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

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Vol. 4 No. 6

LOUNGE LUXURY

LUXURY LUXURY

THE WEEKEND MAGAZINE

YOUR EASY GUIDE TO

OWNING A VINEYARD Do you dream of setting up and nurturing your own vineyard? Here’s what you need to know

BUSINESS LOUNGE WITH CONDÉ NAST INTERNATIONAL’S NICHOLAS COLERIDGE >Page 8

THE ANTI­DIAMOND ENGAGEMENT

Buck the trend, use one of these anti­establishment engagement rings when you pop the most important question of your life >Page 12

>Page 10

WHEN THE BELL TOLLS After her debut best­seller, Elizabeth Gilbert sketches a densely plotted map of marriage >Page 14

If you have 20 acres of land, the patience to wait for three years and a passion for wine, you can start your own vineyard.

LUXURY CULT

THE GOOD LIFE

RADHA CHADHA

THE SHOPPER’S CHAOS THEORY

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am sitting in a crowded clothing store in Amritsar on an expansive white gaddi that covers almost the entire floor. My shoes are tossed aside in a heap of footwear at the edge. I have an eclectic group of friends with me—Mark Prendergrast (CEO of Tom Ford Asia-Pacific), Pin Leng Lee (former fashion editor of the South China Morning Post) and J. Takemoto (unabashed luxury enthusiast)—who are hungry for some good Indian shopping. We ask for shawls, and the show begins. >Page 4

REPLY TO ALL

SHOBA NARAYAN

THE PERILS OF FAKING IT

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id Ramalinga Raju and Bernie Madoff wear fake Rolex watches? Possibly. Here’s why: The latest research states that wearing fake luxury brands increases the likelihood of acting dishonestly. In one of a series of experiments, three researchers asked 85 females to choose a pair of branded sunglasses from a box. Half the group was told that the shades they had picked were fake while the other half was told that they had chosen authentic Chloé sunglasses. >Page 4

AAKAR PATEL

POP OF THE CHART

The man behind ‘Disco Deewane’ and ‘Made in India’ bares it all in an autobiography >Page 16

DON’T MISS

in today’s edition of

WHEN EMOTION OVERRIDES WORDS

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ow do cultures communicate? Some do it by words alone. When an Indian tells another he is going out to lunch, the statement is accompanied by a gesture bringing hand to mouth. When we want a waiter to refill our glass with water we hold it up while saying the words. Other cultures might also point to the glass, but few do both things together. Our manner is the product of a society recently literate (5% of Indians could read a century ago). >Page 5

MARCHING AGAINST MAOISTS


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SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2010

L13

Insider

LOUNGE HOMES

A paradise for aesthetes

Swapan and Shreya Seth’s penthouse is a melange of cultural influences

PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANAY MANN; STYLED BY RAGINI SINGH/BETTER HOMES

AND

GARDENS

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B Y G EETIKA S ASAN B HANDARI Better Homes and Gardens

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···························· hile most couples who7 are decorating homes grapple with issues of space and design, ad man Swapan Seth and his wife Shreya Seth had a slightly different 1 challenge. “We have a lot of art that needs a lot of space, as well 7 as simple clean lines to showcase it. But it was very important to not make the house look like a museum,” says Shreya. The family has managed to tread that thin line exceedingly well and its duplex 6,500 sq. ft penthouse in Gurgaon, while serving as a platform for contemporary art from around the world, also has the warmth of a well-lived-in home. The family moved to its current penthouse less than six months ago, and Swapan didn’t see it until it was completed. “The whole idea was to give it enough natural light and as much space. I don’t like clutter,” says Shreya. The large bay windows in the drawing room are, therefore, bereft of blinds and the home looks stunning after dusk. The furniture is contemporary and the colour scheme is red, black and white. Many of the lights are from Klove and are

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pieces of art in themselves. As Swapan says, “I go to a lot of houses where the art doesn’t go with the house. For me, art in the house is a lamp, a mirror.” Many installations in the house are site-specific, and the artists come in and decide on the space in conjunction with Shreya. Since Swapan is “obsessive” about art, Shreya tends to accommodate a lot of it, but puts her foot down once in a while. “If I don’t like it, I will not put it up,” she says. While Swapan is responsible for the art you see,

the attention to detail and subtle 6 is13courtesy 14 Shreya. Awkfinish ward corners have been given 12 illusion 15 of16space thanks to the mirrors; geysers and AC ducts have been cleverly encased in wood-panelled lofts; the staircase wall has the trademark Fornasetti wallpaper 6 13 14 which makes quite a statement; the powder room mirror has lines from T.S. 12 15 16 Eliot sandblasted on it; the glass partition overlooking the drawing room has a polka-dot design that was achieved quite by accident and which Shreya loved instantly. The effort to make it classy yet liveable is evident. While their home didn’t always look like this, and “for the most part of our lives we had a contained art collection,” says Swapan, both concede that over time you tend to appreciate different things. Today, the home is an aesthete’s paradise, with their boys, Sirhaan, 11, and Reyhaan, 10, exposed to not only myriad forms of art, but also music and books. While Shreya feels her older son has quite an eye for design and often asks his opinion, Swapan says he never buys a piece without their consent. “It’s all theirs. They’re going to live longer with it.” Write to lounge@livemint.com

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5 room6has a 13 1.4The living black, red and white theme. 10 chandelier 11 is12 The from 15 Klove, New Delhi, and a lot of the furniture is from Proform, New Delhi. 2. Reyhaan wanted a Manchester 4 5 United6 (Man13U) room, but settled for just Man U quilts and is now 10 11 12 15 happy with his green and yellow room. 3. The powder room echoes lines from one of Shreya’s favourite poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot. 4. An installation by Vibha Galhotra in the dining room (on the left) and, on the adjacent wall, a large piece made by using a zillion customized matchboxes, the leitmotif of artist Prajjwal Choudhury. 5. Swapan and Shreya believe in rotating their artworks often. Here, they are in their study­cum­media room, which is painted crimson and showcases the family’s collection of black and white photographs.

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L18 FLAVOURS

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2010 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

SAMUEL ARANDA/GETTY IMAGES

ICON

The end of El Bulli?

Ferran Adrià, who will be taking a break, talks about reinventing his culinary enclave

B Y M ATT G OULDING ···························· or years, Spain’s Ferran Adrià has defied culinary norms with out-of-the-box creations such as freeze-dried foie gras, atomized Martinis and edible hibiscus paper. But he may have pulled off his most surprising trick yet: Adrià announced last month that he would be closing his famed restaurant, El Bulli, in 2012 for two years. Located 100 miles (160.93km) north of Barcelona on the Catalonian coast, El Bulli is widely regarded as the pioneer of the culinary avant-garde movement. Adrià, 47, lays claim to the development of what many call molecular gastronomy. He turns liquids into solids, flavours into foams and generally transforms known ingredients and tastes into the wildly unexpected. A 30-course meal at the three-star Michelin restaurant can cost upwards of $325 (around Rs15,047) per person and includes dishes such as Japanese ice shards with matcha tea powder and sugar or a balloon made from frozen coconut milk. El Bulli receives more than a million requests for its 8,000 reservations annually; all bookings for the year are snatched up in a day in mid-October when reservations start. During an emotional press conference at Madrid Fusion, one of Spain’s biggest culinary gatherings, Adrià announced he would take time off to rethink his approach, but he hopes to reopen El Bulli in 2014—though he was uncertain in what capacity the restaurant would operate. “With a format like the current one, it is impossible to keep creating,” he told reporters. Adrià spoke about his decision to close, how it will affect his high-tech and high-end brand, and the

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changing landscape of today’s culinary world. Edited excerpts: Did the economic crisis affect your decision to close El Bulli? It didn’t affect us at all. In 1992, we built a new kitchen and we risked a lot. That was during a terrible financial crisis for Spain, but we survived just fine. At the economic level, nothing affected us specifically. We had a flight plan before the crisis and that hasn’t changed now. But starting in 2012, we’ll be looking for new ways to support and sustain our brand. I made this decision because I want a better balance in my life. I’ve been very clear that we want to continue to maximize our creativity and share our discoveries with the culinary world in the coming years. We’re going to invest a lot in R&D (research and development) and this R&D will be focused on sustaining and growing our brand however possible. A brand with goals like ours requires a big capital investment and even though the point isn’t to make money, we still need to figure out how we’re going to pay for all of this. What type of funding are you looking for? We’re looking at a variety of revenue streams going forward.

EL BULLI RESTAURANT/GETTY IMAGES

We plan to operate like a foundation, but it will be a highly creative, highly expensive format to support. Right now, El Bulli costs me €300,000 a year to sustain. But it’s never really been a business in the traditional sense; it’s been funded by other resources. I’ve never done this because of money, otherwise I’d have 40 restaurants opened all over the world. I do this because I love it. We’ll get the resources we need one way or another to make this dream viable. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid have sponsors on their jerseys. Why can’t El Bulli? It could be called El Bulli “X” or whatever. It’s possible we’ll attach El Bulli to another brand. Can you still continue to have the same impact on the culinary world that you’ve had with El Bulli closed? We don’t set out to impress and we don’t set out solely for impact. Our goal is to advance the cuisine and share what we do with younger chefs so that the food they make is better than the food we make today. In order to do that, you don’t need to have people eat your food. You can do it through conferences, books, other means. Think about the guy who won the Lucky Strike (Designer) Award, (graphic artist) Stefan Sagmeister. Every

six years, he closes his company to rework his concept. To see what he was doing was really important to see that it’s possible to achieve our goals. How will this decision affect your research going forward? Right now, we only have five people working on creativity and to continue to grow, we’ll need to add to our team. Consider what PepsiCo spends on R&D. It wouldn’t be illogical for PepsiCo to take an American or a Spanish chef and invest in them to develop a project together. Creativity has to be financed. Will you have any trouble being removed from the critical limelight? I don’t need the recognition going forward. When El Bulli, or whatever we call it, reopens, it’s not going to be in the guide circuits. With all respect to the guides, I don’t think it’s in the future for us. It won’t be logical enough for a restaurant guide to actually judge. It may be open on different days, different hours. We’re talking about developing an entirely new restaurant format. So clearly, our relationship with the press will change. I’ll be judged on creativity, on whether I help people better understand food—but not on how good the food is.

Fruity treat: El Bulli’s apple meuniere.

Defying norms: Ferran Adrià in the kitchen of his restaurant. El Bulli is regarded as the pioneer of molecular gastronomy. You talked a lot about your family during the press conference. Did they play a role in your decision? They’ve had a bit of an influence. They want me to be happy, so they wanted to see this change. I’ve worked 15 hours a day for 25 years straight. I want the freedom to be able to pick up and go visit my friend (chef) José Andrés in Washington whenever I want. But I also realize I can’t live without activity, I can’t be sedentary. My family is humble. They live simply. We don’t have Ferraris or yachts. It’s not about extravagance. So we’ll be fine. You also plan to teach courses on the science of cooking at Harvard this fall. What type of material does professor Adrià plan to cover? It’s a dream that Harvard is doing this for gastronomy. We (Adrià, Andrés and other chefs) plan to cover everything that has gotten us to where (we) are today in the kitchen—the relationship between physics and cooking. We plan to put a lot of love into this relationship and I think Harvard will be happy with what we bring to the campus. You still have two years of service in front of you. What do you hope to accomplish in that time? People want to talk about 2014, but what about 2010 and 2011? That’s why I announced this so early. I believe 2010 will be an amazing year, just like 2009 was. Do you think it will be even harder to nail down a reservation in 2011? The reservation system has always bothered me, and that’s something we have to deal with. If we could fit everyone in, we would. If there’s a more democratic way to do it, I’d love to. After 2011, the most important thing is to know how to do this better in 2014. If you have any ideas, I’d love one. Write to wsj@livemint.com


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SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2010

L15

Travel

LOUNGE

PHOTOGRAPHS

KALI SARDA

BY

STEPHEN CUNLIFFE

Shiver down this river B Y S TEPHEN C UNLIFFE ···························· “ducky” is best described as a small, two-man inflatable kayak. “Only have a go in it if you’re thirsty for adventure!” advises trip leader Harendra “Gappu” Rawat. “You need to be happy with the idea of taking a few dips!” Thrill-addict that I am, I opted to trade my place in the relative comfort and safety of a big selfbailing raft for a front seat in the unstable ducky as we prepared to run the mighty Chookha, the biggest of the Kali Sarda’s infamous rapids.

One of India’s best­kept secrets delivers on every level: weather, wilderness and white water

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TRIP PLANNER/KALI SARDA UTTARAKHAND Jhulaghat Almora Bhimtal

Kathgodam

To New Delhi

Pithoragarh Kali Sarda river

Uttar Pradesh

Dehradun UTTARAKHAND

NEPAL

The Kali Sarda river is located in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region. Take the overnight Ranikhet Express from Old Delhi station to Kathgodam (AC III fares: Rs584 one way). At Kathgodam transfer to the service provider’s vehicles for an 8-hour drive via Bhimtal (breakfast stop) and Almora to Pithoragarh, 35km from the usual put-in point at Jhulaghat.

Stay

Eat

Do

Rafting

Aquaterra provides comfortable overnight accommodation at the Hotel Zara Residency in Pithoragarh. Thereafter, guests are accommodated in two-man dome tents on the river. Tasty meals are served as buffets. Showers come in the form of natural springs and small waterfalls! Toilets are rustic, environmentfriendly, dry pit latrines. White-water rafting is the premier attraction of an expedition down the Kali. Day hikes, mahseer fishing, bird watching, wildlife spotting and relaxing on white-sand beaches are valuable add-ons.

The Kali Sarda can be rafted from October to March with Oct/Nov and Feb/Mar offering the best weather. The rapids are biggest during the high water month of October. However, first-time rafters might prefer a more tranquil low water run during February or March. It makes for a week-long adventure that’s as suitable for novices as experienced white-water rafters: The grade 3 rapids are exciting, rather than terrifying. Although swimming ability is not mandatory, it certainly is desirable for anyone wanting to run the bigger rapids on offer. All rafting enthusiasts are supplied on arrival with 3mm neoprene wetsuits, splash jackets, life jackets and helmets. The use of this state-of-the-art safety equipment is compulsory. In addition to personal items and toiletries, bring rafting sandals, a sleeping bag, towel and flashlight, as well as a hat, sunglasses and sun block. Recommended operators: Aquaterra Adventures (www.aquaterra.in) and Himalayan River Runners (www.hrrindia.com). Aquaterra has fixed-departure Kali trips scheduled for 19-27 February and 29 October-6 November. AHMED RAZA KHAN/MINT

Wet games: White­water kayaking is both dangerous and thrilling.

“This is a very, very good rapid,” began Aquaterra guide “Little Sanjay” Rana. I was bubbling over with excitement until he added, “Are you ready for some swimming?” I wasn’t sure if I had heard him correctly, but as the noise of angry white water grew louder, I began wondering what I had got myself into. “Are we going into that?” I asked in disbelief. “Are you serious!” Adrenalin thumping, we entered the ferocious mayhem of the rapid, steering around some nasty-looking holes. Rana was the consummate professional, focused and determined. His commands came in quick succession: “Hard forward! Stop! Brace, balance!” I did my best to obey. However, when I saw the size of the curling wave looming ahead, my paddle froze midstroke in shock. “Come on, paddle; hard forward,” yelled Rana as a massive wall of water broadsided our little boat. The power of the Chookha effortlessly flipped our tiny craft and we ended up swimming through the remainder of the rapid. I emerged spluttering from the white water just in time to see a huge smile spread across Rana’s face. He burst out laughing and threw me a high five as we pulled ourselves back into the ducky. “Very, very good swimming in the angry Chookha!” he announced with a big grin. Even the guides have fun on the Kali. An expedition down the Kali Sarda could seem straight out of The Jungle Book: perfect weather, relatively warm water, pristine wilderness, no roads, plentiful wildlife and big sandy beach campsites criss-crossed by fresh leopard tracks. While I was expecting

Ebb and flow: The Kali Sarda has calm waters for the novice as well as fiery rapids for the expert rafter. a fun-filled week of aquatic adventures, it was the beauty of the wilderness experience that took me completely by surprise. The tone was set soon after we launched our rafts upstream of the uninspiring town of Jhulaghat, deep in the Kumaon. Almost immediately after we set off, the river entered a steep gorge where hundreds of tiny waterfalls cascaded down sheer cliffs covered with a dense foliage of deep green moss, ferns and phoenix palms. The pristine beauty was a stark contrast to the dusty, dirty town we had just left behind. As we stared up, flabbergasted by the rocky overhangs proudly displaying their calcified stalactites, troops of monkeys eyed us warily, while skittish deer lurked in the shadows along the forest edge. Canadian raft guide Kim Hartlin eventually broke the silence. “This river has some decent white water over the days ahead, but the wilderness setting adds a whole different dimension to the trip. The Kali must surely be India’s most underrated river.” In its upper reaches, the Kali forms the interna-

tional border between India and Nepal; after its confluence with the Saryu at Pancheshwar, it is known as the Sarda. Our expedition followed a 110km stretch of the r iver as it cu t a sw athe through thick tropical jungle, revealing a remote wilderness area interspersed with the terraced farms of occasional Kumaoni and Nepali villages. Possibly more than any other Indian river, the Kali eases the novice into rafting. In the initial stages of the trip, easy half-days on the river allowed us to familiarize ourselves with the equipment and learn the important paddle commands. Although much of our time was spent drifting in awe of the picturesque surroundings, we also ran a series of smallish, easy-to-negotiate grade 2 rapids. These baby runs provided an inkling of the excitement that lay in store: The Kali’s “big three”—Dimberghat, Chookha and Arjun—have notorious reputations. Ahead of taking them on, our guides recommended we beach our rafts on the Nepali bank and take a short walk to the tiny riverside Dev Tal temple. Far from the nearest road access and not important enough for a resident priest, the rustic shrine is where

we paid our respects and requested safe passage down the Kali Sarda. In retrospect, maybe we should have sought safe passage to Niddle village. On a rest day at the picture-perfect Kheth beach, the more energetic members of our group decided to tackle a steep hike up to the hamlet. It was a long, sweaty climb, two-and-ahalf tiring hours of relentless uphill. But the fruits were sweet: We finally crested the valley rim to be greeted by breathtaking views north towards the snowy Himalayan peaks, punctuated in the foreground by terraced fields and scattered villages, while the Kali snaked far below to the east. The spectacular views persisted into the second half of our Kali descent. But as the frequency and intensity of the rapids escalated, appreciation of our surroundings was temporarily put on hold. Until the mighty Chookha, of course, decided to show us, once and for all, what happens to those who let the scenery take precedence over the river. Write to lounge@livemint.com CHILD­FRIENDLY RATING

If your child is over 12 and has a sense of adventure, a low­key rafting trip would be an ideal way to spend a holiday.


TRAVEL L13

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2010 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM PHOTOGRAPHS

BY

WENDELL RODRICKS

CRUISE CHRONICLE | WENDELL RODRICKS

You need visa power Paradise: (from top) Grenada is still untouched by mass tourism; the highly recommended Laluna hotel; and a drink served at the hotel.

Ahead of a 51­day cruise around South America, the merry­go­round begins at home

Fashion designer Wendell Rodricks will write a cruise column exclusively for Lounge for the next six weeks

LOUNGE SERIES

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ay Gren-a (as in hey)-daa. It is not Gran-aa-daa. That’s in Spain,” I am told by local Grenadians, who are justifiably proud of their “Island of Spice”, an emerald in a pale turquoise Caribbean Sea. Life moves slowly, more naturally here, barely touched by the horrors of mass tourism. At the Laluna hotel in Morne Rouge, recommended by every single luxury travel site and travel connoisseur, the cove is a private paradise. Early one morning, I see my first “moonset” ever. When jet lag drags me out on to the silver sands, there, shining like the final scene in Mamma Mia, is this giant orb, lending a silver touch to the waters before it slides into the sea. On this island, with its light muscovado beaches and cinnamon-scented fields, it makes perfect sense to sit on the beach, local rum punch in hand, and watch as the sailboats of the annual Grenada Sailing Festival flutter by.

