Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Five Years ....

Only few days away from the year 2010, here comes a new post on my blog, ushering a new beginning. A new year is waiting to unfold just as rapidly as the year 2009 passed. Come Jan 2010, I complete 5 years of stay in Bangalore, more fondly known as Bengaluru. The city has so far offered me fond memories, multiple things to like, few things to hate as well.

I landed here on a cold morning in Jan 2005 to work as an intern at LSI Logic India Pvt. Ltd. Practically awake throughout the overnight train journey, waiting for Bangalore Cantonment; I left Chennai to get into bustling life of a working woman. Many of my friends from BITS, Pilani worked in Bangalore and a big group was involved in internship (part of our curriculum) too at Bangalore. Within a few days of my stay at Bangalore, I got it all, Cauvery emporium, Brigade Road, Corner House DBC, Sweet Chariot, MTR, Airport Road and Majestic.

Five years have passed, I continue to explore this city, its wide tree lined avenues, narrow streets filled with shops, its many parks and lakes, a city with a persistent charm, superb weather and a calm demeanor that has embraced me for 5 years, provided me work, shelter, food and fun.

Thinking back, I am urged to jot down five things I like about Bangalore. There are many more, but I am going to make an attempt to keep the TOP5 in the list below as a mark of completing 5 years in the city. Here they are –

1) Inner Ring Road – Might seem an absurd choice for the traffic that sprawls on it in the core hours, but I used to travel on it daily in Jan 2005 from Jeevan Bima Nagar to Bannerghatta Road to reach LSI office. Winding like a formula one track, seamless and of course slippery, with sight of airplanes flying so low, you could almost touch it, this road is a lovely artery. I have met with an accident on this road, so that leaves an element of awe mixed with fear in my head but I still give it the top spot. Inner ring road is first thing I liked in Bangalore.

2) Food – I can bet conveniently, there is no state in South India that offers such varied, tasty, yummy vegetarian delicacies as Karnataka does and in particular, Bangalore. Thanks to the city, I have gained many kilos compared to my college days. Be it the chocolate mousse cake of Sweet Chariot, the many juice junctions offering Butter Fruit shake (I hadn’t seen the fruit until I came to Bangalore), the many Sagar restaurants with busy people standing and gobbling Hot Idli Vada with sweetish, red sambar, be it a sumptuous MTR meal, Akki roti and Ragi roti of Halli Mane, Malleshwaram; Coffee at Brindavan, MG Road; Mangalore Buns and many other delicacies at Halli Thindi opposite Bull temple, ghee laden Masala Dosa at Vidyarthi Bhavan ... the list goes on, Bangalore is truly a foodie's paradise. I still cannot forget my first day at Shanti Sagar, Koramangala, when the server asked me – “Sambar aa Separate aa” and I blinked. Food at Bangalore is awesome, great quality and taste in highly affordable price.

3) Weather – Many times, I have thought along these lines – “Ohh, this dress, I wore it twice last week, guess can wear it once more before washing”. Never so hot, never sweaty, pleasant all the time, the city has high quotients of serenity attached to it. I pray, we all work to preserve this precious aspect of the city, for being a Chennai resident, I know how difficult it is when one experiences only hot, hotter, hottest seasons through the year. A long time Chennai resident may perhaps not know how to spell WINTER. Guess I got it right due to my stay @Bangalore. :)

4) Parks, lakes – Every area has many well-maintained parks, thanks to BBMP. I am trying to shed those extra kilos I gained by running in these parks. Beautiful lakes are strewn across the city – I have visited the Hessarghatta Lake, Agara Lake, Hebbal Lake, Ulsoor Lake and Madiwala Lake. I know that the number of lakes is fast diminishing due to ongoing spree of construction activities. Ironically, my office building is atop a lake. This is an open plea, please do not claim land from lakes/fill lakes to create construction plots. To worsen it, after committing the sin, please do not give it a misnomer – “Re-claiming land”.

5) Strong parton to arts and cultural activities - Bharatanatyam, Karnataka’s folk dances, mandolin, violin, Carnatic concerts, Shankar Mahadevan, Shreya Ghoshal, Shaan, Kailash Kher, many English rock bands, birth place of many renowned Hindustani classical singers, Karnataka has many credentials in the fields of arts, crafts and sports. In the five-year period, I have attended multiple concerts conducted by Times of India, Bengaluru and during Bengaluru Habba. I have seen people of all ages enjoy music in the open at Palace Grounds and such events/crowds remind me of my college days. Chennai has a very formal set up of Carnatic music festival every December, which may not cater to as big an audience. The Bengaluru Habba Crafts Fair held this year at Karnataka Chitra Kala Parishat, Kumara Krupa Road, Bangalore was a treat to the city’s residents. The aegis this city provides, to arts and crafts is immense and this is a strong reason why I love Bangalore. Not to leave cricket behind, Karnataka has for long, contributed brilliantly to the Indian Cricket team. I have been lucky to watch a T20 match between Deccan Chargers and Bangalore Royal Challengers of IPL First Edition at Chinnaswamy Stadium.
But what bothers me at large and of late is the exponential phase of construction activities in Bangalore with big, tall buildings covered by glass, aluminium composite panels cropping up everywhere, pushing agriculturists entirely out of scene. There are many railway stations in Bangalore - apart from Majestic, at Yeshwanthpur, Malleshwaram, Hebbal, Yelahanka, Banaswadi, Byapannahalli, Krishnarajapuram, Whitefield, Cantonement, Bangalore East and yet there is no EMU train service. The current metro activities run parallel, onlooking the KR Puram and Byapanahalli stations, yet it is unclear to me how organizations/committees cannot think of running EMU trains on it as an immediate and viable soultion rather than felling trees, cutting roads to half the size and spoiling the beauty of once majestic and wide MG Road, Jayanagar South End circle etc
And how meaningful are these plans to go underground near city market for Metro construction? Why add more to the already existing chaos? There is an immediate need of a bus terminus at City Market but government has not heeded to it at all.
And let us not close the KSRTC bus terminus for the sake of Metro. Well planned and laid out, big terminus like the Kempegowda bus station must not fall an easy prey to the ongoing Metro activities. True, I have resided in Bangalore for only 5 years and I see a whale of change, some definitely not for the good for all of us, inmates of this city from birth will certainly attach more value to their home for long. I look forward to 2010 with a small prayer - let us all preserve the beauty and serenity of this city. I definitely love Bangalore :)

Friday, December 11, 2009

War and Peace and Prize

This post titled “War and Peace and Prize” is no appendix/synopsis to the famous work – War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. After reading several articles in newspapers, Nat Geo and considerable browsing, I have been driven to add a third dimension to WAR and PEACE.

Today, we have four US presidents in the list of the Nobel Peace Prize winners, starting with Theodore Roosevelt (1906), Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1919), Jimmy Carter (2002) and Barack Obama (2009). I remember a one-line mention of President Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the founder of League of Nations while studying for a test on United Nations at school. Though the LoN was a failure, it served as a brainchild for the United Nations and brought some order post First World War. Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for ending the Israel-Egypt conflict over Sinai Peninsula in the year 1979 through a peace agreement. Years later in 2002, he received the honors for brokering the peace agreement. May be the committee took time to circumspect. Though good number of articles tell me how influential a president Theodore Roosevelt was, it is not very clear why he received the Nobel Peace Prize. His career was dotted with the war on Cuba but he was known more for ending the Russo-Japanese war. May be the committee then granted him the Nobel Peace Prize for not hunting a bear when in Mississippi, an act that gave birth to “Teddy’s Bear – Theodore(Teddy) Roosevelt’s bears or teddy bear” in toy shops, first in USA and now world over.
An overpowering sense of astonishment still lingers in case of Barack Obama. Just close to finishing an year as US President, the African American President has created history of unprecedented scale. He has sent an additional troop of 30,000 US soldiers to Afghanistan on a war to curb Taliban, then was present at Oslo to receive the honors. He neatly completes the three dimensions – War and Peace and Prize and that he has managed it in the shortest time frame speaks of his potential, his skill with words and his tact to reign over the world. If Guzton Borglum were alive today, he would definitely have sculpted Obama’s face on Mt.Rushmore.

Right from Indonesia, where a statue of a 10 year old Obama with a butterfly in hand has been unveiled to inspire youngsters, to China where Wen Jiabo is yearning to get the green signal to boss over Asia and its affairs, to India where the PM’s highest personal achievement is an invitation to the black tie dinner hosted at White House, to Israel’s Benjamin Nitanyahu temporarily suspending the expansion of settlements in West Bank fearing a US crackdown, to Copenhagen where officials are accused of working more behind closed doors to allow USA circumvent awkward legal binding on emission cuts, to Oslo-Norwegian Nobel Committee for granting peace prize, the world largely, has fallen flat in salutation to the USA and to Barack Obama.

They not only accept the United States as the omnipotent power but have also acknowledged it openly, some very charismatically and some sheepishly. May be for the first time, an award has been provided even before the results were achieved.

I seriously pity the Nobel Prize winners in the science and medicine category who do not live long enough to receive the honor. They research for years with meticulous care to pave way for a better understanding of some deep mysteries in science and medicine. However, Barack Obama has clinched the honor effortlessly.
The honor, it seems, is not for the work done but an advance extended for work to happen, more precisely, for duties expected of the United States and from Obama who leads it. However, Obama was not moved by this cosseting act. He clearly said that a nation cannot be run, only on ideals preached by King and Gandhi, every nation has the right to defend itself. Though his words are pragmatic, the intentions and outcome are thoroughly myopic. This “every nation” is restricted to only USA. Every nation has the right to progress – but emission cuts are legally binding only on developing nations. And US as a nation, has the right to progress, that is why it has until now evaded the Kyoto protocol.

Obama has talked of leaving a beautiful earth for children and grandchildren of tomorrow. Where and how will that happen with US mining corporations minting money over gold and diamond mining activities? The vulnerable victims are poorer and ignorant nations of Africa and Asia who for a considerable and never seen before urban development sacrifice their natural habitats. They are caught in problems like destruction of rain forests, greater soil erosion, vulnerability to either droughts or flash floods and nasty civil wars.

