Friday, May 19, 2006

Ratnagiri - a photo blog

Just returned from an offsite at Ratnagiri. Husband has Clicked some beautiful pictures.

Check it out at My travel Blog

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Frivolous Law Suit against XLRI

The Telegraph Reports :
Foul cry over XLRI entry route

Ranchi/Jamshedpur, May 5: Admitting its first case against any technical institute in the state, the Jharkhand Education Tribunal (JET) today served a showcause notice on the XLRI School of Management, Jamshedpur, over alleged irregularities in the admission process.

The chairperson of the tribunal, Justice (retired) L.P.N. Shahdeo, today gave 15 days to the premier management institute to respond to the petition filed by a resident of Noida, Raj Gandhi, whose son had appeared for XAT this January.

In her complaint, Raj claimed that despite qualifying in the written exams, her son, Samrat, was not given admission to the institute.

Accusing the director of the institute and chairperson of the admissions committee of handling the admission process arbitrarily, she claimed that her son had secured 96.3 per cent marks in the written exam conducted in Jamshedpur and should have qualified even if he failed in the interview.

Samrat did not make it after he could not crack the interview round, a reason that has not satisfied his mother who blames his exit on the rampant irregularity in the admission process.

The candidate had applied for the Business Management programme of XLRI; the other two-year course being Personnel Management and Industrial Relations.

Expressing shock, XLRI sources said the student had approached the institute after not finding his name on the list of successful students and was conveyed the reason for his rejection. “Usually the ratio of the number of candidates called for interview and the number of seats is 5:1. So obviously there is a great chance that a good written score might not see the candidate in,” sources said, adding that this was the first time such a charge was brought against the 57-year institute.

“His parents had come to me with a request for admission. But, we could not admit him as he did not qualify the interview. The All-India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) rules say the candidate must qualify both. We cannot ignore the guidelines,” said XLRI director Father N. Casimir Raj.

He said the institute was yet to receive the showcause notice issued by the JET, which has said it will admit the case only after hearing out both sides.

Fortunately the JET has said it will admit the case only after hearing both sides.

Is India going the US way. Frivolous law suits are popping up all over the place.

Christian organisations have secured a temporary stay on"The Da Vinci Code" a work of fiction because they feel people will take it to be true.

Why are we so insecure in our own lives? What are we trying to prove ? & What are we trying to hide ?

Lets look at the Mother of Samrat Gandhi: Mrs. Raj Gandhi.
She feels that just because her son has secured 96.3% in the XAT common entrance, he should automatically be given a seat at the institute. She says the selection process is arbitary.

In fact XLRI is one of the few management institutes in India which has done away with the GD process for selection, because they felt that the GD was arbitrary. A lot of potential students attend GD development classes & simply t ryt o drown out the other participants voices. The ones who have good points to contribute but are too polite to shut down the others don't get a chance to speak.

Now lets look at the interview as a selection process. Specifically the XL interview process : There is a panel of 3 professors from the college. These professors have taught generations of students and are skilled in human behavior (at least one is normally from the OB stream) They would be better at finding the right student than that Farah/Sonu/Anu Malik triangle is at finding the next Indian Idol.

Just because someone has great marks it doesn't make them a great person or a great manager. (Btw there are potentials who secure 99% too) In India the education system at the school level seems to focus only on marks and not the all round development of the child. Mrs Raj expects the same to hold at post graduation level too.

To be a great manager, you need some amount of intellect, some amount of empathy, some amount of maturity, some amount of logical reasoning & a few other things besides.

Me thinks that : if Mr Samrat takes after the mother, quite a few of these qualities would be missing.

Unable to handle rejection, she has gone running to the courts, much like an AMerican citizen who sues the city muncipality if he falls down on the street. That he might have been drunk is besides the point.

Mrs. Raj Gandhi needs to examine her own son & realistically consider his plus & minus points before rushing to the courts. Otherwise this may set off a slew of law suits against educational institutions & corporates too by candidates who interview with them (thinking themselves to be the cat's whiskers) and don't get selected.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Message from a mother on Mother's Day

This email was forwarded to me & I thought it would be significant to put it on my blog before Mother's Day is upon us :

This Sunday will be the third Mother's Day that I have spent without my oldest child in my life. Casey was killed in Iraq exactly five weeks before Mother's Day in 2004.

