatever the Odds is quite the page-turner. What impressed me the most about this book was its lack of superfluity—neither its subject nor its writers resorted to unnecessary words. It was a pragmatic narrative, much like its protagonist. But to put the spotK.P. SINGH ON light on Singh, we will need to describe him a little betDEMOCRACY: A democratic system is ter. A few more adjectives will be needed, and I will use problematic because it the word ‘honest’ before all others. One does not expect creates short-term a realty baron like Singh to admit to weaknesses, yet he roadblocks as there are does. With a humility that is rare, he recalls his fathertoo many opinions. But in in-law’s censure, his own initial lack of canny business the long run, it is the only sense and his struggles. Obviously, then, ‘courageous’ system that survives the is another word that could be used to describe the man. test of time Though the Millennium City in Gurgaon is every bit

BYTE

Singh’s baby, he is not blinkered about it. Like a parent he is quick to point out the shoddy condition of his “dream project”; slams its lack of infrastructure and potholed roads. We were fortunate to score a double scoop with our cover story this time—roping in both K.P. Singh and Ramesh Menon. A veteran journalist, Menon gladly revisited his days of extensive research with Singh for the DW cover. Perhaps it’s inevitable that everyone is talking about economic models, environmental impact and financial systems. Another observer to speak on similar issues is Chandran Nair, who has written in for our “Foreign Despatches” this month. An economist and environmentalist, Nair takes on and redefines the conventional ideas of capitalism. This month’s DW ends on a rather delicious note, with a conversation with everybody’s favourite chef, Sanjeev Kapoor. Kapoor entered our living rooms thanks to his immensely popular cooking show. Read on to find out about his father’s influence, cooking Indian khana and of course, kitchens. On that note, I leave you with a magazine that I hope gives you enough food for thought. As always, I look forward to your response, so do write in.

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TOC

URVASHI BUTALIA IF ONE COULD TAKE PUBLISHING AND WRITING OUT OF MY SYSTEM, I GUESS I WILL BE VERY BORED

WRITER OF THE MONTH

| APRIL

2 0 12

C O V E R DE S I GN B Y A NIL T | P HOTO B Y SUBHOJI T PAUL

TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S

READ MORE ON PAGE 34

14 JOHN ELLIOTT

COVER STORY

14 | The Empire Builder

Realty baron K.P. Singh has not learnt to quit—he pulled DLF out of nearbankruptcy and sculpted it into India’s blue-chip brand in real estate

Please Recycle This Magazine And Remove Inserts Before Recycling

2

COPYRIGHT Democratic World is published & printed by M Gulab Singh & Sons (a unit of MBD Group) at Gulab Bhawan 6, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi 110002, India and printed at Perfect Printers Gulab Bhawan 6, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi 110002, India. Democratic World is for private circulation only. Material in this publication may not be reproduced in any form without the written permission of M Gulab Singh & Sons.

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26 | CAN MAINSTREAM POLITICS SOLVE THE CONUNDRUM when all else fails to leave a mark on India’s rural margins

SANTOSH DESAI

38 | THE TYRANNY OF LABELS: Liberalism accompanied with a surge in conservatism


30 ISSUE

30 | COUNTERING TERROR:

Debating the National Counter-terrorism Centre GOOD KARMA

40 | CLOTHES NOT CHARITY

22

Compassion and empathy should be the keys to philanthropy REGULARS

SOCIAL AGENDA

22 | The World’s Diary Blog, a

portmanteau of the terms web log, is one efficient tool to express, sell, amaze and start a conversation

01 | EDITORIAL 06 | UP-TO-DATE 12 | FOREIGN DESPATCHES 34 | LOOKING BACK 42 | READING ROOM 52 | STICKY NOTES

LIFE IN TECHNICOLOUR

WAREHOUSE

GARNISH

HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE

28 | ART GALLERY PHEROZA GODREJ on

44 | GADGETS & GIZMOS HASSELBLAD H4D-200MS find out

46 | INDIAN MASTER OF SPICES SANJEEV KAPOOR on men who rule

50 | A DIFFERENT KIND OF A ROAD TRIP AMRITA DASGUPTA a

why this baby costs a pretty penny, and some more

the kitchen and his baby—the newly started food channel

compulsive traveller’s trip through breathtaking Jordan

the works of art that adorn the walls of her gallery, Cymroza, and her life

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CONGRATULATIONS ON DW. I FELT LIKE WRITING TO YOU WHEN I SAW MRINAL PANDE ON THE COVER A KNOWN FACE, YET OFTEN FORGOTTEN IN THE WORLD OF GLAMOUR JOURNALISM. IT WAS A BRILLIANTLY WRITTEN STORY. HOWEVER, WHAT STRUCK ME WAS THE CASE THAT THE STORY MADE REGARDING THE IMPORTANCE OF VERNACULAR IN THIS WANT-TO-BEWESTERN WORLD OF OURS.

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POINT OF VIEW

Alok Kashyap

DEAR EDITOR, The title

Femininity and Feminism—does our society misuse the two F-words? caught my attention. Sweta Srivastava Vikram puts across a valid point. In the whole process of the womens’ lib, the meaning of feminism has got blurred with time. A thought provoking piece. I hope to see more such articles in your magazine. REGARDS, NAVINI KUMAR, JOURNALIST

WRITE TO US: Democratic World values your feedback. We want to know what you think about the magazine and would love your opinion on issues that you would like us to raise. DW continues to be work in progress and your inputs will make it a truly democratic effort. For additional images, opinion polls and much more visit our facebook page at www.facebook.com/DWzine Send your comments, compliments, complaints or questions about the magazine to editorial@democraticworld.in

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Democratic World is a monthly magazine published and printed by M Gulab Singh & Sons (a unit of MBD Group). It is published at Gulab Bhawan, 6, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi-110002, India and printed at Perfect Printers, Gulab Bhawan, 6, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi-110002, India. The magazine is edited by Dr Chander Trikha, Gulab Bhawan, 6, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi-110002, India. Material in this publication may not be reproduced in any form without the written permission of M Gulab Singh & Sons. Editorial opinions expressed in the magazine are not necessarily those of M Gulab Singh & Sons and M Gulab Singh & Sons does not take responsibility for the advertising content, content obtained from third parties and views expressed by any independent author/contributor. (M Gulab Singh & Sons, Gulab Bhawan, 6, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi-110002). Email: editorial@democraticworld.in Opinions expressed herein are of the authors and do not necessarily reflect any opinion of M Gulab Singh & Sons, Gulab Bhawan, 6, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi-110002, India Tel: 91-11-30912345, 30912301 Email: subscribe@democraticworld.in


DR JAYALALITHAA

“The Budget shows the continued policy paralysis gripping the Centre”

THEY SAID IT

UPtoDATE The 2012 Assembly Polls Uncork a Bottle of Surprises Samajwadi Party sweeps polls in Uttar Pradesh POLL\\ The 2012 Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh,

Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur, came as a mixed bag for national parties, especially the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with no clear winners emerging in any state. However, it was the verdict in Uttar Pradesh that came as the major disappointment and worry to both. Congress’s highpitched campaign led by scion Rahul Gandhi, and BJP’s attempt to bring in hardliner Uma Bharti, both failed to woo in voters. While Gandhi and Bharti sank, Samajwadi Party (SP) scion and son to party president Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav (in

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picture above), successfully spearheaded a campaign to bring his party back to power. SP won 224 seats out of the total 403, becoming the single-largest party and forming the government. The junior Yadav was given credit for the party’s rise from 97 seats in the 2007 Vidhan Sabha polls and was subsequently elected as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Akhilesh Yadav is the youngest chief minister of Uttar Pradesh at the age of 38 years. On the same day, 19 Cabinet Ministers and 28 Ministers of State were also sworn in. The poll results was being viewed as a mini-General Elections, foreshadowing the 2014 mandate.

38

Year old Akhilesh Yadav becomes the youngest CM of UP


up-to-date

FROM AROUND THE WORLD //

Little Master Finally Hits His 100th Ton CRICKET\\ On March 16, 2012, at Mirpur in Bangla-

Did Fidel Castro let JFK be assassinated? Explosive revelations of a former CIA operative INTERNATIONAL\\ Did Fidel Castro (above) know that the late US President John F

Kennedy was to be assassinated? According to a new book—Castro’s Secrets; The CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence Machine—about the 1963 murder, he did. The book slated for April release was penned by Brian Latell, a retired CIA agent, who studied Cuban affairs as an analyst in the 1960s and later became the agency’s chief intelligence officer for Latin America. The author has claimed that Castro knew of a possible attack on the late President. Rumour about the Cuban dictator’s involvement in a plot to murder his fierce adversary has been around for almost half-acentury since communist sympathiser Lee Harvey Oswald shot the US president during a trip to Dallas. In his book, Latell claims that on the morning of November 22, 1963, Castro ordered a senior intelligence officer in Havana to stop listening for non-specific CIA radio communications and concentrate instead on “Any little detail, any small detail from Texas”. Latell also writes, “Fidel knew of Oswald’s intentions and did nothing to deter the act.” He also claims that Castro was aware that Oswald, who had been denied a visa to visit Cuba, told staff there that he was going to murder Kennedy to prove his allegiance to the communist cause.

desh, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar or the Little Master as he is called by his fans, scored a century of international centuries—51 in Tests and 49 in ODIs. As far as this record goes, Tendulkar’s closest rival remains the Australian cricketer Ricky PonMASTER ting, who has 68 centuries against BLASTER his name. Born on April 24, 1973, Tendulkar made his Test debut in 1989. Since then, he has scripted numerous records. It seems that Tendulkar himself was equally worried about the record. His reaction after the hundreth ton was, “I seem to have lost 50 kgs,”. His 99th century was on March 12, 2011, and the countdown to the hundredth ton started from then on. The champion for now has ruled out immediate retirement plans. Since his international debut at 16 against Pakistan in 1989, Tendulkar has been compared to not only top batsmen like Brian Lara and Inzamam-ul-Haq, but also to Australian great Donald Bradman, as the best batsman ever.

ENTERTAINMENT

Vidya Balan bagged the National Award for The Dirty Picture Balan goes on to prove that there is nothing dirty in portraying a woman’s plight in the oftenexploitative Indian film industry. The film with a female lead hit the jackpot at the box office, and swept up awards for commerical films. APRIL 2012

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up-to-date

\\ FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Draft Deadline (left) The Human Rights Council in session In a Spot (below) Sri Lankan President Mahindra Rajapaksa

UN Human Rights Council Seeks Lanka Probe India Takes Clear Stand During Vote INTERNATIONAL\\ The United Nations’s top

human rights body—the Human Rights Council—called on Sri Lanka to ‘investigate alleged war crimes committed by both sides during the country’s 26-year conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels. The UN Human Rights Council approved a US-backed resolution that urged the South Asian nation to probe allegations of summary executions and kidnappings among other abuses, but stopped short of calling for an international investigation. A 47-nation council passed a resolution with 24 countries in favor, 15 against and eight abstentions. India voted in favour of the resolution. Sri Lanka and its allies had fiercely resisted the resolution, saying it unduly interfered in the country’s domestic affairs and could hinder its reconciliation process. The head of Sri Lanka’s delegation to the council, Cabinet Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, insisted before the

vote that his country had been a model for others in dealing with the aftermath of the conflict, which ended in 2009. He called the resolution “misconceived, unwarranted and ill-timed,” and directed much of his ire toward the US, which had tabled the draft before the Geneva-based council. But human rights groups and ethnic Tamils in exile welcomed the vote. The resolution asks the Sri Lankan government to commit to the international community that it would implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learned Reconciliation Commission established by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The resolution does not seek the appointment of an independent international inquiry commission on the alleged war crimes nor the establishment of an international co-chairs unlike in 2002, to ensure a political solution to the ethnic problem of Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, India

It is apparent that India is dissatisfied with Sri Lanka’s R&R policies for Tamil people

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took a firm stand despite being in the spotlight over the resolution. Tamils in India, Sri Lankans, international human rights activists and those in diplomatic circles, are all interested to know the way India’s vote will swing. Since the end of the LTTE war, India has consistently thwarted attempts in the Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council by Western countries to investigate war crimes in Sri Lanka. It had supported the Sri Lankan state in its bid to eliminate the LTTE. It seems that India is dissatisfied over the Sri Lankan government’s accelerated militarisation of the Northeast, devolution of powers and the pace of rehabilitation and reconstruction of war-affected Tamils and Tamilian areas. The Prime Minister recently addressed the Parliament and inclined to vote in favour of the draft resolution. The stand goes against India’s conventional position as the government does not vote on a country-specific resolution. The government was also facing pressure from DMK and AIADMK to vote for the resolution.


up-to-date

\\ FROM AROUND THE WORLD

&

BUSINESS

‘King of Good Times’ Mallya Hits Rough Weather AVIATION\\ Civil Avia-

tion Minister Ajit Singh has issued a warning to Kingfisher boss Vijay Mallya. “He has to convince the Directorate General of Civil Aviation that he is in a position to operate an airline.” The cash-strapped airlines is facing the possibility of

losing its flying licence after failing to meet safety standards and maintaining financial viability. Ironically, the Kingfisher chief chose to fuel his F1 Force with `160 crore despite the trouble. Mallya was summoned by the DCGA to present his arguments.

So far, the carrier has decided to suspend its international flights from March 25, 2012. Earlier, the airlines operated 400 daily flights after which has been reduced to 130. Kingfisher’s accounts were frozen after it failed to pay taxes collected.

