Sonali Desai

Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

Issue 25

In Editions on April 29, 2011 at 10:31 am

Pedal Power

A group of passionate cycling enthusiasts are pushing for exclusive cycling tracks on key roads to help ease the city’s traffic, energy and environmental woes. Their dream is well on its way to becoming reality, finds Sarmistha Acharya.

As cycling grows in popularity among city youngsters and young professionals, and with authorities under pressure to pay more than lip service to energy and environmental concerns, Bengaluru could soon end up having exclusive cycle lanes on its arterial roads, turning them into ‘bicycle friendly streets’.

The project has been mooted by the Ride A Cycle Foundation (RACF), an organisation that promotes cycling as a clean and healthy alternative to current modes of transportation, with support from research organisation Gubbi Labs. According to RACF member Murali Ramnath, areas like Jayanagar, JP Nagar, Basavanagudi and Malleswaram are some of those shortlisted for the pilot phase of the project where tracks are expected to be constructed by the month of June to provide space for 25,000 cyclers, including the captive cyclers and students.

Work in progress

The project is supported by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) of the state government’s Urban Dev elopement Department. Sudhir HS of Gubbi Labs told City Buzz that the paperwork has already started on the ‘bicycle friendly street’ in Jayanagar. “The BBMP is in the process of tendering it out. The planning of the project is funded by DULT while its implementation will be funded by BBMP. The work for the other bicycle friendly streets will take some more time to start, may be the end of the year,” he said.

Basavaraj Kabade, BBMP executive engineer in charge of the project, said that the detailed project report (DPR) has been approved by the commissioner, and now they are awaiting the allocation of grants by the Accounts Committee. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 3.59 crore. “We are expecting the project to be approved by the Committee in a week or two. After that the project will be given for tendering, which once completed, the work can start. We have also requested DULT to prepare a feasibility report for bicycle friendly streets in areas like RT Nagar, Malleswaram, Kormangala and Indiranagar,” Basavaraj said.

Babus enthusiastic

One of the key reasons such a ‘new age’ idea as cycling tracks has been fast-tracked towards execution is the support it has received from the government agencies like DULT which recognise that they need to think innovatively to tackle the city’s burgeoning traffic problem.

Shailender Singh, special officer at DULT, told City Buzz that the Directorate was always on the lookout for ideas that solve the traffic problem, and cycling tracks was a key area they are interested in exploring. “Cycle tracks are basically meant for places where there is low vehicular density. The places where the vehicular density is more, the tracks will be separated. Moreover cycle requires less space and it is the most efficient way of using roads.”

Karnataka state transport commissioner Bhaskar Rao agrees, when he says, “As step in the general direction of promoting non motorised vehicles as a means of transportation, it is a very good initiative for the cause of the environment.”

Tricky execution

Transportation experts like Prof MN Sreehari, who is also an advisor to the government of Karnataka for traffic, transportation and infrastructure, approved of the concept as a well-meaning initiative that will help spread awareness about issues related to energy and environment among the younger generation. But he is quick to point out that execution is the tricky aspect, and cites the example of countries like China, where a large number of people use cycles in urban areas.

“China has more cycles than any other country in the world but they have been mixing cycle users with fast moving vehicles so the number of accidents have increased. Therefore we have to create a separate facility, especially in residential localities, for cycle tracks. At least two-metre wide track is needed to ensure safety,” he said.

Captive users

Information collected by RACF shows that there are about 10,000 captive cyclers in the city who use cycles as their chief means of transport, mainly to commute to their workplaces. The major group of cyclers belong to the people aging from 20 to 45. There are about five to six cycle clubs in the city with their collective membership running into the thousands, who are actively backing the idea.

According to experts like Ramnath, cycling gained popularity as a trend among professionals in Bengaluru about five to six years ago, after many city techies got exposed to the popularity of cycling countries such as Netherlands, France and Denmark, where cycling is not only popular, but is actively encouraged by governments who have created the necessary infrastructure for it.

Around the same time, some shops in the city started selling imported brands of lightweight cycles, which also helped make cycling fashionable among the urban youth. Treks, Merida, Schwinn and Btwin-Decathlon are few of the models of imported cycles which the majority of the new crop of cyclers use. Those who use them claim that the new generation cycles are totally different from the old models, and part from being faster and more comfortable, are also largely maintenance free.

This small but growing group of cycling enthusiasts want to bring about nothing less than a revolution in urban transport. Going by their latest idea – dedicated cycling lanes – they just might be able to pull it off.

