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

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Vol. 5 No. 16

LOUNGE THE WEEKEND MAGAZINE

BSF constable B.K. Bhatti gets ready for duty at the Wagah border, near Amritsar.

BUSINESS LOUNGE WITH GUCCI’S PATRIZIO DI MARCO >Page 8

LOST IN THE PAGES

While on vacation or lazing at home, don’t forget the books of the season. We pick the best new titles for under­15s >Page 6

A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS

FORCE GIRLS

Stop asking people to bring you a man­sized bar of Toblerone when they go abroad. Try these unique souvenirs >Page 13

At the Wagah border post, a group of 13 women constables of the Border Security Force are matching their male colleagues step for step >Pages 9­11 PUBLIC EYE

A playwright’s identity crisis makes way for Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ set in Kolkata >Page 16

REPLY TO ALL

SUNIL KHILNANI

THE GOOD LIFE

AAKAR PATEL

CENSUS AND THE NORTH­SOUTH GAP

THE BUSINESS­ CLASS PEDIGREE

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hen, according to WikiLeaks, US ambassador Timothy Roemer reported back to Washington, DC a remark apparently made to him by Union home minister P. Chidambaram, to the effect that India’s overall growth, led by the states of the south and west, was being slowed by the north, he was hardly transmitting a state secret. Yet, predictably and unthinkingly, political parties, especially northern ones like the Samajwadi Party, responded with pieties... >Page 4

A KOLKATA FOR PIP

orbes magazine has put out a list of the world’s 1,210 billionaires. Fifty-five of them are Indians. A billion dollars is `4,480 crore. A Baniya is a member of the Vaish caste, originating mainly from Rajasthan and Gujarat. They are under 1% of India’s population. India’s richest man is a Baniya (Lakshmi Mittal, world’s sixth richest with $31.1 billion), India’s second richest man is a Baniya (Mukesh Ambani, $27 billion), India’s third richest... >Page 5

SHOBA NARAYAN

DON’T MISS

in today’s edition of

IT’S TIME FOR AN INDIAN NOMA

D

oes Indian cuisine need to break the shackles of tradition to make its mark globally? Or do we stay true to our heritage? Evolution or revolution: that is the question. It was the night of the Food Lovers awards function in Bangalore (Disclosure: I was part of the tasting panel). As usual, Karavalli at the Taj Gateway walked away with the “best coastal restaurant” award, beating Kanua, a solid contender. Free-standing favourites... >Page 5

PHOTO ESSAY

VARANASI, BEYOND THE GHATS


HOME PAGE L3

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

SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 2011 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

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FOUNDING EDITOR RAJU NARISETTI ©2011 HT Media Ltd All Rights Reserved

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE FOR DELHI’S RAPE CRISIS? PRADEEP GAUR/MINT

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ayantara Janardhan personally not even consider approaching the takes all bookings for the taxi serpolice as they believed a) the police vice she and her business partner wouldn’t do anything, b) the police Meenu Vadera started in November. A would just fill in the paperwork, and c) COO’s job description shouldn’t northe police would blame them. mally include answering the phone, but Additional deputy commissioner of this is Delhi. Safety is a huge concern police Suman Nalwa, who runs the when you’re running a taxi service for special cell for women and children at women, by women in India’s rape capiNanakpura in south Delhi, says this tal, so all of Sakha’s drivers attend a selfcity’s record of 47% rapes resulting in defence module conducted by the Delhi conviction is better than the sub-30% Police. They carry pepper spray and helnational average. Nalwa says the pline numbers; know their legal rights women she interacts with tell her that and what to do in a hostile situation. they find it difficult to articulate sexual They ensure there’s always at least one harassment to the city’s mostly male female customer in the cab. policemen (though, she points out, That’s not all. They work as private after the Commonwealth Games, chauffeurs for a year, before they graduDelhi’s 6% female police force is higher ate to driving their own taxis. The registhan the national 3% average). tration form to hire a chauffeur is So who’s responsible for the fact that exhaustive and you must list your family women don’t feel safe in Delhi? members, domestic help, daily work The migrants who continue to pack timings, your travel route, etc. “If we’re north-east Delhi, the area with the not comfortable with the answers, we’ve highest population density, according even sent scouts to the customer’s to the recently released census? The house,” says Janardhan. abysmal conviction rates that allow As women increasingly negotiate the half the city’s rapists to get away? Of public spaces that were until recently course, the increased visibility of and almost exclusively male access to women in public spaces is a factor. After all Delhi, unlike Mumbai, SOCIETY (even today you rarely spot any women walking on doesn’t have a very long and vibrant many of Delhi’s roads after dark), the history of working women, says Viswaonus of our safety continues to lie with nath. The city’s spread out topography us. And if you track the recent media Big bad city: You are still your own best protector here. that makes it difficult to police? The coverage of sexual violence against uncaring citizens who don’t react even women in Delhi, it seems like we’re not doing was raped by an older relative ran out of his when a crime is committed in their midst? a very good job of protecting ourselves. home and hailed a taxi to drive her to safety. Jagori’s survey found that 54% of women and Of course, the second we peek out from The taxi driver and his two friends raped her 69% of men preferred not to get involved behind our armour, we get blamed (for our again. Which India should you hold responsi- when they saw someone being harassed. “We late hours, our new-found courage to venture ble here? Dehumanized India existed then need a better sense of ownership of the city so further out of our homes, our way of dressing, and continues to thrive now. people respond,” says Viswanath. our easier relationships with men). What else Or should we just blame ourselves? If we “Sexual violence is part of Old India and can you expect, they say, when you’re a foot New India,” says Jagori’s Kalpana Viswanath. feel so strongly that Delhi doesn’t police its soldier in that eternal clash of civiliza- Last year, a study by this women’s organiza- streets effectively, why don’t we do something tions—New India vs Old India. tion found that women of all classes deal with about it? “The safety of women is never an It’s a neat enough analysis—especially sexual harassment in Delhi. Harassment election issue,” says Nalwa. Most of us don’t w h e n t h e v i c t i m i s a c a l l c e n t r e occurs during all hours of the day, in crowded even know how much the government employee—but it doesn’t explain so many and secluded spaces. Forty-five per cent of spends to keep women safe, she adds. Maybe instances of sexual violence against Indian women had experienced being stalked. Only it’s time to take this debate to Jantar Mantar. women (the high incidence of incest rape, for 0.8% of women said they reported harassexample). Earlier this week, a woman who ment to the police. Some 58% said they did Write to lounge@livemint.com

LOUNGE REVIEW | PLAY X GAMES ARENA, BANGALORE

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ike racing, cricket, shooting, board games and skateboarding under one roof—a sports enthusiast’s dream. With Play X Games Arena, Bangaloreans have that one-stop sports hub that all city folk, especially those who gripe about the lack of open spaces for outdoor sports, can do with. Spread over 4 acres, this games arena has play areas dedicated to skateboarding, football, beach volleyball, archery, climbing, bouldering, remote control car racing, dirt track racing and other indoor sports. For owner Sharath Reddy, it seemed a necessity. “I returned from the US and missed having a space for these activities,” says Reddy, who opened a go-karting track in the city two years ago. Phase I of Play X Games, which includes most outdoor sports will be open to the public from 1 May. Phase II, which is a separate complex complete with simulation games, board games and a bowling alley, is likely to be ready by the end of the year.

The good stuff The impressive feature of Play X Games is its emphasis on quality equipment. Buggies and quad bikes from Yamaha can be hired for racing. They come in 50cc capacities for children and go up to 350cc for speed junkies. Most games which require specialized techniques have in-house trainers with whom one can register for sessions. A skating park designed by Nick Smith, a famous skateboarder, is another highlight, complete with two skating bowls and

mounds that ensure daring stunts. Smith will be available at the venue for training sessions. The 50ft-high climbing wall is as high as the wall at Bangalore’s Kanteerava Stadium, the tallest in the city. Adjacent to this is a bouldering wall. The archery containers give you the option of shooting with crossbows, air rifles and BB pellet guns. And if target-shooting is not your thing, you can shoot in the 10,000 sq. ft open paintball field. Predictably, the country’s favourite game has not been left out—cricket nets with highspeed bowling machines promise the experience of facing an attack as fast as Brett Lee’s. The timings—7am-11pm—are a bonus.

The not­so­good Considering the timing of the launch, it’s a pity there’s no swimming or water sports. Reddy says that if he manages to buy more land in the immediate vicinity, water sports will be part of his next expansion plan. Currently, no café is functional but Reddy says one will be in place by 1 May.

Talk plastic Twelve rounds in the archery/crossbow section will cost `90, while an hour at paintballing for a group of people will cost `250 per person on a weekday. Prices will go up by around 20% on weekends. For more details, log on to http:// playarena.in, or call 09886098819. Pavitra Jayaraman ANIRUDDHA CHOWDHURY/MINT

Playtime: Children trying out the climbing wall at Play X Games.

inbox

Write to us at lounge@livemint.com IT’S AN ATTITUDE Shoba Narayan’s “Why we hate our girls”, 9 April, was very well written. But the sad part is that gender and sexist attitudes are more prevalent in urban areas. As she mentioned, the mindsets and attitudes must change—and television has a big role to play. A small but significant change can be made if the myriad serials and soaps start showing independent women who are smart and play an important role in their family’s progress rather than showing scheming mothers­, sisters­ and daughters­in­law. One point I disagree with is about the fairy­tale princess. Fairy tales usually depict the central female character as the more virtuous, fair and level­headed, qualities worth much more than iron abs or bulging muscles in the real world. ANU New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Pune

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Vol. 5 No. 15

LOUNGE THE WEEKEND MAGAZINE A young girl fetches water for her family in rural Gujarat.

BUSINESS LOUNGE WITH AUDI’S MICHAEL PERSCHKE >Page 8

OLD­TIMERS

This year, watchmakers update their collections by going back to some classic, retro designs >Page 7

WHY WE HATE OUR

WE, CIVILIZED?

GIRLS The 2011 census reveals our abysmal child sex ratio. Is it poverty, deep­rooted cultural conditioning or our ignorance about what it means to be a woman, asks Shoba Narayan >Page 10

DREAMING IN WATERCOLOUR

Patron Jehangir Nicholson’s private art collection will finally be accessible to the public >Page 13

THE QUIET REVOLUTIONARIES

In reference to Shoba Narayan’s article “Why we W O S hate our girls”, 9 April, I disagree with the ending—the problem lies in the fact that women are constantly looked upon as serving reproductive value. We need to save the girls not because we need wives and mothers. We need to save them because we need their perspective and the immense talent and variety that this country loses out on. We need to save the girls not because our civilization depends on it. It’s because we cannot call ourselves civilized until we do. SOWMYA RAJENDRAN DETOURS

SALIL TRIPATHI

OUR DAILY BREAD

SAMAR HALARNKAR

CULT FICTION

R. SUKUMAR

YELLOW IN THE OUTFIELD

REBIRTH OF THE HOME PIZZA

WORLDS IN RED AND BLUE

e had been driving around Lake Ullswater in the picturesque part of northern Britain matter-of-factly described as the Lake District, admiring the hills and woods, stopping at parking areas to climb the velvety green hills, and then returning to quaint inns for lunch. The landscape was dotted with sheep posing for photographs, the menus at the inns with boasts of rare, juicy varieties of Cumberland sausage. My sons were keen to see Scafell Pike, the highest fell in... >Page 4

nce upon a time, I liked pizzas. My favoured toppings were jalapenos, sausages and pepperoni. I liked meatiness on my pizzas, and I liked the tang and bite of pickled chillies. To me, a pizza was comfort food. More than anything, it meant I did not have to cook. For someone who has spent a lifetime cooking for self, friends and family, an occasional meal out of a box was a big deal. Sometime, maybe about 10 years ago, I stopped liking pizzas. I grew tired of the thick crusts... >Page 5

ometimes, when you buy comic books in lots of six and seven (or maybe a dozen) and then, before you finish reading them all, buy another lot, it’s quite possible that you overlook a little gem that gathers dust till you rediscover it (usually when you are looking for something else). And so, last weekend, I came across Matt Kindt’s Revolver, a book I bought sometime last year and then forgot. A quick read and another more considered read later I was convinced that I had just... >Page 17

Two journalists unearth illuminating stories of the activist lives their fathers led >Page 16

DON’T MISS

in today’s edition of

FILM REVIEW

THANK YOU

BETTING ON BAPU With reference to Salil Tripathi’s “India after Gandhi”, 9 April, I don’t think any Indian cares about the comments in Joseph Lelyveld’s book as Indians have a love/hate relationship with Gandhi. It is the politicians/aspiring politicians who create a furore to get their 15 minutes of fame or prove their loyalty to the nation and its “Bapu”. I believe when somebody gets defensive and aggressive, and resorts to effigy burning, slogans and marches, he/she is aware of the truth behind the allegations. As Gandhi taught (and we did not learn), let truth prevail. JESS ON THE COVER: PHOTOGRAPHER: JAVEED SHAH/MINT


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SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 2011 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

PUBLIC EYE

SUNIL KHILNANI

CENSUS ALERT: THE GLARING NORTH­SOUTH GAP One of the startling and alarming conclusions from this mammoth exercise is that the institutional architecture of our representative democracy does not reflect the uneven demographic sprawl of our citizenry

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Chock­a­block: The 2011 census shows that Kerala’s (right) population grew by under 5% in the past decade; and India, with a population of 1.21 billion, now has 17% of the world’s people.

