Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Google Saree...

Scratch your head a bit and if you can recollect, just before the last cricket World Cup, there was lot of hoopla before the tournament commenced. Sad that the men in blue had an early exit, wrecking all the big dreams and investments many business and advertisement houses had vested in this event.

It was like 'saab paani maain dhool gaya' and I guess even Satya Paul had the same fate. Satya Paul, a leading brand name in India and also worldwide in association with e-Bay had plans for auctioning five exclusive sarees that were sported by Mandira Bedi. Each of these saree was special in the sense that, the theme of cricket underlined each of the design or the pattern.

Satya Paul, was born in Leigha, Muzaffargarh (now in Pakistan) and came to India at the time of partition. For many years, he worked hard with the weavers and wanted to create a global image for this usually 6 yards piece of cloth, known to us as 'saree'. In 1985 he launched the brand, Satya Paul. Later on the business baton was taken effectively by his son Puneet Nanda. Puneet, together with his friends, Jyoti Narula and Sanjay Kapoor later expanded the business.

Satya Paul is a brand that blends contemporary taste, social changes, fashion trends and art perfectly in most of its creations. Like this one which it showcased in a recent fashion show. A sooper cool saree, with Google printed on it. If you see the picture carefully, even the address bar near the shoulder part of the saree, mentions the shopping site of his designer house. Even the algorithms from the search behemoth, Google cannot escape from the charming magic of the saree. Don't you think it would be fantabulous to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful on a saree?

Possible or impossible, you decide?

The fluttering drapes that adorn the body, the mystical smile that accompanies every fold, the dreams and beauty of an Indian lady are better personified in the saree. Isn't it ? Don't get me wrong, that I against those who wear jeans, t-shirts, western formals, salwar kameez, etc. Nah nah, to each its own and I also know for a fact that different circumstances and situations commands one's dressing style/option. Wear what you are most comfortable with, no fcuking worries. Vokay.

I had to go round and round in a merry-go-round to tell you, one point. Its that the saree has its own aristocratic flavor, methinks. Deepa Krishnan, a fellow Desicritic'ian had made a wonderful post on saree sometime back.
To tell the truth, I find the draping of the saree a sensuous pleasure. That final flinging of the pallu over the shoulder, the twisting to look at your back in the mirror, the feel of crepe silk as it goes round the bare midriff - everything contributes to a subtle sensual delight even as you dress for work. The saree allows me to be feminine, to experiment with colours and jewellery, confident that no matter what kind of figure I have, this garment will help me look my best.
Keep reading and remain connected.

(Note: The Google saree pic is taken from Flickr, and the other one from the web.)

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Dear Popples...

Do you have a dream? I guess its human that each one of us dreams. Just that the nature of dream varies from person to person. Someone dreams of making to the top business school in the world, someone dreams of making the next generation application for the internet, someone dreams of starting his/her own firm, someone dreams of buying the best apartment in the town, etc, etc. The central point here is that most of these dreams are centered around personal benefits to an individual, be it social, material, intellectual, etc. It's like playing the game with the me, myself and my world as lynchpins. But there are still people in this self-interested world for whom the driving agents are us, ourselves and our world.

Yes, I am talking about a very respected and elderly person who would be as old as my maa and who dreams altogether in a different perspective, Anouradha Bakshi. Anou’s dream is to save the dreams of others, isn’t it something very special. In the last 10 years hundreds of children have found their dreams coming true because of Anou and her selfless initiative, Project WHY.

Here I am not trying to make a hyperbolic introduction of Anou to impress you, as this is no Oscar award night nor I am canvassing for any election candidate. This is just a brief intro to this simple and forward-looking lady. Anou was voted 'Citizen One 2005' by the India Today group and in the same year received the 'Red and White Silver medal for Social Bravery'. She is the daughter of an Indian Ambassador and has seen many parts of the world. With a Masters degree in French, she was an interpreter to the likes of Indira Gandhi and Jacques Chirac.

From what I know, the inspiration behind Project WHY are the last words of her diplomat father 'Don't lose faith in India'. These uncomplicated words reaffirmed Anou's conviction that, in spite of numerous lapses in our country, still there can be ways to do things better. Improvement may be a mirage, but still reachable. Long periods of introspection, as to how all these endless 'why's' need to be answered, culminated in starting Project WHY in 1998. Anou blogs without fail, penning about each and every little activity that is happening at Project WHY. Dive in here, to get the up to date info and I can bet you that this would open an entirely different world before you.

