Blogbusters
 

Who says Bollywood stars are an insulated lot? Not their fans at least. Ever since the baap of all actors, Amitabh Bachchan publicly announced that he has started blogging on Bigb.bigadda.com, his blog is inundated with messages from thousands of fans. Bloggers have found the perfect medium to bridge the gap and stay tuned into updates on their favourite icons’ lives. Fans believe this is an intimate form of communication, almost like an entry into the star’s inner world.

No wonder star blogs have become hopelessly addictive. Be it aamirkhan.com or mynameiskaran.com (Karan Johar) or duskadum.blogpsot.com (Salman Khan), or rgvvarma.spaces.live.com (Ram, Gopal Varma)῅Bollywood personalities are hooked to this medium as they find it a personal canvas to vent their emotions and express opinions. Amitabh Bachchan, who is currently on his Unforgettable tour in the US, has been blogging at all odd hours every single day. Sometimes his entries are short and crisp and he’s instantly apologetic about lack of time. There are other days where he finds it hard to conceal his elation at the response to the tour. His childlike glee is evident in an excerpt from his blog:

Day 95

LOS ANGELES!! LOS ANGELES!! LOS OF ANGELES!!

What an audience! What a show! What response! Simply incredible!

It has been the best ever for me. And all the credit goes to the utterly fantastic fans and audience at the LA Sports Arena, that packed the venue right up to the rafters and just egged and shouted and screamed us into a performance that all of us will remember for a lifetime.

I popped every antibiotic available, every energiser around, prayed as hard as I could and gave it all I had. I don’t know how it all happened, but it happened. I stand up in salutation to the people at the venue, to the people of Los Angeles, to all the fans and well-wishers. You did it! And I humbly bow down to you with the deepest respect and love. Thank you!!

We need your prayers and wishes,

Amitabh Bachchan

Actress Koel Purie believes that the film fraternity has always set trends. “Since blogging has become such a huge trend, why should the industry be left behind? If Mr Amitabh Bachchan sounds articulate, it is because that’s the way he speaks. If Salman sounds blunt it’s because he speaks from the heart. I’m not surprised that blogs have become popular because it is a direct interaction between the star and his fans. I have a professional blog called onthecouchwithkoel and the feedback has been heartening so far.”

The web page of director Karan Johar’s blog offer a visual treat for fans who get to see Hrithik and AB in conversation, Jaya and AB sharing an intimate moment, SRK and his daughter Suhana in a tight clinch. Here’s an excerpt:

Reel Reminiscing

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 12:47:04 PM

The other day at home sifting through piles of memories, I came across some pictures that instantly transported me to a time in my life that meant so many things to me, and the people surrounding me. The making of my second film, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham was a larger than life experience. The scale and opulence of the film has been talked about for years, but in truth, the film had a cast that we may never see together on screen again. The characters had lives that were unabashed and indulgent, and my actors played that with confidence. Most importantly, it was the film of mine that my father loved the most.

Bollywood super brat Salman Khan seems to have a one-point agenda. His blog has largely been used to clear conceptions about himself. And going by the controversies the star seems to be involved in, it is a full-time job.

While enough has been written and televised about the famous feud between Sallu and SRK on Katrina Kaif’s birthday bash at Olive in Mumbai, our stud of a star wanted to have the last word. And what better way to express his anger than the blog. Here’s a recent update:

Day 37 – 10 Ka Dum

Friday, July 25, 2008

For the next few days you will hear and read a lot of shit about me, a lot of it. Keep on reading it῅but don’t react to it. I don’t. Like sometimes when you are travelling in a fast car and you find a dog chasing your car῅barking away. You don’t stop the car and start reacting to the dog῅u don’t῅there’s no point. I don’t wish to react. I don’t have the time for it. Besides, I don’t understand the language of dogs, except for my two – Myson and Myjaan.

Unfortunately, in our industry the developing trend is not to celebrate others’ success῅ every time another person is successful there will be someone trying to pull him down. You don’t increase your own efforts to become successful but try to always decrease someone else’s success῅ that’s the mantra of the industry.

I chose to remain silent. I do not have the time to spend reacting. But even silence speaks. Silence makes more noise than thunder. ῅Bandar sher ko chidhata hai῅. Sirf aawaaz kar sakta hai… Kabhi sher ko maar sakta hai? He can’t do anything. But when the lion roars, a whole pack of monkeys fall from trees!

So keep on reading῅read all the negatives῅read till they get tired of writing. Everyone goes through this῅but not for long. I say just look good, feel good and do good, that’s it. I love you all.

But film critic Deepa Gahlot, who has been at the receiving end of filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma’s ire, feels that this trend is short-lived. “It will fizzle out soon as none of these personalities have that kind of time. An Amitabh Bachchan takes time out of his daily schedule to blog. However it’s more of an one-sided affair. For instance, Ramu accused me of peddling scripts to filmmakers and when I sent him a rejoinder denying it, he didn’t carry my reply. If you want clarification, ask me questions through a public forum and I’m willing to reply. But it doesn’t happen that way,” she says.

Ram Gopal Varma claims that he is not net-savvy but believes that blogging is the medium of the future. “This is the perfect way for celebrities to represent facts correctly. I believe that anyone who is interested in personal and first-hand information gets it straight from the horse’s mouth,” he says. Here’s an excerpt from the director’s blog:

Ram Gopal Varma

Reactions to reactions:

Instead of reviewing reviews of Contract I decided to do that on my series of reactions henceforth. If the idea is to react to the reactions of various people on my thoughts and works, then why should I give special attention to the Khalids and the Deepas of the world? I find more juicier, bitchier and insightful comments coming from others. Come on guys. Let’s have fun!

But what about the allegation that stars use blogs to hit out at critics? “At the end of the day, a blog reflects the actor’s personality. Something in my blog that some perceive as rude could appear funny to others. It is a matter of perspective. At any rate I’m not as articulate as Mr Bachchan and what I express are my random thoughts,” he says.

Actor Akshay Kumar is all set to start his blog but has admitted in a televised interview that he will not use the medium to take pot-shots at his colleagues.

However there are some actors like a Shah Rukh Khan who simply do not have the time or inclination to blog, and others like actor Arjun Rampal have started getting interested in the medium. Says Arjun, “I think it’s cool and a great way to stay in touch with fans. I haven’t read any of the blogs but I’m sure they are fun. I personally haven’t looked at blogging yet but who knows I might do so sometime soon.”

While all star blogs are accessible, one has to create a special user name and password in order to gain entry to Aamir Khan’s blog. This is a new development. Wonder why Khan feels the need to make his netizens compulsorily create an ID. Perhaps the info on his blog is exclusive and the finicky Khan wants to ensure that only die-hard fans log onto his blog. Will the rest of the Bollywood fraternity follow this trend? Let’s wait and watch.

Rocky relationships run deep
 
By Dr Sharda Batra

My niece Jea has had a constant feature in her life – her trials and conflicts with a classmate she just cannot get rid of or wish away. Her friend/enemy has continued to bully, tease and torment her since kindergarten. Jea has tried reasoning, arguing, ignoring and complaining about her. Nothing seems to work.

Naina, an attractive married woman and mother of two, was intensely attached to her broad-shouldered dad and instinctively searched for him in any man she related to, including the one she married. On going through some therapy sessions including one of past life catharsis, Naina broke down while recounting an incident from her childhood.

Apparently, her father had left her mother for another woman who already had a daughter. One day, her father invited her for a nature camp. Naina, who was all of nine years, was delirious with joy at sharing a good time with the man she loved so dearly. However, when she reached there she found that her father was accompanied by his new family and probably had invited her to introduce her to them. Naina said she would never forget how she sat alone under the stars and wept as if her heart would break. Her father was not really interested in her for her own sake, the purpose of this outing was a practical one and not motivated by sheer love. Naina felt terribly let down. The hurt and expectation of the same flavour of love from her man continued to mar her relationships.

