Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas...

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and wish you the best in all that you do..Keep up the good work,be happy and shine on...

(took this pic at a place,guess where ? )

Also my simple Christmas questions for you ?

1. How old is Santa Claus ?

2. How many reindeers does Santa Claus have ?

Keep reading and remain connected.

(Note : Internet speed is slow at the place,I am presently in but could not keep my fingers off my blogs.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

"Being Indian" is the Champ

If you follow BBC World, then you would have noticed that it gave its viewers the opportunity to select their favorite documentary programme for this year. Viewers voted for the same and the UNICEF-funded film, 'Being Indian' was voted BBC World 'Best Documentary'.More here and here too.

What is it to be Indian today? An engineer in hi-technology urban India, a farmer in the ruralscape, a classical musician, a bus driver, an auto wala, petty shop owner in a slum, high-flying journalist, college students sipping coffee in Barista,or a worker in the burial grounds of the Ganges or a WCRR 'White Collar Richie Rich' ? It is so many things to be Indian in modern India,the bright spots and the dark spots that are not easy to grasp.

I saw a small snippet of the video here (If your broadband speed is not that great,be a bit patience and it is a bit lengthy but worth a try.) and I feel the maker of the documentary wants to explore what it is to be Indian in modern India through the eyes of a child from rural India. We need to fix a wide spectrum of issues, before we can brand ourselves as a developing nation accelerating on the path to be a developed one. "Being Indian" is about lives of four children coming from very different social backgrounds in a country that is about to touch the double digit growth rate for the first time in its history and where half its population is under the age of 35.

The first part of Being Indian explores the life of a family involved in the work of cremation on the banks of the Ganges through a young, "untouchable" boy from Patna, nine-year-old Biru Mallik. It looks at how cremation is the habitat of the boy and the family. The second part is about a wealthy middle-class family in Delhi seen through the eyes of a 15-year-old girl Isha Dua who goes to an elite public school. It looks into her everyday activity, her friends and a project they take up on slums in Delhi. The third part looks at a seven-year-old girl Sanju Benia hailing from a remote tribal family in Orissa. Sanju, like Biru, is an "untouchable" too but comes from a tribal setting. The "untouchability" in tribal Orissa contrasts with "untouchability" on the Ganges. The fourth part explores the life of 12-year-old Renuka Yenkoba in a village in Karnataka. Renuka, who works in the fields to support her family, is on the verge of marriage. This part looks at child marriage in an agrarian setting.

At a high level, it shows the contrast of an urban middle-class and a remote rural/tribal India thorough the lens of children. The movie clearly sends the message that Being Indian is not only about high technology, swanky shopping malls, faster connectivity in terms of life, transport and communication and a wide myriad of other changes in urban India we see today. It is also about people who work in burial grounds, live in remote tribal areas, face "untouchability" or child marriage in modern India.

The crux is we ignore these bare realities and it is one side of the coin and the other being the optimistic grow rate and other flourishing and positive outcomes in the Indian societal,economy centric,socio-economic landscape.

Check out for the telecast on BBC 30th December at 1430 GMT. More details here .Don't miss it.

Which form of India do you like? I am sure most of the people who would be reading this belong to the educated, liberal and on the move class of the Indians. But at times in the midst of our own lives and its activities, we forget that we may be galloping fast in the attainment of the economic goals but we still have a big homework to do on another front. That’s the front where 70% of our nation lives and has its share of maladies. Change is the spice of life and indeed it is.I haven't read this edition of "Outlook" dated 25th Dec'06 magazine yet,just saw that in my mail box yesterday.But the cover page says how in India's jungles,remote hills, dusty plains few specialist doctors have sacrificed all they had to spread hope. That’s a challenge for sure.

My free tip, try these two books: (India Unbound and Elephant Paradigm both by Gurcharan Das, a Harvard University grad and who was CEO of Procter & Gamble India before he took early retirement to become a full time writer.) to have a wholesome understanding of what India is today and its swaying through the crest and the trough, the hurrahs and the pitfalls in the cycle of its journey.

Keep reading and remain connected.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Chat with an entrepreneur: Raghu

Entrepreneurialism knows no borders. Though the popular image of startup centers on American enterprises, India has slowly started inhaling the smell of this spirit,mostly after 2003 in a big way.And now with many large Indian firms and the offshore development/support/services units of numerous MNC’s mushrooming in Indian cities offering the same,monotonous and regular job, young people are attracted as never before to the idea of starting their own businesses.

To be sure, Indians still tend to be more risk-averse than their counterparts in the U.S. The culture of entrepreneurialism isn't as well developed—nor is the infrastructure of business mentors, startup support services, and risk financing. But for a growing class of young entrepreneurs with good ideas and a strong work ethic, those impediments don't matter. Their passion to succeed overcomes the barriers. Things are definitely starting to happen. This weekend I spoke to one such person Raghu (Rags), who quit his job to start his own firm in Bangalore, Conceptwaves.

