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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vol. 5 No. 4

LOUNGE THE WEEKEND MAGAZINE

INDIA’S

KNOWLEDGE BANKRUPTCY Our policies are based on hearsay or borrowed wisdom. We need knowledge as seen from where we sit in the world. >Page 10

BUSINESS LOUNGE WITH BACARDI INDIA’S MAHESH MADHAVAN >Page 6

THE ETHICAL INVESTOR Will BSE’s Shariah index attract more observant and curious investors? We met the people behind the index to find out >Page 8

POST­COLONIAL FLIGHT

In this sleepy town of Meghalaya, a paper plane can make daring cross­border excursions >Page 12

Anand Rao Patil, a former soldier in the Indian Army, outside the Taj Mahal hotel, Mumbai, a year after the 26/11 attacks.

THE GOOD LIFE

OUR DAILY BREAD

SHOBA NARAYAN

SAMAR HALARNKAR

TO GET ABSTRACT NIRVANA UNDER ART, TRY DOODLING THE RAIN TREE

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ave you Delhiites been going to the India Art Summit? Wish I could. Eighty-four galleries from 20 countries, 570 artists, including several solo shows, an estimated 60,000 visitors, and several interesting speakers, including Anish Kapoor, who is talking with Harvard’s Homi Bhabha at noon today. I would come to Delhi just to hear Kapoor talk about his work. This is an artist at the peak of his prowess—like tennis player Roger Federer in 2007... >Page 4

THE READING ROOM

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afe from the maniacal drivers out to kill someone, I leaned on the counter of the Lusitania Cold Storage in Frazer Town’s Mosque Road and contemplated the surviving glories of my old hometownturned-technopolis. I was on an avenue so shaded by canopies of old rain trees that the sun had not touched the ground here for decades. I was in a traditional yet tolerant area so removed from north India’s aggressive monoculture that even in... >Page 7

TABISH KHAIR

THE ENDURING POWER OF SIX

Works by the Progressives are being shown together for the first time since the 1940s—and they include some unseen gems >Page 16

DON’T MISS

in today’s edition of

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD

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ad Faiz Ahmed Faiz lived on, he would have been exactly a century old this year. He was born in Sialkot in Pakistan, incidentally also the hometown of Muhammad Iqbal, on 13 February 1911. He died in Lahore in 1984. Faiz is known as the unofficial poet laureate of Pakistan. But it is perhaps more accurate to see him not just in the context of the Indian subcontinent, but also that of larger events, such as the Russian revolution of 1917... >Page 15

FILM REVIEW

DHOBI GHAT


HOME PAGE L3

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

SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

FIRST CUT

PRIYA RAMANI

LOUNGE EDITOR

PRIYA RAMANI

JOURNALISM’S REAL WET DREAM

DEPUTY EDITORS

SEEMA CHOWDHRY SANJUKTA SHARMA 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 ©2011 HT Media Ltd All Rights Reserved

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irector Raj Kumar Gupta confessed in an interview that Meera, the television anchor protagonist of No One Killed Jessica, was his ideal of a passionate investigative journalist. The fact that he made her the single, aggressive, bitchy, drivenby-a-good-story star anchor of NDTV in the film, of course, made us believe that Gupta’s journalism wet dream was Barkha Dutt. Gupta has maintained that Jessica is his fictionalized take on the horrific 1999 murder. But Jessica’s few deviations from reality are more irritating inaccuracies or exasperating simplifications than any indication of directorial genius. Gupta took the easy way out when faced with the issue of how he ould represent FILM w the media, which was crucial to the way this story turned out. He distilled all of us into one adrenalin-charged trooper and linked her to an existing television channel— NDTV. In real life, the sting operation that was key to reopening the Jessica murder case (this takes up On the go: most of the second half of the film), was conducted by weekly news magazine Tehelka, and not NDTV. I wish Gupta had done his research and met Harinder Baweja, then Tehelka’s investigations editor, who masterminded that sting. What a guy, I thought when I read Baweja’s riveting post-Babri Masjid expose in India Today magazine in 1993. The Bharatiya Janata Party was then claiming the demolition of the mosque was nothing compared to the 40 temples that had been razed in Kashmir. Ask them for a list, editor Aroon Purie told Baweja, and go see if the temples have actually been destroyed. It was January and snowing in a turbulent Kashmir as Baweja and a photographer trudged from one

inbox

Write to us at lounge@livemint.com CORRUPTION BEGINS AT HOME It is always interesting to read Aakar Patel’s articles, and this has particular reference to his essay on corruption and how religious upbringing influences a person (“The new corruption meter”, 15 January). While religion does play a great role in developing one’s perceptions, the fact remains that corruption, like charity, begins at home. Every time we induce our children to eat food, drink milk or do a particular chore, such as keeping the room clean, and “promise” them a reward (chocolate or a movie or a cricket match ticket), we are inducting them into the art of corrupt practices. Yet we do not want to recognize our action as such. When the boss says, “Get the job done, I don’t care how you do it, or about your excuses,” how do you think the junior does it? Once the job is done and the junior starts getting the reputation as the “fix­all” person, he realizes the art of getting a bit of the pie for himself. Even in countries, such as those in West Asia, where the punishment can be severe, these practices exist. No religion permits this, so the sad conclusion is that it is our moral corruption that leads to this practice and the culture surrounding us greatly influences our behaviour. It will take a long time to eradicate this disease—the only way it can be done is by everyone adhering to the practice of neither giving nor taking a bribe. ANANTHA K. RAMDAS ON THE COVER: PHOTOGRAPH: KUNAL PATIL/HINDUSTAN TIMES

CORRECTIONS & CLARIFICATIONS: In the map of the world accompanying the column, Reply to All, “The new corruption meter”, 15 January, the boundary of India was wrongly represented. It was unintentional. We apologize for the mistake. In the column Piece of Cake, “Are you a ‘locavore’?”, 15 January, the muffins referred to are American­style muffins.

Kargil and the aftermath of the Gujarat riots. She thinks of Kashmir as her second home; after all she has travelled there more than a hundred times. She was once blacklisted and deported from Pakistan; two years ago she visited the headquarters of the Lashkar-e-Taiba…the stories are endless. She was thrown into her first conflict zone in the 1980s when her editor at Probe magazine sent her to cover the death of Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, because she was the only Sikh on the staff. “I had no consciousness of being a Sikh. Religion has never meant anything,” says Baweja for whom the real rush of reporting comes from understanding the psychology and sociology of conflicts. A few years later, because of her Punjab experience, an editor at India Today decided she would be the right person to cover the kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed, the daughter of the then Union home minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, in Kashmir. After Rani Mukerji’s fearless act is far from reality. that, there’s been no looking back. temple to another—and found all of I don’t understand why a filmthem intact. They were nearly kid- maker who spent so many years maknapped by AK-47 wielding men; at ing a film on the Jessica murder case another temple they had to face a mob didn’t google Harinder Baweja. I hope and firing. Hindi film directors who are similarly When I met Baweja a few years inspired by real life do just a little later, he turned out to be a she. A 5ft, more homework. 1-inch she who prefers to be called Of course even The Social Network, Shammy and always wears saris with which swept the Golden Globes earlier sexy, sleeveless blouses in summer this month, tweaked the story of Faceand winter. When the Taliban cap- book and its founder Mark Zuckertured Kabul, Shammy almost travelled berg. As Time magazine said recently there with her sleeveless blouses. about the lead in the film: “This charShammy is also the perfect host and acter bears almost no resemblance to believes her parties are a hit only if the actual Mark Zuckerberg. The realdinner is served after midnight. ity is much more complicated.” In the 25 years that she’s been a Reality is always more complijournalist, Shammy has covered cated…and more interesting. almost every conflict in modern India from Punjab in the 1980s to the war in Write to lounge@livemint.com

LOUNGE REVIEW | BEER CAFÉ,

AMBIENCE MALL, VASANT KUNJ, NEW DELHI

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hat is one of the most irritating things about a drinking gig? Not always that morning-after hangover but when you end up spending more than what you had budgeted for. Nothing brings down a “high” as much as a near-empty wallet or a maxed-out credit card. Now, you have the choice of avoiding this at the Beer Café while you enjoy 32 varieties of international and Indian beers.

The good stuff It’s mandatory at this café to buy a beer card which you can charge up for an amount you want (`50 is the one-time, cardbuying fee, which is refundable). The card is the only currency that the café accepts when you place a food order or when you pour yourself a glass of beer. Yes, we said that right. You can pour yourself a glass of beer straight from the tap. The café has four beer towers and each has two taps—one for Kingfisher (`175 for 330ml) and the other for Hoegaarden (`300 for 330ml). Place your beer card on the tab next to the tower; the screen above it will show you how many litres of which brand you can buy for the money in your card; choose any one of the eight glass styles you like or pick a jug placed next to the towers and pour your beer straight from the tap. If you are undecided about which of the two brands to opt for, you can pour a small amount in a shot glass (all paid for, of course) and try it out. If draught beer is not your style, choose beer bottles from any of these countries: Belgium (Chimay Blue, Red or Triple or Geist Whistling, Leffe Blonde), Germany (Schneider Weisse, Erdinger, Kaiserdom Dark), Ireland (Murphy’s Irish), The Netherlands (Amstel Light) and Japan (Sapporo, Asahi). What makes Beer Café fun is not just the variety of beers, but also that your card can track the amount of beer you have consumed and rank it against that

of other customers. All this information is displayed on the small screens the above beer towers and on a TV screen above the bar. The small-eats section is just that: bite-size portions which make no pretence of being gourmet food. Potato wedges (`150), chicken sausage rolls (`250), mini hot dogs (`250), chilli-garlic cheese toast (`150) make for basic finger foods that you can eat as you guzzle beer. The beer bar is a cheery, bright space—unlike a dimly-lit bar or a pub with loud pulsating music—where you can enjoy a quick drink with children in tow. (Four varieties of non-alcoholic beer, wine and soft drinks are served.) There is a popcornmaker, should you feel like having some free popcorn with your beer.

The not­so­good Beer Café is a small place that can seat about 40 people, with standing room for another 20. Four of the five beer towers have a table attached to them. If the tables is occupied, it is a tad difficult to refill your glass quickly on your own without disturbing those standing at the tables. The TV screens are not very large and with the World Cup round the corner, this could be a negative. Also, there are merits to being served at your table. The café says it’s willing to do that too but it has a small staff dedicated mostly to meeting food orders.

Talk plastic Beer `175 food taxes

bottle prices start at for 330ml, while finger costs upward of `150, extra.

Seema Chowdhry


L4 COLUMNS SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

SHOBA NARAYAN THE GOOD LIFE

To understand abstract art, try doodling

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DIVYA BABU/MINT

ave you Delhiites been going to the India Art Summit? Wish I could. Eighty-four galleries from 20 countries, 570 artists, including several solo shows, an estimated 60,000 visitors, and several

interesting speakers, including Anish Kapoor, who is talking with Harvard’s Homi Bhabha at noon today. I would come to Delhi just to hear Kapoor talk about his work. This is an artist at the peak of his prowess—like tennis player Roger Federer in 2007, singer M.S. Subbulakshmi in 1987, fashion designer Valentino Garavani in 1989, and the world’s best chef, Rene Redzepi of Noma, now. The summit’s director Neha Kirpal has done a nice job, mixing star artists with non-intimidating ones, hoping to draw art collectors as well as novices. Joan Didion famously said we tell ourselves stories in order to live. Ancient cultures made art in order to feel human: Witness the cave paintings of Ajanta, Ellora, Altamira and Lascaux. As civilizations modernized and professions became specialized, the visual arts too became an individual effort, rather than a collective one. The best temples of Asia, such as Angkor Wat, were built by groups of sculptors and builders. The carvers of Hampi were content to remain anonymous because they believed in the higher calling. Their art was a way of connecting them to the divine and they didn’t need individual recognition for their efforts. It is only in the last few centuries of human existence that artistic signatures have gained value. It is only since the 14th century that we really know the names of Vermeer and Caravaggio. Once the market took over from the monarchs who patronized art, the model became more fragmented and some would say, competitive. Artists operating today

are therefore involved in two parallel if contradictory quests. On the one hand, they have to discover their inner voice or the inner truth that infuses their work and makes them distinct from, say, a Cindy Sherman or a Thota Vaikuntam. On the other hand, they have to worry about how the market perceives and changes their work. This tug between inner and outer worlds is the artist’s angst and it is the central obsession in their lives. You want your work to be seen; to sell. But you don’t want the market to pollute and dilute your artistic voice. The artists who conquer this contradiction do so through a combination of talent and serendipity. Kapoor’s distilled site-specific sculptures are ethereal and wonderful. But the fact that the world has woken up to and appreciates his abstract simplicity rather than abstract chaos along the lines of Jackson Pollock helps. Kapoor is more Constantin Brancusi than Alberto Giacometti, but the fact is that Giacometti’s figurative art could have “won” over the current success of abstract art. Kapoor’s flowering of talent came at a serendipitous time and this, I guess, is what our Indian astrologers call destiny. I was a metal sculptor for five years. It was the happiest time of my life. The gift of art is that it allows you to take primordial nameless images that are before words or before music and convert them into something tangible. To beat a sheet of metal into curves; to apply heat and bend it to suit the image in your mind offers the kind of pleasure that words don’t. I gave up art when I began moving from continent to continent but someday I

Pièce de résistance: Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate at Chicago’s Millennium Park. will take it up again. And then I will begin singing again. Metal sings and when you sing to it, it blooms. Those in the art business—curators, auctioneers, historians and gallery owners—work with a contradiction too. On the one hand, they have to work with an elite group of clients who are knowledgeable in the jargon and history of art. Yet, at the same time, they have to make art accessible to the broader public to attract the next generation of art collectors. This is difficult, because if you talk to people who aren’t in the artistic milieu, they find it hard to relate to contemporary art. A tiny percentage of the general public visits art museums or galleries and if you take them into galleries, they often stare at abstract paintings bemusedly and then ask the oft-repeated question, “What does this mean?” The last time I took a group of

schoolchildren into an art museum, an interesting variation of this question came up. There I was, going through my usual spiel about Renoir and Raza, when one kid piped up with the question, “How do I understand this painting?” The painting in question was a beautiful piece of abstract art by Ram Kumar. It was devoid of anything figurative. There were no hooks from reality that the viewer could hang his understanding on. Hence the question: How do I approach this piece of art? How do I get it? I have thought about this question for years and I believe that I have come up with an answer. You want to understand art? Try doodling. When you look at a piece of abstract art and think, “My five-year-old could have done this. And better,” I say to you, “Try it.” Doodling is what we all used to do. It is what kids do before their work

takes shape. When you try to doodle a piece of abstract art, you realize how difficult it is to conceive and make; you realize that you have to make a call as to when it is finished; you realize that it is not so simple to create something “nonsensical”. Carry a sketch pad to the Art Summit. When you stare at a painting that you consider weird, pull out your pad and doodle it. It will not just help you understand art better; it may put you on the road to becoming an artist. Shoba Narayan’s current favourite pieces of art are Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate and Dhananjay Goverdhane’s Village Lady. 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, JANUARY 22, 2011

