Monday, March 28, 2011

The Tribune-Chatterati-March.28th.2011


Rang, bhang and masti is what Holi is all about in Delhi. We have the annual Holi bashes in town like that of Vineet Jain, MD of the Times Group which becomes grandeur every year. New people are added to the list every year that are younger, more energetic and of course good looking. This is an invitation that everybody longs for in town.

There were performers at the gate from Mathura doing a traditional dance and the theme was Raas Leela of Radha Krishna. Gulaal, tubs were filled with colour where invitees were picked and thrown into.

Sangeeta Bijlani, Koel Purie, Meher Bhasin arrived in white, but were all wet and multicoloured by the time they left.

The other Holi bash which has become famous over the years is L.K.Advani's where even politicians shake a leg with their water balloon fights, and gulaal in every possible colour. Here the crowd varies from Rajnath Singh to Navin Jindal, dancer Sonal Mansingh and industrialists to media people. It is shero shayari and classical music to Bollywood numbers. Kamala Advani and family do make good hosts while making sure every guest tastes the Holi special mithai 'Gujhiya'.

There are many farm houses in Delhi where the carnival of colours was celebrated with jam sessions full of gulaal, bathing in beer and gulping down bhang lassi while shaking a leg to live music. The dhol walas dished out popular Bollywood numbers and then there were different kinds of kebabs to pastas to choose from.

The other political annual Holi bashes which take place with great gusto is the one in the Sheila Dikshit's home.

Ram Vilas Paswan's Holi bash is also a yearly affair.

Couple exchanges garlands in ropeway cars

Publicity and fun is what everyone seems to be after in this wedding season. Some pay over the top for Bollywood and some for Ghazal singers from across the border. It was excitingly different as a couple got married 40 feet above the ground. The groom travelled in a ropeway car from one side while the bride travelled in a similar ropeway car from the other way. Both met in the centre and the couple exchanged the garlands. Thousands of people who had collected there gave them a standing ovation. Of course, the remaining rituals were later performed on the ground.

The elder brother of this groom had got married in 2009 in a hot air balloon. Marriages like this obviously cost a lot of money and attract a lot of uninvited guests. These arrangements are done by special event management companies who especially fly in from abroad to make such weddings happen.

Pioneer-Dilli Billi-March.27th.2011 "UPA’s COVER UP POLICY"


The image of our country has taken a beating after various scams have come to light over a period of time

The UPA Government has had a series of embarrassing moments. It is not only shameful for the people who are involved but is also embarrassing for the common man who travels abroad and has to answer questions about the way his country is being run by his chosen leaders.

Recently I went abroad and found that there was a vast difference of what the outside world thought of us today as compared to our image last year. Till only a couple of months back, Indians travelling abroad held their heads high. The country’s future looked bright and we were looked upon as progressive nation making a mark in the world. Things have changed. We hear of leaks that are exposing scams and scandals. The very integrity of our leaders is being questioned by everybody.

The common man has no answer why the guilty are not being punished? The commonly asked question is why is our system so weak and why is it that our politicians are never brought to book? After all it all started with Lalu’s fodder scam in the late 90s. Last year it was CWG scam and the telecom scam. One, of course, can’t forget the many corruption charges which have been swept under carpet for political reasons.

It is difficult to explain to these foreigners complexities of our democracy. As regional parties are gaining ground it is not possible for the Centre to not to have a give and take policy. All investigating agencies come under the Central Government. It is a sad state that our country finds itself in at present. It is frustrating for the aam admi as he fights to meet the basic needs of his family while watching corrupt politicians and bureaucrats who rule them fill their coffers. The ordinary citizen looks on helplessly and realises that he has no choice. It is either being ruled by the selfish or by those who have no moral standing. The common man has lost all respect for these men. They want harsh punishment for the leaders. The educated class on the other hand wants justice and wants new faces to take the running of the country.

In fact, one ends up feeling sorry for Manmohan Singh, who is a man of integrity and is honest. His compulsion of running a coalition Government is understandable but one can’t be a true leader if one is accused of shielding the guilty just to stay in power. It has become an embarrassment and his image has taken a beating. It will be extremely difficult to get rid of the tag of being corrupt to the core. The only way to save face is to punish the guilty irrespective of who is involved. After all it is the country’s pride that is at stake here.

For the present, the perception is that as long as the UPA is in power, it will follow a policy of forgive, forget and cover up every corruption charge that surfaces against any Congress man or its ally partner. Whether it is true or not is another matter but this is the perception we and the rest of the world has.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pioneer-Dilli Billi-March.19th.2011 "TIME FOR REALITY CHECK"


Murders and rapes are common in the Capital now. Even the dailies depict a depressing scenario. For a foreigner, a newspaper shows what a sad state of affairs our country is in. Our papers are full of corruption, murders, thefts and everything that is depressing and demoralising.

It’s actually not true that our nation is as bad as is reported. The middle-class, which makes up most of the population, is highly moralistic, religious and quite oblivious to the world outside. There was a time when outsiders thought that we still lived in mud houses and were unhygienic. We were actually looked down upon, but today the world sees us differently. We are much more aware of the world outside, educated and smart. We are an emerging nation, and today even America has to think twice when dealing with us. However, there’s still some frustration in the masses, mostly due to economic reasons.

The youth of our country hate our politicians. The politicians have a reputation of being corrupt and extremely hapless in the law and order situation. Bihar today is such a change from what it was six years back, all thanks to CM Nitish Kumar who is clean and hardworking and has slowly cleansed the system. Delhi CM Shiela Dikshit has made the Capital a brand new city. But being the national capital, migrants from across the country reside here. But there are no jobs available for them. Migrants also get a culture shock by the lifestyle differences of the rich and poor. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. This difference is frustrating, which leads to thefts and murders.

To prevent rape, the mindset of men needs to change. Most Indian men are so full of themselves and think that making an advance on women is their birthright. If a woman does not respond, they feel insulted and then grab whatever pleases their eyes. It could be a woman or a car. Since birth, a boy in this country is told that he is superior. There are many cases of incest where relatives abuse the girls but no one says anything. Such cases are not even reported. Even today there are rapes that are not reported; dowry deaths that are not given importance even by the girl’s family; and there is mental and physical abuse of the women in this society which goes unnoticed.

Thefts, murders and rapes are all signs of how the males of our nation need to change. The Government needs to make sure that there is a livelihood for every individual in this country. Preferences to women in every sphere of life should be given. Women should have the confidence that they will not be grilled for hours on how she was raped and punishment should be made harsher and quicker. The politicians and bureaucrats desperately need to stop corruption which is ingrained in our system. Just the Press reporting it is not going to create much of a difference, but yes it definitely leads to a reality check.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pioneer-Dilli Billi-March.13th.2011-"WHY THE UNKNOWN FACES"

"Why the unknown faces?"

