Friday, December 11, 2020

Lost in Capital


Delhi used to be a shining hub of Music, Culture and Art Festivals till a few decades ago.  Un-regulated growth, pollution and negativity is today gnawing up the very roots. Owing to altered security scenario and priorities, Delhi has transformed from being a cultural paradise in the past to a painful reminder of what decay would mean to a creative mind.


The name Delhi evokes different responses in the minds of people from all over the globe.  For some it is today one of the most populous and polluted capitals in the world.  Yet, Delhi used to be a clean and green city that was the hub of music, culture and art celebrations till a few decades ago.  Its carefully manicured heart, sprawled with green vistas and fruit bearing trees, found mention amongst the best cities in the world.

Hailing from an agrarian backdrop in Palakkad, Kerala, destiny brought me to Delhi in my early years. Transgressing the borders of time and stuck deep in a quagmire of professional compulsions, I am today fondly reminded of a time when they city was relaxed, event filled and harmonious in existence.

Deep Purple, Sting, Bruce Spingsteen, Bryan Adams, Peter Gaberiel, Tracy Chapman, Boney M, Bangles could be sounding as some big and respected names in Rock music but all of them have performed in Delhi and I have been able to attend the concerts.  While Beatles and Abba were taking the world by storm, Delhi silently decked up after ASIAD of 1982 to host some of the most memorable Rock Concerts which were mostly held in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium that could hold capacity crowds (75000), Talkatora Stadium or Indraprastha Indoor Stadium in Delhi. Delhi used to have its own editions of Rock Festivals, Jazz events and Pop performances spread over several days.

Africa Live was one such concert that I vividly remember attending.  The program started at about 5 in the evening and went on live for more than 12 hours showcasing some of the best in International Music.   

Siri Fort Auditorium at Khel Gaon Marg has been another venue that hosted memorable events. Few of live events I could witness at this venue are: Bolshoi Ballet from Russia, French opera Carmen, Jagjit Singh Live and several other Ghazal, Thumri and sufi music performances. Siri Fort used to be a regular venue that hosted the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) with film shows spread across various film halls in Delhi. I invariably made it a point to attend these festivals year after year, till it IFFI was moved out to Goa.

Spirit of India concerts enabled me to witness and follow the most of the Indian Classical Masters Live in Delhi through 1980s. Memorable performances included ones from Pt. Jasraj (Vocal- Hindustani), Ustad Bismilla Khan (Shehnai), Pt. Bhimsen Joshi (Flute), Ustad Amjad Ali Khan (Sarod), Zakir Hussain (Tabla), Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma (Santoor), BalaMurali Krishna (Classical Carnatic) and several other stalwarts of those times.

Dance scene in Delhi was no different. Performances of dance maestros dotted the cultural calendar of the capital through the year.  Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Kathakali and most regional dance forms from across India found their footprints in the Capital. Yamini Krishnamurty, Uma Sharma and several other distinguished dancers performed in Delhi. Folk, rural and ethnic dance forms too visited the capital to showcase their performances before the crowds.

International Dance troupes too made their presence felt in Delhi through programs arranged by ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations).  Russia, France, Germany, Japan and host of other nations showcased their arts and culture in the Capital.  I would invariably keep my diary filled by keeping track of the events and ensuring attendance.

New Delhi also had a rich cultural milieu. Year long celebrations of Art, Theatre, Films and Folk arts were primary to its vibrant existence.  Each year the cultural calendar of Delhi was marked with numeral national and international events.

National and International Book fairs, Handicraft Fairs, Dance Festivals, painting exhibitions, Food, and a string of national and international events kept date with Delhi. Yearly International Trade Fairs at sprawling Trade Fair grounds, Food and craft fairs at Dilli Haat, Spiritual, Devotional and Sports events that included Marathons, International Sporting events like (Asiad, Commonwealth Games) kept Delhi a hot place to be living and enjoying one’s life.

However, changing security scenario and VIP culture has dampened cultural scene of Delhi.  Heavy handed interference of civil and police administration into arrangement and conduct of such events made organizers wary of choosing Delhi a venue for big events. Many International Rock groups have moved away from Delhi to Bengaluru and Mumbai owing to negative crowd response and organizing woes.  To top it, I notice that the general population of Delhi has tilted away from the dynamics of understanding the minute aspects of other cultures. They are either indifferent to the performances or fail to catch the true essence of such events.

Today crowds of Delhi have become too noisy and ill behaved, compared to earlier years and other venues. From being known as the Cultural Capital of India, Delhi is today having a dubious distinction of being called the Crime Capital of India.  Forts, Mausoleums and Minarets stand mute to the change that has taken place here. Wide tree sprawled roads are today constricted with traffic. Air quality remains extremely poor throughout the year and seasons are playing truant making it difficult to organize or attend such events.

A tourist’s paradise and a shining example of being the National Capital, Delhi is today greying inside out.  Rapid expansion of roads and buildings, Mindless growth of population, vehicular traffic has transformed this city into a big maze of confusion devoid of aesthetics and harmony.  To add to its woes Covid 19 has battered the city like never before.  I wonder, if we could ever have the days that have passed us by in the capital city of India. Delhi would be dug up even further through its heart with Central Vista being re-designed and constructed.  It is perhaps too late for Delhi to return and reignite the spark of the past.  History may be made and recast but as a sensitive admirer of culture, traditions and arts, my angst at witnessing a Delhi losing its soul is a painful experience.