L5

Parenting CAMPUS

Ragging is not a joke It’s not much of an ice­breaker either. The power dynam­ ics inherent even in non­violent ragging can leave scars

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

···························· n 3 Idiots (2009), Aamir Khan’s character makes a dramatic entry in a scene where he hoodwinks his seniors and escapes being ragged. Around the time the film released, Dadagiri, a reality television show in which four juniors get ragged by seniors, ran for two full seasons on UTV Bindaas, a youth channel. This came with the Darwinian subtext: Whoever survives, wins. Hostel, a film about atrocities

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ARVIND YADAV/HINDUSTAN TIMES

Ritual: A file photo of students ragging freshers at a Delhi college.

related to ragging, directed by Manish Gupta, has just released in theatres. Ragging is often perceived as a cute little joke—something every child needs to go through to toughen up. Instances of students being killed, such as Aman Kachroo—a medical student who died in 2009 in a ragging incident—tend to be thought of as one-off cases. This myth of normalcy is one of the reasons ragging still exists, even in its violent manifestations. Carreen Pakrasi, a Delhibased ophthalmologist whose son will go to college next year, feels it’s all about “kids getting to know each other”. “I went to medical school and was never ragged, and think that as long as it’s not violent or aggressive, normal ragging is fine,” she says. Experts say there is a problem even with the “normal” forms of ragging because they do not offer any choice to the victim. “If we are indeed projecting it as a kind of ‘interaction’ through which the seniors and juniors become friends, I’d like to see an instance when a junior has refused ragging and the meeting ends with them shaking hands and parting as friends,” Harsh Agarwal, co-founder of Coalition to Uproot Ragging from

Education (CURE), said at an anti-ragging round table on 31 December in Delhi. Official/government refusal to acknowledge the scale of the problem and inaction in enforcing the ban on ragging have not helped. Aman’s father Rajendra Kachroo, who runs the anti-ragging foundation Aman, says, “HRD (human resource development) (additional) secretary Sunil Kumar said there is no ragging in our country.” The fact is, in the 2008-09 academic year, 18 lives were lost to ragging (including murders and suicides triggered by it) in the country, and 19 the following year. These are numbers compiled by the non-profit SAVE that works to prevent ragging. A chunk of the cases go unreported, or under different subheads, says SAVE’s Delhi chapter head Ajay Govind. “One ragging-related death at the Officers Training Academy, Chennai, was reported to be a case of ‘suicide caused by severe stomach ache’,” says Govind, whose documentary When Boys Do Cry details torturous accounts of ragging. Govind recounts taking a workshop in October in a Dehradun college where students justified ragging-related deaths: “Only 11 students have

HELP AT HAND A phone app Eyewatch can empower students being ragged While the psychology of ragging and the hierarchy that drives it can take a fair bit of time to get rid of, there is an immediate band­aid solution on offer. Security Watch India, a non­profit organization, has launched a phone application to empower students. This is how the app works: When a student died, but lakhs have been positively moulded. Those 11 must have been weak,” he was told. Engineering graduate Nitin Menon recounts his experience at the Cochin University of Science and Technology. “I was never physically hurt, but mentally, they affect you. They use fear tactics, will catch you in a group and make you do just anything they want. Because I had a neat handwriting, I would spend most nights during my first year writing their assignments,” he says. Ragging, notes Ramjas College hostel warden Tanvir Aeijaz, stems perhaps from the oldest form of hierarchy in society: patriarchy. “Within patriarchy, just like women are subordinated to men, younger (people) are subordinated to their seniors,” he says. Which perhaps explains why ragging victims turn perpetrators within just a year.

feels threatened, he/she presses a designated button on the phone which sends out text messages, emails and phone calls to eight friends/relatives. The phone goes into automatic video mode and the recording is visible to those eight people, as well as to the 24­hour call centre of Security Watch India. The location is also flagged on Google Maps. The service is free and can be downloaded from www.eye­watch.in, but requires a smartphone with a data connection. Bearing that hierarchical framework in mind, Govind’s organization suggests ragging be replaced by another tradition. “Ragging can be replaced by mentoring, which will also foster relationships between juniors and seniors. Only here, seniority will have to be accompanied by responsibility,” he says. Besides a fresh model, what’s needed is a constant deterrent. “Perpetrators must be caught and punished,” says Sameer Parikh, a mental health professional. “Studies prove that fear is a great deterrent.” he says. We also need to change the way we view ragging, says Aeijaz. Parents need to realize that the power dynamics ragging perpetuates can prove dangerous for a child. Hostel released in theatres on Friday.


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SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011

Business Lounge MAHESH MADHAVAN

The many messages in a bottle A deep understand­ ing of the spirits industry drives Bacardi India’s CEO to bigger things— including taking on Old Monk

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

···························· ahesh Madhavan, 48, is the man partly respons ib le f or two o f t he most iconic advertisements in India of the 1990s. In 1994, when he was product manager at spirits firm Diageo (then called IDV), the company aired the famous “looking through the bottle” Smirnoff vodka advertisement. In it, a bored wedding guest sees the

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Spirited: Madhavan’s five­year plan focuses on two key areas— making the business self­sustaining and shifting Bacardi’s communication strategy away from ‘traditional’ media.

world in a new light after peering through a bottle of Smirnoff. Sequins on a woman’s dress come alive and crawl all over. A boisterous and fiercely moustachioed man turns into a walrus. For a country used to alcohol being peddled by dart-throwing men attributing their prowess to Haywards 5000, this was a refreshing revelation. Four years later, as marketing head of rival spirits brand Bacardi, his team announced their entry into India with a message of “sun

and sunshine”. “Nothing is as nice/as finding paradise/and sipping on Bacardi rum,” went the ad’s supremely catchy jingle. Madhavan is a 17-year veteran of the spirits industry. We meet in the afternoon in the lobby of The Taj Mahal Hotel on Mansingh Road in Delhi. Dressed in a crisp suit and looking younger than his age, he arrives right on time. “Shall we order some lunch first and then talk?” he asks, and we adjourn to the nearby Wasabi restaurant. Madhavan is in the mood for food—he’s judging a cocktail competition later in the evening, and is required to down more than 20 drinks one after the other. An eminently suitable end-of-day itinerary item for the CEO of Bacardi in South Asia. Madhavan speaks in a calm, quiet, deadpan manner, dictating the pace of conversation. He also listens intensely. “I try to take away something from every interaction I have,” he says. He started his career as an engineer. His first job in 1985 was at the Mazagon Dock Ltd in Mumbai, where he was part of a team that built offshore oil rigs for Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC). He was paid `700 a month. “I did that for about a year, didn’t like it. So I moved to Tata Electric—working at Trombay.” This was a trying period for Madhavan. His father died in November 1985 and as the eldest son, he had to take important decisions on behalf of the family. “On top of this, I had to work variable shifts—one week it was 6pm-2am, the next it was 10am-6pm.” He remembers having to leave his house in Colaba at 3.30 in the morning to make it to work by 6. “I decided to take the plunge and go back to studying. I was the only earning member of the family, so this was a tough decision,” he says. He ploughed in the family savings and applied for an MBA at the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research in Mumbai. Two years and a degree later, he joined Wipro Consumer Care as a management trainee. His first boss was a “tough, hard-nosed” area manager called Hemu Javeri. “He took me on as a salesman, and my beat was Kurar village near Malad East,” he says. “Here I was, after years of engineering and management education, selling Santoor soap to kirana shops.” After six months, he was sent into interior Maharashtra, travelling on rickety buses to stay in decrepit hotels. “Looking back, this was some of the best experience I could have got,” he says. “Most business graduates today want to be CEOs in five years and

sit in plush cabins right out of college.” He owes a significant part of his understanding of relationships and the value of money to his time at Wipro. Madhavan moved to Ulka Advertising in 1992 in Mumbai, where he serviced clients such as ITC Sundrop. He describes his time there as “great fun”. He moved to Diageo in 1994 to head their entire white spirit portfolio in India, which included brands such as Smirnoff, Malibu and Kelly’s (a variant of Baileys Irish Cream). In 1997, he moved to Bacardi as head of marketing in Gurgaon, having been hand-picked by the then managing director Jayant Kapur. He was one of the company’s first employees in India. “I haven’t looked back since,” he says. At this point, the restaurant manager takes advantage of a split-second silence in our conversation to insist we order food. I ask for a Ramen lunch set. Madhavan is fine with anything that is not “sushi or sashimi”. I ask him why. “I’ve had a lot (maybe too much) of Japanese cuisine—it was one of my favourites.” During his seven-year stint at Bacardi in Thailand, his residence was next to a Japanese community. “Food is never a problem for me, really. Anything other than a burger is fine.” This distaste for one of globalization’s biggest imports is a consequence of his son (who is now 18) insisting on eating at McDonald’s at every opportunity when he was young. “It’s one food I can never enjoy. It’s not nourishing,” Madhavan says. The shift to Thailand occurred in 2001 because of an “itch I get every three years”, he says. “Once you’ve done a particular job and finished what you set out to accomplish, you get this thing of ‘what shall I do next?’” After bothering the boss for something “new and challenging”, he was asked if he wanted to go to Thailand. He said “no problem”. He and his family packed their bags and m oved, and M a dha van found himself the only Indian among 70 employees, all thinking “who is this Indian who comes here and tells us how to run our business in a market that we understand better? “It took me two years to get their respect. First, I had to unlearn all the Delhi aggression that was coming out, including thumping on tables during meetings,” he says. Madhavan returned as the CEO of Bacardi India in 2007, and is now the president and CEO for South Asia operations, based out of Gurgaon.

India is a complex beast. The tax and duty structure is a byzantine mess and levies are much higher than other South Asian countries. “Sixty per cent of the market in India is whisky,” he says. “There are pockets of brandy, like Tamil Nadu, and pockets of dark rum, like Kerala and West Bengal.” Madhavan’s five-year plan focuses on work in two key areas—the first is making the business self-sustaining by building both local and imported brands. “We’re growing fast and we’d like to keep that momentum going,” he says. Bacardi is promoting Eristoff, its local vodka brand, heavily and is launching Bacardi Black, a dark rum, to take on the dominant Old Monk and Celebrations brands. The company is also building a line-up of imported brands, from Asti sparkling wine (“it’s nice and sweet and bubbly”) to Otard Cognac (“there’s not much pull for cognac in India yet, but it’s a fine drink”). The second is to shift Bacardi’s communication strategy away from “traditional” media. Part of this is continuing their association with electronic music and nightlife parties. Just last week, Eristoff sponsored the Invasion Music Festival that saw electronica giants The Prodigy play to audiences of over 6,000 people in Delhi and Bangalore. In December, Bacardi was the lead sponsor for the NH7 Weekender music festival in Pune, where close to 5,000 people listened to concerts and consumed copious quantities of Bacardi alcohol over three days. The company has launched an online music store called MixBacardi, and efforts are under way to increase the number of Facebook fans to 100,000. “The future of communication is online and interactive. There’s only so much a TV ad can do these days,” he says. As we settle the bill and dessert arrives, I ask him his drink of choice. “Vodka and tonic. I like Eristoff vodka—it has a nice bite to it. I also like Bacardi Mojitos. What about you?” I spout my usual propaganda about the virtues of Sikkim dark rum. Madhavan hasn’t heard of it. “Is it a bit like the Khukri rum you get in Nepal?” he asks. “Better,” I reply with misplaced confidence. “Interesting,” he says. “I will try this out.” I nod in agreement. I may have just given Madhavan his significant “takeaway” from this interaction.

IN PARENTHESIS Madhavan likes activities that give him time to reflect—on work, life and the possible future. “Most of the stuff I do tends to be very individual,” he admits. Fishing was a favourite time­killer, something he misses doing in India. “In Thailand, I fished a lot. I love the quiet calm of the wait contrasted with the excitement of a fish biting,” he says. Gardening is another. He grew orchids in Thailand, and has shifted to seasonal flowers in his current place in Gurgaon. “I was just at a nursery near the Qutub Minar the other day,” he says, “picking up flowering seeds for the winter.” Madhavan has also been an avid aquarium keeper. “I went to a fish store in Delhi thinking I’ll restart the hobby here,” he says glumly. “But this city has very bad fish.” JAYACHANDRAN/MINT


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L7

SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011

Eat/Drink OUR DAILY BREAD

SAMAR HALARNKAR

Nirvana under the rain tree PHOTOGRAPHS

BY

SAMAR HALARNKAR

After a walk down the diverse and, to some, debauched culinary traditions of India’s tech­ nopolis, a famed family pork pickle awaits

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afe from the maniacal drivers out to kill someone, I leaned on the counter of the Lusitania Cold Storage in Frazer Town’s Mosque Road and contemplated the surviving glories of my old hometownturned-technopolis. I was on an avenue so shaded by canopies of old rain trees that the sun had not touched the ground here for decades. I was in a traditional yet tolerant area so removed from north India’s aggressive monoculture that even in these divisive times, old Lusitania had never been remotely threatened for selling pork about 50m from a mosque or beef in a city that is home to some of Hinduism’s most orthodox communities. I was at an establishment where the kindly 50-something proprietor, a handsome woman in a skirt and cropped hair, never failed to smile when a client caught her eye, and no one left without a smile and a thank you. Only in Bangalore. I pondered Lusitania’s various handwritten offerings, posted on scribble boards behind the counter. Should I buy the fish cutlet? The beef rump (Kerala cut)? The ready-to-eat roast beef? The “authentic” Goa sausages? The ox tongue, perhaps? My mother had sent me to buy pork, so I first got that done. One and a half kilograms of pork, she had said, with some fat. The woman behind the counter—dressed in a scarlet sari and khaki overalls, red bindi on her forehead—knew what some fat meant. Quietly, she handed me packets of precut, washed and neatly packaged pork. Could I have 100g of extra fat? Sorry, said the woman. Many of our employees are Muslim, so we don’t directly handle pork any longer. Change was here, but it was remarkable that Hindus and Muslims

worked with the packets of pork and beef. Only in Bangalore. Pork purchase done, I could now happily browse through all the goodies I did not need but could not resist. Ready-to-eat roast beef slices? Pack it, please. Chavady’s chicken pickle, “wickedly hot and spicy, made from an old Indian family recipe, hand-made with love and affection”. Pack it, please. Jeevith instant roasted “world-class” pork masala (ingredients: “chillies, coriander, pepper, ginger, clove, cardamom, cinnamon bark, cumin seeds, ananus flower, nutmeg, turmeric, salt, Om [don’t ask], curry leaves and LOVE”). Pack it, please! And so I trudged happily to my parents’ home in Richards’ Town, past the restaurant offering appam and brain curry; past the little house offering home-made prawn pickles; past the Iyengar bakery offering freshly baked bread, toasted and topped with a lashing of stir-fried onions and tomatoes; past the Tamilian old-timer on the pavement near my house, offering 11 types of dried fish. Only in Bangalore. Bangalore may be part of the flat world, adding value to the Intels and Ciscos globally, but it’s managed to retain its accommodating, liberal and wildly diverse culinary offerings. This is how pork pickle has been so much a part of my life since the 1970s, when my mother first adapted a Coorgi Hindu recipe (I say Hindu because there are many in modern India who do not realize how many Hindus eat pork in the south; travel across south Karnataka, Gowda country, and you cannot miss the piggeries, marked with gaily painted little porkers). Wherever I’ve been, my