Tell me about yourself?
Rags: I graduated in Computer Science from IIT Guwahati in 2000.After that I was with Hughes Software Systems from 2000-2003,working in Maryland US for some part of the time. It was during this tenure that I learnt topics other than my regular technical work such as Business Process Modelling and Re-engineering. After this I served under IBM Software Labs, India for one year and it was during this time an idea that had cropped in my mind while in college really started taking shape. From there on I moved to July Systems (Startup in Mobile Data Services) to study the operational style of a startup in an Indian context before floating my own in 2005.

Tell me about your company and what it does?
Rags: ConceptWaves is a software engineering company with a key focus on engineering experiences for its customers. We architect, design, code, test and do what every other "traditional" software firms do, but we do not engineer software, rather we engineer experiences for our customers. We realize that software is not about tons of lines of code but is meant to serve a purpose – and we help in creating a smooth experience for our customers.

The team has two interesting products : TuningFork and LifeConnect. TuningFork envisions connecting students, teachers, parents, franchisees, employees, and other players in the eco-system of a professional education service provider through its suite of products. LifeConnect (this product is in its infancy) cater to almost all the needs of any healthcare service provider as far as information is concerned.

What has driven you in the conceptualisation of your idea,please share with me your experiences?
Rags: My reasoning was simple and I wanted to do something, which involved the perfect synergy between technology and burgeoning educational service provider sector. Tuningfork targets market in India first. While India has produced a lot of software, most of it has been targeted at western audience. The challenges are that Indian customers want the best quality but at a very reasonable price. That forces you to innovate both on providing high quality experiences and at a very economical price. What this means is that if a company can survive in the Indian market, other turfs will be quite easy to bat on later.

How large is the team ? Are you all based in India?
Rags:The team currently comprises 8 people excluding myself, all of whom are based in Bangalore. There are few people in the US who support us through mentorship and technical expertise.
Standing (Raghu on the extreme left,the guy with spectacles.)

What are the key technologies you use for product development?Tell me about your recruitment process too ?
Rags:The product development is centered on technologies in the J2EE and .Net platforms. There is some original and "cool" development work happening using best in breed of technology: Struts + Struts Layout + Hibernate .

Also something I wanted to tell you about recruitment, you will be surprised that we have never advertised explicitly for any of the people working here with us. It has just been that each person working with us liked it enough to recommend and bring another friend to our company. This saved us costs of recruitment and also the quality and responsibility of people joining us has been maintained at high standards. We have had zero attrition so far. So what I have personally learnt here is that if you treat your employees well and fair, they will be the biggest brand ambassadors for you. Ashwin, one of my teammates has less than a year’s experience but he both manages a tech team and designs technical solutions. (My (i.e. tanay) observation: All the developers are fresh grads from college and in less than a year’s time the kind of product they have rolled out in a stipulated time frame is commendable. Few of the developers have quite their jobs from established firms in less than six months time and accepted this offer as it was a challenge developing a product from scratch.)

What are some of the challenges in your business and how do you plan on tackling them?
Rags: Low barriers to entry, Advertising and Promotion, Differentiation are the key challenges according to me.

To be successful, you have to have the right product at the right time, packaged in the right way.Also, it is only when you can build up a brand, or reach that critical mass, that things become interesting.

To tackle these challenges, the quest would be to continue to make better products than the competition, and also to differentiate or carve out a niche in order to make the competition irrelevant. So far our promotional activities have not been organized so much but my team is working in this direction.

Scalability in some manner with zero customisation would also help a great deal in overcoming some of these challenges, as this could produce a highly differentiated offering.

The education sector space that I am looking in has been flooded by low-end offering from a lot of companies already. However, barring for a few, none of them have been able to build a brand around their offerings. This is the gap that we want to address.

Contrary to the common belief, to survive in India, you need to innovate not on just technology and processes fronts but you also need to focus on business model innovation. Innovation on your business model is a sure way to disrupt the existing ecosystem and give you a first mover advantage in the new ecosystem.

How is your startup being funded so far? Did you receive any external funding? If not, do you plan on seeking external funding?
Rags :Currently it is all organically funded with the entire financial support coming from the customers. There has been no VC funding or personal investment,even for procuring the hardware and the renting the space for office.We would be looking at external funding if it makes sense at some point in time to scale up any one or all of the products.Shortage of funds at times spurs creativity.We might also explore other investment and exit options as a package somewhere down the road.

What is your take on increasing number of startups in India?
Rags:The increasing number of startups in India in the Internet space is not surprising.Lot of development is occurring in all sectors in India and this is fueling Indian economy. India so far has been seen as the technology/offshore development hub but with booming consumerism and economy, India has now become a very important market. Higher Internet and mobile penetration, more India centric business requirments, better connectivity - all these necessitates more applications and hence more startups.