The adventurer can trek to the Grand Etang National Park and see the Seven Sisters Waterfalls in St Andrews. Apart from the delicious Italian at Laluna, sample the culinary delights at Carib Sushi, La Belle Creole, Karma Club, Rhodes Restaurant or Nutmeg Café. Shopaholics will find comfort and more at the Best Little Liquor Store (buy the Clarke’s Court Rum and the local chocolate) and the St George’s Saturday market. Even as I sip the rum punch, I wonder that we are in Grenada at all. It was never part of the plan. For many years now, we’ve had this dream, to see the entire continent of South America in one grand go, on a cruise. On an earlier trip with cruise company Silversea, we heard about a new ship that would do an inaugural 51-day voyage through Barbados, French Guiana, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Cape Horn, the Chilean fjords, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala and end up on the Mexican Riviera in Acapulco. So finally, we did the once-in-alifetime thing and booked two berths on the Silver Spirit. That was the easiest part. A trip as long and as varied as this comes with its own complications. For instance, visas. We could not apply too early since the papers would be valid for six months only. So in December we filled out forms: I had valid US, EU and UK visas in my passport, but as an Indian, I still needed seven more visas—for Brazil,

DETOURS

SALIL TRIPATHI

Point of return Idyllic beaches sand over chapters of war and inhumanity in Kuantan. But the turtles still come

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ere, on the east coast of Malaysia, just beyond the town of Kuantan, it is difficult to tell where the sand ends and the water begins. I am at a white sandy beach called Teluk Cempedak (pronounced Chempadak), which shimmers beneath the moonlight along the South China Sea. Casuarina and pine trees line the coast, their leaves fluttering in the light breeze. Then, as sunlight nudges the horizon, the beach comes to life, as it has for centuries. Between March and September each year, the life you see is of turtles laying eggs. At other times, the bounce, the life, come from the fishing community leaving for their catch each morning. But this idyllic tranquillity has been shattered in the past—by

war, and by its aftermath. In the early 1940s, this region was devastated when the Japanese invaded Malaya. Forty years later, hundreds of Vietnamese turned up in their sampans, seeking a place that would have them, fleeing the Communist state. They could build a semblance of life, before they were flown back to Vietnam, after spending nearly a decade in the country now known as Malaysia. The turtles lay their eggs at Rantau Abang, north of Kuantan. Archaeologists believe that a Khmer city lies buried under the vast Lake Chini, a series of 12 connecting waterways about 60km west of the town. Between June and September, Chini is carpeted in lotus blossoms. There is a cave where you find a reclining Buddha. That’s a good posture to adopt in this part of Malaya—reclining, the better if it is in a hammock. The east coast of Malaysia is called the sleepier coast, which suits the fishing village of Beserah just fine. Nobody is in a hurry in that village, and it

Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Mexico and Barbados. Along the way, we discovered that Barbados has no representative in India. “Ask for a visa in Singapore,” someone suggested. “Get on with the other visas,” I bellowed. Two visas later, we were told, “Barbados is not represented in Asia. You have to call London.” I did. They asked us to courier our passports. But no courier was willing to do this. Besides, our passports were in Delhi, doing the visa rounds. “Call the immigration at Barbados. Maybe they will grant you a visa on arrival.” A week later, I was told, “No visas on arrival, sir. But you can apply and we can give you the visa in three weeks.” Three weeks? We are two weeks away from departure! Meanwhile, Argentina was throwing a fit: “Your ship is going to the Falklands. We don’t recognize that name. Reapply with

‘Islas Malvinas’.” I curse the Falklands War and reapply with newly attested fingerprints and affidavit. Finally, all visas are in the bag—except Barbados, the embarkation point. Five days away from departure. So, we cancel Barbados and land in this paradise called Grenada, the Silver Spirit’s second port of call. Arriving in Mumbai from Goa after an hour-long plane ride, we catch an Etihad flight at 4am, land in Abu Dhabi and, after 4 hours, board the plane for New York. Fourteen hours of pampering later, we touch down at a freezing JFK, New York, and take off again 10 hours later, amid snowfall, for San Juan, Puerto Rico. Just the sound of those words is enough for my heart to sing West Side Story songs—or maybe the sunshine has something to do with it. A delicious Creole lunch at Raices restaurant later (my partner

seems as though they measure their time not in hours, not in days, but in seasons. One warm morning I decided to explore what the tourist office had enthusiastically called a forest reserve near the beach. The officer had a bored look, and he handed me some brochures grumpily. The brochure promised me birds, insects, squirrels and monkeys. I saw none of those, and the forest itself failed to inspire, but there was another inspiring sight, of the water beneath, which was enchanting. As I climbed higher, the scattered rocks along the seashore looked like giant hippopotami lying in water, their thick hides glistening as waves lashed against them.

The British navy suffered one of its most humiliating defeats not far from this beach. During World War II, the Japanese had landed in southern Thailand on 8 December, and raced southward, defeating the British in Kota Bharu, Malaya, heading towards Singapore. To repel them, Britain sent two major warships, Prince of Wales and Repulse. Singapore saw off those ships with much fanfare. But the royal navy was unprepared for aerial attack, and it had no aerial defence of its own. The two ships became proverbial sitting ducks, and the Japanese bombed them, sending them sinking in the South China Sea. British morale suffered a major blow; Singapore was to AFP

Water travellers: Vietnamese refugees came to Malaysia in sampans.

Jerome has a pork chop double the size of his thighs, while I savour a Mahi Mahi fish), we see the sights over our 6-hour transit: Old San Juan, a beautiful Caribbean city within high fortress walls, is a delight. Then to Grenada, where we would board the Silver Spirit, a 2-hour ATR flight away. The ship will be our home for the next 50 days. Our verandah will keep the coast in view all the way. The bathrooms are stocked with Acqua di Parma and Bulgari toiletries. The bar is overflowing with Grey Goose vodka, single malts and Champagne. We unpack and explore the ship: Eleven decks of splendour, with six dining options—including Seishin, a Japanese restaurant, and a sixcourse gourmet experience in the Champagne restaurant—three dance floors and evening entertainment, besides a spa, two fitness studios, a pool, two jacuzzis, a library and an Internet room. It is now time to sip champagne and watch the sunset from our private suite while the valet steams our sherwanis for the Captain’s formal gala. A fitting first night for the next 50 on our cruise of a lifetime. While we dine, the Silver Spirit will sail gracefully towards Port of Spain, where she will berth tomorrow morning. Write to lounge@livemint.com

fall within nine weeks. Beyond the forest, on the other side, was the more secluded beach, Tanjung Pelindung. It means the cape of refuge, and there is a sound reason why it is called that. During the Japanese invasion, villagers from places such as Beserah fled to this secluded spot on the coast to take refuge, hoping they would not get discovered. Decades later, Vietnamese seeking refuge turned up on these beaches. Asia has a peculiar fascination with the tragic and the morbid. There is an ahistoric sense, where businesses appropriate the past, obliterate the meaning, and bet on collective amnesia to create an opportunity to make money. Tragedies get transformed into brand names, into objects of commerce. For example, Beijing has a restaurant which recreates the Mao era of Cultural Revolution, with waiters in Mao-style uniforms, and a dish with chilli called The East is Red, an anthem from those times. A Malaysian textile company used to make casual wear and branded it British India. In Kuantan, a bar at an upscale hotel is called the Sampan. Made out of a converted boat, it is like any other bar, except that it has a poignant story. A sampan is a Chinese houseboat, about 15ft long, in which families can stay. This sampan was the real thing in every sense: It had carried Vietnamese refu-

gees to Malaysia, and the hotel had bought the boat and donated the proceeds to a fund for refugee relief. Once the political situation stabilized in Vietnam, Malaysia decided to send most refugees back, many against their will. That made the story so poignant: The refugees lost everything in Vietnam, came in a boat to Malaysia; their boat was sold, and after some time, they had to return to Vietnam, completing two journeys too many. As I thought of the sad way the wheel turned for them, the sky changed its colour, from being shiny yellow to mellow crimson, the water turning the hue of a generous Bloody Mary. Later that evening, I walked on the beach with some tourists who were staying at my hotel. We saw newly hatched turtles. The turtles were small—some could fit the palm of your hand. They calmed down when you patted them gently. The breeze blew gently; the moon was back. With high tide, the female turtles would surface, coming ashore to lay eggs. Malaysia may have returned the boat people to Vietnam; it still had room for turtles. Write to Salil at detours@livemint.com www.livemint.com Read Salil’s previous Lounge columns at www.livemint.com/detours


L10 COVER

LOUNGE

COVER L11

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2010 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2010 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM PHOTOGRAPHS

BY

HEMANT MISHRA/MINT

Drink your wine and keep it too Investing in wines is the new frontier when it comes to diversifying your portfolio B Y V EENA V ENUGOPAL veena.v@livemint.com

···························· here’s more to wine than bouquet, tears and finish. The real taste of wine, for the adventurous investor, is in the profit it can earn. Though wine funds have been around since the early part of the decade, they are now becoming the flavour of the season for the Indian high net worth investor. Premier Cru Fine Wine Investments, a UK-based wine fund, is entering India soon. “We had some discussions with them about a year ago. They are keen on selling the fund to Indian investors. At that time, the markets were not doing well and wealth managers were reluctant to suggest this as an alternate asset class. But things are beginning to change now,” says Vikram Achanta, founder, Tulleeho. “Awareness about wine is growing tremendously. This is why corporate heads and businessmen who have made their money in other businesses are investing in wine now. And since the value of wines appreciates, wine

T

OENOLOGY

YOUR EASY GUIDE TO

OWNING A VINEYARD B Y P OORNIMA M OHANDAS poornima.m@livemint.com

······························· ome research shows that a glass of wine a day is good for the heart. The stressful process of making it is probably not. Winemaking is a romantic idea —the subject of many romantic films. As India’s professionals turn more intrepid, there is increasing interest in this niche space. But this is where the romance ends, and the hard work begins. “About 20 people, mostly software professionals, come to see me every day,” says B. Krishna, managing director of the Karnataka Wine Board, a body set up to promote the state’s wine industry. “I mostly dissuade them,” says Krishna, who

S

has a doctorate in horticulture, “because it is no easy task”. It takes at least three years after the land has been bought to make wine and over five years to break even in the business. You need at least 20 acres of land and a long-term contract with a winemaker since wine grapes are not good enough to eat. Alternatively, one could invest Rs1-3 crore to set up a winery which can fill some 60,000-75,000 bottles a year. Karnataka, the second largest wine-consuming state in the country, is stepping up production to rival the No. 1 producer and consumer, Maharashtra, says Krishna. Karnataka—home to Grover Vineyards Ltd, the maker of

one of the country’s first wine labels, Cabernet Sauvignon launched in December 1992—slashed licence fees (Rs50,000 per annum) to about a tenth (Rs5,000 per annum) in March 2007 and imposed a duty on out-of-state wines in late 2008. Over the last three years, nine new wineries have come up in state-desginated areas. Nandi Valley in the south, which includes parts of rural and urban Bangalore, Chikballapur and Kolar district, and Krishna Valley in the north, which includes Bijapur, Bagalkot and Belgaum, are popular wine regions. While some of these have started selling their wines through contract-farming arrangements, others are awaiting their first harvest. B.N. Nanjundaiah is one of the

nine new entrepreneurs. A former chief adviser to the managing director of the Bangalore-based liquor company Khoday India Ltd, he decided to start out on his own in 2005. Inspired during his many business trips abroad, Nanjundaiah felt it was time Indians developed a taste for wine over traditional hard liquor. He hired a French wine consultant who identified 100 acres of land in Bijapur in north Karnataka, which he soon leased. With an investment of Rs15 crore, he set up Naka Spurt Pvt. Ltd and built the brands, maya and naka. For the last two-and-a-half years, Nanjundaiah, who has a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, has test-marketed his five wine labels in Bangalore. “I have got an extremely

Do you dream of setting up and nurturing your own vineyard? Here are the basics of how you should go about it good response,” he says. He has sold 5,000 cases, each containing 12 750ml bottles, so far. In April, he hopes to enter the markets of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, targeting sales of 7,000-8,000 cases a month. He believes he will be able to break even in three years. Ask him what makes him tick in a long-gestation business and he replies, “The concept of selling wine and building a brand excites me.” So if you are inspired by Nanjundaiah and have the patience and the money, here are some tips on how to set up a vineyard. The process has been corroborated through conversations with winemakers, industry experts and farmers.

Get the plot

Moisture control

The grape will be determined largely by terroir, a French term for the combination of climate, soil type and topography. It is always better to buy a piece of land suitable for grape cultivation rather than grow on the land you already own. Buy the land only after studying the region’s microclimate—dry, cool climes nurture grapes. Low humidity and rainfall are preferred for healthier crops. Too much rainfall will push up the water content in the berries, diluting their fruity flavour. Valleys are better than plain fields because water will not collect. A valley also has more breeze; aeration is essential for the berry to develop colour. Summer temperatures should not exceed 36 degrees Celsius as a scorching sun can rid the berries of flavour and aromas. Land prices typically depend on factors such as availability, demand, going rate, access to roads, water and electricity.

Check with neighbouring farmers on water availability and quality. Avoid growing grapes where the water is hard. Most vineyards in India depend on borewells to drip-irrigate their vines and taper the irrigation depending on rainfall.

Ground realities Virgin soils are better for grape cultivation as intensive farming leads to fertilizer residue and a polluted ground-water table. Avoid fertile, clayey, black-cotton soil as this would lead to too much yield. For wine grapes, the less the yield, the better the quality of the berry. Well-drained and sandy soil works well for grapes. Apart from the regular Ph and nutrient tests, also check for porosity to see how easily water permeates, and a soil structure test to determine the level of pebbles.

Fruit of labour Most winemakers in India grow well-known French grape varieties such as Shiraz, Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc since they are popular and easier to market. “In 15 acres, plant well-known French varieties. These have been successfully grown in India and are less risky,” recommends Abhay Kewadkar, business head (wines) and chief winemaker, director, Four Seasons Wines Ltd, part of the UB group. In 3-4 acres, he adds, one could experiment with highly-regarded French grapes such as a Chardonnay or a Pinot Noir, which have so far not succeeded in India owing to the higher temperatures here. “If you crack it, the returns are high,” says Kewadkar, who has been instrumental in setting up vineyards for Grover and Four Seasons. In the last 1 acre, he recommends grapes from warmer climes which have not been tried much in India—Carmenere from Chile, Sangiovese from Italy or Tempranillo from Spain. This way, the risks can be minimized and the scope for higher profit remains.

Cover story The canopy system, which can range from a pergola to a trellis, is critical to giving the grape the right

Easy to market: Most winemakers in India cultivate well­known French grape varieties. amount of sunlight. It also affects the vines’ yield, quality and susceptibility to diseases. For Indian conditions, a cordon is most suitable, says G.S. Prakash, principal scientist at the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Horticultural Research. In a cordon arrangement, poles are erected in a straight line, with wires laid horizontally for the vines to climb on. “A horizontal arrangement limits yield, gives plenty of sunlight, enriching the colour of the berries, and makes them less prone to diseases,” says Prakash.

No walk in the park This is, however, just the beginning. Maintaining a vineyard is a continuous process. Multiple books have been written on the viticulture practices to follow. In short, these include: Prune branches twice a year (October-November, March-April) to limit the yield, drip-irrigate adjusting to the rainfall received, plow the land to aerate the soil and watch out for pests. Grapes are typically harvested in March-April; the berries take 135-150 days to ripen from the last prune. If you get all this right, celebrate with a glass of bubbly. If you intend to make your own wine, that’s another story altogether.

funds become an area of diversification for your personal portfolio,” says Kapil Grover, director, Grover Vineyards. Gautam Shah, a Mumbai-based private equity investor, first started investing in wines when he was working as an investment banker in London in 2002. “Those were the heady days of investment banking and dinners with clients and colleagues meant drinking good wines. I developed an interest in wine and started buying wine as an investor. But it was difficult to sustain as there were a lot of concerns about storage, etc. That’s when I started investing in wine funds,” he says. The growth of Indian investments in wine and the investment potential of these funds are symbiotic. Wine funds work on the simple theory of demand and supply economics. As Indians (and Chinese) become richer, the demand for fine wine increases. The limited supply of vintage and fine wines ensures that this new demand drives up prices. So investing in a good wine fund today could yield you the money to drink a better wine tomorrow.

Twirl A wine fund works a lot like mutual funds. The fund collects money from investors and uses it to buy wines. The portfolio is constructed based on the investment tenet of the fund, so some funds have more vintage wines while others may have more wines from certain regions—such as Bordeaux, Australia or California. To be regarded as a good investment, a wine must have an instantly recognizable label or a brand with a long track record of quality, and high to very high prices. It should be stored in a bonded warehouse to maintain its quality. The funds have various base-level criteria for the wine

Good wine: Investment­ grade wine must have an instantly recognizable label or a brand with a long track record of quality.

they buy. Investors use the Parker score on a fine wine before buying, a classification scale of up to 100 that was devised by US journalist Robert Parker Jr, an influential wine connoisseur. Most funds invest only in wines that score 90 or above on the Parker scores. UK funds are usually indexed against the London International Vintners Exchange (Liv-ex). The Liv-ex 100 represents the price movement of 100 of the most sought-after fine wines for which there is a strong secondary market. The value of the index is calculated monthly. The majority of the index consists of Bordeaux wines—a reflection of the overall market—although wines from Burgundy, the Rhone, Champagne and Italy are also included.

Smell The year 2008 was a black hole for most investments and wine funds were no different. “I earned really good returns in my first two years (2006 and 2007) as a wine investor,” Shah says. “But 2008 was a test of faith. One fund lost over 30%. Luckily for me (in retrospect), it had a lock-in period and I could not sell. The fund is back comfortably in the green in 2009.” Liv-ex 100 is up 14% from the start of this year and it has clocked yearly gains of 9.5%. All wine funds are based abroad. But you can invest using the Reserve Bank of India’s liberalized overseas norms, now capped at $200,000 (around Rs94 lakh) a year. The profits you earn from this investment, when you redeem these funds, can also be brought back to India. Watch out for tax implications though. If your fund is not based in a country with which India has a double taxation treaty, you would be liable to pay taxes in both places.

Spit Before you invest, do remember that wine funds are largely unregulated and the risks of unscrupulous fund houses disappearing with your money is high. Do your research carefully and pick a fund with a long track record. Your knowledge of wines is not a criterion. “Investors’ knowledge and passion for the product has in the past proved to be unhelpful as they tend to take too much of a personal interest in the choice. The reason our structure works is because we are dispassionate about the wine itself and choose wines which have the financial potential and the risk element (low, medium or high) that suits the investors’ needs,” says Stacey Golding, investments director, Premier Cru Fine Wine Investments. “Don’t get me wrong, we are passionate about wine, but we are careful not to become personally influenced by our tastes.” Wine investment is only for those who already have a reasonably large portfolio invested in traditional avenues such as equity, debt, real estate and gold. Wine funds are a satellite investment and should not exceed 2-5% of your portfolio, says Gaurav Mashruwala, a certified financial planner. Go ahead, swill your glass of fine wine; you’ll probably be able to smell your profits too.


L10 COVER

LOUNGE

COVER L11

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2010 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2010 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM PHOTOGRAPHS

BY

HEMANT MISHRA/MINT

Drink your wine and keep it too Investing in wines is the new frontier when it comes to diversifying your portfolio B Y V EENA V ENUGOPAL veena.v@livemint.com

···························· here’s more to wine than bouquet, tears and finish. The real taste of wine, for the adventurous investor, is in the profit it can earn. Though wine funds have been around since the early part of the decade, they are now becoming the flavour of the season for the Indian high net worth investor. Premier Cru Fine Wine Investments, a UK-based wine fund, is entering India soon. “We had some discussions with them about a year ago. They are keen on selling the fund to Indian investors. At that time, the markets were not doing well and wealth managers were reluctant to suggest this as an alternate asset class. But things are beginning to change now,” says Vikram Achanta, founder, Tulleeho. “Awareness about wine is growing tremendously. This is why corporate heads and businessmen who have made their money in other businesses are investing in wine now. And since the value of wines appreciates, wine

T

OENOLOGY

YOUR EASY GUIDE TO

OWNING A VINEYARD B Y P OORNIMA M OHANDAS poornima.m@livemint.com

······························· ome research shows that a glass of wine a day is good for the heart. The stressful process of making it is probably not. Winemaking is a romantic idea —the subject of many romantic films. As India’s professionals turn more intrepid, there is increasing interest in this niche space. But this is where the romance ends, and the hard work begins. “About 20 people, mostly software professionals, come to see me every day,” says B. Krishna, managing director of the Karnataka Wine Board, a body set up to promote the state’s wine industry. “I mostly dissuade them,” says Krishna, who

S

has a doctorate in horticulture, “because it is no easy task”. It takes at least three years after the land has been bought to make wine and over five years to break even in the business. You need at least 20 acres of land and a long-term contract with a winemaker since wine grapes are not good enough to eat. Alternatively, one could invest Rs1-3 crore to set up a winery which can fill some 60,000-75,000 bottles a year. Karnataka, the second largest wine-consuming state in the country, is stepping up production to rival the No. 1 producer and consumer, Maharashtra, says Krishna. Karnataka—home to Grover Vineyards Ltd, the maker of

one of the country’s first wine labels, Cabernet Sauvignon launched in December 1992—slashed licence fees (Rs50,000 per annum) to about a tenth (Rs5,000 per annum) in March 2007 and imposed a duty on out-of-state wines in late 2008. Over the last three years, nine new wineries have come up in state-desginated areas. Nandi Valley in the south, which includes parts of rural and urban Bangalore, Chikballapur and Kolar district, and Krishna Valley in the north, which includes Bijapur, Bagalkot and Belgaum, are popular wine regions. While some of these have started selling their wines through contract-farming arrangements, others are awaiting their first harvest. B.N. Nanjundaiah is one of the

nine new entrepreneurs. A former chief adviser to the managing director of the Bangalore-based liquor company Khoday India Ltd, he decided to start out on his own in 2005. Inspired during his many business trips abroad, Nanjundaiah felt it was time Indians developed a taste for wine over traditional hard liquor. He hired a French wine consultant who identified 100 acres of land in Bijapur in north Karnataka, which he soon leased. With an investment of Rs15 crore, he set up Naka Spurt Pvt. Ltd and built the brands, maya and naka. For the last two-and-a-half years, Nanjundaiah, who has a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, has test-marketed his five wine labels in Bangalore. “I have got an extremely

Do you dream of setting up and nurturing your own vineyard? Here are the basics of how you should go about it good response,” he says. He has sold 5,000 cases, each containing 12 750ml bottles, so far. In April, he hopes to enter the markets of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, targeting sales of 7,000-8,000 cases a month. He believes he will be able to break even in three years. Ask him what makes him tick in a long-gestation business and he replies, “The concept of selling wine and building a brand excites me.” So if you are inspired by Nanjundaiah and have the patience and the money, here are some tips on how to set up a vineyard. The process has been corroborated through conversations with winemakers, industry experts and farmers.

