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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Vol. 4 No. 33

LOUNGE THE WEEKEND MAGAZINE

BUSINESS LOUNGE WITH McCAIN FOODS’ KS NARAYANAN >Page 8

This chairman planned his retirement. But 15 years after taking on the Big Daddys and emerging as the sole survivor of the first telecom rush, he is not yet ready to relax

THE GREAT OUTDOORS Look rugged and ready to brave the elements. Hard­wear is the way to go this season >Page 7

>Page 10

DAVID AND GOLIATH

A phone that pushes the boundaries of what you can hold to your ear, and one that was hit by a shrink ray >Page 9

THE FIRST AIRBENDER THE GOOD LIFE

CULT FICTION

SHOBA NARAYAN

R. SUKUMAR

THE GUY YOU SNEER THE BIG DEAL AT AND LAUGH WITH ABOUT ‘RED’

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eing south Indian, I didn’t grow up with raksha bandhan. This week, rather than tie a rakhi for my brother, Shyam, I thought I would write this column about siblings. When you are a child, you are convinced your sibling exists to annoy you. Shyam was born 14 months after me. He didn’t give me respect I thought I deserved, eavesdropped on my conversations, read my diary, and took an undue interest in my friends. We fought all the time. We had to share a room. When I wanted to study, he would want to sleep. >Page 4

MUSIC MATTERS

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ollywood’s latest marketing gimmick would appear to be making movies featuring yesterday’s (or the day before’s) action heroes. The Expendables is clearly an example of one such movie, although I must confess that I believe Jason Statham to be the best-big-thing-who-will-probably-never-be in action movies. Red, which should release in India soon, looks like a movie in the same mould. It has an all-star cast of Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman... >Page 15

SHUBHA MUDGAL

ON THE DOUBLE

The striking quality of Ketaki Sheth’s portrayal of Patel twins from India and the UK: an amplified humanity >Page 17

DON’T MISS

in today’s edition of

THE STAMP OF GENIUS

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here are many ways to gauge the importance and significance of music and the arts in society. The most obvious way would, of course, be to examine actual genres and forms of music and their exponents; their popularity or lack of it; as well as their stature within the nation’s culture. More oblique, but equally effective ways could include looking at advertisements for concerts and cultural events in print and electronic media, billboards and hoardings, as also postage stamps... >Page 17

PHOTO ESSAY

FORCES OF NATURE


HOME PAGE L3

LOUNGE First published in February 2007 to serve as an unbiased and clear-minded chronicler of the Indian Dream.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 2010 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

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FIRST CUT

PRIYA RAMANI

LOUNGE EDITOR

PRIYA RAMANI DEPUTY EDITORS

SEEMA CHOWDHRY SANJUKTA SHARMA

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MINT EDITORIAL LEADERSHIP TEAM

R. SUKUMAR (EDITOR)

NIRANJAN RAJADHYAKSHA (MANAGING EDITOR)

ANIL PADMANABHAN TAMAL BANDYOPADHYAY NABEEL MOHIDEEN MANAS CHAKRAVARTY MONIKA HALAN VENKATESHA BABU SHUCHI BANSAL SIDIN VADUKUT (MANAGING EDITOR, LIVEMINT)

FOUNDING EDITOR RAJU NARISETTI ©2010 HT Media Ltd All Rights Reserved

Write to us at lounge@livemint.com

HOW TO STAY AHEAD OF THE CURVE ver had one of those moments when you feel everyone’s smarter than you? Of course, secretly, you know it’s not true, but that doesn’t prevent you from feeling uneasy. In our hyper-connected world, where everyone has what seems like an informed opinion, it’s especially hard to stay ahead. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Personally, I believe life should be split between watching the fun from the bleachers and going out into the field and hitting your own home runs. Since none of us wants to labour too hard, I brainstormed with some smart colleagues. The next time you’re fed up of bringing up the rear, try these zoomahead ideas. Pick your passions. You don’t want to turn into one of those obnoxious know-it-alls. You know the kind who (loudly) dominates the SELF­HELP party. So, decide what’s important. For example, regulation jeans and white/black shirt work just fine for me. I don’t care that my wardrobe won’t make friends with Fall’s hottest finds. Stay ahead in areas you are passionate about. Technology? Food? Cricket? Also, don’t forget to share that passion. Befriend people with whom you can develop that passion. It’s usually more fun than striking out on your own. Find filters. Identify others who are smarter than you in the fields you want to track. Then use them to filter the information the world is flinging your way. This step involves trusting other people’s judgement; being open to brilliant ideas and insights that don’t origi-

THINKSTOCK

Do an Alice: Be curiouser and curiouser. nate from you; and being prepared to admit that someone else knows better. Don’t always believe them. The world usually devotes more eyeballs to the bigger, more promoted brands and people. So do your own research too. You might just find that the small book that released quietly can easily hold its own against all those next-big-things unveiled at champagne and celebrity dos. Also, these days, there’s a strange duality about feedback and reviews. For example, everyone’s a brutal critic on the Internet. Yet so many things are given a “positive spin” in today’s world. Develop your own inner rating system. Get a mentor. One pal recently told me hers works at a publishing house and gives her a list of brilliant new authors every quarter. My first requirement from a mentor: He/she should hand me a new way of looking at the world. Don’t reinvent the wheel. So what if

someone else discovered it? Or got there first? You can find a different way to play with the information. Interpret it in a way it hasn’t been already. Connect the dots that exist—your way. Know your history. It holds most of the answers including why the Marathi manoos behaves the way he does and what drives the Kashmir conflict. It gives you context and perspective. It allows you to go beyond the shrill “you shut up, you stupid” level of debate in Indian society today. Have brilliance on speed dial. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the answers to everything. But you should know people who you know will never let you down in their area of expertise. I have a friend who can answer any Salman Khan query. Let Alice inspire you. Be open to selfdiscovery. Explore. Be curious. Meet lots of quirky people. Always ask why. Move out of your comfort zone. You’re bound to find Wonderland. Of course, at the end of the day, staying ahead is hard work. It requires you to be more attentive to your environment, to use your weekends and afterwork hours to “do” something beyond drinking beer and dusting your house. One friend doesn’t watch B movies—they’re a waste of his precious time. And most people who are at the top end of the curve sleep not more than 5 hours a day. Then again, life is fun on the bleachers too.

FREEDOM SPECIAL I am writing to congratulate you on the outstanding Independence Day issue. I particularly enjoyed the range of topics and views, not to mention the authors you roped in. It was a pleasure to come across so many viewpoints and be confronted with a critical issue—how free we really are. I wish you all the very best and hope that you will not wait for the next Independence Day for another special issue! SAURABH SHARMA www.livemint.com

NO RIGHT TO INSULT

New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Pune

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Vol. 4 No. 32

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Opinions can be expressed in a decent way, as Salil Tripathi has done in “You are not free”, 14 August. However, he shouldn’t compare the US and Indian democracies. Ours is a very young democracy and we are evolving, while the US has been a democracy for hundreds of years. People are offended only when it is over the top and an insult. My question to the author is: Why do you want freedom of speech at the expense of insulting others?

ARTICLE

19(1) (a) 19(1)(a) It ensures you are free to express yourself, but with ‘reasonable restrictions’. How free does that make us? We celebrate Independence Day with the why, who and how of free speech in India

A CASE FOR OFFENCE >Pages 12­13

THE BRUSH SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS

Attacks on artists are undemocratic, but most Indians don’t care about art. The only muzzle: artists themselves >Page 7

NOT ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL

In its modern avatar, graffiti is thriving in some parts of the country, including its original Indian hub >Pages 10­11

A NATION TALKING TO ITSELF

Mark Twain, George Orwell and Graham Greene wrote them. We met five Indians for whom writing letters to newspapers is akin to a moral obligation >Pages 20­21

DON’T MISS

in today’s edition of

A child selling flags in Bangalore on the eve of Independence Day last year.

VENKY

FILM REVIEW

PEEPLI (LIVE)

LEADERSHIP VACUUM Apropos “You are not free”, 14 August, by Salil Tripathi, the question to ask is if this will ever change, and if so, how. The problem is that upholding the right to free speech is not in the interest of any of the pressure groups. I remember Gunnar Myrdal saying in his book ‘Asian Drama’ that India is a soft state and the only way it can snap out of it is if it has a very strong, single leader. Which is highly unlikely, given the way things are going. Perhaps in due course, when our people are educated enough to vote more knowledgeably. NAREN ON THE COVER: PHOTOGRAPHER: RAMESH PATHANIA/MINT CORRECTIONS & CLARIFICATIONS: In “A nation talking to itself”, 14 August, Jacob Sahayam’s first letter was published in ‘The Indian Express’.

Write to lounge@livemint.com BLOOMBERG

SIMON DAWSON/BLOOMBERG

VIR SANGHVI REVIEWS

MUST­VISIT RESTAURANTS IN LONDON

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he editor of Lounge does not like it when I refer to you as “fat cats”: So, let’s just say that as Lounge readers are well-travelled sophisticates, you might enjoy the occasional piece on restaurants located outside of our borders. And given that London in the summer is Indian Central, I would guess that many of you like the restaurants of the British capital. So here’s a brief round-up of a few places, most of them quite new and nearly all of them quite near each other. One or two are trendy and bustling and one already has two Michelin stars. I’ll start with Bar Boulud, perhaps the hottest opening in recent months. It is one of the many enterprises of the New Yorkbased French chef Daniel Boulud who has three stars for his flagship Daniel restaurant, popularized the gourmet burger at his DB Bistro Moderne, and now has a global empire that stretches all the way to China. American chefs do not generally fare well in London (nor for that matter do Frenchmen setting up outposts: The Alain Ducasse restaurant has received abusive reviews and Joel Robuchon’s performance has been underwhelming) and Boulud’s great New York rival Jean-Georges Vongerichten had to admit defeat and close his Vong restaurant at the Berkeley some years ago. Though the Bar Boulud formula originated in New York as one of the great man’s many brand extensions, his London operation is decidedly un-American. It is a big bustling restaurant (not unlike the Wolsey whose manager Stephen Macintosh Boulud stole for this place) with an overwhelmingly French menu and a very London ethos. I’ve been twice—it helps that I usually stay at the Mandarin Oriental where Bar Boulud is located—and each time I have been knocked out by the smooth efficiency of the service and the quality of the food. The menu combines French bistro classics (coq au vin etc.) with superlative charcuterie, excellent country sausages and

three hamburgers. But only one of the hamburgers is particularly American (the Yankee) while two set off the beef patty with barbecued pork or pork belly. So far, I’ve tried the burgers (very good), the charcuterie (great), the sausages (wonderful) and the crispy pork belly. If you are a meat-lover (I wouldn’t recommend Bar Boulud to a vegetarian) and like a busy, buzzy place then this is currently the top casual-dining London restaurant. Nearly opposite Bar Boulud on the site of what was till recently the Boxwood Café, one of Gordon Ramsay’s enterprises, is a new restaurant by Pierre Koffmann. There was a time when Koffmann, one of England’s most influential chefs, ran the brilliant La Tante Claire at the Berkeley Hotel. Then Koffmann was turfed out and his space given to Ramsay who used it for Petrus. JeanGeorges Vongerichten also abandoned his Vong restaurant and this space too was given to Ramsay to run as Boxwood Café, the potty-mouthed chef’s stab at the Ivy-Caprice market. I liked Boxwood but was never wild about Petrus. Then Ramsay fell out with his Petrus chef, Marcus Wareing who took over the restaurant himself and renamed it Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley. I went there three months ago and found that the food has improved vastly now that the Ramsay connection has been snapped (Ramsay has opened his own Wareingless Petrus on Kinnerton Street opposite the Berkeley). Now Ramsay’s Boxwood has also been evicted from its space, and the Berkeley has recalled Pierre Koffmann (who had been semi-retired) and asked him to open a casual restaurant. This July he opened Koffmann’s in a suitably low-key manner (no publicity till he is sure that everything is perfect) and should give Bar Boulud some competition. Except that Koffmann is an old-style French chef who can’t do hamburgers. So the new restaurant will actually compete more with Marcus Wareing than

Top pick: (above) For some mysterious reason, Proyart’s One­O­One is yet to earn a Michelin star; and Mandarin Oriental at Knightsbridge houses Bar Boulud.

it will with Daniel Boulud. It is relatively simpler food than La Tante Claire (it is much cheaper too) but it is recognizably the food of a great chef. Unlike, say Ramsay, whose cooking is all about artifice, Koffmann’s strength has always been his ability to extract intense flavours from ingredients. The new restaurant reminds us of this skill. On the night we went, the classic Koffmann casserole of snails and girolles was terrific, a daube of beef cheek was so intensely flavourful that I could think of only a handful of places in Paris where this dish is as well made, a cod with chorizo was a textbook example of excellent cooking and a simple dish of scallops with cauliflower purée and squid ink squeezed out the last ounce of fla-

vour from each of its components. How well the restaurant will do in the long run remains to be seen. Service is curiously unenergetic, the room was not full on a Friday night and I fear the menu may be too old-fashioned. Within the same area as Bar Boulud and Koffmann’s, at the bottom of the ghastly Sheraton Park Tower Hotel is the best fish restaurant in England. It has everything going for it: reasonable prices, a great location and amazing food—but somehow it has never found the success it deserves. The best time to go to One-OOne is at lunch. For a mere £19 (around `1,390) you can eat three small plates of some of the best food in London. When we went, we had a carpaccio of salmon and

halibut, pan-fried skate, brandade of cod, a scallop tart and free range chicken with snails and egg pasta. I am not the most enthusiastic fish eater but there are only two fish restaurants in the world where I will eat anything. At Le Bernardin in New York, Eric Ripert has three Michelin stars. But Pascal Proyart at One-O-One has none. It makes no sense at all. What makes Pascal’s failure to please the Michelin inspectors so mystifying is that Michelin loves French chefs. Ducasse’s restaurant is roundly reviled by London critics but it has three stars. Claude Bosi’s Hibiscus in Maddox Street has got two stars within a year even though not everyone is sure Bosi deserves them. I went for lunch and though I liked the food (a chicken rolled in a cylinder, blueberries with vanilla ice cream etc.) I was not sure that it was innovative enough to merit two stars. The cooking is highly accomplished and Bosi puts edible flowers into many of the dishes (a sort of trademark) but it is not the sort of place I would rush back to. Hibiscus is in Mayfair, a little away from the tight little area that Bar Boulud, One-O-One and Koffmann’s are in (Amaya, Zuma, Racine, Zafferano and many other excellent restaurants are within the same area) but it shouldn’t take more than a

few minutes by cab. The same cannot be said of Tamarai, Rohit Khattar’s panAsian restaurant-cum-club which is in Drury Lane at the edge of Covent Garden. The restaurant is a hit but I can’t help feeling that Manish Mehrotra (who also oversees Khattar’s Indian Accent in Delhi) deserves a gastronomic restaurant rather than a club. The night we went (the restaurant is not open for lunch), we ate some amazing food: fried soft shell crab with coconut and Chettinad masala, a wagyu beef skewer, a slow-cooked Berkshire pork belly and much more. Most of the food was to die for. Mehrotra is clearly a far more accomplished chef than many of the Indian chefs who hog column inches and TV time in London. What’s more, he is a nice guy, modest, enthusiastic and eager to learn who approaches Indian food from two different directions— from the European tradition and from the cooking of the Far East. He is a star, waiting to be born. Bar Boulud, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 66 Knightsbridge SWI: 0207-2352000 Koffmann’s The Berkeley, Wilton Place, SWI: 0207-2351010 One-O-One, The Sheraton Park Tower 101 Knightsbridge SWI: 0207-2907101 Hibiscus, 29 Maddox Street, London WI: 0207-6292999 Tamarai, 167 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2: 0207-8319399 Write to lounge@livemint.com


L4 COLUMNS

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 2010 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

SHOBA NARAYAN THE GOOD LIFE

The guy you can sneer at and laugh with

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eing south Indian, I didn’t grow up with raksha bandhan. This week, rather than tie a rakhi for my brother, Shyam, I thought I

would write this column about siblings. When you are a child, you are convinced

your sibling exists to annoy you. Shyam was born 14 months after me. He didn’t give me respect I thought I deserved, eavesdropped on my conversations, read my diary, and took an undue interest in my friends. We fought all the time. We had to share a room. When I wanted to study, he would want to sleep. I would turn the light on; he would turn it off. We would scream for our parents. My dad named our house Kurukshetra. Even today, I get juvenile thrills when Shyam has to get up early. My brother is a deep sleeper and it was my job to wake him up for school, an unpleasant exercise for both of us. I would pull his feet off the bed, he would pull up the bedcovers. Finally, I would pour a mug of water on his head, and he would wake up yelling. Today, his puppy has achieved what I couldn’t. He is up at the crack of dawn to take Koko for a walk. It was only after Shyam left our home at age 16 to sail the high seas in the merchant navy, ending up as a Master Mariner (captain) that we struck up a friendship, pretty much overnight. When he returned home from Poland, Australia or Japan, laden with stories and gizmos, all my animosity vanished. He would tell us eye-popping tales about steering his Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) around Cape Horn where vertical waves tossed his giant

ship as if it were a catamaran. With his dollar salary, Shyam funded part of my college education and bought me my first designer bag. He later used this salary to put himself through Wharton business school. It is funny how life has changed. When we were growing up, I thought my role was to look after Shyam. I was the big sister after all. I still am enormously protective of him, thanks to a lifetime of conditioning. Save for my husband and kids, my brother is what my husband calls “non-negotiable” in a relationship. I stick up for him, almost reflexively. When he gets teased by our cousins, however good-naturedly, I find myself bristling. No matter that my normal stance is Leftist, I can turn turtle and abandon principles for my brother. No angst, no guilt, none of the second-guessing that is second nature to me. The irony is that Shyam doesn’t need much looking after; never has really. If anything, he has looked after me, without letting me know it. He introduced us to the city we now call home and to some of our closest friends here. When we moved to Bangalore, the fact that we moved into my brother’s house was because of Shyam. But the reason that we lived with them for nearly two years as a joint family was entirely, but entirely due to my

sister-in-law Priya’s uncommon grace and generosity. She has been the glue that has kept us together. Today, we live in the same housing complex, something which our spouses engineered. As married adults, the relationship you have with your siblings depends on your spouses. If they will it, your relationship will flourish. If not, it will flounder. As simple as that. Shyam is stand-up comedy buff. He owns pretty much every DVD of every stand-up comic. Thanks to him, I’ve become addicted to this genre too. As mature adults, our relationship has fallen into this most juvenile of pastimes. We exist to make each other laugh. When Shyam wants to discuss something meaningful, he calls my husband. When he calls me, he knows he will get something like, “Do you know that elephant urine can corrode metal?” In fact, half my life is spent thinking up random things that I can say to Shyam, simply to get a laugh out of him. We try our best to out-joke each other. Sibling rivalry channelled into becoming the better comic. I’ll call him at work in the middle of the day. “Hey, can you talk?” I’ll ask. “I think I can…since I was four years old,” he’ll say without missing a beat. SUNIL SAXENA/ HINDUSTAN TIMES