What non-cyclists say

Harish Bist K, student

“Using non motorised vehicles is a very good initiative to that will be beneficial for the environment. I will definitely opt for cycling if separate tracks for cycles are coming. I would prefer to use a cycle to reach places within a distance of two for three kilometer rather than use my bike.”

Chetan Shivarudraiah, an entrepreneur

“It’s my long term plan to use a cycle. As I am busy, I have not been able to find time for cycling. But if there is a track coming exclusively for cycles, I will switch to a cycle. If I can manage the time, then I will think of using the cycle as my mode of transportation to my work place as well.”

Fahad Khan, student

“It is good initiative to save the environment as well as to save petrol. We are running short of natural resources like petrol, so if we can save it by using cycle, then that would be a great help to the future generation. If we use a cycle to cover shorter distances than it will at least help in reducing down the pollution level to certain level.”

Indu Khokher, student

“I would definitely prefer to cycle if separate tracks are coming for cycling. Cycling has so many benefits. One or other way it is going to help in making the environment pollution free. Moreover it’s a good exercise also.”


Issue 24

In Editions on April 29, 2011 at 10:27 am

Look who’s talking about clean hands

Karnataka’s greedy, tainted politicians are coming out in support of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement… Are they crazy, or are they just being their usual hypocritical selves?

Manju Shettar

Support is pouring in for Gandhian activist Anna Hazare’s struggle from a shameless lot: Karnataka’s corrupt politicians.

Chief minister Yeddyurappa was the first to announce that he was backing the struggle to formulate the Jan Lokpal Bill, which, once in force, could cost him his job.

City Buzz spoke to prominent politicians in the BJP government, and almost all of them claimed they were in favour of Anna Hazare’s demands.

Ramachandre Gowda, forced to resign from his ministership following a staff appointment scandal, was the only politician who expressed some cynicism. He said, “I don’t think Anna Hazare is doing anything new. Vajpayee had already been talking about this bill.”

The bill, of course, has been pending for 42 years, and no politician, including Vajpayee, took the trouble to have it passed and turned into law.

“Corruption was common even in the British period and just we can’t put an end to it. If you force someone for money, that is corruption, but if you get a tip, that is all right,” said Ramachandre Gowda, giving a new definition to the extortion at government offices. He described the system as “live and let live”.

The former medical education minister, who believes giving a bribe to a government employee is like “giving chocolate to a child,” said he would, however, support the passing of the bill.

S N Krishnaiah Shetty, also ousted from the cabinet after a land purchase scandal, said, “The Jan Lokpal Bill is a necessity and I support Anna Hazare. Politicians should be transparent.”

Katta Subramanya Naidu, caught in a scandal involving appropriation of government land, didn’t answer the phone though City Buzz tried several times. His officials said he was all for Anna Hazare.

Murugesh R Nirani, minister for large and medium industries, believes Hazare is fighting for the “good of the country.”

“The Lokpal Bill had to be passed several years ago, and at least now it should be passed. If it becomes an act, it applies to everyone, and we politicians should remember we will not remain politicians for ever,” he said.

Nirani is among those accused of large-scale power theft at Nirani Sugars and Cement Factory in Mudhol, northern Karnataka.

Congress leader DK Shivakumar said his party had been fighting corruption for a long time. “I support Anna Hazare, but I don’t have any idea about the bill,” he said. “I have to study about it.”

Shivakumar had earlier been accused of encroaching on forest land, and his family is charged with mining irregularities in Bellary district.
M P Renukacharya, whose love-hate relationship with nurse Jayalakshmi has yielded the tabloids some of their most sensational stories in recent years, said, “Hazare’s intentions are good. I support him, but I don’t have a clear idea about the bill.”

Now excise minister, Renukacharya was issued a non-bailable warrant in the nurse Jayalakshmi case and was, according to official records, absconding. The court had ordered the police to find and arrest him. Renukacharya had allegedly threatened Jayalakshmi that he would release intimate pictures of the two of them to the media and to the college where she worked.

The Reddy brothers also, incredibly, have come out in support of the Jan Lokpal Bill movement.

Tourism Minister G Janardhana Reddy, his elder brother and revenue Minister G Karunakara Reddy, and MLA-younger brother G Somashekara Reddy, are accused of large-scale illegal mining in Bellary as well as neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. They own the Obulapuram Mining Company. Between 2003 and now, more than 30 million tonnes of iron ore were illegally mined and exported from Karnataka, causing the government a loss of about Rs.60,000 crore.

Former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy was scathing about BJP leaders announcing their backing for Anna Hazare.

“Yeddyurappa is a wolf claiming to protect the sheep. He also lies and destroys records about his scandals. I appreciate Hazare’s movement, irrespective of whether he accepts politicians’ support or not”.