Get the plot

Moisture control

The grape will be determined largely by terroir, a French term for the combination of climate, soil type and topography. It is always better to buy a piece of land suitable for grape cultivation rather than grow on the land you already own. Buy the land only after studying the region’s microclimate—dry, cool climes nurture grapes. Low humidity and rainfall are preferred for healthier crops. Too much rainfall will push up the water content in the berries, diluting their fruity flavour. Valleys are better than plain fields because water will not collect. A valley also has more breeze; aeration is essential for the berry to develop colour. Summer temperatures should not exceed 36 degrees Celsius as a scorching sun can rid the berries of flavour and aromas. Land prices typically depend on factors such as availability, demand, going rate, access to roads, water and electricity.

Check with neighbouring farmers on water availability and quality. Avoid growing grapes where the water is hard. Most vineyards in India depend on borewells to drip-irrigate their vines and taper the irrigation depending on rainfall.

Ground realities Virgin soils are better for grape cultivation as intensive farming leads to fertilizer residue and a polluted ground-water table. Avoid fertile, clayey, black-cotton soil as this would lead to too much yield. For wine grapes, the less the yield, the better the quality of the berry. Well-drained and sandy soil works well for grapes. Apart from the regular Ph and nutrient tests, also check for porosity to see how easily water permeates, and a soil structure test to determine the level of pebbles.

Fruit of labour Most winemakers in India grow well-known French grape varieties such as Shiraz, Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc since they are popular and easier to market. “In 15 acres, plant well-known French varieties. These have been successfully grown in India and are less risky,” recommends Abhay Kewadkar, business head (wines) and chief winemaker, director, Four Seasons Wines Ltd, part of the UB group. In 3-4 acres, he adds, one could experiment with highly-regarded French grapes such as a Chardonnay or a Pinot Noir, which have so far not succeeded in India owing to the higher temperatures here. “If you crack it, the returns are high,” says Kewadkar, who has been instrumental in setting up vineyards for Grover and Four Seasons. In the last 1 acre, he recommends grapes from warmer climes which have not been tried much in India—Carmenere from Chile, Sangiovese from Italy or Tempranillo from Spain. This way, the risks can be minimized and the scope for higher profit remains.

Cover story The canopy system, which can range from a pergola to a trellis, is critical to giving the grape the right

Easy to market: Most winemakers in India cultivate well­known French grape varieties. amount of sunlight. It also affects the vines’ yield, quality and susceptibility to diseases. For Indian conditions, a cordon is most suitable, says G.S. Prakash, principal scientist at the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Horticultural Research. In a cordon arrangement, poles are erected in a straight line, with wires laid horizontally for the vines to climb on. “A horizontal arrangement limits yield, gives plenty of sunlight, enriching the colour of the berries, and makes them less prone to diseases,” says Prakash.

No walk in the park This is, however, just the beginning. Maintaining a vineyard is a continuous process. Multiple books have been written on the viticulture practices to follow. In short, these include: Prune branches twice a year (October-November, March-April) to limit the yield, drip-irrigate adjusting to the rainfall received, plow the land to aerate the soil and watch out for pests. Grapes are typically harvested in March-April; the berries take 135-150 days to ripen from the last prune. If you get all this right, celebrate with a glass of bubbly. If you intend to make your own wine, that’s another story altogether.

funds become an area of diversification for your personal portfolio,” says Kapil Grover, director, Grover Vineyards. Gautam Shah, a Mumbai-based private equity investor, first started investing in wines when he was working as an investment banker in London in 2002. “Those were the heady days of investment banking and dinners with clients and colleagues meant drinking good wines. I developed an interest in wine and started buying wine as an investor. But it was difficult to sustain as there were a lot of concerns about storage, etc. That’s when I started investing in wine funds,” he says. The growth of Indian investments in wine and the investment potential of these funds are symbiotic. Wine funds work on the simple theory of demand and supply economics. As Indians (and Chinese) become richer, the demand for fine wine increases. The limited supply of vintage and fine wines ensures that this new demand drives up prices. So investing in a good wine fund today could yield you the money to drink a better wine tomorrow.

Twirl A wine fund works a lot like mutual funds. The fund collects money from investors and uses it to buy wines. The portfolio is constructed based on the investment tenet of the fund, so some funds have more vintage wines while others may have more wines from certain regions—such as Bordeaux, Australia or California. To be regarded as a good investment, a wine must have an instantly recognizable label or a brand with a long track record of quality, and high to very high prices. It should be stored in a bonded warehouse to maintain its quality. The funds have various base-level criteria for the wine

Good wine: Investment­ grade wine must have an instantly recognizable label or a brand with a long track record of quality.

they buy. Investors use the Parker score on a fine wine before buying, a classification scale of up to 100 that was devised by US journalist Robert Parker Jr, an influential wine connoisseur. Most funds invest only in wines that score 90 or above on the Parker scores. UK funds are usually indexed against the London International Vintners Exchange (Liv-ex). The Liv-ex 100 represents the price movement of 100 of the most sought-after fine wines for which there is a strong secondary market. The value of the index is calculated monthly. The majority of the index consists of Bordeaux wines—a reflection of the overall market—although wines from Burgundy, the Rhone, Champagne and Italy are also included.

Smell The year 2008 was a black hole for most investments and wine funds were no different. “I earned really good returns in my first two years (2006 and 2007) as a wine investor,” Shah says. “But 2008 was a test of faith. One fund lost over 30%. Luckily for me (in retrospect), it had a lock-in period and I could not sell. The fund is back comfortably in the green in 2009.” Liv-ex 100 is up 14% from the start of this year and it has clocked yearly gains of 9.5%. All wine funds are based abroad. But you can invest using the Reserve Bank of India’s liberalized overseas norms, now capped at $200,000 (around Rs94 lakh) a year. The profits you earn from this investment, when you redeem these funds, can also be brought back to India. Watch out for tax implications though. If your fund is not based in a country with which India has a double taxation treaty, you would be liable to pay taxes in both places.

Spit Before you invest, do remember that wine funds are largely unregulated and the risks of unscrupulous fund houses disappearing with your money is high. Do your research carefully and pick a fund with a long track record. Your knowledge of wines is not a criterion. “Investors’ knowledge and passion for the product has in the past proved to be unhelpful as they tend to take too much of a personal interest in the choice. The reason our structure works is because we are dispassionate about the wine itself and choose wines which have the financial potential and the risk element (low, medium or high) that suits the investors’ needs,” says Stacey Golding, investments director, Premier Cru Fine Wine Investments. “Don’t get me wrong, we are passionate about wine, but we are careful not to become personally influenced by our tastes.” Wine investment is only for those who already have a reasonably large portfolio invested in traditional avenues such as equity, debt, real estate and gold. Wine funds are a satellite investment and should not exceed 2-5% of your portfolio, says Gaurav Mashruwala, a certified financial planner. Go ahead, swill your glass of fine wine; you’ll probably be able to smell your profits too.


L8

www.livemint.com

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2010

Insider

LOUNGE

GARDENING

Tend to saplings Get children interested in plants, give a has­been garden bistro table a makeover and expand your garden

H

ere are some small gardening techniques your children can pick up and work on. 4 For children of 5-7 years: In a glass jar, get children to put wet cotton balls and throw in a few rajma (kidney bean) or white chana (gram) on it. Keep the jar at a windowsill to catch sunlight. In a few days, young seedlings will sprout. 4 For children of 7-9 years: Send them scouting for dry marigold flowers. Separate the petals. Put the seeds in the soil, in a pot. Wet the surface slightly and cover with a newspaper. Within a few days, new plants will sprout. Remove the newspaper and let the plants grow further. 4 For children above 9 years: Cut off a stem from a rose plant and remove the top. Plant this into semi-wet soil to get a new plant. Colourful plants such as coleus will also make for interesting lessons in multiplying greens. In a pot of sand, place multiple cuttings and leave it in the shade. Water it every second day and watch the cuttings grow. 4 Make older children into green citizens: Ask them to hunt under neem or peepul trees for

Flower power: (above) Hollyhock plants can grow up to 8ft; easy­to­ grow plants such as daisies and sunflowers are ideal for beginners. new plantings. These can then be dug out gently with their roots and transplanted in a new spot.

All content on this page courtesy

Lori Nudo with Aruna Ludra/ Better Homes and Gardens Write to lounge@livemint.com

No­rot iron

Vertical growth W

hen Sangeeta Relan moved from Delhi to Gurgaon, she could not bear to leave her plants behind. But her new house could take only that much. Determined to fit in as many as possible, she decided to expand her outdoors vertically rather than horizontally. Trips made to roadside markets threw up enough options. Relan picked up outdoor tiles in white to offset the brown wall, had them silicone-coated to withstand dirt stains and pasted them up as shelves. The wall now proudly holds her pretty greens. Relan has more plans. “I will add pots of flowering plants to add to the vibrancy of my outdoors space,” she says. Ankita A. Talwar/Better Homes and Gardens CHANDAN AHUJA/BETTER HOMES

Before

M

After

ake a rusty old bistro table look new again with a little paint (and some sweat equity). After removing the rust with a wire brush, apply a rust-inhibiting primer. When it’s dry, apply a top coat; semi-gloss oil-base paint was used here. Have a piece of quarterinch tempered glass cut to fit the top; purchase clips to hold the glass in place. Dress up your chairs with cushions made from no-fuss material. PHOTOGRAPHS BY GREG SCHEIDEMANN; STYLED BY PAMELA S PORTER

AND

GARDENS


L12

www.livemint.com

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2010

Travel

LOUNGE PHOTOGRAPHS

BY

FARSHID AHRESTANI

MARRAKESH

Souk for the soul In one of the world’s oldest marketplaces, the sights, sounds and smells are priceless

BY S A V I T A I Y E R ···························· here’s no denying it. In Marrakesh, they love Indians. Everywhere I go, people call out to me: “Indienne—you are welcome in my country!” “Hindustan Zindabad!” And then, completely arbitrarily, “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham!” “Shah Rukh Khan!” “Amitabh Bachchan!” “We see very few Indians in Marrakesh,” an elderly gentleman I meet in the souk tells me wistfully. “And here in Morocco, we love India.” I tell him that if I shut my eyes for a quick second and then open them again, I can actually believe I am in India. The heat, the crowds, the noise. The sweaty bodies, the narrow lanes, the speeding bicycles and scooters. Even the somehow familiar Arabic pop music blasting from the shops. But then the elderly man and I agree that Marrakesh is also totally unique. Its Grand Souk is one of a kind—in exactly the opposite sense to, say, Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates. This centuries-old labyrinth of lanes, which forms the core of the city’s Old Medina, is the heart and soul of Marrakesh, a cornucopia of sights and sounds and smells I will never see or hear or inhale anywhere else in the world. One lane has carpets in all sizes, shapes and colours. Another has mounds and mounds of silver jewellery. A third carries only babouches, the soft leather shoes favoured by Moroccans. The colours are dazzling—canary yellow, royal blue, silver and aquamarine. They carry over into the leather handbags I find as I turn the corner, an endless array of perfectly finished creations in fuchsia, turquoise and emerald green, finished with the most exquisite trimmings and adornments. “How much?” I ask, for a rust suede satchel with crimson embroidery.

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“500 dirham,” the young man tells me. He starts high, knowing that I will bargain; it’s the done thing here. “300,” I say. “No, 350.” “No,” I stand my ground. “300. Yes, 300. That’s my last price.” “Okay, Yallah, take it for 300 then,” he says good-naturedly. Observing people in the Grand Souk can be as intense an experience as shopping. Old men in hooded djellabas sit outside food stalls sipping cup after cup of sweet mint tea, watching life go by. Berber women with covered heads and tattooed chins sell slabs of spongy lemon cake and almond macaroons from large trays held at their hips. Young girls in jeans walk past, chatting on their cellphones, indistinguishable from young girls almost anywhere in the world but for their colourful headscarves. Housewives in elegant silk kaftans, their eyes lined with kohl and their mouths painted red, haggle over the price of fabric. Young men with beards grill kebabs and bake flat breads.

Dark tribesmen from the Sahara sell djembe drums and, of course, there are the stately Touareg, clad in their signature blue, who sit silently by their wares. In the spice lane, turmeric, paprika and chilli powder are piled high in perfect cones. I admire the rough slabs of kohl, the baskets of rose petals and potpourri of fragrant mountain flowers. I draw in the scents of cumin, dried mint, saffron and fresh henna. I ask about the beauty quotient of black soap and huile d’argan, a natural oil (from the argan tree) from the south of the country that Moroccans swear by. “What’s this for?” I ask, pointing at a piece of jagged black rock. “Pour chasser le gris-gris—to chase away the blues,” the Berber vendor says. He beckons me into his cramped stall and opens an old tin box. It’s full of scorpions itching to emerge. I recoil instantly, but the vendor urges me not to be afraid. “Buy one,” he insists. “Set it on fire with the black rock and

TRIP PLANNER/MARRAKESH AFRICA

To El Jadida

Rabat

MOROCCO Nor th Atl anti c O cean

Marrakesh

To Casablanca and Rabat

MARRAKESH Medina Airport

ALGERIA

Apply for a visa at the embassy of Morocco in New Delhi (www.moroccoembassyin.org). Single-entry visas cost Rs1,450. Fly Emirates to Casablanca and catch a connecting flight on Royal Air Maroc to Marrakesh for Rs53,000 from New Delhi or Mumbai.

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you will feel better about life.” It is easy to get waylaid in the souk and it’s easy to get lost. I round a corner and find myself in the middle of a noisy crowd of men selling snakeskins. Around another and I stumble in on a Berber auction. A throng of women, some with only their eyes visible, sit in concentric circles around men holding up carpets. There is a sweaty intensity and purpose to the raised, controlled voices that completely overwhelms me. “Madame—would you like to see the Berber tanneries?” someone behind me asks. Visitors to Marrakesh are always cautioned against accepting such offers, but I am so eager to get out of the crowd, I’ll follow anyone. The young man leads me out of the cool confines of the souk into the afternoon. The Marrakesh sun is baking hot, but the city, with its low rust-red buildings, is sublime. This colour is de rigueur in Marrakesh, my guide says, even in the newer parts of the city. And then the stench from the Berber tanneries overpowers me. “Here,” says Hassan, who has worked there since he was a boy. “A natural mask for you.” I stuff my nose into a bunch of fresh mint and look out upon a vast expanse of camel, goat and cow skins stretched out in the sun, listening as Hassan explains how

they will eventually end up looking like the handbags and jackets I saw in the souk. My guide takes me on a circuitous route back to the centre of the Old Medina via the tombs of the Saadien kings who made Marrakesh their capital, and the Bahia Palace, which apparently belonged to the favourite slave of Morocco’s beloved King Mohammed V. When the slave died, the palace was ransacked, its treasures looted and pillaged. “Shall I show you how to get to the Place Djemaa el Fna?” my guide wants to know. This time, I say no, I can find it myself. Indeed, there is no way I can miss the centuries-old central square of Marrakesh’s Old Medina: All of Marrakesh, resident and visiting, heads to this United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) World Heritage Site in the late afternoon, the crowds increasing as the skies get darker.

Eat

Marrakesh has its share of good hotels but to really experience the city, staying at a ‘riad’ is a must. These former homes of the city’s top families in Old Medina have now been converted into hotels, with rooms and suites starting at around €180 (around Rs11,340) per night. . Almost every ‘riad’ in Marrakesh has a hammam, or steam bath, offering traditional Moroccan beauty treatments. For an authentic and genuine hammam in the heart of the city, try Hammam Ziani (www.hammamziani.ma). A package deal, complete with an hour-long scrub and massage, goes for around €40. Or head to the higher-end Les Bains de Marrakech (www.lesbainsdemarrakech.com), where a simple massage starts at double that price. While most restaurants in Marrakesh offer the city’s signature dish, the Tanjia (tagine), it is best experienced in the heart of Old Medina, at simple eateries such as those located opposite the olive stalls in Souk Ableuh, a small square just off the Djemaa el Fna. Tanjia is the urn in which the meat of one’s choice lamb or beef—ordered a day ahead—is cooked slowly for hours in the furnace that stokes the local hammam.

Arabian delights: (top) A lane dedicated to carpets in the Grand Souk; and a spice vendor near Bahia Palace. Food vendors stoke their fires. Juice sellers squeeze oranges and grapefruit. Handcarts on the outskirts of the square threaten to spill their load of almonds, figs, pistachios and olives. Further along, a group of musicians from Mali are entranced by their own drumbeats and several gnarled old men try to convince tourists to sample a bowl of fresh snails. Acrobats and jugglers perform their acts, actors and storytellers narrate their skits. Snake charmers playfully attempt to curl a python around a passer-by. The sounds of drums and flutes combine in the smoky air as the evening breeze lightens the afternoon heat. The muezzin calls out from the mosque, but only a few faithful heed his summons. The rest, such as me, are too deeply caught up in the action. On my way out of Djemaa el Fna, I hear someone call out: “Hey, Kajol!” I turn. “Me?” “Yes,” he smiles. “You. Come, khaana taiyar hai (the food is ready).” “Oh no, I can’t eat a single thing more,” I reply with a smile. “Okay,” he says. “But remember for next time, stall number ek sau chauda.” “Sure,” I say. And I mean it. Write to lounge@livemint.com

Beyond Marrakesh: A first-class train ticket to Casablanca, 3 hours away, is only €12. This city by the sea is now known mainly for the magnificent Hassan II mosque, but its many street-side cafes and art deco buildings are reminders of its elegant past and Morocco’s long-standing relationship with France. The town of Taroudant, which Moroccans fondly call Le Petit Marrakech, is about 3 hours’ drive from Marrakesh, through the majestic Atlas Mountains and past Berber villages. Anyone going to Taroudant must eat at Riad Maryam (www.riad-maryam.com). GRAPHIC

BY

AHMED RAZA KHAN/MINT

CHILD­FRIENDLY RATING

Beat it: Musicians from Mali playing in Djemaa el Fna.

For children, Marrakesh is a treat for all the senses.


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Bright palette: (clockwise from left) Tinu Verghis loves colour, which explains her choice of vibrant hues for her home; she likes beaded curtains and picks them up from Mumbai, Thailand and Vietnam; the bedroom includes an open bathroom behind the frosted tile partition and the clay tiles on the floor have been sourced from Kerala; the pushcart is Verghis’ DJ console; and the kitchen is the couple’s hangout zone.