hen, according to WikiLeaks, US ambassador Timothy Roemer reported back to Washington, DC a remark apparently made to him by Union home minister P. Chidambaram, to the effect that India’s overall growth, led by the states of the south and west, was being slowed by the north, he was hardly transmitting a state secret. Yet, predictably and unthinkingly, political parties, especially northern ones like the Samajwadi Party, responded with pieties about how national unity and integrity were being put under threat—by a cabinet minister speaking the truth. For the differences between north and south are a glaring and integral fact of contemporary India, manifest in the rates of economic growth, quality of governance and of life, and now further confirmed by the 2011 census figures on the demographic imbalance between the regions. The Indian Union is indeed moving along distinct tracks—and, beyond the more familiar Bharat/India divide, it is the north/south one that may prove unexpectedly consequential. In the 20 years since liberalization got under way in 1991, the average decadal population growth in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar—two states that account for around a quarter of India’s total population—was around 25%. On the other hand, in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala—which make up around 16% of the total population—the figure was around half of that. More specifically, between 2001 and 2011, Kerala, with some of the

best human indicators, grew by just under 5%, while Bihar grew by over 25%. The good news in the 2011 census data is that for the first time there has been a fall in the population growth rates of the northern states. The flattening out of population growth, which began in the southern states, is now spreading to other parts of the country—though stabilization of the population is still far away. “The road to a stationary population before 2060”, the provisional census analysis notes, “is long and arduous and would require intense efforts.” The fact remains that India’s population still continues to grow at higher rates in the north: rates that are well above those in the southern states, and also above the national average. Why should the unevenness between north and south matter? The spread of the market, and India’s aggregate economic growth, is after all in many ways serving to integrate the country’s economy. The southern states

and the more prosperous northern states depend upon migrant labour as well as on resources and commodities that come from the less-developed parts of the country—mainly the large northern and central states. In a recent ringing defence of the poorer and slower growing north’s utility to the overall functioning of the Indian economy, sociologist Dipankar Gupta declared: “Whether it is raw material or raw manpower, it is the drab north that gives the south that certain glow.” This is absolutely true. But the north-south disparity gets more tricky and less mutually enhancing when we move beyond economic and functional utilities, and start to consider the political consequences of India’s demographic imbalance—in particular, what it means for the continuing legitimacy of our system of political representation. In a democracy, everyone’s vote is equal; and in the Westminster electoral system we have adopted, the 543 representatives elected to the Lok Sabha represent territorial constituencies, each of which is supposed to contain as near as possible the same number of individual voters as all the others. It’s that distribution that allows the possibility for each vote, wherever in the country it might be cast, to count equally. On the basis of Census 2011, each parliamentarian should represent some 2.2 million Indians: though staggeringly large by the standards of most democracies, that ought to be the average size of our electoral constituencies given Parliament’s current size. But India’s demographic map and its democratic cartography no longer overlap—and in fact they are increasingly drifting apart. If we simply take the aggregate state-level figures, the discrepancies are easily seen. Take the state of UP: With a MANOJ MADHAVAN/MINT

population of 200 million, it has 80 Lok Sabha seats, which means roughly one Lok Sabha representative for every 2.5 million inhabitants of that state. Kerala, with a population of 33 million, has 20 seats in the Lok Sabha: roughly one parliamentarian for 1.65 million from that state, while in Tamil Nadu the figure is one for 1.84 million (of course, actual constituency sizes vary from these average figures, given only for illustrative purposes). Beginning with state assembly elections in 2008, we did see the introduction of new delimitations to state assembly constituencies, with a view to recalibrating the balance between voters and their representatives—in particular, to correct the imbalance in urban areas, which have grown disproportionately rapidly in population but had not gained more representative voice. The process of delimiting new constituencies always and everywhere attracts suspicion and distrust. It’s been the object of one of the old arts of democratic chicanery, gerrymandering, and it’s a process in which there will always be losers. Yet the 2008-09 delimitation exercise was deftly managed by the Election Commission: Quietly done, it drew little criticism—an example of India’s capacity for reform by stealth. The lesson we should draw is that such delicate changes are best accomplished gradually and incrementally, allowing for a constant, gentle revision of the units and scale of electoral representation. In the face of real and massive social changes which the census tracks for us, such revision of our institutions—rebuilding them while we inhabit them—needs to be ingrained in our democratic culture. It will encourage a more healthy democratic progress of our polity, rather than the convulsive, reactive approach to which we seem prone. The Constitution recognized the need for regular revisibility of the scale of India’s units of representation in the light of census data. Such revision, if enacted, would also help to introduce a certain rational predictability to how governments define the relationship between the numbers and distribution of India’s citizenry and their elected representatives. Yet, since the 1970s, Parliament has put in abeyance this spirit of revision, more out of cowardice than prudence. Fearful of a north and south confrontation over seat recalibration, it chose most recently—in 2002—to do nothing at all until the first census MANISH SWARUP/AP

exercise after 2026: which means in effect not until sometime after the details of the 2031 census are made available. This is a case of collective ostrichification if ever there was one. Even with some reduction in the divergence between the population growth rates of the north and south, the disproportion in political representation will continue to grow—and the gap will widen in the next 30 years. Delay simply piles up the difficulties that will ultimately need unravelling, and makes more disruptive and conflictual resolutions likely. In the search for how to give institutional form to the widening north–south gap, several solutions are possible. The least imaginative would be to simply rebalance national representation towards the north, while keeping the existing numbers of seats in Parliament. This is likely to be the most divisive option, since it will mean actually taking away seats from southern states. More effective might be to increase the overall number of parliamentary seats (just as the number of districts has been increased by almost 50 in the past decade)—from 543 to, say, 649 or even more. Another possibility would be to strengthen the Rajya Sabha’s original identity: which was, like the US senate, to serve as an arena to give equal representation to the interests of the states, no matter how large or small—a function that it has virtually ceased to fulfil. More radical, but also perhaps most effective of all, would be to break up our monster states into smaller, administratively viable and also politically more legitimate units (do we need a UP more populous than Brazil?). This is going to be an unavoidable imperative in coming years—and we should use the opportunity it presents to create more, better-sized, and evenly distributed electoral constituencies. Each of these solutions would bring their own ensuing problems and dilemmas. Both expanding the numbers of parliamentarians, and increasing the number of states, will inevitably accentuate coordination and collective action problems already faced by government. But when the legitimacy of the democratic system is at stake, we need to reinvent in advance rather than retroactively struggle to preserve. This year, another country with a massive disjuncture between north and south is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its unification. Italy’s enduring inability to resolve the problem of the Mezzogiorno—that shadow-line across the Italian peninsula that has served as a barrier to the south’s opportunity and growth—goes some way to explaining that country’s dysfunctional politics, and it has led recent historians of the country to argue that Italy should never have been unified at all. There have always been some in India who have pressed similar claims about the Indian Union—claims that will need constant and active refutation. The census is an extraordinary exercise in producing a snapshot of India as a unified whole—even as it alerts us to the disparate parts. As the results come in, Census 2011 will hold many lessons. A clear one is that the institutional architecture of our representative democracy simply does not reflect the uneven demographic sprawl of our citizenry—and it needs to come into line sooner rather than later. Sunil Khilnani is director-designate, India Institute, 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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AAKAR PATEL REPLY TO ALL

The peculiar pedigree of the business class

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PAOLO FRIDMAN/BLOOMBERG

orbes magazine has put out a list of the

world’s 1,210 billionaires. Fifty-five of them are Indians. A billion dollars is `4,480 crore. A Baniya is a member of the Vaish caste, originating mainly from Rajasthan and Gujarat.

They are under 1% of India’s population. India’s richest man is a Baniya (Lakshmi Mittal, world’s sixth richest with $31.1 billion), India’s second richest man is a Baniya (Mukesh Ambani, $27 billion), India’s third richest man is a Khoja (Azim Premji, $16.8 billion), India’s fourth richest men are Baniyas (Shashi and Ravi Ruia, $15.8 billion), India’s fifth richest person is a Baniya (Savitri Jindal, $13.2 billion), India’s sixth richest man is a Baniya (Gautam Adani, $10 billion), India’s seventh richest man is a Baniya (Kumar Mangalam Birla, $9.2 billion), India’s eighth richest man is a Baniya (Anil Ambani, $8.8 billion), India’s ninth richest man is a Baniya (Sunil Mittal, $8.3 billion). India’s 10th richest man is a Parsi (Adi Godrej, world’s 130th richest with $7.3 billion). Score: Baniyas 8, Rest of India 2. If we consider the Gujaratis Godrej and Premji (from the Lohana caste) as coming from mercantile communities then actually Rest of India wasn’t playing this match so far. India’s 11th richest man is K.P. Singh of DLF ($7.3 billion). He is the first departure from our trend of mercantile castes. Singh is a peasant, the most populous caste grouping of India, about 50% of our population. From numbers 11

to 20, there are four Baniyas. They are Anil Agarwal of Vedanta ($6.4 billion), Dilip Shanghvi of Sun Pharma ($6.1 billion), Uday Kotak ($3.2 billion), and Subhash Chandra Goel of Zee, ($2.9 billion). The non-Baniyas are Shiv Nadar of HCL ($5.6 billion), Malvinder and Shivinder Singh of Ranbaxy ($4.1 billion), Kalanithi Maran of Sun TV ($3.5 billion), Mukesh Jagtiani of Landmark ($3 billion) and Pankaj Patel of Cadila ($2.6 billion). Between 21 and 30, there are five Baniyas. They are Indu Jain of The Times of India ($2.6 billion), Desh Bandhu Gupta of Lupin ($2.1 billion), Sudhir and Samir Mehta of Torrent ($2 billion), Aloke Lohia of Indorama ($2 billion) and Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon ($1.9 billion). The five non-Baniyas are G.M. Rao of GMR ($2.6 billion), Cyrus Poonawalla of the Serum Institute ($2.3 billion), Mumbai builder Rajan Raheja ($2.2 billion), Narayana Murthy ($2 billion) and Gautam Thapar of Avantha ($2 billion). Of the non-Baniyas, three are from mercantile communities: Poonawalla (Parsi), Raheja (Shikarpuri Sindhi) and Thapar (Khatri). Murthy is Brahmin. Between 31 and 40 are two Baniyas: Rahul Bajaj ($1.6 billion) and Ajay Piramal ($1.4 billion). The non-Baniyas

The billion­dollar club: Among Indians, Lakshmi Mittal tops the Forbes list. include three Brahmins: Nandan Nilekani ($1.8 billion) and S. Gopalakrishnan ($1.6 billion) of Infosys, and Vijay Mallya ($1.4 billion). Three of the others are from mercantile castes: Chandru Raheja ($1.9 billion), Brijmohan Lall Munjal of Hero Motors ($1.5 billion) and Vikas Oberoi ($1.4 billion). The last two are K. Anji Reddy ($1.5 billion) (from Andhra’s dominant peasant community) and Ajay Kalsi of Indus Gas ($1.7 billion). Between 41 and 50 are five Baniyas. They are R.P. Goenka ($1.3 billion), Rakesh Jhunjhunwala ($1.2 billion), Brij Bhushan Singhal ($1.2 billion), B.K. Modi ($1.1 billion) and Mumbai builder Mangal Prabhat Lodha ($1.1 billion). The non-Baniyas are Baba Kalyani of Bharat Forge ($1.3 billion), Keshub Mahindra ($1.2 billion), K. Dinesh ($1.2 billion) and S.D. Shibulal ($1.1 billion) of Infosys, and Yusuf Hamied of Cipla ($1.1 billion).

The last five, from 51 to 55, include two Baniyas: Mumbai builder Mofatraj Munot of Kalpataru ($1 billion) and Ashwin Dani of Asian Paints ($1 billion). Two of the others are from mercantile castes: Parsi Anu Aga of Thermax ($1 billion) and Khatri Harindarpal Banga of Noble ($1 billion). Delhi builder Ramesh Chandra of Unitech ($1 billion) ends our list of Indians with a billion dollars or more. The list has three Parsis, two Muslims and Sikhs in one spot (shared by the Ranbaxy Singhs). Banga is also a Sikh name but Harindarpal is clean-shaven. All of them, except Poonawalla, have inherited their wealth, though in the case of one (Premji), he took a small firm and made it global. There is nobody from the scheduled tribes or castes. India’s large peasant castes have some representation (Singh, Patel, Reddy), but not much. There are 26 Baniyas on our list. Many of them inherited their wealth, but just as many (Mittal, Ruias, Adani, Dhoot among others) are self-made. The list has 16 Rajasthanis, and 13 Gujaratis. Every single Rajasthani is from one caste, Vaish, though they are from two faiths: Hindu and Jain. Only Gujarat is capable of producing billionaires drawn from four different faiths—Hindu, Parsi, Jain and Muslim—and three different castes: Baniya, Khatri and peasant. This is unique in India and there is something about this secular mercantile culture that produces great men across communities. What is it? Three out of the four biggest leaders of the subcontinent under British rule were Gujarati, and they were drawn from these three castes: Gandhi, Jinnah

and Patel. Only 5% of India’s population, Gujaratis don’t have the numbers to dominate its democratic politics. But businesses are not run in democratic fashion. And to rise, you need quality, not quantity. The heartland of India, where our quantity resides, is missing from this list. Bihar, Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh have little or no representation and this does not surprise us. On the list are 10 south Indians, in proportion to their 20% share of India’s population. The famous five from Infosys are obviously self-made. Of the others, four are first-generation wealthy. This is a good indicator for the future, and it restores some balance in favour of Rest of India. Two final observations. India’s greatest businessman is not on this list. Why is that? It is because Ratan Tata owns less than 1% of Tata Sons. He is exceptional in every way. Lastly, how many Baniyas in our top 20 attended the Buffett-Gates meeting to consider giving part of their wealth to philanthropy? Zero. The Baniya’s culture of focused wealth creation is very good in many ways, but not all of this culture is good. Aakar Patel is a director with Hill Road Media. Send your feedback to replytoall@livemint.com www.livemint.com Read Aakar’s previous Lounge columns at www.livemint.com/aakar­patel

SHOBA NARAYAN THE GOOD LIFE

The time is right for an Indian Noma

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HEMANT MISHRA/MINT

oes Indian cuisine need to break the shackles of tradition to make its mark globally? Or do we stay true to our heritage? Evolution or revolution: that is the question. It was the night of the Food

Lovers awards function in Bangalore. (Disclosure: I was part of the tasting panel.) As usual, Karavalli at the Taj Gateway walked away with the “best coastal restaurant” award, beating Kanua, a solid contender. Free-standing favourites such as Caperberry, Fava, Toscano and Olive Beach all won awards. Rim Naam at The Oberoi was restaurant of the year 2010. Sunny’s brought its owners the “restaurateurs of the year” award. Arjun Sajnani, tall and smiling, walked up to receive it. Vinod Pandey of The Taj West End was judged the best F&B manager, a nice touch, given that usually, it is the chefs who are celebrated more than the managers. Chef Madhu Krishnan of the ITC Royal Gardenia was lauded as chef of the year. Dakshin and Dum Pukht Jolly Nabobs, both at the ITC Windsor, won best south and north Indian, respectively, but then again, Dakshin has little competition. Chef Venkatesh Bhat left the Leela group to start South Indies and Bon South, which aspire to be stand-alone, fine-dining south Indian restaurants. I am rooting for Chef Bhat, but the meals I have had at Bon South are inconsistent. Sadly, there is no free-standing, fine-dining south Indian restaurant in Bangalore. Is there one in any other city? South Indies won for the best south Indian restaurant and Khansama for north Indian in the “popular” category. The lady who owns Khansama, Nisha Nichani, came up with her staff, ebullient

and smiling, to collect the award. Later, she came up alone, holding back tears, to collect the “Lifetime Achievement” award that was given to her late husband, P.B. Nichani, founder of the BJN group, whose restaurants offer great value. Some restaurants came with a staff entourage and it was lovely to see the young sous chefs and waitstaff stand shyly on stage to be applauded. It would be hard for a functioning restaurant to pull out junior staff for an awards function but that would be a good way to build up their confidence. I wish more awardees would do it. To me, the most interesting part of the evening was not what was present but what was absent. Bangalore, and indeed India or even the world, has no revolutionary, path-breaking Indian restaurant. Our cuisine is evolutionary, more a child of engineer-like tinkering, rather than wholesale out-of-the-box thinking. Will there ever come a day where an Indian restaurant can go head-to-head with the likes of El Bulli (Spain), the Fat Duck (England), Noma (Denmark), or Alinea (the US), which are so spirited that they defy being slotted into country or even region? Is this even a desired goal for a cuisine so rich in heritage? Thanks to brands such as the ITC’s Bukhara and Dumpukht, the Taj group’s Masala restaurants and stand-alone restaurants such as Veda (Mumbai) and Kainoosh (Delhi), Indian fine-dining is no

Star chef: Madhu Krishnan of ITC, adjudged best by the Food Lovers of Bangalore. longer an oxymoron. Even globally, there are restaurateurs such as the Panjabi sisters (Camellia and Namita), Atul Kochhar, Sriram Aylur, Vineet Bhatia, Rohini Dey, Suvir Saran, Hemant Mathur, and others; Indian cuisine has garnered Michelin stars and gone haute. But even their cuisine remains determinedly Indian. My contention is that groundbreaking culinary developments in Indian cuisine have to come from India. Outside the country, haute Indian restaurants cannot be revolutionary, because their brand identity is tied to the homeland. Quilon (London) attracts clients who want a taste of India. It cannot ditch the Indian, even in the name of creativity. Indian chefs who operate here, on the other hand, are freed from such branding urgencies. Most Indian foodies get good Indian food at home. If an Indian chef wants to do something innovative, and if he or she is innately good, we would be willing to give his restaurant a shot and be patient as he evolves, simply because Indian foodies look for nouvelle cuisine when we go out to eat. We don’t want the same old home food. Then, why isn’t it happening? You need three things for such an endeavour to take root and give fruit.