USA has not even spared its neighbor, Canada. It imports billions of barrels of crude oil from the state of Alberta in Canada. The oil sands in the Athabasca basin are churned in heavy machines fuelled by natural gas, heat and steam run over under high temperature and pressure to separate bitumen from oil so that the final product is neatly transported. Tons and tons of natural gas (a non-renewable energy source) are burnt in these behemoth machines in Canada to generate barrels of crude oil (another non-renewable energy source) and tailings/end materials of the process are left carelessly at the river basin choking aquatic life and stifling migratory birds to death.

What made the world infer that United States is a responsible power, clairvoyant enough to preserve the world as is for future generations? Yes, I accept, USA is a power, a supreme power that can impose sanctions on Iran, toughen its stand on Afghanistan and Taliban, indefinitely carry on war in Iraq. Is it a responsible power to take the lead in cutting green house gas emissions, providing relief to hunger infested African nations, take onus and not trample upon other nations’ valuable resources for its benefits in the name of globalization?

If the Nobel Committee expected all good work to be done by USA with Obama leading from the front, I feel it is too wild and big an expectation. Many have believed and still believe that Obama will harness change, but to reward him even before he proves his mettle will only lead to dejection and dismay. When the world realizes that time has flown by, another presidential term has come to an end, yet nothing has changed, it will be too late.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rock On

The channel, MTV, has been long known for airing preposterous shows brimming with vulgarity. However, Kurkure Desi Beats – MTV Rock ON came as a refreshing change.
A music show where people grouped into bands perform original compositions, compositions blended with a flavor of desipann and predominantly, the typical vocal chord straining, head banging hard rock element.

Though I was not regular in watching the audition sessions, I happened to see the Kolkata auditions episode. I must accept, the place teems with musical talent. Sambit, a drummer and Raahi, a vocalist, caught my attention with their zeal and energy. They got selected and in fact, sailed till the end.

The show had Ram Sampath, a music director, Kailash Kher, a superb singer and Nikhil Chin-up-aa, MTV VJ as judges. I spent months of Aug-Oct 2009, waiting for Sat 7pm, watching this program, loving it for the fact that it did not focus on vocalists alone but gave importance to instrumentalists as well. I genuinely feel that instrumentalists are more gifted than vocalists, they understand the most subtle nuances of music which are easily forgotten or overlooked by vocalists. Ironically, it is also true that they get lesser recognition and credit.

This show on MTV turned out to be my favorite for 3 reasons –
1) I loved music
2) It did not carry the conventional ingredients of a MTV show – cat fights, drama in name of road adventure, verbal abuse, churlish quotient etc
3) It had adults as participants. Not young, schoolchildren who left behind their bags/books, spent all time in the studio recording/singing only to get dejected and utterly lost on the day of elimination. To make it more traumatic, the child’s parents sob, whine, sulk and fight, creating a picture of irreversible damage to the child’s career and life.

The participants from auditions were put through multiple rounds of elimination, usually attended by a guest, an external judge apart from the usual three. Their inputs were valuable but also surprised me at times; they excused many a mistake from some but showed the door to few who went wrong just once.

Out of the eliminated participants, I loved Parul, a vocalist. She rendered the remix version of the Hindi film song, Soni de Nakhre very beautifully. Mr.Mari, a saxophone player, though not versatile in tunes and style, his age (60+) and passion to play alongside people in 20s undoubtedly deserved accolades. Agnithra, a tabla player, Keshav, a guitarist and Jared, a guitarist (though not a vocalist, he rendered a superb version of “Genda Phool” in baritone voice) are other names I will remember.


Decisions marking exit for some came very late, as in case of Geetharthi, Abhinanda, Anish and Bikram, all are vocalists. They had the clear advantage over instrumentalists, after all a band requires some one to sing and take centre stage. This gave them the edge, even when they lacked potential, over instrumentalists for whom a single error cost heftily, the toughest competition reigning in the guitarist’s category.

The BEST survived and formed three bands.
Dhairya – comprised of Iman Sen, a vocalist from Kolkata, perfect playback singer material, great voice with immense depth, who put his heart and soul to every song he sang. His clarity, seamless transitions between notes, passionate and zero inhibition performances were a treat. I would love to see his name on the Bollywood playback charts some day.
Then there is Aviv, on guitar, highly talented leader of the band, Collins, the rapper, bringing hip-hop flavor to the song, a total enthu guy, Akashdeep, truly talented bass guitarist, Parth on flute (a very disciplined and down to earth performer, highly gifted musician) and Yadhu Nandan on drums adding life and vital beats to the song.
Iman and Parth, in my opinion, were always flawless and rocked every episode.

Khilaugh – This band is a precious gem, a star-studded collage. All members of this band are my favorites. Each member is a king and together, they ROCK on stage. They are very adorable, devoid of ego, and full of a unique sense of friendliness. They might not have bagged the first place in the competition but I am sure they will walk away with bigger and better laurels some day if they continued to perform together.

The leader is the “Raakshas Gaayak”, sobriquet provided by Kailash Kher to Raahi for his orotund voice. He always ensured that you banged your head, tapped your feet, clapped your hands and enjoyed his song as much as he did. He would tear his vocal chords apart with a never say die attitude. Sambit, on drums shared equal fervor.
Kaushik, Ashok and Pratyush on guitar, though relatively soft natured people, stole hearts with their fingers playing meticulously over the strings. They were the magicians of the band. Of all guitarists in the finale, Pratyush, Kaushik and Ashok were my hot favorites. They wore sweet smile on their faces when they crafted their parts in complete sync and perfect harmony with the others; there was never a clash between the three guitarists of the band. Then there is DJ Saab with an element of style, revolutionizing modern day music with his turntable. With whack, whacky turns on the turntable, he created sounds that provided a never heard before funky quotient. They were unbeatably the best in every sense. “Jugni”, a song performed by Raahi in one of the elimination rounds is a superb piece to watch.

Saadhak – The winner of the competition comprised of very talented musicians. With Nirdosh, the guitarist on the forefront, there was no looking back for this band from start. Nirdosh was way above his peers and no novice to music, his desipann and musical acumen conquered his tunes. Indigenous elements were mixed boldly by Naitik on percussion (the dhol). Tanmoy, on drums, left no stone unturned. Sachin, the violinist, a prodigy, ensured that the music delivered was always of A1 grade. Raj, the KILLER bass player let his hair loose and played with immense fervor, getting deep down to intrinsic notes of the song, leaving his stamp of perfection on each one of them. Willy, though not talented as other vocalists - Iman or Raahi, mingled well with the masters in his band.

The problem with this band was copious ego among its members – Nirdosh, Naitik and Sachin were too excessively talented to shed their differences and come together. Sachin, especially, as the sole violinist in the contest threw tantrums and worked to dominate the centre stage. The differences between them were so huge at times that they expressed dissent openly in recording studio before Ram.

For this flaw, I feel they should not have won the title in the grand finale. Music is the primary element in judgment, but being happy and natural, playing as a band also matters, when on stage in front of an audience. After all, when music is the primary element, discord between people who render it sounds absurd. Members of Saadhak never seemed to complement each other, rather they appeared juxtaposed with one another, bundled together to achieve a dream. However, taking their creations, “Bulle Shah” and “Billo Aunty” of two varied genres– the former being Sufi and the latter, a happy go lucky, naughty song, as instances will reveal why they grabbed the big pie.

To know more about these bands, to download their compositions, one can check - http://rockon.mtvindia.com/
Read more: http://www.deccanchronicle.com/tabloids/rocking-trio-727

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Why so diplomatic?

Today we are completing an year in sheer disbelief, anguish and shame, of how a terrorist attack, of an unprecedented scale, masterminded by our neighbour, executed by a group of 10 ruthless scavengers held the nation on tenterhooks for 62 hours. Toll in hundreds, bloodbath in iconic places in the financial capital, unimaginable scale of destruction to prestigious builidings, tragic loss of heroes from State Police and NSG who faced terror without the slightest hesitation, forgetting their families so that the larger population could watch their bravery on television - the thought sends a chill down our spine.
You don’t need to be a Marathi to feel this pain; you don’t need to reside in the city to share the fear, being an Indian will suffice. Every time visuals from the episode an year back, flash on TV or a 11-year-old kid quizzes on TV why his parents were killed in CST on that fateful night, you hang your head in shame to know how easily security lapses lead to such humongous loss of life. Nobody has talked of these lapses, the reasons behind not being able to uncover the operation in planning phase itself. The newspapers said that the terrorists were well versed with different places of attack, they did a recee before arriving, what were we doing when they did this recee?

We are sadly, the neighbor to a nation that foments terror every day, a nation that in spite of vivid proof tactfully declines our carefully prepared dossiers. We are neighbor to a nation that strikes terror on a visiting cricket team and thereby ruins our chances of a hosting an internationally important event, because you never know where terror will strike, you have to be paranoid. Millions of rupees as revenue from the IPL2 was lost so that loss of lives is avoided. Not bad at all, but how long do we cow down under fear and pressure? Why cannot we question from within, why are we not preparing dossiers on the officers who failed to do their duty in national agencies, who in spite of information input failed to see a catastrophe so bleak, in the making? When you have a rotten neighbor who is unrepentant for unleashing terror on your soil, why cannot you be more agile, buckle up and be prepared always?
Why this diplomacy, why mellow down as if nothing has happened at all?

Why shake hands with such a neighbor at Sharm-el-sheik? Why talk of Baluchistan, the biggest ever gaffe one can imagine? The people of India are still frustrated with what happened, they are still teeming with anger and helplessness. As an elected representative of the people of India of the highest order, is’nt the Prime Minister of India supposed to give a cold shoulder to the neighbor, shake hands with all leaders but meekly ignore the presence of this neighbor in the meeting room. I would have given a perfect 10 on 10 for such an act. Why have cultural, sports, or any ties in any field with such neighbors who cannot live and let live?

