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INDIA

INDIA

VOL 25 NO. 5 JULY-AUGUST 2011

PERSPECTIVES

PERSPECTIVES

Advancing India’s Conversations with the World

INDEPENDENCE DAY SPECIAL

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INDIA THIS MONTH

August 18 -22 Krishna Coinciding with Janamasthmi, the birth of Lord Krishna a dance drama depicting the Blue God’s multi-faceted life produced and directed by the renowned cultural icon, Shobha Deepak Singh. Where: Kamani Auditorium, Delhi

August 24 A Handful of Dust With a career spanning four decades, accomplished danseuse Anita Ratnam pays homage to Rabindranath Tagore in an evocative theatrical presentation. Where: Birla Mahasabha Auditorium, Kolkata

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2011

September 1-30 Manjit Bawa Exihbition Showcasing one of India’s most prominent contemporary artistes whose works had been inspired by nature and Hindu mythology. Where: Vadehra Art Gallery, Defence Colony, New Delhi

August 25-September 2 Paryushan Parva One of the most important festivals of the Jain community, these days are observed especially for self purification through a series of religious rituals and cultural programmes. Where: All over India

August 29-September 8 Velankanni Church Festival The church, known as the ‘Lourdes of the East’, is the centre of a nineday celebration. Amidst prayers for world peace all these days are marked with dances, songs and processions. Where: Velankanni Church, Chennai

September 1-3 Tarnetar Fair Ethnic folk dance forms, such as the garba, ras and haro, music and colourful costumes centre around young tribals like the Rabari seeking marriage partners in this three-day fair. Where: Thangadh, Surendarnagarh, Gujarat

September 1-3 Ganesh Chaturthi The birthday of the lovable Ganesha is marked by food and feasting. The birthday is followed by 11 days of festivity. Where: Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

September 14-18 Vysakhi Nrithyostav Eminent dancers from all over India, trained in nine different classical and folk forms participate and compete in this vibrant display of tradition, discipline and dedication. Where: Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

September 1-15 Ladakh Festival An exhaustive gamut of events ranging from polo matches, lion and yak mask dances to archery competitions and rafting expeditions engage visitors and locals in this two week cultural extravaganza. Where: Leh, Ladakh September 15-18 South Asian Film Festival The only film festival for South Asian countries brings together eminent filmmakers to discuss social, cultural, political aspects of the region’s cinema. Where: Goa

EDITORIAL NOTE NOTE EDITORIAL

TA

s we go Day into on print, meteorologists havetoannounced the o mark Independence August 15, we decided make this athat special keep its annual date with the southern shores double issue monsoon that looks isatlikely IndiatoTomorrow. Not through statistics and forecasts of India 1. remarkable Coming in two streamsand fromtheir the Bay of Bengal but through the eyeson ofJune a few individuals extraordinary intomorrow’s the east and theaArabian Sea inThey the west, monsoon makes vision to make India better place. see anthe India where society a leisurely progression towards northern usually reaching cares for its poorest, protects the environment, nurtures India, its crafts, preserves its Delhi by the end of June or theand beginning of July.include The unforgettable rich cultural heritage and promotes classical dance yoga. They architects, scentmusicians, of the first monsoon shower on land parchedwonks by the and long politicians Indian summer has economists, social entrepreneurs, technology who are thethe inspiration of festivals and they folklore, music thousands and poetry, of of others romance and trying tobeen shape country’s future. And are ofamong doing reflection. eminent Indians theirToreminiscences the monsoon, something similarSeveral in pockets around the share country. say that I amabout humbled by their echoingwould sentiments which are all tooI familiar. achievements be an understatement: get gooseflesh each time I read about them. Thethese rhythms of the rainstories also bring aliveinto theanother chirpingnoteworthy of birds, prompting us to Apart from extraordinary we delve occurrence. If takevibrant you to media the Thattekad Sanctuaryofand the democracy, Kole wetlands of Kerala. Theit beautiful a free and is the lifeblood a true then India has in such Coorg region in nearby Karnataka is also a traveller’sofdelight, while the gold filigree abundance that it is mind-boggling even by the standards older Western democracies. Thewa jewellery artistic skill Consider the fact that istilla marvel the lateof 1980s, weand onlydexterity. had one state-owned channel, Theproviding recently an concluded jazzoffestival in Delhi witnessedTwo a surprising turnout, Doordarshan, assortment news and entertainment. decades later, we testimony perhaps to the growing culture of the capital city. This In a have over 500 cable and satellite channelscosmopolitan competing for the viewer’s attention. vein, celebrated Singhyou looks back on hiswith association with includes,different at last count, at least 122author newsKhushwant channels. When contrast this the fact that Delhi as to mark its first have centenary. Author city are, in mature New TV markets likethe thecity UK,gets US ready and much of Europe less than half and a dozen news fact, nearthe contemporaries. channels each, perspective becomes clearer. Or maybe not. Because the same ourtelevision continuingindustry series on heroes,India we profile Ashok Development explosion inInthe thatgreen will propel past the US toKhosla’s become the world’s Alternatives andsatellite his enduring a sustainable environment, while largest Direct to Home marketcontribution by 2012 is to also prompting concerns about the Nepal need is the focus in our development partnerships. for self-restraint and calls forsection a strongonindependent regulator. The lead story in this issue takes Weatalso the rapidly expanding global footprint of India Inc., highlighting a closer look the explore burgeoning TV industry. remarkable blend vision andto enterprise that of hasiconic enabled Indian On athe more sombre note, weofpay tribute the rich legacy artistmajor M.F. Husain companies to make high-profile acquisitions in Africa,often Europe, the United who passed way recently. Largely self-taught, the 96 year-old, described as the States, Pablo and elsewhere. Picasso Latin of theAmerica subcontinent, took Indian art on to the global stage. We also explore the rich value the comments that we its have received on our last issue. heritage of We Chettinad in Tamil Nadu and – its suggestions graceful mansions, mouth-watering cuisine and Do weaves keep writing the typical of its in! saris. reading. Over theHappy last few issues, we have carried several articles that focus on India’s growing development partnership with Africa. The Second Africa-India Forum Summit held in Addis Ababa on May 24-25 was a landmark event for its people-centric focus and we run a photofeature that gives a flavour of the range of concurrent activities that accompanied the summit. We hope enjoy Nayou vdee p Surthe i issue and we look forward to hearing from you, via email or through our Facebook page.

Navdeep Suri

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INDIA

PERSPECTIVES July-August 2011  VOL 25 No. 5/2011

JULY-AUGUST 2011

Editor: Navdeep Suri Assistant Editor: Neelu Rohra

Television: Thriving Network

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Africa-India Summit: Cordial Affair

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Editor: Mannika Chopra

Adoor: Adoor Gopalakrishnan at Seventy

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Creative Director: Bipin Kumar

Sport: Indian Golfers Have Arrived

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Innovation: Global Games For Village Toys

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Travel: Sprawling, Exotic Chettinad

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History: Vaishali, a most ancient democracy

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MEDIA TRANSASIA TEAM Editor-in- Chief: Maneesha Dube

Desk: Urmila Marak, Swati Bhasin Editorial Coordinator: Kanchan Rana Design: Vikas Verma (Sr. Visualiser), Ajay Kumar (Sr. Designer), Sujit Singh Production: Sunil Dubey (DGM), Ritesh Roy (Sr. Manager) Brijesh K. Juyal (Pre-press Operator)

IN REVIEW

Chairman: J.S. Uberoi

Books: Charming Chronicle

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President: Xavier Collaco

Verbatim: Chanda Kochhar

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Financial Controller: Puneet Nanda

323, Udyog Vihar, Phase IV, Gurgaon 122016 Haryana, India E-mail: feedback.indiaperspectives@mtil.biz Telephone: 91-124-4759500 Fax: 91-124-4759550 India Perspectives is published every month in Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Bengali, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Pashto, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Sinhala, Spanish, Tamil, Turkish, Urdu and Vietnamese. Views expressed in the articles are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the Ministry of External Affairs. This edition is published for the Ministry of External Affairs by Navdeep Suri, Joint Secretary, Public Diplomacy Division, New Delhi, 140 ‘A’ Wing, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi-110001. Telephones: 91-11-23389471, 91-11-23388873, Fax: 91-11-23385549

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M. F. HUSAIN

A BOLD BRUSH WITH LIFE Husain was a living icon of Hindu-Muslim culture. His art was quintessentially Indian in form but global in its Picasso-esque appeal. A tribute to the artist.

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PHOTO: SHANKAR CHAKRAVARTY/THE HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

Send editorial contributions and letters to Media Transasia India Ltd.

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INDIA TOMORROW

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Essay: Celebrating the Human Spirit

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Politics: Chavvi Rajawat

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Technology: Gyanesh Pandey

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Economy: D. Udaya Kumar

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Social Entrepreneur: Rikin Gandhi

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Craft: Sumita Ghosh

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Social Entrepreneur: Anshu Gupta

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Dance: Krishna Mohan Reddy

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Tradition: T. V. S. Desikachar

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Conservation: Saima Iqbal

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Media: Harivansh

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Music: Shillong Chamber Choir

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Architecture: Chandrashekhar Hariharan

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Website: http://www.indiandiplomacy.in Text may be reproduced with an acknowledgement to India Perspectives For a copy of India Perspectives contact the nearest Indian diplomatic mission.

COVER PHOTO: IMAGESBAZAAR/COVER DESIGN: BIPIN KUMAR

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M. F. HUSAIN

A BOLD

BRUSH

WITH

LIFE Husain was a living icon of Hindu-Muslim culture. His art was quintessentially Indian in form but global in its Picasso-esque appeal. A tribute to the artist

AFP

PHOTO: INDIAN EXPRESS ARCHIVE

TEXT: S. KALIDAS

MAESTRO AT WORK: M. F. Husain at his studio

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PHOTO: SUDHARAK OLWE/ INDIAN EXPRESS ARCHIVE

PHOTO: SHANKAR CHAKRAVARTY/ THE HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

M

aqbool Fida Husain (19152011), easily India’s most iconic contemporary artist, died in a London hospital on June 9. Born in 1915 at the temple town of Pandharpur in Maharashtra, M. F. Husain came from a lower middle class Sulemani Muslim family and rose through the ranks to become India’s most famous painter of people, places and events. Even at the advanced age of 96 he remained frantically active, working with epic themes – History of Indian Cinema, Arab Civilisation, Ramayana—in London, Dubai and Qatar whose nationality he accepted last year after leaving India in a self-imposed exile in 2006. As a 20th century modernist painter Husain surfed the crest of a nascent and evolving national consciousness. When he first burst on the Indian art scene in the post-Independence era, he instantly became a much celebrated symbol of the Nehruvian ideal of a secular modernity. Yet, that very celebrity made him vulnerable to be misrepresented and reviled three decades later by extremist groups that led to his eventual selfimposed exile from India. Educated in the Indore School of Arts and the JJ School of Arts, Mumbai. Husain was immensely talented and intelligent with an enormous curiosity about the world. Despite all his fame and much flaunted wealth he was personally untouched by both. He would be as comfortable in a dhaba dipping his roti in a glass of tea as in a five star hotel relishing an expensive meal. He was immensely generous, capriciously whimsical, and quite stylishly eccentric in dress and behaviour. For example, he stopped wearing footwear as a tribute to the Hindi Poet Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh in 1974 and used to walk barefoot into the most exclusive

“But even at that time I knew that time I would be an artist one day. There was a time when I painted furniture by day and my own art by night. I painted nonstop.”

LIGHTER MOMENTS: Husain with his son Shamshad at his makeshift studio in New Delhi

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PHOTO: R.D. RAI/ INDIAN EXPRESS ARCHIVE

PHOTO: INDIAN EXPRESS ARCHIVE

What differentiates Husain from his Progressive contemporaries is his deeply rooted ‘Indianness’ through his celebration of Indian life and people

and august gatherings and clubs the world over. Husain had arrived in what was then Bombay in the early-1930s penniless but bursting with enthusiasm and energy, traits that he retained all through his colourful and long life. He first started out offering to paint portraits of people who could afford to pay him ` 25 in the busy and bustling bazaars of the metropolis. Soon, he moved to painting cinema hoardings, first for V. Shantaram’s Prabhat Studios and later for New Theatres. Here, perched high on bamboo scaffoldings, Husain learnt to be able to concentrate despite the noise and chaos of the street below and the blazing sun above for many years. “But even at that time I knew that I would be an artist one day,” he used to say, adding, “There was a time when I painted furniture by day and my own art by night. I painted non-stop.” Cinema held a life-long fascination for Husain and decades later he went on to make several much-talked about films. Of these, Through the Eyes of a Painter (1967) won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival but the most well known is Gaja Gamini (2000) that featured the Bollywood queen Madhuri Dixit as his muse.. Husain’s life started to change radically around the time of Independence. Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002), the prodigious enfant terrible of Indian art, spotted Husain’s talent and immediately included him in his Progressive Artists Group in 1947. Husain’s work was noticed right from that first showing and with the encouragement of Rudi von Leyden, the German art critic, he held his first one-man show in Mumbai in 1950. With prices ranging from ` 50 to ` 300 the exhibition was a huge success. As Husain would chuckle later, “I was a bestseller right from the start.”

