In just the last one decade, the Indian woman has come of age. She now toasts her freedom, revels in her sensuality, commands her finances, chooses her wines, lives life on her own terms, and flaunts her singlehood.ῠ When Sex and the City premiered on television back in the 90s, everyone sat up and took notice – particularly women. The series tackled topics like sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), safe sex, multiple partners and dozens of other issues that helped women emerge out of the shadows and into the light of changing societal traditions. And when the series came to India, it met with mixed reactions. There were groups who waved the flag of women’s independence and individuality. And yet, underneath it all, the old stereotypes were, and are, still alive and kicking.ῠ
There is, more so in Indian society, a tremendous pressure to find a man and settle down. Despite progress in nearly every sphere, there is still a belief that without a man, nothing can be achieved or accomplished. You’ve made it if you marry into a good family. However, a closer look shows that even though the change is slow, it is steady. The new Indian woman is all about exploring the various facets of her personality. She isn’t just able to afford holidays to London, or own designer clothes, but she’s able to actually make decisions about her life – when, what, and how – all without the help of a man. The change isn’t only restricted to the younger generation either. Women in their late 30s and early 40s are breaking out of the conventional mould into which they were so carefully sculpted – all with the support of the dreaded ‘traditional Indian family’.ῠ
As a result, men have had to force themselves to change as well. It’s no longer enough to be a man – you need to be proficient on both the professional, as well as the domestic front, especially if you’re married to today’s modern career woman. As a result, divorce rates all over the country are shooting up. According to the Tribune, there was a 150 percent rise in the divorce rates in conservative states like Punjab and Haryana in 2007, while in New Delhi there were 8000-9000 cases in the same year.ῠ
So it’s obvious that marriage is no longer the low-risk option that it once was for a daughter. Take the case of Anita Sahgal (name withheld on condition of anonymity). Sahgal, who was married for 15 years before she got a divorce, manages her own media consultancy. Though she started her company while she was married, Sahgal says that her job did not mean much to her husband. “I was working out of home initially, but as my job gained momentum and there was hardly any support from my husband, I had to think of a way out.”
The only way out was a divorce and Sahgal admits that it was the most painful decision she had to make. By this time she had two children and the going was hardly easy. Besides, at this time, Sahgal had entered what she calls a “professional plateau”. She was hardly paying attention to her work as a result of trying to manage her personal front and it was taking its toll on her. “It took me 15 years to come around to the decision,” she says, “but the kids were grown up by this time, and though it was very hard, I decided to go ahead with it.”
The good thing about it all? “Undoubtedly, my kids and my family. My kids were completely non-judgmental and my whole family gave their support unconditionally,” she says, “My work is now back on track and so is my life. In fact, I’m taking a break and going abroad for a holiday with my mother and daughter.”
However, being a single woman isn’t all happiness and light. Consider, for instance, the fact that you have bills and there isn’t anyone to settle them but yourself. Sunita Jain, 56, a former employee with the Bank of Tokyo, who now works as a freelance investment consultant-cum-lecturer, agrees, “Being single at any age for any woman in Indian society is difficult, but you need to accept the situation as you find it and adjust accordingly. If you can do that and take each day as it comes, you’ll be fine.”ῠ
Jain, who comes from an orthodox Jain family, was married and divorced at an early age. That, she says, surprisingly wasn’t a problem. “I, along with everyone else, was a critic of divorce back then, but it wasn’t something I could prevent, and surprisingly, when I told my family of my decision, they were behind me all the way,” she says. “I knew life would be better without him and no one in my family would have had me believe otherwise. A divorced woman used to be ill regarded and divorce was a stigma, but my family, especially my sister, showed me off as proudly as they would a single daughter. Whether it was at parties or family gatherings, I was never left alone for a minute. I can’t thank them enough for that.”
But what about financial support? Though Jain was working at the time of her marriage, her husband wanted her to give up the job. She remained adamant on the issue, but when the divorce came through, she was left to fend for herself. Here again, her family turned up trumps. “My father and my brother were more experienced than I was back then,” she admits, “and they guided me wonderfully. I began to learn more from the job I was in, and invested my savings wisely. Now I can stand on my feet, financially and otherwise.” The issue of companionship is another monster that often rears its head. Some women may worry about being alone for the rest of their lives. Jain says that that is just a question of one’s state of mind.
“I have plenty of friends, male and female,” she says, “Life doesn’t stop because you’re a single woman, nor should you expect it to. And if it boils down to the issue of sex, then it all depends on how you play.” Radhika Sachdev, 40, who works with a publishing house, quenched her need for companionship in another way. She adopted a child, Aarzoo. “I would have adopted even if I had been married,” she says, “It was a decision I had been working towards as I grew older. I don’t feel the need for a man, just to have kids. Kids aren’t the only basis of a relationship.”
Sachdev wasn’t worried about raising any eyebrows either. “All that mattered to me was that my parents would accept my decision and my child. Luckily for me, they did without any questions. They helped me set up the infrastructure that I needed to get Aarzoo into my life.” But hurdles presented themselves in the form of schools. “Most schools that I applied to were biased because I was a single mother and because she was adopted,” says Sachdev. “It was a very tough period for me, because I don’t believe that you discriminate against children who are adopted or women who are raising them single-handed. It’s not anyone’s fault,” she says. Innumerable rounds, and a letter from Sheila Dikshit later, Aarzoo was accepted into Somerville School. “I’m happy that they accepted her,” says Sachdev, “It’s a good school and she’s very happy there. That’s all I want.”
Being single isn’t exactly a joyride. There are ups and downs to every side of life, but that comes even if you are married or in a relationship. For now, most Indian women, be they young or old, are embracing a lifestyle that, while it is independent, in no way cramps their style. An online blog post says it all: “Then there’s the deep contentment of turning the key in your own front door on a Friday night, slamming it behind you, pouring a glass of wine and settling down to watch a favourite movie with no one else commandeering the remote control and channel-flicking during the breaks.”
Bipasha Basu When in a relationship for a long time, it feels like you are already married, because you are leading your lives as married couples would – sharing responsibilities and being together. What matters is whether you can maintain your identity even after marriage. There are couples who’ve been together for 10 years and then decided to tie the knot. And what happens? Soon after they get married, they split.ῠ They say, people’s expectations change.ῠ Although I do want to get married eventually, I would want to be independent.
Advaita Kala (writer) For me, per se, there is no set guideline. I think it’s really about being with someone who gives you the space to grow and evolve. I read once a long time back, and in fact used it in my book as well, that, “Marriage is like one long conversation.” I agree with that. To be with someone who mentally invigorates you and keeps you aware and invested is great. I think when and if I do decide to marry, it will hopefully be to someone who is not afraid of change, is kind and cares about the world we live in.
