Thursday, August 30, 2007

from ritualism to reality;from spiritualism to realisation.

a staunch and hardcore brahmin pandit of benares,ram narayan chaturvedi(pankaj kapoor),fanatically follows ageold rituals of hinduism as defined in the vedas.bred in true brahminical style and living the life of an honourable gruhastha(householder).starting with early morning ablutions immersed waist-deep in the cold ganga waters in the ancient and holy city of benares,pandidtji goes about his 'dharma'(duty) in a characteristically matter-of-fact manner.with a rotund waistline,bare torso,an angavastra dropping over his neck and three parallel lines on his forehead(vibhuti), identifying him as a follower of lord shiva,he returns home every day followed by his loyal disciples and ensuring throughout that he does not come into contact with any member of the fourth varna(caste).and when it does happen,he returns all the way to gangamaiya for a purificatory bath. back home he does his lingapooja,abhishek,chanting of vedic hymns and aarti.with his young and obedient daughter and devoted 'dharmapatni'(supriya pathak),a pativrata woman,in toe.then starts the vedadhyayanam(vedic chanting) with his disciples and discussions on hindu scriptures where even a foreigner is a is an orthodox life full of rituals and deeply embedded spiritualism.pandidtji is a happy and contented man and a loving husband and father.

then one day,the unthinkable happens.his world is turned upside down.a newborn child is left in front of his house.found by the pativrata woman and his daughter.they take him inside their home and pacify the crying child.when panditji returns home and finds a newborn child,he is surprised.he asks how this has happened and when are they sending the child back.there is no immediate answer.the child's antecedents are not known.the child could be from a different caste and community and what if the mother comes back? so,panditji decides to inform the police and ask them to take the child away.persuaded by his family, he is prepared to keep the child for a few days,till the whereabouts of the mother are known.the bond between the child and panditji's wife and daughter develops.even the strong-willed panditji succumbs to the child's cries once when his wife and daughter are away and to stop her crying lifts the boy and plays with him.there is no sign of the mother and the police draw a night when his wife presses his feet panditji sweetly asks her,"kya god lena chahati ho?"(do you want to adopt the child?).panditji's wife is keen to adopt the child.or at least keep the child till the dust clears.apprehensive of the consequences but at the same time seeing the joy in the faces of his family on the arrival of a newborn child,he does not want to break their hearts.panditji's wife makes a big assumption that the child is a brahmin child and conveys that impression to her husband.

he has a rival pandit (dayashankar pandey) who is jealous of panditji's knowledge and the respect he commands.dayashanker is commercialminded and trades on his knowledge of the rituals and does pooja for devotees by proxy.he knows that it does not meet the approval of panditji,but who cares.after all he is competition.and he also has to take revenge for his humiliation by panditji for his commercial approach.there are hindu fundamentalists who cannot tolerate foreigners trying to learn hinduism.and when that foreigner falls in love and elopes with a hindu girl(hrishita bhatt),daughter of an upper-caste landlord,all hell breaks loose.the girl is ostracised and sent out.later in a intergroup clash the foreigner is killed.on the advice of pandidtji,she is taken back in her home as a widow and allowed to live in a separate room. her brother,a bajrangibaliite,is infuriated and is waiting for an opportunity to lit a communal fire.meanwhile,the mother of the boy who is now about four shows up.she is a burqaclad muslim woman.she explains the circumstances under which she had to leave her child in front of their house.panditji's wife is shocked and stunned.panditji is numbed as if felled by a tree.instantly the child,karthikeya,is sent off.mustafa is back home with his mother much against his wish.he cries and cries but to no avail.the door reluctantly is shut on him.

thereafter he starts the maha prayaschittharth(big repentance).a series of rituals and maunavrat to purify himself after the impurification wrought on him and his family.the word goes around that panditji had kept a muslim child for four years or so in his house and brought him up.he then undertakes the chandreya vrat,the toughest penance to food for two weeks excepting a ball of rice in the evening at moonrise.

