Page 1

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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Vol. 3 No. 47


Four new shoes, eight new technologies. Choosing footwear just got very complicated >Page 10



How would you react if your 21­year­old were to take a year off to pursue a career in sports? >Page 7







arah Palin is promoting her book on it. Some 300 million people use it every day to the point where it—like a rash—is an itch. It’s called Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) and some 100 million people worldwide have it. Facebook itself—somewhat hypocritically—has a support group for those with FAD. Have you figured out Facebook? How to use it? How not to waste your time on it? Users say that Facebook is... >Page 5





or a reflection on cricket, its essential nature, try the intriguing documentary on the footballer Zinedine Zidane, A Twenty-first Century Portrait. Seventeen cameras follow the great Frenchman—and him alone—through the entire length of a match. There are no embellishments other than interludes of a dreamy background score, sometimes accompanied by subtitles of Zidane’s abstract thoughts on the experience of playing. The result is a meditation on the shaolin art of this singular sportsman... >Page 6



A new anthology resuscitates the mood and method of an ambitious literary journal >Page 13

A VISION IN COLOUR The French festival in India begins with a show of the first­ever colour photographs taken here >Page 17


in today’s edition of



he inspiration for this column began with an amiable, enthusiastic man called Zorawar Kalra, who tempted me into trying a tandoori duck at his three-month-old Delhi restaurant, the Punjab Grill (it will open shortly in Mumbai at Palladium in Phoenix Mills). I do not usually make trips to malls in south Delhi. I have never made one at midday to a place I abhor: the Select Citywalk mall, a haven for consumerism and crowds. But the duck was strong incentive. >Page 18


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





The man who brought back vintage SUDHANSHU MALHOTRA/MINT



On the launch of his first flagship store, the designer tells us why he is anti­fashion






FOUNDING EDITOR RAJU NARISETTI ©2009 HT Media Ltd All Rights Reserved

································ abyasachi Mukherjee uses “fashion” as if it’s a dirty word. Ironic, considering that the young designer has made a thriving enterprise of it. “Fashion plays on people’s insecurities,” he says, sitting on an antiquated settee in Sabyasachi@Carma—his newly-opened flagship store in New Delhi. When Sabyasachi was invited to stock at the iconic fashion store, Carma, six years ago with the likes of Rohit Bal, he was flabbergasted. Now he has staged a coup by having the whole store to himself. It marks his entry into furniture and jewellery. There are also handcrafted zardozi jootis of ostrich leather (which require a special permit). Two more flagship stores, in Kolkata and Mumbai, are set to open in the next two months. Sabyasachi attributes his steady sales to the fact that his designs seldom subscribe to the cyclicity of the fashion world. “It’s disgusting to be told that something is ‘in and out’ every season,” he says. “Why should anyone spend their hard-earned money on something that could well be a manufactured whim?”


old-fashioned” also irritate him. The Anarkali will always be one of his staples, he insists. “That cut has been around for centuries. Who gets to decide that it should die now?” He points to two kinds of consumers—the woman who buys his work purely because of his label and the woman who shops at his store the same way she’d shop at a handicraft fair, “because she likes what she sees”. Sadly, he says, the first kind is still Timeless: The store’s decor is a throwback to the past. his primary buyer. “Fashion labels function as a Today, the 35-year-old is very differ- security blanket for those with low selfent from the shy student who made the esteem,” he says. fashion world take note when he graduBut the lover of things vintage is forated from the National Institute of Fash- ward-looking as well. Early next year, ion Technology, Kolkata in 1999. After Sabyasachi will curate a line of woven wooing his clientele with textured fabrics saris—everything from paithanis from and plush palettes, the designer has Maharashtra to kantha from West Bendonned a new hat: that of the astute gal. His branding will only be in the businessman. Walking through his store, packaging: 1920s’ hand-painted Italian he spouts consumer theories, decon- biscuit tins. The saris themselves will structing his success with the assured not be tampered with. “I’m very happy ease of a man who knows he’s made it. to borrow from someone better than me His clothes, he believes, sell because rather than trying to show my individuof their timelessness and repeatability. ality by attempting something rubbish.” But complaints come in equal measure. That, surely, is grown-up talk. He’s often been told that he’s been doing the Anarkali cut forever. Customers who come in and say they want to buy his saris because the “Kanjivaram is For Sabyasachi’s list of 10 essentials

Priya Ramani’s column First Cut will be back next week.

LISTEN TO THE LOUNGE PODCAST This week we discuss the French festival Bonjour India, Vishwajyoti Ghosh’s kitschy new postcard book ‘Times New Roman & Countrymen’, the science of shoes and the latest from Bollywood, ‘De Dana Dan’.


Write to us at SLEEPING PROPHETS Altaf Tyrewala’s ‘The pseudo peace prophet’, 21 November, just illustrates the classic attitude of the Indian public, weeping and screaming in front of the invisible office­bearers of the system and protesting at their failures. I have an interesting event to share related to the 26/11 peace rally. On the day of the peace rally, the team of the movie ‘Kaminey’ had come to shoot a couple of sequences in my college (Ali Yavar Jung National Institute of the Hearing Handicapped; we taught Shahid Kapur to stammer well). The entire college went so ga­ga over the celebrities that many who had planned on attending the rally abandoned the idea so that they could watch the stars. A country that worships cricket and Bollywood can never fathom that such a rally could potentially herald an era of change. DEBOSMITA GHOSH

SILENT HEROES It was heartening to read about the women who cleaned the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus of dried blood and broken glass, and also about the nurse at Cama Hospital, in ‘Lounge’ profiles, 21 November. ‘Lounge’ is the only paper that has written about these silent heroes. A lot of space was given to criticize the Maharashtra government and the Mumbai Police, but not to these silent heroes. Even after a year, Mumbai, or any Indian city, is a sitting duck for terrorist attacks. When will our police forces be provided with helicopters to patrol the city? DEENDAYAL LULLA

MOUSE AND ‘MANOOS’ In ‘We the people of Bombay’, 21 November, Vir Sanghvi says, “As the Marathi ‘manoos’ appeared to have turned into a Marathi mouse for the duration of the crisis, there was no reply from Thackeray.” Sanghvi should clarify whether this statement was targeted towards an individual or all Maharashtrians. If he means the community, his article deserves to be condemned. The other points I would like to make about the article are: u The attack on Mumbai was a fallout of the Kashmir problem, which has been a creation of north Indian ineptitude. u As far as the composition of the National

Security Guard (NSG) is concerned, people select their professions depending on the job opportunities available in their place of residence. The terrorists were confined by officers of Mumbai Police who laid down their lives. If you read the interview of Hasan Gafoor, the then commissioner of police, in the recent issue of ‘The Week’, it becomes amply clear that the Singhs, Prasads and Bharatis refused to risk their lives during this crisis. The only terrorist caught alive was captured by Mumbai Police. u The performance of Navy commandos (Marcos)—incidentally of the same stock as the NSG—was hilarious. Who will not laugh at the TV interviews given by Marcos ‘havaldars’ with their faces covered? SANJAY D. NAIK

MARATHI HEROES In ‘We the people of Bombay’, 21 November, Vir Sanghvi seems to be confused about what exactly he wants to say. He says that Bombay/Mumbai has been saved by NSG commandos. He has heavily criticized Page 3 personalities and small­time TV actors, admen, etc. However, from the Taj and the Oberoi, NSG commandos saved high­profile Page 3 personalities. Can these people represent Mumbai in the true sense that the writer has referred to in the article? Isn’t this contradictory? Secondly, when Sanghvi says that the Marathi ‘manoos’ has turned into a Marathi mouse, he seems to have forgotten the role played by policemen who lost their lives in trying to counter these attacks on the roads; all the policeman who died were Marathis. Sanghvi has forgotten the role played by Hemant Karkare, Vijay Salaskar and Ashok Kamte. What about Tukaram Omble, who caught Mohammed Ajmal Kasab? Without his sacrifice, it would not have been possible to get concrete proof of Pakistan’s hand in the terrorist attack. I think that by not mentioning any of these names, Sanghvi has not only done injustice to all these people but also hurt the sentiments of millions of Maharashtrians, for whom nobody cares in the state of Maharashtra. ANANT DEODHAR

for the Indian woman’s wardrobe, log on to



ce bars overseas have become popular tourist attractions, but I couldn’t help wondering how many people in Mumbai would travel to Oshiwara in Andheri to try the country’s first ice lounge. Heading there, our biggest worry was that we would have to wear jackets and shoes provided by the lounge. Ick.

The good stuff Everything inside—the walls, the seating, the tables and the bar have been fashioned out of ice. The management assured us that only a limited number of people (about 40) are allowed in the bar at a time and the clothes are washed after every use. So, bundled up in parka jackets, gloves and insulated shoes, we entered. At 820 sq. ft, the lounge pretty much ends as soon as it begins—we felt like we were in an icebox. The bar menu has been made interesting with Jell-O shots (vodka-infused jelly, fun and addictive) and Combo Shots (five different flavoured shots served together), priced at Rs750. The vodka cocktails we tried were delicious (go for Icy Blonde and Snap Frost). To paraphrase Henry Ford, you can have any brand of vodka you want as long as it is Absolut, which happens to be the bar’s sponsor. Ice bars outside India do not serve food, but this one offers finger food on ice plates. We tried the prawns served with wasabi mayonnaise and the seekh kebabs, both of

which were good, but were appreciated more for their warmth. There’s a separate bar outside for those who enjoy their drink at room temperature.

The not­so­good Escaping the stifling Mumbai heat to spend time in sub-zero temperatures without an air ticket seems like a dream. But the novelty of the place (and the humour it provides) starts to wear off as soon as your nose begins to freeze and the loud music starts giving you a headache. The bar will have to be maintained at a temperature of minus 6 degrees Celsius, 24x7. Wonder what Greenpeace has to say about that?

Talk plastic Entry costs Rs750 and includes a complimentary cocktail/mocktail. The cocktails are priced at Rs350 and the food at Rs200 onwards, excluding taxes. For reservations, call 022-26310021. Rachana Nakra




When Mr Clean meets Ms Messy


ith three kids and a home business, and her disabled mother living with her, Kristen Becker often lets the dishes and laundry pile up. “I am very comfortable with chaos,” she says.

Her husband isn’t. He organizes his clothing by type, colour and pattern, alphabetizes his CD collection and keeps rubber gloves in his car for unexpected spills, she says. He sometimes goads his wife into being neater by making only his half of their king-size bed, heaping the magazines and bills splayed across the kitchen counter into teetering stacks, or moving his wife’s mound of laundry across the room. Becker retaliates by letting her messes pile up even higher. But one day she couldn’t take it any more. Sick of her husband’s incessant straightening and scrubbing, she decided to dismantle his neatly ordered life. While he was at work, Becker rearranged his closet—randomly moving shirts, pants and sports jackets together, and pairing slippers with boots and sandals with loafers. She moved his toiletries around in the bathroom and took papers out of his file folders and put them back in the wrong sleeves. “It was delicious,” says Becker, 39, who runs an online gift shop from her home in Crofton, Maryland, US. “I was getting back at him for all those times I felt pressured to keep things clean and organized.” (Her husband immediately moved everything back. He declined to be interviewed for this column.) In the battle between messy and tidy, which side should win? Should slobs learn to be neater? Or should neat freaks loosen up? Neatniks will tell you that order is the way of the world—everything has a place and every place should be labelled. Often, they feel they bear a burden for having to clean up after their partner. Even worse: They think they hold the moral high ground. But messy people suffer too. They feel guilty for not being neat. They resent being controlled by someone more rigid and demanding. And they hate having to clean when they don’t want to—or endure the hints or griping if they refuse. (Note to my husband: I don’t think I can live without you, but make just half the bed and I’ll try.) “I have a chronic case of

Reorganization Stress Syndrome. It’s when an item that used to be in location A suddenly appears in location B, with no warning,” says Dave Brooke, 39, a supply-chain analyst in Santa Rosa, California. As a messy person living with a neat one, he has it worse than most: His girlfriend is a professional organizer. “Having the place look beautiful and neat is a wonderful thing—until I need to find something,” he says. Having to search for your stuff is one thing. But having a fight with your partner over a sock on the floor is something else entirely. “People build up resentment, and then they snap,” says Carolyn Kelley North, a marriage counsellor in Lighthouse Point, Florida. “The sock becomes a symbol of the relationship as a whole.” Yes, you heard her right: If you’re not careful, the essence of the most important relationship in your life will be distilled to one dirty sock. You’re going to want to avoid that. But how? Ask Brenda Plakans and Jim Rougvie, who have wrestled over their different approaches to neatness for years. “I am anal-retentive, and he absolutely is not,” says Plakans, a stay-at-home mom in Beloit, Wisconsin. Out of frustration, Plakans has deliberately smashed dirty dishes that her husband left in the kitchen for days without washing. Once, while cleaning up, she accidentally threw away a pair of Neil Young concert tickets. Rougvie has been known to store filthy Rubbermaid containers in the fridge rather than clean them. On the way out one morning, the 42-year-old geology professor grabbed a bag of dirty diapers he had forgotten to throw away and took it to work, thinking it was his lunch. The good news: They are learning to accept each other—with the help of their common enemy. “Having two small children has knocked me down many notches in my cleanliness standards, and Jim has had to rise to the occasion so that the house doesn’t become a total pit,” says Plakans, 42. “Compromise is definitely the strategy.”