You need deep-pocketed backers who are willing to cut an innovative chef some slack; you need a creative chef who has been trained in a non-Indian cuisine so that she can mix-and-match our food with global food; you need a restless talented mind that can connect disparate culinary dots with aplomb; and you need good timing. Bangalore would be a good place to try such a venture because the costs are not as high as in Delhi or Mumbai. Bangaloreans are foodies, perhaps not in terms of spending but in terms of passion. People here dissect food, restaurants and chefs with knowledge and history, comparing the dark bread at Herbs & Spices with its German originals; or the sushi that Mako Ravindran serves at Harima with its more expensive counterparts at Edo and Zen; or the parties that P.K. Mohankumar threw when he headed the Taj West End. Mohankumar is missed in this town. To be a good general manager (GM), you have to viscerally love your property. You have to drink some Kool-Aid to be able to say superlative things about your hotel with a straight face. Mohankumar did that. It helped

that he was an extrovert, unlike many of the top GMs in the city today. Huvida Marshall, GM at The Oberoi, for instance, rarely schmoozes. I have seen her standing in the lobby when I duck into her hotel, but I have never had a conversation with her. People say though that she is a great GM who runs a tight ship, and this is what I mean. There is a culture and community of people here in Bangalore to whom restaurants are an extremely important part of the city’s landscape. These are well-travelled epicureans such as Stanley Pinto who founded the Bangalore Black Tie, and Natty Natarajan who reportedly has an enviable collection of single malts; hospitality consultants such as Aslam Gafoor who heads the Bangalore Wine Club, and Rishad Minocher, whose family owns the beautifully preserved Hatworks Boulevard; publishers such as Kripal Amanna of Food Lovers; and scores of restaurant goers with increasingly sophisticated and experimental palates. We are waiting for, if not a Noma, at least something as distinctive as Alain Passard, who shocked the French culinary establishment in 2001 by converting his Michelin three-star Paris restaurant L’Arpege into one focusing on vegetables. France and India are akin in their reverence of traditional cuisine and for Passard to do this was groundbreaking and risky. We need an Indian chef who will do that for Indian cuisine. The time is now. Carpe diem! Shoba Narayan doesn’t want to travel to Denmark to dine at the world’s best restaurant; she doesn’t even want to travel to Delhi to dine. Bangalore, it must be. 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, APRIL 16, 2011

Parenting

LOUNGE

SUMMER READING

Lost in the pages While on vacation or lazing at home, don’t forget the books of the season. We pick the best new titles for under­15s

B Y M . V ENKATESH ···························· couple of years ago, it would have been difficult to find many Indian authors in a list of children’s reads. This summer, there are many: Giti Chandra with her debut novel, Anushka Ravishankar (often referred to as India’s Dr Seuss), Meenakshi Bharadwaj, Roopa Pai and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Science fiction fantasy, a retelling of the Panchatantra, wildlife, magic and supernatural thrillers are the genres of the season. Let your child follow Tony Mitton and Ant Parker on their forest romps, enjoy another adventure with a young samurai warrior and catch up with old favourite Wally. No list is complete till the end of the season. Once into your holiday, there will be new titles worth a read, so we’ve listed some to look out for. Take your pick.

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Panchatantra (bilingual, Tulika), `500 (a pack of six books) or `85 per book Beautifully illustrated and retold, this series is a treasure. You can choose to buy the books in Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada or Telugu—along with English, the common thread. The stories include The Musical Donkey, The Talkative Tortoise, Four Friends, The Rabbit in the Moon, The Snake and the Frogs, and The Lion and the Fox. Usborne First Reading (Usborne), `95 each Great stories, simple text and easy to hold. Usborne’s series of First and Young Reading are graded reading that cover folk tales from around the world, classics, adventure, tales of heroism, true stories and plays presented in an easy-to-read format.

Approaching 10 (8­10 years) Where’s Wally Now? by Martin Handford (Walker), `299 There is a mission—find

Wally and his friends. Hours of fun guaranteed as you search through the beautiful mosaic of ancient history. Ten double-spread picture stories set in various times try to confuse you as you comb through the puzzle. By the time you finish, you will become a fan of Wally’s. There are seven books in the series. I am Aan by Meenakshi Bharadwaj, illustrated by Christopher Corr (Katha), `80 This is the story of baby elephant Aan, as he grows up to realize how tough adulthood is. Dotted with facts about elephants, this is a journey of self-discovery as playfulness yields to facing the world on his own. 501 TV­Free Activities for Kids (Hinkler), `399 Not possible? It is, says this book, possible to keep away from television and have a lot of fun. Packed with activities, this book is a treasure in itself. It doesn’t need the TV vs no-TV debate to become a constant companion.

Tween tastes (11­12 years) At Least a Fish by Anushka Ravishankar (Scholastic), `99 Ana wants a dog but she gets three goldfish instead. Trying to make the best of the situation, Ana and her friend Zain try to liven things up for the fish. Making a visit to the pond nearby to get weeds for the aquarium sets off a trail of events starting with a mysterious dragon. Taranauts: Secret of the Sparkl Amethysts by Roopa Pai (Hachette), `145 Mithya is a universe of eight worlds lit up by Tara, the rainbow-coloured super sun that has 32 stars in eight iridescent shades. Everything changes when the evil Shaap Azur captures the stars and plunges Mithya into darkness. Zarpa, Tufan and Zvala, the

What were the ‘Arabian Nights’ versions you read or heard

ARRIVING SOON Here are some of the books that are set to hit stores later this summer Age 4+ = ‘Let’s Plant Trees’ by Vinod Lal Heera Eshwer (Tulika) Ages 7­10 = ‘Laxman’s Questions’ by Lata Mani (Pratham) Ages 11­13 = ‘The Emerald Atlas’ by John Stephens (Random House) = ‘Scorpia

Rising’ by Anthony Horowitz (Walker) = ‘Kane

Chronicles: Neptune Rising’ by Rick Riordan (Penguin) = ‘Septimus

Heap: Darke’ by Angie Sage (HarperCollins) = ‘39

Clues Book 11: Vespers Rising’ by Rick Riordan, Peter Lerangis, Gordon Korman and Jude Watson (Scholastic) = ‘Cherub

12: Shadow Wave’ by Robert Muchamore (Hodder)

Write to lounge@livemint.com

Anushka Ravishankar retells some famous ‘Arabian Nights’ stories in her new book

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Shadowland by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (IndiaInk), `195 Just published in India, this is the third book in The Brotherhood of the Conch series. Everything seems to be peaceful as Anand slips into his role as apprentice healer in a Himalayan valley. That peace is shattered as his precious conch goes missing. Without the power of the conch, the place and its people are as good as dead.

M. Venkatesh is the co-owner of Eureka, a specialist children’s book store in New Delhi.

Adapting the ‘Alif Laila’ ···························· li Baba and Aladdin, Abdullah the fisherman and Ali Khwaja the olive merchant—children have held their breath for centuries following the adventures of these intrepid characters, guided by the curiosity of the mercurial king Schariar, and the voice of fiction’s most famous storyteller, Scherezade. In their latest avatar, in Anushka Ravishankar’s The Storyteller, they also combine the moral significance of their stories with the sort of light-heartedness you really don’t expect from stories that involve thieves being fried in boiling oil. Ravishankar spoke to Lounge about the pleasures of retelling the stories. Edited excerpts:

Teenage minds (13­15 years)

The Fang of Summoning by Giti Chandra (Hachette), `250 Chandra has come up with a racy debut. What is the connection between what happened to a young 15-year-old girl in 984 AD in Iceland and six boys and girls in 21st century Gurgaon? In the first Book of Guardians, they (the youngest is a toddler) decode the past and come up against a terrifying plot against all mankind. Can their secret power see them through?

Fantastic Forest by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker (Macmillan), `250 This is one of the books in the Amazing Animals series. Learn about animals on the go. Mitton and Parker tour the evergreen forests of America to show us creatures on the ground or in trees. Don’t miss the duo’s Amazing Machines series either.

B Y S UPRIYA N AIR

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney (Puffin), `250 Kinney’s bumbling hero, Greg Heffley is back in another hilarious instalment of the novel in cartoons. The difference in the fifth book is that Greg is into his teens. His best friend Rowley Jefferson is not at his side constantly. How well does Greg handle all this?

Young Samurai: The Ring of Water by Chris Bradford (Puffin), `299 The Ring of Water justifies the eager wait. What is The Ring of Water and why is it so important for Jack Fletcher’s survival? Chris Bradford’s Ninja-proficient young Samurai finds out when he wakes up to find himself on the road, defenceless and without a memory.

Tiny tots (4­7 years)

supriya.n@livemint.com

Taranauts, have their work cut out as they try and get light back in each of the eight worlds. This is the third book in the science fiction fantasy series.

when you were younger? They were bowdlerized versions for children. I remember feeling something like fear and revulsion while reading Sinbad the Sailor, though I can’t remember why (probably the snakes!). That is why I didn’t choose to write those stories in my version. How did you prepare to retell what are, quite possibly, the most retold stories in the world? I read as many versions as I could get my hands on. I would have liked to read Galland, which I’m told is the best translation, but it’s French and I couldn’t get hold of it in English. I did read the most famous English translation—Richard Burton. I didn’t have the stomach for it, because it’s very graphic and quite racist, but I made it a point to read it. Since every retelling is different, I did want to get familiar with as many versions as I could.

The Storyteller—Tales from the Arabian Nights: Puffin, 172 pages, `199. For an easy, child-friendly read which is not too far from the original, I’d say Andrew Lang was pretty good, but I also read some lovely retellings, including a picture book version of Aladdin (Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp) by Philip Pullman. I started with the intention of writing the lesser-known tales, but as I read the stories, I realized there’s a reason why they’re lesser known—most of them aren’t that good, or then, structurally depend

on adultery and sex, which made them completely unsuitable for a children’s book. I had trouble enough with the frame story. There’s often a solemn quality to the old translations of ‘Arabian Nights’, but your retellings are immensely playful. One writes the kind of stories one likes to read. So it’s a matter of style, almost—I didn’t need to give it thought or decide that this was the tone I would strike. ‘The Storyteller’ has a wonderful feminist heroine: Scherezade. What was the process of developing her as a character like? Scherezade is a strongly feminist heroine, but the times were sexist, so although her actions were of a strong character, her circumstances rendered her powerless. I deliberately give her more power, by making her character stronger and Scahriar’s character somewhat silly. It also always bothered me, when I read the Nights, that after all the threats and humiliation, she’s happy to have the man’s children and remain his wife. So I suspect that I wanted to convince myself that this was possible. Which is why there’s this slightly comical romantic connection between the two.

SUMMER FUN Gum Drops, a new line of furniture, clothes, bedding, tents, toys and silver gifting sets for newborns will be available at Good Earth stores in Mumbai and New Delhi starting this weekend. “It’s a small range and we will be introducing new items every few weeks. We will also introduce a line of Daddy and Me outfits in organic cotton,” says Simran Lal, the director and owner of the store. This line will have T­shirts and Let’s play: shirts for (left) A shirt fathers and for the tots sons in the same with motorprints (prices cycle motifs; start at `750 each). and a KhyWe love the Gum ber-print Drops tents. They tent. will be available in two sizes—smaller tents (4ftx3ftx3ft, `11,000) for children in the age group of 1­5 and larger waterproof tents (5ftx3.5ftx6ft, `21,000), complete with a mattress fit for a child and an adult. Seema Chowdhry


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SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 2011

L7

Eat/Drink

LOUNGE

PRADEEP GAUR/MINT

Spiced up: Exotic toppings give the nan khatai a touch of class.

PIECE OF CAKE

PAMELA TIMMS

‘Ghee’ at tea An off chance experiment shows that an Indian cooking staple makes the crumbliest cookies

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wrote recently about the delights of “locavorism” (www.livemint.com/ locavore.htm), and the benefits, both health- and planet-wise, of eating locally sourced ingredients as opposed to those flown halfway round the world. What I failed to mention is that while it’s no hardship to go local with Indian mangoes instead of Scottish raspberries and coconuts over parsnips, there are other items which require a little more fortitude. I haven’t, for example, managed to make the switch from olive to mustard oil and the chocolate in my baking is stubbornly Belgian. I have also failed completely to find a local butter which is good to bake with—Amul is too salty and white butter too watery—and

have been a slave to the expensive French unsalted variety. Until now. I recently went to stay at a friend’s family home in Madhya Pradesh and spent four days watching a traditional Hindu vegetarian kitchen at work, returning to Delhi with a notebook crammed with new recipes and techniques. My friend’s family still keeps a small organic dairy herd and it was wonderful to watch all the daily rituals that revolve around milk and the forgotten (in the West) skills of yogurt, butter and cheese-making. When it was time to leave reluctantly, my friend’s mother gave me a large tub of home-made ghee to bring back and I knew my precious golden gift had to be put to some divine purpose, that is, baking. I decided to make nan khatai biscuits, one of my favourite Old Delhi treats. Because they taste so like our own shortbread, I had always assumed Scottish roots for nan khatai, but they are, in fact, thought to be a legacy of Dutch colonizers in Surat who left behind their ovens when they shipped out. I made two batches, one with fancy French butter and one with my Sagar ghee, giving them three chic modern toppings:

toppings. For the fennel variety, decorate the top with whole fennel seeds after sprinkling with the fennel powder. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until baked but not brown. Eat while still warm (although they keep well in a jar for a few days), with tea or grapefruit soda made from the fruit you have zested.

Grapefruit Soda Ingredients 1 cup sugar Juice of 1 grapefruit Juice of one lemon Soda water, as required pistachio and lemon, fennel sugar and grapefruit. I think it might be the start of something big in my kitchen. I can’t stress enough how much better the ghee version was—lighter, richer, crumblier—than the one made with imported unsalted butter. It may even be the best biscuit I’ve ever made or eaten. I recommend eating these nan khatai warm, immediately after a sneaky siesta, with a glass of iced grapefruit soda—guaranteed to nudge you zestily back towards productivity.