Who are some of your customers?
Rags: T.I.M.E , one of the largest professional education service providers in the country coaching around 50,000 students and with an annual turnover touching 22 million USD. Zee Kannada is also one of our satisfied customers.

On a personal front, who is your role model? Also, anything specific that you like to read?
Rags: (Smiles)There is so much good in the worst of them, so much bad in the best of them, so I don't really have a single role model. I however treasure my dad's faith in me, my wife's practical earthiness,my friends constant support.

Of late,I have become a fan of blogs and do scribble often here. I like reading books by Philips Kotler, Peter Drucker and the last one which I really found interesting was The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits by C.K. Prahalad.I also make sure that I read the HBR on a regular basis, though I fight for time now a days.

Do the founders of a startup have to include business people?
Rags: That depends. A typical MBA grad follows a structured pattern, as it’s the way he is tutored and so his role is more suited for running a structured system. I believe more in intuition and so want to do it myself. And what I discovered is that business is no great mystery. It's not something like physics or calculus that requires extensive study. I was forced to discard my protective incompetence and am managing the entire cycle in a business cycle starting from planning to client inter-action.

Has the IIT branding helped you?
Rags: Definitely, YES. But it brings with it a whole lot of more expectations when interacting with the end customers in terms of delivery standards and product features. Also mind it, these days all the end customers, may it be in big cities or small towns are all knowledgeable and well aware of the market and its changing trends.

Could you please share your secret mantra for other entrepreneurs planning to startup?
Rags: You need three things to create a successful startup: to start with good people, to make something customers actually want, and to spend as little money as possible. It’s kind of exciting, when you think about it, because all three are do-able. Hard, but do-able. And since a startup that succeeds ordinarily makes its founders and team members rich, that implies getting rich is do-able too. Hard, but do-able. Making money is not the only goal but enjoying the path of attaining your personal aspirations is more enriching.

Do you have any personal advice/suggestions for current/future entrepreneurs?
Rags:Yes, think through your idea well. Explore it from all angles and try to get as many opinions on it as possible. As an entrepreneur it is easy to get carried away with an idea, often ignoring potential pitfalls. Another thing which is really hard is being open to criticism - this is something every entrepreneur should learn to do. Also learn these:

1.Craziness and Laziness (second part is important in life)
2.Contrary to what you hear about the need for being emotionally detached from your work, I would suggest a bit of emotional passion (in a healthy dose) helps you produce more committed results
3.Play to your strengths always! If you are not good at something, get somebody who is good at it to help you. And focus only on your key strengths and things that you enjoy doing most.
4.It is a myth that entrepreneurs love risk. The truth is that you need to have a backup plan for every risk that you take. I am not talking about spending months for planning a backup plan for an activity which was planned in a week though. But you need to have some idea of where you should be heading if your experiment fails.
5.Failure is not necessarily a bad thing. What is, however, is if you miss the lesson and fail again for the same reasons.

So after a long chat, I still had lots to talk to but had to cut it short. During my presence I had seen some things in reality about which I hear ostentatiously in media and read volumes in books.

Be Innovative: I saw Raghu using a USB drive with a MP3 player and recorder. Later I realized that when he discusses any critical architectural design problem, which is beyond his scope of resolving, he records the same and sends the wave file by email to his friends in the US who help him in cracking the problem. A wave file has all the nitty gritties, which a document or e-mail cannot convey, when explaining a technical problem.

Back Up Plan: Raghu has installed BSNL Broadband services at his residence and Airtel Broadband Services in his office, which is just 200 meters from his house. This is to ensure that in case of service failure by either one, the other one is readily available for service.

Cost Cutting: The best of hardware in the form of Flat LCD screens, latest keyboards, ergonomically designed chairs, etc are arranged neatly in a one bedroom house rented to make for office space. Investment is made on essential requirements and he cuts cost by offering his teammates tea/coffee from the nearby local restaurant and has not installed a coffee/tea vending machine. Big Aqua guard plastic jars provide clean drinking water and he is yet to install a Aqua guard gadget.

Raghu and many like him share an unbridled enthusiasm and a fierce desire to succeed. Will all of them make it? May be or May not be. Yet this much is clear. India’s already dynamic future has turned a little bit brighter with the arrival of this bunch."kuchh kar guzarne ko khoon chala khoon chala" and the spirit continues......

Cross posted at Desicritics.

Check out here for the top five most innovative and youthful execs in Asian small business today.Note that there are 3 Indians in the top 5. Wow !!!!

Keep reading and remain connected.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Gotta have just one more....

When I drive to my work place or visit some restaurants in Bangalore, I have seen a new trend these days. The spread of smoking habit among students and women. The tobacco epidemic is now shifting towards women, especially young women in developing countries, with serious consequences for their health, income, unborn children and family. Cigarette smoking was rare among women in the early 20th century and became prevalent among women after it did among men. Although fewer women smoke than men, the percentage difference between the two has continued to decrease year to year. Today, with a much closer gap between men's and women's smoking rates, women share a much larger burden of smoking-related diseases.