Strokes of diplomacy surface again with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the White House. Obama gave India a nice thrashing during his visit to Beijing, bestowing supreme powers on China to poke their nose in matters related to India –Pakistan border.
Where we stand in United States perspective was evident from Obama’s Beijing visit? For a nation that treats India like a pet Pomeranian, should we not assert our position and self-respect rather than respecting an invitation to a black tie dinner at the White House?

We must not sulk, that is immature, we must treat people with respect and be diplomatic, come what may. May be this is what the head of the nation is trying to teach us all.
Nevertheless, I find it absolutely impossible to draw a trace of logic from such actions.

Why be so diplomatic? Sometimes it is important to show your anger and emotions, of course, through right channels, which is when others know you are not to be taken for granted. Ten months into presidency, Obama has started playing games with India like his predecessors. Turning down on an invitation from the White House, a never given before to invite to an Indian on the pretext of some pressing official/national work, may be some security meet to not let another 26/11 happen would have been a good reply to the world’s Big Brother.
After all we have been diplomatic for a long time now.

References : Inspired by an article that appeared on Sunday Times, 22nd Nov 2009, by Mr. MJ Akbar - http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/TheSiegeWithin/entry/terror-threat-we-have-lost

Friday, November 20, 2009

All that glitters is GOLD

My attention, in the last few months has been directed towards soaring prices of GOLD, primarily, due to my father’s occasional cribs that he missed out investing on them when it was 1150 Rs/gm. Sure, even I feel I have missed out on a golden opportunity for the metal is priced at 1700+ Rs/gm today.

A casual browse through some archives of National Geographic magazine brought me to this article – “The real price of Gold” from the Jan 2009 issue (refer http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/01/gold/larmer-text) and this blog post is inspired from it, a 13 page long article that kept me hooked to it despite its length.
The article opens with a narration of artisans and miners at the world’s highest town, La Rinconada in the Peruvian Andes mountains. Possesed by gold, these artisans lead their life under a cachorreo system where they toil at the mines without pay for 30 days in a month and use a single shift on the 31st day to make their fortune, dig and gather as much ore for 4 hours; carry as much as their fatigued shoulders can. All this with some coca leaves to satisfy their hunger and with constant prayers to return home alive and LUCKY.
In a town, about 17000 feet above the sea level, tunneling through curves under glacial ice sheets, at elevations where even oxygen is denied, residing at homes which lack sanitation facilities, these people set out to work every day with the hope of making a big fortune. They wait for that 31st day when the ore they carry bares some microscopic, wondrous particles of GOLD. Most artisans use mercury to separate gold from the rocks casually, inhale mercury fumes in the process, blissfully ignorant of the damage they do to themselves neurologically and to future generations genetically; to the environment, releasing the poisonous metal in liquid and gas states. Such is the frenzy for GOLD that it shrouds and suppresses all humanly instincts, that of hunger, thirst, hygiene and most importantly kindness to fellow humans and to nature. We do not require exemplary instances of the 1848 gold rush in California, the Bulgarian Gold rush, from the multiple conquests in ancient times to the many civil wars in African nations to validate this statement.
However, worse than all this is the current trend of rising GOLD prices, skyrocketing to a pinnacle that will send the whole planet plummeting to an infernal state. The article in NatGeo shifts from Peruvian Andes to Indonesia, the Batu Hijau operations by Newmont Mining Corporation. The Denver based, world’s largest mining corporation is steadily driving ecological disturbances at a determined rate through its huge open pit mines and fleet of super size Caterpillar machines.
The article provides a stark fact – to produce gold required for a typical wedding ring – 250 tons of rock and ore are removed. The people on this island Sumbawa, in Indonesia grew up hearing bedtime stories of gold cached behind the green mountains. Currently, they are employed under a foreigner to dig open the Earth’s crust to reveal this tantalizing metal. The inhabitants of this island cleared large areas of rainforest to create the open pit mine, cleared more rain forests to accomadate heaps of waste rock and ore, they being citizens of a developing nation bore the brunt of the company’s wastes disposal down into their sea floor. They are paving way for their destruction, steadily and carelessly towards a catastrophe on this earth; all in exchange for good roads, some apartment complexes, an international school, pizza restaurants for the 4000 mine workers in the town ship of Batu Hijau.
The toll will be a hefty one but it is strategically masked by a handsome and regular monthly pay sanctioned to the miners, truly a paltry amount considering the profits, the mining company churns out of its mammoth scale activities. The irony is gold is elusive for these miners at Batu Hijau, they still have not seen a speck of it. The ore with the green rock (gold is usually associated with copper) is promptly transported to smelters abroad and only the chemical wastes return days later. In Ghana, a Canadian company, Bogoso Mining Limited was in headlines for releasing cyanide from open pit mining operations into the local water supply.
So despite all this, what is it that makes us run behind this metal with the chemical symbol – Au? When we were at school, we hardly came across chemical equations having Au, typically because it is chemically inert; gold is immortal and so is its shine, the properties of malleability and ductility. We learnt that only aqua regia dissolves it and yes, we were done with this metal Gold.

How did GOLD become so significant in an educated middle class Indian family? Frankly, gold transcends all barriers in India, that of religion, language, class, race, sect, and castes. All want to possess it; from birth to death, to more importantly during the marriage phase in between. The author of the Nat Geo article ridicules the omnipotent desire of Indians to amass this metal both for adornment and investment reasons.
Take a gold loan if you cannot afford it, join a chit fund even if the agency is not reliable, but buy GOLD; particularly accumulate GOLD from day one if you have a girl child. Even if you don’t have money, buy gold on Akshaya Trithi, it brings good luck. I remember one of the Tamil movie comedies by an artist, Vivek in this reference, where he wakes up an unconscious woman, placing a loud speaker in her ears and announcing an offer on gold in shops at Panagal Park, Chennai. Panagal Park in Chennai teems with gold shops and hoardings with beautiful actresses adorning gold jewellery.
Does soaring price of gold stop this mad rush? The answer is a blatant and a quick NO.
When you are about to amass this metal, just think for a brief moment, the extent of environmental damage that you advocate. Think of nations that suffer at the hands of exploitative companies and multinational giants, lives of millions of people without basic amenities, toiling their way blindly to meet your insatiable demand for the metal.

I pray for the day to dawn in India when the government will issue statutory directives against exchange of gold in any form between concerned parties in wedding and will advocate a system of non-ceremonious/register marriages. Sadly, this day will never dawn. The metal gold is very tightly interwoven into our spirit and culture, so tightly that a mother does not mind strangulating her baby girl to death in the fear of her inability to accumalate gold for her wedding years later.

There is no exaggeration in how strongly I feel against amassing such precious metals – be it gold, or even opulent craze for platinum and diamonds. I would prefer leaving something intact behind on this Earth for the generations to come rather than photos of me adorned in gold necklaces, bangles, earrings and saris woven with gold thread.

One thing is sure – for the demand that gold has, for the rate at which these mad miners are excavating the earth, its every nook and corner; nothing will be left of it. We will be left with a solitary question, "Do we possess GOLD or does GOLD possess us? " as asked by Peter L. Bernstein, the author of The Power of Gold.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Silk Route to Bollywood

“Dooba Dooba Rahta Hoon Aankhon mein teri”… were the lines Mohit Chauhan sang in a soft, sleepy, romantic voice, for his debut album "Boondhein" as a lead singer of the band Silk Route. The band did a couple of albums before dissolution. People then, were not much bothered about Mohit’s individual identity.

Years later, came the song "Tum Se Hi" from the movie Jab we Met. A boffo at the box office, crafted and enacted to perfection, the movie's music smashed top charts and Mohit rode on the success vehicle with the rest of the team. “Who sang Tum se Hi?” “Very beautifully sung in a soothing voice, the singer has sung it with his heart and soul”. Compliments poured in and it came to the forefront that Mohit Chauhan was no novice to the industry, he had already rendered "Khoon Chala" of Rang de Basanti fame.

In film playback industry which is a frenzied melee, millions of singers, professionally trained and non trained, from different age groups, backgrounds, regions/mother tongue - fight for a bigger piece of pie. Making heads turn, winning critical and popular acclaim is a Herculean task. Mohit Chauhan did just that by singing “Masakali” in Delhi 6 movie, a song, I must say, Rahman would have felt proud composing. There are some special, never-heard-before elements of music in it. As Mohit starts humming ... "Hey he heey hey hey nana nnaanana naa", one sails seamlessly with the melody.

The recent movie Love Aaj Kal turned out to be a huge disappointment in all aspects - story, cast, direction and screenplay. It did not live up to the standards of an auteur like Imtiaz Ali. The only vantage point in it was the song “Yeh Dooriyan” sung by Mohit. The song scored a perfect ten for its soulful lyrics and flawless rendition.

Mohit did not fail to deliver again! With his latest romantic ballad “Pehli Baar Mohabbat ki Hai” in movie Kaminey, he is definitely making people sway to his mellifluous voice. 

The launch pad for success is in place for this talented singer. He may only possess countable songs in his kitty but each song has received phenomenal recognition from audience. Mohit’s journey from Silk Route to Bollywood has been a commendable one, but if it was smooth like silk is a question, he alone can answer. After all, fame cannot be earned easily. A free lunch is only found in mousetraps.

Quotable Quotes

  • Harsha Bhogle, the veteran cricket commentator in his book - "Out of the Box" said,
    "Since T20 is the next big thing, the one thing I would go for is longer boundaries. The quicker the boundaries come in, the shorter it will become and the quicker it will die out because at the heart of cricket is a contest between bat and ball. The day you make one of them irrelevant, it's not cricket any more. So for T20 cricket make the boundaries distant."