Nan Khatai Makes 18-24 Ingredients 100g of your finest ghee— preferably from cows you can see from your kitchen window 30g icing sugar

60g plain flour (maida) 50g chickpea flour (besan) 25g semolina (sooji) 1 tsp baking powder A pinch of salt Seeds from 4 green cardamom pods, crushed Toppings Grapefruit: grated zest of 1 grapefruit, blitzed in a grinder with 2 tbsp of granulated (not fine, caster) sugar until a sandy texture Pistachio and lemon: grated zest of 2 lemons (nimbu) blitzed briefly with 2 tbsp sugar—try to keep some of the bigger pieces of pistachio Fennel sugar: 1 tsp of fennel seeds blitzed with 2 tbsp sugar, ground to a powder Method Preheat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Grease or line a

baking sheet. First make your toppings and set aside. Tip the ghee into a large mixing bowl with the icing sugar and whisk until light and creamy. Sift in the flour, besan, semolina, baking powder, salt and fold into the ghee/sugar until you have a soft mixture. Take teaspoonfuls (small enough so there’s no guilt at eating one of each flavour) of the mixture and roll them between your palms into a ball, using icing sugar on your hands to stop them sticking. Place them, well spaced, on the baking sheet and sprinkle on generous amounts of the

Method Put sugar and juices in a pan with one cup of sugar and bring to boil. Let it bubble for a minute or two until syrupy, then leave to cool. Strain into a jar and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks. To serve, add ice cubes and top up with soda water. Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at http://eatanddust. wordpress.com Write to Pamela at pieceofcake@livemint.com

www.livemint.com For a slide show on how to bake ‘nan khatai’, log on to www.livemint.com/nankhatai.htm Read Pamela’s previous Lounge columns at www.livemint.com/pieceofcake


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SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 2011

Business Lounge

LOUNGE

PATRIZIO DI MARCO

A return to roots The new CEO of Gucci on bringing the fashion brand’s heritage to the forefront

B Y R ACHANA N AKRA rachana.n@livemint.com

························· ast year, Gucci dug into its archives for old black and white images that show artisans at work at Gucci’s workshops in Florence. These images became part of the brand’s latest campaign Forever Now, which was launched last year, ahead of the brand’s 90th anniversary in 2011. The oxymoron celebrates the heritage of the ohso-fashionable brand. The anniversary celebrations will also include the launch of the Gucci Museum in Florence this year. “The point is to present the heritage of the company with fashion as the other side of the same coin,” Patrizio di Marco tells me at the Gucci store at The Galleria, Mumbai. The company’s CEO was in India to explain how the forward-thinking brand is in a nostalgic mood. The stirrings of change began when Tom Ford quit in 2004, and Frida Giannini took over as the creative director. The brand’s latest campaign, which was conceived by her, also involves taking clients to Florence, where they witness what goes into creating the designer bags. “This was to show customers that we present something beautiful but also something that has substance. It may be expensive but when you have seen this process you understand what it takes,” he says. Wearing a charcoal Gucci suit and tie, his dark hair fashionably long, di Marco is tall and incredibly slim. He could easily pass off as a modelturned-businessman, but at 48, he hasn’t accidentally graduated to being the CEO of one of the world’s largest selling luxury brands. His enviable career graph spanning two decades in fashion includes stints with Prada, Louis Vuitton and Celine, Inc. He joined the Gucci Group as president and CEO of Bottega

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Veneta in 2001. The brand was near bankrupt at the time; di Marco transformed its fortunes. It’s not a coincidence that he was asked to move to Gucci in 2009, when the fashion world was reeling under the dramatic impact of the financial downturn. The new CEO found himself firefighting from Day 1. “My first thought was that the timing of joining Gucci was pretty bad. The worst year ever,” he says, laughing. At a time when investment became the keyword and extravagance was frowned upon, di Marco chose to focus on Gucci’s “Handmade in Italy” craftsmanship. The brand also relaunched classics such as the Jackie and Bamboo bags, and the Flora print dedicated by founder Guccio Gucci to princess Grace of Monaco in 1966. He was, in some ways, bringing to this brand Bottega’s trademark—the understated, timeless luxury of craftsmanship. To further establish the brand’s products as investment pieces, they have launched a website in collaboration with Christie’s where collectors around the world can appraise their vintage Gucci products. “What’s visible for the brand Gucci is the element of fashion. But in the last fashion show (in September), a dress by Frida took 400 hours to make. If that’s not handmade and that’s not craftsmanship, then what is?” he asks me, sipping his coffee. I have already had my cuppa while waiting for him to finish his earlier appointment, and I’m not surprised when he says that he is usually late for all his meetings. “When you are a CEO, you work all the time. The problem is I might say let’s meet for an

When you’re a CEO, youworkall the time... I tend to meet people in the hallways. It sounds disorganized but there is a logic.

hour and the meeting goes on for 3 hours. I tend to meet people in the hallways. It sounds disorganized but there is a logic,” he explains. Di Marco loves to sleep, and as a “separated dad” living in Italy, he spends whatever free time he has with his daughter. I wonder what it’s like for a 16-year-old to grow up with a father who has navigated the hallways of some of the most iconic fashion houses. “She’s not entirely normal. Her vision has been distorted,” di Marco says, laughing. Her vacations with him, weren’t normal either. She would accompany her father doing the rounds of stores, pointing out how she would like the lights and the display. “When she was leaving for Germany, the cold became an excuse and she said she didn’t have a jacket. I had to work and I said why don’t you go to the store. Of course, she picked the most beautiful and expensive thing,” he says. Gucci recently launched their children’s collection in India, which di Marco considers an important market that they are still trying to gauge. “We are in a learning curve here and will take time to learn how to deal better with Indian customers. India is a huge country and an old country with a deep appreciation of beautiful things,” he says. Although di Marco doesn’t consider himself fashion-conscious, he does make sure he is upto-date with all the happenings of the industry. For someone who dreamt of drawing and painting for graphic novels as a career, he entered the fashion industry by accident. Having come so far, di Marco considers himself fortunate, and his daughter even more so. “She has the freedom of choice. I knew nothing about a clothing company when I got my first job. But there was a bit of madness in me and I thought this was as close as I could get in terms of being creative.”

In uniform: Di Marco doesn’t like ‘talking’ to people on BlackBerrys, but with offices in Milan, Rome and Switzerland, this has become inevitable.

IN PARENTHESIS Di Marco believes that he has to enjoy fashion if he is part of the industry. Although he owns pieces from all the companies he has worked for, personally he is supposed to wear Gucci all the time. He likes the feeling of having a uniform for work. “We have such beautiful collections for women. But we need to dress in suits. So at the end, you have three suits in black, three in blue, three pinstripe, what else can you do?” he says.

JAYACHANDRAN/MINT


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Cover

LOUNGE

PHOTOGRAPHS

BY

JAVEED SHAH/MINT

Commander: B.K. Bhatti is among the first batch of women constables posted at the Wagah border, near Amritsar.

SOCIETY

FORCE GIRLS

At the Wagah border post, a group of 13 women constables of the Border Security Force are matching their male colleagues step for step

BY CORDELIA JENKINS cordelia.j@livemint.com

······························································ wo hours before the start of the Beating the Retreat ceremony at the Wagah border in Punjab, constable B.K. Bhatti is applying pink lip gloss in front of her mirror. A dress uniform is laid out on the bed—a blue, red and gold ceremonial belt, a scarlet sash and a black beret with a feathered plume. The women guards of the Border Security Force (BSF) don’t wear the distinctive fanshaped headdresses that their male counterparts do, but in all other respects, their ceremonial garb is identical. At 5’9”, Bhatti is just tall enough to meet the height requirements for the ceremony; the guards who march to the Pakistan border gates have to look imposing. Bhatti, 23, is one of the BSF’s new recruits. Since 2009, women guards have joined the male soldiers at posts across Punjab and West Bengal. The first lot of 870 women have since performed multiple roles: frisking female agricultural workers who need to cross the border to tend to their fields, patrolling the fence, guarding the barracks. But since July they have also started taking part in the spectacle that makes Wagah famous: the ceremonial sunset closing of the gates between India and Pakistan and the lowering of the two flags, a ceremony known as Beating the Retreat. Besides attracting a huge number of spectators (the viewing stadium holds up to 5,000 people and is packed to overflowing most days), the details of the ceremony have often been a cause of contention between the Indian and Pakistani sides of the line. In an exhibition of machismo dating back to 1952, the BSF and Pakistan Rangers compete to march harder, kick higher and shout for longer than each other in a series of strictly prescribed steps. If any side wants to change the routine even slightly, a meeting must be held between the officers of each force to agree upon the new moves. In July, the BSF suggested the more aggressive elements of the routine be toned down, and consequently, the raising of fists was replaced by a stiff handshake, but the atmosphere remains one of ostentatious and theatrical hostility. Into this brutal ballet, the BSF has now introduced a march of women guards. As the Pakistan Rangers have not incorporated women into their own procession, the women cannot take part in the ceremony itself; instead, two of them march to the gate before the men and witness the proceedings from the sidelines. “You really have to concentrate very hard,” says Bhatti. “We try to get the aggression on our faces and in our body language.” Constable Simarjeet Cheema, 23, who marches alongside Bhatti, agrees. “After the parade is over we can smile,” she says. “But not before.” Pankaj Goomer, deputy inspector general (intelligence), Punjab, says the pilot project has been successful, and the BSF intends to recruit more women gradually into its ranks.

T

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JOURNEY OF THE BATTALIONS A short history of women’s cadres in our Armed Forces

1987

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trains its first “Mahila” Battalion. The 88th Battalion assists in the Meerut riots. At first, just six women officers are sent to take control of six companies comprising 718 women. They are paid at the same level as their male counterparts but there are accusations of gender bias and hostility from male counterparts.

1992

The Indian Army begins inducting women into the officer cadre. Women can now enter the army as regular officers in avia­ tion, logistics, law and engineering. Priya Jhingan becomes the first female cadet to join the army.

2004

Punita Arora becomes the first woman in the army to achieve the highest rank of lieutenant general. Arora graduated from the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), Pune, and joined the Army Medical Corps in 1968. She was awarded the Sena medal for providing gynae endoscopy, assisted reproductive technology (ART) and oncol­ ogy facilities in military hospitals.

2008

The BSF advertises for women soldiers. Within a year, the first female recruits are trained and inducted. Only women from West Bengal and Punjab are recruited, since they will serve in those areas.

2010

® FROM PAGE L9

At the moment, women only serve in Punjab and West Bengal, although Goomer says other states are being consulted. “If we get a good response from them, we’ll recruit more,” he says. Introducing women into the ceremony itself is more difficult because there are no women guards marching in the Pakistan Rangers’ procession. But the BSF has come as close as is currently possible with the march to the gates. “Since they had become part and parcel of the organization, we thought, why not include them in the procession and allow them to be a part of that too?” says Goomer. At Wagah, 13 women guards live together in dormitory-style barracks on the grounds of the border outpost. They have a building to themselves but share a canteen with the male personnel. Aged between 19 and 23, and from all over Punjab, the women are aware that their presence in such a male-dominated profession is something of a novelty. Sitting in their quarters, they form a close-knit group, leaning in and resting their heads on each other’s shoulders. There’s an atmosphere of schoolgirl camaraderie, despite the combat boots and military garb. Their wardrobes contain cosmetics as well as camouflage. Manvinder Kaur, 23, says her parents have started to refer to her as their second son since she joined the BSF. “They feel proud to have me here,” she says. “I’ve wanted to join the forces from childhood, and so when I saw the advertisement in the newspaper I decided to apply.” She was one of the 5,000 initial applicants who took physical tests and written exams to become one of the first 870 recruits. The girls were required to run 5km in 24 minutes, and do both long and high jumps, among other tests.

The women are proud of being physically tough and impatient of “normal” Indian girls who may complain of being tired or depressed. Their day starts at 5am and involves a rotation of duties until nightfall. After a nine-month training period they are posted at the border. They are also trained in all the moves of the Beating the Retreat ceremony, even though they are not allowed to perform them currently. “When you see the parade done by the women, you will forget all about the men,” says BSF commander Sumer Singh, who trains the recruits. Goomer says that one of the advantages of having women guards at Wagah now is that they can frisk the female agricultural workers who need to cross the border daily. “The main thing we have achieved here is gaining the confidence of the local population,” he says. “Earlier, we were facing problems about the general public getting across; we didn’t have anybody to frisk them.” This means that for the first time since Partition, women from the surrounding areas can cross the border to work alongside their husbands and brothers. Before this, only a few women made the crossing, frisked by the wives of local sarpanches (village chiefs), says Goomer. Manvinder Kaur remembers an elderly lady approaching her at the border crossing. “She told us that she hadn’t seen her fields for 40 years before we came. They are very pleased to have us,” she says. Although their role is still limited, the women feel they are setting an inspiring example for young girls all over India. One of the youngest recruits, 19-year-old Preeti Manke, joined as a part of the 2010 batch. She says she decided to join the force after seeing footage of the other girls on television. There’s no reason, the women agree, that girls all over the country might not be

A step forward: (clockwise from above) Constable B.K. Bhatti gets ready for the Beating the Retreat; the women gather at the canteen for lunch; Bhatti (left) and Simarjeet Cheema march to the gates at the start of the ceremony; BSF and Pakistan Rangers personnel march in a show of theatrical machismo; and Indian and Pakistani flags being lowered at sundown. similarly inspired. Manvinder Kaur speaks of the rise of female foeticide and the role her comrades might play in convincing parents that daughters are as precious as sons. “They will see us and feel that girls can live their own lives as well as men,” she says. “Because it’s a modern world now.” Kulwinder Banipal, 23, agrees, “It is a requirement that we work together in any environment, male and female, shoulder to shoulder.” As the afternoon wears on, the women leave for their various duties: Bhatti and Cheema head to the warm-up yard that separates the border from the visitors’ area. They join the male guards who are jogging up and down, doing leg stretches and stamping their metal-heeled parade boots. After the warm-up, the two women line up, ready to march as the first guards of the ceremony. When they enter, the crowd roars its approval. They stamp up the road towards Pakistan, faces set in stern grimaces, and stop right at the gate, kicking their legs high so that their knees touch their noses, glaring at the black-clad Rangers on the other side. They do an about-turn and take their places at each side of the gate, waiting for the men to follow. “It’s an interesting life,” says Manvinder Kaur. “We are not normal girls now. We are ‘Force’ girls.”

Thus far, women in the non­medical cadre in the army have served only as Short Ser­ vice Commissioned (SSC) officers. The Delhi high court orders the Armed Forces to grant permanent commissions to women officers in the legal and educa­ tional branches, enabling them to claim retirement benefits. Women in the combat and infantry branches are not included.

2011

Vanita Dhaka and Anjali Bisht, majors in the army, are fighting in the Supreme Court to have their commissions extended past the 14­year limit.