HIS MUSES: (above) With actor Tabu and (right) with actor Madhuri Dixit

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PHOTO: INDIAN EXPRESS ARCHIVE

What differentiates Husain from his Progressive contemporaries is his deeply rooted ‘Indian-ness’ through his celebration of Indian life and people. He sought inspiration in temple sculptures (Mathura and Khajuraho), Pahari miniature paintings and Indian folk art. In the mid-1950s, Husain got national recognition with two very seminal canvases Zameen and Between the Spider and the Lamp. Zameen was inspired by Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zameen (1955) but instead of bemoaning rural poverty it presents a symbolic celebration of life in rural India with a vibrancy that had never been seen before. Nor did he, at any time, understand the angst of existentialism. The next year he painted the more enigmatic Between the Spider and the Lamp, considered by critics to be his all time best. As Husain became a living icon of Hindu-Muslim culture, his art acquired a quintessentially Indian in form and content while being global in its Picasso-esque appeal. Moreover, Husain invariably brought relevance to his paintings by making them topical almost in a journalistic fashion. He was ever ready with the ‘image of the day’ whether it entailed painting the Man on the Moon in 1969 or Indira Gandhi as Durga after the Bangladesh war in 1971. As modern Indian art gained wider acceptance through the ’70s and ’80s Husain was steadily scaling up the market charts. His colourful persona and his escapades became the grist of the media mills. “Life without drama would be too drab,” he used to say. And collectors came in droves. But no epic saga is ever picture perfect. And Husain had more than his share of celebrityhood and brickbats. However, it is in posterity that Husain’s art and his persona will get a truer reckoning that this most talented son of this vast and varied subcontinent rightly deserves. 

Husain invariably brought relevance to his paintings by making them topical almost in a journalistic fashion.

IN CANVAS: Displaying one of his paintings

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TELEVISION

Thriving Network

Twenty years after entering India, today over 515 cable and satellite channels reach out to 134 million households TEXT: MANNIKA CHOPRA

T

elevision is influencing the way Indians are entertained, how they live, think, and even eat. It’s fair to say that today TV has become the dominant national mass medium, uniting, in someway, a culturally diverse nation, urging it to react to a common impulse. Yet, it was only 52 years ago that the first steps were taken to set up a national network. And it was only 20 years ago that cable and satellite (C&S) television was first introduced, thanks largely to the 1991 Gulf war. Seeing the opportunity in cable TV, entrepreneurs like Subhash Chandra, originally a rice merchant, launched a clutch of channels, putting a template in place that changed India’s mediascape radically. Doordarshan, the national public broadcaster, may continue to have the largest reach, but it is the C&S broadcast market which has the most buzz. Stimulated by the liberalisation policies of 1992, which allowed private and foreign broadcasters to enter the market for the first time, the sector is thriving. “The deregulation of the early 1990s was a defining moment for Indian television history,” says Uday Shankar, CEO of the Star group and president of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), an apex body of leading broadcasters. From one public broadcaster in 1969, today there are 515 C&S channels, broadcasting in all the country’s major languages. Among them Zee TV, Star TV, SET, HBO, CBS, UTV, Discovery, National Geographic, NDTV, CNN-IBN, CNN, BBC, Times Now, Headlines Today and Aaj Tak have entered Indian homes. There are 122 news channels, 380 entertainment channels, over 70 foreign channels, last year alone ten new English entertainment channels were launched, making this, some say, the Golden Age of Indian TV. According to the IBF, C&S reaches 134 million households out of the 223 million who have television sets; this includes 23.7 million Direct to Home (DTH) subscribers. Eighty five percent of those living in cities own or have access to television; 70 percent have access to C&S or DTH. And the audience just keeps expanding. While families who own TV sets are growing at 8-10 percent, the growth in the C&S segment is very healthy at 15 percent and in the DTH sector it is a whopping 28 percent. In fact, it has been reported that India is set to outstrip the US as the world’s largest DTH market by 2012.

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With the increase in the number of channels, the advertising revenue has also escalated, averaging a growth rate of 15-20 percent. Media Partners Asia which tracks media and entertainment industries has projected that advertisement spend on the Indian small screen will be US $2.7 billion in 2011, 20 percent of which will be cornered by cricket. But what has all this meant for viewers? Programming is now much more diverse, imaginative and sophisticated. It has come a long way from the time when everybody waited breathlessly to watch a film aired by Doordarshan every Sunday. Today, for a monthly fee of `110 ($2.50), an average viewer can access 40 general entertainment, news and niche channels that range from cooking, to yoga to spiritual discourses. Viewers can choose between soaps, emotional family dramas, popularly called saas-bahu (mother-inlaw, daughter-in-law) serials to franchise reality shows like Kaun Banega Crorepati, (Who Wants REACHING THE WORLD to be a Millionaire), Sach ka Samna (Moment of * Star Plus India is available in 70 countries. Truth) and the X Factor. Undeniably, over the last It reaches viewers in North America, the decade the influence of television over popular UK, West Asia and Hong Kong. The Star India group plans to enter other culture has been rivaling that of films. European countries. Other genres which have captured eyeballs * Zee TV reaches 500 million viewers in have been sport, almost exclusively cricket. The 67 countries and will launch more Hindi game has become a major driving force for TV, not channels in Latin America, the Caribbean, only for sports channels but also for current affairs Africa and West Asia. *The TV Today network can be seen in the channels. For example, the combined viewership US, UK, Canada and has plans extend itself of the recently held Indian Premier League and in the Middle East and Australia World Cup matches totalled 290 million. * Viacom 18, which owns the IBN network, But it has been the current affairs channels has already entered the US, the UK, which have seen the most activity. “Today, there Australia and New Zealand. are nearly 100 news channels that have sprouted *From the NDTV stable, flagship channel NDTV 24x7 is available in 74 countries, all over India. The bad news is a lot of them have including USA, UK, Canada, the Middle East, low credibility but the good news is that, thanks to Africa and Australia; NDTV Profit is available television, there is a personal connect between the in 6 countries as is NDTV India while NDTV public and with what is happening in the country Good Times can be seen in 11 countries. which was not there earlier, ” says Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of the IBN group. Certainly technology has pushed the numbers. With digitisation the spectrum for channels has improved as has the quality of transmission. The DTH market, dominated currently by six service providers, is poised for a nationwide expansion, resulting in multi-tiered programming ranging from general entertainment to news to films and innovative packages that include games, education and learning English. With all this embarrassment of riches the real challenge now is to separate the substantial from the sensational and introduce programming codes. Currently a debate is taking place about the need to regulate the airwaves to give viewers a choice of quality content rather than a huge smorgasbord of the good, bad and the ugly. —Mannika Chopra is a media columnist

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DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIPS

PHOTOGRAPHS: AFP

Signature Initiatives

ENDURING PARTNERSHIPS The Second Africa-India Summit concluded on a high note as both the countries resolved to work closely on global issues TEXT: MANISH CHAND

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arking a major upsurge in the country’s diplomatic foray, India concluded a second summit with Africa in Addis Ababa on May 25 on a high note. A package of US $5.7 billion was unveiled for setting up over 80 capacity-building institutions and fresh training programmes that seek to empower nearly one billion people of the African continent and spur their resurgence. These signature initiatives are aimed at building a ‘modern and contemporary partnership’ between India and Africa. The two had once battled colonialism and are now leveraging their collective

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weight to combat poverty and transform the world order. The initiatives, announced by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Africa Day, struck a chord and were appreciated by the leadership across the continent. The African Union reciprocated by telling India that it can ‘count on its support’ for the UN reforms. It also declared support for New Delhi’s claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. The summit, held every three years, culminated in the Addis Ababa Declaration and the Africa-India Framework for Enhanced Cooperation – the two all-encompassing documents. These will

 Offer of US $5 billion for the next three years under Lines of Credit to help Africa’s development.  Offer of an additional US $700 million to establish new institutions and training programmes.  To support the development of a new Ethio-Djibouti Railway line to the tune of US $300 million.  Setting up an India-Africa Virtual University & introducing 10,000 new scholarships for African students at proposed varsity.  More scholarships for African students under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme, taking total scholarships to 22,000 over the next three years.  Establishment of an India-Africa Food Processing Cluster; an Integrated Textiles Cluster; A Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting; A University for Life and Earth Sciences and Institute of Agriculture and Rural Development.  Offer to increase the access of African airlines to Indian cities over the next three years.  Proposal to work with Regional Economic Communities to establish at the regional level, soil, water and tissue testing labs.  Proposal to establish institutes for English language training, Information Technology, entrepreneurship development and vocational training.  Proposal to establish an India-Africa Business Council.  India to contribute US $2 million for the African Union Mission in Somalia.

CLOSE COOPERATION: (facing page) Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh with Chairperson of the African Union Commission Jean Ping in Addis Ababa; (left) the Prime Minister inspects the guard of honour in the Ethiopian capital


UNITY IN DIVERSITY: (clockwise from top) Indian and African craftsmen showcase their work at the trade exhibition in Addis Ababa; particpating craftswomen in ‘Handcrafting Hope’; an Algerian artiste regales an audience with his mandolin during a cultural show; Indian craftswomen; Minister of Commerce, Anand Sharma and the First Lady of Ethiopia, Azeb Mesfin; and (bottom right) commemorative stamp released by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh

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serve as a template for expanding the development-centric partnership revolving around enhanced trade, capacity-building and training till the next summit in New Delhi in 2014. In the two documents as well as in the Prime Minister’s speeches and comments at the summit, the message of Afrooptimism was inescapable. Dr Singh promised the leaders of 15 countries, and selected by the AU, to represent the entire continent and that India will do everything possible to enable Africa to realise its potential as ‘a major growth pole of the world economy.’ “Africa is determined to partner in India’s economic resurgence as India is committed to be a close partner in Africa’s

renaissance,” stated the Addis Ababa Declaration. Both sides also committed themselves to supporting their candidatures ‘with full rights’ in an expanded UN Security Council. The summit reinforced unique and enduring features of India’s multi-pronged approach which is animated by a response to Africa’s ‘needs, requests and priorities.’ This approach, which makes the relations ‘a genuine two-way street,’ sets it apart from other external partners of Africa which have tended to be prescriptive and focussed on extractive resources while giving aid and assistance to the continent. The outcome of the summit reflected India’s long-term

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ENTERTAINMENT UNLIMITED: (clockwise from left) Indian dancers perform at a gala cultural event; a poster of the Indian Film Festival held during the summit and an African child shares a moment with an Indian craftswoman

THE SUMMIT REINFORCED UNIQUE AND ENDURING FEATURES OF INDIA’S MULTI-PRONGED APPROACH WHICH IS ANIMATED BY A RESPONSE TO AFRICA’S ‘NEEDS, REQUESTS AND PRIORITIES.’