Former assembly speaker Ramesh Kumar said, “Yeddyurappa’s support is just a joke. Public figures should lead a life of dignity and only then do they acquire the moral right to participate in such movements. I think Anna Hazare knows very well whose support he really needs”.

Poetry all the way

In Features on April 15, 2011 at 8:46 am

Poetries Online has announced its new contest – the winners will not only be feted at their next National Poets Meet, but will be published in their fifth poetry anthology

Sonali Desai

Admit it, you too have fancied yourself a poet in high school. Or at least scribbled a few lines on an old notebook that you secretly flip through now and then. Then it will surely gladden your poetic heart to know that a new poetry website,  is holding a contest whose 100 winning entries will be published as compilation.

According to the website, their editorial board will select the best 100 poems from the entries, with a maximum of two entries for each poet, which will be published in Indus Valley, the fifth volume of their poetry anthology series in 2012. The anthology is expected to be released at their third National Poets Meet scheduled to be held around the new year of 2012, although the details of the event are yet to be confirmed.

The contest is open to all, although contestants will need to register as a free member on the website, where they can post their entries under the category Indus Valley. As the theme indicates, the poems may cover anything that portrays our mother land and its true spirit, but is not restricted to purely nationalistic. Only English language poems are eligible, and each poem can have a maximum of 25 lines. The last date of submission is August 31, 2011, and they have received about 50 poems so far and are looking forward to active participation from poets across the country as well as abroad.

Gopakumar Radhakrishnan, managing editor of Poetries Online told City Buzz, “The idea is to show India in the form of poetry to the outside world. It is going to be about India, its culture and heritage.” He also added that based on the poems chosen for Indus valley, the editorial board will select the three best poets from the series who will be honored for their achievement by their community of poets.
Mr Subramanian who is one of the members from the Selection board says, “The theme based on depicting the history of India, right from the prehistoric days. We have still not short listed the poems, as we are waiting for more participation.”

Aruna Kumar Tripathy from Hyderabad, who joined the website nearly three years ago, said he is planning to submit an entry for the contest that is based on nature, the core theme of all his poetry. Mayank Sharma, a member from Delhi says, “I have not yet started to jot down my poem for this anthology but I think the subject is very good. While the poets express their feeling for the country, it will help them and their readers discover various hidden aspects of the nation and its culture.”

Ashima Gulati says that a broad theme such as Indus Valley would help bring out the best from poets of all age groups, and adds, “Every age group thinks so differently and especially youngsters’ poetry will naturally be different. Earlier we have had topics that had only a single word like ‘change,’ which was often abstract, and our thoughts would revolve around this one word. But having a topic like Indus Valley would draw many more perspectives from poets across the country.”

Issue 23

In Editions on April 15, 2011 at 8:23 am


The BBMP is taking credit for banning hookah smoking at cafes, but Sarmistha Acharya finds municipal officials quietly issuing hookah licences 

Sarmistha Acharya

The BBMP has just banned hookah cafes, but shockingly, it has simultaneously issued licences allowing such cafes.

“The flavours stuffed in hookah contain nicotine, not allowed under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act,” said YM Ramachandra Murthy, deputy commissioner (health). Also, smoking is not allowed in public places, according to the law. Cafes, even upmarket ones such as Mocha, were possibly flouting the law when they served hookahs.

But, according to documents available with City Buzz, the BBMP issued a licence on February 21, 2011 to Dileep N for his café Cuppa at Banashankari. The licence allows sale of prepared food items with beverages and hookah flavours, and is signed by LT Gayatri, chief health officer, BBMP.

When City Buzz contacted Dileep, he said he was about to renew his licence, valid until March, when he heard that the municipal council was going to shut down hookah joints.

“However, I got to know from one of my friends that they had issued hookah licences. That’s how I approached the health department, and got one,” said Dileep. Clearly, he is not the only one who has a hookah licence.

Lame explanation

When City Buzz asked Gayatri how she could have issued such licences, she said she was under the impression that cafes stuff hookahs with herbal flavours and not tobacco. “As far as I know, this is the only licence we have issued for hookahs at a café. We will not issue such licences hereafter, and will cancel all such licences issued so far,” she said.

The council banned hookahs on March 29, about a month after Gayatri had signed the licence. The health department is going around the city, confiscating hookahs from the cafes.

Dr MN Lokesh, health inspector for the south zone, said most cafes had stopped serving hookahs. “We routinely go around checking, and have already seized 45 hookah pots,” he told City Buzz.