I had wanted to stay on in Delhi forever to savor its multi-cultural diversity and ethos but greed, one one-upmanship and material compulsions has torn open the divide among its citizens.  Un-regulated growth, pollution, politics and negativity is today gnawing up the very roots of this once proud city. Beyond being a power broker’s den, Delhi may never regain its cultural sanity or clean air. If Delhi is to be saved, it is time that the capital is shifted out from here, along with bag and baggage of those citizens, who continue to live and die here each day without feeling any remorse to the slow and painful death this city is going through each day.

I feel lost in the Capital today, do you, too?


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

What awaits us in 2021?


Covid 19 has shattered our beliefs and altered the way we view our life. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, ‘A vaccine on its own will not end the pandemic, it will compliment the other tools we have, not replace them’.  Which means in the near future we are back to a state of uncertainty, in terms of complete immunity from the virus.

The year 2020 has already spelled doom to many individuals, businesses and economies.  It has been a year of depression for stock market and people who reposed their faith in science.  Never in the history of human evolution did such confusion arise out a strain of virus potent enough to spread so quickly and kill at will.  Medical fraternity has been on its edge trying to cope with the pandemic that has spread all over globe at such a quick pace. While front line health workers have been stretched beyond limits, hospitals have certainly been overwhelmed with cases that have spilled out beyond earmarked capacities.  Covid-19 as a pandemic has been a bane and boon for those in the medical field.  While on one hand Medical fraternity has been pressed to the edge trying to cope up with pressure on systems and people for spreading out treatment and resolution, on the other a hope hinged on developing an effective vaccine is already underway.  In fact a strategic approach for production and distributing the vaccine has already begun. While other business sectors have faced the brunt of lost businesses, medicine as business has already flourished due to the pandemic which can be termed as a boon.

We have already seen that different countries have coped up with the pandemic in its unique ways.  While countries such as United States and Spain that bore the initial brunt of the pandemic saw huge number of deaths in the first wave, Asian, African and many other countries have handled the pandemic in their own unique ways.  While the primary strategy has been to find, isolate and rehabilitate, more populous countries have found this route tedious, time consuming and resource exhausting. It is generally seen that majority of those infected have been able to come out of the infection without major complications with medications in hand.  In fact traditional and local medicines have been able to help the patients overcome the initial discomfort and illness associated with the disease, however efficacy of the vaccine being developed in different countries would be marker to the future of this pandemic.

There are those who believe this pandemic is man-made, there are others who link it to greed of human civilization and the curse of nature on its exploitation.  Still there are others who believe that this pandemic has been a ploy by certain powers to re-mark territories and to strategize global economic hotlines of future. On a closer introspection we can see that the pandemic has opened up a pandora’s box of questions for the future of each individual, nation and Earth as a sustainable eco system for survival of humans.

We also see that different countries have employed different standards of safety and strategies to deal with the pandemic.  While many such methods touch upon policing, public health safety, resource mobilization and spread, impetus has been to keep the wheels of economies moving despite red flags on the health front.  On a broad spectrum it is seen that while in many countries where parameters of health were of extremely high standards, pandemic overwhelmed their systems and they saw large number of deaths.  Poorer countries with less well developed health systems and larger populations saw huge infections but lesser number of fatalities.  This could be because the virus overwhelmed people who had high life standards but a lower immunity levels compared to individuals who were exposed to wider array of infections.   However the scare owing to the pandemic is yet to see its true peak.  While for richer nations, it has been diversion of resources and greater allocations to health sector to deal with the pandemic, for poorer nations it is doing their best by prioritizing budgets for allocations for providing food and medical support to the affected sections of population.

While researches are on to come out with an effective vaccine against this virus, studies are on to understand long term effects of the virus on human bodies.  Science which had developed so much over the years and had become invincible is today faced with the dilemma of having to face the threat caused by a set of invisible viruses that are playing up on human bodies as a disease and on human minds as a grim reminder of us being mortal humans!

Perhaps it is the first time in human history when places of worship were closed down, people were prohibited from meeting their own and dead bodies cremated without the loved ones attending the services.  Death literally came cheap and hospital treatment has eroded the finances of millions and a question mark has risen over future of human civilization in the in event of more such viruses surfacing in the air.         

This Pandemic is proving that human beings have not forgotten to smile despite threat of death hovering over its heads.  The will of human minds to overcome adversities and join hands to forge alliances is visible yet at the same time divisions ingrained in political and geographic boundaries have more than once exposed the chinks that can derail the progress on humankind as a society.  Covid 19 may be in the air for a long time and take us along into 2021 but not before it alters psyches of individuals and societies towards each other, health and finances.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Hybrid Film Festival


Hybrid Film Festivals


Films convey stories from most diverse geographical regions.  They become a fine tool that tide over geographical and language boundaries to portray events and voice out significant aspects of human endeavor and culture.   Film Festivals thus turn into a vital link that bridges distances and touch core aspects of human mind processes and emotions.   Each year a number of film festivals are held across the world.  However this year, Covid 19 pandemic has drastically altered the way Film screenings and festivals are going to be conducted around the world this year and years to come till fears arising out of spread of novel covid 19 and other mutant viruses are put to rest.