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commitment to develop Africa’s most precious resource of over half a billion young people by setting up a network of training colleges in areas ranging from agriculture, rural development and food processing to information technology, vocational training, English language centres and entrepreneurial development institutes. Signalling a new economic surge, India resolved to scale up bilateral trade from US $46 billion to US $70 billion by 2015 and agreed to set up clusters for food processing, textiles, agriculture and rural development. Infrastructure development got an impetus with India pledging US $300 million Line of Credit for a new Ethio-Djibouti railway line. The second Africa-India Forum sought to add the much-

needed ‘strategic depth’ to the relationship as the two sides resolved to closely coordinate on global issues such as the UN reforms, terrorism, piracy, global trade negotiations and climate change negotiations. India made it clear to Western powers trying to conjure up a zone of contention between New Delhi and Beijing that its engagement with Africa was based on something much larger than mere economics or strategy. It is a sense of deep-rooted solidarity and kinship that goes back to the shared struggle against colonial injustice and is being driven by a desire for mutual resurgence. Investment in Africa, as Dr Singh said memorably at the end of the summit, is an act of faith. —Manish Chand is with IANS and editor, Africa Quarterly

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india TOMORROW

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CELEBRATING LIVES OF INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE SHAPING THE NATION’S FUTURE

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INDIA TOMORROW TEXT: MANNIKA CHOPRA

§ Celebrating the Human Spirit, Twelve Stories of Untold Possibilities 26 INDIA PERSPECTIVES

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nniversaries and birthdays resonate with significance. They are opportunities to celebrate, mark progress and provide a frame to gauge future potential. The birth of a nation is even more significant, it provides an occasion for an appraisal of larger issues — the state of the economy, polity, future directions, past follies. As India marks her 64th year as an independent country there will be no shortage of tributes, souvenirs, specially designed programmes and unravelling of exhilarating statistics. But far away from the debates and events is a universe in which a number of individuals are transforming the way we think about ourselves as a nation. They are certainly not household names nor do they follow any set formula but given their passion and pragmatism they have become a vital part of the India story, perhaps a key to her future. Representing diverse fields, they are innovative, dynamic, hearts and heads perfectly matched; all working towards making India a better place. They are proof that you don’t have to be supported by the government or large institutions to make a difference. These are not standard-issue heroes but ground-level activists, entrepreneurs, cultural figures reacquainting us with the indominatable will of the human spirit. India Perspectives showcases some of these icons-in-the-making. This selection is not a celebrity circus nor is it the result of a popularity contest. It is also not a complete list by any means nor is it a balanced regional or professional representation. What it is, is an attempt to highlight

performance-based, result-oriented individuals who are in the business of shaking things up by bringing important and serious issues into the national mainstream. Often unsung and unnoticed, these crusaders are so sure of what they want to do that they have happily left greener pastures to follow their convictions. The 12 committed and compassionate people profiled in this special issue represent a slice of India. Like Harivansh, who took a leap of faith when he shifted from the life of a high profile metro journalist to become the editor and guiding force of the widely-circulated, multiedition Prabhat Khabar by determinedly sticking to the basic principles of journalism — in spite of the prevailing belief that nothing succeeds like sensationalism. For many consumers of news Harivansh has changed how people feel about the media. Then there is 34 year-old Saima Iqbal, an architect who has brought conservation and preserving one’s architectural heritage into the discourse of Jammu and Kashmir. See what Anshu Gupta has accomplished when he left a blue chip company to set up a professionally-managed distribution network that gives clothes to the needy all over India. Or Chhavi Rajawat, a peppy MBA, who as the village head of Soda in Rajasthan has taken charge of the area’s development. Among the stories are also those of individuals realising their potential. One such is about the rise of the Prince Dance Group, run by Krishna Mohan Reddy and made up of 25 illiterate daily wagers, whose only aim in life is to dance, dance, dance. These then are inspiring stories of untold possibilities. Many happy returns, India. 

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§ POLITICS CHAVVI RAJAWAT

The Will Do Lady TEXT: URMILA MARAK

An MBA graduate is India’s youngest village head in Soda, Rajasthan

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ith her long tresses and willowy figure, Chhavi Rajawat can easily pass off as a slinky model or a Bollywood actor. But instead this MBA from Pune has donned the role of a sarpanch or a village head of Soda, 60km from the state capital Jaipur, located in District Tonk, one of the most backward areas of Rajasthan. Only it’s not a role. This is real life for the thirty-year-old, clad in jeans and a T-shirt, driving her jeep to supervise the desilting of an old water body or taking a municipal officer to task while villagers listen to her with respect and sometimes shock. It was the same feeling Rajawat encountered when she addressed the 11th Info-Poverty World Conference at the UN when she spoke of the imperatives of

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including new technologies in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. This grit and glamour is all in a day’s work for Rajawat ever since she left her senior management position with Airtel group’s Bharti Televentures to return to her roots. Last year, Rajawat contested the panchayat elections and won with a handsome margin following in the footsteps of her grandfather Raghubir Singh who had been sarpanch of Soda for 15 years. “It was primarily the love, faith and respect for my grandfather, who also looked after the development of this area, that people here wanted someone from the same family to stand for elections,” she says with her trademark candour. Since Soda is a seat reserved for women, Rajawat faced competition from 18 other women candidates who had whittled down to 2 as voting day drew closer. A popular leader she is constantly helped by numerous villagers as she implements her projects.

In spite of the number of rural development schemes on paper the villagers are still suffering and struggling. Someone has to take steps to fix it.

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The MBA degree has also helped me plan and manage things a lot better and also made government officials realise that I mean business and I am not here to kill time.

§ Rajawat’s priorities include ensuring safe drinking water for the villagers in this acutely saline-prone area besides building water harvesting structures. In charge of implementing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in Soda, she is also trying to increase job opportunities by involving NGOs. “For the reservoir revival project, which covers an area of 100 acres, I thought I would receive support from NGOs and corporate houses,” explains the young sarpanch. But the response was slow. She needs ` 35 million for the project but as yet has been able to collect only `2 million with help from her immediate family and friends. “In spite of the number of rural development schemes on paper the villagers are still suffering and struggling. Someone has to take steps to fix it,” she says. In many ways, Rajawat’s MBA degree has helped in putting Soda in the public eye. The sarpanch has been able to tap well wishers for funds even strangers have contributed to her efforts after hearing her interviews on the radio. “The degree has also helped me plan things and also made government officials realise that I mean business and I am not here to kill time,” she says. The thought of her contemporaries in the corporate world earning the big bucks doesn’t faze her. “I have no regrets because the satisfaction I receive from being able to execute projects and improve the lives of

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10,000 plus people is far more than any fat salary can bring me, ’’ she says. Rajawat has already been instrumental in opening the first bank in Soda but her to-do list remains packed. Water conservation, water management are top items followed by sanitation, reforestation, electrification, education, with a huge emphasis on primary education and focussed vocational training and schemes for self-employment. Grassroots politics has always inspired Rajawat. Still, being a sarpanch is not exactly a remunerative career path. So this young politician-cum-entrepreneur, together with a friend, who has represented India in international equestrian championships, has taken her love for the great outdoors and her passion for horses by teaching horse riding in the Equest Horse Riding Academy. In between, her packed schedule she also looks after the family hotel in Jaipur. Educated in Rishi Valley, Bengaluru and Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi and then Pune, Chhavi represents the new face of pan-India: Educated, committed and community-oriented. The road ahead is daunting but just after a year-and-a-half as a sarpanch, Chhavi is confident that within three years she will be able transform her village and bring about the change that Soda as yet has been only dreaming about.  More on Chavvi Rajawat at www.soda-india.in

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§ TECHNOLOGY GYANESH PANDEY

The Energy Star He generates electricity from husk power providing a brighter future for Bihar

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ithout light and energy it is not possible to change the face of rural India. “The backward villages of India cannot be mainstreamed for development unless there is education and access to education should not be blighted by a lack of electricity.” The thought drove Gyanesh Pandey and his friends to look for alternative power for some of the remotest villages of Bihar in east and west Champaran, Muzzafarpur, Sitamarhi and Lakisarai. Pandey knew about life without electricity. From Baithania village located in power-starved Chamaparan, his school years were spent outside the state. After completing his engineering from Banaras Hindu

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University, he went to the United States for his masters in engineering. It was there he began studying non-conventional energy sources — solar, wind energy and bio-diesel — but they did not seem workable options for Bihar. When he returned to India he stumbled on the idea of generating power from rice husk through a person providing gasification technology for rice mills. However, instead of using diesel for turbines he hit on the idea of rice husk. Some research work had already been done on rice husk power in the Indian Institute of Technologies but Pandey’s job was to make it happen. The first plant of Husk Power Systems (HPS) — born from the combined efforts of Pandey, his two friends, Ratnesh Yadav and Manoj Sinha and Charles W. Ransler, an American who studied with him in the US — was set up in 2007 in the wilderness of Tamkuha, West Champaran, some seven hours from Patna.

PHOTO: SAPTARISHI BISWAS/ OUTLOOK BUSINESS

TEXT: USHA RAI

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With a network of roads, wire facilities coming to the region we will piggyback on the plants to set up medical care and health units in 2014.

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The plant converts waste rice husk to combustible gas that drives a small turbine. Today HPS has set up 60 mini-power plants, each generating enough power for about four villages — depending on the size of the villages and the power consumed. The mini-plants are also lighting up over 250 villages helping a population of 300,000. Eighty five to ninety percent of the homes in the villages where power is available are buying a six-hour supply at ` 80 a month from HPS. It is enough to charge a mobile phone and turn on two CFL bulbs ensuring children finish their studies for the day and women their household chores. On a monthly basis HPS collects ` 40,000 to ` 50,000 as revenue from sale of electricity but gives back to villages about `10,000 a month by generating employment. With the amount of rice husk generated in the state, Pandey estimates that Bihar has the capacity to run 2,000 mini-power plants. Now HPS is developing a franchising model which will catapult it onto the global social enterprise stage. It will also enlist Indian partners who want to open their own HPS franchise. The environment-friendly HPS power plants have reduced the annual consumption of 42,000 litres of kerosene and 18,000 litres of diesel in the villages. Since they are non-polluting, it is estimated that the HPS plants have saved 50,000 tonnes of Co2 being

released into the atmosphere between 2007 to August 2010. All these plus points have won HPS this June the coveted £120,000 Ashden Award for innovations in sustainable energy. Pandey has developed other streams of activity too. Providing power to rural India is just one part of his big dream. Health, education, agriculture and women’s empowerment are other aspects of rural life that he seeks to delve into. “With a network of roads, wire facilities coming to the region we will piggyback on the plants to set up medical care and health units in 2014,” says Pandey. A Husk Power University — run independently of HPS through a foundation called Samta Samriddhi — has been set up training people to run the power plants. Thus his vision for employment and empowerment of women is already taking shape. Using the char from the rice husk women are being trained to make incense sticks. To speed up production and ensure quality of the incense Pandey developed a machine that costs about ` 3,000. Some women have been given machines and trained so that they can earn at least ` 60 a day. “It has been a continuous struggle but when you actually see villages light up and children studying at home, there is a huge sense of satisfaction,” admits Pandey.  More on Gyanesh Pandey at www.huskpowersystems.com

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§ ECONOMY D. UDAYA KUMAR

Symbol of Success AFP

TEXT: SWATI BHASIN

The designer of the rupee symbol now turns his attention to making jewellery from junk

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year ago Dharmalingam Udaya Kumar, 32, invented the rupee symbol. This month it has emerged from the mint stamped on coins of various denominations as well as ` 10 notes. Now, everybody in India, from a child buying a toffee for 50 paisa in Nagercoil to a person paying ` 10 for parking at a busy bazaar in Delhi will be familiar with Kumar’s design, which was the winner of a contest organised by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Kumar, who pursued his doctoral studies at the Industrial Design Centre at IIT Bombay, beat 3,000 other participants to

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take the prize of ` 250,000, which he has donated to Prajwala, a Hyderabad-based NGO. Currently an assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Guwahati, Kumar must be a proud man because India is only the second country in the world — the first being England — to have its currency symbol printed on its notes. And the fifth to have a symbol at all. The Indian rupee mark is a blend of the Devanagri — ^j^ and the Roman ‘R’ and is based on the Indian tricolour and arithmetic equivalence according to the designer. Kumar chose this fusion so that the mark would be unique and be easily differentiated form the rupiah of Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Passionate about graphic design, typography, type design and design research, the young designer has to his credit

a Tamil font, Parashakti, and a book on Tamil typography. Born in Kallakurichi and brought up in Chennai, Kumar is fascinated by the ocean, so much so that he has designed Waterworld, a futuristic floating city to deal with congestion in Mumbai. A visit to his webpage www.dudayakumar.com reveals that the bachelor is a sports enthusiast, a nature lover and leads a simple lifestyle. Also, he strongly believes in himself and certain fundamental principles – righteousness, equality, love, trust, cleanliness and discipline. He says “Every time I see the symbol in newspapers and magazines, it strikes me, it is my biggest achievement so far.” An achievement that has ensured his place in India’s business history. 

Every time I see the symbol in newspapers and magazines, it strikes me, it is my biggest achievement so far.

More on D. Uday Kumar at www.dudayakumar.com

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§ TECHONOLOGY RIKIN GANDHI

Life through a Lens A US-born aeronautical engineer’s green dream won the hearts of farmers in India

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ll that Rikin Gandhi required was a vision and a video camera to build Digital Green, a notfor-profit organisation that uses tools of information and communication technology for social change. “I visited India for a bio-diesel venture in 2006 and interacted with rural India for the first time. That’s when I realised that farmers don’t have an access to right information. I joined Microsoft Research in Bengaluru to figure out how technology interspersed with social organisation can be applied for the betterment of marginal and small farmers,” he says. The result is the Bengaluru-based organisation, Digital Green. Over time it has spun off and is now an independent entity of which Gandhi is CEO.