    SRK on being detained at Newark airport, US for 2 hours, said it was not a drama and he needed no publicity stunt. In his interview to TOI, he was quoted saying the lines below. Quoting German pastor Martin Niemoller, Khan said, ‘‘They came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.’’
  • From May 10th 2010, we get a new term, better said, an alternate expression for a very common idiom. Foot in mouth - is an idiom, all of us are familiar with, we might have done it/witnessed others doing it many a times. To put foot in mouth means - to say something that you regret, something embarrassing, something hurtful/silly/stupid. Well, from now on, we can even say - I did a "Tharoor". When one says something ridiculous, makes a preposterous remark, even a sensible remark at a wrong time to a wrong audience in a wrong forum/venue , we claim the person has done a "Tharoor". The derivation is from record of many such foot in mouth events by Mr.Shashi Tharoor, ex Union Minister of UPA cabinet who was forced to resign after the brouhaha surrounding sweat equity, office of profit and his more than mentor like involvement with the Kochi IPL franchise. Jairam Ramesh, another Union Minister of the UPA government, follows Tharoor as an ardent disciple in this context. Feel free to use this new term :)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

All Truth, No Lies!

We all have heard the famous quotes – “Honesty is the best policy”, “Truth is bitter” and many of us have even read “The story of my Experiments with Truth”, an autobiography by the father of our nation.

However, truth has received a completely new and unparalleled dimension on television right now. One gets monetary rewards for speaking the truth, for disclosing the most sacrosanct secrets of his/her private life, for unveiling them in front of loved ones whom we would never want to hurt or betray. Money for ripping apart one’s respect and self esteem, the most heavily regarded and thereby guarded elements in full public view.

The questions are all prepared in such a way that the answers are meant to expose only negative traits. The person in question is seated in an apparently uncomfortable position, in one of the perfect executive-like cushioned chair to face a volley of questions, all of which induce stress in the contestant & his/her near and dear ones. When the current era talks so much on stress management, skilful techniques of handling stress at work/school/home and every place on earth, why does this TV show aim at creating bouts of it?

A test used by investigating agencies after serious contemplation on criminal subjects is the central instrument of the show - polygraph test. Did one know that the polygraph test measures physiological responses of the sympathetic nervous system like changes in blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration/breathing patterns, skin temperature etc in human? These patterns are believed to be different for deceptive responses. Is one prepared to go through this test for sake of some lakhs and crores ? Instead, it would save a million lives if people volunteered for an early diagnosis of many fatal diseases and silent killers like hypertension, cardiac problems, diabetes, cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.
If one was seriously interested in coming out clean, then why not do it in front of loved ones in confinement? That one is prepared to face the whole world while confessing on dark, inner secrets of life, sweating out and breathing faster as the process happens, goes out to show how mercenary people have become.

The show airs the truth about lives of many biggies and celebrities. So the next time India lost a cricket match, why not the captain be subjected to a polygraph on the actual reasons, why not politicians involved in many scandals get free of guilt through this instrument? Wish this show had started earlier, we could have got Ramalinga Raju of Satyam participate and check the veracity of his company’s revenue/profit reports and thereby averted the worst ever tech debacle.

Below is the link to a very well written article on what this TV show offers to the society apart from big bucks – by Santosh Desai in Times of India, dated July 26, 2009. http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Citycitybangbang/entry/the-very-naked-truth
Below is the complete text of the article -
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The Very Naked Truth
It has happened. The parliament is seized of the Sach Ka Samna question and the clouds of outrage are darkening visibly. Charges of vulgarity and fears about potential damage to the Indian way of life are rife. On the face of it, it is easy to see why this show should cause such offense. A participant performs the ultimate act of pornography as he disrobes himself in full public view of all that he considers most intimate, stripping himself of not only dignity and self-respect but dismantling in the process, the trust he evokes from those he loves most. We watch in voyeuristic disbelief, with a combination of fascination, horror, guilt and smug superiority at someone's else's misery. That a channel should produce a show like this makes us cringe, for what could be more exploitative and destructive than a spectacle like this?

And yet, the issue is not that simple. We keep talking about the virtues of honesty in our life and personal relationships. And all that this show does is to deal in the truth. Participants know not just the kind of questions they will be asked but have been exposed to the specific questions that come their way. They know their family will be at hand. The format produces a forced kind of honesty, but at least it deals with the truth and isn't that supposed to set us free?

Maybe not. This is where the motivations that surround this show become important. The show is not interested in the truth but specifically seeks that truth which will cause damage to the individual's self esteem and poison relationships. It is a spectacle only when participants disclose something scandalous. The reason why the family is such an important part of the show is because in some ways it is the show. We have in effect created a market for preying on someone else's personal misery. Once we accept a show like this, what stops us tomorrow us tomorrow from going further down road- for instance why not do an organ donation show tomorrow where a donor chooses from among a long list of critically ill patients vying for the life saving donation? The word 'elimination' will have an altogether realistic meaning then. Or why not make siblings fight for their parents attention and have a panel of esteemed judges give them points?

The commoditization of truth is part of an overall movement towards taking all that constitutes the personal and private and giving it exchange value in order to make it marketable. We can make money on the basis of our looks, education, ability, luck, our willingness to do stupid things and our openness to making our private life public. Everything has exchange value; we can monetize all parts of our life as evidenced by people marrying, dying and selling their virginity on screen for a price. Reality shows in general and Sach Ka Samna in particular serve to turn society's instruments against themselves. The individual is extracted from the folds of her inner world as all that constitutes ones private inner world is laid bare with the seductive aid of money and fame. We become consumers of ourselves as we turn our insides out for the consumption of the outside world. In effect society turns cannibalistic as it feeds on itself and its most cherished institutions. Of course, these institutions themselves are not built on any absolute truths and are riddled with contradictions. Even in this case, we can see how the professed ideal of honesty in relationships comes with clear limits. Relationships are not based on absolute honesty. Given the way society has been constructed, they cannot be. In fact they are based on the opposite- they need others to be insulated from all of an individual's real feelings. It is revealing that almost all viewers who recoil at the show and vow never to take part do so not because they have nothing to hide but because they do and are smart enough not to hurt their loved ones with the truth. This is not limited to a few of us, but is close to being a universal truth.

The trouble with Sach Ka Samna is not that India is not ready for it- at a certain level no society in the world is, given the way it challenges the fundamental assumptions on which we build societies. It is also almost certainly not illegal- nothing that is said or shown in the show is particularly shocking or new. That husbands stray, wives fantasise and siblings betray is hardly anything we have not around us in our lives. It is also unlikely to specifically lead to permanently damaging the fabric of Indian society. The trouble with Sach Ka Samna is that it crosses an invisible line we had drawn for ourselves. It tells us that we are comfortable consuming all that we value in our own lives in the name of entertainment. In the guise of modernity it takes us back to the primitive, as we take pleasure in a new and refined form of an ancient bloodsport.
The most striking thing about this show is that the channel thought it was alright to produce it, that so many participants took part and most importantly so many millions watch it for now. Sach Ka Samna is not a sign of the changes to come; it is a symptom of the changes that have already happened.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Just GOOGLE and find it!

It just struck me as I was reading through the deal between Yahoo and Microsoft. Remarked as a victory after an year for Microsoft, the terms and conditions of the deal between two companies on advertising and web/online search will be out in few hours. After Yahoo vehemently resisted the take over bid by Microsoft last year, the two have turned attention now to a joint venture (I guess after lots of contemplation) , possibly made a solemn promise to act strategically to get close to the behemoth - GOOGLE!

Yes, GOOGLE, the global search mantra that has a 67% share of online search space. Well, you don't find answers to something/your understanding on a topic is clouded, never mind , just GOOGLE and get all answers!

Right from code cracks for video games to detailed pictorial descriptions on various subjects for school projects, from materials for thesis presentations in college to official project related stuff and open source software, from sharing photos, blogs, calendars and recipes to daily news, from Archaelogy to Zoology, encompassing all age groups, GOOGLE is no easy competitor to tackle!

The deal, the press, reveals focusses on leveraging support from Yahoo for Bing, the new search engine developed by Microsoft. As readers of this news, we wish success to both Yahoo and Microsoft :)

By the way, I wanted to have a cursory glance of BING - I typed http://www.google.co.in/ in my IE toolbar and searched for BING, good!
I GOOGLED to find BING!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nothing Endures but Change!

When Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher (535-475 BC) remarked – “Nothing endures but change”, he left behind a highly important notion that finds place in every walk of our life, in a person’s development from infancy to adulthood, in industry – be it marketing, electronics, finance, agriculture, medicine, in global environment and climate. Rephrase it as “Change is the only constant”; “The only constant is change”; ‘Change alone is unchanging”, we sure would have heard the phrase in most meetings in our workplace, if not explicitly, earlier in our life.

Though change is inevitable and typically a regular feature, we try to resist it with immense effort, only to embrace it half-heartedly later, until it becomes a watertight compartment of our life. In my four and half years stay at Bangalore, mostly restricted to its south east cosmopolitan part, changes I have observed have been minimal, well pronounced of them being- hotter summers, lesser rainfall in May-Aug, more glass buildings/brand stores with aluminium glass composite panels, more tech parks, more bore wells, greater felling of trees, increased traffic with years. Whilst, my myopic exposure to changing urban life leaves me pondering on what the city will be like in 5 to 10 years, for those who are natives of Bangalore, the change over last decade would truly be overwhelming, exponential and nettlesome.

Below is an article, published in Times of India, Bangalore edition, dated 23rd July 2009 on the changing face of Bangalore Cantonment. (I have gotten into this habit of collecting/blogging some good articles I read for any future references). The article can be accessed at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/4810880.cms and if the link becomes inaccessible one fine day, below is the body of the article written by Anita Rao Kashi.
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Changing face of Bangalore Cantonment
Never, ever, try this: toss the question `Is it a good thing that Cantonment has changed over the last few decades?' into the midst of a gathering of old timers, especially residents of Cantonment area. Or do so if you love living dangerously and or if strolling g through a mine-laden battlefield is your idea of fun! The resultant pain, suffering and hand wringing are almost too much to bear.