Hybrid literally means a mix and in terms of Film Festival being termed Hybrid, it would in reality mean a mix of real theatre screening with an admixture of digital virtual screenings of movies and discussions thereof.  Today technology has empowered us to virtually cross over physical boundaries and be connected to each other through digital platforms.  Film Festivals are no exceptions.  Those finding favor with digital platforms would root for seamlessly crossing over to digital formats even for organizing Film festivals that could bring in a larger audience and become more inclusive event than conventional festivals.

Perhaps the earliest festival to try out the Hybrid form was the Locarno Festival in Switzerland which adopted a semi-virtual format.  Held in the town on the shores of Lake Maggiore, the Italian speaking region of Southern Switzerland the 73rd Festival held between 5th and 15th  August 2020 was switched to a hybrid format with films and filmic content made available online.  It is estimated that about 5950 people saw films in Locarno Indoor cinemas and about 320000 visits were made on festivals digital platform where full length films, short films, panel discussions and talks were made available online.

45th Edition of the Toronto Film Festival is implementing a hybrid film festival in the month of September, 2020. The edition will combine physical and online screenings with upto 50 features and five short programmes. Digital screenings, interactive talks and Q&A sessions have been planned besides  a drive in format ensuring physical distancing.

Cinefest Sudbury in Ontario, Canada too is expected to be a Hybrid festival scheduled between 19th and 27th September, 2020.  Ontario movie theaters are allowing 50 people per screening.  The organizers are hoping that local film makers and producers would be appearing in person and the industry could take part in the event online.

64th Edition of BFI London scheduled through October 7th 18th, 2020 too has pivoted towards a Hybrid version with introduction of Audience Choice Awards this year owing to Covid 19. The festival is planning a 50 virtual festival premiers with upto 12 previews of upcoming films that will be screened across the UK.  In a marked change from earlier versions, audiences are expected to replace the festival’s official jury and will vote on audience awards in four categories that will include fiction feature, documentary featue, short film and XR (extended reality).  Awards will be announced in a live virtual ceremony on the final weekend of the festival .  The full programme of the festival will be launched on 8th September, 2020.  Sundance Film Festival,  Raindance Festival and a number of other Festivals are expected to be on the Hybrid mode this year. In view of Covid 19 pandemic, India too is expected to host a 'Hybrid' International Film Festival in the month of November this year.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Story of our Loom


Today is National Handloom Day.  Swadeshi  Movement was launched on this very day i.e.  7th August, 1905. Handloom reflects the glorious traditions of Indian Textile Industry and an era of self reliance in the area of garment production and fashion.  History is replete with instances of Indian textiles occupying high demand within Indian borders and far across the oceans. Handloom is also a significant source of livelihood which holds capacity to empower artisans associated with the profession.  It is estimated that 70% of all handloom weavers and allied workers in India are women.  However, being a household activity and entrenched in rural backgrounds, imperfect and often cheap imitations through power looms and illegal inroads through mills have brought this sector into a state of slow decay and death.

I belong to Kerala and hail from the district of Palakkad. For several centuries handloom weaves from the Villages of Kollengode, Chittoor, Devangapuram, Kallanchira, Neelikkad and Karimpuza in this district have been great demand.  In the pre-Independent India dress material including sarees, dhoties, towels and cloth lengths were weaved and marketed to rest of Kerala and other princely states from this district.  However, post independent India saw weavers joining hands and pooling resources into cooperatives to run these handloom centers.  However, piling up losses and lack of income in the profession led youth from these villages to move away from this profession and its slow death.

Today we see that polyester, artificial yarn and multitude of textile materials have emerged across the world as viable medium of fabric.  However the ‘comfort and breathe’ factor of handloom can never be equated with any alternate textile material.  Use of hand looms in weaving spectacular patterns not just enable large sections of labour to be gainfully employed in this profession but also props up local creative talents in design setting, pattern development and manual colour coding.  Use of local motifs, shades and designs sublimely carry the flavor of its local community into the hearts of textile users.

India sits on a treasure trove of indigenous cultural richness.  Each state in this country has its unique tradition and contribution in handloom weaving.  Ikat from Odhisha, Bandhani (tie and dye), Patan Patola from Gujarat, Kalamkari from Andhra Pradesh, Brocades of Uttar Pradesh, Zari works from Madhya Pradesh, Kancheevaram from Tamil Nadu, Kantha stitches from West Bengal, Kosa from Chattisgarh, Kunbi from Goa, Lepcha from Sikkim, Pachaculi from Uttarakhnd, Pachra from Tripura, North East Weaves prominent from Mizoram, Nagaland apart from multitudes of patterns, styles and textures like sambhalpuri, Muga, Maheshwari, chanderi and Khadi makes India a well defined centre from Handlooms.