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Born and brought up in the US, Gandhi holds a Master’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US – he is mentioned in the institute’s list of innovative thinkers. After completing his course he joined Oracle as a software engineer, but the 29-year-old with a pilot’s licence for the US Air Force harboured ambitions of joining the US space programme. However, his visit to India five years ago changed all that. ‘‘While growing up I read biographies of astronauts, they would go to space and see the world differently from that formidable height. Questions like, ‘What will I do when I come back to Earth?’ occurred to them. Some of them became farmers or schoolteachers after coming back to Earth. Digital Green, for me is a step to reconnect with people.’’ Gandhi’s story runs a trajectory similar to that of the character played by Shah Rukh Khan in the Hindi film

PHOTO: DHARAM DIWAKAR

TEXT: ERAM AGHA

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Because there is a need to build trust in any method of knowledge dissemination, our videos carry the names of the farmers and their villages. This adds authenticity.

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Swades. “No. I am not inspired by that story as I have not seen the film,” Gandhi affirms. All the same like the protagonist in Swades, Gandhi too ‘‘reverse-migrated’’ to work with farmers in India. After arriving in India, Gandhi quickly grasped the loopholes of the traditional methods of disseminating knowledge among farmers. He worked out a plan that would make Digital Green different. ‘‘There were traditional ways like broadcast TV and radio which were very generic. Some programmes were intensive in their training and work but they were not cost effective. Because there is a need to build trust in any method of knowledge dissemination, our videos carry the names of the farmers and their villages. This adds authenticity. Use of videos makes the system demonstrative!” says Gandhi. The stars of the videos are the farmers themselves. They are shot by handheld camcorders demonstrating farming techniques, the footage is then checked by partner NGOs for accuracy and then screened in villages using hand-held projectors. Gandhi’s interaction with the farmers has been facilitated by social groups already working with the local community. The farmers recognise the change Digital Green, which reaches 56,015 farmers, has brought about in their lives. Says Mallappa Pudabangi, 52, a farmer from village Dasanatti, Belgaum in Karnataka: “It is a very useful

platform for us to learn about effective farming techniques. When I saw the film I was motivated to change my way of farming.” His enthusiasm is palpable when he says that the farmers need many more Rikin Gandhis. In the course of his research, Gandhi discovered that urban Indians are disconnected with food. ‘‘In the sense they know what to eat and from where to buy but don’t know anything about agriculture and rural set-up,’’ says Gandhi. To help the urban population connect with the farming community Digital Green started a game called Wonder Village through which the urban population gets to understand issues of rural development. So far, the farmers have shot around 1,609 videos. But this is just a beginning. Gandhi’s plans are as big as the fields he works for. ‘‘When one of our videos was shown to President Obama on his recent trip to India, there was talk on how India and the US can come together for agricultural development in Africa. Also, we have to work with the Institute of International Agriculture and look at best practices that can be used and shared with the local community. Our goal is to support livelihood of farmers across India and in the world. Problems of health, nutrition, and credit need to be dealt with as well,” says Gandhi. It seems Gandhi’s green dreams are becoming a reality.  More on Rikin Gandhi at www.digitalgreen.org

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§ CRAFT SUMITA GHOSE

Artisans Turn Shareholders A diminutive powerhouse develops a profitable community-owned company

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t was towards the end of 2006 that Rangsutra was set up as a bridge between, “artisans and customers, tradition and contemporary and change and continuity.” From the three groups of artisans who began working with Rangsutra when it was launched the company now comprises 30 groups, each with 25 to 200 skilled artisans. In some 2,000 homes across the country artisans are working for Rangsutra. Of them 1,100 are shareholders coming from remote parts of the country – the deserts of Rajasthan, the hills of Uttaranchal and the underdeveloped areas of Andhra Pradesh, Assam and West Bengal. The driving force behind Rangustra is a diminutive powerhouse, the Delhi-based Sumita Ghose. A

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Fulbright scholar, she was working with artisans in Rajasthan in the mid-eighties when, she, along with Sanjoy Ghose, set up URMUL, an NGO, which tapped the traditional skills of weaving and embroidery to help farmers to improve their lives. In 2006, she decided to go back on that road and work out how the artisan community could become part of a thriving India. Ghose’s guiding principle has been to celebrate India’s rich crafts heritage, ensuring a sustainable livelihood for artisans by creating quality, handmade products and marketing them by strictly using fair trade practices. Profits from sale are ploughed back to provide for a better life for the artisan communities. “Socially”, says the bespectacled Ghose, “craftspeople and artisans come from some of the most disadvantaged communities with very little opportunity for self-development and growth.” Making the company market-oriented was the real challenge since it was not mandated to be dependent

PHOTO: VISHAL KOUL/OUTLOOK BUSINESS

TEXT: USHA RAI

Socially, craftspeople and artisans come from some of the most disadvantaged communities with very little opportunity for self-development and growth.

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PHOTO: VISHAL KOUL/OUTLOOK BUSINESS

I am confident that gradually all the 2,000 workers associated with Rangsutra will become shareholders.

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on grants. Before asking artisans to step in with their financial contributions, Ghose took two loans – ` 2.3 million from Avishkaar, a social venture or angel fund and ` 3 million from Artisans Micro Finance, a subsidiary of FabIndia, an organisation which connects artisans to modern urban markets; Ghose’s own contribution was `1 million. While her two big funders own 50 percent of the shares, she, along with other artisans, owns the rest. Gradually she hopes to raise the shares of the artisans to 49 percent. The venture fund has paid twice the price the artisan paid for a share and barely five years down the line the value of a share has increased five-fold, from `100 to ` 500. “Though there are 1,100 shareholders, the number of workers associated with Rangsutra is over 2,000. I am confident that gradually all of them will become shareholders,” says Ghose. All shareholders get dividends and in the last three years, Rangsutra’s dividends have risen from 10 percent in 2008-2009 to 25 percent this financial and turnover has soared from ` 3 million in 2006-’07 to `105 million in 2010-2011. Driven by a commitment for excellence, Ghose, along with her two young designers, Ritu Suri and Ruchi Tripathi, both graduates of the National Institute of Fashion Technology, is constantly motivating the artisans,

giving them new designs, searching for fresh markets and sourcing new talent and group specialisations. For instance, Mahila Sannathkar’s forte, in the old city of Hyderabad, is aari embroidery, quality stitching and tailoring. In the Sundarbans area of West Bengal, there are some 200 artisans who specialise in silk batik. While Rangsutra’s biggest buyer is FabIndia, it also exports a small amount of its exquisite products to France, the Netherlands and the UK. Seventy percent of Rangsutra’s workers are women. Working part-time from their homes and depending on the level of their skills they are able to earn anything from ` 3,000 to ` 5,000 a month whereas earlier they may have sporadically earned anything from ` 500 to ` 1,000. Working full- time skilled male workers can earn up to `10,000 in a month: the payment piece rate is the same for men and women. For many, being a shareholder in a profitable venture is a huge sense of accomplishment. The shares women have in Rangsutra are not just scraps of paper. For them it is a new form of saving, as valuable as the chunky silver they wear, which probably explains why one of the artisans has chosen to frame her share and hang it prominently on a wall in her house – an obvious symbol of a resurgent India.  More on Sumita Ghosh at www.rangsutra.com

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§ SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR ANSHU GUPTA

The Material Man A social innovator takes on the charge of clothing the needy

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t was while Anshu Gupta was on a freelance assignment with the Deccan Chronicle on a bitterly cold winter night in Old Delhi that he realised how extremely privileged he was. He stumbled upon a barely clad man trying to keep the cold away with liquor. It was a troubling narrative. But for the twentysomething Gupta those images gave an insight into the importance of clothing: the lack of which could lead to death; the presence of which was a road to dignity. Not long afterwards, leaving a job with a blue chip company, Gupta set up Goonj (literally echo) devoting his life to collecting clothes contributed by the advantaged and distributing them to those in need. From a niggling idea that thought has now become

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a streamlined movement. Gupta, a strapping forty yearold with the build of a basketball player, is at the hub of a collection centre-cum-office-cum-recycling unit in Delhi’s trendy Sarita Vihar. In a very functional office where the walls are decorated with precious awards, charts showing schedules, goals, Gupta and a team of five, along with 300 volunteers, collects, coordinates and dispatches clothes. From the 67 items that Gupta initially picked out of his own wardrobe Goonj presently provides 70,000 kgs of clothes, utencils, school material and old furniture every month to various parts of India. Helped by 250 partner groups Goonj’s collection centres operate in seven cities distributing to 21 states. Looking back, Gupta says: “I never followed any conventions. I didn’t know anybody who could guide me. I made my own rules for approaching people, giving presentations and fundraising.” It was unchartered territory for this powerful

PHOTO: PUNEET SINGH

TEXT: SWATI BHASIN

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PHOTO: PUNEET SINGH

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I really do not believe in charity. That is why we have to change our thinking from donor’s pride to receiver’s dignity.

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entrepreneur but the results have been satisfying. The size and the scope of the operation have grown dramatically. Contributed clothes are divided according to gender, age, size and other demographic and geographic needs. And the art of giving has extended beyond clothes to toys, books for children, electronic gadgets and office furniture. A separate unit is dedicated to making sanitary napkins for rural women from sun-dried cotton cloth filled with unused material donated by export houses. Five units are packed together and sold from `1 to ` 5 depending on the spending capacity of the women in the villages. Presently, Goonj produces around 200,000 napkins every month for distribution to the rural hinterland. Additionally, meetings are held to educate village women on hygiene and destroy myths about menstruation. Gupta never intended Goonj to be an organisation that pitied the deprived. Respecting the dignity of the needy has been his mantra. That’s the reason why the projects and schemes being put in place ehance the receiver’s self-worth. The organisation’s Cloth for Work initiative, for instance, ensures that clothes collected for villagers are not distributed gratis. The villagers need to ‘earn’ the clothes just like wages. In the remote areas of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa typically villagers

collectively construct bore wells, bridges and repair damaged roads in exchange for value-added clothes. Similar guidelines are also developed when toys and books are being distributed to children. The core philosophy of Goonj lies in not wasting anything that is contributed. If it is not worthy of distribution it is all transformed creatively by untrained hands: audio tapes are used to decorate handbags, colourful stress balls are made from swatches, mats and mattresses from waste material are some of the items sold in fund-raising camps or distributed in villages. Innovation and strategising has been a key element of Gupta’s thinking. From an empty till, Goonj today has a turnover of around ` 40 million: around 50 percent comes from individual contributions, the rest from the sale of products. “People invest their money and they get happiness in return, he says. It’s a trade-off which that has worked well which is why Gupta prefers to call himself a social entrepreneur instead of a social worker because he knows he has to generate enough money in order to meet the basic requirements of logistics — staffing and transportation. “I really do not believe in charity. That is why,” says this iconic entrepreneur-activist, “we have to change our thinking from donor’s pride to receiver’s dignity.”  More on Anshu Gupta at www.goonj.org

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§ DANCE PRINCE DANCE GROUP

PHOTO: SHASHI BOKADIA/ MOKSHA EVENTS PVT LTD

Rhythm of Life TEXT: J.K. MOHAPATRA

Daily wagers beat the odds and form an award-winning dance group

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ix years ago, a 23-year-old daily wage labourer working in Mumbai's construction industry saw a dream of building a dance troupe in his native village of Ambapua of Orissa's Ganjam district. T. Krishna Mohan Reddy was not content with a life of lifting bricks and mixing cement. His passion was dance. He left Mumbai and organised a small group of like-minded friends in the town of Berhampur and called it the Prince Dance Group. After work, the group would start practising on the premises of a dilapidiated Kali temple. His partners were twenty five

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other boys, most of them school dropouts and daily labourers, two of them were even afflicted by polio. Though none of them had any formal dance training, they were all keen to make a mark in local dance shows. Things changed in 2006 when the Prince Dance Group became runners-up in a TV reality dance show, Boogie Woogie on Sony. Mixing contemporary dance with mythology the group put up a stellar performance though they missed the crown by a whisker. Life took on a more dramatic turn in 2009 when the group auditioned for the first edition of India's Got Talent, a reality show on Colors channel. Their dance, Saare jahan se achha choreographed by Reddy had everyone in tears “Everyone, starting from the cameraperson to judge Shekhar Kapoor was crying. It

was the happiest day of my life,” recounts Reddy. As scores of labourers and the general public in Orissa, as well as in his village in Ambapua and neighbouring Berhampur town, watched the finals on huge television screens, the group trumped their rivals by putting up a scintillating, act called Das Avatar, the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The ` 5 million prize money was divided equally among all the members while ` 50,000 was earmarked for the construction of a new Kali temple, the premises on which they started their practice. The group members are now full-time performers, travelling from festival to festival. They are starting a dance school on a one-acre plot donated by the Orissa government near the Gopalpur-on-Sea beach. From labourers to celebrities it’s been such a rewarding journey. 