when he finally breaks the fast,everyone is one dare point a finger at him because of his determination and conviction.he has committed a himalayan blunder as per the shastras and only he has to bear the burden of the consequences.

suddenly one day a flareup between two communities occurs.the city is on fire.mustafa's mother rushes to panditji's house for safe custody to save the boy.panditji's wife refuses initially,ultimately succumbs.panditji who walks the streets where mass killing has taken place due to the mindless communal frenzy undergoes a transformation.a catharsis.he returns home to find fire all around and shouts for 'karthikeya'. the boy rushes to him from his mother's arms.he is relieved.he lifts him up and takes him in his arms.he stops the killers,admonishes them and implores them to stop this maniac killing. we are all one.'vasudeiva kutumbakam'.the universe is one big family.'maanavta paramo dharma:".humanity is every hindu's prime duty.the 103 minutes movie ends.a fitting finale.

an extraordinary and vibrant debut film by bhavna talwar tracing the dillemmas and predicament of an orthodox hindu priest ."dharm" has been nominated for the gucci groups award 2007 at the 64th venice film festival commencing september 3.the film is about religion,communal harmony,parent child bond.there is a progressive interpretation of religion.colour,caste or creed should not be the discriminating factors.when religion gets distorted by vested interests society must get up and bring in sanity.

the sheetanchor of this superb movie is of course pankaj kapoor.he handles the conflict of conscience that he faces with subtleness and powerful dialogue delivery.from an unflinching shastra follower, he evolves to become a persona with great sensitivity and immense compassion.a long journey from his orthodoxy and brahminical arrogance to a liberalised view of people and society.what is the true meaning of dharma,he asks.knowledge of the vedas might not give you the answer,he is harmony,peace,unity and humanity.a superlative performance,he breathes life into the character of panditji.

the script and dialogues are flawless.nallamuthu's photography is superb.the movie has been shot etherally with the latest high definition technology entirely at benares.dileep subramanian's sound is outstanding.costumes by shenar vahnvati are design by wasiq khan is good.

the question that begs an answer is how will this movie fare at the turnstiles? it has not been a runaway chak de.but it has not been a flop either.the response has been average.there are no songs excepting for the background score and themesong by sonu nigam.but one thing is certain.that bhavna talwar's debut direction and pankaj kapoor's scintillating performance and this story of religious fanaticism and caste conflicts handled with great sensitivity will win many accolades. a therapeutic cinema in choleric times.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

the molybdenum millionaires

wonder how many of you have heard of this is actually an ore which is used for extracting molybdenum metal.this is then alloyed with other raw materials to make special alloy steels like stainless steel and high speed steel and other exotic steels used in the aviation and aerospace imparts toughness and wear resistance to the steel.derived from the greek word 'molybdos' which means lead,it was later found that it is an entirely different element. found mainly in china and chile,its price has been rising by leaps and bounds due to the strong demand from the steel industry in recent years and lesser availability from china due to various governmental restrictions.

there is a small city in northeast china called "huludao" having a population of 3 million people.around the city are rich moly has shipbuilding and nuclear submarine industries providing jobs for masny people.

the streets of huludao are filled with a large number of western luxury cars like bmws,mercedes and lexus.seen mainly in shangai and beijing this is an unusual site for huludaons.

molybdenum has cropped up a new breed of millionaires.those who dress modestly but show off their luxury cars.symbols of their newly found wealth. like the rich coiambatoreans.who also like to flaunt their luxury suvs and limos. and unlike the noveaau riche ludhianvis who dress flashily and flash their flashy thing is common though. they are all obsessed with luxury cars.

onam-the special and spectacular festival of kerala

the whole of kerala goes into a tizzy for ten days during the keralite month of chingan(august and september) when the festival of onam is celebrated.the colourful harvest festival of kerala.the most important day is the 10th day,thiru corresponds with shravan day.after all, spring has arrived after months of incessant rains. for centuries,the people there have been celebrating onam with elan.this tradition has been passed on from generation to generation. believed to be from the sangam age.that is really pretty ancient.

