Jan 31, 2007

Tata Buys Corus to be Number 5 Steel Producer

Ratan Tata directed the deal making in London from Mumbai based Taj Hotel.

India's economic ascendancy received yet another confirmation with the news that Tata Steel bagged Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus Group (CGA) in a roughly $12 billion deal, which draws to a close a protracted bidding war with Brazilian rival Companhia Siderurgica Nacional (SID), or CSN.

"This is the first big step that the Indian industry has taken in the international marketplace and equipped itself as a global player," said Ratan Tata, the patriarch and chairman of the Tata Group. "The underlying driver for the acquisition was that, if you are hungry for growth, you look at national and overseas boundaries."

In the rapidly consolidating steel industry, the deal is less than half the size of Mittal Steel's $23 billion acquisition of Luxembourg-based European steel giant Arcelor last year.

Even so, the deal will give Tata Steel roughly 19 million tons of extra capacity and vault it into the No. 5 position among big global steelmakers. "The Corus acquisition fits in with Tata Steel's strategy of achieving global reach in Europe and synergies with low-cost intermediaries in India," said Tata at a press conference in Mumbai on Jan. 31.

Corus is quite a prize for Tata—but was it really worth the price? Tata, after all, ended up raising its initial bid for Corus by half to fend off CSN. Even Tata's initial bid of $8 billion drew the attention of credit rating agencies such as Standard & Poor's, which placed Tata on its CreditWatch list with "negative implications" back in October.

Investors, meanwhile, dumped Tata Steel shares with unrelenting fury in trading on the Bombay Stock Exchange, where the benchmark stock index fell about 1%. Tata Steel shares were pounded down 11%. Tata execs were philosophical about the negative reaction to the Corus acquisition. "The market is taking a short-term and harsh view," said Tata. "Hopefully, somebody will look back and say that we did the right thing."

Tata Steel Managing Director B. Muthuraman was quick to point out the economic logic behind the deal. He said that the acquisition price values Corus steel-making capacity at about $710 per ton, which is far cheaper than starting from scratch. "Today, a greenfield (plant) with downstream products and construction solutions would work out to $1,200 to $1,300 per ton."

On Dec. 11, as the bidding war with CSN intensified with bids nearing $10 billion, S&P Singapore analysts Anshukant Taneja and Joey Chew warned: "The size of the acquisition and the potential cash outflow represented by Tata Steel's latest or future offers for Corus could have an adverse impact on its financial risk profile." On Jan. 31, S&P said it would keep Tata Steel on CreditWatch with "negative" implications as it crunches the numbers on the deal.

Muthuraman says the deal will be financed with a mix of equity and debt, with a roughly $4.1 billion contribution coming from Tata Steel and group holding company Tata Sons. As for servicing the debt, he assured analysts and reporters that "Corus' own cash flows are more than adequate to service the funding requirements."

There will be some challenges when it comes to integration, Muthuraman concedes. "Today, Corus is less competitive," he says. "Tata Steel's margins are 30% and Corus' 10%." To close the gap, both sides will work to garner efficiency gains in manufacturing, logistics, and products.

Tata Steel certainly has one thing going for it as it tries to play in the global steel industry big leagues—that is, the financial firepower of the entire Tata Group. It's one of India's biggest and most powerful diversified conglomerates with interests in everything from IT outsourcing to auto manufacturing and some $36 billion in assets.

Also, though it clearly overpaid for Corus, Tata Steel does have the advantage of operating in one of the potentially biggest steel markets. India is embarking on a huge drive to upgrade its transportation infrastructure, and the economy is expected to grow around 10% this year, on par with the world's fastest-growing economy and No. 1 steel consumer, China.

What's clear is that yet another Indian company has stepped out onto the global stage—and this is a source of deep pride in India, one of the most remarkable economic growth stories of this decade.

Lata Rafi Fued on Guinness Record

A Lata-Rafi duet used to be a staple of Indian movies in the 60s, 70s. Rafi has sung the most number of duets with Lata. Both admired and respected each other, but when Lata was included in Guinness Book of World Records for having recorded the most number of songs, it threw Rafi a curve ball.

Rafi kept writing to the Guinness book to get this reported number of 25000 reevaluated and dropped. Here are the excerpts from his 1979 letter to the publishers of Guinness.

I am disappointed that my request for reassessment of Vi's-a-Vi's Ms. Mangeshkar's reported world record has gone unheeded. Whilst I am happy that the record has been credited to an Indian singer with whom I have been privileged to sing many duets over the years, even at the cost of being dubbed immodest, I would stake my own claim to the world record. Herewith facts to support:

My career began in 1944, while Lata Mangeshkar first recorded in 1947.

Ms Mangeshkar has seldom, if ever, recorded more than one song a day, as her frail constitution would prevent her from doing so.

My claim of having recorded approximately 28000 songs is based on my average of two songs a day when I am in Bombay. I can substantiate that I have, on occasion, recorded five songs a day.

Mohammed Rafi died on 31 July, 1980. This request was unanswered for three years after his death. Only in 1984, did Guinness put Lata at 25000 and Rafi as "having claimed to have recorded 28000 songs".

It did not help Lata's relationship with the music director Naushad when it was rumored that this letter was drafted at his home. All parties involved here were and are great, but the small sandbox in which they played made them petty.

I personally don't think anyone in today's Mumbai has time to pursue such efforts. People would rather pursue their passions and earn fist full of Rupees.

Jan 29, 2007

Arthur Road Jail

Arthur Road Jail, built in 1926, is Mumbai's largest and oldest jail. It houses most of the city's prisoners. It is located near Sat Rasta (Seven Roads), between Mahalaxmi and Chinchpokli railway stations in the southern part the city. It was upgraded in 1994 to become a Central Prison and its official name is Bombay Central Prison. But, for the people of Mumbai, the heavily-guarded prison has always been known as Arthur Road jail.

Space is at a premium inside. The jail was built to accommodate 1074 prisoners but the average number of inmates is generally over 3,000 – far exceeding its capacity in terms of space, sanitation and other facilities.

Sodomy is rampant and the prevalence of HIV and tuberculosis is alarming. Around 180 prisoners are crammed in a cell designed to house 50. Prisoners have to sleep in awkward positions, making them susceptible to sexual overtures. Many succumb to their seniors, or gang leaders, in exchange for a little luxury like food or assurances of a job on release from the jail.
But for members of the crime syndicates, who tip guards and officers generously, a luxury lifestyle is always within easy reach. Almost all the 1993 serial bomb blast accused, for example, live in style, with easy access to alcohol and expensive cigarettes.

For those who belong to powerful gangs, it was easy to control underworld activities from within the jail by mobile phone. However, a newly-installed jammer (to block out mobile signals) may have put an end to that.

A few decades ago, this prison was one of the most feared in India, because of the treatment prisoners received from the inmate overseers. The cells were overcrowded and the prisoners had to sleep on blankets infested with lice. They were allowed to wash each day, but the ration of water was very little. If they stood up against the overseers they were punished in terrible ways.

Jan 28, 2007

O P Nayyar (January 16, 1926 - January 28, 2007)

Movie: Pran Jaaye par Vachan Na Jaaye (1973)
Lyrics: S H Bihari
Music: O P Nayyar
Singer: Asha Bhosle

Tata Sky Kids Channels

India is a IT capital of the world. A major reason for that is the Indian education system. It is very unforgiving and what you get to study and where you get to study defines where you end up in the society. It was widely believed that if you are not a doctor or an engineer, then you would most probably grow up as some clerk in an office.