Everyone, starting from the cameraperson to judge Shekhar Kapoor was crying. It was the happiest day of my life.

More on PDG at www.princedancegroup.org

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§ YOGA T.K.V. DESIKACHAR

Master of the Mat The teacher spreads the belief that yoga is not merely a set of exercises for physical fitness

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ounder of the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram (KYM) in Chennai, T.K.V. Desikachar is one of the world’s foremost yoga teachers and a renowned authority on the therapeutic uses of the discipline. It is difficult to believe that the master was once a reluctant student, going as far as to hide in a tree to avoid classes with his teacher and father Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who was a strict disciplinarian and a demanding task master. No surprise then that the young Desikachar was glad to get away from home to pursue a degree in engineering. He graduated at the top of his class and landed a good job. But before he could embark on his new career, an incident changed the course of his life. It was 1961, Desikachar was reading the newspaper sitting in the balcony of his home when he espied an elegantly

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dressed woman stepping out of an expensive car in front of his house. Sounding very excited she called out to Desikachar’s father. The moment she spotted Krishnamacharya, she hugged him and exclaimed, ‘‘Thank you! Thank you very much!’’ The yoga guru smiled and led her inside. Desikachar wondered why a Western woman was hugging his extremely conservative father. Soon Desikachar would learn that the woman was a chronic patient of insomnia and was being treated by his father. The night before the visit was the first time in years that she had had a restful sleep without any medication. The relief was so great that she had rushed to thank Krishnamacharya. This was an eureka moment for Desikachar, in that instant he understood the value and importance of his father’s work; that yoga was not an esoteric philosophy or about dogmatic rituals, it was about transforming lives. ‘‘I realised how great my father was, and how much he had to share with people. I decided to give up my career and become a

PHOTO: KAUSTHUB DESIKACHAR

TEXT: NINA MUKHERJI

I decided to give up my career and become a yoga student at a time when yoga was not popular. Such a decision from a young engineer with a secure job was unusual.

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My father’s pioneering effort has resulted in KYM becoming one of the best known yoga therapy and research centres of the world.

PHOTO: KAUSTHUB DESIKACHAR

§

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yoga student,’’ says Desikachar. ‘‘It was a time when yoga was not popular and such a decision from a young engineer with a secure job was extremely unusual.’’ The son quickly turned disciple and asked his father to become his guru. Together they worked to give a fresh impetus to the spread of yoga in its pure form. If today yoga is a part of the lives of millions across the world, it is due in large measure to the efforts of Krishnamacharya. While preserving ancient wisdom and reviving lost teachings, he developed and adapted yoga practices that would offer health, mental clarity and spiritual growth to an individual. His knowledge of yoga was so vast that he taught each student differently, refusing to standardise the practice and teaching methodology. ‘‘We still adhere very strictly to our teacher Krishnamacharya’s philosophy of teaching yoga as it applies to the other. So each individual is given a specific set of asanas pertaining to his or her needs and requirements,’’ says Geetha Shankar, a senior member of the faculty at KYM. Some of the world’s best minds like Jiddu Krishnamurthy, a well-known writer and speaker on philosophical and spiritual issues, studied under Desikachar and his father. It was the meeting with Krishnamurthy that helped Desikachar take yoga beyond the shores of India. ‘‘My father’s pioneering

effort in bringing different healing traditions of the world together has resulted in KYM becoming one of the best known yoga therapy and research centres of the world. He has popularised yoga in many countries across Europe and America,’’ says Kausthub Desikachar, who is CEO of KYM. Krishnamacharya passed away in 1989, in 2006 Desikachar, along with Kausthub, founded the Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation (KHYF), which is committed to spreading the holistic yoga teachings of T. Krishnamacharya. Desikachar has authored many publications, including Health, Healing and Beyond and The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice. Today, KYM, a registered public charitable trust, is a multidepartmental institution which employs over 30 teachers. His entire family, his wife, Menaka, sons, daughter and daughter-in-law are involved in one way or the other with the running of the place. The institute, which has over a thousand students on a monthly basis, offers courses in yoga studies and yoga therapy. Vedavani, a unit of KYM, also researches and teaches Vedic chanting while KYM-Mitra is an outreach programme that gifts yoga to the underpriveleged and differently abled. Krishnamacharya had said, ‘‘Yoga is about life,’’ and Desikachar and KYM continue to spread his message.  More on T.K.V. Desikachar at www.kym.org

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INDIA TOMORROW

§ CONSERVATION SAIMA IQBAL

The Heritage Warrior A young architect makes conservation part of the development discourse of the State

M

ost architects like nothing more than to talk about their buildings, plodding through PowerPoint presentations to show off their new constructions. But there are a few who believe that preserving historical buildings is a way to honour the past and define the future. Thirty four yearold Saima Iqbal belongs to the later category. In the face of inflation, apathy, neglect and uncertain times, Iqbal, Kashmir’s only conservation architect, is determined to document and restore the diverse architectural history of Jammu and Kashmir. “The architecture of this state is unique. It has features of the Hindu period — typified by the massive stone temples like Martand, Awantipur, Naranga — the Muslim period and to some extent the Buddhist period.”

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Speaking from a cramped one-room office of the Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in Srinagar’s Press Enclave area, Iqbal, together with six others, is diligently classifying hundreds of heritage monuments and buildings that dot Jammu and Kashmir, including 70 monuments protected by the Centre and 26 monuments protected by the State. Srinagar itself has 838 listed properties, though only 18 fall in a Grade1 classification and enjoy legal protection. On any given day locals will see Iqbal with her shortcropped hair, laden with papers and a camera taking notes and pictures and red-flagging problem areas. It was as a student at Presentation Convent, the Valley’s premier missionary school, that young Iqbal dreamt of becoming an architect. She recalls endlessly drawing sketches of houses, buildings, rivers and mountains while her father Zafar Iqbal, who was with the Military Engineering Services, would travel the State building

PHOTO: JAVID DAR

TEXT: NASEER AHMAD

I have never thought of leaving Kashmir. As an architect, there may be better opportunities outside and a lot more money but moving out is not an option.

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PHOTO: JAVID DAR

The architecture of this state is unique. It has features of the Hindu period — typified by the stone temples like Martand, Awantipur — and Muslim and Buddhist periods.

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§ bridges. Having graduated in architecture in 1999 from MSIA, Bijapur she returned home and started work with some local architects. But she wanted something more then simply overlapping bricks with mortar. Soon soul mates Sameer Hamdani, Jabeen Mehjoor and Abid Hussain Khan joined up and in 2004 the quartet established the INTACH chapter of Jammu and Kashmir. Later, Saleem Beg, whose expertise in heritage conservation made him the natural choice to head the chapter, joined in. “Saima was the first professional to join the campaign. Her efforts and that of her team have made conservation and heritage part of the development discourse of the State,” admits Beg. The first major project the team undertook was the cultural mapping of 1,600 year-old Srinagar especially its downtown areas which contain 250 historical monuments within a 3km area. The heritage warriors went street by winding street, listing buildings, bridges, mosques, shrines and temples; dividing the area into heritage zones. The initiative was not easy. One day a man followed Iqbal upto her office threatening police action against the architect who, he thought, was taking photographs of his house to get a bank loan. Eventually an exhaustive inventory of heritage buildings made its way into a five-volume book, Cultural Resource Mapping of Srinagar City. The widely acclaimed tome, now condensed into two volumes, is the only historical database available on the heritage

buildings of Srinagar. Another precious project has been the Aali Masjid, the second largest mosque in Srinagar after Jamia Mosque. Constructed in 1471 AD, during the rule of Sultan Hassan Shah, the mosque located near Eidgah in the Old City has been renovated becoming one of the best examples of Kashmir’s vernacular wooden architecture. The history of the mosque corresponds to four distinct political rules — the Sultanate, Mughals, Afghans and the Dogra periods during which the last known renovation was undertaken. “It was very rewarding. We actually worked with masons and carpenters to finish this INTACH project,” she says proudly. Presently, Iqbal is working round the clock to include the Valley’s six Mughal Gardens — Nishat, Shalimar, Achabal, Chashma Shahi, Pari Mahal and Verinag — in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. The listing will help Kashmir become a global tourism destination. Even with an M.Sc in Historical Conservation from Oxford, Iqbal is sure she does not want to leave Srinagar for better prospects. “I have never thought of leaving Kashmir. As an architect, there may be better opportunities outside and a lot more money but moving out is not an option.” Out of the original team, two have already left but for the indefatigable Iqbal, “There is too much to be done here.” Clearly, Iqbal’s journey of discovery has only just begun.  More on Saima Iqbal at www.intach.org

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INDIA TOMORROW

§ MEDIA HARIVANSH

Old School is the Right School TEXT: MANNIKA CHOPRA

A determined editor from the Hindi belt creates a movement not a newspaper

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can any list of India’s leading editors and the name Harivansh will be somewhere near the top. The bespectacled, unassuming editor of Prabhat Khabar embodies the journalistic values of the old school: an irreverence for power, a strong belief that media is a tool for social and political change and a conviction in the Gandhian principle that it is readers who are the masters and the market is not the king. In an era when sensationalism masquerades as news; when celebrities make it to headlines more often than development issues; where a witty phrase can be shrunk to 140 characters, 56 year-old Harivansh is an anachronism. But he is a successful anachronism. As he himself says, Prabhat Khabar, tucked away in central Ranchi,

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the capital of Jharkhand is an “experiment in today’s journalism.” At the helm of the paper since 1989, Harivansh has seen the Hindi paper grow from a shoddily produced, eight-page daily, with a circulation of 600 brought out by an outdated printing press into one published from 11 centres, with 60 editions and an audited circulation of 700,000 making it the eighth-largest Hindi paper in India and number one in Jharkhand. In essence, the daily’s story is the story of one journalist’s determination to create, as its motto says, ‘a movement not a paper.’ Brought up in rural India, a former lecturer and bank officer, Harivansh opted for journalism as a chosen career path. Trained under iconic journalists like Dharmveer Bharati and S.P. Singh and hugely influenced by Jaiparakash Narain, a political leader and noted social reformer, Harivansh took up the challenge to edit Prabhat Khabar bought by the Kolkata-based business group, Usha Martin. It was, well

The newspaper is committed to the common man which is why we have an emotional bond with our readers.

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§

Such reader interaction through these people’s forums was a new experience for us too. We also learnt along the way.

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wishers said, a misguided leap of faith. With poor infrastructure the paper’s catchment area was south Bihar — perhaps one of the most backward areas of the country. But the pessimism was misplaced. The root of Prabhat Khabar’s success has been its emphasis on the core values of journalism: looking with compassion and clarity at the life of the common man. The ideal people’s spy in the corridors of power, Harivansh has ensured that during the last 22 years the activist-paper exposed scams that have brought down politicians, reported on underdevelopment resulting in a Supreme Court intervention and busted drug rackets. The paper even created a mass movement for the separation of a new Jharkhand state from Bihar which finally came about in 2000. Harivansh’s pro-people approach runs counter to the over-processed, glossy, corporate-soaked tabloid strategy followed by other Hindi national dailies which are mopping up advertisements but leaving readers cold. “It has been a conscious decision not to follow the ‘lifestyle’ journalism that was adopted by the mainstream media. The paper is committed to the common man which is why we have an emotional bond with our readers,” says Harivansh. On a shoestring budget he has put into place a modern newsroom, upgraded production technology, the paper’s design and layout and linked centres

through a computer network. He has also introduced the idea of ‘reader involvement’ in developing editorial content. Journalists organise regular readers’ meets in towns and villages in which people explain what they want to see in the newspaper. “Such interactions through these people’s forums was a new experience for us, too. We learnt along the way,” he explains. The strategy has paid off. The paper has more than held its own against established Hindi dailies from large media groups whose aggressive marketing strategies have included distributing expensive gifts to enhance circulation and cutthroat cover prices. Circulation has increased dramatically and by 1996 the paper has been running without financial support from Usha Martin and launched several editions. Alongside, there has been some inclement weather like the expected political pressure. Harivansh has 30 court cases lined up against him. Five years ago, there was even a chance that the paper’s ownership would change leaving its editor in a vulnerable position. But the turbulence has passed. With a stronger bottom line, Harivansh is able to commit editorial resources for newsgathering that will make any accountant cringe. This son of a farmer clearly believes that, for the future of journalism, the old school is the right school.  More on Harivansh at www.prabhatkhabar.com

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INDIA TOMORROW

§ MUSIC SHILLONG CHAMBER CHOIR

On a High Note TEXT: URMILA MARAK

Their music, a mixture of jazz, Khasi, Hindi films and pop, has won them global admirers

F

ew in India had heard the dulcet tones of the Shillong Chamber Choir till they had won the reality show, India’s Got Talent, aired on entertainment channel Colors last year. But in point of fact the choir has been around since 2001 and had already received much international acclaim: last year, they were awarded three gold medals in the World Choir Games, an Olympic-styled event, in Shaoxing China. But it was when the group sang Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge from the Hindi film, Sholay or classics such as Ajeeb dastaan hai yeh from the film Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai that the whole of India got hooked.