Darn it! Score one for him. We make puerile jokes and engage in inane competitions. We quip in shorthand or imitate a certain yoga teacher we both learnt under. For most of us, our siblings are the ones who have known us (and will know us) the longest. Our spouses missed our pre-marriage life; our kids missed our childhood; and under normal circumstances, our parents will miss the later half of our lives. Only siblings, particularly if they are close in age share a lifespan. They share your quirks and your sense of humour. They let you exhale into relaxation. Shyam and I are very different. He is a Leo—regal and classy. I am an Aries. But we are also very similar: basically lazy; or as we like to think about it, we don’t sweat the small stuff. When we throw parties Attuned: Rahul Gandhi and sister Priyanka Vadra seem to be perfectly in sync.

together, our house-proud spouses will rush around getting stuff organized while the two of us will sit on the couch, swigging drinks and look at each other with a grin that says, “Can life get better than this?” The reason we need siblings is not because they share our genes and are our closest blood relations. It is not even the sentimental Bollywoodish “we are born of the same mother in the same womb” dialogue. It is not because our brothers and sisters are the storehouse of our childhood memories and will probably be our link for life. The reason we need our siblings is because they are the only people we can talk to about our parents and expect complete understanding. Shyam is the only person who will not judge me or my parents when I say things such as, “Appa still treats me like a baby. He went on and on about filling the income-tax forms correctly.” We will both roll our eyes and laugh. Your sibling is the only person who will understand your family’s quirks and dysfunctionalities and accept them without judgement. Even your spouse, however tolerant, will take time to buy into your family’s very particular traits: the penchant for gift-giving; the focus on food; the pattern of spending. All this can seem weird to someone who wasn’t born into it. A sibling on the other hand will both understand and do the eye-roll. Shoba Narayan is thinking up jokes and one-liners to keep her brother on his toes. Write to her at thegoodlife@livemint.com www.livemint.com Read Shoba’s previous Lounge columns at www.livemint.com/shoba­narayan


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SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 2010

L5

Parenting

LOUNGE TREND

A dose of sibling rivalry PHOTOGRAPHS

BY

MICHAL CZERWONKA/WSJ

Quality time: Maeve Morgan Phoa with her parents; and Maeve playing with friends in the backyard of her home.

For single­child families, new thinking pushes kid­time, sharing and squabbling

B Y A NDREA P ETERSEN ···························· very Friday night, eightyear-old Maeve Morgan Phoa gets together with three other children for dinner, movies and general kid mayhem. The purpose isn’t just fun. At the “Friday Night Club” the parents created, Maeve, an only child, is forced to learn to take turns riding a coveted scooter, negotiate who gets which superpowers in makebelieve games, and accept that squabbles are a natural part of life. Creating this kind of close relationship is one of the many strategies parents of only children are employing in their attempts to raise happy, social children. Others are purposefully spending less time with their child to better mimic what happens in a family with siblings. And some are policing gift-proffering grandparents to fight that old stereotype that an only child is a spoiled child. There’s a surge in interest in new ways to parent an only child. That’s partly because more people are having them. Then there’s the onslaught of advice from neighbourhood message boards, online support groups and mommy bloggers that has fuelled anxiety about raising children in general. The growth is being spurred by more later-in-life marriage and childbearing. Financial concerns are also at play. As the cost of diapers, childcare and college degrees keep their steady march northward, some parents are deciding it’s just too expensive to have that second kid. Every type of childhood, of course, has its challenges. And psychologists who work with only children and their parents say that growing up without siblings

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doesn’t handicap a kid any more than other family configurations. Still, parenting styles can affect whether you end up with a happy and secure kid—or an anxious basket-case. So for those of us who, whether by choice or by circumstance, have an only child: What is the best way to raise one? And what are the pitfalls? “Think in terms of what your only child is missing,” says Carl E. Pickhardt, a child psychologist in Austin, Texas, and the author of The Future of your Only Child. “They’re missing the opportunity to get into the push and shove of sibling relationships, where you just kind of naturally learn there is going to be a give and take and resources have to be shared.” Creating that kind of opportunity is part of the goal of the fiveyear-old Friday Night Club, says Margaret Morgan, Maeve’s mother. “I’m hoping it offsets the kind of centre-of-the-universe perspective—everyone adores me and dotes on me—that the kids who don’t have siblings have,” says Morgan, 52, an artist in Los Angeles. The weekly meetings have also helped her daughter learn to handle conflict. “They have their little spats and their disagreements and they do have to work it out because they have to deal with each other the next week,” Morgan says. The kids seem blissfully unaware of any aim beyond fun. “You get to have sleepovers,” says Carina Kroff, 7, one of the onlychild Friday Night Club members. “It’s just fun to be with friends.” Parents say it’s important to rein in the impulse to be an only child’s constant companion. When Sarah McDonald’s son, Toby, was 4, she started to feel that family life was centred too

much on his desires and that the undivided attention was resulting in tantrums. So McDonald, 45, a stay-at-home mother in South Riding, Virginia, instituted this plan: Every afternoon for 2 hours, Toby is expected to knock on a neighbour’s door and find friends to play with or entertain himself in his room. McDonald says the change— which her son, now 6, resisted at first—is a good counterweight to all the hours he spends around adults. Experts say giving only kids space is also important to avoid an under-the-microscope-type scrutiny. “Growing children should really have the opportunity to contain their thoughts and not always have someone...picking their ideas apart,” says Lawrence Balter, a child psychologist and professor emeritus at New York University. Having a single child is still often considered a radical choice, though it is not always a choice. Neighbours, total strangers and many a mother-in-law may continue to push procre-

ation, saying that without a sibling, a child will be lonely, selfish, or a bit of a misfit. Research, however, shows that generally isn’t the case. In a metaanalysis covering 115 studies of only children conducted from the 1920s to the 1980s, Toni Falbo, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, and her co-author found that only children were generally as well-adjusted, intelligent, accomplished and sociable as those with siblings. Falbo, who has researched only children since the early 1970s, also conducted a study of schoolchildren in China that challenged the idea that the country’s one-child policy was producing a generation of narcissistic “little emperors”. Other research has found that there are benefits to being an only child: They tend to have stronger vocabularies, do better in school and are closer to their parents, says Falbo. “Only children get all their parents have to give without them having to divvy it up among the various siblings,” she explains. It can be easy to spoil an only

child. When there’s more than one child, each kid is naturally going to have fewer dolls, video games and Juicy Couture hoodies. But even when parents of only children are diligent in limiting treats, they may have to police family members. Four-year-old Andrew Jacobsen isn’t just an only child, he’s an only grandchild as well. Christmas “was just unreal”, says his mother, Kendra Jacobsen, a 35-year-old systems engineer in Verona, Wisconsin. “We were literally opening presents non-stop all day long.” So last Christmas, Jacobsen and her husband made an attempt to shrink the pile under the tree. They didn’t buy Andrew any gifts themselves and instituted an “approval process” for toys given by relatives (Jacobsen says the new policy hasn’t been totally successful: “My mom still brings extra stuff”). With fewer competing voices and no sibling rivalry to complicate matters, it can be easier to give an only child a vote in family decisions. For years, Rob Grindstaff, his wife Cynthia and their now

17-year-old daughter Megan took turns choosing where they would take their annual summer vacation. “Making her a part of these decisions has helped her mature a little bit faster than other kids,” says Grindstaff, 46, a digital publishing executive in Franklin, Tennessee, who is an only child himself. But Grindstaff says giving Megan such a powerful role in family matters has brought difficulties too. When the family moved from Oklahoma City to Ann Arbor, Michigan, when Megan was 10, “she didn’t understand that she didn’t have an equal say in whether we were moving to Michigan or not”. The outspokenness the Grindstaffs have encouraged in their daughter has also caused tension with teachers and coaches. He and his wife have had to advise Megan that “not everyone is as open to suggestions as her mother and me,” he says. Psychologists say that the normal conflicts of adolescence can be particularly trying for small families. Since parents and their only child are often very close, limits-testing and rebellion can come as more of a shock. Only children also tend to be self-confident, making them “very worthy adversaries” during disputes, Dr Pickhardt says. But if there’s one message for parents of only children, it is this: Relax, the kids are going to turn out fine. “Being an only child is a neat way to grow up,” Dr Pickhardt says. Adult only children note their comfort with being alone and the creativity and self-esteem that can foster. “You learn to trust your instincts,” says Stephanie Spencer Lee, a 43-year-old mother of two in Closter, New Jersey, who says she spent many hours reading and playing makebelieve games in her backyard when she was young. “I have a pretty strong sense of what my gut is and who I think I am.” Write to wsj@livemint.com


L6

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SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 2010

Eat/Drink

LOUNGE

OUR DAILY BREAD

SAMAR HALARNKAR

When it’s good to sweat your stuff PHOTOGRAPHS

BY

SAMAR HALARNKAR

Method Gently roast the fennel and cumin seeds until the fennel starts to change colour and both release aromas. Grind in a small food processor and set the spices aside. Heat 2 tsp of olive oil, fry the garlic lightly. Pour in the puréed tomato, and when it begins to bubble, stir in the roasted spices, red-chilli powder and turmeric.

The effort of roasting a spice can give you a primal, pleasurable experience— and unexpected benefits

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o, the monsoon rolls on, humid, occasionally rainy, but substantially more pleasant than the last time I wrote this column. Guilty as I was of serving up eggs and other quick—not fast—food, I thought it was time to get more creative with my cooking, and damn the perspiration. Good food, after all, is 110% sweat (with apologies to American playwright Robert Riskin, who said the same thing about art). I still sweated a great deal as I slaved away at evolving a recipe that involved much roasting and grinding, my favourite pursuits where meats are concerned. I have previously written of the wonders of a freshly roasted spice, the gradual build-up of heat, the first smoke and the release of aromas so heady it connects you to all things primal and pleasurable. Perhaps I’m getting carried away, but when I roast a spice, I wonder: How did we ever allow our lives to be overwhelmed by that box of packaged spices? In the West, they say good meat must be allowed to boast its own virtues, not be subsumed by spices. I truly understood this in Brazil and Spain where I had some of the blandest yet tastiest cuts of pork, beef and lamb. This philosophy does not work very well with tough Indian goats. They consume everything from thorns to paper to dried grass. I have rarely, if ever, discerned any flavour in a desi goat or lamb. The secret of roasting spices is to control the heat. Keep it too high, and the spice will

blacken fast. Low to medium works well, depending on the intensity of your burner. Let them snap, crackle and do their magic. Whenever I’m roasting a spice, I seem to magically draw my wife into the kitchen, where her naturally irascible personality surrenders to a spice-suffused dreaminess. Never underestimate the power of a well-roasted spice on meats or stand-alone gravies and sauces. I say stand-alone because you can make a basic sauce and use with meats, vegetables or even an Indianized pasta, which we did with the Fennel and cumin sauce (below). I laced mutton chops with this sauce and in the evening, I lightly sautéed peppers and onions for my vegetarian half, to which she added the same sauce and piled it prettily on some leftover pasta. I kept the spices minimal in the chops marinade to see if I could tease out their flavour. Alas, there was none, so the sauce worked well in imparting the chops with some body and bounce. I grind the roasted spices in a mixie or pound them in a mortar pestle. It depends on my mood really. It’s also a good idea to grind spices in a machine if you plan on using them in a sauce. Roughly pounded is good for marination. It all depends on how much you’re willing to sweat. At the end of it all, I was too sweaty to make rice, so I took my

Baby onions and roasted peppers

Snap and crackle: (clockwise from left) Roasting spices releases their aroma; the spicy tomato purée can be used as a basic sauce for many dishes such as lamb chops or vegetables; and the chops. going to go for well done, make sure you baste them with some olive oil. favourite short cut. I heated water and poured it over couscous. In 5 minutes, I was ready to taste the product of my toil and sweat. If it makes me smile like this again, I’m willing to sweat some more.

Cardamom and pepper lamb chops Ingredients Kkg lamb chops Marinade 3 tbsp white wine 1 tbsp fresh ground pepper 2 tsp grainy mustard 2 large black cardamoms (badi

elaichi) 2 small cardamoms (chhoti elaichi) Salt Method Roast the cardamoms slowly until they release an aroma. Pound in a mortar and pestle until a coarse powder results. Marinate chops with cardamom, mustard, wine, pepper and salt. Keep aside for at least an hour. Grill the chops in an oven or on a stove top on medium to low heat until golden brown. I kept them medium; if you’re

Q&A | IAN KITTICHAI

Fennel and cumin sauce Ingredients 2 tbsp fennel (saunf) seeds 1 tbsp cumin (jeera) seeds N tsp turmeric K tsp red-chilli powder 2 large puréed tomatoes 1 large pod of garlic, finely chopped 2 tsp olive oil Salt

···························· he menu at the newest Thai restaurant in Mumbai reads a little strange. You will not find a Tom Yum or Tom Kha Gai soup in it. No fried rice or Pad Thai either. Koh by chef Ian Kittichai is the latest entrant to the Indian restaurant scene where the chef may not be available at the restaurant, but his name gets the diners in. After Wasabi by Morimoto, and Ziya by Vineet Bhatia, Hotel InterContinental Marine Drive decided to give its restaurant repertoire a boost by inviting one of the world’s most celebrated Thai chefs. Kittichai carved a niche for himself in New York with contemporary Thai cuisine at his eponymous restaurant. A few years ago, he parted ways with the management of Kittichai and opened a Thai restaurant at Hotel Murmuri in Barcelona and a gastro pub called Hyde & Seek in Bangkok.

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Note: You can pour the sauce lightly over the chops and the vegetables. I ate the chops with couscous; my wife ate the veggies with penne pasta. This is a column on easy, inventive cooking from a male perspective. Samar Halarnkar writes a blog, Our Daily Bread, at Htblogs.com. He is editor-at-large, Hindustan Times. Write to Samar at ourdailybread@livemint.com

For a step­by­step guide to making lamb chops, go to www.livemint.com/lambchops.htm Read Samar’s previous columns at www.livemint.com/ourdailybread

KEDAR BHAT/MINT

Barcelona, and he helped me open the restaurant. But it was quite difficult in Spain. They don’t like any spice in their food. I wanted to kill myself. I had to change a lot of things. I had to take the chilli out and boil it to take away the spice but to include the flavour and the colour. But it’s doing well now.

The celebrated chef behind a new Mumbai restaurant on serving Thai food, French style rachana.n@livemint.com

Method In 2 tsp of olive oil, heat the onion and sesame seeds till they splutter. Fry onions till they start to soften. Add peppers and toss lightly. Keep them crunchy.