HOMES

Hippie chic Model Tinu Verghis’ Portuguese­style Goa home is colonial, yet avant­garde

B Y G EETIKA S ASAN B HANDARI Better Homes and Gardens

···························· oa means different things to different people, but to all stressed urbanites in India, it is just one thing: a dreamy escape. There’s a charm, a vibe that’s difficult to replicate. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Goa was the last European bastion in India. In supermodel and professional DJ Tinu Verghis’ colonial home in Tiswadi, everything that the state represents comes together in one beautiful picture-perfect moment. At the centre of the 1-acre property stands a canary-yellow Portuguese-style home that’s an amalgam of all the influences that have shaped it—its Portuguese origins, Goa’s lethargic, no-fuss feel, Verghis’ childhood in Kerala, and partner Quentin Staes-Polet’s aristocratic Belgian roots. At one end is the swimming pool that’s surrounded by nothing—except the

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clear blue sky. Verghis and Staes-Polet bought the home from the original owner Eduardo Correia—they went to see it on the way to the airport because the advert said “no broker”, and they fell in love with it. “There was a vibe about the place that was our vibe,” says Verghis, who worked hard for two years to make “Chill Om”—a typical Goan tiled nameplate embedded at the entrance wall announces the home’s purpose—what it is today. Once you enter, the home is anything but classic. From Japan’s Manga art to cow-dung paintings from Rwanda and pop music posters, it is a fusion of cultural influences from around the globe, ensconced in a bubble of bright, happy colours. “This is bliss and home,” says Verghis, which is why the two take a flight to Goa from Mumbai almost every Friday evening. Interestingly, neither has lived in a flat and the couple rent a floor of a Goan family’s bungalow in Mum-

bai, where they live and work. “I never appreciated it when we lived in houses like this as a child. The high ceiling had to be cleaned... too many doors to be locked, but when you travel you respect home... and I can’t call an apartment home,” says Verghis. Verghis grew up in a house with no plumbing and drew water from a well. She calls her-

self a gardener at heart, and has many fruit trees in the compound. Passion fruit, banana, coconut, chikoo, guava, papaya, it’s all there for the plucking. Plus, Verghis plants four crops in rotation in the adjoining fields with little help, and donates the excess to the church. She has tried to retain as much of the façade as possible while redoing essentials, such as replacing the asbestos roof with terracotta tiles and putting up wooden beams to support the ceiling. She hired a contractor initially, but their ideas clashed—“we are hippies at heart and we like it subtle… these guys try to modify these houses to suit the youth but that’s not our style… we wanted to retain the original feeling”—so she decided to do things herself. She broke open the rooms to allow sunlight in and create space but retained original doors, windows and pillars wherever she could, even getting a mason to create new replicas

of old cement pillars in the sitout. Since skilled labour is a problem in Goa, Verghis went into DIY mode, finding out everything she needed to know about construction. Nothing went waste. Salvaged wood from beams was used in the pump room ceiling, and the 23 monogrammed chairs plus the odd bits of rosewood teak furniture that came with the home were restored, polished and used. For the flooring, she stuck to Jaisalmer, and got traditional hexagonal clay tiles from Kerala (that absorb water) for some of the other rooms. For the outside she opted for cement flooring (red oxide colour is poured into the cement, a Goan technique). She painted all the walls herself. “I want to keep breaking and remaking. I don’t ever want to stop,” she says. On the agenda is a gazebo in the fields, and a guest house on stilts. Staes-Polet, who founded Kreeda, an online video game company, is as involved. “When I

was a child my father bought an old fort in ruins, in the south of France. Every holiday we’d go there and fix something or build something new. I’m an engineer so I have a basic know-how of materials,” he says. Much of the home’s decor is also courtesy him, including a rally cry for peace that adorns their entrance. The couple, who have been together for seven years, appreciate both the hectic pace of Mumbai and the calm of Goa. “The environment is splendid. You’re all stressed and then you just sit out and it’s an instant cool down,” he says. We couldn’t agree more. Write to lounge@livemint.com PHOTOGRAPHS

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MUMBAI MULTIPLEX | PARIZAAD KHAN

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SHRIYA PATIL/MINT

Super ‘hijrotic’ Despite good intentions, a transgender beauty contest is like most others—beauty before the cause

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itu is a Mumbai girl brought up in Goregaon and Mira Road. She was born a man but as an adolescent she realized that being in a man’s body did not make her one. Luckily for Ritu, her south Indian parents were supportive and understanding—they didn’t tell her not to dress like a woman and her mother often helps her pick out which sari to wear. Ritu, who loves dancing, became a bar dancer and was one till the ban on dancers in 2005. Recently, she got the chance she had been waiting for—to walk the ramp. Indian Super Queen, a transgender beauty pageant, was meant to be a way for hijras (eunuchs) to take pride in themselves and show their unity. At first, it smelt like a revolution. For people who had been feared and marginalized for decades, what better way to assert their humanity than by having an in-your-face celebration of their uniqueness? For Ritu (she auditioned for the contest in New Delhi, not Mumbai), it resulted in learning how to walk the ramp properly. “The way we walked earlier wasn’t the right way. It was what we saw on TV. But we were taught to do it right—walk, turn and make eye contact,” she says. The 23-year-old, who lives with her parents and younger sister, has reached the finals of the contest. Even if she doesn’t win, she says she is happy she could go through the training sessions, learn how to answer questions, walk well and make new friends. The pageant has been organized by Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, considered an icon by some of the city’s and country’s eunuchs. Tripathi wants the winner to be her heir of sorts, to unite and represent the community, spread awareness about its problems and be a role model. Auditions have taken place in 10 cities and the finale will be in Mumbai on Sunday, where 16 contestants will try their luck. Ritu will be one of them. Yet, what could have been a meaningful way to raise awareness and cultivate sensitivity hasn’t quite done that. At the Mumbai audition on 24 January to select semi-finalists, Shabana, elegant in a black salwar-kurta, walked out

Runners­up: (from left) Muskaan Bhosale, Nishi Sheikh and Tamanna Sheikh did not make it to the final.

Dancing queens: (clockwise from top left) Contestants getting ready to go on stage; a contestant strikes a pose before the judges; Tripathi, the organizer of the show; the focus was more on the contestants’ moves than their responses in the question­and­ answer round. slowly, with one arm extended. Her eyes were beautifully made-up, but she could not conceal the greenish shadow of stubble on her face. She is part of a Marathi Lavni orchestra and sang for the judges in a beautiful voice. She seemed older than the rest of the girls; almost old-worldly. It was easier to imagine her in an orchestra than on a ramp, though she said she was happy to be there. Neha, a giggly young

contestant, made everyone smile when she joked about the guy whose initials she had tattooed near her heart before he left her. Thirty-year-old Tripathi has worked for years to raise awareness about her people. She was the first transgender to represent Asia Pacific in the United Nations general assembly’s president’s office as a Civil Society Task Force member and runs an NGO, Astitva, to support sexual minorities. She’s

also a celebrity who has been a contestant on game shows such as Dus Ka Dam and Sach Ka Saamna. Tripathi adores the media and the attention it bestows on her. She’s flamboyant, controversial, funny and titillating. A celebrity fighting for a cause is irresistible to news channels and that applies to Tripathi also—she’s an unofficial spokesperson of sorts for the eunuch community. The Mumbai audition started a

couple of hours late, presumably because the organizers were waiting for more contestants than the six who showed up initially—the figure rose to 20 eventually. The judges included Bollywood actor Nauheed Cyrusi; models/actors Vandana Gupta and Archana Gupta; Rohini Ramnathan, a radio jockey on 93.5 Red FM; Yogesh Bharadwaj, director of Border Hindustan Ka, and social worker S. Gauri, who runs Sakhi for Chowky, an NGO. They were an encouraging, boisterous lot; they saw themselves as enthusiastic cheerleaders rather than discerning judges. For half an hour till the contestants came in, Tripathi held court, dressed in a red and gold sari and a halter blouse. She entertained the audience with suggestive jokes and witty repartee. Though Tripathi is earnestly trying to make the pageant a success, she seems wistful at the prospect of giving up her throne. “I should not have had this pageant. I should have just crowned myself and declared myself the winner. I am the queen, I don’t want to give it up,” she says. It was an attempt at humour, but it was telling nonetheless. She walked the ramp to Fashion ka jalwa to show the contestants how it was done. Theatrically twirling, shimmying and blowing kisses, she earned screeches of approval from the judges. Finally, the contestants took the stage. Some of them, such as Tamanna Sheikh, who was picked as one of the three semi-finalists, had been waiting for this opportunity. “My quest to do a ramp show is over,” she told the judges, after a slow, seductive entrance and come-hither looks at the

audience. She was in a short purple tunic with an ornamental maang tikka on her forehead. She and her friend Nazia Sheikh are social workers at Triveni Samaj Vikas Kendra. Nazia was tall and plump with a pretty face and dressed in a demure bridesmaid’s dress. The duo had been “preparing (for the) catwalk and interview” rounds for the past few days. Many of the contestants were beautiful, and like Thailand’s “ladyboys”, it would be difficult at first to identify them as men. Tripathi kept making cameo appearances and sometime during the proceedings, she coined the term “hijrotic”. Most of the contestants were eager, but there were a few who didn’t seem so happy to be there. Some said they had been ordered to take part in the contest; others walked the ramp with indifference or extreme nervousness. Despite Tripathi’s beliefs, the show seemed to be objectifying the very people she was trying to liberate. The question-andanswer round was quick and pointless and the three semi-finalists—Tamanna, Nishi Sheikh and Muskaan Bhosale— were the most flamboyant, but not necessarily the most dedicated to the cause. Ritu is honest about what she will do if she wins. “I’d like to take part in more contests, enter Bollywood or hopefully do something similar,” she says. She doesn’t want to save India from HIV like some others. Ritu just wants hijras to be respected when they walk on the street. “This contest has its pros and cons,” says Ashok Row Kavi, one of India’s most prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists, founder of Humsafar Trust and editor-in-chief, Bombay Dost. “The real problem transgenders face is violence by the police, stigma and discrimination. The question of self-worth is a different one,” says Kavi, who is also the technical officer, sexual minorities, UNAIDS, Delhi. Tripathi has overcome those problems but other hijras have not. “Laxmi feels she’s made it. She’s involved in film and dance, and she has a disposable income,” says Kavi. Kavi and Tripathi are friends, but he is also sensitive to voices from the community who are not in favour of the contest. One of them is Sita Kinnar, president of Kinnar Bharti, an NGO she started in 2009. The most important thing for a hijra, according to her is, “Samaj me rehne ka, na ki make-up karke nautanki karna” (To live in society, not apply make-up and put on a show). She says the contest will only benefit the winner, not thousands of repressed hijras. For Tripathi, her work has just begun if she is still serious about serving her community. What hijras need are workers, not just queen bees. parizaad.k@livemint.com


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accessory Hardware, old coins and zippers; chest warmers, helmets and corsage headpieces. Accessories are not what they used to be B Y P ARIZAAD K HAN parizaad.k@livemint.com

······························· he Ork high commander of Sauron’s army fell in love with a shimmery space alien. Their spawn was discovered in an unlikely home—the air-conditioned tent in which designers had set up their stalls at Lakme Fashion Week (LFW). Ou tl andish r oma nces aside, designer Kanika Saluja’s “Space Age” helmet did look like something Middle Earth forged in partnership with outer space. The black egg-shaped helmet mounted by a pair of headphones covers the neck and part of the chest, extends into shoulder epaulettes with dinosaur-like spiky protuberances and is completely studded with hardware pieces. Saluja, a New York-based designer, sells out of Ikram in Chicago (a boutique owned by Ikram Goldman, US First Lady Michelle Obama’s wardrobe consultant) and Henri Bendel in New York. She says the helmet is more an installation piece than an accessory, though she does admit she received two orders for it after she showcased her six-month-old accessory line at a stall at LFW earlier this month. She’s received a lot more than two orders for her other pieces though. Her brand Anaikka has pieces that can be described as harnesses, collars, neck braces and bibs—not really run-of-the-mill accessories, but edgy eyeball grabbers and surprisingly, all very wearable. This is a new accessories movement; an antithesis of sorts to the craze for logo-covered handbags with six-figure price tags and luxury shoes. Here, simple, everyday or bizarre materials are used to fashion bold, striking accessories. The pieces need not be pretty or even attractive; whimsical, quirky or masculine works just fine. And unlike accessories as we knew them, these pieces don’t just enhance an outfit, they are the outfit. Nitya Arora, who creates chunky neck pieces for her label Valliyan, thinks of her accessories as the focus of the ensemble. “You decide what clothes you’re going to wear around the accessory, not vice versa,” she says. Kolkata-based accessories designer Eina Ahluwalia feels that clothes today look too homogeneous to set people apart. Her textile-based accessories allow her to make a statement that her simple dressing style does not. Suhani Pittie, a Hyderabadbased accessories designer, sees this as a result of Indian women undergoing changes in their traditional roles, and partly as a consequence of the economic slowdown. “Most women are working and are looking to simplify their lifestyle; there’s no time to open lockers and take out precious jewellery. They’re opting for fuss-free gar-

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More bang for your buck: This necklace by Ahluwalia can be dismantled and worn individually as rings, a scarf and a pendant.

ments with clean silhouettes. That way they can pay for one garment and totally transform it with fun accessories,” she says. Model Bhawna Sharma, one of the fashion industry’s most experimental dressers, says she only wears crazy accessories. She sports headgear by designer Little Shilpa when she’s going out: “They’re not just hidden in my wardrobe.” Her current favourite is a brocade headpiece which falls like a corsage on the forehead. “It shows that you’re free minded. I don’t think anyone should take fashion or style too seriously,” she says. Pradeep Hirani, founder of Kimaya, a chain of 15 stores in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Gurgaon and Dubai, says, “Fashion is all about change and renewal.” Which is probably why his brand will now be stocking Saluja’s line. The nuts and bolts on her pieces are a world removed from Kimaya’s usual offerings of crystals, feathers and satin and bling. “Clients are always looking for younger stuff filled with energy,” says Hirani. He plans to stock Anaikka at his Mehrauli store near the Qutub Minar in New Delhi, which is frequented by international travellers, and at the duty-free Kimaya store that will open soon at Terminal 3 at the Capital’s Indira Gandhi International Airport.

New body language A new breed of accessory designers are letting go of earrings, pendants and cuffs, and choosing to highlight body parts that weren’t conventionally covered by accessories. At LFW, Shilpa Chavan’s focus was shoulders, ankles and the head. Her accessories label Little Shilpa had epaulettes featuring brightly coloured, spiky acrylic protrusions or bunches of feathers. The ankles had simple, colourful acrylic cuffs worn over white shoes and stockings. Chavan, a trained milliner, also designed headpieces that were fantasy creations in feathers and acrylic motifs; the finale piece had a city skyline recreated out of acrylic. Ahluwalia’s label Breathing Space showed what she calls “chest warmers”. These are bib necklaces made of felt, a warm fabric. Anaikka featured a Cleopatrastyle collar necklace and hardware-encrusted straps which went around like a harness on the shoulders, while Pittie extended the bib necklace to create a broad U-shaped neckpiece that reached the waist. Saluja feels Indian women are exploring their masculine sides as they grow and evolve. “Our accessories are body pieces, they wrap around the body to make the outfit,” she says.

Fresh blood For the designers, the materials they use are as varied as their

inspirations. Pittie, who has realized that India is “in my DNA”, takes core Indian objects and jazzes them up with contemporary elements. Carved wooden blocks used in block printing, jhumkha earrings, ghunghroos (dancing bells), or thin coins used to make necklaces in south India, are the materials she has used this season, while zippers, cycle chains and hanger pins are used to funk up the Indian elements. Chavan’s materials are even more eccentric. She draws inspiration from everyday life and the street, so it’s not unusual to find stainless steel utensils, plastic dustpans, tea strainers, children’s toys and other household items on her accessories. This season she used feathers and shapes cut out of coloured acrylic sheets. Arora uses “everything from glass, acrylic and fabric to wood and metal. The craziest things I’ve used in a necklace are electrical plugs.” Ahluwalia is trying to elevate India’s indigenous fabrics from the functional to the ornamental. Her latest collection has sheer silk stoles in sunset and oceanic colours, which are strung with silver pendants and shell accents to make attention-grabbing neck pieces. Similarly, gamcha patterns woven in silk with a touch of lycra are also used to thread pendants. Shibori, the Japanese art of dyeing, has been used on tussar bib-style neck pieces. They are adorned with silver embellishments. “I’ve turned it around by using silver only as an accent, instead of the focal point,” says Ahluwalia. Saluja is inspired by industrial architecture, so her pieces have a rough, jagged-edge quality to them. Screws, nuts, bolts, scissors and cross-sections of pipes made of brass and aluminium are all sewn on to a skin-friendly base of silk or leather. Saluja also juxtaposes the fragile with the tough—a lone metal rose will bloom in a jungle of nuts and bolts, portraying something fragile stuck in a harsh environment.

Multitasking Designers are also aware that their clients are looking for something which gives them more value, so creating pieces that can be multitaskers is also a focus. Ahluwalia’s pendants can be slipped off the scarves and worn on chains, or as rings. The scarves also serve as, well, scarves. Last season Pittie put out a collection where earrings could double up as brooches, brooches could become rings, and rings also served as pendants. “If I’m paying Rs3,000 for a ring which I can also wear as a brooch, I’ll be a fan of the brand. So I believe in giving the client value.” Arora had done a collection in which her signature neck pieces can be worn even after being reversed.

WHERE AND HOW MUCH u Anaikka by Kanika Saluja will be available at Zoya, Bandra, Mumbai, and Kimaya and Ensemble stores in Mumbai and New Delhi. Prices range from Rs4,500 to Rs20,000. u Suhani Pittie is available at Bombay Electric, Ensemble, Muse, Aza and Zoya in Mumbai; 85 Lansdowne in Kolkata; Evoluzione and Amethyst in Chennai; Ffolio in Bangalore; and Elahe, Also, Anonym and Suhani Pittie in Hyderabad. Prices range from Rs1,000 to Rs9,000.

Next generation: (clockwise from above) Bhawna Sharma sports a corsage headpiece by Little Shilpa; in Pittie’s latest Lakme Fashion Week collection, zippers were fused with Indian pendants; Saluja’s ‘Space Age’ helmet; and Ahluwalia’s series of tussar necklaces called ‘Chest Warmers’.

u Valliyan by Nitya Arora is available at Aza, Ensemble and Oaktree in Mumbai; Ensemble in New Delhi; and Anonym in Hyderabad. Prices range from Rs1,500 to Rs20,000. u Little Shilpa by Shilpa Chavan is available at National Permit, Morjim, Goa (open from October to April); Anonym in Hyderabad; and at littleshilpa@gmail.com. Prices start from Rs5,000. u Breathing Space by Eina Ahluwalia is available at Ensemble, Melange, Zoya and Samsaara in Mumbai; Ensemble in New Delhi; Araliya in Pune; Anonym in Hyderabad; Amethyst in Chennai; and Weavers Studio in Kolkata. Prices range from Rs1,000 to Rs15,000.


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TREND TRACKER

ascent of the

accessory Hardware, old coins and zippers; chest warmers, helmets and corsage headpieces. Accessories are not what they used to be B Y P ARIZAAD K HAN parizaad.k@livemint.com

······························· he Ork high commander of Sauron’s army fell in love with a shimmery space alien. Their spawn was discovered in an unlikely home—the air-conditioned tent in which designers had set up their stalls at Lakme Fashion Week (LFW). Ou tl andish r oma nces aside, designer Kanika Saluja’s “Space Age” helmet did look like something Middle Earth forged in partnership with outer space. The black egg-shaped helmet mounted by a pair of headphones covers the neck and part of the chest, extends into shoulder epaulettes with dinosaur-like spiky protuberances and is completely studded with hardware pieces. Saluja, a New York-based designer, sells out of Ikram in Chicago (a boutique owned by Ikram Goldman, US First Lady Michelle Obama’s wardrobe consultant) and Henri Bendel in New York. She says the helmet is more an installation piece than an accessory, though she does admit she received two orders for it after she showcased her six-month-old accessory line at a stall at LFW earlier this month. She’s received a lot more than two orders for her other pieces though. Her brand Anaikka has pieces that can be described as harnesses, collars, neck braces and bibs—not really run-of-the-mill accessories, but edgy eyeball grabbers and surprisingly, all very wearable. This is a new accessories movement; an antithesis of sorts to the craze for logo-covered handbags with six-figure price tags and luxury shoes. Here, simple, everyday or bizarre materials are used to fashion bold, striking accessories. The pieces need not be pretty or even attractive; whimsical, quirky or masculine works just fine. And unlike accessories as we knew them, these pieces don’t just enhance an outfit, they are the outfit. Nitya Arora, who creates chunky neck pieces for her label Valliyan, thinks of her accessories as the focus of the ensemble. “You decide what clothes you’re going to wear around the accessory, not vice versa,” she says. Kolkata-based accessories designer Eina Ahluwalia feels that clothes today look too homogeneous to set people apart. Her textile-based accessories allow her to make a statement that her simple dressing style does not. Suhani Pittie, a Hyderabadbased accessories designer, sees this as a result of Indian women undergoing changes in their traditional roles, and partly as a consequence of the economic slowdown. “Most women are working and are looking to simplify their lifestyle; there’s no time to open lockers and take out precious jewellery. They’re opting for fuss-free gar-

T

More bang for your buck: This necklace by Ahluwalia can be dismantled and worn individually as rings, a scarf and a pendant.

ments with clean silhouettes. That way they can pay for one garment and totally transform it with fun accessories,” she says. Model Bhawna Sharma, one of the fashion industry’s most experimental dressers, says she only wears crazy accessories. She sports headgear by designer Little Shilpa when she’s going out: “They’re not just hidden in my wardrobe.” Her current favourite is a brocade headpiece which falls like a corsage on the forehead. “It shows that you’re free minded. I don’t think anyone should take fashion or style too seriously,” she says. Pradeep Hirani, founder of Kimaya, a chain of 15 stores in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Gurgaon and Dubai, says, “Fashion is all about change and renewal.” Which is probably why his brand will now be stocking Saluja’s line. The nuts and bolts on her pieces are a world removed from Kimaya’s usual offerings of crystals, feathers and satin and bling. “Clients are always looking for younger stuff filled with energy,” says Hirani. He plans to stock Anaikka at his Mehrauli store near the Qutub Minar in New Delhi, which is frequented by international travellers, and at the duty-free Kimaya store that will open soon at Terminal 3 at the Capital’s Indira Gandhi International Airport.