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However, neither the choir nor its mentor-cum director-cum-manager, 41year-old pianist Neil Nongkynrih are consciously reaching out for fame and fortune. When the choir is not travelling it is ensconced in a house in Shillong, admittedly India’s Rock capital, owned by Nongkynrih’s family. Here the youngsters live together, pray together and practice eight hours a day in one seamless thread. It’s a dedicated and loyal group. Some members like Ibarisha Lyngdoh, a soprano with the choir has been offered a place at the prestigious Julliard School of Music in New York, William Basaiawmoit, a student of St Stephen’s College has been offered a scholarship in France. But they’re not leaving the choir preferring to stay in Shillong under tutelage of ‘Uncle Neil.’ As Nongkynrih says: “When you join a choir group, you have to look beyond the superficial and materialistic.

We are not just a choir group our goal is to promote peace, humanity and hope.” From single digits the choir has now expanded to a 20-member team ranging from 15 to 29 years. Most of them have come into the fold in search of a more meaningful life, others for inspiration, some for a gap year from their chosen career paths but they all have an almost spiritual faith in their music which is eclectic and timeless — a mixture of jazz, baroque, Khasi, pop, classical and contemporary. It’s a mixture that has won them admirers all over the world. The choir has performed with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, the Sri Lankan choir in China, participated in two World Choir Games and preformed for the Presidents of India and the United States. And this unique music group is now headed towards Europe and Canada for a concert event sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. 

When you join a choir group, you have to look beyond the superficial and materialistic. We are not just a choir group our goal is to promote peace, humanity and hope.

More on SCC at www.shillongchamberchoir.com

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INDIA TOMORROW

§ ARCHITECTURE CHANDRASHEKHAR HARIHARAN

The Zero Hero A former journalist reconciles architecture with environmental responsibility

H

e has built hundreds of homes in Bengaluru. But Dr Chandrashekar Hariharan is hardly a household name in India’s IT city. Only the ‘green’ folk know him and the wanna-be greens who closely monitor his projects. For Hariharan, is Bengaluru’s, and perhaps India’s, foremost green builder with his ecologically friendly and self-sustainable homes which goes under the brand name of ZED, an acronym for Zero Energy Driven. The Zed way is no grid supply for water, no grid sewage disposal, minimal dependence on the power grid and maximum dependence on green building materials. A Johnny-come-lately to the building industry, Team Zed has managed to walk away with a clutch of

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20 awards given for sustainable development, environment friendly homes, water management and excellence in sustainable architecture. The world according to Hariharan is a long list of list of no’s – no bricks, no clay blocks, no clay tiles, no ceramic or vitrified tiles, no forest timber, no incandescent bulbs, no regular fluorescent lamps, no halogen lamps, no geysers, no toxic paints, no export of waste and no import of municipal water. These no’s are replaced by soil stabilised blocks instead of brick, natural stone instead of vitrified tiles, plantation wood instead of conventional teak. The use of CFLs, LEDs , solar water heaters, recycled water and organic garbage which turns into bio gas are all baby steps that can make a home green. One of the main pillars that Zed homes adhere to is the concept of “embodied energy” which is the amount of energy consumed up to the point of use of a product or

PHOTO: ANAND K

TEXT: ROSHIN VARGHESE

The ancients moved water uphill in places like Amber in Rajasthan and in Hampi in Karnataka. How did they do it?

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There has to be respect for traditional knowledge with contemporary engineering understanding.

PHOTO: ANAND K

§

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material, including the acquisition of raw materials, processing, manufacture, transport and construction. Senior project manager, B.S. Harikrishna says: “We are not building the way we do for getting a platinum award or for a better grading but to create a sustainable home.” Hariharan,’s real strength has been his nine years in water management while working with several NGOs. A former journalist who quit the profession because “it merely reported change and did not initiate change,” his expertise in water conservation and garnering of water resources has challenged mainstream builders. Looking back, he agrees that the history of water management has been his inspiration. “The history and architecture of water in India fascinates me. The ancients moved water uphill in places like Amber in Rajasthan and in Hampi in Karnataka. How did they do it? After all, Hampi had a population of 58,000 people who needed water for their daily use! They studied gradient levels and tanks were constructed,” he says passionately. He has used the same principles in a project, T-Zed , completed in 2007. T-Zed with its 76 flats and 15 villas is located in Whitefield, a suburb of Bengaluru and a traditionally water critical area with no municipal supply. A combination of 44 interconnected shallow wells, the judicious pumping up of water, along with a system of water percolation and ground water recharge has been the success behind water sufficiency in T-Zed. Resident

Vinay Nair concedes that in the past four years, a water tanker has supplied the six-acre property with water only three or four times. The Zed Collective has the added advantage of geo-thermal cooling which has been introduced to cool the building. A seemingly simple method of using laterite walls and mud blocks has also been used to cool the buildings thus bypassing conventional air-conditioning. This is due to a “respect for traditional knowledge with contemporary engineering understanding,” according to Hariharan, who has a doctorate in econometrics. The Zed team of architects, engineers and designers are constantly thinking out of the box, designing energy efficient fans, lights, verdant lawns on sloping roofs, vertical gardens, engineered masonry blocks, using bamboo flooring that looks like wood, building homes and workspaces that consume less energy and are in harmony with natural surroundings. “Restoring the skin of the earth” as Hariharan says, is a priority, and the sensitive stewardship of the land with each project has earned them kudos. The company which started off as Biodiversity Conservation India Ltd in 1995 and morphed into Zed has made a dent in the ecologically friendly, but stylish, chic homes segment, a far cry from the rustic homes one associates with the green homes of yesterday.  More on C. Hariharan at www.ecobcil.com

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69


CINEMA

ADOOR SEVENTY AT

Multi-award winning director, Adoor Gopalakrishnan has revolutionised cinema in a land known primarily for its Bollywoood films. A profile as the master turns seventy. TEXT: MADHU JAIN

T

he sun was about to dip out of sight, painting the sky a strange orangey hue over Cinecita Studios in Rome. Pointing upwards, Federico Fellini, midway through an interview, tells me: “You know what I like about being a director. I can play God. Look at that sunset. If I don’t like it I can always change it. If the moon is too high in the sky, I can always move it down.” Fellini’s words from two decades ago resurface in my mind as Adoor Gopalakrishnan talks in his measured way about how he makes his films. The two are masters of their created universes, albeit fundamentally different ones. Actors are ‘mediums’ for both. Adoor also likes to play God on his sets. His films are translations of his vision, and everything and everyone else is subservient to that vision, idea or moral issue he happens to be chewing on at the time. We are sitting in the living room of his magnificent home in Thiruvananthapuram. The

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“THE ABSENCE OF MY FATHER AFFECTED US, ESPECIALLY MY ELDER BROTHER AND ME. IN THE MIDST OF PLENTY, WE LED A DIFFICULT LIFE.”

director’s abundant mane glows like a silver halo against the backdrop of the rather sombre interior of his Travancorestyle home. The sloping ceiling and the walls are made of deep, dark, old wood. With the lighting at a bare minimum enhancing the amber glow of the walls, you can’t help the fleeting impression that Adoor, his face slipping in and out of the darkness as he moves in his chair, is inside a Rembrandt painting. At an agile 70, Adoor, just 11 feature films and several documentaries old, has a long way to go before he yells cut for himself. Film critics have often asked him why his over-three-decade-long career as a director has yielded so few films. He made his first feature film, Swayamvaram (One’s Own Choice), in 1972. His latest, Oru Pennum Randaanum (A Climate for Crime) in 2008.

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And in between came Kodiyettam (The Ascent), Elippathayam (The Rat Trap), Mukhamukham (Face to Face), Anantharam (Monologue), Mathilukal (The Walls), Vidheyan (The Servile), Kathapurushan (The Protagonist) and Naalu Pennungal (Four Women). Obviously, Adoor likes to take his time over his films. His are not pressure-cooker films, the ‘factory’ kind for which you throw in all the ingredients and turn up the heat. His oeuvre is marinated, slow-cooking: ideas and concepts live with him for a long time — at times for many years — before they find their realisation on celluloid. He is a chronicler of his times, focussing his lens on a society in transition. To use the metaphor of a long exposure, the director has, over the years, captured both the gradual, at times barely perceptible, collapse of a

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(from extreme left): Exploring the landscape of God’s Own Country; with his wife

social order and decline of feudalism as well as the advent of democracy and ‘modernity’. The cineaste poignantly depicts the dilemma of the individual caught in the vortex of social change. Adoor works only with what he knows. The cineaste’s obsession with authenticity is well known: he won’t touch period films, no matter how tempting the subject. “I can’t do any falsification of the past. I make films only about the period I have lived through — nothing before the 1940s.” His first film — after a couple of false starts based on plays by others — had its genesis in his own life. “For Swayamvaram, I wrote a script about my struggle. I did not run away with a young girl, as in the film. But the undercurrent of the film is about somebody’s dream to become a writer before actually going

through the experience of living… The film starts off with genuine roots in real life. The experience may be interesting, but you have to make it acceptable. It has to be specific, and it has to be truthful to its specificity. In the creation of my film, I discover myself. Your mental climate is likely to get reflected in your work.” Apparently, most viewers have not cottoned on to the autobiographical element in his films. Adoor is nothing if not reticent — often retreating into the shell of formality — while most of the protagonists in his films are vulnerable and filled with angst. Interestingly, other cineastes have been able to read between the lines. He is a director’s director. “I feel that film-makers have understood my work more than others. When Elippathayam was shown in Kolkata in 1982, Mrinal Sen put his

N IZHALKKUTH U (2002) (Shadow Kill)

SWAYAMVARAM (1972) (One’s Own Choice)

arm round me and asked, “Did you go through intense pain and agony?” I asked him how he knew. And he replied: “It is there in the film. No critic would have said that.” So, if you look carefully and read between the images, Adoor has laid bare some of his early life, rather essences of a life transmogrified into cinema through the “reworking of memory”. “Yes, I am re-creating the atmosphere of Adoor in Thiruvananthapuram,” he says. The cineaste grew up in his village, called Adoor, located between Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam, midway between the hills and the sea, but really neither. The place is the crucible of his imagination, where his first “real love”, theatre, was nurtured. Much of his childhood and adolescence was spent within the large fold of his mother’s family, as

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Cinema.qxp:Layout 1 20/07/11 6:28 PM Page 6

MILESTONES l Awarded the Padma

“WHEN ELIPPATHAYAM WAS SHOWN IN KOLKATA IN 1982, MRINAL SEN ASKED ME: ‘DID YOU GO THROUGH INTENSE PAIN AND AGONY?”

was the practice for those who belonged to the matrilineal system. It was an intermittently happy childhood. His mother’s family was of landlords and patrons of the arts. He acted in and wrote plays when he was not quite a teenager: Thy Kingdom Cometh and The Enlightenment That Came Late are two of his early plays. “When I was growing up, the modern play was emerging in Malayalam. I also wanted to read about Western theatre. Ibsen was a big influence on me. I read plays by N. Krishna Pillai and C.J. Thomas. My ambition was to write modern theatre. I learnt English and read all of Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw. I used to read with a dictionary. I got a special chair made, like a planter’s chair, so that I could put the dictionary on the arm and keep a notebook for jotting down the words. This is how I read Galsworthy, Pirandello,

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ELIPPATHAYAM (1981) (The Rat Trap)

MUKHAMUKHAM (1984) (Face to Face)