North, the marriage counsellor, approves. She tells couples to “ask each other what your ideal living situation is—and what you can live with. Then live within it.” But what if you’re not mature enough to compromise? Don’t fret. You still have options: u Try claiming a room of your own, where you’re free to be as messy or neat as you’d like. Declare your closet off limits. Or stock up on paper plates and plastic utensils, so there are no dirty dishes (the messy person you live with might just feel guilty about the environment and start loading the dishwasher). u Stand your ground. “If you only get 12 sq. ft out of 2,000, you need to protect it,” says Steve Miksis, an accountant in Santa Rosa, California. Miksis, 58, loves to make piles—of clothes, art supplies and workout

gear—but for years his wife relegated them to his office loft and a window seat in the bathroom. So when he saw one of her shirts on top of one of his piles, he confronted her. “If you don’t fight for your space, you lose it,” he says. (Full disclosure: He and his wife are now separated.) u Feign ignorance. Peter Wagner does. The 52-year-old financial adviser pretends not to know how to operate the dishwasher or washing machine and not to see his sweaty workout clothes lying on the floor. “My wife thinks that if she lets my dirty clothes pile up I will eventually pick them up and put them in the hamper,” says Wagner, of Roslyn, New York. “I call her bluff.” u Resign yourself to your fate. “Neat has won in our life,” sighs a messy friend of mine whose husband has been known to scrub the kitchen

counters as soon as he comes home each night—even before he takes off his coat. He also labels each pair of scissors by the room they belong in and each outfit he packs for a trip according to the day he plans to wear it. My friend, who has been shamed into confining her mess to one corner of the closet, copes by mocking her spouse—gently—to his face. Am I advocating ribbing as a coping strategy? Absolutely. And the experts agree: Research shows that a little humour goes a long way towards bridging a gap in a relationship. Most couples can take the joke, even when it carries the whiff of revenge. For years, Carol Stevens has cluttered up her Bedford, New York, home. Mail and magazines cover the kitchen counter, bras sometimes hang on dining room chairs, a suitcase she hasn’t unpacked sits on her bedroom floor, and the jacuzzi bath is piled with her clothes, papers and photo albums. “I like knowing that my stuff is where I can grab and go,” she says. Her husband, a neatnik who washes his car three times a week, doesn’t appreciate the order behind her mess. “The clutter makes me feel like I am in a combat zone,” says Mark Stevens, 62, CEO and owner of a marketing firm in Rye Brook, New York. To cope, he periodically scoops his wife’s piles right into the garbage—and ignores her protests. Then, one day after work last winter, he did something even worse: He tossed his briefcase on top of one of his wife’s piles on the kitchen island—the place she calls “my spot, like there is an X there”—and crushed her Ralph Lauren prescription sunglasses. Carol, 57, was livid. “He just sees a bunch of junk sitting there,” she says. ”He never realizes the importance.” She got her payback a few days later, when Mark dropped his Dolce & Gabbana eyeglasses in the driveway—and she ran over them with her BMW SUV. “It was an act of psychosis,” says Mark. His wife sees it differently: “It was the happiest day of my life.” Write to

Order sushi the smart way Here’s how to make the most of a night out at Tokyo’s restaurants

B Y A YAI T OMISAWA The Wall Street Journal

································· ating sushi at the counter is like ordering a drink at a bar, except there typically isn’t a menu and the offerings change with the seasons— especially in Tokyo. The smart thing to do there is to order the omakase nigiri set, which is the chef’s sushi special. Be warned that ordering sashimi (thin slices of raw fish served with soy sauce), usually called tsumami, or appetizer, could double your bill, especially if the chef offers you the coveted fish of the day. At Tadashi Yamagata’s sushi restaurant, Miyakozushi, there are 20-30 kinds of fish ready to be served, depending on the season. The chef’s special here is a combination of 10 pieces of sushi, three rolls and a soup. The price is 3,700 yen (about $41, or Rs1,900). At the upscale Mizutani, the price of an omakase nigiri set of 15 pieces is


fixed at 15,000 yen (you can order sushi by the piece at most sushi restaurants, but brace yourself for a whopping bill. The cost of each piece is based on the market price of the fish that day). It’s fine to eat sushi with your fingers. Because the chef serves with his hands, customers may receive his hospitality using their hands. It’s also OK to use chopsticks. “Women tend to use chopsticks because they like to keep their fingers clean,” says Toshiyuki Shinohara, 53, who owns Kouzushi in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. “For chopstick eaters, I make pieces a little firmer.” There are no rules about the order in which individual pieces should be consumed. But when switching to akami, or lean fish (usually a redmeat fish such as tuna) from shiromi, or a white-fleshed fish such as snapper, it’s good to refresh your taste buds by eating gari (pickled ginger). Most sushi restaurants serve beer and sake (rice wine) and, of course,

Add­on: Most sushi restaurants serve beer and sake, but white wine goes well too. complimentary green tea. Kouzushi also serves white wine, shochu (an alcoholic beverage that can be made from materials ranging from barley to sweet potatoes) and even whisky. “There are customers who only drink wine, and white wine goes well with fish,” says Shinohara. “Since customers’ tastes are diversified, we need to diversify our drink selection, too.” Some chefs speak, or understand, English, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a

Japanese speaker write down the address and what you’d like to order—like the chef’s special. And in the sushi world, going to the same restaurant more than once is called “ura wo kaesu”, meaning that you are remembered as a repeat customer. If the chef remembers you, he is more likely to let you know what he’s got for the day’s catch. Write to




Why Facebook is like low­fat ice cream


arah Palin is promoting her book on it. Some 300 million people use it every day to the point where it—like a rash—is an itch. It’s called Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) and some 100 million people worldwide have it. Facebook itself—somewhat hypocritically—has a support

group for those with FAD. Have you figured out Facebook? How to use it? How not to waste your time on it? Users say that Facebook is an “efficient” way to keep in touch with friends. Indeed, most of us join Facebook for this reason. An old college friend whom you haven’t seen or heard from in years suddenly sends an email saying that your entire college class is on Facebook and you should join too. So you do. And for a few weeks, it is delirious. Everyone is posting a flurry of messages about their current lives. “Rita Gidwani has a cold,” says one status update as these are called. A sympathetic tide of messages follow, offering prescription remedies, virtual hugs, air-borne kisses, and the whole blasted thing is as warm and fuzzy as a toasted igloo. Gradually, you keep adding “friends” who aren’t really friends. More likely, colleagues, acquaintances, people you just met at parties, people you cordially dislike, and perfect strangers who for some reason want to become your friend. You accept them all and suddenly you have 278 friends who are privy to your life; or your status updates anyway. That’s what people do on Facebook, you see. We post status updates. Most fall into the following broad categories. Shameless plug (I’ve done this): People hawk products, display articles that they’ve written, mention awards and achievements and brag about projects undertaken. This, to me, is actually a good use of Facebook’s networking potential. Inane personal information: Including but not restricted to body rhythms, baby poop, aches and pains, jogging and yoga schedules, what you had for breakfast, which movie you saw last night, whether you had sex, whether your flight to Qatar was delayed, and whether you got your shoe shined while waiting. All of this information would fall under the “Who cares?” category, but the sad truth is that plenty, including I, care enough to read and comment on such minutiae. Forwards: This is huge and is usually done by people who don’t want to reveal too much personal information. They send National Geographic clips about leopards not eating prey while delivering babies, about a Brit imitating a Bollywood actor, about scientific findings and newspaper articles. Forwards can be dealt with using a single paradigm: If there are over one dozen gushing comments along the lines of “Thanks for posting; it changed my world view”, the accompanying article is worth a glance. Otherwise, simply move on to “Zubin is constipated”, and other grave issues. Time-related forwards: Patriotic material on 15 August, Vande Mataram, the national anthem, the tiranga (tricolour), and long lists about why India is such a great country. Move on. Smart ideas: Haiku-like updates, existentialist questions, fun puns, provocative ideas and riddles. This is the fun part of Facebook and some people make a career of posting quirky updates. Photos: Babies, parties, pets, weddings, you name it, people post it. This is the scary part. You google names and find people “tagged” in random parties. People I know who aren’t on Facebook—like my husband and children—make their way there through friends’ photo albums. I would suggest that in the future, when all you non-Facebook people attend parties, you tell camera-toting friends, “Page 3 okay but not on Facebook please.” Or some version thereof. Therapy: If you are temporarily messed up and want group therapy for free, Facebook is a great option. I once witnessed a dog being beaten. It shook me up. Had I lived in a village perhaps, I would have knocked on my neighbour’s door and said: “You won’t believe what I just saw! It was horrible.” Instead, I posted it on Facebook and got reams of empathy from long-lost friends. Facebook is perfect for those events where the simple act of saying it aloud will make you feel better. Along the lines of “She never called back”, or “A client hung up on me”, or “A beggar mauled me”. Time pass or time waste: This is the reason

Facebook is addictive. It holds to its promise of being a social networking site but it also is, for many, a great way to peer vicariously into other people’s lives. Rajesh comments that he is eating bread pakoras in Mashobra, Renu is recovering from a rocking party, Rohan posts photos of his family vacationing in Paris. None of these people are your friends but you are privy to this information because they post it on your friend’s wall. I am noticing one more trend on Facebook

these days. People are dropping out. One reason is because Facebook is, without a doubt, an invasion of your privacy. There is the disconcerting knowledge that perfect strangers can surf and peek into your life. For many, that is enough to withdraw or not join at all. It also has to do with age, I suppose. Today’s 18-year-olds, unlike my generation, seem quite willing to live their lives out in public scrutiny. “Adit has a hangover,” says one post accompanied by a YouTube video of a boy I know getting thoroughly and unabashedly sloshed. I would not have dared upload such a scene. For me, the reason I am questioning my presence on Facebook is not because I am worried about invasion of privacy. It is the realization that while I enjoy surfing the virtual world, a dozen Facebook comments, compliments or validations do not equal the delicate nuances of a single human interaction, however brief. I can be poked and

hugged online but they cannot equal the warm touch of a live person. Facebook, in that sense, is like low-fat ice cream. It may be necessary and even pleasurable but it makes you acutely aware of what it lacks. With low-fat ice cream, as with Facebook, you can go on fooling yourself. You can say that online is the only way possible of connecting with distant friends. Or you can go out for a walk with your neighbour and make a real friendship. Or do both in moderation. Facebook Addiction Disorder is exactly what it is: a FAD. And fads can pass. Shoba Narayan’s status has just been updated from prolific Facebook user to occasional. Write to her at Read Shoba’s previous Lounge columns at­narayan




Zinedine Zidane’s movie moments


or a reflection on cricket, its essential nature,


try the intriguing documentary on the footballer Zinedine Zidane, A Twenty-first Century Portrait. Seventeen cameras follow the great Frenchman—and him alone—through

the entire length of a match. There are no embellishments other than interludes of a dreamy background score, sometimes accompanied by subtitles of Zidane’s abstract thoughts on the experience of playing. The result is a meditation on the shaolin art of this singular sportsman, and something a little beyond that. Zidane is beautiful. His body is a ridiculous mix of strength, speed and litheness. His face is as chiselled and imposing as something on Rushmore. Only a face like that—strong bones, deep creases, the intimation of an uncontainable force—can hold together a whole film, as Daniel Day-Lewis did when he appeared in virtually every scene of There Will Be Blood. He even perspires attractively, without desperation. Novel as it is watching Zidane, it occurs to you that this sort of compulsive focus on a single player is less unusual in a long, slow sport like cricket. Captains are routinely subject to this visual scrutiny. When the game is getting away from a fielding side you see them losing their cool or their spirit. You see them chiding fielders, glaring at bowlers, throwing their heads back in resignation or trying to look dementedly busy. Sourav Ganguly crinkled his nose, Steve Waugh chewed gum, Ricky Ponting spits into his hands, Graeme Smith makes like a grumpy grizzly bear. It is part of the story. Conversely, during a collapse, the spotlight burns on the batsmen. A big occasion: Will they be heroes? The fielders are chirping, the pitch is misbehaving, the crowd is abuzz. More than the situation, you are curious about the response of people thrown into the situation. It is why writers from Pinter to Wodehouse have been drawn to cricket. This is a fundamental point. Cricket and football are both eleven-a-side games. Yet cricket is only nominally a team sport. It is cumulative rather than collaborative. Each delivery is an isolated event, a classic one-on-one duel. If anything, it can be argued, this one-on-one is more exaggerated in cricket than in an individual sport such as tennis. When a batsman and a bowler take on one another, the role of the fielders and the non-striker is solely that of support, making a kind of ceremonial durbar in which the two participants hold forth. In every such duel, the individuals stand for their whole team to such a degree that they are the team itself. This, C.L.R. James has written, offers cricket its special dramatic quality. The dramatist, the novelist, aspires to make the individual symbolic of the collective; the structure is given to cricket. Watching Zidane isolated in the hurly-burly of a football game, one senses also the peculiar solitude of the sportsperson. “You can almost decide for yourself what you want to hear,” the subtitles say at one point. “You are never alone. I can hear someone shift around in the chair. I can hear someone coughing. I can hear someone whisper in the ear of

the person next to them. I can imagine that I can hear the ticking of a watch.” In spite of the “you are never alone”, these sentences, especially the ticking of the watch, rather than amplify the sense of surround, suggest a man alone. The footballer must at least move all the time, give position, carry on a continuous interaction with his team-mates. For a batsman the sensory experience of the outside world intruding on a private space is even more intense. Every

delivery is a personal rehearsal. Cricketers listen to the voices in their head and try to block them out; the chatter of opposition, and try to block that out; the sounds of the stadium, and block that out. Unlike football, dynamic, fluid, collaborative, there is little scope for recovery. You cannot sprint back 30 yards or rely on a team-mate if you nick a ball. If you’re gone, you’re gone. You must sit in the dressing room and contemplate, watch others play, a whole different solitude. The final thing that strikes you is the nature of the physicality of the two sports. Football, with its constant movement, requires a brutal level of general fitness, and it is a contact sport. Cricketers need only be cricket-fit, and it is a non-contact sport (though it doesn’t feel that way to anybody who’s been bruised by a leather ball). Zidane jogs, he walks, he bides his time, he spits, he pulls up his socks, he makes sudden predatory bursts. At one point he deliberately lets his elbow thwack an opponent. Towards the end of the game he gets involved in somebody else’s brawl and is red-carded, all the while stoic and brooding, presaging the famous send-off in the World Cup final a year on. In cricket, of course, the mere sight of opponents brushing shoulders is enough to trigger worries about the end of civilization. Yet, violent or not, it is the thrill of movement that viewers respond to in sport. An electricity sparks the trance-like narrative whenever Zidane breaks into a run. The sensation is similar to watching a great fast bowler, now resting, now gathering, now building up towards a climax—a climax that may or may not come. And it is this visual suspense that makes sport, particularly in the hands—or feet—of a champion, a cinematic experience. Rahul Bhattacharya is the author of the cricket tour book, Pundits from Pakistan. He writes a monthly cricket column for Lounge. Write to Rahul at Read Rahul’s previous Lounge column at­bhattacharya

Mise en scene: Few footballers can be the subject of a film’s compulsive focus the way Zidane can.



Parenting TIME OUT


Swinging it


How would you react if your 21­year­old were to take a year off to pursue a career in sports?