Things are somewhat different today due to a booming economy. However, the middle class parents still focus on giving their kids all the advantages of a great education. Since TV is the new nanny in many Indian households, adding a channel to make the kids smarter is not a bad idea.

Tata Sky, the satellite arm of the Tata empire is cashing in on it. Perhaps, these kids will grow up to be developers in Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the IT and outsourcing arm of Tata.

Looking at another of their ads, the response seems to be great!

Interesting Facts about Mumbai's Economic Role in India

• Mumbai accounts for 16% of income tax collections and 35% of corporate tax collection in the country.

• Mumbai accounts for 25% of the State's income at current prices.

• 66% of the sales tax revenue in Maharashtra originated in Mumbai.

• Mumbai is home to both the National Stock Exchange and the Bombay Stock Exchange and dominated the turnover and total market capitalization of the Indian stock markets. The share of these two exchanges is about 92% with respect to the total turnover. They represent virtually the total market capitalization of India's corporate sector.

• Contributes 30% of customs duty.

• Mumbai handles 26% of the domestic air traffic cargo and an average of40%of the international air cargo traffic in country and about 25% of the domestic and 38% of the International air passenger traffic in the country.

• The number of telephone connection in Mumbai is estimated to be approximately 2.31 million. Of the approximately 7 million cellular subscribers in India, 10% of the subscribers are believed to be in Mumbai.

• 2.5 million tax assesses.

• Mumbai accounts for a significant share in deposits mobilization (14% of total deposits) and deployment of credit (21% of total credit) of scheduled commercial banks.

• Mumbai accounts for almost 30% of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the State.

• Handles over 35% of cheque clearances in number and 60% in value, more than 10 times that of any other metro.

• By 2020 Mumbai will have 27 Million people and will be the 2nd largest city in the world after Tokyo.

Jan 27, 2007

Languages represented on Indian currency

Indian Currency

Ever wonder what languages are represented on Indian currency? Here are all the 15 languages. The languages are ordered by their English alphabetical order. This is from a 10 Rupee note.

US currency is found to have marijuana residue and European currency has cocaine residues. I have not seen a study about residue on Indian currency.

Unlike US currency Indian bills are of different sizes for different denominations. This is to prevent bleaching of a lower denomination bill and using the paper for a new higher denomination.

Each denomination carries a picture of Mahatma Gandhi on the front and different images on the back

5 Rs: Tractor
10 Rs: Rhinoceros, Elephant, Tiger
20 Rs: Palm trees
50 Rs: Indian Parliament
100 Rs: Himalaya Mountains
500 Rs: Dandi March
1000 Rs: Indian Economy


Anil Biswas and Lata Mangeshkar

Dalda is a popular brand of hydrogenated vegetable oil since 1930s. It was originally imported by a trading company Dada Limited. When an Indian subsidiary of Unilever called Hindustan Lever Limited wanted to brand it, they added L (for Lever Limited) to Dada and there came DALDA.

Dalda is known as vanaspati ghee as opposed to ghee derived from cow or buffalo.

Bunge Limited now owns Dalda and is offering new variants of Dalda in India. These are lower in Trans Fats at the same time have long shelf life.

The picture shows Hindi Film music director Anil Biswas cooking for Lata Mangeshkar. Tins of Dalda are conspicuously present.

Jan 23, 2007


Yaad Na Jaaye Beete Dino Ki

This Dil Ek Mandir song was penned by Shailendra.

Shailendra considered his life as his real poetry. He used to derive inspiration from his walks along Juhu beach every morning. He wrote songs for almost all occasions of life, let alone ordinary situations. Those lyrics were vibrantly alive, in the sense they went far beyond the context of the film situation for which they were intended, and lived on long after the film itself had passed from memory. There is a Shailendra song for any emotion, any situation, from birth to death, such was his versatility.

Shailedra started his career as an employee with Indian Railways. His job bought him to Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1947. He started writing poetry during these days. Once, when he was reading out his poem Jalta hai Punjab at a public meeting, filmmaker Raj Kapoor noticed him. He offered to buy poems written by Shailendra and use them for his movie Aag (1948). Shailendra, a member of the left wing IPTA, was wary of mainstream Indian cinema and refused. However, after the birth of his son, Shaily, he needed money and himself approached Raj Kapoor. Shailendra's first project for Raj Kapoor was the movie Barsaat (1949). For Rs 500, he wrote two songs: Patli kamar hai and Barsaat mein. The music for Barsaat was composed by Shankar-Jaikishan. The team of Raj Kapoor, Shailendra and Shankar-Jaikishan produced many superhits.

It is quite ironical that for the man who loved life so much, the spectra of death always haunted him. He was obsessed by death. There was no fear involved, but a kind of helplessness drew him towards it. His producing Teesri Kasam caused him several heartaches and it was also the ultimate cause of his death. But what bothered him was not the film's failure at the box-office, but that his investment in friends he trusted and loved went wrong. Shailendra was admitted to the hospital on December 13 1966, but on his way he decided to stop at the famous cottage at the RK Studios to call on Raj Kapoor, where he promised R.K. that he would complete the lyrics for ‘Jeena yahan marna yahan’ for Mera Naam Joker. That was one promise he could never keep, for Shailendra died on the following day, which also happened to be R.K’s birthday.

Lord Ganesh

Ganesh Symbolism

Lord Ganesha is considered the master of intellect and wisdom. He is an unmistakable part of every Hindu household in Mumbai. Here's an interesting tidbit.

If you choose to gift an idol or a picture of lord Ganesha to your Indian friend, then make sure that his truck in NOT turned to the right side. Ganesh with his truck turned to the right is considered Strict and Awakened. A household with such an idol is expected to follow strict religious protocols. A gift with right side trunk may be politely turned down or end up returned to the seas.

Jan 21, 2007

Thousand Rupee Notes

Indian government had demonetised Thousand Rupee notes in the late seventies as a measure to check black money. It was reintroduced in 2000.

The date for phasing out the Thousand Rupee note was set and so was the process for exchanging the notes for hundred Rupee notes. The bearer of the Thousand Rupee notes just had to account for the notes based on their past income tax filings, earning, and other transactions.

This started an alternate exchange for breaking the notes into smaller denomination. Thousands of Thousand Rupee notes were selling for 70-80% of their face value. They were picked up by grocery store owners and other businessmen who could account for such an inventory outside of a financial institution.

Today, Mumbai has a parallel economy at least as large as a legitimate one. Somehow, I don't think the government will abolish a Thousand Rupee note. Inflation has put that denomination in almost all wallets and purses. 103 Rupees in 1975 had the buying power of today's 1000 Rupees.

State of Bombay

Flora Fountain Mumbai Hutatma Chowk Mumbai

During the British rule, portions of western coast of India were ruled by the Bombay Presidency. After Indian independence in 1947, many former princely states including Gujarat and Deccan states were merged into the Bombay province to form the State of Bombay. On 1956, the state of Bombay was further expanded to incorporate Marathi speaking Marathwada region of the Hyderabad state, the Vidarbha region of southern Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarati speaking Surashtra and Kutch.

Meanwhile, there was a movement to create two separate states Gujarat and Maharashtra based on the two languages spoken -- Gujarati and Marathi. Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti spearheaded the demand for the separate Marathi speaking state.