Brownie point Why jaggery, a winter staple in India, is winning over gourmet chefs and bakers B Y K OMAL S HARMA komal.s@livemint.com

···························· n the family of sweeteners, jaggery wins hands down over sugar in the winter months. In Kolkata, date palm jaggery sells like hot cakes. North India braves the chill by snacking on chikki (peanut and jaggery brittle). Poranpoli, tilache ladoos in Maharashtra during the festival of Makar Sankranti, gur ke chawal (sweet rice) in Rajasthan, and sandesh and payesh (rice kheer) in West Bengal all have jaggery in them. Delhi-based nutritionist Ishi Khosla says sugar and jaggery have the same calorie and

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carbohydrate content, but jaggery is unrefined and free of the chemicals used in the processing of sugar. “Sugar has certain elements that affect the gut flora adversely, jaggery doesn’t. Jaggery has iron and several other minerals that are good for the body. It has a warming effect, which is why it’s so popular in winter,” says Khosla. Jaggery is also slowly making its way into cakes, not just as a substitute for sugar, but for the flavour it lends. Lounge columnist Pamela Timms, who explores local ingredients in her cooking, has been using jaggery in baking. “Jaggery gives a different taste to cakes, not purely sweet like sugar, but treacle-like,” she says. Kishi Arora of Foodaholics, a food consultancy (the expertise behind Mad Over Donuts), who uses sugar-cane jaggery in some of her cake recipes, says: “Jaggery adds more than just pure sweetness. The best part

Stirring memories: (above) There are many Hindu cuisines that use pork extensively; and the author’s recipe of a pork pickle is an adaptation of a Coorgi recipe. 1 tbsp cumin powder 1 tbsp mustard K bottle synthetic vinegar (we used a 750ml bottle)

mother has always sent me a bottle of pork pickle to keep my body and soul together. This bottle has seen me through some arid, desperate years in chicken-and-dal-happy Delhi. I always have—always—a bottle of her pork pickle tucked away in the recesses of my fridge. This time in Bangalore, I realized I didn’t actually know how to make the family’s famed pork pickle, so I persuaded my mother to guide me through the process. If you have modifications and a similar

pickle of your own, do let me know, either on my blog or at the email below. Stop me from saying, only in Bangalore!

is that jaggery has moisture, so cakes tend to stay softer. Also, it naturally gives a nice brown colour to cakes.” Made from sugar cane, sap of the coconut palm, sago palm or the most delectable of them all, date palm, the local sweetener is now playing an active role in fusion cooking. “The use of jaggery in Western baking is recent and is generally attributed to Asian chefs trying to fuse modern European baking with traditional ingredients,” says Vikas Kumar, executive chef, Flurys, Kolkata. “Although treacle has been used in British baking for ages, but (it) is not as unrefined as jaggery.” Kumar uses jaggery in cakes because of its caramel flavour. “Dairy-based products, such as cheesecake, and jaggery make a remarkable combination; it gives a rich taste to cakes and people love that,” he says. Another testimony to the

fact that the healthier option need not be the unsavoury one.

Sugar­free: Flurys chef Vikas Kumar’s cheesecake with jaggery.

Mummy’s pork pickle Ingredients 1kg pork, cut into K-inch to 1-inch pieces 100g fat For the masala 1K tbsp chilli powder 2 pods garlic 2-inch piece ginger

Jaggery cheesecake with fresh strawberry salad

For the seasoning 4 tbsp cooking oil K tsp mustard 1 pod garlic 1-inch piece ginger juliennes 10-12 green chillies slit lengthwise, with seeds Method Prick the pieces of fat, fry in a saucepan till the fat starts to melt. Remove. In the fat, fry the rest of the pork till it starts to brown. Cook all the pork (including fat) in a pressure cooker for about 7 minutes, with salt but without water. Meanwhile, using 4 tbsp of vinegar, grind the masala ingredients into a fine paste (my mum’s original recipe says

100ml fresh cream 100ml sour cream 2 eggs 10ml lemon juice 5g fresh orange zest

Serves 4 Ingredients For the cheesecake 400g cream cheese 100g jaggery (preferably palm or date)

For the base 100g digestive biscuits 50g butter, melted 50g jaggery For the strawberry salad 50g fresh strawberries INDRANIL BHOUMIK/MINT

“make sure the grinding stone is absolutely dry, then coat it with a little vinegar”; we used a food processor). Heat the oil. Add all the seasoning ingredients and the ground masala. Fry until brown. Add the rest of the vinegar and then the cooked pork. Simmer till oil starts to float and remove from fire. Cool and bottle. Make sure the bottle is dry and has a wide mouth. We cover it with plastic before closing. Use only dry spoons. You can store the pickle outside for a week in temperate weather, but we usually bung it into the fridge soonest. 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 www.livemint.com Read Samar’s previous columns at www.livemint.com/ourdailybread

10ml lemon juice 10g fresh mint 10ml jaggery, melted Method Mix the crushed digestive biscuits, melted butter and melted jaggery. Line the base of a round cake tin with the mixture. Bake at 170-180 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes, allow to cool. For the cheesecake, mix the cream cheese, melted/powdered jaggery, lemon juice and sour cream with a light hand until homogenous. Do not over-beat. Add the eggs, orange zest and fresh cream and mix well. Pour on top of the biscuit base and bake at 150 degrees Celsius for 45-50 minutes. Take out when lightly browned but slightly wobbly in the centre. Cool completely and then refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours. For the strawberry salad, melt the jaggery, add fresh lemon juice and chopped mint, and toss the fresh strawberries in this. Cut the cheesecake into wedges and serve with the strawberry salad and extra whipped cream, if desired.


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SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011

Community STOCK MARKET

NUMBER GAME

The ethical investor Will BSE’s Shariah index attract more observant and curious investors? We met the people behind the index to find out

B Y S UPRIYA N AIR supriya.n@livemint.com

···························· n Mumbai’s bustling Cadell Road you could walk past the office of Taqwaa Advisory and Shariah Investment Solutions (P) Ltd (Tasis) without noticing it. A low-key signboard in a row of other businesses, typical of oldfashioned office blocks all over the island city, is all that announces their existence. It’s a far cry from the behemoth of Dalal Street, but Tasis’ subdued presence belies the significance of its recent collaboration with the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). In December, they launched the BSE TASIS Shariah 50 Index, which lists the largest Shariah-compliant stocks within the BSE 500. It isn’t the first such index in the country. The National Stock Exchange already compiles a list of Shariah-compliant stocks. But it is the first that is based on the stipulations of a wholly India-based Shariah board. The architects

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of the BSE Shariah 50 are counting on a new wave of attention that they hope will transform the landscape for observant Muslims, as well as investors concerned with social responsibility. “The notion of Shariah compliance has been around for 1,400 years,” says Jamil Ahmed Shaikh, director of Tasis. “In India, you could date the practice of Islamic banking to the late 1970s when small groups of Muslims in north India and in Mumbai started cooperative societies and chit funds.” But the effects were marginal, he says, and remained so until recently. “Over the last decade, people started to look at it as a way of alternate finance, and there’s more enthusiasm than ever after the subprime crisis (of 2008).” He smiles, “Once you get stuck in one area, you start to look for others.” So what does a Shariah index do? Broadly speaking, it offers you the chance to invest only in companies that comply with the ethical practices mandated by Islamic law. This means that investing in certain entertainment companies, the hotel and food industries, and companies related to liquor, tobacco and weapons, is prohibited. So is banking, because charging interest is not permissible in Shariah practice, and neither is the accumulation of debt. But screening out businesses is just one half of the job. The financial equations involved are more complex. To put the index together, Tasis gathered data on Indian market patterns for a

decade. They put these forward to their Shariah board, whose muftis considered the data and decided on the nitty-gritty of permissible financial limits. These parameters include debtto-equity ratio (25%) and interest-to-total-income (3%). “We look at what average industry rates are, and based on that we ask what our rates should be,” Shaikh explains. “Essentially, these are compromises with the zero-interest requirement, but the rationale was to come to a consensus about these rates.” In the absence of a consensus, investors and advisers have often set their own parameters. This has always meant factoring in geographical and cultural differences. BSE and Tasis say

that having a domestic, Indiabased Shariah advisory board factors in unprecedented local expertise, as well as a reliable authority, whose guidelines will be well-recognized. “What works for Saudi Arabia or Dubai does not necessarily apply in India,” Shaikh says. “The market here is different—and potentially big. Even with our conservative screening, we are left with about 1,100 Shariah-compliant scrips in India. That’s more than all the scrips—including non-compliant ones—available in all the Arab world put together.” Given the strictness of their screening, the BSE TASIS Shariah 50 has conservative standards compared with other Shariah advisory boards in the ABHIJIT BHATLEKAR/MINT

The BSE TASIS Shariah 50 at a glance

world, says Shaikh. But the BSE says it’s exactly what the country needs to encourage inclusive growth. “Islamic investors in India and abroad have been hesitant to invest in the market,” says James Shapiro, head, market development, BSE. “But this index provides investors, regardless of faith, with what is, in a broader sense, a socially responsible index.” There is an interesting clause there. Ashraf Mohamedy, of Mumbai-based Idafa Investments, says non-Muslims have traditionally been responsible for the biggest chunk of Shariah-compliant investments. “The biggest investors in Taurus Ethical Fund and Tata Select Equity Fund (both equity funds that take Shariah compliance into account) are Jains who look for ethical avenues of investment. The fund managers have left out processed food and leather industries, which makes it compliant for observant Jains. It’s social engineering at its best.” Idafa’s own non-Muslim clients “have no problem” with eliminating tobacco, alcohol and banking stocks from their portfolios, he says. BSE thinks the Shariah index will encourage first-time investors unsure about how their investments tally with their religious beliefs. Three weeks in, the response has been “overwhelmingly positive”, Shapiro says. People from around India and the world “approach us asking for information and instructions on how to use the index. We expect that investment vehicles like exchange-

u The Shariah norms utilized by Tasis are more conservative than those of other Shariah advisory boards u The Shariah 50 employs stock­level capping as an embedded risk­management feature, ensuring that no constituent has more than 10% weight in the index at any time u It is the only Shariah index in India to be disseminated in real time to investors with values publicly available on the BSE website during the day u The Shariah 50 is reviewed monthly, and non­compliant stocks eliminated from the index. Reconsideration for the index is reviewed on a quarterly basis. traded funds and mutual funds will be available in the market soon, given the strong demand we’ve seen for these.” “The news of the Shariah index itself should attract curious investors,” Mohamedy says. “With the BSE’s history and visibility, it means a much increased level of confidence.” Forty-year-old Sikandar Munshi, who owns a medical store on the JogeshwariVikhroli Link Road, says he began to invest in the market three years ago. “The market’s ups and downs made me think, and after I asked around, I decided to invest as per the Islamic ways,” he says. Strict requirements for debt freedom and sustainable growth reduce risks significantly in Shariahcompliant investment. “There are probably other people who may not even be aware that it’s possible to do so. The Shariah index will give them a chance to think about it.” KUNI TAKAHASHI/BLOOMBERG

Money speaks: The Bombay Stock Exchange; and (above) Jamil Ahmed Shaikh, director, Tasis.


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SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011

L9

Style TREND

A case for the shrinking collar PARAMOUNT/THE KOBAL COLLECTION

After skinny trou­ sers and jackets, it’s time for some size zero austerity around the neck

B Y D ARREL H ARTMAN ···························· he men’s shirt collar has been in a recession lately, thanks to a combination of slimmer fits, softening workplace dress codes and fashion’s ongoing Mad Men obsession. Imagine, for comparison’s sake, a time when the collar was in a more expansive mood. Inevitably, the 1970s come to mind. That era’s grandiose collars were the perfect frame for double-wide ties, not to mention gold chains and chest hair. Today’s reduced versions aren’t designed for heavy lifting: They buckle under meaty jowls and are often overwhelmed by neckwear. Some shirt makers have even experimented with convertible collars that, when tucked in, disappear altogether. Eric Jennings, men’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, points out that today’s barelythere collars are merely part of a larger trend. “I think it actually starts with this shrunken suit idea,” he says, adding that the vogue for shorter, skinnier pants and jackets has resulted in narrower lapels and neckties. Shirt collars have, so to speak, simply followed suit. “Our eyes have adjusted to a small silhouette,” Jennings says. Niche menswear labels such as Robert Geller and Shipley & Halmos—and Thom Browne, the designer frequently credited, along with Hedi Slimane, as the godfather of the modern skinny suit—have been making smaller collars for some time. But only more recently have big-name brands and mainstream retailers hopped on the bandwagon. Jennings says that when he joined the Saks team two-and-ahalf years ago, “We were talking about it, but we didn’t have a whole lot of it on the floor.” A tour of the store’s men’s floors reveals the extent to which that’s changed. Skip past conservative holdouts such as Charvet and Brioni and you’ll find that Burberry and Hugo Boss are making some of the teeniest collars on the market. Although the trend’s most recent period of reference is the 1980s, when demure collars topped many a blousy shirt, observers are quick to note that the more influential time is the early 1960s, when JFK (John F. Kennedy) led men’s fashion trends with trim collars that sat close to the chest. “If you look at neckwear and lapels of that era, it’s very much in line with what’s going on today,” says Jeff Blee, divisional merchandising manager of furnishings and men’s accessories for Brooks Brothers. But for its newer, even smaller collar styles, Brooks turned the clock back further. “We found old catalogues from the 1930s that listed our four most popular collars of the time,” Blee says. “Two were fuller collars, but two—the Cornwall and the Clifford—were scaled-down versions. That’s where the newness is for us.” Updated versions of both will appear in the company’s spring

MAESTRI DAVIDE/ COURTESY Z EGNA

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F MARTIN RAMIN/WSJ

Short and sleek: (clock­ wise from above) A Burberry Brit Stripe Shirt; the Alfred Dun­ hill look for Spring/ Summer 2011 supports short collars; John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever with a straight­point collar; and a small­collar look from Ermenegildo Zegna.