according to legend,king mahabali who ruled over vast tracts of land in the southern tip of western india was a benevolent ruler and his subjects literally worshipped him.the grandson of the famous prahlada,the vishnubhaktha whose devotion resulted in the narasimha(man-lion) avatara of lord vishnu.incidentally keralites are devout worshippers of lord vishnu because of king mahabali.but there was one problem.he was an asura(demon).having obtained miraculous powers from lord shiva for his unstinting penance,he was troubling the devas(smaller gods) no much so that they pleaded to lord vishnu for help.he descended to earth when mahabali was doing a big yagna(fire sacrifice) as a brahmin dwarf and requested the king for that extent of land which would be covered by three of his footsteps.mahabali immediately agreed.smelling a plot to undo him, his guru shukracharya and his son dissuaded him from granting the boon to the brahmin dwarf.the unsuspecting king did not heed to their advice and asked the dwarf to take away that much of land which he had asked for.for mahabali keeping up his word was more important than even his life."praan jaye pun maan na jaye". honour to him was surely superior to existence.instantaneously the dwarf morphed into a huge size reaching upto the heavens and measured the whole earth with one foot,the upper region with another.the king realising his folly begged forgiveness and sought the lord's blessings.lord vishnu put one more foot on his head and pushed him to patala(hell).the saving grace was that he would rule hell. and once in a year he would be permitted to visit his homeland. the lord's kindness and retribution for is believed that on the day of thiruvonam,mahabali visits his kingdom.the people rejoice and welcome the king."the king is back".

spectacular boat race,kathakali dances,music and song festivals are all arranged on this auspicious occasion.

mention has to be made of the special food(onasadyam) that is prepared on this day. the sadya is usually served as lunch and the preparations for the grand feast start from the previous night no to onions and garlic,the sadyam is a vegan delight.coconut is the king and its aroma can be smelt for miles with all its nuances .a host of pappadums and knickknacks provide the kickoff to the gastronomic venture. upperi or chips is prepared from raw bananas, jack fruit and bitter gourd. the first course on the big plaintain leaf is a dal cooked with grated coconut. followed by a spoonful of rice and a ghee with olan(mashed ash gourd with black-eyed pea in coconut milk and green chillies)) and theyal and aviyal( a semiviscous curry of carrot,raw banana and drumstick). erissery(pumpkins/yam with broken red chillies and curry leaves),kalan(buttermilk,sliced plaintain,yams) followed by kootukari(vegetables with bengal gram), sambhar,rasam and so on. the dessert is the adhapradhaman which is a must-have.a silky and rich paayasam made out of jackfruit and enhanced with coconut milk and ghee.of course there are many variations to the pradhaman.

people also gift each other with new clothes(onakkodi).muslims and christians also celebrate this festival.have you heard of any majority-minority clashes in kerala? kerala is a great example of people living together in harmony with respect for each other's religion and enjoying a high level of literacy and longevity.they cannot forget the golden age when mahabali ruled them and celebrating onam is in his memory is an expression of their deep gratitude.not to miss out the bonhomie the nri keralites in the middle east make a beeline for their homes to celebrate and enjoy the unforgettable onam festival.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

amulets and rudrakshas-the new spiritual anchors

from the dawn of civilisation,man has been in awe of the forces of protect himself from natural calamities, ghosts and spirits,diseases and accidents,he has worn around his neck a talisman on a cord of chain carrying images of different gods and goddesses or symbols which supposedly would endow him with magical properties both in life and death.

inspite of advances in science and technology and progressive thinking,the belief and dependence in astrology,the occult and animism remain strong.people under heavy physical and mental stress in today's troubled times are resorting to supernatural aids for help.india and thailand are two countries where this phenomenon is currently very much in evidence.