According to BBMP special commissioner KR Niranjan, “There was a lot of pressure on corporators in some areas to ban hookah centres. For example, there are a lot of hookah centers near Jyoti Nivas College about which the public in the area were complaining. The addiction of hookah is harmful for the youth, so the council has taken a resolution to shut down all the hookah joints in the city.”

Taking a similar line, mayor SK Nataraj said the council had banned hookahs because the habit was ruining the health of young people. “The health department has already started working on enforcing the ban from April 1,” he said.

Cancellation overdrive

Ramachandra Murthy went a step further and said trade licences would be cancelled if hotels and restaurants didn’t stop serving hookahs. “We have sent the chemical contents in the hookah to the Public Health Institute. Cafe owners will be punished severely if drugs are found in the flavours,” he warned.

Cafe owners are aghast. “We stopped serving hookahs the day the order came, and put away the pots in our hotel store room. On April 3, some officials came and seized our stuff without issuing any notice to us,” said the owner of a cafe near Lal Bagh. The BBMP says it needs to serve no notice to confiscate hookah pots.

All the action has prompted the launch of Bangalore Premium Cafe Owners Association (BPCOA). The association says no hookah cafe has yet received any official letter from the government or the BBMP.

Owners worried

Café owners today are a worried lot since the Corporation announced the ban. Abhilash Gowda, a partner of Banashankari’s Gustoes café which also has a hookah centre, said, “We started the café eighth months ago spending about Rs 30 lakhs. We will have to suffer a heavy loss due to the resolution taken by the council to shut down hookah centres. This business is like bread and butter for us and we haven’t even paid the loan we have taken from the bank for the construction of cafe.”

Satish Kumar, partner of Black Mug café echoed the similar sentiments and admitted that the hookah business was the mainstay of their café.  “When we ran the hookah business, our daily income was about Rs 4000 to Rs 5000, but now the daily income is about Rs 500 to Rs 1000. So earlier it was easier for us to meet our costs but now it is difficult even to pay the rent and salary of the staff etc. Small cafés like ours can’t handle the business without hookah,” he said.

A Rs 200 cr business

Amit Purohit, a member of the association’s core committee, estimates Bangalore has 70 to 80 hookah cafes with an annual turnover of Rs 200 crore.

He claimed cafes never served anyone below 18. “We have strict norms. We even check identity cards, and turn away underage visitors who want to smoke,” he told City Buzz.

He rubbished the BBMP’s insinuation that cafes stuff the hookahs with drugs.  “The flavour used in hookahs has just a tenth of the tobacco that a cigarette has. It is not as harmful as cigarettes or other tobacco and alcoholic products,” he said.

Just three days before the ban was announced, the BBMP had sent circular telling cafes not to serve hookahs to those below 18.

Purohit says his association is looking for an amicable solution. “An adult can exercise his right and can smoke. We want a solution which will allow us to have an authorised adult smoking zone,” he said. It is also worth noting here that a similar ‘ban’ was announced by the Mumbai city Corporation in 2008, which only succeeded in shutting down hookah centres temporarily.

Some college students have already found a workaround: buying their own hookah pots and flavours. “After the ban came into force, some of my friends bought their own pot. Instead of going to a cafe, we smoke in our houses,” said Sri Harsha, a second year B.Com student.

What citizens say

Rohit R, software engineer, Chikkalsandra
“The government is targeting cafes because it isn’t getting revenue from hookahs. Let the BBMP ban cigarettes and liquor first. Actually, many of us quit smoking by switching to hookahs.”

A M Nagesh, BPO employee in Infosys, Bangalore
“Hookah smoking is less dangerous than cigarettes and other tobacco products. If the government bans hookahs, youngsters will definitely go for cigarettes and liquor, which are more harmful.”

Sumukh, student
“If the government bans hookah cafes, we will buy our own pots and smoke in private. ”

Sri Harsha, second year B Com
“The decision is fair. I have seen youngsters just out of school getting addicted to hookah smoking. It is a craze.”

Rohit J Menon, engineering student, New Horizon College of Engineering
“I think it is a good initiative to stop students from getting addicted to nicotine. Students who have stopped other forms of tobacco and who smoke hookahs might now think of quitting hookah completely. ”

Lynn Glenda Pinto, software engineer

“Adults who are already addicted to smoking and liquor will find various means to get what they want but with the ban on hookah, at least the youngsters who are not mature enough to decide for themselves will not risk such addiction.”


Nyla Fatima, Final year MBA student 
“In my opinion, the council should not ban hookah. The percentage of nicotine in hookah is very less than in other tobacco products. If there is a ban on hookah, youngsters may opt for other tobacco products and liquor which are easily available in the market. If you go to any disco or pub, you will see any number of youngsters who are just PUC passed drinking there. The council should stop youngsters from going to such places, which will be more practical than banning hookah.”      