And yet, Cantonment, or Cantt as it is affectionately called, was set inexorably on the path of change almost from the day it was born, sometime in the beginning of the 19th century. Historically, Cantt has always been the harbinger of transformation: a colonial settlement in the midst of a conservative native population is bound to have wide-ranging consequences. So all the teeth gnashing might seem paradoxical. But the pace of change then was slow and allowed time for everyone to absorb and internalise. In the last couple of decades though, the momentum has dramatically changed, became a runaway rogue engine with a life of its own.
When it was established, the Cantonment covered a vast area encompassing present day Richards Town, Agaram, Koramangala, Langford Town, Cubbon Park, Raj Bhavan, Vidhana Soudha, Millers and Cunningham Roads, Cantonment Station and Palace Grounds. With military precision, houses were arranged in straight parallel lines with the Parade Grounds as the centre of the station's existence, and clear demarcated areas for officers according to rank and the native soldiers. Over the years though, the Cantonment metamorphosed and shed some of the more far flung areas and is now just a segment of its earlier area. But in the last few decades, the change has been so phenomenal that people who haven't seen it for a 10 or 20 years will wonder if they are in the right place.
Unlike some of the other older parts of Bangalore, Cantt has the distinction of reinventing itself the most. The reasons are too many and too complicated. Yes, Malleswaram and Basavanagudi have changed beyond recognition as well, but there are still pockets of old world charm, providing glimpses of what it was and might have been. Yet, nowhere has it been more dramatic, more pronounced than in the Cantonment, large pockets of military presence notwithstanding.

The most obvious, the most recent, and according to some, the most heart wrenching, is probably how the skyline of MG Road has completely changed with the start of work on the Metro project. The massive pillars and girders, the pushed back compound of the Parade Grounds, the absence of the much-loved boulevard, have all contributed to an irreversible surgery on the road. The pleasure of standing near Kumble circle and being able to see almost till the other end of the road at Trinity circle is now lost forever. But long before the Metro arrived, there were plenty of signs that Bangalore's most happening road was getting ready to be botoxed and take on a Manhattanesque mantle. The Bluemoon-Blue Diamond building gave way to a commercial complex as did the EGK building. Plaza theatre became defunct. Elsewhere, on Brigade Road, homegrown brands gave way to global names and the makeover headed towards completion with the arrival of the twin golden arches. And these are just a handful of the changes that have taken place.
In varying degrees, this is the story of much of the Cantt area from Shivajinagar and beyond to Langford town, from Cubbon Park to beyond Ulsoor. And depending on which side of the line you are standing, the list could be a litany of woes, an inevitable path towards development or an exciting modernistic journey. Elgin Mills came down and a classy apartment block rose up in its place; Lido is now an eponymous sprawling mall and the Cash Pharmacy building on St Mark's Road has been replaced with a spic and span giant structure. All along Cunningham Road, Queens Road, Millers Road and scores of other, shiny, glassy commercial buildings have sprouted. And even residential areas have not remained the same. Proof of this are to be seen in each of the many areas that make up Cantonment, but nowhere is it more pronounced than around Ulsoor Lake, where high rise apartment blocks compete with high rise office blocks.
Despite overarching efforts by language fanatics, much of Cantonment continues with a bit of the colonial flavour, the last vestiges actually. Fraser Town, Cox Town, Cooke Town, Richmond Town, Coles Park - the names bring with them Bangalore's association with the past. And yet, in many places, the names are only things that have remained unchanged. Strangely enough, the Bangalorean has clung to them with a fierce zeal: both Residency and Richmond roads were named after war heroes, but nobody even bothers with the new names. On the other hand, citizens have not been so kind to structures. Like fairy tales, once upon a time, this was the area that was famous for British bungalows with extensive servants' quarters, built in classic British and European style, sometimes interspersing Gothic elements with native Mysore styles, and the trademark 'monkey tops'. Today, they have been replaced by towering residential complexes and smart modern houses.
Tree lined avenues and narrow roads, unable to take the burgeoning traffic, have either become larger, or one-ways. Flyovers, underpasses, grade separators abound..... The ancient 5th century BC Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said "change is the only constant" but old-time Cantonment residents will hardly appreciate his sentiment when applied to their favorite area, though they know in their hearts that it is inevitable.
Whether it is good, bad or indifferent is a subjective issue and there can never be a last word on it. Yet nostalgia is a funny thing.....all of us, even the most ardent change advocates, have been down that lane sometime or the other.
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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Vacuous Promises

How many times have we heard vacuous promises from our politicians? An attempt to count instances exhaustively will be virtually impossible. Particularly, when a politician, currently valorous enough to dream of heading the country, lays claims to an initial downtrodden status and a spate of injustice faced in early years, does nothing for the society he/she hails from, it is very depressing. When it doesn't stop with giving a cold shoulder to the impoverished but expolit and squash them totally to gasconade about one's might - the act is truly repulsive.

That's sheerly the kind of reaction to what Mayawati, the CM of the country's most populous state has done; builiding memorials and statues bragging endlessly about her political status and influence.

Below is an article I read in Times of India newspaper, dated 4th July 2009, on the above issue. The thoughts I share are the same as stated in the article, expressed very powerfully and tersely.
Good Read : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Opinion/Editorial/TOP-ARTICLE-Monumental-Mistake/articleshow/4735258.cms
The writer is a freelance journalist by the name Amrit Dhillon.
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Monumental Mistake

Standing beside the dirty Gomti river in Lucknow, looking at the structures Mayawati has built on its banks in her quest for immortality, is enough
to make you weep. Not over the hubris behind the self-aggrandisement. Nor over the idea of building memorials to honour Dalit leaders such as B R Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram. Nor even the colossal cost or the efforts of an army of poor workers labouring under a pitiless sun.

It is the way she has squandered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. With acres of land and billions of rupees at her disposal, this was Mayawati's chance to go down in history as the woman who gave birth to a piece of architecture rivalling anything that has come up in the past 60 years. It was a chance to be bold and daring, to create something beautiful and unique. A chance to hold a nationwide competition of architects and order them to let their imaginations soar. The competition would have animated Lucknow residents. A lively debate would have ensued on what they desired for themselves and future generations. What did they want in the city? A stadium, a museum, a university, a hospital, a park or a monument?

For Indian architects, bored with designing shopping malls and farmhouses for the rich, Mayawati's memorials would have been a dream project, a stab at prosperity by creating something as spectacular as the Bird's Nest in Beijing, the Guggenheim Museum, the Sydney Opera House, the Louvre Pyramid or the Pompidou Centre.

Most Indian cities are still symbolised by pre-independence buildings -- Kolkata by Victoria Memorial, New Delhi by Rashtrapati Bhawan and Mumbai by Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Gateway of India. The reason is not lack of talent but of opportunity and near-total absence of any aesthetic sense among the political class, coupled with lack of a desire to create objects of enduring beauty that can become the new icons of India.

Mayawati has bungled by giving Lucknow a collection of gigantic bronze statues, colossal domed structures housing Lincoln Memorial-style statues, and immense stone plazas and walkways stretching as far as the eye can see. Lifeless and insipid, they fail to move the spectator because they speak of nothing but their creator's lust for grandeur. So many trees have been felled and mountains of stone brought in from Rajasthan that residents in the surrounding neighbourhoods say the temperature has risen a couple of degrees. Instead of a beautiful building that would have put Lucknow on the world map, Mayawati has bequeathed the city a memorial with as much charm as her handbag. Grandiose and massive, pink sandstone structures offer a mishmash of styles -- East European Stalinist gigantism, Pyongyang's ponderousness, columns of Imperial Rome, mausoleums of European kings -- all suffused with the pretentiousness of a provincial housewife trying to emulate the majestic sweep of a pharaoh.

What will families do at these memorials once they have seen the 60 stone elephants, the statues and domed, temple-like structures? The vast expanse of stone, unrelieved by greenery, water or grass, will repel visitors. If India Gate has endured as a popular landmark, it's because families congregate in the evenings to enjoy the lawns, water bodies and trees. Mahatma Gandhi's samadhi at Rajghat is simplicity itself and, with its lawns, refreshing. But Mayawati, it appears, is only interested in exuding power. Delhi"s graceful Lotus Temple would find no favour with her; her intention is not to draw people but to awe and intimidate.

She had a choice: erect something original or create a landmark cohering with Lucknow's rich architectural heritage. She failed on both fronts. Moreover, as the 'Dalit Queen' whose heart bleeds for UP's downtrodden, the conditions in which her memorials are being built are shameful. Admittedly, they are no worse than the conditions at construction sites across India where labourers build the mansions of the rich while living in squalor and filth.

But Mayawati claims to be different. The very least she could have done was to create a new model and show the country the decent way to treat construction workers. Why have her labourers been sleeping under tarpaulin sheets and makeshift tents with no clean drinking water, doctor or ambulance at hand, and relieving themselves in the open? Why did she not issue instructions for massive temporary awnings to protect workers from the sun as they slaved for her greater glory, along with a creche, a canteen turning out three meals a day, tankers of cool drinking water and Portacabin toilets for privacy and dignity?

Instead, she has displayed the same contempt towards these workers as their earlier high caste oppressors, forgetting that both the devil and God lie in the details. Mayawati has built a memorial honouring Dalits and Dalit leaders through the degradation of Dalit workers. She is unlikely to grasp the irony, just as she failed to understand her own limitations and the poverty of her imagination when she started conceiving her imperial city.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Brand Monopoly

Much of management jargon makes way for lucid understanding through real life examples. Especially, the many convoluted terms related to brands/product management strike congruous notes when combined with practical experiences of customers.

How many times have we seen shops with boards displaying – STD, ISD, PCO, XEROX? How many times have we read the following note in application forms – “Please produce attested xerox copies of certificates”? How many times have you and I uttered – “I have to take two xerox copies of this form, I am going to the nearby xerox shop”?