Yet the real story of handlooms can be seen from the dwindling number of families engaged in this profession.  Surveys show that while 124 lakh weaver families were engaged in this profession in 1970s their numbers reduced to 64 lakhs in 1995 and it dwindled further down to 44 lakhs in 2010.  The narrative of Policy vs production techniques have seriously impacted handlooms in our country. While introduction of standard yarn into our country in the 1840s changed the course of handlooms, replacement of natural yarn with synthetic ones for use by power looms further played havoc with this segment. Global players and technology has further robbed local identities. Today artificial dyes coupled with computer controlled looms, churning out global designs and textures in a copy paste environment, has brought the entire economics of handlooms into a grinding halt.  No amount of protection or unique identification is able to save the handlooms from extermination from one roof global operators.

Need of the hour is identity ability to distinguish ‘real from an imitation’.  The responsibility of a buyer increases with the awareness of purchase of a real product not a cheap copy.  Price alone should not be a consideration for purchase but a larger emotional attachment with the product being bought.   Buying a Handloom product should be more than a symbolic gesture of helping a needy weaver but it should be a nationalist move to revive our rich culture and traditions of our nation by empowering our local talent and rural weavers.

 Story of our Loom would be incomplete without a simple picture of Charkha.  Time has come when we join hands to help the spirit of enterprise spread amongst the rural weaver folk and support weavers and handloom by buying truly hand woven fabrics made in our country.


Friday, June 19, 2020

Covid 19 - Boycott of Chinese Products

Covid 19 Saga – III
Boycott of Chinese Products

The stand off between India and China has now brought us face to face with a reality of India having to take a hard stance on the rhetoric of ‘Boycott Chinese products’.  While an analysis of on the ground reaction and related economic fallout is a complex theme in itself.  A primary look into the investment pattern of China in India through its own companies or Indian subsidiaries throws up important statistics.
While it goes without saying the China has been slowly and steadily increasing investments all around the world, In India it has stealthily forged strategic alliances to make a build up despite tight monitoring and control.  If we go by figures quoted by prominent institutions in respect of Chinese investments in India Sectors it could be see the following:
% of Investment
Automobile Industry
Metallurgical Industry

A list of Chinese Companies in India is given below:

Mobile Companies in India include Xiaomi (MI), Oppo, Vivo, One Plus, Huawei, Coolpad, Motorola, LeEco, Lenovo, Meizu, Tecno, , Honor, Gionee, Gfive, Hair, TCL etc.   A number of Chinese software companies have also made inroads into India these include Alibaba Group with UC Browser, Bytedance with applications like Tik Tok, Vigo Video, News Republic, Tencent holding with popular games like Pubg ad WeChat, Cheetah mobile with apps like Whatscall, Cheetah keyboard, CM Browser, Tap Tap Dash, Huwei and ZTE.

Other Chinese majors in India includes, Haier, Volvo (owned by Geely), MG (owned by SAIC Motors), Nippon Paint (India) Pvt. Ltd, Shanghai Electric India Pvt. Ltd., Beijing Automotive, WISCO (I) Pvt. Ltd., ZTE Kangun Telecom company (I) Pvt. Ltd, China Dongfang International, Baoshan Iron and Steel Ltd., Dongfang Electric, Sany Heavy Industry Ltd, Cheetah Multitrade P. Ltd., YAPP India Automotive Systems Pvt. Ltd.

It has been reported that Investments of China in Technology for Indian Startups exceed $ 4 billion!. India’s top 30 companies which are each worth over $ 1 bn (Unicorns)m 18 are funded and technology driven by the Chinese. Paytm, Hike Messenger, Ola, Bigbasket, Byjus, Dream 11, IBIBO, Make my Trip, Snapdeal, Flipkart, Mydermacy etc are other majors operating doing well in India.
Chinese investments in India stood at $.6 billion in 2014 which have now risen to $ 8 billion in last few years.  In fact 4 out of 5 top mobile Chinese brands have heavy presence in India these include Xiomi with 7 factories in India besides several others who have planned to invest more than $500 million in this country.

Considering the fact that, any fresh investment would require Indian government’s approval, the move could in reality lengthen the transaction time which is most likely to impact fresh investments in Indian companies by Chinese investors, translating to the fact that many Indian startups in India and others looking out for investments could be staring into the blank for an undefined time into the future.

From a consumer’s point of view the options of products and price tags on individual products could see an upsurge. With tightening up of imports from China and non viable options from other markets local vendors could be in a spot unless they tie up with bigger vendors like Amazon who deal in global sourcing of products.  This would anyway be detrimental to the Indian dream of seeking self reliance in production of such items as challenges of quality, price and international competition would hamper quick growth without proper R&D.

In the short term several small items may go out of market on persistent demand and others may see a rising price graph.  The hay days of Indian consumers may be vanish and India would be a humble buyer’s destination in the absence of robust and consistent growth of its employment and economy.
 Imagining a quick boycott of Chinese products could be easy but to strictly implement a policy  in this direction could be bitter pill for all.  While on one hand government may seek to snap ties with Chinese contractors, legal parameters will allow the companies having exposure to Chinese investments to downplay the boycott and continue with their operations if no legal strictures are issued against them in this regard.  As regards boycott by citizens of India, in the absence of a clear understanding of which companies are peddling which Chinese products, it would be difficult to screen and personalize buying or usage preferences by them.