H Ramappa, former president of ITI Employees Union & K Y Saroja, housewife
Hookah cafes are functioning without licences. They should be shut down at once.”

P Jayakumar, businessman & Sandhya Menon, teacher
Some children start smoking the hookah at an early age, and gradually switch to cigarettes. Many below 18 visit hookah cafes with their friends. The ban will stop more youngsters from getting addicted.”

Connoisseurs’ club

In Features on April 7, 2011 at 11:12 am

If wine is your thing, then The Wine Club is your place, says Sonali Desai

Wine. Those who drink it swear by it, those who don’t, turn up their noses at it. But for the growing tribe of wine-drinkers in Bengaluru, what would be better than being a part of community of wine-enthusiasts? ‘The Wine Club,’ the brainchild of Aviji Barmann that interacts with the help of a social networking site dedicated to wine and wine drinking, allows you to do exactly that.

Wine Club members learn more about wines, share knowledge, exchange tips, answer wine quizzes, get to know about wine accessories, blogs, books, search for their favorite wines and read the latest news from the wine world. What’s more, you can even join a short wine course! To do all this, all a member needs to do is to create their profile and stay connected with your friends through the Club’s Wine Community where you get to meet likeminded wine enthusiasts.

Barman, who attended a ‘wine school’ in France, started his exploration of wine and wine drinking in 2006, which eventually led to the launching of the website in 2009. Barman says, “The purpose of starting a group like this is to reach the masses. Because it is a wrong notion that wine is the drink for the upper class – you don’t have to be rich to have wine. Moreover, there is a need for more wine education in India. Most people don’t even know that wine is healthy; that it’s good for the skin, the heart and can even prevent cancer. Some doctors have also developed dental treatments using remains of the wine extracts.”

Barman says that he will be soon starting a wine lounge in Bengaluru that will be designed exclusively for wine aficionados in the city. Also on the cards is a wine campus which he is planning to start in Nashik in Maharashtra, the wine capital of India.  “We are getting more traffic for our website from Indians because there is an element of pride in being a part of this,” reveals Barman.

Partha Sarathi Mondal, a Wine Club member who works with an MNC development centre, says “I joined the Club in September last year. I was going through an article on wine and cheese, and was told by one of my friends to take a look at this new wine site which I did and subsequently became a member. This website is very active, they keep updating news and wine stories every now and then. Articles are informative and easy for me to understand.” His personal wine choices are Grover Reserve and Sula Dindori. “I also like some Italian, French and Australian labels,” he adds.


Arunabha Bhattacharya has recently applied for membership at the Wine Club after he attended the Wine Fest held recently in Palace Grounds. “I want to join the Wine Club to know more about such wine fests and about wine tours and also for advice on the best wines that are available,” he says. His personal favourites are Kingfisher wine and white wine which he says goes well with Indian food.

Members like Partha finds the Club resourceful as they organise various wine events that are then advertised on their website. “There are other websites on wine, but I found this one to be more comprehensive and easy to access,” he added.

For more information, visit:

Wine fest
The Bengaluru International Wine festival 2011, organized by the state Wine Board, was held at Palace Grounds from March 11 to 13. Bigger than ever, the festival was attended by nearly 20,000 people, and featured guided tasking sessions, seminars, music performances and food stalls.

The highlight, of course, was the grape stomping session which nearly 500 people eagerly jumping into crush the fruits under their feet. The festival is aimed at encourage wine consumption in the state and thereby promote domestic wineries and the large number of grape farmers in the state.


Grapes all the way

In Features on April 7, 2011 at 11:05 am

Wine tourism, a popular trend abroad, is catching on in Bengaluru, but insiders say we still have a long way to go

Sonali Desai

Wine making is not new to Bengaluru. It was in 1970 when Kanwal Grover imported machine tools from France to start the first winery in the city under the Grover Vineyards. But with rising consumption and interest in wine, winemakers have now found another way to capitalise on their vineyards and wineries in the form of wine tourism.

After all, if you are a wine connoisseur who wants to know what goes into the making of wine, and what makes one wine different from another,  what better way to do it than to go on a wine tour? Wine enthusiasts in the city who have gone on such tours say that the harvesting months of January to March are the best times to take a trip down to the wine patio.

Santosh Kumar, public relations officer at Grover Vineyards which regularly conducts wine tours says, “We started the wine tour last year and so far more than 300 people have attended the tour. There is an increasing demand for wine these days in Bengaluru. Most of the youngsters who come back from abroad after studies look for quality wines and that is how they come to us.”