Coalition Compulsions derails Railway Budget TMC pulls reins

SALT PEPPER ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA GOES OUT OF PRINT AFTER 244 YEARS IN CIRCULATION

“Well like they say ‘A paper cut is a tree’s last revenge.’ Maybe someone at #Britannica realised this...” Priyanka Chopra | Actress

“Encyclopaedia Britannica has been my Bible and Google

is god.” Chikita Rosemarie | Twitterati

“Tamil Encylopedia Britannica stops print edition after 244 years. Ayyo. Yellarum wiki wiki azhalaam.” Ramesh Srivats | Entrepreneur

Budget Fix: Former Union Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi waves to the crowd on the day of the Railway Budget 2012-2013. He was soon replaced by Trinamool Congress leader, Mukul Roy

BUDGET\\ The Railway Budget 2012 presented by Former Railway Minister Dinesh

Trivedi hiked passenger fares for the first time in 10 years. Interestingly, before the masses could react to the hike, key coalition ally Trinamool Congress (TMC) decided to pull the chain and bring the Manmohan Singh’s budget express to a halt. As soon as Trivedi completed his speech, Trinamool Congress raised the red flag—both to the hike and the minister. In the third week of March, the hike in rail passenger fares for second-class suburban and non-suburban, sleeper, AC chair car and AC three-tier was rolled back, with the new Railway Minister Mukul Roy dubbing the hikes as a “huge drain” on the masses. He, however, did not touch the increase of 15 Paise per kilometre and 30 Paise per kilometre, respectively, in passenger fares in AC two-tier and AC-I announced by his predecessor Trivedi. TMC leader Mukul Roy also scrapped Trivedi’s proposal to expand the Railway Board and put on hold the proposal of setting up a committee to examine if there should be an independent tariff regulatory authority.

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“End of an era. Though not entirely surprising. Printed Encyclopaedia@Britannica editions are soon to be no more.” G. Stroumboulopoulos | Twitterati

“HAHA—FOR SALE: Complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica, excellent condition—No longer needed, got married, wife knows everything.” Matt Dronfield | Twitterati


foreign despatches \\ NOTES FROM THE DIA SPOR A

CHANDRAN NAIR Hong Kong

Asia has a role in saving the planet by reshaping ideas of capitalism CHANDRAN NAIR: My parents were both migrants from Kerala. My father came as a young man in his twenties and my mother as a nine-year-old with her older brother. During my early years, the only things I knew of India were through the customs and practices at home in Malaysia; we had a strong Indian community there and we heard stories from the first generation who had migrated before the Second World War. However, a large chunk of the stories were of how poor India was, how everything was very tough there. It wasn’t that we were wealthy in Malaysia. In fact, in retrospect, it seems that we were not wealthy at all. But we saw ourselves vis-a-vis the people in India (of course the images we were presented were through newspapers and magazines. In those days we didn’t have television at all.) But all images were of the dire poverty, which clearly didn’t reflect India’s reality. And today that perception has changed considerably. When I try to explain my diverse and colourful upbringing, especially while addressing overseas audiences, I always tell a story. I was brought up in a Hindu household. At six in the morning, the lamps were lit and we prayed to gods in all forms—one with a head of an elephant. This was tradition. Then I went to a missionary school where priests, or brothers as we called them, were Caucasian men in cassocks who would tell us that God was blond and blueeyed and we learnt the Lord’s prayer. When school ended, the bus would drop us to a nearby mosque as the area had a majority of Malay Muslims, and we would go to the mosque. I lived in a neighbourhood where there were quite a few Muslim families and waking up to the azaan is a sweet childhood memory. In the evening, as a family, we would often have Chinese food for dinner. I learnt to use chopsticks at the age of three.

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CHANDRAN NAIR is an economist who started an independent Asian think-tank called the Global Institute For Tomorrow (GIFT). He has lived and worked in Asia, Europe and Africa. He was also the chairperson of Environmental Resource Management (ERM) in the Asia-Pacific, making it Asia’s leader in environmental consulting. Nair has advocated a more sustainable approach to development in Asia, and helped governments and corporations instil principles into the decision-making process. He is a visiting scholar at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s School of Business, has been an advisor to the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum, the World Wildlife Fund in Asia, and the Jane Goodall Institute. He also managed the Hong Kong hockey team for seven years, taking it to the 2002 Asian Games in South Korea

SO IN A single day, I was exposed to a variety of people and their

cultures, which is a reality for the diaspora living in the colonies of the former empire. It didn’t create a conflict then. It doesn’t create a conflict now though there are a few who seek to divide us. Our multiculturalism, I hope, stood us in good faith. The Indian expats of Malaysia are thus usually not fearful people, wary of different cultures, habits and the way people look. We who have these experiences have an important task of teaching tolerance, which doesn’t come from studying abroad alone, despite what many of the elite happen to think. WHAT LED TO the present book is partly the childhood I had and my later years working in Africa and consulting across Asia. I was chairperson and CEO of Asia’s largest environmental consultant firm for 15 years. At an intellectual level, I was drawn to the conclusion that much of the narrative of environmental protection comes from a western way of thinking about the need to control the impacts while maintaining a lifestyle almost based on entitlement. In the past 10 years, as China and India rapidly started to join the world, I realised that managing the impact was only one element in the rather futile attempt to manage and protect while striving to grow relentlessly. The real cause of the problem lay elsewhere. Population is one of the determining factors but it was not the only factor: the global population would perhaps peak to 15 billion people at the end of the century. Having said that, despite our best efforts, we will not be able to reduce human population any time soon.


foreign despatches NOTES FROM THE DIA SPOR A //

I REALISED THAT the fun-

“The capitalist economic model seeks to promote a relentless consumption pattern: buy one and get one free. It deliberately underprices resources”

damental flaw was the economic model that seeks to promote a relentless consumption pattern: buy one and get one free. It’s a model that deliberately seeks to under-price resources and also promotes consumption through cheap credit. This model, therefore, has a huge consequence in terms of human equity and development and deprives people at the so-called bottom of the pile and limits their access to resources; it thereby undermines their right to the most basic of needs. This economic model, I believe, seeks to fight all manners of regulation and to some degree usurp the state. That is the logical conclusion that I could draw as I thought about the problem more and more. I discovered that this was a taboo subject that many people, and dare I say many Asians, including Indians, who are somewhat subservient to the western narrative because of the colonial heritage, are not willing to look at the problem in a new light. AS I HAVE suggested in my book, Consumptionomics: Asia’s Role in Reshaping Capitalism and Saving the Planet, we need to reject our present pattern of consumption growth. Continuing in the same manner as the West would prove to be catastrophic. The science is clear about that much. We need to question the fundamentals of capitalism as defined by the West, especially the US, that the holy grail of free markets and capitalism are intertwined with democracy. We in this part of the world will need to ask some very hard questions: fundamentally it all boils down to access to resources. In the Indian contest, if you look at the biggest socio-political dilemma in the country it is the Naxalite Movement. Some people say that the movement occupies some 25 to 30 per cent of the country in terms of the landmass at present. Who are the Naxalites? They are basically tribal citizens who are disenfranchised and angry, fighting for their right to their land. What is the land? It is a resource. Then why is the land under threat? Apparently because it is being seized (shared if you are kind) in an economic model which seeks to relentlessly extract from it without proper compensation. And it is not just about compensation. It is also about understanding the full implication of how the resource has a direct link to how millions will live. This sort of narrative is not being discussed.

WE TALK OF the environmental issues divorcing it from the main-

stream political debate about the future of human societies. It is not about some green movement but what I have called ‘Constrained Capitalism’. I am saying that essentially the basis of constrained capitalism should be the understanding that resources are limited. There are some people, who I would call ‘fundamentalists’, who are unwilling to accept this reality. I must make it clear here that I am not calling capitalism evil or talking of the destruction of this system. But I am calling for it to be restrained—especially here. Restraining it is essentially a political objective about how resources should be shared. Capitalism thrives on relentless promotion of consumption and the under-pricing of resources. The truth then is that the ‘trickle down economics’ will not work as the gravy is way too thick at the top to trickle down. If you are trying to create a more stable society—which is essential in India—then we need to decide how that economic model of capitalism with its mindless consumption, under-pricing resources and externalising of true cost, can be shaped. To do that, India needs a strong state. And for that to be the case, there has to be complete rejection of the western narrative that promotes the idea that capitalism thrives when the state moves out of the way and allows private enterprise to deliver goods and services. That simple argument, which has sadly taken hold even in Asia, is a complete fallacy and a lie, which business schools are busy promoting. These sorts of forced assumptions are the luxury of nations built on vast resources and few people. We could argue that empires were built around colonisation—a good business model. Those ideologies were shaped during a period when a small minority of people dominated the world through a range of technologies— and dare I say guns. I don’t wish to start a rant about the colonial past, but the economic model that we are living today has its roots in a western historical perspective of the world through colonialism and thus privilege. Why on earth are we following this model? There is no better wake up call to the limits of extreme capitalism than what is happening in the US and Europe today: I call it an end to the 300 years of extractive, exploitative growth and over leverage. That’s over and now the world has to adjust. In my book I argue that in a way the West is now irrelevant, not because of anything other than the fact that their numbers are too small. Asia must now lead, not because of any superior values, but sheer numbers. Talk of Asia as the new economic power is ringing out loud, however, we should be cautious and resist the temptation to be triumphant because Asia will face significant problems and the answers to those will lie in how China and India respond, and ultimately via its political systems. Rules need to be set and for rules we need to have a strong state. –As told to Rohini Banerjee

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cover story

\\ THE EMPIRE BUILDER

The

EMPIRE

BUILDER K.P. Singh has not learnt to quit—he pulled DLF out of near-bankruptcy and sculpted it into India’s blue-chip brand in real estate BY RAMESH MENON PHOTOGRAPHS BY SUBOJIT PAUL AND COURTESY HARPERCOLLINS INDIA

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cover story

THE EMPIRE BUILDER //

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cover story

\\ THE EMPIRE BUILDER

HEN AT A RIPE AGE of 80, Kushal Pal Singh (K.P. Singh), Chairman of DLF, decided to pick the pen for an autobiography (Whatever the Odds published by Harper Collins India), he did his fellow citizens a good turn. We could all take a leaf out of this man’s journey. From his days as a village lad in Khandera of Bulandshahr district in Uttar Pradesh to being a real estate mogul—Singh has traversed a unique path on the basis of merit, determination and often, as he points out, unbelievable luck. At first glance, an onlooker is struck by Singh: he is tall, disarmingly honest (has no qualms admitting that he tried to “run away” from the Indian Army as a lad because he was “so much in love”), and is grounded, for a person whose personal worth is approximately $7.3 billion. But Singh shrugs off all references to his fortune. He would rather talk of the future; the upcoming Phase-V of DLF Gurgaon and more importantly the DLF Foundation, the philanthropic wing of DLF. “Money is important but up to a point. After that it becomes a figure. However, use it for others, it brings so much joy,” he insists. More than the money, he cherishes his life’s

lessons: the need to build genuine relationships and to value fact over faff. “I never go to a meeting— government or otherwise—without knowing the nitty-gritty of the agenda. I have learnt to get my facts right through incidents.” These “incidents” however have not made him cynical. “India is not as bad as we paint it to be. The words bureaucrats and politician are not negative ones. Like everyone else, there are good cops and bad cops,” he firmly believes. He also insists that if one wishes to get things done well, then it is better to do it yourself. While constructing the DLF Golf and Country Club, Gurgaon, Singh insisted on being onsite to supervise details—selecting stones, light fixtures, trees and even closely monitoring the waterway designs. Today, that labour has won him and his baby numerous international awards. “When you do something, give it your best or don’t do it at all,” he often tells his employees. Singh does manage to tick-off people with this nitpicking. However, even his critics admit that K.P. Singh knows how to bring life to a barren landscape. Almost everyone who has worked under him respects his leadership style; he prefers to carry the team, help them adapt and understand and inspires them. “Unless you follow certain ethical principles, a company cannot bring long-lasting prosperity or growth.” His saga is one that can inspire thousands of young Indian entrepreneurs. Here’s how it all started...

“I love my work, it keeps me charged.

Energy can only come from being happy with what you do”

An Influence: Uncle Surendra Pal Singh was a great influence in Singh’s life

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—K.P. Singh

APRIL 2012


HIS TOY The private jet belonging to K.P. Singh

Jack Welch | GE

Lighting Up a New Path

HASING BUTTERFLIES during the day and fireflies by the night, Singh had a quintessential happy childhood. He jokes that he began to cheat death right from his childhood: the first time when he slipped into a well while peering in. A quick-witted villager jumped in after him and managed to haul him up. A couple of years later, he barely escaped death from diphtheria. He also narrowly missed serious injuries when he fell off a horse years later. “I was always very active. In school I remained average in academics. It did not fire my imagination. Sports was a passion which helped me think differently, understand leadership, master team building skills and manage the art of formulating strategy. Tennis and horses were my twin passions. I would go and watch horses at my uncle Raghubir’s stables at the Viceregal Lodge (Rashtrapati Bhavan). There I was spotted by Lord Wavell, the Viceroy of India, who asked my uncle to train me as a rider. That’s how my romance with everything equestrian started,” he reminisces. Like everyone around him Singh too reluctantly joined college. “A close friend, Bopal Singh, filled up an application on my behalf for a ground engineering course at Coventry in England. I was thrilled and scared. When I flew for the first time, I was a vegetarian, had never tasted alcohol or spoken to a girl. As I had imagined, England was a culture shock.” In his characteristic honesty, Sing admits that soon enough he had a blossoming romance with a member of the aristocracy who helped him fit right in the creme-de-la-creme of British society. Julie, as she was called, infused in him a new confidence and life could not be better—till a polo match near Windsor. It was during this match that Brigadier Mohinder Singh Wadalia, Military Advisor to the Indian High Commission in London, spotted the talented sportsman. “He asked him why was I pursuing a pointless engineering course when I could join the cavalry unit of the Indian Army. Brigadier Wadalia was persistent.” So much so that he got Singh to appear for an entrance test right there in London.