Sushmita Sen: The idea behind marriage is age-old – to find happiness, a sense of security given the norms of the society then. Of course society and the times have changed now. Is it then right to carry these age-old traditions and beliefs forward? Why is it so bad for a girl who is 30-something to not be married? I have girls writing to me saying families, usually distant family, get on their nerves, hounding them about marriage. Why can’t we just let people be? I want to know how many married people are truly happy? If marriage doesn’t guarantee happiness, is there even a point discussing this?
Brides who showed the door to grooms
By Amita Verma
Four young girls in Uttar Pradesh proved this month that it doesn’t take education or financial strength to stand up for women’s emancipation – it just takes mettle, and the strength to put one’s foot down. Meera, Soni, Raman and Renu are young semi-educated girls, belonging to the lower middle-class. They have never met each other, yet these girls created a furor this month when they stood up for their rights and refused to bow to social pressures.
Meera, who lives in Badaun district, sent her groom back because he did not bring a band with the wedding procession. “If the girl’s family is made to spend money in decorating the venue, why can’t the groom spend money on the band?” she demands. Soni, in Farukkhabad district, refused to marry when she learnt that the groom lisped and stammered. “The boy’s parents hid his speech disability and it was this that made me revolt,” she says in protest. In Mahoba district, Raman found that her groom was a middle-aged man and not the boy she had been shown earlier. She stormed out of the mandap and refused to go through the marriage rituals. In Maharajganj district, Renu found the groom groping around with his hands and discovered that he was partially blind. She stood up and told the elders in the family that she would not marry the groom. The baraat had to return without the bride.
Sway to the rhythm divine
By Neha Rathi
Letting your body sway to the rhythm of musical beats isn’t just pleasure. It also helps relieve physical ailments, fosters mental peace and gives rise to a feeling of contentment. Throughout the ages and across cultures, dance has been a medium to express a plethora of powerful emotions. Some dance in celebration, some to let go of bottled feelings, some for fun while some dance in devotion. Dance is energy in motion, and when infused with devotion, it becomes a way to reach out to God.
Indian mythology reserves a special place for dance. Shiva’s Tandava Nritya, the most famous dance in the pantheon of Hindu deities, is considered to be the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. The dance of Krishna with gopis, known as Raas Leela, is symbolic of the harmony and bliss of love. The dervishes swirled and swayed in an ecstatic love of God. The bauls of Bengal strummed their dotara, tapped their feet and twirled in praise of the Almighty.
Besides expressing joy and devotion, dance can also bring the mind, body and soul in perfect harmony. Dance therapy is a treatment in which choreographed movements of body are used to treat social, emotional, cognitive and physical problems. With the premise that emotional anxiety results in muscle tension and constrained movement, the therapy works towards healing in a rhythmic manner. Conceived as a marriage of sorts between modern dance and psychiatry, the therapy was pioneered by Marian Chace, a dance instructor who established her own studio in the US in the 1930s. Since Chase’s dance classes provided unique opportunities for self-expression, communication and group interaction, psychiatrists began sending patients to her. Later she founded the American Dance Therapy Association and became its president.
Dance therapy treats patients suffering from diabetes, stress, hypertension, cervical spondylitis and migraine headache using the communion of the body-mind factor. Says A.V. Sathyanarayana, a Bangalore-based dance therapist who has founded the Shristi Institute of Dance Therapy, “Dance therapy is founded on the premise that the body and mind are interrelated entities and the state of the body affects the mental and emotional wellbeing of a person in diverse ways. It helps bring out the inner feelings of the participants and helps them develop a healthy personality. The joyful rhythm invokes positive emotions and visualisations of the beauty of nature.”
About the benefits of the therapy, he adds, “This therapy benefits performers without them even realising it. All types of classical and folk dances, right from Bharatnatyam to the Gujarati folk dance Dandiya, have body movements that can be used in this therapy.” The music is a blend of Carnatic, Hindustani, jazz and folk, focusing on specific beats. And the dance steps include Bharatnatyam steps, snake and peacock movements. “We try to show the participant the positive aspect of a creature or an object. He or she should be proud of enacting the creature, like the curvaceous body of a snake or the beauty of a peacock. The snake dance in particular helps in curing respiratory problems,” he says.
If you do something, go the whole way
Commitment brings energy. If one wants to live an intense life, full of energy and power, one needs deep commitment. If you are not committed, the energy is not challenged. Everything is just okay, so-so; one continues in a lukewarm way, and one lives just on the periphery. So make this insight a tacit understanding in you. Life is a commitment, because only those who commit themselves, live. Others simply drag. They are born and die but they never live. Only people of commitment rise to high peaks of energy, rise to their climaxes.ῠ
Each moment has to be a commitment Then the energy will flare up and will become a bigger and bigger flame everyday. The more you bring it out, the more it will become available to you, and deeper and higher will be the sources that are available to you. Man can have as much energy as he needs. But if you don’t need it, there is no point in having it. If you have decided to crawl on the earth, it is up to you. If you want to fly in the sky, that too is for you to decide. Your energy is already ready to do what you want to do, but the first thing is that you have to want to do it.
Experience everything fully Whenever you want to experience something, do something, go the whole way. Either it is useless and you understand it, or it is useful; then too you have an understanding of it. Either way you are profited, benefited. Make this a rule for everything; let it be a golden rule. If you love a woman, then love. Go all the way so that you can come to an understanding of whether love is worth-while or just foolishness. And whatsoever the conclusion, it will be good for you. If you come to realise that it is a very significant experience, then you can open many doors. There is no other way than experience.
Love unconditionally Ordinarily love is a relationship, and when love is a relationship you breathe only towards a certain person. You breathe him or her, but the passage is very narrow. The universe is so vast and love gives so much; why make it so narrow? Let it expand and be unconditional, because whenever there is a condition, love becomes ruined. When it is unconditional, it becomes divine. And love is never satisfied unless it becomes divine because that is the deepest urge in every human being: to be so full of love that whatsoever the condition, the love goes on showering.
Courtesy Osho International Foundation/www.osho.com
At home with ghosts
By Veenu Sandal
Critics cite instances of some so-called paranormal groups that mimic the methodology of a traditional ghost/demon hunting team. However, their primary goal is to frighten the homeowner/client into a belief that they are in danger and that immediate action to cleanse the home is imperative. These groups will act quickly to confuse the homeowner/client by pointing to certain items in the home as being “possessed” and will then offer to remove said items to make the home safe. Typically, these items are antiques, relics, or family heirlooms that will later be put on display in a paranormal museum hosted by the said group where a charge is incurred for admission to view such articles.