In early 1960, these demonstrators were fired upon by the police at Flora Fountain in the capital city of Mumbai (Bombay). Flora Fountain was subsequently renamed Hutatma Chowk in the memory of 105 people who died in this cause over time. Morarji Desai was the chief minister of the state of Bombay and he gave the order to fire on the demonstrators. A monument was created next to the Flora Fountain to remembers these martyrs. Maharashtra state was formed on May 1st, 1960 with Mumbai as its capital.

So your Indian girlfriend is a Manglik?

Former Miss World (1994) Aishwarya Rai got married to a tree and made rounds of several temples to perform several rituals to overcome cosmic hurdles.

This has all to do with her status as a Manglik.

Manglik refers to the presence of Mars (mangal) in certain houses of the birth chart. Miss Rai is a Manglik. That indicates a propensity towards danger to life, unhappiness at home (with mother in law), divorce or separation, sickness, loss of business. One of the most common beliefs is that if a manglik person marries a non-manglik, the non-manglik spouse might die.

Bizarre, but true. There are similar superstitions about setting off on a journey, forming a partnership, and starting a business.

Talk about living in the multiple centuries at the same time. That's Mumbai for you.

Indian TV Viewership Share

Media and Entertainment is thriving in India. The news programs are detailed. The interviewers are extremely aggressive with their questioning. The power is clearly with the media now. Fortunately there is no monopoly and that should keep them focused on their commitments to the society.

TV is slowly replacing religion as a primary source of entertainment even in the metropolis such as Mumbai. Bhajans and religious gatherings are now planned around popular shows and serials. Discussing characters in these shows is as prevalent as discussing finer details of religious teachings.

Purchasing Property: Stamp Duty

Stamp Duty is a tax, similar to income tax ans sales tax, collected by the government. The stamp duty is paid by the buyer of the property. It is payable on the market value of the property or the agreement value, whichever is higher.

The purchase agreement of a property does not become legal until it is executed by the government, for which a stamp duty is paid. Only the instruments that are properly stamped can be admitted as evidence in court.

Value of stamp duty is fixed by the government and varies from locality to locality. It is calculated per spare feet. The government assesses the market value of the property every year. The revised rate fixed by the state government is published in the Ready Reckoner. It is applicable since Jan 1, 2007.

Stamp duty is payable before or on the day of execution of the document, or on the next business day. Any delay attracts penalty at the rate of 2% a month on the deficit amount of the stamp duty. The maximum penalty is 200% of the deficit amount of the stamp duty.

In Mumbai that means an additional cost of 5% on the property/market value, whichever is higher. A similar chart exists for lease agreements.

Jan 20, 2007

Stray Dogs in Mumbai

As a dog owner it has always hurt me to see the plight of the stray dogs in Mumbai. These animals are capable of really deep relationships with people around them.

I came across this site called Welfare of Stray Dogs. It seems legit. The following are their goals.

To eradicate rabies in Mumbai.
To reduce the stray dog population through humane, effective methods.
To educate the public about rabies prevention and other stray dog issues.
To promote the adoption of stray dogs.

Made in the USA

USA here stands for Ulhasnagar Sindhi Association.

Made in the USA in this case refers to goods manufactured in Ulhasnagar by local industries. These goods were a knock-off of consumer goods such as shoes, apparels, watches, bags, and electronic items. The goods were substandard in quality, but they provided the "made in the USA" brand for the masses that was cheap even by the local standards.

Due to the awareness of this alternate branding strategy, Mumbai citizens often suspicious of the cheap goods cayyring a brand "Made in the USA". It stands for counterfeit goods -- making Ulhasnagar the capital of knocked-off goods in India.

More interesting is the history behind formation of Ulhasnagar. After the partition of India (1947), over 100,000 Sindhi refugees from the newly created West Pakistan were relocated in the military camps five kilometres from Kalyan. It was converted into a township in 1949, and named Ulhasnagar by the then Governor-General of India, C. Rajagopalachari.

A suburban railway station was built in 1955. Five years later, the first municipal council was nominated. In 1965, elections to this council were held for the first time. Now this 22 square kilometer area holds 350,000 Sindhis, the largest enclave of this ethnic group in India. The town lies outside Mumbai city but in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. It is a major business district, with a claimed turnover of Rs. 1,000 crores (10 billion) in 1995.

Sindhi's are a key community in Mumbai and significant contributors to the business, entertainment, charity, and culture of the city.

Lokmanya Tilak

Bal Gangadhar Tilak (July 23, 1856 - August 1, 1920)

Tilak sparked the fire for complete Independence from the British Raj. His famous quote

Self Rule is our birthright, and we shall have it.

is very popular and well remembered in India even today. He was the first popular leader of the Indian Independence Movement. (1857 - 1947). He is addressed as Lokmanya -- meaning beloved by the people.

Tilak proposed various social reforms, such as minimum age for marriage and prohibition on the sale of alcohol. His call for boycott of foreign goods also served to inspire patriotism among Indian masses.

Tilak is considered to be the father of Hindu Nationalism. He started large scale celebration of Ganesh festival as a way to gather and energize people against British Raj. This was a perfect way to educate masses about the freedom movement. This is now celebrated on a large scale all over Maharashtra and Mumbai.

He was also the first Congress leader to suggest that Hindi should be accepted as a sole national language.

Tilak was a critic of Gandhi's strategy of non-violent, civil disobedience. When Tilak died in 1920 in Bombay (Mumbai), Gandhi paid his respects at his cremation along with 200,000 people. Gandhi called Tilak the "Maker of Modern India".

Jan 19, 2007

Mumbai's Winter Pollution Blues

Mumbai has been washed over by a blue haze these days — a concoction of gaseous compounds, dust and water vapour. The haze, or smog, is taking hold of the city and leading to pollution-related illnesses. The primary cause of the smog is vehicular pollution. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur oxide (SO2), carbon monoxide and peracetyl nitrate are all found in vehicular exhaust. These combine with water and ozone to form smog. During winter, the cold air in the atmosphere does not rise. Pollutants are, hence, trapped to the ground.

Winters bring cloud cover closer to earth. As a result pollutants don't get dispersed easily because of reduced temperatures. The dispersion of gases and other pollutants is not easy. The ground level concentration of pollutants increases. There are many more suspended particles in the air during winters than any other season. This makes the air dense.

Since we inhale more polluted air than we would normally inhale in other seasons, it triggers off health problems. People suffering from asthma may get frequent attacks in winter because of their allergy to dust. Mumbai has numerous pollutants, vehicular being the most prominent. In winter the smog (a combination of smoke and all kinds of pollutants that form droplets of water) levels go up. This is because the smog doesn't disperse causing health problems.

Mumbai is blessed because it has sea on both sides. The pollution flushes out because of the wind. But people staying in heavily polluted and populated areas like Andheri, King's Circle, Chembur, etc have to be careful. Wearing sunglasses, covering your nose with a scarf can help but won't go a long way. That's because the body's natural defence mechanism cannot stop dust particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter. Almost 95% of the emissions from a vehicle are less than 10 micrometers. These go directly into your lungs. Unless the vehicles are reduced nothing can be done.

Traffic congestion, stalled traffic, truck traffic are the biggest contributors to the pollution. Hopefully, the Metro planned for the years 2009-2010 will provide a viable alternative public transport.