While it would be premature to comment on how an average Indian on the street would feel the pinch on account of such a boycott but the complete story would certainly need an elaborate mechanism right from the policy level to the implantation stage for a smooth transition.  However in the wake of Covid 19 pandemic and constraints on account of a global shrinkage in investments and supply, a stage has come for the Indian markets to revert back to times of rationing, shortages and maintaining essential supply chain processes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

A tipsy tale

Why are you drinking? Asked society
So that I may forget, replied the tippler
Forget what? Inquired the society
Forget that I am ashamed, confessed the tippler
Ashamed of what?
Ashamed of failing to fetch an e-token!

Corona besides casting its web on business and industry has also de-railed the survival plans of society.  The section that is now a harassed lot is the drinking community.  Each state in India is locked down and the systematic closure of shops and establishments has also resulted in closure of liquor vends.  Whether it is beer, wine or IMFL, entire chain of stores have been closed down for over a month.  No reasons have been assigned for such a closure.

State Governments that are already pushed to the edge, making arrangements for C19 evacuation and rescue plans for its citizens are finding themselves further starved of revenue accruing out of sale of liquor.  States such as Kerala that heavily rely on the liquor earnings to fund their budget are stretched beyond limits.  It has been making fervent efforts to find a way out of this deadlock.  However elected rule makers have their way when it comes to playing with sentiments of their drink loving public.  Keep them dry till blood flow out instead of tears, drinking or otherwise.

Tipplers have been made butt of the joke in several societies.  While teetotalers enjoy every bit of struggle faced by the drinking fraternity, the joy mostly seems sadistic to a tippler.  Drinking gentlemen or ladies would never understand why a teetotaler draws such pleasure out of the thirst for a drink of a tippler.  It is perhaps to do with the ills alcohol brings with it, so say the naysayers. 

However one fails to understand the link between Covid Virus and alcohol.  While repeatedly alcohol has been stressed as an agent to be used to ward away the virus at least through liberal use of hand sanitizers, for a tippler nothing seems better than few gulps of alcohol to make up his day.

Liquor is a great liberator.  It also is perhaps that only true friend for a drinker in times of sorrow and depression.  Can there be more depressing a time than Covid times?  And here administrators have flashed their pens to slash away any hopes a tippler could have had to beat these hard times.  Ask a tippler who is a fool, he would reply, teetotaler; ask a teetotaler who is a fool? He would reply, a tippler.  Well, a tippler has surely been made a big fool in Covid times.

One may ask who contributes more to economy during times of crisis, a teetotaler tax paying citizen may say, Me! I contribute to the nation by paying taxes and also to relief funds, a tippler? A tax paying tippler?  Well, at least a tippler from New Delhi would say, me. One gave out such an analogy recently:

A teetotaler donated RS.500 to relief fund and a drinker bought alcohol worth Rs.500. Who contributes more to the nation?
On alcohol, total taxes (excise and GST) adds about 72% of the MRP. So when a drinker pays Rs.500, Rs.360 goes to the state exchequer.  On the other hand if a teetotaler makes a donation, he excpects a 30% rebate and lands up earning back Rs.150, in effect making a contribution of only Rs.350. Now after imposition of a 70% additional Corona tax in a state like Delhi, imagine the big contribution a tippler makes to the nation!

An angered activist tippler recently urged upon entire nation to give up alcohol so that governments learn a lesson from its efforts to chain down tipplers to their homes.  It was later learnt that he was checking out videos on you tube in how make heady brew at home.  Someone discovered cartons of decaying fruits behind his house.  In some place people were found sipping hand sanitizers! Even teetotalers in some nations were sipping industrial alcohol, not to get heady but they believed alcohol kills Covid 19!

Coming back to tipsy days.  Rich or poor, educated or illiterate, it is a pity the elected governments reign down and kick at the softest soft of a hapless tippler, especially in times of crisis.  Times when lovers are forbidden from showing their in physical terms, alcohol was perhaps the only leveler that could have saved them from drowning in a sea of sorrow.

Perhaps happy days will be here again, tipsy need not turn gypsy, searching for that elusive peg of high spirits.  What is a nation without spirited citizens?  Ask Russia, ask the most evolved and developed nations, they would never restrict sale of liquor to the masses.  Democracy is surely for those who believe in getting their due share without endlessly tapping on their mobile handsets to get an online liquor token or standing in huge queues made out of artificially inflating the length to show tipplers are losers.

It never is so.  Drinking and drinking responsibility should be the preserve of the evolved.  Whether it is water or liquor, value of every drop should be cherished with freedom.

Thursday, April 30, 2020


"There was a misconception that the film (Bobby) was made to launch me as an actor. The film was actually made to pay the debts of Mera Naam Joker. Dad wanted to make a teenage love story and he did not have money to cast Rajesh Khanna in the film” – Rishi Kapoor

The above statement speaks volumes about this great actor and an icon who won hearts through his handsome looks and charming smile.  Bobby for me was a film that initiated me into Hindi Films.  I went on to follow Rishi Kapoor through his films.  While his contemporaries like Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bacchan, Vinod Kumar were making it big in Hindi Film Industry, Rishi Kapoor silently spread his love across masses.