L10 COVER

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SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 2011 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

LOUNGE

COVER L11

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JOURNEY OF THE BATTALIONS A short history of women’s cadres in our Armed Forces

1987

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trains its first “Mahila” Battalion. The 88th Battalion assists in the Meerut riots. At first, just six women officers are sent to take control of six companies comprising 718 women. They are paid at the same level as their male counterparts but there are accusations of gender bias and hostility from male counterparts.

1992

The Indian Army begins inducting women into the officer cadre. Women can now enter the army as regular officers in avia­ tion, logistics, law and engineering. Priya Jhingan becomes the first female cadet to join the army.

2004

Punita Arora becomes the first woman in the army to achieve the highest rank of lieutenant general. Arora graduated from the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), Pune, and joined the Army Medical Corps in 1968. She was awarded the Sena medal for providing gynae endoscopy, assisted reproductive technology (ART) and oncol­ ogy facilities in military hospitals.

2008

The BSF advertises for women soldiers. Within a year, the first female recruits are trained and inducted. Only women from West Bengal and Punjab are recruited, since they will serve in those areas.

2010

® FROM PAGE L9

At the moment, women only serve in Punjab and West Bengal, although Goomer says other states are being consulted. “If we get a good response from them, we’ll recruit more,” he says. Introducing women into the ceremony itself is more difficult because there are no women guards marching in the Pakistan Rangers’ procession. But the BSF has come as close as is currently possible with the march to the gates. “Since they had become part and parcel of the organization, we thought, why not include them in the procession and allow them to be a part of that too?” says Goomer. At Wagah, 13 women guards live together in dormitory-style barracks on the grounds of the border outpost. They have a building to themselves but share a canteen with the male personnel. Aged between 19 and 23, and from all over Punjab, the women are aware that their presence in such a male-dominated profession is something of a novelty. Sitting in their quarters, they form a close-knit group, leaning in and resting their heads on each other’s shoulders. There’s an atmosphere of schoolgirl camaraderie, despite the combat boots and military garb. Their wardrobes contain cosmetics as well as camouflage. Manvinder Kaur, 23, says her parents have started to refer to her as their second son since she joined the BSF. “They feel proud to have me here,” she says. “I’ve wanted to join the forces from childhood, and so when I saw the advertisement in the newspaper I decided to apply.” She was one of the 5,000 initial applicants who took physical tests and written exams to become one of the first 870 recruits. The girls were required to run 5km in 24 minutes, and do both long and high jumps, among other tests.

The women are proud of being physically tough and impatient of “normal” Indian girls who may complain of being tired or depressed. Their day starts at 5am and involves a rotation of duties until nightfall. After a nine-month training period they are posted at the border. They are also trained in all the moves of the Beating the Retreat ceremony, even though they are not allowed to perform them currently. “When you see the parade done by the women, you will forget all about the men,” says BSF commander Sumer Singh, who trains the recruits. Goomer says that one of the advantages of having women guards at Wagah now is that they can frisk the female agricultural workers who need to cross the border daily. “The main thing we have achieved here is gaining the confidence of the local population,” he says. “Earlier, we were facing problems about the general public getting across; we didn’t have anybody to frisk them.” This means that for the first time since Partition, women from the surrounding areas can cross the border to work alongside their husbands and brothers. Before this, only a few women made the crossing, frisked by the wives of local sarpanches (village chiefs), says Goomer. Manvinder Kaur remembers an elderly lady approaching her at the border crossing. “She told us that she hadn’t seen her fields for 40 years before we came. They are very pleased to have us,” she says. Although their role is still limited, the women feel they are setting an inspiring example for young girls all over India. One of the youngest recruits, 19-year-old Preeti Manke, joined as a part of the 2010 batch. She says she decided to join the force after seeing footage of the other girls on television. There’s no reason, the women agree, that girls all over the country might not be

A step forward: (clockwise from above) Constable B.K. Bhatti gets ready for the Beating the Retreat; the women gather at the canteen for lunch; Bhatti (left) and Simarjeet Cheema march to the gates at the start of the ceremony; BSF and Pakistan Rangers personnel march in a show of theatrical machismo; and Indian and Pakistani flags being lowered at sundown. similarly inspired. Manvinder Kaur speaks of the rise of female foeticide and the role her comrades might play in convincing parents that daughters are as precious as sons. “They will see us and feel that girls can live their own lives as well as men,” she says. “Because it’s a modern world now.” Kulwinder Banipal, 23, agrees, “It is a requirement that we work together in any environment, male and female, shoulder to shoulder.” As the afternoon wears on, the women leave for their various duties: Bhatti and Cheema head to the warm-up yard that separates the border from the visitors’ area. They join the male guards who are jogging up and down, doing leg stretches and stamping their metal-heeled parade boots. After the warm-up, the two women line up, ready to march as the first guards of the ceremony. When they enter, the crowd roars its approval. They stamp up the road towards Pakistan, faces set in stern grimaces, and stop right at the gate, kicking their legs high so that their knees touch their noses, glaring at the black-clad Rangers on the other side. They do an about-turn and take their places at each side of the gate, waiting for the men to follow. “It’s an interesting life,” says Manvinder Kaur. “We are not normal girls now. We are ‘Force’ girls.”

Thus far, women in the non­medical cadre in the army have served only as Short Ser­ vice Commissioned (SSC) officers. The Delhi high court orders the Armed Forces to grant permanent commissions to women officers in the legal and educa­ tional branches, enabling them to claim retirement benefits. Women in the combat and infantry branches are not included.

2011

Vanita Dhaka and Anjali Bisht, majors in the army, are fighting in the Supreme Court to have their commissions extended past the 14­year limit.


L12

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SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 2011

Travel

LOUNGE THINKSTOCK

THE WELSH COAST

Not all who wander are lost

WICCASHA/WKIMEDIA COMMONS

The invisible coastline: (from above) A view of the Wales shoreline; the pier at Mumbles; and the ruins of Pennard Castle.

Hiking through a largely empty, dream­like countryside, look beyond the winter frost and discover a vision of breathtaking beauty B Y S NEHA N AGESH ···························· e are trailing Oystermouth Road—a long footpath in south-west Wales connecting Swansea with Gower (or Gyr). It is drizzling without a pause; the rain and fog only reinforce our embedded stereotypes of Welsh weather. We could have taken a bus. Or if it were summer, even the Swansea Bay Rider—a land train that runs on the same route as that of the Mumbles Train (the world’s first passenger railway, opened in 1807). But despite the advice of our more pragmatic well-wishers, we have picked what could possibly be one of the most inconvenient times to travel in the UK. Christmas has just passed and everyone is still on holiday. This means that buses run once an hour, if at all. A family of dog-walkers walks past us, speaking in Welsh. To us, the language sounds sweet and strange at the same time. “It is the ordinary words for ordinary things that in Welsh I find so pleasing. Nef may be no better than heaven, but wybren is more pleasing than sky,” said J.R.R. Tolkien in one of his lectures about the importance of Welsh to students and aficionados of English. Tolkien’s deep respect for this odd-sounding language is no secret and it is no wonder that he attempted to immortalize it by using it as a foundation for “Sindarin”—the language of the Elves in his literary works. As we walk, we try to spot obvious and immediate differences between Wales and England. We find marginal, if only superficial, dissimilarities, all based around ordinary things. But Welsh succeeds in making us feel like we are in a country different from England and we are pleased to hear it. By now our eyes are slowly adjusting to the haze and we decide that walking isn’t bad after all. We are walking towards Langland Bay via Mumbles, a small seaside village. The name Mumbles is said to have been derived from the French word for breasts. Somehow, the frivolity of the name has conjured up the image of a happy, bustling seaside place in our minds. However, instead of

W

a market town teeming with restaurants and cafés, we find that our path is lined with empty summer houses, reminding us again that the place possibly metamorphosizes into something completely different every summer. The tide is out when we reach the Mumbles Pier. A family, having ignored the faded sign in red that warns people of the fast rising tide, is attempting to collect cockles. As the Gower Peninsula comes in and out of focus we see a hazy arc of crumbling tower tops. The Mumbles Lighthouse produces a faint beeping signal. Built in 1794, its sound is an eerie reminder that the peninsula is infamous for shipwrecks and lifeboat capsizes. The air hangs uneasy, almost as though it is saturated with the rime of some ancient mariner gone unheard. We can’t help but imagine that the mists around us are mixed with the phantoms of all the poor souls who perished in long-gone disasters. Only a sizeable portion of some pasta at a cheery Italian restaurant by the pier succeeds in dispelling our morbid fantasies. Named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1956, the 19-mile (30.5km)-long Gower Peninsula has a lot of expectations to live up to. We are almost certain of a dream-like experience; of walking through a landscape consisting of gorgeous beaches, impeccable roads, ancient ruins full of historical tales, and picturesque limestone cliffs. After lunch, we are on our way again. The signs of civilization become fainter as we progress. By the time we arrive at Langland Beach, the end of our route for the day, we are beginning to take the absence of human presence for granted. The weather forecast in the morning had predicted a mere 2 degrees Celsius, and it seems to have gotten colder. But to our amazement, we spot a group of surfers, covered head to foot in wet suits, battling the wind, the rain and the cold to enjoy their sport. Clearly the act of fulfilling their passion in one of Britain’s best places to surf is far more important than the weather. We watch the surfers for a while, feeling embarrassed about believing that an experience could

EIONA ROBERTS/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

TRIP PLANNER/THE WALESH COAST Wales is part of the UK and you will need a valid UK visa. To get there, your best option is to fly to London, and take a train. To book your tickets, log on to www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk. Trains leave Paddington for Swansea every 30 minutes during the day, and the total travel time is 3 hours. Advance return fares are £54 (around R3,900) per person.

Holyhead

UK WALES

ENGLAND

London

WALES Swansea

Stay

Cardiff

To London

Do

Try the British bed and breakfast experience: There are several B&Bs on Oystermouth Road. At Leonardo’s Guest House (http://www.leonardosguesthouse.co.uk), double rooms are available for £40-65. At the Swansea Marriott (www.marriott.co.uk), double rooms start at £89 a night and go up to £157 a night. Qualified trainers can teach you surfing at the beaches around Swansea. For information and bookings, log on to www.swanseasurfing.com and www.surfgsd.com Explore some of the world’s oldest caves, on the road from Swansea to Brecon. For details, log on to www.showcaves.co.uk GRAPHIC

change in essence solely on the basis of weather. The next day, we manage to find a bus that takes us to Pennard Cliffs. We want to see one of the most photographed areas in Gower—the famous Three Cliffs Bay. We arrive to find a scene that strikes us with its intensity—sea, the shade of aquamarine, hitting hard and noisy against magnificently multicoloured cliffs. What makes it even more breathtaking is that just one step out of line and we would be bouncing up and down with the waves ourselves. After about an hour, we come to a small beach surrounded by sandy cliffs. We are scared of the

BY

AHMED RAZA KHAN/MINT

tide closing us off from the path, so we admire the unusual little beach briefly and then climb up the sandy wall around it. Nothing could have prepared us for the scene in front of us. We realize that the little beach behind was just the prelude to a great musical movement. The three cliffs stretch out, as though endless. To our right, a stream snakes its way down to the sea, forming an estuary. We stand inert for a long time, the rain getting heavier by the minute. A sign points us to the Pennard Castle ruins. Built in the early 12th century, the ringshaped, sand-eroded ruins that remain today look like a crude,

forgotten child’s toy. Nevertheless it is a little sad to imagine that in a few years, they might be gone altogether. We have been hiking for at least 3 hours now. We have no idea how to make our way back to our bus stop. We pass a golf course perched on top of the hills and are surprised, once again, to see some people playing the sport. Something about them feels surreal. They seem oblivious to both, the weather and the scenery. In the rain, in that moment spent lost in a real-life painting, we are awakened to a strong, focused realization of our initial motive for visiting in winter—a selfish desire to keep beauty of this magnitude to ourselves, sharing it with just a few others. A few months later, we would have been warmer but we definitely

wouldn’t have been this alone in a place this dream-like. Write to lounge@livemint.com CHILD­FRIENDLY RATING

Most restaurants include children’s menus, and they will love Gower’s many beaches. SENIOR­FRIENDLY RATING

Senior citizens can go on one of the many of the shorter trails, or enjoy the cafés in town. LGBT­FRIENDLY RATING

There isn’t much catering to LGBT tourists around Gower, but there are occasional events for LGBT travellers.


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INDULGENCE

A few of my favourite things Stop asking people to bring you a man­sized bar of Toblerone when they go abroad. Try these unique souvenirs

B Y S IDIN V ADUKUT ····································· t’s a lucky person who gets to travel frequently. But with a little less luck, you can still be a person who knows other people who travel frequently. When your friends are away in Tokyo or Paris or London and ask what souvenirs you want, you need to play smartly. Don’t ask for yet another magnet, for that last spot behind the fridge, and what’s the point in getting the same box of Ferrero Rocher that’s now available at the neighbourhood Patel Stores? There is much more to inter-

I

national destinations than what you can buy from the airport duty free. With a little research, you can find local delicacies, handicrafts and chic, quirky souvenirs. To help you get started, we put together a list of hand-picked items from popular destinations around the world. You won’t find them in most duty-frees, smuggled goods stores or in-flight catalogues, and most certainly not at Patel Stores. Sure, your friends might have to travel a bit or make a few phone calls. But then what are friends with visas for? Write to lounge@livemint.com

SYDNEY: FOQI BENT BOTTLE OPENER Yes, a bottle opener. But what a bottle opener. Australian design outfit Foqi’s “bent” design concept received much acclaim when it was unveiled two years ago. The object is simplicity itself and has lines reminiscent of a 1960s muscle car. However, do ask your friends to order online as soon as they reach the city. While it may be stocked in stores in Sydney, ordering online from the Foqi store is much easier. A glamorous addition to any serious, well­stocked bar. Price, AUS$ 120 (around `5,600). For details, log on to www.foqi.com

SHANGHAI: SHANGHAI CODE VINTAGE GLASSES

NEW YORK: THE NEW YORKER HARD DRIVE

CAPE TOWN: IMAGENIUS OBAMA FABRIC

Not everything in this alpha city is new and shiny. Shanghai might be the place all other cities aspire to become, but there are pockets of the old thriving there as well. Tianzifang is a popular destination for creative folk with its old Shanghai architecture, bars, cafés and restaurants. Shanghai Code Vintage Glasses is a project by a local entrepreneur who went around collecting old eyeglass frames from shuttered factories around Shanghai. Find designs and styles from the 1940s to the 1980s. There is plenty of other retro memorabilia as well. But most visitors have eyes only for the oversized plastic monstrosities of times past. Prices start at 250 yuan (around `1,800).