US Net Heavies getting into Indian Matrimonial Sites

Here Come The Bride Sites

U.S. Net heavies are wedding India's fast-growing matchmaking dot-coms

There's Yahoo! (YHOO ) Finance, Yahoo! Autos, and Yahoo! Jobs. So why not Yahoo! Weddings? In India, the Internet giant is playing online cupid to people looking for arranged marriages. In September, Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO ) and Silicon Valley venture capital firm Canaan Partners jointly paid $8.5 million for what industry insiders say is roughly 10% of BharatMatrimony.com, a nine-year-old marriage Web site that also has 50 offices across India to serve those without Net access. "BharatMatrimony will help us get a larger share of the Internet market" in India, says Yahoo India Managing Director George Zacharias.

One satisfied customer is Pradeep Nair. The 32-year-old packaging material exporter from Mumbai tried finding a bride the traditional way: by hiring a matchmaker. "There was something or the other missing" with each of the 50 or so candidates, he says. Either her horoscope didn't match his own -- a key consideration for conservative Hindus -- or she fell short of his ideal: a tall, attractive working woman. Frustrated, Nair paid $27 to sign up with BharatMatrimony. Three months later, he wed Vrinda, 28, an accountant working for Indian carrier Jet Airways. Nair plans to register his sister on the site next. "It's easy to access, and it throws up good choices," he says.


Yahoo isn't the only foreign player getting hitched to an Indian marriage site. Microsoft Corp. (MSFT ) a year ago hooked up with Shaadi.com, though it didn't invest any money in the site. "Shaadi helps attract huge numbers of users," says MSN India country manager Jaspreet Bindra. Silicon Valley venture capital fund Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has plowed some $4.6 million into Info Edge, which runs matrimonial site Jeevansathi.com. Google Inc. (GOOG ) also is said to be prospecting for a partner, though the company declines to comment.

There are plenty of potential mates for overseas Net companies. India has scores of sites dedicated to brokering marriages, while Net dating services are less popular. Some 7.5 million people use the marriage sites, up from 4 million in 2004, the Internet & Mobile Association of India estimates. Since registration is free, and users only pay when they want to contact a potential partner, the sites are likely to take in just $21 million or so this year. But there's plenty of room to grow. Indians lay out nearly $500 million a year for offline marriage services such as matchmaking, the biggest category of print classifieds. "Today the emphasis is on compatibility and being a professional, something the Internet lets you test, as opposed to the traditional contacts," says Anupam Mittal, Shaadi.com's founder.

The popularity of the sites reflects the changing face of India. Traditionally, Indian marriages have been brokered by family, friends, or professional matchmakers, a laborious process that involves matching candidates on the basis of religion, caste, community, and horoscopes. Busy professionals such as Charoo Kher prefer the speed of the Net. A customer-relations manager at India's commodity exchange, Kher, 31, had no time for dating so she registered on Shaadi.com. She and her Punjabi family reviewed 100 or so profiles -- with details such as hobbies, favorite foods, and salary -- and settled on Gurmeet Walia, a 35-year-old caterer. "The ease of finding many profiles online under one roof seemed practical," Kher says. The couple wed eight months ago.

Online matchmaking offers another advantage: In India there's a stigma attached to turning down a marriage proposal. The Internet allows users to disengage easily if they don't, well, click.

By Nandini Lakshman (businessweek.com Nov 6, 2006)

In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India

The Power and the Potential of India’s Economic Change

By WILLIAM GRIMES (nytimes.com)

All eyes are on China as it races to become the world’s next great power. Smart bettors would be wise to put some money on India to get there first, and Edward Luce explains why in “In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India,” his highly informative, wide-ranging survey.

Mr. Luce, who reported from New Delhi for The Financial Times from 2001 to 2005, offers an Imax view of a nation so enormous that it embraces every possible contradiction. Always it seems to be teetering on the edge of either greatness or the abyss. Right now the future looks inviting.

India’s dizzying economic ascent began in 1991, when the government abruptly dismantled the “license raj,” a system of tight controls and permits in place since independence in 1947. Mr. Luce, as you might expect from a Financial Times reporter, does a superb job of explaining the new Indian economy and why its transformation qualifies as strange.

Unlike China, India has not undergone an industrial revolution. Its economy is powered not by manufacturing but by its service industries. In a vast subcontinent of poor farmers whose tiny holdings shrink by the decade, a highly competitive, if small, technology sector and a welter of service businesses have helped create a middle class, materialistic and acquisitive, along with some spectacularly rich entrepreneurs.

“If Gandhi had not been cremated,” Mr. Luce writes, “he would be turning in his grave.”

Mr. Luce, notebook in hand, matches faces to trends as he tours India from the affluent, relatively well-governed south to the poor, hopelessly mismanaged north, where the age-old problems of illiteracy, poverty, government corruption and caste divisions persist.

Much of the book consists of interviews and colorful vignettes intended to illustrate the myriad statistics that, out of context, can numb the mind. The blend of anecdote, history and economic analysis makes “In Spite of the Gods” an endlessly fascinating, highly pleasurable way to catch up on a very big story.

As Mr. Luce dryly observes, “India never lacks for scale.” This is a country where 300 million people live in absolute poverty, most of them in its 680,000 villages, but where cellphone users have jumped from 3 million in 2000 to 100 million in 2005, and the number of television channels from 1 in 1991 to more than 150 last year.

India’s economy has grown by 6 percent annually since 1991, a rate exceeded only by China’s, yet there are a mere 35 million taxpayers in a country with a population of 1.1 billion. Only 10 percent of India’s workers have jobs in the formal economy. Its excellent engineering schools turn out a million graduates each year, 10 times the number for the United States and Europe combined, yet 35 percent of the country remains illiterate.

Despite its robust democracy and honest elections, India faces the future saddled with one of the most corrupt government bureaucracies on earth. Mr. Luce encounters a woman in Sunder Nagri, a New Delhi slum, whose quest for a ration card entitling her to subsidized wheat and other staples involved bribing an official to get an application form. The form was in English, which she could not read, so she had to pay a second official to fill it out. When she turned up to claim her wheat, it was moldy and crawling with insects. The store owner had evidently sold his good government wheat on the black market.

In the northern state of Bihar, Mr. Luce writes, more than 80 percent of subsidized government food is stolen. Most ration cards are obtained through bribery, by Indians who are not poor. It’s the same story in nearly every area of an economy touched by the groping tentacles of a government that “is never absent from your life, except when you actually need it.”

As a former cabinet official tells Mr. Luce, corruption is not simply a nuisance or an added burden on the system. Rather, he says, “in many respects and in many parts of India it is the system.” Mr. Luce, traveling the country’s rickety rail system, covers an enormous amount of ground. He inquires into the Kashmir dispute while dissecting India’s fraught relationship with Pakistan; marvels over New Delhi’s spanking-new subway system; describes the middle class rage for megaweddings; pays a visit to Bollywood and, in some of his most absorbing chapters, analyzes the changing caste system, the status of India’s Muslims and the alarming rise of Hindu nationalism.

All this and a visit to C2W.com, a Mumbai company that markets brands through the Internet, cellphones and interactive television shows. Its founder, Alok Kejriwal, is still in his 30s, and to Mr. Luce represents the new India. “I am greedy,” he tells the author. “I have no trouble admitting to that.”

At one point, Mr. Luce ponders India’s constant state of chaos and compares it to a swarm of bees. From inside the swarm, things look random, but from the outside, the bees hold formation and move forward coherently. Sometime in the 2020s, at current growth rates, India will overtake Japan to become the world’s third-largest economy. Greatness lies within its grasp, Mr. Luce argues, if it can figure out a way to restructure its inefficient agriculture, put millions of desperately poor people in jobs that pay more than a pittance, wake up to a potential H.I.V.-AIDS crisis and root out government corruption.