Everyday is an incredible experience of pain and longing: for Casey and for his future and for his here and now. Special days like holidays and birthdays always seem to be harder. Casey will never call me again to wish me Happy Mother's Day. I will never get another funny card from him. I will never have a daughter-in-law or grandchild from Casey.

George and Laura Bush will probably celebrate Mother's Day with their daughters, secure and happy in the fact that they are together. Jenna and Barbara will never be put in harm's way for the avaricious and destructive policies of their father, policies that have sent too many of us world's mothers into a tailspin of grief
and emptiness.

This Mother's Day, I will be joining CODEPINK and mothers from all over the country in holding a 24-hour vigil in front of the White House beginning Saturday, May 13th at 3 pm. We will be demanding an end to the occupation of Iraq before too many more Cindy and Casey Sheehan's are produced. We mothers and children of the world will
also demand that our government not invade Iran and kill any chance for a peaceful world that we may still have. We will be joined there by Susan Sarandon and many other mothers of peace and courage who are working for the same thing.

George Bush has never met with me to answer what noble cause Casey and over 2400 brave young Americans and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians have died for.

Fighting a War on Terror with a War of Terror to enrich the war machine is not a noble cause. Peace is.

Please join us to make our noble cause dream a reality. Come to Washington DC if you can
click here for more info.
Participate in a local Mother's Day activity.

Support our efforts by
sending a rose
making a donation

And work with us in the months ahead as we build a movement of mothers and others powerful enough to stop this war -- and the next one.

Cindy Sheehan

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Interview with Usha Prabhakaran ~ author of Ushas Pickle digest.

Usha Prabhakaran is an amazing woman. She has just written a recipe book of Pickles. Since she could not find a publisher for her effort, she has self published. To learn more about her & some "quick n easy" recipes that she doles out in her interview.

Visit CelebratingWomenintheKitchen

The lady who has interviewed Usha is Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal. Time Out Mumbai readers would be familiar with her work.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Movie Review : Munich

Director : Steven Spielberg

A brilliant, serious, hard hitting movie. It could almost be a documentary ! with the amount of facts that it feeds you. But its a very well presented, excellently told story which has you on the edge of your seat very often.

The movie is set on the backdrop of the Israeli athletes who were massacred during the Berlin Olympics in 1972 by Black September. Israel's secret service the Mossad, forms a squad to assassinate all the people who had a role in that massacre. Mossad gives this squad monetary resources & then disclaims knowing their existence. This squad painstakingly has to locate each target & neutralise him. A slow cat & mouse game is played out with international politics forming part of the intrigue. Spielberg gives you glimpses into the key protagonists family life to humanize the sacrifices & pressure faced by members of the squad.

The editing is really taut & this turns the movie from an excellent flick into a Brilliantly Outstanding Masterpiece. Spielberg handles international political intrigue much better than "Syriana". Why compare these 2 ? They both have terrorism at the core of the story. Both stories span continents, nations & races. Both are key elements of political masterplans. But "Munich" ends up far superior to "Syriana"

In Syriana, so much is tried to be conveyed in a short time that you can't really get into the skin of the characters, the movie keeps flitting about all over the place. Speilberg's characters are each well etched & you can really become one with each of them. You can feel each ones fears, you understand each ones motivations.

Especially when Avner is waiting for one of the targets to turn off the lights, you
actually empathise with him so much that you can feel what he is feeling, his nervousness, apprehension & fear since Spielberg makes you wait for the event & makes you want it to happen & happen quickly.

Munich moves you, Munich makes you empathise, Munich gives you logic, Munich makes you think. All qualities of a great movie.

Munich was nominated for 5 Academy Awards (Oscars) including Best Director for Spielberg, Best Movie, Best Editing and Best Writing, but sadly did not win in any of the categories.

A lot of Israelis have protested the movie saying that it portrays them in a bad light. I don't think so. I think the Israelis did what they had to do to protect their own.