collection (at two-and-a-half inches, the Clifford collar measures nearly an inch shorter than the brand’s traditional Oxford button-down). Among dandies, the rounded and labour-intensive pin and tab collars of the 1930s and 1960s are making a comeback. “There’s a lot of good stuff happening with tab collars and pin collars,” notes Alabama-based designer Billy Reid. But the resurgence of the diminutive collar (which has historical ties to rugby and cloth rationing) has very little to do with dressing up—in fact, quite the opposite. “Now guys wear casual shirts with suits or sport coats, whereas in the past they’d only wear a dress shirt,” Reid points out. Jennings agrees: “It’s a sportswear thing. Fewer men need to worry about fitting a tie under their collar.” The store’s necktie sales were down last year, and according to studies done by Saks, not as many customers wear neckties to work as they used to. Some shirt makers have embraced the disappearing necktie as an opportunity to experiment. “We cut a collar that

stands up properly when it’s unbuttoned. When you go that route, you can think more creatively about how you make the collar,” says Patrick Grant, director of the bespoke London shirt maker Norton & Sons (where he says customers have asked for shirts with collars as short as an inch and a quarter) and the readyto-wear line E Tautz. The challenge in the age of the waning necktie, Grant says, may be to keep men from “looking like extras from Star Trek”. To some, now is the perfect moment for a little austerity around the neck. “I think there’s something decadent about a big collar. Look at the Regency period—it was all huge collars and excessive bows,” Grant says. “But we’re in an era that’s trim and utilitarian.” But it may not be long before the pendulum starts to swing the other way. “I don’t think that collars can get much smaller without looking extreme,” admits Frank Muytjens, head menswear designer for J Crew. For Michael Andrews, a former lawyer who

owns a sleekly contemporary tailor shop in Manhattan’s NoHo neighbourhood, the return to a more “dramatic, masculine” collar style has been a long time coming. “I think the whole short collar thing is kind of silly,” Andrews says—part of a “boarding-school look” that is only flattering to skinny men. “If you have a really long neck, it’ll make you look like a giraffe,” he adds. “At the end of the day, certain styles are going to look better or worse on some people.” Reid, the designer, concurs it’s not for everyone, but jokes that he sometimes worries about a man who’d rather wear an oversized collar than risk facing the world in one that’s too small. “That’s something that might need therapy,” he says. Write to wsj@livemint.com


L10 COVER

LOUNGE

COVER L11

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

AFP

MANOJ PATIL/HINDUSTAN TIMES

PUBLIC EYE

SUNIL KHILNANI

INDIA’S

KNOWLEDGE

MUHAMMED MUHEISEN/AP

Fault lines: (clockwise from above) The 26/11 Mumbai attack; supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, the alleged killer of Pakistan’s Punjab governor Salman Taseer, in Rawalpindi earlier this month; and Maoist guerrillas of the People’s War Group holding a meeting in Bihar.

BANKRUPTCY

We too often understand issues of national importance through hearsay or borrowed knowledge—happy to be consumers and lazy to be creators. We need knowledge generated in relation to our own predicaments, as seen from where we sit in the world—something the US knows how to do

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ver the past decade, I’ve spent a good deal of my time in Washington, DC, my wife’s hometown. Soon we’ll be moving on, which concentrates my mind on what I will miss about the US. The peerless maple syrup. Talking politics with my in-laws, who, despite it all, still proudly refer to themselves as Octogenarians for Obama. The Quiet Car on the Acela Express train from DC to New York. The chirpy American purposefulness in getting things done. But among the things I will not much miss is the heavily instrumental attitude towards India that I so often encounter in the US. American perceptions of India have been transformed over the past decade, of course. It would be fair to say that American interest in India—on the political, economic and media fronts—is higher than ever. We take pride in this—feel flattered and bolstered by the attention. And certainly it matters—for it’s America’s attentiveness that has helped to focus the minds of others also on India. But we do need to ask: Why this interest? And I should emphasize that the mot juste is “interest”, not fascination. Unlike the British and the Europeans, who have a long, complex history with India, Americans are

more interested in India than they are intrigued by it. What they wish to know about India, the knowledge they seek, is a transactional form of knowledge—knowledge that can be put to use to help them secure larger economic and strategic aims, with which they hope India might assist them. Americans are interested in the American jobs—created or lost—that India’s growth represents. They are interested in how India might further US interests vis-a-via China. They are interested in how India can help stabilize Pakistan and Afghanistan. To these particular and hard-edged ends, their academies and think tanks, institutes and government departments, set to work. As much as I bridle, sitting across dinner tables from the fluent, genial mouthpieces of this narrowly construed set of interests, my wife sets strict quotas on my complaints about this and most other things. Instead, she orders me to be more rigorous in my analysis of those aspects of her homeland that I find irritating, and consider the possibility that such irritation sometimes masks a bit of admiration (such self-improving advice is quintessentially American—not, of course, that I am

complaining about it...). And after 10 years, I find that I am indeed struck by the American way of thinking about other countries, including India: its unapologetic, pretenceless stance that, in foreign policy, there are no other interests to consider but its own. Obama is far more internationalist in mindset than his predecessor, but still, when he visited India, he encased himself in an entourage of over 200 American business leaders, lest his countrymen mistake his visit as interest in the world’s largest democracy on its own terms. And he was quite happy to entice applause out of an audience of Indian corporate stars, as he declared that the orders signed during his visit

PANKAJ NANGIA/BLOOMBERG

would generate 50,000 jobs back in his own country. Watching Obama, and watching his predecessor, I’ve come to believe that we Indians could do with a bit of cognitive instrumentalism ourselves. Today, the Indian state seems particularly inept at generating the kind of knowledge it requires as it tries to realize its global aspirations. We have severe deficits when it comes to producing our own information, on the basis of which our strategic and policy decisions can be taken, our greatest long-term hopes pursued. The two major security threats we face, external and internal, embody this current lack. Our understanding of Pakistan’s AJAY AGGARWAL/HINDUSTAN TIMES

PTI

Closer: (from far left) A tourist enjoying a camel ride during the inaugural ceremony of the International Camel Festival in Bikaner earlier this month; US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle interacting with children during their recent visit to India; and Obama with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

intentions towards us—and whether or not it will decide to pursue the most dangerous of those intentions—are largely rooted in our comprehension of the thinking of that country’s political elites: in their generational hopes and fears, as well as the individual quirks of civilian and military leaders. These are the men (and, more rarely, women) with whom our leaders have to deal and manoeuvre, parley and finesse, persuade and induce—and about whom detailed portraits, information and assessments, and a sense of how they see the future of their own worlds, are vital tools. Yet the informational base on which our leaders have to rely in dealing with them tends in some crucial respects to be drawn from material produced elsewhere, most usually the US—information that necessarily has its own biases and is driven by its own purposes. Or take a very different kind of threat: that emanating from the impoverished areas of the country in which Maoists are operating. We all acknowledge that these parts of the country are in great social and economic distress. But our sense of the nature of that distress is appallingly general. Our government and our social scientists lack the detailed, rigorous field studies that would illuminate, in a nuanced, non-ideological fashion, the key drivers and the casual chains that lead towards violent agitation. It’s all the more galling, then, to learn that it’s the Maoists themselves who turn out to be, in addition to gun-toting militants, rather expert social scientists with a more impressive grasp of the structures of contemporary agrarian society than our own government. Some in their membership have done real field work to advance plausible explanations of why so many Indian citizens feel compelled to take to armed revolt. India, like America, is hectic with opinionators who would like to lull us into thinking we know—already (Western writers’ favourite word for India, “teeming”, is entirely

appropriate for the 21st century proliferation of pundits, Eastern and Western). But serious knowledge—knowledge which is usable in the real world—derives from genuine puzzlement. In India and the US, I see that puzzlement all too rarely. How to generate, in India, a thirst for real knowledge—and then to create it, and then to go on to use it advantageously to create humane and intelligent policy, whether for national security or for internal social justice? Sadly, in Delhi, as in Washington, it often takes acute crisis to convince the leadership of the importance of improving the quality of the information on which policy is made. After 9/11 in the US, and after 26/11 in Mumbai, both governments began to recognize how little they knew about coordinating and assessing knowledge scattered across different branches of the state. But even that doesn’t get to the root of the matter. Paradoxically, often the knowledge that lends itself most effectively to instrumental use is that which is created by arcane specialisms—as well as by what is often called pure, basic or theoretical research. The specifics and nuances matter enormously, whether the question is why tenant farmers in Bastar (Chhattisgarh) have failed to profit from an increase in Indian and global food consumption, or why the education level of Pakistani suicide bombers is increasingly high. Such seeming paradoxes need to be objectively interrogated and understood if we are to have effective reactions. And it is invariably in pure or basic research that fundamental questions—usually sidestepped—get asked. Like many in America, Indians today enjoy feeling smarter and superior to their counterparts in other countries—we like to think that we already know why Pakistan is in a mess, how corruption works in our own country, how we can stop terrorism, how we can make our society less unjust. But more often than not, we understand such issues either through hearsay or by

means of knowledge which others have produced for their own ends. We are too happy to be consumers of knowledge, too lazy about creating it ourselves. Imagine America acting in Iran based on knowledge generated in Australia—it’s conceivable, certainly, but it’s not a reliable way on which to base the knowledge architecture of a modern state. Though the Iraq war showed that American knowledge of other countries is sometimes spectacularly erratic, it is typically Made in the USA, or at least intensely scrutinized there—and fiercely assessed in terms of American interest. As India comes into its own as a prominent global actor, we have sometimes favoured ostentatious, noisy brands of nationalisms. But one nationalism, or better, patriotism, that remains underdeveloped is a commitment to create and mobilize the knowledges needed to be able truly to be the best judges of our own interests, as we should be. Whether in fields of advanced technology, medical science, social justice or national security, we’ll need to figure out what to do on the basis of precise knowledge generated in relation to our own predicaments, internal and external: knowledge that should be objective, as seen from where we sit in the world. We need this new knowledge base not because of any defensiveness about the judgements of outsiders—let us have those judgements too, and more and more. But in the end, we need our own knowledge, because it’s our country’s future at stake. Sunil Khilnani is the author of The Idea of India and is currently working on a new book, India in Search of Wealth and Power. Later this year, he will become director of the India Institute at King’s College, London. Write to him at publiceye@livemint.com www.livemint.com Read Sunil’s previous Lounge columns at www.livemint.com/sunil­khilnani


L10 COVER

LOUNGE

COVER L11

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

AFP

MANOJ PATIL/HINDUSTAN TIMES

PUBLIC EYE

SUNIL KHILNANI

INDIA’S

KNOWLEDGE

MUHAMMED MUHEISEN/AP

Fault lines: (clockwise from above) The 26/11 Mumbai attack; supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, the alleged killer of Pakistan’s Punjab governor Salman Taseer, in Rawalpindi earlier this month; and Maoist guerrillas of the People’s War Group holding a meeting in Bihar.

BANKRUPTCY

We too often understand issues of national importance through hearsay or borrowed knowledge—happy to be consumers and lazy to be creators. We need knowledge generated in relation to our own predicaments, as seen from where we sit in the world—something the US knows how to do

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ver the past decade, I’ve spent a good deal of my time in Washington, DC, my wife’s hometown. Soon we’ll be moving on, which concentrates my mind on what I will miss about the US. The peerless maple syrup. Talking politics with my in-laws, who, despite it all, still proudly refer to themselves as Octogenarians for Obama. The Quiet Car on the Acela Express train from DC to New York. The chirpy American purposefulness in getting things done. But among the things I will not much miss is the heavily instrumental attitude towards India that I so often encounter in the US. American perceptions of India have been transformed over the past decade, of course. It would be fair to say that American interest in India—on the political, economic and media fronts—is higher than ever. We take pride in this—feel flattered and bolstered by the attention. And certainly it matters—for it’s America’s attentiveness that has helped to focus the minds of others also on India. But we do need to ask: Why this interest? And I should emphasize that the mot juste is “interest”, not fascination. Unlike the British and the Europeans, who have a long, complex history with India, Americans are

more interested in India than they are intrigued by it. What they wish to know about India, the knowledge they seek, is a transactional form of knowledge—knowledge that can be put to use to help them secure larger economic and strategic aims, with which they hope India might assist them. Americans are interested in the American jobs—created or lost—that India’s growth represents. They are interested in how India might further US interests vis-a-via China. They are interested in how India can help stabilize Pakistan and Afghanistan. To these particular and hard-edged ends, their academies and think tanks, institutes and government departments, set to work. As much as I bridle, sitting across dinner tables from the fluent, genial mouthpieces of this narrowly construed set of interests, my wife sets strict quotas on my complaints about this and most other things. Instead, she orders me to be more rigorous in my analysis of those aspects of her homeland that I find irritating, and consider the possibility that such irritation sometimes masks a bit of admiration (such self-improving advice is quintessentially American—not, of course, that I am

complaining about it...). And after 10 years, I find that I am indeed struck by the American way of thinking about other countries, including India: its unapologetic, pretenceless stance that, in foreign policy, there are no other interests to consider but its own. Obama is far more internationalist in mindset than his predecessor, but still, when he visited India, he encased himself in an entourage of over 200 American business leaders, lest his countrymen mistake his visit as interest in the world’s largest democracy on its own terms. And he was quite happy to entice applause out of an audience of Indian corporate stars, as he declared that the orders signed during his visit

PANKAJ NANGIA/BLOOMBERG

would generate 50,000 jobs back in his own country. Watching Obama, and watching his predecessor, I’ve come to believe that we Indians could do with a bit of cognitive instrumentalism ourselves. Today, the Indian state seems particularly inept at generating the kind of knowledge it requires as it tries to realize its global aspirations. We have severe deficits when it comes to producing our own information, on the basis of which our strategic and policy decisions can be taken, our greatest long-term hopes pursued. The two major security threats we face, external and internal, embody this current lack. Our understanding of Pakistan’s AJAY AGGARWAL/HINDUSTAN TIMES