The Congress has inducted new members in the Party who are not known among the leaders as well as the workers
Just before the budget session, while a big reshuffle was rumoured in the Union Cabinet, a small one was done. After that, everyone expected at least a major change in the AICC. Unfortunately, even that did not happen. The announcement made last week was a shock to many. New faces were inducted in the CWC, but all were unknown.
The induction from Himachal, Shandil is someone Congressmen are not too familiar with. Even seniors in the Party could not initially make out who he was. After all, Shandil was one of the people who Sukhram used when he formed his own party and could not find enough candidates to field. One can say the same about Raj Babbar who was an SP member a couple of years back in UP. He joined the Congress after his fallout with Amar Singh. Even Beni Prasad Verma is an outsider for the Congress. Charak from Kashmir is hardly a known name or face. So is Mohan Prakash, a political lightweight.
The old faithful Congressmen are now wondering aloud what is wrong that they are not being given responsibilities or plum posts. Instead, these people who have just entered the party, who are not familiar with the working of the party, are being trusted. How can people like Charak or Mohan Prakash be in charge of important States like Punjab and Maharashtra? Will senior leaders like Amrinder Singh, Shinde or Vilasrao Deshmukh give any importance to these new entrants? It is not that the Congress has a dearth of talent. There are enough people from the States who could have been pulled into the party to regain its ground, like Virender Singh, the known Jat leader from Haryana. Some people at high places in the Congress have also been chargesheeted in corruption cases. What is it that drives the Congress to leave efficient, experienced and deserving people out of decision making?
The real grassroot worker, who has worked day and night for decades in the party and has patiently waited with all his experiences to serve the party, is sidelined and is driven to frustration. The women who are given preference are the ones who have learnt the crafty ways of gaining attention of people who matter and, hence, are rewarded. But while Rahul Gandhi’s team members may be new, they are clean. Rahul’s team does not carry any baggage. Also most of them are familiar with the villages as they are from well regarded NGOs. The old Congress hands are wondering whether there is a bigger game plan in all this. The ally partners of the Congress like Mamata or the DMK will hopefully pull their States through. Assam looks good for the Congress and so does Pondicherry. But the AICC still needs to induct strong Congress hands who can give major inputs as they have experience and knowledge and know the pulse of the real Congressman in every State. Some wonder if this is panic reaction after the scams hit the party and the Government.

The Tribune-Chatterati-March.14th.2011-"AN EVENING OF BIRTHDAY PARTIES"

"An evening of birthday parties"

Last week was full of birthday parties. The first was the eightieth birthday party of Dr Karan Singh. That afternoon, the Prime Minister released Doctor Sahib's book, "Kashmir and beyond".Manmohan Singh and Karan Singh have known each other for 60 years since the days of Government College, Hoshiarpur. The Prime Minister was all praise for the birthday boy .He complimented his ability to tackle difficult assignments with grace and intellectual content and dignity.
A short film illustrating Karan Singh's 12 beliefs on the future of humanity in his words was shown. The Prime Minister and he both agreed that India is more than an emerging market. It is an emerging idea. The Prime Minister was right when he said that Karan Singh is a man of a unique global citizen and a man of great learning. Nobody represents and symbolises the ethos of civilisation more than him.
But have to say that the capital's crème de la crème in their chiffons and pearls and the men in their suits sat through till the end, which is very rare for Delhi. The man of the moment spoke about how much he missed his wife. Most people are not aware of how the Nepali princess not only learnt Dogri, her husband's mother tongue, but also sang beautifully Dogri songs.
Karan Singh's elder son Vikramaditya and wife hosted a dinner the same evening.
A pleasant evening of quiet chatter included Ghulam Nabi Azad, Arun Jaitely, Barkha Dutt, Suman Dubey and a host of royal relatives. Kashmiri kahwas ensured that guests got a gentle reminder of the gentleman royal that Karan Singh is. The royalty of Kashmir made sure that this was a memorable day for the family and close friends. But the elegant and beautiful late Yasho Rajya was missed by all.
The same crowd was later seen congratulating the other birthday boy, Shashi Tharoor. His wife Sunanda made a huge effort of inviting all their friends and Shashi's colleagues for the evening.
There was a big mix of Bollywood celebrities, industrialists and politicians of the younger generation. Sunil Mittal, Sachin Pilot, Palam Raju and some media honchos were present. Rahul Bose and Anil Kapoor had especially flown in for this evening. Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamool Congress was seen busy answering questions on seatsharing in Bengal and on whether Mamta will become CM after the elections or carry on as Railway Minister.
The birthday boy is still absolutely enamoured with his Kashmiri wife, one could see. The new minister from Punjab, Ashwani Kumar, eloquently explained the government's stand on a variety of issues.
Sunanda claims to be an expert cook in Kashmiri cuisine, which was the menu that evening. As it was also Navin Jindal's birthday the same day, he walked in late with his wife after his own celebrations.
A hectic evening of birthday celebrations for Delhi's elite, indeed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Tribune-Chatterati-27th.Dec.2010

"More Delhiites game for polo now"

Delhi in winter is a host to many different sports. It is fast becoming the polo game capital. It seems to have fast taken over from Jaipur and Bombay. Polo is a game clearly for the rich and famous. It has a touch of royalty and it attracts the most sophisticated crowd. The royal family of Kashmir has kept the tradition of organizing the Hari Singh Memorial polo club. Vikramaditya Singh of Kashmir has kept the game going with the right spirit and dedication. Many foreign teams and players come here to enjoy the winter sun and polo. The big budget sponsors of this game prefer Delhi to other polo cities. Delhi has a polo culture which is much stronger than Mumbai and spectators in Delhi are much more glamorous.
The ladies in their chiffons and pearls and men in their jodhpuris. It's like a fashion parade here on a Sunday afternoon when the finals take place. The wannabes in their hats and sometimes underdressed or overdressed to make it to page 3. There is a lot of fun in the sun and the high tea served later is as good as the Queens in London if not better keeping in mind the recession there. Even weather-wise Delhi winter is much better suited for this game, even though this sport is said to have originated from Kashmir.

"Ritu’s haute couture"

If you can think of Royal and fashion, it is obviously the talented designer Ritu Kumar. Recently she showed her couture collection in the Capital. The show was very special as Ritu was reviving the royal vintage crafts. Ritu made every piece worth a million. Her design and style complemented the fabric that she had chosen, which were all handmade and crafted. The models were perfect as they walked the ramp in ghaghras and salwar kameez which were heavily embroidered with pure gold and silver zardozi work and different kind of ethnic embroidery. But the one who stole the show from the models was the evergreen Sharmila Tagore. She was the show stopper and walked the ramp much more confidently than her daughter Soha Ali Khan.
Obviously age has given the mature touch to Ritu Kumar and Sharmila Tagore.
Ritu makes us all proud of our heritage, style and design. She is the link for our future generation to view our rich heritage by her expertise and remaking the old era alive.
Ritu has dressed many of our Miss Universes, Miss Worlds and famous personalities the world over like Jemima Khan and the late Lady Diana.

"Xmas cheer all around"
Christmas in the city means that the markets will be lit up. Christmas decorations are set up and there is a festive and holiday mood all over--new pubs and restaurants. The famous Olive restaurant has been having a lot of wine-tasting events lately.
Ramola Bachchan has been hosting these events with different socialites and celebrities playing the host for her. This is the new trend in the town. She is sister-in-law of Amitabh Bachchan. The other new fancy eating places are in the huge malls whether it is the Ambience, DLF or the Select City. They have peppy Christmas carols playing and are full of lively people. They have wonderful Christmas decorations with artificial snow, reindeer's sledges and lucky draws--discounts on everything of course. They even have a kids section for all ages with games so while you shop you can leave the children in safe hands in these play dens. They have the best eating sections, from fine dining to street food and fast food.