Even if you are a non violent person, you can see the logic behind why Israel did what it had to do. And in the long run, it seems that they did the right thing, because no one wants to mess with Israel any longer. Maybe India can learn from this. When K Suryanarayan's beheaded body was flown back from Afghanisthan yesterday, there were a lot of cries for India to take a harder stance at terrorism against Indians, in & outside of India. Maybe there are some things other than those pertaining to agriculture that we can learn from the Israelis.

Movie Review : Ice Age 2 : The Meltdown

Ice Age 2 : The Meltdown is a really good Sequel to the Original "Ice Age"

Its a really cute, funny, family movie. Take the kids & watch it in a theatre. No kids of your own ? take your siblings kids, or little cousins, or the neighbours kids. The reason being, kids enjoy the movie so thoroughly and laugh out loud that it simply enriches your own experience. No one trusts you with their kids ? Just enter a theatre. With summer holidays on in India, you can rest assured that at least half the audience comprises kids.

Take your parents if you like, they too will enjoy the movie. We saw office groups coming in together for some team bonding too.

Scrat has a larger role in this installment. He's still trying to get his acorn & his journey is even more painful than it was in Part 1. Scrat even reaches acorn paradise only to be rudely pulled away from it.

Manny (Ray Romano), Diego(Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo) have got down to a routine at the new settlement. But, the Ice is melting with the possibility of the entire basin flooding and Fast Tony (Jay Leno) a prophet of doom is trying his best to capitalise on it.

2 new villians...... 2 new brats (possums......) and a female Mammoth (Queen Latifah) to give Manny company. Only problem : She thinks she is a possum ! Right down to hanging from a branch by her tail when sleeping.

Lots of jokes relate to Americanisms, but even someone not familiar with this, has enough material to enjoy. The fat jokes had the kids laughing the loudest. Each time squirrel's acorn jumps out of reach yet again, the audience groaned & then laughed collectively.

I'd like to write more about the jokes & story line, but that would spoil your experience of the movie. I'll just let you know that, there's a nice suprise waiting for Manny in the end.

So, definitely watch this movie, preferably in a group & even better if there are some kids around.

Music Review : Stella Chiweshe, Double Check (Piranha)

When British colonizers tried to stop mbira sessions in what is now known as Zimbabwe, the police were so enchanted by the music they lost track of their mission. That is the story told on the song "Kusenini," from Stella Chiweshe's latest CD Double Check Piranha Musik. Chiweshe is as unstoppable as the music she has become famous for playing. The colonial power's ban on mbira ("thumb piano") music, the missionary church's decree that it was "the work of the devil," and the Zimbabwean tradition forbidding women from becoming mbira players, could not keep Chiweshe from becoming the "Queen of Mbira," or Ambuya Chinyakare (Grandmother of Traditional Music). As one of the most internationally well-known mbira artists, she is often considered Zimbabwe's cultural ambassador.

Chiweshe explains that the song "Ndinogarochman" contains "a rhythm of the drum that I always heard inside me when I was young." She first heard the Mbira from an old man when she was 8 years old, and began the process of making her inner rhythm known to the world. "I was always making a rhythm - on the door, on a dish - I played it on everything. I also liked to sing very much, and loud" she told Afropop Worldwide.

Her foray into mbira music was as much spiritual and political as it was musical. Mbira holds a special place in Zimbabwean culture and identity: it is sacred in origin, but was almost extinct by the 1930s due to colonial suppression. However, thanks to artists like Chiweshe who kept the tradition alive, the sound had a huge revival with the independence movement of the 1980s and has become the "national" sound of Zimbabwe.

While Stella has made her way from her native village to the stages of international music festivals and European concert hall stages, her roots are in spirituality and the healing power of music. She began her career playing at ceremonial gatherings such as weddings, healing ceremonies and funerals in the countryside. At one point the spiritual leader who was overseeing one of the ceremonies turned to her and said, "I'm going to tell you your tasks in this world... go to the city people, and introduce this music to them." In spite of this mandate, she has attracted a fair share criticism for this breaching of the boundaries of the spiritual and the popular.