New body language A new breed of accessory designers are letting go of earrings, pendants and cuffs, and choosing to highlight body parts that weren’t conventionally covered by accessories. At LFW, Shilpa Chavan’s focus was shoulders, ankles and the head. Her accessories label Little Shilpa had epaulettes featuring brightly coloured, spiky acrylic protrusions or bunches of feathers. The ankles had simple, colourful acrylic cuffs worn over white shoes and stockings. Chavan, a trained milliner, also designed headpieces that were fantasy creations in feathers and acrylic motifs; the finale piece had a city skyline recreated out of acrylic. Ahluwalia’s label Breathing Space showed what she calls “chest warmers”. These are bib necklaces made of felt, a warm fabric. Anaikka featured a Cleopatrastyle collar necklace and hardware-encrusted straps which went around like a harness on the shoulders, while Pittie extended the bib necklace to create a broad U-shaped neckpiece that reached the waist. Saluja feels Indian women are exploring their masculine sides as they grow and evolve. “Our accessories are body pieces, they wrap around the body to make the outfit,” she says.

Fresh blood For the designers, the materials they use are as varied as their

inspirations. Pittie, who has realized that India is “in my DNA”, takes core Indian objects and jazzes them up with contemporary elements. Carved wooden blocks used in block printing, jhumkha earrings, ghunghroos (dancing bells), or thin coins used to make necklaces in south India, are the materials she has used this season, while zippers, cycle chains and hanger pins are used to funk up the Indian elements. Chavan’s materials are even more eccentric. She draws inspiration from everyday life and the street, so it’s not unusual to find stainless steel utensils, plastic dustpans, tea strainers, children’s toys and other household items on her accessories. This season she used feathers and shapes cut out of coloured acrylic sheets. Arora uses “everything from glass, acrylic and fabric to wood and metal. The craziest things I’ve used in a necklace are electrical plugs.” Ahluwalia is trying to elevate India’s indigenous fabrics from the functional to the ornamental. Her latest collection has sheer silk stoles in sunset and oceanic colours, which are strung with silver pendants and shell accents to make attention-grabbing neck pieces. Similarly, gamcha patterns woven in silk with a touch of lycra are also used to thread pendants. Shibori, the Japanese art of dyeing, has been used on tussar bib-style neck pieces. They are adorned with silver embellishments. “I’ve turned it around by using silver only as an accent, instead of the focal point,” says Ahluwalia. Saluja is inspired by industrial architecture, so her pieces have a rough, jagged-edge quality to them. Screws, nuts, bolts, scissors and cross-sections of pipes made of brass and aluminium are all sewn on to a skin-friendly base of silk or leather. Saluja also juxtaposes the fragile with the tough—a lone metal rose will bloom in a jungle of nuts and bolts, portraying something fragile stuck in a harsh environment.

Multitasking Designers are also aware that their clients are looking for something which gives them more value, so creating pieces that can be multitaskers is also a focus. Ahluwalia’s pendants can be slipped off the scarves and worn on chains, or as rings. The scarves also serve as, well, scarves. Last season Pittie put out a collection where earrings could double up as brooches, brooches could become rings, and rings also served as pendants. “If I’m paying Rs3,000 for a ring which I can also wear as a brooch, I’ll be a fan of the brand. So I believe in giving the client value.” Arora had done a collection in which her signature neck pieces can be worn even after being reversed.

WHERE AND HOW MUCH u Anaikka by Kanika Saluja will be available at Zoya, Bandra, Mumbai, and Kimaya and Ensemble stores in Mumbai and New Delhi. Prices range from Rs4,500 to Rs20,000. u Suhani Pittie is available at Bombay Electric, Ensemble, Muse, Aza and Zoya in Mumbai; 85 Lansdowne in Kolkata; Evoluzione and Amethyst in Chennai; Ffolio in Bangalore; and Elahe, Also, Anonym and Suhani Pittie in Hyderabad. Prices range from Rs1,000 to Rs9,000.

Next generation: (clockwise from above) Bhawna Sharma sports a corsage headpiece by Little Shilpa; in Pittie’s latest Lakme Fashion Week collection, zippers were fused with Indian pendants; Saluja’s ‘Space Age’ helmet; and Ahluwalia’s series of tussar necklaces called ‘Chest Warmers’.

u Valliyan by Nitya Arora is available at Aza, Ensemble and Oaktree in Mumbai; Ensemble in New Delhi; and Anonym in Hyderabad. Prices range from Rs1,500 to Rs20,000. u Little Shilpa by Shilpa Chavan is available at National Permit, Morjim, Goa (open from October to April); Anonym in Hyderabad; and at littleshilpa@gmail.com. Prices start from Rs5,000. u Breathing Space by Eina Ahluwalia is available at Ensemble, Melange, Zoya and Samsaara in Mumbai; Ensemble in New Delhi; Araliya in Pune; Anonym in Hyderabad; Amethyst in Chennai; and Weavers Studio in Kolkata. Prices range from Rs1,000 to Rs15,000.


L12

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SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 2010

Travel

LOUNGE JAPAN NATIONAL TOURISM ORGANIZATION

DAVE BESSELING

Zen­ith: (left) Japan’s highest peak Mount Fuji; (above) lounging on Isshiki Beach; and the Oasis Beach Bar in Hayama.

HAYAMA

Transition town PAUL MURRAY

TRIP PLANNER/HAYAMA From Shinagawa station in central Tokyo, take the Yokosuka Line or the Rapid Sobu Line to Zushi; fares around 990 yen (around Rs450). From Zushi, buses are available to various spots on the coast: Go to bus stand 3 for a direct bus to Isshiki Beach; fares around 300 yen. Sea of Ja pa n

Stay

Tokyo

JAPAN Ph ili ppi n e Sea

Shinagawa

TOKYO

A model for sustainable living, this tiny Japanese town redefines hippie for the post­noughties

B Y D AVE B ESSELING ···························· eah? I hate Auckland,” I say to the Aucklander. His Japanese girlfriend eventually has to remove him from the bar’s rooftop patio lest he instigate another punch-up. I can’t believe my words would rile him so, especially here, in one of the more laidback places I’ve ever been to. Most people I know in New Zealand hate Auckland too, that big grey blob hemmed in by paradise. To start a fight with someone you’ve just met, over a comment that most of your countrymen would agree with, is something you’d expect in a place such as, well, Auckland. But this is Hayama, Japan, only an hour and a half from central Tokyo, where surfers can wander out of the waves and have a massage in one of the summer bamboo huts on Isshiki Beach; where some restaurants close shop after selling their day’s food to minimize waste; where, in a particular yakitori bar, the proprietor tells you, as he turns the chicken skewers over the brazier, that aside from being an ordained Buddhist monk, he is also the singer in a reggae band. At one end of the counter, a bunch of incense sticks double up as a

Y

small shrine to a garlanded photo of the Dalai Lama. At the other end, the same treatment is reserved for Bob Marley. In the last several years, Hayama has become a hippie haven for frenetic Tokyoites. I may have been out of line, but this Kiwi fellow was out of character. After he’s been ushered away, I run into an old acquaintance, Yuka Matsuda. The DJ/surfer/singer/naturalist oozes the Hayama creed of environmentalism and slow living. She’s just finished a solo set with her ukulele, the lapping ocean giving quiet applause. Things go well, I think—she doesn’t threaten to punch me. I do feel like punching myself later, however, when I can’t find my host’s house among Hayama’s cracked paths and forested trails. Thankfully, one thing that this green-loving city shares with the rest of Japan is the koban, the police box. After a few minutes, I spot the flashing red light, something I used to see as very “big brother”. But it’s 2am, and I’ve no idea how to find my way back to my futon. A big brother is just what I need. I slide the door open and there’s no one inside, just a desk with a phone on it and some police sketches of local nasties on

Zushi

Hayama

Airport

Do

Hayama has seen numbers of both residents and visitors rise in the last few years, and there are some decent choices for accommodation. There are some traditional Japanese inns (‘ryokan’) around town, but most of the websites are in Japanese. The best thing to do is book through a travel agent in Tokyo: www. no1-travel.com has English-speaking agents and competitive prices. Isshiki Beach is the main summer draw, with surfing, swimming, and a seasonal bamboo complex of bars, bakeries, cafés and a massage centre. Stop by Blue Moon (www.bluemoonhayama.net) in the evening and you may catch some live music. Another seasonal ‘beach house’ is Umigoya, which serves food and drink and organizes various kinds of events. If you know Japanese, visit www.umigoya.net Around the Zushi train station, there are plenty of quirky cafés serving healthy, organic meals. And for dinner, many of the local pubs (‘izakaya’) along the way from Zushi to Hayama serve seafood caught nearby, the hippest of which is Shorintei (www.shorin-tei.com is in Japanese). Hayama is not really a city of landmarks, and though the Japanese royal family has a beach house near Isshiki Beach, which it uses once a year, it’s a private residence. Visitors to Hayama are usually seen strolling casually between the town and beach, or on the hiking trails that traverse the hilly ranges north of the town—especially between April and October, the best time of year to visit. For more on permaculture, visit Mollison’s site www.tagari.com AHMED RAZA KHAN/MINT

the wall. I figure this would probably be a safe place to crash, and then—a revelation: I can use that phone to call up my sleeping friends and tell them I’m lost. I pick up the receiver and a polite, formal voice responds: “Moshi moshi?” “Uh…Ohayo Gozaimasu,” I yammer, “uhhh…watashi wa koban ni…uhhh…” “Good morning. English? You’re in a koban and you would like me to call your friend’s mobile?” Hai. Onegai shimasu …uhh….kanojo no bango de…uhh…” “You can tell me in English, sir.” “Oh? Really? Great.” Five minutes later, the phone rings. “Your friend will be there to get you in 10 minutes.” “Domo arigato.” Some people open a window in the morning. Phil Cashman slides

open the south-facing wall of his house. The smell of his garden meanders into the vast, raisedtatami space. There’s something very appropriate about being in a traditional Japanese house in a place such as Hayama. Phil shows me a book to distract me from the ceiling joists, which—also in traditional Japanese style—have been elaborately joined without any nails. He has taken the nature-loving spirit of Hayama to the extreme. Opening Bill Mollison’s Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual, he says, “This is the book that changed everything.” Just about everything in and around the Cashman house adheres to Mollison’s principles of sustainable living. The kitchen sink has three downward stepping basins for natural water filtration. There is a huge clay furnace to heat the open space with “radiant heat”. Phil’s latest experiment has been

insulating the back wall of his house with mud-covered, used tatami mats. As much as Yuka propagates the Hayama ideal through art and activism, Phil has taken the lifestyle to the pragmatic extreme. I met Phil through a mutual friend Paul, who was, at the time of writing, with Mollison in Melbourne, taking the two-week crash course in permaculture that’s apparently enough for someone to begin living much more sustainably, producing very little waste. Paul, also a hippie at heart from Hayama, now runs a guest house on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, far, far from Auckland. Phil takes me through the open wall and into the garden, to show me how he grows much of his food. You don’t even need soil to have such a lush patch of edible veggies outside your sliding front shoji door. “I drill holes into hay bales,” he says. “It involves piling up a fair load of straw, about 80cm thick, then making little pockets into the top and filling them with a couple of scoops of compost. Pop the seedlings into these lenses, and you’re off!” In running his hacienda off the grid, Phil has to deal with a lot of shit, but he doesn’t have to go far. “This garden is mostly all fertilized by humans, from our composting toilet,” he says. “Glad to help out,” I reply. Hayama’s denizens, so conscious of living in harmony with their surroundings, know how to relax too. Stilted out back is a former sake-fermenting vat, about 70 years old, now used as the bathhouse. A step down on to the Japanese cypress boards and into the tub. I sink in to the ofuro and my eyes spill out over the valley. The sea sparkles in the distance. My ears suck in the silence between birdcalls. I weigh down the ladle with a whoosh and pour the steaming water over my head, watching the beads slide down my arms and listening to them rejoin the surface of the pool. It’s all very Zen—which is all very appropriate on this verdant mountainside in Japan. No one can see me up here, but a sense of unease creeps up just after I’ve begun to relax, when I look for cameras filming an ad for some kind of body wash. But my urban paranoia is soon carried away on a waft of vapour from the tub and out to sea, my thoughts as diaphanous as the clouds streaming towards Mount Fuji. As easily as Tokyo’s intensity is lost here, the scene reminds me of Paul’s outdoor bathtub in New Zealand—another set of islands in another hemisphere, Auckland another metropolis to be chased away by the ocean winds. Write to lounge@livemint.com CHILD­FRIENDLY RATING

Japan as a whole is a child­friendly country, and you’ll find English speakers in Hayama in particular.


L4 COLUMNS

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SHOBA NARAYAN THE GOOD LIFE

The naked and the blessed at Haridwar PHOTOGRAPHS

BY

RAJESH KUMAR SINGH/AP

Saffron surge: Sadhus from across the country and beyond have congregated at the Kumbh Mela, which ends on 28 April.

S

wami Somnath Puri is explaining the secrets of longevity to a motley group sitting around his campfire in Haridwar: French tourists, Israeli backpackers, saffron-clad American yogis, elderly Indian women and the odd slum youth

with dirt-streaked hair. Longevity is all about breath control, says the swami in Hindi. The moment you are born, Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, writes down exactly how many breaths or svaasa you will take in your lifetime. When the count runs out, you die. The trick is to elongate every breath you take so that each inhalation lasts about 2 minutes, and similarly with the exhalation. The swami rises and immediately the group does that looking-without-looking eye roll that men do when confronted with cleavage. Save for the yellow chrysanthemum garland around his neck, Swami Somnath Puri is buck naked, his bobbing organ eliciting furtive but compulsive stares from his rapt audience. He is a Digambar, a Mahanirvani, sans clothes, a stare-magnet. The swami disappears into his tent and reappears with a terracotta cone—about half the size of a normal ice-cream cone. He stuffs it with dried green grass—handmade hashish called charas—stokes the fire, lights the cone and begins sucking from the bottom. This is why we Naga Babas live long, he says from within a cloud of smoke. Our bare bodies aren’t protected from the elements, we don’t sleep, we don’t eat… Yeah, all you do is smoke hashish, mutters someone irreverently from the back of the group. A few people chuckle. The swami chuckles good-humouredly too as he looks up through bloodshot eyes at the group. Come on. Sit down. Have some chai, he invites. The group squeezes itself around the campfire. The charas pipe gets passed around. The French woman with matted hair inhales deeply and appreciatively before passing it on to her companion. The Indian grandmother who was standing with her palms clasped together in a respectful namaste, looks mildly outraged, then disgusted. She walks away, as does the disapproving American yogi. Swami Somnath Puri reaches into the fire and smears some

more ash on his already grey body. He puffs a few more times and settles down to pontificate on truth, war and breath control. Swami Somnath Puri is a Naga—a warrior-saint belonging to the Juna Akhara (clan). He has camped out in Haridwar for the Kumbh Mela, which this year is from 14 January to 28 April. For these three months, Naga saints or Babas, as they are called, come out of their Himalayan caves and tropical jungles to converge in one place. They cease their itinerant wanderings and stay put at sprawling makeshift campsites, talking to visitors, engaging in feats of strength (like pulling a chariot with a penis), and smoking pipes. “Hinduism is a very diverse religion with many paths to God—puja, meditation, yoga, pranayama, pilgrimages, fasts, chanting and satsang,” says Swami Avdheshanand. “The Kumbh is where all this diversity comes together.” Swami Avdheshanand is the Mahamandaleshwar or the head of the Juna Akhara, the largest of the Naga clans that arrive at the Kumbh. His serene face adorns numerous billboards in Haridwar. He has a TV show, speaking engagements, a magazine and a devout army of volunteers, one of whom (an architect) has designed his sprawling leafy Harihar Ashram in the old Kankhal

neighbourhood of Haridwar. Inside, there is an auditorium, temple, meditation and prayer halls, a cafeteria, cottages where visiting followers can stay, a shop selling gemstones and books, and a large courtyard where the swamiji receives visitors every morning at 9.30. The gun-toting policemen spring to action and mutter into their walkie-talkies as soon as the tall, saffron-clad figure emerges from his living quarters. In person, Swami Avdheshanand is smiling and animated, marrying discipline with charm. He is a handsome, youthful man—more Barack Obama than Baba Ramdev who holds court upriver in Rishikesh. Surrounded by a posse of assistants, public relations officers (PROs), schedulers and junior ashramites, the swami cuts an imposing

figure as he strides to the sacred peepul tree on the premises. Amid loud chanting, he waters it, pours milk on its roots, throws flowers, hugs the tree and rests his forehead prayerfully on its trunk before smearing the truck with sandal paste and vermilion powder. The same routine follows for the sacred rudraksh tree (Elaeocarpus ganitrus), the oldest such tree in Uttarakhand, according to volunteers. “When you pray with milk, flowers, water and leaves, your body becomes sensitive to nature and its vibrations,” Swami Avdheshanand says. “How can you harm the earth after praying to it?” A long line of devotees and followers snakes around the central courtyard. Swamiji delves into the crowd like a politician. He holds hands, kisses babies, poses for the camera with families, teases jean-clad young men who seek his blessing and smiles reassuringly at countless supplicant faces that look to him for jobs, babies, promotions, cures, and money. Twenty saffron-clad monks appear. “You people are my wealth, my lifeline, my strength,” the swami exclaims as they fall at his feet. Someone hands him a pair of sunglasses. He puts them on and hams for the camera. Another group of saints arrive, bearing gifts. Flowery language flows. “It is thanks to my past life’s merits that I have been able to see a mahant (religious leader) like you,” exclaims the leader of the delegation. “Arre,” swamiji waves away the praise. “I am just a simple man. You are the great mahant.” He invites the entire group to breakfast. The last in line is a

well-dressed, prosperous-looking woman. “Swamiji, I want to see Shiva,” she says. Swamiji stares at her as he digests the intensity of her desire. Finally, he says: “God is everywhere. God will be with you.” The answer seems to satisfy the woman who smiles gratefully. This then is the business of being a swamiji—the leader of a religious order who wields his influence over millions of followers. At a time when another swami down south—Nithyananda Paramahamsa—has been tainted by a sex scandal, Avdheshanand’s effortless grace is impressive. Across town, a long line of naked Naga Babas make their way to the broad-bosomed Ganga to seek salvation in her depths. Bhikshus arrive bearing begging bowls. Saffron-clad American swamis dole out cash. Tourists click cameras. Gypsy women squat on the street outside Birla House selling chains and rudraksh beads. Visitors breakfast on kachoris, samosas, jalebis or lassi. Holy Haridwar is strutting its stuff and the Kumbh is in full swing. Till 28 April when the campsites get folded up and the Naga Babas disappear into their forests or caves. Shoba Narayan was at the Kumbh. She smoked...but she didn’t inhale. Write to her at thegoodlife@livemint.com www.livemint.com Read Shoba’s previous Lounge columns at www.livemint.com/shoba­narayan


L16

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SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 2010

Culture

LOUNGE

ART

Amrita, in her own words PHOTOGRAPHS

A two­volume set of Amrita Sher­Gil’s letters and art­ works brings to life one of India’s most iconoclastic artists

A Freeze frame: (clockwise from top) Sher­Gil with her paintings, Paris, 1930; seated, Paris, 1932; and with sister Indira (left), Shimla, 1923.

mrita Sher-Gil’s art, as well as her short and colourful life, have ensured her a permanent place in the collective Indian imagination. A twovolume Amrita Sher-Gil: A Self-Portrait in Letters and Writing—lavishly produced and handsomely illustrated—has been put together by her nephew, artist Vivan Sundaram. It consists of 260 letters, mostly personal, that she wrote to family and friends, as well as her few essays on art.

The accompanying photographs of Sher-Gil and her family, reproductions of her paintings, of artworks that inspired her, pages from her diary and of her letters, provide an exhaustive and intimate visual record of one of India’s foremost artists. Excerpted below are Sher-Gil’s views on art from sections of a letter she wrote to her friend, art critic Karl Khandalavala, and from an essay (see Art and Appreciation) by her in The New Outlook, Ahmedabad.