XEROX is the name of a company and photocopy is the name of the process/product we are talking about. I need to submit attested photocopies of the certificate would have been the appropriate way of saying had it not been for the brand monopoly exercised by Xerox. Xerox Corporation headquartered in Connecticut, USA is a global document management company that manufactures and sells black and white printers and photocopy machines/photocopiers. Founded in 1906, Xerox rose to prominence in the year 1959 with the first developed plain paper photocopier named Xerox 914. Thereafter, Xerox has only monopolized the field to elephantine extents that the trademark of this corporation is an acclaimed verb in most dictionaries including the Oxford English Dictionary. Therefore, the next time I/you say, “I xeroxed the document and sent it by post” we justifiably are correct.

How many times have we had a conversation such as below with shop vendors “One litre refined oil tetrapacket, please”, “Please give 1 frooti; in reply, the shopkeeper – “Bottle or tetrapack?” ? Here again, Tetrapak is a multinational food processing and packaging company based in Lund, Sweden. The company founded in 1951, by Ruben Rausing began with a tetrahedral package called Tetra Classic, its inventor being Erik Wallenberg and rose to a universal stature in aseptic food processing and packaging of liquid foods. Rausing improved upon Tetra classic (shaped like a tetrahedron) and created different forms like rectangular cuboid carton (Tetra Brik), wedge like (Tetra Wedge), pouch like (Tetra Fino) and pyramidal (Tetra Prisma). His sons/successors made Tetrapak a ubiquitous name in packaging, a synonym for a carton like package for fluids. And truly, today we hardly bother about the shapes/forms, for us everything is TETRAPAK. Such is their omnipresence in industry that similar products from competing firms are only fondly addressed as Tetrapak by customers world over.

An exceptionally noteworthy example is that of Dalda, how it simply replaced the product name Vanaspati, rather eliminated it completely from the Indian kitchen. There were times when every Indian household provisions/groceries list featured Dalda – 1 Kg; not Vanaspati, just Dalda. The yellow color container with a green palm picture on its body bears a brand that has a tellable story. You may visit - http://www.daldaindia.com/about/history.asp for it or refer to its smaller excerpt stated below.

The name Dalda has Dutch roots and was imported into India for the first time in 1930s by the Dutch company – Dada & Co. The Hindustan Vanaspati Manufacturing Co (Now HLL) wanted to start manufacturing Vanaspati and Dada & Co insisted that its company name be used for the product. Hindustan Lever too wanted to establish its mark and therefore evolved a name Dada with a L (for lever) in between – Dalda that simply rocked South Asia. Dalda is currently owned by Bunge Limited, a big North American oil-producing firm. Today, Dalda India is entrusted with a job of manufacturing & marketing sunflower, soyabean, mustard and groundnut oils but the customer interface with this company largely rests on a single name “Dalda” that implicitly refers to Vanaspati.

Such are cases of brand monopoly that the end customer uses the company/brand name interchangeably with the product only to give bountiful uneasiness to competitors in the same arena.

Well, I still cannot forget those days when chocolate to me meant only Cadburys. “Papa, I want Cadburys”, I would say and happily devour the contents of a purple colored wrapper with the symbol of two glasses of milk on it. Such is the sustained monopoly of this company in chocolates/confectionary industry that it recently filed a patent on the color “Cadbury purple” and christened it as Pantone 2685C at patent office.

Friday, June 19, 2009

With Rahman, there is so much to hear!

AR Rahman, has undoubtedly heralded a new era in music. There is so much to hear, with him composing tunes, blended to perfection with right proportions of Indian and Western styles, the resultant amalgam compounded with Sufi and Arabic elements, making a potpourri that has won many hearts all over the world. Recent string of movies – Ghajini, Delhi6, Slumdog Millionaire stand as an unshakeable proof for the above fact with the latter winning him an unprecedented international acclamation, one that Rahman deserves in every way for his meticulous creations starting from music for movie Roja or may be even earlier , from many TV commercials/advertisements that carry his background score.

Every time, Rahman has impelled forward some new talent through his creations. Hariharan, who primarily rendered ghazals until movie Roja, won audience’s hearts through song "Tamizha Tamizha". Thereafter, he has only risen to the status of an eminent playback singer in many languages. Harini, found her entry into Tamil industry with a soothing, child-like rendition of the song “Nila kaigirathu” in the movie Indira. The Bombay theme leaves us in silence even today, in serious contemplation on where we are heading in a sphere of violence that engulfs us. Suresh Peters, Febi, Minmini, Shahul Hameed are all names we saw on cassette covers of movies like Thiruda Thiruda, Gentleman, Roja, Bombay, names if not for AR Rahman, would have got lost without recognition in the indomitable arena of SPB, Mano, Chitra, Sujatha and Janaki of those times. Songs like Veerapandi Kotayille, Kannum Kannum from Thiruda Thiruda, Chikku Pooku Railey, Ottagatha Kattikko from Gentleman are enjoyed by many even today as one reminisces how he/she danced/swayed to these tunes in younger days.

Not to forget Urvasi Urvasi from Kaadhalan and the super melodious number – Ennavale from the same movie that fetched its singer, Unni Krishnan a national award in his first attempt. He later shone brightly with numbers like “Thenmerkku paruva kaatru” from Karuthamma and “Uyirumm Neeye” from Pavithra making a perfect team with AR Rahman. What will one call a combination of Superstar Rajinikanth and super musician AR Rahman? Terrific, Spectacular – well, it truly's that! Not much is required to justify this. Just listen to the opening piece of song “Oruvan Oruvan Muthalalee” from movie Muthu, it will pump additional joules of energy in you. Udit Narayan arrived in Tamil industry with his funny, yet adorable Tamil pronounciations in "Kuluvaalilley" song.

While new names did taste success under aegis of Rahman, the masters – SPB, Mano, Chitra and Sujatha remained unconquerable with their renditions in Roja (Kaadhal Rojave, Puthu Vellai Mazhai), Puthiya Mugam (Netru Illatha Maatram), Duet (Anjali Anjali), May Maatham (Minnaley), Bombay (Kannalaney, Uyire Uyire) and in fact, many more. Be it bringing forth Kadri Gopinath’s Saxophone, largely in Duet movie, moulding Carnatic talent Bombay Jayshree (Narumugaye, Iruvar) and Nityashree (Kannodu Kaanbethellam,Jeans) into cine music, adding fresh voices - KayKay (Strawberry Kanney, Minsaara Kannavu), Saadhana Sargam (Vennilave, Minsaara Kannavu) into Tamil music from up North; bold, experimental moves from Rahman have only won him bountiful fans and limitless appreciation.

The period also saw him foray into Bollywood with movie Rangeela that won him a Film Fare award straightaway. Accolades in Bollywood for Rahman were inevitable as his music reached listener’s ears through melodious voices of Alka Yagnik, Kavitha Krishnamurthy; not to miss that of legends like Asha Bhonsle and Lata Mangeshkar, coupled at times with beautiful lyrics penned by Gulzar. I am sure many of us cherish songs of Dil Se, not just for its music but also for Gulzar’s poetic streaks running all through. Worth mentioning are songs “Tu hi tu, satrangi re” in which Sonu Nigam draws us close to Mirza Ghalib times with his deep, mesmerizing voice and “Chaiyya Chaiyya” where Sukhwinder Singh, virtually offers the listener a journey on the train, chugging through tunnels, leaving behind deep valleys.

While Bollywood prospered with Rahman’s tunes in Rangeela, Dil Se, Taal, Pukar, Takshak and Zubeidaa, Tamil movies like Indian, Minsaara Kannavu, Mr.Romeo, Mudhalvan, Iruvar, Rakshagan and Padayappa placed AR Rahman on the throne that none could supersede.

A good number of movies bore the jewel of Rahman’s music. His music drew crowds to theatres even if the film was devoid of a good script and good looking faces. The maestro treaded on the path to more glory and fame without a halt, his attempts were not lackadaisical at all. Born out of his enduring passion were Alaipayuthey, Kandukondain Kandukondain and Lagaan from which to pick one hot favourite would be an act of grave injustice. The Kannathil Muthamittal title song rendered by Chinmayee, am sure, brings tears in eyes of every parent who dotes on his/her child. Singers like Suresh Menon, Srinivas and Karthik showcased their talent and routed the maestro’s creations with an algorithm - shortest path first to our hearts and heads.

The journey through a masterpiece like Lagaan, “Yaarkai Thiree (Fanaa in Hindi) of movie Aaiyautha Ezhuthu /Yuva, Chinnama Chilakamma of Meenaxi and awe-inspiring “Yeh jo des hai tera” of Swades affirmed Rahman’s regime in Bollywood. From here on, until today, Rahman has kept involvement in Tamil Films to a bare minimum. He plunged to greater depths in Hindi film music through movie Rang de Basanti followed by a better and bigger superhit - Guru. While Naresh Iyer, a new singer, came to limelight with magical “Roobaaroo” and naughty “Khalbali” in Rang de Basanti, Rahman reigned as the supremo, in composing music and delivering it directly to the audience’s ears through “Tere Bina” of Guru. Then, there was Jodhaa Akbar; Ashutosh Gowariker was keen on completing his hat trick with AR Rahman, with Lagaan and Swades being the other two joint ventures.

One could always see AR Rahman seriously involved in songs that paid respect to the Almighty – be it "Piya Haji Ali" of Fiza or "Khwaja mere Khwaja" of Jodhaa Akbar. The message of lending a helping hand to the needy through “Pray for me Brother” was solemnly conveyed. The song Vande mataram rendered by Rahman has always invoked in us, spurts of patriotic spirit and a sense of utmost pride and respect for our nation.

AR Rahman's reign continues, it will forever, for on receiving the most sought after honor of an Oscar, that always appeared a near impossibility to an Indian, Rahman said he chose love over hatred. His undying love for music has instilled in us an unquenchable thirst for quality music. If recent hits from Jaane Tu are not enough, there are songs from Yuvraaj, Ghajini, Delhi 6 and Slumdog Millionaire that follow it.