the thais are resorting to wearing jatukam ramathep amulets.these are quite unbuddhist for a nation where buddhism is the religion for the majority.but they would do anthing to seek justice and security by turning to superstition.have religion and other social and judicial systems failed is a question that needs to be addressed.these amulets became a nationwide phenomenon after their creator died last year at the age of 104.these are named after a legendary warrior prince jatukam ramathep.he is depicted in a sitting posture in the talisman which is the size of a silver dollar.from the poor to the rich,street food vendors to corporate executives and rich businessmen all wear them and exhibit them proudly.they want to attract good fortune and ward off evil.some are discreet but many wear more than one.prices vary from one dollar to 30,000 dollars.demand is more than supply and the manufactures are working in three shifts and are making a killing.some amulets fly off the production line without any consecration while others wait for holy monks to bless them.the image of jatukam is cast from metal or piece of wood,ivory or resin,coloured plastic or many different ingredients pressed in a mould and heated and thailand no one buys amulets.they rent it.but they don't have to give it back.

back home,the picture is no is not the jatukam amulet though. it is the rudraksha.rudra is an alternative name for shiva.and aksha in sanskrit mean's eye.the eyes of lord object of veneration,it is supposed to endow powerful and profound astrological and health benefits on the wearer.grown on large evergreen trees with broad leaves in the gangetic plain right upto the foothills of the himalayas,the bead is covered by an outer shell having a blue is therefore also called blueberry have ekmukhi,domukhi and right upto 27 mukhis rudrakshas.the ekmukhi is very rare and hence extremely pricey.and the rudrakshas are now competing with diamonds and other forms of jewellery.recently,a rudraksha necklace was sold for rs 50 lakhs.

the marketers of rudrakshas say that they are natural and have a spiritual and medicinal value to them.for some other experts there is no logical explanation for this can you guarantee,they say, that these have healing powers? many consider the boom as a marketing gimmick and hype created to lure gullible people.added to this problem is the proliferation of fakes where sellers are cashing in on this craze by selling duplicate or fake rudrakshas.hardwar is supposed to be the biggest duplicate market.nepal the home for rudrakshas is seeing booming long this demand will remain strong is anybody's is a faith market and as long as faith remains strong, rudrakshas will sell. why bother about it? make hay while the sun shines is the guiding principle.

david beckham wears do sylvestor stallone and richard gere.will it deliver the desired results? we have to watch david's performance for 'los angeles galaxy'.richard gere seems to have had some luck already a la shilpa.if as the marketers claim that it propitiates the gods and is bound to bring good health and fame,why not give it a can buy one for rs 20.and if you can afford it then for rs 12 lakhs.amulets and rudrakshas are man's spiritual anchors.the price is worth paying if you are supposed to be safe in this life and beyond.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

'no nap'

i don't like to drive at night.but sometimes i find myself in a situation when i decide to do it at night so that i can carry on with my work in the morning.why don't i like driving at night? simple.i feel sleepy in no time.and that is a huge risk when you are in the driver's the city it is unsafe.on the highway it could be fatal.several years ago when we were returning from kancheepuram to bangalore very late at night,my driver must have stopped the car atleast five to six times to sprinkle cold water on his face.the effect would last for a short while and then he would stop the car again.some simple tricks that we follow to keep awake are keeping the driver engaged in conversation all the while.and ensure that the person who drives has a very light meal.these steps are not fullproof though and the element of risk still remains high.

thanks to vivek bhatia who hails from indore that risk now gets vastly diluted.he is the inventor of 'no nap'.an inexpensive costs rs 90 in india and $90 in the is a tiny battery operated device weighing only 16gms which fits behind the ear.the battery,dc 3 volts,is made in china and the plastic body is sourced from a small plastics factory in indore.the theory behind this concept is that the person who dozes off slumps forward a few times.that sets off a sharp whistle.the mercury inside the device establishes contact with the battery during every slump.this completes the electric circuit and sets off an alarm.

there are many actual users who vouchsafe for the utility of this intelligent product which is fast gaining popularity in india and abroad.many corporates have bought hundreds of these for their fleet operators.they consider it to be a lifeguard on a long drive.lalu yadav may be arming his engine drivers with no nap soon.railway accidents may still take place though! 'no nap' can be put to use not necessarily in the car or train is not only a road safety device. for students who stay awake burning the midnight oil,'no nap' would be heaven sent.and if you are an aspiring ballroom dancer you will be able to stand and dance straight.