LETTER TO KARL KHANDALAVALA 6 March 1937, New Delhi Dear Karl, You are right as usual; erotic painting and sculpture could not possibly have been inspired by religious fervour. As a matter of fact I think all art, not excluding religious art, has come into being because of sensuality: a sensuality so great that it overflows the boundaries of the mere physical. How can one feel the beauty of a form, the intensity or the subtlety of a

colour, the quality of a line, unless one is a sensualist of the eyes? You ask me to write a few lines about the frescos at Travancore. I would much rather say something about the Cochin frescos, they are infinitely superior. I have ‘discovered’ them in the sense that I don’t think anybody has realised their importance, though of course the people in Cochin know

that there is a palace somewhere built by the Dutch for a Maharajah of Cochin about four hundred years ago which contains obscene paintings. I believe Dr. Cousins has also seen them, but what does he know about painting anyway. I am enclosing some rotten photographs of the Cochin frescos. You will notice the difference in pictorial conception between the one depicting the recumbent figure of Vishnu (a large panel with life-size figures, as painting the best thing there)

and the erotic panels which are curiously Rubenesque to my mind. I wonder if it can be traced back to the Dutch influence (the painting itself must certainly have been done by Indians). What makes me suspect foreign influence, apart from the massive Rubenesque forms of the women in the erotic panels, is the curious fact that they have all got light hair, either white or pale pink (which looks like an interpretation of ginger hair). But the subjects are chosen from Hindu mythology and very

COURTESY

TULIKA PRESS

ART AND APPRECIATION, An essay published in The New Outlook, March 1937 People in our country, when speaking of Art, are apt to think of it in terms of the various ‘Schools’—Bengal, Bombay, Lucknow, etc., rather than in terms of good Art and bad Art. Oscar Wilde once said, “There are no moral and immoral books, only well written and badly written books.” In terms of true Art it matters very little what ‘school’ or age a work of Art belongs to, because just as in all ages there has been a fundamental analogy in the characteristics of good painting and sculpture, so there is similarity linking the inferior Art of the present (this includes both Eastern and Western Art). I have heard it stated that one who is only acquainted with Western Art cannot pass judgement on the quality of a work pertaining to Oriental Art and vice versa. This is a fallacy, for whosoever has artistic sensibility, intuition or knowledge enough to recognise the good in Western Art will, with an infallible instinct, pick out the good in Eastern Art too. It is absurd to say that because one is not acquainted with, let us say, the period it belongs to, whether it is Buddhist, Brahmanical, Jain, Rajput, Mughal or Modern Indian Art, one cannot distinguish the good from the bad specimens in it nevertheless. Yet this is one of the weapons that pedantry uses against artistic intuition. Ironically enough, good Art never appeals at first sight. In fact I will go so far as to say that more often than not it repels. Bad Art, on the other hand, based as it is on cheap effect, appeals immediately to the artistically underdeveloped mind and therein lies its danger. Because though taste, of course, like every other faculty, can be developed, and when trained in the proper direction should qualify everyone to distinguish a bad work of art from a good one and enable people to develop a genuine preference for the latter, it is unfortunately very seldom that people attempt to develop this faculty even to a moderate degree. The appreciation of good Art is limited to the few because it has characteristics that are difficult for the average person to appreciate. It always tends towards Simplification, that is to say, it only considers the essentials of a form, the stress invariably laid on the textural and technical beauty of a work, instead of the beauty of the subject depicted. It is Amrita Sher­Gil: characterised by vitality Tulika Books, & pungency of execu821 pages, tion, and never has the Rs5,750. slightest trace either of prettiness or sugariness. It is invariably Stylised. Form is never imitated, it is always interpreted. Bad Art, on the other hand, has always been characterised by softness of execution and conception, floridity, effeminacy of treatment and stress on inessential detail. Form is either photographically imitated or stylised in the wrong sense, i.e. ‘idealised’ in the sense of feeble prettiness (e.g., the work, in Europe, of Bouguereau, Alma-Tadema etc., in India, formerly of Ravi Varma and more recently visible in many specimens of the Bombay and Bengal Schools). It is diametrically opposed to the vital and significant stylisation of form that characterises the sculpture and painting of Ellora, Ajanta, Egyptian, Chinese, Japanese, early Christian, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art ... Bad Art depends for its appeal on the prettiness or the sentimental aspect of the subject treated and therefore seldom fails to be popular. There are people who have the illusion that there are no absolute values in Art and believe, therefore, that personal taste is the only standard by which a work of Art can be judged, and consequently dub everything that repels them as bad with the certitude and intolerance that can only be the outcome of ignorance...

Indian in technique. Speaking of articles, the ‘note’ you saw in The Four Arts is a glaring example of that undercurrent of hostility which the Haldar type of people are beginning to manifest towards me. Do you know you are right again? I also have the conviction that Barada Ukil in his heart of hearts detests my work, but realising there is something in it, wants to take the credit for being one of the first to have acknowledged it and thereby ensure his reputation as an “art critic” for the

future also. (He doesn’t know a thing about art criticism but having a few stock phrases & platitudes at his disposal, manages to pass off as one.) I have often told him this and attributed even lower motives to his interest in my art. (He is in love with me and would like to marry me.) Of course he works himself into a fit of righteous indignation when I accuse him of these things. Nevertheless they are true—and you and I know it! ... Amri


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Travel

MITA KAPUR

DEOGARH

Full circle Evocative stories, authentic recipes and the Aravallis make for a perfect trip

B Y M ITA K APUR ···························· he landscape remains unchanged. I have passed the wind-eroded rock faces and boulders along the winding road three times before this, yet each time it seems that they are shaped to play ever-shifting roles in an eternal drama. Each time I visit Deogarh, Rajasthan, once a stronghold of one of 16 umraos (feudal lords) of Mewar, the place seems to have reinvented itself. Each time the plot unfolds, there is a new story being told. The bullock cart in the guise of a bus roars, revs, splutters and then settles into a slow trundle. From Beawar, where the road forks out to Ajmer and Udaipur, the drive turns green and speed ceases to matter. When we descend from the bus, it is with cramped, hesitant steps. But there is nothing tentative about the welcome: Shatrunjay Singh, younger scion of the Deogarh royal family, is beating on the nangada to welcome us. The drama of the greeting sets the tone of the visit. To reach Deogarh Mahal, the hub of the town, one has to pass through the narrow lanes of the Deogarh bazaar. To protect passers-by from the sun, shopowners string yards of cloth across the street. In its shade sit sacks of dry coconut and dried red chillies, a tailor stitching sequinned fabric and an antique silver shop run by two young girls with kohl-rimmed, almond-shaped eyes so beguiling that, on a previous visit, I dropped double the l eg iti ma te pr i c e o n their silver bracelets. Bright red, heavily embroidered zari saris

T

King­size: (right) Atop the bhachero, the truck suitable for rocky terrain; and Fort Seengh Sagar.

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flutter from the next shop, reflecting in its glitter the rising aspirations of the village. Old locks and ghunghroos (dancing bells) in all sizes hang casually on a faded red velvet hardboard, harking back to ages gone by but still alive. We savour it all at leisure, stuck as we are in a traffic jam. A little later, after we have admired the Deogarh family’s collection of vintage cars, Shatrunjay drives us in a bhachero—a Rajasthani term for the only four-wheel truck capable of tackling the rocky terrain—through the valley, speeding past rocks shaped like an elephant, a toad, a rabbit, a crocodile. He careens up the hill as everyone gasps for breath, braking just as we touch the peak. We step off the vehicle a tad gingerly. “How are we going down the hill?” suddenly seems to be the most popular query as we try to soak up the vastness of the valley at our feet. “The same way we came up,” Shatrunjay answers casually, unaware that a few hearts skip several beats at those words. The evening deepens with the sun’s blushing orange hues, the fields that lie before us turn a richer, darker green, the breeze rises and falls in symphonic rhythm. The drive to Kotra, a small village near Deogarh, is steadily uphill. The road is left behind at some point and we duck under tree branches, sidle past the baked mud boundary walls of rain-washed fields as Shatrunjay, a natural

MITA KAPUR

storyteller, holds forth. “Though undocumented, there is evidence that Gorakhnath and Machchendranath spent some part of their life around this village. Gorakhnath is supposed to be the founder of Hatha yoga, the school of Indian philosophy that teaches that spiritual perfection lies through mastery over the body. Legend says he also developed the Devanagari script. He is believed to have established the Nath Sampradaya, the nine naths and 84 siddhas said to be human forms of yogic manifestations created to spread the message of yoga and meditation. It is they who

revealed the concept of attaining samadhi through meditation. There are two villages, Gorkhiya and Machchen, named after the yogis.” As always, my trip to Deogarh has revealed a new facet of the region. Every one of my visits so far has surprised me: Last time around, it was the taste of Deogarhi cuisine, so different from the Rajasthani food available around Jodhpur and Jaipur that Shatrunjay had promised my next visit would focus on local specialities. Corn, originally introduced to the region all the way from South America some 400 years ago, is the unusual staple of

TRIP PLANNER/DEOGARH Marwar

Deogarh

To Ajmer

Bhim

RAJASTHAN

Deogarh is situated on the boundaries of Mewar, Marwar and Merwara, about 135km north-east of Udaipur, in Rajasthan. At an altitude of about 2,100ft, it is cooler than other parts of Rajasthan. Catch the overnight Mewar Express at 7.05pm from New Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin (seven days a week, first AC fare Rs1,821, one way) and arrive in Udaipur at 7.20am. From Udaipur, take a deluxe bus to Deogarh for Rs125.

Stay

To Chittorgarh

The Deogarh Mahal (www.deogarhmahal.com), standing atop a hill, offers a panoramic view of the Aravallis, as also numerous lakes. The hotel has 60 rooms; twin-share rates start from Rs4,500 per night. A family property, Fort Seengh Sagar has four rooms; rates start at Rs9,000 per night for a couple. Tent options are available at Deogarh Khayyam: 16 tents starting from Rs5,000 per night.

Udaipur

RAJASTHAN Jaipur

INDIA

Do

The most attractive features for visitors are the multiple treks in the hills nearby. You can also go boating on the lake, visit forts and undertake jeep safaris. Local dancers and singers also give performances at Deogarh Mahal. If you’re into history, there’s plenty to see on day trips. The Dashavatar temple is an exquisite Vishnu temple belonging to the Gupta period. Manastambha is a group of 31 Jain temples belonging to the post-Gupta period. Though across the border in Madhya Pradesh, Chanderi—famous for its exquisite saris—has some of the finest examples of Bundela, Rajput and Malwa Sultanate architecture, including Koshak Mahal, a beautiful Mughal fort, the victory arch of the Badal Mahal Gate, the Jama Masjid, the Shahzadi ka Rouza and the Parmeshwar Tal. GRAPHIC

BY

AHMED RAZA KHAN/MINT

local food, making an appearance in sweet and savoury dishes alike, from mutton and chicken soyeta (meat on the bone), to roti, pulao and dhokla, and the sweet jajariya (a halwa made with broken corn, jaggery and raisins). After a mind-numbing morning visit to the temple of Dinanathji—the cave where the 11th century saint attained samadhi now has marble flooring and blue tiles donated by devotees—my faith is restored in Kalaseriya, a small manmade lake 45 minutes away from Deogarh. Under a parachute stretched across poles, wood-and-charcoal fires burn merrily. The chef throws cloves, cumin, pounded garlic, green chillies, turmeric and dry coriander into the smoking oil to cook a seasonal dish of green tomatoes. Elsewhere, kair (dried berries) and sangri (dried beans) soak in a bowl, and lal maas gravy bubbles in a degchi, producing aromas redolent with garlic and red chillies. The liberal use of local red chillies makes all the difference in Deogarhi food, and it’s everywhere, including the chhilkewali urad ki dal, which tastes distinctly different from the dal served with baati and churma

Princely tales: (top) A panoramic view of the Deogarh Mahal; and wind­eroded rocks on the way to Deogarh. near the tourist hot spots of Jaipur or Jodhpur. We eat off daunas (dry peepul leaf bowls) arranged in a thal (a large plate). The bajra churma laddoos are decked with raisins and sweetened with jaggery—elsewhere in Rajasthan, they prefer sugar—and the roasted baatis are dunked in ghee. As we crush the baatis with our hands, Shatrunjay comes up with yet another story. A roanni baati, he tells us, is one from which the ghee drips like tears, a haasni baati is one that breaks open into a toothy smile. Drunk on the views of the Aravallis, the oldest fold mountains in the world, and replete with the tastes and fragrances of a centuries-old cuisine, there is no doubt which baati we resemble. Write to lounge@livemint.com CHILD­FRIENDLY RATING

Forts, palaces and open country. What’s not to like?


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PRADEEP GAUR/MINT

Being part of a rock band was never a lucrative career choice in India. But today's musicians are finding ingenious ways to earn more than their bread and butter

MUSIC

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

································· n 13 February, the Bangalorebased rock band Lounge Piranha tried an interesting financial experiment. It announced that it was organizing a “sponsor-free” gig at the Alliance Française de Bangalore. The band was putting together everything from the sound to the stage, and hoped to recover costs through ticket sales and merchandise. Lead guitarist and vocalist Abhijeet Tambe called it an experiment in “critical mass”. “Do we have the critical mass in Bangalore to sustain a band that plays original music?” he wrote in a piece posted online prior to the concert. “The success or failure of Saturday’s show will be an indicator. Now, we shall see how many people are willing to come out and buy a ticket for Rs200 for an evening of good music.” Around 200 people turned up for the concert—and Lounge Piranha managed to break even. The idea of a self-funded, do-it-yourself (DIY) show came easily to the fiveyear-old band. “We’ve always had an indie frame of mind,” Tambe told us over the phone. “We organized our own tour across the country in 2008 after the release of our (self-funded) album (titled, ironically enough, Going Nowhere), and we just thought now was a good time to test the waters again.” The band’s regular gigs at the local pub, Maya, where it played once a month for a year and a half, saw steadily growing crowds and the band members felt confident of a dedicated fan following. “We’d see about 180 people turn up, so we thought this would work well. We have nothing against sponsors, really, but we understand that sponsors and clubs need to see their cash at the end of the day, and us bands have our own needs and ends,” says Tambe. Organizing the gig was a revealing experience for Tambe as the band debated expenses, considered options and tried to cut costs smartly. “Cost-cutting” may sound like a strange phrase for a rock band to use, but when the gigs dry up and the phone doesn’t ring, there’s little else to do but prepare for financial drought. “All bands here go through a period of extreme financial unpredictability. Most don’t survive,” says Jishnu Dasgupta, bassist for Bangalore folk-rock band Swarathma. “We’ve all had to cut costs, both in our personal and professional lives.” This means transporting delicate equipment on rickety buses and jam-

O

ming in cramped, claustrophobic rooms with unfriendly neighbours. The economics of being a full-time independent band in India is uncertain at best and Dasgupta says the idealism of a rock-star life usually gives way, within a year, to the practical difficulties of making ends meet. “It is not fair, I think,” he says, “to expect your band to make money to support yourself financially for the first three years at least.” But bands across the country, such as Lounge Piranha, have been trying to swim against this hostile tide, organizing and financing themselves in ingenious ways. It’s a difficult endeavour and a quick vox-pop style survey of bands in two cities presents a grim picture. “As a band, you earn peanuts, especially if you’re playing niche, original music in English,” says 54-year-old Jayashree Singh, who plays for the Kolkata bands Skinny Alley and Pinknoise. Singh has been singing in bands since 1977 and is blunt about the conceit of being a full-time band in India. “You have to have a steady source of income with another job. I think the only new full-time rock stars are very young and still live with their parents.” Sahil Makhija, an almost-full-time rock star who is young and doesn’t live with his parents, agrees. “Always keep your day job,” says the frontman of Mumbai metal band Demonic Resurrection. Luckily for Makhija, his day job is closely related to his musical alter ego. He’s a consultant with musical instruments retailer Furtados Music and owns a record company, Demonstealer Records. “Any money you make from your band is just an added bonus.” Metal music is a niche cult in the country and metal bands usually find a cluster of die-hard fans. But even a dedicated fan base hasn’t made the genre a lucrative one. “It was only three years ago that we started getting paid for shows, earlier metal bands had to play gratis,” he says. “And our fans…well, the average metalhead is between 15-25 and cannot afford to pay even for entry. These are guys for whom a Rs50 beer is a huge investment.” On a good day, Makhija says, a new band can earn Rs8,000-10,000 for a gig, but such days are few and far between. An average gig brings in half that and even those are spread out uncertainly. “If I factor in the cost of upkeep and trans-

port, we’d be running at a pretty miserable loss,” he says. The kind of music a band plays also has a bearing on how well it does. “We’ve managed pretty well, being a full-time band,” says Inderpreet Singh of the Delhi band, Faridkot. “My guess is because we sing in Hindi, we’re accessible to a much larger audience.” Faridkot came into prominence after being featured on Channel V’s Launchpad, the Indian Idol for rock bands. The band has since been touring consistently, playing up to six shows a month, and is releasing its debut album in a few months. “Shows like Launchpad really helped us—it’s national television, after all. Even if 1% of the people watching that show came out and saw us live, we’d be comfortable,” Singh says. The sprouting of urban clubs has helped the situation somewhat, with more venues opening up for bands. Sponsors are starting to appear. Beer brand Tuborg sponsored a series of metal concerts across the country in 2009, in which Makhija participated. Veteran rockers Zero’s reunion tour was sponsored by accessories brand Fasttrack in December. There’s also been a shift in the audience, with a growing contingent of music fans demanding, even appreciating, original music over covers. “When you don’t have original music, you have nothing to sell,” says Vijay Nair, co-founder of artist management firm Only Much Louder, or OML. “You play covers, then your audience isn’t a fan of

Counting notes: (far left) Demonic Resurrection; and Delhi band Faridkot in concert.

PERVEZ RAJAN

PITCH PERFECT

How to keep the guitar strumming and cash registers ringing

Y String theory: Banga­ lore band Lounge Piranha and; (below) vocalist Vasu Dixit of Swarathma.

ou’ve got the fancy guitars and amplifiers, you’ve channelled the loose energy of your jam sessions into a couple of original songs and are now itching to get up on stage. Hopefully, you’ve kept your day job. If you have, it’s a fun ride—hit cities with regularity, build up a fan base, play gigs as often as you can at pubs and college festivals and pocket the extra income. If you haven’t, here's how you can keep your musical finances afloat:

KEEP IT FRESH

THE LOUNGE PIRANHA METHOD Abhijeet Tambe of Lounge Piranha gives us a breakdown of the band’s sponsor­free gig

KUNAL KAKODKAR

you, they’re just Pink Floyd fans.” “It’s when you start making your own music that you, shall we say, emerge on to the scene,” says Abhijit Namboodiripad, manager of Kochi-based rock band Motherjane. Motherjane is among the most popular Indian bands on the live circuit, attracting crowds of 700 to 1,000 people to its shows. The band works with an interesting business model. “They’re paid a monthly salary by their artist man-

ENTRY We charged Rs200 for entry, because 100 bucks for three bands is just super cheap and no one will take you seriously. Around 200 people turned up, which helped us break even pretty much—so I’m guessing 200 is the magic number that bands would want to hit.

ing in respectability and capacity from someone’s terrace to a professional stage). Some venues may know you and may be willing to support your cause a bit, and throw in a discount—but watch out for any strings that they might come attached with.

VENUE Hiring an auditorium can cost you any­ thing between Rs0 to Rs20,000 (rang­

SOUND For sound, you will have to be willing to spend a lot. Not less than

agement firm (a company called Aum-iArtistes Private Ltd), under the stipulation that they deliver three albums of original material by 2013,” says Namboodiripad. This arrangement, he says, helps them focus on the music, leaving the organizational headaches to the firm, which sets up around seven shows a month for the band. Nair says the emergence of this kind of “industry” around Indian rock bands, of artist managers, sound companies and event management firms, is a healthy sign of growth. “The scene is growing and if you’re good at what you do—you can break through the clutter.” There’s a growing sense of indie “spirit”, he says, that’s defining the kind of music coming out of it.

Lounge Piranha’s inspiration for the gig came partly from Bangalore’s now defunct “Freedom Jam” concerts. Starting in 1997, the free monthly concerts ran for a decade, buoyed by “sponsorship and philanthrophy”. “But the handicap there was the fact that it was free,” says Tambe. “As a result, professional bands never took it seriously and it was viewed as a largely amateur festival.” The band approached things differently for its own DIY effort. “We advertised heavily on the Internet. We kicked up a fuss about it—made sure people knew we were taking a risk, and that it was a big deal,” Tambe says. Posters for the show went up in local pubs and across the Internet, and singer-songwriter Gowri and Hyderabad’s

Rs10,000­15,000, going up to Rs30,000 (the lower limit will give you the acoustic fidelity of a ‘shaadi’ band, but hey, it’s indie music—so lo–fi is cool). SUPPORTING ACTS If you’re getting bands from other cit­ ies—plonk down about Rs10,000 for that. Cut costs by making them crash at your place and get them on a bus or train instead of a flight. Alternatively,

Native Tongue were also signed on for the show. “It was really nice of them,” says Tambe. “They weren’t paid squat for this—but we agreed to take care of their accommodation and transport.” “I think 200 is the magic number,” says Tambe. “We managed to cover most of our costs and pocketed the bit we made from merchandise as well. It was a real dose of confidence.” The band is eager to try more such shows, even hit other cities where it hopes to build a fan base. Tambe is hoping to prove another point—that bands don’t need to settle just for playing in pubs and colleges. “Bands are used to this culture of piggybacking on pubs and college festivals. But if they set their expectations to just

just go for other local bands. SECRET INCOME Sell merchandise. It’s a secret source of income that we keep trying to tell other bands about. T­shirts, mugs, albums, posters—when you’ve got an audience of 200 people, it’s a good audience and you can spread your music, and sell your stuff. It’s the sort of place where people will pay attention to this stuff.

that, it’s their loss,” he says. The band is now looking for groups in other cities to organize similar gigs and for the idea of self-funded shows to “catch on and become a movement”. “We’re brought up in an environment of listening to foreign music—it’s the local bands who have to break this mould,” he says. Tambe remembers attending an OML-organized “unconference” in November. “One British music producer speaking there said that the vibe and energy in Indian rock right now is very similar to Britain in the late 1960s, around the time the pub bands became international superstars,” he says. “Something’s about to happen. The indie music scene is going to explode. We’re just turning the corner.”