O’Neil, Williams and Wilder. And, of course, the critics. As I started reading about the plays, the number of words I wrote came down.” There was a captive audience of nearly fifty family members, with his mother’s brothers actively encouraging budding playwrights and actors. But life was not all rosy. “The absence of my father deeply affected us, especially my elder brother and me. I became sensitive. In the midst of plenty, we led a difficult life without our father’s support. People in the paddy fields cheat you. We regularly heard excuses. It was difficult… you can see some of this in Kathapurushan. It was not just the poverty. Others may not have even realised this. We had to keep up with other relatives — we were the poorest branch of the family. We had to put up appearances.” In the beginning, Adoor made documentary films to keep the home fire

burning. For the last twenty-five years, however, he has been making them on the performing arts, alongside his feature films. “It is a learning period for me. The research you do is a rewarding experience. The performing arts of our culture go to our roots. It is the mother tongue, the language that we speak. The genius of our people is in our art forms… The culture of documentaries is evident in my feature work. It is a kind of discipline, austerity in its making — even when it is being made for somebody else.” In 2007, Adoor worked on a project, Dance of the Enchantress, on Mohiniattam with French dancer Brigitte Chataignier. The ‘discipline’ the director so unequivocally pursues is evident in his relationship with his actors. “I don’t want my actors to interpret the role on their own, as there will be a clash of interpretation. I don’t let them read the script. I explain the

sequence and their role. This is my method of working. I am not saying that this is the right way or not, but for me it makes for unity and integrity of work. It is my vision. An actor is not acting out a role to the audience. The immediate relationship is with me. He is acting out to me. Therefore, I have to correct and get it down to what I need. The actor remains as raw material. What he does doesn’t go as performed: it is qualified by what comes before and after, and by what I keep.” In the early 1970s he, along with four other graduates from FTII, established Chitralekha Film Unit to propagate the ‘other’ cinema by setting up a film society movement and also producing films. Meanwhile, the director continues to explore the landscape of God’s Own Country, Kerela, taking his camera into its darker corners and revealing its often troubled innerscapes. n

Vibhushan, secondhighest civilian honour in India. l Awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for Lifetime Achievement in Films. l Awarded the Legion of Honour, the highest decoration in France and in the Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government. l Won the National Film Award 17 times in various categories. l Won the International Film Critics’ Prize (FIPRESCI) consecutively for six feature films. l Won the British Film Institute’s Sutherland Trophy in 1982 for Elippathayam. l Awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Cairo International Film Festival. l Films have been screened at the Slovenian International Film Festival, 2009; the Munich Film Museum, 2009; the French Cinematheque, Paris, 1999 and at various international film festivals including those held in Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto, Rotterdam, Moscow, Melbourne, London and Paris. l The Helsinki Film Festival was the first film festival to have a retrospective of Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s films. l Jury member in Venice, Singapore, Hawaii and Delhi international film festivals. l Winner of the UNICEF Film Prize (Venice). l Winner of the OCIC Film Prize (Amiens). l Winner of the INTER FILM Prize Mannheim.

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SPORT

INDIAN GOLFERS

HAVE ARRIVED The country can now boast of having the talent and the ability to produce world beaters TEXT: DIGRAJ SINGH

F

rom what one sees in the media – both print and television – it is fairly easy to deduce that Indian golf has come a long way. All the elements of the game have progressed tremendously and Indian golf has started receiving international recognition. The stalwarts of Indian golf like Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa, S.S.P. Chowrasia and the likes have brought laurels to the nation over the years. With the emergence of the next generation of players like Gaganjeet Bhullar, Anirban Lahiri, Himmat Rai and others, it is safe to say that the sport is on the upswing. This takes me back to 1991. At the Delhi Golf Club I stood watching Ali Sher on the 18th hole. He was waiting to play his second shot on the final hole of the Indian Open and the situation was such that if he birdied the hole, he would become the first Indian professional

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ARJUN ATWAL  The first Indian to win on the European Tour at the 2002 Caltex Singapore Masters.  First Indian to win a PGA Tour card in 2004.  Won the 2008 Maybank Malaysian Open on his comeback after injury and an accident case against him was dropped.  In 2010, he became the first Indian to win on the US PGA Tour.

JEEV MILKHA SINGH  Won the Bank Austria Open at Vienna in June 2008.  No.1 player on the Asian Tour in 2006 and 37th in world golf rankings.  First Indian to play in a major tournament on all four days in the 2007 Augusta Masters.  First Indian golfer to break into the top 50 in the world official golf rankings in 2009.

SHIV KAPUR  Won an individual gold medal at the 2002 Asian Games, besides being a member of the team that won top honours.  Captured his maiden title in 2005, when he was just 23, at the Volvo Masters of Asia in Thailand. Named Rookie of the Year.  Maiden major tournament in the British Open at Royal Liverpool in 2006

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>> IN 2004, INDIAN GOLFERS STARTED WINNING ON INTERNATIONAL TOURS. TORCHBEARERS WERE JEEV MILKHA SINGH, ARJUN ATWAL, JYOTI RANDHAWA AND SHIV KAPUR

JYOTI RANDHAWA  The first Indian to win the Order of Merit title in Asia in 2002  Got the Arjuna Award in 2005  Won the Indian Open three times  Third victory came at the 2007 Indian Open at the Delhi Golf Club.  Won the Thailand Open in 2009.

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golfer to win an international event. An Indian golfer, beating the world to win the Indian Open! The very thought seemed incredible, but there he was about to do it. I had goose pimples. The courage with which he birdied that hole and won, made all of us proud. That one victory worked as a catalyst and was one of the most significant moments in Indian golf. Other golfers who had seen Ali Sher grow up at the Delhi Golf Club realised that if he could win, with some perseverance they could too. That eventful day inspired many others to take up the sport seriously. Sher proved that it was no fluke by winning the Indian Open again in 1993. For the next five years there were no significant home performances but with Firoz Ali winning the tournament in 1998 and Arjun Atwal following suit in 1999, there were indications that the sport had started acquiring some depth. Many factors contributed to the growth of the game — the fledgling amateur tour, juniors and professionals, set up by the Indian Golf Union (IGU), sponsorship support by visionaries such as Bharat Ram and Rajkumar Pitamber, the setting up of the Professional Golfers’ Association of India (PGA of India) followed by the creation of the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI), gutsy amateurs such as Simran Singh, the Randhawa brothers, international promotion of young players by Arvind Khanna, development of international standard courses by business houses and so on. In fact, if the wheels had not turned at all levels, we would not have seen the growth that we are seeing today. I remember when Phil Pilling won a professional tournament in 1984 at the Bombay Presidency Golf Club with a score that was under par for four days. It seemed like a huge achievement. And when I witnessed Mukesh Kumar equal the world record of 30-under at the Qutab Golf Course in 2004, I reflected on the journey undertaken. Indian

golfers had started winning on international tours. Torchbearers like Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal with their victories on the European Tour, talented players like Jyoti Randhawa and Shiv Kapur making their mark on the Asian circuit. The Ministry of Tourism noticed that India was ready to be branded as a golfing destination. Event managers like IMG and Tiger Sports were creating new paradigms of golfing events in India and the ladies had started thinking of a professional tour of their own. Thanks to Gautam Thapar, the former world No.1, Vijay Singh also visited the country. With the media stepping in, the perception of the sport changed completely. Golf was no longer perceived as a rich man’s frivolous pastime; it had become a sport with many distinctions. The potential to develop and do business on the course too played its part in raising the profile of the sport. Socially also, professional golf made the transition to being considered a well respected profession. The PGTI which is managed by the players reflects the new found confidence and has taken the sport to the next level. Today, the domestic Tour is worth over ` 100 million, making it a lucrative career option for Indian professionals. The ladies tour is also in place. Junior programmes are coming up across the country and many international equipment brands have set up store in India. Players such as Ashok Kumar and Mukesh Kumar have risen through the junior ranks. A birdie is no longer a term that people take for a variant of bird. Golf, as a sport, has never looked better. Following in the footsteps of past winners like Rohtas Singh, today’s generation has done one better — they are winning at the international level against some of the best in the world. The Indian government too has recognised the achievements of players like Randhawa, Kapur and Jeev by honouring them with the highest award for sports – Arjuna Award. It goes on to show that people are waking up to the prospects of a career in the sport. 

S.S.P. CHOWRASIA  Runner-up to Arjun Atwal in the 1999 Indian Open and again to Jyoti Randhawa at the 2006 Indian Open.  The first winner of the inaugural European Tour event in India – 2008 EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters at the Delhi Golf Club.  Won his second European Tour title by clinching the Avantha Masters in February.

>> TODAY’S GENERATION IS WINNING AT THE INTERNATIONAL LEVEL AGAINST SOME OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD

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INNOVATION COLOUR CRAFT utton lacquer, so-called because of its shape, is slowly heated in a coal-fired oven. It is melted and stretched several times to obtain a uniform texture and sheen. The stretched lacquer is coated with the required colour, melted and moulded into coloured sticks. The lacquer is applied to the toys and artefacts on a lathe. All dyes are made from wood, bark, leaves and plants, kept for ageing in earthenware or copper vessels.

B

GLOBAL

GAMES

The Etikoppaka artisans have fine-tuned the designs to appeal to customers overseas

FOR VILLAGE

TOYS

A traditional art from Andhra Pradesh is blending form and function with eco-friendly innovation TEXT: CHITRA RAMASWAMY

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T

he lacquer-painted wooden toys, utilities and fashion accessories from Etikoppaka in Andhra Pradesh have carved a niche for themselves for their exquisite and eco-friendly craftsmanship. The educational toys, in particular, are much sought after in the West. The wooden bangles and earrings made by the artisans of the village on the banks of the Varaha River in Visakhapatnam district are a rage at fashion shows for their designs and finish. From creating mythological figurines and carvings resembling those unearthed at the sites of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, the artisans have gone global with a gamut of items they make for foreign markets. A toy aircraft and a range of trains crafted from the wood of neem and jamun trees are some of their latest creations. Etikoppaka, which means a group of houses on the bank of a river, is a village of about 12,000 people, mostly farmers.

Among the artisans’ creations are figures of mythological characters, flora and fauna, dolls, and musical instruments. Their designs, bright colours and earthy appeal have enhanced the popularity of these artefacts in India and abroad. The products are crafted from locally available wood, particularly, the Ankudu (Wrightia Tinctoria) and the dyes are also obtained from indigenously grown plants, trees and flowers. C.V. Raju, who learnt the Etikoppaka art from his ancestors, has sought to revive it in an organised fashion. Padmavathi Associates founded by Raju, is now synonymous with Etikoppaka toys. Ninety village artisans are now part of the organisation, which trains and helps them market their products. The high point of the revival of Etikoppaka toys has been the replacement of chemical and synthetic dyes with those derived from indigenous vegetation. Raju’s efforts have been recognised with the National Innovation Foundation Award as well as, in 2006, the South Asia Seal of Excellence given by UNESCO. The artisans, through Padmavathi Associates, get 1.2 tonnes of lacquer every year from the Indian Lac Research Institute in Ranchi. The concentrates

obtained do not require any chemicals as fixatives, thickeners or binding agents. Rather, these are all obtained from various natural plant sources. The products are free of toxic substances such as titanium dioxide and lead, which find their way into synthetic dyes used by other toy manufacturers of Etikoppaka. The toys made by the artisans are safe for kids, who often put things in their mouth. Raju, the face of the village’s craft today, has made Etikoppaka a byword for quality handicrafts. Be it the procurement of raw materials, the creation of natural dyes, designing, marketing, or diversifying the product range, Raju has structured every process and procedure. By organising the craftsmen under Padmavathi Associates, he has sought to make available financial support, health cards, life and medical insurance coverage to them. For the last ten years, the artisans have been generating their own raw material. They have been allocated 300 acres of land for development and regeneration of raw material. By 2012, the artisans hope to become selfsufficient in raw material, producing it all on their own land. 