Yet, despite criticism, the fact remains that ghost-hunting groups around the world are swelling with members – their popularity fuelled by television shows, the Internet and the increasing availability of high-tech equipment and detailed books like Ghost Hunting: How to Investigate the Paranormal. A common sense approach toῠ investigating ghostly happenings, including apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists are avidly read by many ghost-hunters. This particular book, written by Loyd Auerbach, director of the Office of Paranormal Investigations, covers the investigative process from the initial call and assessment to the on-site investigative techniques and technology.
ῠIt explains how to come up with solutions and resolutions and ways to get rid of the phenomena and goes on to discuss fraudulent cases besides looking at other non-ghostly happenings with paranormal explanations. The book also includes use of technology and the use of psychics in paranormal investigations and explores if anyone can prove the existence of ghosts. Finally, the book covers information resources and organisations that the new ghost-hunter and the person who encounters a ghost can find to learn more about the subject and for help with cases they’re investigating or phenomena they’re experiencing. For obvious reasons, new ghost-hunters find this a very useful book.
According to encyclopeadic sources, individuals engaged in ghost-hunting and paranormal investigation have varying motives for their activities.ῠ
* Some ghost-hunters consider themselves hobbyists whose primary motivation is the excitement of the hunt and the thrill of possibly experiencing something supernatural. Many of these individuals enjoy spending significant time pursuing their hobby.
* Others consider themselves serious researchers who follow a number of scientific protocols and share documentation of their research with other groups in an effort to discover proof that ghosts exist. They often go about their pursuit in a prescribed manner in order to gather evidence of paranormal activity at a given location, or debunk false positive reports of hauntings. Many established groups fall into this category.
* Still others consider themselves to be providing a service, and focus their investigation on offering comfort and assistance to individuals who feel they are experiencing unexplained or paranormal activity at a home or other location. These investigators approach a location with the goal of alleviating the fear and discomfort of the occupants by listening to their experiences and providing advice and reassurance.
Generally, ghost-hunting groups are a mix of several differing outlooks and motives. These days, most advertise their services online, but the majority do not charge for investigations in hopes of finding new and interesting places to explore. Summarised by other groups, there are four basic classifications of ghost-hunters, though many groups can fall into one or more categories. 1. Scientific, generally out to either prove or disprove paranormal phenomena such as ghosts through the use of scientific protocols. 2. Interactive, using both science and practiced beliefs to form an answer about phenomena. This group can include students of crptozoology, UFOs and conspiracies. 3. Chasers/Busters, avid believers out to prove by any means that a phenomenon does exist, even regardless of evidence. 4. Religious/Spiritual believers who specialise in religious beliefs or occult beliefs and who fight against the practices of negative forces, such as demons and evil presences. There are other groups too such as those who have an open mind about the existence or non-existence of ghosts. The starting point for this group seems to be the innumerable ghost stories that have been published down the years and told by word of mouth “surely they can’t all be fiction”. Then there is the group of die-hard ghost believers who were once die-hard critics or skeptics and were converted by actual, first hand encounters with ghosts or ghostly happenings at haunted places or other very personal paranormal experiences. Read about their fascinating, gripping experiences in the next column.ῠ
Learning through seeing
By Ranjan Kamath
Whenever a student enrols for speech and drama training, I can anticipate the parent introduce the youngster saying, “My child just doesn’t read it is cartoons, cartoons all the time!” The refrain has become so distressingly constant that it persuaded me to understand my own cultivation of the reading habit to suggest solutions.
The Calcutta I grew up in was a paradise for the poet, artist, book-lover and the cineaste. but in the ’70s, aged under ten, I was none of these and certainly no cineaste. The famous Metro Cinema held morning shows on Sunday, for which my father took me zealously. Whether it was 101 Dalmations, Cat Ballou, or Hatari – at the sound of the first bark or, gunshot I was under the seat, looking askance at a censored vertical frame from between Dad’s legs.
On Thursdays – our weekly school holiday -we were shown films at school. Tom and Jerry always preceded the main attraction, which included Flipper the Dolphin, John Wayne’s westerns, Lawrence of Arabia and Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace. During the scary bits, ‘under the seat’ was not an option in the company of peers, so eyes were kept shut.ῠ Pa never explained why he persisted in taking me to the movies when I made his life utterly miserable but with those faltering beginnings, my future transformation into a filmmaker confounded us both. To add to his misery I insisted he read the same fire-engine story at bedtime (ad nauseum). Every night a new ‘film’ premiered in my imagination, with the variations Pa brought to the story.
It took me four decades to realise that my dad and my school had unknowingly initiated me into visual literacy, expanding the visual vocabulary of my imagination. While reading 101 Great Lives, Enid Blyton, Conan Doyle and Alistair MacLean, my imagination was assisted by the visual imagery of the movies. I conveyed the movie contagion to my children, exciting them with films about flying like Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines and Battle of Britain. Films aroused a curiosity about Montgolfier’s balloon and Supermarine Spitfires which hooked them onto reading.
Rounding off the story-telling experience, I had preserved my fire engine storybook that I read to my sons at bed-time. Inspired by Pa, I too adopted circuitous narrative routes to realise that they too were enthralled more by the story-telling than the story.
In retrospect, I had not realised the importance of visual imagery in encouraging reading, till I began teaching speech and drama. When reading poetry or prose, words remained text on a page; not triggering cinema in the imagination. Reading was associated with the tedium of studying rather than the enjoyment of learning.
If we want our children to read, we have to read stories to them; read with them. Television, cinema and the internet are resources that complement the reading habit, not marginalise it. To view programmes or a film together with our children fortifies them against the subliminal shock and awe of visual bombardment – creating the curiosity to ‘find out more’ through reading. Every weekend, my children and I travel across continents and centuries from the Rome of Ben Hur to the Japan of the Last Samurai; from Lawrence of Arabia to Saving Private Ryan on the Normandy beaches. In two hours a lesson in history, geography, art and culture has been accomplished offsetting a lacklustre school syllabus.
In a world abounding in knowledge resources, it is tragic to hear a young mind say, “I am bored!”ῠῠ Wouldn’t it be gratifying if we inspired the young mind to curl up in a bean bag at the library, consumed by the ‘cinema paradiso’ of his imagination, lost in a book?
Sexual seduction comes back to haunt you
By Ayush Maheshwari
Iῠ want to thank all my readers for sharing their experiences with me. It has been an unbelievable learning process. Recently, one of you shared with me your experience of being sexually abused as a child repeatedly and the immensely negative impact it has had on your life. My heart goes out to you and I can completely relate with you: You are not alone. I was sexually abused as a child as well and till date, it haunts me.ῠ Hearing your story has given me the courage to talk about mine. I know while I am writing this week’s column, some child somewhere in this world is getting abused. and it just has to STOP.