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major influence on K.P. Singh’s life was Jack Welch, the legendary GE CEO. Welch had a lasting influence on Singh’s life with his extraordinary business acumen, insight and ethics. Significantly, it was Singh who got Welch to visit India, see its potential and get GE to invest in the outsourcing business. Singh got him to meet the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Sam Pitroda, Jairam Ramesh and Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Welch was impressed with their vision and determination and realised India was finally embracing reform and change. It was Pitroda who made a forceful presentation on India as a potentially great destination for business process outsourcing with its vast pool of young talent. After that meeting, Welch announced that he was going to place an order of $10 million to get a part of GE’s outsourcing done in India. At that time, JACK WELCH The GE CEO brought people did not know what outsourcing meant. The BPO industry to India meeting that Singh arranged led to the first BPO in Indian corporate history. It opened the floodgates and created an industry worth over $14 billion today. Had Welch and GE not made their foray into India, the outsourcing story of India would have been altogether different. Once the economy opened up in 1991, outsourcing and IT defined the new growth mantra for scores of entrepreneurs in India.

After four days of physical and mental tests, Singh (unhappily) got through. Sense reigned over after numerous sessions with elders and peers. When Julie and the young Singh bid a tearful goodbye, their only consolation was that Singh planned to return. Life at IMA, Dehra Dun, was so tough and gruelling that Singh “hatched” a plan to return to England by abandoning the course. He wrote a tearful letter to Julie about it—not realising all cadet letters were censored. Again, he has no qualms in admitting that he was soon summoned by Battalion Commander Bali Singh. Instead of cooking the young cadet’s goose, he chose to counsel him. When he left the Academy, Singh was commissioned as a second lieutenant in Deccan Horse, the cavalry regiment of the Indian Army. Rules did not permit Indian Army officers to marry foreigners and it was finally then that he let Julie go. Singh met his match at the Feroz Shah Kotla Cricket Stadium. “Indira was 17. Before we knew it, she had left her protected existence behind to live life as an Army wife,” he remembers.

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“Sports helped me think differently, understand leadership, teams and manage the art of formulating strategy” —K.P. Singh

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His Beloved: The first wedding picture of Indira and K.P. Singh

The Scions: Son Rajiv Singh and daughter Renuka Singh Talwar pose for the shutterbugs

Family Portrait: A recent photograph of the three generations of the Singh clan, including daughter Pia Singh Sarna (second row, second from left)

“Unless you have waited in the darkness, you cannot appreciate the miracle of a sunrise” —K.P. Singh, on his wife’s illness and recovery

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MATCH MADE IN FIROZ SHAH KOTLA Stadium, Indira and K.P. Singh’s marriage withstood a few storms. In 2001, Indira Singh survived a Bell-404 helicopter crash, which was taking her from New Delhi to the Singh country estate in Mussoorie. “When I received the news of the missing helicopter, I went numb. I thought about our children, our 50 years together. In a single moment, life had no meaning anymore,” he says. Then a call came informing Singh that his wife was the sole survivor in a helicopter crash and had been admitted at the Dehra Dun military hospital. Singh rushed to Dehra Dun and flew back with Indira, battling for her life with multiple injuries compounded by severe complications. However, K.P. Singh was not ready to let his best friend go—he researched her condition in such detail that her doctors were caught by surprise. They informed Singh that the “best doctor” who could deal with Indira’s bone infection was Dr David Helfet in New York. Singh tracked the doctor down at a hotel in Davos at 3am and pleaded with him to come to India. Dr Helfet refused. Instead he wanted Indira to be flown in to where he was. “Indira’s condition was slowly deteriorating. She was septic and most likely to suffer a renal failure. I asked the good doctor, had it been him pleading for his wife’s life before me—how would he hope to see me respond?” After a few seconds

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of silence, Dr Helfet agreed. Post operation, Singh converted their bedroom into an ICU with doctors and nurses. On the road to recovery, Indira Singh suddenly developed internal injuries and went through several more rounds of operations. Each time, K.P. Singh was confident that he would bring her home. After a long period of convalescence, Indira Singh recovered completely. To celebrate, Singh took his “best friend” out to the lawn to hit a few golf balls—Indira loved the game. While she feebly hit a couple, K.P. Singh saw his wife nearly collapse due to a coughing fit. Singh was scared and suspicious enough to consult a doctor immediately and tests were conducted. When the biopsy report arrived, it was like a death warrant as Indira Singh was diagnosed with Small Lung Cancer. Having fought for so long, K.P. Singh was not going to give up then and he started the hunt for international oncologists immediately. The treatment was painful, but Indira Singh took it bravely, egged on by her husband. Dr Dattatreyudu Nori, Chairman, Department of Radiation Oncology at the New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York, felt it was Indira’s positive attitude and the support of Singh that made her pull through. “I have never met a couple like this in my 40 years of practice. KP reviewed every move of doctors and got her the best treatment that ultimately helped her defeat a type of cancer that is extremely difficult to treat,” he says. As for Singh, he never forgets—either the doctors or his friends—who stood by him and his wife during their dark times. Today, with her by his side, he says: “Unless you have waited in the dark, you cannot appreciate the miracle of a sunrise.”


POSH WHEELS The real estate king prefers nothing less than a Mercedes Benz S-Class

LF WAS ONE of those happy chances that fate loves to throw at Singh. When father-inlaw Raghvendra Singh requested him to join his manufacturing and real estate business—Delhi Land Finance Universal (DLF)—Singh was stumped. He knew nothing of business. He started small, managing a stud farm built on the rough, barren terrain in Gadaipur-Chhattarpur—a godforsaken place in those days. His love for horses made him work hard and turn the stud farm into a success. Singh then took over the family business of manufacturing batteries, working hard to streamline and modernise. But the state-of-the-art facility did not take off. Ironically, the technical expertise proved to be a handicap in the Indian market as the technology for making the verythin battery grids could not withstand the electrical systems of automobiles of that era. The business ran into losses and Singh was pushed to a corner trying to repay a loan. Friends suggested he get the loan

restructured and rescheduled. After some thought, he decided to hive off the manufacturing business for a song and got into the DLF real estate business. Though it was a visible-enough brand, DLF in the sixties, was not growing as India’s real estate vertical was shackled by archaic land laws. Delhi offered no scope for expansion either. So Singh looked towards the stud farm and further—at Gurgaon. A barren, uncultivated, rocky and water-less land with patches of green. The more he looked at Gurgaon, the surer he was that he could build a world-class city there. People who heard him out thought that he had lost it. But, Singh was undeterred. He would drive to Gurgaon and stare at the spaces imagining modern edifices of glass and steel there. Plush offices and comfortable living spaces where people could walk to work. Man proposes, law disposes. Land acquisition turned out to be his main challenge, followed by finance and then getting people to move in. All the odds were stacked against him. DLF had no money. Banks did not lend to real estate companies. Housing loans were difficult to come by. He borrowed at huge interests to buy the initial land. To complicate the situation, farmers were reluctant to sell their land. For weeks, Singh interacted with the farmers—one by one—visiting their homes, till he built a relationship with them. “I would

India Shining DLF’s Gateway Tower, an iconic landmark in Gurgaon, Haryana

Chance Encounters

Nothing Shoddy In Hoddy’s World

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ingh finds it “ironical” when he is invited to address business students at Harvard and Wharton. He does not hold an MBA degree, but admits that he was “lucky” to have mentors like US entrepreneur George Warren Hoddy and management guru Jack Welch. After he read a newspaper report on India, businessman and humanitarian, Hoddy GEORGE WARREN decided to invest in HODDY India. Coincidentally, A mentor and friend around the same time, a young Indian entrepreneur, Vimal Kochhar, was also scouting for a

foreign partner and his search led him to Hoddy. After they set up their partnership, the hunt began for a reliable and established Indian firm, which led them to Singh. In July 1963, Hoddy and DLF set up a joint venture company to manufacture fractional horsepower precision electric motors and named it American Universal Electric, India. Singh was its managing director. In the following 20 years, Singh learnt a lot from Hoddy—namely the business innovator’s hunger for success and systematic work. Hoddy made Singh work on the shop floor and in his Michigan-based factory, taught him the virtues of punctuality and

ethics. “It was from him that I learnt the virtue of persistence. He said do not break or evade laws but lobby to change them, I did that when I was trying to buy land for DLF in Gurgaon,” Singh says. From Hoddy, Singh also learnt that to be an effective corporate leader, one had to acquire exhaustive knowledge of a subject then figure out macroobjectives and then get into micromanagement. “If Hoddy was my icon, there was good enough reason for it. He treated me like a son constantly guiding and mentoring me. I can safely say that I owe a lot that I have achieved in business to him. I feel truly blessed to have worked with a man like him.”

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His Team (Top) DLF’s Board of Directors (left) A course of golf with Dr David Helfet, Indira Singh’s doctor

discuss my dream, explain why acquisition was necessary,” he remembers. He helped several farmers buy alternative land at a cheaper rate in places like Alwar (Rajasthan). Some he helped with agricultural implements. As his reputation as an “honest businessman” grew, Singh started to strike up conversation with some of them regarding their investment plans. Most did not have any. “I asked them to invest in DLF. I took the money and invested in construction. In return, I promised a monthly interest as well as the right to take back the full loan whenever they wished,” he says. The deal was attractive. As more people found it such, Singh found his land money trickling back. He ploughed it all into DLF. Every month on a particular date, farmers would get their interest in cash and trust in him grew further. It became simpler for Singh to get land—around 3,500 acres—without a single court case. In the history of land acquisitions, India (unfortunately) does not have a parallel to such a transaction. Spending time with the villagers helped him understand their realities. Over time, he became a part of a larger family settling their

disputes, arranging school admissions and helping with medicare. He became a regular face during birth and weddings ceremonies. “I realised that the people who helped me grow should prosper with me,” he says. He extended a hand of friendship. he, however, did not anticipate the hurdles. A chance remark made by a tipsy party guest at a cocktail party hosted at Singh’s Delhi home led to a major hurdle. The remark aimed at Haryana politician, Bansi Lal, made the politician storm out of the party. Singh was Lal’s blue-eyed boy. That singular incident led to a misunderstanding and then to a legal and business tussle that went on for many years. “I tried to make peace with Bansi Lal, but he was not ready to let go and even took the matter to the Parliament. He lodged false cases against me. But I kept telling myself that I must act with dignity.” It was only towards the fag end of Bansi Lal’s career that he made peace with Singh. But the fracas between the two put DLF back by a decade. Today, DLF is drawing up ambitious plans for its Phase-V growth, with son—Rajiv Singh—at its helm. It will take years to complete, but Singh is optimistic as ever: “As economic development happens, it will lead to prosperity which in turn will create a demand for better housing. The real estate sector will grow. Bigger players have now got in and so the challenge for DLF to continue in its leadership position is greater. We are poised for the challenge.” He adds, “The future of Indian business is very bright as it is driven by entrepreneurs who are not only competent, but are hungry for growth. The challenge is to bring in the disadvantaged into the mainstream and ensure inclusive growth. Good governance can ensure that. We must realise that one of the hassles of a democracy and a free press is that the government sometimes slows down due to multiple pressures and growth suffers. China is developing faster as it does not have a democracy or a free press. But it is much better in the long-term to have a democracy and a free press as that is the only system that will ultimately survive.” Building DLF from a company that almost closed down, was not an easy one. But he knew that he would win at the end.

FRAMES FROM PAST In March 31, 2010 President presents the Padma Bhushan

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2007 with US President George W Bush Senior and wife Indira Singh

With South African President Nelson Mandela and Indira

With HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco at Singh’s Delhi residence

Receiving a doctorate from B.L. Joshi, Governor, Uttarakhand


HORSING AROUND Singh admits his involvement in horse breeding gave him access to the ‘right people’

Chance Encounters

An Unusual Politician

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HE LONG HOURS SPENT IN the hospital corridor as his closest friend, partner and wife, Indira Singh, battled for her life after a helicopter crash, forced K.P. Singh re-examine his success. The crash brought home the uncertainty of human existence. It made him value his success more. And it forced Singh to pose one question to himself: had he repaid society? One day while Indira Singh was being wheeled out of the operation theatre in New York, he had a moment of epiphany—that he was one of those handful who were fortunate enough to be able to afford treatment. That day he promised to himself that a portion of his money, time and energy will go towards healthcare and education. Thus, he established the DLF Foundation in 2011, entrusting it to “build lives” by empowering communities and creating opportunities for the underprivileged in education, livelihood training, health and environment. Talking of DLF Foundation, Singh says: “The business community thrives because of the socioeconomic environment they function in. Apart from making money, they should be looking for remedies to the imbalances in society. It should be targeted programmes and not charity. Charity creates dependence between the giver and receiver. Philanthropy seeks to empower and enable sustainability. Charity is band-aid; philanthropy is medicine, and eventually, the cure.” Currently, a lot of Singh’s time is spend on DLF Foundation. He has used his substantial influence to rope in some of the better-known names in the business to provide quality healthcare at primary health centres near DLF sites. A modern veterinary hospital has been established in Gurgaon with an ambulance. Other initiatives consist of training and skill development programmes for educated youngsters. “If we can make the educated employable, then there will be at least one earning member in every family and thereby perceptible

n a summer afternoon in 1980, K.P. Singh was stretched out on a charpoy, chatting with a villager in Gurgaon, when a jeep screeched to halt, its engine overheated. Singh directed the driver towards the well and walked over to the car to request the passenger to join him under the shade of the tree. The passenger was a young politician called Rajiv Gandhi, a former pilot who had quit his job to help his mother, and the nation’s Prime Minister, tide over the difficult days after the death of his brother. As the late leader joined Singh under the tree, they struck up a conversation around Singh’s dream of building a modern city. In the hour they were together, Rajiv Gandhi listened so closely that he asked Singh to make a presentation before his advisers. “There is no right way to do a wrong RAJIV GANDHI thing. If there is a law, it has to be followed, not Former Prime Minister of India broken. If the law was outdated, our challenge was to make the powers-that-be understand the need to change it.” With Rajiv Gandhi’s help Singh managed to do just that. In 1980, there were no commercial activities in Gurgaon. Today, it is one of the fastest growing commercial hubs and a shining symbol of emerging India. It thrives with over 4,440 SMEs covering the whole corporate spectrum, a change that began on the charpoy.

change,” stresses Singh. His pet project at the moment is a scholarship programme. “The idea is to create as many opportunities as possible,” he adds. He also takes prides in the fact that DLF uses eco-friendly building materials, recycles sewage and opts for piped gas to generate power instead of diesel. Energy management in terms of gas-based cogeneration power plants and wind power have helped reduce approximately 4,00,000 tonnes of carbon emission every year. Singh’s latest project is to leave a legacy of socio-developmental change. So we had to ask: is he happy with the way Gurgaon has shaped out? Not really. Singh is disappointed with the infrastructure—roads, pavements, drainage, street lights, parking spaces and parks are all begging for attention. The lack of it all has resulted in a complete mess. Roads are narrow and full of potholes. Parking is a serious issue. When it rains, the city gets flooded. It is nowhere close to a world class city despite its glitzy buildings and superbly built and designed gated communities. But no government wants to hand over infrastructure to the private sector. So the mess continues.