Monday, August 13, 2007

chuck out our lousy sports administrators

'chake de india'(buck up india or come on india) is a great movie to feel happy,proud and positive.for shimit amin and shah rukh no praise is sufficient for having made such a brilliant movie.the film is somewhat on the lines of lagaan.srk(kabir khan) acts as the coach of the indian women's hockey real life, india's ex hockey goalkeeper mir ranjan negi became a coach after india lost to pakistan in the 1982 olympics and negi who couldn't convert the penalty shot in the finals was made the villain of the piece.he was accused of 'gaddari' and ostracised.licking his wound for many years,he finally got an opportunity to coach the women's hockey team.he did an admirable job and the women's hockey team won several international tornaments.he also redeemed himself for his past failure.

the sports administrators laughed it off when the proposal for considering kabir khan as the coach for the women's team was put forward.firstly,they didn't expect anything much from these girls.secondly how could they be coached for international would be a waste of money.kabir khan prevailed.he convinced them that they can perform. a match with the men's hockey team was arranged and they come out with flying colours.the selectors relented.though they had their doubts.kabir khan grabbed the opportunity and the rest is history.

kabir khan puts together a coordinated team and smoothens out the rough feathers in many of the team members.have india as your priority, put down your pride and ego and work harmoniously for the larger benefit of the hard,practice hard,fight all odds,give tit for not get bullied by the players who indulge in foul tactics.all these lessons went well with the team.the message was clear to one and all.and they reciprocated with superlative performance.the davids took on the goliaths and beat australia in the finals thereby winning the championship.

well directed by shimit amin and brilliantly acted by shah rukh khan,i found the audience giving a loud ovation to the superstar and his team for an exemplary performance.cinematography was par excellence.except for the theme song the music by salim and sulaiman merchant was very ordinary.written by jaideep sahni,the decisive showdown in the movie takes the cake.rob miller,the sports action director has skilfully crafted that.

the medley of 16 girls is initially a mess.they all come from diverse backgrounds.the training transforms them into aggressive sharpshooters.the haryana girl acted by chitrashi rawat,the cat's whiskers sagarika ghatge,shilpa shukla the disgruntled player who did not accept the coach till the last and tried her charm on him(zip and unzip)and the punjabi mundi tania abrol all are fantastic acting discoveries.these young girls bashing up a bunch of eve-teasers in a restaurant was hilarious.the coach is proud of the girls as they haven't taken it lying down.even he backs up a lout brandishing a cricket bat against a wall and says "hamaari hockey main chakke nahin hotey".

it is a feel-good,emotion stirring,meticulously researched sports has all the right elements-comedy,tearjacking scenes and serious ones as well.the movie really catches steam in the second espouses the cause of team spirit. cricket is passe now.chake de hockey.

chuck the politicians and administrators who play politics and favouritism to the detriment of the sport.let this movie inspire hockey enthusiasts all over the country and let us all hope for a revival of this game.and aim for the next olympic gold medal in china.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

dial 'm' for malhotra

malhotra is a common surname among punjabi hindus.yesterday while i was in delhi and when i was flipping through the telephone directory searching for a phone number,i realised that the population of malhotras having a telephone is ran into many many pages.the surname agnihotri is derived from the sanskrit word who does regular sacrifices to the fire.i wonder what malhotra means. i must find out.quickly.because several of them are in the news these days.for their affluence and sharp practices.not for any sacrifices by any stretch of one's imagination.

one of them,amit malhotra, is from ludhiana,the land of the noveau-riche.he paid a whopping rs 15.5 lakhs to get a unique mobile number 97800-00000.the auction was organised by hutch. amit,26, says that it is his hobby. to collect mobile phones and have different unique numbers for each one of them.his papa,a ludhiana property dealer and garment manufacturer,expressed his happiness on his son's selection of vip numbers when the family celebrated the acquisition of the new unique number. he then distributed mithai to relations and friends on the joyous occasion.incidentally,ludhiana has the most mercedes benz per capita.the affluent women of this prosperous city are wellknown for their kitty parties.