···························· abeer Marwah, 21, is not a golf prodigy—you know, the kind who was swinging a golf club on the greens by the time he was just 3 or so. In fact, he had never held a club until he was 19 and earlier thought “tee” was just a drink. A chance visit to a golf course with a senior from college got Kabeer hooked to the game. “I was drifting along in college. I had no clear career goal. First I wanted to major in finance, then management. But once I took up golf, I knew I could make a career in this sport,” he says. His mother Kanika Marwah, a single parent until recently, was not thrilled when he announced his intention of becoming a professional golfer. “Frankly, I still am not sure if this is the right choice. I am an educationist by profession and everything in me was against this.” Kanika spent a few months in 2007 trying to talk Kabeer out of his golf obsession and even urged him to consider a sports management course as a career option. “I had no problem if he wanted to play golf, but would have preferred it if he studied alongside.” It was only meetings with Kabeer’s mentor and coach Don Barrett, as well as her own friends who played golf, that made Kanika realize that for someone trying to break into the golf circuit, it was not possible to devote time to both academics and training simultaneously. “If he had said he wanted to take a year off to study for IIT, would I have cribbed? No. Now I think this is the same thing in a way, which is why I agreed to let him take 12 months off until January,” she says. To appease immediate family and ensure that Kabeer understood he was on a deadline, mother and son agreed that he


Tee off: Kabeer Marwah spent a month training in Surrey, England, and is determined to play professionally. would only get a year off from academics to prepare and concentrate on golf. “If we had not set that deadline, I don’t think I would have even got off base one with the family and my mum. But now I think she understands that it may take a little more than a year or so to get a ranking, without which I cannot achieve much,” explains Kabeer, with a glance at his mother. At present, Kabeer’s target is to “make the cut” at the Aircel PGTI Qualifying School, which will be held on 1 December in New Delhi. Though Kanika has agreed to be a “golf mum”, she says she was ill-prepared to handle the commitment. “The level of money involved is huge. I don’t think many parents home in on these nitty-gritties when they give their children the freedom to pursue their dreams.” From a custom-made golf set (“Kabeer is a tall lad and to play professionally, needs a golf set tailor-made to suit his size,” says Kanika), kits which need to be replaced constantly (balls, gloves), fees to play on the course (an

average of Rs400 per day since the family has no membership at any of Delhi’s golf clubs) to expenses incurred when Kabeer has to travel around the country to participate in golf events, the family now knows golf training does not come cheap. In good months (when Kabeer is not travelling), Kanika has to spend anywhere between Rs20,000 and Rs25,000 for equipment upgrade (golf gloves last around seven days and cost Rs900 per glove) and “green” fees. “I think most of our budgeting initially was based on prices we saw on the Internet. It was pretty shocking to realize everything here was almost double than what it is in the US,” says Kabeer. Yet Kanika now says she does not regret her decision. Over the past year, she has seen a tremendous change in her son. From being a teenager with a hectic social life till about two years ago, the 21-year-old today has no interest in parties (Kabeer avoids late-night social dos because they interfere with his training sessions). “He was such a lazy boy,

never waking up on time. Now he is up at 6am, in the gym for 2 hours, then at the golf course from 10am to about 6pm. He used to be very, very skinny but since he has taken up golf, he is concentrating on fitness training to build up his body and stamina,” she says. Kabeer also spent a month training in Surrey, England, with his mentor in 2008, where he had to do everything on his own—laundry, making beds, cooking meals and even lugging his golf set around the course because he could not afford to hire a caddy at £20 (around Rs1,550) a day. “I think that gave him a glimpse of how hard life will be on the golf circuit—not just chores but also being mentally tough and getting used to a lonely life on the road,” says Kanika. Even now, Kanika has a plan B for Kabeer—sports management courses, a job in a sports events management company—but her son refuses to think about it. “Plan B is for losers. If I keep those options in mind, I will never succeed in realizing my dream of being a professional golfer.”

LET THE SIBLING RIVALRY PLAY OUT My son is 8 and my daughter 2. From the time my daughter was born, I was particular that my son should not feel neglected. So I spend lots of time with him—to the extent that my in-laws say I treat my daughter like a foundling. Yet at a recent PTA meeting, his Hindi teacher said there’s been a drastic change in his behaviour: He bullies other children, is disruptive and overconfident in class. I am familiar with both streaks of behaviour: He does bully his sister, and he is overconfident. I can’t see where I am going wrong in his upbringing. You could be doing nothing wrong really; children go through phases of self-assertion—and the easiest form of self-assertion is to become loud and brash! However, having said that, perhaps you have been overcompensating for the coming of the new child far too much? To the point of appearing apologetic about the presence of a second child. Children pick up on that, and if you’ve been walking on eggshells around him, he may be misbehaving because he can see that he is expected to act up. And if this is the case, at some level you may be reinforcing his behaviour each time you scold him for bullying his sister. In a way, it becomes his identity—“I bully my sister”—and it’s also the perfect way for him to drag your attention away from the younger one and on to himself. Along with the other adults in the house, you should reprimand him only if he is physically endangering his sister. Once he sees that his actions have lost their charge with you, he may lose interest in behaving that way. It’s possible that though you’re doing so much to ensure he doesn’t feel neglected, he just hasn’t had a chance to process his feelings Survival 101: Don’t overcompensate of resentment and insecurity one child at the cost of the other. once the baby came into the picture. He needs to work it out—in a few harmless ways, and not be stopped each time. Moreover, your (quite natural) feeling of “I’ve done so much to make this easy on him, and yet he’s misbehaving” is also possibly getting communicated to him. So he has the additional burden of good behaviour that you feel he owes you. Taking all this out on unrelated people in school might be one of his ways of dealing with it all. So perhaps you do need to re-examine your strategy of “appeasement”. You just need to be more natural, and let him deal with the pain of sibling rivalry. The overconfident, studies-related behaviour is possibly tied in too—a kind of defiant, “I’m fine exactly as I am” stand. I would suggest you let that one go. Once he’s allowed to express some amount of his resentment, he will not feel “managed”. Send your queries to Gouri at


Ben there, done that The latest Ben Tennyson film is a fast, breezy watch


en 10 is X-Men for kids. “PGMen”, if you will. A bunch of bored 10-year-olds find themselves endowed with shape-shifting superpowers (courtesy of a fancy wristband called the Omnitrix), and become part of an interstellar task force (called The Plumbers) that deals with the wholesome defeat of utterly evil beings. With great power comes great responsibility, and the main trio of Ben 10 (actually Tennyson), Gwen 10 (Ben’s cousin), and Kevin 11 (actually Levin) find themselves in moral quandaries (and loads of adventure), confronting issues of friendship, betrayal and confusing plot lines. It’s among the most popular cartoons on TV—little wonder then that the series was fodder for two Cartoon Network movies last year, one of them live action. Ben 10: Alien Swarm, which premieres

Frenetic: The new Ben 10 film. globally on Cartoon Network today, is the third movie and the second with actors. It’s an hourlong feature centred around the return of one of Ben’s old friends, Elena, who warns of a conspiracy headed by a hat-wearing figure (who looks like an out-of-shape gunslinger from a Stephen King novel). No one believes her save Ben, sparking off a series of events that keep the narrative afloat. Secrets are uncovered, and misconceptions sorted out. In

between, there are some very nice visual effects, especially a swarm of pesky metallic bees. There are computers that talk and guns that make sci-fi noises. The word “nanotechnology” is used a lot. The translation from cartoon to live actors means that the 10-year-old characters are now immaculately dressed teenagers who ride ultra-powerful bikes and cars with reckless abandon. The bounciness of the animated version is replaced instead with a gritty, grungy colour scheme. The flow of the film stutters due to some stilted dialogue delivery, but it’s largely fast-paced and action-packed. The story is fairly straightforward, and delivered in digestible chunks in between action sequences. All in all, it’s good, if silly, fun. Krish Raghav Ben 10: Alien Swarm premieres on Cartoon Network at 6pm today.

If you think your Internet browser just isn’t safe enough for your toddler and your tween, then try out Kidzui, a browser made for 3­12­year­olds ( The browser only runs verified sites and games approved by parents and every week sends an email telling parents about their child’s online activities—what sites they visited or what videos they viewed or even stuff they searched for. What’s in store for the children, you might ask? It allows them to create their own social networking IDs on their ‘Zui’ platform (like Facebook for children) in which they can use animated avatars. Their search results will reveal cute pictorial versions of what they are looking for. The Kidzui platform is available for PC and Mac computers, and also works as an add­on to Firefox browsers. For the unsure, there’s a 30­day free trial. The paid upgrade, under $40 (around Rs1,800) a year, has extra parental controls. Varuni Khosla




The MD who couldn’t be a doctor Emerging from the shadow of his high­profile predecessors, the MD and CEO of Infosys is firmly in the saddle


···························· he discretion of an unknown teacher changed the life of Senapathy “Call me Kris” Gopalakrishnan. Just two more marks and he would have become a doctor. Instead, Gopalakrishnan ended up in a boardroom and is today the CEO and MD of Infosys. His parents’ wish was that he study medicine as there were no doctors in their extended family. “In spite of being a fairly good student, I failed to get admission in the government medical college by two marks. The number of colleges and seats were very limited then and the family couldn’t afford a paid-for medical seat,” says Gopalakrishnan. But medicine’s loss has been a definite gain for information technology. Unlike his charismatic bookwriting predecessor Nandan Nilekani, Gopalakrishnan is quieter, and weighs his words carefully. I have known Kris for nearly a decade—meeting usually during the monotonous quarterly results season, when the company’s numbers set the tone for expectations from the sector. Only twice have I witnessed a rather forceful expression of opinion from the soft-spoken, lean, silver-haired and unpretentious 53-year-old. On both occasions, the issue was the IT industry and its role. When we meet over lunch in the company’s executive dining room in Bangalore, usually reserved for meetings with customers or key employees, Gopalakrishnan is his usual cheerful self. As the immaculately trained staff serves us soup and croissants, Gopalakrishnan reminisces about his childhood. “My father came from a lower middleclass background and poor financial circumstances forced him to abandon studies at 18. He started a small plumbing business. But he was very keen that both his children get the opportunity to study,


a chance denied to him. Like most middle-class families, the emphasis was on education as a passport to growth in life.” Since Kris had a passion for physics, he decided to get a bachelor’s and then master’s degree in physics from the Indian Institute of Technology. At that time, in 1977, IIT Madras had one of the few mainframe computers in Asia. “I got interested in that and started learning Fortran (a programming language).” Not surprisingly, Gopalakrishnan stayed on and did a master’s in computer science too. After campus interviews, despite offers from “a few others, including the Tatas”, Gopalakrishnan got on board the little known Patni Computer Systems. “The role you can play and what you can learn in a small company is significant,” he says, explaining his choice. In Patni, he became part of a core team that included Murthy, the one which went on to form Infosys. After three years with Patni, Gopalakrishnan made another unusual choice, of joining a start-up. “I didn’t give it (the switch to Infosys) much thought,” he recalls. “We were getting about Rs1,700 (a month, in Patni) and Murthy inspired us all.” In the tough early days of Infosys, Gopalakrishnan looked after the technical aspects, eventually managing customer delivery. In 1989, poor revenues almost had several co-founders, except Murthy, deciding to dissolve the company. But Gopalakrishnan was clear where he stood. “I was not in the country at that time but I had decided to go with whatever Murthy decided.” Between 1987 and 1994, Gopalakrishnan was the vicepresident (technical) of a joint venture between Infosys and Kurt Salmon Associates. The joint venture flopped, “but we learnt a number of lessons from it. I personally built a tremendous network of people during that time. The lessons for both Infosys and

The JV (with Kurt Salmon) might have failed but the lessons for both Kris and Infosys were enormous

me were enormous.” After the 1993 public issue, Gopalakrishnan started taking on key roles and became the deputy m a na g i ng d ir e cto r i n 1 99 4, returning to India after seven years in the US. In 2002, Murthy stepped down and Nilekani, who was till then on par with Gopalakrishnan, became the managing director and CEO. Gopalakrishnan remained unperturbed. “Decisions are taken after consulting everybody,” he explains. “I was a part of that decision-making process.” His chance came in 2007, when Nilekani stepped down. Market conditions changed soon after. The US economic contagion spread across the world and technology budgets stalled like hung computers. “Yes, these are challenging times. But Infosys believes in planning and processes, and we are geared to tackle these challenges.” Some of Infosys’ co-founders are no longer with the firm. N.S. Raghavan left in 2000, Nilekani has quit now to join the government. But Gopalakrishnan is unfazed. “Of course, I consult Murthy,” he says. “He is the chairman and mentor of the company. We have our various councils and committees and board members. It is a collective decision-making process. At the end of the day, responsibility lies with me.” He spends more than 200 days in a year travelling, meeting customers, employees and other stakeholders in India and abroad. Naturally, he has enough money to retire to a beach villa for the rest of his life. I ask him what keeps him going. New challenges, he replies. “It is the ability to change things. Technology is undergoing a tectonic shift. Can we play a positive role in influencing it? Can we do things which can change society for the better? If through Infosys we can, it would be worthwhile.” Given all this work, his source of relaxation and his interests are predictable: family and gadgets, respectively. “A couple of months ago, we went on a holiday to Lisbon for three days. I love to spend time with my 10-year-old daughter.” He has traded in an Apple Mac for a new Toshiba notebook, constantly fiddles with his iPhone and never loses sight of his iPod. “Yes, I keep changing my gadgets. That’s one of my weaknesses,” he says. Chances are that Senapathy “Kris” Gopalakrishnan would have probably had the same tastes even if he had got two extra marks in his medical college entrance exam.

IN PARENTHESIS Kris has inherited his father’s passion for education. Despite the demands of running a company with close to $5 billion in revenue, he manages to find time to be chairman of the Indian Institute of information Technology and Management, Kerala, and vice­chairman of the Board of Information Technology Education Standards (BITES). I manage to get Kris to open up on the third attempt. “More than anything else, it is education that can change an individual. That is why I find time for it,” he says. What is also not so well known is the pioneering work done by Pratiksha Trust, set up by Kris and his wife Sudha, which works in the areas of education and healthcare. While Sudha is also on the board of Infosys Foundation, Pratiksha has been set up with their personal resources.

At the helm: Kris Gopalakrishnan took over the reins of the company at a difficult time, and his views on the growth of Infosys and the economy are cautious but optimistic.





t For love of country To create a soft country look, prime and paint the bookcase cream. Glue wallpaper in a soft eggshell­and­floral pattern to the back of each opening for unexpected and pretty detail. Hang linen curtains on a tension rod for concealed storage in the lower portion of the bookcase.

Triple play With just a few simple and inexpensive changes, a nondescript ready­made bookcase takes on three distinct personalities

q Rich character Create a contemporary look by covering the entire bookcase with ebony stain, which is easy to apply and adds deep colour. Buy a light­colour linen roller shade to fit the width and height of the bookcase. Install it at the top to hide clutter and add a pull. Fill the shelves with boxes and files in neutral tones.




t Hidden away Board­and­batten shutters with cut­outs always create a traditional cottage feel. Prime, sand, and paint the bookcase. Get the shutters made by a carpenter and attach them to the front of the bookcase with cabinetry hinges. Finish the look with a forged­iron shutter bolt.