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“The challenge is to bring in the disadvantaged into the mainstream and ensure inclusive growth” —K.P. Singh

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The World's

Diary

Blog, a portmanteau of the terms web log, is one efficient tool to express, sell, amaze and start a conversation. Here's how... BY PARITOSH SHARMA

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social agenda THE WORLD'S DIARY //

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elcome to the “2.0 times”. It is an interesting period: now everyone has a point to argue and enough ways to voice opinions. There is freedom of speech in its absolute avatar—the impact of which can be assessed by the fact that even the Prime Minister’s Office is engaging with the average Indian on Twitter. Social Networking and the power to express has given a boost to voices which needed to be heard, also transforming the way businesses operated and engaged with their customers. It has become an interesting enabler for a common citizen, who can leverage tools and technology for self-branding and positioning today. One of the best ways to selfbrand and “position” oneself is undoubtedly through blogs–a popular tool that has found global acceptance. Especially in the past half-a-decade or so, millions across the globe have found blogging the best way to not only express themselves, but also put forth views in a manner that creates a powerful positioning for them in networks. A blog in its simplest essence is a digital publishing platform. Imagine, setting up your own newspaper in a matter of minutes. Imagine that based upon that content you’ve shared, interested people start subscribing to you—immediately. With blogging, the world’s your slate. Enabling the digital publishing ecosystem, blogging platforms such as Wordpress, Tumblr, Blogger, Posterous, Movable Type, LiveJournal, etc. have made it easy for people to start publishing online. All one needs to do for a self-hosted blog is to buy a “domain name” with space, install Wordpress (my personal favourite though one can use other platforms too) and Viola! you are ready. However, the Step 1 to it all is to decide how you want your readers to connect to you. So is your blog a professional one or a personal one? Once you

define that you define how the audience perceives you. Is blogging all about satiating the need to speak out? Not in its entirety. There are eminently blogs in the industry today that have gained prominence for their exclusive content. These are not just platforms, they have evolved as power houses of content, establishing thought leadership in their domains. Take Mashable.com as a case. Mashable Inc. is an internet news blog founded by Pete Cashmore. It primarily focuses on every action happening in the world of social media globally. At the same time it covers interesting developments in mobile and entertainment space. Today, Mashable commands reportedly a 50-plus million page views monthly. With a punch-line that states it to be the Social Media Guide, Mashable has proven that great content published at the right time, commands a steady stream of audience and generates deep engagement. Though it is expected that established blogs (say a Harvard Business Review or Huffington Post) would be popular enough, in the truly democratic space of blogging, it is interesting to note that several unnamed individuals have become no-less-than-celebrities online thanks to blogging. Businesses globally have realised the power of blogging. Today, businesses large and small, are leveraging blogging as a strategic outreach and positioning methodology. Many of them use blogging as a positioning mechanism to define thought leadership. There are large companies, which have their CEO’s blogging, giving a face to the “asset” called business, which further engages the target audience. The one critical advantage which blogs provide is a continuous creation of content which is what search engines pick. It goes a long way in increasing visibility across search engines. Most people today are on the move always. So most of them consume content through RSS feeds, a fantastic way

TIPS & TOOLS The reason why you blog is because you want people to read it. The question is how to create a loyal readership. The first step: define your blog. In the side bar write an introductory line. It will let readers make up their mind. Step two: categorise your blog. Do not create date-based archive, instead give topic-based headings, it makes navigation simpler. Do you wonder why your blog is not popular? Ask yourself these—am I regular? Am I replying to readers’ comments? Are my RSS and Follow buttons accessible? Even if the answer to some is a ‘no’, then you know where your problem lies. Remember, it is your blog. If you do not visit often enough, no one else will. Anyone who knows how to spell ‘organised’ will be familiar with the power of a to-do list. Why do we need a to-do list while blogging, you ask? Well, one answer could be to avoid distraction. Bloggers often go through periods where they want to talk about a number of things. But you cannot afford to lose focus. Thus, great tools like Remember The Milk, Todolist and Google Tasks come handy. Create a list and attack it—one topic at a time.

In the creative what do you do when an inspiration hits you at an odd hour? You dump it in Evernote. Just create an account and whenever you get a brainwave write it down and save it. Compulsive bloggers will always be hooked on to other interesting blogs, so what do you do to keep-up? Use a Google Reader: it helps you to categorise your reading.

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BLOG WATCH

to keep audiences engaged. Subscriptions to blog feeds are one of the several counts of content popularity and success. However, just like any other process there are ABC of a blog. Answering these questions before you kick-start your blogging journey or revamp your existing one. Are you ready to invest on a blog? Blogging is free essentially, but you obviously need to invest into great human resources who could generate great content for you. Is your priority selling or marketing? If it is only selling then it is not a great reason to start a blog. Stop pushing your cause and start engaging—it would automatically yield results. Are you ready to take feedback from customers and build relationships? Are you ready to take comments on your blogs while moderating only spam and junk and reply back? Is your business ready to face critiques and fans alike? So much for blogging. How does one create a bigger game and energise a community? Blogging as a tool has enabled platforms to promote creation of user-generated content. Platforms today enjoy content from various users who passionately discuss issues and topics that holds relevance to them, and to the society at large. There are interesting examples of Industry associations that have created amazing platforms which have energised communities to come together and create opportunities. A case in point: Entrepreneurs-Ship, part of TiE Social, an initiative by the Delhi chapter of TiE. The platform was created to facilitate conversations and business among members. Today, the community literally drives it. Members contribute blogs posts and other quality content from across the world—and everyone learns. Taking the cue, I strongly believe, many businesses can create focused communities around their play. The communities don’t necessarily have to be thousands of people, it can be as small and focused as a 100-member community, but be highly value-driven. Why not write a post today taking cues from this article? Paritosh Sharma is the Associate Director (Online Initiatives) at TiE, Delhi-NCR. An entrepreneur at heart, marketing is his core expertise, and social media his weakness.

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The Long Continuum A mountainous range stood before the sympathetic tedium, Revolver so sound of mind not free to remember, It operates with happy, dull abandon, Figment of the imagination? Never… The hurting went on...A chain screams noisily, but no one ever listens… A bread or a radiant dragon is the key As Cleopatra’s heart melted at the sight of death. Down by the babbling brook the cow dreams. Whining out in frustration, the goose knifed violently. If you are wondering what emotions ran through the writer's mind when he wrote this, well, the poem, was not written by the human hand; it was spit out by a computer algorithm, “fed” and programmed into a system. I only hastened the process by feeding it a few words. Read it again. Though one line can be loosely threaded to the next, there is no continuity. Despite the awkward syntax running through this nine-line poem written in free-verse, and the incongruity of certain metaphors, it is contextually similar to other poems I have read. That makes me wonder: how does one evaluate art, especially when one knows it was not created by a human? Does it even qualify as art? Perhaps, we also need to ask the merit of assessing art for arts sake—i.e. during assessment, should an evaluator be blinded from the creator’s identity so that the focus is solely on the intrinsic merit? Is whatever synthesized mechanically (without emotional input) not art (even if it holds the power to elicit an emotional output)? To us a machine's still a machine. When we dial a number, we wish to connect to another sentient being capable of empathy. We wish to know that there will be an element of spontaneity, unpredictability, and a chance for a “conversation”. If one could programme spontaneity, would it still remain spontaneous? Not! A poem is not a voice-activated roboparrot.

Anirban Mahapatra

The written word is slightly different from a conversation in real-time. The writer has already spoken, a reader digests what has been said and formulates a response. Having said that, reactions are calibrated to what we already know about the writer. We would not react the same way, if a computer could provide an element of expectation. It brings to mind the test devised by brilliant mathematician, Alan Turing, in which a human interpreter tries to gauge from standard responses whether they have been given by a human or a machine. The philosophical implication of the test intrigues me more than any practical consideration. Can machines be made intelligent, enough to churn out perfectly fine digital poems? Will they ever create something with a finesse, of say, a Shakespeare? Even if they could, let us remember a single point—Shakespeare was just one poet in a sea of artists witnessed by our civilisation. The mind boggling range of human responsiveness indicates that the goal to make a computer "intelligent" is subjective. A human can write like a computer. A human can easily flunk a reverse Turing Test—much in the same way that Charlie Chaplin once lost a Charlie Chaplin looka-like contest. The blurry combinations of letters we need to type to prove we are human are getting increasingly complicated. We need to get better to recognise them. The race to create machines like humans rarely takes into consideration the fact that we are becoming increasingly machine-like. We are the ones being programmed psychologically in a corollary to the Turing Test. Perhaps, one day a human will be indistinguishable from a machine at a flickering cursor on the long continuum. (In memory of Alan M Turing; 1912-1954.) To read more please visit: http://milkmiracle.net/2012/02/10/thelong-continuum/


PLATFORM JOHN ELLIOTT | Journalist

Can mainstream politics solve the conundrum

when all else fails to leave a mark on India’s rural margins

NAXALITE REBELS NEED to be tackled

with mainstream political activity, not just development projects and repression by security forces. This new approach for trying to end, or at least contain, India’s most serious internal security problem is being pushed by Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Rural Development. It has also recently been tacitly accepted by the state government of Orissa where Naxalite candidates won elections in 30 panchayats (village-level councils) a few weeks ago. Jairam Ramesh is the first central government minister to pick on party political activity as a primary way of providing a peaceful alternative to the violent activities of Naxalite, Maoist rebels who are active in nearly a one-third of India’s 600 administrative districts and whose committed leaders ultimately want to overthrow democracy. He first did so in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the end of December, 2011, but that was shuffled off to the Planning Commission, which has been loosely in charge of the government’s non-

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security Naxalite policies for several years now. The Ministry of Home Affairs is in charge of security operations, along with individual states, and that has been stepped up since Palaniappan Chidambaram became Home Minister at the end of 2008. He started tough action that led to a noisy debate about whether security or development should be the primary way of tackling he problem. The debate unnecessarily polarised public opinion and slowed down progress on both fronts, though there was a decrease in violence last year. The number of those killed by Naxalites has however remained high— nearly 450 civilians and over 140 members of security forces according ministry statistics. There are constant reports of Naxalite attacks. A few weeks ago, about 150 rebels raided a stone mine in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh in eastern India looking for explosives. Failing to find any, they set fire to eight stone crushing machines. Others torched seven construction vehicles nearby, and a defaulter was

ABOUT THE WRITER John Elliott is a Delhi-based British journalist who has been working in South Asia for approximately 20 years now. In the meantime, Elliott has written for the Financial Times, Fortune, Economist and the New Statesman. You can read his blog and follow him from here: http:// ridingtheelephant. wordpress.com

reported to have been buried alive for not repaying a loan provided by a Naxalite organisation. The Planning Commission was given charge of development policies a few years ago but that is not enough. In 2008, it produced a massive 90-page report— Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas—which led to some initiatives. It does not however have the political or administrative muscle needed to implement change. Jairam Ramesh, whose high-profile initiatives transformed the Environment Ministry (at least temporarily), when he was in charge there for two years till last July 2011, is now using his current job to try to fill the vacuum. The government has not taken up his call for political activity since his letter to the Prime Minister, but he proposed it again at the recent launching of a book on Naxalites— More Than Maoism—and he then chatted to me about his ideas. “Lack of political mobilisation is the biggest weakness in these areas—you need mainstream political party activity,” he says. Last October he presented a comprehensive


platform

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paper on “The Maoist issue” in Delhi where he proposed a “two track approach—one that deals with the leadership of the Naxalites, who wish to overthrow the Indian state, and the other which focuses on the concerns of the people they pretend or claim to serve”. He did not mention political activity because, he says, he had not then realised how important it is for party cadres to attract young people who would otherwise turn to Naxalites leaders. He has now visited 24 of the 78 administrative districts that are most seriously affected by Naxalite occupations and violence, and says he was struck by the lack of mainstream politics in areas that had become “security fortresses” without any presence of government machinery or authority. A “three-pronged approach through politics, people and police” was now needed. “Democracy by itself won’t solve the problem,” he says. “People need to have confidence in political parties and instruments of state such as the judiciary”. That may seem an odd remark at a time when public opinion about politicians and the judiciary is desperately low because of widespread corruption and the government’s failure to govern effectively. But Jairam Ramesh points to success in West Bengal where the Trinamool Congress Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, has been taking party politics and development into Naxalite areas. He picks out for spe-