PTI

Closer: (from far left) A tourist enjoying a camel ride during the inaugural ceremony of the International Camel Festival in Bikaner earlier this month; US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle interacting with children during their recent visit to India; and Obama with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

intentions towards us—and whether or not it will decide to pursue the most dangerous of those intentions—are largely rooted in our comprehension of the thinking of that country’s political elites: in their generational hopes and fears, as well as the individual quirks of civilian and military leaders. These are the men (and, more rarely, women) with whom our leaders have to deal and manoeuvre, parley and finesse, persuade and induce—and about whom detailed portraits, information and assessments, and a sense of how they see the future of their own worlds, are vital tools. Yet the informational base on which our leaders have to rely in dealing with them tends in some crucial respects to be drawn from material produced elsewhere, most usually the US—information that necessarily has its own biases and is driven by its own purposes. Or take a very different kind of threat: that emanating from the impoverished areas of the country in which Maoists are operating. We all acknowledge that these parts of the country are in great social and economic distress. But our sense of the nature of that distress is appallingly general. Our government and our social scientists lack the detailed, rigorous field studies that would illuminate, in a nuanced, non-ideological fashion, the key drivers and the casual chains that lead towards violent agitation. It’s all the more galling, then, to learn that it’s the Maoists themselves who turn out to be, in addition to gun-toting militants, rather expert social scientists with a more impressive grasp of the structures of contemporary agrarian society than our own government. Some in their membership have done real field work to advance plausible explanations of why so many Indian citizens feel compelled to take to armed revolt. India, like America, is hectic with opinionators who would like to lull us into thinking we know—already (Western writers’ favourite word for India, “teeming”, is entirely

appropriate for the 21st century proliferation of pundits, Eastern and Western). But serious knowledge—knowledge which is usable in the real world—derives from genuine puzzlement. In India and the US, I see that puzzlement all too rarely. How to generate, in India, a thirst for real knowledge—and then to create it, and then to go on to use it advantageously to create humane and intelligent policy, whether for national security or for internal social justice? Sadly, in Delhi, as in Washington, it often takes acute crisis to convince the leadership of the importance of improving the quality of the information on which policy is made. After 9/11 in the US, and after 26/11 in Mumbai, both governments began to recognize how little they knew about coordinating and assessing knowledge scattered across different branches of the state. But even that doesn’t get to the root of the matter. Paradoxically, often the knowledge that lends itself most effectively to instrumental use is that which is created by arcane specialisms—as well as by what is often called pure, basic or theoretical research. The specifics and nuances matter enormously, whether the question is why tenant farmers in Bastar (Chhattisgarh) have failed to profit from an increase in Indian and global food consumption, or why the education level of Pakistani suicide bombers is increasingly high. Such seeming paradoxes need to be objectively interrogated and understood if we are to have effective reactions. And it is invariably in pure or basic research that fundamental questions—usually sidestepped—get asked. Like many in America, Indians today enjoy feeling smarter and superior to their counterparts in other countries—we like to think that we already know why Pakistan is in a mess, how corruption works in our own country, how we can stop terrorism, how we can make our society less unjust. But more often than not, we understand such issues either through hearsay or by

means of knowledge which others have produced for their own ends. We are too happy to be consumers of knowledge, too lazy about creating it ourselves. Imagine America acting in Iran based on knowledge generated in Australia—it’s conceivable, certainly, but it’s not a reliable way on which to base the knowledge architecture of a modern state. Though the Iraq war showed that American knowledge of other countries is sometimes spectacularly erratic, it is typically Made in the USA, or at least intensely scrutinized there—and fiercely assessed in terms of American interest. As India comes into its own as a prominent global actor, we have sometimes favoured ostentatious, noisy brands of nationalisms. But one nationalism, or better, patriotism, that remains underdeveloped is a commitment to create and mobilize the knowledges needed to be able truly to be the best judges of our own interests, as we should be. Whether in fields of advanced technology, medical science, social justice or national security, we’ll need to figure out what to do on the basis of precise knowledge generated in relation to our own predicaments, internal and external: knowledge that should be objective, as seen from where we sit in the world. We need this new knowledge base not because of any defensiveness about the judgements of outsiders—let us have those judgements too, and more and more. But in the end, we need our own knowledge, because it’s our country’s future at stake. Sunil Khilnani is the author of The Idea of India and is currently working on a new book, India in Search of Wealth and Power. Later this year, he will become director of the India Institute at King’s College, London. Write to him at publiceye@livemint.com www.livemint.com Read Sunil’s previous Lounge columns at www.livemint.com/sunil­khilnani


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SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011

Travel PHOTOGRAPHS

BY

DILIP D’SOUZA

LAITKYNSEW

Post­colonial flight Still life: (clockwise from left) The church at Tyrna, a village near Laitkynsew; a tea vendor; the living roots bridge near Laitkynsew; and the post office.

In this sleepy town of Meghalaya, a paper plane can make daring inter­ national sojourns

B Y D ILIP D ’S OUZA ···························· trolling along Laitkynsew’s main road—perhaps its only road—we spy a post office on our right. We need stamps to put on the postcards we want to despatch to different parts of the globe. But will this place have them? The doubt arises because it is just another small house, no different from the other houses in Laitkynsew except for the red “Post Office” sign. The sign doesn’t convince me because in my own home— don’t tell anyone—I have a green American street sign on one wall, and my home is certainly not on Tom Green Street. This “Post Office” sign, I suspect, might be similarly deceptive. But my less sceptical wife walks up a few stairs, over the green porch, and rings the bell. Minutes later, the door opens slowly, silently, and the first thing

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we see is a ghostly, lacy curtain billowing outwards. Then two people peer from the frame: a small old woman with dangling earrings and piercing eyes, and a small bent old man with a blue band on his head and red slippers on his feet. These are the post office personnel? No disrespect, they seem like they make very nice grandparents indeed, but they are clearly decades past retirement. They speak no English or Hindi, my wife no Khasi, and yet somehow they communicate to her

GRAPHIC

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AHMED RAZA KHAN/MINT

that yes, this is a post office, but no, they cannot sell her stamps because whoever’s in charge has gone to Cherrapunji for the day. And that seems to be the signal for a stream of children to pour forth from behind the curtain. Boy in a vest, another in a red sweater, girl in a pink frock, another in a pink tee, a third in a green frock. More post office personnel? The woman vanishes and the children pose with grandpa for my camera. Then, with a swish of the curtain, they’re all gone, back inside. If I had to sum up Laitkynsew, the post office encounter might be a good place to start. A post office populated by bouncing children and their grandparents, now that’s something you won’t see in Mumbai or Bangalore. It’s not just that this is a rustic place, back of the beyond, all those clichés we city slickers let slip to show that despite our urban habits, we really, really, God promise and cross our hearts, love the offthe-beaten-track vacation, and now we’ll return to Juhu in our SUV, thank you. No, what Laitkynsew sports is an appealing end-of-the-road kind of feel. Thus far and no farther, so stock up on those stamps—though maybe pick a day when whoever’s in charge is actually at home. I’ve felt like this in exactly two other places: Kodikkarai in Tamil Nadu, gate-

way to the sumptuous Point Calimere sanctuary, where the road does indeed come to an end—when we went, it did so at an incongruous portrait of MGR. And Baracoa in Cuba, where a handsome bust of Hatuey, hero of the indigenous struggle against the Spanish, graces the dusty central plaza. To those icons, I shall now add in my mind a grandfather at the Laitkynsew post office. The road through Laitkynsew runs past the post office, going west along a ridge with steep drop-offs on either side. To the north are some spectacular views—lush green Meghalaya hills, a sinuous river in the valley below, and slopes lit up by the autumn sunset—you know, more of those city-slicker clichés that we all take photographs of, to place on our walls. Walking along, I do look over in that direction, but in truth I’m not really interested. For the thing about the Laitkynsew ridge is the way my eyes are constantly drawn to the south. To a sprawling riverine plain 3,000ft below, dotted with water bodies, that stretches into the same autumn sunset. To the distant smokestack of a factory, and the just recognizable buildings of a town. To a bridge across one of the rivers, and I try hard to discern cars crossing it. To the long line of lights after dusk that I think must

be a road but turns out to be a conveyor belt system carrying raw material to the factory. To Bangladesh. Because that’s Bangladesh. Specifically, Sunamganj district in the North-East, and that town with the smokestack is Chhatak, and one of those winding rivers is the Surma. I know all this because I looked up a map. But as I stand on the ridge and look down from this brink of India into Bangladesh, I’m struck, and saddened, by how I know so many frivolous details about what I really don’t know at all. And how much I really do want to know. Over six decades ago, somebody drew a boundary here. Could he have anticipated the induced yearning I feel all these years later? Simply by running down the slope, I’d be in Bangladesh in about the time I would take to walk back to the little hotel where we’re staying on this trip. That’s how close I am to this other country, this neighbour once carved out of India. Naturally, there’s no way I would attempt such a crossing today. But six decades ago, I could have done it without a thought. Geography permitting, I could have crossed the Surma and wandered to Chhatak in much the same way as I’ve been wandering through Laitkynsew: stopping to chat with people on their porches, stopping to buy a

packet of biscuits for the children, stopping to pat a friendly dog on the head, moving on. Over and over, my eyes are drawn there, as are my thoughts and dreams and even feelings about who I am, Indian in this place at this time. At a viewpoint overlooking the plain, I rip a page from my diary and fold it, forlornly, into a paper plane. If I can’t make it to Bangladesh from here, maybe my little creation can. As I fling it out over the vegetation below, a gentle breeze picks it up and swirls and twists it away from me, away and down. I know it ends up in some trees far below, but in my mind it has reached our neighbour, reached it in proxy for me. In the slanting orange of the setting sun, I look over at Chhatak. Maybe there’s a post office there too. Write to lounge@livemint.com CHILD­FRIENDLY RATING

Our children loved the walking and the hike down to the double­decker bridge. SENIOR­FRIENDLY RATING

Senior citizens can manage many, but not all, of the trails.


TRAVEL L13

SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

GEAR

The pilgrim’s progress Cleartrip (Free, for iPhone/Android/BlackBerry/Nokia) Cleartrip’s minimalist and easy Web applica­ tion lets you book train and flight tickets on your mobile and quickly check schedules on the go. Train bookings, in particular, are a sur­ prisingly smooth process for anyone familiar with the vagaries of www.irctc.com. First­tim­ ers will need to create an account and enable “Express Checkout”. To start, log on to www.cleartrip.com via your mobile phone.

Clever design and technology can often come to the rescue of the frequent traveller. Here’s how to make your trips easier B Y K RISH R AGHAV

The world through an app

krish.r@livemint.com

For travellers, it makes sense to get a smartphone. Wi­Fi is an absolute must if you’re stuck on foreign shores with prohibitive call rates—free messengers such as WhatsApp (free for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry) and video chat services such as Skype (free for iPhone and Android) are lifesavers. Most smartphones also feature reasonably decent cameras, GPS and rudimentary translation tools—all useful in a pinch. But apps are what make smartphones essential for those who get around. Here are four you should definitely download:

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The light fantastic On your travels, as you camp out in a desolate field in a strange land, surely you’ve thought to yourself, “What I really need right now is a compact LED­torch with an adjustable tripod.” Even if you haven’t, the Gorillatorch is a useful device to lug around. For one, you don’t actually have to lug it around—it weighs a paltry 165g. It’s an ultra­bright LED lamp perched on a rubberized, magnetic, flexible tripod. Like its namesake, the Gorillatorch can wrap itself around just about any surface—and unlike a gorilla, it is water, dust and radiation resistant—and offers up to 80 hours of battery life on a single charge. The Gorillatorch can be ordered online from www.photosystemsindia.com. It is priced at `3,125 and is available in four colours.

My Tracks, Trippy (Free, for Android) My Tracks and Trippy are portable trip planners. Punch in your location and My Tracks records where you’ve been and how far you’ve gone. Trippy goes a step further and helps create an itinerary—throwing up suggestions based on where you are.

XE Currency (Free, for iPhone/Android/BlackBerry) XE Currency is a currency converter that keeps track of the latest exchange rates for more than 80 currencies and includes a pow­ erful currency calculator for quick conversions.

Lonely Planet Compass Guides (`226 per city, for iPhone/Android/Nokia) Guide master and travel homogenizer ‘Lonely Planet’ has nifty “Compass Guides” for several cities around the world (from Amsterdam and Bangkok to Tokyo and Washington, DC). These are GPS­enabled maps and location­based information for interesting spots in the city. Switch on the camera and the app shows you where all the best restaurants, bars and places of interest are, relative to your current position. Best of all, the content can be downloaded beforehand and used offline, so no expensive data charges apply.

Go­betweens Photographs are the cornerstones of many a vacation. Even the dodgiest ones can be rescued by a cunning Facebook album filled with beautiful, impossibly colourful shots of fantastic vistas. Short of criminal levels of photoshopping, those are not possible with an ordinary point­and­shoot. And professional SLRs can be daunting for the amateur photographer. Smoothly bridging that gulf, however, are a new range of “semi­pro” cameras—point­and­shoot compacts with interchangeable, SLR­quality lenses. There are plenty of solid options, from Sony’s new NEX series (which are the lightest) to the Olympus PEN series (which shoot great, high­quality pictures). Sony’s NEX range starts at `29,990 with the NEX­3, which is marginally more expensive than a high­end point­and­shoot. Others, such as Samsung’s NX10 and Olympus’ E­P1, are priced like SLRs, and retail for `42,990 and `41,995, respectively.

The trousers of time The terrestrial equivalent of Douglas Adams’ all­important towel would be a good pair of trousers. An ideal pair would be rugged, comfortable and multi­utility. Enter clothing brand Bare Leisure, which has a new collection of “Travel Trousers” for sale. These have a reinforced bar tack for strength, a D­ring for keys or ID cards, hidden compartments for documents and wallets and a partitioned main pocket that makes finding things in their cavernous depth easy. The trousers are available in three colours—gunmetal, olive and khaki and retail for `1,299 at all Pantaloon outlets.

FOOT NOTES | AADISHT KHANNA

The Year of the Yin Metal Rabbit The Chinese New Year is an occasion for fireworks and parades. Here’s a quick guide to the celebrations

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he Chinese New Year usually falls sometime between the end of January and the middle of February. The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, so the exact date is determined by the position of the moon and the sun. The Year of the Yin Metal Rabbit starts on 3 February and will run till 22 January. The Chinese New Year was traditionally a family celebration, involving prayer, feasting on pork, meeting relatives and giving money to children in the family. In the recent past, it’s become an occasion for spectacles and parades in places where there’s a large ethnic Chinese population: mainland China, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and also Chinatowns in San Francisco and New York City, US. Here’s a list of Chinese New Year parties you can join:

New York City Firecracker and cultural ceremony: 3 February, at Roosevelt Park.

parade from the street to a stadium. But with local and international acrobatic and dance acts, it’s still worth a visit. The lantern festival is on 12 February at Eu Tong Sen Street. Hang around for dances, floats and street food.

Hong Kong

Festive spirit: New Year events in Hong Kong include elaborate dances. New York City lifted its ban on firecrackers only four years ago, and the New Year celebrations have been making up for the missed years since then. More than 300,000 crackers are burst in a single exhibition.

Singapore Festive Street Bazaar: till 2

February. Spread over Singapore’s Chinatown, the street bazaar has stalls selling New Year delicacies and other gifts and paraphernalia. A dance performance will run till 2 February at Kreta Ayer Square. The Chingay Parade is on 11-12 February at the F1 Pit Stadium. Singapore has moved its street

Chinese New Year Parade: 3 February, at Tsim Sha Tsui One of the most fascinating attractions in the world according to the Lonely Planet Bluelist, this features traditional and modern dance and acrobatic performances by more than 20 groups from Hong Kong and the rest of the world. The New Year race is on 5 February at the Happy Valley Racecourse. Local punters make it a point to place bets on the first race of the year for luck in the rest of the year. This is preceded by a fireworks display on 4 February at Victoria Harbour. The Hong Kong New Year fireworks display is one of the most spectacular in the world and should be seen up close.