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Mosaic muse Shefi Carmi Bergerson learnt a unique mosaic art in Israel, and now practises it in India






ake control of the piles of magazines and newspapers that stack up. Use a pretty wooden hanger to keep periodicals within arm’s reach.

Better Homes and Gardens

···························· Who: Shefi Carmi Bergerson, mosaic artist

The journey: Bergerson started with a table for her balcony, then graduated to mirrors and wall murals. She customizes for clients and creates unique pieces too. “They have a certain idea or space and I create something for them within that.”




How it started: “I was visiting my family in Israel when I saw a book on a mosaic artist. I was really fascinated by it and felt it was something I could do. Over the next few days I saw the same book in several places; I bought it, trained under the artist, returned to India and started mosaic art.”


Piece by piece: Bergerson trained under a mosaic artist in Israel. Hard work: “Every piece of work takes me four-six weeks to create; each piece is handmade.” Enduring love: “My mind is creative. I’m a fashion designer by profession, I’ve run a bakery, I’ve dabbled in baby blankets and accessories; all my life I’ve

been designing something.” Dream on: “My big dream is to be a painter. Like Paul Gauguin, who left Wall Street at 35 to paint, maybe I will also have the courage some day to pick up the brush.” Write to





Boot up



We asked the real experts— sportspersons and active businessmen—for their favourites




uying a shoe isn’t what it used to be. The footwear you now sport is no longer just an accessory, but a device—a container full of secret patents and arcane technology, the science powering them the result of long, dedicated, arduous research. So when Nike’s new Lunarglide is accompanied by a marketing campaign that says it is, indeed, rocket science, it’s not just clever wordplay. From football shoes that can be broken down and remade to special shoes made for discerning motorcyclists, we look at four new shoes that make your cellphone seem about as complicated as a hammer.

Four new shoes, eight new technologies. The science of footwear just got very complicated

“I wear the Adidas Barricade tennis shoe and I’ve been wearing it for the last couple of years. Once your feet break into it, it is the most comfortable shoe to wear. It is also more durable than the other shoes available. I’ve also felt that the cushioning has helped my feet as I have to do a lot of change in direction on hard surfaces while playing tennis. Plus, they look good on the court and new models are always coming out every few months.” (Yuki Bhambri has an endorsement deal with Adidas)


BADMINTON PLAYER Varuni Khosla and Pavitra Jayaraman contributed to this story.




NIKE LUNARGLIDE DARK GLIDE OF THE MOON N ike’s Lunarglide, the company says, is the next “big revolution” in running footwear. “Running shoes are the largest commercial opportunity in footwear in India,” says Sanjay Gangopadhyay, marketing director of Nike India Pvt. Ltd. “Not everyone who runs here is running a marathon, but even with training and in gyms, they feel the need to use running shoes.” The Lunarglide uses a combination of special materials and unique construction to make it lighter than most running shoes. Runners, says Gangopadhyay, have traditionally had to choose between stability, a fit that lasts for extended periods of time, or cushioning which makes the shoe lightweight and comfortable. “With Lunarlite (the new technology), you don’t have to choose just

Rs6,995 for men, Rs6,500 for women

one of the above,” he says. The ethereallynamed substance is a midsole filled with special foam that adapts to the arch and gait of the foot, adjusting the balance of comfort and stability to changing external conditions such as weather and terrain. “Your stride differs based on various factors—fatigue, slope, the surface you’re running on,” Gangopadhyay says. “The shoe automatically adapts to these changes.” Aiding this is Flywire, a technology inspired by the unlikeliest of sources. “It’s a method of making shoes lighter modelled on how suspension bridges, like the new Howrah Bridge, are constructed.” Suspension bridges reduce dependence on large concrete pillars by engineering wireframe structures around pressure points. That same principle, applied to a shoe, results in a reduction in material use of nearly 30-40% from the upper sole.



hen shoes claim to be rocket science, who better to ask about them than Bill McInnis, who’s done both. A former Nasa engineer who worked on the space shuttle programme, McInnis is now managing director of advanced research at Reebok. He and his team developed EasyTone, the new Reebok shoe that claims to tone your leg and butt muscles—all you have to do is to wear and use them normally. The shoe has embedded miniature “balance balls” under the sole which create what McInnis calls “micro-instabilities”, forcing your leg muscles to adapt, resulting in them having to work 28% more than usual. Edited excerpts from an interview: How was EasyTone conceptualized? The initial concept was built on the foundation of a technology Reebok had in the early 1990s called “dynamic cushioning” which was an air-transfer cushioning system. The idea of balance training also played a role at this early stage. The fastest growing trend in gyms is stability training using balance balls, which deliberately introduce instability, so we decided to use this technique in the shoe. You can see the DNA of a balance ball in the outsole design of the EasyTone. What is the foundation of the science of shoes? The science of shoes is really the intersection of biomechanics (how the body functions) and mechanical engineering (how a device functions). We start with a concept statement of what we’d like the shoe to deliver from a functional standpoint and what it should do for the athlete. The challenging part (and the science and research) is in turning that concept idea into a physical shoe that delivers on that statement. What sort of tests and stress runs do you put prototype shoes through? What parameters do you test them on? We test all of our concepts extensively. EasyTone had over 16,000 hours of consumer wear-testing. Our wear-tests consist of consumers living with the shoe for over 300 hours of wearing. We ask a full battery of questions at the beginning, middle and end of the test periods to determine what people like and/or dislike about the product over time.

We make appropriate changes based on that feedback and retest until we have a product that delivers on its promise. Some of our lab testing includes multi-directional force plate testing (force plates measure reactions generated by the shoe on a flat surface, and are usually used to analyse posture and gait), mechanical impact testing (to measure specific cushioning attributes over time) and EMG (electromyography) testing that measures the muscle activity of individual muscles. EMG testing is where our “28-11-11% more muscle activity” data (28% more activity when compared with normal shoes) comes from. We compared muscle activity walking in EasyTone versus muscle activity wearing conventional foam-based shoes. How different is the science behind, for example, a football shoe and a running shoe? We start with a different “last” for each sport or activity. The last is the foot-shaped form that the shoe is built around and we vary internal volumes and heights based on the fit and activity needed for each individual sport. The midsole/outsole designs of footwear products vary considerably from sport to sport as well. A football shoe and a running shoe are very different in both the above cases. The fit and shape of a football boot is much tighter, with less padding and stiffer materials (versus a running shoe) as the premium is on keeping the foot centred on the plate and providing proper ball-feel. The cleated bottom is obviously different but there is almost no cushioning in a football boot due to both the surface (grass or turf) and the need for energy return. A running shoe has a primary focus on the underfoot platform with designs tailored for individual styles like motion control or stability shoes. What role does the material play? Materials may be altered considerably from sport to sport, as I mentioned earlier; however, EasyTone’s differentiation is more focused on the bottom unit. Inside the two prominent pods on the outsole is a two-pod moving air chamber. The ambient air inside the air chamber travels back and forth underneath the foot at the same rate as the consumer’s stride. This is in addition to the normal foam and rubber platforms found in most athletic footwear.





sk the folks at Adidas what the perfect football shoe is, and they give you a cryptic Douglas Adams answer. It’s 36. Both striker Lionel Messi and attacking midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, who use Adidas’ range of football shoes, swear by that number. So what’s the secret to the answer? Another cryptic phrase: TUNIT. “TUNIT is the name of the technology that allows us to make modular shoes,” says Tushar Goculdas, director of marketing and sales for Adidas India. That means each separate component of the shoe—the studs, the upper, the chassis and the insole—can be customized according to the ground and weather conditions, making shoes like the f50i, which belong to the TUNIT range, not just one, but 36 different possible shoes. “On dew-filled grounds, for example, you’d go for longer studs, but in summer, those will hurt your foot, so you switch to shorter, flatter studs.”



hile most shoe companies would be content with shoe solutions for sports that involve running around a field, Puma doesn’t seem to believe in leaving out the others. Take the En Route Ducati, a red and black leather shoe built…wait, for the “discerning motorcyclist”. “It’s specifically designed for our motorbike customers,” says Rajiv Mehta, the managing director of Puma India. “With its smart ergonomics, this will sharpen the interface between man and machine.” What that means is a specially designed outsole with an integrated shifter and peg supports, an arched design suited for long rides, shoelaces hidden within the rim to prevent unfortunate tangles and, of course, an endorsement from bike-makers Ducati. Puma supplies gear for Ferrari and the Ducati racing teams, and what began as a special project to provide footwear for specific everyday challenges faced by racers has now expanded into an entire division of products aimed at motorsports fans. “It will go very well with your leathers and denims,” says Mehta.

But even 36 is a small number when you consider Adidas’ careful delineation of football shoes. “We have three different families of shoes, depending on playing styles,” says Goculdas. The aforementioned TUNIT is favoured by flamboyant strikers and wingers, and is much lighter than the other two families. The Predator range, developed in close association with Zinedine Zidane, and used famously by David Beckham and Stephen Gerrard, focuses more on swerve and power, and has rubber fins in the front for smoother grip and the ability to swing free kicks. “The Predators feature a unique weight mechanism, we have free flowing lead granules inside a chamber in the shoe, which shift the weight depending on the play,” says Goculdas. The third family, called Adipure, is the retro football shoe—simple and allleather. The more “traditional” players, such as Frank Lampard and Kaka, favour this, says Goculdas. “There’s technology in it, but not too much.”

“Shoes are very important to me. A good pair can literally keep you in good health for a long time. My two favourite running shoes are Nike Air and Asics. While I’m running, I don’t like to feel the impact and these shoes provide great cushioning and prevent injuries to the ankle, knee and back. Asics, specially, has a very good fit.”


CORPORATE VP OF COMMUNITY INITIATIVES, WIPRO “I use Nike’s basic range of running shoes now. I’ve realized that all these shoe companies, they’ve built in too many fancy features into their new shoes. From a running standpoint, you don’t really require all of them. I just try them all out and figure what I’m most comfortable with. My sense is that the marginal return on any shoe over Rs3,000­4,000 is not much. I don’t find much of a difference between, say, a Rs3,500­4,000 shoe and a Rs7,000 shoe in India retail prices.”


FORMER NATIONAL LONG JUMP AND HEPTATHLON CHAMPION “I have been using the Nike Vomero for the past year and a half and think I’ll stick with it. It is well cushioned and so takes the pressure off my knee. It took me just a couple of days to break into the shoes, so that was perfect. Also, my feet are slightly broad and not all women’s shoes fit me very well and the Vomero makes a comfortable match. I also like my shoes to be of a lighter colour like grey and the pair I own fits the bill.”


“My favourite training shoes are New Balance. I find them relatively lightweight, yet very durable and comfortable. I can run for several hundred miles before they feel worn, whereas several other name brand shoes seem to simply wear out very quickly and do not provide the level of comfort a New Balance shoe does for me. I prefer the 900 or 1000 series shoes.”




Taeking over teh wurld While we weren’t looking, cats conquered the Net. How in the world did that happen?

Can has fame? Cheezburger honcho Ben Huh (left) says cats are the chosen animals of the Web.


···························· t started, as most viral phenomena on the Internet do, on 4chan. As much a paradox as a popular Internet forum, is the nursery for most of the Internet’s glorious silliness, such as the inexplicably infectious practice of leading people with false claims (“Check out this amazing video!”) to a music video by the 1980s pop star Rick Astley—a practice called the “Rick roll”. 4chan is also a profoundly disturbing wellspring of content that is best described as “random”. In 2005, for reasons unknown, members of 4chan began posting pictures of cats with humorous captions every Saturday, later dubbed “Caturday”. The tradition grew and spread to multiple sites until a single picture of a plump, grey cat appeared online in January 2007, showing an eager, happy feline asking “I Can Has Cheezburger?” Which, in turn, prompted Hawaiian bloggers Eric Nagakawa and Kari Unebasami to start a blog with the same name, and the Cheezburger network of blogs was born. In September that year, the blog network was acquired for $2 million (around Rs10 crore now). Its popularity has since skyrocketed, and it is now spreading beyond the Internet, with two books—How to Take Over Teh Wurld and Fail Nation—published by Penguin in the last couple of months. “Because cats are great at conveying human emotion in their expressions, they are the chosen animal of the Web,” says Ben Huh, CEO, Pet Holdings


cling of incompetence and unintentional humour; Graphjam, which is the reduction of pop culture into amusing graphs and charts; and Totally Looks Like, which centralizes the favourite Internet pastime of searching out unlikely lookalikes into one, easily navigable blog. New blogs are added all the time, and Huh says there’s no internal logic to what might come next. “There isn’t a strict process. We just tend to select concepts that make us laugh,” he says. Central to lolcat culture is lolspeak, the unique babytalkmeets-SMS-grammar language of choice for most lolcat images. While explaining the many intricacies of the said language may be impossible, most of it favours intentional misspelling, a disdain for the rules of grammar and a fondness for the letter “z”. Lolcats may seem like a trivial Internet fad to many, but to Huh they’re serious business. “We

take our work seriously. It’s hard work bringing laughs to millions of people. But the hardest work is done by our users who create our content.” The network resembles a community more than a blog. Most posts lead to meandering discussions, and a voting system lets users appraise each other’s submissions. I Can Has Cheezburger stays afloat with ad revenue, but as proof-of-concept, Huh admits, it proves to be a hard sell. “No, I don’t think (marketing executives) necessarily understand us, but they certainly laugh,” he says. “We don’t give them presentations about our content. They can just go see for themselves.” It’s not groundbreakingly new, or earth-shatteringly revolutionary, but Cheezburger and Ben Huh’s success proves an oft-ignored rule on the Internet. Huh says it’s a philosophy of the site: “The less complicated, the better.”

sible, the game is broken debated among each down into a series of other, their personali“quests” that take the ties and world views story forward, with clashing and colliding. implications for how Your own connection and when you complete to them, and to the the quests. institutions you face in Dragon Age‘s cosmos the game, seemed is bleak, featuring a cast somehow earned, of characters dealing even believable. And with loss, violence and yet, for every surprisbetrayal in a world losing ing turn, Dragon Age all sense of hope. At its reveals a well-worn best, it’s a powerful, stereotype. The larger moving game. machinations of the At the same time, it plot refuse to leave also stands halfway behind the worst between progressive excesses of epic fangenius and playing tasy—there’s a evil safe—the forward-lookDark Lord from the ing parts of it grating netherworld, and against the clichés and Epic: Dragon Age channels the best and worst in fantasy. spirits and demons archaic mechanics. aplenty. The supposedly Half the time, it demands that tle meaningless squabble among ravaged world, filled with bleak you play it differently from other these people?” she asked me. I scenes of hunger and scarcity, is games. Being the “irritatingly radi- had no answer. filled with glowing crates full of ant” goody two-shoes, usually an The evolving relationships loot for you and your party alone. easy task in a game, proved quite between the main characters were Dragon Age refuses to be a revdifficult in Dragon Age. One of my surprisingly deep, and realistically olutionary game, although it could companions, the shapeshifter volatile. They confronted you have been. There’s a needless fasMorrigan, met my constant about decisions, interrupted if you cination with blood that mars it, angelic meddling with intense dis- seemed to be leading them down and a convoluted control system approval. “Must we solve every lit- a suicidal path, and argued and ill-explained by the tutorials.

