Monday, July 31, 2006


no write-up of lakshmi mittal is complete without mentioning about his love for indian vegetarian food and penchant for bengali sweets- rosogolla and mishti doi. and when he throws a lavish party he can think of only one person who can take charge of the kitchen. and that is deepak kumar singh alias munna halwai and now known as munna maharaj.

he is caterer par exccellence, at least so do all the rich and famous marwaris think. whether it is a marriage at birlas or singhanias or bangurs or jalans or goenkas or mittals, it has to be the one and only munna. panderer of the palates of the rich and famous. orphaned at the age of 16 in 1979, munna hails from gaya. he moved to burra bazar in kolkata a few years later and started cooking for marwaris for all occasions-births,weddings and funerals .he prepares both vegetarian and nonvegetarian delicacies, though marwaris are essentially vegetarians.munna shot into prominence when at kumaramangalam birla's wedding he worked continuously for 15 days and 15 nights.

a mittal family favourite,munna is a jet setting caterer. and he has his troupe of chaatwallas who accompany him. his cooking prowess is legendary. he can make 15000 dinners in one sitting.with his team of 38 chefs he flew into paris and pitched his tent in the palace of versailles where vanisha the only daughter of laxmi mittal got married over nine day celebrations. and he brought with him gobindo bhog,chandramukhi aaloo and phulkobi.the menu card read-thyme,basil and oregano blended with freshly ground saffron and cinnamon. also served were wild blueberries embellished with tender paneer(cottage cheese) served in a bed of creamy malai.his jodhpuri chakki ki subzi and the nine course baadaam mithai were smashing hits.

he is an entrepreneur too. he owns "marwar", a 10,000 sq ft restaurant in kolkata. on loudon street(where we lived) he is about to acquire "jewel of the east" another upscale restaurant. he even owns a pub near la martiniere school and true to his mentor's style he has picked up a stake in the financially troubled night spot "blue fox". he is chairman of "neelamber caterers" his group company. this gourmet wonder and food magician of india as he is referred to, uses for special occasions imported china,pure crystal and genuine silverware.

munna maharaj has come a long way. from rags to riches.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


lakshmi niwas mittal has proved his mettle.he finally acquired 'arcelor' after a bitter resistance put up by the company's top management fully supported by the luxembourg was a well planned and executed acquisition of the world's second largest steel-maker and a great step towards consolidation in the world steel industry.the world coudn't believe that an indian could even have the chutzpah to think of taking over such a big european company and have the audacity to push it through successfully and making joseph kinsch and guy dolle of arcelor eat humble pie.

mittal was ridiculed,his products and arcelor's were compared to eau de cologne and perfume and his money was referred to as 'monkey money'. racial discrimination came in the way and the so-called propagaters of free world trade and globalisation put roadblocks and played every trick in the book to prevent the takeover. kinsch and dolle were even prepared to take a poison pill and merge arcelor with severstahl a russian company than live with the humiliation of having been acquired by an indian. ultimately mittal's intelligence,tenacity,perseverance and strategic thinking paid off. he won amd became world's no 1 in steel production. a dream that he saw when he started his career in indonesia in the 80s.he split away from his family later in 1994.gradually he started buying old and lossmaking mills and turning them around.

in sanskrit laksmi niwas means the residence of goddess lakshmi.the goddess of wealth,love and luck.true to his name he has all of these factors.after having bagged arcelor he returned to india triumphant and got accolades from politicians and captains of industry.not one to rest on his laurels he visited orissa and jharkand and ofcourse to kolkata where he had had his education. he has an mou with jharkhand and now he has signed one with orissa. whoever gives him the better deal-land,mining rights,electric power and other infrastructural requirements will get the will be a 10 million ton steel plant. he has also sent shivers down the other steel manufacturers like tatas who are fortifying themselves for a possible assault at a future date from mittal. and the japanese and the chinese are rewriting their rulebooks to prevent another 'arcelor'.

guided by his father to whom he is very close,ably supported by his wife usha whose advice he trusts,and his two children aditya and vanisha he has now set his eyes on china. he already has a jv but that is not going to whet his appetite. it will be interesting to watch his next move.

already the richest man in uk and world's third richest man,l n mittal is surely closing the gap between him and two others ahead of is a question of time as to when he will be declared the richest man in the world.

the supersteelman has arrived.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Most of us have been so preoccupied with the 7/11 Mumbai blasts that another disaster that struck neighbouring Java has gone almost unnoticed. An earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale struck Pangandaran beach last Tuesday at about 3.30 pm..The ocean then receded. A typical preTsunami occurrence.And then the big wall of water appeared. More than 1000 people are reported to have been killed and missing.