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Pad Thai a la mode B Y R ACHANA N AKRA

Ingredients 1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into thumbnail-size pieces 1 yellow pepper, ditto 6 baby (sambar) onions, halved K tsp onion seeds (kalonji) 1 tsp sesame seeds 2 tsp olive oil Salt

Doing away with Asian decor clichés, the ambience at Koh is cozy and understated, with dim lighting and orchids. Before Koh opened last weekend, we spoke to Kittichai about taking Thai food out of takeaway boxes to the fine-dining space and serving “Jain Thai” in his first venture in India. Edited excerpts: How would you describe your style of cooking? My food is very traditional and authentic, but the way I am serving it, the presentation is contemporary. It is my interpretation of Thai food. We want people to try food from different parts of Thailand and introduce them to things they may have not tried before. When I cooked at home, my father-in-law would be like, this is not Thai food. In Thailand, you actually dump everything together in one dish and can’t really taste anything. But I only plate it differently, so you can taste every ingredient in the dish. What are some of the unusual

Chocolat Baby Back Ribs Serves 2

Big bite: Kittichai imports most of his ingredients from Thailand; and (left) Chocolat Baby Back Ribs. dishes on your menu? We use all the familiar flavours and textures of Thai food—peanuts, coconut, lemon grass, kaffir lime, galangal, basil. But there’s a surprise element in the presentation. We serve Thai curry in a fireproof paper bowl which has fire lit under it. We don’t have any fried rice on the menu. You get jasmine-scented short-grain rice that is cooked on a lava stone on the table. The presentation makes people go “ohhh”. Some of my signature dishes are Chocolat Baby Back Ribs and Yellowfin Tuna Ceviche. I made some basil ice cream this morning and everyone loved it. In America, people associated Thai food with takeout. I wanted

to change that perception. What are your influences? I am using French cooking techniques. In Thailand, we have only stir-fry, steaming, frying and grilling. Here, we do a lot of slow cooking. We do lamb shank in Massamun curry that takes 12 hours to make. This way, you can actually taste the real flavour of the meat. We do a lot of marinades and smoked dishes. In India, I’m doing a lot of dishes for vegetarians and Jains. No one could tell that the food was without garlic and onions. I was told if I can cook for vegetarians here, I would be fine. How do the Thai react to your style of cooking? I was doing very well in

Thailand and had my own TV show when I decided to move to New York. My mum said you’re stupid; here, the whole country knows you. Now, Thai people know me more. Students who come to the US, they all want to work at Kittichai. I have a gastro pub in Thailand but at parties they want me to do Thai food from New York. How do you manage to run restaurants in different parts of the world? I’m really lucky, I bring two chefs from Thailand with me to India. They have worked with me for eight years. I come here every month. Now, I’m based in Bangkok, so it’s easy for me there. My nephew is in

Ingredients 200g pork ribs 20g tomato ketchup 30g cocoa powder 20g plum sauce 1 tsp chilli powder 2 kaffir lime leaves 1 stalk lemon grass 1 small knob galangal Black pepper and salt to taste Method Wash and boil the spare ribs in water to which kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, galangal, salt and pepper have been added. Bring it to a boil, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Remove from heat, strain the spare ribs and cool. For the cocoa sauce, blend tomato ketchup, cocoa powder and plum sauce. Coat the ribs with the cocoa sauce and cook in the oven for 8-12 minutes. Sprinkle with the chilli powder and serve.


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SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 2010

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LOUNGE RETAIL THERAPY

The great outdoors Look rugged and ready to brave the elements. Hard­wear is the way to go this season

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B Y R ACHANA N AKRA

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ON THE RAM

rachana.n@livemint.com

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Versace: Fall Winter 2010 collection.

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ON THE RAC 5 6

1. Tag Heuer: Aquaracer 500M Calibre 5 diving watch with rubber strap, at Tag Heuer boutiques in Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi, `1.5 lakh. 2. Canali: Wool, cotton and cashmere jacket with elbow patch, at JW Marriott, Juhu, Mumbai, approx. `60,000.

Gucci: Cruise 2011 collection.

3. s.Oliver: Canvas cap, at Inorbit mall, Malad, Mumbai, `999.

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4. Versace: Woven leather belt with attached pouch, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, approx. `15,180. 5. Paul and Shark: Suede belt with white leather piping, in a tin box packaging, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, `10,990. 6. Diesel: Distressed Viker 8J3 denim, at Diesel stores in Bangalore and Mumbai, `18,745.

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7. Harley­Davidson: Protective Ride Ready full­finger leather gloves, at 30th Road, Bandra West, Mumbai; and DLF Promenade mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, `2,389.

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8. Timberland: Dark brown shoes with mesh lining, footbed cover for climate control and padded collar for a comfortable fit, at Ambience mall, Gurgaon, `7,490. 9. MTV Gear: Waterproof polyester bag with camouflage print, at Wildcraft stores in Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi, `2,495. 10. Lanvin: Leather satchel, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, `1.12 lakh.


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KS NARAYANAN

Cryogenic man This managing director wants to change the way we think, one Shepody potato at a time

B Y P RIYA R AMANI priya.r@livemint.com

···························· otato evangelist is probably a better descriptor for the managing director of McCain Foods India Pvt. Ltd, the Indian arm of the privately owned Canadian firm that makes one out of every three French fries consumed in the world. Narayanan never misses an opportunity to play preacher. Give him a chance and he’s bound to say: “There are a lot of misconceptions about potatoes…” He might, then, whip out his ready reckoner that compares the calories of 100g of your favourite snack (Haldiram’s salted peanuts 644 calories; Frito Lay Kurkure 561 calories) with the sugar-free fries he sells to McDonald’s (290 calories only). Last month he was a speaker at the India International Potato Expo held in Delhi. His topic? Potato is good for us. Yet these days 46-year-old Narayanan, who has worked at the $6.5 billion (around `30,225 crore) frozen foods company for a year now, is equally obsessed with the perfectly shaped frozen idli—all 35g of it. “Fries are a foreign product. We thought, let’s take a traditional product that has never been made any other way, and see what it takes for people to go from a fresh form to a frozen food,” he says. McCain began test marketing its rice idlis in Delhi last month. The R&D team worked on the preservative-free frozen idli for more than a year. Every little process had to be rethought. Grinding the batter in a regular colloid mill, for instance, produced the wrong texture. So the company custom-made and fitted 4ft tall stone grinders into the production line. Post grinding, the batter is left to ferment in a temperature-controlled room for 24 hours; exactly 35g is then dispensed into idli-shaped grooves, and the rice discs steam slowly on a conveyor belt before a specially designed instrument scoops them out without damaging them. Of course, idlis are still a minuscule

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part of McCain’s business. After spending one and a half hours with him at Rick’s Bar in Delhi’s Taj Mansingh, I’m convinced Narayanan dreams of McCain’s boulder-sized Shepody potatoes full of the “northern vigour” that comes from their high-altitude seeds grown in Lahaul-Spiti—and a world free from power cuts. Five minutes into a discussion on the challenges of the cold chain distribution network in this country, perfectly on cue, the lights go out and we are briefly plunged into darkness. “Oops there goes the power and there goes the cold chain,” he guffaws. Narayanan laughs a lot. It could be because I repeatedly ask him how his wife Bharathi handles the potato hard sell, and before that, a job that involved him feeling passionately about ice cream. As a father, his professional choices have always ensured he’s high on his daughters’ popularity charts. “I used to be the icecream man, and now I’m the potato man. So in this respect I’m definitely a cooler father than most,” he agrees. But I guess you need a sense of humour to survive in the frozen foods business in this country. Narayanan’s full of stories from the paleolithic era of frozen foods, 10 years ago, when he first took charge of Hindustan Lever’s (now Hindustan Unilever) ice-cream division. Those were the days when storekeepers switched off the mains every night when they shut shop, disregarding the fact that the ice cream in their freezer cabinets would melt. “When ice cream melts you can’t refreeze it. When the air escapes the volume comes down by half,” he says. Back then he always cautioned his daughters, Deepti, 14, and Sandhya, 9, to opt for an ice cream on a stick rather than in a cup. Of course, like most people with cool jobs, he has an engineering degree. His father worked in the government’s civil aviation department and Narayanan grew up in several metros across India. “Guilty,” he laughs when I ask why engineers rarely do whatever it is they’re supposed to do. After he graduated as a civil engineer, he worked for five years in Asian Paints until he found his life’s calling. He’s worked in the processed foods industry for nearly two decades now, or since he joined Hindustan Lever in 1992. There he got a taste for all kinds of

food from tea/coffee to jams/ sauces and dairy. The vegetarian worked with ice cream for six years before moving to Barcelona to market Lever’s frozen seafood exports. After a “transforming” three-year stint there (among other things, he discovered paella and the Mediterranean diet), he returned to head the company’s food solutions business where he stayed until last year. Though Narayanan joined McCain only a year ago, the company has been in India for more than 10 years. McCain has spent the last decade researching the types of potatoes that would grow well in India. After experiments in the traditional potato-growing belt of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, the company opted to set up camp in Gujarat’s Mehsana. In 2007, after they were convinced they had cracked the spud cycle, they invested `100 crore in a plant that has the ability to process 40,000 tonnes of potatoes a year. “To be successful in the frozen food business in India, you need to control the whole supply chain from farm to fork,” says Narayanan. When we meet, Narayanan is wearing his navy McCain polo, the one he usually wears when he’s travelling (good branding, he believes) or when, like today, his sales managers from across the country are in town to review growth plans for next year. He sits on the edge of the couch, one arm resting on the chair next to him, eyes darting to me and away, both hands gesticulating, as he tells me his story. I rarely see him take a sip of his beer but his glass is finished long before mine. He shuttles between his office in Delhi and Mumbai (where his family lives) and ran the half marathons in both cities. He runs regularly and ensures that he mixes the cardio with weights. Narayanan likes to think of himself as a quack nutritionist and occasionally we divert to potato-free discussions such as the one about the merits of different cooking oils (he’s recently rediscovered the health benefits of virgin coconut oil). As I listen to him attempt to convince me that potatoes could even help alleviate India’s hunger problem, I wonder what powers all his excess energy. Maybe, just maybe, it is all that celebrated northern vigour in McCain’s potatoes.

Spud the word: Narayanan points out that McCain’s potatoes are sugar­free.

IN PARENTHESIS When Narayanan and his family moved to Barcelona, nobody spoke a word of Spanish. “Spain was completely unknown territory, it was just something on the map,” he says. In India, everyone called him KS and when he tried to explain that to the Spanish, they said that in their language, KS meant ‘what is it?’. Eventually, he stuck to Narayanan when introducing himself. “Fortunately, it was understood because it rhymed with Ramayan and everyone had heard of that,” he says. His wife Bharathi signed up for several classes at the University of Barcelona and is now a Spanish instructor. JAYACHANDRAN/MINT


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SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 2010

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LOUNGE LOUNGE REVIEWS | SONY ERICSSON X10 MINI PRO & OLIVEPAD VT100

David and Goliath A phone that pushes the boundaries of what you can hold to your ear, and one that was hit by a shrink ray

Tablet: The OlivePad VT100 runs Google’s Android mobile operating system.

B Y K RISH R AGHAV krish.r@livemint.com

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The bonsai smartphone Back in 2001, when pencil boxes still served as the dominant design inspiration for mobile phones, Ericsson (soon to become Sony Ericsson) launched a tiny, curvy phone called the T68. Its miniature size (about 100mm) belied its abilities—it was among the most feature-rich phones available, complete with Bluetooth, infrared, WAP, SMS with T9 and a nifty app to compose ringtones, everything the early 21st century prosumer would require. Fast forward nine years later, and Sony Ericsson seems to have repeated this engineering feat with the X10 Mini Pro, com-

The existential tablet The OlivePad VT100 presents an interesting conundrum for the reviewer. It’s a `25,000 “tablet” device that’s too big to be lugged around as a smartphone (it weighs about

pressing everything the “smartphone” of today has into a 90mm frame. It’s quite an excellent work of miniaturization, made doubly impressive by the phone’s surprising capabilities. The X10 Mini Pro can be described with the clever use of nifty two-word phrases. It’s a Wi-Fi-enabled, Android-powered, almost-smartphone with a slide-out Qwerty keyboard and 5-megapixel camera. Sony Ericsson has cleverly modified Android to work on the tiny 2.6-inch screen, with four “short cuts” at the edge of the screen for easy access to contacts and messages. The software is fairly solid, although the mini runs the ageing 1.6 version of Android—which leads to a few compatibility issues with new

apps on the Android Market, and occasional sluggishness with even basic functions such as answering calls or replying to messages. Sony Ericsson, however, has clarified that an update to Android version 2.1 and 2.2 is imminent. The keyboard is comfortable and pleasingly tactile, and typing out messages and email is even easier than on the 7-inch OlivePad. The on-board speakers are pleasingly loud, and the camera includes a flash. Browsing, while requiring a bit of squinting, is also robust and unproblematic. Strangely, it’s the phone’s down-to-earth basics that let it down. Adding contacts or changing notification settings involves a needlessly compli-

cated maze of menus, and a bizarre bug sometimes prevents you from answering a call—even repeated jabs at the touch screen do nothing. All these, however, can be solved with a simple software update. The miniature size also means less-than-recommended hardware beefiness—extensive multitasking does not

lead to a happy place. But the X10 Mini Pro’s strength far outshines its few weaknesses. It’s a fantastic phone in a marvellously small size, at half the cost of a regular smartphone (it retails for `17,865). After Sony Ericsson’s many smartphone misfires (the Satio, the Vivaz), the X10 Mini Pro is a welcome return to form.

half a kilo) and too small to replace your laptop (with a 7-inch screen), settling into that ambiguous middle ground Apple’s iPad assures us exists. The OlivePad is a rectangular slab about a centimetre

thick—it’s got a 800x480 display that’s bright and crisp, but doesn’t really compare with the iPad. It’s 3G-enabled, meaning calls can be made on it (if you’re comfortable with the image of holding a large notebook to the side of your face), and has a front-facing camera for 3G video calls, for when we finally get to that promised land. It runs Google’s Android operating system (version 2.1), which gives it access to a large library of apps, games and tools. The OlivePad works well as an e-book reader. The screen is bright and spacious, and the presence of an SD card slot means you can load thousands of books on to the device with ease. By extension, it’s a solid portable video player as well, with the battery easily lasting through a 3-hour film. Headphones are recommended, however, as the OlivePad’s on-board speakers are tinny and ineffectual. Browsing is a breeze

on Wi-Fi, with easy pinch-to-zoom and rudimentary Flash support through Android’s Skyfire browser. But here’s where it starts to get complicated. While Android contributes to most of the device’s strengths, it is also its biggest weakness. There’s sluggishness all around when working with multiple applications, with the device frequently slowing to a crawl. Part of the reason could be the mediocre processor powering the device (newer smartphones such as HTC’s EVO 4G or the Sony Ericsson X10 have more powerful processors than the OlivePad), but the software is largely responsible. This is not, however, a deal-breaker. Android frequently works brilliantly, but it does tend to feel like the new Microsoft Windows ever so often. Happily, given the modular nature of the operating system—the home screens, menus and appearance can be

customised with third-party applications. Moving away from basic media consumption also makes the OlivePad look iffy. Typing is a bit of an acquired skill—good for chats or short emails, but a pain for longer documents. The screen is not precise enough for complex design or presentation work, and even composing a fairly straightforward blog post will tax your patience. The OlivePad’s central identity crisis (what are you going to use this for?) is only exacerbated with familiarity. It’s a competent media player that’s too big and costly to be just that. It’s a wobbly, underpowered device for getting work done, and a mutant, overcharged replacement for a phone. You could argue that it’s a good e-book reader that can do a little Internet on the side, but at `25,000, that’s really grasping at straws.

Nano: The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro.

BIKAS DAS/AP

An act of sheer Foley The Commonwealth Games baton designer wants to make elegant design ubiquitous B Y S HUCHI B ANSAL shuchi.b@livemint.com

···························· t’s not easy to draw Michael Foley into a freewheeling conversation. The reticent designer would rather let his work speak for him. Foley, 40, has been in the news for designing the baton for the Commonwealth Games (CWG) to be held in New Delhi in October. The Bangalore-based designer, who started out as a trainee designing watches at Titan Industries, says he bid for the CWG baton as it was a oncein-a-lifetime experience. The official requirement for the baton included the Queen’s message (which Foley got engraved on a gold leaf), a representation of the host country, a camera and a microphone. But Foley Designs added several interesting features, such as a text message facility, a GPS module and embedded LEDs that allow patterns in millions of colours to move across its surface. “The interpretation was completely open and that’s where we innovated the most,” says Foley,

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who studied design at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. Partly handcrafted and partly machine made, the baton comprises 28 samples of soil collected from Leh to the A n d a m a n s b y t h e Indian Army. “The process of creating the baton was a journey in itself and there will be a coffee-table book on the same after the games,” he says. Foley’s designs are already ubiquitous—from Titan’s EDGE and Fastrack watches (from his days as head of design at Titan) to the fractal street lights in Bangalore’s Cubbon Park. This winner of several awards now wants to move beyond design consultancy to focus on product innovation. “We are looking at ‘creating’ design and innovation opportunities versus only performing in the ‘consulting’ space of design. This entails understanding the latent needs of consumers and taking the risk of PRIYANKA PARASHAR/MINT

Inspired: Foley (left); and the baton he designed for the CWG. developing ideas through till we see a proof of concept,” he says. His current obsession is public design, and the company is developing solutions for shelter systems and public utilities for railway stations. It is yet to approach the right agencies

to support its efforts though. In India, the focus of design is on aesthetics and colour palette rather than functionality and utility, says Foley. “Look at Europe. It has meticulously designed elements, from railings to tree guards, with an accent on the utility of that design, especially in public spaces,” he adds.

To make budgetary ends meet, however, the design house depends on commercial projects. For a start, the 30-member studio has found an equity partner in Technopak Advisors, a retail consultancy firm in Delhi. In the recent past, it has done a lot of work for ITC’s personal care products (soaps and shampoos, among other things) under the Fiama Di Wills brand name. Currently, it is working with the Brigade Group on the “look and feel” of its new mall in Bangalore. A project with the Unique Identification Authority of India, headed by Nandan Nilekani, may be on the cards too, but Foley declines to share details. Attentive and passionate about the work at hand, Foley was also extremely focused on fitness till a back problem put his gruelling exercise routine out of gear. A regular on the tennis court and someone who used to go rowing in Bangalore’s Ulsoor Lake, the designer has now been spending time before a canvas. Over 15 watercolours on Bangalore, especially the city’s old buildings, are ready. “I need at least 40 works for an exhibition,” he says. Like most designers, his dream is to inculcate a sense of design among Indians—an uphill task. “Indians are not keen on design,” he says. “Till they become design-conscious, we need CEOs and heads of companies who believe in design.”