In India, about one-third of women use at least one form of tobacco. Overall prevalence of bidi and cigarette smoking among women is about 3% and 22 per cent women consumers use smokeless tobacco.

With laws in industrialized nations putting curbs on tobacco companies, there is a scramble among the several tobacco giants to conquer new markets. In India, women are the targets of aggressive marketing campaigns by foreign tobacco firms, which have launched several "women's brands". The latest figures from anti-smoking organizations show a rise of 18 percent in the number of women smokers in India. The tobacco industry promotes cigarettes to women using seductive but false images of vitality, slimness, modernity, emancipation, sophistication, and sexual allure. In reality, it causes disease and death. Tobacco companies have now produced a range of brands aimed at women. Most notable are the women-only brands: these feminised cigarettes are long, extra-slim, low-tar, light-coloured or menthol. (My gyan about this is through a paan-wala near to my house where I often have my chai.)

The prevalence of smoking in colleges has been seen to be on the rise than in other urban areas in India, which is a cause of concern. "Peer pressure" is one of the leading reasons for the college students for smoking, followed by reasons like "smoking for fun" and "relief". Depression is also leading youngsters to the stick. The shocking thing is that majority of these students are aware of the ill-effects of smoking but still go for it as a display of cool attitude and stamp of modernity.

The health aspects related to smoking among women are grim. Smoking causes more breathing difficulties in women than in men. In India where betel quid chewing is widespread among women, oral cancer is more common among women than breast cancer. In addition women also suffer from general respiratory problems. Female smokers are more susceptible to osteoporosis or "brittle bones". Also, smoking during pregnancy significantly increases the chances of the infant dying of sudden infant death syndrome, delivering a pre-mature baby, delivering a low birth-weight baby, impairing the child's long-term growth and intellectual development, etc.

A nice detailed article here on the changing trend.

In 2003, India passed the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, which prohibits all direct and indirect advertising of tobacco products, smoking in public places, sales of tobacco products to people younger than 18, and sales of tobacco products near educational institutions. Yet in spite of this legislation, the tobacco industry has developed ways around it.

This pattern was seen very clearly in the USA after the introduction and advertising of brands of cigarettes for women in the late 1960s.There were substantially increased initiation rates only among women younger than 18 years old, who remained smokers into adulthood and increased the overall adult female smoking rates in the 1970s and 1980s. Same trend is spreading to India today.

Is it a fad or what?

Keep reading and remain connected.

(These views are my own and are not intended to hurt any individual. These are just open expressions of what I see these days. After all, if one wishes to smoke male/female, it’s totally a personal choice and preference, Who’s me in all this?)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mast Dance Kiya Re...

"Dancing was my hobby during my school days. I still dance sometimes with friends at parties, but that is only for pleasure." said Sreesanth, who picks pop star Michael Jackson and Indian dancers Prabhu Deva and Javed Jaffrey as his favourite movers and shakers.

One saw this on 17th December 2006, when Sreesanth gave one of the most fitting replies to an opposition comment by Andre Nel of South Africa. Andre Nel went up to him and made faces at Sreesanth’s lack of heart to play his deliveries. Sreesanth hit a straight six of his very next delivery and went into a riot swinging his bat and dancing down the pitch.Watch the video below.

Was is not an allotropic toned down version of Kathakali,the dance form from Kerala,God’s own land. As in Kathakali in which the dancers never speak and use facial expressions and ferocious bodily movements/gestures, Sreesanth also expressed his heart-felt reply to Andre Nel’s gimmicks.

Can you believe Sreesanth is an accomplished break-dancer? Not such a stunning revelation, considering the jig you saw now. For your information India’s newest pace sensation was a national break-dance champion while in his eighth standard once upon a time. And it’s something he is very, very proud of, even if he doesn’t admit it.

Sreesanth is a man of many dimensions and of varied interests. And his varied backgrounds of upbringing have played their parts too. His English reveals his Bangalorean roots. His Hindi has a distinct Delhi twang. And his Malayalam is very urbane, though he hails from Kerala, the land of greenery and backwaters. In November 2004, Sreesanth entered the record books when he took a hat-trick in a Ranji Trophy game, the first time it was achieved by a Kerala bowler, earning him the nickname The Prince of hat-tricks amongst Keralites.

Me though not a cricket freak, enjoyed this jig in the morning newscast and it was really hilarious and entertaining. So after Dhoni receiving comments from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on his hairstyle, following which a number of hair product firms made a bee-line for him. So now Sreesanth, whats there for you.

Keep reading and remain connected.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Images From Bengalooru Habba

In keeping with the spirit of Suvarna Karnataka, this year’s Habba celebrations brought home some regional dance forms like Yakshagana, Sommana Kunita and Veera Bhadra Kunita.There were classical dance performances from other parts of India also. In effect, this event was the melting pot of a myriad dance forms.