Most times we are related to or associated with people who bruise us not just physically, but also our fragile sense of who we are, our social images and professional standings. Generally, such people are very close to us, like a parent or lover is. At times it could be a colleague, a market competitor or even a house-help. This someone knows how to feather touch your feelings till your emotions overwhelm and carry you away in their powerful and blind current. Reason and logic fail, perceptions turn wonky, and the overruling emotion is of being rejected, humiliated, pushed or manipulated, depending on the person and situation.

The threads of such a relationship form a web and you find yourself inextricably trapped in the net. And if one actively gets out of the relationship, one finds that though the name and form of the next contender changes, the web and its pulls and restrictions remain the same. The prison remains the same, only the prisonkeeper changes.

Why is it that human lives and relationships follow some archetypal themes? Why does loving someone often hurt? Why do we suffer most at the hands of those we trust the most? What are the impulses which attract us to some people and is there a technique to detach from painful patterns?

Each of us has an awareness or consciousness, which has many layers. The most superficial layer is of thoughts and perceptions. Deeper are symbols, dreams and memories. Deepest is raw energy and a connection to all beings and every event.

Life is eternal and we get attracted to the same person, group of people again and again, driven by invisible forces and intangible threads of energy created by past actions, forgotten words and ignored thoughts. Some karmic debt of give and take and the law of this karmic exchange make sure that we encounter the same person. The material universe is governed by some laws – the law of gravity, the law of magnetism, etc. The law of cause and effect is one such infallible law. Every cause has an equal and opposite effect, says Newton and the sage nods wisely in assent. Past Life Regression has revealed instances where a man cheats on his wife causing her immense anguish. The triangle is replicated in another lifetime and the wife and the other woman swap roles with the other woman now playing the wronged spouse. Or a violent husband and his wife may exchange actions. However, all karmic replays are not so simple and the guru or the best friend may be born as an only child to a couple and by his untimely demise hasten the evolution of their spirit.

As you sow so you shall reap with intention being the most important factor in judgement.

It is startling (to say the least) when one realises that one has been in the same drama with probably the same person for lifetimes. The purpose of this drama and replay is to rise above it, through it. For accounts to be squared, one or both/all the parties involved have to transcend the conflict by allowing the pain to deepen their understanding of the universality of human nature.

For any of us caught in an unhappy karmic exchange the steps to follow would be:

1. Remind yourself that you yourself have attracted this person/situation in your life by some causes and energies that you have created.

2. That what you intensely love or grossly abhor, in other words whatever disturbs you in the other, is a projection of attributes deep in that part of your consciousness that is universal. All that I detest is something I am capable of. I need to accept this.

3. Train your mind and body to retain their equanimity at every stressful juncture. So conquer your inner nature and do not lose your cool. Neither does it help to clam up and withdraw.

4. Acceptance plays a key role. Accept that if you are unique so is the other person, and give him the space to express his uniqueness.

5. A deep compassion and unconditional love flows which either heals the relationship or carries you to another frequency where you now attract someone of that frequency.

If you introspect, allow yourself to undergo a cathartic flushing, there is always something which has to emerge from the deep recesses of your consciousness to be manifested in daily life.

An increasing awareness of who you are, your shadow areas and also the strengths, are thrown into visibility by the friction of this interaction. A seasoning of the personality and ripening of the soul is catalysed by this ceaseless interaction and energy (karmic) exchange over lifetimes.When you view a relationship from this perspective and take responsibility for your change, slowly there is realisation which clarifies and consoles. More than a squaring of karmic accounts, is the fact that the ferment of the emotional exchange in a relationship adds maturity to the soul and brings a realisation of its true identity.

Gradually, it dawns that the other is another aspect of you and that all relationships have a purpose – to guide you to your self.

Each one is here on his own trip and yet we are together in the journey – to aid, to teach and train and enlighten ourselves through the other. Like Gibran said – “Be like the pillars of a temple. Let there be spaces in your togetherness.”

The writer is a psycho-spiritual counsellor, alternate therapist, medical specialist and pathologist

God inspired me to move on
 
By Ritu Kumar

I see God in the rising sun, in the raindrops slapping on the ground, in the snow settling on the mountains, and in my inner self. I have always believed that it has to be more than just science to make these things happen. Although this understanding might surpass us, as we are human beings who are limited and bound to material bodies, there’s someone watching all of us for sure. He is someone who is more than just a creator of this universe.

Looking back to where I started my journey of spirituality, my memories take me back to the time when I was 26. I started working from Serampore, a city in the Hooghly district in West Bengal. That was the place where I learned printing. The city is very close to my heart. My first sari was printed in the same place when I was 26. After 10 to 15 years, around the time when my block prints became a rage among designers and many industrialists, people started stealing and duplicating my designs.

I acknowledged that the mills in Varanasi and Surat were not only copying my designs, but also started selling them and were making big moolah. I felt dejected. It was a very low phase of my life as my exclusive designs were everywhere in the market, without my name. I decided to enter the combat zone and take these mill owners to court. The journey was so arduous that I sometimes feel that God cradled me in his own hands at that point of time. From there, a fight began and I won the first copyright case in the country.

Since I was given the copyright for my prints, we started raiding many industries and factories, which were stealing my designs. One day, in Serampore, a premise was raided. I was taken aback to see how the designs which were carved out of my soul and heart, were conveniently being copied and sold out like trash. We successfully shut the place down, but the grief clung to my heart.

On my way back, when I crossed the Ganges, I decided to stop by Belur Math, the city that was founded by Swami Vivekananda. It was there that I realised it wasn’t the end. Sitting there, on the banks of the holy river Ganges, God gave me the inspiration to move on. That event signalled that I was ready to move on with my life. While it didn’t mean the end of my grief, that evening on the banks of Ganges brought me a peace I hadn’t experienced before. It felt as if God whispered into my ears that I’m not alone, and there’s a long way to go before I give up. That knowledge was no small thing. Up until then I’d experienced a roller-coaster of emotions, many of which centered on rage and fear. My process of healing began from that very moment.

As told to Shruti Badyal

Democracy needs a certain context
 

I love democracy, I love freedom. But to transform a country which has lived for 2,000 years in slavery is not possible through democratic means; it will take 2,000 years or even more. The mind of India has become accustomed to slavery, and when you give freedom suddenly to slaves they go berserk. It is like suddenly throwing open the doors of a prison and releasing all the prisoners, making them free.

l Democracy needs a certain context which is missing in India

We have more problems than we had before. We have not been able to solve a single problem; we have created thousands of other problems.

The slavery has gone into the very blood and bones, into the very marrow of the nation. To uproot it, something surgical is needed. Just telling people to be free is not enough. And how can the surgery be done if democratic means are adopted? Because “democratic means” simply means just telling people to be more understanding, to be more democratic, to be more independent. But that is not going to help. It is like telling an ill person to be healthy.

l A surgery is needed

Something drastic is needed, something radical is needed, not only medical treatment but something surgical. That is possible only if for 15 years at least the country lives under a benevolent dictatorship. Then compulsory birth control can be imposed on the people. Otherwise their freedom to reproduce is going to create so many problems that no government can ever solve them. By the time you solve a few problems, thousands more people will have arrived with all their problems.

l Poor people cannot be democratic

And when there is so much poverty, so much starvation, talking about democracy is all nonsense. It is like playing a beautiful song on the flute before a hungry man. The song is beautiful but to play the song before a hungry person is absurd, it is ridiculous.