I followed this great star through his films Rafoo Chakkar, Amar Akbar Anthony, Khel Khel mein and Hum Kisi se kam naheen, Kabhi Kabhi, Doosra Aadmi, Karz and many other movies.  His presence in screen was magnetic and so was his way of dressing.  I was so inspired by his style and demeanour that many of his movies remain etched as tender memories in my mind.

Beyond the year 2000 Rishi Kapoor acted in many films that included Yeh Hei Jalwa, Hum Tum, Fanaa, Namastey London, Love Aaj Kal, Patiala House etc.  He also acted in British Films such as Don’t stop dreaming, Sambar Salsa etc.  In 2010 he was onscreen with his wife Neetu Singh in the Film Do Dooni Char. He also acted in Chintuji, Agneepath, Jab Tak hei jaan etc.  A mystery thriller written and directed by Jeethu Joseph, The Body released in December, 2019 was the last film of this Iconic actor.

As reported in some section of social media, Rishi Kapoor was perhaps the only celebrity from Indian Film Industry to call out for opening of Liquor vends during the lockdown in support of tipplers who faced psychological problems and withdrawal symptoms.  This reflects his thought process during his last days on Earth.  Having empathy for others and a soft corner for masses and his fans would be reminders of this great personality.

May his noble soul rest in peace.

1970 – Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards: Special Award, and National Film Award for Mera Naam Joker.
1974 – Filmfare Award for Best Actor for Bobby
2008 – Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award
2009 – Honoured by Russian Government for contribution to cinema.
2010 – Apsara Film & Television Producers Guild Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Love Aaj Kal.
2011 – Zee Cine Awards: Best Lifetime Jodi along with Neetu Singh.
2011 – Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor for Do Dooni Chaar
2013 – The Times of India Film Awards (TOIFA), Best Actor in a Negative Role for Agneepath.
2016 – Screen Lifetime Achievement Award
2017 – Screen Award for Best Supporting Actor for Kapoor & Sons
2017 – Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor for Kapoor & Sons
2017 – Zee Cine Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Male for Kapoor & Sons
2017 – Zee Cine Award for Best Actor in a Comic Role for Kapoor & Sons
*Source: Wiki

*A message from Rishi Kapoor’s family*

Our dear Rishi Kapoor passed away peacefully at 8:45am IST in hospital today after a two-year battle with leukemia. The doctors and medical staff at the hospital said he kept them entertained to the last. 

He remained jovial and determined to live to the fullest right through two years of treatment across two continents. Family, friends, food and films remained his focus and everyone who met him during this time was amazed at how he did not let his illness get the better of him. 

He was grateful for the love of his fans that poured in from the world over. In his passing, they would all understand that he would like to be remembered with a smile and not with tears. 

In this hour of personal loss, we also recognise the world is going through a very difficult and troubled time. There are numerous restrictions around movement and gathering in public. We would like to request all his fans and well-wishers and friends of the family to please respect the laws that are in force. 

He would not have it any other way.

Friday, March 13, 2020

COVID-2019: Part II Youth as Health Volunteers

 ©Jaya Prakash Kallikkal 2020

A fear seems to spreading all around in the wake of massive spread of Novel Corona Virus 19.  Just a while ago, I received a message on my mobile phone stating that classes in colleges in Delhi have been suspended till further orders in view of the CORONA Virus scare.  This alert not just confused me but also brought out an immediate question in my mind as to whether we are adequately prepared in terms of pandemic mitigation and relief if the virus wrecks havoc in the city in the coming days!

India has not been able to insulate itself from the spread of the virus which originated in Wuhan, China and the virus has now spread to multitudes of cities in this country.  Despite strict measures in terms of screening of airlines passengers arriving from Virus infected countries, N-Corona virus has seeped into life of Indians and poses a huge threat to the Indian Health system.

Pressure on health sector especially PHCs, Local hospitals apart from large speciality hospitals shall be immense. Facing the challenge of shortage of medical facilities including medicines and accessories in the event of a spiralling spread of the virus shall necessitate advance planning on war footing.  WHO has already declared N-Corona as a global Pandemic, if such a situation persists in India then we need to tackle the problem through intervention of National Disaster Management Agency.   But who would be the volunteers if an action plan is rolled out?

It also surprised me to come across a news item that stated that a number of schools and colleges have been closed down across the country in a bid to contain spread of the virus among children and youth in the country.  The issue is significant from the point of view of facing the scourge in the wake of a large impact predicted across the world.   While on one side financial markets are bearing the brunt with tanking stocks and disruption in production lines, on the other the health sector is facing a challenge of having to come out of this scare.
Today India has the largest share of Youth force in the world.   The National Youth Policy which was launched in the year 2014 has proposed a holistic vision for youth in India i.e.  “To empower youth of the country to achieve their full potential, and through them enable India to find its rightful place in the community of nations”  As per NYP any person aged between 15 and 29 can be termed as Youth and as per current statistics 27.5% of India’s population falls in this category.