Grover’s vineyard is spread over 410 acres nestling in the foothills of the Nandi hills, and has several prized grape varieties used to make wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. The cost for a day’s visit to the Grove vineyards is Rs 800 to taste 5 varieties of wine and Rs 450 for 2 varieties. This also includes visiting the vineyard, their wine making unit and wine tasting.

“I had been to Grover Vineyard to know more about wines, like how they are manufactured and stored, and also to taste different varieties of wine,” said Sanil Mohan who runs a Consultancy in Taxation. Arunabha Bhattacharya, who is planning to go to on a wine tour with his family, said, “I have developed a liking for wine very recently and I wanted to see how it is manufactured so I will be going on a wine tour with my family next week.”

Apart from Grover, there are other vineyards in Ramnagara and KR Puram but none of them have their own winery.

Others like Avijit Burman, who heads the wine enthusiasts’ group Wine Club, are of the opinion that local vineyards are not yet ready for the proper wine tour experience. “I would never suggest a visit to Bengaluru vineyards for now, even though the temperature is friendly throughout the year for a wine tour, the vineyards lack basic facilities, and at most you can see lab testing there. Nevertheless, I have been told about some new Bengaluru vineyard and am looking forward to see them,” he said. Avijit had recently organised a wine tour to Nashik, the capital of Indian wine-making, and are planning another one this June.

Le Green hotels in Bengaluru have been organising wine tours for many years now but admit that local participation is still limited. According to Le Green’s Dileep Nair, “Not many locals are aware of wine tourism and wine is still very new to many here. We mostly get foreign students from UK who come here to study wine tourism, and it’s just for a day.”

In Nair’s words, wine tourism in the state is very new, and most wineries lack even basic facilities for visitors and provide no accommodation. He says that if wine tours are catch on, then the government has to make sure that it is done in a professional way.


Tranform yourself, body and soul

In Features on April 7, 2011 at 10:49 am

If you are one of those who hesitate and mumble and worry at work, here is a chance to break free. A new “body transformation company” was launched recently in UB City

Sonali Desai

Did you ever envy those beauty pageant contestants and wonder where they acquired their etiquette from? Do you hesitate before you start a conversation at a social gathering? Or professionally, is drafting an email a pain? Then, you should enroll with ‘Cucoon.’

This is a “body transformation company”, which was launched recently in UB City by three talented women of Bangalore, Wanitha Ashok (aerobics instructor), Avril Quadros (yoga enthusiast and holistic nutritionist) and Nalini Nanjundayya (image consultant).

Nalini Nanjundayya believes that first impressions are decisive, in fact in her words, “they are the last impressions.” Brutal as it may sound, there is hope yet. Nalini says, “People can change. It’s all about how much one wants to make a difference.”

This should come as a relief to most young professionals in the city, who are often anxious about the way they dress and present themselves at work. Sonal Gupta, HR Executive at Actern Consultancy, believes these skills to be essential. “We deal with clients from US and at business meets, our colleagues should be appropriately dressed and professional,” she says. Sonal, therefore, welcomes the launch of Cucoon.

There is no discounting the importance of fitness in the promised “transformation”, according to Wanitha Ashok.  However, her primary target is women because she believes them to be the foundation of a family.

But every change must begin from within, and that is where yoga enthusiast Avril steps in. She will focus on spiritual healing. “There is no use in owning a luxury car when you can’t drive it,” she says.

Sometimes, even something as routine as sending an email can be harrowing for bright, young minds. Vishwanath K, a software engineer with Mindtree, remembers his first few days at work. “I was a fresher and my seniors were very disappointed with the way I drafted my emails.”

E-etiquette (essentially, how to write emails) is crucial according to Sonal. Her organisation has even made it a part of their training programme. Cucoon too has a module on the same.


Vishwanath believes that women have a flair for these social skills. “I didn’t know how to interact with colleagues or even dress for work. But a girl who joined our team gauged how, instantly. Women are any day better at grooming and etiquette.”

Omana Mathews, who works as a senior manager in IBM, agrees with him. “Most men don’t seem comfortable speaking to confident women.” ‘Cucoon’, she believes, can whip them into shape.

Cucoon programmes
For professionals, housewives, students and models/actors:
There are customised workshops which provide any knowledge that she/he may require. The topics covered include nutrition to build energy, energy centering to combat stress, stress management through health and fitness, work etiquette, effective communication, travel protocol, cross cultural sensitivity, fine dining, knowledge of wines, the ‘how-to’ of temporary relocation overseas, relationships building and power dressing.