The so-called Indian democracy helps only to increase its problems, to increase violence, because when people are hungry they become violent. These communal riots and all the rape, murder, arson, these show that the animal is surfacing.

l Democracy is borrowed from the west

This democracy helps only the politicians. It is better to drop this empty word “democracy”; it is just a beautiful word borrowed from others. In fact, all the great Indian leaders were educated in England. They saw democracy working beautifully there. They came back to India; they had seen democracy functioning perfectly well. It can function in England, but where is the context here? India should think first about its own tradition, history, past, and in that context we should create a government.

Courtesy Osho International Foundation/www.osho.com

Ash is everything I could ask for
 

When I am asked how does it feel to be married, I have to think hard because not much has changed really. I am living with my best friend, who is a great companion and she has made life easy for me. Ash is all proper, and correct, while I can be clumsy and a bit all over the place. As it is I don’t think it’s easy to live with men, and Ash has fit in perfectly with my life. Everyday is a learning and growing experience, and when you are with someone like her, there is bound to be a lot of exchange of experiences, stories which keep every day interesting and challenging. Sometimes I do have to try and match up to her, you can’t always let the wife have the upper hand, can you!

Marriage has been a slow, natural and gradual progression for us – first we were friends and then we started getting to know each other and became close to each other. But I won’t say we are still in our honeymooning period, because I have been constantly working through the last year and so has she. So whenever she’s away shooting, I try and be with her and vice versa. Every married couple would try and do that, to try and snatch a few more quality moments with their partners. There’s nothing wrong with that.

It’s not like Ash stops me from hanging out with my friends. But having said that, once you get married and have someone to go back home too, it’s natural that your priorities change. But I haven’t deserted any of my friends as it’s claimed, neither are we staying aloof from the industry. It’s not like we have become an island in ourselves or something. This whole thing about us laughing at Priyanka and Harman on stage is a ridiculous allegation – that would be very ill mannered, and neither of us is brought up that way.

We understand there’s always going to be speculation about us as a couple because of who we are. And I wouldn’t be foolish to say that our relationship is just like any other ‘normal’ couple. Firstly, I don’t understand what normal is. And secondly, given the external factors that constantly play a hand, it affects the scenario. Ash was hoping things would cool down for us in this regard after we got married, but I always knew it was just the beginning.

Now we are getting used to hearing stories of our fights, public showdowns… which are so untrue. If I have to pick a fight with Ash, I won’t choose a hotel lobby to do so. Give us that much credit at least. Of course, we have our differences and we argue and discuss things, but we also have a rule that we sort out the issues before going to bed rather than letting them fester while sleeping over it.

Ash is everything and more than what I could have asked for. Does she cook for me? No, she doesn’t have the time. But does she look after me; give me a sense of perspective on things? Yes.

Is my marriage affecting our work? How can it? It’s not like we are constantly glued to each other and only working with each other. There is no brand Bachchan as it’s made out to be. There is nothing one is trying to prove to any one. Not when we are making an appearance, not in the shows we are doing at the world tour, nor in the statements we make. Life’s just bliss right now, and nothing can change that.

Family Fission Goes ‘Critical’
 
By Ranjan Kamath

On August 15, India enters what in the 21st century is deemed ‘middle age’; a time when we consider our achievements and contemplate the legacy we confer on our children – India’s next generation.

Our Prime Minister will pride our imminent membership of the nuclear club, from the ramparts of the Red Fort but what will not find mention is the Indian nuclear family ‘going critical’.

My parents and other children of independence selflessly provided us ‘nuclear’ security built with the brick and mortar of tradition and values.

Meanwhile our children, for whom we create this future energy, deplete emotionally while we revel in the empowerment of having achieved critical mass with our knowledge economy.

The price paid for this bacchanalia of empowerment, is the ‘nuclear fission’ of the family; cocking a snook at the continuity of tradition and undermining familial security sans social safeguards.

Under imminent threat is the atom of the nuclear family – the child.

Our constitutional fathers cannot be faulted for not anticipating this sorry status; else they would have guaranteed children fundamental rights to both parents at all times.

In 1990 with India signing the internationally legally binding UN Convention on the Rights of the Child http://www.unicef.org/crc/ India committed itself to ensuring children’s rights and accountability before the international community.

With divorce becoming the rule, rather than exception, children are subjected to parental abuse in custodial battles. They are reduced to disputed ‘property’ rather than ‘hearts and minds’.

For five years I was a father to two sons, before being plunged into the insanity of a custody battle. Instantly, black coats oversaw my mutation from loving father to social psychopath. Blind Justice sanctified my ‘guilt’, generously affording me time to establish my innocence.

My ensuing campaign was not for child custody – never having lost the hearts and minds of my children but for the restoration of my children’s rights to a father, fighting for the right to fulfil my parental duties and responsibilities.

I was advised to “move on, get married and sire more children”by well-wishers who considered mine a losing battle. Feminists and social workers scoffed at my determination, legally secure in the “infallibility of the woman”.

A female officer of justice, admonished me for “going against Dharma” by seeking access to my children, till I reminded her we were in the precincts of law῅ not Dharma!

Five years later, when my sons opted to “stay with Papa”, the State Womens’ Commission ineffectually attempted to ‘lynch’ me with justice. As a man and father, I had ‘violated’ the rights of a woman by depriving a mother of her children.

While the judicial system yawns awake from its anachronistic slumber the processes of justice remain punitive for children, with custodial matters taking years to resolve. Men are legally emasculated by the urban woman who abuses the protection granted by the justice system -to her rural counterpart -to wreak vengeance on husband and father.

Skilful lawyers scavenge on the remnants of a nuclear family in its death throes, earning handsomely from warring couples who could have invested instead in their child’s education. Feminists and social workers reduce all men to village drunks and brutish wife-beaters to justify their raison d’etre ignoring the social dichotomy of rural and urban India. Ofcourse, the rights of the ‘vulnerable’ child are being ‘protected’ too, by denying it a father!

In my encounter with child rights’ organisations, I was comforted with the information that abuse in the eyes of the law, includes child labour, physical and sexual violence, not mental and certainly not parental abuse!

If we continue to ‘split our atoms’, we will nurture a dysfunctional generation of youth with explosive potential beyond our social control.

So, let not fathers and mothers seek votes of confidence to safeguard our atomic interests; if we cannot prevent fission between parents, let us prevent fall-out by evolving parenting protocols to insulate our atoms, so that India can envision an energy rich nuclear future.

You can mail your responses to ranjan.kamath@ gmail.com

Women men won’t commit to
 

“I am always attracted to the men that have commitment issues,” said a recently dumped friend, valiantly trying to figure out what went wrong. “I think I’m just attracted to the type of man who isn’t into a relationship. I get too emotionally attached but all they’re really after is a quick shag and then they want to move on to their next conquest.”

But I wasn’t so sure. The last three men she’d dated had all started out desperately wanting to shack up with her in connubial bliss. (After all, she is 6-foot with a hot Pilates bod and a tomboy streak that sends any man’s pheromones spinning in a tizzy.) Yet after dating them for around three to four months, everything suddenly goes pear-shaped. All three have whipped out the age-old antiquated axiom: “I’m just not ready for a relationship.”

While she’s currently sitting at zero-for-three and mightily confused, it could be easy to conclude a pertinent message that has emerged: It’s not them, it’s her. Coming on too strong, perhaps? Too emotionally needy?

When I suggested to this little fact to her, she wasn’t buying it.

“Maybe it’s because subconsciously I don’t want to commit,” she retorted. “I’m repeatedly asked out by the Mr Nice but I’m just not interested. He doesn’t give me that excitement I crave either.”