New Year flavours Red The myth behind Chinese New Year tells of a monster who was

frightened by a child wearing red clothes, so almost everything turns red during the New Year: clothes, lanterns and gift envelopes. Speaking of which… Gift envelopes Bosses give their employees and adults give their young relatives money in red envelopes on the first day of the New Year. The envelopes are called Hong Bao in Mandarin and Lai Sze in Cantonese. If you’re going to join in the gifting, remember that the number 8 is lucky: give 8, 80 or 800 of the local currency. Koi fish In Mandarin, the words for fish and prosperity are both pronounced yu. Deciding this was too good a pun to let go of, the Chinese made a picture of koi (carp) forming a yin-yang symbol, a standard New Year decoration. Lantern festival The last day of New Year festivities is China’s own festival of lights. Manufacturers have been competing to produce more and more intricate lanterns in the shape of animals, or with riddles painted on them. Write to lounge@livemint.com


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SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011

Books MEMOIR

Embattled survivors at the piano GABRIEL MORENO/WSJ

Two of America’s finest pianists recount how hand injuries plagued their performance and altered the course of their careers

B Y D AVID D UBAL ···························· yron Janis and Leon Fleisher, both born in 1928, belong to a seemingly cursed generation of American pianists, one marked by early deaths and smothered prospects. Fairly early in their promising careers, each pianist was crippled by a disabling hand problem. Janis suffered from unrelenting arthritis. Fleisher’s right hand became lame, the result of what would later be diagnosed as focal dystonia, a neurological condition. The careers of other members of their generation were equally blighted, or tragically short-lived. William Kapell (born 1922) was killed in a plane crash at age 31. Julius Katchen (born 1926), the finest Brahms player of his generation, succumbed to cancer at age 43. Gary Graffman (born 1928) lost the use of his own right hand around the age of 50. Another set of this generation’s victims were the winners of piano competitions, such as the Cold War hero Van Cliburn (born 1934), the first winner of the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in 1958. After years of playing the same few concertos, Cliburn suffered burnout, feeling that the piano and its endless burden of practice were too much. As might be expected, the memoirs of Fleisher and Janis chronicle both the travails of their abbreviated performance careers and their endless quests for cures. But they also poignantly portray the physical and mental turbulence of being a prodigy. As the literary critic Terry Eagleton has written: “To be precocious is to tip the balance between nature and culture firmly on the side of the latter, to live your childhood as if you were already an adult.” A true talent for the piano usually makes itself evident at about five years old, with the child picking out tunes that he has heard and exhibiting total recall when he

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tries to play them back by ear. Soon it is discovered that the child has absolute or perfect pitch—that is, an ability to recognize the names of notes immediately upon hearing them; this innate, finetuned hearing is often accompanied by excellent reflexes. Parents may be gleeful, lessons are begun and watched for progress. From the time of Mozart’s father, Leopold, to the present, “owning” a child prodigy has proved a powerful stimulant: Parents find their mission in developing and displaying their offspring’s gift, frequently moving the family (or simply the child) to wherever there may be a great or fashionable teacher. Janis’ and Fleisher’s training was similar to that of many of their contemporaries, in that they were taught by the previous generation of European pianists. From his first season at Lake Como, with the great pianist Artur Schnabel, 10-year-old Fleisher felt he had found the teacher of his mind and heart. In Janis’ case, the influential teacher was none other than Vladimir Horowitz, whom he went to study with when he was 16, becoming his first pupil and heir apparent. Janis was born in Pittsburgh; Fleisher in San Francisco. Before they were out of their teens, they had both been drawn to New York, which had become the centre of world pianism and teaching. By the 1940s, the city was home to many of the great “Golden Age” pianists, such as Josef Lhévinne (an early teacher of Janis’), Percy Grainger, Leopold Godowsky and the younger Rudolf Serkin, as well as Horowitz and Claudio Arrau. Carnegie Hall, as well, was buzzing with foreign visitors—the likes of Myra Hess, Arthur Rubinstein and Ignacy Paderewski. Gradually this long-hair generation gave way to a crew-cut generation. These pianists were generally Jewish-American (in an era before certain professions were

Chopin and Beyond: By Byron Janis, Wiley, 270 pages, $26.95 (around `1,215).

My Nine Lives: By Leon Fleisher and Anne Midgette, Doubleday, 326 pages, $26 (around `1,170). open to them) and were highly motivated careerists; they had to be, as the great halls were already packed with stars. Collectively, the new generation cleared away the excesses of their highly romantic forebears and honed a sleek style of pianism, exemplified by Janis’ performances of Rachmaninoff, Gould’s of Bach and Fleisher’s of Beethoven. Both Fleisher and Janis are very much “modern” American pianists. Paramount for these artists was a scrupulous respect for every dot and dash of the score—every thing was clean, note-perfect and in good taste. The chapter of Janis’ memoir called Working with Horowitz will delight any pianist, with its descriptions of learning from such a master. There are also chapters on Janis’ Carnegie Hall debut and on his legendary tours of the then Soviet Union in 1960 and 1962, where he initially was greeted with

hostility but soon became a favourite. In all, the book is a heady account and, once begun, is difficult to stop reading—just as it is difficult to stop listening to one of Janis’ passionate performances of a Rachmaninoff concerto. That said, the title of Janis’ memoir, Chopin and Beyond, hints that we are not in for a normal memoir. The author’s thoughts about (and experiences with) reincarnation, clairvoyance, telepathy and paranormal phenomena will astonish some and titillate others. Janis tells many strange stories. He describes witnessing the sudden materialization of objects, in the company of (among others) mentalist Uri Geller. He also says that, one evening at his home, the Chopin death mask in his possession wept real tears. The most wrenching pages in Janis’ book concern the depressions caused by his arthritis and

the courage he summoned to face them. “The disease crept up on me, like a vampire trying to suck the music out of my hands,” he writes. No paranormal solution ever appeared for this nemesis. Janis would, thou gh, go on to beco me a spokesman for the Arthritis Foundation, make a film about Chopin and teach many pianists. A parallel moment in Fleisher’s memoir comes in the chapter called Catastrophe, which opens with his feeling “a sense of laziness in my right index finger, a slight sluggishness in its response”. This was 1964, when a critic had just called him “the finest all-round pianist before the public today”. But now the fourth and fifth fingers of his right hand became crippled, the fingers literally turning in upon him. In the beginning, he writes: “I kept playing the piano every day. Even without the use of ten fingers.

I didn’t know how to stop. Music had always been the thing I used to make sense of my life.” The years moved slowly, and the hand got ever worse. While seeking advice and treatment, Fleisher entered other areas of the art, becoming a teacher, conductor, left-handed pianist and the artistic director of Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony’s summer home. Periodically he made shortlived comebacks. Finally, in the past few years, with the help of botox treatments, he has regained the use of his right hand and re-established his two-handed playing. By now, his right hand has been so ravaged by his various ailments that his cartilage has all but disappeared. “When I move,” he writes, “it’s basically bone on bone. It hurts like hell.” Fleisher’s autobiography is as restrained as Janis’ is extravagant. Deeply felt, well-structured and often sombre in tone, it has been written in collaboration with music critic Anne Midgette of The Washington Post. The title, My Nine Lives, has no paranormal implications; it simply refers to Fleisher’s many careers. For the musical layman, Fleisher’s memoir will be a delight. An unpedantic teacher, Fleisher takes the time to explain even such basic terms as “cadenza”, while also providing gems of artistic analysis and history. He effortlessly gives us a master class on the Brahms D-minor concerto and the Ravel “Concerto for the Left Hand”, among other works. He also shares his thoughts about the challenges of interpretation, the pitfalls of competitions, the terrors of the stage, the hazards of conducting, the virtues and defects of his many collaborators and the subtle aspects of teaching the piano. My Nine Lives is a great rarity—a book that tells the story of a personal and public triumph and also conveys an artist’s all-pervading love for the instrument that has been with him for a lifetime. David Dubal is a professor of piano performance at the Juilliard School and the author of The Art of the Piano and The Essential Canon of Classical Music. His radio programme, The Piano Matters, can be heard worldwide on Wwfm.org Write to wsj@livemint.com

THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING | EDUARDO PORTER

The cost of living How an economic model explains animal rights, monogamy and religious success

B Y J ONATHAN V . L AST The Wall Street Journal

···························· duardo Porter thought he had found the perfect place to buy coffee: A pie shop near where he lived sold an excellent cappuccino for just $2.75 (around `125)—a steal for one of the best cups of coffee he’d ever tasted. But then the shop raised the price to $3.50, about what he’d pay anywhere else. Porter was furious. He vowed never to buy coffee in the shop again. He didn’t care that the place had switched to bigger cups, but he did care that the homey little enterprise seemed as bloodless as Starbucks in its economic calculations. Then he started to miss his delicious cappuccinos—still reasonably priced and a short walk from his house—and realized how irrational his boycott had been. “So

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now I’m drinking great coffee again,” he writes in The Price of Everything, an exploration of how “every choice we make is shaped by the prices of the options laid out before us—what we assess to be their relative costs—measured up against their benefits.” Porter, an editorial writer for The New York Times, uses economic rationales to explain all sorts of social phenomena, such as why men prefer women with big hips and breasts (reproductive abilities) or why animalrights movements are more popular in wealthy societies than in poorer ones. The book offers some moments of insight—a thoughtful discussion of intellectual property rights concludes that the Internet undermines the value of intellectual property, with the likely result that there will be less of it—but much of Porter’s argument is less than persuasive. Take the subject of polygamy. The reason polygamy has faded over the past 2,000 years, Porter

The Price of Everything: Portfolio, 296 pages, $27.95 (around `1,260). says, is that men realized monogamy raised their value relative to women (he contends that in polygamous societies the maleto-female ratio tilts in women’s favour, allowing females to ”mate above their station”). Another reason for the rise of monogamy, he says, is that “polygamy succumbed to the need for social cohesion”; he cites a study of 156

countries showing that monogamous societies are “less corrupt, less likely to use the death penalty, and richer”. There was, however, an important non-economic event 2,000 years ago that spread the Jewish view—unusual at the time—of marriage as a monogamous institution: the birth of Christianity. Polygamy is practised today mostly in societies where Christianity has been kept at bay. Not only do such societies tend to use the death penalty and be more corrupt, they also tend to be less Judeo-Christian. Ideas matter. Tracking the changing “price” of women, Porter turns his eye to the US’ fertility rate, which went into steep decline around 1970. He writes: “The standard family deal, in which women exchanged the service of their uterus, child care, and household chores for their husband’s wage, was rendered obsolete the moment women arrived home with a paycheck of their own.” Except that the fertility rate in the US has been declining since the Foun-

ding, with the only major upward spike coming in the 20 years following World War II. Certainly, more women entering the workforce in the 1970s contributed to the resumption of the decline, but so did the curtailing of infant mortality, the arrival of the contraceptive pill and scores of other factors. In fact, declining fertility is a global trend, evident everywhere from Mexico to Iran. The Price of Everything amounts to a grab bag of liberal pieties disguised as logic. Illegal immigration, we’re informed, has no economic downside; banned drugs should be legalized; conservative arguments against healthcare reform are foolish; US President Obama’s financial regulation law is wise. As a piece of lay economics, Porter’s book isn’t worth a great deal. As a Democratic policy tract, it’s standard fare. But as a window into liberal provincialism, The Price of Everything is invaluable. Write to wsj@livemint.com


BOOKS L15

SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM KM CHAUDARY/AP

THE READING ROOM

TABISH KHAIR

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD The ‘global’ poet

Big blow: People pay tribute to slain Paki­ stani governor Salman Taseer at a church in Lahore on 9 January.

TINDERBOX | MJ AKBAR

The bitter end to a dream An engaging and racy history of Pakistan posits a bleak future for it, full of turmoil and uncertainty

B Y S OUTIK B ISWAS ···························· s Pakistan a fundamentally flawed state? Why did the dream of a homeland for Indian Muslims sour so quickly? Why has it become one of the most violent nations in the world? Not because, in the words of M.J. Akbar, “Hindus were killing Muslims but because Muslims were killing Muslims”. In Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan, Akbar raises these and similarly knotty questions. There are no easy answers. But history provides some tantalizing clues, and the journalistwriter delves into them abundantly in this book. He suggests the commonly held contention that Pakistan emerged out of a March 1940 resolution at the Muslim League session in Lahore may not be the whole truth. The reality, he writes, is more complex. Pakistan is actually a “successor state to the Mughal Empire”. Akbar does not deny that Pakistan, birthed by an Englishspeaking, Shakespeare-loving, toffish lawyer, emerged out of Muslims’ “fear of the future and pride in the past”. But this fear, he writes, “began as a mood of anguish that set in among the Muslim elite during

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the long decline of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century”. Muslims living in India for five centuries with a “superiority complex suddenly lurched into the consuming doubt of an inferiority complex which became self-perpetuating with every challenge that came during different phases of turbulent colonial rule”, writes Akbar. In doing so, a key question was ignored: Was Islam so weak that it could not survive a minority presence? Leading Sunni theologian Shah Waliullah proposed a theory of distance and protection of Islamic purity—he feared that Indian Muslims would lapse into Hindu practices. Islam could survive in India, he argued, only if Muslims maintained “physical, ideological and emotional distance” from Hindus. Akbar reckons that the “mistrust of the Hindus, fundamental to the theory of distance, became the catechism of Muslim politics when it sought to find its place in the emerging polity of British rule in the early 20th century”.

Tinderbox—The Past and Future of Pakistan: HarperCollins India, 343 pages, `499.

When Muslim notables demanded separate electorates—Muslims could be elected only by fellow Muslims—even Muhammad Ali Jinnah protested. He predicted that India’s unity would be jeopardized by such religious electorates. The unruly vicissitudes of history ensured that Jinnah himself became a fervent votary and founder of this cherished homeland. But a homeland based on the fear of the majority community in undivided India may have been doomed from its bloody beginnings. To demonstrate this point, Akbar falls back on his favourite theological-politician Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the most frighteningly prescient Cassandra on the estranged siblings. “An entity conceived in hatred shall last only as long as the hatreds lasts,” prophesized Azad. “This hatred shall overwhelm relations between India and Pakistan. In this situation it will not be possible for India and Pakistan to become friends and live amicably unless some catastrophic event takes place.” Azad also believed that Pakistan’s future would be blighted by incompetent leadership, high foreign debt, internal unrest, regional conflict and an iniquitous society, dominated by the “neorich and industrialists”. Akbar is a brilliant raconteur of history, and writes on the extraordinary course of events that led to the division of India and the creation of Pakistan in his trademark racy, luminous prose. Six decades after a bloody Partition, Pakistan is teetering on the brink. It faces a terrorist blowback at home and opprobrium abroad. Radicals stymie any effort—however feeble—to make it a modern and centrist state. A tottering economy fails to produce growth or jobs.