“Hai Guzarish” of Ghajini, “Masakalli” of Delhi 6, “Jai ho & O saaya” of Slumdog may compel us to conclude that this is Rahman’s best ever, but WAIT - much more is lined up! After all, with AR Rahman, there is always so much to hear.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Princely Isle of Kochi

Set in God’s own land, with a well pronounced imprint of rule of indigenous Chera kings and of many foreign rulers - Portuguese, Dutch and English, Kochi is laden with history in every aspect – from its birth to its prosperous disposition as a royal capital and now as a modern Indian city and sea port of strategic importance. It is a port that found mention in almost every early traveller’s record – Italian, Chinese, Greek or Portugese. The journey from Perumbadappu Swaroopam (the capital of many thavazhi (branches) of Thamopoorans (kings)) to Kochazhi to Kochi is of exemplary importance and as a tourist to this place, one gets a glimpse of annals of its history.

As the Vembanad Lake opens into Arabian Sea encompassed by islets - Fort Kochi and Vypeen, the city of Ernakulam on mainland overlooks this union from a distance, through a group of multiple isles (Bolghatty, Willingdon and Vallarpadam) scattered around. For a person in Ernakulam main jetty complex from where ferries leave to this group of isles, the sheer expanse of Vembanad Lake dotted with multiple isles housing huge buildings and harbour complexes is a royal treat. The ferry service is an absolute marvel, always on time and free of traffic jams, it offers the perfect way to travel from one isle to the other. Subhash Bose Park on Marine Drive, Ernakulam provides a well laid out pathway along the Vembanad Lake offering a close view of numerous ships safely anchored as gigantic cranes carry out the business of loading and unloading mammoth containers onto/from them. The buoys float on Vembanad as ferries loaded with passengers intercept the path of huge ships entering the river mouth from high seas; the distant Goshree bridges carry automobile/bus traffic from Ernakulam to different isles – the view is worth all the money you put in for the trip. Add to this a view of a sunrise/sunset, the lake waters shimmering in soft rays of the sun, it is truly worth reminiscing a million times. To top it all, the view of a vast blanket of dark monsoon clouds descending on the high seas, spreading its tentacles from isles to mainland, the distant lighthouse on Vypeen Island sending periodic beams of light that break through this eerie darkness – it stands priceless.

Fort Kochi is one of my personal favorites, as this isle resembles a Greek coastal village that appears in many Bollywood movies. Avenues with stylish English bungalows, mansions with sprawling green lawns, luxury hotels, prim and comfortable home stays, cafes and bakeries, ancient churches, neatly laid out parks at Fort Kochi tempts one endlessly to come back. One can view the mouth of Vembanad lake opening into mighty Arabian sea as laborious fisherman jostle on sea waters for a pricy catch, big and small vessels travel to safe havens of Vembanad Lake from the rough, monsoon sea while some fishermen maneuver with Chinese fishing nets that adorn the coastline. Fort Kochi houses many important places such as the Vasco House (Vasco Da Gama’s residence in Kochi) on Rose street;St Francis Church, initially a Catholic church built by Portuguese later turned to an Anglican church under British rulers, where Vasco da Gama was buried after death before his son claimed the body and took it to Lisbon; Santa Cruz Basilica – a Catholic church with impressive paintings on the ceiling and Dutch cemetery. The walkway close to Chinese fishing nets at the river mouth proceeds to present a better view of the high seas and is adjoined with a small food court.

On this isle, on the other half lies Mattencherry – which also houses some very important buildings. Mattencherry is a slice of history by itself bearing the Mattencherry Palace and a Jewish synagogue, the oldest in British Commonwealth. The Mattencherry palace also known as Dutch palace (as it was renovated by Dutch multiple times) was built in 1557 by the Portugese for Raja of Kochi, Veera Kerala Varma in return for a temple they plundered and vandalized. The palace, currently a museum abounds with articles used by Rajas of Kochi, their palanquins, mural paintings of Ramayana scenes and pictorial charts depicting royal lineage and history of Cochin from 50 AD to 1956.

Kochi came into existence with a devastating flood in Periyar river in AD 1341 closing the earlier prosperous port of Cranganore (now known as Kodungallur). Kodungallur, then known as Mahodayapura, the capital of the Kochi Rajas, the gateway of trade for spices with the West was silted completely by the flood and a new sea mouth was opened at Kochi which later flourished as the capital of the Rajas and was hailed as Perumbaddappu Swaroopam.

The Portugese landed at Kochi in 1503 with Vasco Da Gama pioneering the act by landing at Calicut in 1498. The initial inkling of trade in spices (cardamom and black pepper) matured into local territorial conquests and a vehement urge to spread Christianity accompanied by large-scale destruction of temples. The Rajas of Kochi fled Mahodayapura after the devastating flood and sought the support of Portugese to fight the Zamorins of Calicut. The year 1663 saw the arrival of Dutch into Kochi and the port became quite a battleground for Dutch and Portugese. The Dutch won and entered into a treaty with the Kochi Rajas’ Mootha Thavazhi (royal branch) until the year 1795 that saw the arrival of British on Kochi soil. Thereafter, Kochi, virtually remained in full control of British East India Company with the Varman kings (Kochi Rajas/Thampoorans) merely being vassals. Trade flourished at the Kochi port, Willingdon harbour complex as seen today was planned and built by Mr. Robert Bristow in the year 1920. Post independence, in 1948, the Kochi - Travancore princely states under Thampoorans and Thirunal kings expressed interest to join the Indian union and under States Reorganization Act, 1956, Perumbaddapu Swaroopam (Kochi) officially became a part of the Kerala state.

If one wanted a peek into times of Kochi before the 1341 AD flood, one must visit the Jewish Synagouge in Jew Town, Mattancherry. A set of 5 Jewish families reside in the isle with a treasure of information on how they settled, their religious practices etc. The year AD 50 witnessed growing trade relations between Western world and Cranganore, referred to as Shingly by the Jews. The religious tolerance of the Chera king then – Cheraman Perumal saw Jewish families settle in Cranganore. The last surviving Jewish family escaped from the hands of brutal Portuguese finding refuge under Kochi Raja at Mattancherry. A synagogue was built right next to the Mattancherry palace as a place of worship for the Jews, a clock tower erected next to it, its interior decorated with bright Belgian and Italian chandeliers and 1100 blue and white willow-pattern ceramic tiles on the floor.
The Vypeen island, right opposite to the isle of Fort Kochi is a long, narrow island, densely populated that runs almost upto Kodungallur. The ferry journey from Fort Kochi to Vypeen is highly thrilling as one sails right across the mouth, galloping up and down as high sea waves modulate on relatively placid Vembanad Lake waters. On Vypeen island, one can visit Cherai beach (23 km) and Pallipuram fort (built by Portuguese, 25 km) or take the road that forks off to the right leading to Goshree bridges that connect islands of Vallarpadam (harbour site) and Bolghatty (houses a Dutch palace built for the Raja of Kochi, currently a KTDC hotel) to Ernakulam.
Willingdon Island, an artifically laid out island (year 1920), completely planned by Englishman Mr. Robert Bristow, is a chief industrial centre that houses Cochin harbor, dockyard, many factories including that of coir, tea processing and currently abandoned Cochin Harbor Railway Terminus. Aboard the ferry, one can see wide, clean roads bordered with stylish mansions, a Taj hotel and the Cochin Port Trust building with its typical British style clock tower. On Sundays, you might find yourself walking alone in the isle in absolute silence broken by intermittent sounds from the busy harbor complex and “Vroom Vroom”of gigantic trucks loaded with containers.

Bolghatty Island is a very small island that lies between Vallarpadam isle and Ernakulam and it houses a beautiful Dutch palace, now converted into a KTDC hotel; the best property to stay in Kochi if you can afford Rs 3000-4000 a day for a room. The hotel surrounded by Vembanad waters on all three sides has lush greenery, golf course, some horse riding activity, a swimming pool and a restaurant offering splendid view of the Harbour and Vembanad.

Another sunset; the monsoon clouds, in an act of intimidation, settle over the isles and spread in all vigor to the main land, engulfing the twin cities of Kochi and Ernakulam with a thick, blanket of rain. As you stand in Ernakulam, watching the isles with jet-black clouds shroud them, you only wonder how many more stories, this princely isle of Kochi has, that are left untold.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Aero India 2009

Here I present a short write up on the Aero Show 2009 that took place from Feb 11- 15 at Air Force Station, Yelahanka, Bangalore. This was the 7th Aero India show, organized by Ministry of Defence, Government of India and also managed by the CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) after 6 successful editions of the exhibition from 1996 -2007.

The defence exhibition was a breathtaking experience and I was struck with awe at the flight displays presented by exhibitors, both indigenous and foreign. At the same time, there is an equal share of anger too with the English daily, Times of India that provided threadbare details of the event of such scale.

Viswa and I went on the last day of the exhibition, a Sunday (Feb 15), reaching the venue by the special BMTC bus service from Shivaji Nagar bus terminus to Yelahanka Air Base. We reached the venue at 10.10 am amidst huge roars from the aircrafts that sped through the blue, clear sky. There are two shows each day starting from day 1 of the exhibition and I must say, having stayed for both, that these two are pretty different. We saw solo air flight performances by three fighter aircrafts, followed by a solo rendition of a glider and helicopter in the morning session before we witnessed superb, unparalleled air stunts by the Saarang team of IAF on Dhruv copters. Four choppers in perfect unison performed stunts like loop formations, fly past/cross paths with just enough room for their rotors, dolphin leap and my favourite of all – the reverse motion of a chopper to join the other three. The chopper moving in the reverse direction literally performed the act of moonwalk in sky.

Moving into afternoon hours, we saw three choppers, one lifting a jeep, two others a human chain, then 13 paratroopers, from the Akaashganga Sky diving team descending in style. After this there was a short recess when the crowd dispersed to grab lunch. The second show of the day began at 2.30 pm and we stuck on, this time closer to the speakers from where we could clearly hear descriptions of each aircraft, its vital statistics and details of the commander/officer who flew it.