There are many women around the world that are complaining of the same conundrum: They simply can’t snag a boyfriend (let alone a husband) or even a relationship that lasts more than the four-month mark. So what is it about these women that makes an eligible man run a mile?

In trying to come up with a shortlist of things of things women shouldn’t do to get a man to commit, I decided to consult a bunch of folks to determine where the women are going wrong.

Women who are too needy. When women try desperately to get their man to commit, she tends to turn (in his eyes) into a bonafide bunny-boiling psychopath who is trying to cramp his style and close him in. A continuous stream of phone calls, barrage of text messages, invitations, outings with her folks (and temper tantrums if he wants to see his mates), is enough to make him all but run away to the desert to remain celibate for all eternity.

The writer is an author, columnist & dating expert

(You can mail your responses to asksambrett@gmail.com)

Music tunes in to video games
 

Jayprakash Mehta always had a passion for classic rock. He was the guitarist of his college band, and now after 20 years, he is passing on his passion to his children, but in a playful manner. “Thanks to video games,” says Jayprakash. “I always wanted my children to feel the music, the way I do. Thanks to Rock Band, today both me and my children share a common interest in music,” adds Jayprakash. Recently, video games have proved to be the trusted missionaries of music, and in a way are promoting music of the bygone era, immortalising legendary names among the younger generation. After the Internet, musicians today are looking up to video games to reach out to their fans, and this venture has been mutually beneficial for both the musicians as well as the video game manufacturers.

Testimony to the popularity of the games are international acts like Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith, Metallica, Guns ‘n’ Roses to name a few. In the coming years, Harmonix’s Rock Band-II game will feature Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Shackler’s Revenge from their most anticipated album Chinese Democracy along with tracks by AC/DC and Rush. Another game manufacturer Activision, recently released a version of Guitar Hero dedicated to Aerosmith, and another version based on metal gods Metallica is due by next year. There are bands like Motley Crew and Rush which are re-mastering their hits after making endorsement deals with various video game manufacturing companies.

So, are video game manufacturers looking at music as the new tool to promote games or is it the other way round? Says Chirag Srikant, a game developer from Jump Games, “Though music is a very important part of video games, I don’t think games can do without it. Endorsing musicians for background scores in video games is a unique business model. Games like Rock Band and Guitar Heroes have only a few characters and levels in them, so they are banking on music to help them do good business.” However, the popularity of music in video games has also given way to a new genre of music called “video game music”. Today the web has a number of artistes who are termed as video game musicians, and the list seems to be incorporating new names on everyday basis (Mark Griskey, Inon Zur to name a few).

Though this “newly-found-friendship” between music promoters and video game manufacturers are creating waves in the international market, it is yet to catch up in India. “The Indian market for games is picking up. However, a majority of Indians still take gaming casually, a change in this attitude can help India experience a boom in gaming, and this can eventually help the musicians in the long run,” says Jessy Rapczak, a US-based game developer, who is currently setting up his business in India.

So, with a recent boom in animation (both in Bollywood and ad films), are Indian musicians ready to follow this international trend and promote their music through video games? “I don’t have a problem, as long as the games maintain an international standard. If given a choice, I will go for a game that will have a global appeal both in terms of the quality of animation and subject,” says Ehsaan Noorani from the composer duo Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Game developers too are echoing the same notes. Gautam, a mobile game developer for Jump Games says, “It is true that Indian animation has undergone acute changes in the recent past, but we are lagging behind when it comes to meeting international standards. The first priority should be to develop games that have an international appeal, only then we can focus on promoting Indian musicians on the global forum.”

However, there is hardly any doubt that Indian gamers are awaiting this welcome change, and so are the musicians. So, which genre of music will dominate the Indian “gamosphere”? What will be the response of the record labels, as such a joint venture will demand an amicable relationship between record labels and game manufacturing companies? Will this “progressive alliance” be profitable to our musicians, and how will it contribute towards revamping today’s ailing music industry? To this Ehsaan says, “I donthink record labels will have any problems with this venture. In fact, I think they will be more than happy to welcome game manufacturers and promote their games.”

Stressing on the fact that “India is the only country in the globe where record labels retain the intellectual copyrights of a musician”, Ehsaan sees this venture more profitable for record labels than musicians. He adds, “As the copyrights are with the record labels, musicians are bound to follow labels’ decisions. But yes, in terms of royalty, the musicians might get something more than what they usually get.”

So, if you are a die-hard gamer, and have a need for speed for pentatonic guitar arpeggios, this “progressive alliance” between the musicians and video games is sure to sweep you off your feet.

A guide to what’s new in the audio, video world
 
By Naresh Sadhwani and Deepak Jhangiani

Consumer Buying Habits

An international study by A.C. Nielsen has found that worldwide customers prefer to scan the web for their specific requirements of consumer electronic items and a good 80 per cent buy from a store whose website they visited first. So don’t be surprised if the Indian retailer also wakes up to this fact and spruces up his website almost as lavishly as he does his retail outlet.

Technology

eReading is a fast growing market, whereby a single eBook reader can now replace a library of books. Till now the screen size was a limiting factor leading to eye strain. Sometime back we spoke about the future of e-books and how they would soon come in foldable models. Now using a polymer (instead of the conventional silicon) technology Polymer Vision (a spin-off of Philips) is promoting a Readius with a foldable display. And with its mammoth memory you can now carry a whole library virtually in your pocket. Many other conveniences accrue: like comfortable reading while in motion/reading books at the airport, train station, park, anywhere without carrying the load of book/s. Even better is the fact that the battery carries a large charge which can last up to a week. Paperless offices now transform into paperless reading.

Readius΅.

The full display measures 127 mm; it displays 16 shades of grey and has 4 GB of on-board memory for all your e-books. The folded unit is 56mm x 100mm x 21mm. It has about a ten-day battery life and has USB, GPRS/EDGE and DVB-H connectivity to download data wirelessly. Already in the trial mode, the device is expected to hit the stands soon and will change reading habits forever.

TV Picture Quality

The march of technology goes on unabated. The latest fad in the market is the ‘telescopic Pixels’ an organic LED which is slimmer than the conventional LCD with far superior picture and sound quality. The technology works on the principle of several tiny mirrors which help to spread the light and thus increase the brightness and enhance the overall picture clarity.

Readers are invited to email their queries/suggestions/comments to sadhwanis@vsnl.com

Indian-Born Confused American
 

What will it be? The Orange and Green? The Star Spangled Banner and Pledge of Allegiance? Having spent a significant amount of time in both the United States and India, having loved and hated aspects of both, we’ve been trying to decide where to raise our child.

After much brain-racking and discussion, there are some very significant differences that we’ve uncovered in terms of the value systems of India and the US. We find ourselves perched somewhere in between, see-sawing from side to side depending on the issue at stake.

In the US, it’s very clear that the individual comes first. Children are reared to look after themselves and their own interests, sometimes to the absurdly extreme point of not sharing their toys with others for fear they may catch some infectious germs. That is great, because as parents, we know our child will protect himself and won’t suffer great hurt. As a continuation of this self-protection, there is a focus on civic responsibility and caring for one’s infrastructure.

Littering is a no-no, taxes a must, and looking after the environment you live in is paramount. But in exchange for the sparkling cleanliness and ease, there’s a lack of humanity and warmth. Since we’re looking at extremes, we can say that in India, on the other hand, it is common practice that the individual be subordinated to the common good. Family is important and parents are always right. A child’s individual needs can be dismissed with the snap of a finger and a wave of the hand. And it doesn’t end even if you move out of home. Parents, in-laws, and a battalion of aunties, uncles, and self-dubbed “well-wishers” are only too ready to guide your every move. Here in India, there’s no civic responsibility, no care for the surrounding environment. But although we often do things to make others happy, we are blessed with the love and concern (and two cents!) of any number of people, starting from the milkman, who has been around since the day we were born.