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PROFILE

the once­in­a­generation

man

SUNIL

BHARTI MITTAL BY R . S U K U M A R sukumar.r@livemint.com

··································· his shouldn’t be happening. We shouldn’t be here at the Bharti headquarters in New Delhi’s lush Vasant Kunj area, discussing telecommunications with Sunil Bharti Mittal. Not in 2010. For, if he had stuck to his original plan—and he is a big one for planning ahead—Mittal should have retired from telecom. Instead, Mittal, 52-going-on-53 (but a very fit one at that; he runs, he says, and watches what he eats), is in the fight of his life, although you won’t hear him say it. Bharti Airtel Ltd, the telecom company that is part of the conglomerate he heads, has just completed an expensive African acquisition, paid a further `15,609.82 crore in fees to the Union government in return for radio waves that will allow it to offer third generation telecom and broadband wireless services, and seen a rival with tremendous money and lobbying power, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), make a re-entry into the telecom space. Mittal’s full-stop-at-50 plan was public knowledge. It was never clear what he would do, but it was evident that it would be in the public policy space. Even an entry into politics couldn’t be ruled out. His father, the late Satpal Mittal, was a Congress party loyalist who gave his sons the middle name Bharti (from Bharat, the Hindi name for India) to indicate their Indianness. Few people doubted Mittal’s resolve because his ability to plan ahead and his certitude about the next step are well known. As far back as 2004-05, he was talking about an African acquisition. It took him till 2010 to make one, but not for want of trying. Manoj Kohli, the head of Bharti Airtel’s international operations, has known Mittal since 1995 and worked for him since 2002 and he says this vision thing, the ability to plan ahead—audaciously ahead—and follow through is at the core of Mittal’s personality. It’s also one of the constants about the man. There are others as well. Rain or shine, Mittal’s disposition is always sunny. He is always immaculately turned out; he is usually dressed in sharp suits, sharper shoes, crisp (so crisp they sometimes crackle) shirts, and contrasting ties. He never speaks about his personal life (and wife Nyna, while no recluse, keeps a much lower profile than other CEO Wags). He never talks the competition down. Or up. He rarely forgets people. In the 1990s, he used to visit Delhi’s Sanchar Bhavan where the department of telecommunications is located. This is what any telecom entrepreneur who wanted to get things done did. But Mittal still remembers and is remembered by the then-mid-

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VIPIN KUMAR/HINDUSTAN TIMES

THIS CHAIRMAN PLANNED HIS RETIREMENT. BUT 15 YEARS AFTER TAKING ON THE BIG DADDYS AND EMERGING AS THE SOLE SURVIVOR OF THE FIRST TELECOM RUSH, HE IS NOT YET READY TO RELAX

level, now senior-level bureaucrats at the department. So, if almost three years after his original deadline, Mittal is still running the business, coping with unfriendly competition, unsympathetic regulations, a lot of debt, and a worthy rival, there is at least one person who doesn’t think there’s anything unusual about this.

Clear vision The way Mittal sees it, he doesn’t really run the company. Sanjay Kapoor runs local operations and Kohli, international operations. And finance, an important function in telcos, is headed by long-time confidant Akhil Gupta. “The line of escalation is very clear,” says Mittal, explaining that there are very few things on which he is required to weigh in. “Very few things go to him,” echoes Kohli, who spoke to this writer over phone from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, and a stop on his second whirlwind tour of the 15 African countries where Bharti now has a footprint. Kohli, who ran all mobile operations of Airtel until recently—the company didn’t have much of a global footprint till it took over the African operations of the Zain group—joined Bharti in 2002, but has known Mittal since 1995. When he joined Bharti, the company had around two million mobile subscribers. At the end of June, it had 137 million. Much of that growth, he adds, wouldn’t have been possible if only a few people had been making decisions. Only critical issues related to strategy, regulation or the company’s reputation go all the way up to Mittal, says Kohli. Still, Mittal does admit that he is more in the “business and commercial” than in the “public policy” space. He attributes this to the absence of something really attractive to do in the public policy space. “You must do what is available to you,” he says. And he also attributes this to the business challenges Bharti faces, in telecommunications and other businesses in which the group has interests. One such challenge is the amount of debt on Bharti’s books, around $12.5 billion (around `57,800 crore).

On a safari Mittal is not worried by the debt he has taken on to expand his business. The way he sees it, the company’s interest payout on the $7.5 billion debt it has taken to fund the acquisition of Zain’s African operation is a mere $200 million a year. From his point of view, “for $200 million we have Africa”, and not just any presence in Africa but a “big start”. Spread across 15 countries, Zain’s African operations serve 42 million customers and ended last year with $4 billion in revenue. The Indian debt, taken on to fund the acquisition of spectrum for third generation and wireless broadband services, is also small compared with the company’s operating profit, says Mittal. Bharti ended 2009-10 with `9,981 crore in operating profit. Bharti

SANJIT DAS/BLOOMBERG

says that his debt burden is thus around 2.75-2.8 times his annual operating profit. He contends that is not outrageously high “because there are many companies in India who have a ratio of 4:1”. Although he concedes that the analysts initially disagreed with his assessment, he says most of them have since come around to his point of view. Mittal says that’s because Bharti had very little debt (also known as leverage) on its books before its Zain acquisition. Analysts typically look at the debt on a company’s books in relation to its shareholders’ funds to gauge whether the debt taken is within reasonable limits. This is called the debtequity ratio. “Bharti before Zain was absolutely deleveraged. A net debt to equity of 2.5 is comfortable. Anything above this is uncomfortable. With 2.8, they are just above—on the edge. We don’t like companies that have a debtequity ratio of 3 or more,” says Rajiv Sharma, analyst with HSBC Securities and Capital Markets (India) Pvt. Ltd. Some of the worries about Bharti are reflected in the market’s treatment of Bharti’s stock. At the `320 levels at which it was trading in July, the stock is well off its 52-week high of `467, although it has recovered from its November lows of `229. Still, Mittal isn’t worried about this simply because it is a place in which he and Bharti have found themselves before. In the early 2000s, soon after his company made an initial share sale, the stock dropped from the issue price of `45 to the low 20s. The market value of the company

THE NUMBERS GAME

Five figures that made a difference to Mittal’s life and career

23

The number he is superstitious about. He was born on 23 October 1957, and got married on a 23rd too.

` 20,000 The money he borrowed to turn entrepreneur (he manufactured bicycle crankshafts) in 1976.

100 million

The number of customers Bharti Airtel crossed in March. It was the first company to do so in India and it became the third largest single country mobile services oper­ ator in the world.

500

The number of ‘Satya Bharati’ free education schools that his philanthropic project, Bharti Foundation, aims to open throughout India. As of June, there are 236 in five states.

` 100 crore The estimated cost of an ambitious foot­ ball academy set up by Bharti in associa­ tion with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to train an Indian team that can qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Shauvik Ghosh & Krish Raghav

isn’t something that senior executives at Bharti worry about, says Mittal. As for regulations and RIL’s entry, Mittal says there is little he can do about it. “There were 14 players; now there will be 15,” he says of the latter. Whispers in Delhi would suggest that Mittal himself is no slouch when it comes to lobbying, but the last favourable policy decision that went Bharti Airtel’s way was in 1999, 12 years ago, when India allowed telecom companies to move from a fixed-fee regime to a revenue-sharing one—a move that, in hindsight, may have marked the beginning of the country’s famed telecom boom. This seemingly philosophical acceptance of things as they are may actually originate from Bharti’s enduring success. Of the eight companies originally given mobile telephony licences in the country (RPG Enterprises, SkyCell Digital, Max Telecom, BPL Telecom, Bharti, Sterling Communications, Usha Martin and Modi Telstra), Bharti is the only one whose ownership hasn’t changed. And when Bharti entered the business, Mittal was a nobody, competing with the likes of the Ruias, Goenkas and Modis. Bharti is expected to end 2010-11 with consolidated revenue (including those of the Zain operations) of `55,800 crore. The story of how a one-time bicycle parts and gelatin capsule manufacturer entered the business of tele-

phones (an encounter with the thennovel-in-India push button phones while on a foreign trip), and subsequently the business of mobile telephony is well chronicled. What hasn’t been written about though is the story of how Mittal did this—a journey that illustrates just what makes him one of the country’s most successful businessmen. For much of its early and growth years, Bharti was run by a small group of individuals. It wasn’t till the early 2000s that Mittal really started speaking about building an organization. Through those years, Mittal kept the start-up team together. Convinced that he and his managers knew nothing about telecom, Mittal partnered with some of the world’s best firms. Telecom Italia, BT and SingTel, have all been, or continue to be, partners. And he and Gupta managed to raise money at the most effective rates, helping it roll out its operations at a reasonably low cost. In the 2000s, after the company listed on the stock exchanges, he realized that he had an opportunity to become what he once described to this writer as a “once-in-a-generation” company. Mittal’s logic was that once in a while, a company would emerge on the Indian landscape that would change things. In the 1980s, it was Reliance. In the 1990s, Infosys. And in the 2000s, he wanted Bharti to be it. But he didn’t stop at building an organization. Much like Reliance changed the face of refining through

backward and forward integration (the famous field-to-pump strategy) and Infosys with its global delivery model (where engineers in India worked on projects elsewhere), Bharti outsourced its IT as well as the creation and management of its telecom networks, in deals that are still considered revolutionary in the global telecommunications industry. Bharti effectively became a financing and marketing company. Not all of this was done without help, from partners such as BT and Telecom Italia, financers such as Warburg Pincus, and strategic investors such as SingTel. Warburg’s investment in Bharti—a little short of $300 million over two years starting 1999—was done at the behest of Pulak Prasad, one of the private equity firm’s fund managers. By 2005, the firm had exited the investment. Its total profit—$1.3 billion. It was one of the earliest success stories in the private equity business in India and made Prasad an urban legend. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, now a member of Parliament, was Mittal’s peer then and the two were considered Indian telecom’s Gemini twins, and once even appeared on the cover of a business magazine in dark suits and dark glasses, much like MIB. Since then, Chandrashekar has changed orbit; he has sold his telecom business, gotten elected to the Upper House of Parliament, and become an urban activist back home in Bangalore. For some time in 2007, it looked like Mittal would follow a similar route.

To­do list That year, Mittal became head of the most powerful Indian business lobby, the Confederation of Indian Industry, travelled around the world, and was one of the moving forces behind India@60, an effort to showcase India to the US. Nandan Nilekani, one of the co-founders of Infosys and now the head of the Unique Identification Authority of India, was also involved in organizing the event. Since then, Nilekani has written a book, entered the domain of public policy, and gotten involved with the government. Mittal, inexplicably, has gone back to business. Only, if you listen to him, it wasn’t all that inexplicable because there were several loose ends. Some of those loose ends, or new ones that have made an appearance since, are still around. Mittal rattles them off; clearly, they would seem to be part of some mental to-do list in which he has to check the boxes before moving on: the African acquisition, which will need a few years to stabilize; and new businesses where the company has to decide whether it wants to stay invested, or exit. The new businesses include financial services (and Mittal is categorical that Bharti will not apply for a banking licence though the synergies between telecom and banking are well known), retail, food, software and realty. Three of these, finance, food, and retail, are businesses Bharti Enterprises, the holding company, entered

RAJESH KASHYAP/HINDUSTAN TIMES

with the “serious intent of creating large businesses”, says Mittal. The finance business, a partnership with AXA, is doing well but can move faster, he adds, but the other two, the foods one, which is a partnership with Del Monte, and retail (a partnership with Wal-Mart) are “work in progress”. There’s also the Bharti Foundation, which builds schools, and provides uniforms, books, and food to students. It currently covers 30,000 children across 236 schools and Mittal wants to increase that number to 100,000 students. Still, despite his obvious passion about the foundation’s work, Mittal may not be happy looking at just that. He doesn’t rule out an entry in the public policy area, but is also honest enough to admit that three years from now, he may have found a new business to get obsessive about. It is true, he admits, that between 2007 and now, he is back “more in the commercial space and the foundation space rather than the public policy space” and that this is “clearly by design”. Mittal pauses as if to think, his eyes looking out through the plate-glass windows of the ground floor meeting room in the Bharti HQ. It is July, the sky is grey, and it’s probably wet and muggy outside although it is cool and nice in the meeting room. Mittal shifts to get into a slightly more comfortable position on the sofa and breaks his reverie. “People like us can never relax.” Shauvik Ghosh contributed to this story.

At the helm: (clockwise from top) Mittal in the cockpit of a Royal Air Force Red Arrows Hawk in November 2007 in Delhi; the telecom czar and his wife Nyna keep their private lives strictly private; and colleagues say Mittal’s vision of planning ahead is at the heart of his success.


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COVER L11

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SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 2010 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 2010 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

PROFILE

the once­in­a­generation

man

SUNIL

BHARTI MITTAL BY R . S U K U M A R sukumar.r@livemint.com

··································· his shouldn’t be happening. We shouldn’t be here at the Bharti headquarters in New Delhi’s lush Vasant Kunj area, discussing telecommunications with Sunil Bharti Mittal. Not in 2010. For, if he had stuck to his original plan—and he is a big one for planning ahead—Mittal should have retired from telecom. Instead, Mittal, 52-going-on-53 (but a very fit one at that; he runs, he says, and watches what he eats), is in the fight of his life, although you won’t hear him say it. Bharti Airtel Ltd, the telecom company that is part of the conglomerate he heads, has just completed an expensive African acquisition, paid a further `15,609.82 crore in fees to the Union government in return for radio waves that will allow it to offer third generation telecom and broadband wireless services, and seen a rival with tremendous money and lobbying power, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), make a re-entry into the telecom space. Mittal’s full-stop-at-50 plan was public knowledge. It was never clear what he would do, but it was evident that it would be in the public policy space. Even an entry into politics couldn’t be ruled out. His father, the late Satpal Mittal, was a Congress party loyalist who gave his sons the middle name Bharti (from Bharat, the Hindi name for India) to indicate their Indianness. Few people doubted Mittal’s resolve because his ability to plan ahead and his certitude about the next step are well known. As far back as 2004-05, he was talking about an African acquisition. It took him till 2010 to make one, but not for want of trying. Manoj Kohli, the head of Bharti Airtel’s international operations, has known Mittal since 1995 and worked for him since 2002 and he says this vision thing, the ability to plan ahead—audaciously ahead—and follow through is at the core of Mittal’s personality. It’s also one of the constants about the man. There are others as well. Rain or shine, Mittal’s disposition is always sunny. He is always immaculately turned out; he is usually dressed in sharp suits, sharper shoes, crisp (so crisp they sometimes crackle) shirts, and contrasting ties. He never speaks about his personal life (and wife Nyna, while no recluse, keeps a much lower profile than other CEO Wags). He never talks the competition down. Or up. He rarely forgets people. In the 1990s, he used to visit Delhi’s Sanchar Bhavan where the department of telecommunications is located. This is what any telecom entrepreneur who wanted to get things done did. But Mittal still remembers and is remembered by the then-mid-

T

VIPIN KUMAR/HINDUSTAN TIMES

THIS CHAIRMAN PLANNED HIS RETIREMENT. BUT 15 YEARS AFTER TAKING ON THE BIG DADDYS AND EMERGING AS THE SOLE SURVIVOR OF THE FIRST TELECOM RUSH, HE IS NOT YET READY TO RELAX

level, now senior-level bureaucrats at the department. So, if almost three years after his original deadline, Mittal is still running the business, coping with unfriendly competition, unsympathetic regulations, a lot of debt, and a worthy rival, there is at least one person who doesn’t think there’s anything unusual about this.

Clear vision The way Mittal sees it, he doesn’t really run the company. Sanjay Kapoor runs local operations and Kohli, international operations. And finance, an important function in telcos, is headed by long-time confidant Akhil Gupta. “The line of escalation is very clear,” says Mittal, explaining that there are very few things on which he is required to weigh in. “Very few things go to him,” echoes Kohli, who spoke to this writer over phone from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, and a stop on his second whirlwind tour of the 15 African countries where Bharti now has a footprint. Kohli, who ran all mobile operations of Airtel until recently—the company didn’t have much of a global footprint till it took over the African operations of the Zain group—joined Bharti in 2002, but has known Mittal since 1995. When he joined Bharti, the company had around two million mobile subscribers. At the end of June, it had 137 million. Much of that growth, he adds, wouldn’t have been possible if only a few people had been making decisions. Only critical issues related to strategy, regulation or the company’s reputation go all the way up to Mittal, says Kohli. Still, Mittal does admit that he is more in the “business and commercial” than in the “public policy” space. He attributes this to the absence of something really attractive to do in the public policy space. “You must do what is available to you,” he says. And he also attributes this to the business challenges Bharti faces, in telecommunications and other businesses in which the group has interests. One such challenge is the amount of debt on Bharti’s books, around $12.5 billion (around `57,800 crore).