Feckless politicians and a powerful army conspire to keep the country in the doldrums. Many believe that only Pakistan’s army and its politicians can rescue the nation. The army, they say, needs to subject itself to civilian and parliamentary oversight. Governments need to stop running to the army and involve them in settling political scores. Shuja Nawaz, writer of Crossed Swords, possibly the most authoritative book on Pakistan, believes that though the army remains a conservative institution, it is not yet overrun by radical Islamists. So if politicians play their part faithfully and the army stops meddling in the affairs of the state, he writes, Pakistan may “break out of the vicious cycle that has kept it from developing as a progressive nation”. Akbar is not so hopeful. He believes a strain of theocracy runs through the “DNA of the idea of Pakistan”. Ergo, efforts to convert the nation into a Taliban-style Islamic emirate “will continue in one form or the other, at a slow or faster pace”. So will it then eventually disintegrate, with the fiercely independent Balochis and Pashtuns exploiting the turmoil and breaking away? Akbar doesn’t think so, and posits an even bleaker future: Pakistan, he writes, displays all the characteristics of a “jelly state”, neither stable, nor imploding. It is a chilling premise. Has Jinnah’s dream turned into a nightmare without end? Soutik Biswas is the India editor of BBC News online. Write to lounge@livemint.com IN SIX WORDS Brilliant history of Pakistan predicts turmoil

Had Faiz Ahmed Faiz lived on, he would have been exactly a century old this year. He was born in Sialkot in Pakistan, incidentally also the hometown of Muhammad Iqbal, on 13 February 1911. He died in Lahore in 1984. Faiz is known as the unofficial poet laureate of Pakistan. But it is perhaps more accurate to see him not just in the context of the Indian subcontinent, but also that of larger events, such as the Russian revolution of 1917 and the Indian fight for independence from British rule. Interestingly, while the period of Faiz’s youth and flowering is seen as a largely dismal period by Europeans—two World Wars, the threat of Communist revolution and the loss of empires—it was largely a period of hope and liberation in Asia and Africa. In this context, it is not surprising that Faiz’s critique of society, unlike that of T.S. Eliot, does not depend on shoring up the shards of an impotent past, and his fervour, though complex, never waxes and wanes and finally turns into a public face smiling in a classroom, as is the case with W.B. Yeats. In his own way, of course, Faiz deserves to be ranked with poets such as Eliot and Yeats, and the fact that he does not enjoy the same stature globally has as much to do with him writing in Urdu as it has to do with him writing of hope in a period when, most European and American critics remain convinced, “world” literature had only reason to plunge into despair and bitterness. Faiz’s sorrow and criticism, especially in the light of the bleakness of much of Urdu love poetry, was almost always touched with a complex hope, as in these concluding lines from a famous nazm: “Aur bhi dukh hain zamaaney mein muhabbat ke siva raahaten aur bhi hain vassal ki raahat ke siva mujh se pehli si muhabbat mere mahboob na maang!” (There are sorrows in these times other than those of love; there are freedoms other than those of passion; don’t ask me for that love of the past, O my beloved). LEV IVANOV/AFP

Well­versed: Faiz’s poetry has resonance in today’s world. Perhaps non-Western poets such as Faiz can only be done full critical justice at the “global” level if more European and American thinkers face up honestly to all the reasons for their own lack of hope in the first half of the 20th century.

Extinct books Even as book publishing in India seems to be thriving, books are in dire straits in many parts of the First World. An article in The Guardian notes that, in Gloucestershire alone, 23 out of 43 libraries will be closed this year. Scholars, of course, will vomit voluminous papers on it, blaming everything from the Internet to childcare. But the bottom line is that First World governments, for largely political reasons, have decided to cut down on the humanities, and hence primarily on book spending. And most First World citizens are too comfortable in their armchairs to realize that they are well on the way from their Orwellian terror of censorship to a future of “programmed entertainment” and apathy depicted by Aldous Huxley, as Stuart McMillen’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, the cartoon strip, suggests. So, perhaps, the fact that there are political parties and governments in, say, India or China that still ban books or persecute writers is not such a total negative after all!

Jaipur ahoy! Need it even be mentioned that the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival, one of the great annual literary events of the world, is on until 25 January? Tabish Khair is an Indian writer based in Denmark. His latest novel is The Thing about Thugs. Write to Tabish at readingroom@livemint.com

REISSUED RK NARAYAN

FREE VERSE | ANUPAMA RAJU

Penguin India has reissued four R.K. Narayan novels in its silver and white Modern Classics editions, making them perfect gifts for friends and family who have misplaced their old copies, or await introduction to the profound charm of one of the last century’s great literary artistes. Pico Iyer’s introduction for the series sounds like it was written for Western readers, but it has its moments of illumination. In ‘The Vendor of Sweets’, an American daughter­in­law is just one illustration of the chasm of understanding that separates Jagan, the sweet vendor, from

Bougainvillea

his son Mali. In ‘The Man­Eater of Malgudi’, a timid printer must stand up to the aggressive taxidermist who takes over his house and life. ‘The Guide’, made famous in Vijay Anand’s Bollywood adaptation, is about the discomfiting intersection of faith and deception. And ‘Waiting for the Mahatma’ is a tender comedy about idealism and the independence movement. All four novels are reminders of how fundamentally Narayan and his Malgudi are part of our self­image and our imaginative landscapes. As Indian writing in English expands its canon, the reissues

Waiting for the Mahatma: 200 pages, `225; The Vendor of Sweets: 151 pages, `225; The Man­eater of Malgudi: 194 pages, `225; The Guide: 224 pages, `225. recall some of our quietest—and greatest —glories yet. Supriya Nair

Sleep gently on these bleeding eyes as my red muse spreads unsure wings to soar into heavens born of whispering lies. Sleep gently on my bleeding eyes and see papery dreams in disguise those pink bougainvillea rising in rings of sleep. Gently on these bleeding eyes my red muse spreads his sure wings. Anupama Raju is a writer and poet based in Thiruvananthapuram. Write to lounge@livemint.com


L16

www.livemint.com

SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011

Culture ART

The enduring power of six anindita.g@livemint.com

···························· oday we paint with absolute freedom…” members of the Progressive Artists’ Group declared in the brochure of their second show at the Bombay Art Society salon in 1949. The six young artists who formed the core of the revolutionary group—F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, M.F. Husain, K.H. Ara, S.K. Bakre and H.A. Gade—had by then become rallying points for the modern movement in Indian art. That exhibition was also their final show: Souza, Raza and Bakre left for Europe soon after and the others embarked on individual journeys. Though the group itself was remarkably short-lived, its members are still considered among the most important artists of the last and current century. In a show titled Continuum that opened earlier this week, the Delhi Art Gallery (DAG) brings together 250 works of these master artists. After a gap of six decades the Progressives are being shown together again. Five years in the making, the retrospective spans the artists’ careers and mediums. The works are priced between `4 lakh and `4 crore, the most expensive being a 6Kx6ft oil on canvas by Husain called Karachi V. The show includes famous pieces, such as Souza’s Temple Dancer, Raza’s Germination and Ara’s most iconic painting, an untitled nude. The works are accompanied by a 330-page book with essays on the group’s genesis as well as explorative biographies on each artist. Since four of the artists have died, and Husain’s entry to India has effectively been barred, the 88-year-old Raza, who has now made his way back to India, is the only one among the Progressives to witness the show. “There possibly hasn’t been any other group of artists that came together in this manner and created such a valuable body of work,” says Kishore Singh, head of exhibitions at DAG. The title of the

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show hints at continuity, he explains, because it traces the artists’ journeys backwards. Many works have been bought directly from the artists or their families. Ashish Anand, director, DAG, recalls meeting Gade at his home in Mumbai in 2002 and buying a bundle of 100 artworks—50 of which were what Raza had left with him before leaving for France. Anand paid `10 lakh for the whole bunch and subsequently sold most of them. Following the steep hike in the prices of works by modern artists earlier in the decade, he had to buy several back at many times the price to fill the gaps in the exhibition. One of the challenges in putting up a group show of the Progressives is the difference in the current standing of the artists in the art mart: Husain, Souza and Raza are much more well known than the others. Ara made a name for himself but later slipped into oblivion. Bakre spent much of his time in London and on his return retired to a coastal village in Maharashtra. This, in fact, is the first time that his works are being shown in Delhi. Likewise, not much is known about Gade, who faded after the group split. Continuum appears to have taken up the task of educating art lovers on the works of the three lesser-known artists. And their works are the real unseen gems of the exhibition. DAG will host film screenings, lectures and panel discussions to complement the show. Anand admits that including works by Husain could invite trouble but says a show on the Progressives minus his works would be impossible. Somewhat disappointingly, he does add that they’re being “careful” about what they show. For many art historians, what’s more revolutionary about the Progressives is not their work per se, but the manner in which they came together. That in itself was an artistic statement. At the time they were all young, between the ages of 24 and 34, and barely eking out a living in Mumbai. The late 1940s in post-independence India

Maqbool Fida Husain (born 1915) He is the epitome of the artist figure in India, especially in light of the controversy over the last decade. He found a segue between the modern and the perceived Indian visual idiom. The horse, rural India and women in bold, choppy strokes remain his most identifiable subjects. He painted billboards and cherubs on children’s nursery furniture before he met the other Progressives.

COURTESY NATIONAL GALLERY

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MODERN ART, MUMBAI

Ahead of time: (above) The iconic nude by Ara; and (from left) Husain, Souza, Bakre, Ara, Raza and Gade in a press photo from 1948.

was a time of great artistic confusion. Each of the six artists had his own unique style (see Different Strokes): the frank sexuality of Souza, the beguiling nudes of Ara, the earthy sensuality of Husain, but what they all had in common was a strong distaste for the prevailing trends in Indian art. The Progressives rejected out-

right the revivalistic methods of the Bengal School because they sought to find a new voice. They also opposed the academic styles taught by the schools of art set up by the British. The only avenue that was available to show their work was the Bombay Art Society, with strict submission criteria under headings such as

Feast fight With new culinary shows, can Indian TV invent its own brand of food entertainment? B Y A MRITA R OY amrita.r@livemint.com

···························· ne unremarkable afternoon about 17 years ago, Zee TV started beaming a half-hour cookery show aimed at the Indian homemaker. It had a young chef from an ITDC hotel guiding viewers step by step through traditional Indian recipes, and a sprinkling of “New Age” specialities such as pastas and risottos. The chef’s chatty, easy-does-it style, as well as his dimpled smile, won over nervous new brides and doughty grandmothers alike, creating two of the most abiding brands on Indian television: Khana Khazana and

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Sanjeev Kapoor, each synonymous with the other. The culinary television genre is now coming into its own, with both Zee Network and Kapoor launching rival 24x7 channels dedicated to food within weeks of each other. Zee has chosen to hark back to its trusted warhorse to pull its newest venture and named the channel—which went on air in December— Zee Khana Khazana, whereas Kapoor’s Food Food, a joint venture with the Malaysia based Astro All Asia Network, is set to go on air from Monday. More food channels are in the offing—notably, Alva Brothers’ Real Global Broadcasting Pvt. Ltd, which will launch Food First within the next couple of months. “Food channels are very suc-

Curator Yamini Telkar, project coordinator for ‘Continuum’, talks about the distinct visual idiom of each of the Progressives Krishnaji Howlaji Ara (1914­85) Ara, known for his still life and nudes, never dated his works. He painted in bursts, often completing several paintings in a day. Watercolours were his forte and his works exude a sense of calm. He worked as a domestic servant and later a car washer, and painted in his free time.

Works by the Progressives are being shown together for the first time since the 1940s—and they include some unseen gems B Y A NINDITA G HOSE

DIFFERENT STROKES

Lap it up: (above) Zee Khana Khazana’s The Hairy Bikers’ Cookbook; and Sanjeev Kapoor.

cessful in Western markets like the US,” says Anurag Bedi, business head of Zee Khana Khazana. “The Indian consumer is also developing a taste for niche offerings and lifestyle channels.” A view Manisha Tripathi, business head of Real Broadcasting shares. “If you look around, there are an increasing number of restaurants offering a wider range of cuisines

today,” she says. “Food as a category is growing and its time it got served on TV as well.” Significantly, both Bedi and Tripathi refer to their new offerings as a “lifestyle” channel, adding that food will be the unifying theme for the programming. “Whenever a viewer thinks food, wants to view food, he should be able to switch on Zee Khana Khazana and get to see a show on food and not, say, travel,” says

“watercolours (Indian style)” or “Black & White, Pastels”, etc. The group organized their own shows to break away from this overly formal set-up. It was an entrepreneurial effort and their roles were well delineated—Ara, the articulate one, dealt with the press; Raza, quiet and sensitive, talked about the works to buyers; Souza, the most vociferous, was the group’s spokesperson. It was he who wrote the group’s manifesto. When he claimed that “our art has evolved over the years of its own volition; out of our own balls and brains”, it was too early for him to know that this evolution was to change Indian art forever. Continuum: Progressive Artists’ Group will run at Delhi Art Gallery, 11, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi, till 28 February.

Bedi. “But if the show involves travelling for food, then it fits right in with our content line-up. In The Hairy Bikers’ Cookbook two British bikers ride around the world sampling local cuisine and then try their hands at cooking it.” The audience profile too has changed dramatically—from housewives looking to pick up a few recipes to add to their regular repertoire, it now includes men and even children. “My teenaged daughters were hooked to M asterchef Australia ,” says Kapoor. “They followed the participants, knew when they were making a mistake and had critical comments on the show.” The new viewer is what all three channels are banking on. Tripathi says their all-English Food First has its sights set on an audience of 18 and above, with high purchasing power. The channel has exclusive broadcast rights to content from international distributors such as Shine, Optomen and Cineflix. “These programmes fea-

Hari Ambadas Gade (1917­2001) A self­confessed colourist, he is referred to as a painter’s painter. He was a mathematician who let colour rather than structure be the principle guiding force of his art. Gade’s job as a teacher meant he painted the least among his peers. Sayed Haider Raza (born 1922) His works exult in colour, form and line. He adopted the ‘bindu’ as a leitmotif early on and achieved much fame and recognition. Sadanand K Bakre (1920­2007) The only sculptor among the Progressives, Bakre did odd jobs as a woodcarver, bricklayer and mason to support himself when he went to London, leaving India just when he had achieved recognition. He was a master of technique and could spend years on a single artwork. Francis Newton Souza (1924­2002) This enfant terrible’s prolific output stands testimony to the force with which he created art. Souza is distinguished by his highly charged nudes, strong lines and heavy application of colour. The spiritual and the erotic were the two dominant themes of his work.

ture some renowned personalities from the world of food, such as celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. We have a show with Gwyneth Paltrow, the Hollywood star. Not everyone knows she is a foodie,” Tripathi adds. Bedi says about 30% of Zee Khana Khazana’s programming— which he describes as a Hinglish channel—will have international content. Food Food, which will be the only Hindi channel, is betting solely on local content to win this cook-off. “All our content is locally produced. We have several big names from the food and showbiz industries,” says Kapoor. “There’s a show I host, Sanjeev Kapoor’s Kitchen, and one by chef Rakesh Bedi. There’s Firangi Dhaba on foreign cuisines.” The channel has also signed deals with the likes of Endemol and BBC for adaptations of internationally popular shows, such as Ready Steady Cook. With the competition hotting up, the Indian foodie finally has something to watch. But whether these shows can invent a genre or brand which is uniquely Indian will depend on more than positioning food entertainment as aspirational.