No one is suggesting that rallies and panchayat elections will end a rebellion that has raged for 60 years. These could give politicians a chance to offer an alternative to people who have come under Naxalite influence because of neglect by the mainstream” cial mention a popular young Trinamool MP, Subhendu Adhikary, who was elected last year for a constituency that includes Lalgarh, a town occupied by Naxalites in 2009. Adhikary has been holding well-attended public rallies, despite the risk of bomb attacks. There was concern in Odisha when Naxalites won the panchayat elections—several without any opposition because rivals had been warned not to stand. This came not long after four Border Security Force officers had been killed, and police injured in other attacks. The Home Ministry is believed to have advised Odisha’s Biju Janata Dal government to cancel the elections. There was concern that local development funds, which have leaked badly for years, would be diverted to buy arms and explosives and would also be given to organisations in the Naxalites’ alternative form of government (such as the one involved in the loan defaulter’s death). However, Jairam Ramesh sees the panchayat elections as “a good first step” into the system, which they

surely are. “This is an opportunity for political dialogue,” he says. He acknowledges the risk of funds being diverted to the Naxalites and says that special safeguards will be needed —he avoids saying that panchayat funds probably leak to them already, or to other illicit recipients. Sceptics will say that Jairam Ramesh is playing to the gallery and that talks have been tried before with little success, but state and central governments usually come round (eventually) to talking to rebel groups and Jairam Ramesh’s proposal is broader based than just talks. No one is suggesting that political rallies and panchayat elections will end a rebellion that has raged to varying degrees for 60 years in different parts of central and eastern India. These ideas and policies could however give politicians and official organisations a chance to offer an alternative to people who have only come under Naxalite influence because of neglect and maltreatment by mainstream society. (The views expressed in this column are of the author alone.)

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LIFE IN TECHNICOLOUR

“Cymroza almost stumbled into exhibiting designbased work before other galleries, more to sustain itself”

GALLERY PATRONS Late Piloo Pochkhanwala—the sculptor also designed the unique logo for the gallery Late NS Bendre Late B Prabha Pablo Bartholomew encouraged Godrej to work on Cymroza’s second show on its first anniversary

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STAGES TO BEING AN ARTIST Strong hand in drawing (if an artist can't draw a line then s/he can't construct. And if they can't do that they can't deconstruct) Rigour Creativity


PHEROZA GODREJ | ART GALLERY

Not many 24-year-olds–however artistically inclined—worry about the state of art or artists in their city, not so badly as to dedicate a part of her inheritance to their cause. But Pheroza Godrej, owner of Cymroza Art Gallery and wife to Jamshyd Godrej, did. When her generous parents allowed her the use of a space in Mumbai’s Breech Candy area, she decided to put it to beautiful use. The quintessential lady with a background in fine arts and English literature, she let artists, sculptors and photographers (at least those who were honest and dedicated to their craft) an egalitarian space to showcase their art. Thus, Cymroza Art Gallery—a combination of the names of her brother Cyrus, her mother Mitha, her father Feroz, and an “a” for herself—one of India’s most prestigious art spaces, came into being. Forty-two years later, Cymroza is more of an institution than before.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JITEN GANDHI | REPORTED BY ROHINI BANERJEE


issue | A closer look at NCTC

Who will Blink First? PANEL PUSH ABC OF NCTC The Centre declared its intention to set up the NCTC on March 1, 2012, as “a powerful anti-terror agency” integrating and analysing inputs on terror threats which will have legal authority to make arrests and conduct search operations The order came after the Cabinet Committee on Security on January 11, 2012, approved the creation of the NCTC. The agency will maintain data of terror modules, terrorists, associates, friends, families. It will derive powers from the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), which allows central agencies to make arrests or searches in terror-related cases while keeping state police in the loop

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The National Counter-terrorism Centre or NCTC, the proposed antiterror agency, has become a bone of contention between the Centre and Opposition-ruled states (plus some ruled by allies such as Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal). Opposing groups believe that the NCTC encroaches upon their law and order jurisdiction. Those in favour, debate that the Centre will help create a unified pool of intelligence resource with the body. What is NCTC really? The genie in the bottle or the veritable monster encroaching upon state freedom? BY SANJAY KUMAR The recent Assembly election results were supposed to put to rest several debates haunting the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government in New Delhi and give the Centre a muchneeded leverage vis-a-vis states ruled by the regional parties, who have been in the forefront blocking big ticket economic policies and initiatives. Instead, the poll outcome has undermined the strength of the governing alliance. And, it has added one more regional opponent in the name of Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh. The first victim of this new political development has been a plan to put in place the National Counter-terrorism Centre (NCTC). The body has become a bone of contention, with the opposition crying foul over what they believe to be an encroachment upon the state’s law and order jurisdiction. The new anti-terrorism body flows out of Amendments to the 2008 Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, created after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. The 2008 Amendments were personally drafted by the Home Minister, P Chidambaram, in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley. The

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NCTC was proposed as a part of the new security architecture on December 23, 2009, and the proposal was put up before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in April 2010. The CCS cleared the NCTC early in 2012, after almost two years of deliberation. But the move, supposed to be a 'great step ahead' in establishing a pan-Indian, anti-terror body, has hit the political wall. According to reports, the NCTC will not be an independent institution, but a part of the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The Director of IB will supervise it. This could very well impede the independent audit and supervision of the counter-terrorism division of the IB, leading several critics to state that present deficiencies in IB’s counter-terrorism functions are more likely to get duplicated and magnified. To know more of both the votaries' and the naysayers’ viewpoints; Democratic World spoke to one of its most vocal critics, Chief Minister of Orissa Naveen Patnaik, to understand the view of parties opposing this anti-terror body; and to Gopal Krishna Pillai, former Home Secretary and an architect of the NCTC, which is largely modelled on its US namesake.


issue

A CLOSER LOOK AT NCTC //

NAVEEN PATNAIK

Chief Minister, Orissa

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s party—Biju Janata Dal—has been in power for almost 12 years now. He finds NCTC an attempt to infringe upon the rights of the state governments, and has written to the Prime Minister asking him to re-examine the issue NAVEEN PATNAIK// All the states of India,

including Orissa, are deeply concerned about the threats of terrorism, extremism and security. As the Chief Minister of the state, it is my job to be constantly vigilant as far as the security of my state is concerned. Just as it is the job of the central government to have an overview of the nation’s security. Having said that, a state’s security—at the end of the day—is the state government’s concern. I would like to revert to what the present Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram, has often repeated, “When it comes to matters of state security, the state should be consulted.” And he has stressed that a state’s security, and its police, are state subjects. Despite all the statements, when it came to tabling a plan

for the National Counter-terrorism Centre (NCTC), the Centre consulted none of the involved parties. As far as the NCTC notification is concerned, I firmly believe that before a pan-India plan is put into action, governments across India should have been consulted—why were they not? Noticing the Centre’s oversight, I was left with no option but write to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and present my take on the matter, and discuss the issue with my colleagues, Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr Jayalalithaa, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and Chandra Babu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. With them I have found support. I believe that certain consultations are in order because we live in a federal system of rule. India’s federalism

is enshrined in the Constitution which envisions a clear division of powers—states and the Centre enact and legislate within their sphere of activity, none violates its limits or tries to encroach upon the functions of the other. Also, our Constitution enumerates three lists: Union, State and Concurrent Lists. The State List consists of 66 subjects of local interests including the police. Thus, NCTC seems strangely incongruous in such a context. Sadly, the criticism that some of us (opposing parties) are indulging in the usual 'political opportunism' is lending more to the confusion over the issue. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has acted in an authoritarian manner. Now the Centre is stating that they will talk to the states. The 'consultation', as and when it happens will lead to clarity—whether the plans are indeed viable and really in the interests of the state. Having said that, all of us are united in the fight against terror. All state governments (including mine) are there to help the Centre fight terrorism, extremism and security threats. The states have been fighting against domestic and foreign threats, anyway. Take Orissa for example; the state has been grappling with the Naxalite problem for decades now. The NCTC issue has pointed to a singular truth: the arrogance of the Centre and the complacency of the present UPA sarkar. It does not believe it is accountable to any other body, panel or government. My concern is the authoritarian notification with draconian overtones regarding law and order among others issues, in which the state governments have not been consulted. As far as the plans are concerned, the socalled masterplan (US NCTC) has enough shortcomings and flaws that do not make it foolproof. There have been enough discrepancies noticed in the functioning of the US NCTC and the Intelligence systems for collection and analysis. These should provide important lessons to India. The mere creation of NCTC is unlikely to improve intelligence coordination. A system of incentives and disincentives for sharing of verified inputs should be put in place—without omitting the role of the states.

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issue

\\ A CLOSER LOOK AT NCTC

GK PILLAI

Former Home Secretary

GK PILLAI// In a nutshell, after being

formed, the National Counter-terrorism Centre (NCTC) will be a national centre in which leads and information coming in from all pan-India agencies will converge. If there is such an agency, it would make counter-terrorism, intelligence work coordinated and systematic, sustaining the possibility of a follow-up. It is the Centre’s move to 'pre-empt' any terrorist activity. The NCTC will be closely linked with National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), which is likely to be one of the key arms of the NCTC. As far as intelligence inputs are concerned, such inputs arrive at concerned panels in bits—it is not possible to connect all dots, all the time. We need groups working on a fulltime basis on all leads, 24x7. Only an agency such as the NCTC can make that happen. It will draw up plans and coordinate actions for counter-terrorism and will integrate intelligence pertaining to terrorism and analyse it. NCTC officers shall also have the power to arrest and search under the 2008 Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. THE CONTEXT for such a body got stronger after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. In August 2008, intelligence bodies received information on the possibility of a sea-borne attack. However, bad weather prevented it from happening on the designated date. A month later, intelligence agencies began focussing on more immediate issues. Had there been an agency to pursue leads without the pressure of the immediate, the police would have been in a position to prevent the Mumbai attacks. HAVING SAID that, I will admit that NCTC is not a foolproof mechanism. In the US, NCTC is present and yet, attacks do happen. However, the probability of terrorist misadventures are lessened when there’s added vigilance. Opposing the NCTC is irrational—it is more politicking than concern. Already, laws under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act allow security personnel to make arrests with help from the local police. How is it different from what the NCTC is supposed to do? I realise that the process of implementing the NCTC will be delayed

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now, due to the politicisation of the issue. But, it will be put in place once the NATGRID is completed. Admittedly, the Cabinet Committee on Security should have consulted the state governments, and only then, announced the formation of the NCTC—taking the roundabout route was a mistake. But, now that the consultation is taking place, and the home secretary is calling state heads and chief ministers, the Opposition should be rethought. State governments or local police are always consulted before any “local” arrests. Even the National Investigation Agency (NIA) works in tandem with local police for it to conduct investigations, because only the local forces are more aware of the ground reality. Viewing the NCTC as an “attack on the federal structure” is erroneous. The states often resort for Centre’s help to tackle terrorism. Can every threat be tackled individually? No. Why? Because terrorist organisations are too mobile: they travel across state and national borders. What happens when the state agency has to arrest or investigate someone in another state? How do they do it unless there is a pan-India organisation with jurisdiction across borders assisting them? As for the possibility of conflict between the NCTC and Intelligence Bureaus (IBs)—there are none. A bulk of the NCTC personnel will be from the IBs. They will follow-up inputs coming from the field. India won’t become a police state overnight with the NCTC. There are enough checks and balances in this democracy of ours, including the jurisdiction. India already has a Multi Agency Centre (MAC). Increasingly, the Army, Navy, RAW and IB

GK Pillai is the former home secretary. It was during his tenure that the 26/11 attacks happened in Mumbai. The tragedy inspired the idea of NCTC with the Home Minister P Chidambaram being the main brain and Pillai involved in the nitty-gritty of formulating the body. He retired from service in June 2011 are operating together and sharing intelligence, albeit informally. But informal interaction lacks organisation. What NCTC would do is place a system. It will connect MAC, which would be subsumed into NCTC, and all agencies reporting to it, in Delhi and state capitals. Between the Centre, where almost two dozen agencies coordinate with MAC, and states, almost 500 stakeholders are involved in counterterror activities. The NCTC will not have any foot-soldiers to collect information, but will depend on other agencies. The head of the body, an additional director generallevel police officer, will report to the union home secretary.


IAm The Coat Fr ench Connect i on AHMEDABAD |AMRI TSAR |BANGALORE |CHANDI GARH |CHENNAI|DELHI HYDERABAD |J ALANDHAR |J AMMU |KOLKAT A |LUDHI ANA |MUMBAI|PUNE f r enchconnect i on. i n


looking back

PHOTO BY XXXXXXXX

\\ URVA SHI BUTALIA

THE

NARRATIVEOF

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Feminist, publisher and writer Urvashi Butalia recounts her days in Ambala, Delhi University, a serendipitous flight to Hawaii, and little chances that led to Zubaan


looking back URVA SHI BUTALIA //

I

grew up in Ambala and spent the first 10 years of my life there. My parents moved to Ambala when The Tribune moved from Lahore to Shimla, and finally to Ambala, if I remember correctly, because the owner was holidaying in Shimla. Ambala was an ideal place for children. It was a small town at that time and we knew everyone. My brothers, sister and I were known as the “Four Bs” (our nicknames began with B). As siblings we were close—emotionally and chronologically—with only a gap of six years between the eldest and the youngest. Apparently, my father wanted a dozen children, while my mother gave up after four. Even then, I wonder how she managed all four of us, taught in a school and ran a household consisting of four kids, a husband, a mother-in-law and a handful of brothers, sisters and cousins. She ran it on a tight purse, as my parents had modest incomes to boast of. However, I don’t remember being unhappy or wanting anything. Even at a young age, the four of us were already moving in directions we were meant to take in our later lives. My older brother was a table tennis fan, playing regularly, and sports was a passion in his later life as well. My younger brother was tinkering with cars (at that time he wanted to be a mechanic!). I was following my father to office and watching him work in the press. I had also started writing smaller pieces for school magazines and assignments. My sister dreamt of being an artist. She was presenting her artwork to anyone interested. As for my parents, they never pressurised us to be big or famous. My mother was an independent, working woman, who was used to living alone at a time when it was unthinkable. She came without any “dowry”—naturally, my father’s parents disapproved of the union. They got married despite the opposition.