On a safari Mittal is not worried by the debt he has taken on to expand his business. The way he sees it, the company’s interest payout on the $7.5 billion debt it has taken to fund the acquisition of Zain’s African operation is a mere $200 million a year. From his point of view, “for $200 million we have Africa”, and not just any presence in Africa but a “big start”. Spread across 15 countries, Zain’s African operations serve 42 million customers and ended last year with $4 billion in revenue. The Indian debt, taken on to fund the acquisition of spectrum for third generation and wireless broadband services, is also small compared with the company’s operating profit, says Mittal. Bharti ended 2009-10 with `9,981 crore in operating profit. Bharti

SANJIT DAS/BLOOMBERG

says that his debt burden is thus around 2.75-2.8 times his annual operating profit. He contends that is not outrageously high “because there are many companies in India who have a ratio of 4:1”. Although he concedes that the analysts initially disagreed with his assessment, he says most of them have since come around to his point of view. Mittal says that’s because Bharti had very little debt (also known as leverage) on its books before its Zain acquisition. Analysts typically look at the debt on a company’s books in relation to its shareholders’ funds to gauge whether the debt taken is within reasonable limits. This is called the debtequity ratio. “Bharti before Zain was absolutely deleveraged. A net debt to equity of 2.5 is comfortable. Anything above this is uncomfortable. With 2.8, they are just above—on the edge. We don’t like companies that have a debtequity ratio of 3 or more,” says Rajiv Sharma, analyst with HSBC Securities and Capital Markets (India) Pvt. Ltd. Some of the worries about Bharti are reflected in the market’s treatment of Bharti’s stock. At the `320 levels at which it was trading in July, the stock is well off its 52-week high of `467, although it has recovered from its November lows of `229. Still, Mittal isn’t worried about this simply because it is a place in which he and Bharti have found themselves before. In the early 2000s, soon after his company made an initial share sale, the stock dropped from the issue price of `45 to the low 20s. The market value of the company

THE NUMBERS GAME

Five figures that made a difference to Mittal’s life and career

23

The number he is superstitious about. He was born on 23 October 1957, and got married on a 23rd too.

` 20,000 The money he borrowed to turn entrepreneur (he manufactured bicycle crankshafts) in 1976.

100 million

The number of customers Bharti Airtel crossed in March. It was the first company to do so in India and it became the third largest single country mobile services oper­ ator in the world.

500

The number of ‘Satya Bharati’ free education schools that his philanthropic project, Bharti Foundation, aims to open throughout India. As of June, there are 236 in five states.

` 100 crore The estimated cost of an ambitious foot­ ball academy set up by Bharti in associa­ tion with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to train an Indian team that can qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Shauvik Ghosh & Krish Raghav

isn’t something that senior executives at Bharti worry about, says Mittal. As for regulations and RIL’s entry, Mittal says there is little he can do about it. “There were 14 players; now there will be 15,” he says of the latter. Whispers in Delhi would suggest that Mittal himself is no slouch when it comes to lobbying, but the last favourable policy decision that went Bharti Airtel’s way was in 1999, 12 years ago, when India allowed telecom companies to move from a fixed-fee regime to a revenue-sharing one—a move that, in hindsight, may have marked the beginning of the country’s famed telecom boom. This seemingly philosophical acceptance of things as they are may actually originate from Bharti’s enduring success. Of the eight companies originally given mobile telephony licences in the country (RPG Enterprises, SkyCell Digital, Max Telecom, BPL Telecom, Bharti, Sterling Communications, Usha Martin and Modi Telstra), Bharti is the only one whose ownership hasn’t changed. And when Bharti entered the business, Mittal was a nobody, competing with the likes of the Ruias, Goenkas and Modis. Bharti is expected to end 2010-11 with consolidated revenue (including those of the Zain operations) of `55,800 crore. The story of how a one-time bicycle parts and gelatin capsule manufacturer entered the business of tele-

phones (an encounter with the thennovel-in-India push button phones while on a foreign trip), and subsequently the business of mobile telephony is well chronicled. What hasn’t been written about though is the story of how Mittal did this—a journey that illustrates just what makes him one of the country’s most successful businessmen. For much of its early and growth years, Bharti was run by a small group of individuals. It wasn’t till the early 2000s that Mittal really started speaking about building an organization. Through those years, Mittal kept the start-up team together. Convinced that he and his managers knew nothing about telecom, Mittal partnered with some of the world’s best firms. Telecom Italia, BT and SingTel, have all been, or continue to be, partners. And he and Gupta managed to raise money at the most effective rates, helping it roll out its operations at a reasonably low cost. In the 2000s, after the company listed on the stock exchanges, he realized that he had an opportunity to become what he once described to this writer as a “once-in-a-generation” company. Mittal’s logic was that once in a while, a company would emerge on the Indian landscape that would change things. In the 1980s, it was Reliance. In the 1990s, Infosys. And in the 2000s, he wanted Bharti to be it. But he didn’t stop at building an organization. Much like Reliance changed the face of refining through

backward and forward integration (the famous field-to-pump strategy) and Infosys with its global delivery model (where engineers in India worked on projects elsewhere), Bharti outsourced its IT as well as the creation and management of its telecom networks, in deals that are still considered revolutionary in the global telecommunications industry. Bharti effectively became a financing and marketing company. Not all of this was done without help, from partners such as BT and Telecom Italia, financers such as Warburg Pincus, and strategic investors such as SingTel. Warburg’s investment in Bharti—a little short of $300 million over two years starting 1999—was done at the behest of Pulak Prasad, one of the private equity firm’s fund managers. By 2005, the firm had exited the investment. Its total profit—$1.3 billion. It was one of the earliest success stories in the private equity business in India and made Prasad an urban legend. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, now a member of Parliament, was Mittal’s peer then and the two were considered Indian telecom’s Gemini twins, and once even appeared on the cover of a business magazine in dark suits and dark glasses, much like MIB. Since then, Chandrashekar has changed orbit; he has sold his telecom business, gotten elected to the Upper House of Parliament, and become an urban activist back home in Bangalore. For some time in 2007, it looked like Mittal would follow a similar route.

To­do list That year, Mittal became head of the most powerful Indian business lobby, the Confederation of Indian Industry, travelled around the world, and was one of the moving forces behind India@60, an effort to showcase India to the US. Nandan Nilekani, one of the co-founders of Infosys and now the head of the Unique Identification Authority of India, was also involved in organizing the event. Since then, Nilekani has written a book, entered the domain of public policy, and gotten involved with the government. Mittal, inexplicably, has gone back to business. Only, if you listen to him, it wasn’t all that inexplicable because there were several loose ends. Some of those loose ends, or new ones that have made an appearance since, are still around. Mittal rattles them off; clearly, they would seem to be part of some mental to-do list in which he has to check the boxes before moving on: the African acquisition, which will need a few years to stabilize; and new businesses where the company has to decide whether it wants to stay invested, or exit. The new businesses include financial services (and Mittal is categorical that Bharti will not apply for a banking licence though the synergies between telecom and banking are well known), retail, food, software and realty. Three of these, finance, food, and retail, are businesses Bharti Enterprises, the holding company, entered

RAJESH KASHYAP/HINDUSTAN TIMES

with the “serious intent of creating large businesses”, says Mittal. The finance business, a partnership with AXA, is doing well but can move faster, he adds, but the other two, the foods one, which is a partnership with Del Monte, and retail (a partnership with Wal-Mart) are “work in progress”. There’s also the Bharti Foundation, which builds schools, and provides uniforms, books, and food to students. It currently covers 30,000 children across 236 schools and Mittal wants to increase that number to 100,000 students. Still, despite his obvious passion about the foundation’s work, Mittal may not be happy looking at just that. He doesn’t rule out an entry in the public policy area, but is also honest enough to admit that three years from now, he may have found a new business to get obsessive about. It is true, he admits, that between 2007 and now, he is back “more in the commercial space and the foundation space rather than the public policy space” and that this is “clearly by design”. Mittal pauses as if to think, his eyes looking out through the plate-glass windows of the ground floor meeting room in the Bharti HQ. It is July, the sky is grey, and it’s probably wet and muggy outside although it is cool and nice in the meeting room. Mittal shifts to get into a slightly more comfortable position on the sofa and breaks his reverie. “People like us can never relax.” Shauvik Ghosh contributed to this story.

At the helm: (clockwise from top) Mittal in the cockpit of a Royal Air Force Red Arrows Hawk in November 2007 in Delhi; the telecom czar and his wife Nyna keep their private lives strictly private; and colleagues say Mittal’s vision of planning ahead is at the heart of his success.


L12

www.livemint.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 2010

Travel

LOUNGE Ancient art: (extreme left) A Mayan statue at the main temple of Chichén Itzá.

CHICHÉN ITZÁ

Snake in the grass PHOTOGRAPHS

HIGH­FIVE

BY

THINKSTOCK

Discover the specialities of an ancient Mayan structure—its sound design, musical stones and a serpent that lurks in the shadows B Y J AYATI V ORA ···························· he bodies of buildings are buried here,” our guide Jaime said, pointing to the partly excavated pyramids at the foot of the great Kukulcán pyramid. One of the seven wonders of the modern world, the limestone structure looms at the centre of the vast public ground in Chichén Itzá, the ancient Mayan city in the heartland of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. The steps leading up to the two-storey temple are carved with geometrical precision, but the fearsome sculptures of the god Kukulcán infuse the pyramid with energy and life.

T

Despite the smaller pyramids and other structures along the edges of the grass-covered field, we had eyes only for this one. In the mid-morning sun, with only a handful of tourists to disrupt our reverie, we couldn’t have been the first to imagine ourselves back in the time when this awe-inspiring structure was first built, on the backs of older buildings interred in the ground. For a moment, I wished I were an archaeologist, sent here to discover a whole new city. So much in our world seems documented and studied—what would it feel like to be the first to stumble upon the remnants of an ancient

TRIP PLANNER/CHICHÉN ITZÁ US Cancun

MEXICO Pa c ifi c O cea n

Gulf of Mex i co

Playa del Carmen Yucatan Cozumel

Mexico City

Flights from India to Cancun, the most convenient international airport in the Yucatan, are ridiculously expensive, roughly $2,000 (around R93,800) or more. It makes sense to club a trip to Cancun with one to the US. From New York (R47,000 return from Mumbai or New Delhi on Jet Airways), a non-stop, round-trip ticket to Cancun costs around R17,000 with Taca Airlines. From Cancun, rent a car (make sure to also buy a map) and drive 3 hours to Chichén Itzá or an hour down to Playa del Carmen, the beach town where you can catch the hour-long ferry to take you across to Cozumel. There are also affordable luxury buses from the airport to Chichén Itzá and Playa del Carmen. A bus trip from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen costs 106 pesos (around R390) per person.

Stay

Do

We stayed at Mayaland Hotel and Bungalows (www.mayaland.com/mayaland.php), a convenient 2-minute walk from the entrance to the ruins. Rooms are from $100-300. Take your meals in the nearby Hacienda Chichen Resort (www.haciendachichen.com), minutes away. Make reservations for dinner, however, especially if you want to sit out on the romantic balcony. The food at Hacienda is excellent, from its delicious ‘poc chuc’, a local speciality of barbecued pork, to the chicken breast stuffed with vegetables. Hire a guide. This is essential. There are plaques with historical information around the city, but very few, and you will miss a lot if you don’t have a guide showing you around. Your hotel concierge will be able to arrange one for you. Go early in the morning if you can, to beat the crowds and the heat: The ruins open at 8am. Make sure you keep your wristband and entry pass, so you can go back before sunset if you are lucky enough to catch the sunlit serpent on the Kukulcán pyramid. Also, if you have the band and the ticket, you won’t have to pay for the sound and light show at night. Make sure you go at least 10-15 minutes before the show to get a good seat. Visit Cozumel, off the Yucatan peninsula, one of the best diving and snorkelling destinations in the world. The variety of marine life and the clarity of the waters have to be seen to be believed. GRAPHIC

BY

AHMED RAZA KHAN/MINT

civilization and search for its secrets? It was a feeling that came over me more than once as Jaime led us on a tour of Chichén Itzá, once a powerful Mayan (and later Toltec) centre. For around 3,000 years, the Maya spread over Guatemala, the Honduras, Belize and the Yucatan peninsula. It was only with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century that the Yucatan empire collapsed and the cities were abandoned. The name Chichén Itzá (literally, “at the mouth of the Itzá well”) comes from the Itzá tribe of Mayans who settled here and the natural wells, or cenotes, which supplied its water and formed the religious and cultural centre of Mayan life. Jaime walked us around the Kukulcán pyramid, named for the plumed serpent god worshipped by the Maya—also known as Quetzalcoatl—whose carvings were everywhere, and slowly, some of its secrets were revealed to us. A feat of acoustical engineering, the pyramid is designed so that a clap from any of its four corners rebounds off the surrounding buildings and echoes all around the ground. A speaker addressing a public meeting would not have needed a mic. But clapping right in front of the stairs produces a different sound altogether, somewhere between the chirping of a bird and a cat whose tail has just been stepped on. That’s because the sound bounces off each individual step before coming back to you. We walked around the pyramid, clapping delightedly. But the pyramid’s marvellous design doesn’t stop there. Twice a year, during the equinox (the next one is on 23 September), a giant serpent emerges at the Kukulcán pyramid of Chichén

away, a human skull carved out of quartz was unearthed). As we walked down the dusty white roads that connected the different public areas of the city, we got several holas but, surprisFavourite expression ingly, a few namastes as well Una cerveza fria, por favor! from vendors hawking cheap (One cold beer, please!) souvenirs. And we gawked at the giant ball field, the bigMust try gest in Mexico, where even Tacos from a street stall the sporting events took on Best drink: Margarita, Michelada religious significance. In a (beer prepared Mexican­style) basketball-like game, two stone rings perpendicular to What to buy the ground were fitted into A colourful shawl, Tequila Reposado two facing walls; apparently, or Tequila Añejo players attempted to throw the ball through the ring. The What to avoid teams represented light and American college students on shade, and the victory of one spring break in Cancun over another was an omen for the success of their crops the folFavourite sport lowing year. Fútbol “Sometimes,” Jaime said, “someone from the losing team was”—and then he drew his finger across his throat in a telling gesCarved: (above, left) Skull ture. Fountains of blood arcing carvings; and crumbling from a severed neck are carved in statues dot the ancient the walls, and where they landed, city’s landscape. a new tree flourished in stone. Blood offerings apparently ensure fertility of the earth (references to human sacrifice were everywhere, structure in Chichén Itzá. Spanish from the wall of skulls—carved, for snail, El Caracol was named thankfully, not fossilized—to the for the interior staircase that spi- various sacrificial sites to the statrals upward like a snail’s shell. uary with crevices perfectly sized The windows are thought to facili- to hold a human heart). tate the tracking of the movement In another spot, we noticed sevof the sun and the moon. It could eral large, smooth, oblong stones. have been the precursor to the For years, their purpose remained fabulous instruments of Jantar a mystery. It took a bored young Mantar, Jaipur’s ode to astron- boy to discover that pebbles omy. The celestial bodies obvi- chucked against the stones proously fascinated our ancestors duced musical sounds, a total of across cultures. five different notes. Partly from For 3 hours, we wandered this discovery, it was surmised around the limited spaces open to that the pyramid where the stones the public. Only part of the city were found must have been used has been excavated; the digging for entertainment (it was also a happens in fits and starts, as and site for human sacrifice). when the government finds After a sweaty few hours, we money for it. All the private resi- walked back to a cold shower, dences are off-limits. If everything catching a glimpse of the obserwere open for viewing, it would vatory framed in the arched cover 2.5 sq. miles. doorway of our hotel lobby. “Not much has changed since Slightly indistinct in the glare of the Mayan time,” Jaime told us the sun, it looked as though we with a wry smile. “Even then, the were not only looking at it over a most powerful people were the long patch of scrub, but also priests, merchants, warriors, wiz- through time, through a distance ards and politicians—same as of thousands and thousands of today.” The elite lived in the years. From the quiet lobby, innermost circle, closest to the where we walked across the colpublic buildings in the town cen- ourful, hand-painted tile floor, tre. The powerless and the poor cocooned in delicious shade, were consigned to the farthest Chichén Itzá looked remote, reaches of Chichén Itzá—the first another world in another time. to die in an attack. Jaime showed us the older Write to lounge@livemint.com structures, where the architecture and carvings were more ornate, CHILD­FRIENDLY RATING untouched by the later Toltec civilization. We rested near the cenote from whose waters, we were told, human skeletons and Children above the age of 10 will other offerings had been removed love the ruins and the stories if they (from another cenote not far are up to the long walks.

Itzá: The interplay of sunlight and shadow causes a narrow pattern of light to ascend one face of the pyramid to the top, and then a strip of shade moves down the adjoining face. The light shifts approximately every 4.5 minutes so that, to an observer, it actually looks like a snake slithering up and down the stairs. This phenomenon is visible before sunset for 15 days before the equinox and 15 days after, though never as clearly as on the day. The Maya were also great believers in the importance of celestial precision. The steps on all four sides of the pyramid add up to 365. The nine platforms are bisected by the stairway, which make 18—the number of months in a Mayan calendar. And the 52 different surfaces correspond to the number of years in a Mayan century. Another interesting example of their interest in astronomical observation is the observatory, or El Caracol, the only rounded


TRAVEL L13

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 2010 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

BIKING

Meet the eco­friendly pedal pushers COURTESY RAJESH KALRA

Adventure on two wheels comes of age in India. Get high on this ‘spiritual’ experience B Y R UDRANEIL S ENGUPTA rudraneil.s@livemint.com

···························· alvika Jain got “married” on the road, slept on a highway, and saw an Eskimo in Pune. All this because one day, two years ago, she got a link in her mailbox inviting her on a mountain-biking trip through Ladakh. She didn’t know it then, but it was the beginning of an obsession. “I’m an atheist, but going through the Ladakh moonscape on a bicycle was a spiritual experience,” Jain says, “On just the second day of the trip, we were among such high mountain peaks that the only thing we interacted with was the vast sky. There was no one around us. We stopped our bikes wherever we felt like and napped on the roadside like desert reptiles.” By the time she was back from the

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RUDRANEIL SENGUPTA/MINT

trip, Jain knew mountain biking had taken a firm grip on her, and she wasted no time in getting herself a proper bike. At 23, Jain is one of the growing numbers of biking enthusiasts in India who get their kicks travelling on pedal power, covering little-known trails and routes throughout the country. “Sometimes cycling can be hypnotic,” she says, “I wake up in the morning and see visions of wheels running in front of me.” In the last two years, Jain has made a 900km trip through the Nilgiris, a 200km trip through the Western Ghats (where she was so tired she thought she saw an Eskimo on the road, before flopping down and sleeping on the highway), and innumerable trails in the Aravalli hills around Delhi. “The Nilgiris had some beautiful downhill runs,” Jain says, “they were so hard core that we had to stop every half an hour to cool down our tires. We threw water on the rims and watched it sizzle! We went through a tiger reserve, natural sanctuaries, dams, tea plantations. On the way, a small party o f l o c a l s stopped and garlanded me, followed by a round of applause, smiles, and flying kisses all around. According to Easy rider: Jain gets her thrills on chal­ lenging trails.

