Sonali Desai

Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

All things mango

In Features on June 19, 2011 at 8:08 pm

That was the just what they celebrated this year too at Ranga Shankara’s annual ‘Mango Party’

Gitanjali Warrier

Mango games, mango stories, and needless to say, just plain mangoes in all shapes and sizes. Day two of the Mango Party at Ranga Shankara saw a large gathering of mango loving adults and children telling stories, playing and avidly competing with each other to get their share of the juicy and ripe mangoes laid out for everyone. The annual event organised by Ranga Shankara is meant to inculcate a community spirit, and a wonderful excuse to have fun eating mangoes.

Put together by Arundhati Nag, the party was attended by luminaries such as Girish Karnad, as well as scores of theatre and art lovers who regularly patronise the place along with their families. When asked about the evening, Girish Karnad answered with a polite smile and an all-explaining nod, before mentioning a few sweet facts about the fruit: “The mango is an Indian fruit. The word mango itself comes from the Tamil word Mangaai, which is related to the Kannada word Maavinkaai. And there are so many varieties, and now we have a day to celebrate this variety.”

Arundhati Nag, the founder of Ranga Shankara, who calls the mango ‘a social fruit,’ first came up with the idea nine years ago, when she first decided to invite a few friends to spend an afternoon with her friends at the under-construction building over lunch with various dishes made of mango. She recalls that they brought a great array of them; mango rice, mango pickles, chithranna and a lot of other interesting and intriguing items. This led her to thinking, why extend this to everyone who would be interested in taking part, after all who wouldn’t want to enjoy mangoes on a breezy summer afternoon in the pleasant ambience of the theatre?

The day was especially fun for the little ones, who participated in various fun activities designed around the mango. One of these was a mango eating competition where the participants had to eat the mango without using their hands. It was an amusing sight to see the kids who finally gnawed their ways to the pulp leaping with joy on this achievement! The musicians of an upcoming Indo-German play, Boy With a Suitcase, started a drum circle for the children, and soon other musicians who were present join in with their instruments. A group of 6-8 year olds sat at one of the tables and were busy enjoying the fruit, and made sure that none of the adults where allowed anywhere near the beautiful fruits!

Keertana Kumar, who organised the whole celebration, asked the children about their thoughts on the fruit and many came up with answers like ‘My grandmother makes pickle’ and ‘My grandmother dries them on the terrace.’ One smart one even managed to give the recipe for mango chithranna, on the spot! Keertana feels that such memories associated with their childhoods must be nurtured; otherwise they would be soon forgotten, along with a whole culture which they signify.

To coincide with the Mango Party, a play Butter and mashed Bananas written by  local talent Ajay Krishnan, was staged. It was a play that made waves in the theatre scene when it was first staged, bringing the young playwright much acclaim. Arundhati Nag  was all smiles when said, “We are very proud of having encouraged these youngsters who have gone on to become known playwrights and actors. One of the ways we do it by doing mad things like throw a mango party!”



In Editions on June 19, 2011 at 8:06 pm

A group of engineering students in the city have successfully adapted Compressed Air Vehicle (CAV) technology to a motorbike for their college project. Sarmistha Acharya tells the story of their triumph.

Amotorcycle that runs on nothing but air?  If that sounds like a lot of hot air, wait till you see this one made by a group of four engineering students in the city. If the group has its way, we might soon have an ‘air bike’ – Compressed Air Vehicle (CAV) to be precise – zipping through our streets.

The students — Suyash Vardan, Sumit Kumar, Prabhu G and Shivaprasad AH, all from the MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology, designed the bike as part of their final year project on the suggestion of their guide. According to them, it is the first two-wheeler of its kind and is hundred per cent pollution free. The quartet has now received an invitation to present their invention in a forum to be held in the US this October.

Challenging project
The students readily admit that project was a tough one. Says Sumit, “Our guide SV Prakash gave us four to five ideas for our final year project out of which we chose this one. When we informed him of our choice, he warned us that some three batches of students before us had attempted the same thing and failed, and were forced change their project mid-way. But we took it as a challenge.”
The work for the project was divided equally among all the group members, with each of them spending up to four hours each day for the project. The whole project took a year to complete, including their two-month annual holiday during which the group stayed back in the college hostel to work on the project. As for expenditure, Sumit points out that it was lower than expected since they got the body of the bike from the college itself, with the rest of the expenditure equally shared between them, and came to nearly Rs 3,600 each.

The technology
Compressed air technology itself is not new, but the students say theirs is one of the few successful attempts in adapting it to a motorcycle. A CAV is powered by an air engine, using compressed air, which is stored in a tank. Instead of mixing fuel with air and burning it in the engine to drive pistons, compressed-air vehicles use the expansion of compressed air to drive their pistons.
Prabhu explains that compressed air is stored in a cylinder placed inside the fuel tank or under the seat. He says that the model they have built does not have a cylinder currently because they intend to use a fibre-glass cylinder which will be lighter than conventional cylinders – and cheaper as well – which they have ordered from a manufacturer in Italy. Each cylinder, with 15 kg of air, can last for about 40km at an average speed of 40 km per hour.