“Then the riots of 1984 happened. Old wounds resurfaced, new narratives begun. People who had made narrow escapes started to talk of the partition again. It was then that I decided to revisit the themes of migration and displacement”—Urvashi Butalia In their ways, my parents were ahead of their times. They were both fairly liberal and unconventional, though I believe if my father could help it, he could have been pretty conventional. But, he grew up around strong women. He was a different sort of a man—not particularly ambitious, not patriarchal at all, and quite laid-back. My mother had left Lahore for a teacher’s post in Punjab before the partition. During partition, she went back for her brothers, sister and mother. She managed to return with one of my uncles and aunt, as her eldest brother chose to stay back and kept my grandmother with him. It is no wonder then that I grew up with stories of the partition. They were like a leitmotif: I heard them, but never listened— not until I was old enough to understand their significance. My father would often talk of his last day in Lahore: how he and his team released the last edition of The Tribune, took the early morning delivery truck to cross the Wagah border to India on the August 14, 1947. It’s no wonder that the stories found a prominent place in my later life, especially when Kali For Women began. At that time, a group of friends were making a documentary on the partition and asked me to help, simply because I hailed from Punjab. My experience during the documentary made me rethink my family’s past. Then the riots of 1984 happened.

And old wounds resurfaced and new narratives began—people who had made narrow escapes then started to talk of the partition again. It was then that I decided to revisit the themes of migration and displacement once more, with my family as the core. I travelled to Pakistan to meet my uncle, who had stayed back. His story impacted me strongly. I thought that if so many people were affected within the smaller confines of a single family, then the split must have been pronounced on a larger scale. I became obsessed with the theme. But it took me a long time to compile all that in a book. Back in blissful Ambala we were sent off to two schools—the first one was called Airport School, a co-ed institution adjacent to a bombed-out church. I can’t remember which war led to its state, but I distinctly remember it standing in all its inky blackness. There must have been some wonderful stories surrounding it, as we were instructed not to play around it. In the early 1960s, my father took up a job in the Times of India and moved to New Delhi. My mother packed up and joined a year later with the whole family in tow. Because our parents knew that eventually my father would be moving to the city, the four of us were shifted to a bigger school in Ambala—Jesus and Mary Convent. In Delhi, I joined Miranda House in 1968. My elder siblings were

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looking back \\ URVA SHI BUTALIA

already in different colleges of Delhi University, so we all had a vast network of friends between the four of us. My friends were also my younger brother’s friends and vice-versa. Those were wonderful times to be a student in Delhi University—young people were getting into political discussions, looking closely at the Left movement thanks to the Naxalbari unrest happening in Bengal. The air was rife and alive with discussions and discourses: on whether women’s colleges should join the Delhi University Students’ Union (associated with dirty politicking and disputes and therefore with masculinity). Several of us were raising questions of women’s safety in buses and hostel conditions. One could say that there was also a parallel women’s movement that was growing. Students were reading more. In such a time it seemed right to form an umbrella group—Samta—which could do a range of things to bring together smaller initiatives. We approached Veena Mazumdar, the then Head of the Centre for Women’s Studies and working with ICCR, which had released the first post-independence report on the state of Indian women. She agreed to lend us the centre premises occasionally for meetings. Along with Mazumdar, Samta also received the support of Latika Sarkar and J.P. Nayyaik, among several others. Samta would meet to share ideas, plan campaigns; one of the outcomes

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DOSSIER Perceptions: Many moods of writer-publisher Urvashi Butalia

NAME: Urvashi Butalia PROFESSION: Publisher-Writer BORN IN: 1957 1984: Started Kali for Women with Ritu Menon 2003: Started Zubaan

AWARDS: Oral History Book Association Award Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture Lettre Ulyssses Award Padma Shri

was Manushi, the journal. There were 18 of us who were part of the founding editorial team, including Saiba Hussain, who currently works with the Janwadi Mahila Samiti. The group also branched off to form Stree Sangharsh, a theatre group that performed plays on dowry deaths, domestic violence, etc. Our signature play was Om Swaha, which we performed all over Delhi. The play was based on the lives of two women— Tajwinder Kaur and Hardeep. Those were simpler times, we would board a bus, get off and perform. It was out of these performances that Saheli, a women’s counselling and help centre, was formed. Often, after our performances we were approached by audience, especially women. They would share their stories with us. Such encounters eventually led to the question: what could be done? Thus, Saheli. By the time I finished post-graduation in English, I was impatient with literature. Though I was writing for college magazines it was not satisfying my soul nor was it reflecting the feminism I was getting more and more involved with or my campus or Jungpura home reality. Around this time I realised that

friends, family and teachers expected me to gradually become a teacher. Though I had no issues with teaching, formal education was frankly beginning to bore me. I was really keen to do something that didn’t throw me back into what I was trying to escape—teaching literature. I came across a freelance assignment at the Oxford University Press. A friend who worked there asked me to apply. I got through and thus began a six-year-long affair. I started rather ingloriously, as a “paster upper”. My task was to change British names into Indian ones (Tom conveniently became Ram) in English textbooks adapted into Indian schools. I would also cut-off tops of double-decker buses to make them more “familiar”, and coloured blonde hair and blue eyes, black. I did that for six months, till Oxford offered me a post and a scope to train under them. I stayed on for six years, till I started to get a bit disillusioned (yes, again). I was not going anywhere, whereas my male colleagues were. More importantly there was a disparity between issues that were so alive in the real world and the books that I was editing. That is when the idea of an exclusive publishing house, dealing


looking back URVA SHI BUTALIA //

with issues relating to women, germinated. I guess I was not ready as yet to start. By 1978, I had started getting more and more involved in the women’s movement and simultaneously started teaching publishing in a college of vocational studies. In 1982, I was sanguine that I wanted to setup my own publishing house. At the same time I was given a Fulbright scholarship to study in Hawaii—in my 30s, there was no way I was going to say no. Interestingly, I never reached Hawaii. I made a small stopover in England to meet a few friends I had made during my Oxford days there while completing a part-time Master’s course and working for Oxford University Press. During that stay, I happened to interact with people in the publishing business. The lovely people gently pointed out that if I could neither swim nor surf—I could not do either at that time—I should probably head back and do what I really wanted to do. So, I dumped the scholarship and stayed on in England for two years working with Zed Press. Also, I used up the days to work out Kali For Women in my mind. At the end of 1983, I adopted a unique way of convincing myself— by letting every one else know of my plan. When they could take it no further, my friends were forced to ask me, “When are you going to start the damn project?” And what would I call it? I set a date and blurted “Kali”. Sitting at a bar in England, it seemed a dark and empowering name. I came back from England in April of 1984 and Kali started in July. Back home, Ritu Menon—who later became a partner in Kali—and I, had begun corresponding over the idea. When she showed interest, we both believed that it was wiser to work together. She was in the publishing business and I was involved in the women’s movement. Granted, both of us were slightly worried about how our differences would work out, but we did carry on working in tandem

for 19 years. It was those years later, as it happens in relationships based on political and ideological premises, we found that there were differences in opinion. It seemed sensible to try something else: a separate structure. So, we gradually moved towards a split. In hindsight it as a wise move. After the split, both felt released to prioritise and do things that we had interests in. It also helped us realise that the market was big enough for both of us. Thus, Zubaan came into being: I knew I wanted a name or a label that did not have a religious connotation. India was a fairly religiously polarised place and I did not wish

SOME OF HER BOOKS 1994: In Other Words: New Writing by Indian Women 1995: Women and the Hindu Right: A collection of essays Women and Right Wing Movements: Indian Experiences Making a Difference: Feminist Publishing in the South Women and Right Wing Movements: Indian Experiences 1998: The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India

“Publishing and writing are usually at loggerheads in my mind. One of the things which I dislike about writing is that it is a lonely, and a deeply selfabsorbed, task” —Urvashi Butalia

2002: Speaking Peace: Women’s Voices from Kashmir

the endeavour to belong to a particular community.

I Wish I Could... If one could take both the publishing and writing bit out of my system, I guess I would basically be very bored. Jokes apart, I am an adaptable person: if I am disallowed both the pen and the paper, I would take to the press—my childhood dream of running a small press. I would print political pamphlets or Little Magazines for penniless publishers. I am publisher more than I am a writer. I do love to write of course, but what I do much more is publishing. Writing is not a struggle but it does not come easily. There are days on end when I struggle with an idea and till I let it pour on paper, there is no respite. I believe I wrote one fiction piece in my life for a children’s magazine—Target—with Rosalind Wilson as its editor. Though I was satisfied with the story, I never tried my hand in fiction again. I do not think I have the capacity to create a plot and characters. One of the things which I dislike about writing is that it is a lonely, and a deeply self-absorbed, task. There have been instances when I have shunned company to just write. I am by nature a social person. I have told myself that for me publishing and writing could not always go hand-in-hand—so off late, writing has taken a backseat. As a publisher, it is my obligation to publish people’s work if they approach me. If anything, I would put the feminist and publisher at a par and the writer would come just a little later. Publishing and writing are usually at loggerheads in my mind—I wish there was a way to breach this impasse. For the last two years Zubaan has been readying itself for me to move out and for the next person to come in place. Once that happens and I am free from publishing, then I will perhaps make space for writing. (As told to Rohini Banerjee)

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PLATFORM SANTOSH DESAI | Columnist

The Tyranny of Labels Liberalism

accompanied with a surge in conservatism IT is increasingly difficult to escape

labels. One is either a liberal or not, and along with that description comes a whole set of ready made beliefs. The very act of being able to slot yourself in these neat categories, brings along with an ability to exude certainty from every pore about holding some pre-fabricated positions on some favourite subjects. When a question is framed in terms of these labels, the answers tend to be predictable. When we ask whether the liberal space is growing in India, the truth is that we already know what the answers are likely to be. The optimistic liberal will agree enthusiastically and hunt down data and anecdotal evidence that supports the case while the pessimist will bemoan all that is wrong with everybody else. Likewise, the conservative will launch into a well-rehearsed rant about pseudo-liberals and their pretensions. Any argument becomes less an exercise in meaningful debate and more about scoring points and using hoary gambits.

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A meaningful examination is possible only when we step away from the coded meaning of these labels and ask more fundamental questions. The experience of liberalism has gone beyond its limited meaning of holding a certain set of views on certain subjects—it involves the ability to lead one’s life with a greater sense of control over it, the desire to accept and be tolerant of other perspectives and the willingness to factor in larger human needs in the choices one makes as an individual. Viewed from this perspective, the question of liberalism and conservatism actually breaks down into questions of continuity and change, open-mindedness and reflexive thought and independence as against a desire to belong to a preformed school of thought. For the Indian urban middle-class, the sense of control over one’s life has by and large increased substantially. Traditional authority structures have diminished in power, leaving more room for the individual. The possibility of social and economic mobility is

Author

Santosh Desai is the author of the bestseller Mother Pious Lady: Making Sense of Everyday India. He is a columnist, media critic and social commentator. He is the MD and CEO of Futurebrands, a branding services and advisory company and serves on the boards of ING Vysya Bank and Mumbai Business School.

higher than ever before, leading to a sense of opportunity. In an everyday sense, we see a levelling out of some social differences as the emerging class enters the economic and social mainstream. The idea of having romantic relationships before marriage is becoming more acceptable and socially legitimate and the ability of women to lead their lives with a relatively higher degree of control is increasingly visible. We can see these changes find reflection in our popular culture which displays dramatically lower levels of repression and is open to fresh characterisations. So what of the rising tide of moral policing and chauvinism that we seem to see all around us? What about the regional chauvinism in Mumbai, ultra-nationalistic gestures that hold sports and cinema hostage, right-wing cultural conservatism that sees incidents like the attack on girls in pubs in Mangalore—the list is depressingly long. Add to that the return to a particularly pernicious form of intolerance shown by the Khap Panchayats and it


platform

SANTOSH DESAI //

The experience of liberalism has gone beyond its limited meaning—it involves the ability to lead one’s life with a greater sense of control, desire to accept and be tolerant of other perspectives�

seems likelier that we are returning to a more primitive form of conservatism. While it is undeniable that we have seen a spurt in such incidents in the recent past, two things need to be kept in mind. A lot of these extremely talked-about incidents were of a highly symbolic nature that altered very little on the ground. Women across India do not feel hesitant about going to the pubs nor is there a stream of North Indians in Mumbai who are packing up and going back home. The presence of an overbearing controversy-hungry media has created a huge market for symbolic unrest. The antipathy towards moral policing has ironically created a profitable market for staged stunts that ensure quick national notoriety at very little actual cost. Raj Thackeray has understood how to play this game masterfully. Also, even when these actions touch a genuine chord among people, chances are that these are marginal reactions to the larger mainstream change that is overtaking those who want to hang on to older

ways. Threatened by the prospect of being deluged by forces of change, the sentinels of the past react with excessive aggression; in their anger lies not a sign of things to come but of things that are passing into the past. The Khap Panchayat is a classic case in point; the violence is a study in fear rather an exercise of power and needs to be read as such. Of course, there is a rise in conservative sentiment and ironically, this has nothing to do with the past. If in the earlier days, we held on to our way of life for it was the only thing we had which we could call our own, today the desire is to protect our new-found status as consumers. The tendency of living in a self-contained enclave with an exaggerated regard for oneself is visible in a significant section of empowered India. It is this consuming class that reacts with ultra-nationalistic anger and regards all those opposed to the things it holds dear with contempt. This new conservatism with its accompanying signs is an assertive form of revivalism, conflating a mythic sense

of nostalgia with notions of patriotism thereby conferring a sense of righteousness and legitimacy on its words and actions. Greater affluence has only made this group more vocal. The internet is awash with this new religion, which operates as a dedicated group and carpet-bombs its view on all available forums. The Indian refusal to choose between things is in evidence here too. What we are seeing is the simultaneously rise of greater liberalism accompanied with a surge in conservatism. On the one hand, modern technology does not only create newer platforms of shared understanding but is enabling revivalism as well, and on the other the liberal shows an inability to move beyond labels that have become ossified with time. The middle class is as liberal with tradition as it is conservative with modernity. Or perhaps it is the liberal who hangs on to tradition while it is the conservative who is using modernity. The views expressed in this column are of the author alone.