“Think of it as competing with Star Plus,” says Jishnu Dasgupta of Swar­ athma. “Package your music, design a flashy website—have a hook for your audience.” A MySpace (www.myspace.com) or Facebook (www.facebook.com) profile is a must. As are samples of your music. If you have videos, blogs, pictures—put them all up for people to see. Keep updat­ ing your online presence with new content. “You can’t play the same tune again and again—it’s like a chan­ nel playing the same episode of a sit­ com on repeat,” he says. Dasgupta also recommends look­ ing abroad for shows, where your music can fill a certain niche. “There’s a global interest in music that is honest and is rooted in the place where it comes from,” he says. “Take Indian Ocean—they’ve pretty much captured the Indian NRI (non­ resident Indian) audience in the US through regular touring.”

KNOW YOUR REVENUE STREAMS “Ninety per cent of your money is going to come from concerts—that’s what bands need to focus on the most. The rest is useful, but mere window dressing,” says Vijay Nair of Only Much Louder. Live shows in India require bands to haggle for their cut, unlike the West, where there’s a flat fee depending on how many people you pull in. Apart from the clubs and pubs, there are college

festivals, which are both lucrative, as well as “right at the heart of your core audience”, according to Das­ gupta. Corporate events are another source, but these depend on the kind of music you play. Don’t expect to get called for for­ mal company events if you’re a metal band. “Bands can also create music for corporates—jingles and spots, for example,” says Dasgupta. “Swarathma also did some music for an upcoming TV channel that wanted a distinct ‘audio identity’—music for interstitials and logos, for example.” Dasgupta reckons that tie­ups with brands is the way to go. “Take Thermal and a Quarter’s recent tour for the ‘Shut Up and Vote’ campaign. You had an NGO, Janaag­ raha, which wanted to spread this message. The band, which vocalized it with a song, and Tata Tea with their ‘Jaago Re’ pitch. It was a perfect fit.”

MONITOR THE RIGHT METRICS Album sales are passé. “It’s next to impossible to make money from album sales, even if you’re sold internationally,” says Sahil Makhija of Demonic Resurrection. Fellow metalheads Kryptos, riding a wave of critical acclaim for their last album ‘The Ark of Gemini’, could only manage 800 copies in three years, a “pretty pathetic figure” by Makhija’s own admission. “We sold 4,200 copies of our album since 2008, but it’s little more than a vis­ iting card,” says Dasgupta. “But it’s not useless. It gives you legitimacy and it has the essence of a band more than an MP3 ever will.” Dasgupta suggests a new set of metrics that a band must monitor. “You have to check things like the number of MySpace hits your site gets,” he says. “Or how many fans will turn up if you announce a gig on your blog, or how many will make the trip from other cities if you say you’re going to play a single new song.”


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SATURDAY, MARCH 27, 2010 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

SATURDAY, MARCH 27, 2010 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

PRADEEP GAUR/MINT

Being part of a rock band was never a lucrative career choice in India. But today's musicians are finding ingenious ways to earn more than their bread and butter

MUSIC

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

································· n 13 February, the Bangalorebased rock band Lounge Piranha tried an interesting financial experiment. It announced that it was organizing a “sponsor-free” gig at the Alliance Française de Bangalore. The band was putting together everything from the sound to the stage, and hoped to recover costs through ticket sales and merchandise. Lead guitarist and vocalist Abhijeet Tambe called it an experiment in “critical mass”. “Do we have the critical mass in Bangalore to sustain a band that plays original music?” he wrote in a piece posted online prior to the concert. “The success or failure of Saturday’s show will be an indicator. Now, we shall see how many people are willing to come out and buy a ticket for Rs200 for an evening of good music.” Around 200 people turned up for the concert—and Lounge Piranha managed to break even. The idea of a self-funded, do-it-yourself (DIY) show came easily to the fiveyear-old band. “We’ve always had an indie frame of mind,” Tambe told us over the phone. “We organized our own tour across the country in 2008 after the release of our (self-funded) album (titled, ironically enough, Going Nowhere), and we just thought now was a good time to test the waters again.” The band’s regular gigs at the local pub, Maya, where it played once a month for a year and a half, saw steadily growing crowds and the band members felt confident of a dedicated fan following. “We’d see about 180 people turn up, so we thought this would work well. We have nothing against sponsors, really, but we understand that sponsors and clubs need to see their cash at the end of the day, and us bands have our own needs and ends,” says Tambe. Organizing the gig was a revealing experience for Tambe as the band debated expenses, considered options and tried to cut costs smartly. “Cost-cutting” may sound like a strange phrase for a rock band to use, but when the gigs dry up and the phone doesn’t ring, there’s little else to do but prepare for financial drought. “All bands here go through a period of extreme financial unpredictability. Most don’t survive,” says Jishnu Dasgupta, bassist for Bangalore folk-rock band Swarathma. “We’ve all had to cut costs, both in our personal and professional lives.” This means transporting delicate equipment on rickety buses and jam-

O

ming in cramped, claustrophobic rooms with unfriendly neighbours. The economics of being a full-time independent band in India is uncertain at best and Dasgupta says the idealism of a rock-star life usually gives way, within a year, to the practical difficulties of making ends meet. “It is not fair, I think,” he says, “to expect your band to make money to support yourself financially for the first three years at least.” But bands across the country, such as Lounge Piranha, have been trying to swim against this hostile tide, organizing and financing themselves in ingenious ways. It’s a difficult endeavour and a quick vox-pop style survey of bands in two cities presents a grim picture. “As a band, you earn peanuts, especially if you’re playing niche, original music in English,” says 54-year-old Jayashree Singh, who plays for the Kolkata bands Skinny Alley and Pinknoise. Singh has been singing in bands since 1977 and is blunt about the conceit of being a full-time band in India. “You have to have a steady source of income with another job. I think the only new full-time rock stars are very young and still live with their parents.” Sahil Makhija, an almost-full-time rock star who is young and doesn’t live with his parents, agrees. “Always keep your day job,” says the frontman of Mumbai metal band Demonic Resurrection. Luckily for Makhija, his day job is closely related to his musical alter ego. He’s a consultant with musical instruments retailer Furtados Music and owns a record company, Demonstealer Records. “Any money you make from your band is just an added bonus.” Metal music is a niche cult in the country and metal bands usually find a cluster of die-hard fans. But even a dedicated fan base hasn’t made the genre a lucrative one. “It was only three years ago that we started getting paid for shows, earlier metal bands had to play gratis,” he says. “And our fans…well, the average metalhead is between 15-25 and cannot afford to pay even for entry. These are guys for whom a Rs50 beer is a huge investment.” On a good day, Makhija says, a new band can earn Rs8,000-10,000 for a gig, but such days are few and far between. An average gig brings in half that and even those are spread out uncertainly. “If I factor in the cost of upkeep and trans-

port, we’d be running at a pretty miserable loss,” he says. The kind of music a band plays also has a bearing on how well it does. “We’ve managed pretty well, being a full-time band,” says Inderpreet Singh of the Delhi band, Faridkot. “My guess is because we sing in Hindi, we’re accessible to a much larger audience.” Faridkot came into prominence after being featured on Channel V’s Launchpad, the Indian Idol for rock bands. The band has since been touring consistently, playing up to six shows a month, and is releasing its debut album in a few months. “Shows like Launchpad really helped us—it’s national television, after all. Even if 1% of the people watching that show came out and saw us live, we’d be comfortable,” Singh says. The sprouting of urban clubs has helped the situation somewhat, with more venues opening up for bands. Sponsors are starting to appear. Beer brand Tuborg sponsored a series of metal concerts across the country in 2009, in which Makhija participated. Veteran rockers Zero’s reunion tour was sponsored by accessories brand Fasttrack in December. There’s also been a shift in the audience, with a growing contingent of music fans demanding, even appreciating, original music over covers. “When you don’t have original music, you have nothing to sell,” says Vijay Nair, co-founder of artist management firm Only Much Louder, or OML. “You play covers, then your audience isn’t a fan of

Counting notes: (far left) Demonic Resurrection; and Delhi band Faridkot in concert.

PERVEZ RAJAN

PITCH PERFECT

How to keep the guitar strumming and cash registers ringing

Y String theory: Banga­ lore band Lounge Piranha and; (below) vocalist Vasu Dixit of Swarathma.

ou’ve got the fancy guitars and amplifiers, you’ve channelled the loose energy of your jam sessions into a couple of original songs and are now itching to get up on stage. Hopefully, you’ve kept your day job. If you have, it’s a fun ride—hit cities with regularity, build up a fan base, play gigs as often as you can at pubs and college festivals and pocket the extra income. If you haven’t, here's how you can keep your musical finances afloat:

KEEP IT FRESH

THE LOUNGE PIRANHA METHOD Abhijeet Tambe of Lounge Piranha gives us a breakdown of the band’s sponsor­free gig

KUNAL KAKODKAR

you, they’re just Pink Floyd fans.” “It’s when you start making your own music that you, shall we say, emerge on to the scene,” says Abhijit Namboodiripad, manager of Kochi-based rock band Motherjane. Motherjane is among the most popular Indian bands on the live circuit, attracting crowds of 700 to 1,000 people to its shows. The band works with an interesting business model. “They’re paid a monthly salary by their artist man-

ENTRY We charged Rs200 for entry, because 100 bucks for three bands is just super cheap and no one will take you seriously. Around 200 people turned up, which helped us break even pretty much—so I’m guessing 200 is the magic number that bands would want to hit.

ing in respectability and capacity from someone’s terrace to a professional stage). Some venues may know you and may be willing to support your cause a bit, and throw in a discount—but watch out for any strings that they might come attached with.

VENUE Hiring an auditorium can cost you any­ thing between Rs0 to Rs20,000 (rang­

SOUND For sound, you will have to be willing to spend a lot. Not less than

agement firm (a company called Aum-iArtistes Private Ltd), under the stipulation that they deliver three albums of original material by 2013,” says Namboodiripad. This arrangement, he says, helps them focus on the music, leaving the organizational headaches to the firm, which sets up around seven shows a month for the band. Nair says the emergence of this kind of “industry” around Indian rock bands, of artist managers, sound companies and event management firms, is a healthy sign of growth. “The scene is growing and if you’re good at what you do—you can break through the clutter.” There’s a growing sense of indie “spirit”, he says, that’s defining the kind of music coming out of it.

Lounge Piranha’s inspiration for the gig came partly from Bangalore’s now defunct “Freedom Jam” concerts. Starting in 1997, the free monthly concerts ran for a decade, buoyed by “sponsorship and philanthrophy”. “But the handicap there was the fact that it was free,” says Tambe. “As a result, professional bands never took it seriously and it was viewed as a largely amateur festival.” The band approached things differently for its own DIY effort. “We advertised heavily on the Internet. We kicked up a fuss about it—made sure people knew we were taking a risk, and that it was a big deal,” Tambe says. Posters for the show went up in local pubs and across the Internet, and singer-songwriter Gowri and Hyderabad’s

Rs10,000­15,000, going up to Rs30,000 (the lower limit will give you the acoustic fidelity of a ‘shaadi’ band, but hey, it’s indie music—so lo–fi is cool). SUPPORTING ACTS If you’re getting bands from other cit­ ies—plonk down about Rs10,000 for that. Cut costs by making them crash at your place and get them on a bus or train instead of a flight. Alternatively,

Native Tongue were also signed on for the show. “It was really nice of them,” says Tambe. “They weren’t paid squat for this—but we agreed to take care of their accommodation and transport.” “I think 200 is the magic number,” says Tambe. “We managed to cover most of our costs and pocketed the bit we made from merchandise as well. It was a real dose of confidence.” The band is eager to try more such shows, even hit other cities where it hopes to build a fan base. Tambe is hoping to prove another point—that bands don’t need to settle just for playing in pubs and colleges. “Bands are used to this culture of piggybacking on pubs and college festivals. But if they set their expectations to just

just go for other local bands. SECRET INCOME Sell merchandise. It’s a secret source of income that we keep trying to tell other bands about. T­shirts, mugs, albums, posters—when you’ve got an audience of 200 people, it’s a good audience and you can spread your music, and sell your stuff. It’s the sort of place where people will pay attention to this stuff.

that, it’s their loss,” he says. The band is now looking for groups in other cities to organize similar gigs and for the idea of self-funded shows to “catch on and become a movement”. “We’re brought up in an environment of listening to foreign music—it’s the local bands who have to break this mould,” he says. Tambe remembers attending an OML-organized “unconference” in November. “One British music producer speaking there said that the vibe and energy in Indian rock right now is very similar to Britain in the late 1960s, around the time the pub bands became international superstars,” he says. “Something’s about to happen. The indie music scene is going to explode. We’re just turning the corner.”

“Think of it as competing with Star Plus,” says Jishnu Dasgupta of Swar­ athma. “Package your music, design a flashy website—have a hook for your audience.” A MySpace (www.myspace.com) or Facebook (www.facebook.com) profile is a must. As are samples of your music. If you have videos, blogs, pictures—put them all up for people to see. Keep updat­ ing your online presence with new content. “You can’t play the same tune again and again—it’s like a chan­ nel playing the same episode of a sit­ com on repeat,” he says. Dasgupta also recommends look­ ing abroad for shows, where your music can fill a certain niche. “There’s a global interest in music that is honest and is rooted in the place where it comes from,” he says. “Take Indian Ocean—they’ve pretty much captured the Indian NRI (non­ resident Indian) audience in the US through regular touring.”

KNOW YOUR REVENUE STREAMS “Ninety per cent of your money is going to come from concerts—that’s what bands need to focus on the most. The rest is useful, but mere window dressing,” says Vijay Nair of Only Much Louder. Live shows in India require bands to haggle for their cut, unlike the West, where there’s a flat fee depending on how many people you pull in. Apart from the clubs and pubs, there are college

festivals, which are both lucrative, as well as “right at the heart of your core audience”, according to Das­ gupta. Corporate events are another source, but these depend on the kind of music you play. Don’t expect to get called for for­ mal company events if you’re a metal band. “Bands can also create music for corporates—jingles and spots, for example,” says Dasgupta. “Swarathma also did some music for an upcoming TV channel that wanted a distinct ‘audio identity’—music for interstitials and logos, for example.” Dasgupta reckons that tie­ups with brands is the way to go. “Take Thermal and a Quarter’s recent tour for the ‘Shut Up and Vote’ campaign. You had an NGO, Janaag­ raha, which wanted to spread this message. The band, which vocalized it with a song, and Tata Tea with their ‘Jaago Re’ pitch. It was a perfect fit.”

MONITOR THE RIGHT METRICS Album sales are passé. “It’s next to impossible to make money from album sales, even if you’re sold internationally,” says Sahil Makhija of Demonic Resurrection. Fellow metalheads Kryptos, riding a wave of critical acclaim for their last album ‘The Ark of Gemini’, could only manage 800 copies in three years, a “pretty pathetic figure” by Makhija’s own admission. “We sold 4,200 copies of our album since 2008, but it’s little more than a vis­ iting card,” says Dasgupta. “But it’s not useless. It gives you legitimacy and it has the essence of a band more than an MP3 ever will.” Dasgupta suggests a new set of metrics that a band must monitor. “You have to check things like the number of MySpace hits your site gets,” he says. “Or how many fans will turn up if you announce a gig on your blog, or how many will make the trip from other cities if you say you’re going to play a single new song.”


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SPORTS

WHITE TIGERS JOHANNES SIMONC/AFP

India will have three athletes at the Winter Olympics next month giving it their best shot in luge, giant slalom and cross­country skiing

Q&A | AKSHAY KUMAR

‘I would love to take my son to Canada’

MADHU KAPPARATH/MINT

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ast month, actor Akshay Kumar ran as one of the 14 torch-bearers for the Winter Olympics. Here he tells us why he believes the three Indians at the Olympics have a shot at winning and why he would like to take his son to see the events. Edited excerpts from an email interview:

B Y S EEMA C HOWDHRY seema.c@livemint.com

··························· opefully this year Phunsukh Wangdu (Aamir Khan’s character in 3 Idiots) will not be the only Ladakhi to leave a mark on the collective Indian consciousness. Two other Ladakhis, both skiers, hope to make their countrymen proud when they represent the nation at the 21st Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, starting 12 February. Havaldar Jamyang Namgial, 25, and havaldar Tashi Lundup, 26, both members of the Indian Army’s Ladakh Scouts regiment, will be the first from their region to take part in any Olympic event. “I love the fact that this sport has allowed me to travel to so many countries which most people from Ladakh cannot imagine visiting,” says Namgial. The duo, who have just returned from Italy after two months of training, are seemingly excited, but it is tough to gauge how they really feel. They are both men of few words. The only time their faces really light up is when they open their 6ft-long black-and-grey ski bags to show off the new skis funded by the W i n t e r Games Federation of India. Lundup now has four pairs, including a shiny new neongreen, slim pair (about an inch and a half in width) with poles that are more than 5ft long. Namgial’s new pair is broader at the ends, about 4ft long, and his ski poles are under 3ft. With this red and white pair of skis, his tally is a Cool quotient: total of three pairs. Shiva Keshavan (top right) feels he is better prepared for A bumpy ride the Winter Olympics because In comparison, 28-year-old Keshe has managed to get in havan is a livewire. enough practice by partici­ Keshavan, who will represent pating in 15 luge events; ski­ India in luge for the fourth coners Jamyang Namgial (left) secutive time in the Olympics, and Tashi Lundup too are talks non-stop. Even as he is getconfident after training in ting out of his cherry red WagonR Austria, Australia and Italy. car, lugging his shiny blue sled,

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putting on stud-encrusted gloves and white ski boots that look straight out of a sci-fi movie and struggling into a self-designed tricolour ski-suit which has the word “Bharat” misspelt in Hindi. Even as he gets ready for a photo shoot at the Nehru Park in New Delhi, Keshavan is talking enthusiastically. In luge, as Keshavan explains, the athlete has to lie on his back on a sled (a pod on two steel blades), which is about 45cm wide, and then go down an artificially refrigerated track, feet first. As he rockets down, trying to reach the finish point in the shortest possible time, the athlete has to steer the curves of the ice track using his body weight, feet and sled handles. The preceding year has been the best for Keshavan’s sporting career in more than a decade and he is understandably excited. Besides finding a sponsor in Swiss International Air Lines (which takes care of his travel requirements for events), Limca Book of Records (which is funding his equipment) and Reebok (which is funding his gear), he has received a positive response from the Union sports ministry. “There is really one guy to thank for all this—Abhinav Bindra. His winning the Olympic medal at Beijing has changed so many things for sportsmen like me in this country,” says Keshavan, who missed meeting Bindra in Munich, Germany, last year when they were training there. He keeps in touch with the Olympic gold medallist on Facebook though. Keshavan and his partner/ manager/fiancee Namita Agarwal spent the better part of 2008 coldcalling over 100 companies to see if they could find sponsors. “We tried watch companies, sports goods manufacturers, cola giants. I used to get numbers off the Internet and then call the office for appointments. It was during one of these calls that the Swiss International Air Lines deal come through, not in terms of hard cash, but in a deal that allows Shiva to travel more frequently for events,” says Agarwal.

Col. S.C. Narang, director, Winter Sports Federation of India, says they have spent around Rs12 lakh each on Lundup and Namgial’s training, equipment and travel arrangements in the last year. “We had approached many companies in 2008 to help us with sponsorships, but nobody came forward,” he claims. Last year, for the first time, the sports ministry agreed to help Keshavan with funds (around Rs10 lakh) for his travel, stay, training, and to pay his coach Yann Frichteau’s fees (€2,000 per month from October 2009 to February 2010). The ministry even ordered a new sled to be made to his specifications—it will not be ready in time for the Olympics, however. Agarwal has never seen Keshavan in competition on a luge track, just as Namgial and Lundup’s families in Ladakh still don’t quite understand what their boys do with long poles in the snow. “I hurt myself badly when I started learning the sport initially but I never told my family about it,” says Namgial. Keshavan, who holds the world record for being the youngest Olympian to qualify for luge, is also probably the only one to have competed in the Olympics with borrowed equipment. In his first stint in the Winter Olympics at Nagano, Japan, in 1998, the then 16-year-old Keshavan par-

INDIA AT THE WINTER OLYMPICS

ticipated on a sled that the Korean team was kind enough to lend him. He finished in the top 30, creditable considering India did not even send official papers recognizing him as a participant and he was almost denied entry into the Games Village. Despite it all, this resident of a small village in Himachal Pradesh, who’d been exposed to luge just two years earlier, managed to stay one position ahead of the Koreans who had lent him the sled. “I had no clue what luge was when I signed up for a camp in 1995-96 held by an Austrian talent scout Gunter Lemmerer. He had been sent by an international luge federation to seek luge pilots in countries other than the Alpine ones. It meant taking a week off school. Besides, I was the junior ski champion, so I assumed the camp was associated with skiing,” says Keshavan, who spent his early years in Vashisht, a village in Himachal Pradesh where his Italian mother runs an eatery and Malayali father an adventure sports company. He was later packed off to The Lawrence School, Sanawar. At the camp, he was among the 30 participants who were shown a film so that they could understand what luge, bobsleighing and other winter sports were about. Lemmerer then made them try out luge on sleds that had rollerblades. “I rolled down a road instead of an ice track. It was very cool,” says Keshavan, who had learnt skiing on handmade wooden skis.