RUDRANEIL SENGUPTA/MINT

my friends, that was my ‘marriage’ ceremony!” The BSA Tour of Nilgiris, organized by the Bangalore-based RideACycle Foundation, is a good indicator of just how popular biking has become in India. “When we started in 2008, 48 people registered for the tour,” says Ravi Ranjan, founding member of RideACycle. “In 2009, we got 350 entrants, but could only accommodate 70. This year, we are expecting over 1,000 applications.” Ranjan, a 33-year-old engineer, started trail and mountain biking in 2004. “I knew only four or five other people who were riding back then,” he says. “Now, biking is so big in Bangalore that there’s a bicycle championship held every week, and between 80-100 participants turn up for it.” With numerous trail-biking clubs scattered around the city, Bangalore has a vibrant biking scene, with bikers heading for the Nilgiris, Coorg or Ooty. Shubham Basu, a former investment banker in New York, was on the lookout for just such a group in Delhi when he found Pedal Yatris, a group founded by Rajesh Kalra, a senior journalist based in New Delhi. “Every weekend, I go out

FOOT NOTES | SUMANA MUKHERJEE

Be a sport Watch the final of the National Rugby League in Sydney, or is the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix more your style?

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t’s a tough choice, because online travel Ezeego1.com offers both these upcoming sporting spectacles in tempting packages. For the National Rugby League (NRL) final on 3 October, the three-day/ two-night tour price is `34,105 per person on a twin-sharing

basis, inclusive of five-star accommodation, a category 1 reserved seat at the ANZ Stadium, entry to the NRL Grand Final cruise (inclusive of a cruise from King Street Wharf to Homebush Wharf), return transfers between the wharf and the stadium, barbecue on deck inclusive of beer, wine and soft

drinks, booking fees and ticket-handling charges and all transfers. Add to that return airfares of `47,432 per person. The Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix, to be held in Kuala Lumpur on 8-10 October, is a five-night/four-day package that costs `53,883 per person on a twin-sharing basis. It includes stay in a five-star hotel, the Friday night opening party with return transfers, two-day tickets for the main grandstand in the stadium, return airport transfers, booking fees and ticket-handling charges. Return airfares are around `17,984 per person. To book, call 18002090800, 09867565900 or log on to www.ezeego1.com TIMOTHY BURGESS/SDP PHOTO

Wheeled in: (above) A biker tackles the Leh­Pangong Tso route; and Shubham Basu with his favourite bike.

ahead of the times, because adventure tour operators in the Himalayas are increasingly adding trail biking to their mix. “Mountain biking can be a calm, beautiful experience; travelling at a slow pace to really feel the scenic beauty,” says Basu. “But I love the adrenalin rush of a downhill run. You are on a rocky surface and there are trees and boulders everywhere, so a fall is guaranteed to hurt. It needs a very high level of focus, very quick and sure decision making—and that’s what I love most.” Basu gets a dose of that adrenalin every weekend courtesy Pedal

Yatris. In 2008, Kalra joined an offroad biking group in Delhi, but soon found it too amateur for his tastes. So a few months later, with the help of a couple of friends, Kalra started his own trail-biking group—and the response was immediate. “On any given day, we are rejecting more people than we admit,” Kalra says. “People are interested just because of the seriousness with which we do it. We ride every morning, and on weekends we do challenging trails, we explore, we do recces after identifying trails on Google Earth. Some of our members can fix punctures faster than any cycle mechanic!” Kalra feels that biking is an addiction; in 2008, he was riding on the perfect asphalt around India Gate; by May 2009, he was doing one of the toughest mountain-biking trails in the world— Leh to Pangong Tso. “You stay fit. You help the environment. You don’t need to spend on fuel—it’s fantastic,” Kalra says.

igeonholed as a pilgrimage destination, Orissa hasn’t really got its due from the tourist trade. While basic accommodation was always aplenty, there Crafted: The Konark Temple. were few upmarket stay options. Now, the Lake, appliqué work heaven Mumbai-based Kamat Group Pipli, Ashokan rock edicts site of Hotels makes it easy to visit Dhauligiri, Jain rock temple the coastal state’s own Golden clusters Udaygiri and Triangle: Puri, Bhubaneswar Khandagiri and the sprawling and Konark. The Nandankanan zoo. Besides, five-night/six-day Essence of should you be so inclined, Odisha package covers visits you can also stop at the to Unesco crafts village Jagannath Temple. The first Raghurajpur, the Konark Sun two nights are spent at the Temple, the Irrawaddy Fort Mahodadhi Hotel, an dolphin’s Indian home Chilika erstwhile summer palace

located bang on Puri’s beautiful beach. On the third night, you’ll be in Konark, cooling your heels at the Lotus Eco Resort on Ramchandi beach, located at the confluence of the Kusabhadra river and the Bay of Bengal. The last two nights are spent at VITS Bhubaneswar (www.vitsbhubaneswar. com). On a half-board basis, the package costs `27,999 per person, inclusive of airport transfers, sightseeing in air-conditioned vehicles, breakfast and dinner. It does not include entry fees to various heritage sites or guide fees. Valid till 10 October, the package may be booked by calling Sanjib K. Pattanaik on 06752-220440/220880, 09437090006 or 09090093455.

with Pedal Yatris to do trail biking around the Aravallis,” says Basu. “We go through little villages, ashrams, broken roads—all hidden away in the lush green forested area.” The 31-year-old management consultant came back to India in 1997 looking to break away from his 9-5 banking job, and went headlong into adventure. “I started working with Great Indian Outdoors and introduced mountain biking,” Basu says. “We explored and mapped a lot of new trails in Uttarakhand—but there weren’t too many takers back then.” Basu feels that he was just a bit

Eye on Orissa P

Go sailing T

House full: The National Rugby League final in Sydney is one of Australia’s biggest sporting events.

alk about cruise control. AMAWaterways, a European river cruise operator, has just the deal for fence-sitters and procrastinators, in which companions travel absolutely free, with the exception of port charges of $133, or around `6,240 (you read that right: no hidden catches here). Choose from four seven-night cruises: from Trier to Amsterdam (departing 19 November; from $1,999), from Budapest to Nuremberg (departing 26 October, 1 November and 22

Cruise control: Take a boat trip around mainland Europe this winter. November; from $1,999), from Trier to Nuremberg with two nights in Prague (departing 31 October and 7 November; from $2,099) and from Vilshofen to Budapest (15 November) or the

other way around (31 October, 1 November, 21 November; from $1,999). Remember this: Cruises need to be booked by 31 August. Write to lounge@livemint.com


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SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 2010

Books

LOUNGE

EXCERPT

Romance in San Francisco THINKSTOCK

Gouri Dange’s ‘The Counsel of Strangers’ maps the lives of six people who meet at a wedding. One of them finds love at 73

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found myself lying, yes barefaced lying, to my own daughter so smoothly the next morning. “Dad it’s Saturday morning, where are you off to?” she asked. “Those Brahmakumari people visit the old on the third Saturday; they’re coming to see you.” I first spoke the truth, and then told the lie. “Please, beta, it’s very late for me to be saved by any Brahmos.” I stopped myself in time from calling them ‘Brahmos Missiles’ (that’s India’s supersonic cruise missile; we made it with the Russians). My daughter had once rapped me on the knuckles for that joke. Now I could hear the edge in her voice: “This is not the Christian church—they’re not ‘saving’ anyone, Dad. I wish you would listen. It’s just part of their outreach to the Hindu community here, dad.” “Well then I want to stay out of their reach,” I said, still trying to laugh my way out of this. Then came my lie, delivered so glibly, I was ashamed and impressed at the same time with myself: “And anyway, I have decided to walk in the Golden Gate Park today. One of your friends told me that some Japanese people practise their Taiko drums in the Park on Saturdays.” I used to play the tabla till quite recently, and I am quite a fan of that Shivamani percussionist chap, so this was a plausible story, that I wanted to go see the Japanese drummers in the Golden Gate Park. My daughter gave an I-give-up sigh. Really, why couldn’t I, like the other Indian Pas and Mas here, get religious and ritualistic in my old age, the sigh implied. Then she spotted me putting granola bars and yoghurt into my bag, and said: “There is Lonavala chikki and Chitale’s bakarwadi, Dad. Take that.” “I hate that stuff,” I said with uncalled for vehemence, I realised, as soon as the words came out of my mouth. My daughter gave me a quizzical look. My son-in-law looked

up from his paper and said mildly —“Real Amru you’re becoming Dad, preferring granola bars over chikki.” I s m i l e d a n d s tepped out quickly. We Indians ask each other too many questions. And the elderly are not supposed to have any privacy at all. She runs lightly up the BART station steps. Today there is no laptop. There is a big portfolio bag strapped across her shoulders. She wears light blue jeans and a neat, loose beige shirt with the face of a Scots Terrier embroidered above the left pocket; walking shoes. On the train, with the whole day in front of us, we don’t speak at all. The urgency to make the best of the train journey is suddenly taken away. And I may have missed it a little, except that the anticipation of our day together, the Park that I was eager to walk in, and the prospect of watching the Taiko players (I wasn’t lying fully to my daughter, I did want to see them) made up for it completely. And that sitting silently on the train together, today side-by-side, both of us suppressing smiles, caught up in some kind of secret, is something that no one can take away from me ever. Whatever did or did not happen later. I really didn’t know right then whether Netra was as taken up by

The Counsel of Strangers: Omo Books, 169 pages, `250.

City of dreams: Wing Commander Brahme’s love story is set in San Francisco, where his daughter lives. the moment as I was. For me, even getting off at the station together was a sign of a certain ‘us’ness that I had missed for a while in my life and had not hoped to find again. And I said to myself, easy, soldier. But I need not have. She too was happy, excited, almost childlike. The two of us stride purposefully towards the Park. She must be about 5 feet 6, as I said, or a little taller. I am 5 feet 11 in my socks, and not yet bent, as you can see. I notice that the top of her head comes somewhere a little above my shoulder. When we get to a spot that we like, she spreads out a sheet on the cool green grass and lays out our picnic menu. Ham and lettuce sandwiches, asparagus soup in a flask, and some liqueur chocolate, yoghurt and granola bars. In the portfolio bag, she has brought with her everything that is precious to her to show me, she says. As she sits cross-legged on the sheet, I notice parrot green socks; she is firmly in picnic mode. I’ve only seen her in work clothes up until today. Today her hair is not tied back neatly. It is bunched up loosely and held against her head at the back in a big oval piece of curved and carved Indian leather, with a stick going through it. A couple of strands of

it are loose. Even in this casual dress she is neat, fresh. Her skin is a rich honey brown colour, under the California sky. You wonder how a man, and an old one at that, noticed and recalls so much? About that day, I could tell you in the minutest of detail. Ask me the colour of the thermos flask, and I will be able to tell you. We start on the sandwiches. “Not samosas, but they’ll do, I say”. She eats slowly, neatly; I wolf down her sandwiches in 4 bites each. It is the first time that we are watching each other eat, and we are both a little self-conscious. She then begins to take things out of her portfolio—a few photographs, a tiny silver pendant in which there is a lock of her son’s baby hair in a ribbon, from almost 30 years ago; along with it a curved nail from the claw of a recently departed old dog. I laugh when I see this, and it seems the easiest thing, under the California sky, to lean across and caress her face. She holds my hand in place and the large brown eyes look at mine —“Ulhas,” she says, my name, a very slight question in the way she says the word. My now old-fashioned first name on her lips comes out so gentle, more like a breath let out slow. It says so much, I feel enveloped in her. Up until now she’s

always murmured a pretend-formal ‘Wing Commander Brahme’ or ‘sir’ or the more teasing Ezra or Ezra Pound. Today the word Ulhas changes us. We sit silently for I don’t know how long. Then she takes out the last of her ‘show and tell’ things. It is her ‘hobby that now pays serious money sometimes’, she tells me. They are medium-sized paintings. What she has brought to show me are colour copies. The originals she has given to those who commissioned them. At first glance they look like Indian miniature paintings. Groups of people standing on elevated platforms, a wedding in progress. Or just a couple seated on the Indian version of a loveseat, surrounded by fruiting and flowering trees, a few deer, birds. Some are groups of women playing on rope swings hung from a banyan tree. When you looked closely, they weren’t just figures—they had faces with recognizable features; some wore Indian clothes, and some even wore dresses and jeans and skirts or suits and wedding gowns I saw. Some of the romantic or dancing couples were old, greying, blond, brunette. The detail was amazing—from the clothes and footwear and faces and hair to the foliage, the butterflies and the

details of the metal railings or the ornate seats. In some, instead of deer and peacocks, there were much-loved family dogs and cats and babies worked into the picture. The borders were worked in gold paint. The faces and clothes she got from photographs of the occasion that was celebrated in the painting. I was gob-smacked by the planning, the sheer hard work in the execution, and the originality of the idea. The titles of the paintings, worked into a design at the bottom, stamped these pictures with the quirky Tri-netra touch. Erinn, Pushing Eighteen said one—which showed a pool party, the birthday girl standing regally in a sari on a diving board—her friends below, some in the pool, some outside, dressed like gopis. Her parents stand behind, about to push her off the board. Another one was Ed romances Frances—50 golden ones. The couple wear formal Western clothes, but are exchanging heavy Indian flower garlands under a parijatak tree in full bloom. Friends and family stand in Namaste poses. A third showed a bunch of boys, lolling about on mattresses, Indian-style. Food and wine everywhere. A nautch girl dances in the centre. It was a pre-wedding bachelor bash. The title: Zakk’s Last Hurrah. They were amusing, audacious, sentimental and beautiful, all rolled into one. A lot like the artist herself, I thought, not out loud, only to myself. There were many more, of people’s favourite dogs and cats and horses and grannies and engagements and christenings and weddings and graduations. Her signature was a small brown eye at the right of each painting—a ‘netra’. I looked at each one carefully, slowly, as she watched amused and pleased at my interest; sometimes she would lean over and explain the context, the occasion, the people. Lounge columnist Gouri Dange is the author of The ABCs of Parenting. Renuka Shahane and Denzil Smith will read from The Counsel of Strangers on 26 August at Crossword Bookstore, Linking Road, Bandra, Mumbai. Write to lounge@livemint.com

INJUSTICE | DANIEL DORLING

Poetic justice An angry look at the presence of injustice—and why its elimination will improve our lives B Y D IVYA G UHA divya.g@livemint.com

···························· njustice: Why Social Inequality Persists is a book-long inquiry into the attitudes that refuse to let injustice go away. In what is a very original, angry and at times selfindulgent expose from a lifelong UK Labour Party supporter, some stark truths are revealed about how the privileged carry on believing in the five notions that perpetuate injustice: Elitism is efficient; exclusion is necessary;

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prejudice is natural; greed is good; and despair is inevitable. Author and social commentator Daniel Dorling identifies these as having replaced the five social evils—squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease—identified by British wartime economist and reformer William Beveridge. He also puts forward the fairly obvious idea that the privileged in unequal societies see inequality and the suffering which arises from it as self-perpetuating, and then conveniently become blind to it. However, what stands out about Dorling’s arguments is that he sees this lack of fully considered thought or action to be as much at fault as the lack of any real policy intervention. Over the course of 320 pages, it is our laissez-faire attitudes that bear the brunt of Dorling’s criti-

cism. He shows us how irresponsible our beliefs are: whether it is the belief that children who go to Britain’s public schools are brighter (elitism); that the poor are those who are unable or unwilling to try hard enough (exclusion); that it is right for the wealthy to hand material and social advantages down to their children because they deserve it more than poorer children (prejudice); that it is normal to live your life with debt and that riches are achieved by those who are somehow superior and possess extraordinary vigour, not an advanced lack of scruples (greed); that the human condition is such that we cannot be happy unless we consume more and more and then confuse these wants with needs (despair). This work could be called timely considering a Conservative-led government recently came to power in the UK. As Dorling has always believed, New Labour was just conserva-

Injustice: Policy Press, 387 pages, `1,500. tism in a new chamber pot. He assembles some remarkable statistics to show that inequality in Britain is as harsh as it was when Dickens was writing Hard Times in the Victorian era. And given that a substantial number of Delhi’s and Mumbai’s citizens live in slums, we cannot say we have

no lessons to learn from the West. As India’s economy grows, and if inequality is allowed to grow unchecked, we could quite feasibly end up in the sort of situation Dickens wrote about. We may think we’re avoiding some pain—or guilt, or a feeling of powerlessness to help. Dorling suggests the opposite is true, and draws upon multiple studies and statistics that prove wealthy nations are not becoming happier as they get richer. Our exposure or proximity to injustice actually makes us less healthy—both physically and mentally. He cites the spike in depression levels among teenagers across the developed world in the 1990s as wealth disparity grew—those old enough will remember the anthem for that generation, Kurt Cobain’s song Lithium. In addition, many diseases which afflict the rich (but not the rich alone), such as cancer, could by Dorling’s reckoning be dramatically reduced, or even

made curable, if everyone had an equal shot at education. As such Injustice seeks to shock us into feeling that there has never been a better time for fairer income distribution in richer societies. He points out that the world’s population has peaked and will begin to drop in our lifetime—one of the many interesting facts that he uses to support his view. It is perhaps a natural consequence of this that Dorling slips into pontification at times, which can grate. At other times it can sound like a shameless plug for the ideology of the (old) Labour Party, now long dead. However, while the course of action he offers is certainly potted with ethical conundrums, it is a change of attitude he seeks first and foremost. Injustice does not provide all the answers, but it does suggest we could spend more time seeking them—to that extent the sermon is a welcome one.