Here is what happened: I was around 13 years old when I visited my aunt’s house during my summer vacation for two months. My aunt lived in a joint family. My uncle’s younger brother, Ravi, who was in his late 20s at that time, was always very friendly with me. Touching me, holding me, and making me feel very special. He gave me a lot of attention which I normally wasn’t used to. Being an overweight child people would often make fun of me. So here I am getting all this super star treatment from an adult. It felt nice. My aunt had a big house and we all had our own rooms to stay in. One weekend, however, she had some guests over and Ravi had to move into my room.
I remember every moment of that night. Talking about it till date (this was 18 years ago) shakes me up. It was the darkest night of my life. I was lying on the bed when Ravi came in. He closed the door and said that he does not want anyone to see the surprise gift he is going to give me. But before that I need to sing him a song. Ravi said, “Ayush, can you please sing Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko” (he knew I loved singing.) I started singing. Slowly he came closer to me and started kissing me. I immediately stopped singing. He said, “You are so sweet, keep going, don’t stop.” He said, “Everyone calls you fat and ugly but I think you are the most beautiful person I have ever seen. I just want to be close to you. Nobody loves you Ayush, but I love you.”
What followed is something I would rather not talk about right now even thinking about it is very painful. This incident was not an exception. It happened over and over again in that trip. Since then for years to come, I would look for this false affirmation to know that I was ‘good enough.’
Then why didn’t I tell someone? Why didn’t I try to stop it? Didn’t I know that I was being wronged? Looking back, I did not understand what was going on. It was all very confusing. At that time, it made me feel wanted and cared for. But the reality is – it made almost permanent damages to my self-esteem. The closest I have come to understanding what was going on is when I heard Oprah talking about child abuse on some of her shows. She calls it ‘sexual seduction’ rather than sexual abuse. As a child, you don’t know any better. children who are abused are often seduced to believing that they are being ‘loved’.
The thought of this fact of my life is like a hen which keeps pecking at my soul. With time and a lot of healing, this pecking has become less frequent. Next week we will discuss more in detail the multiple techniques I adopted to start my healing process. It started with the realisation that even though I am not responsible for what happened, it’s my responsibility to heal my soul. I cannot help but wonder if there is anything more powerful than empowering the self.
You can email your experiences to email@example.comῠῠ
Ayush Maheshwari, more popularly known as ‘Big Indian’. He is an IT wizard, motivational expert, pop singer, TV performer and a social worker.
‘Those 3 magic words’
By Samantha Brett
Je t’aime. Ti amo. Ani Ohev Otah. I love you.
When the famous Polish pianist Arthur Rubinstein mused that we should “love life and life will love you back… love people and they will love you back”, he was obviously unfamiliar with the modern dating game. Tell the object of your affection those three magic words and you run the risk of the quizzical stare, the nonchalant “er … thanks” (without any sign of reciprocation), or worse – them explaining to you that they’re enjoying the no-strings-attached casual liaison ‘wayyy’ too much to shift gears into mushy couple territory. “Why ruin a good thing?” they muse while your heart crumbles.ῠ Back in high school, I found myself making the crucial mistake of declaring my love a little too prematurely for comfort. “Love? Pfft! You don’t even know the meaning of the word,” scoffed my boyfriend at the time before giving me the flick – via a text message nonetheless.
“Love is complicated,”ῠ he wrote. “I just don’t think I’m ready for the words.” (He certainly seemed ready when I caught him canoodling with his ex-girlfriend the following weekend, but that’s a whole different column.)ῠ I suspect a similar gut-wrenching experience is to blame for the fact that so many of my fellow singletons stick to the mantra that the ‘L’ word is not something to be uttered unless the question has been popped, the rock’s been purchased and both parties are fully aware of each other’s bathroom, belching and belittling habits.
“Unless I know he’s right for me and that I’m prepared to accept his ways -foibles and all – only then will I proclaim I love him,” says one single femme, vociferously opposed to any lovespeak until there’s a ring, a white dress and a picket fence firmly in sight. “Even when he says it to me, I gush ‘thank you baby’ and then quickly change the subject. And I stick with ‘luv’ or ‘loving you’ in texts or emails.”
E! News presenter Giuliana Depandi (http://www.giulianadepandi.com) says she’s doing just the right thing to lure in a bloke for good. In tip #47 in her tome titled Think Like A Guy: How To Get A Guy By Thinking Like One, she jettisons the idea that women should never say the “L” word first, let alone initiate the kids, marriage and move-in-together conversation. (Oops!)
Male portal AskMen.com advises its male readers similarly, chastising any bloke who declares his true feelings for a woman. It says those three magic words are “evil words that have brought generations of clueless men worldwide to their demise”. Ouch!
But I wonder this: in a time of mass communication with more gadgets, gizmos and whiz-bang widgets that enable us to tell someone we love them in more ways than ever before, surely it’s time we were able to express our feelings freely? Be unafraid to open up our hearts?
Or are we simply too afraid of rejection to take the plunge… even if it means getting the “L” word in reply
The writer is an author, columnist & dating expert
(You can mail your responses toῠ firstname.lastname@example.org)
Vernacular rock on a roll
By Debarun Borthakur
If you are a die-hard rock music fan and are cribbing why Led Zeppelin didn’t sing in Hindi, don’t worry; the times are changing. Bridging the linguistic gap to popularise rock among desi music lovers are a bunch of rockers who swear by distorted guitar riffs, and are determined to express their thoughts in their mother tongue. Though “hind-rockers” (singing in Hindi) are common in the country, vernacular rock is what’s sweeping the Indian janta off their feet. Today one will find many Indian rock outfits singing in regional languages, and are slowly but steadily gaining ground in the contemporary Indian music scene.ῠ “If you ask me, music doesn’t have any language. Whether it is Tamil, Kannada, Bengali or any other language, the priority for a musician is to put across the right message, even if it is in some African language,” says singer Usha Uthup.
There are a number of names in contemporary Indian music scene who follow the same ideology. They believe music to be a universal unifier, and don’t consider language as a barrier in this context. “Just like any other college-goer, initially, I too started singing in English.
But eventually I realised how difficult it is to connect my people to it. Singing in one’sῠ mother language helps a singerῠ connect to his roots which I feel is a very important factor to put across the desired message to your audience,” says Raghu Dixit, who recently launched his multi-lingual debut album in English, Hindi and Kannada. So, why did he choose to sing in different languages, is that a rational decision or is it something that came naturally to him? “It was in Belgium where I first sang a few of my own compositions, and you won’t believe the audience there went crazy. Their overwhelming response instigated me to come back to India and be a musician. In fact, the whole experience changed me as a human being,” says Raghu, who has also composed for a Kannada movie Psycho.