Finally, we decided not to choose. Why deprive our child of either when we’ve been lucky enough to have the best of both? Schooling, friends, lifestyle, everything can be transnational. In today’s age, he can study the same syllabus whether he’s in Timbuktu, China, or Antarctica. In order to achieve this, we’re making a conscious effort to live in both countries. So even though his accent might be a little confused, we’re hoping he ends up appreciating the best and understanding the worst of both India and the United States and everywhere in between.

Designer’s studio
 

The moment I’m asked about my favourite photo-shoot, images of my latest collection flash across my mind. Infused with energy and vigour, this collection is one that makes me feel proud of having created it.

And its shoot was very exciting.

I remember being keyed up about the shoot since I was going to meet Indrani Dasgupta for the first time after her wedding. And as expected, the glow on her face was mesmerising. Stylist Ashima Kapoor made her look even more stunning with natural and light makeup.

We planned to do the shoot in my garden and I think that is the main reason why we all were relaxed and things went on pretty smoothly. It was one of those times when things naturally fall into place, just the way you like them to be. Even the weather was wonderful, breezy and cool – perfect for an outdoor shoot. I remember noticing a certain feminine aura about Indrani. The preparation and the shoot happened in a lovely flow, it felt as if even the weather was complementing the garments.

‘Now, I’m an actor and singer too’
 

New age filmmaker Farhan Akhtar, who has directed films like Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya and Don, has now taken to acting, much on the lines of Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt and Aamir Khan – who’ve been extremely successful as both, actors and directors. Farhan reprises the role of a rock star in his very first film, Rock On, which will release this month end.

“I would like to believe it’s my burning passion for acting that led me to act in Rock On! The film’s music is also of the genre that’s closest to me in terms of personal preference – rock. The character was exciting and it was challenging to sing the songs. The time also felt right and it was the next step in realising my creative goals. I am a writer, producer and director – now actor and singer too,” says Farhan.

What was it like to produce a film starring himself?

“The director, Abhishek Kapoor, was very sure he wanted his lead actor to sing the songs. But when I heard the script, regardless of whether I were to act in it eventually depending on how well I sang, I wanted to be a part of it and be associated with it in some way. It was special so I decided to produce it. This script took me back to the Dil Chahta Hai space emotionally, which was a wonderful zone to be in after eight years. It also released the little pent-up musician in me!” says Farhan who plays the guitar with some degree of professionalism.

Farhan is also playing the lead part in The Fakir of Venice directed by Anand Surapur and his sister Zoya’s Luck By Chance. The Fakir of Venice was started before Rock On began. The makers of that film have a certain release strategy in mind; it’s bent more towards the international audience. I play the central character and Annu Kapoor plays the fakir. It’s a black comedy based on a true-life story – how scams, shams and lies are a part of our life. Luck By Chance does not have the conventional format of a hero – it’s an ensemble cast comprising Konkona Sen Sharma, Rishi Kapoor me and some other characters which are integral to the movement of the story,” explains Farhan.

Given he’s doing full-fledged acting parts in these films, did he ever want to be an actor in the first place? “The biggest memory of my growing up years was the hero – the amazing man who could do anything and I was so influenced by films that this was the logical thing to do. But my ideas changed as I grew older and I decided to create films, rather than just be a part of someone else’s film. In fact I have watched actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan at close quarters when I directed them in my films and we discussed scenes and how they would approach them, albeit in their own different ways. It was very educative. All that information comes to good use as an actor today. I now sub-consciously plot my points according to my scenes,”says Farhan.

Is he confident enough to direct himself? “I don’t know if I can direct myself. It’s difficult for me to focus on just one thing. I need an associate/partner who can look into other aspects when I am acting, but I haven’t found that kind of creative link up yet. Direction takes too much and I haven’t reached the stage where I am so comfortable as an actor to know how to approach my role with ease and direct also. I’m still searching,” says the father of two.

How do his daughters react to him – as a director or an actor? “Shakya is eight years old and she pretty much knows what I do. Akira is only 17 months old but she has taken to the music of Rock On like Shakya had to DCH’s music. I take them along to my sets so that they know what daddy does and understand why he stays away for long spells of time. Akira gets spooked when she sees my promos on television and sees me sitting in the same room!” says the the director-turned actor, smiling. So, what’s easier – directing or acting? “What’s easy is subjective. I feel anything you enjoy doing is easy. Both jobs are very demanding, but direction takes a lot more and is more difficult,” says Farhan who after working with his father Javed Akhtar in Lakshya, is now collaborating with his mother, Honey Irani on a script called Beauty Parlour.

And it’s back to calling the shots come November, for his next directorial venture, Voice from the Sky.

Harman mum about rumours on his split
 
Film news

When the rumours of Priyanka-Harman split broke out, Harman was in Rajasthan shooting for Victory with some of the Aussie cricketers who he’s been good friends with. When his relationship drama was played out in the papers, there was a sympathy wave coming his away and the cricketers were insistent on taking him out on a boy’s night out to cheer him up.

Co-star Amrita Rao apparently went a step further almost offering him condolences over the split. According to a unit hand she had even written him a card saying something to the effect that it wasn’t the end of the world and he would bounce back and should keep his chin up.

Initially, since all of them were being so sweet to him, Harman didn’t want to burst their bubble and played along hoping they would realise that no such thing had happened.

But then when things didn’t stop, he was going red-faced trying to explain that things weren’t as reported in the press and he wasn’t heart-broken at all. Imagine the embarrassment his co-stars suffered. But they do deserve credit for actually making Harman admit that he is seeing Priyanka, something the media hasn’t been able to do.

Vidya takes her designer to task

Vidya Balan’s woes continue with the recent flak she received for her awful dress sense in Kismat Konnection. Probably that’s why she was seen taking her new designer to task on the sets of her next film produced by Vishal Bharadwaj.ῠ The hapless designer who had reached the sets with a bagful of clothes for Vidya to choose from was shocked to see her not liking any of the outfits specially made for her.

Designers mumble, ‘somebody please tell Vidya, given her limitations with the western attire there is only so much a designer could do’. But Vidya was smarting under negative feedback she had just received for her latest film and like they say hell hath no fury like a woman criticised. Vidya’s tirade against the designer and her refusal to shoot in outfits given to her, held up the shoot and the director himself had to come to her van and cajole her to relent. She did, but only when she was allowed to use her own outfit that was quickly organised to avoid any further delay.

Does life imitate art or vice versa?
 
By Vikram Bhatt

August 3 was friendship day and co-incidentally my classmates and I happened to arrange an evening together after about 13 years on that same day. It was a nice coming together and then as the evening wore on I wondered that if I put this in a film that school friends met after years on friendship day, the critics would say how very corny and I would never hear the last of it. and yet it was true and it happened.

Later as I drove home I wondered if life imitated art or did art imitate life? This has been an age-old discussion and one that has many consequences.

Last week after the Ahemdabad blasts a journalist from a magazine called me and asked me if I felt some blasts were inspired from the recently released film Contract. I begged ignorance and said that I had not seen Contract and don’t have a clue about the sequence in question. Though I had this to say to the journalist, considering that Contract released only a week before the blasts, it would be really scary to know that a terrorist outfit could plan, fund and execute a bombing in less than a week. Then this would be a really unsafe place to live in and yet I know that this cannot be true. So itjust a mere co-incidence that the film and the blasts all came together, or will we never know the truth?

I had a sequence in my film Ghulam where Aamir Khan runs towards an oncoming train and the sequence we called Dus Dus ki Daud. Later people told me that the youth were indulging in this kind of activity on the tracks after the film, but when I spoke to my writer he said he got the idea from youth that was already indulging in this kind of activity. So once again, does life imitate art or does art imitate life?