Mr. Luce takes a cautiously optimistic view. “India is not on an autopilot to greatness,” he writes. “But it would take an incompetent pilot to crash the plane.”

Jan 17, 2007

Beautiful Things: Sunil Gavaskar's Straight Drive

Hitting a straight drive right past a fast bowler is the worst thing a batsman can do to a bowler. Just imagine, a bowler runs steaming down the pitch to throw a scortcher, only to be hit right back, all the way to the boundary line. Hitting a ball back on the front foot is what the west Indian's call beautiful Cricket.

That was Sunil Gavaskar's most glorious stroke. Gavaskar's is Mumbai's very own.

Sunil Gavaskar was one of the greatest opening batsmen of all time, and certainly the most successful. His game was built around a near perfect technique and enormous powers of concentration. It is hard to visualise a more beautiful defence: virtually unbreakable, it made his wicket among the hardest to earn. He played with equal felicity off both front and back foot, had an excellent judgement of length and line and was beautifully balanced. He had virtually every stroke in the book but traded flair for the solidity his side needed more. His record for the highest number of Test hundreds was recently overtaken by Sachin Tendulkar, but statistics alone don't reveal Gavaskar's true value to India. He earned respect for Indian cricket and he taught his team-mates the virtue of professionalism. The self-actualisation of Indian cricket began under him.

Jamsetji Tata: The first Indian to own a car

Jamsetji Tata was born to Nusserwanji and Jeevanbai Tata on 3 March 1839 in Navsari, a small town in South Gujarat. Nusserwanji Tata was the first businessman in a family of Parsi Zoroastrian priests. He moved to Bombay and started trading. Jamsetji joined him in Bombay at the age of 14 and enrolled at the Elphinstone College. He was married to Hirabai Daboo while he was still a student. He graduated from college in 1858 and joined his father's trading firm.

Jamsetji worked in his father's firm till the age of 29. In 1868, he started a trading company with a seed capital of Rs. 21,000. In 1869, he acquired a bankrupt oil mill in Chinchpokli, converted it into a cotton mill and renamed the mill to Alexandra Mill. He sold the mill two years later for a healthy profit. Thereafter he set up a cotton mill in Nagpur in 1874. He christened it Empress Mill on 1 January 1877 when Queen Victoria was proclaimed empress of India.

The period following the establish of Empress Mill was the most poignant period of Jamsetji's life. Over the next thirty years till his death in 1904, Jamsetji laid the foundations for the Tata Group as we know it today.

The company started by Jamsetji Tata came to be known as the Tata Group and is today among the largest and most respected companies of India. Jamsetji, was however, known for much more than just starting a company. He was a pioneer in his field and thought way ahead of his times. When he started the Empress Mills in Nagpur, he didn't just think of novel ways to manufacture textiles, he also put in place very good labour practices. This was long before any labour laws came into existence.

He was also a nationalist. Though India remained under British rule while he was alive, he interacted with activists such as Dadabhai Naoroji and Pherozeshah Mehta. He was strongly influenced by their thinking. However, he always maintained that political freedom must be accompanied by economic self sufficiency. Not only did he manage to create thousands of jobs, he paved the way for many future enterprises.

Jamsetji was the first Indian to own a car. Today, the company he had started is making cars like the one below. Tata Motor is taking these cars to the African subcontient.

Jan 16, 2007

Mumbai: Rolling in Rupees

Although hundreds of millions of Indians still live in grinding poverty, the economy is growing at an 8% annual clip, and the ranks of the well-off and just plain loaded are ballooning. Some 83,000 Indians today have liquid assets greater than $1 million, up from 71,000 two years ago, American Express Co. AXP estimates, and their numbers are increasing by 13% a year. By AmEx' math, in 2009 there will be 1.1 million individuals with $100,000 in assets, a princely sum in India--up from 700,000 today. "I'm amazed by the wealth in this country," says Sujay Chauhan, who in April quit his job at technology researcher Gartner Group to found Aquasale, a boat dealer in Mumbai that already has seven orders for yachts worth a total of $10 million.

A lot of this is new money, not legacy Indian wealth. Up-and-coming sectors such as software services, telecommunications, finance, and real estate are minting new millionaires every day. And the Bombay Stock Exchange has more than doubled in the past two years, handing many investors tremendous capital gains. "India is the fastest-growing market for wealth creation," says Nicholas Windsor, head of personal financial services at HSBC India HSBC , which last year set up a private banking unit to cater to clients investing upwards of $500,000. Adds Ravi Trivedy, head of Business Advisory Services at consulting firm KPMG, which helps banks tailor services for rich clients: "For us it's a fabulous time."

The first place the new moneyed class typically shows off its cash is with a big house or plush apartment. While demand for homes over 3,000 square feet--palatial by Indian standards--was once confined to Mumbai and Delhi, more and more Indians in smaller cities want big houses, according to real estate consulting firm Cushman & Wakefield Inc. In September, Ambience Builders & Developers Inc. plunked down $120 million for a 60-acre parcel in Hyderabad, with plans to turn it into high-end homes. And each of India's large cities boasts 400 to 500 houses listed at $2 million-plus, estimates Mumbai real estate agency Knight Frank. "It feels good giving your family a comfortable existence," says Rohit Roy, an actor and talk show host who last year moved into a four-bedroom apartment facing the sea in Juhu, a posh Mumbai suburb.

Cars, of course, are another great way to get mileage out of your millions. Despite duties that effectively double the price of imported autos, sales of super-luxury models are gathering speed. National Garage, a nationwide chain of dealerships selling an assortment of brands, including Ferraris, says demand for the $200,000-plus machines vastly outstrips supply. To bolster the Ferrari image, it has turned away 700 customers that "didn't suit our product profile," says marketing director Farhad Vijay Arora. Across town at Navnit Motors, customers last year snapped up 200 BMWs for as much as $150,000 and 10 Rolls-Royces topping out at $600,000-plus--about quadruple the number five years ago. "We see a sudden surge of interest in these high-end luxury cars," says Navnit's marketing director, Sharad Kachalia. To satisfy exploding demand, BMW next year plans to open an assembly plant in Chennai and hopes to expand its sales to some 1,800 Bimmers annually. That goal won't likely be hard to reach: Rival Mercedes-Benz DCX , which already has a factory in Pune, sold more than 2,000 cars last year.

Although well-to-do Indians have traditionally been wary of flaunting their money, more are wearing their wealth on their sleeves. Louis Vuitton CDI , Hugo Boss, Valentino, Gucci, and Fendi have all opened Indian stores in the past couple of years. And Kimaya Fashions Ltd., a high-end shop in Juhu that has long sold Indian-designed clothes to society highfliers and Bollywood stars, is stocking more global brands such as Roberto Cavalli and Giorgio Armani. "The Indian story has just begun to unfold, and now we know this is for real," says Kimaya managing director Pradeep Hirani.