There has been a talk about imparting compulsory military training to youth in our country on the same lines as some other countries of the world.   This has been stressed to make youth of this nation face the real issues and also to imbibe in them a sense of National pride, discipline and harmony.  While a section of youth today is busy in studies or handling home and professional responsibilities with sincerity and girth, there is another section that is absorbed in mobile phones or wasting away youth under the influence of alcohol and drugs.  While global recession has brought about a serious challenge of unemployment, India had always been deprived of gainful employment on account of large population and lack of focussed opportunities for youth.

Perhaps in the wake of the global pandemic, it is time we wake up to a new reality and open up window of opportunities and challenge seeking attention of youth in our country.  Instead of giving holidays for schools/colleges, we should roll out a precise programme to educate and train youth in Disaster Management and risk mitigation in schools and colleges.   All educational institutions who have enrolment of students in the age group of 18-23 should compulsorily have teams from NDMA to train them for a fortnight on n-Corona.  The trained youth should be able to form groups and further train or assist professional health teams in the event of need.  The best students could be further volunteered into joining specialized programmes in future and should also be provided points to enable them to add up grades in next level defence entrance exams.

It is time India wakes up to new threats and challenges.  Youth force of our nation surely needs direction and guidance in this.   Declaring holidays in the wake of emergencies or hiding our heads under sands in the wake of internal or external emergencies would not help up alleviate problems at micro or macro level.  It is time our energies are synchronized to enable us to be brought to a position where we use our manpower especially our Youth power justifiably and to the best global standards.   It would not be out of place to mention that Youth of this nation need to be imparted soft skills in multiple streams and given the handle (of not just social media platforms) but real departments and machinery for fully gearing up for challenges of future. 

             Images courtesy: Internet

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

COVID-2019 Part I - Indian Consumer and markets

While India grapples with ways and plans to contain spread of novel  corona nvirus that is spreading as wildfire across the globe, immediate casualty besides human health seems to be business and commerce.  While airports across important business hubs witness lesser footfalls, many have closed down due to fears of a wider spread.   The strains of the virus were first detected in Wuhan, China towards New Year Eve, 2019 has in three months has spread to more than 70 countries across the globe.

Figures of casualties and attempts are containing further spread is being tried out by governments with a slew of measures involving health care, diplomatic interventions and information campaigns, we can take  bit of relief from the fact that deaths are being reported in 3% cases and rest 97% are reportedly recovering with quarantine.  Though no immediate relief in the form of vaccine is expected, human populations need to rest their hopes on personal immunity and nature based interventions that needs to limit the casuality.

            China accounts for about 16% of global exports and has a trade surplus of $301 bn, while India has robust trade relations with China, the impact of n-CoV is a cause of concern for us, especially Indian imports could witness supply disruptions.  While important segments of trade and business that shall witness virus impact could be Electronics especially mobile handsets, Textile, Steel, Plastics, Leather, Aluminium, Ceramics, Gems and Jewellery, paper and Consumer durable.

            India with a $56 bn imports from China witnessed a trade deficit of about $159 bn in 2019, which translates into a fact that in case of serious supply disruptions in China owing to n-CoV, we may face the imminent prospect of having to import such goods from other countries which shall further put our import budget bill under stress.  It has been recently witnessed that sluggish demand and a show down in OPEC and Russia easing crude prices have brought about a slash in oil prices, however the impact is unlikely to ease the market in India.

            If real impact of n-CoV is projected, in case of worst case scenario, cause of worry could be for the Consumer durables which has high import dependency from China as India imports about 45% of completely built consumer durable units from China apart from components servicing such durable.  Option for importers would be alternative brands or equivalent components from other countries that could further up the import bill.  From a consumer point of view such durable are going to get expensive or unavailable in next 3 to six months and cost escalation could be felt from April, 2020 onward.
            Auto components and spares of which 18% directly comes from China is going to be a sector of concern for automobile sector that is already under tremendous stress owing to global recessionary trends over the past several months.  It is estimated that India has stocks to cover up short term needs of auto components however in case China sees a prolonged virus threat and closure of its manufacturing hubs, India may not be prepared to calibrate or pep up domestic supplies through local manufacturing as it is not fully geared owing to easy option of imports that has been relied upon in the past.  While individual customers may see spurt in prices of components including tyres, industry as a whole should see it as an opportune time to

            Another sector of concern would be Electronic items especially mobile hand sets and other electronic components which account for nearly 67% of imports from China.  Serious disruptions could felt due to this in India. Consumers may be compelled to postpone for forego purchases due to short budget or unavailability till the threat of virus tapers down in China.  There is hope of revival of Indian industries, if it is estimated as an opportunity by entrepreneurs but of late India has turned into a middle man’s hub and businessmen are happy importing containers than setting up factories and braving the manufacturing challenges leading our country into a consumerist nation dependent on large imports of items that should essentially have been manufactured in India.

            Another high impact area is Pharma raw materials as India has high dependency on imports from China in respect of Pharma bulk drugs. Though stocks are estimated to be available for next couple of months, pharma industry could face the heat of short supplies and high prices in case threat of virus does not lessen in next two months.  It is critical that health care industry starts off a serious plan through a macro plan of pharma industry to short list items that would essentially be needed by vast majority of people in India through strong and strict governmental interventions.
            Energy security is crucial for any nation, India has been slowly building up base for clean energy through harnessing of solar energy.  However the flip side is that our country heavily relies on Chinese supplies for solar panels and related accessories.  China controls the world market with 80% export market in this field.  Supply disruptions due to virus could not only escalate costs but also make various projects non-viable due to project completion delays and overshot deadlines leading to legal disputes.