This is the magazine that sets the bar for all others. Arguably the greatest thing made of paper in the world, ‘The New Yorker’ magazine has enthralled readers for decades with its formidable array of fiction and non­fiction writers, and unexplainable cartoons. From J.D. Salinger to Malcolm Gladwell, the magazine’s archives are a thinking person’s delight. Which is why you must ask, nay demand, that your friend visit The Cartoon Bank on Broadway and buy you a copy of the Complete New Yorker Hard Drive. The slim little 120 GB portable drive contains every page from the magazine since 1925. Update DVDs are periodically released as well. Stupendous value at $179 (around `8,000). For details, log on to www.cartoonbank.com

Cape Town is a popular tourist destination that is also now developing a reputation for a booming local design scene. Boutiques and design stores dot the city and few are as bewildering as the Imagenius store on Long Street in the heart of town. ‘The Telegraph’ newspaper recently called it “A shop of offbeat genius”. Almost anything in the store would make a good gift. But keeping in mind luggage constraints, we recommend a few metres of the Imagenius’ Shine Shine Obama fabric. Printed on a variety of cotton, oil cloth and linen by a local company, anything made with it is an instant conversation starter. It is priced at South African rand 250 (around `1,700) a metre. For details, log on to www.imagenius.co.za

ZURICH: FREITAG LUGGAGE Brothers Markus and Daniel Freitag were beginning to get a little miffed by the damp Zurich weather. Zipping around the city on their cycles, they were wondering how to keep their messenger bags dry. Then they spotted the lorry driving along in front of them. Since 1993, the brothers have been making cult luggage out of old tarpaulins, tyre tubes and seat belts. While messenger bags remain their forte, they also have a variety of wallets and smaller totes. The flagship store in Zurich is hipster mecca. Prices start from €43 (around `2,700) for a one­of­a­kind iPhone 4 pouch. For details, log on to www.freitag.ch

PARIS: LE PETIT ATELIER DE PARIS Paris is known for many things—fashion, the Eiffel Tower —but not so much for its porcelain. Which is exactly the point. Le Petit Atelier de Paris is a little pottery workshop, on Rue Montmorency, that manufactures everything in its basement. Look out for easily packable things such as egg­cups and retro porcelain electrical switches. Prices start from €20 (around `1,200) for the electrical fittings. For details, log on to www.porcelaine­electrique.com

LONDON: UNDERGROUND FILM MAP The London Transport Museum may sound like the classic tourist trap but it is, in fact, a charming little place that is sadly seldom visited. So do your friends a favour by getting them to go there and buy you an Underground Film Map. The map is a reinterpretation of the classic London Tube map with the station names replaced with those of movies and TV series that were shot at or around the stations. It captures 70 years of London film history. All for £9.95 (around `700). For details, log on to www.ltmuseumshop.co.uk


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Books

LOUNGE

NIGHT IN BOMBAY | LOUIS BROMFIELD

Good times on the old town DINODIA PHOTOS

A republished classic from 1940 evokes the heady aura of colonial Bombay

B Y G YAN P RAKASH ···························· s the ship sails into the harbour, Bill Wainright becomes aware of a smell—the smell of Bombay Duck. The pungent odour immediately conjures up not just strings of drying fish, but also parties and drinking, easy seductions and nights under the city’s starry skies. He trembles with excitement, but also apprehension. After all, he is returning to Bombay to show his father in the US that he can make good. He intends to prove that he is no longer the wild scion of a rich businessman but a responsible, disciplined agent of his company, someone with what his father calls “character”. That the protagonist of Louis Bromfield’s Night in Bombay headed to Bombay (now Mumbai) was completely logical. It was the place to be in the late 1930s. With the Great Depression over, industry and finance were once again robust, and the ports hummed with activity. To be sure, urban society remained deeply unequal, and the British were still the rulers. But capitalism had acquired a new aesthetic gloss. Fresh styles and aspirations competed with the monumental and medieval Gothic buildings that the British colonists had erected to represent their authority. The rising apartment buildings on Marine Drive, and the grand new art deco cinema theatres—Metro, Eros and Regal—lent a fashionable, exuberant air to the city’s industrial modernity. The elite milieu sparkled with the cosmopolitan glitter of jazz, swing, ballroom dancing and cabarets.

A

Thunder road: Marine Drive began to shine in the 1930s, the era of Bromfield’s Bombay. With the resumption of international travel after the end of World War I, an assortment of Europeans and Americans seeking their fortune, adventure and self-hood descended on Bombay. It is these characters that drive the narrative in Night in Bombay, which was a best-seller when first published in 1940. Bromfield, an American from Ohio, won the Pulitzer in 1927 for his novel Early Autumn. He wrote several novels, among them The

Rains Came (1937), inspired by his trip to India in 1932. In 1939 it was made into a film, starring Myrna Loy and Tyrone Power. Night in Bombay was never adapted, though the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) lists it as a 2011 production, starring Emma Thomas, Tony Devan and Jeremiah Chambers. Whereas The Rains Came is set in the countryside, the mise-enscène of Night in Bombay is the city’s cosmopolitan milieu, at the

centre of which is the Taj hotel. Bill is headed there, as is another passenger on the ship, a short, fat woman with hair dyed red and the “hide of a rhinoceros”. Speaking English with a thick German accent, she claims to be an “Egyptian” baroness. In fact, she is a procuress, prospecting for women of easy virtue for the boudoirs of European aristocrats. The baroness sets her sights on Carol Halma, a former beauty queen and showgirl, and

Bill’s ex-wife, who is casting about for wealthy patrons. But Carol falls for Buck Merrill, an ailing missionary and Bill’s old college friend from Cornell. As love blossoms between Buck and Carol, Bill realizes that he is still in love with his former wife. Meanwhile, a drama of intrigue and roguery unfolds. There are enough unsavoury characters, both Indian and European, who play their parts in making the story thick with devilish schemes and deceptions. In the end, Bill comes to the rescue. He cuts through the knot of conspiracies, and saves Carol from deportation. The heroic American fixes it so that his exwife can marry Buck, and accompany him back to the village to continue his good work. The former showgirl is redeemed. Bill is heartbroken, but only wants to see her happy. “You’re a swell guy, Bill,” Buck says to him. As he leaves Bombay aboard the Rajputana, Bill thinks to himself, “Good-time Charlie is dead.” It is not difficult to see why this story of self-making and redemption was a best-seller in its time. Bombay exuded the exotic smell of India—“that strange smell compounded of jasmine and cow dung smoke, spices and dust”. Yet it was not the “real” India which, according to Orientalist conception, resided in its villages. The astonishing diversity and contradictions of its modern urban life presented a challenge to stereotypes. “Bombay wasn’t anything. It wasn’t India, or East or West, but an extraordinary muddle of everything on earth,” Bill concludes. The muddle that was Bombay could only be overlooked if you did not bat an eyelid as you passed from the Taj, the yacht club, the Willingdon club and Malabar Hill to the shabby tenements and crowded streets of the mill district and beyond. “Yes, Bombay was fantastic and romantic and extraordinary things happened there, if you didn’t notice the coolies, the women and the children sleeping on sidewalks and in gutters as you drove home from a good party about sunrise.”

Night in Bombay: Penguin, 366 pages, `399. But to Bromfield’s credit, he notices. He tries to make sense of the muddle by adopting the frame of intrigue. It is as if a reference to the sordid brew of greed, jealousy, and deception solves the puzzle of Bombay’s divided reality. Obviously handy here was the fantasy of the port cities of the East, such as Bombay and Shanghai, as places of corruption and trickery. It served to screen the awareness that Bombay’s divided reality was a product of the peculiar conditions of colonial capitalism, that the playgrounds of the rich were built on the backs of the poor. The blindness that the lens of intrigue and fraud produced is also evident in the novel’s striking lack of awareness of the rising crescendo of anti-colonial and nationalist mobilizations of the time. Having understood that sham and conspiracies stood behind the puzzle of Bombay, Bromfield found the solution in romance—Carol’s love for Buck and all that he stood for, and Bill’s love for Carol and for his own self-fashioning. Bromfield himself returned to the imagined simplicity and innocence of rural Ohio. But he carried a piece of Bombay with him, naming his experiment in sustainable agriculture “Malabar Farm”. Gyan Prakash is Dayton-Stockton professor of history at Princeton University and the author of Mumbai Fables. Write to lounge@livemint.com IN SIX WORDS Sultry nights in Bombay’s Roaring Thirties

CUSTODY | MANJU KAPUR

Divorced from realism A predictable story with a desiccated view of middle­ class marriage

B Y A RUNAVA S INHA ···························· ll unhappy families may be unhappy in their own ways, except when one of them belongs to Manju Kapur’s latest blueprint of domestic disharmony, Custody. So schematic that if you summarized the novel there would be almost nothing left to tell, this 400-plus-page account of a divorced couple’s tug-of-love for possession of their children offers the reader a frustrated search for uniqueness in plot, character, setting, prose, dialogue—anything that can make it stand apart. Raman—the hard-working, intelligent, dependable but uncharismatic corporate star—marries the stunningly beautiful Shagun, to be described later in the novel as a combination of Western style and Eastern heart. After two children and the upper-middle class urban Indian definition of happiness, the marriage falls apart when Raman’s boss Ashok seduces her. They fall

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in love thereafter. He is a knight in shining armour, offering her all—but what, exactly?—that Raman didn’t. Finally recognizing true love for what it is, Shagun leaves Raman for Ashok. Meanwhile, in a parallel story, soon to converge, Ishita is forced to divorce her husband SK—both the marriages are, of course, arranged marriages—when it is discovered she cannot bear him children. How Raman and Ishita’s paths will cross as Raman and Shagun slug it out for custody of their children, the 10-year-old Arjun and two-year-old Roohi, is drearily predictable. The fault lies squarely in the lack of credible reasons that make the characters behave the way they do. The pattern is imposed from the top, not worked out from within the people who make this story. Every person under 50 in this novel is an embodiment of a single idea—the faithless wife, the magnetic CEO, the deluded husband, the thwarted mother-soul.

Custody: Random House India, 415 pages, `450. As for those over 50, they don’t even need separate adjectives—all of them are helpless, whining, miserable old folk who live only to social-engineer happiness for their grown-up children. Naturally, all offspring of all ages are universally called beta. Kapur makes every person in the novel move inexorably along the path she has charted for them. If her characters had any individuality of their own, they would surely have rebelled against her

tyranny and responded to their situations like human beings, riddled with doubts, despair and uncertainty. People trapped in the circumstances that the writer creates with a few strokes of her pen should have been caught in two minds, and been wretchedly miserable in a way that would make the reader feel claustrophobic, persecuted and, ultimately, suicidal. Like marionettes, however, Raman and Shagun move from marriage to betrayal to separation to divorce, punctuated by the mandatory heart attack signifying stress. Like a puppet on a chain too, Ishita becomes a fiercely possessive ersatz mother who triggers the custody crisis that finally breathes some life into the novel in the final fourth. There are great storytelling possibilities in the way in which Raman’s relationship with his children, especially his son, becomes increasingly rocky. But not once do we get a peep inside the minds of the four adults and two children who populate this theatre to see what demons and angels reside in them, what agony and ecstasy they scale as

they make their choices or have their choices thrust upon them, what makes their brew of unhappiness unique. Kapur has a formidable reputation as a chronicler of middleclass India. That reputation would have been vindicated in splendid fashion had she given us an insider’s view of the lives of troubled people like you and me seeking happiness, or provided a gossipy or ironic or observant narrator’s voice, seeing from the outside but bringing a unique perspective to the storytelling. This novel offers neither. At one point, one character asks another, “Did you ever assume a position besides the missionary with your husband?” Does the woman shoot back, “Who the hell talks like that, you crazy idiot?”, and put her clothes back on? Of course not. She lowers her head in shame at this definitive proof that she has not been happy all these years. Lacking the spark of real, complex, confused people, the characters of Custody leave you completely cold to the outcome of this battle in their lives. Write to lounge@livemint.com


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Q&A | ANGELA SAINI

THE READING ROOM

‘We need some nuttiness’ MUKUL DEVICHAND

The author of ‘Geek Nation’ on staying sceptical, gender bias, and the importance of being crazy

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

···························· cience writer Angela Saini’s Geek Nation is a critical look at a country claiming to be on the threshold of a scientific revolution. “I’m here to learn about this rediscovered nation of geeks,” the UK-based journalist writes in the book’s first chapter. “My dad, who worked as a chemical engineer in India in the 1960s, used to tell me about the great potential of this land of hardworking scientists and engineers. Yet India never managed to live up to his dreams—until now.” Saini starts with the successes of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre near Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, and investigates innovation and research in every conceivable field of popular science, from GM (genetically modified) crops and drug research to e-governance and nuclear power. In all of these instances, Saini questions and probes popularly held assumptions (such as how Indian IT companies are “hotbeds of innovation”) and, in many cases, comes away unconvinced. The book reads like a “sceptic’s guide” to modern Indian science, and has a constant strand of cautious optimism running through it. Early in the book, after a dispiriting visit to an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campus, she thinks of India’s engineers: “They aren’t geeks. They’re more like drones.” Saini spoke to Lounge about the “project mentality” of Indian scientists and parallels with Japan. Edited excerpts from an interview:

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Was this the book you set out to write? There’s a pessimism in it which only gives way towards the end. I started out, actually, quite sceptical at all this hype about

Signs of science: Angela Saini travelled to India to learn about ‘this rediscovered nation of geeks’. Indian science. I kept in mind the reservations that people have that Indian science is not as productive as many other countries in terms of statistical output—publications and patents. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. By the end, by the very end, I could see the ambition. The subtitle of the book, “How Indian science is taking over the world”—the publishers came up with that one. They really

Geek Nation: Hachette India, 280 pages, `499.

agonized over it, because they weren’t sure what to make of the book. It wasn’t a polemic, and it wasn’t putting forth an argument and then justifying it. It was just me, observing, and coming to my own conclusion. My conclusion was that India does have the ambition to become a scientific superpower, and the ingredients to do that, in terms of graduates, investment and the trajectory of growth of its industries. India is a deeply sexist country in many ways. Did that extend, in what you observed, to science? In Rajasthan’s e-governance programme, they’ve made a decision to get women to run the local computer kiosks, because they thought that would be empowering. That’s good. Any technology that reduces the distance between you and the government, gives you access to communication and plugs you into the world has to be emancipating. I find technology very emancipating. I was surprised by how many women engineers there are in India. When I studied engineering in

Britain, I was the only girl in my class in my college in my year. In an early chapter, you draw a parallel between India now and Japan in the 1970s, which began by undercutting American manufacturers and then made the leap to becoming a scientific powerhouse. How similarly placed is India to make a jump? There are parallels to Japan, but I wouldn’t want to draw too many of them. We live in a different time now, and Japan made its leap with electronics and hardware, whereas India’s contribution is primarily software. They worked a lot with transforming processes and systems in which they produced their products. But that’s the kind of trend you see in developing societies—you start with cheapness, and then move to innovation. In as much as history gives us that lesson, perhaps that’s what will happen in India. But I’m not a big fan of forecasting. You quote many scientists who say that Indian researchers have a “project” mentality. Does this discourage open-ended, speculative research? There is blue-sky research that happens in India. One of the cultural issues I came to understand is that Indian science is quite unlike the West, where research tends to be straitjacketed. You are quite limited there in what you can do after your PhD, in terms of what will get funded, or what opportunities exist. Whereas in India, perhaps because it’s a less regulated scientific society, which is not necessarily a good thing, you do have this freedom to do whatever you feel like. You can run free, which leads to really wacky ideas. I have a chapter on this Indian lie-detector device called the Brain Electrical Oscillations Signature Test. It creates this possibility at the other end of the spectrum of real geniuses doing amazing things off the top of their head. You need room for these. When I went to the Indian Science Congress, this senior chemist, Ramachandra Rao, said you need “nuttiness” in science. Nuttiness is essential. You don’t produce off-the-wall ideas by following everyone else. Einstein came up with his ideas not as a professor in a university, but when he was sitting in a patent office and pondering ideas that no one else could even conceive of.