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TRAVEL

I

SPRAWLING EXOTIC CHETTINAD

Snuggled between the temple towns of Thanjavur and Madurai, Chettinad is famous for its unique architecture, distinct cuisine, saris and brightly-coloured handmade tiles TEXT: SMITA SINGH

PHOTO: V. MUTHURAMAN

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n Tamil Nadu, between the temple towns of Thanjavur and Madurai, lies Chettinad — a network of 75 villages. A two-hour drive from Chennai, the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, brings me to Karaikudi — Chettinad’s largest town. The car stops at The Bangala, a family-run heritage hotel, from where I intend to discover the exotic countryside. My host is Meenakshi Meyyappan, who runs the hotel, which is a refurbished Chettiar gentlemen’s leisure club. The Chettiar merchants, after whom this area is named, are famous for their spicy cuisine, financial acumen and fabulous wealth. Back when there were religious restrictions on Indians crossing the seas, Chettiars were sailing to South East Asia to trade, and spending the money they earned to embellish their huge mansions. These included pillars made of Burma teak and Italian marbles, Czech ceiling tiles and Belgian mirrors. Early next morning, I set out to scout the great Chettiar mansions. These mansions are known as nagara kottai (country fortresses) by the local people. After driving for a few kilometres we arrive at Kanadukathan, which has been designated as a heritage village by the government. The cluster of mansions here have ornate façades, grand pillared porticos and cornices heavily populated with guardian deities. All Chettiar houses are built along the same lines. From outside, they appear tall, foreboding and imposing. But once you go past the ornate wooden thresholds, one courtyard opens onto

PHOTO: OLAF KRUEGER

another one, rectangle after rectangle. The beauty of the architecture lies in the simplicity of the courtyards. The openess ensures constant air circulation and allows the mistress of the house, who sits in the fourth and last courtyard (where the kitchens are located) to know what is happening in the house without so much as stirring an inch. Karaikudi is also famous for its Athangudi tiles which adorn the floors of

the mansions in the area. These handmade tiles come in bright colours and have patterns, both floral and geometric. Recently Chettinad has seen a tourism explosion. Says Meyyappan: ‘‘The interest shown by visitors to the Chettinad region will help preserve its remarkable legacy, especially as it is a place that only overseas visitors seem to throng to.” The Chettiars are a devout people and as such have contributed in a big

MAGNIFICENT MANSION: (facing page) Chettiars relaxing in the courtyard of a nagara kottai; (above) the main hall

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NAVIGATOR

PHOTO: V. MUTHURAMAN

CHETTINAD HERITAGE: (above) Carved wooden statues for sale in Athangudi village; (left) spices in traditional wooden boxes; (facing page, from top to bottom) antique shop with beautiful artefacts; the stunning Ariyakkudi Perumal Temple and a couple weaving the Kandangi sari

way towards building temples — the region is dotted with huge temples at Ariyakudi, Pudukottai and Avudayarkoil. The community is divided into clans and each clan has its own deity in whose honour the temples have been built. The donors have also ensured their place in history, by placing statues of themselves within the temple precincts. This brings me to the next thing Chettinad is famous for, its cuisine. The adage in south India goes, “One is lucky to eat like a Chettiar.” This traditional banking and moneylending community is

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famous for and proud of its kitchen. I am given a crash course in authentic Chettinad cuisine at The Bangala. The ingredients and methods of cooking are traditional. Cooked under the skillful supervision of Karuppiah, who has been with the Meyyappan family for 45 years, the cuisine is distinct and delicious. The Chettiars may have travelled the world and made other countries their home but in the matter of food they remained, as Visalakshi Ramaswamy, a leading community member, puts it, “Dominant to themselves. We made a

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bigger impact on food in other countries than that food did on ours.” It is said with pride that Chettiar businessmen, on their travels abroad, took along cooks and provisions to ensure that they ate exactly as they ate at home. To the staple diet of coconut and rice of most people in Tamil Nadu, the meat-eating Chettiars added quail, chicken, mutton, fish and shell-fish brought inland in trucks from the Bay of Bengal. Even if one is not staying at The Bangala, it is possible to have a meal here, provided one orders in advance. For dinner, I was served appam (a lacy pancake made of rice batter) with cashew stew and Ceylon chutney followed by quail masala, idiappam (rice noodles), fish masala and mushroom masala. The meal ended with passion fruit pudding. Next morning, breakfast was a sumptuous affair ��� velapaniyaram (balls made with a batter of rice and lentils and cooked in a special skillet) with tomato chutney, idli (steamed rice cakes) with

sambhar (lentil curry) and pongal (a preparation made from rice, green lentils, jaggery and milk). Lunch was served in the traditional way — on large banana leaves. Every inch of the space on the leaf was needed for the lavish spread. The dishes included tomato rice with paneer korma, chow-chow kootu (squash with lentils), vegetable cutlets, vendankai mandi (a dish made with okra), tomato chicken, pomegranate salad, fish fry and brussel sprouts masala. The sumptuous fest was rounded off by almond halwa and homemade vanilla ice cream. Another attraction of the region is the locally woven Kandangi sarees. I was taken to a local workshop where a weaver was hard at work on his handloom. The favoured patterns are checks and stripes and the chosen colours are earthy red, orange, chrome and brown. Chettinad weddings are grand affairs. The variety of food served and the jewels worn by the bride and bridegroom are awesome. A lavish breakfast and a sumptuous lunch are served, raising hospitality to great heights. It’s heartening to know, no matter how far or how long a Chettiar stays away from home, he always returns for every family gathering — be it a wedding, a childbirth or a birthday celebration, filling the courtyards of their majestic homes with laughter and festivities. 

PHOTO: OLAF KRUEGER

PHOTO: OLAF KRUEGER

GETTING THERE: By Air: Nearest airport is Madurai, 90km away By Train: One can take the Karaikudi Express from Egmore Station, Chennai By Road: Karaikudi, situated near Chettinad, is well-connected by National Highway 45 and 210 with Madurai, Trichy, Tanjore and Chennai. It’s about a two-hour long journey from Madurai.

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HISTORY

VAISHALI, A MOST ANCIENT DEMOCRACY Long before democracy flourished in ancient Greece the concept took root in the independent republic of Vaishali TEXT: PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR.

A

lthough it is widely believed that the idea of democracy and a constitution were created in democratic Athens, around 506 BCE (Before Common Era), India saw the emergence of city republics around 6th BCE where the concept of an elected ruler had taken root. Like the democratic efflorescence in ancient Greece which had left its impact on the thought and culture of the Ancient World, which survive until today, it was cities like Vaishali that were the creative force behind protestant religious movements like Jainism and Buddhism. An ancient metropolis, the capital of the republic of the Vaishali state and the capital of the Vijji confederacy, Vaishali is prominently mentioned in Jain and Buddhist texts which emerged later. It is now recognised that Buddha borrowed freely from the republican model of the cities that existed in east India especially the structure of the Buddhists monastic orders and that of the Buddhist sangha (assemblies) Vaishali has been considered by ancient Indian historians to be part of India's second urban revolution. The first took place in the 3rd millennium BCE in the cities of Mohenjodaro, Harappa along the banks of the Indus river in western India, which stretched through to urban habitations like Dholavira in Gujarat. The second urban efflorescence in eastern India, however, carries a much clearer stamp of a long-term revolution in politics, religion, economy and culture of India. Vaishali was putting up a stance with the other republican states, like the Lichchhavis, against emerging kingdoms like that of Magadha. It was distinct in the sense that though it was ruled by an oligarchy of noble families, there was no place for a hereditary monarchy. The republic had a city assembly with 7,707 elected city representatives all of them who came from noble families. Probably, as eminent historian Radhakumud Mookherjee explains in a treatise the title of Raja was then used to denote a republican citizen. The executive of each republic comprised a body of eight sections – each with a different colour and uniform – representing different functional sections like foreign policy,

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ANCIENT RELICS: (clockwise from facing page) Relic stupa of the Lichchhavis at Vaishali; a bell near the Relic stupa; Ananda stupa and a Ashokan pillar

domestic affairs, including justice, defence and so on. Jagdish Prasad Sharma author of Vaishali, The World’s First Republic, explains how the representatives were the effective government and whatever decisions they took it was in accordance with the wishes of the gana (assembly). The government was fully authorised by the constitution to act freely and independently, provided it remained accountable to the assembly. Vaishali was also closely connected with the 24th tirthankara of the Jain tradition, Vardhamana Mahavira who came from a noble family which was ruling a principality, Kundalagrama, in the suburbs of the city. The city was also an important point as

Buddha traversed the area preaching his new-found Middle Path. It was in Vaishali that he delivered a sermon for the last time before he went to Kushinagara where he died, or as Buddhists believe attained mahaprinirvana. On another note, Vaishali was also famous for its courtesan, Amrapali who was credited with making the city prosperous. She was celebrated in Buddhist lore as she became a disciple of the Buddha and dedicated her lands to the monastic order. It is rare for an ancient city to be known by the fame of a courtesan, but in ancient India it seems that they did not grudge a woman her celebrity status. 

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IN REVIEW: BOOKS

Charming Chronicle The fabulous tale of a city, its bewitching past and dazzling denizens

R

aaja Bhasin has loved Shimla with a quiet passion all his life. Nowhere is this more evident than in Simla The Summer Capital of British India. It is at once a

SIMLA THE SUMMER CAPITAL OF BRITISH INDIA By Raaja Bhasin Foreword by M.M. Kaye Rupa Publications Price: ` 595

halcyon ode to and an affectionate chronicle of the annals of his hometown. The book is a lot like its author: gently witty, sharply observant, rarely unkind. Bhasin’s description of Shimla, as it is now officially known, hovers delicately over the history of its picaresque residents. Unlike Mussoorie, Shimla has not received glowing literary tributes in recent years. Historical narratives of Shimla are few and far between. This is why the second edition of Bhasin’s book is a timely arrival. Bhasin creates a kaleidoscopic setting to the birth of what is to be India’s capital one day: from the

time when it was ‘two or three miserable shepherds’ huts’ to its dazzling position as India’s capital at the apogee of the Raj. The knockabout tales from its history are happily balanced with lore on the big cheeses of the British Empire. The bureaucrat in me is tickled by the title, ‘Atop The Pedestal: Government, Monkeys And People’ and is completely held in thrall by Bhasin’s waggish account of the pencil pushers, the grass widows and above all, the oddball characters. The most engaging parts of this book, to me, were the tales of Shimla’s non-governmental denizens who were at once be-

witching and commonplace. There is A.M. Jacob on whom Kipling would model his redoubtable Lurgan Sahib, Charlie Ram, the Englishman who became a fakir, and Stella Mudge the cabaret dancer who would beguile the Prince of Kapurthala. If they could speak, Shimla’s buildings would tell us fabulous tales of the times gone by. Bhasin does a delightful job in animating these lifeless structures by sharing hitherto unknown facts about their genesis and their occupants. One is startled to find that some facets remain unchanged, whether it is the treacherous balconies of Gorton Castle, or the

‘sinking’ of the Ridge which has engaged Shimla’s attention since 1918! Name me no names for my disease, With uninforming breath; I tell you I am none of these, But homesick unto death So said Witter Bynner once. To read Simla The Summer Capital of British India is to feed that homesickness, to seek a palliative for an old heartache. For if you cannot move to Shimla permanently, or even travel to Shimla for some reason in the short-term, or if you simply love this little hill town, then here’s your panacea in 450 pages.  — Geetali Tare

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Chanda Kochhar.qxp:Layout 1 21/07/11 6:41 PM Page 2

VERBATIM

CHANDA KOCHHAR

“THE PERCEPTION THAT WOMEN ARE NOT SUITED TO INDUSTRIAL ORGANISATIONS HAS CHANGED”

O

ne of corporate India’s most powerful women, Chanda Kochhar, managing director and CEO of ICICI Bank, exudes an air of optimism. Named by Forbes magazine as the world’s 20th most powerful woman, she took over India’s secondlargest bank two years ago at a time when the global economy was going through a severe recessionary phase. She spoke to Sushma Ramachandran about the challenges facing the country and future plans for the bank. At present the global financial scenario is in a state of flux following the recession. What is the role of your bank in this situation? India is on a high growth path which should be sustained over the medium to long-term, though there could be some challenges in the near term. As the second-largest bank in India, we are conscious of our role in the growth and development of the Indian economy. There are robust growth drivers for the banking sector in India. The retail business will grow due to the demographic dividend and rising household incomes and corporate business due to the investment activity and trade flows. Do you envisage rapid expansion for the bank both within the country and abroad?

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In fiscal 2010, we followed a strategy of consolidation. We resumed growth in fiscal 2011, with our loan portfolio growing by about 19 percent. During this period, we significantly expanded our branch network, both organically and through the merger of Bank of Rajasthan. Our strategy is one of growth, while sustaining the improvements we have achieved over the last two years. We expect to grow in line with the industry in fiscal 2012. How would you describe the changes that have taken place since you took over the bank? In 2009, we had set out our strategic path for the next five years. The first stage of this strategy was to reposition the balance sheet for the next phase of growth. To this end, in fiscal 2010, we focussed on rebalancing our asset and liability mix, improving cost efficiency and reducing credit costs, while maintaining a strong capital position. Based on our progress in these areas, we had articulated our move to the next stage of our strategy. Our strategy for fiscal 2011 was to resume growth by capitalising on the emerging opportunities in the Indian economy, while maintaining and enhancing the more efficient balance sheet structure that we achieved in fiscal 2010. In fiscal 2011, we executed this strategy, with robust growth in our loan portfolio; improved profitability;

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and continued focus on key operating parametres. What is the reason that women have been able to break the glass ceiling in the banking industry? I believe that women have reached, and can reach, the top in organisations that follow policies of gender neutrality and meritocracy. Traditionally, the perception was that women are not suited to industrial organisations but I think this has now changed . What would you say to our readers? The underlying momentum of our demographic dividend and investment potential will support robust growth over the long-term. The coming decade will indeed be India's decade. n


India Perspectives July-Aug11