To start with, the whale-like B 70 of the US Air force took off the runway. As it soared into the sky, we wondered how it was able to lift itself and keep afloat. The behemoth steered in different angles and every time it flew over us, we only wondered if the sky was enough for it.

The second event in the afternoon show was the flight acrobatics by LCA. This was a marvellous display where unbelievable heights were reached, free fall was attempted a couple of times, swift change of angles and flight with belly upwards occurred. The next on show was a solo display, no less than that of LCA, by the British aircraft, Hawk. A white colored and relatively meek glider Hansa 3 took to sky thereafter.

Now was the time for the star performance and the landmark event of the Aero Show – performance by the Suryakiran team of IAF, anticipating which we decided to linger on at the venue even after the end of the first show. Our patience did pay off.

Six Kiran aircrafts, maintained prim and proper since 1960 leapt into the sky in two groups, each of 3 aircrafts. It was a sheer visual treat seeing the six aircrafts fly in close proximity making shapes of V and T, loops, barrel rolls and flying past, leaving trails of tricolour. The stage was set aptly with “Vande Mataram” song by AR Rahman playing in the background from the speakers. It evoked a great sense of national pride in all. We stood erect, heads held as high as possible to record every swift action of the 6 aircrafts. A highly talented team, with unquestionable precision, leaving not even hairline room for error/doubt raced with supreme control in the sky, headed by one Mr. Curian in such sync that the crowd could not do much but call for an “encore”. The team performed the final act of splitting along different trajectories after having flown closely, it appeared equivalent to a flower pot cracker in the sky.

The Saarang team performed again in the afternoon, this time, the moon walk act was missing and the 13 paratroopers again descended down the sky. The Aero Show 2009 drew to a close and was a stupendous success. We returned home filled with excitement, with a vow to get back after two years.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Favorite AD

In the world of advertisements, tons of them talk volumes on serious issues of investments, insurance(health/accident), pension plans. A multitude of them deal with less trivial stuff like fairness creams, zero calorie sweetener and dandruff shampoos. Many more are totally insane. Of all these, Tata Safari DICOR, Reclaim your Life! ad stands out!!!

When the advertisement came on 1 full page of an English daily with lines as stated below, it won many hearts. Many memorised the lines/jotted them down, even preserved the paper cutting in their scrapbook. I am one of them.

Here goes -
If you had a look back on your life what would you remember?
The promotion ? The performance bonus ?
The plaque in the conferance room ?
It does'nt take supreme intelligence to know what really matters.
And yet , you do little besides look in the distance and sigh.
Would'nt it be tragic to realise too late that you did'nt see the trap,
that you did'nt recognise the two words
that are the biggest curse of humanity ...
' May be some day' ?
It takes little to reclaim your life.
No less better are the Airtel Ad - with A R Rahman's music adding charm that lasts till day; World Space satellite radio ad - with meaningful lines on how music can be defined, where it can be found, the definition delivered in a very composed voice by AR Rahman.
Hope to see more such well crafted ads amidst the current monotony of "Na sar jukha hai kabhi , Papa ghumm ho gaye tho bhi papa hi car laake denge, Aapka kal rahe aaj jaise hi, Get fair and (not just beautiful) handsome in 14 days " ... etc.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The journey continues .... Gadag

Our visit to Badami cave temples, Aihole and Pattadakal in a day's time ended well providing us some comprehensive history lessons. We took a bus in the evening from Badami bus station to Gadag. As the bus rode on the highway via Ron and Betigeri, we stared constantly at the star-studded sky through the translucent windows of the bus. We spotted more stars than ever ; they appeared like a closely knit blanket of precious gemstones. Thanks to the pristine rural skies free from pollution and the near pitch darkness of the countryside, deprived of street/town lights that paved way for this gorgeous sight.
We arrrived at Gadag and planned activities for the last day of our Christmas vacation. Lakkundi, 12 km from Gadag, on the highway to Hosepet was our destination. We reached Gadag's new bus stand in the outskirts of the city next morning and boarded the bus to Koppal (NEKRTC bus service) which would stop at Lakkundi. At Lakkundi, we took some basic instructions from localites at the bus stand on whereabouts of the temples we intended to visit.
Closeby, behind the bus stand is the Manikeshwara temple. Built by the Chalukyas of Kalyani in the 11th century , this temple provides evidence for the remarkable improvement in temple architecture from earlier Chalukyas and the proximity in styles with those used by the Hoysalas. The Manikeshwara temple has smooth, lathe turned pillars with an ornate doorway. A beautiful, stepped tank (Kalyani/Pushkarini) lies in front of the temple, connected to the its plinth by a funny, bridge like structure.
From here, we took an auto and visited the ASI maintained sculptural gallery. Right behind the gallery is the Jain Brahma basadi, another Kalyana Chalukya monument of the 11 th century. The temple is marked by several features such as the lovely shikara, the mukhamantapa with highly decorative pillars and a sloping roof, the sanctum adorned by an elaborately carved doorway, 4-faced Brahma statue right outside the sanctum, a beheaded Jain statue outside the temple next to the smaller, Chandra basadi, all in the same complex. Close to Jain Brahma basadi is the Naganatha temple dedicated to Lord Parswanath.
We marched ahead on the dusty, village road towards Veeranarayana temple, poorly maintained by the villagers/private handlers and then further on to Kashi Viswanatha temple that stands on an elevated platform, the platform also shared by a Suryanarayana temple. The exterior walls of the temple have abundant sculptural wealth with the Kirthimukha piece, at periodic intervals and in perfect symmetry, adding more beauty. Adjacent to this complex, is the Naneshwar temple, bearing striking similarity to the Kashi Viswanatha temple in sculptural value.
The contribution of Chalukyas of Kalyani to Hindu temple architecture was no less when compared to their ancestors, Chalukyas of Badami. The Chalukyas of Badami were crushed by Dantidurga and the powerful empire that lasted over two centuries had no option but to submit to the Rashtrakutas. The Western Chalukyas regained power in Deccan in late 10th century (about 973 AD) with the seat of their kingdom at Kalyana, Bidar (Karnataka) which gave them the sobriquet – later western Chalukyas (10th -12th century) or Chalukyas of Kalyani. Pioneering efforts by Tailapa II and help from Kadambas led to the recovery of many lost territories. This etched a fresh chapter in history– the rebirth of the western Chalukyas. While Kadamabas were granted control over Goa and Banavasi for their favor, Chalukyas of Kalyani controlled the Deccan, protecting it against plundering invasions of Turks and Arabs from the north and in the South, from the Cholas. If Chalukyas of Badami were known for their multiple victories over the Pallava kings, Chalukyas of Kalyani were famous for an unbeaten string of victories over the Chola kings – Raja Raja Chola, (suffered defeat at the hands of Satyasraya), Rajendra Chola (defeated by Jayasimha, this ruler shifted the capital from Malkhed to Kalyana) and Rajadhi Raja Chola (defeated by Someshwara I). While wars with Cholas, Hoysalas and Kalachuris marked the reign of the Chalukyas of Kalyani (973-1190AD) prominently, aegis to art and architecture and refinement of temple building styles also had its share. The temples at Lakkundi, Dambal and Gadag built by Chalukyas of Kalyani provide an imposing evidence of the mammoth task they carried out to advance architecture styles.
We headed back to the bus stand and got back to Gadag. At Gadag, we visited the Veeranarayana temple, entirely refurbished and left with very little historical value; the Someshwara temple, in complete sculptural elegance from head to foot, one cannot spot a square inch area without carvings on it and the Trikuteshwara temple that also houses Goddess Saraswathi.The Trikuteshwara temple complex offers a blend of historical structures with current day extensions. The old Sarawathi temple has an array of very beautifully carved pillars - every design etched stands out crisply. The idol has broken hands and it is not customary to worship/perform puja to broken idols as per Hindu traditions. So a new complex has been built next to the old Sarawathi temple that houses the idols of Saraswathi, Savitri and Gayathri. While the Sarawathi temple (old and new) , adjacent green lawn (some village children were studying here with all concentration) lie on one side, the Trikuteshwara temple lies on the other side. This temple offers a mixture of several styles as it was built by Chalukyas of Kalyani and additions were made by Hoysalas at a later stage. Only a portion of this old temple is open to public and the earlier Suryanarayana sanctum has now been converted into a temple store room.
Dambala, about 20 km away from Gadag has a very beautiful temple - Dodda Basappa temple of 12th Century, built by Western Chalukyas . We could not fit this in our itinerary due to time constraints. Our Christmas vacation was a sheer visual treat. From temples to tombs, from primitive to refined architectural forms, we saw all that Adil shahis at Bijapur, Chalukyas, both early and later kings left for us to see.
And I did realise ... "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page".
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Quick Tips :
How to Reach: Frequent buses ply from Badami to Gadag. Gadag is also connect by rail to Badami and Bangalore. Lakkundi and Dambal can be reached by buses from Gadag. Lakkundi can be reached by any bus from Gadag that plies to Koppal/Hosepet. There are Rajhamsa (NWKRTC) executive buses that ply between Gadag and Bangalore.
Where to stay : Hotel Geethanjali residency on Station road. Suites at highly affordable rates.
Very clean, budget hotel.
Food : Geethanjali Residency has an attached vegetarian restaurant, serves yummy South Indian food. My Food is a restaurant that serves good North Indian food.
Don't miss out on Misra Dharwad Peda on Tonga Road - yummy sweets and savories. We devoured Kundah, Karadanth, dharwad Peda, saboo daana chooda, bhakarwadi, besan pakode, yummy malai kulfi.
Places to See:
Trikuteshwara temple, Someshwara temple at Gadag. Take an auto to visit these temples.
Manikeshwara temple, Jain Brahma Basadi, Kashi Viswanatha temple at Lakkundi
Doddabasappa temple at Dambala
Will require an early start and one day to finish visiting all sites. Localites provide all required information of the temples. Guides not required.
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