Punjabi rocker Rabbi Shergill too believes that music doesn’t have any language. “Composers generally depend on what comes naturally to them. I think in Punjabi, so I prefer penningῠ my thoughts in the same language. It’s about presenting the right expressions to the audience,” adds Rabbi.ῠ
So, how do the record label companies respond to this? Do they consider promoting vernacular music a safe bet in Indian contemporary music scenario? Says Raghu, “Not really. I got lucky because Vishal (of the composer duo Vishal-Shekhar) appreciated my compositions and asked me to come up with an album under their banner. However, everybody is not that lucky. Market is the first priority for established record labels. They are hardly concerned about the sensitivity of music. Though I won’t name any label, many of them turned me down saying I am not good-looking enough for them to promote my music.” Rabbi, however, thinks vernacular music has a great future in India. Though he restrained from commenting anything on the record labels, he believes vernacular music will bring about a new wave in the Indian music market.
So, if you are trying to figure out which language you should choose to pen your thoughts in, don’t think. Just write down your thoughts in any language as it’s not the language that will make your music a hit, but the perfect blend of music and expression.
By Naresh Sadhwani and Deepak Jhangiani
A guide to what’s new in the audio, video world
The channel slugfest is on My programmes are better in quality, in content, in the stars that we attract, etc. These are the claims being bandied about by all the channels tom-tomming about their superiority over the other channels. The sad truth is that there is still no clear winner and the discerning Indian viewer is asking for more and the channels are scrambling to find that ‘new’ niche which will attract more eyeballs. From bigger and better the new claim is International, so while UTV World Movies features international movies with English subtitles, NDTV is working on their own world cinema channel, NDTV Lumiere. Now Indian viewers will be able to see cinema from as many as 160 countries. Now globalisation of the Indian viewer’s sensibilities.
Viacom18’s GEC Colors has been launched amidst much fanfare and controversy surrounding the much-heralded Khatron Ke Khiladi, the Indian version of the Fear Factor on AXN. The channel is eager to be unlike the others and is calling its content strategy “disruptive and differentiated”. Whether this will work or not, only the third “d” i.e. demand will tell. ῠ From Oil to Air? Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL), the country’s second largest oil marketing company, plans to diversify into the already crowded DTH business. With crude oil prices putting a dent in their bottom lines the company is now looking to the other avenues to make it good. BPCL has always been a distribution major. Earlier it was oil, now it will be TV programming.ῠ ῠ Question of the week Everyone is talking of 3G mobile phones. What is that?
Presently wireless technology used in India and most other countries for mobile phones is GSM and CDMA which are still evolving. they fall under the 2G or 2nd generation technologies. however, newer technologies are now being employed which are faster and can add on more utilities. 3G therefore, is the generic term covering the range of these future technologies namely: cdma2000, UMTS, GPRS, WCDMA and EDGE. The new I-phone 3G from the Apple farm which has been creating sales history in the USA delivers the best of the 3G world namely these advanced technologies which in layman’s language this means faster speeds, wider bandwidths resulting in better reproduction of sound and picture.
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My hasty decisions have been my failing: Zayed
As I watch Zayed Khan getting ready to play a rich, spoilt brat on the sets of Subhash Ghai’s Yuvraaj in Film City, I can’t help but think aloud, “You seem to slip into this character quite easily!” to which he laughs and says, “Yeah, I identify with the character, Danny Yuvraaj Singh. He’s like Main Hoon Na’s Lucky on steroids. His life is a big party, having everything money can buy. Danny’s got this whole vanity-insanity groove going on.” The young actor has worked with Shah Rukh Khan in Main Hoon Na earlier and now, with Salman Khan in Yuvraaj. His eyes light up as he says, “It was a dream come true to work with SRK so early in my career. He came across as an institution to me and I’ll never forget what he’s done for me. Salman is like an elder brother and I always knew I would have a great time working with him. He’s the ultimate cowboy and I admire his supreme confidence. Both of them are fantastic human beings.” Even though Mission Istaanbul, where he played the role of a journalist, hasn’t exactly set the bar for successes to come, his optimism is unfazed. “I’ve learnt over a period of time that you must take what’s yours. Never be too subservient because you never know when the rug might be pulled from under your feet. After Main Hoon Na, Mission Istaanbul was my big one. I worked very hard on it last year and I am very proud of the film,” says Zayed. Do you regret any career decisions? “I have taken hasty decisions in the past which has been my biggest mistake. Also, I have realised that working with good directors makes all the difference. I don’t really have regrets regarding what I have done. But I think my hastiness and inexperience has been my failing and that is something I have rectified now. I am going to be more careful from here on. A film’s success has got a lot to do with the right team, with people who can extract the best from you. Film is a director’s medium, you have to get along with the director to pull off the character – otherwise you can always be Zayed Khan. In fact, I have been partying more on screen than off screen now,” he says, but not before adding, “But parties follow me wherever I go. I reckon it’s my charm! But it’s my son Zidaan whom I like to spend most of my free time with. In fact my wife Malaika and he accompanied me to my Bahamas outdoor for my film Blue. It was such a joy to have him around.” The new daddy is going the whole hog – feeding and changing diapers and acting silly around his baby. “There are plenty of bloopers too like when he barfed all over my tee shirt at the airport and I got all messy. Zidaan can stare for hours without blinking, expressionless, and I find that amazing. I want to support his personality when he grows up rather than force mine on him,” he says. When asked about brother-in-law Hrithik Roshan, he says, “Hrithik is a perfectionist. When we get together, we work out as we both love to exercise. We talk about our kids. Sometimes he talks about my film performances and I talk about his. I share a warm relationship with him and I am proud to have this wonderful guy in my family,” he says.
Mads back to Mumbai soon
Madhuri Dixit who is a part of the Unforgettable Tour for the US leg, will soon be returning to India according to sources. No, she has not finally said ‘yes’ to another Yash Raj film that Yash Chopra has been insisting her to do. She will be in India to launch a clothing line for a major international brand that is coming to India. The brand will be catering to the working Indian woman and the styling is modeled over Mads’ jackets and pin striped pants wearing character in Aaja Nachle. Mads has also been busy with the designing team in the US, personally looking into the designs and giving inputs for clothes that she thinks would cater to an Indian market.
It is also said that she will stay in Mumbai for three months after the round of shows to promote the brand and she is putting her kids in a nursery school in Mumbai. With Mads all set, the city can’t wait to welcome its favourite aamchi mulgi, and needless to say neither can Bollywood.