Twice National Award winner, actress, Bharatanatyam teacher, dancer-turned-choreographer, thinker, budding writer, (not to forget the show-stopping looks), multi-dimensional Shobana charmed the Bangalore crowd in her latest performance on 4th Dec’06. Those who had come prepared for an evening of pure Bharatanatyam by Shobana and her troupe had a delightful surprise when the occasion turned out to be a feast of classical dance and fusion dance.

'Art is like wine' and an artist's performance tends to improve with time. Indian classical dance is based on spirituality and communication, in which expertise comes only with age. Shobana, a gifted Bharatanatyam dancer cum actress, was born into a family of dancers committed to arts. She started learning dance at the age of three and trained under Bharatanatyam exponents, Chitra Visweswaran and Padma Subramaniam. This niece of famous Tranvancore Sisters (Lalitha, Padmini, Ragini), with her vibrant performance and stage presence attracts and holds the attention of the audience. One needs to experience this by attending live concerts and that’s exactly what Shobana and her troupe proved thorough their rendition.

The first phase of her dance performance was devoted to pure Bharatanatyam movements and techniques. She is often equaled to the curvaceous beauty of South Indian sculptures and her fine execution proved this without doubt. She had the grace and freshness as the proverbial flower.
Picture 310

Then there was a fusion version of the Bharatanatyam by her troupe, which was extra-ordinary. This was not her best again but the fusion music to which the troupe danced had more depth in it.Perfect choreography,that’s what you get when it is masterminded by Shobana herself. What reverberated in me when I saw this was the meaning of I exist therefore I am. True indeed.
Picture 313

Shobana is the only Indian artiste to have performed live with Michael Jackson in the Berlin festival. She has traveled far and wide as a cultural ambassador of India across the globe. I still remember from my school days a video that she did with Big B for the song Kabhi Kabhie. That day she and her troupe danced to the tunes of “Vande Mataram”, a completely new form blended with movements from Bharatanatyam. It was all about a sense of aesthetics, about communication and synchronization. Even the prostrations of the dancers positioned on the diagonal, bathed in yellow light, created powerful imagery.
Picture 329

Then 7th Dec’06, I was there for the Odissi dance performance by Bijayini Satpathy from Nrityagram, Bangalore. Trying to capture the exuberance of this Odissi virtuoso is as futile as recreating a passing rainbow. The impact of youthful vigor, exacting footwork, sinuous grace, disciplined body sculpting and flair for expression, exploited every moment, however ordinary, to create visual beauty of the highest aesthetic order. Odissi dance is more about grace and depiction of history and temple sculptures by basic body positions. A typical stance is where the dancer shows three bends and creates an illusion of sculpture coming to life.
Picture 341

Another splendid stance is the feminine curvaceous sculptural position with the body weight on one foot.
Picture 332

Bijayini performed a part of the epic tale,"Ramayan" portraying all the six characters (Ram, Laxman, Ravana, Sita, Hanuman and Jaatayu) in a 20-minute non-stop story telling format. Another powerful presentation was the portrayal of Goddess Durga, where rigor and aggression painted the bloody fierce manifestation and her slaying the buffalo-demon.

Both these dance performances ran full house, wowing the knowledgeable audience into a standing ovation at the end.

On 9th Dec, I was in the Bangalore Palace grounds for the musical performances by the local bands, the central attraction being the show by drummer Sivamani.The open-air music performance began under the blazing afternoon sun around 4 P.M. There were hundreds of plastic chairs all in neat rows, which were practically empty when TAAQ (Thermal And A Quarter) performed and slowly the crowd started pouring in. Then there was Raghu Dixit Project , which was a definite crowd favorite with the rocking version of Mysore se Aayi that really got everyone on his or her feet. His lyrics in Hindi, Kannada and English hitting right with ethnic folk, sufi and classical phrases, though intense yet simple,spoke about every common man’s emotions and experiences.

The unsung hero of the show was Anirban Chakravarthy who was adjudged the best guitarist at the 2005 edition of the Great Indian Rock.
Picture 362

Then were some impressive performances by Yantra,Amit Heri and Ministry of Blues, all talented bands but they required a totally different ambience and the crowd’s mood didn’t gel with the performers tempo and pace. The last event of the day was the much-awaited act of magic on drums by noted percussionist Sivamani. He paid his homage to Annavru (the late Rajkumar), and requested the crowd to observe a minute’s silence before he began his musical magic.
Picture 376

The response to the open-air performance, which was lukewarm during its entire course suddenly picked up some momentum and this energy level, continued for about an hour. There was a jugalbandi between Sivamani and the Kutti Brothers. Finally the bandana clad Sivamani concluded his performance by playing the fast-paced song from Yuva titled "Fannah."
Picture 383

More pics of the events here.