BOOKS L15

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SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 2010 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

THE FLAMING FEET AND OTHER ESSAYS | DR NAGARAJ

CULT FICTION

R. SUKUMAR

Encounter of the titans HINDUSTAN TIMES

What happens when BR Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi look down from heaven? Two brilliantly imagined soliloquies

B Y C HANDRAHAS C HOUDHURY ···························· wo voices suddenly pipe up midway through The Flaming Feet, D.R. Nagaraj’s book of essays on the Dalit movement, and they turn out to be those of the principal protagonists of the book: B.R. Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi. For once, we see them not spoken about, but speaking in their own voices, as if restored to life. It is 1997, the 50th anniversary of India’s independence—an independence about which both men were, from the very beginning and for different reasons, sceptical. Ambedkar and Gandhi occupy adjoining rooms in heaven, and look down somewhat disconsolately on an India that has moved on. Ambedkar speaks of his immense antipathy to religious superstition and myth-making, and acknowledges that “my intimate enemy, that Gujarati Bania Mr. Gandhi, also does not like these things”, even if Gandhi is always seen as a man of religion. Gandhi, meanwhile, is found contemplating “how Hind Swaraj would be if my nextdoor neighbour, the learned Babasaheb, had written it”, and thinks that Ambedkar, a trained economist and the quintessential rationalist, would have found an enormous array of statistics to improve the argument. Nagaraj, a great lover of fiction and its ability to tell the truth about the world even more powerfully than reasoned argument or autobiographical testimony— unusually for an analyst of politics and society, his work is full of references to Indian novels—is found here taking the fiction writer’s licence to compose “two imaginary soliloquies”. Perhaps no one in the pantheon of Indian intellectuals has earned this right more than he. Although clearly written from a Dalit perspective,

THE BIG DEAL ABOUT ‘RED’

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Father figure: Gandhi differed from Ambedkar in his ideas for the development of Dalits. Nagaraj’s essays repeatedly dramatized the epic clash between the two titans over the nature of a 20th century India that would finally grant Dalits a life of dignity and self-respect. For Gandhi, this could happen only if high-caste Hindus examined their consciences, took account of the historic wrongs committed against Dalits, and experienced “a conversion of the heart” that made them redress these injustices. Gandhi’s method seemed idealistic yet practical, trying somehow to identify “simultaneously both with caste Hindu society and the untouchable” so as not to lose one or the other. Nagaraj grants that this was an enormous step forward, but remains sharply critical of it. He

The Flaming Feet and Other Essays: Permanent Black, 254 pages, `595.

holds that the Gandhian project had no real role for untouchables themselves, once again making them spectators to history in a drama in which high castes were the chief protagonists, experiencing the guilt of a tragic hero and acting upon it. The Gandhian appellation for Dalits—“Harijan”, or the child of God—is not so much a generous as a patronizing one. In contrast to Gandhi���s language of conscience (what Nagaraj calls the mode of self-purification), Ambedkar spoke the language of rights and of political agitation (or the mode of self-respect). While Gandhi wished to bind Hindu society into a refashioned whole, Ambedkar’s vision was of a complete break with Hindu society and all its encrusted modes of viewing the masses on its margins. Ambedkar wanted the Dalit to stop being a subject in history and start becoming an agent, thereby “eliminating dependence on mercy and benevolence”. The modern systems of democracy, rights, political suffrage and the nation state allowed Dalits all this, while the traditional village panchayat never had. This bifurcation in views set up one of the pivotal clashes of modern Indian history: the disagreement in 1933 between Gandhi and Ambedkar over the issue of separate electorates for untouchables, which Ambedkar desired deeply. By launching a fast unto death in Yerawada jail over this issue, Gandhi forced Ambedkar’s

hand, and had his own way. But even if Gandhi won the immediate battle, the larger war over the next eight decades for the Dalit view of self and the world has been won by Ambedkar, whose vision of aggressive self-mobilization and minoritization has found a variety of expressions in Indian politics and public life, especially since the 1970s. But, Nagaraj acknowledges, even if Dalits have won themselves new rights and greater security, especially from uppercaste violence, the result is not so much a rapprochement but rather a kind of detente. The structure of caste society remains basically unchanged from the top, and the peace achieved is a fragile one—it needs a dose of Gandhi to convert it into something more meaningful. In this way, as the scholar Ashis Nandy remarks in a short foreword, Nagaraj attempts heroically to reconcile Ambedkar and Gandhi. This posthumously published book, the only one written by Nagaraj, is a memorable examination of the Dalit encounter with history and modernity, rage and healing. Chandrahas Choudhury is the author of Arzee the Dwarf. Write to lounge@livemint.com IN SIX WORDS Gandhi, Ambedkar in their own words

ollywood’s latest marketing gimmick would appear to be making movies featuring yesterday’s (or the day before’s) action heroes. The Expendables is clearly an example of one such movie, although I must confess that I believe Jason Statham to be the best-big-thing-who-will-probably-never-be in action movies. Red, which should release in India soon, looks like a movie in the same mould. It has an all-star cast of Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker and Richard Dreyfuss. Yet, it’s different: Red’s cast features relatively older actors because it is a movie about relatively older people. Willis plays Frank Moses, a CIA black-ops operative who is now retired and leading a fairly ordinary existence till the agency, or at least a group of people within it decide to kill him. So he assembles his old team (Mirren, Malkovich, Freeman) and decides to get to the bottom of it. I am yet to see the movie but I am sure lots of blood and gore are in store. That isn’t just a hunch. Red is actually based on a mini comic book series authored by Warren Ellis (think Transmetropolitan, featuring that most Gonzo of Gonzo journalists, Spider Jerusalem). It tells the story of Paul Moses, a retired black-ops operative who changes his status to “red” from “green” after the agency orders a hit on him. What follows is an exceptionally fast-paced and bloody comic book featuring some very graphic acts of violence (a doff of the hat to Cully Hamner, the illustrator). I read Red a few years ago and loved it, but I’d decided that it was one of those good comic books that would probably never get its due (like Sleeper or Human Target, although the second did spawn a TV series).

On the trail: Paul Moses, a retired ops operative, is the hero of Red. That should change now. The movie will probably kindle some interest in the book, although I have no illusions—action movies based on comic books are rarely true to the original and, still worse, invariably have happy endings. Red’s ensemble cast is further proof of that. The perils of making a shoot ’em up thriller are well known—most notably from the critical as well as box-office performance of a film of the same name (Shoot ’Em Up, starring Clive Owen, another underrated action hero who, like Willis, appears in the Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez movie Sin City). Still, I do hope Red’s makers took a closer look at the book before deciding to call for reinforcements in terms of characters written into the screenplay. The book features a tight plot, some very stylized violence, and only one of the characters, minor or major, appearing in it (apart from the group of soldiers who presumably kill Moses in the end) survives. I was always a sucker for books with no loose ends. R. Sukumar is editor, Mint. Write to him at cultfiction@livemint.com

THE READING ROOM

TABISH KHAIR

THE UNTOLD DELHI Voice to the Indian Mahmood Farooqui is known as a theatre personality and a scholar whose translations have enabled William Dalrymple’s popular and excellent history books. In the freshly released Besieged: Voices from Delhi, he gives us a series of selections from different sources that not only put the 1857 “mutiny”/ “war of independence” in context but also give greater voice to Indians than has often been the case in the past. Memories, and accounts, of 1857 vary: There were accounts of atrocities and heroism on and by both sides. However, by and large, the dominant (British-inspired) perspective is that of a doomed uprising of “sepoys”, reluctantly led by an aged Mughal emperor who was a prisoner in his own palace. There are some elements of

truth in this version. But the accounts in Farooqui’s book reveal a greater complexity: For instance, it becomes evident that an extraordinary effort was launched by Bahadur Shah Zafar to fight the British. Thousands of labourers and tonnes of materials were mobilized, funds were gathered, the police monitored food prices and a functioning bureaucracy was vigilantly maintained—right until the city’s fall. There were prescient attempts to prevent Hindu-Muslim conflict (which was being anticipated by the British) by banning the slaughter of cows, etc. Farooqui’s translations from the Persian and Urdu include such fascinating pieces as the constitution of the Court of Mutineers, letters from soldiers threatening to leave Delhi if they were not paid their salaries,

the limits of its own generic conventions; genre fiction does so. That is why Philip K. Dick and Walter Mosley did not write “pulp”; sci-fi or crime fiction; they wrote genre fiction. Amid the weeds of pulpy repetitions, there always bloom the flowers of genre fiction.

complaints by citizens about unruly soldiers, and reports of courtesans, spies, faqirs, merchants, volunteers and harassed policemen. The book brings forth the rich vibrancy and complexity of the historical event, mostly in the words of ordinary men and women.

Dishoom­dishoom

Pulp fiction I was recently interviewed by a journalist who was unhappy at what he saw as the tendency of Indian editors to promote pulp fiction in English. He correctly noted, as I have also pointed out elsewhere, that the recent surge of English-language pulp fiction in India blinds us to the fact that other Indian languages have more interesting histories in the area. Some of it has been made available to readers in English, as in the two-volume The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction by Blaft.

Pop reads: Delhi’s history and Bollywood. What do we make of this boom, if there is one, of pulp fiction in English? Put simply, the boom relates not just to the increasing commercialization of the book trade but also, more interestingly, the growing confidence of the Indian middle class. This means that the Indian middle class is no longer hides its crassness behind pulp fiction authored by

seemingly prestigious British and American names. On the other side, a thin line divides pulp fiction from genre fiction. And while pulp fiction can be dismissed, genre fiction deserves the attention of every serious writer. What, you may ask, is the difference between pulp fiction and genre fiction? At its simplest, pulp fiction does not challenge or explore

Much though I dislike the term and its hegemony, one has to concede that the rise of interest in Bollywood has also led to some good studies of Indian films. A new one is Valentina Vitali’s Hindi Action Cinema: Industries, Narratives, Bodies. This is serious, useful stuff about the world of dishoom-dishoom and main tera khoon pee jaoonga. Tabish Khair is an Indian writer based in Denmark. His latest novel is The Thing about Thugs. Write to Tabish at readingroom@livemint.com


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Culture

LOUNGE PHOTOGRAPHS

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

The iconoclasts The lives and works of Saadat Hasan Manto and Ismat Chugtai will be revisited by Gulzar, Javed Akhtar and others

B Y S HREYA R AY shreya.r@livemint.com

···························· aadat Hasan Manto once said of his contemporary fellow writer Ismat Chugtai, “If Ismat had been a man she would have been me and if I had been a woman, I would have been Ismat.” While their style and language were vastly different—Manto’s was the “tell it as it is” genre stories in his upfront Punjabi Urdu, and Chugtai, a master of subtlety, in her idiomatic and delicate Lucknavi Urdu—Manto, as usual, had hit the nail on the head. Both were strong, politically charged voices of the 1940s-1950s; both were progressive and modernist, and yet refused to be bracketed into any one category—they loved their freedom too much. Both wrote short stories, essays, and screenplays; both wrote about Partition, communal tension and sexuality. And both faced obscenity trials because, in essence, both laughed at the establishment. Out loud. As the country completes its 63rd year of independence, the literary community, fittingly, pays tribute to two of the greatest proponents of freedom and free speech in Indian literature. The two-day celebration, called Ismat and Manto: Life, Times and Legacy, will open later this month with writer-poets Gulzar, Javed Akhtar and Padma Sachdev discussing the works of the two stal-

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Chugtai asked the court what in “collecting ‘aashiqs’” was obscene. “Collecting or ‘aashiqs’?”

Unafraid: Manto (above) considered Chugtai (right) his alter ego, while Haider called her ‘Lady Changez’. warts, and sharing personal anecdotes about them. There will also be a screening of the film Ismat and Annie (2008), directed by Juhi Sinha, on the rivalry between Chugtai and her contemporary, Qurratulain Haider (Annie), followed by a discussion (Lady Changez Khan was the name Annie had given Chugtai, and Chugtai reciprocated generously by calling her Pompom Darling). The idea, says publisher Urvashi Butalia, who is helping organize the event, is to discuss issues of censorship, sexuality and Partition through the prism of their lives, times and works. They stood up long ago against “the kind of paranoia our society has come to represent,” she says. Sukrita Paul Kumar, who edited Ismat: Her Life, Her Times (2000), a collection of writings on Chug-

tai, and is one of the organizers of the event, says both writers “defied the established notions of content and form in their writing”. Chugtai, for instance, started writing at a time when the main writing available for Indian Muslim women was a two-volume novel called Goodar ka Laal (1905) penned by one Walida Afzaal Ali, or “mother of Afzaal Ali”—as a woman, the author could not publish under her own name. The novel is full of cultural descriptions and ceremonies and was a popular wedding gift to women. Other novels around this time, written mostly by men, stressed on norms of behaviour for “good Muslim women”. Then, in 1941, Chugtai wrote Lihaaf, about a bored and sexually deprived begum and her friendship with her maid Rabbo, and

the image of the “rocking lihaaf” (quilt) caused a furore. Everyone assumed that the book was written by a man. “Chugtai wrote about female sexuality and lesbianism using the Begumati zubaan, which was very strictly the voice of women, typical to the Muslim women in Lucknow. She brought out the language in all its gossip, colour, idiomatic expression,” says Gulzar, who recalls being a nervous and awkward junior writer when Chugtai congratulated him for the film Parichay, which he directed in 1972. “She went into the inner courtyard and brought out issues that weren’t in the domain of high literature,” says Kumar. Manto too broke new ground with his collection of short stories Siyah Hashiye (Black Margins), in which he evolved a new style of

writing. “Each story is a separate stand-alone paragraph, which are also knit together,” says Gulzar. Manto wrote about anti-imperialism (his one-sided correspondence with the American president, whom he refers to as “Chachaji”, are wildly funny), communalism (in his short story Toba Tek Singh, a scathing satire on the “madness” of Partition) and prostitution. “He’s one of the first writers who gave dignity to the prostitute. And there is no pity in his writing. He brings out the real human beings, in the raw,” Gulzar adds. “What surfaces in their work is the use of humour and comic as subversion,” says author Namita Gokhale, one of the organizers. Of course, before they could laugh too hard, they were asked to shut up. Manto faced five obscenity trials and Chugtai, one—for Lihaaf. However, even the Crown’s summons weren’t enough to keep them down and the court trial transcripts, often wildly funny, show their fearlessness. As Chugtai recalls in Kaghazi hai Pairahan (her essay on the Lihaaf trial where she and Manto both had received court summons from Lahore), Manto, charged in one of the trials for using the word ‘bosom’, asks the court, “What else did you expect me to call a woman’s breasts—peanuts?” Chugtai, on her part, asked which part of the phrase “collecting aashiqs”, was obscene. “Collecting or aashiqs?” “We need to go back to them and learn our lessons and exercise our freedom of speech and mind,” says Kumar. At the moment, Chugtai and Manto, although taught in the Delhi University’s English honours class, don’t quite command a big readership. “They’re not cool in that sense,” says Gokhale. “Yet, how cool they are.” Ismat and Manto: Life, Times and Legacy will be held on 27-28 August at the India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi. For details, log on to www.habitatworld.com PRIYANKA PARASHAR/MINT

Weaving art with charity People for Animals is ready with another innovative fund­raiser, this time with carpets B Y A NINDITA G HOSE anindita.g@livemint.com

···························· ven a trained eye would find it hard to decipher the brushstrokes in S.H. Raza’s iconic painting, the 1995 Bindu. A 6x6ft woven rendition of the work captures the master’s marks using differently coloured yarn—so nuanced, despite its scale, that you might still miss it. Later this month, works by around 20 artists and designers—including Raza, M.F. Husain and Jehangir Sabavala and younger, cutting-edge fashion designers and artists such as Manish Arora and Thukral & Tagra—will share a massive exhibition space. The works will be available in two sizes, 6x6ft and 5x7ft. The exhibition is a fund-raiser for the animal welfare organization People for Animals (PFA). Spearheaded by member of Parliament and animal-rights activist Maneka Gandhi, this will be

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yet another in the line of PFA’s innovative charities: The artworks will be available in the form of handwoven carpets, their sizes being offset by a relatively modest price range of `35,000-5 lakh. The carpets are currently hung in two gallery spaces at the Sunil Sethi Design Alliance in Delhi, where they’re being sorted and catalogued in preparation for the show. They’ve been created by traditional weavers from Varanasi and Panipat but come with a certificate of authenticity from the artists, who have sanctioned their translations from canvas to pure wool. So true is the likeness that they look like two-dimensional paintings from one end of the gallery. It is only when one comes closer that one can feel the richness of the wool, the mottled texture and fine play of dye. Gandhi started collecting art at the age of 18 and has been using her art acumen to raise money for PFA since 1987, when she

organized their first art exhibition. Over the years, she has raised money for PFA through the sale of studio pottery, Raja Ravi Varma oleographs, tiles from old havelis and gem-encrusted paintings of Shrinathji. She got in touch with Sunil Sethi about a year ago when she began to muse over the possibility of “art carpets”—Sethi is not only the president of the Fashion Design Council of India, but has around 22 years of experience in the Indian carpet industry. The money raised from the sale of these signed limited-edition carpets (20 of each artist except Husain; 10 of his will be on sale) will be used to complete a special animal hospital that is already under construction in Yusuf Sarai, New Delhi. With 26 under their belt, and two more under way, PFA presently has the largest network of animal hospitals and rescue centres in Asia. Gandhi says the transition from canvas to carpet didn’t come about easily. After having collected works by artists who shared their work on a pro-bono basis, she realized a lot of wonderful artwork simply wouldn’t

Out of the box: Sethi (left) and Gandhi with some of the carpets that will go on sale. translate to wool. “The weavers had a very strong say in what artworks we finally chose to work with,” she says, adding that the weavers were apprehensive at first too. “Carpet weavers across the world are largely used to working with traditional colours and motifs. Some of what we showed them was totally bizarre for their tastes but a sense of adventure prevailed and they agreed to take

these on,” says Gandhi. Sethi, who is supervising the manufacturing of the carpets, says each design went through about four rounds of rejection to achieve the sophistication of the originals. The exhibition is a motley round-up of classic art as well as quirky design, such as Arora’s fuchsia and bottle-green designs and the 35-year-old artist Farhad Hussain’s eclectic visions. None

of the designs have explicit animal motifs, except one by Hussain. “Even if people are passionate about animals, nobody wants a dog on their living room wall,” Gandhi explains. Fly your Own Carpet to your Walls will run from 27-29 August at The Lalit New Delhi, Barakhamba Avenue. Visit http:// event.peopleforanimalsindia.org/ to view and pre-order carpets.