Jiah Khan vs Aamir Khan
Jiah Khan is one unhappy lady. After having finished shooting for Aamir Khan’s remake of Ghajini, she isn’t too excited with the final cut. From what we hear, her role has been extensively chopped from the first narration of the film that she has seen and Jiah is feeling disillusioned about it and has addressed her grievances to Aamir. But what has got this sassy actress most upset is the fact that her voice has been dubbed for the film. Aamir wasn’t too happy with her heavily accented dialogue delivery and has dubbed it in spite of Jiah’s requests to let it remain. She defends that if her voice wasn’t a problem in Nishabd, why should it be now. But perfectionist Aamir is having none of it and asked Jiah to stay nishabd on the subject. But knowing fiery Jiah, she won’t keep mum and there could be another Khan vs. Khan battle on the cards. Shiney seeks divine help
Once touted as the next big superstar, Shiney Ahuja has found the going tough with no backing in the industry. He is currently banking on Har Pal with Preity Zinta and Hijack to bring him back into the horizon. And it looks like even Shiney knows he needs divine intervention to bail him out of his bad phase. Shiney is currently not signing films apparently at the behest of a family guru, who has asked him to go on a pilgrimage to seek blessings before taking up new work. Taking the guru’s word to heart, Shiney set out on a temple tourism expedition, a la the Bachchans. He has been seen hopping from one temple to another across the country. But Shiney has also managed to be discreet about the fact that he is fretting over his current box-office status. Even his wife Anu has kept away from the holy tour at the pretext that she’s looking after their baby daughter, but according to close friends, she doesn’t believe in all this and despite Shiney’s insistence, has preferred to stay at home. But the industry believes that if Shiney sorts out his attitude problems, it would be the answer to half his problems. Priyanka to turn producer
Priyanka Chopra is soon turning producer like many other actresses who are taking the baton in their hands. After Vidya Balan and Katrina Kaif, it is Priyanka’s turn to start producing films she believes in.ῠ Priyanka was apparently having long discussions with friend Karan Johar on the sets of soon-to-release Dostana about the nitty gritties of producing films and Karan has promised his complete support to her new ventures.
Although the thought is still in its nascent stages, Priyanka has started hunting for a suitable location for the office of her upcoming company. She is equally enthusiastic about a couple of scripts that were narrated to her but didn’t find any takers with producers in the past. She has summoned those young directors and writers to bring their projects out of the bins and start adding finishing touches to them.ῠ Her friends however, hope Priyanka is moving in the right direction, because post Love Story 2050, she sure needs damage control.
it’s all about work, chance and luck
By Vikram Bhatt
So Shah rukh Khan and Salman Khan have had a fight, well at least at the time of writing this piece and by the time you read it they might have even kissed and made up. but as I write this there is a war going on. The media loves it and the people love it.ῠ What better than two super stars slugging it out? One magazine even called me and asked me how this would affect the film industry. I thought for a moment and then could not think of one single way that it could.
They are not doing films together or are in business together. They have their own set of directors and banners. So where was the conflict? Sorry, no tragedy here and no loss to filmdom. It might be sad that they fought and all that but there is nothing that the collective will suffer for here.ῠ Tragedy is when great productive teams break up. That is a great loss.
Salman’s father Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar ruled the film industry with their gritty writing. They were the ones who put writers on a pedestal and rightfully so. Sholay, Deewar, Trishul to name just a few was surely part of cinema history and yet they parted ways. No one knows the real reason except for a few, I suppose, and yet this was a tragedy.
Not that they did not do good work after they parted ways. Salim Khan had Naam and Javed Akhtar had Betaab, Arjun and Dacait to name a few of their films but yet it was no Salim-Javed. More recently music composers Jatin and Lalit who I had worked with on my films Fareb and Ghulam parted ways.
Lalit worked with me on Life mein Kabhie Kabhiee and I did try to ask him once what went wrong between the brothers and what I got was a really lukewarm excuse of an answer, certainly not the true story but again such talent and such tragedy. This place is filled with such examples – people who do great work together and then go their separate ways for reasons best known to them or some that we may guess. I remember the time that Laxmikant-Pyarelal almost broke up their team. It was all over the media and the industry mourned and yet if I remember correctly it was Subhash Ghai who brought them together within days and did not allow the split. The industry owes him a huge one for that.
What makes these teams go their separate ways? It would be silly of me to guess because they might all have their reasons but the most common reason that I have seen is success.ῠ It might sound odd but success has one problem and the problem is called, a part of my homemade theory book, spotlight theory. The spotlight theory is that people feel that there is only place for one under the spotlight.
After the spotlight hits you, you want to elbow out the other person to be in that glow alone. I don’t mean to say that the teams I have mentioned here are a victim to this theory but I have seen enough here that are. I remember this one incident very clearly. I have mentioned Waman Bhonsle in a previous article. He was the most brilliant editor I have met. He was the editor to Gulzar, Boney Kapoor, Shekhar Kapur, Mukul Anand, Raj Khosla. The list is endless.
Prolific and brilliant, he worked in a team with his editor partner Guru Dutt Shirale and it was always Waman-Guru. Everyone in the industry saw Wamansaab, as I call him, toil away more than Guru.ῠ One day someone asked him if he felt like breaking away from Guru since he did all the work at which he smiled and said, “who knows, it might be my work and Guru’s luck!” I can never forget that because in a place where it is all about talent and chance, work and luck, we will never know who the top gun is really!
The Young Turks of cyberspace
ONCE YOU’RE LUCKY, TWICE YOU’RE GOOD:
The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0 By Sarah Lacy, Gotham Books, $26, pp 294
The drumroll leading up to the publication of Sarah Lacy’s book about the 20-something entrepreneurs who brought us such familiar websites as Facebook was certainly impressive. For months, Lacy demurred when asked to reveal the title yet talked up her project at every opportunity, causing the prepublication buzz in Silicon Valley to build. By golly, it was as if the author herself had created the next YouTube.
With the stance of an insider given unparalleled access to her subjects, the starry-eyed Lacy tells the stories of a half-dozen or so young entrepreneurs who started websites like Facebook and YouTube, all driven by user-generated content. Together, those sites created a post-Google version of the “participatory” Web known as Web 2.0. Lacy has chosen to include, among others, Mark Zuckerberg, the 24-year-old founder of Facebook, the wildly popular social-networking site; and Max Levchin, 33, a co-founder of PayPal, the online payment system that eBay bought in 2002.
This disjointed grab bag of gossip has its elucidating moments, but as the definitive tale of the rise of Web 2.0, Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good serves as a reminder that the latter-day equivalent of Tracy Kidder’s 1981 book, The Soul of a New Machine, the gold standard for technology nonfiction, has yet to be written. The title promises an incisive, illuminating examination of just what it is that engenders serial success. Indeed, Lacy delivers on that promise with her profile of Marc Andreessen, who helped build one of the first Web browsers and made millions with Netscape, the browser company. He then started a software company, which Hewlett-Packard bought last year for $1.6 billion. Now 37, he has Ning, a social-networking company for which he has high hopes. Lacy draws a fascinating portrait of Andreessen and his need not just to best himself but to equal the successes of his mentor, Jim Clark, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who financed Netscape.