There's plenty of potential growth. All told, the market for high-end luxury clothing and accessories in India is worth some $434 million a year and is apt to hit $800 million by 2010, estimates consultant Technopak Advisors Ltd. Indians last year spent $141 million on pricey wristwatches, a figure that's growing by some 40% a year, according to Technopak. "I'm not a gizmo person, but I like cars and watches," says Arun Mansukhani, 37, head of human resources at cellular carrier Hutch. His collection includes a Tag Heuer, a Mont Blanc, a Cartier--and a Porsche and a BMW. Wine sales are taking off, too, with help from the likes of the Wine Society of India. The group, established in September, held a tasting at Mumbai's stately Taj Palace Hotel, where society divas and Bollywood stars nibbled on chicken tikka and sipped $160-a-bottle Château Latour à Pomerol.

Businessweek.com, Nov 20, 2006

Jan 15, 2007

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King 1994 Man of the Year cover "I have a dream"

Martin Luther King Jr's contribution to the US prosperity is staggering. By opening up the gates of virtually all institutions to the minorities, he had laid the very foundation of diversity. This diversity is the reason for the US competitiveness.

Once the gates to the institutions were opened, the talent flowed in. The people of all colors, nationalities, and background brought their skills, perspectives, and talents to make the US the country it is today.

This greatness is acknowledged in the US. We celebrate his birthday each year in the month of January. Virtually every city in the country has at least a major street or school named after him. But we have also underestimated his contribution. These schools and streets are in the predominantly black or minorities neighborhoods. I wish he was a bit more mainstream. Understanding his dream is the very first step towards realizing the potential of the individual, society, and corporations.

King is known as a "black Gandhi" in Mumbai -- primarily because he too subscribed to the non-violent teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. I look up to both of them with gratitude for making it possible for me to experience success and to dream beyond my current shortcomings.

Mumbai International Book Fair

12th - 21st January 2007 Grand Hyatt Exhibition Grounds

India is one of the ten biggest book publishing centers in the world and is only third, after USA and UK, as far as the number of English titles is concerned. Mumbai is India's biggest market for all kinds of books.

MIBF is organised by ‘Good Governance India Foundation’, a trust dedicated to the promotion of literacy and reading as a habit. Now you can be assured of high quality of service, backed by our proven experience and performance, at a very affordable price. This has become an yearly event. The current one is the fifth book fair.

A wide range of high-profile works and new editions recently published in India are on sale at the Grand Hyatt Exhibition Grounds during the Mumbai International Book Fair. The event also offers rare, antiquarian and secondhand books, maps and prints, magazines, maps and computer software.

Jan 14, 2007

Will Mumbai Vultures be Extinct?


The three species of vultures—white backed, long billed, slender billed—used to number 40 million in the Indian sub-continent. But in less than a decade, this number has dwindled to a few thousand. Experts are further worried about the high mortality rate of almost 50-80 per cent.

In the first ever seminar of its kind, top scientists and wildlife experts from all over the world met recently in New Delhi to prepare an action plan to rescue the vultures from extinction in South Asia. Attacked by a virus, the vulture population of India, Nepal and Pakistan is declining alarmingly and vultures could be extinct within the next five years if no solution can be found.

Meanwhile "convincing new evidence" from Dr. Lindsay Oaks of the Peregrine Fund, earlier this year, in Pakistan pointed to the commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug Diclofenac — a new environmental poison — as responsible for the vulture deaths, according to Dr. Risebrough. This poison has been found lethal to the white-backed vulture, he adds. Till this new evidence, he believed the unexplained deaths of vultures could be due to disease. Birds eating the meat of cattle injected with this drug, died of visceral gout.

Diclofenac is intensively used in India. The drug was used in India since 1994 as a veterinary medicine, though not for elephants. It dominates the painkiller use and has the common side effects of similar painkillers like gastritis, peptic ulcers, and renal failure. Even if a single carcass contains lethal levels of Diclofenac, it is enough to do damage as vultures can live on that for a week.

Among internationally renowned vulture experts and scientists from the Royal Society for Protection of Birds, UK, and from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, there have been rather unexpected participants: representatives of the Mumbai Parsi community. The Parsi community has decided to spare neither effort nor expense to help solving the vulture crisis. The threatening extinction of the vultures is not just a conservation issue for them, it affects the future existence of their religion. Parsi or Zoroastrians have a unique way of disposing off the bodies of their dead. They do not burn or bury them, they expose them to the sun. Ritually kept in the "Tower of Silence" in the open air, they are devoured by birds of prey the most important of them being the vulture.

The Parsis are a small community, mainly living in India. 55,000 of the 76,000 Indian Parsis are living in Mumbai. On an average there are hundred deaths per month. There are five "Towers of Silence" at the Malabar Hills near Mumbai. To keep them working, they need 60 to 100 birds. Now there are fewer and fewer vultures and the system of disposal threatens to break down. The Mumbai Parsis are now trying to develop a captive vulture-breading program to rescue the bird from extinction.

Ratan Tata. Chairman of the Tata Empire

Casting about for someone to run a big family firm when a successful tyrant is due to retire is usually a troublesome business. When the firm is still controlled by the same family that founded it back when John D. Rockefeller was gobbling up refineries in Cleveland, it becomes still more daunting. Add the fact that the ruling family are Parsees, a small Zoroastrian sect who have been intermarrying in India for over a thousand years, and the odds of finding someone who is up to the job lengthen again.

Yet after indifferent early reviews, Ratan Tata has transformed the Tata group, of which he is chairman. When he took over from his uncle, J.R.D. Tata, it was a cumbersome conglomerate with stakes in a huge collection of companies that seemed likely to wither in the face of foreign competition. Now it makes foreign acquisitions and ventures into unfamiliar markets. Tata Steel's bidding war with CSN, a Brazilian firm, over Corus, an Anglo-Dutch steelmaker, is just one example of the once-staid group's new boldness. Mr Tata was recently voted Indian of the year by viewers of an Indian television channel, beating both Sachin Tendulkar, India's greatest cricketer, and Aishwarya Rai, the country's most famous screen goddess. And he has succeeded partly because he is what his friends call an individualist, and others might call a loner.

Mr Tata does not like publicity and avoids the platforms and applause of conferences. He lives frugally, does not drink or smoke and seems baffled by the idea of time spent not working. Asked what he would do with it, he usually replies that he would walk his dog along the beach near Mumbai. He does not seem to be motivated by money, and talks constantly about fairness and doing the right thing. “I want to be able to go to bed at night and say that I haven't hurt anybody,” Mr Tata says twice in the course of an interview at a hotel in New Delhi owned by the sprawling group.

Mr Tata became chairman in 1991, just as India's economy was opening up. His uncle, who had run Tata for more than 50 years, had started Tata Airlines (which became Air India) and was to India what Gianni Agnelli of Fiat was to Italy. He was a good-looking philanthropist with a French wife and held the first pilot's licence to be issued in India. His shy and unglamorous nephew, in contrast, trained as an architect at Cornell University, slipped quietly into the family firm and was not marked out for the succession even when his uncle was due to bow out.

Despite all the glory that surrounded J.R.D., when he retired in 1991, Tata was a group of companies ill-equipped to deal with the changes about to sweep through India. It earned most of its money in old-fashioned industries that had grown fat during the centrally planned “licence raj”, when the government set limits on how much firms were allowed to produce and protected them from foreign competitors. The stakes held by the family in many of the 300-odd companies in the group were tiny, and the main Tata businesses were run as independent fiefs by men much older than Mr Tata.