            India exports about 27% of total cotton yarn to China.  Even temporary closure or delay in exports is bound to put textile cotton yarn industry in turmoil owing to lower margins and slackening of domestic prices.   However if Indian market readies itself as a sourcing hub of apparel, this could be used as an opportunity to boost up domestic production of Ready made Garment industry and offset the losses owing to global recession.  However, domestic industry is surely going to face the challenge of rising prices of chemicals, machines etc that would nullify the gains.  Consumer is surely going to see a sudden spurt in prices of RMG, textiles etc and could be forced to go in for more expensive options that could be inflationary in nature.  

            In a nutshell, fall out of n-CoV especially in case of a prolonged scourge could prove disastrous for Indian Industry especially in the wake of tight credit lines and global recessionary trends.   While consumers are going to face challenges arising out of shortages and cost escalations, it is time Indian Industry rises up and proves its entrepreneurial skills to keep the damages limited through dynamic management decisions and timely governmental interventions.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Do you Pine for...

Do you pine for …..
A place, a person, a moment

A tangible object, an intangible feeling!

A long walk could be as exhilarating and liberating as a session of serene serenade on the beach of the sea or a session of yoga on a mat. No I am not going to talk of exercise or a work out. I write this after my toe stepped on an innocuous looking object while on a morning walk yesterday.
New Delhi is chilly and hazy in winters and seeps into a tormenting pattern of summers soon afterwards. However a few weeks of bliss engulfs the city spliced between these two extremes, the Spring!

Long walk across expansive grass turf is bliss in such a season. If the esplanade is dotted with pine trees still better. Shade giving and aromatic, these trees with their distinct foliage provides the much needed succor to a mentally depressed city dweller during times of stress.

Belonging to genus Pinus, Pines are conifer trees that has more than 126 species found across the globe. In temperate regions, deserts, nearly every place except the tropics. I tread on this subject because a tree such as a Pine can evoke a diverse thought process if we tread deeper. There are actually three parts of a pine tree that are edible! The seeds or the pine nuts can be used in cooking especially in salads. If you wander into a forest and get lost perhaps you can considering using the inner bark of a pine tree which is edible and can be sliced and fried to be eaten in emergencies. The young make cones can actually be boiled to be eaten. Some needles are used to prepare tea. Even the twigs are supposed to be edible! It is understood that the pollen from pine cones (pollen is produced by only male cones) can be used as a substitute for flour or corn starch. Pines are actually very useful trees and they encapsulate many stories.

The Coulter Pine cone is perhaps the heaviest among cones of pine trees that can Weigh upto 10 pounds. The Sugar Pine cone is perhaps the longest of the cones that can grow upto 24”, it has a sweet sap which can be chewed like a gum, its nuts are edible too. This tree grows tall and can go upto 280 feet in height. The Knob cone pine is supposed to be the hardest pine with a closed cone. It relies on heat from wildfires to open up the cones. The Pinyon pine cone has large edible brown nuts and are also used for medicinal purposes. The Logepole pine is a small cone around 2 inches long. It is basically used for decorations. The Jeffrey Pine is another variety that has prickles on the end of its scales which bend inwards and can be handled safely.

As food, medicine, decorative items, basketry these aesthetically appealing trees have many unique features hidden behind their bark and branches. This tree is considered as ‘Great Pine of Peace’. However the health benefits of Pine trees are immense. The bark peels of the trees can be dried up and consumed. It can be brewed up as tea with the help of pine needles. These have high amounts of vitamin C and are extremely helpful as boosters of immune system. They also help improve vision and eye health. The edible parts of the pine are capable of eliminating pathogens from body and help lifting up skin health besides preventing hair loss. Respiratory ailments too can be cured with the help of pine cones.

A well known method of preparing and preserving a home remedy goes like this. Fresh pine needles can be soaked in apple cider vinegar for six weeks. A wide mouthed vessel can be used up for this purpose. The pine needles just need to be completely submerged in the vinegar and after six weeks an edible and medicinal potion is ready for consumption.

Though pine cone saps leave stains on clothes, they are preserved to prepare tincture and honey and are proven to have medicinal qualities. Pine resins form a component of propolis and bark of pine saplings are used to place cast for stabilising broken bones.

If walking in a park laden with pine trees makes you heady, there is a little known reason behind this. Besides the aromatic fragrance that is brought in by the breeze hitting the Pine trees, pine pollen has very high levels of testosterone. Ingestion of the pollen or tincture of the pollen is proven to increase libido.

No wonder the innocuous looking object that came in contact with me while on a morning walk yesterday was a Pine cone that led my heart to feel high and my spirit to be invigorated. A peep into the reason for my exhilaration brought to light little known facts about pine trees and their qualities. There could be thousand reasons for us to set off for picnics or morning walks but we are blessed by unseen factors such as the flowers, rivers, breeze besides the pine trees and their cones that lend magic to our existence and outings.

                                                                       REUNION   The other day my wife broached upon the subject of scho...