The 2-sided album Double Check shows both sides of the artist: her spiritual roots and her show-stopping popular classics. She recorded the drum-centered songs of her ancestors for the first time in her 40-year long career on Disc 1: Trance Hits She says, "For a long time I have always started my shows on stage with this traditional sound, but now I've thought I should bring this drumming sound out fully. This new album is much more rooted... and rootsy. It's older because guitar music came much, much later into my life... I knew the drums and mbira long before I got to know the guitars and marimba." Disc 2: Classic Hits features a collection of these guitar-and-marimba tunes that have made her famous.

Chiweshe firmly believes that the gentle mbira timbre is "closely related to the sound of water, something that is innately familiar to all people, and therefore the mbira is instantly memorable and comforting. It is a total form of therapy in itself." She uses the spiritual element in her performance, sometimes going into a trance on stage. According to Afropop Worldwide's Banning Eyre, her look also conveys mystique: "With her penetrating eyes, habitual snuff-taking, ankle charms, and dreadlocks falling in front of her face, she has a powerful presence."

In Disc 1: Trance Hits, she journeys through the world of her ancestors, preserving their traditions. This is how trance should be played. I've never been a fan of trance as played in pubs across the world, but Chiweshe's music is different. It has a primitive tribal beat & rhythm. The beat is hypnotic without the mindlessness and mind numbing properties of a lot of music that passes for trance today. The first song "Wanyanya" translating into "That's too much" is actually a little too much since its repetitive for 6:14 minutes but that's the only piece that I did not like in the album, although this is Stella's favourite track. Its for the spirits of the baboons because the baboons are the guardians of her people. "Kuseniseni" or "Early in The Morning" has English lyrics & a much better beat. Apart from "Wanyanaya" all the compositions have enough variations in between to stop the listener from getting bored.

The Mbira with its sound of flowing water relaxes & tranquilizes the listener. The music hypnotises you and draws you in. Some songs have ululations that may seem familiar to Bengalis.

Stella says "The songs on this CD are newly recorded but that doesn't mean to say that the music is new."

In Disc 2: Classic Hits, she revisits the urban streets in Harare and calls on the younger, westernised generation to take pride in their own culture. And this CD, has made me a Stella Chiweshe fan. Its very much in the easy listening genre. The beat and feel is that of the Goan bailas and instantly lifts your spirits up. The music is energizing with some interesting instruments & variations. "Machena" even has dogs barking in the background, possibly because its about "Whiteness" - A Dog Gone Astray.

The songs on Classic Hits feature her vintage band Earthquake. Each song has a story behind it. If you would like to know the stories, buy the CD, the accompanying booklet has the background & backdrop of these lilting songs.

If you would like to sample the music before you rush for your own copy, click on the following links.

"Madzokero (How he came back from his hunting spree)"
from Double Check: Two Sides of Zimbabwe's Mbira Queen CD1 -Trance Hits (Piranha)

"Zvinonhamo (Here comes poverty once more)" from Double Check: Two Sides of Zimbabwe's Mbira Queen CD1 -Trance Hits (Piranha)

Buy this Album from Amazon

Music Review : Romica Puceanu & The Gore Brothers, Sounds from a Bygone Age Vol.2

Romica Puceanu is called "Billie Holiday of the East" since she was the voice of the Gypsy blues, she gave voice to the life of the poor suburbs of Romanian towns in the same era that Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and Sarah Vaughn were doing the same for Black urban neighborhoods across the Atlantic.

Mark Hudson of the UK Telegraph calls Puceanu a "Balkan Marlene Dietrich" for her larger than life personality & voice that he says is "Simultaneously seducing, comforting and cajoling"

Puceanu so loved singing to her own people, mostly at cafes and traditional weddings in the urban ghettos of Romania, that the rest of the world has been unaware of her music until now. Asphalt Tango Records is unearthing some of Eastern Europe's musical treasures, re-issuing old records that are hard to get outside their countries of origin. Romica Puceanu & The Gore Brothers: Sounds From a Bygone Age, Vol. 2 is the latest in this eponymous series, aimed at introducing international audiences to the great voices of Eastern and Gypsy music.