CULTURE L17

SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

Q&A | ADRIAN FISK

MUSIC MATTERS

SHUBHA MUDGAL

Killing the cliché

COLDPLAY CAN BE FUN

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The British photog­ rapher talks about learning to filter the exotica for his large­format photos

B Y A NINDITA G HOSE anindita.g@livemint.com

······················· he story of photographer Adrian Fisk’s journey from the UK to India is trite: He traipsed about as a hippie backpacker right out of college. This was in 1991, his extended South Asia travels coincided with both, the calamitous Bangladesh floods and the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. He came back in 2003 as a professional photographer, and he hasn’t gone back. Fisk’s work has been featured in magazines such as The Economist, Paris Match and National Geographic. An ongoing exhibition at Moon River, a design house in New Delhi, puts together his best work through the decade—from his coverage of the 2004 tsunami in the coastal town of Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu to portraits of Maoists from pockets deep in Chhattisgarh. Underlying the images is an aesthetic that isn’t overly exotic but at the same time several notches above the manner in which India is reproduced for the world in print. It was perhaps for this reason that he was recently included in a book, The World’s Top Photographers, published by RotoVision. Edited excerpts from an interview:

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How have your subjects and your approach evolved with time? In all honesty I was still drawn to snake charmers and cows in my first few years. It’s a rite of passage for a foreigner

Vivid: Fisk’s image of the tsunami in Nagapattinam; and (left) 20­year­old Rabia Shebu from Kashmir, in the iSpeak India series.

documenting India and anyone who says otherwise would be lying. I did, however, try to take a contrarian stand: My feature on snake charmers, for instance, was on their increasing redundancy. It’s the concerns that have changed with time. I have a better grasp of my subject matter through conversations and exchanges with friends, almost all of whom are Indian. I’m interested in a political and anthropological visual analysis of a country that is poised for such great changes. What are your thoughts on the

Indie in Hindi Hindi pop­rock group Faridkot has released its debut album. We find out what’s next B Y K RISH R AGHAV krish.r@livemint.com

···························· hey’ve been almost everywhere in India, but Faridkot have never played a gig in Faridkot. The popular Hindi pop-rock band has received plenty of requests to make the trip to their namesake town in western Punjab, mostly in the form of comments on their YouTube videos. “It’s not like we don’t want to,” says keyboardist Akshay Raheja, “we just have no clue about the city.” The band, whose debut album Ek was released two days ago, has a surprisingly wide reputation outside the usual metrocentric indie circuit. They’ve

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played in locations as diverse as the Infosys campus in Chandigarh and villages in the Siang valley in Arunachal Pradesh. “The fact that we sing in Hindi has always worked for us,” Raheja says. “It gets us a wider reach—out of the metros.” Formed in 2008, Faridkot reached the finals of Channel V’s music reality show Launchpad the following year. Two years of intense gigging followed, with the band roughing it out at college festivals, corporate shows, award ceremonies and charity concerts. At the same time, they jammed continuously, building up a repertoire of more than 20 originals. “Their music is instantly likeable,” says singer-songwriter Raghu Dixit, who was one of the judges on Launchpad. “They’re lyrically strong, and are a great performing unit.” The band put on an energetic live act. Vocalist Inderpreet Singh twists and swivels around the axis of his mic stand while singing, while guitarists Gavin

charge that international photographers continue to propagate a convenient visual image of India? One can try to avoid clichés but the truth is that there is colour and beauty where you look—even in houses ravaged by the tsunami. I try to go beyond the colours and frames and try and point to something deeper. You work both as a photojournalist as well as on independent art projects. Which do you identify more with? I look at all of my work as reportage…it’s different from photojournalism in the sense that it’s more immersive and layered. The works in your ongoing show are really large format. Is there a thematic reasoning for this? They’re about 4ft wide. India confronts you. It’s in your face. And I wanted the images

Pacheco and Rajarshi Sanyal flail spasmodically on either side. Raheja peers into his laptop, providing hints of electronica to the band’s sound, like the false start sample that opens Halle Dil. In August 2009 (“on 15 August to be precise,” says Raheja), they took over a studio in Delhi’s Shahpur Jat and put together the eight-track album piece by piece. “We did everything ourselves, from the layering to the production,” Raheja says. The album was ready by September 2009, but it’s taken a year and a half to

to have that sort of impact both in terms of their content as well as in their physical sense. Tell us about your recently concluded ‘iSpeak India’ series. My understanding is that since the under-30 populations of China and India are basically the future population of the world in terms of sheer numbers, it’s important to know what the Chinese and Indian youth are thinking. I started off with iSpeak China, where I shot around 54 images in different parts of the country. I’ve recently finished iSpeak India and it comprised travelling to 18 Indian states, interviewing youth between the ages of 16-30 and photographing them with a sheet of paper in which I ask them to write their most immediate concerns. The issues that have come up through the project have mostly been development- or corruption-related as well as on the role of family and society. It’s been a phenomenal experience…and it’s been poignant, especially when the sheets were blank. Adrian Fisk’s works are on view at Moon River, D-16, Defence Colony, New Delhi, till 20 February.

get a label on board (Times Music) and see its release. As is far too common in Indian indie, the songs on Ek don’t quite represent the band’s current sound. Raheja admits as much. “We had enough material for three albums or so, but we followed a simple rule,” he says. “We picked the first eight songs we’d composed.” These were songs the band had been playing since 2008. “It’s been three years. We just had to get them out there quick.” These are tunes from Farid-

ome of the most prestigious festivals and conferences of Indian classical music take place in the winter months. Now, the winter in Mumbai, Chennai or Bangalore is far from being chilly, or at least unpleasantly, bone-marrowingly chilly, but if you happen to be scheduled to perform somewhere in northern India, you could have more than a bit of trouble warming up. I remember a concert in Jaisalmer one January, in an extraordinarily beautiful garden retreat (which could have been a splendid setting for a concert had the temperature not been a numbing 2 degrees Celsius), with the audience, elegant and regal in priceless shawls and designer clothing, sitting around angeethis with glowing embers, while every swara I sang was heralded by a puff of smoky frosty breath. Swathed in several layers of woollen clothes, it was pretty tough to settle down and start concentrating on the music, though eventually and mercifully, that did happen. It’s a different matter, though, that when I gesticulated as I usually do when I sing, my hands, which I couldn’t bare on account of the extreme cold, appeared like stumps bandaged in the folds of my shawl. Imagine what would happen to us desi musicians then if we were invited to the Ice Music Festival at Geilo where the venue, the stage, the instruments and even the decorations are all made of ice! Don’t believe me? Check www.icefestival.no, which has several pictures of the different instruments carved out of ice, and even a video of ice sculptor Bill Covitz merrily working on an ice harp, www.icefestival.no/en/html/ice/harp/. This unique and intriguing festival takes place at Geilo, midway between Oslo and Bergen, in Norway. The festival website makes it seem fairly simple to get there, by bus, train or car. For some of us who are not used to the cold, leave alone heavy snow, it may require some, er, getting used to. But those of us who may be less intrepid and brave of heart could well sit at home, huddled in our shawls and mufflers, and listen to the exclusive all-ice tracks on an exclusive and dedicated Ice record label titled, what else, All Ice Records. Not surprisingly, the albums are appropriately titled Hibernation, Igloo and Iceman Is. The ustad of icy tunes appears to be a far from frosty looking gentleman called Terje Isungset. A set of videos that I watched showed him in concert playing a variety of icy instruments. The following link is available for all interested icy Kansens: http://home.online.no/~isungz/ Though ice music concerts seem to be gaining popularity and travelling far and wide to London and Istanbul and elsewhere, I am not so sure they would be travelling in the near future to do a jugalbandi with our very own Munni and Sheila. Among other things, ice from the Norwegian glaciers would need to be flown down to make the instruments! Write to Shubha at musicmatters@livemint.com KNUT BRY

‘Winterreise’: Terje Isungset plays instruments carved out of ice.

kot’s early days, which remain their most popular. Songs such as Laila and Banjare follow a straightforward template for Hindi pop-rock—lots of clean, jangly guitar chords and hints of influence from Pakistani groups such as Strings. Laila, their most popular song, builds to a loud, singalong chorus and is usually played more than once in a show. “We’ve got influences ranging from Led Zeppelin to Kailash Kher,” Raheja says. “You could say our basic style is mixing eclectic Western influences PRADEEP GAUR/MINT

Getting around: Faridkot will start a three­city tour to promote their debut album Ek.

over traditional Hindi vocals.” The best representative of Faridkot’s changing sound is live show regular Titliyaan—the song’s opening part sounds more trip-hop than pop, with a stark guitar line floating over a complex, jazz shuffle on the drums. The chorus breaks into invocations flecked with dark anger like something out of Amit Trivedi’s soundtrack for Dev.D, and ends with a bluesy guitar solo. “We keep listening to new stuff. Our second album will be less pop, and completely different,” Raheja promises. The band has also seen a change in staff —drummer Reuben Narain left to pursue his interest in jazz composition, and was replaced by Sahil Mendiratta. The band’s obvious next step is Bollywood. They’ve already taken a tentative first step, composing the title song for Sharafat Gayi Tel Lene, an upcoming “comedy thriller” from the producers of Khosla ka Ghosla! “We’re all full-time musicians. Our focus for the year is promoting our album, getting people to listen to it, and bring our music to new places.” Starting with Faridkot.


L18 FLAVOURS SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

DELHI’S BELLY | KRISH RAGHAV

Infrastructure development

PHOTOGRAPHS

BY

PRIYANKA PARASHAR/MINT

Play it loud: Jam pads Sound Station, (below, right) Fender Music Academy, and Overdrive Studios.

The bane of resi­ dential neighbour­ hoods everywhere, Delhi’s bands find wings in the city’s new jam pads

P

alash Bedi, drummer and co-owner of Overdrive Studios in Lajpat Nagar, sums up the central advantage of a jam pad in a wonderfully concise line of Delhi English: “Apna (our) scene is all soundproofed, dude,” he says when asked how he deals with harried neighbours complaining about the noise. Delhi’s local bands have long suffered the cloistered confines of the city’s residential neighbourhoods. Short of whispering the vocals and hitting the drums with felt sticks, being quiet isn’t really possible for a rock band. “Jam pads are life-savers,” says

Surojit Dev of local band Them Clones. “They save us a lot of hassle and unnecessary fighting with neighbours.” Two of Delhi’s biggest jam pads, the MGMH (Music Gets Me High) Sound Station in Okhla and the Fender Music Academy in Shahpur Jat, opened a little over a year ago and other, smaller jam pads such as the aforementioned Overdrive Studios sprouted all over south Delhi last year. “South Delhi is the centre of the city’s music community,” says Oorja Singh, co-founder of the SOS Jam Pad in South Extension. “It’s well-connected enough for people from all over the Capital to come.” SOS started operations in October, and is already in the process of expanding its stock of equipment. The end of January is when the “second wave” of the music season starts, sandwiched between college semester exams, and jam pads see packed calendars and a healthy roster of musicians frequenting their joints. “It really picks up after August, and goes on till about April,” says Manu Saxena, owner of Fender Music Academy. “A lot of college festivals and ‘battle

of the bands’ competitions happen around this time.” On Sound Station’s website, the roster for January shows a white-spaced lull towards the end of the month, with the calendar restarting with a flurry of bookings around 30 January. “We’re not expensive, we give discounts to bands wanting to jam at a stretch, we’re open till late and we’re situated in an area where you’re not kicked out after 8pm,” says Ritnika Nayan, founder of MGMH, the artiste management firm that runs the Sound Station jam pad in Okhla. The jam room is a spacious 22x13ft, and is filled with high-quality instruments. For bands on a budget, or college students stuck in cramped accommodation, the pads provide the luxury of good equipment without the need to carry it across town. Most jam pads charge about `200 an hour, with free hours given away if you jam for more than 60 hours a month. “We get every single kind of band at a jam pad,” says Overdrive Studios’ Bedi. “From metal to groups playing Bollywood covers.” Bedi’s played for many local bands,

and making the jump to starting a studio and rehearsal space made sense for him. “We checked out all the other jam pads, but they all had flaws,” he says. Some were too cramped for bands with more than four members. Others had tinny sound systems. “We focus on getting great sound, and good tone—not just loud wattage,” he says. Attached to the jam room is a fully functional studio, and Bedi offers classes in Western music. This combination keeps the jam pad business model sustainable. Setting one up, says Nayan, can cost anywhere from `2-5 lakh, depending on sponsorship deals and choice of equipment. Bedi says even an off-season month brings in about `40,000 in revenue, enough to cover costs. Part of the reason is that jam pads continue to be a south Delhi monopoly, and bands dispersed all over the city and 100 colleges have to make the long trek southwards. “We get people from really faraway places like Rohini and Ghaziabad,” Bedi says. But for bands, places such as these are vital. Many, such as Hindi pop-rock group Faridkot, record their albums

at these places, and the interactions with other musicians who float in and out helps refine a rookie band’s sound. “These places have great vibes,” says Them Clones’ Dev. “The people who run them are industry insiders who do it out of passion, and not mere ‘paise kamaanewale’ (money makers).” They also solve iffy issues of space and set-up. When you have a band with eight members, such as fusion group Advaita, sporting, among other things, tablas, sarangis and keyboards, finding practice space can be a bit of a challenge. “When we started, there just wasn’t a place that could accommodate all of us,” says Advaita guitarist Abhishek Mathur. The band, which has now been around for seven years, currently plays in a garage converted into a soundproofed jam pad in Chittaranjan Park. “We need many more of these all over the city,” Mathur says. “It really encourages the scene, and builds a nice foundation for bands to make use of. It’s like infrastructure development, you know?” krish.r@livemint.com

LOUD, LOUDER, LOUDEST A list of five local jam pads for starters u Fender Music Academy 113, Shahpur Jat (near Siri Fort Auditorium), New Delhi For information, log on to www.fendermusicacademy.com u SOS Jam Pad http://sosinme.com G­2 (basement), South Extension, Part II, New Delhi For bookings, call 011­26253120 u MGMH Sound Station http://www.mgmh.net D­72, Okhla Industrial Area, Phase I, New Delhi For bookings, call 9910001202 u Overdrive Studios B­104 (basement), Lajpat Nagar­1, New Delhi For bookings, call 011­46132104 u M­Sharp M­45 (basement), Chittaranjan Park, near the police station, New Delhi For information, email msharp.musikalaya@gmail.com



Lounge for 22 Jan 2011