TABISH KHAIR

SPEAKING IN TONGUES Lost translators Soon we will be celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore. Born on 7 May 1861, Tagore, or Gurudev, was a poet, fiction writer, essayist, musician, painter, playwright and educator who transformed Bengali literature and music. He was also the first person of non-European origin (if we consider Turkey at least partly European) to win the Nobel Prize for literature and probably the only poet who has penned two extant national anthems—that of India and that of Bangladesh. We know all that, and it is not just inevitable but commendable that Indian governmental agencies seem to be making a special effort to commemorate Tagore. But perhaps, along with the celebrations, it is time to think of the intricate (and at times contentious) role that translation played in the celebration of Tagore, especially his Gitanjali. It is time to realize that the tired old debate about whether India should be written in O.A NG. English or other Indian languages obscures a major problem: the lack of serious funding for the translation of Indian literature and the lack of investment in high-level translators and their education. There are some good translators in India, no doubt, but their numbers are restricted—and the money they can earn is even more restricted. Tagore’s birth anniversary is a good occasion to do something to rectify this lack.

Hong Kong

Gurudev: Fresh translations needed. Perhaps it was just me. But I had always considered Hong Kong a centre of business and shopping. During my two trips to this lively city over the past few years, I have come to realize that it is much else too. Hong Kong has a vibrant writers’ culture: a network of writers who publish, organize and participate in events that add to the cultural life of the city. The City University’s master of fine arts (MFA) in creative writing, with authors such as Justin Hill and Madeleine Thien associated with it, is one of the hubs. Also associated with the MFA programme, Xu Xi, one of Hong Kong’s visible writers, has just published an interesting novel, Habit of a Foreign Sky, which is basically about responsibility in a global setting, centering around a mixed-race single mother. But Hong Kong also has other writers’ circles and aspiring authors who are not visible, or not yet, and add to the city’s vibrancy. Shobha Nihalani, for instance, is a freelance journalist whose last novel was published first in Danish translation! Her new novel, The Silent Monument, which has been released in India, is a thriller set in topical circumstances. When one talks of crime fiction in the context of Hong Kong, how can one leave out Nury Vittachi? I find Vittachi’s popular Feng Shui Detective series funnier than and as gripping as Alexander McCall Smith’s better known The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. Vittachi is an author worth checking out, especially if you prefer tongue-in-cheek crime stories to the head-on-the-plate versions.

Three Sisters Bi Feiyu’s Three Sisters, winner of the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize, is “a moving tale of three sisters struggling to take control of their lives. Their heroic endurance of petty cruelties and unfair obstacles feels universal for the time and place,” says Nicole Mones, author of The Last Chinese Chef. Set around the Cultural Revolution and beautifully translated from Chinese, this is an excellent novel that underlines the vibrancy of Asian literature—and my earlier point in this column that we, in India, need to invest much more in translating from Indian languages. Bhasha and English literature in India should be of greater benefit to each other. Tabish Khair is the Denmark-based author of The Thing about Thugs. Write to Tabish at readingroom@livemint.com

QUICK LIT | SUPRIYA NAIR

FREE VERSE | CHERAN

The other Guhilot girl This is not easy reading for those who like women commonsensical

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hat can you say about a legendary princess of Chittor who died? If you are Kiran Nagarkar, you excite new love for a very old icon and rescue her husband’s poor reputation in one fell swoop with an epic novel that will win the Sahitya Akademi Award. But as the princess, so the novel. Mirabai, the “Greeneyes” of Nagarkar’s Cuckold (1997), was a radical religious poet, a celebrity and a feminist avant la lettre. Rani Padmini, who preceded her by a couple of centuries, is best remembered for throwing herself into a mass pyre. In The Lotus Queen, Rikin Khamar’s version of the myth of Padmini, she is the heroic protag-

onist of an epic war adventure. Married but two years to Rawal Rattan Singh of Chittor, she must decide between preserving personal honour and ensuring the safety of the kingdom when the evil sultan of Delhi, Ala’uddin Khilji, requests a glimpse of her famous beauty. It’s the sort of no-win situation any princess would hate. Padmini breaks the mirror in which the leering Ala’uddin sees her, but the kingdom is already in danger by then. As the men of the kingdom lead a final, desperate charge against Delhi’s invading army, Padmini leads Chittor’s women into the implacable sacrifice of life before honour, by committing them all to the fires of jauhar. Khamar’s narrative is fast-paced and engagingly plotted. His style is also easy to read, although it might have been easier if people weren’t addressing each other as “yes, honourable lord” and “o, revered priest” all the time.

The Lotus Queen: Rupa & Co., 150 pages, `195. There is no way to make the agonized choice of glory over life seem politically relevant today, particularly when it involves mass immolation. But if human rights really came in the way of literature then no one would still be reading Homer. Having said that, Khamar’s novel will not be easy reading for anyone who likes their women commonsensical and their Muslims humanized. His Ala’uddin is a devil, practically licking his

chops as he forces Chittor to death and dishonour at swordpoint—although after several rounds of rousing speeches about the courage and character of the Rajput race, unromantic readers may sympathize with this impulse. This reviewer once heard a tour guide history that heaps further iniquity on Ala’uddin by claiming that he charmed Singh and Padmini by making her his rakhi sister and then betrayed them. But that sort of treachery is a shade too intricate for the principals of The Lotus Queen, where complexity is a character flaw. Set as it is in a milieu where stridency is a moral necessity, it may seem fussy to bother about the implications of a narrative such as The Lotus Queen’s, which expects the reader to take far too much of its medieval world view for granted. Perhaps Padmini’s dignity may even find her a new clutch of admirers through Khamar’s energetic retelling. But not every princess can die a revolutionary, supriya.n@livemint.com

Scenes of death When, during their invasion deceit and magical scenes of malice arose with the smoke, The word mutated. Idols were shattered. Life lost its essence. The doctor, who amputates without anaesthesia the shrapnel-filled hands of a two-and-a-half-year-old child, is a god at this moment. Her screaming mother, with tearless eyes is a demon. Excerpted from Waking is Another Dream: Poems on the Genocide in Eelam, edited by Ravikumar. Cheran is a major Tamil poet and playwright who has published seven anthologies of poetry in Tamil. Write to lounge@livemint.com


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Culture

LOUNGE

THEATRE

A Kolkata for Pip ROBERT DAY

A playwright’s identity crisis makes way for Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ set in Kolkata

B Y S HAMIK B AG ···························· s a playwright, Tanika Gupta finds it impossible not to be inspired by the letters her ancestor Dinesh Gupta wrote to his family while incarcerated in Kolkata’s Alipore Jail. Dinesh—a freedomfighter convicted for the murder of a high-ranking British official—was hanged in 1931. “The letters were beautiful. They had strength, conviction and lyrical charm. They were inspiring and tragic,” Gupta says. With her ingenious adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations—currently touring Britain—Gupta has taken creative liberties and set the play in colonialera Kolkata, the mid-18th century city which served as the pivot of the imperial power her great-uncle had attempted to dislodge. Today the bustling business and administrative district of Kolkata, BBD Bag (renamed post-independence after the revolutionary trio of Binoy, Badal and Dinesh, replacing the British-christened Dalhousie Square) continues to be a link to Gupta’s lineage. As muse too, there are the corroding vestiges of the imperial city. “The crumbling Victorian buildings and the fact that it was the Raj’s headquarters made Kolkata the perfect setting. I also love its vibrancy and politics,” says Gupta. As the writer of the new stage production based on Dickens’ famous novel on

A tale of two cities: (left) Tariq Jordan as Pip and Simone James as Estella; and Tanika Gupta, the playwright.

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class divides, hierarchies of affluence and individual ambitions ruling Victorian English society, Gupta says colonial Kolkata fits the translocation bill. The common time period of both societies meant that Gupta didn’t have to modernize Dickens’

original language. In the adaptation, produced by the English Touring Theatre and directed by Nikolai Foster, Pip, the protagonist in Dickens’ book, is a Bengali, his uncle and sister are Indians too, while the convict Magwitch, another important char-

acter, is an African sailor with a criminal background. If Australia was the penal outpost for Magwitch’s crimes in the original text, in Gupta’s hands it is the Andaman islands. The adaptation, eventually, attempts to link 1860s’ Britain with the former capital of Brit-

ish India through common coordinates, giving Dickens’ much-adapted novel a crafty wrench. “Class divides, immense wealth versus immense poverty, a punitive penal system, lack of children’s universal education and child abuse are common themes in Dickens’ novels. They are as relevant to the UK’s modern society as in Victorian Britain and indeed in any other country,” says the 48-year-old writer, who has a production coming up with the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company next year. “The English colonialists lived in their own world and looked down on the ‘natives’.” In Pip’s journey—as an orphan in a Bengal village who is sent to Kolkata to pursue an “English education”—Gupta has drawn a parallel with those who were disparagingly referred to as Macaulay’s children: educated Indians who adopted an English way of life and would be often accused of being unpatriotic. “I was fascinated by the way the British educated Indians of ‘good families’ in a English way, encouraging English values and morals. It wasn’t an accident that Nehru and Jinnah qualified as barristers in London and came back to fight for their country’s independence,” Gupta says in an email interview. So does Pip in Gupta’s version of Great Expectations. “Ultimately, Pip’s dissatisfaction at the way he is treated by the English leads him to question their wisdom and awakens his Indian pride. Whilst Pip

loses a lot, he gains a lifelong friend in the quintessentially English Herbert Pocket. It is this friendship across races that gives us hope and propels us to the present day,” Gupta writes in the foreword to the play which had its first production in London last month. As a well-regarded and much-awarded playwright in England with over 20 stage plays produced in major UK theatres, Gupta remembers the many “de-Anglicization” trips she made to Kolkata at the prodding of her parents, Gairika and Tapan Gupta, Santiniketan-educated Bengalis who started The Tagoreans in the UK as a platform for Rabindranath Tagore’s works in 1965. “They wanted me to be proud of my roots. I couldn’t have written this adaptation without knowing Kolkata.” It was Tapan Gupta’s desire to own and drive a Rolls-Royce down London after taking the ship from Mumbai as a 24-year-old fortune-seeker in 1961 that “linked my father to the novel”, says Gupta. “After all, Pip wants to do well, he wants to rise above his station and leave his small world behind. My father is like so many other immigrants who came to the UK to seek their fortune and to have an adventure, and that he did. But like the novel, the journey was long and arduous, full of bittersweet moments, setbacks and heartache.” In an illustrious writing career that has seen her creating 30 radio plays for the BBC, Gupta has often grumbled against “British Asian” or “Asian woman Bengali writer” tags. “Why should I be tagged by race or sex when Harold Pinter never got called a male English Jewish writer?” she questions. Yet Gupta admits to having “agonized” over the decision to accept the MBE (member of the Order of the British Empire) in 2008. “I accepted because my Ma felt it was a form of vindication against the empire. It is absurd that the honours system hasn’t removed the word ‘empire’, given that the empire is thankfully dead and gone.” It is just one of the many issues of identity that stream through the life and work of Tanika Gupta. Write to lounge@livemint.com

Miffed at the machine Not quite Dead Kennedys, but two new punk groups demonstrate the genre’s variety B Y K RISH R AGHAV krish.r@livemint.com

···························· hen punk band Black Lips last performed in India in 2009, their five-city tour ended in disaster. Playing to an enthusiastic Chennai crowd, the band got a little carried away with their onstage antics. Already quite inebriated, vocalist Cole Alexander dropped his pants and mooned the audience, and then proceeded to make out, on stage, with guitarist Ian Saint Pé. The promoters were not amused. “After the fiasco, which the kids seemed to like, the financial backers of the event were furious and threw us off the tour,” they’d write later in a blog post on their website. “They tried to get security to restrain us until the Tamil police arrived. We locked the door while they were kicking and banging on it (and) slipped out the other

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emergency exit.” The band drove a straight 10 hours to cross state lines, evaded a dodgy travel agent attempting to steal their passports, and booked a flight out of the country to Berlin. It was, as they put in crisply, “A cultural clashing s*** storm.” Indian punk in English is rarely this troublemaking. At an energetic Pentagram gig in a Ghaziabad engineering college on 27 March, the crowd broke through the barricades separating the boys from the girls, and mobbed the VIP area. But, compared with the Black Lips incident, it resulted only in unpaid dues and a demand for an apology (which wasn’t forthcoming). “Most punk in India is what you’d call pop-punk,” says Arun Singh Ravi of The Riot Peddlers. “It’s what you get if you played Brown Eyed Girl at a higher tempo. They sing about girls, society, inner turmoil and stuff.” Most

Left field: (left) Arun Singh Ravi (sporting a mohawk) with another member of The Riot Peddlers; and the cover of The Lightyears Explode EP. pop-punk groups have a sunny disposition towards life, even if they have signature “sad songs”. The Riot Peddlers, on the other hand, are a three-piece “hardcore punk” band from Mumbai, who have an EP releasing in May. Hard-core punk draws on bands from the 1980s such as Dead Kennedys or Minor Threat, preferring fast, short, angry songs with quick tempo changes and no flashy solos. Where other bands play about four-five songs in a half-hour set,

The Riot Peddlers can shoehorn 11. “We’re talking about police, corruption, knowing your rights, standing up to the authorities,” Ravi, a former scriptwriter for TV channel Pogo, says. “It’s straightto-the-point songwriting.” The Riot Peddlers’ claim to fame was an early song called Sau Rupiya, which Ravi wrote in appreciation of the street vendors outside Mumbai’s railway stations.“ They’re brilliant, man,” he says. “They’re able to convince you that what they’re hawking

will change your life, that you absolutely need this right now.” The song was included in the fourth edition of a compilation of new Indian indie music called Stupid Ditties. The band was approached to contribute after debuting an early work called Chai Paani at a gig in Mumbai’s Zenzi Mills last year. On the other end of the spectrum are pop-punk group The Lightyears Explode, who have just released their debut, self-titled EP with song titles such as Pretenses

and Other Forms of Fakegiri. The songs are catchy ear worms, filled with earnest, simple lyrics. “We just write about people, not people’s problems,” says vocalist Saurabh Roy. “The songs just sound right to us, and I guess they turn out sounding like punk rock.” The Lightyears Explode EP can be downloaded at www.facebook. com/thelightyearsexplode. You can listen to The Riot Peddlers at www.facebook.com/ theriotpeddlers


CULTURE L17

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BY

ABHIJIT BHATLEKAR/MINT

MUSIC MATTERS

SHUBHA MUDGAL

SOUNDTRACK TO A REVOLUTION

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HOBBIES

Crackle and hum Spinning jenny: (above) A record enthusiast at Microgroove; and the sleeve of a vintage LP.