In this album, which is being released posthomously from archives (Romica died in a tragic car accident in 1996) on May 9th 2006, Puceanu combines with her cousins Aurel (violin) & Victor (accordion) Gore to create some mesmerising & haunting Gypsy music. The Gore brothers had their own successful band, the Taraful Fratii Gore, when they discovered their 14-year old cousin singing in local cafes in the Floreasca & Herestrau quarters on the outskirts of Bucharest. Their first album was recorded in 1964 at Electrecord's Tomis Studio.

The family has a legacy of music. Gore Ionescu, father of Aurel & Victor Gore, played his violin at exclusive Bucharest restaurants. His traditional style was so well known, that until his death in the late 1950's, he was regularly invited to make recordings at the "Bucharest Folklore Archive"

By the sudden, tragic end of her life, Romica Puceanu had become the most popular and best paid singer of her genre, and was considered the veritable incarnation of Romanian lautari music (repertoire of Gypsy music, comprising pieces from a rustic environment, interpreted with great virtuosity and urbane arrangements for a very mixed audience in the town). The Taraful Fratii Gore sold thousands of records in Romania up to the present day, but never achieved great wealth. Victor Gore lives today in a small two-room apartment in Bucharest and relives his memories of the golden years of the old days. Victor remembers, "When we played slow, sad songs the Gypsies wept, and nobody could eat a thing!" But, in spite of her talent for bringing her audiences to tears, Puceanu was a lively, funny woman, who never turned up at the studio without her teapot - filled with cognac.

Romica's signature was the slow improvised mournful ballad, which she filled with expressive melismas, ornaments, and incredible soul. She sang melodies with stirring words, in which she described the everyday life, longings, and sufferings of the simple folk. This compilation is a combination of these ballads with more lively gypsy music.

The first impression one gets on listening to this album is "Exotic". Other than the "Gypsy Kings", I cannot easily recollect a famous gypsy performer whose records are easily available. Other performers have drawn from Romanian & Gypsy music influences, so some of the tunes may have a familiar beat or part of a familiar tune.

The only drawback in this album is that the slow & fast tracks are alternated. One song puts you in a melancholic frame of mind & the next makes you want to kick up your heels & dance in circles around a fire waving a colorful gypsy skirt. I love both styles, but wish they could have been clubbed together according to their feel, so I didn't have to go through a mood see-saw.

Individually, each song is beautiful, as is each genre. Romica's voice caresses you. If Penelope Cruz' & Salma Hayek's accents intrigue you, Romica's accent will mesemerise you. Victor also lends his vocals to Pleaca O Nevestica N Lume and Adu Calu' Sa Ma Duc and its the vocalisation of melted chocolate. His is a smoothened Antonio Banderas voice. Inima Suparacioasa is slow and romantic. Vintule Bataia Ta will definitely get you on your feet & hopping around.

These songs & ballads originated under the influence of Turkish Ottoman music & were performed as early as the 16th century in the courts of Wallachian Princes.

Aurel Gore plays the Violin & Victor Gore plays the Accordion besides singing 2 of the songs on this album. n.n. also plays Violin. Marin Marangros was their regular "Cymbalom" player who had also played with Gore Ionescu. Grigore Ciuciu plays "Double Bass". The legend Costel Vasilescu contributes his bright trumpet tone to some of the titles. Maslina Vetol plays the Cobza (A lute with a short, backward curving fingerboard, upon which 4 strings are attached in reverse order and usually played with a quill.)

A wonderful album, worth buying, even if you can't understand the lyrics. The music touches your heart & your soul because Romica & the Gore brothers have given their heart to their listeners in their music.

If you would like to sample the music before you rush for your own copy, click on the following links.
"Hora Dinspre Ziua" from Sounds From a Bygone Age Vol.2 (Asphalt Tango)

"Unde O Fi Puiul De Aseara" from Sounds From a Bygone Age Vol.2 (Asphalt Tango)

For more "Sounds From a Bygone Age" visit Asphalt Records

Buy the album
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