another malhotra who has hit the headlines recently is a canteen contractor.known as 'chhole bathura' malhotra,he runs a canteen in parliament house in new delhi.he also a has a fascination for unique numbers.he has 52 cars parked in front of his house each with a special number like 0001. the cars are of all shapes and sizes.including the swankiest of imported cars.the central bureau of investigation suddenly seemed to have got whiff of the bathura king's illgotten wealth.they raided his house and found 17 lakhs in cash,17 cars parked outside his house(where were the other cars?) and lots of incriminating documents. he had appropriated land allotted to slumdwellers and was involved in a few other scams.and had made a huge fortune.he was doing all this openly without the least bit of fear. what does that say of our vigilance system?

malhotra is only the tip of the iceberg.there are many malhotras in india.spread all over the country.amassing illgotten wealth by bribing officials and considering themselves above law.ultimately though the long hand of law catches up.but its short and slow legs allow such people to carry on without any punishment.we need to tackle this menace.and snuff it out of our system.

Friday, August 03, 2007

anyone for piping hot samosas this monsoon?

i am a samosa aficionado.samosa is arguably,the most enduring of indian snacks.i just love it.i can take it at any time of the day and it can substitute my breakfast or lunch or even dinner. it is food fit for a king .like wada pav another desi fast food that i enjoy,i always go for the plump punjabi samosa. and who can do it better than 'kailash parbat'(kp). wellknown for their chaats,kp specialises in its two samosa is the samosa with tamarind chutney and chana gravy and the other with different chutneys,farsaan and yoghurt.the chutney is neither too sweet nor too sour.stuffed with potatoes and peas,this most sought after snack in indian cuisine,is believed to have originated in central asia some 1000 years is perhaps the best place for samosas at least in south bombay if not the whole of mumbai.there is cafe metro at marine lines famous for its mutton samosa and agarwal restaurant at charni road who make some heavenly samosas too.

last evening while returning from work,i had this sudden impulse to have a was drizzling. but that did not deter me.on the contrary,i was motivated by the refreshing rains to visit 'kailash parbat' and enjoy their hot samosas. arjun mulchandani,the owner, is a good friend and has been asking me to come over and taste the delicious sindhi food that they prepare. i am certainly going to do it one of these days.and also put it on the blog for the benefit of those who haven't tasted sindhi vegetarian stuff, am sure my foodie daughter l will also join me. she is alo a kp fan. she loves their paanipuris,bhel and ragdapatice. when i was collecting my parcel of hot samosas,the freshly made and hot gulabjamuns were being kept on the sweets rack. they were just too tempting. i decided to buy a dozen gulabjamuns.for my office colleagues. the occasion? india 's win at trent bridge! surely zaheer's and dada' superlative performances call for such a colleagues were seen chuckling knowing what an excuse i had thought of to distribute my favourite sweet.

samosas go well with gulabjamun and chai.when in kolkata i don't miss the opportunity of having shingara which is the bengali version of the punjabi samosa.and i have it with rosagolla and tea.there are the ahmedabadi,bihari and hyderabadi(luqmi) varieties too.samosas are deep fried and that is where the rub lies.wouldn't it be healthier to have baked samosas rather than fried ones? fried or baked, the small crisp triangular snack is a piece of magic and a treasured snack.

located strategically on the busy colaba causeway with its fastfood joint and restaurant flanked on both sides at the beginning of the pasta lane,not only does it satisfy the tastebuds of the sindhi population in that area and around,it has a large and loyal clientele from other communities and even foreign tourists who make a beeline for the sindhi meals.the surroundings are clean,waiters are courteous,service is fast and savouries have that extra zing and food is too good.and one can often hear the familiar conversation between two sindhis: "kedo haaal saain? haal sutto?