A new vinyl club in Mumbai refocuses interest on the vintage music format

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

···························· n the beginning, not even Zenzi, the popular lounge and restaurant in Bandra, Mumbai, can quite bestir itself on a whitehot Sunday morning. But once the first couple of people walk in, carrying tote bags full of selections from their record collections, the trickle doesn’t stop. Soon, the needle drops—on R.E.M’s Automatic for the People. And so, last Sunday, the dials turned up on the first meeting of independent music website NH7 and Zenzi’s new vinyl club, Microgroove. Arjun Ravi, founder, NH7, first floated the idea of a club for record enthusiasts. He began collecting LPs himself about a year ago, drawn to the physicality of the medium in a time when live concerts and digital recordings seem to be crowding out both the business of, and the need for, a physical product from bands. “You spend time with music when you take an LP in your hands,” he says. “You look at the sleeve, you take out the record, you play it with the intention of listening to it all the way through. That makes it more meaningful to you.” Ravi’s spleet-new LPs—records put out in the last couple of years by The National and Arcade Fire—make an interesting contrast with the vintage of the records that

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others bring in. Among them are Neale Murray’s perfectly preserved Isley Brothers (3+3) and Donald Fagen (The Nightfly) albums, a Spirogyra album signed by the band members, and the stunning artwork of a softly crumbling copy of Aqualung, Jethro Tull’s magnum opus. It is clear that the sentiment associated with the physical form of the LP unites many of Microgroove’s members. Sunil Sampat, jazz critic for Rolling Stone India, has been collecting records “since 1953 or 1954”, he tells the other members during a break in the music. At the time, he says, a box of turntable needles, which needed replacing after every 10 uses, was as expensive as buying an LP itself. “In 1988 and 1989, you could stand under the windows of people all over this city and catch their LP collections, flung out,” he remembers. “People began to give them away for nothing after the tape recorder took over.” Today, you can buy both LPs and vintage turntables from the exhaustible but vast inventories of Chor Bazaar in south Mumbai. Microgroove’s fledgling roster of members spans the generations.

Joining the dots Why Onir’s ‘I Am’ could subvert the fate of the anthology film in India B Y A NUPAM K ANT V ERMA anupam1.v@livemint.com

···························· ou wouldn’t blame even a cinephile if Katha Sangama failed to ring a bell. This 1975 film, directed by the legendary Kannada director Puttanna Kanagal, remains one of the first few examples of an Indian anthology film—a film with disparate stories linked together by theme, actors, and so on. It serves as fodder for the trivia junkie though, for it is among the first couple of films starring Rajinikanth, who played a rapist. Onir’s new film, I Am, treads ground less trodden by plunging

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into a genre of film which has largely been ignored by the Hindi film industry. “Forget the format, the minute prospective financiers heard about the sort of subjects I was dealing with, they shook their heads,” says Onir. The film-maker, who received acclaim for My Brother... Nikhil, takes up subjects that tend to make producers cringe—paedophilia, homosexuality, and so on. He says funding for the film was the most difficult part. But armed with the motivation for making the film, he tapped social networking site Facebook and managed to attract funds from 400

Some younger listeners say they find records in Mumbai’s flea markets. Others, much like older fans, collect on their travels through Europe and North America. “It’s not actually that hard,” Ravi says. “There’s no formal community of sellers or mechanics, but it is still possible to buy an old turntable for `3,000-4,000.” The other avenue that has been fast gaining ground, he says, is the Internet. “Many people think it’s prohibitively expensive,” he says. “But a record on Amazon.com might cost you about $20 (around `884), shipping included—and many are even cheaper.” Flipkart.com also ships LPs within India. The afternoon is one long listening session, an informal queue of requests and musical introductions played from a vast variety of genres—from Barbra Streisand to Black Sabbath, Antonio Carlos Jobim to the soundtrack of Kala Patthar (which comes, in true flea-market style, wrapped in the sleeve of a Gangaa Jamunaa Saraswathi LP). The crackle and hum associated with gramophone nostalgia are occasionally audible. The sharp clarity of digitized music, where

people across the world, all of whom will find mention in the film’s credits. I Am is a montage of four separate stories held together by a few common actors and an overarching theme inspired by Tagore: “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.” While one story deals with a child abuse survivor, another has a Kashmiri Hindu returning to the state after 20 years. The film features Rahul Bose, Nandita Das, Sanjay Suri, Juhi Chawla and Manisha Koirala, among others. Another anthology or “portmanteau” film in the pipeline, Mumbai Cutting, is a sort of Paris, Je T’Aime for the city of Mumbai. Its makers have been struggling to get a theatrical release. Kundan Shah, the director of the cult classic Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, has contributed to the film with his segment on the city’s local trains. Shah believes the short film or short film anthology is an

each instrument played on a recording is often clearly discernible even to the casual listener, is entirely missing. “Music isn’t meant to be heard in a series of 1s and 0s,” says architect Clement DeSylva. “The human ear can pick up so many more frequencies than you hear on digital sound. That’s why the thud of your iPod or CD player can give you aural fatigue.” That never happens with vinyl, he says, which has a fuller, riper sound. Ravi says NH7 is planning to take Microgroove to other parts of India. They also want to build an online database of members’ collections, for others to browse—and perhaps to borrow. With vinyl making a minor but visible comeback into the audio replay market, record companies may renew the commitment to the format too. Sony Music, which gave away two 7-inch singles in an informal raffle at the session, says that while international music on vinyl has its small but captive market, they find that Indian film music, like the soundtracks of Lagaan and Jodhaa Akbar, also does well. The company is now evaluating the market for LPs of Indian classical music. For now, in the quiet of Zenzi in the daytime, liner notes and fans who have read and reread them for years, the penny-weighted stylus and the richness of analoguerecorded music come together to create a sound as warm as the summer afternoon. Microgroove will meet on one Sunday every month at Zenzi, Bandra. For details, log on to Nh7.in

Omnibus film: The poster of I Am. extremely challenging exercise since it tries to deliver an aesthetic pleasure and a story like a feature film does, but more often than not it fails to do so because of a constricted time frame. “We cannot liken the short film-feature relationship to the short story-novel one. A short film is best made in silence, without dia-

ould this be the spring or summer that heralds change? With veteran social activist Anna Hazare leading the nation in a protest that has left many power brokers and scam samrats squirming uncomfortably, can we hope for an end to the days of corruption and abuse of power that we have witnessed for so long? And what is the soundtrack we should be playing to celebrate the agents of change? Television reports from Jantar Mantar in New Delhi when Hazare was sitting on a fast unto death had Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite bhajans such as Ragupati Raghav Raja Ram playing in the background. Then there were versions of Hum honge kaamyaab too. Indeed, these are songs that are appropriate for the nostalgia they evoke of a time when a nation came together to ask for freedom. But do visit www.wordsoundandpower.org to listen to an extraordinary collaboration between Bant Singh, Taru Dalmia and Chris McGuinness titled Bant Singh Project because there are many segments in the five-track project that could well have formed the perfect score for Jantar Mantar. What is more important, the tracks are a welcome change from current trends in the mainstream music industry. Given as I am to public confessions about my ignorance when it comes to matters outside the realm of Hindustani classical music, I would have to say that of the three main collaborators in the project, I was aware of only one—Bant Singh. More than his songs of courage, protest and rebellion, I had read Voice of dissent: Bant Singh on the of his amazing grit and cover of the Bant Singh Project. determination in fighting a battle against upper-class brutes who had attacked his daughter, beaten him mercilessly and left him for dead. He was grievously injured, and his limbs had to be amputated to save his life. His voice, the gritty, no-frills lyrics of his songs were not really easily accessible or known to me, barring the few lines he sings in the odd YouTube video. Happily, you can now hear five splendidly produced tracks on the Bant Singh Project, with brave, blunt, lyrics by Bant Singh and Dalmia aka Delhi Sultanate. For example, Track 4 titled In the Fire uses the leitmotif of fire that recurs in both Comrade Bant Singh and Delhi Sultanate’s lyrics. Bant Singh speaks of the revolutionary fire that makes people put their lives on the line for the cause. Delhi Sultanate’s lyrics lay out how government and big business collude in colonial-style exploitation that places commercial interests above the lives of the people and threatens the foundations of life itself. From the pictures on the website for the project, McGuinness and Dalmia as well as their other teammates seem young, casually attired urban men, armed with laptops, recording gear and gadgets. Their personal websites http://chrismcguinness.com and http://www.myspace.com/delhisultanate inform visitors of their many accomplishments. While McGuinness, born and brought up in the US, is a DJ and multimedia artiste, Dalmia specializes in performance poetry and founded the BASS Foundation. I understand that their preferred performance spaces would not conventionally be frequented by sari-clad, ageing-aunty classical singers, and I confess to not having heard their work earlier. Well, whether they like it or not, they now have an auntyji fan in me, for being part of the Bant Singh Project, having travelled to Jabbar village in Punjab with their gear et al, recording Bant Singh in his home and familiar surroundings, and for having gone back again to play him the finished tracks, and show him the film that goes with the project. All the tracks are available free of charge on the project website, although donations can be made if anyone wishes to contribute. I’d say those in favour of change, whether in curbing corruption in the nation, or in changing the tide of the diseased music industry, should give this project a listen. And an award too, if possible. Write to Shubha at musicmatters@livemint.com

logues, and even if not, it can at best be an event brought to life on the screen. A slice of life, an experience...,” he explains. Could this be the reason then for the box office failure of earlier attempts at the genre; films such as Darna Mana Hai (2003), Dus Kahaniyaan (2007) and most recently, Dhobi Ghat (2011) which—whatever their artistic quality—tried to offer the viewer a cinematic omnibus? Does the restricted time frame nullify attempts at storytelling? Onir isn’t as dismissive. “As long as the story is engaging, it will work. In the end, it’s all about telling a story well. And that is what I have tried to do,” he says. The conundrum might be difficult to solve, yet digital technology seems to offer a way out with its capacity to cut budgets and thus help more people realize their dream of making the kind of films they want. “I’m sure that different film formats will be

made in the future, prompted by the use of digital technology. Soon, digital is going to become synonymous with film-making,” says Shah. One can count the number of anthology films in Hindi on one’s fingers—a mere four or five in the last decade. Only a few of these, such as Salaam-e-Ishq (2007), achieved middling commercial success. Says Onir: “For all the talk of change, highly traditional people (Hindi film veterans) are still producing films in which scripts don’t matter at all.” Even the entry of production companies, such as Fox Star Studios and Sony Pictures, over the last few years has failed to bring about major change. The film industry continues to be anchored by big stars. And the anthology film, which draws its strength from a tight script, suffers. I Am will release in theatres on 29 April.


L18 FLAVOURS

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 2011 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

PHOTOGRAPHS

COURTESY

MANOU

AND

BUNGALOW

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t Feroze, 32, (left) and Naseem, 22: They are tailors at Bungalow 8, dressed in Mathieu Gugumus Leguillon’s new collection inspired by the men in Mumbai.

p Puneet Kaushik, 38: This artist exemplifies traditional chic in ikat pants and a kurta made out of a lungi. Kala Ghoda.

MUMBAI MULTIPLEX | RACHANA NAKRA

Adventures of a sartorialist By capturing men on the streets on his camera, a chronicler defines ‘Causeway cool’ and traditional chic

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n cities, individual expression through personal style seems like the luxury of the rich. But fashion ultimately is about mix and match, cut and style, and so in the mind of the wearer. Sometimes, it is in the eyes of the cameraman, as is evident in the photographs taken by 27-year-old Mumbai-based photographer, blogger and sartorialist Manou. A photograph of a “drifter” on the streets of Shillong in a multicoloured and patterned poncho, reminiscent of Missoni’s SS11 collection, will not find space in a fashion glossy, but made it to Wearabout (Wearabout.wordpress.com), Manou’s blog on street fashion. It is easy to describe Manou as India’s answer to the Sartorialist, a popular street fashion blog by Scott Schuman. But Manou says he wasn’t aware of the blog’s existence when he started his own. As someone who shoots the bangle vendors at Jodhpur’s Sardar Bazar, rather than taking his camera out on the streets of Paris and New York, Manou says he is not mapping fashion trends. “I would never know how to describe why I am taking someone’s photo. The person doesn’t have to be wearing anything extraordinary, it just has to be aesthetically appealing on a whole,” says Manou, who has studied at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Bangalore. He found his calling in photography and combined it with his eye for fashion to start the blog. His latest project, to shoot the men of Mumbai, has turned out to be more challenging than capturing fashion statements on the streets of Jodhpur and Shillong. Maithili Ahluwalia, CEO and creative director of lifestyle store

Bungalow 8, was launching a new collection of clothes for men. The designer of the collection, Mathieu Gugumus Leguillon, head of fashion, Bungalow 8, found his inspiration in the people of Mumbai. “Fashion as we know it is usually contrived. We were looking for something effortless and natural,” says Ahluwalia. The project was born when Ahluwalia approached Manou to shoot on the streets Mumbai. The images will be put together in a book which will be launched end of the year. And so began the waiting game. Manou would stand patiently in the bylanes of Juhu and Versova Village, near the garages at Khar, Chor Bazaar, Mahim and Colaba

p Balchandra Ratne, 65: A fisherman, he has plenty of these printed lungis. He says it’s the most comfort­ able outfit and all fisher­ men wear it. Versova Village, Versova. Causeway for the perfect shot. He photographed vegetable vendors, tailors, fishermen, wall painters and karigars (craftsmen) for his album. Often, he would wait for hours but shoot no one. It was not about those who are well put together. It was about who catches the eye. A vegetable vendor wearing a multicoloured cloth he uses to swat flies, as a bandana, made it to Manou’s album, for instance.

Personal style is sometimes a matter of personal pride. A man at the Gateway of India looking dapper in a formal shirt and trousers accessorized with a beret proves that attention to detail is what makes a “look”. Manou says the city’s climate and infrastructure play an important role in deciding people’s fashion aesthetic or, rather, the lack of it. Layering can really add to a look, but it’s not an option in the heat; and the packed public transport system makes experimenting an impossible task. “Here (Mumbai) people are mostly driven by Bollywood. The lack of a thriving music and art subculture leads to a lack of inspiration and people

p Prashant, 35: This artist is currently sketching houses in Bandra. His style is an eclectic mix of summer casual and street fashion. Carter Road, Bandra.

usually end up buying looks off mannequins at malls,” he adds. Manou finds the people in Colaba more sophisticated in their dressing but he was more trigger-happy in Bandra. “There’s a mix of people there to shoot,” he says. “But interesting men are harder to come by anywhere,” he says. rachana.n@livemint.com

p Thotreichan Sasa, 24: This freelance stylist and photographer’s outfit has an interesting mix, with an owl brooch from Promod, feather necklace from Boy London, pants from Sikkim, and shoes from Zara. Juhu Tara Road, Juhu.


Lounge for 16th April 2011  

Lounge for 16th April 2011

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