The workshops will be conducted to people who are interested at any location and the fee would be decided based on what package they choose. For details contact:



Travellers, not tourists

In Features on April 7, 2011 at 10:43 am

Unplanned, unhurried and on their own. An increasing number of people in the city are now avoiding ‘tourism’ for what they say is a more authentic way of going places.

Sonali Desai

They are adventurous, daring and spontaneous. They only know one thing before they set out on an adventure – their destination. But the real fun, this bunch of incorrigible travellers will you, is in the journey itself, stories about which their less adventurous friends back home can’t get enough of.

If you thought Indians were an unadventurous, ‘touristy’ bunch, and it was only foreigners who were the ‘real’ travelers, capable of making an impromptu decision to strap over-sized rucksacks on their backs before setting off on a trip around the world, think again. A growing number of urbanites – and a good many of them from Bengaluru are getting off the beaten track in search of adventure and experience, traveling to largely unheard of spots across the country, unplanned and on their own.

Sreenivasan, a mechanical engineer by profession, started trekking with a group of friends in the 1980s. He then started touring all over the India with his wife Poornima, mostly on trip planned on the spur of the moment, and together they have covered nearly one and half lakh kms across the country. “We have never planned our trips and have always traveled in our own vehicle. We only have a destination in mind and cover a lot of places on our way. It’s quite a challenge as we don’t plan anything, we reach a place and make our own arrangements,” says Poornima, who works with the Prestige group.

Sreenivasan adds, “This kind of traveling is very adventurous and I always make sure we live the experience of every moment during our travel. For instance, I tell my wife that photos don’t do any justification to a truly beautiful place; you can’t capture everything in a photograph, and it will only distract you as you’ll be thinking of taking the pictures and showing them off to others.” He has also been a part of wild life census during which he got an opportunity to explore forest interiors. All of this has led him to make a custom-built Mahindra 4×4 vehicle that can run smoothly on rough and uneven terrain like deserts and marshy land.

With most people preferring to go for large family ‘outings’ or organised package tours, committed travellers like Sreenivasan and Poornima are still exceptions, but their tribe is going. These are people who pack their bags and set out to explore the real India, experience the authentic Indian terrain by not only sightseeing but also engaging in a dialogue with the local people, and prefer to immerse themselves fully in the travel experience rather than tick off a checklist of ‘must-see’ places and ‘must-do’ things that come with most destinations.

For Krishna Kumar, a graphic artist, the love for travelling began when he went for an all India tour with his cousins after his graduation, after which he slowly started developing a fixation for traveling solo. “Travel packages are very expensive so I usually don’t opt for it. I travel by night so that I don’t have to book a room in a hotel and seek out for adventurous places during the day. We also go for the more unusual experiences; for instance in 2009 we had been to Himachal Pradesh and before we reached we had contacted a local guy who then connected us to a local trekker who then helped us to visit places most tourists don’t get to see.”

To Dennis Puritshabam, the inspiration for traveling came from his grandfather with whom he traveled to many places at the age of nine. “Most of the times I am into adventure sports. Water rafting and trekking is the kind of traveling adventure I love to indulge in,” says Dennis, adding that, “We don’t stay in hotels during our travel, but rather stay with the local people and in churches and similar establishments located in remote areas. With this you get to know about the local culture and get to see the normal activity of their life as if you were one of them. And this is only possible if you live with them and interact with them.”

Dennis admits that most Indians still prefer to travel in large groups and in organised tours. “Not many people I see are into this. I feel that we Indians don’t like taking risks and want to live in the comfort of a star hotel. For people who are interested in knowing more about travelling rather than mere tourism, I am working on a travel website and a magazine called Globetrotter, which will be launched soon. It will be all about ‘travelling beyond the guide book,’” he adds.

Make space for alternative art

In Features on April 7, 2011 at 10:21 am

A host of ‘alternative art spaces’ have become the refuge for artists fleeing the stifling and commercialised atmosphere of art galleries

Sonali Desai

Ten years ago art walked out of the galleries and made a home for itself at ‘alternative spaces.’ That is how the die-hard enthusiasts of alternative art spaces like to put it.

These are sort of NGOs for art and artists that want to escape the often stifling and hyper-commercialised atmosphere of the conventional art gallery for spaces where ideas can flow freely and the distance between artist and art lover is minimised. One way they do it is by encouraging guest residencies, where international artists of high calibre are invited to stay and work and interact with local artists. The welcome artists, lovers of art and the curious lay person to hold dialogues and debates, and serve as a venue for lectures, conferences, installations, performances, screenings and informal gatherings for artists and the alternative art community.

The leading alternative spaces to have emerged in the Bengaluru art scene are 1 Shanthi Road and Bar 1 (Bengaluru Artist Residency) who also host a residency programme which provides accommodation and workplace for artistes to create art works that nurtures creativity and cutting edge art practice.