There are two things that I really muse about in this realm and the first one is that why is that if life imitates, it only imitates the wrong doings of the protagonists and not the right doings? They say that people start smoking and drinking after their on-screen idols do the same but why don’t they respect elders like the heroes and come first in class in all the subjects and fight for the innocent and the down trodden and save the girl from hooligans? So can we say that cinema only inspires the bad and not the good? Is that not really convenient? Blame it on the movies boys, a good whipping horse what?

And then my other point is, cinema is only about a hundred years old and there is nothing in the world that did not happen before the coming of the movies. There was betrayal, deceit, addictions, rapes, dacoits, intense sexuality, wars, politics, incest – just about everything and so how is life imitating cinema?

Anyone who claims to be original is lying. There are ideas that inspire ideas for sure but nothing inspires our imaginations like life does.

Cinema is a medium that freezes the events of life for everyone to see and keeps them ingrained in celluloid for generations. We cannot be blamed for inspiring the wrong doings, for immortalising them, we stand guilty.

The stuff of legends
 

There have been many biographies of Sir Richard Burton, the renowned and enigmatic Victorian explorer, ethnologist, archaeologist, author, translator, and one of the greatest linguists of his era. Curiously, however, there have been no major novels based on Burton’s extraordinary life. Iliya Troyanov, in a remarkable German novel Der Weltensammler, has corrected this omission. The English translation of his work, The Collector of Worlds, has created a sensual adventure, and an exploration of Burton’s behaviour.

Burton was a brilliantly charismatic scholar and adventurer. Even from an early age he set out to learn all he could about swords and guns. Duelling, riding, smoking, gambling and experiments with various forms of debauchery propelled him through a precocious adolescence, at the end of which, despite an obsession with the acquisition of languages, especially Arabic, he was sent down from Trinity College, Oxford.

But the loss of one opportunity signalled the beginning of another and he joined the British East India Company in 1842, aged 21, as an ensign – the lowest rank of commissioned infantry officer. India held the immediate appeal of having many languages. Burton soon mastered Persian, Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Marathi, and over the next seven years greedily took in all he could find: delving into tantric Brahmin rituals; converting to Sikhism and then Islam; enjoying Eastern erotica; keeping native mistresses; and writing.

Once he began, he kept on writing for the rest of his life. He even gave in to the first stirrings of a lifelong love of disguise, learning the secrets of those with whom he mingled. Burton’s controversial army career (he served under General Charles Napier) ended dramatically because a report he had written on the boy brothels of Karachi came to the attention of Napier’s successor and was considered disgraceful because it was so accurate as to suggest participation on the part of the reporter.

Burton’s departure from the army threatened to destroy him, but he went on to further adventures around the world. He famously entered Mecca in disguise (1853), was wounded in Somaliland, sought the source of the Nile on two separate eventful journeys (1855 and 1857-58) and in 1860 crossed America to visit the Mormons in Salt Lake City.

Immediately after his marriage to the staunchly Catholic Isabel Arundell he embarked on a turbulent diplomatic career, being posted to Fernando Po (1861), then to Santos in 1865 and Damascus (1869). He was sent to Trieste in 1872, where he remained until his death 12 years later. Isabel then burned many of his documents and manuscripts, perpetrating one of the greatest literary crimes of the century.

Troyanov’s sympathetic novel is the product of immense research and understanding. We are led into the author’s imagined history of actual events as seen first through the eyes of Burton’s Indian servant, who introduced him to the languages and mysteries of the East; then from the viewpoint of the Ottoman governor of Hijaz, who conducts an enquiry with the men who accompanied the disguised Burton on his journey to Mecca; and finally we have the account of Sidi Muburak, the former African slave, who led Burton and his companion John Hanning Speke on their ill-fated journey to find the source of the Nile in 1857.

Iliya Troyanov himself is a collector of worlds. He was born in Bulgaria, fled to West Germany with his family to escape persecution, and grew up speaking German before emigrating to Kenya where he learned English.

He is the author of Mumbai to Mecca, an account of his own pilgrimage to Mecca, and in The Collector of Worlds, he has painstakingly followed the outline of Burton’s cryptic career, but unashamedly elaborated on the many frustrating gaps. It is a fascinating revelation, and speaks as much of Troyanov’s personal approach to Burton’s mystery as to any real solution.

In doing so it invites us to share Burton’s passion both for geographical discovery and for the unknowable and the unthinkable.

One of the great values of this absorbing novel is that we are allowed to discover for ourselves the passionate curiosity that shaped Burton’s entire life, where he used language and religion as his passports to a hitherto forbidden world, and where his zeal for adventure knew no bounds.

Troyanov’s scholarship has given us a new understanding of Burton’s world. It is an intensely passionate journey, and a wonderful piece of storytelling.

End of imagination?
 
By Sunil K. Poolani

While growing up reading good literature, it was not books that really fascinated us, but literary journals in which not just stories, poems and essays by the cr
me-de-la-cr
me of the writing world appeared, but those publications also carried analyses of and interviews with great writers, and reviews of their books. Armed with those journals, we debated and literally fought for hours, days, weeks and months together about the contents.

In those pre-liberalisation days, we could not afford the price of those journals (between Rs 2 and Rs 15), and at least 10 poor souls used to savour one single copy; by the time that copy did that tortuous round, it resembled an opponent in a Schwarzenegger movie.

Then, unlike today, many large-selling publications from the stable of big media organisations devoted a fair amount of space for good writing. In English, there were the venerated Illustrated Weekly and the Bombay magazine; both closed shop long time back, thank you. But it is heartening to know that some regional languages still follow that tradition – like Mathrubhumi in Malayalam and Desh in Bengali.

Also, there were these brilliant ‘little’ magazines that originated, since centuries, in far-flung areas like Santiniketan and Karimnagar, espousing issues as diverse as Rabindra Sangeet and Naxalism. They had the lives of fireflies but they burnt bright when they were alive, and every death encouraged another firefly to take shape and shine.

In English, apart from the government-sponsored daft efforts, there were, in the last two decades, some great journals that made a deep dent in literary minds. Civil Lines was one. Founded by the indomitable Ravi Dayal, Civil Lines swiftly became the abode of quintessential new Indian writing. Later, it was edited by the talented duo, Mukul Kesavan and Kai Friese. Nonetheless, like its brethren across the spectrum, it too died an immature death, but not before leaving an indelible mark – challenging the till-then norms by refusing to publish to a set schedule.

There were also similar literary endeavours (some still do exist, just in case) like Chandrabhaga, Biblio, Kavya Bharati, International Gallerie and Yatra. All these followed the model of their international ‘Bible’: the esteemed Granta, the UK-based journal which continues to whet many a connoisseur’s taste for new and good writing across the globe.

Today, literary magazine is a diminishing trade and a difficult passion to indulge in; no serious publisher in the world would risk burning her/his fingers in it today. In the last four years, the third issue of my ambitious ‘quarterly’ journal, Urban Voice, just came out. I, nevertheless, would like to bring it out periodically.

So that is why I watch with rapt admiration when I come across two amazing ventures, Atlas and Little Magazine. The former is brought out by the talented poet and prose writer Sudeep Sen and the latter by a dynamic duo, Antara Dev Sen and Pratik Kanjilal.

Little Magazine has, so far, stood the test of time, and has carved a niche of its own – offering, issue after issue, some of the best original writings in English and translations from even remote Indian tongues. Atlas is just two issues old, and Sen was explaining to me the vicissitudes of all kinds while producing a volume of this oeuvre. “It’s a tough game, unless you have loads of money.”