One of malls has even got purani Dilli paratha walas and chat wala stalls. It's amazing to see how Delhi has developed into a city which is equal to any other international capital. Travelling now for most of the middle class is done in the Metro. Clean fast and secure.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Tribune-Chatterati-March.7th.2011

"Power, money make a heady cocktail"
Rain or shine, nothing can stop the extravagant weddings in the Capital. During the wedding season this year, one noticed that marriages are no more just a sacred union of the families or the bride and groom. There is nothing personal about them. From the elaborate card boxes filled with gifts worth thousands you are in for fun as you unwrap the box.
Bollywood stars dancing to Mika's and Sonu Nigam's start from the sangeet to the reception; event managers flying in chefs with ingredients from all over the world. Exotic flowers and unique arrangements worth crores are what you will see. While a majority of people still live below the poverty line in this country, one is astonished at the insensitivity of show-off money. But of course each to his own.
Last week there was a wedding where the huge gardens of a bungalow in Sainik Farms were covered with parquet wood so that the heels of the hoity-toity Delhi women would not sink in the garden. This is the wedding where Rahat Ali had come to perform, after which the guy got into so much trouble. This is also where gifts were given in abundance and a white Rolls-Royce was displayed and then presented to the son-in-law.
The second one was of a Delhi politician's daughter where a helicopter was given in dowry. But the weather played a spoiler here and the helicopter could not land much to the disappointment of everyone. Fifteen thousand people attended this wedding and the attendants were given Rs 11,000 each as shagan. The total cost of this wedding is estimated to be Rs 250 crore as gifts like silver biscuits, safari suits, etc. were given to all who attended various functions of the wedding.
Here the venue set up over a barren land was modelled on Venice, the Italian city. It clearly was the biggest Gujjar extravaganza in the entire community belt of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan. The father of the bride and the father of the groom are both Congress leaders from Delhi. Along with politicians, businessmen and Bollywood stars attended this large wedding. Well, political power and money always made a heady cocktail.

"Showing off wealth and connections"
At another reception, the pandal-makers left nothing to imagination. In a flight of fancy they even recreated the iconic shop facades of luxury brands like Gucci, Chanel and Prada to give the befuddled locals a sense of awe. This was matched by the wedding cake, a replica of the Eiffel Tower, true to detail down to little figurines of local artists doing streetside portraits.
Elsewhere in the Capital, a politician hosted his best friend's child's reception at a five star. But what caught everybody's eye were the 'costumes'.
The men both family and friends in the inner circle had outfits that outshone the women, including stone-work and embellishments on gowns that matched the finery. Singers crooned away in the corner but the long lines were full of politicians, out for an evening break after the budget session.
Right from the President of India to hotelier Chatwal of America and Mukesh Ambani from Mumbai, you name them and you found them--media barons to actors.
The old days of friends and family bestowing blessings on couples are clearly over. It's now the parents' turn again to flaunt their wealth, their connections and their taste.
Some even walk off without greeting the newly weds. It's just another networking evening with their smiles in place and of course eyes searching for the rich, famous and powerful.

The Tribune-Chatterati-Jan.24th.2011

"Cabinet changes cosmetic"
The much awaited cabinet reshuffle has come and gone. The cosmetic change done in this musical chair act has left the people in the corridors of power wondering what the need was for the shuffle. Drastic decisions like dropping M.S. Gill for incompetency should have been taken. The corrupt and those with liaisons with big business houses should have been dropped. The intellectual lot in Delhi are wondering why they were just shifted around. Tall leaders like Vir Bahadur Singh have been allocated portfolios of public interest, much to his advantage. Deliverance and capabilities need to have been taken into consideration. They could have adjusted the articulate and deserving faces like Manish Tiwari. One wonders whether now in the AICC reshuffle if people from the states would be roped in. The Prime Minister does not seem to have faired well in this exercise. There are some ministers who have paralysed their ministries. It seems that talented people are being kept out of party affairs. This is discouraging and demolarising the common Congress workers. The Congress men are a worried lot and they should be. Tough steps will have to be taken to improve the UPA 2 image. Otherwise they will have to pay heavily in the next session and elections.
In this interesting shuffle of the same pack, the Prime Minister has disturbed the vastu proceeding of many ministers' offices. Some were so sure of not being disturbed that the feng shui and vastu gurus were working overtime in the ministerial offices and homes. Well, it clearly does not seem to have worked. The alliance partners are now getting ready to bargain on seats with Mamata in West Bengal and the DMK in Chennai. Hence, no claim for new ministers' berths so that it will give them more power on seat-sharing.

"Underdogs? Not quite"
Delhi's bar scene is vibrant and alive, but all rather new. With the liberal licensing policy, new bars are competing for business and wooing the young and the restless.
Witnessing the soft opening of a hugely spacious brand new sports bar imaginatively called "Underdogs" was a pleasure. Since most bars celebrate champions, this is by design, as its very name suggests, meant to be a different kind of space.
Kohilika Kohli, the young US-educated architect has interpreted the theme boldly with sweeping sports hoardings celebrating the plethora of sporting underdogs who have made it to the list of the greats.
Imaginative design combined with operational efficiency and aesthetic interiors made for a great opening party that started early and wound up in the early morning hours.
From the huge space has been carved out into several multiple spaces that will allow the bold and the beautiful to swill their beers in comfort and semi-privacy. "Underdogs" is a venture of the entrepreneurs running the successful "Crepes and More" in Khan Market.
A guest list of the city's who's who, from diplomats to page 3 people and swish Delhi royalty, experienced the unique flavour of the bar that celebrates an ethos that is not Delhi's norm.

The Tribune-Chatterati-Jan.21st.2011

"Aamir woos the audience with éclat"
Doing an art-house movie and attempting to market it like a mainstream movie is usually an impossible task. But when you are the clever Kiran Rao and have the charming Aamir Khan by your side, it becomes a plausible project. Throw in it the late Smita Patil's son Prateek Babbar in a stellar role and you have a combo that could work. Co-hosting the evening was the film producer Smita's sister Manya Patil, who was beaming with the pride of an aunt whose nephew has an outing with Aamir to start his career. But it's all hard work as Aamir Khan attempts to woo the audience.
A special screening in Delhi for "Aamir's Friends" was attended by the city's film loving jet set and some editors and politicos. Salman Khurshed, Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagrika Ghose and enough page3 celebrities were cosseted by Nakul and Timsy Anand who were also co-host for the film evening.
The show which began a little late was a social affair too. PVR Rivoli turned on the hospitality and guests enjoying the free popcorn and other goodies that make for typical "real" movie outing.
Screening over, selected guests were whisked away to the Sheraton for a sitdown dinner with the Khans. The evening ended with an innovative movie memento, a CD of the film made as a prank in white chocolate. Good enough to eat? Was that the message?

"Art scene hots up"
Delhi's art summit has been growing in strength over the last three years. This year it became the world's most attended specialist art fair.
Given the population in India and the galloping growth of the upwardly mobile middle class, this is a trend that would go places.
Art is also an expensive plaything for one-upmanship among the rich and famous. Whether it's buying installation art or even modern contemporary structure, the Delhi-Bombay jet set is making fashion statements and raising price to bizarre level and newfound love for art. Now if only Pragati Maidan were to spruce up its act and the Indian babu culture relaxed its hold, then organizers would be able to pull off an even better show than this one which already attracts exhibition and galleries from all over the world.
Amidst the rich women exhibiting their knowledge about art and its price, one could spot the Union home secretary taking a quiet stroll and some editors along with some real art lovers.