They might have expected Mr Tata, who had never held an executive position, to leave them alone. Instead, he retired them, improving their pensions to soften the blow. He sold stakes in some companies and used cash from the sales and revenue from Tata Consultancy Services, India's largest IT firm, to shore up control of those that remained. There are now a mere 96 companies in the group, and Tata Sons now owns at least 26% of each of them. That has made the portfolio a little easier to manage, but it leaves Mr Tata more isolated at the top.
Shortly after he became group chairman, Mr Tata also decided that Tata Motors would make its own cars, even though a joint venture with a foreign firm would have been easier. Critics grumbled that a good truck business was about to be destroyed for the sake of an ill-conceived vanity project. But after a difficult start, Tata Motors is now India's second-biggest carmaker by sales. “If he had listened to what everyone told him, he would never have done it,” notes one of Mr Tata's friends.

First, do no harm

Although he has made Tata's big businesses more competitive and more inclined to look beyond India's borders—Corus would be just the latest in a series of foreign acquisitions—Mr Tata has also run it in keeping with Tata's public-spirited tradition. Two-thirds of Tata Sons is owned by charitable trusts that do good works in India, and the firm is known for refusing to pay bribes and for treating workers well. (The children of Tata's steelworkers were given free education back in 1917.) Foreign investors sometimes wonder if this is good for business. “At first I didn't have an answer,” Mr Tata says. “But then I asked myself: am I competitive? Yes. And this is the way companies are moving.”

Mr Tata's latest car project—producing a vehicle that will sell for under $3,000—combines two of the things that keep him from those walks along the beach: securing the fortunes of the family group and pleasing a highly developed sense of fairness. The factory will be in communist-run West Bengal, a state chosen partly because it is in need of industrial development. West Bengal's government is eager for the investment, but Tata Motors has faced protesting farmers, a politician on hunger strike and, Mr Tata thinks, commercial rivals trying to prevent the birth of a more affordable car. Tata Motors is sticking it out, and expects to secure the land to build its new plant at the end of the month.

Mr Tata, who has no children, is due to retire in December 2012, when he reaches 75. That will leave the group with a familiar succession problem. Meanwhile, he is heading the government's investment commission, which works to increase foreign investment. And he may be about to create one of the largest steelmakers in the world. Not bad for a shy architect.


Jan 13, 2007

Balmohan Vidyamandir

We alumni always search for our dear schools in the hopes of finding our lost connections. I thought instead of putting pictures of the school or Dada Rege, this page should only have the prayer we used to say on each school day. I wonder if it goes on still. I
n 1998, the school also started instructing in English medium.

Kumar Gandharva

Kumar Gandharva Kumar Gandharva expressions

I discovered Kumar Gandharva in my 30s. I grew up listening to his music in the background, but as a child I had never paid any attention to it. I was amused by the vigorous expressions and hand gestures that classical Indian singers would make during their performances.

Today, his music nourishes me. It clarifies things for me. It is like a mental centrifuge that separates essential from non-essential for me. I have picked up bits and pieces about him over here. I would urge you to take a listen, perhaps along with someone who can teach you what to listen for. And if you have grown up as a Marathi person in the 60s, 70s, 80s in Mumbai, then just like me, Kumar Gandharva's music might be the music to which your harmonic frequency is tuned to.

Kumar Gandharva

Kumar Gandharva (real name Shivaputra Siddramayya Komkali) (April 8, 1924 – January 1992) was a famous Hindustani classical singer, famous for his unique vocal style, refusal to be bound by the tradition of any gharana, and his innovative genius. The name "Kumar" is a title given to child prodigies, while Gandharva was the god of music in Hindu mythology.

Shivaputra was born in Dharwad (Karnataka, India). As a child, he was stricken with tuberculosis, and left with only one functioning lung. This greatly affected his singing – he was to be known for powerful short phrases and his very high voice. He may not have reached the same heights of popularity as contemporaries like Bhimsen Joshi, but Gandharva always enjoyed the love and support of dedicated and connoisseur enthusiasts. His singing was also true to the Indian Classical Music tradition of dialogue with the listeners, of impromptu creation and interactivity.

Kumarji also experimented with other forms of singing such as Bhajans (Devotional songs), folk songs, and with both ragas and presentation, often going from fast to slow compositions in the same raga, something rarely done by any other North Indian musician. One of the most inventive singers in recent years, he is remembered for his great legacy of innovation, questioning tradition without rejecting it wholesale, resulting in music in touch with the roots of Indian culture.

He was never "easy" to listen to, in part because of his thin and occasionally harsh voice, a consequence of an illness in his youth which left him with only one lung. He overcame this setback by developing an original style of singing, which relied on short, sharp bursts of music rather than the deep, sonorous, slow and long phrases that characterize Hindustani vocal music. He was known to say that during his convalescence after the illness, he had been inspired by a sparrow which visited his room and which, despite its diminutive size, could produce an impressive volume of music. On another occasion, he said that while musicians who were steady, powerful and grave could be compared to the large fish in an aquarium, he thought of himself like one of the tiny fish that dart around, changing direction rapidly and moving in short bursts.

To watch Kumar tuning his tanpuras perfectly and tunefully is an enjoyable and memorable experience. Only those who are able to distinguish the finest subtleties of different notes are able to tune the four strings of the instrument so that they will blend perfectly. The two middle strings are required to be tuned to the tonic or shadja note, the last string also to the shadja note an octave lower - kharja, and the first string is tuned to pancham the 5th note, madhyama the 4th note, or nishad the 7th note, whichever may be in consonance with the compositions of the ragas the artist intends to present. The process of tuning the tanpuras is sometimes a lengthy one and may be a little boring to most listeners. Sometimes this instrument is as whimsical as the artist and refuses to stay steady. The strings resist attempts to blend them into a homogeneous unity, but a formidable musician like Kumar or Bhimsen can force them into submission. When the strings, perfectly blended in unison, resound and reverberate in the concert hall, the tense atmosphere suddenly becomes relaxed, and when Kumar blends his own voice so identically with the swara of the tanpura, the audience experiences a sensation divine and beyond description. After a lot of hard work and practice Kumar has mastered the technique of tuning this wonder instrument. Apart from the two tanpuras, one on either side. the only accompaniment Kumar uses is that of a soft harmonium and a tabla played in a tranquil, straightforward manner and in a tempo - laya - with perfect precision. Kumar's concert is therefore absolutely free from unnecessary gimmickry and acrobatics. It has a soothing effect on the audience whose whole attention is riveted on Kumar's singing that very soon envelops them in its magic.

BARC: Bhabha Atomic Research Center

The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) situated in Trombay, Mumbai is India's primary nuclear research facility. It has a number of nuclear reactors, all of which are used for India's nuclear power and research program. It was started in 1957, as the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (AEET), and became India's primary nuclear research center, taking over charge of most nuclear scientists that were at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. After Homi J. Bhabha's death in 1966, the centre was renamed as the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

The first reactors at BARC and its affiliated power generation centers were imported from the west. India's first power reactors, installed at the Tarapore Atomic Power Plant (TAPP) were from the US. The primary import of BARC is as a research centre. The BARC and the Indian government has consistently maintained that the reactors are used for this purpose only: Apsara (1956; named by the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru when he likened the blue Cerenkov radiation to the beauty of the Apsaras (Indra's court dancers), CIRUS (1960; the "Canada-India Reactor" with assistance from Canada), the now-defunct ZERLINA (1961; Zero Energy Reactor for Lattice Investigations and Neutron Assay), Purnima I (1972), Purnima II (1984), Dhruva(1985), Purnima III (1990), and Kamini.