Hope these last vestiges of intellectual sanity live on in an arid land of crass commercialisation.

Tailpiece

C.P. Scott, the founder editor of The Manchester Guardian, once said, “News is sacred, opinion is free.” If our newspapers hardly believe in reporting news and resort to concocted opinions, a new breed of Indian novels is today banking on contemporary issues and polity for cheap, titillating fictionalisation. What next? I will leave it to you.

The writer is the publisher and managing editor, Frog Books, an imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd, Mumbai. Write to him at poolani@gmail.com

‘I value the words used in a book’
 

I am an avid reader. I cannot be away from books at all. Almost three books are always with me at a time. Presently, I’m reading Barack Obama’s autobiography and I found it amazing. For me, language matters the most. Being a daughter of an author, I have always been associated with books since my childhood. I value the words used in a book the most.

I like reading poetry and non-fiction. Fiction and bestsellers are least fascinating to me. Though selecting a favourite author is a bit difficult as there are too many I like, Amitav Ghosh, Kiran Nagarkar and Salman Rushdie top my list of favourites. I like the style and depth in their writing.

One book that I have read numerous times is Sare Sukhan Hamare, the collected works of Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. I read this book again and again, and every time I discover a new meaning from Faiz’s beautifully composed verses. I like this book because I have heard Faiz recite many of his poems many times. Moreover, at different stages in my life, every poem comes out with completely different meanings.

Another book that has been truly fascinating is Two Alone, Two Together: Letters Between Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru 1940-1964. It presents the rich inheritance of the Gandhi family. It has all the lessons that Indira Gandhi learnt from her father and later Nehruji learnt from his daughter. It is a beautiful presentation of a father-daughter bonding with a perfect combination of legacy.

Shakespeare’s stratford
 
By Christine Pemberton

Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, is one of those places that you feel you already know well, even if you are visiting the pretty English town for the first time. It must be all those years of studying Shakespeare at school, that somehow makes everything seem so familiar.

There are streets lined with pretty black and white gabled Elizabethan houses, of which five have special historic significance, since they all relate to Shakespeare’s life.

Visit Hall’s Croft, which used to be the home of Shakespeare’s daughter, Susannah; Nash’s House, and New Place, where Shakespeare died.

Just a short drive out of the town are Mary Arden’s House, the family home of Shakespeare’s mother, and the iconic Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. This much photographed beautiful thatched cottage in Shottery village was the home of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, before her marriage. We visited Anne Hathaway’s cottage early on a sunny, summer morning, the first people there, just beating a bus load of camera-happy Japanese by a whisker. We wandered through the panelled rooms, stooping to enter the low-beamed doors, and then visited the beautiful gardens. Amongst all the flowers, there is a pretty little arbour with a rustic bench, and you can sit there, press a discreet button, and listen to a private recital of some of the best known Shakespearean sonnets. A real treat.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust manages these five houses, and easiest and most economical way to visit these historic properties is to buy a combined ticket, allowing you to visit them all. If you only have the time or inclination to visit one of these homes, then make it Anne Hathaway’s cottage.

Back in town, take a short stroll along the banks of the river, past the barges and the over-fed ducks, which brings you to the pretty and equally much-photographed Holy Trinity Parish Church. It is here that William Shakespeare was baptised, served as a lay rector of the church, and was buried in the church in 1616.

Although the historical sites are a must, for me the real heart of Stratford is the unpretentious Royal Shakespeare Theatre on the banks of the River Avon. We pre-booked our tickets for Julius Caesar on the Internet, as well as the absolutely fascinating and not-to-be missed backstage tour. We did the tour in the afternoon, and so saw the props and the scenery for the play that we would see later that same night.

They show you everything that is involved backstage, from the sound system, the sets, to the dressing rooms, and the racks of costumes, wigs, boots and costume jewellery. You get see how the props are laid out at the side of the stage, all labelled and meticulously organised – the scroll for this character in this scene, and the sword for that character. Then, much to the childrens’ delight, we went on stage, and saw the set for the opening scene and looked out at the empty auditorium. It really gives you a great feeling of how a theatre works, and that evening when we watched the play, there was an added element of awareness and understanding.

The rhythm of Stratford revolves around the theatre. Restaurants serve early dinners for theatre-goers, all timed to the second, so that you can eat and be in your seat for curtain-up. Pre-order a glass of wine for the interval, and wander out onto the wide terrace on the river bank. Boats drift past in the wonderful light of an English summer’s evening, the ducks are so lazy they can hardly bother to eat the bread people toss to them, and with a little bit of imagination, the scene would hardly have changed since Shakespeare’s time.

The next morning, we wandered round the town centre, pottering around the shops, and then strolled down to the river, fed the ubiquitous ducks, and watched the lock gates open to let barges sail through.

But wait. What was that sound? Tinkly sounding bells. The rhythmic stamping of feet. Clapping. To my great delight, and much to the mystification of the Indian contingent in my family, there was a display of Morris dancing taking place. Morris dancing really is the English at their most eccentric best (I am English, so am perfectly entitled to say this!). Men and women, wearing extravagant clothing, with layers of bells round their ankles and sporting some of the fanciest head-gear you will ever see, dancing around in a circle: a bearded man with his face blackened, and wearing a hat decorated lavishly with flowers – it doesn’t get more eccentric than that.

Watching this display of English mid-summer revelry, I couldn’t but wonder if the great man himself hadn’t watched the same traditional dances, on this very spot by the river, some 400 years ago.

Getting there

By Air: The airport operates flights daily from over 60 national and international destinations. Alternatives include Heathrow Airport, East Midlands Airport and Coventry Airport. The Birmingham International Airport is located a mere 20 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. Multiple shuttle, coach, and limousine services offer transportation to your final destination.

By Road: To get to Stratford-upon-Avon from London, take the M40 motorway and get off at Junction 15. Distance 102 miles (164 km), journey time approximately 2 hours.

By Train: Stratford-upon-Avon train station is located around half a mile west of the town centre. The town is easily accessible by foot from the station. There are regular services to Birmingham Snow Hill station (around an hour), Warwick (around 30 minutes) and London Marylebone (around two and a half hours).

Tourist information: Stratford-on-Avon District Council

Elizabeth House, Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6HX

Email: info@stratford-dc.gov.uk Tel: 01789 267575 Fax: 01789 260 007

Accommodation

Stratford has four star hotels in Stratford Upon Avon which will suit most hi-end travellers seeking accommodation in Stratford Upon Avon.

Grab the free stuff
 

Whether it is New York’s Staten Island Ferry or London’s National Gallery, free activities are a welcome bonus for travellers of all ages and incomes. Travel website Travelandleisure.com has come up with a list of the world’s best free stuff for travellers.

n Free sightseeing: Get the inside track on a city from someone who knows it best, a local. These volunteers want to show off their town, and won’t demand a tip. Greeters can be scheduled via e-mail or telephone and should be arranged several weeks to a month ahead.

n Free bicycles: Zip around town on two wheels. In Copenhagen, Zurich, Bern, and Helsinki, you can borrow a bicycle from stands stationed around the city. Each program requires a nominal deposit which is returned after your ride when you lock the bike up. Many cities, including Paris, Vienna, Rome, and Lyon, offer free bikes for the first half hour (after that you’ll have to fork over some cash).

n Free podcasts: Download podcasts to your MP3 player and get a step-by-step narration of some of the world’s hottest spots. In Europe, Rick Steves will guide you through the Louvre, Versailles, the Coliseum, the Sistine Chapel, the Uffizi Gallery, and other sites. Zevisit has free downloadable audio guides to scores of European cities. Author Peter Caine has a free podcast based on his book, Walking the Da Vinci Code in Paris.