The once idyllic ocean resort which bore the brunt of the Tsunami turned into a devastated jumble of shops,cars and dead bodies. Two meter high waves tore into the beach dragging along with it cars,fishing boats and people about 400 meters inland.Hundreds of homes were flattened and large areas of rice fields were flooded.All wooden buildings were swept away.

The infamous Ring of Fire was witness to yet another burst of seismic activity.The Ring's arc stretches from Chile to Alaska and then to Japan,South east Asia and the Pacific Islands.In the December 2004 Tsunami disaster,Indonesia was the biggest sufferer.Last year in March another Tsunami struck and killed more than 600 people.Mount St Helens in the US in 1980,the earthquake in SF in 1906 and the earthquake in Kobe Japan in 1995 are other big disasters within the sphere of the Ring.

The Indonesian government had received warnings that a Tsunami could be triggered by the earthquake but response was very slow.Within 45 minutes of the earthquake under the sea,the Tsunami struck.With no alarm systems in place,how could they have relayed the messages to those on the beach? A working detection buoy measures wind speed,temperature and barometric pressure. It could have sounded a red alert. At least 22 are required to cover all of Indonesia.Indonesia does not have a single one.More than 200,000 lives were lost in the December 2004 Tsunami.About six disasters have hit indonesia since then.And we in South East India remain very vulnerable.

How well are we prepared for another Tsunami? Hardly. And the probability of a similar disaster in the Indian Ocean is very high.The clock is ticking and we may be in for another nasty surprise.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

rain rain go away & dude,we are not rude

it rains in spain mainly in the plains. but in mumbai it rains and a young boy of fifteen when i first stepped on the soil of the then Bombay,I didn't realise that i would eventually be settling down in this city which we have come to like so much.i was overawed by the monsoon.every year without fail it would commence in the first week of June coinciding with the announcement of the ssc results.and it would pour endlessly.sometimes for days together without would go on.children will put on their overcoats and continue going to school,collegians to their colleges and officegoers would take it in their stride and report for mumbai,life goes on without stop. this year too it came on 1st june but then after a few days it just has come back with a bang and hopefully will continue till about naariyal purnima day. overflowing of the lakes at that time is an indication that the monsoon has been good and that the city will have no serious water problem for another year.

last year on 27th july we had about 1000mm of rains in 36 was an unprecedented deluge. a diaster which no mumbaikar can forget.the people's response to this was unforgettable.everyone tried to help the other person.many walked throughout the night to reach their hoimes.many were stranded in buses and cars till daybreak many citizens offered tea,biscuits and shelter to their unfortunate brothers and sisters.there was not a single criminal incident.

the recent reader's digest survey concluding that mumbai is the rudest city in the world came to me as a is bunkum.people here may not be westernised.they may not say "excuse me" or "thank you" or show niceties for women by getting up and offering their seat in a bus or a train.they may be quite crude.but that doesn't make them the last 46 years of mumbai that i have seen i have hardly come across any rude behaviour by anyone.on the contrary the average mumbai manoos is a very friendly and helpful person. he cares.the response on 26/7 last year is proof enough of the civility of the york or london or miami is no patch. i wonder how a magazine like rd could have published such a survey. were they seeking publicity to neutralise their sagging sales? readers certainly don't digest.

it has been raining continuously for the last three days.last night watching tv i had horrific visions of last year's catastrophe.hence my the rain gods.don't be so harsh on us.and don't make us go through what we experienced last year.

bmc has become none the wiser.last year's experience hasn't taught them much.roads are clogged,traffic moves at snail's pace,potholes everywhere and people now are scared to venture out fearing getting stranded. doesn't speak highly of the administrators who want to make mumbai a shangai!