"Melange of fun, work"
Delhi's celebrities and visiting collectors vied with each other and with auction houses like "Chirsties" and "Sotheby's" to host lunches and dinners and keep the memento of the overheated art environment going. Even those only slightly interested in art were happy to bask in the sunshine of artist, agents, collectors and galleries. Delhi's art names like HCL's Guddu Nadar and Brila's daughter Lekha Poddar were among those who discussed their pet subject. While hostesses like Feroz Gujral and sugar magnate Raj Shri Delhi's celebrities and visiting collectors vied with each other and with auction houses like "Chirsties" and "Sotheby's" to host lunches and dinners and keep the memento of the overheated art environment going. Even those only slightly interested in art were happy to bask in the sunshine of artist, agents, collectors and galleries. Delhi's art names like HCL's Guddu Nadar and Brila's daughter Lekha Poddar were among those who discussed their pet subject. While hostesses like Feroz Gujral and sugar magnate Raj Shri Patti of South India hosted their own events. A glamorous mix of unending fun and work!

The Tribune-Chatterati-Jan.17th.2011

"Age of rented friends and baratis!"
Like you can rent an expensive MF Hussain painting or an Hermes bag, it seems now friends are the latest commodity to be sold. Everything is for rent if you can pay the price. You can rent a friend anytime and anywhere to go out with you for dinner, movies, golf and even shopping. They are "paid confidantes" who can walk in and out of your life as you please. They meet new people and share a drink, play a game of golf or dance and the rented guy makes money too. Go trekking with those who do not want to go solo and also do their shopping. It's unlikely you meet the same people as they usually come from outside the city.
Today you can rent an entire posh lifestyle. The variety of rental services available in today's fast-paced life is a good solution to the growing needs of individuals who have big aspirations but small wallets.
Not many can spend 60,000 on a bag, and so it is economical to spend Rs 600 for a day on a Fendi bag. You just need to click a photograph of your outfit, send it to them and they suggest which bag to rent for that day.
Renting a lifestyle can be a money-saver. It is a smart solution and a stop-gap arrangement. A painting of Rs 1 crore can earn a rental up to Rs 3 lakh a month. That's good investment for art rentals.
And, have you heard of baratis on hire? A lot of NRIs come to get married in India. They do not have relatives. People are busy, and so it's an easy solution to just hire wedding guests. Everyone wants a fairytale lifestyle. Even plants can be rented to give your house a green look. So, that's the reason working couples are renting plants. Gardeners are sent to look after them.
It will take time for some narrow-minded Indians to adjust to renting stuff as opposed to buying. However, purchasing something like a friendship comes with a warning isolation. But, on the whole, the 'rent anything' revolution may just make lifestyle choices simpler, cheaper, handier and easier!

"Let’s meet and talk"
Delhi high society and the wheeler-dealers are no longer on their phones. All of a sudden one does not see the same number of people who walked in hotel lobbies with their mobile phones on their ear. Ever since the Radia tapes were made public, the people who walk in the corridors of power have realized that it is better to meet and talk rather than be taped.
Fifty per cent of Delhiites believe that they are powerful and imagine that their phones are being taped. The officers who know and then leak information are now scared of talking to any journalist on phone. Delhi was a place as in every other capital in the world where most of the work was done on your mobile phones. And now it is always "let's meet and talk".
Journalists, bureaucrats and cooperate heads who were caught in this taping mess are still to be seen and heard everywhere. It does not seem to have made any difference to them.
This is not the first time that they are facing such embarrassing moments and those who are embarrassed; their holier than thou image is completely shattered. Not that meeting in person is safe nowadays. After all the equipment, especially the Israel-type cameras and taping system is so sophisticated and tiny that you never know what the other person may be taping or even video-recording.

The Tribune-Chatterati-Jan.10th.2011

"Politicos spend hols in fine style"
The holiday season began in Delhi with lots of Christmas parties and a jovial mood. Right after Christmas to New Year, a lot of ministers went for their holidays. The new destination for them seemed to be Thailand. Some flew to the famous Thai spas outside Bangkok while some headed to Phuket, an Indian destination which is still very famous in Goa.
Politicians like Salman Khurshid, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Rudy Singh were seen in Goa. The others spotted in Goa were Priyanka and Robert Vadra. Farooq Abdullah and Anand Sharma spent their Christmas and New Year in London with their families who live there most of the times.
Shahnawaz Hussain went off to the other popular destination for New Year, that is Kerala. M.S. Gill also headed to Kerala. Hopefully 2011 will witness less scams, more punishments for the guilty and the "aam-admi" will get some respite from the inflation and crime situation in the Capital.

"Adda and temiz"
Mohsina Kidwai, the senior Congress leader, got her granddaughter married last week. The guest list had the Prime Minister, Sheila Dikshit with family, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Salman Khurshid, Ahmed Patel along with Vir Bahadur Singh and Rajeev Shukla.
It was a simple and elegant affair. The conversation was of course on the ongoing Cabinet reshuffle. Nobody actually knew what was in store for them as they sipped on the hot soup.
It was really interesting to see the women of the family dressed in typical Muslim way with their ghara and chunies all in place, and the men in their elegant sherwanis.
Must say that the 'adda and temiz' is so good to see in these old Muslim families where even children are brought up in the same manner. The food was delicious as it reminded of one of the Lucknow kebabs and "Awadhi khana". Obviously the cooks had flown in from there for this elegant reception.

"A cry for justice"
Delhiites are shocked as the Aarushi murder case has left a bad taste in their mouth. Candle marches are on by various groups every day. It is disgusting. How government agencies can do such shoddy work. One's heart goes out to Aarushi. A young girl was killed by someone who was close to her. Closed house, locked doors, enough clues to know who the murderer is. What kind of a country do we live in? What is it that scares the CBI and the cops for arresting the person who killed this innocent girl? This is everyday drawing room conversation today in Delhi across all the sections of people.
When no one can solve the case, it is given to the CBI and what the CBI does in this case. It closes the case. What confidence does a common man have today in the police and the CBI?
This case should have been an open and shut case. It's absurd. A servant's body is found dead and the owners do not even know of it. They have no knowledge of the happening in their own house, while they are in the house. They have come up with lame excuses. The CBI knows who the murderer is. Hopefully, the court will make sure that justice is done in this murder of the innocent.
As it is, this whole system stinks for the common man today and their credibility is at its lowest today. God only knows what this government will have to do to gain its credibility. Price rise, scams and now Bofors again. The investigating agencies better get their act together as the "aam admi" does not really have any trust left in any system of this government.