Blue Radiation from reactors

The plutonium used in India's 1974 nuclear test carried out in Pokhran in the Thar desert of Rajasthan, sometimes referred to in the liberal media as a 'Peaceful Nuclear Explosion', came from CIRUS, the primary charter of which was 'peaceful' nuclear research. The 1974 test (and the 1998 tests that followed) gave Indian scientists the technological know-how and confidence not only to develop nuclear fuel for future reactors to be used in power generation and research, but also the capacity to refine the same fuel into weapons-grade fuel to be used in the development of nuclear weapons.

Jan 12, 2007

Laughter Yoga in Prisons

I had written about Laughter Yoga in the past. Here is an interesting picture of laughter yoga being practiced in the prisons. It appears to be a minimum security facility.

Jan 11, 2007

Modi Script writings of Marathi language

Marathi is a dominant language spoken in Mumbai. Currently it's script is called Devnagri.

In old days Marathi was written in Modi script-- a cursive script designed for minimising the lifting of pen from paper while writing in the ancient times. All writings of Maratha empire is in Modi script. However, with the advent of large-scale printing, Modi script fell out of favor, as it proved very difficult for type-setting.

The courts in the olden days also used Persian-influenced scripts under the influence of Muslim and Maratha rulers. This script looks like a mix of persian and gujurati scripts. It is still alive thanks to computer generated fonts and typesetting.
Perhaps this posting gives us one more thing to talk about with our parents and grand parents?

Jan 9, 2007

Mumbai Marathon

Mumbai Marathon Map

Mumbai Marathon started in year 2004. It takes place every January of the year. In 2007, it will take place on the 21st, January. This event is a part of the "greatest race on earth" circuit. The crowds are always enthusiastic. Running in January, which is one of the mild months in Mumbai can be a brutal test of stamina in the face of heat and humidity.

More on this event. It is sponsored by the Standard Chartered Bank.

Communication Tips in Offshore Development World

Let's face it. We Indian find it difficult to say No and we say Yes when we actually don't mean to stand by that word in its true sense. This shortcoming is very apparent in dealing with the offshore (people working in India for a US or European client) staff.

YES typically should go with the following four conditions.
  1. I understand

  2. I agree

  3. I fully intend to do things in accordance to the agreement

  4. I intend to do so in a very short order

Anything else should not begin with the work YES.

Here are the levels of the consensus decision making that I try to imprint on my Mumbai offshore team. It comes in handy in dealing with the others in Mumbai as well. Here's your own Ivy League MBA snippet.

  1. I can say unqualified YES to the decision. I am satisfied that the dcision is an expression og the wisdom of the group.

  2. I find decision perfectly acceptable.

  3. I can live with the decision; I am not especially enthusiastic with it.

  4. I do not fully agree with the decision and need to register my view about it. However, I do not choose to block the decision. I am willing to support the decision because I trust the wisdom of the group.

  5. I feel we do not have a clear sense of unity in the group. We need to do more work before consensus is reached.

  6. I do not agree with the deision and feel the need to stand in the way of this decision being implemented.

Once we Indian's get comfortable saying NO, the the rest of the trust formation process is easy.

Jan 8, 2007

GLENELG: An Address I would love to call mine.

Mumbai property values have been going through the roof for the past four years. Ideally, I would like to have an apartment each in Mumbai and New York City. The following property is sold out from the developer. I won't be surprized if these apartments never come back into the market again. Even if they did, I think they would be US$5-7 millions each. Well....I am still young. For for some of you who believe in reincarnation, you could be born into one of these apartments...

The original building where Godrej Glenelg has been developed was classified as a heritage structure and is located in the exclusive Cuffe Parade neighborhood in South Mumbai. The location combines stunning sea views with the ability to be situated in the heart of India’s financial capital. In developing this project, GPL has sought to combine the classical style of the original structure with the most modern facilities and amenities to create a striking combination of classical and modern. The development includes a large classically styled villa at the base over which there are seven contemporary, luxurious apartments, each occupying its own floor. The opulent villa contains two large balconies and in total occupies over 930 sq. mts. (10,000 sq. ft.) of area. The seven villas each approximately 3,000 sq. ft. large, offer residents the ability to combine the highest standards of modern luxury with a beautiful structure, stunning views and a perfect location


Jan 7, 2007

Dhirubhai Ambani

Dhirubhai Ambani of Reliance Industries

Late Pramod Mahajan, Information and Broadcasting Minister of India seen holding the Stamp.

Dec 28th, 1932 - July 6th, 2002

Dhirubhai achieved what almost everybody would consider impossible. In a life spanning 69 years, he built from scratch India’s largest privately controlled corporatation Reliance Industries Limited. A lot is written about this great guy.

In 1982, Dhirubhai created waves in the stock markets when he took on a Kolkata-based cartel of bear operators that had sought to hammer down the share price of Reliance Industries by selling them short. The cartel badly underestimated the Ambani's ability to fight back. Not only did Dhirubhai manage to ensure the purchase of close to a million shares that the bear cartel offloaded, he demanded physical delivery of shares. The bear cartel was rattled. In the process, the bourses were thrown into a state of turmoil and the Bombay Stock Exchange had to shut down for a couple of days before the crisis was resolved. The bears had to pay a fine of Rs. 2 per share in addition to providing stocks that had risen more that Rs. 45 during this time.

A new Bollywood film Guru is based on the Dhirubhai Ambani's life story.

Economic Prosperity and Cardiovascular Disease

Growth in IT related jobs is bringing about several health related risks. These risks are multiplied by increased acceptance of Junk Foods and Drinks in the society.

While deaths from heart attacks have declined more than 50 per cent since the 1960s in many industrialize countries, 80 per cent of global cardiovascular diseases related deaths now occur in low and middle-income nations, which covers most countries in Asia.

In India in the past five decades, rates of coronary disease among urban populations have risen from 4 per cent to 11 per cent. In urban China, the death rate from coronary disease rose by 53.4 per cent from 1988 to 1996. A report released last week by the Earth Institute at Columbia University warned that without sustained effort on individual and national levels, the coming heart-disease epidemic will exact a devastating price on the region's physical and economic health.

Indians have by far the worst problems when it comes to heart disease. Nearly 50 per cent of Cardio Vascular Disease-related deaths in India occur below the age of 70, compared with just 22 per cent in the West. This trend is particularly alarming because of its potential impact on one of Asia's fastest-growing economies. In 2000, for example, India lost more than five times as many years of economically productive life to cardiovascular disease than did the U.S., where most of those killed by heart disease are above retirement age.

Studies indicate that Indians have elevated levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while also suffering from a deficiency in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol, which helps clear fatty buildups from blood vessels). In addition, Indians tend to gain weight in the abdominal region (Waist: hip ratio >1.0 in men, >0.9 in women) and are at greater risk of heart disease. Environmental factor like low birth weight, malnutrition also possibly predisposes Indians to increased risk of diabetes and heart attacks in adulthood.

Statistics suggest that Indians seem more naturally vulnerable to heart disease than other ethnic groups. Lancet 2000 study showed that, even after adjusting for all known risk factors; Indians in Canada appeared to have a higher rate of heart disease than Europeans or Chinese living there. Some doctors think that this vulnerability can be explained by the "thrifty-gene" theory, which holds that Indians adapted over many generations to the region's frequent famines. Now with a very recent overabundance of food, their bodies are having difficulty making a metabolic U-turn and the result is high insulin intolerance, with accompanying raised levels of diabetes and obesity.