This will be the eighth time the country will take part in the Games

Ski is the limit

INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA, 1964 Jeremy Bujakowski in Alpine skiing GRENOBLE, FRANCE, 1968 Jeremy Bujakowski in Alpine skiing CALGARY, CANADA, 1988 Shailaja Kumar, Gul Dev and Kishor Rai in Alpine skiing ALBERTVILLE, FRANCE, 1992 Nanak Chand and Lal Chuni in Alpine skiing NAGANO, JAPAN, 1998 Shiva Keshavan in luge SALT LAKE CITY, US, 2002 Shiva Keshavan in luge TORINO, ITALY, 2006 Neha Ahuja in Alpine skiing; Bahadur Gurung Gupta in cross­ country skiing; Shiva Keshavan in luge; and Lal Chuni in Alpine skiing Source: www.sports-reference.com/ olympics/countries/ind

Lundup and Namgial learnt about their respective sports courtesy a film too. “I was interested in ice hockey and had seen the members of the elite Ladakh Scouts play games. I wanted to be like them and that’s why I signed up for the army in 2001 when I was 16,” says Namgial, who is from Saboo village in Ladakh. His dreams of playing ice hockey went into cold storage when he saw an exhibition match between the Ladakh team and a team from Canada. “The Canadians, they just did not bother about the puck. They just went for the players only. The game did not look so exciting after that.” Namgial, along with Lundup, was among the seven Ladakh Scouts selected after trials for the High Altitude Warfare School

(HAWS) in Gulmarg, Kashmir. It was there in 2002 that the boys were introduced to skiing. Ask the two why Lundup, a native of Achinathang village in Ladakh, was selected for crosscountry skiing and Namgial for Alpine skiing, and the answer is simple: “I could run long distances in the snow faster than anyone else without getting breathless and he could run up and down a slope best,” explains Lundup. Namgial believes that he was selected for the giant slalom (which involves skiing between sets of poles, or “gates”, placed at a distance from each other) because he was the only one in his group who was not scared to run down a slope fast. In cross-country skiing (freestyle), participants propel themselves across snow-covered terrain using narrow skis and long poles. Lundup will be participating in the 15km event at the Olympics. “You should have a good sense of balance. And no smoking and drinking allowed if you want to pursue the sport,” he adds. Namgial will compete in giant slalom. After being assigned their respective sports, both had to follow rigorous training schedules set by Subedar Karma Samstan, a revered figure at HAWS. “He is a legend in Ladakh Scouts. He has trained us in sports we knew nothing about,” says Namgial. He whips out a laptop and shows us a video of himself scurrying down a slope in Italy, pausing it at one place and pointing to the way his body bends in an S-shape. “Before going to Italy, I never knew that my head and shoulders should not be on the same side when I hit the gate,” he says. “That used to slow me down. Now I keep my head away from my shoulders.”

Fast forward Keshavan too has been working with coach Frichteau, an ex-luge champion, to improve his timing. “There are four things that mainly matter in luge. The athlete’s physical power helps in the initial thrust that will carry the luge pilot down the track, a skilled piloting ability to manoeuvre the course; your equipment; and how well you know the track you are on.”

The last two attributes help a luge pilot get an edge over competitors, says Keshavan—as does a slightly heavier body. “The more you weigh, greater is the momentum you gather as you hurl down the track,” he says. The sled he will use in the Olympics is a second-hand one, bought in December from the Austrian team. “The good thing is that I have finally retired my decade-old sled, which has seen two Olympics. Since my special sled will be ready only after the Olympics, I will have to modify the runners (steel blades on which the pod sits) of my current sled to suit the Vancouver track,” says Keshavan. He works on these modifications himself, unlike other luge pilots who have teams of assistants akin to Formula 1 teams. But Keshavan is positive that he will be able to improve over his last Olympics ranking of 25 at Torino and hopes to be in the top 17. “Most luge athletes peak at 32 or 33 years. I have time on my side, and hopefully in the 2014 Olympics I will bring home a medal too,” he adds. “Luge is a sport where experience counts—it helps if your body is used to absorbing bumps and you have learnt to keep your mind relaxed at all stages.” To build strength, Keshavan trains in yoga and Kalaripayattu (a form of martial arts from Kerala) during the summer months when he is in India. He also works on running his firm LINK Overseas Consulting (which helps Italian firms set up businesses in India) with Agarwal. “I want to work to develop winter sports in India and that’s why I set up camps for children in Manali, such as the one I did in December with Indian Amateur Luge Association (Iala),” says Keshavan. Fifty boys and girls were selected and trained in luge the same way Lemmerer had done 15 years ago—on sleds with rollerblades—and taught to slide down a road. “We selected 10 children—six boys and four girls—out of these and then took them for advanced training in the sport at Nagano, Japan,” he adds. “By the 2014 Winter Olympics, I hope to see a few more luge pilots participating from India alongside me.”

www.livemint.com Watch video interviews with Shiva Keshavan, Jamyang Namgial and Tashi Lundup at www.livemint.com/olympians.htm

Did you know that three Indians are participating at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and this is the fourth Winter Olympics for one of them? I know, isn’t it fantastic? For more than 12 years, Shiva Keshavan has been representing India at the Winter Olympics. In 1998, he was the youngest ever participant in luge. That’s an outstanding achievement. Unfortunately, cricket being the only sport on most Indians’ minds, I feel Keshavan hasn’t been given the credit he deserves for what he has done. Also, his talent and drive to compete, considering the lack of support he has had over the years, is amazing. I think the Alpine skiers Tashi Lundup and Jamyang Namgial have huge careers ahead of them. I hope India supports them all the way. Are you interested in any specific winter sport? If so, which one? And have you tried it? I am fascinated by most sports but I find winter sports far more dangerous and intriguing. Being a daredevil kind of man myself, I love ice hockey. The amazing ski jumps, AFP

Leading the way: Kumar was a torch­bearer in Toronto. and the snowboarding tricks wow me too. But being an actor and a family man, I can’t take such risks for the sake of amusement, though I would love to be able to train in such sports. If all goes well, you might see me on an icehockey rink in the near future. Are you planning to visit Canada next month? If so, will you make it for the events these athletes are participating in? I am trying. I would love to take my son to Canada for these events and show him that Indians who have come from such small villages have the strength to write history for their country and compete for India regardless of the struggles they face. Do you think that in winter sports, where Europeans tend to dominate, athletes such as Keshavan have a chance of winning? Yes, I do. I believe that Keshavan has a chance to win against even the strongest European athletes. My father taught me this while I was training in martial arts—“as a man, your mind and your heart are far superior muscles to the ones in your legs.” If Keshavan believes he can win, then so do I, for you will never find a larger heart than an Indian heart. Keshavan says he struggled for a long time to get sponsorship. Given a chance to help these sportsmen, what are you likely to do? For example, would you recommend Keshavan for ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ (KKK)? See I am only one man. Indians need to wake up and realize that we have to nurture sporting talent and support these athletes through and through, not just for a year before an event. Also, I like to believe that because I was a torch-bearer in Canada, many more Indians know about these sports now. But I know this is not enough. As for Keshavan in KKK, it sounds like a great idea, but we need more than just publicity for athletes. We need official, government funding, and unfortunately I am not a politician. Seema Chowdhry


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SPORTS

WHITE TIGERS JOHANNES SIMONC/AFP

India will have three athletes at the Winter Olympics next month giving it their best shot in luge, giant slalom and cross­country skiing

Q&A | AKSHAY KUMAR

‘I would love to take my son to Canada’

MADHU KAPPARATH/MINT

L

ast month, actor Akshay Kumar ran as one of the 14 torch-bearers for the Winter Olympics. Here he tells us why he believes the three Indians at the Olympics have a shot at winning and why he would like to take his son to see the events. Edited excerpts from an email interview:

B Y S EEMA C HOWDHRY seema.c@livemint.com

··························· opefully this year Phunsukh Wangdu (Aamir Khan’s character in 3 Idiots) will not be the only Ladakhi to leave a mark on the collective Indian consciousness. Two other Ladakhis, both skiers, hope to make their countrymen proud when they represent the nation at the 21st Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, starting 12 February. Havaldar Jamyang Namgial, 25, and havaldar Tashi Lundup, 26, both members of the Indian Army’s Ladakh Scouts regiment, will be the first from their region to take part in any Olympic event. “I love the fact that this sport has allowed me to travel to so many countries which most people from Ladakh cannot imagine visiting,” says Namgial. The duo, who have just returned from Italy after two months of training, are seemingly excited, but it is tough to gauge how they really feel. They are both men of few words. The only time their faces really light up is when they open their 6ft-long black-and-grey ski bags to show off the new skis funded by the W i n t e r Games Federation of India. Lundup now has four pairs, including a shiny new neongreen, slim pair (about an inch and a half in width) with poles that are more than 5ft long. Namgial’s new pair is broader at the ends, about 4ft long, and his ski poles are under 3ft. With this red and white pair of skis, his tally is a Cool quotient: total of three pairs. Shiva Keshavan (top right) feels he is better prepared for A bumpy ride the Winter Olympics because In comparison, 28-year-old Keshe has managed to get in havan is a livewire. enough practice by partici­ Keshavan, who will represent pating in 15 luge events; ski­ India in luge for the fourth coners Jamyang Namgial (left) secutive time in the Olympics, and Tashi Lundup too are talks non-stop. Even as he is getconfident after training in ting out of his cherry red WagonR Austria, Australia and Italy. car, lugging his shiny blue sled,

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putting on stud-encrusted gloves and white ski boots that look straight out of a sci-fi movie and struggling into a self-designed tricolour ski-suit which has the word “Bharat” misspelt in Hindi. Even as he gets ready for a photo shoot at the Nehru Park in New Delhi, Keshavan is talking enthusiastically. In luge, as Keshavan explains, the athlete has to lie on his back on a sled (a pod on two steel blades), which is about 45cm wide, and then go down an artificially refrigerated track, feet first. As he rockets down, trying to reach the finish point in the shortest possible time, the athlete has to steer the curves of the ice track using his body weight, feet and sled handles. The preceding year has been the best for Keshavan’s sporting career in more than a decade and he is understandably excited. Besides finding a sponsor in Swiss International Air Lines (which takes care of his travel requirements for events), Limca Book of Records (which is funding his equipment) and Reebok (which is funding his gear), he has received a positive response from the Union sports ministry. “There is really one guy to thank for all this—Abhinav Bindra. His winning the Olympic medal at Beijing has changed so many things for sportsmen like me in this country,” says Keshavan, who missed meeting Bindra in Munich, Germany, last year when they were training there. He keeps in touch with the Olympic gold medallist on Facebook though. Keshavan and his partner/ manager/fiancee Namita Agarwal spent the better part of 2008 coldcalling over 100 companies to see if they could find sponsors. “We tried watch companies, sports goods manufacturers, cola giants. I used to get numbers off the Internet and then call the office for appointments. It was during one of these calls that the Swiss International Air Lines deal come through, not in terms of hard cash, but in a deal that allows Shiva to travel more frequently for events,” says Agarwal.

Col. S.C. Narang, director, Winter Sports Federation of India, says they have spent around Rs12 lakh each on Lundup and Namgial’s training, equipment and travel arrangements in the last year. “We had approached many companies in 2008 to help us with sponsorships, but nobody came forward,” he claims. Last year, for the first time, the sports ministry agreed to help Keshavan with funds (around Rs10 lakh) for his travel, stay, training, and to pay his coach Yann Frichteau’s fees (€2,000 per month from October 2009 to February 2010). The ministry even ordered a new sled to be made to his specifications—it will not be ready in time for the Olympics, however. Agarwal has never seen Keshavan in competition on a luge track, just as Namgial and Lundup’s families in Ladakh still don’t quite understand what their boys do with long poles in the snow. “I hurt myself badly when I started learning the sport initially but I never told my family about it,” says Namgial. Keshavan, who holds the world record for being the youngest Olympian to qualify for luge, is also probably the only one to have competed in the Olympics with borrowed equipment. In his first stint in the Winter Olympics at Nagano, Japan, in 1998, the then 16-year-old Keshavan par-

INDIA AT THE WINTER OLYMPICS

ticipated on a sled that the Korean team was kind enough to lend him. He finished in the top 30, creditable considering India did not even send official papers recognizing him as a participant and he was almost denied entry into the Games Village. Despite it all, this resident of a small village in Himachal Pradesh, who’d been exposed to luge just two years earlier, managed to stay one position ahead of the Koreans who had lent him the sled. “I had no clue what luge was when I signed up for a camp in 1995-96 held by an Austrian talent scout Gunter Lemmerer. He had been sent by an international luge federation to seek luge pilots in countries other than the Alpine ones. It meant taking a week off school. Besides, I was the junior ski champion, so I assumed the camp was associated with skiing,” says Keshavan, who spent his early years in Vashisht, a village in Himachal Pradesh where his Italian mother runs an eatery and Malayali father an adventure sports company. He was later packed off to The Lawrence School, Sanawar. At the camp, he was among the 30 participants who were shown a film so that they could understand what luge, bobsleighing and other winter sports were about. Lemmerer then made them try out luge on sleds that had rollerblades. “I rolled down a road instead of an ice track. It was very cool,” says Keshavan, who had learnt skiing on handmade wooden skis.

This will be the eighth time the country will take part in the Games

Ski is the limit

INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA, 1964 Jeremy Bujakowski in Alpine skiing GRENOBLE, FRANCE, 1968 Jeremy Bujakowski in Alpine skiing CALGARY, CANADA, 1988 Shailaja Kumar, Gul Dev and Kishor Rai in Alpine skiing ALBERTVILLE, FRANCE, 1992 Nanak Chand and Lal Chuni in Alpine skiing NAGANO, JAPAN, 1998 Shiva Keshavan in luge SALT LAKE CITY, US, 2002 Shiva Keshavan in luge TORINO, ITALY, 2006 Neha Ahuja in Alpine skiing; Bahadur Gurung Gupta in cross­ country skiing; Shiva Keshavan in luge; and Lal Chuni in Alpine skiing Source: www.sports-reference.com/ olympics/countries/ind

Lundup and Namgial learnt about their respective sports courtesy a film too. “I was interested in ice hockey and had seen the members of the elite Ladakh Scouts play games. I wanted to be like them and that’s why I signed up for the army in 2001 when I was 16,” says Namgial, who is from Saboo village in Ladakh. His dreams of playing ice hockey went into cold storage when he saw an exhibition match between the Ladakh team and a team from Canada. “The Canadians, they just did not bother about the puck. They just went for the players only. The game did not look so exciting after that.” Namgial, along with Lundup, was among the seven Ladakh Scouts selected after trials for the High Altitude Warfare School

(HAWS) in Gulmarg, Kashmir. It was there in 2002 that the boys were introduced to skiing. Ask the two why Lundup, a native of Achinathang village in Ladakh, was selected for crosscountry skiing and Namgial for Alpine skiing, and the answer is simple: “I could run long distances in the snow faster than anyone else without getting breathless and he could run up and down a slope best,” explains Lundup. Namgial believes that he was selected for the giant slalom (which involves skiing between sets of poles, or “gates”, placed at a distance from each other) because he was the only one in his group who was not scared to run down a slope fast. In cross-country skiing (freestyle), participants propel themselves across snow-covered terrain using narrow skis and long poles. Lundup will be participating in the 15km event at the Olympics. “You should have a good sense of balance. And no smoking and drinking allowed if you want to pursue the sport,” he adds. Namgial will compete in giant slalom. After being assigned their respective sports, both had to follow rigorous training schedules set by Subedar Karma Samstan, a revered figure at HAWS. “He is a legend in Ladakh Scouts. He has trained us in sports we knew nothing about,” says Namgial. He whips out a laptop and shows us a video of himself scurrying down a slope in Italy, pausing it at one place and pointing to the way his body bends in an S-shape. “Before going to Italy, I never knew that my head and shoulders should not be on the same side when I hit the gate,” he says. “That used to slow me down. Now I keep my head away from my shoulders.”

Fast forward Keshavan too has been working with coach Frichteau, an ex-luge champion, to improve his timing. “There are four things that mainly matter in luge. The athlete’s physical power helps in the initial thrust that will carry the luge pilot down the track, a skilled piloting ability to manoeuvre the course; your equipment; and how well you know the track you are on.”

The last two attributes help a luge pilot get an edge over competitors, says Keshavan—as does a slightly heavier body. “The more you weigh, greater is the momentum you gather as you hurl down the track,” he says. The sled he will use in the Olympics is a second-hand one, bought in December from the Austrian team. “The good thing is that I have finally retired my decade-old sled, which has seen two Olympics. Since my special sled will be ready only after the Olympics, I will have to modify the runners (steel blades on which the pod sits) of my current sled to suit the Vancouver track,” says Keshavan. He works on these modifications himself, unlike other luge pilots who have teams of assistants akin to Formula 1 teams. But Keshavan is positive that he will be able to improve over his last Olympics ranking of 25 at Torino and hopes to be in the top 17. “Most luge athletes peak at 32 or 33 years. I have time on my side, and hopefully in the 2014 Olympics I will bring home a medal too,” he adds. “Luge is a sport where experience counts—it helps if your body is used to absorbing bumps and you have learnt to keep your mind relaxed at all stages.” To build strength, Keshavan trains in yoga and Kalaripayattu (a form of martial arts from Kerala) during the summer months when he is in India. He also works on running his firm LINK Overseas Consulting (which helps Italian firms set up businesses in India) with Agarwal. “I want to work to develop winter sports in India and that’s why I set up camps for children in Manali, such as the one I did in December with Indian Amateur Luge Association (Iala),” says Keshavan. Fifty boys and girls were selected and trained in luge the same way Lemmerer had done 15 years ago—on sleds with rollerblades—and taught to slide down a road. “We selected 10 children—six boys and four girls—out of these and then took them for advanced training in the sport at Nagano, Japan,” he adds. “By the 2014 Winter Olympics, I hope to see a few more luge pilots participating from India alongside me.”

www.livemint.com Watch video interviews with Shiva Keshavan, Jamyang Namgial and Tashi Lundup at www.livemint.com/olympians.htm

Did you know that three Indians are participating at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and this is the fourth Winter Olympics for one of them? I know, isn’t it fantastic? For more than 12 years, Shiva Keshavan has been representing India at the Winter Olympics. In 1998, he was the youngest ever participant in luge. That’s an outstanding achievement. Unfortunately, cricket being the only sport on most Indians’ minds, I feel Keshavan hasn’t been given the credit he deserves for what he has done. Also, his talent and drive to compete, considering the lack of support he has had over the years, is amazing. I think the Alpine skiers Tashi Lundup and Jamyang Namgial have huge careers ahead of them. I hope India supports them all the way. Are you interested in any specific winter sport? If so, which one? And have you tried it? I am fascinated by most sports but I find winter sports far more dangerous and intriguing. Being a daredevil kind of man myself, I love ice hockey. The amazing ski jumps, AFP

Leading the way: Kumar was a torch­bearer in Toronto. and the snowboarding tricks wow me too. But being an actor and a family man, I can’t take such risks for the sake of amusement, though I would love to be able to train in such sports. If all goes well, you might see me on an icehockey rink in the near future. Are you planning to visit Canada next month? If so, will you make it for the events these athletes are participating in? I am trying. I would love to take my son to Canada for these events and show him that Indians who have come from such small villages have the strength to write history for their country and compete for India regardless of the struggles they face. Do you think that in winter sports, where Europeans tend to dominate, athletes such as Keshavan have a chance of winning? Yes, I do. I believe that Keshavan has a chance to win against even the strongest European athletes. My father taught me this while I was training in martial arts—“as a man, your mind and your heart are far superior muscles to the ones in your legs.” If Keshavan believes he can win, then so do I, for you will never find a larger heart than an Indian heart. Keshavan says he struggled for a long time to get sponsorship. Given a chance to help these sportsmen, what are you likely to do? For example, would you recommend Keshavan for ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ (KKK)? See I am only one man. Indians need to wake up and realize that we have to nurture sporting talent and support these athletes through and through, not just for a year before an event. Also, I like to believe that because I was a torch-bearer in Canada, many more Indians know about these sports now. But I know this is not enough. As for Keshavan in KKK, it sounds like a great idea, but we need more than just publicity for athletes. We need official, government funding, and unfortunately I am not a politician. Seema Chowdhry

FEB-MARCH2010  

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