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PHOTOGRAPHY

MUSIC MATTERS

On the double

SHUBHA MUDGAL

THE STAMP OF GENIUS PHOTOGRAPHS

COURTESY

KETAKI SHETH/PHOTOINK

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The striking quality of Ketaki Sheth’s portrayal of Patel twins from India and the UK: an amplified humanity

B Y H IMANSHU B HAGAT himanshu.b@livemint.com

···························· wins are not uncommon, but they are still fascinating. Our own fascination is apparent to us when we look at photographs of twins. If the subjects were singletons would we care to look at their photos with the same interest? Ketaki Sheth’s portraits of identical twins in Twinspotting underscore this ordinary-extraordinary duality, holding our gaze as we look at photos of regular folks—men, women and children—posing with their carbon copies. There is a further focus to the works in that all the subjects here belong to the Hindu Patel farmer community hailing from the Charotar region of Gujarat. The subjects can be divided into two categories— those who emigrated to the UK and those who are still in Charotar. It is this last distinction that is obvious when we look at the photographs—the show could just as well have been called “Indian twins and NRI twins”. While their caste, regional roots and individual stories provide a context to the viewer, these attributes do not inform the images themselves. Sheth says over email that the project of photographing Patel twins took shape at a dinner party in Kent in England in 1995 where the host showed her phone directories of Patels residing in the UK. “I saw a lot of double birth dates within families and saw the opportunity for photographs,” she says. “I thought of Diane Arbus’ classic image and got inspired. I did not have a plan. It just happened.” The fact that she is a Gujarati herself and married to a Patel helped. The result was a book of portraits of identical twins and some triplets titled Twinspotting that came out in 1999. Given the growing interest in photography in India and the availability of better infrastructure, Sheth has decided to hold a new show of a selection of photos featured in the book. The particulars of the subjects, such as caste, region and personal history, draw us and provide a narrative structure to these por-

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Twosome: (above) Ramesh and Suresh, Wembley, UK, 1997; and Yesha and Niddhi, Piplav, Gujarat, 1998.

traits, but what we take away after seeing them is universal—we share in the humanity of the people photographed and the fact that there are two of them in each frame amplifies these feelings. One of the twins in the famous Arbus image Sheth refers to is smiling while the other has a halffrown, but the twins in Sheth’s images wear identical expres-

sions. The teenage brothers posing in front of the shop against a backdrop of liquor bottles strike a confident, slightly cocky pose; the teenage rural Indian brothers, leaning against a charpoy, have similar restrained and reticent expressions. This sameness lends a blandness to the images but it is an authentic, everyday sort of blandness that makes the subjects

more real and brings the viewer closer to them. For drama, there are the ministories that accompany the pictures—Sheth mentions Ramesh and Suresh, who had to flee Uganda to England, where they painstakingly established a shop, only to see it destroyed in a fire and be saddled with a loss of £300,000 (around `2.19 crore). “By the time I photographed them, they had set up shop again, were optimistic and lively as ever and had no trace of bitterness,” she says. For Sheth the main difference between shooting in India and England was in the quality of light. “In the UK, I photographed in the four seasons and in the magical summer late evenings,” she says. In India, the light is “bleached and non-changing”, so she preferred to shoot in the early morning and early evening light. Twinspotting will be on view at the Photoink gallery, Jhandewalan, New Delhi, from 23 August-16 October. For details, log on to www.photoink.net

here are many ways to gauge the importance and significance of music and the arts in society. The most obvious way would, of course, be to examine actual genres and forms of music and their exponents; their popularity or lack of it; as well as their stature within the nation’s culture. More oblique, but equally effective ways could include looking at advertisements for concerts and cultural events in print and electronic media, billboards and hoardings, as also postage stamps issued by the postal services of a country. With many of us turning to email, it is easy to discount postage stamps in this day and age. Yet millions continue to use them all over India as well as overseas. What is printed on postage stamps, then, makes for fascinating study material because, in a sense, that tiny piece of specially printed and designed paper becomes a representative of the issuing country—its beliefs, culture and society. It is in this context that I recently spoke with my colleague Sudhir Nayak, the well-known harmonium player who is also a philatelist and who, with characteristic humility, insists that he isn’t a serious enough collector to be counted as a serious philatelist. Nevertheless, I remain indebted to him for his inputs and generosity in sharing information about his personal stamp collection. Since postal services fall under the purview of the government of India, it would be safe to assume that the inclusion of music-related themes and the depiction of Indian music on postage stamps bears the sanction of the government. Happily, Indian music has found representation on both definitive stamps (printed in enormous quantities for day-to-day use in several denominations and for unlimited tenures of use), as well as on limited-edition commemorative stamps which are issued to pay homage to a specific event or individual. Eminent musicians have time and again been featured on Indian postage stamps, including the legendary Tansen in whose honour the department of posts issued a commemorative stamp in association with the Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1986. Several other luminaries from the world of HINDUSTAN TIMES Indian music have been honoured and immortalized on postage stamps, including Master Deenanath Mangeshkar (issued in 1993), Ustad Allauddin Khan Sahib (1999, as part of the Modern Masters of Indian Classical Music series), Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan (2000), Begum Akhtar (1994), Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (2003), Musiri Subramania Iyer (1999, also as part of the Modern Masters series) and V. Lakshminarayana (2004). The department of posts has also issued definitive stamps on Indian Deserved: A stamp honours Tansen. musical instruments. In fact, between 1970 and 2001, commemorative stamps honouring great composers of Western art music such as Beethoven, Bach, Chopin and Schubert were issued, and a unique single stamp to pay tribute to Handel and Bach to mark the 300th birth anniversaries of these two great composers was issued in 1985. I find this fascinating as it indicates India’s acknowledgement of Western music, and a mark of its willingness to pay tribute to excellence in the arts without restricting itself to political or geographical boundaries. What a contrast to the oft-repeated whine about pashchimi sabhyataa (Western culture) corrupting and contaminating the thinking of our young minds. It is folk music that seems to have been left out in the cold. While there is a postage-stamp series depicting tribal dances, and another three-stamp series on the Sangeet Natak Akademi that makes a token reference to folk music, dance and theatrical forms, individuals and personalities from the field of folk music do not seem to merit the issuing of postage stamps. Or perhaps folk music and folk musicians do not have benefactors and patrons with enough political clout to get them due recognition by the department of posts. It’s high time music lovers put their best foot forward to ask the department of posts to issue a series of stamps on the theme of folk music, its great exponents and their specializations. Write to Shubha at musicmatters@livemint.com

MUSIC REVIEW | ENDHIRAN

Sounds of an epic Rajinikanth’s grand new film’s music feels the part, but does little else B Y K RISH R AGHAV krish.r@livemint.com

···························· he biggest problem with the music for Endhiran (Robot) is that the people responsible for it took the title way too seriously. Endhiran is the upcoming Rajinikanth and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan starring assault on the senses, directed as it is by S. Shankar, whose talent for visual extravagance makes him the point person for Tamil cinema’s most expensive films.

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This unfortunately makes the soundtrack, composed by A.R. Rahman, feel like it’s playing second fiddle to Shankar’s on-screen dabbling in wildly exotic locales and flamboyant set pieces. While Rahman’s musical flourishes appear occasionally, he also seems to take the easy way out—choosing to couch the science fiction theme of the film in generic 1990s dance-pop and vocoders set at maximum. Opening track Pudhiya Manithan takes a brief detour into interesting Kraftwerk-esque minimalism, but quickly devolves into mediocrity, despite S.P. Balasubramaniam’s vocal histrionics. And then there are the lyrics. In the meeting to decide how the lyrics to the Endhiran songs could be made suitably sci-fi (it

had to have been a meeting. I shudder to imagine an actual creative process responsible for this), everyone presumably wrote down all the scientific terms they remembered from the NCERT science textbooks, from which fragments of lyrics were chosen randomly. How else does one explain the arbitrary smattering of “electrons”, “neutrons”, “Newton” and “supersonic” throughout the album, leave alone rapper Yogi B.’s frequent cringe-worthy cries of “R-r-r-r-r-Robo”? The second track Kadhal Anukkal is the album standout—partly because it doesn’t have the blunt “robot” acoustic stamp Rahman beats over most of the other songs, nor the “Rajinikanth” epicness that its accompanying video demands. Anukkal starts with an acoustic guitar that wouldn’t be out of place in a John Mayer song (with hints of Rahman’s brilliant, minimalist Vellai

Two stars: A still from Endhiran. Pookal from 2002’s Kannathil Muthamittal). A gentle string section rises and falls between verses, and Rahman even throws in a bagpipe-led interlude. Coming right at the centre of the album is the two-and-a-half minute Chitti Dance Showcase. It’s rather appropriately named, as it appears to be a schizophrenic

sonic frenzy of crunchy guitar riffs, pounding percussion and jathis. It’s quite brilliant, but its merit as a stand-alone song is debatable. Kilimanjaro and Arima Arima are next, providing the album with the required amount of epic—with trumpets and brass sections aplenty. Where a cinematic string section powers Arima Arima, Kilimanjaro feels like an out-take from Rahman’s work on Raavan, with jungle rhythms and dark percussion. Album closer Boom Boom Robo Da begins awkwardly and never settles, with mandolin riffs, snatches of heavy guitar shredding and a Spanish guitar bridge section. Endhiran is an entertaining album overall, one that feels like the soundtrack to India’s most expensive film. But it does little else musically, and sounds neither as inventive nor as fresh as Sivaji: The Boss, the previous RahmanShankar-Rajinikanth collaboration.


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SHARP IMAGE

CHENNAI KOOTHU | RAHUL JAYARAM

A ballot for love Can love be a political ideology? Yes, say members of the Indian Lovers Party. You may be amused, but in a society where honour killings and the Sri Ram Sene exist, this party is gaining popularity

COURTESY INDIAN LOVERS PARTY

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Kumar Sri Sri, 33 (not to be confused with another Sri Sri), may seem like a hero who has jumped from the story of a mainstream Tamil film into real life. Why? Well, what does one make of a person who runs a political party based on the ideology of love? The man knows a thing or two about the four-letter word. And he is the head of an outfit called the Indian Lovers Party (ILP). The ILP is a registered political party headquartered in Chennai, which runs on the ideology of the right to love and marry anyone one wants. Its members, growing in number by the day, help distressed couples, counsel prejudiced families about inter-caste or inter-class marriages and help married couples with their problems. Sri Sri claims the party, formed two years ago, now has 100,000 members. What is drawing thousands of people to this party, hinged on a seemingly ludicrous political agenda? Sri Sri’s initiative comes within a context where an emotion such as love, or a display of it, can evoke violent reactions from politicallyaffiliated organizations. It is after all a society where honour killings exist—and are justified. “I sometimes wonder if we, as citizens, are really free. I sometimes think this country is not even a democracy,” says Sri Sri. “I formed this party as a reaction against what is going on in Indian society. When you have parties like the Sri Ram Sene blackening the faces of young couples and anti-Valentine’s Day parties Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena going against (the) principles of humanism, what hopes do young people have? But more than them, I’m even more disappointed by the bigger parties (the Congress and the BJP). How can they allow criminals in the Ram Sene or Shiv Sena to hurt innocent people? These parties are against the principles of love. By tolerating them, these big parties are against the principles of love and humanism,” he adds. Sri Sri launched the party on 14 February 2008 in Chennai with the purpose of helping

people in love. “All the lovers of the world unite” is one bullet-point on his home page explaining the party agenda. The party’s logo has a sketch of the Taj Mahal within a heart shape, with an arrow impaling the heart. On the left, the logo has the party’s initials—ILP. Surf further and you will find innumerable images of Sri Sri posing with his hands locked in a namaste, and in white clothes, like the ubiquitous Indian neta. “People make fun of me and my party, but I don’t care,” says Sri Sri, who plans to contest state elections next year—and, if all goes according to the power of love, the Lok Sabha poll in 2014. “Nobody knows what all I’m doing and the people whom we have helped.” The party has offices in Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Kochi, Madurai and some districts in Tamil Nadu. Mention Sri Sri’s name to members of the party and you open the floodgates of praise. “There was no one like him, is no one like him, and will never be anyone like him,” says Jagannathan, 32, a party member who goes by one name. “He is the only person to have thought of the condition of the youth of this country.” You have to wait for minutes to get a word in edgeways. The ILP tries to help couples whose parents or families are against their marriage. First, it tries to convince itself of their commitment to each other, then it tries to negotiate with their parents.

Love rules: (from top) ILP workers (standing, from left) Venkatesh, Kishore Kumar and party founder Sri Sri on Marina Beach; Srinivasan and Lakshmi, who got married in Chennai with the party’s help; and the ILP logo. In February last year, for instance, Sri Sri helped G. Srinivasan, 22, a shopkeeper in Chennai’s T. Nagar, marry N. Lakshmi, 20. Srinivasan sought Sri Sri’s help because Lakshmi’s family was opposing the match. Sri Sri talked to the couple, asking them a series of questions—were they sure the relationship would last, what were their plans, where would they stay, how much would they be willing to compromise? He even spoke to their friends, or “witnesses”. Convinced, Sri Sri then spoke to the parents. In time, they agreed to the marriage. The ILP has a hotline number and members try to sensitize people to issues such as dowry harassment and abuse from in-laws. To check violence, party members sometimes work in tandem with the police. Sri Sri hasn’t had to deal with any cases of same-sex love yet. But, he says, “People must have the right to choose their partners—even if it is of the same gender. If any such couple does (approach us), we will decide as per the specifics of the case.” When the party was formed, Tamil Nadu chief minister M.

Karunanidhi was so impressed with the concept that he announced that people who had love marriages would get ration cards in a record 16 days. The roots of the concept lie in Sri Sri’s own experience. Raised in Nalgonda, Andhra Pradesh, Sri Sri came to Chennai in 1989 as a teenager. He fell in love with a Tamil girl, his neighbour’s daughter. Both families opposed the match, with his own family baying for his blood back in Andhra Pradesh. The relationship continued through the years, however, surviving the sort of drama that goes into a Mani Ratnam film (no surprises: Sri Sri worked as a make-up artiste in the Tamil film industry in Chennai). His father wanted him to marry within his Kamma community—the family was assured of `5 lakh in dowry. But Sri Sri eventually married his sweetheart at the Vadapalani Dandayudhapani Temple in Chennai in 2000. He has two sons now. “All that experience and difficulty led me to think deeply about the cracks and disunity in our society,” says Sri Sri. “In that period, I came across many people who went through heartbreak and pain due to social

norms and wondered if people should undergo all this. I wanted to do something that no one has done: address issues relating to love life through politics.” For all the party’s focus on the youth, Sri Sri’s concerns appear directed towards their elders. “The problem is with the older generation—the parents of youngsters refuse to change according to the times. Even now in Chennai, parents tend to understand marriage in terms of caste, community and money only. Most parents don’t understand their children,” he says. The party conducts social programmes in the city and its outskirts, with talks in schools and colleges about matters of the heart. His party members double up as counsellors. The sessions are forums for people to discuss matters related to love and marriage, marital life and forced compromises. Jagannathan, who has been with the party since its inception, was drawn to it after he lost out in love. “Nobody supports love,” he declares. “When young people in love don’t get emotional support from near and dear ones, they take extreme steps. Slashing wrists, writing love letters in blood and consuming kerosene due to heartbreak, these are all useless things youngsters pick up from movies. We want to stop them from doing it,” he says. Things didn’t work out also for P. Venkatesh, 25, a party member and an executive with Airtel in Chennai. The girl he fell in love with was from a more affluent family than his, and was too scared to fight for the relationship. “I’m sure things could have been different if I had come to Sri Sri sir’s office,” he says. “We have connected with the youth, that is why we have 100,000 members,” he says. I don’t want others to suffer like me. I did not get the correct advice about what to do.” Clearly, whether you find love or not, advice won’t be in short supply at the Indian Lovers Party. Reason enough to fall in love, or reason enough to cast a ballot for love? rahul.j@livemint.com



Lounge for 21 aug 2010