Otherwise, the title seems to bear little relevance to the book. For Lacy’s other subjects, repeated success has yet to be determined. For example, it is unclear whether Levchin’s new company, Slide, which makes “widgets” – small, single-purpose applications for websites like Facebook and MySpace – will end up making him more millions. And Mark Zuckerberg is still firmly entrenched in his first company. Yet Lacy seems hesitant to dwell on these points.
The writing is, at best, informal. For instance, the last time I checked the American Heritage Dictionary, in spite of how computer trade journalists might choose to use the word, “architect” was not recognised as a verb, to say nothing of “rearchitect.” And Lacy’s fifth-grade teacher would no doubt wince at the profusion of incomplete sentences. (“Probably a good thing few women work there.” And “The time Jay and Marc were chatting when Sumner Redstone sauntered up.”) Then again, everything happens so quickly in Silicon Valley that perhaps there is no time to write a proper sentence.
Some of the reporting is impressive in its sheer detail. Lacy obviously spent a great deal of time with these celebrated entrepreneurs. Her descriptions of their business meetings come complete with snatches of you-are-there dialogue, † la Bob Woodward. The reader also learns who wears boxers, who cuts his hair in a hip style and who shucked his nerd-wear in favour of jeans and Pumas.
But the details don’t add up to much. The reader hears a great deal about Levchin’s fear of swimming but surprisingly little about what has driven Levchin, who is from the former Soviet Union, to start companies. And rather than following a straight narrative arc, Lacy jumps from one story to another, then doubles back again – to confusing effect. Paradoxically, it is when Lacy gets impersonal, and dispenses with her name-dropping tone (she refers to Zuckerberg throughout as merely “Zuck”), that she is at her best. Her explanation of how venture capital works is instructive and clear, perhaps one of the best yet written for a general readership.
And she skilfully describes a tension intrinsic to the Web 2.0 world: thanks to low start-up costs, the newest entrepreneurs don’t need venture capitalists, and even view them with disdain for the role they play in diluting individual wealth. Yet Lacy offers vivid descriptions of meetings between entrepreneurs who eventually wind up strapped for cash and of the venture capitalists with the means to help.
A columnist for BusinessWeek.com and a co-host of Tech Ticker on Yahoo Finance, Lacy has a tendency to throw out numbers in too cavalier a fashion. For instance, she describes “the mighty $195 billion Google juggernaut” that bought YouTube in 2006.
Lacy’s book is an outgrowth of an article she wrote for Business Week in 2006. The unfortunate headline on the cover – “How This Kid Made $60 Million in 18 Months” – proved an embarrassment to the magazine. The cover photograph was of a young man sporting headphones, a T-shirt and a 5 o’clock shadow, smiling broadly and giving two thumbs up to the camera. It was Kevin Rose, who would become one of Lacy’s principal subjects in this book. Rose, 31, is a co-founder of Digg, a website that allows its users to collectively decide which news accounts on the Internet deserve top billing.
As it turns out, the $60 million referred to the estimated value of Rose’s stake in the company. He didn’t make 60 million of anything, and until the company is sold or goes public, the $60 million in question is as good as Monopoly money. One of these days, perhaps by the time Kevin Rose does indeed become wealthy, someone will write a richly textured book that chronicles with insight and acumen the rise of the most recent crop of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Sarah Lacy’s Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good is not that book.
‘I prefer reading intellectual books’
By Milind Soman
I am not a very devoted reader, but I read whenever I have time. Though my reading habit is totally dependent on free time, I manage to read almost 600 pages a week. I like reading fantasies or science fiction. I also like to read historical stuff. But I prefer reading books that are intellectual and stimulate me from within. Reading gives me a lot of perspective and insight into various aspects of life. It also gives me a general perception about the people I meet and a certain vision to approach them. Sometimes an experience attained by reading a book helps me take major decisions as well.ῠ Though I don’t have any favourite book in particular, Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham is one of the books I like the most. It’s a fantastic book and very realistic in its approach.
My favourite authors are John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Iain Menzies Banks, Isaac Asimov and Edgar Rice Burroughs. I like their writing because of their unbridled imagination. They have a certain understanding of human emotions. They also have a deep knowledge of social psychology. Being humane and practical in their approach, they have written masterpieces of literature. Reading these authors gives me immense satisfaction.
Worthy additions you will cherish
By Sunil K. Poolani
Since talking and cribbing about the foggy world of publishing week after week, I thought I should take a break – and, yes, you readers, too, would get a respite. So, this week I thought it is better to discuss some good books that haveῠ hit Indian bookstores recently. So here they go:
With the Tiger One who grew up with classic storytellers like Somerset Maugham, this impressive volume leads you on a trip down nostalgia lanes. For, With the Tiger (Harper Collins; Rs 295) is a graceful retelling of Maugham’s classic The Razor’s Edge. Where Baranay succeeds is the way she intersperses Maugham’s characters in Indian context with such brave and unwavering way, without losing the girth and grip of the narrative, cogitative most of the times. Baranay, as she admits, has followed Maugham’s structure exactly and named her characters for his. Brief: The charming young Larry (along with a host of other characters) returns as Australians; his life-altering occurrence is not as an underage enlistee in WWI, but during a teenage backpacking trip to India, where he converts himself into a mysterious hermit. A racy read, this is a worthy addition to your literary vocabulary.
Guardian of the Dawn Unlike any other year, the last two years have seen a gamut of historical novels set in India. After Rimi B. Chatterjee’s The City of Love, here comes Richard Zimler’s Guardian of the Dawn (Penguin Books; Rs 350), equally rich in talking about the atrocities and vengeance of colonial India. Zimler, nevertheless, takes a daring turn: he vivifies the Catholic Inquisition in Goa (we Indians, fearfully, never discussed this before, to remain politically correct), and how Hindus or immigrant Jews were strangled by executioners or burnt alive in public. Zimler presents a wide canvas of devotion and discrimination, peppered with lots of historical research and passion.
A veritable treat (the beginning may put many readers off, but as the novel progresses it becomes unputdownable), this novel is an enchanting and authoritative retelling of Othello. Zimler, an internationally-acclaimed author, has absolute command over the language which drags the readers into the realms of a barbaric system that we conveniently try to forget. Impressive.