n Free public transport: In Europe, 27 InterCity Hotels throughout Germany and one in Vienna offer free local public transportation to guests while visitors to New York can’t beat the spectacular view of the skyline during the 25-minute ride on the Staten Island Ferry.

n Free Accommodation: A hotel can be the most expensive part of a vacation so try living in someone else’s home while they live in yours. List your house or apartment on a vacation-exchange site like Only in America. To go global, the International Home Exchange Network features listings all over the world.

n Free Skiing: Try the Utah package where an early morning flight to Salt Lake City provides a boarding pass on which you can ski all day at Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort, and The Canyons Resort. In Colorado, several resorts offer some type of free-skiing program to reward volunteer work and Quebec give a one day pass to anyone who dresses like Santa on Santa Claus Day.

n Free Sports events: Each year, dozens of Olympic teams train at the Utah Olympic Park, while at Lake Placid, New York, you can watch Olympic and professional figure skaters and hockey teams training for free.

n Free Museums and Zoos: Some of the world’s top museums don’t charge a cent. The national museums and galleries in England, Scotland, and Wales are free and you can’t miss the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Tate Modern and the Victoria and Albert. In Washington DC, admission to all 19 Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo is free.

n Free Concerts: Top-notch music from world-class performers can be a pricey affair but in rare spots around the globe. In South Africa, the precursor to the annual Cape Town Jazz Festival is the free concert on Greenmarket Square, which kicks off the main festival. At Antibes, France, take in the finale free concert at the celebrated Jazz a Juan International Annual Jazz Festival.

n Free Movies: In Paris every summer, the ultramodern Parc de la Villette outside the city draws movie lovers with its giant outdoor screen and free Open Air Cinema festival. In Baltimore, The American Visionary Art Museum sponsors Flicks on the Hill, an outdoor film series featuring free outdoor movies while Pismo Beach, California presents cinema under the stars every other Wednesday.

Fundamentals
 
By Senjam Raj Sekhar

Karnataka Quiz Association (KQA) celebrated its silver jubilee with style. ASKQANCE 2008, the 25th anniversary quiz festival held in the last week of June featured nine quizzes held over two days. The quizzes included subject specific quizzes like entertainment, sports, science etc and also quizzes for school and college going quizzers. The Open Quiz was a national affair with five out of the eight places taken by non-Bangalore teams. The quiz was eventually won by We Are Like This Wonly (Movin Miranda, Anustup Datta, Ochintya Sharma and Thejaswi Udupa).

This week we excerpt some questions from the informal sports and science quiz.

Write with your suggestions, questions (with answers) to D4/11 (GF), Exclusive Floors, DLF Phase-V, Gurgaon 122 002 or email senjam@gmail.com

Askqance 2008

1. Connect: Vienna, Catalan, Sicilian, Dutch, Indian, Scotch, Manhattan, Berlin, Belgrade, Leningrad, Dragon, Hedgehog and Stonewall?

2. The Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx), became extinct in the wild in 1972 from the Arabian Peninsula. It was reintroduced in 1982 in Oman but poaching has had negative effects. Further populations have been reintroduced in Qatar, Bahrain, Israel and Saudi Arabia, with a total population in the wild of about 886 in 2003. About 600 more are in captivity. In modern sport how has the Oryx been reintroduced to the public?

3. In June 2002 about 50,000 fans gathered in front of the historic Kwanghwamoon gate to greet a motorcade carrying him. He reportedly walked away from that episode richer by some $1 million and an honorary citizenship to boot. Today he towers above the street on successive adverts outside the Hotel Moskva, and is seen popping up on posters all over town in Moscow, usually promoting Samsung. Name this “cheerleader-in-chief”.

4. It is derived from the 17th century French word meaning “to arrange” or “bring about”, and in modern usage, its verb form stands for deception, trickery, or subterfuge. In sports parlance it is used to indicate a bridge hand that is void of trumps. It is also a speed limiting device, with its widespread usage in the past few years being a consequence of Ayrton Senna’s tragic end. Identify the term.

5. In the 2nd Test of the Ashes series at Lord’s in 1934, Australian wickets fell in a heap. Hedley Verity took 7 for 61 and 8 for 43. This led to a major change in the commentators’ box in the next test at Old Trafford. What was the change?

6. George Lohmann (born June 2, 1865 in London, died December 1, 1901 in Worcester, Western Cape, South Africa) created a record that lasted for 61 years, from 1895-96 to 1956. Which record and who broke it?

7. It is the name of an alternative rock multi-platinum selling band from Jacksonville, Florida. The World Health Organisation issues a vaccination certificate with the same name. The rules of engagement issued to UK troops serving in Northern Ireland are also called thus. In sports it is used as a part of a language-neutral system designed by a Britisher Ken Aston, and found its first use on 31 May 1970.

8. The place of his birth was an important garrison town for the East India Company forces. Located on the Grand Trunk Road, it is now a well connected industrial center. His dad represented United Provinces in Ranji Trophy. He played most of his cricket in a town about 55 miles east-southeast of London, famous as a pilgrimage destination for Christians. Last year he was one of the recipients of the Sitara-e-Imtiaz. And he allegedly is the only man to have witnessed both Brian Lara’s innings of 501 not out vs Durham and Hanif Mohammed’s 499 in Karachi.

9. Connect (1) an Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem witch trials written in the early 1950s during the time of McCarthyism, when the government blacklisted accused communists, and (2) a number of different techniques for making steel alloy by slowly heating and cooling pure iron and carbon (typically in the form of charcoal) to a South Yorkshire building designed in 1971 by Tanya Moiseiwitsch that has a 980 seat auditorium.

10. “Camels ordinarily sit down carefully. Perhaps their joints creak. Possibly early oiling might prevent premature hardening.” What is this?.

11. This science was so dominated in Britain in the 19th century by Edward Tylor, that it was known as “Mr Tylor’s science”. It has 4 sub-fields – Biological, Socio-cultural, Linguistic and Archaeology. What is it called?

12. Scientist and Pulitzer Prize winning author Jared Diamond calls it the biggest mistake in history. In his book Guns, Germs and Steel, he argues that along with this practice came “the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism that curse our existence”. What practice is it?

13. The first appearance of this popular probability puzzle was in a Martin Gardner column and was called The Three Prisoner Problem. It is now named after the producer of the TV show that used it. Marilyn vos Savant analysed it in Parade magazine. Her answer was roundly criticised by thousands, with Math Professors writing in to say they had a good laugh at her ignorance. However, recent simulations show her analysis to be mostly right. What is the name of this puzzle that has caused embarrassment to many professional mathematicians?.

14. The west coast of India was not in line of sight of the epicenter of the 2004 Sumatra earthquake. Yet waves of up to 1m struck parts of the west coast. What one word physical phenomena made this happen?

ANSWERS

Askqance 2008

1. Opening defences/gambits in chess 2. Orry the Oryx was the mascot of the 2006 Doha Asian Games 3. Guus Hiddink, current coach of the Russian national football team 4. Chicane, from the French chicanerie meaning “trickery” 5. Till then, there was no scorer in the commentary box; this match started the practice 6. Best bowling figures in a Test innings. Lohmann took 9-28 which was overtaken by Jim Laker’s 10-53 7. Yellow Cards 8. Bob Woolmer 9. The Crucible. It is the venue for the annual World Professional Snooker Championships 10. Mnemonic for geological eras/periods. Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian etc 11. Anthropology 12. Agriculture 13. Monty Hall Problem 14. Refraction. In air, difference in refractive index causes light to bend. In the oceans, the differences in depth of water plays the same part, with waves travelling much faster in deep ocean and slower in shallow water.

 

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    Потому что частным клиникам намного выгодней сдирать с людей деньги за каждый визит.
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