The Bangalore Habba put down the curtains for this year on Dec 10th 2006 and as is usual to do a post-mortem in the event of a cultural event, the organisers of Bangalore Habba had their own share. They were accused of not providing adequate funding to promote traditional local arts and the allotment of money for various local artists centric activities.Moreover, was the Habba,the true representative of the culture ? Was it a clash of egos? Of cultures? Questions like these will be have a wide spectrum of answers and varied opinion.These are questions that remain hanging in the air. Like whether the critics can come up with an alternate festival to prove their point. Or just to query that when governments are unable to financially support art, is it wrong for private funding to step in?

Lets wait and watch what is there in store for the coming year.

Keep reading and remain connected.

Cross posted at Desicritics.

(Attended all these concerts after work and so I am learning to balance between work and non-work related activities,hehehe effective time management.)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What does the Path mean….

I heard this song in one of the TV channels for the first time last weekend while having dinner.It is from one of the movies to be shortly released i.e. "Anwar".The lyrics is raw,simple and intoxicating. I tried to write my whole experience and it goes like this:

The light from the morning sun gently touched everything that surrounded me making everything live like a plethora of vivid abstractions of all that was wonderful. I walked homeward slowly, as if in a dream, and breathed the air in complete unison with my pace, looking everywhere and seeing everything for the first time. The torn jeans, the khadi kurta and meandering through those desolate gallis till I reach the passageway of the ramshackle fort. Air breezed with perfect humidity making the leaves of the yellow-green tree glow, whispering serenades with an accent of a poet. The world is a beautiful place, I said to myself, and then I float like a parachute. And while on mid-air I see the street-people sleeping on unused benches and the neighbours busy in their daily chores and then I glow more and become one with a familiar yellow-green tree that I passed by. I float more and walk even slower as I reach my destination with the emotions of a child and say "Ankhe Teri Kitne Haanseein". A state of trance is attained. And after such a long time I am finally contented with everything that surrounded me, as the electric fan beside me hummed without repose.

Suddenly, I can smell the naked body of mother Earth as rain drops start to trickle,the smell of morning tea wafting in the morning air from the corner street. I stand there and dive deep into a totally unknown ocean and there I see thousands of different emotions that sometimes are in confrontation with each other. But in the end it’s the smile that matters.

Check the refreshing video below,make sure you have your ear-plugs in place

Keep smiling,reading and remain connected.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Wolfgang Haffner's Jazz-Rock Concert in Bangalore

December brings with it pictures of cool weather and is the season of musical extravaganza unique to Bangalore.Lovers of pure music and dance of both forms classical and modern soak themselves in the culturally intense atmosphere of Bengalooru Habba , the annual celebration of melody. The common citizens breathe music and probably eat music too,to last them for a whole year before they get another dose. You may ask "Eat Music" ? Eating is an important part of the fun.Hopping from one venue to another,tasting the different flavours of music.A feeling of bonhomie is in the air. Bangalore,which is home to maximum number of NRI’s,citizens and visitors from around globe along with its own population of simple smart people always has a great taste for fine music.

The Wolfgang Haffner Group’s jazz-rock concert on December 8, 2006 at the Chowdaiah Memorial Hall to a full house music aficionados was a living example. This was the only international event at the Bengalooru Habba.

Picture 387

Haffner’s idea behind his creations is to produce music with lots of air, lots of space. The music he played was not primarily the music of a great drummer, it was the music of a great musician. And neither he nor his musical partners felt the need to impress with their soloing skills, there was no flexing of muscles but there was perfect synchronization. This left room for development that nurtures interest and tension as Haffner told the crowd that next time he performs in Bangalore, he would try to rectify his mistakes and errors. That’s the modesty and the attitude of a musical charmer, an artist.

All the compositions were by Haffner himself. They showed his affinity for melodies that linger. The themes were lyrical and accessible. At times a bass hook would implant itself in the listener’s mind and feet. The compositions that enthralled the crowd included “Blue Bar”, a light beach song played to fine tunes conjuring the image of breathing the salty air wafting in from the sea, the refined track “Silent Way”, a take characterized by a calm, lyrical beauty, that is all the more moving for its simplicity. Haffner’s compositions let the players immerse themselves in the music with seeming ease, and effortlessly drew in the listener. The musical assortment had lounge-jazz, romantic somber tunes and hugely energetic jugalbandi of drums and guitar too. With his quartet, Haffner played groove based music, a smooth interaction between bass and drums to produce clear rhythmic motives. Haffner proved his versatility by using the drums to produce a range of percussive styles, including Latin rhythms.

“Blue Bar” my conceptualization of the mood with camera.
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Keyboards and programming were an integral part of the show and lent it an aura that is strongly characterized by electronics. There were some pre-produced elements to the music – a synth line here, an atmospheric background there - and Haffner gave himself lots of time for the mix. Haffner’s integrity as composer and bandleader gave the numbers an organic feel. Haffner is shortly releasing his new album titled "Shapes" in which the band celebrates a kind of contemporary jazz rock, which is more like dance music, influenced by hip-hop, trip hop (a kind of sound deconstruction) and by the Norwegian scene.