The Tribune-Chatterati-Feb.21st.2011

"Polo, a nice eyeful"
Polo for Delhiites always means a nice sunny afternoon at the polo grounds. Glamour, style and a life of the rich, is what polo lovers and players are associated with. The galloping of the expensive horses with the handsome players are anyway a delightful sight. The rhythm of both can easily give any spectator a high. In the winter season, the polo grounds of Delhi host many national and international matches. The army along with their steeds is always an integral part of this sport. Recently the Amity Polo Cup exhibition match was especially dedicated to the support of the girl child. Every year this event is organized to support "Amitasha" for the well-being of underprivileged girls through the Amity Humanity foundation. Sultanah Zandriah and princess Naseera Iskandar of Johar Malaysia were the chief guests. The surprise of the afternoon here and adding to the glamour quotient were Bollywood actress Chitrangada Singh with her golfer husband Jyoti Randhawa. Designer Ritu Kumar is of course a regular at polo matches.
On another sunny Sunday recently through a breezy afternoon, Delhi's glamorous lot were seen enjoying the Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve Polo day. Then the elegantly dressed Royalty was at its best. The dapper charming Vikramaditya Singh of Kashmir is a great player and hosts an event every year. Royalty is an integral part of polo. It is said polo originated from Ladakh.
Hectic social season
This is a hectic social season at the moment in the Capital. Most politicians plan their dos on week days or when Parliament is on. Then you are sure to have maximum attendance at your party. Major Dalbir Singh of the Congress hosted his annual dinner last week.
His circle of friends range from generals of the Army to diplomats. Of course, there is Mrs Gurcharan Singh, the Prime Minister's wife who has never missed this evening in years. The others who are permanent at his dinners are Montek and Isher Ahluwalia.
Here you can spot Randhir Singh of Indian Olympics chatting with Satyavrat Chaturvedi of the Congress or Moti Lal Vohra discussing serious matters with Virbhadra Singh, minister of small scale industries. The rain did not dampen anyone's spirits as the gathering got bigger and bigger. M. S. Gill, Anil Sashtri, Vinod Duggal and his elegant wife Madhu made a rare appearance. Dalbir joined the Congress many years back after he took early retirement from the Army.
A thorough gentleman, maybe a little misfit in today's politics but he has a huge circle of well-wishers, one could see. A cheerful evening with the right mix of people, drinks and food to call it successful.

"Music lovers disappointed"
Delhi seems jinxed as far as live rock shows go. Bryan Adams was the most recent victim of this jinx last week. Sell-out concerts in Mumbai and Bangalore under his belt, Adams was looking forward to rocking Delhiites with his brand of high voltage music.
In the past too touring live acts have often had to skip Delhi performances and organizers insist it's a mixture of untenable demands for free passes, security concerns and a whole host of such excuses that make Delhi's citizen miss out on this entertainment.
The police version insists that traffic concerns and the presence of "resettlement colonies" around the venue were to blame. Of course, there is word also that too many tickets, well above capacity, had also been sold.
Music lovers of Delhi and those from around the Capital hoping to hear Adams will now have to wait for the promise held out that a show somewhere else in the national capital region may still happen, before Adams leaves India.

The Tribune-Chatterati-Feb.14th.2011

"The invite that shocks and cheers"
Gate crashers dressed in their finery at the big fat weddings in Delhi have always been a problem. Recently, for the wedding of the daughter of a well-known industrialist, the invited got a real mobile phone which was fed with information about the ceremonies and also had a unique code, which had to be scanned at the venue to allow entry. Well, guests just had to carry the phone to the function as an entry to the festivities. Paper invites can be duplicated, a phone was unique and created a talking point to Delhi evening socializers. The people who received this rather innovative invite were shocked and yet pleased as they could use the phone later.
Not everyone can afford to give away a phone to all guests but there are options. Swipe card invites, a credit card size invite with a magnetic strip that is scanned at the venue. Swipe cards are very popular now at city parties, especially those with Bollywood stars, as they attract maximum crazy gatecrashers. So now at Bollywood weddings, the invite usually has a small security card with a unique number that has to be matched with a computerized list at the entrance.
At the wedding of tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi to actor Lara Dutta; the invite has a security card. After all, international tennis player will be attending. A lot of plush weddings now have exclusive ideas of entertaining their guests. They offer different zones--spa, a bar, a wine cellar and sit down dinner areas for different cuisines. As they are luxurious, these access cards allow guests entry into specific areas. They also prevent staff of one area to sneak into the other. These cards are the flavour of the season. You save on hiring bouncers and need just 1 or 2 security personnel enough to make the venue hassle-free and exclusive making the guest feel important.

"A glittering affair"
Last week it was all bling and more bling at the Ashok Hotel in the Capital. After all, it was a jewellery exhibition called the "Abhushan" where all the wives of top industrialists from south and north India got together. The exhibition was inaugurated by Sheila Dikshit. Philanthropist Tina Ambani and her mother-in-law Kokilaben Ambani were very much a part of the exhibition. Women laden with heavy bags full of cash and cheque books thronged the exhibition. There was a three-day seminar with interacting sessions. One could also learn about new techniques, ideas, designs and material. But it was clear from the shoppers here that there is no dearth of cash around.

"Jewellery and art"
Somehow jewellery and the art seem to be the flavour in the winter season of the Capital.
Recently there was a party with an artistic twist. The "jewel-d-art" had Farooq Abdullah as the chief guest. Jewellery designer Nitin Vijay and Anjanna Kuthiala got together and painted live on the canvas. It was one of a kind show which has never happened in the Capital before. Romola Bachchan and several other socialites in the town were present there. For both the artists, it was creativity at its best live.


"Black magic tales"
An artiste watches her co-star at the Surajkund Crafts Mela in Faridabad. Politicians and superstition, it is said, go hand in hand. During the elections one sees that the pundits are as busy as a neta who fight the elections. Recently we are hearing black magic tales from Karnataka.
Delhiites are discussing this when they socialize in the evenings and politicians in their offices.
One has never heard of anything so openly discussed as a factor between sides blaming each other. As we would call it in north India, it's "jaadu tona" at the highest level.
The Karnataka Chief Minister recently has been surrounded by scandals and he has really faced tough days as Chief Minister.
Beliefs of this sort are not rare in India. Some are told to do pujas while others are told to give daan and dakshna to the poor. While some fast on certain days to ward off the evil sprit or evil eye.
But the Bangalore Chief Minister Yeddyurappa has an astrologer who has suggested a wayout to his Chief Minister.
The Chief Minister must only wrap a damp cloth around him and do surya namaskar at the Mysore Chamundi temple, as she is the state goddess.
The Delhi's elite no longer rely on domestic stars and jaadu.
We are getting savvier and global in our practices. So, one notices that Delhi markets have a lot of people who are buying evil eyes, which come from Turkey and a host of Feng-shui objects, crystals and other stuff which is the in thing now for homes in the Capital and cities close by.
Time for the younger lot
In Delhi, a sense of a change of guard seems to be growing fast in the political scenario and it's the flavour of the season in all the parties, it seems, from the Congress to the DMK.
The older Congress and BJP political generation are now feeling half retired already. They claim it is not right as they have spent all their lives for the Congress and BJP and have no other livelihood.
Several senior Congress leaders have however commented on how the ones who are above the age of 65 should take a back seat and the younger lot must take over. So, if that be so, half the cabinet will soon need to be reshuffled. Some loyalists may be adjusted as governors and others may be sent for party work, but will it mean that Anthony, Pranab, Valayar Ravi all need to retire. S.M.Krishna, Murli Deora et al too? It's not going to be an easy process and no politician ever leaves voluntarily now. So, who is going to bell the cat is a million dollar question in the Capital nowadays. And in drawing rooms, hair dye is only the tip of the iceberg.

"Surajkund Mela"
The 25th edition Surajkund Mela is the greatest attraction at this time of the year. As you take a round of this mela, you may see many known faces like Sonal Mansingh, Sandeep Dikshit and Kiran Choudhary.
You will notice that this is a one-stop space for shopping and a quick culture update. In this massive ground, you will find everything from Afghanistan carpets to Nepali shawls.
If you are into jewellery, you can find cheap Hyderabadi pearls, inexpensive silver jewellery and you can even get your own personalized lak bangles. This year Uzbekistan is the partner country while Andhra Pradesh is the theme state. So, if you want your Hyderabadi spicy chicken curry or a south Indian dosa with a cultural performance thrown in, this mela is the place to be in.
Women are busy bargaining and the tourists completely fascinated by the exquisite Indian trinkets.
This is indeed the place to be in. In between all this, you can have a parrot reading your horoscope and some pundits sitting in a row reading the palms of firangis who are completely in awe of their surroundings.
Some have even already worn their newly acquired jootis and their goat leather trinkets and are happily looking a part of the colourful and striking ambience that Surajkund creates year after year.