I have supported Project WHY for a while now, and am proud to be a part of this fraternity. It's just not me, its us as many of my friends have helped me support this movement during times of need. I am just a drop in the ocean of volunteers who give their time and energy for this movement.

When a person, has seen all these and more, scripting a book is quite a spontaneous act. What say? And so did Anou, whose first book, 'Dear Popples' was published in May 2008. I am just going to tickle your curiosity, and leave the rest for you to read.

'Popples', guess even if you searched a dictionary, it's hard to find this word, then how come Anou got this name. Anou has breathed and lived a considerable part of her life, feeling the pulse of 'Popples', an adorable child from the slums of Delhi. Barely a year old, 'Popples' sustained third degree burns and the hospitals ignored him, and let him to die on the streets. Anou fought a rough-and-tumble battle, to bring this soul from the jaws of death. From then on these two individuals became friends for life, with Anou wearing the hat of a godmother and absorbing the pain of the child and his scars. The cicatrices were deep but Anou scribbled numerous letters anticipating that the power of words would one day win over the Popples's physical and the psychological scars.

Each letter is addressed to 'Popples' that ends with a trademark signature, Maam'ji as this was the nickname 'Popples' used for Anou. And so goes the title.

There are definitely more tales to read in this book. Many of those who have read this book have left their comments here at Jo, has left a poignant review after reading this book.
I don't know how would a person categorize your book. It is well crafted like a fiction, and the narratives of Popples in between makes it a real life account, at times it takes form of an autobiography, and then of a biography - I don't know where it falls, but the story does fall to one's heart. The book is well organized as it is in the form of short letters so it doesn't make a boring read. The short letters full of the warmth of your love for little Utpal is what glues the reader to this book.
On June 28th'08 a small book launch for 'Dear Popples' is being organized at Reliance Time Out, Ambiance Mall, Gurgaon between 11 am and 1 pm. If you are in town, do attend this event and meet Anou. There is no formal invitation and do inform your friends and relatives who are interested, so that they can also join in.

You can order the book here at Indiaplaza or at here at

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008


A couple of days back I was talking to a friend in Mumbai and learnt how eagerly Mumbai'tes wait for the rain. It had rained cats and dogs in Mumbai recently. Everyone knows that the civic problems would surface again in spite of the big talks shared by the local authority's netas. Talks of faux promises abound. So the best people do when its Barso Re Megha Megha Barso Re time, is to keep the umbrellas and rain coats ready. Kids pray to rain God, to get a few extra days off from school. All these happen each year and its kind of ritual.

But this year there is a twist in the tale. Come rainy season, Mumbai is witness to scores of open manholes, and this year, the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) is blaming the Chinese dragon for its excruciations.

Though the connecting link seems a bit sapless but definitely there is some spine in the reasoning.

Let's mix a bit of Freakonomics logic and come out with the right questions and underlying connections. The facts that emerge from the cauldron have ample reasoning index. China which is hosting the 2008 Olympic Games is busy constructing massive structures. As a result of this, it is quaffing tons and tons of iron and steel, hence increasing the demand for this resource globally. A natural fallout of this is that organized gangs are now operating in various parts of Mumbai city, that steal the manhole covers. This is simply a case of supply and demand mismatch. Around 1,500 covers have been stolen in the past couple of months, and the price of each stolen manhole is around Rs 5,500 in the grey market.

Now why is Mumbai targeted and not any other city in India? My answer would rest on two levers. The first one is that it's a port city and so transportation to foreign shores is easy. And second one is that probably in Mumbai, the organized gangs are really orchestrated and well connected.

Even if this point as raised by BMC is a bit exaggerated, separating the chaff from the grain is a bit difficult. There is definitely some amount of truth in it. The truth being, the world today has become iron and steel glutton, because of the development that various nations are going through. So to meet the rising demands, taking short cuts are also acceptable.

There are many inauspicious accidents that Mumbai'tes face because of the sudden disappearance of the manholes. During the rainy season, the streets are over flowing with water, the day it rains heavily. And suppose a regular commuter on a particular road is not aware of the sudden disappearance of a manhole, there is no marking to indicate the impending doom as the water is flowing in full force, s/he may face a fatal accident. It's a more serious issue for kids especially.