But it’s impossible to ignore what it does do. It has quite possibly gaming’s first speciallyabled character—a savant dwarf—with a deep, complex story of his own. While some of its larger political points come across as heavy-handed and juvenile, here is a game that tries to grapple with issues of gender, inequality and sexuality. It’s a game that makes you think of your fellow characters as more than just lumps of statistics—for instance, the times I berated brash Alistair for his impatient bravado in combat, or the expected dread with which I received Morrigan’s objections to my every action. Dragon Age is both a marker and a signpost—a telling example of what the medium needs to leave behind, and where it should be heading. While its craft is head and shoulders above most games today, we shouldn’t call it a masterpiece. It’s the bare minimum we should come to expect in the future.

‘We take our work seriously. It’s hard work bringing laughs to millions of people.’ Inc., which now owns and the other blogs on the Cheezburger network. With its stated aim of “making people happy for 5 minutes a day”, Huh now oversees an online media empire of 1.2 million users, 1.7 million pictures and a readership of 1.5 million a day. Visitors to the site are greeted with a series of posts, each featuring what is called a “lolcat” (short for “laugh-out-

loud cat”). A lolcat is a picture of a cat with a humorous caption. The site updates multiple times a day, so most visitors check it often. Anyone can contribute a lolcat and almost all the sites rely on pictures submitted by users.

Huh’s handle over the uncertain pulse of Internet memes (as popular viral Internet phenomena are called) is impressive, and the Cheezburger network is home to a number of popular Internet staples. These include FAIL, the unscrupulous chroni-


Coming of age Bioware’s latest crafts a fascinatingly flawed world, but falls short of a masterpiece B Y K RISH R AGHAV

···························· n an essay on the genre, fantasy and science fiction author Richard K. Morgan, who is “not much of a Tolkien fan”, called the Lord of the Rings a “ponderous epic (of) Towering Archetypal Evil pitted against Irritatingly Radiant Good”. It’s a complaint echoed against most classic works of fantasy—that the realpolitik of their worlds is often glossed over in favour of a simple black and white fable. Video games, informed as they are by fantasy more than any other literary genre, are guilty of this as well. Dragon Age is gaming’s attempt to move away from that fold. It belongs to the milieu being estab-


lished by a new wave of fantasy authors—George R.R. Martin, Elizabeth Bear, Morgan himself—creating worlds that are dark, intensely political and morally ambiguous. The result is a game that, while firmly placed on the bedrock of standard fantasy tropes (elves and dwarfs, anyone?), refuses to stay there. The dwarfs are ravaged by an internal class war. The elves congregate in inner-city ghettos. The humans are unable to cooperate even in the face of an external crisis. It’s played like most role-playing games—a large world to explore and unfold, characters and companions to talk to and fight along with, and hordes of monsters and problems to deal with. To make things comprehen-

Dragon Age: Origins is available for the PC at Rs999.





Trucks and Marxists

B Y C HANDRAHAS C HOUDHURY ···························· ike Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the literary journal Civil Lines has for many years been thought by most to be dead, even as a few of the faithful still insist it is alive and kicking, and merely waiting for the right moment to leap back into public life. Five issues of this journal of “fine unpublished writing” (to quote the editors) came out between 1987 and 2001, each edition a celebration of the essay, memoir, long-form reportage and the short story.


Written For Ever: Penguin/Viking, 392 pages, Rs499.

The magazine’s idiosyncrasies of taste, irregularity of publication, somewhat cliquish circle of contributors and lack of either a precise editorial manifesto or a market ambition were all repeatedly explained by the editors as a symbol of their devotion to no other deity but quality. But since the last edition of Civil Lines appeared at the far end of this decade, one might interpret this hibernation as a damning comment on the state of Indian writing in English today—a kind of literary criticism of silence, just as vipassana is of the world of empty talk. Alternatively, and more realistically, one could attribute the disappearance of Civil Lines to financial issues, unsteady support from publishers, the involvement of the editors in more urgent projects, and the vacation air inherent in the magazine’s modus operandi from the very beginning. In the same way, if one takes some of the editorial preening and pompousness with a good pinch of salt, one might find plenty to enjoy in Written For Ever, a compilation of some of the best pieces published in the journal as chosen by one of its editors, Rukun Advani. It is immediately clear from Advani’s anthology that the magazine published some outstanding non-fiction. Dilip Simeon’s O.K.

Masala fiction

TATA: Mobiloil Change and World Revolution, an essay about truckdriving and Naxalism, evokes life on the road in the most sumptuous detail while Ramachandra Guha’s An Anthropologist among the Marxists describes with giddy devotion the author’s first-hand knowledge of the various Kolkata factions of Marxism gleaned as a doctoral student in the city. Alongside Pankaj Mishra’s Edmund Wilson in Banaras (published elsewhere), these essays must rank as two of the greatest in modern Indian prose. Indeed, Simeon’s piece deserves further praise for the acuity with which it transforms the substantially nonEnglish world of truckers into an English that never seems incongruous. These two pieces are easily worth the price of the book, and there are other good essays: a charming memoir about animalwatching by M. Krishnan, a tribute to his father by Brijraj Singh, and a very funny “prelude to an autobiography” by Amit Chaudhuri in which the writer sets himself up against Shobhaa Dé. In the realm of fiction, however, the magazine’s record is more modest. Other than Manohar Shetty’s diverting tale of Goan gossip, Lancelot Gomes, it is a struggle finding fiction here that is formally inventive, aesthetically satisfying, or in any way “written for ever”. A number of them work within a narrow palette of first-person memoir-style realism; while this method can lead to many good

things, many stories here are sunk by clichéd descriptions of states of mind. One ends with “two anonymous beings at the edge of a sea that threatened every moment to engulf”, while in another we are told that “revulsion articulated itself in wild rage as she ran in search of her husband”. Narrative artistry is a rare quality at the best of times, and the editors’ scepticism towards works in translation—the only fiction in translation here is one by Amitav Ghosh of an unbearably mawkish story by Rabindranath Tagore—meant a kind of willed fishing in shallow waters. Civil Lines 6, apparently to be published next year by Tranquebar Press, may be very different, but more likely it won’t; journals are usually as stable, in a broad way, as the people who run them. In that case, there will still be much about the Civil Lines to enjoy. But the opinions and literary values of the 1990s sound slightly musty when expressed today, and given how much has changed about Indian writing in this decade, the journal today might find itself a little more marginal than it would like or can be proud of. Chandrahas Choudhury is the author of Arzee the Dwarf. Write to IN SIX WORDS Literary journalism at its very best

Distorted world A hallucinatory tale of sexual obsession and murder B Y C HANDRAHAS C HOUDHURY ···························· ot since Gabriel García Márquez has a Latin American writer made such a great impact on the anglophone literary world as the late Chilean novelist Roberto Bolano (1953-2003). Bolano’s sizeable oeuvre, including at least eight novels, is all the more remarkable for the fact that he considered himself chiefly a poet, and only began publishing fiction in his 40s. The posthumous publication of translations of two massive works, The Savage Detectives and 2666, have consecrated his reputation, and many of his shorter early books are now appearing one by one in English. The latest, The Skating Rink, was Bolano’s first novel, and it usefully foregrounds the recurrent


I still recall the expression of disappointment on the face of an (English) editor when I stated that my novel, Filming, was mostly about the Mumbai film industry in the 1940s, and not really about “Bollywood”. Bollywood, after all, is a term that assumed currency only in the 1980s, and it does not cover either Indian parallel (art) cinema or the middle cinema of excellent directors such as Hrishikesh Mukherjee. It is also difficult to apply the term to some of the great “commercial” film-makers of the past, such as Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor. But the term has assumed such hegemonic force in the West that it now eclipses all other histories of not only Indian cinema but even Bombay/Mumbai films. Not surprisingly, a kind of sub-genre is coming into existence in English: Bollywood fiction, written by both Indians and foreigners. Some examples, such as Shashi Tharoor’s Show Business, are significant as literature, and some are at best froth riding the tidal wave of “Bollywood”. Meredith McGuire’s Bollywood Becomes Her (Tranquebar Press) probably falls into a third category. This is a novel by a Western “fan” and student of Bollywood: McGuire is a doctoral student in anthropology and she runs, a “guide for clueless fans of Hindi film”. McGuire’s novel is about Bollywood, as encountered in the US by a blonde Ivy League graduate (Meg Smith) trying to impress a couple of Indian men. A peppy version of chick lit, Bollywood Screen test: Is Raj Kapoor ‘Bollywood’? Becomes Her is often funny, if only because it turns the usual equation around: For once, it is not an immigrant Indian woman floundering for identity, but an American swirled in saris and situations.

Voices from Bangladesh In a few years, Tranquebar Press has built up an impressive list that includes both the entertaining and the literary. Ahmede Hussain’s excellent new anthology, The New Anthem: The Subcontinent in its Own Words (Westland/Tranquebar), offers good examples of writing that is both literary and entertaining. The roughly two dozen contributions are not just by established names, but also by talented new writers, such as Sumana Roy, Abeer Hoque and Qaisra Shahraz. For me, the revelation was the number of promising Bangladeshi writers. Bangladeshi writing in English gets neglected, and there is evidence in the Dhaka-based Hussain’s anthology that this neglect is unjustified.

Novel of ideas I was tempted by the title of Steven Lukes’ The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat—A Novel of Ideas (Verso): Novels of ideas are so rare these days. In the introduction, Lukes, an American professor known for books such as Liberals and Cannibals, remarks on the modern separation of “philosophy” from “storytelling”. He notes that this was not always the case: Philosophers from Plato to Voltaire had reasoned through stories and myths. The Curious Enlightenment returns to this longer tradition: using the exile of its protagonist, Professor Caritat, to the “countries” of Utilitaria, Communitaria and Libertaria to comment on the muddled state of contemporary thinking. As a “story”, it seldom matches the pace of Voltaire’s Candide or the savage wit of Swift, but it remains a satire worth reading, and far more rewarding than at least three of the novels shortlisted for the Booker this year. Tabish Khair is the Bihar-born, Denmark-based author of Filming. Write to him at


themes of itinerancy, sexual obsession and political corruption and nightmare vision in his work. The Skating Rink is set in a fictional Spanish seaside resort called Z, and describes the events of one summer through the eyes of three male narrators. Remo Moran is a lapsed poet from Chile who now runs a set of businesses in Z. Gaspar Heredia, an old acquaintance of Moran’s and also once a poet (there are always plenty of poets in Bolano’s novels), appears in Z for the summer to work as a security guard in a campground run by Moran. And Enric Rosquelles is a pompous but enterprising bureaucrat in the Z municipal administration, his head full of schemes and projects. Heredia, one of the many vagabonds in Bolano’s fiction, tells us that he came to Z because he didn’t have any other prospects, and “up until then my prospects had been as black as a bucket of motor oil”. This image of dark and murky ooze is emblematic of the story, which is that of a mystery at



Roadie: One of the best stories in the collection, by Dilip Simeon, is about truck­driving and Naxalism.

A new anthology resuscitates the mood and method of an ambitious literary journal


The Skating Rink: New Directions, 182 pages, $21.95 (around Rs1,000). the heart of human dealings that is glimpsed but never quite resolved. In the hands of male writers, the locus of this mystery is often a beautiful woman, and so it is in Bolano. Both Remo and Enric find themselves obsessed with a beautiful young figure-skater from Z called Nuria. Soon after meeting Nuria, Enric feels sure that he loves her, and does not care that his feeling may never be requited, as long as he himself can do something for her. On hearing that Nuria has been dropped from the national team, he decides to turn the swimming

pool of an abandoned mansion in Z into a plush skating rink for her, using public funds. Enric’s stories are always falling away into irrelevance and his intense devotion is often comic. Moran and Heredia are much more laconic and elliptical. Out of the patchwork of their respective narrations, Bolano fashions a very competently told tale of murder, intrigue, longing and world-weariness. Like a number of other prominent South American writers, Bolano describes a world that seems to glimmer on the porous border between reality and dream, and that insidiously takes root in the reader’s mind. At one point in the story, Enric’s embezzlement is discovered while he is at a party, and he begins to dread what is to come. He tries, vainly, to distract himself by focusing on the conversation around him, but hears only “a chaos of laughter, half-empty mixed-up glasses, and grunts and squawks unfit for human ears”—his mind is distorting the world. Bolano likes to observe the skating rink of the human mind precisely where the ice seems to be cracking. Write to


Intimations of Unreality from Recollections of Early Cricket The radio’s floating needle doesn’t lock on Test Match Special. Peace & Progress fills the 19-metre band bar on shortwave 3 from 12 o’clock, so Trevor, John and Brian feel the press of Soviet bulletins on a frozen war. They break for lunch when Ma announces tea, a few to win, Farokh and Vishy there, and desis at the Oval set to riot, while I, taught time zones by the BBC, fill lunchtime minutes with tea time prayer: ‘Lord, let us beat the English in Vilayat.’ Vishy falls, Abid cuts for four, I win At twilight more than half a life ago. Ma’s dead and life has blurred but I can see that cut I only heard, and feel the din. How? Did I relive the match? Do I know it’s not the match that lives through me? Mukul Kesavan is the author of The Ugliness of the Indian Male and Other Such Propositions. Write to





Mermaids and sailors for company MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP

Inside Neruda’s homes in Chile, where he drank, composed and gave his imagination free rein


he snowline floated like a delicate arc in the sky. There was an entire mountain beneath, but it was invisible; the yellow mist that surrounded this Andean valley would not clear so easily, making that silvery sliver of the peak look like an apparition. I was headed for Isla Negra, or the Black Island (which is neither black, nor an island), on the edge of the Pacific. As I was to discover later, in Chile, some things were not what they were called, and some things appeared to be what they were clearly not. We were gliding along the thin waist of that nation, slim like a ballerina in a figure-hugging leotard, balancing herself on her toes. Isla Negra is where the poet Pablo Neruda had built a house. Robert Graves once said: “There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.” Now Neruda was a Marxist and a poet, but he could fill a stadium when he read his poetry, and he was also a diplomat, and he had money: enough to build several houses—just as he loved several women, and had several persona as well (his name was not Pablo, and his surname not Neruda—he was born Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto—but then poets have the licence to

make up such stuff). As Neruda did. He designed his house to look like a ship, and he was its captain. As you entered his house, you saw intricately carved figureheads that were once on the prows of sailing ships. His was the captain’s table. The view from the windows was of the sea, the floor wooden, the passages narrow, and there was sailing memorabilia everywhere. It was as though he was in a ship ready to sail somewhere, but going nowhere, except where his mind wanted to wander. In an essay, Houses from the Past, he wrote: “I am frightened by houses I have lived in. The arms of their compasses are opened wide, waiting: they want to swallow you and bury you in their rooms, in their memories.” Poets need isolation, and as if this house, washed by the ocean, was not distant enough from the big city, he had built a cabin for himself, closer to the water, from where he could see the ocean, and sit on his desk, imagining drunken sailors and mermaids. Nubile nymphs appear often in his poetry, and they inspire him to write about their soothing blue eyes, their enveloping, long tresses, their comforting, soft breasts, and their sweet kisses. The sea appears often, too: “To whomever is not listening to the sea,” he writes, he will bring its sounds and waves: “And a vibration starts up, vague and insistent, A great fragment of thunder sets in motion The rumble of the planet and the foam, The raucous rivers of the ocean flood…” To those in offices and factories and prisons in distant cities, who ask the poet: “How can I reach the sea?” he will bring free-

Polar attraction Reena Dharmshaktu heads to the South Pole while her mountaineer husband goes north B Y P ADMAPARNA G HOSH

···························· his new year, Reena Kaushal Dharmshaktu will be looking for a phone. A satellite phone, to be specific. On 31 December, Dharmshaktu expects to be the first Indian woman to ski to the South Pole and she would like to call her husband when she gets there. Dharmshaktu is part of an allwoman team that is skiing 900km from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole as part of the Kaspersky Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition that started 19 November. Equipped with only a compass and GPS, eight women (from Brunei, Cyprus, Ghana, Jamaica, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK besides India) are lugging sledges laden with food, fuel and equipment over crevasses and through blizzards at temperatures around 30 degrees below zero. Without cooks or guides or any logistical support, they will be on their own during the six-week adventure. “It won’t be anything like a reality show though,” joked Dharmshaktu when we met in Delhi in


late October. “If we start having a competition there, there would be no expedition,” she pointed out. Some potential sponsors thought otherwise. “When I asked the Delhi government for financial support for the expedition, they said we only support competitive sports. I approached corporate houses and ministries, but nothing. And everyone said you should go to women ministers, as they will have a soft corner,” she said, laughing. However, just days before the expedition, the participant from Singapore discovered a kindred, adventurous soul in the Asian head of the software protection company Kaspersky Lab—and the team’s sponsorship worries ended. This expedition isn’t Dharmshaktu’s first. Daughter of an army officer, she was brought up in Darjeeling. Now in her mid-30s, she attributes her attraction for the hard life to her childhood. “Most mountaineers are from the hills. It is not hard to see why, when all you could see from there were some of the highest peaks in the world,” said Dharmshaktu, a professional mountaineer.

Sailor: Neruda’s house in Isla Negra is designed like a ship.

dom and the sea, the “starry echoes of the wave”, and “the cry of sea-birds”. That, Neruda said, was a poet’s obligation. Neruda’s house itself was large, with quaint masks and curvy glass bottles, deliciously seductive. On the walls and ceilings of his bar he had scrawled the names of Guillaume Apollinaire, Nazim Hikmet and Walt Whitman, as if he regularly shared drinks with them. Neruda knew his women and his ocean, his wines and his flowers, his vegetables and his mountains. In exile, he could teach a postman how to woo a woman, as he does in the film Il Postino. Politics was a different matter: He admired Stalin. As fellow-Nobel laureate, Czeslaw

Milosz, was to note about Neruda: “When he describes the misery of his people, I believe him and I respect his great heart. But when he paints the joyous, radiant life of people in the Soviet Union, I stop believing him. I am inclined to believe him as long as he speaks about what he knows: I stop believing him when he starts to speak about what I know myself.” Not everything is what it seems. Later that afternoon, we drove to Valparaiso, to his other home in Sebastiana, where he had built “an extravagant house, entirely of air”, as Bernardo Reyes describes in his book, Casas Neruda (Houses Neruda), where the house “grows and speaks, supported on its feet”. It

is a tall house, and from its top floor, you get a magnificent view of this charming city set on 40-odd hills, with its labyrinthine alleys, cobble-stoned paths, and funicular cable cars. The mighty Pacific roars, its sound penetrating through the wall-sized glass windows. From his bed, he woke up to see the sprawling landscape through those windows; his typewriter sitting by his bedside; his pillows smeared with his favourite green ink, for Neruda wrote by hand. As I left the house, I saw his familiar silhouette on a bench. It was a life-size outline of Neruda with his flat cap, pensively looking at the sea. You could sit beside him on that bench, and

when the sun was right behind you, someone could take your picture with the silhouette, creating the momentary illusion of you sitting with the poet, admiring the valley below and the ocean beyond, lost in thoughts. “Look around,” Neruda had told Gen. Pinochet’s soldiers who raided his home the day the general overthrew Salvador Allende’s government. “There’s only one thing of danger for you here—poetry.” Write to Salil at Read Salil’s previous Lounge columns at


Her husband is one too. While Dharmshaktu grew up in the eastern Himalayas, waiting for the day she could scale the peaks, Loveraj Singh Dharmshaktu did the same at the other end—the western Himalayas. And they met in the Himalayas, of course. “We met for a very short while in Ladakh in 2000 for the first time. I was returning from an expedition and she was departing on one,” said Loveraj, an inspector with the mountaineering team of the Border Security Force. From then on, Loveraj ensured that the time he spent at the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) in Delhi coincided with the time Dharmshaktu spent there. Married in 2003, the most time they have ever spent together was at the IMF—before they got married. “We have never been on expeditions together; not even one. In India, they are mostly separate. Sometimes, we meet at Manali for a few hours, when he’s leaving on an expedition and I am coming back to Delhi,” said Dharmshaktu. Besides her husband, few understand why Dharmshaktu does what she does. “It’s good for me that I found him, someone who supports me. I think if I had a husband who was a regular guy, it would have been difficult to explain why I disappear for one or two months totally, no phone, nothing. But this is probably good for a marriage. Love remains for a long time,” Dharmshaktu remarked with a chuckle,

Hill stationed: The Dharmshaktus plan to build a cottage in Munsiyari. nudging her husband. And when both are in Delhi, they are inundated by the questions and concern of family and friends on why their family isn’t bigger. “Being a mountaineer might make you healthy, but not your finances. That is why our family is not bigger,” said Loveraj. For now, his eyes are on his ancestral house in the scenic village of Munsiyari

in Uttarakhand. “I would like to go back there and maybe, with a loan, build a cottage—something new, not a run-of-the-mill home stay,” he added, petting his overweight mongrel Babu. While Dharmshaktu flitted from one room to another to attend phone calls every 10 minutes, Loveraj returned with a scrawny, paralysed crow he had

been nursing to health. For both of them, love for the natural world comes second only to their love of altitude. “Every parent should expose their kids to basic trekking. It increases confidence, teaches cleanliness, and, above all, the basic love for nature,” said Loveraj. Though the couple is tied in occupation and life, their careers have taken different paths. While Loveraj has scaled Mount Everest thrice and the Kanchenjunga once, Dharmshaktu has climbed the Argan Kangri peak (6,789m) in Ladakh, a peak that hadn’t been scaled before, and soon hopes to be able to add the South Pole experience to her accomplishments. As Dharmshaktu put it: “He has been to the highest point and I have to go to the southernmost point in the world.” Loveraj is evidently as proud of Dharmshaktu representing India as she is of his conquests. “No, I am not jealous she is going to the Pole,” said Loveraj. “But you should be,” she quipped. While Dharmshaktu pitches her tent on polar ice and survives on dehydrated food and melted ice, she will miss some things. “Like you want to go to the bathroom and the bathroom is right here. In a tent, you have to go around looking for a place in subzero temperatures. Not fun.” Dharmshaktu left for the South Pole on 5 November. Her husband was to head north shortly after. But they hope to meet soon, somewhere.




A bite of the Big Apple

NEW YORK CITY the new year. Ahead of the ball drop, try your hand at the Confetti Wishing Wall—collective hopes for renewal and a better future later rain down on revellers as confetti—and the Good Riddance Day, which encourages you to write down your worst or most embarrassing memories of 2009 and feed them into shredders placed on Duffy Street. Details of both events will be available on u Doesn’t sound like your thing? Join the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises’ New Year’s Eve Party Cruise, which includes a full open bar, hors d’oeuvres, a DJ, party favours and a champagne toast at midnight. Add-ons include the best seats in the city for the fireworks show over the river, and stunning views of the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and Governor’s Island. You board the boat on the Hudson river at 9pm, and sail between 10pm and 1am. Tickets cost $120 and must be booked in advance at or by calling +1-212-5633200.




Yankee town: (above) The New Year countdown at Times Square; workers put up a Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

embark on an ambitious bargain hunt, I roll up my sleeves at the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market (www.hellskitchenfleamarket. com) and scour stalls to score serendipitous finds—think Art Deco paperweights and vintage Gucci sunglasses. Where’s the party tonight? Chances are, it’s at the Box ( which, thanks to its over-the-top décor and constant twists and turns, is part-club, part-spectacle. For a dimly lit, speakeasy vibe, head to Decibel (, a sake bar in the East Village that’ll transport you to a back alley in Tokyo. When I’m hoping to brush shoulders with paparazzi-prone starlets, the new, uber-exclusive Boom Boom Room ( at André Balazs’s sexy Standard hotel is my best bet—but if you suffer from vertigo, I’d recommend skipping the view from the glass-floored balconies, which will have you looking down 18 storeys. Nature may not be the first thing that pops into my mind when roaming through this concrete jungle,

but Central Park (www.centralparknyc. org), a whopping 843 acres in the heart of the city, is a true urban oasis. In the winter, I head to the Wollman Ice Rink to skate against the backdrop of Midtown skyscrapers; in the summer, my friends and I rent rowboats on the lake. Bikers line up for the free bicycle-lending programme at South Street Seaport (— there’s no better way to take in the picturesque waterfront. Sarah Khan is a writer and editor based in New York City.

YOU CAN’T GO TO NYC AND SKIP… u Skiing in the Catskills: Two hours

away from the city, this is the perfect place to show off—or hone—your skiing skills. The Hunter Mountain Resort offers daily packages that include a lift ticket, a group lesson and equipment rental for $79 (around Rs6,000). Private lessons are also available. If you are fairly confident of

your abilities, you can hit either of the three mountains right away: There’s bound to be one that suits your skill level. Log on to for details. u Hiking in the Mohonk Preserve: Ninety miles (145km) away from Manhattan, this is a 7,000-acre section of the Shawangunk mountains, with ridges, forests, fields, streams and ponds. The winter’s particularly good for signing up for seven- or eight-mile hikes, graded easy, moderate and strenuous. Reservations are not necessary, but there is a fee. Log on to for details. u Mystic Seaport: Located about halfway to Boston, this is a first-hand encounter with America’s maritime history—and much more. Take a horse-and-carriage ride through a recreated 19th century village. Watch experts work on restoring antique vessels. Or go on the water in a rented boat. Plus there are shopping and dining options, programmes and classes, museums and exhibits. Visit to plan a packed day—or three.

PARTY HERE ON 31 DECEMBER… u Because, quite simply, it’ll be one

item off your bucket list. Times Square, where a glittering geodesic ball drops in time to a minute-long countdown to the midnight hour, is a focal point of New Year celebrations across the world: Around a billion television viewers watch the 12ft ball, covered in 2,668 Waterford crystals and powered by around 32,000 LED lights, descend to mark the arrival of

NEED MORE REASONS TO BE IN NYC? u Holiday train show: Every year

the New York Botanical Garden replicates NYC using berries, mushrooms and twigs, with model trains speeding along more than a quarter-mile of track. Visit to book your tickets. u Holiday markets: During December, NYC squares (and circles) convert themselves into north European-styled markets, with Christmas goodies from around the world. Among the renowned ones are the Holiday Markets at Columbus Circle and Union Square ( u The Nutcracker: George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, staged at New York City Ballet, is something NYC awaits every Christmas season. This show, replete with frost fairies, toy soldiers and towering mice, is an absolute must. Visit for details. u Christmas tree lighting ceremonies: These ceremonies happen through December. Choose from the Rockefeller Center tree, the Madison Square Park tree, and the American Museum of Natural History’s origami holiday tree. u NY400: In December, you can catch the end of the year-long celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city. Visit to make plans. u International Motorcycle Show: Cycle World has lined up 500 new models of motorcycles to touch and feel, and to ride. Street bikes, dirt bikes, cruisers, scooters, UTVs, watercrafts—you’ll find them all here. Book tickets for this three-day affair, which starts 22 January, at Blessy Augustine



In skyscraper city there’s excitement in every nook and corner, and culture, they say, is part of the weather B Y S ARAH K HAN ································ ’m on a mission to eat my way through the Big Apple, one bite at a time. New Yorkers are forever locked in a debate over the location of the best burger in town, but I know where mine is—at Shake Shack (, in leafy Madison Square Park. For a more high-end experience, I head to Megu (, where servers dish out modern Japanese cuisine in a seductive setting. The tableside preparations—fresh snapper is seared with sesame oil as it’s plated, for example—add a touch of theatre. My weekends don’t begin without the ultimate New York experience: a long, lazy brunch. For a great scene, I make a reservation at Essex (; a DJ presides over the hipsters dining and drinking in the industrial-minimalist space. When I want more of a neighbourhood vibe, I tuck into a Penny Egg Sandwich served up by the friendly staff at Penelope (, where the faded wood tables and mismatched coffee mugs add a touch of whimsy. Living in New York has been dangerous for my sweet tooth. Hands-down, the top cupcake in town is at the Lower East Side treasure Sugar Sweet Sunshine (—try the Ooey Gooey and you’ll agree. Local staple Carnegie Deli ( has my favourite classic New York-style cheesecake, topped with fresh strawberries. The petite Creperie ( can barely fit 10 people at a time, but I always cram my way in after a night out on the town to try one of the 50-plus delectable crêpe combinations. When it comes to spending, Barneys (, Bergdorf Goodman (, and Bloomingdale’s (Bloomingdales. com) comprise the reigning Bs, but the smaller boutiques are usually more likely to seduce me into emptying my wallet. I get my fill of flirty frocks and baubles at Pookie and Sebastian ( When on a serious buying mission, I never go wrong in the hip SoHo district: Operations ( showcases edgy, industrial-inspired wear, while Opening Ceremony ( stocks must-have-now labels such as Rodarte and Proenza Schouler. For quirky home goods and kitschy products from around the world, I like to peruse the mini-exhibitions at Kiosk ( that bring global goodies together under one roof. When I’m in the mood to






The Ibsen within

Seasonal shift Updated: Dutch director Mirjam Coen’s new­age adaptation of Little Eyolf.