Haffner on drums
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Undoubtedly, Wolfgang Haffner is one of the most prominent of the new generation of German jazz musicians. Above all, Haffner is an internationalist, a German globetrotter in the matter of drums and jazz having performed around the world, such as Montreux, Paris, Chicago, Los Angeles, Berlin, Vienna, San Diego, Geneva, Amsterdam, Nice, Stockholm, Madrid, Oslo, Zurich, London. He has toured more than 50 countries. He has recorded with a range of illustrious American artists from Michael Franks to Gato Barbieri besides featuring extensively with US stars including Pat Metheny, Michael and Randy Brecker, Mike Stern and Joe Sample, Lalo Schifrin, Cassandra Wilson and Billy Cobham, and singer Chaka Khan (1994-95). He has joined other artists in about 350 albums and has eleven in his own name.

"A band is a team and must act as one," says Wolfgang Haffner about his new quartet. For him it has to be an avowed bunch of musicians. Now with four people, Sebastian Studnitzky on the trumpet and keyboards, Frank Kuruc on guitars, Christian Diener on bass and Haffner himself.

The members of Haffner’s quartet fit in with the present-day image of the professional German jazz musician, all of them have studied at the top college for jazz—the Berklee College of Music.

Sebastian Studnitzky, played a rare combination of trumpets and keyboards. He studied film music in Berklee after having studied trumpet and piano (jazz and pop) in Stuttgart. He has his own ensemble, Triband, and, together with Haffner, often travels with the Canadian jazz-rock group, Mezzoforte.
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Studnitzky on trumpets.

Christian Diener graduated from Berklee with honors in electronic and contrabass. Since 1999, he has been a lecturer for music theory and double bass at the College of Music in Nuremburg. His international experiences range from playing with Billy Cobham and Randy Brecker to Albert Mangelsdorff and Klaus Doldinger.

Frank Kuruc initially studied classical guitar in Stuttgart (he graduated in 1987) before spending two years in Berklee. Kuruc is professor at the College of Music in Mannheim (department of jazz and pop) and, of all the quartet members, probably has the most practical experience with different styles; he has played with Mikis Theodorakis, with Katia and Marielle Labeque as well as in various symphony orchestras.
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On left is Diener and on right is Kuruc.

It was a perfect team, which had no difficulty in shifting its focus from jazz where the spotlight is on improvisation and solo playing, to the so-called club culture where the music is more rhythmic, repeats formulas and the groove comes into the foreground.

"Be who you are, and play what you like - this is the underlying, simple yet radical driving force in the band."

The event was conducted with due support from Goethe Institut ,Max Mueller Bhavan, Bangalore. The end result was explosive, as the concert promised. Jazz music does lend itself to festive improvisation, openness, humor, non-conformity and adventure and the crowd had oodles of these for sure. Even after the show got over after two hours of non-stop music, the band performed again beyond the scheduled time on public demand. My single word to describe the performance:"ethereal". More pics here.

Prior to this the group has already performed in Karachi,Delhi,Mumbai,Chennai starting 28th Nov'06. This concert was part of the South Asian leg of the promotional tour of their new album "Shades". Check out for the shows in Hyderabad on 10th Dec'06,in Dhaka on 12th Dec'06 and in Kolkata on 13th Dec'06.

Watch Wolfgang Haffner's performance @ Musikmesse Frakfurt 2006.

Visit the official site of the Haffner here.

Cross posted at Desicritics.

Keep reading and remain connected.

(Note : This post is for a person DrRn who was not in B'lore for the show.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ek Khyaaal...

hello zindagi...zindagi noor hai...
magar isme jalne ka dastoor hai...
adhoore se rishton maain jalte raho..
adhoori si sasooin maain pal te raho...
magar jiye jaane ka dastoor hai...

I have been listening to Jagjit-Gulzar's 'Koi Baat Chale' for a while now and all the songs are simple and mesmerizing.Above is lyrics from one of the songs in the album "Hello Zindagi".Gulzar's poetry is timeless.

More to come on this. Keep reading and remain connected.

(Note: The pic was my shutter work and hope you like it.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bengalooru Habba 2006,Don't Miss it !!!

Bengalooru Habba means Bangalore festival which is sort of an art festival with cultural events, theatre events and concerts, dedicated to commemorate the city of Bangalore. It’s a week long festival beginning on Dec 3rd, 2006.It is held in December each year to bring together different sections of society to experience the culture and traditions that are unique to the city.This cultural event will continue till Dec 10th,2006.

St.George's Statue @Cubbon Park

"Bengalooru Habba" is a festival that truly represents the spirit of Bangalore. One really has to have a fine understanding of the city’s culture to appreciate it.

This was a inaugural dance in Cubbon Park.

Airtel,event sponsor's Ad

Please don't wait and be a part of this cultural extravaganza. Check the official Habba site for the entire schedule of events and other details.Check out my introductory post with background, events planned, etc @ Desicritics here.