Also there's a big financial loss for the city authorities in the event of these theft cases. Since most of the manholes are covered with cast-iron covers, it's a bit more costly and has more scrap value than the ductile-iron covers. This is not a one-off case, I even read many tales such as these which are triggered by the global supply demand inconsistencies.

The only positive side that I see in this episode is that, people know when there is water clogging, the concerned authorities won't turn up soon to fix the problem. So the fastest way water can recede smoothly without causing any chokage is to leave the manholes open. Of course all that needs to be done is to have some alert posts or some tripods with red flags as signals to inform the people. But in many cases, it's the Ramu Kaka or the Kishan Bhaiya in his make shift shop and other regular hawkers who extend the heads-up message.

If my words above sound gimcrackery, then just do a Ctrl+A, then press Delete button for whatever you have read so far. My tongue-in-cheek advice is then, let's go for Sawan Barse Tarse Dil kinda experience.

Ahhhhhhhhhh! am getting rainmatic.

Keep reading and remain connected.

(Note: Manhole pic is taken from Flickr. It's taken by noniphon.)

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day....

This picture was taken by W. Eugene Smith who is from the State of New York, United States of America. This pic was shot at Silver Lake, where in he captures the inexpressible sight of a father teaching his son how to dive. This was shot in the 1950's. Vintage pic, but vivid, speaks volumes with just two characters in the frame and with only two colors to play with.

There is a brilliant collection of pics, here at Slate e-zine to mark, the Father's Day.

Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later... that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life. -- Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities

Wish, that special person as methinks, to a greater extent we owe that person a lot. That person would never ever demand anything in return, he is like that only. So a day to make him feel special, in each one's own way because as it goes to each it's own.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Laluji Ban Gaye Blogger...

Flipping through the newspapers or browsing across the news in the web media, you would have learnt how blogging is catching up in India and in the entire world in a big way. Be it Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan or Salman Khan. Do these people really write their blogs, or just that they have some one else who does the job for them. I am really not sure about that but few chaps are frank and candid as Lord Jeffrey Archer who was in India recently to promote his latest page-turner, A Prisoner of Birth. He is even bitten by the blogging bug and when posed a question by a reporter:
Tell us about your blog. Isn't it a big commitment for someone who is tech-challenged?

A friend of mine who runs a blog, who is the chairman of my publishing company, was getting 50,000 people (hits) a month. He said, 'You should do it Jeffrey'. So I did, and last month, 540,000 people hit the blog.

I don't post the blog. I handwrite it, give it to the secretary and she posts it. When I sit down to breakfast, I get a pile of emails from the blog. Twenty-five per cent of them at the moment are from India, but that will probably change when I leave.
The latest that I read in Economic Times is that our good old Laluji is having a duologue with a Mumbai-based media team to start his own blog. His source of inspiration is none other than the Democratic Presidential candidate, Barack Obama's magical spell of views and ideas expressed in his blog. The blog is expected to be put up at and the minister is expected to make 2 posts a week. The topics to be covered are just anything and everything.

My personal feeling is that Laluji's blog site is going to draw lot of readers because of myriad reasons, among which one definitely clings on the humor and wittiness factor.

Laluji's first post was centered on the Gujjar agitation and he blames the Vasundhara Raje Government for mishandling the entire scenario and bringing it to disconsolate stage. In his post he expressed his displeasure at the loss that Indian Railways incurs because of the plotted agitations.
The loss caused to the Indian Railways is yet to be estimated but the damage has been severe. Several trains, both passenger and goods, have been cancelled. It is unfortunate that the Gujjars have vented their anger by disrupting the rail lines, but they do not realize they have dismantled lifelines of the country.
Leave the mis-management or the management part of Laluji when it comes to, ruling the state of Bihar for a long time, which if I am not mistaken is for a period of 15+ years. This in itself is a paradox. One very prominent facet of Laluji's persona that impresses me is his earthy humor and adroitness and cleverness in handling the media and the press.

Mind you, he is father to nine children but when he was questioned by the press about family planning, he gave a befitting reply. His reply was that his large family was a resistance against the emergency that was imposed in India in the late 1970s under the leadership of the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. The Prime Minister had enforced sterilization to control the country's population and so Laluji went ahead to revolt against this and formed a mini-football team. So much so that, he even named his eldest daughter, Misa after a set of harsh code of laws that provided the police a free rein in the late 1970s.