"Politics makes strong friendships, stronger enemies"
Ever since Amar Singh has left the Samajwadi Party, Mulayam Singh has not been effective in the publicity department. In the annual Sefai Mohotsav held in Mulayam Singh's native village Etawah, the locals did feel Amar Singh's absence. When Amar Singh was a part of the Mulayam gang, there were lots of film actors to amuse the crowd. This time, there was no glamour. Jaya Prada, Jaya Bhaduri, Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu and industrialist Anil Ambani were conspicuous by their absence.
There were some local crooners to entertain the villagers. To everybody's amusement, Mulayam Singh Yadav stayed throughout the long, boring function. A politician who till yesterday was a bit shy of holding press conferences has come down to singing to please the crowd. Mulayam sang with the locals with a mike.
The people amused that the reason, given by Amar Singh for resigning from the majwadi Party was to his ill health. But Amar Singh has after that gone on a foot march holding public meetings and his favourite words seem to be "If I open my mouth, Mulayam will go to jail". Politics makes strong friendship and then stronger enemies.

"India’s Al Gore"
Nitish Kumar may not have wanted the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendar Modi to campaign in his state Bihar. Maybe somewhere that is responsible for Modi's efforts to change and reinvent himself. Lately, he was refused an American visa for some conference in America. That in itself was a blow to Modi and shame to the Indian government--a Chief Minister of Gujarat was refused visa by the Americans.
Narendar Modi has recently penned down a book on climate change. It is modelled on Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth". Modi has written many books in Gujarati on various subjects like 'Ek Swayamesevak' and 'Prem Tirth'. His books have been published in Marathi, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada and Gujarati.
The Gujarat government is leaving no efforts to try and make Narendar Modi as India's Al Gore. Modi's is one of the rare ones whose books can be read online too.
Narendar is up to date on everything that is good for his state, it seems.

"Patience is a virtue"
The big wait for the long overdue reshuffle of the union cabinet and AICC does not seem to be happening soon.
One of the reasons is that a senior leader has advised the party high command that there should be no changes till January 14 as it is Makar Sankranti. The stars will be favorable for the Congress then. As it is, some Congress men feel that the party is facing a very difficult time nowadays. So, it is best to wait for the auspicious day to come in. At the 83rd plenary session of the Congress, Sonia Gandhi in her concluding address said that it is best to be patient and wait for your turn. She said there are many qualified and deserving people in the Congress who have been left out.
She also said that everyone in the Congress will be given a chance. "Patience is a virtue" is what Gandhi seems to be preaching here. Hopefully the high command will pay heed to what Jyotiraditya Scindia said at the session that the "Ganesh Parikrama" to Delhi must stop for the dedicated grassroot party workers for party tickets. And the ones who left the Congress when the party was at a low should not be allowed to join once the Congress comes back to power.
The public at the moment does feel a bit let down by the ruling government and does hope for a positive change of guard. With so many leaders involved in scams and scandals, talent seems to be missing. Most probably they are also thinking of pulling talented and dedicated
Congressmen from state to the centre. That to would be good no doubt.

Pioneer-Dilli Billi-March.6th.2011-"Real woman empowerment"

"Real woman empowerment"
It’s the people at the top who have to set the example of empowering women by giving their daughters a chanceLast week while driving home, I was shocked to see a girl in broad daylight, in full public view, opposite a thana, being thrashed by a young boy holding her by the hair. My driver hesitantly slowed the car and I rolled down my car window and shouted at the boy to stop it. He pulled her hair harder and shouted, “Mind your own business.” I got off the car walked towards them, and when the girl noticed this even she shouted, “Why are you interfering? Get in your car and go.” My driver and I were taken aback and in shock and drove home.Since that day I have been thinking about that incident. One, the guts of the boy to bash her on a crowded pavement. Two, nobody stopped them. Three, why did the girl tell me to go? After thinking about it I realised that this must have been one of those BPL girls who are used to being abused by their relatives. It’s a shame, but how a girl child is brought still in our society. Look around and you’ll will see it everywhere. We are trying to change, but our mindset is so set that it will take many more decades.Let’s start from the top. In big corporate or political families, it is the boy who takes over the family mantle. Only if there is no son that the the fairer sex is groomed to take over, like Indira Gandhi and Birla daughter Shobhna Bhartia. And they are such success stories. The daughter may be much smarter than the son, but the son will get the first preference and the parents will try their level best to settle him down with full patience. It is the daughter-in-law who will get the family heirlooms, not the daughter who will come to their rescue whenever needed. She will look after them till their last day. The daughter-in-law, especially in the middle class, will be only available to needs of the in-laws at her convenience. The married son will overnight find many flaws with his side of the family. Wonder why all senior politicians have their sons fighting elections and not their daughters? Why is it that corporate heads only groom their son to take over?Many politicians’ daughters are smart, educated and more suited to join politics than their brothers. It’s not that they don’t want to, but they’ve been trained to be in the background and only help during polls and in the house. They are to be content running NGOs and doing social work in the background. It is a sad situation even in the upper-class and powerful circles. Somehow it is ingrained in the girl that her brother deserves better.In this hypocritical society it is a shame to still see men abuse women physically and emotionally, and it is worse that women take it lying down. When will parents stop handing over the family mantle to the son and instead give it to the deserving daughter? Only then will the mindset of society change. It is the top class that has to set the example, be it is politicians or corporate heads. They are the ones who will make all the difference . And that will result in real women empowerment.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pioneer-Dilli Billi-Feb.20th.2011-"Cherish your friends"

"Cherish your friends"
Learn to value your true friends because they are your real Valentine. Cherish them every dayThis Valentine’s Day your phone’s inbox must have been full of messages on Valentine’s Day gimmicks. Every tea shop was offering big deals on the day. It was amazing to see markets and restaurants in a red look. Balloons, hearts, cushions, chocolates — anything romantic was on display. It’s easily one of the most popular days for youngsters and the pot-bellied middle-aged who are trying to gain attention of some girl. One notices the bolder side of girls who happily approach a boy whom they like. From airline companies to hotels, all were busy in promotions. While the elderly look upon such gimmicks with amusement, the youngsters enjoy them.Sadly, true friendship among the elite are rare in Delhi. Their equations change with status and political season. In this hypocritical society you can never identify a true friend. Friendship is driven by your address, position and, of course, your pocket size. In the corridors of power, you are lucky if you can count your friends on your fingers even on Valentine’s Day. The Capital thrives on politics, power, intrigue and stories. But Delhi’ites are the best actors in the world. They might bad-mouth you behind your back, but when they meet you, they show their utmost concern. It’s not surprising at all. This is the survival instinct of the lot who want to be a part of certain groups of Delhi’s movers and shakers.Valentine’s Day for teenagers is about fun and games. They plan elaborate surprises and gifts for each other in advance. However, there is a certain innocence to it. Different political groups try and play their politics and in a show of oneupmanship destroy the happiness of innocents with their vandalism. It’s a shame. When children are being brought up with so much exposure through the electronic media and schooling, how can you stop them from having innocent fun. It is the job of the parents and schools to teach youngsters their limits. Certainly, it’s not the prerogative of goons who claim to be the protectors of our culture and customs in the name of religion. Such incidents of vandalism leave a bad taste.I received a message on Valentine’s day which read: “A true friend knows all your best stories. A best friend has lived them with you.” How true. A friend is someone who is by your side when you are happy. But the moment something goes wrong, you want your friend to come and embrace you. He is there for you when you are low and sick. Do we value them? They may not be in your league, but they are your true valentine. Your best friends deserve your attention on February 14. As you are used to calling them when you are down, you don’t realise their true worth. You take them for granted. Over the years we have realised that, at times, friends are more valuable than family. There are no moral lectures and no expectations. In today’s world a friend is a treasure not easily found. So cherish it, enjoy it and learn to value it, Valentine’s Day or no Valentine’s Day. deal.