Surekha, one of the founders of Bar1, says, “We started Bar 1 in 2001 with the aim of providing a platform for artists to interact and understand the whole methodology of the art work, produce local art work keeping in mind the culture of the city. Also, they are supposed to work on the venue given to them, they are free to bring out what they are best at doing, which underlines the local ethnicity, the residence where they will be exhibiting their art.”

Deepak DL, an artist has worked with both Bar 1 and Shanthi Road agrees, “Alternative art does not stick to art galleries; we can create an art show anywhere, in a hotel, in a house displaying local art. Also, there is a lot of creativity involved since it’s a new idea that you execute after interacting with the local people and local artists. This provides us a platform to learn a variety of new art forms like sound art works, art installations and performances.”

Shamala a practicing artist says points out how most young artists need space to redo and undo their art work after their formal training, and alternative art spaces give them exactly that, and function as a forum to explore art projects they are interested in. having experienced the need herself, she along with her husband started residency programmes through Bangalore Artiste Centre in 2006. Though the programme was discontinued last year, they are renovating the space and are planning to re-launch it in a big way, she says.

Her husband, Nandesh Shantiprakash says, “I picked up the idea of using waste materials for creating art works when I was abroad; it inspired me a lot. These kind of art spaces are different, they are also interactive, which has helped me look beyond the usual art works that we do.”

In 2008, Bar 1 organised the India-India Residency, an artist exchange programme organised in an old bungalow at Frazer Town, with support from the India Foundation for the Arts. All the artists involved came up with beautiful creations that matched the intensity of their personal experience of the arts scene and the cultural life of a city.

Alternative art spaces strive to help make each and every work produced by an artist unique and non-formulaic, and the local flavor which they often insist on adds another facet to these works, all of which undoubtedly draws many people in the city to see art with a different eye.

Where the homeless feel at home

In Features on April 7, 2011 at 10:19 am

This orphanage prefers to provide quality services and facilities to a limited number of inmates.

Radhika Vitla

When you first step in to Belaku, you would be hard put to think of as an orphanage. The unique atmosphere of Belaku Shishu Vihara feels as natural as home. Situated in a small house near NR Colony, Basavanagudi with only limited space for its inmates, Belaku nevertheless has an intimate quality that puts visitors at ease in its premises.

Started in the year 2000 in a small way, Belaku has today grown into a lovely home which houses 20 children, both boys and girls, from the age group of 6 to 18 years. Some of the inmates here have completed their education and are successfully leading their lives independently. Another mark of its success is Belaku’s old age home for women orphans which operates near Jayanagar 9th block.

Mohandas Dhavaskar, the 60 year old founder president of the orphanage; is the backbone of Belaku Shishu Nivasa. Dhavaskar, who hails from Sagar near Shimoga, has worked in many such institutions in and around his hometown over the past 30 years. According to him, Belaku is run entirely from private contributions, and does not receive any funding from the government. He adds that many people voluntarily devote their time for Belaku inmates, and help organise events for them.

Speaking on what makes Belaku unique, Dhavaskar  says, “We have no restrictions on people who want to meet the inmates, at any time. Anybody can come to Belaku and interact with the children and find out how they are being treated at the orphanage. Apart from studies and field trips, we also encourage the children to pursue and attend classes in extra-curricular activities that interest them like music, art and so on. They also get a chance to display their talent on different occasions like annual day celebrations and other festival functions.”

Mohandas, founder secretary of Belaku, recalls that initially they had struggle a lot to sustain the place. “The initial days were tough for us, but we were prepared for it. Having worked in several such organisations and seen many cases of scams, we were clear about one thing – we will limit our focus to a small number of children, for whom we will provide good facilities. Today, with these 20 children, our monthly expenditure comes to around Rs 50,000, all of which comes from the donors. If donors know that their money is being utilized well, they will continue to help institutions like ours,” he says.

Interestingly, Belaku has encountered many cases of fake orphans too. Mohandas points out how many people bring their children to be admitted at the orphanage saying that they had found the children, while concealing the fact that they are the real parents. “But we do not entertain such cases and admit only orphans, and examine all the proper documents related to the child. We also require the person who admits the child to the orphanage to come to visit the child every month. Without these restrictions, there are chances of our facilities being misused,” he adds.

Recently, a donor gifted Belaku a 2-acre property in Ramenahalli near Nagamangala Taluk in Mandya district, where the organisation is planning to set up an educational institution for rural children in that remote area. Belaku is also planning to open another old age home in Ramakrishna Nagar, Mysore.