I will try to cover a few events after my normal work schedule and will post as much as I can,so stay tuned for more reports. Keep reading and remain connected.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Are Indian Youth The Happiest People In The World?

A recent MTV survey reported that young Indians were among the happiest people on the planet. Not only this, they were also among the most religious. This is happy news, which contradicts the general belief that youth everywhere are unsatisfied and rebellious. The charming inference is that one can relate to them more easily than was thought possible.

This metamorphosis cycle is a gradual one. The generation that grew up during independence had the vision to build India from scratch into a developed nation but somewhere down the line, it lost track. From the 1970’s till the 1990’s had a cynical, dejected generation that fled the country in droves since they saw no future here. But post 1991 with the opening of the global market and breaking of walls across the globe, new DNA was coded in the Indian youth. This generation grew up with more choice, more access to information, more money, more opportunities, etc. Roughly half of the nation of one billion is between the ages of 15 and 30 and is a goldmine for marketers and business development. The Indian youth is very conscious of the growing global trends. The fact that young people can communicate to anyone at anytime in the world fascinates them. Globalisation not only brought about avenues for exchange of ideas in various forms - cellular phones, e-mails, pagers, videos and other tools of mass media, but also offered an opportunity to experience other peoples cultural traditions. Yet, although the excitement and enthusiasm about this phenomenon is apparent to many young people, knowingly or unknowingly, they experience the huge pressures and strains that the globalisation process brings.

The media and newspapers across the nation claim that age-old values are getting flushed down the drain in the name of adoption of Western philosophy, culture and values. But the reality is that even in this confused matrix of dualism, the Indian youth has held his head high. Pre-martial sex, living together, smoking, drinking etc are becoming a way of life for rich kids and the so-called elite class. But the common "aam janta" Indian youth have struck an impressive balance between confidence and tradition. None of the dilemmas of identity that haunted previous generations, haunt them, nor is there any moral ambiguity about anything. They still have the fire of angry Big B within them yet are icy cold when talking to elders or parents. They drink coffee at Barista, party at TGIF and also go to temple, church or mosque for prayers and celebrations.

"Rang De Basanti" is the latest in a lineage of recent films that have attempted to address the intertwined themes of tradition, disenchantment and rebellion among youth. With its three interlocking narratives, Mani Ratnam's "Yuva" charts the possibilities of a mass-based mobilization, one orientated towards changes within parliamentary democracy rather than towards an uprising. Contemporary Hindi cinema has learnt the cinematic narrative that can transmit the message without camouflaging it beneath romance, spectacle, melodrama, etc, which are the blood corpuscles of Indian cinema.

The observed phenomenon that happiness and contentment in human terms have precious little to do with, say, "what money can buy" has become the new age youth mantra. Money is important to them but they are looking for that something 'significant' stimulating job or a responsibility that fires their passion. The appeal of highly paid, white-collar jobs is wearing off. Swanky cafetarias, onsite trips, hefty bonuses, etc do not give a kick as it used to earlier. Today’s youth want all that and more. The HR managers at Infosys, Wipro, TCS or for that matter any firm may it be a MNC also are scratching their heads to retain the best talent. There is a tectonic shift in the society and the spirit of entrepreneurship is spreading its tentacles among youth far and wide. IIMA’s Mansur Nazimuddin gave up a pre-placement offer with a leading investment bank to try his hands in gaming industry, while a six member team from IIML is drafting a plan to exploit the opportunity in medical tourism. Stories such as these are aplenty which is a very positive and healthy sign.

Although India sends among the most students to the US for graduate education, falling second only to China, the craze to rush to the land of opportunities is a gradually fading trend. There are lots of Ashish's and Raghu's who gave away their secure passport to four-lane highway and choose to take the untrodden path.

Humility is in the air. With a goal to wipe every tear from every eye as far as possible, at first in India and then in the entire world, through an ideal combination of spiritual, social, economic and political means, the Bharat Uday Mission was formed in Oct 2004 at IIT Kanpur. Add to this the youth bandwagon at the national politics with the likes of Sachin Pilot, a charismatic 28-year-old MBA from Wharton Business School, focusing on introducing micro-finance schemes and insurance for farmers as well as human resource development in terms of non-government employment have re-invigorated the youth’s interest in the national affairs.

The Internet has been a godsend for the Indian Youth of today. Welcome to the world of "clicktivism" and "blogtivism". The entire world wide web is now thrown open as a wide canvas to paint and publish individual views, reviews and comments at the press of a button. All these forms of activism convey one message that the young no longer wants to be recipients of change but leaders of change.

As in the words of Abhishek Bachchan in "Bunty Aur Babli", today’s youth wants "izzat (respect) ,mazza (fun, entertainment) and matlab (meaning)". If Indian youth have all these in the present burgeoning economic landscape in India, then there’s no doubt they are the happiest lot in the world.

Keep reading and remain connected.