Pioneer-Dilli Billi-Feb.13th.2011-"Rotten from the top"

"Rotten from the top"

The aam aadmi is now convinced that corruption is a part and parcel of life and nothing can be done about itCorruption is not a dirty word in India anymore. It is a way of life for us. We pay ` 50 extra to the postman to make sure he delivers the post on time, and the same to the MCD worker who comes to clean the roads every day so that there’s a clean street to live on. But this is not baksheesh, they feel it is their right. If you tell them that you are not entitled to it and it is their duty to clean the streets, they will give a huge lecture on how the system works from top to bottom. “How do we live on our pay due to the price rise of essential commodities?” they ask.I have nothing against these poor Government servants. But I am surprised how they have taken making money on the side for granted as well as legal. One cheeky guy turned to me and said, “Ma’am, don’t you see or read the news every day? This is what’s being done from the top to bottom.”. He’s not concerned about how hard the PM is trying to stop corruption and make the system transparent. He has taken it for granted that it is only a drama. The PM is trying to keep his name clear. A person once told me a story of how he had to bribe for his daughter’s admission to a Government school. He took pains in telling me the story for getting extra money for delivering the post on time. How else would he pay the bribe? His pay was not enough. He told me that he had taken a letter from an MP for the admission, but the school authorities threw it in the dustbin.An MP’s letter being thrown out and admission being given by taking bribe — this is a very small example of how our system has collapsed. The credibility of the Government is zero. A coalition Government does not mean that’s it’s free for all. The public is neither blind nor deaf. They do not care whether it is a Sharad Pawar responsible, or some other partner of the Government. For them it is the PM and Sonia Gandhi. It is the Congress that suffers in the long run. The PM and senior Congress leaders are already apprehensive about the corruption in the system. It is impossible for any Congressman to say that he has given a clean Government when he goes back to the aam aadmi to seek votes again.It is being said that the largest party in the nation, which could have wiped out corruption, made the system transparent and could have done more developments, seems to be loaded with the biggest scams that the country has ever seen. It is disheartening and shameful. Whatever the leadership does now to amend it will be too little and too late. The media and the internet world give out all the details over and over again.In this day of ‘leaks’, the public knows everything. The saying “the fish rots from the head” acts well for a small employee of the Government. For him, or the aam aadmi, the top brass closing their eyes to what’s happening is being a part of it. So if they ask for some extra money, it’s no big deal.

Pioneer-Feb.6th.2011-"Destination Teardrop"

"Destination Teardrop"

Sri Lanka is slowly becoming a hot holiday destination after the surrender of LTTESri Lanka, widely regarded as the land of history, culture and heritage, has various stories hidden in its buildings in and around Colombo. This tiny island has had a past full of tales of terrorism and disaster. India and Sri Lanka are related in more ways than one. Apart from the Tamil language, the food is similar too.One cannot imagine that, till sometime back, the country had bomb blasts occurring anytime and anywhere. Today, one can see the cheerful faces of locals who have moved on from those fearful days. As you cross the President’s house, one can see only two guards outside the gate. But in the days of war, the place was surrounded by army barricades. After LTTE surrendered, a calm atmosphere prevails. Hotels are buzzing and enjoying 97 per cent occupancy. The airport, an hour’s drive from Colombo, is at par with any international airport in the world — clean, airy, large and with helpful smiling officials to assist you. It takes a minute for the immigration to stamp your passport with a visa on arrival. The luggage is delivered instantly and you are out of the airport within minutes. Most taxi drivers understand English. The drive to Colombo is interesting as you cross small villages and local coffee shops serving signature dishes like rice and string hoppers.Sri Lanka’s population is 70 per cent Buddhist, 20 per cent Hindu, 5 per cent Muslim and 5 per cent Christians. History says that Lord Buddha’s sister planted a sapling of the Bodhi tree there. The nation also has a lot of Chinese settlers and visitors along with the Australians and British. Most restaurants serve the best continental food comparable to any famous restaurant around the world. After all, Lankans have been ruled by the Portuguese, British and Dutch. The hotels being refurbished are a clear sign of the economy going up.Shopping in Lanka may not be too good, but as the economy rises things are bound to improve. Like every island, helpers in the stores are lazy and take time serving customers. The porcelain crockery of Sri Lanka is renowned worldwide.The Sri Lankan elite are sophisticated and have all the nakhras of the top class in the world. Their mansions are done by international designers and jewellery worn by their women could put our Maharanis to shame. They love to dine, wine and dance. Even the heaviest of the Lankan is light on his feet and can easily groove to rock & roll.The new political leaders in Sri Lanka are aged between 35 to 50. They are well-educated and it shows that they are doing good for the country. It is a place worth going as it is extremely cheap and beautiful. The cheaper Lankan Rupee as compared to Indian currency makes a holiday there cheaper than going to Madras, Kerala or Goa. With cheap accommodation, cheap food and friendly welcoming people, it’s a great holiday destination if you love the surf and the sand.

Pioneer-Dilli Billi-Jan.30th.2011-"What a damp squib!"

"What a damp squib!"

Cabinet reshuffle left most wondering why it was undertaken if the same Ministers were to be retainedThe much-awaited Cabinet reshuffle turned out to be a damp squib for Delhi’s political pundits. What Manmohan Singh did with his team was not what they had expected. Critics feel he could have done better and sent out a strong signal. Scams and scandals had the media going hammer and tongs on the Government, putting it on the backfoot.If this was just supposed to be a reshuffle of Ministers, then why didn’t the Government go the whole hog? Everyone expected to see articulate and clean youngsters with potential. For this reason, people are amused with this musical chair exercise of the PM. As is the norm in Delhi, everyone has their own stories to share. Why so and so was shifted, etc. Each story will circulate to different groups keeping in mind who the audience is. But one thing is sure, no one had an inkling of what was in store. Even the Ministers did not suspect their portfolios to be shifted. Some ministers were having their official houses renovated according to vaastu and feng shui.However, the reshuffle signals that the alliance partners of the Government have been put in their place. Sources say that the DMK was pressing on the inclusion of TR Baalu in the Cabinet. But luckily, the PM did not heed their demands. Mamata Banerjee will, of course want the lion’s share during the seat-sharing time in Bengal elections. She is preparing grounds for tomorrow in the State. The PM’s team is looking to focus on the States where elections are round the corner. But, somehow people picked from these States are not the ones who can really deliver. Why didn’t the PM throw out non-performing, corrupt Ministers and take in fresh new faces, young or old, who are capable and dedicated? Delhi’s political pundits have been left wondering.Coming to the States where elections are due in the next two years, the Congress aam janta is praying that the infighting in these States stops and the people who can deliver as heads of their States are elected. The Congress should not send people at the last minute when no options are left. State leaders are made to wait, after a patient bearing with this, they are sent to their bastions. It seems as if they are made to go through an acid test and their opponents are given every opportunity to bring them down. That encourages infighting and also demoralises team members.With the Opposition uniting fast and being very vocal about the rising corruption and emergence of new scams every day, the Government should be very cautious if they want to come back in the next term. Hopefully the reshuffle after the budget will not be a damp squib. Everyone’s eyes will be on the AICC reshuffle and the BJP’s role in the budget session. But one must say that a lot of thought must have gone in the reshuffle of portfolios, keeping in mind the nexus in bureaucracy and politicos. But it does give a strong message to many industrialist houses.