His name may be Lalu (meaning a 'fool') but to me he has the brain of a super computer and within it runs different processes churning out endless solutions for any kind of imaginable problem in the political canvas. Rewind, your memory and you can recall how in 1997 he was oust from the post of chief minister of Bihar for his involvement in a corruption scandal. Overnight he appointed his wife Rabri (name of a sweet dish in North India) Devi, as the next chief minister. That's brilliant by any standards, planning and executing something with the drop of hat. When the press questioned him about the capabilities of Rabri, he replied with firm conviction that she had managed a house and nine children smartly. Hence questioning her political competency and management skills would be an insult to every Indian homemaker.

To me other than the political astuteness that Laluji possesses, his greatest endowment is his ability to understand the minds of his constituency, strike the right chords (ideology rather than governance works, symbolism and not development are keys for political survival, caste and religion are trump cards rather than performance at grass root level) with those that matter when it comes to vote banks, etc. This may sound lacking subtlety and insight but Laluji is a master at it and that's the reason he has managed to turn every political hard knocks into an opportunity.

One of his most talked about histrionics was when Laluji, once publicly announced that he would transform Bihar's roads, and make those as smooth and unflustered as Hema Malini's cheeks. To this, the BJP campaigner late Pramod Mahajan on a visit to Bihar, riposted that far from matching the smoothness of Hema Malini's cheeks, the in competency of Lalu government had turned the roads as spelunked as the cheeks of Om Puri. As far as I remember, neither of the comparable entities in this discussion created any flutter, and it was a political pas de deux between Laluji and Pramod Mahajan.

Laluji may be a rustic politician, in dhoti-kurta and may lack the sophistry, he may be dubbed as 'jungle raj' chief minister but under his direction in the present Government, the amount of reformation and profits that Indian Railways has witnessed is management folklore today. The turnaround in the financial health of the Indian Railways, with the reins in charge of Laluji, has been the subject of major discussion at IIMs and many top business schools round the globe.
So what has Prasad done to the Indian Railways which his predecessors could not? The answer lies in his own down-to-earth attitude and rustic wisdom.

Prasad puts it in his inimitable style: "My mother always told me not to handle a buffalo by its tail, but always catch it by its horns. And I have used that lesson in everything in my life, including the Railways."

Prasad's other management mantra for the Railways has been: "If you do not milk the cow fully, it falls sick," which he is practicing while running the Railways.
Laluji is definitely an enigma, a mystery and there are many people who wish to understand the yokes of his flummoxing and puzzling personality. An official is quoted as saying, "More than 100 missions have sought his curriculum vitae and asked questions about him. They say he is worth studying. Such interest is unheard of for any other minister." Incidentally, Lalu Prasad is the subject of a study by sociologists at Harvard University in the United States.

Now if such an interesting personality joins the blogging bandwagon, am sure there's a lot available to read. I am game to read about Laluji's secret for jhakkas one liners and of course about his countrified comparisons. Laluji, where do you get this armory of wit, do share please.

Keep reading and remain connected.

(Note: Some people spell the word, 'Lalu' as 'Laloo', so it's one and the same.)

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Planet Green...

Just take a moment and think. Is the place in which you and I live green? Is it more green than it was say 6 months back. If YES, how can I improve it further. If NO, there is something happening in the eco-system that is bringing about this metamorphosis. Can this be checked and how am I going to make a difference. Isn't it a simple question.

Check this one, Planet Green. It has gone online and is on-air too. The content it has is entertaining, relevant, and accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds, for a green world, there are no barriers. By representing a broad range of ideas and perspectives, Planet Green is taking an active role in generating conversation and motivating individuals to take action when it comes to improving the environmental status of our planet.

Keep reading and remain connected.

(Note: Both the pics taken on road.)

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Quote of the Day...
The cheerleaders need to be applauded for only in Hyderabad would they have had to hear stuff like, "Arrey dhang se hilao ji, kya pukkat mein aye kya".
-- Pingu aka Rishabh Kaul. Source: Desicritics.

I will post my views on the cheerleaders and the kind of ballyhoo (both +ve and -ve) their presence generated in the recently concluded IPL series. Few points are just squirming in my mind, so let those rest and make way for well-knit sentences.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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