In commemorating the Norwegian playwright, the Delhi Ibsen Festival seeks universality in his works


···························· he metaphors in Henrik Ibsen’s 1889 play, The Lady from the Sea, manifest themselves in much-altered ways in a Malayalam adaptation by the Abinaya theatre group from Kerala. Ibsen’s idea of the sea as a potent sexual symbol becomes a large-scale video projection of turbulent waters. And the Nordic protagonists, the Wangel couple, lose their cultural context, wearing nondescript gowns that offer no insights into their nationality or ethnicity. This play and eight others like it will be staged as part of the Delhi Ibsen Festival, starting 3 December. And more than a century after they were first performed, Ibsen’s living room dramas will take on contemporary shades. Most of the productions have been specially commis-


sioned for the festival that is backed by a grant from the Royal Norwegian embassy. While Abinaya’s production veers towards the surreal, another play, Metropolis, directed by Amal Allana, pulls the female leads from three of Ibsen’s plays—A Doll’s House, Rosmersholm and Hedda Gabler—to produce a modern mosaic set against the backdrop of present-day Mumbai and the 26/11 attacks. Allana, an award-winning playwright and chairperson of the National School of Drama, says she wanted to emphasize Ibsen’s greatest strength—his strong women. In its second edition this year, the theatre festival was conceived by Nissar Allana, director of the Delhi-based Dramatic Art and Design Academy (DADA). The theme for this year is Ibsen’s intercultural contexts and the programming includes four international productions—from China, Iran, Egypt and the Netherlands. Nissar, a stage-set and lighting specialist who was a set decorator on Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, was approached by the Norwegian embassy last year to organize a festival to foster a deeper understanding of Ibsen. This is part of a worldwide initiative that started in 2006, the year that marked Ibsen’s death centenary. Ibsen’s influence on Indian theatre dates back to the early

20th century when it was still largely dominated by classical and folk traditions. The realism of playwrights such as Ibsen and Anton Chekov found its way into the works of avant-garde directors such as Motiram Gajanan Rangnekar, a stalwart of modern professional Marathi theatre. In Rangnekar’s 1942 play Kulvadhu, his female protagonist walks out on her husband, much like Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. However, in keeping with the framework of Indian society, she moves into his parents’ house, thus giving the play its title. All praise for what a play such as Kulvadhu meant in its time, Nissar advocates more realism in Indian theatre today. “A lot of modern Indian theatre is still too stylized,” he says, adding, “Vijay Tendulkar was one of the few who broke the mould early.” A dose of Ibsen, according to him, can help. But sustaining the resurgent interest in the playwright’s works calls for placing them in a contemporary context, says Nissar. “Ibsen’s point of focus was personal freedom and women’s rights and those aren’t relevant in the same way today,” he says. The Ibsen festival will take this debate forward by hosting a two-day seminar with several Indian as well international theatre scholars in attendance. In order to bring together theory and practice, the festival paired research

To India via the Internet American folk singer Terra Naomi found a second life and a ticket to India on the Net B Y M ELISSA B ELL ···························· t seems like a storyline made for Hollywood: girl sings and struggles to hit it big; girl gets her break and signs record deal; record company controls girl and puts out bad album; girl runs from record label, hopes and dreams dashed. But American singer-songwriter Terra Naomi decided not to play by the plot. After leaving Island Records in 2008, dissatisfied with her work there, Naomi returned to the one place she felt in control of her own music: the Internet. And after a year of working on material she loves, the Internet is paying her back—literally. Her fans have raised enough money to take Naomi on a world tour. And her first stop on the international stage was at Mumbai’s Blue Frog on 26 November. When Naomi started planning a


‘I do this because I love the music, but the reality is I need to make a living.’

US tour to promote her independently produced album, You for Me, she made an off-hand remark on the Internet radio station Ustream about the mounting costs of the tour. “I got several emails saying, ‘You’ve given us so much free stuff online, why not ask your fans to help with costs?’” At first, Naomi felt awkward soliciting money directly from her fans, but she realized, “I do this because I love the music, but the reality is I need to make a living.” She says that if the new model is artist-to-fan direct, then “artists have to be comfortable asking their fans for money”. She tentatively put out a notice on her site asking for donations. Within two weeks, she had raised $5,000 (around Rs3.85 lakh)—enough to sponsor the US leg of her tour. “The response was completely unexpected and overwhelming. People donated $1 to $500.” This was not the first time the Internet had surprised Naomi. Part of the new generation of American folk singers, along the lines of Damien Rice and ortoPi-

scholars with directors at the production stage itself. At the seminar, the scholars and directors will talk about how they collaborated on adapting Ibsen to a more contemporary context. Professor Frode Helland, who heads the Centre for Ibsen Studies in Oslo, Norway, specializes in the significance of Ibsen’s works in a cross-cultural framework. Helland will be speaking at the seminar and hopes that the exchange will contribute to a better understanding of intercultural encounters and the manner in which cultural goods, such as plays, travel across borders. But he is also cautious about drawing hasty conclusions. “It might be premature to say that Ibsen is universal. Some things translate and work well, but there are always tensions and differences,” he says. Helland, however, adds that since Ibsen wrote about a society undergoing a radical process of modernization—and since we are now in the middle of another such period of transition in the form of globalization—it may not be all that surprising that there is new interest in the dramatist. The Delhi Ibsen Festival will be held from 3-14 December at various venues across Delhi. For invitations and information, contact the Dramatic Art and Design Academy at 9958111319 or log on to

lot, she first rose to prominence thanks to a 2006 “virtual summer tour” in which she uploaded hundreds of videos of her singing songs in her LA apartment on to YouTube. One night, after watching Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, she fell into a disturbed sleep. Next morning, when she awoke, the song Say It’s Possible “just came out fully written”. She posted it online and within weeks, the song went viral. Viewers were covering the song and posting their own versions. It was translated into at least seven languages. Eventually, Gore heard

‘The Fall’ is part edgy, part experimental but mostly the Norah Jones we all know B Y K RISH R AGHAV

························ here Norah Jones’ previous albums were smooth, warm and cuddly—mellow sonic grooves that threw in snaky basslines and spectral pianos over her earnest, laidback croon—The Fall, her latest album after 2007’s Not Too Late, is a more unpredictable ride. The Fall: Its pillow-soft surface hides a Norah Jones, bristling edginess, a refusal to EMI Blue Note Records, merely settle in. The lyrics take a Rs395. darker bent, highlighting the frictions of a wavering relationship. It’s a shift best exemplified by album opener Chasing Pirates, a two-and-a-half-minute single driven by a propulsive bassline and a wavering keyboard line that sounds like it’s breaking through radio noise. My mind’s racing/ From chasing pirates, she sings wistfully. It’s a lovely tune, and a great statement of intent for the rest of the album. The Fall reaches its height with the centrepiece It’s gonna be, a racier track that temporarily shelves the preoccupation with personal crises for broader societal concerns. Organs and drums dominate the 3-minute track, which takes aim at the media, celebrity culture and activist lethargy. If we don’t get a new situation/For our busted nation/We’re lazy, she sings over heavy percussion. In between, The Fall settles into familiar, friendly Norah Jones territory—which is, of course, not a bad thing at all. There’s the lullaby-like December towards the end, leading into country music territory with Tell yer Mama, both instantly likeable 3-minute tracks. Even Though is a straightforward, but beautiful love song, while Young Blood channels the same energy that drives Chasing Pirates. There are several collaborators, from country artist Ryan Adams to Okkervil River’s Will Sheff. Signs of experimental dabbling notwithstanding, there are those who might call The Fall only a tepid attempt, just a wary testing of unfamiliar waters. But when you’ve sold nearly 40 million records around the world, won multiple Grammys, and even starred in an arthouse film with Wong Kar Wai (2007’s My Blueberry Nights)—any attempt to break away from what people expect you to sound like is a welcome one.


Jazzed up: Norah Jones’ The Fall takes her music in new directions.

it and invited Naomi to play at Live Earth, in front of 80,000 people, at Wembley stadium in July 2007. Raymond Thibodeaux, a freelance journalist and, in his words, an “enthusiastic amateur musician”, also found Naomi on YouTube and instantly liked her sound. “She’s not writing for the market, she’s writing songs to express something deep within herself.” Based in Delhi, he felt frustrated by the lack of venues in the Capital offering acoustic music. He decided to start playing cover songs of folk-type music with a friend around the city to In tune: Naomi will have performances in three cities beginning 30 November.

encourage venues to offer a different style of music. Five of the 15 songs were Naomi’s. He emailed her to thank her for giving them music audiences were responding to. She emailed back and said she’d love to come to India to play one day. Thibodeaux wrote back, “That’s not asking for the moon.” Playing her YouTube clips for a variety of clubs and sponsors, he quickly got Levi Strauss, the American Center, Fabindia and Mercy Corps to set up a four-city tour. Blue Frog owner Mahesh Mathai says that when he saw Naomi’s work, he wanted her to play. He booked Naomi before the club started its programming for the year. Naomi knows “it’s not typical music in India”, but a viewer from India recently posted on YouTube asking her if she could come play in the country after her US tour. “It was the fastest turnaround possible,” she says. “I wrote back, ‘Funny you should ask, that’s absolutely what I’m doing.’” Terra Naomi is scheduled to perform in Bangalore, New Delhi and Srinagar. For details, log on to Write to





A vision in colour


Seer: An autochrome from Albert Kahn’s collection. Rabindranath Tagore (above) was a good friend of Kahn’s.

The French festival in India begins with a show of the first­ ever colour photo­ graphs taken here


···························· he enormously wealthy French banker Albert Kahn was a pioneer of sorts who, from the early decades of the last century, devoted himself to the cause of furthering understanding between different cultures and fostering “internationalism”. In pursuance of this worthy goal, starting 1909, he despatched photographers to around 50 countries across the globe to create a photographic record of its people—called Archives of the Planet, the


project continued until 1931, when it had to be called off because Kahn went bankrupt in the stock market crash of 1929. A collection of 72,000 autochromes—the first-ever realistic colour photos taken on films made out of dyed potato starch—is now housed at the Musée Albert-Kahn in Boulogne, near Paris. Among the beneficiaries of Kahn’s vision and largesse is India—his photographers were here in the 1910s and 1920s, taking the earliest colour photographs of the country and her people. Now, almost a century later, Kahn’s autochromes will be on display in Delhi and Mumbai—the show, titled Journeys to India, will kick off Bonjour India, the festival of France that will celebrate French culture in all its variety and newness across 14 Indian cities from now until February. The autochromes are valuable for both historical and aesthetic reasons—“Photographs as well as films taken…at the beginning of the 20th century often show houses, everyday life scenes, craft

occupations, transport which cannot be seen any more. For instance, we could not manage to identify some images taken in Mumbai in 1913-1914 due to the great transformations of the city,” says Sophie Couetoux of the Albert Kahn museum over email. She also points out that the unusual potato-starch composition lends them a “delightful appeal and sweetness that is very different from modern photography”. Naturally, the images have become invaluable for students of 20th century history. Couetoux points out that they have captured, for instance, “the ruins and the devastated landscapes after First World War, and…the traditional festivals in Brittany or funerary rituals in China.” “Kahn devoted all his life to promote understanding among cultures,” says Aruna Adiceam, director, development and strategy department, CulturesFrance, “and to sustain dialogue.” Adiceam—who moved from India to Paris 35 years ago as child with her family—sees the exhibition as an apt beginning for a festival that will

present the multicultural side of France, a society that has welcomed immigrants for many years now and has embraced their traditions and cultures. Bonjour India, then, is about showing the “new face of France” which will give ballet and fashion a miss in favour of hip hop, avant garde circus and acrobatics, and electronica music. Among the festival highlights are Litteratures, a literature festival featuring French writers such as Pascal Bruckner and the graphic novelist David B; Rendez-vous with French cinema, a film festival that will show both new and old films; and If I were King, a comic opera. Adiceam points out how, at a time when cultures and countries were farther apart, Kahn dreamt of bringing them together. “He wanted to show that they could meet,” she says. Bonjour India is another step in that endeavour. The Albert Kahn Collection—Journeys to India will be on display at the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, from 28 November-24 December, and in Mumbai from 7-28 January. For details, log on to


The director of ‘Paa’ on Bachchan, advertising, and parallels with ‘Benjamin Button’

···························· owe Lintas India’s chairman and chief creative officer, R. Balakrishnan, dwells on his film Paa featuring Amitabh Bachchan as a child suffering from progeria, a condition that causes accelerated ageing. “Balki”, who made his directorial debut in 2006 with the film Cheeni Kum, talks about his experience of working on the film, on admen turning into film-makers and on allegations of the film being similar to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Edited excerpts from an interview:


How did you pick the theme for ‘Paa’? I didn’t, actually. I was sitting with Amitabh during some post-production for Cheeni Kum

and Abhishek walked in; he was quite serious while Amitabh was playing the fool. I thought to myself that one day, if I ever made a movie with them I would find a way to make him the son and Abhishek the father. I didn’t have a clue about progeria at that point, then I thought it would be a fictional or fantasy film, but it had to be more real, more human. There was a friend of mine, whose child I remembered had some hormonal problem, and I spoke to him and asked him if he was aware of such a condition. He put me on to a doctor, who told me about accelerated ageing. That’s when I found out about progeria, but this is just the backdrop. The film is about a father and a son and a mother. I wanted to treat it sensitively and the best way to

ournalists often ask me—don’t you think times are a-changing with Indian film music becoming more experimental, more creative, less repetitive and open to using new voices and sounds? There’s this tinge of urgent hope in their voices that they aren’t addressing a dissenting voice. Methinks it is music for advertisements, jingles and commercials that seems to be changing, hopefully for the better. From among the clanging, clashing, fiercely hissing and spitting sounds that are emitted round the clock from the much maligned idiot box that we nevertheless can’t do without are some really lovely sounds that make you sit up and listen. I stopped myself just the other day from muting the volume in a commercial break when I heard this beautiful, slightly childish voice singing a Rajasthani song for a really quirky moochhwali commercial where everyone from babies to sari-clad women seemed to be sporting a pair of twirled moustaches. Uncluttered and fortunately not over-produced, the confident little voice sang on to the accompaniment of only a manjira, or cymbal, and a dholak, stopping all too soon to endorse the trustworthiness of Fevicol adhesives. Rajasthani music has, of course, been an all-time favourite for mixing, blending, appropriation, even plagiarism by musicians and composers working with film music, world music, New Age music, electronic music and what have you. But in most cases, the arrangement is “contemporarized” and souped up to such an extent that it loses its basic flavour and colour. This ad is clever by far in its use of music and in letting the music retain its pristine, unhurried and un-manipulated innocence. Then there is also this other impish little voice that sings Ye duniya badi majedaar (This world is very entertaining) at a crowded railway station, for an American Tourister commercial. The sound and the music for the commercial retain a real-life quality, with the singer’s sharp, slightly shrill voice pitched boldly enough to cut through the cacophony at railway stations and on trains. There’s something truly charming about the familiarity of the sounds that invariably make me smile when I hear the singer’s voice doing a neat cascading trill on the word “majedaar”. Take a look and a listen on YouTube. RAMESH PATHANIA/MINT

Desert song: Rajasthani folk music has inspired many hit ad tunes. But it isn’t just the novelty of hearing these fresh, unfamiliar voices that holds one’s attention. Playback star and composer Sukhwinder Singh’s brilliant rendition of Gulzar sahib’s lyrics and Vishal Bhardwaj’s music for the Bajaj Allianz Jiyo Befikar commercial did for me what a Dhan tan nan from Kaminey couldn’t—it made me sit up and wait eagerly for a repeat telecast, only to hear that quicksilver, quintessentially Sukhwinder Singh harkat, or trill, on the word “haraarat”. To my ear it does seem that music for commercials has a head start over film music when it comes to using new voices and avoiding clichés. The only problem is that since mine is a musician’s ear, I remember the jingle and the music and the voices, but can’t for the life of me remember which product the music was promoting! Thank God for Google and YouTube and search engines. Write to Shubha at


Not the Big B we have known B Y G OURI S HAH


His cut: Balki (above) aims for sensitivity in Paa. do that is to treat it normally and not like a disease. I have exhibited as much sensitivity as I would to any child. How many drafts did you go through before arriving at the final script? I went through two drafts; the first draft was a much lighter film which I discussed with Amitji and he said, “Yeah, we

can do it but are we losing an opportunity to do a Deewar, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Trishul, Kabhi Kabhi, all the emotions rolled into one…are we losing that emotion?” I said, I don’t know all those films… I can only do this kind of film. He said, okay. So, I went home and was getting ready to shoot. But after 10 days, it hit me and I was like,

“Yeah, this is frivolous.” So I read it, had a good laugh, tore it up and wrote a new script, and it wasn’t a combination of Deewar, Muqadaar Ka Sikandar, Trishul, whatever…it was an emotional film. What was the most challenging part of the film? If you saw Amitabh Bachchan, the way we know him, in this film, it wouldn’t work. The challenging part was to remove every part of Amitabh Bachchan. So in this film, he’s destroyed everything that has been so carefully built up... What, to your mind, are some of the strengths that advertising professionals bring to films? It’s wrong to say advertising guys are more professional. Some of the best film-makers have not been ad guys—Yash Chopra is not an advertising guy, neither is Karan Johar or Aamir Khan. But they are better at advertising than most people! (laughs) The thing that advertising teaches you, quite well, is not making a fuss about a lot of things. Enables you to communicate things more crisply than you normally would, because you’re always short of time. It also teaches you to edit better, I think. Most

advertising people have a better sense of edit, because you are used to crunching it within that space of time, and that 7-second ad has to work. A number of critics have drawn a parallel between ‘Paa’ and ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’. Any comments? It’s very simple. When you can get a DVD for Rs200, they must be foolish to think I will make Amitabh Bachchan go through 5 hours of make-up every day and spend Rs20 crore to remake a Rs200 crore film. You would rather put subtitles on Benjamin Button and sell it. Why would anyone spend two years remaking anything? How can you say what the movie is without seeing it, first of all? Some people have told me it resembles Benjamin Button, some people have said Jack, someone told me Blade Runner. And I was like wow, that’s a new one! Why Jack? Because it’s got progeria. Why Benjamin Button? Because it’s got a bald head. Why Blade Runner? Because it’s got a character that’s got a progeria family. I have not discovered progeria. It’s like saying that every film with cancer is Love Story. Paa releases in theatres nationwide on 4 December.




Two ways to eat a duck PHOTOGRAPHS




Inspired by a fine lunch at Delhi’s Punjab Grill, the writer tries to squeeze a 3kg bird into his old oven


he inspiration for this column began with an amiable, enthusiastic man called Zorawar Kalra, who tempted me into trying a tandoori duck at his three-month-old Delhi restaurant, the Punjab Grill (it will open shortly in Mumbai at Palladium in Phoenix Mills). I do not usually make trips to malls in south Delhi. I have never made one at midday to a place I abhor: the Select Citywalk mall, a haven for consumerism and crowds. But the duck was strong incentive. Zorawar’s father is one of India’s kitchen legends: Jiggs Kalra, the man who lent his ideas to many famous restaurants and gave people like me much pleasure with his books and thoughtful takes on Indian food. On Zorawar’s urging, I sat down and waded through a wonderful six- or seven-course tasting menu, including soft galouti kebabs redolent with a bouquet of spices; a flaky, fragrant salmon kebab; and a remarkable guchchi pulao, as in mushroom and rice (except these were no ordinary mushrooms but Kashmiri morels, which cost Rs15,000 per kg in season, stuffed with paneer and khoya and steamed with the rice). But the high point was the tandoori duck, which I earlier watched being cooked in the Punjab Grill’s minuscule, congested but wonderfully

creative kitchen. The duck is just the kind of thing Delhi’s globalized Punjabi loves—exotica with the flavour of home. At Rs1,050 (plus taxes), it is expensive, Zorawar says, but it feeds four people, so I reckon that’s not bad. The duck is marinated partially, cooked gently without charring in a handi (pot) and kept aside for its final 15-minute plunge into the 900 degrees Fahrenheit (480 degrees Celsius) tandoor. I love duck, but the meat can often be tough. The Grill cooks the duck with great finesse, and you can literally pick the meat off the bone. The meal inspired me enough to make my first attempt at a 3kg, home-made duck. I first marinated it with the skin on (see recipe). My battered oven was clearly no tandoor. After some shoving, I squeezed it on to my baking dish, where it sat for the next 4 hours, roasting away at a low-medium oven setting of 3, enough to keep cooking and browning without burning. It needed continuous basting (I alternated its own fat with a cup of leftover marinade mixed with orange juice) and when some ungainly limbs showed signs of extra browning, I hastily slapped some foil on them. The

Sweet tangerine Innovative recipes with orange, our favourite citrus fruit of the season B Y R ACHANA N AKRA

···························· aul Kinny, executive chef, InterContinental Marine Drive, loves using oranges in his cooking. “It has the most versatile flavour,” he says. Add sugar for a sweet and sour taste or paprika to make it spicy and then use it in your starters, main course or dessert. The acid in the fruit juice will help soften meat as well. For Kedar Bobde, executive sous chef, Grand Hyatt, Mumbai, the fruit is a favourite because every part except the seed can be used in cooking. “The zest can be used in cakes, sauces and marinades. The juice and pulp is good for marinades, cocktails and mocktails,” he adds. Kinny prefers the tangerines imported from California. “They’re expensive but the taste is worth the price and now they are easily available at grocery stores,” he says. According to Bobde, the local oranges are not consistent in taste and quality. Kinny’s tip is to look for the big, bright orange


fruit. Smaller oranges are more likely to be sour.

Cumin Fried Chicken Breast Strips with Orange Aioli Tabula Rasa, Saket, New Delhi Serves 2 Ingredients 200g chicken breast 100g orange 20g garlic 10g cumin 1 whole egg 40g refined flour 10ml lemon juice 50g cornflakes 14g parsley Oil for frying Salt and pepper to taste Method Marinate the chicken breast in lemon juice, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. For the batter, beat the egg, add flour and seasoning. Dip the chicken breast in the batter, crumb with corn flakes and deep-fry on medium heat till light brown. Serve hot with orange aioli and orange segments. For the orange aioli Ingredients 1 egg yolk 60ml olive oil 40ml orange juice

Duck’s back: (clockwise from above) Tandoori Duck at Punjab Grill, New Delhi; to prepare the marinade for Duck in Rum and Roasted Spices, roast the spices whole; the taste of the home­made duck improved the next day. result: It didn’t come off the bone like Zorawar’s duck, but it made for a hit Sunday lunch in our little garden. Jiggs was generous enough to share his recipe. If you get past it, do read my humbler version.

Tandoori Duck Serves 4 Preparation time, 4.30 hours Cooking time, up to 20 minutes Ingredients 8 breasts of duck (boned) Desi ghee (clarified butter), for basting The first marination 90ml/6 tbsp red wine or malt vinegar 60ml/N cup orange juice 60g raw papaya paste 3K tsp garlic paste (strained) 1O tsp ginger paste (strained) Salt to taste

The second marination 100g chakka dahi (hung yogurt), whisked 3K tsp garlic paste, strained 1O tsp ginger paste, strained 1 tsp black pepper, freshly roasted and coarsely ground K tsp cumin powder K tsp cinnamon powder N tsp black cardamom powder N tsp clove powder N tsp nutmeg powder A generous pinch of kala namak (black rock salt) Salt to taste

The second marination: Put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well, remove duck from the first marinade, evenly rub with the second marinade and keep in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C). Skewer the duck breasts, without any gaps, and keep a tray underneath to collect the drippings. Roast in a moderately hot tandoor for 7-8 minutes. Then on a charcoal grill, for about the same time. And in the pre-heated oven, for about 10-12 minutes. Remove and hang the skewers to allow the excess moisture to drip off (approx. 3-4 minutes), baste and roast again for 3-4 minutes. Recipe courtesy: Jiggs Kalra

Duck in Rum and Roasted Spices

60-90ml Old Monk (or any other) rum 2 tbsp red wine vinegar Salt to taste Method Roast the spices whole until they crackle and release aromas. Grind the roasted spices and apply to the skin of the duck and under it. Add rum, vinegar and salt. Ensure the marinade is well applied. Let the duck marinate overnight. Pre-heat the oven and place the duck on the baking tray. Roast for 4 hours at least, in low to medium heat. Watch the duck carefully and reduce the heat if there are signs of burning. Alternatively, cover the areas that are browning fast. Remove from the oven when cooked, carve carefully. Leftovers stay well, and the taste, like meat, improves after a day.

Serves 4 Method The first marination: Put vinegar and orange juice in a saucepan and reduce by half over low heat. Remove to a bowl and cool. When cool, add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Evenly rub the duck breasts with this marinade and reserve in the refrigerator for 3 hours.

Ingredients 17 dried red chillies 10 methi (fenugreek) seeds 2 tsp khus khus (poppy seeds) 2 tsp sesame seeds 1 tsp coriander seeds 1K star anise 1 jaiphal (nutmeg) 11 cloves

Write to Samar at This is a column on easy, inventive cooking from a male perspective. Samar Halarnkar writes a blog, Our Daily Bread, at He is the managing editor of the Hindustan Times.


Orange Malpua with Cointreau

10g garlic paste 7g French mustard A few drops of lemon juice Salt and pepper to taste

Kebab Korner, InterContinental Marine Drive, Mumbai Serves 2

Method For the garlic mayonnaise whisk egg yolk with mustard, garlic paste, salt and pepper while adding olive oil in it. Cook orange juice in a pan, reduce it to half, keep aside and let it cool. Add orange reduction to the garlic mayonnaise and then add lemon juice.

Duck Pepper Fry with Orange Appam

Soma, Grand Hyatt, Mumbai

Ingredients 200g refined flour 125g sugar 1 tsp cardamom powder 5ml vanilla essence 20g desi ghee 50ml orange juice 12 orange segments 10ml Cointreau (optional) Salt to taste Citrus kick: The Orange Malpua with Cointreau.

Serves 2 Ingredients 4 tbsp oil K kg duck, boneless (can replace with chicken) 2 onions, medium sized, finely chopped 2 tomatoes, medium sized, chopped K cup coconut, grated 4 tsp black pepper, crushed 1 inch ginger 8 garlic cloves 1 tsp turmeric powder 2 tsp garam masala powder 3 red chillies fried in oil (optional) Coriander leaves and lime for garnish Salt to taste Method Cut the duck into small pieces.

Heat oil and fry the onions, garlic and ginger. When they begin to turn golden brown, add all the spices and coconut and cook for a few minutes more. Add the tomatoes and salt to taste and cook for 5 minutes. Put in the duck pieces and stir so that they are coated with the sauce. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes till the mixture is almost dry. Garnish and serve. For the orange appam Ingredients 225g raw rice 50g urad dal (split black gram) 1 cup coconut milk Oil for shallow frying 1 cup orange juice (simmer and reduce to K cup) 1 tsp grated orange zest Salt to taste

Method Wash and soak the rice and urad dal for 4 hours. Grind to a smooth paste, adding water as required. Add salt and stir well. Cover and keep overnight in a cool place to ferment. Dilute the batter with coconut milk and reduced orange juice, then add grated orange zest. Heat the appam pan and grease it with a little oil. Add one ladleful of the batter, swirl the pan to spread all over, cover and cook over low heat. The edges should be thin and crisp, while the center soft and spongy. Serve with the Duck Pepper Fry.

Method Sieve the refined flour through a fine sieve and add 100g sugar, a pinch of salt, cardamom powder and vanilla essence. Add sufficient water and 25ml orange juice to the batter to get a flowing consistency. Mix thoroughly to ensure there are no lumps. Rest the batter for an hour. Add ghee in a non-stick pan, pour one cup batter and fry both the sides on medium flame. Prepare a syrup with the remaining sugar and orange juice and place the malpuas in the syrup. Heat the Cointreau and flambé the malpua. Garnish with orange segments. Every Monday, catch Cooking With Lounge, a video show with recipes from well­known chefs, at

Lounge 28 November  

Mint's weekend magazine for the 28th of November 2009

Lounge 28 November  

Mint's weekend magazine for the 28th of November 2009