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good karma

PHOTO BY GOONJ

\\ GOONJ

CLOTHES NOT

CHARITY Goonj does not just give clothes to the needy. It gives them a bit of their dignity back BY MANJIRI INDURKAR

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“D

rama or fake photography is not allowed”—the moment I enter Goonj’s cloth processing centre, the poster grabs my attention. That is a rather unusual message right at the entrance of an NGO, I say to myself. But then, that is how Goonj is— unconventional, unpretentious, and if the statistics are to be believed, ubiquitous. Goonj began rather unconventionally. Anshu Gupta, the founder, was working on a story on Habib—a professional collector of unclaimed bodies—during his journalism days. It was then that he came across the most obvious,


good karma GOONJ //

Founder‚ Goonj NAME: Anshu Gupta,

Founder, Goonj LOCATION: Sarita Vihar, New Delhi GOAL: Making clothing a matter

of concern STARTED: 1999 WEBSITE: To contribute one can click on the link and choose categories of donations: http://goonj.org/?page_id=85

yet blatantly ignored, reality—the human need for clothes. Once, while accompanying Habib to Khooni Darwaza (near Delhi Gate) to collect a body, Gupta saw that the insufficiently-clad man had died as he could not survive the cold. The scene haunted Gupta’s conscience. “During winters, it is not the cold that kills. I survive winter every year. What makes all the difference is the clothing. I survive the biting cold of this city because I have sufficient layers of clothing to protect me while some person does not,” says Gupta. This was the thought that later became “the peg” behind the cloth movement now called Goonj. Today, Goonj is not just providing clothes to those who don’t have them. The organisation is also giving people their right to a dignified life. While clothes do certainly fall under the category of the bare essentials—roti, kapda aur makan—they also symbolise a social standing and give a sense of confidence to the person wearing them. Gupta feels agitated when people call their ceremonial giving away of used clothes, an act of charity. His question is: how can you say that your are ‘donating’ clothes, when clearly clothes you are ‘discarding’ them? He believes that there has to be a shift from ‘donor’s pride’ to ‘receiver’s dignity’. And that, the so-called donors have

to understand that the people using the clothes are in fact doing them a service, not vice-versa. In 1998, when Escorts, the corporate house where Gupta worked, closed down, he decided that “no tie or black shoe will be needed again”. In 1999, armed with nothing (not even a back-up plan, money or job), but with his life partner, Meenakshi, and a few friends in tow, Gupta started Goonj. However, he did not have a clear notion of how the NGO would function. Goonj happened because there was a kind of junoon (passion), he felt. He knew that he had to work in this field. Today, Goonj is leaving its clear mark—it has a presence in 21 states in the country, sends away 45,000 kilos of clothes per month across and is a respected name in the NGO sector. The impact has been so voluminous that people have started emulating the core idea; some are good replicas, others not so. This does not unnerve Gupta, who, right at the beginning, had decided to expand an idea and not an organisation. “We are giving the copyright to copy our ideas,” he says with a grin. However, things were not so successful right from the beginning. In the initial years, Goonj’s core team did all the physical labour such as collecting clothes, washing them, sorting them out and then fixing them, within themselves. Slowly, as the NGO’s reputation spread through word of mouth, people started joining them. And Goonj began to grow. One of the key reasons behind the growth was the organisational skill. Gupta believes that charity is scalable and that any NGO can stay afloat if they can get their act together. “What did Mother Teresa or Baba Amte do? Theirs was certainly a charitable act. I think what helps in scaling-up is not a business model, but the thought process and system,” explains Gupta. He certainly practices what he preaches. One sweeping look inside the rooms of the

processing centre, and one knows their secret. Everything, from a small pin to a bedsheet, has a separate space where it is carefully placed. Every material is marked differently, packed differently, and distributed separately. A system has been put in place and is followed rigorously. Though Goonj began with clothes, it has now started distributing stationary items, utensils, medicines, footwear, and most importantly, sanitary napkins to those who need them, yet fail to understand its importance. Parallel to their distribution programme, Goonj runs awareness programmes educating women about menstrual cycles, personal hygiene and encouraging them to talk about taboo issues. No one has ever won a race without jumping off hurdles. The race for Goonj is still on. As Gupta says, “Some challenges have not changed and will not change.” He finds people’s attitude to be the biggest roadblock. People, who happily spend a pretty penny for fancy jackets and caps for awareness campaigns and walks, but are reluctant to spend even half of that amount on collecting clothes for the needy. Perhaps, because it is not a fashionable enough cause. His second-biggest hurdle: cynicism of people and authorities concerned. There is a huge trust deficit towards the NGO sector, which Gupta insists must go. Finally, he believes that funds and logistics will always remain an issue. As his organisation keeps growing, these problems too expand. All this does not stop him from surging forward. Diligently, the Goonj team is working towards the goal of giving people their right to life and dignity back. At the end of my tour, the lasting impression is the smiling faces of women at the processing centre. They wish me luck. As I walk away, their voices fade, but what stays behind is a memory of a lifetime.

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“Indian politics today is disappointing, with a decline in ethical standards and corruption”

READING ROOM

—Zareer Masani

Author

And All is Said: Memoir of a Home Divided Memoir, biography,

social history and tribute, Zareer Masani’s book is a good read at many levels BY ANIHA BRAR

MEMOIRS AND BIOGRAPHIES only touch

a chord when they are unflinchingly honest in tone and full of revelations of people and the times they live in. Judged in this light, Zareer Masani’s And All is Said and Done ticks all the boxes. His background as a historian, coupled with his ability to turn an unclouded gaze upon himself and his parents, and his skill as an author, make for an engrossing piece of non-fiction. Drawing on the letters and diaries of his parents, politician Minoo Masani and wife Shakuntala, Masani gives us an intimate look at two different, but charismatic, people—his parents. Though both came from prominent families, there were more differences than similarities—the Masanis were Parsis from Bombay, while Shakuntala’s parents, the Srivastavas, were Kayasths from UP. The twice-divorced Minoo Masani was a Left-wing Congress activist, who eloped with a much younger Shakuntala. (Later, he became a founder of the pro-free-market Swatantra Party, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and a campaigner against global communism). Shakuntala was

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brought up wanting for nothing, in a family that essentially thrived under the British Raj. With such high-profile and spirited protagonists, the book is as much a social history and political commentary, as it is a personal memoir. Political heavyweights loom large in the conversations and correspondence between the family and there is an account of Nehru at the breakfast table with Minoo Masani. Inevitably, the political also becomes personal— as Zareer and his mother join Indira Gandhi in the face of his father’s rigid opposition. It is the final straw that breaks the family apart. “Their political differences marked the end of my parents’ marriage; and I paid the price for encouraging the break when I had to cope with my mother’s loneliness and general decline in the decades that followed. Our disillusionment with Mrs Gandhi, especially when she imposed her state of Emergency, made the whole domestic rift seem even more futile,” Zareer writes. In the course of this journey, we get a real taste of post-colonial India and a family that had a prominent

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Zareer Masani is a Londonbased historian. He went to Mumbai’s Cathedral School and studied history at the Elphinstone College Publisher: Penguin Books India ISBN: 9780143417606 Price: `299

role to play at the time. The correspondence between Shakuntala and Masani gives fascinating insights into the entire Indira era. One example is the fact that the author and his mother used code language in their letters—calling Gandhi ‘Bhai’ and Jayaprakash Narayan ‘Russet’, the name of Zareer’s childhood pet, revealing the degree of censorship that existed during that period. There are anecdotes of Shakuntala introducing a young Zareer to her circle of friends in London, from author Arthur Koestler to publisher Hamish Hamilton. Purdah parties in Nainital, musical evenings in Mumbai and intrigues in Indira Gandhi’s Emergency-stricken Delhi; all form the backdrop for the troubles in the writer’s family. Ultimately, this book is a poignant portrayal of the author’s life. The reader is aware of his role as a troubled son going through bitter separations and a prolonged divorce. Their human frailties—and indeed, his own—are laid bare. You see the outcome of the inevitable choosing of sides when parents become combatants. You participate in Zareer’s struggle to accept his sexuality and


“This is an unfamiliar book based on a global scale, but it speaks through a very familiar character—Vincent Ruiz. Ultimately, the money’s the hero”

reading room CRITICS & AUTHORS //

— Michael Robotham

then live with it in the India of the 1960s. You struggle right along with him as he attempts to find a balance between the rival influences of his parents. Perhaps most of all, you see the love with which a son portrays his mother, right up to the time he holds her ashes and grapples

with the ultimate truth of mortality. “Would you capture heaven and earth with a single name? I say to you then, Shakuntala, and all is said.” These are words from the German poet Goethe, which were inspired by Kalidasa’s masterpiece Abhijnanashakuntala. They certainly provide a fitting

title to Masani’s book, which has a strong flavour of being a tribute to his mother even when he is describing her faults. When all is said and done, this is one of the better books to have come out this year—whether you are interested in history, politics or simply, good writing.

The Wreckage

Go behind the headlines of Baghdad, London and Washington, with a journalist at his criminal-writing best BY ROHINI BANERJEE

THERE ARE thriller writers, and then, there are those who

take readers behind the enemy lines and then proceed to blur all such lines—leaving them confused. Michael Robotham’s The Wreckage doesn’t follow the usual goodguy, bad-guy logic. He treats all his characters, even the basest of them, with a humanity that makes readers pause and rethink. More than the plot or pace (which are both impeccable, by the way), it’s characters who make readers turn the pages. He creates an excellent bunch of them through Ruiz, Luca, Daniela and Holly, and makes the readers care enough to fear for their lives. Robotham’s background in journalism makes him an intelligent writer who keeps his prose crisp as news—this could very well be a non-fiction. The action begins in Baghdad, where the halfAmerican and half-Iraqi, Luca Terracini, is trying to trace billions of dollars worth of missing funds from Iraqi banks. His skin colour and mastery over Arabic helps him infiltrate the darkest corners of the Iraq War. During his investigations, he meets UN representative and accountant, Daniela Garner, also trying to trace millions of missing funds. As they form a team, their

investigations begin to unravel a web that spreads to London and Washington. In London, Richard North, an investment banker and perhaps the only man who has any clue to the missing money, gets robbed by Holly Knight and her boyfriend. Soon afterward, he vanishes and Holly finds herself being pursued. She then forms an unlikely alliance with Vincent Ruiz, an ex-policeman and a man she had robbed earlier. However, in this labyrinthine plot the main motivation is the money—and who has it, who wants it and who is ultimately going to pay, are factors that move the racy plot forward. Michael Robotham was born in Australia in 1960 and grew up in small country towns till he became a cadet journalist in an afternoon newspaper in Sydney. He remained a journalist for 14 years, writing for newspapers and magazines in Australia, Britain and America. In 1993, he quit journalism to become a ghostwriter, collaborating with politicians, pop stars, psychologists, adventurers and showbusiness personalities to write autobiographies. Twelve of these non-fiction titles were bestsellers with combined sales of more than two million copies.

APRIL 2012

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Michael Robotham (born November, 1960) is an Australian crime fiction writer. Formerly a journalist with the Fairfax Press in Sydney, he travelled to London and got a job on Fleet Street in 1986. He returned to Australia with his family in 1996 and took to writing full-time Publisher: Hachette UK ISBN: 978-0-75154110-6 Price: `1,050

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WARE

HOUSE

Our pick of the boldest, bravest and craziest gadgets. Glance through the Warehouse page and check them out. Happy hunting!

HOT!

HASSELBLAD H4D-200MS `22,50,000

Hasselblad products don’t really need an introduction. The H4D-200MS is the latest offering from the makers of the first camera to go to the moon. The camera boasts of a massive 200MP resolution which is achieved by using an extension of the proprietary sensor-shift, multishot (MS) technology to create a 200 megapixel file from six images taken at slight offsets. Available at a heart-attack inducing price of `22,50,000.

Hasselblad H4D-200MS

MARK LEVINSON NO52

Simply put, No52 is the best preamplifier to come out from Levinson’s stables. This `12,00,000 preamp delivers the most pristine sound

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MOTOROLA MOTOACTV

Motoactv is a GPS fitness tracker and an intelligent MP3 player bundled into one. You can get one for yourself at around `12,000


warehouse

GADGE TS & GIZMOS //

FERRARI F2012 The Italian car maker’s F1 team will be racing with this brand new car, dubbed the F2012. The changes from last year include revisions to the front height, position of the exhaust outlet, changes to the electronic engine controls, pullrods to operate the suspension and a lower centre of gravity. As for its performance on the track, only time will tell.