Pioneer-Dilli Billi-Jan-23rd-2011-"Hub of all activities"

"Hub of all activities"
Singapore is the new hub of entertainment and business. And a week long tour there pleasantly surprised me as to how welcoming the city is. I revisited the city after nearly a decade and was highly impressed with its progress. The professionals and businessmen settled there from the world over were content and well-settled.The first thing that strikes you about the city is its safety. For bring up children, the laws, rules and regulation are more strict and vigilant than parents can even be. It’s a town where women can walk alone at midnight loaded with jewellery and still be safe. The service and politeness of people is amazing. Everything is done systematically and the system never fails. The locals are clean, smiling and helpful and comfortable with foreigners. As Singapore flourishes on tourism, they appreciate every guest in the city.A few people whom I met there belong to many nationalities, and have now taken permanent citizenship. They are happy with the education system. In business, there is nothing like bribery. The Prime Minister of the country walks alone with no security guards. Anyone who can invest in most businesses is welcome. Singapore recognizes that its future lies in becoming a strong knowledge and creative hub. Education is in focus as students are heading there in big numbers for higher studies in the areas of design, architecture and technology. It is a city busy reinventing itself to maintain its place in the world.There is strict punishments for anything illegal, starting from littering the streets and not standing in a queue. Nightclub guards check the IDs of every youngster to verify their age. It was an eye-opener to witness responsible youngsters who respectfully took out their IDs and stood in queue patiently. No one throws any weight around, as is the case in Delhi. When ordered, a taxi arrives on the dot. No reminders are required and there’s no need to check the meter. This is a city that knows how to enjoy and retain its vibrancy, even within strict limits.Discipline, hard work and honesty can take you a long way, and that seems to have worked for Singapore. The week I was there, the Zee Cine awards were held there. The awards took place at the new Marina Bay Hotel. There, casino rules are strict and no cheating is allowed. The city looks spectacular from the roof deck of the hotel, on the 65th floor, which houses a bar and restaurant. The ships anchored along the harbour are all well lit making the view more eye-catching. Taxes in Singapore are not so high and people are ready to invest there. Singapore offers an international way of life without being suffocating. It is extremely liberal and has strict punishments for those who even think of uttering a word against any religion or colour. If I were to live in a city other than India, it would definitely be Singapore.

Pioneer-Dilli Billi-Jan.16th.2011-"Listen to aam aadmi"

"Listen to aam aadmi"
For the Congress to win any polls, it’s best that they listen to their grassroots workers instead of sidelining themThe Congress session held in Delhi was supposed to be one where the AICC delegates would do some introspection. But, as usual, it turned to be a mix of different groups raising their own slogans. Senior Congress leaders sitting in the first few rows exchanged ‘know-all” looks with an aura of superiority.Rahul Gandhi’s call for the aam aadmi to be helped is still just a call. There is no one in the Congress who is actually connected to the aam aadmi. The common man is fed up with the scams and scandals and is trying to cope with the price rise. They do not care at all about the GDP growth. They do not even understand it. The Congress party cannot win elections by talking big at AICC sessions while the whole country is trying to cope with price rise and blatant corruption.The Bihar elections were lost as the party did not exist in the State. The observers were sent just two months in advance. The general secretary in charge of Bihar should have prepared for the polls three years in advance. To build the party, he should have kept an eye on the persons who could be possible candidates. It is not possible to send a senior leader from the centre two months before the polls to find candidates to win the elections.The AICC delegates, who were elected or nominated from different States, actually had nothing positive to say about the session. It is remarkable how the old Congressmen can sit and behave like puppets. After all, these are the experienced lot of leaders who have won elections in the States year after year. It’s amazing how youth leaders of Congress think being in power is their birthright. But, there was one youth leader who won the hearts of the common man — the young dynamic Jyotiraditya Scindia. He touched a sensitive cord of all the workers of the Congress countrywide.Ever since the Rajya Sabha members have taken over at the centre, there seem to be a disconnect between them and the aam Congress worker. He works his way up to the district level, but beyond that he is ignored and snubbed. This frustration of the workers is what leads to defeat in States like Bihar. When a worker realises that he cannot reach the top, he switches the party. At the top, they do not do enough homework of who can win the seats. They just listen to their colleagues, who are baseless. If they were to go and contest elections, they would even lose their deposits. There are many youth Congress leaders who have a lot of honesty, integrity and dignity. But they have been sidelined because they will not suck up to the arrogant scrupulous leaders at the centre. Their confidence comes from the fact that they slog in their constituency. They have proved their mettle time and again.It is best for the Congress to talk less and act more. And they should take Jyotiraditya Scindia’s inputs seriously. Only then will the credibility of the party will be saved and the aam aadmi’s confidence be rebuilt.

Pioneer-Dilli Billi-Jan.9th.2011

Is it possible to prevent it?

Awarness, education, equality, courage and confidence will eventually curb rape incidentsLast week, I attended a debate contest in Delhi University in which students from 17 colleges had participated. The subject was “Can rape be prevented.” The debate has both girls as well as boys taking part in it. During the course of the debate, I found one common factor in every participant — that the Indian mindset of both sexes needs to change.We all keep harping on the same old line saying that rape is inevitable and how we must educate and spread awareness amongst every part of our society. But what we tend to forget is that we live in a vastly populated country where most live in slums and villages. We also have been trying our best to reach out far and wide with these messages. But sex in this country is used to vent out frustration, anger, and is also a part of entertainment for the poor.The men in this country have still not got used to the fact that women are now aware of their rights and are now getting more independent. Since time immemorial, men have used women as doormats and also as someone who have no feelings and emotions but should be used, abused mentally and physically. There are very few men even today in my generation who treat women as equals. It is the younger generation that is more aware of the fact that women are not only sex tools but are as brilliant and maybe even cleverer than men. That the female instincts are much sharper is a known fact in most cultures now.Most men would blame a women’s attitude, clothing, or mannerism if she was raped. They insist either her attitude forced the man to rape her, or her bare skin, or she was giving him those “come on signs”. These are what we generally hear in court when the rapist is defending himself. How absurd is this? The lawyers then grill the victim with all kind of embarrassing questions. That is the main reason that most women who have become victims to this heinous crime do not even report it. In villages child molestation is a common issue. A child, be it a girl or a boy, is abused by close relatives too. Some keep quiet because they are scared, and some because they are lured by gifts they receive in return.How many of the victims go without justice? We all close our eyes to cases of sexual abuse which come everyday. We have NGOs by the hundreds who rarely take any action. We do need to give our women much more confidence. And this has to come from the time they are born. Our daughters should be taught not to take physical cruelty which shows her down. A boy should be punished for not treating his sister or girlfriend as an equal. But most important is financial independence. Only then will the fairer sex be confident. Parents should realise this and spend equally on their sons and daughters. Awareness, education, equality, courage and confidence is what will eventually prevent rape.