Devil May Care: A James Bond Novel After Ian Fleming’s death, and when Hollywood is still regurgitating the Bond movies to charm the secret agent’s aficionados, Sebastian Faulks comes as a saviour to millions of Bond admirers across the world. Faulks, you will realise, is the best person, as you savour Devil May Care (Penguin India; Rs 395), to recreate the magic created by Fleming. One may argue why Faulks set the story of the present-day Bond (in this post 9/11 terror attack days) in the former USSR days. In this page-turner’s case the plot unfolds in the Cold War days.
But, as you would know most of the old Bond stories were set in the fifties, sixties and seventies – and Faulks, too, follows suit. Hello, there is nothing wrong in it, as one should realise Bond is not an evergreen hero, let alone immortal. To be frank, after a long time Devil May Care is one book that hooked me from page one. Seriously. And I get a feeling that Faulks, if he hones his skills further, which I am sure he will, can be a better writer than Fleming. Blasphemous it may sound, but it is the truth.
The writer is the publisher and managing editor, Frog Books, an imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd, Mumbai. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sun, wine and dance in Auckland
Celeb Travel: Saif Ali Khan
Iῠ think when you are young you want to travel to the more happening places, the ones your friends tell you about or where all the buzz is. And I also think the meaning of travel changes at different times. If it means exploring the worldῠ in your youth, as you start growing up you understand yourself better during travels. That’s what my recent travels have done for me, and although I do visit all the happening and trendy places for film shoots and shows, there is always a place that calls out to you because you find yourself there. And for me that place is Auckland, a dream holiday destination as it has everything for everybody and yet, it is underrated as far as tourists are concerned, which in a way helps preserve its natural charm, and untainted beauty.
Auckland is a one of its kind geographical miracle, as the city is situated around 50 volcanoes, which are of course extinct but lend character to the city. Most people go to Auckland only when they have relatives living there or if they are in Australia and go to Auckland for the weekend or something. But I like going there for at least a week at a stretch if I have time. I usually rent a car for that duration and that is the best way to see the city, because it is not really known for its public transport and most locals have their own cars. Also it is a vast city and if you want to walk to the important sites, you end up losing a lot of time. Instead of hiring cars from rental services, look for locals renting out their cars during the season as that works out cheaper.
Auckland is an interesting mix of the old and the new world. The ancient Maori culture is preserved by the locals – try saying, ‘Kia Ora’, which means good day to a local and see their face light up. They instantly warm up to you.ῠ Waitakere ranges are the hidden treasure of Auckland, you just don’t expect to visit such beautiful ranges with stunning waterfalls, rugged treks in the heart of a big city. Not very far is Potiki, the area where you can get a taste of the Maori traditions, the war dance you see the Black caps perform before rugby matches can be seen done by kids in the neighbourhood. But it is advisable to have a local or a guide with you when you get into this district because the locals here might tend to keep a distance from you. If you are an adventure lover, take a jump from the sky tower and feel the adrenaline rush.
Everyone talks about the wine that the French or the Italians make. But try wine made here and take a ferry to Waiheke island close by. Spend the day soaking in the sun, and walking through the wineries, tasting some of the best wines in the world. A good evening can also be spent at the Caluzzi bar, where you can have a seven course meal while you watch floorshow and award winning acrobats perform Of course no trip to Auckland is complete without a ride up the imposing sky tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world. The view of the city from there is spectacular if you can be patient or beat the queues to get up there. If you are travelling with family, there are a few entertainment parks, which the kids will enjoy, or you could take them to the aquarium.
There are underwater tunnels, where you can see sharks swimming around you. If you have the time, take a trip to the museums, but do not miss the Saturday flea market. Also visit Made, the one of its kind supermall in the world that houses practically every clothing brand you can imagine, along with the couture of some of the local talents. The prices might be high but it’s worth every penny.ῠ But remember, do respect the traditions of the locals and don’t do or say anything inappropriate that might hurt someone.”
Echoes of Dharamsala
By Christine Pemberton
Last August, as I weepily counted down the days till my first fledgling flew the family nest, to go off to university in England, we received a message from a friend who works in Dharmsala. His Holiness the Dalai Lama would be in residence during the first three days of September. If we could be there during those exact days, we would be almost certain to get a few minutes alone with His Holiness.
There wasn’t even a moment’s hesitation. I stopped crying. Hari stopped excitedly packing, and the four of us drove all the way to Dharamsala through the fag end of the rains. As we drove up through the picturesque Kangra Valley, spirits soared, as we saw the famous railway, the picturesque station, and the ridiculously perfect views over lush valleys. Even the rains couldn’t dampen our spirits and we arrived in Dharamsala, feeling refreshed. The little town was damp and wreathed in cool mist, and crowded with Tibetans and foreigners alike, who had gathered to hear His Holiness preach.
We explored the main sights of Dharamsala, including the cemetery of St. John in the Wilderness, where the second British Viceroy, Lord Elgin, is buried. We wandered up and down the narrow, crowded streets, which were full of pilgrims who had come to attend the Dalai Lama’s sermons.
We went through several efficient, but extremely courteous and friendly security checks, and suddenly there we were, inside the compound. We would meet His Holiness just for a short time, we were told, when he walked from his home back to the hall where he was giving his discourses. Despite the friendliness of everyone around us, we all admitted later to feeling a little nervous. There were the four of us, two Singaporean Chinese and a young French man who was hitch-hiking around the world. Thrilled to hear us speaking French, the young man asked me to take a photo of him with His Holiness. Yes, I replied, just so long as you take ours. Avec plaisir, Ludovic agreed.
His Holiness’ ADC came to meet and brief us. We were to stand here, Ludovic was to stand there, and the two Singaporeans over there. His Holiness would stop and talk to us first, then Ludovic, and then the Singaporeans, who were busy lighting incense sticks. Suddenly there was a frisson of excitement, and a small group of people walked down the path towards us. First came armed policemen, looking rather incongruous amidst all the Buddhist robes; then a group of monks; then the tall, elegant ADC, and there was His Holiness, instantly recognisable and with his trademark beaming smile.
The Dalai Lama greeted us with the same huge smile that you see on every picture of him.ῠ The ADC explained who we were, and then we chatted for a few, precious moments. I told him I had just come back from Tibet and His Holiness asked what I had thought about his country. Beautiful, I replied, and was rewarded with another beaming smile. He then held my hand for the photo, and after a last smile, moved on down the receiving line.
We compared notes afterwards, and everyone – cynical teenagers included – said they were on a high, and we all agreed when my husband said that there was most definitely an aura surrounding His Holiness. The joy and euphoria of those few precious moments stayed with us during the long drive back to Delhi. Hours into the long wet drive back to Delhi, my daughter said “Mum, I still feel all happy and excited inside.”
Those few minutes of peace and blessing were beyond special. They were inspirational.ῠ And if you have to let your child fly the family nest, what better way than with the blessings of the Dalai Lama?
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