CELSIUS X-VI-II PAPILLON

`1,50,00,000 Leave it to the French to come up with something like this. French company, Celsius, has launched the world’s first mechanical cellphone priced at a whopping `1,50,00,000. It claims to have a micromechanical system which converts the kinetic energy generated from opening and closing the clamshell into electrical energy. Despite the battery inside, the flap has a fully-mechanical integrated watch. The body is transparent, so you can peek inside and wonder why you paid so much!

BIONIC BOPPER CARS

This is a cross between Bumper Cars with Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. But if you want to start a Bionic Bopper Fight Club, this pair costs about `8,50,000

HUD GLASSES FROM GOOGLE

Insiders say that Google HUD Glasses will become available for purchase by the end of 2012 http://bit.ly/yJBRIk

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PHOTOS BY SANJEEV KAPOOR

GARNISH Aromatic Rice: The vegetable biryani made in a handi is a finger-licking alternative for vegetarians

Indian Master of Spices

Writer, anchor and now channel CEO; it’s all about gastronomical art for Sanjeev Kapoor BY MANJIRI INDURKAR

I

n their journey through life people often make plans and then see them morph into something else altogether. Poet John Keats wished to become a doctor, Sachin Tendulkar wanted to be a tennis player while Masterchef Sanjeev Kapoor saw himself as an architect. Obviously life had different plans for all of them. Perhaps these twists in tales make their stories so much more fascinating and worth-telling. One of the best-known chefs in India today, Sanjeev Kapoor had applied for a catering course at the behest of a friend—as a “back-up plan”—in case he did not make it to the architecture school. As luck would have it, Kapoor ended up joining the cooking course. It was only after he began to have “such a good time” at the Institute of Hotel Management Catering and Nutrition (IHM) in Pusa, New Delhi, that Kapoor thought that he could perhaps do this forever. From then on, there was no stopping him. Today, food is Kapoor’s middle name. And why not?

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Sanjeev Kapoor is not just a chef—he is an artist. He has single-handedly revolutionised the food scene in the country, changing the way an average Indian dined. For a man this big, he started off small; as an understudy at the ITDC Hotel in 1984. But within two years he had become the Chef at Hotel Ashok in Varanasi. In the early 1990s, while he was busy creating state-of-the-art dishes for food lovers at Centaur Hotel, Mumbai (where he was Executive Chef ), a unique opportunity came knocking at his door. He was offered a one-of-its-kind cookery show by a popular channel—Zee TV. The show was called


garnish

INDIAN MA STER OF SPICES //

CHEF OF THE MONTH

Shriman Bawarchi. Never heard of it? That is probably because Kapoor suggested that the show be rechristened Khana Khazana. Cookery shows had always been an integral part of television. But for India, this new one was nothing short of a novelty. It went on to become a pioneering show and the longest-running one, carrying on for 18 years. With the help of the show Kapoor brought his own kitchen—moments spent in complete bliss before the oven— into the audience’s drawing rooms. He taught India how to cook in style; not just mix the right ingredients but also present them in harmony. A look at the dishes excited the tastebuds and left one hungry for more. Throughout the 1990s and 2000, lazy or busy women of Indian households remained glued to their television sets with pens and notepads, frantically jotting down recipes of exotic and everyday dishes (served with a twist, of course) then recreating them in kitchens as Sunday special meals. Guiding them through it all was the dimpled, humble and soft-spoken star Chef. Kapoor was clear on his agenda: he was not just running a cooking show. He was sharing with everyone a recipe to a happy hearth at home. After all, the masterchef grew up in one himself. Brought up in a middle-class family, Kapoor was used to seeing his dad help out his mom in the kitchen. Later, his elder brother, too, joined forces with their father to rustle up meals. In his own words, it was all right “to see men cook!” Kapoor also jumped on the bandwagon and at the age of eight was “rolling

Sanjeev Kapoor is one of the top chefs in the country, who has authored several books, was the host of Khana Khazana—a popular cookery programme and now is the CEO of his food channel, Foodfood. Kapoor started out in the hospitality industry in 1984 and began his career in the ITDC. He was also a batch topper. Kapoor second stint was as the Executive Chef at the Centaur Hotel, Mumbai

All-day Meals: (From left) Jau Aur Subziyon Ka Shorba, Shaam Savera and Kadai Prawns with Roased Pepper Jam (right)

out perfectly round chapattis”. Such was his eye for perfection that even then he wanted to shape them flawlessly round. So he just “stamped them out of a plate”. These simple ways shaped Kapoor’s “cooking philosophy”—and made Indian food accessible, so that, even a novice could recreate anything “from a maharaja’s feast to an everyday dish”.

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garnish

// INDIAN MA STER OF SPICES

His mantra; keep it simple, systematic and stylish. After the massive success of the show, he could have sat at home, cooked an occasional meal for his two daughters, and enjoyed a life of retirement. Instead he started opening his own chain of restaurants—Yellow Chilli—doing exceedingly well today. He also wrote some 36 books which sold close to 10 million copies. His website gets 25 million hits a month and if all this was not enough, in 2011 he started a new food channel called, what else, FoodFood. When asked how this idea of a dedicated food channel came about, Kapoor shoots back, “Food channels are a big part of the developed world, so why not here?” A valid question. After all we are a nation of food fanatics. As he puts it “Food has been, is and will always be of prime importance to our existence.” The channel airs 40 shows in total, mostly Indian shows with a smattering of international ones. It has been around for only a year and already the channel has been rated as the 10th most-trusted brand among all TV channels in India. What could be the reason behind its immediate success? Kapoor smiles and says, “Food knows no age, caste, creed or religion. So this channel has the widest possible audience; anybody genuinely interested in cooking enjoys watching it.” From a distance, Kapoor’s life is enviable, especially since his challenges are always met head on and with a smile. Asked about his biggest challenge, the answer comes out quickly, it is scepticism. The kind that made him rethink his decision when he was about to launch the channel. Nearly everyone in the media thought the idea was nothing short of a disaster; after all, who has the time to watch a food channel in this day and age of saas-bahu soaps? Yet, Kapoor had faith. And the rest as they say is history. His stupendous journey is far from its end. Chef, TV presenter, author

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Delectable Delights: (From left) Murgh Purluft, Gulab-e-Gulkand (above) and the Zannat-e-Numa. Hungry, anyone?

MASTER CHEF'S TIPS

Creamy Raita: Add a little fresh cream, it will make the raita richer

Crispy Bhaturas: Add two teaspoons of semolina to two cups of refined flour

Soft Puris: Use milk instead of water to knead puri dough Oil Free: Add salt water to banana chips before frying them

and now the CEO of a food and lifestyle channel. We were curious to know what’s next for the unstoppable food artist. It is then that he gives his famous smile and informs us that his “infant” channel needs more care than ever. And, as far as his next endeavour is concerned, it is a “let’s wait and watch” period in his head. We can rest assured that whatever it is that is cooking inside Kapoor’s mind, is going on to the table soon. And when Chef Kapoor is at work, we know that the result is going to be one appetising, spicy and generous one.


PHOTOS BY AMRITA DASGUPTA

HITCH

HIKER Terra-cotta Petra: Petra was chosen as the capital of the Nabateans because it was located in a valley surrounded by sandstone mountains. (Below) A glimpse of the Dead Sea

A Different Kind of a Road Trip

The land of Bedouins, Jordan seems familiar yet fascinating and worthy of revisits BY AMRITA DASGUPTA

A

ll roads may not lead to Jordan—but they should. Admittedly an unlikely choice for a road trip, Jordan fulfills all the criteria one seeks for in a road trip. For instance, highways. There are three main ones in Jordan that crisscross the beautiful countryside in an organised fashion. The second must-have is dependable route maps. Jordan provides plenty of those; then throws in a handful of friendly folks and fnger-licking food as a bonus. And the fact that Arabic and spoken Hindi have so much in common, makes travelling that much simpler. I was in Jordan to attend a wedding with my husband and took the bride’s advice to make a road trip out of it. Totally worth it. Our first stop: Amman, a bustling city where historic and modern mingle with older, more organic neighborhoods in the east rubbing shoulders with the swankier new ones in west, much like an old couple. All neighbourhoods bear the mandated finish of white limestone and even the most iconic

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retail chains are not easy to spot; for example, the only way to distinguish between a McDonalds, Citibank or an Apple showroom was to spot their signage on the facade. An overall structure of ‘circles’ gives the city a modicum of organisation, but an average visitor may find it all a bit too disorienting, especially since several circles turn out to be something else altogether. But with a little help from street signs, maps and friendly directions in Urdu, broken English and sign language, we were all right in a day or two. Our next stop was Wadi Rum: the incredible mountainous desert landscape. Massive striated rocks dot and define the desert landscape, best navigated on a camel. Mil-


hitchhiker’s guide JORDAN //

HIKER OF THE MONTH

lions of years of being buffeted by underwater tides gave the sandstone rocks their unique appearance like ancient stony corals. The colours change drastically— from vermilion to terra-cotta to purple and yellow—in the light of the rising or the setting sun. A leisurely three-hour ride on a camel yields a closer view at the scenic jebels or desert mountains, glimpses of the life of TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and a few Bedouin tents where you can pause for a sip of shai (black tea with a handful of fresh mint and sugar, delicious and refreshing), a puff of nargileh or a picture with the locals. We stayed in camel hair tents, sampled an authentic meal of whole goat, chickens and vegetables cooked in a hole in the earth, danced with the troupe of local musicians in attendance and fell asleep under a blanket of stars. A short 45 minute drive from Wadi Rum, at the end of the Desert Highway lies the southern-most tip of Jordan. Lush with vegetation, cooled by sea breezes and frequented by beach bums, Aqaba is the national beach escape. For a small sea town, Aqaba receives visitors in the hundreds of thousands every year. The main attractions are Roman ruins, a beautiful white mosque, the spice market, fresh seafood (rare in Jordan) and an underwater treasure trove for snorkeling and scuba diving among brilliant coral reefs. The next day we reached Petra as the sun was setting. We strolled down the main street to Petra Kitchen, a restaurant by day and traditional Jordanian fare cooking class by night. Discovered in the 19th century but established in the 6th century as a trade

Amrita Dasgupta lives to travel. For her, no journey is complete without taking in everything that its local architecture and cuisine have to offer. She is still annoyed (and secretly relieved) at having been cheated out of a guinea pig on a stick in Peru. A Jill of some trades, she practices architecture, dabbles avidly in gastronomy, and is a closeted tree-hugger who runs a design shop with two friends

Dreamscape Drive: A road to nowhere, driving through the desert is a must do in Jordan. (Below) An actor in traditional garb guards an entrance to Petra

center by the Nabateans, (people of Jordan) Petra has an impressive number of rock-cut monuments and water systems to utilise and harvest a resource precious in a desert country. Past the Djinn blocks— burial chambers in massive stones—lies a tunnel to the underground reservoir and the entrance to the city via the Siq, a natural gorge used as the city’s first line of defense. Walking the gorge lit by the occasional candle below and stars above, we reached Petra by night. Musicians played local melodies on ancient instruments against the background of a Khazneh lit by a thousand candles. A fitting end to the day.

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STICKY

A qui ck guide -start to wha fresh, t’s fu worth n & y peek.. of a .

NOTES THIS MACHINE Due on April 24, 2012, Dandy Warhol's “This Machine ” was recorded at their own studio, The Odditorium. Called the band’s “grungiest” effort, the album has a stripped down and guitar-centric feel. Science-fiction writer Richard Morgan will also pen Dandy’s biography for the album.

LISTEN

YOU THINK WILLOWO: W ME ith her first YOU KN e came out w

year after sh ughter of actors Will Roughly a a w Smith, d ady with single, Willo da Pinkett-Smith, is re ou Know Y Ja Smith and m, “Willow: You Think 2012. The , u 3 lb il a t pr u A d on her deb ill be release gle will premiere at w D C e h T . sin Me” for her third music video rch. a the end of M

WATCH

AALAAP

Aalaap is the n ex block. Shot in t must-watch film on the Chhattisgarh, it tells the stor of four youths y try an insurgency ing to live a normal life in -hit state. The film is directed by Manish Man ikpuri, and th e been given by the fusion rock music has band, Agnee.

TULIP FESTIVAL Kashmir is at its most picturesque in spring, and this special time of year is captured by the Tulip Festival in Srinagar, home to Asia's largest tulip garden with over two million blooms. The event, held in April, features daily cultural programmes, such as folk songs, handicraft bazaars and food fests. The event will be held at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden.

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CHITHIRAI FESTIVAL BACHPAN THEATRE FESTIVAL

ATTEND

The Bachpan Children's Theatre Festival 2012 will be held between April 23 and May 5, at Atelier Theatre in Delhi. Atelier is a workshop organised by Communication Enthusiasts, a group that has devised workshops on Creative Teaching and Learning, incorporating drama and theatre-in-education techniques. About 700 schools in and around Delhi will be a part of the festival.

One of the biggest celebrations in Madurai, the Chithirai Festival is the re-enactment of the wedding of Lord Sundareswarar (Shiva) and Goddess Meenakshi (Vishnu's sister). Legend has it that Lord Vishnu came to Madurai for the wedding. The festival marked by its elephant processions will be held between April 22 and May 4, 2012.


Food Lounge & Bar


Democratic World - April 2012  

DW is an intelligent magazine, giving people an informed and positive opinion of the world around them. The publication has as its main moti...

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