According to Prabhu, if the government were to implement the technology in bikes, the maximum cost of the vehicle would be Rs 30,000, easily affordable by the middle class. He lists the CAV’s advantages as follows: It is pollution-free, and you don’t have to worry about rising fuel prices. Unlike electric vehicles, it does not use batteries, and avoids the attendant risk of lead pollution. It can be used even in remote areas because people can easily get the cylinder filled with compressed air even in cycle shops by paying as little as Rs 10. Further, he pointed out that all four stroke bikes can be converted into this technology by replacing their engines with a CAV engine.

College sensation
While questions still remain about the technology’s technical and commercial feasibility, the ‘air bike’ has managed to capture the imagination of students in the college. The students had kept their work a closely guarded secret until one day a faculty member spotted them during a test drive, and enquired about the unusual vehicle. On learning that it ran on air, he relayed the information to others, and soon the bike had become something of a sensation.

“We couldn’t even have lunch that day as we kept getting requests from other students to demonstrate the bike,” recalls Sumit. But for all the applause, he adds, the group was able to complete the work just two days before submission date. Prabhu says that the rising price of fuel as well as environmental concerns were what prompted them to undertake the project in spite of its difficulty. “Petrol and diesel are non renewable sources of energy, so we wanted to build a bike that can run on a renewable resource that one can get cheaply and which also didn’t create pollution,” said Prabhu G.

Their biggest achievement, the students say, is in developing the engine themselves, within a year. They also ran into difficulty in finding a speed controller for the bike, which they finally found in Mumbai.

All-round applause
The group was thrilled when the judges who came to review all the projects appreciated theirs as one of the best projects of the year. Says Sumit, “The judges said that they were very happy that we have made the bike while studying in college. They also said that the engine can be used in small two-wheelers as well as for industrial work and asked us to patent the bike first.”

The judges advised them to approach the prestigious Society of Automotive Engineers in the United States. They are also getting curious visitors from industry, many of whom expressed their interest in the technology, but they would rather wait till they get their patent first, says Sumit. Recently, they were thrilled to get an invitation from the Society to present their project before them this October.
From their days of secretive toil in the college workshop, the group has come a long way; and that too, riding on nothing but air.

Goodbye, chief!

In News on June 19, 2011 at 8:00 pm

The recent killing of Mid-Day’s senior editor Jyotirmoy Dey has shocked India’s media fraternity. His colleague Satish Acharya remembers the committed crime journalist who was something of a mystery even to those who were close to him.

For me, J Dey’s name was synonymous with his column about Mumbai’s underworld gangs in The Indian Express.
When he joined Mid-Day some years ago, he sat next to me at our Mumbai office. He looked as though he was trying to hide his height and stature. He was unassuming, reserved and totally focused on the monitor. When I introduced myself to him, I said, “You’re a celebrity journalist.”

He laughed and said he was only as good as his last story. Gradually, we became friends, having dinner regularly at the office canteen. I never dared disturb him at work, for such was his concentration. His mysterious manner of talking on the phone fascinated me. He would call people bhai, boss, chief and so on.

One of my crime reporter-friends joked that now that I was Dey’s neighbour, even my phone would be tapped. Dey told me both the police and the gangs were eavesdropping on his phone. He misled them by calling people different names, sometimes even referring to his female friends ‘bhai’! He was a mystery, and it suited his investigative reporting.

At Mid-Day, graphics artists work a lot with crime reporters, doing story boards and sketching criminals. I had the opportunity to work with Dey and knew him as much as he wanted me to know him. If I ever had any doubt, like about the number of stars on a policeman’s uniform, I would trouble Dey or another of our colleagues, Vinod Kumar Menon.
When Dey was working on his first book, Khallas, he asked me to do some illustrations. He took me along to meet the publisher. The illustrations were never published because of cost constraints. On the way back, he took me to Byculla to meet the family of one of the oldest underworld dons of Mumbai.

The family treated him like one of them, sharing their grievances with him. He told me how politicians created underworld dons according to their convenience and then crushed them in cold-blooded encounters. He was angry. His stories seemed straight out of a Ram Gopal Varma movie.

Dey was like a cop, or a detective, when he wanted to get that extra little detail for a story. He had tonnes of info and photos. He had a huge network of khabris, whom he’d feed regularly. He would talk about his khabris proudly. He would share his home-cooked dabba food with us, as also his experience of dealing with the underworld and the police. Though some stories seemed too bizarre to be true, there was no denying his hardcore crime journalism experience.

I thought he always lived his life dangerously, never caring about the consequences. He knew he was under constant observation. He wanted to hide from the public gaze. When I asked him why his picture in the paper had a cap covering his face, he said he wanted to remain unknown. He wanted to roam the gullies of Bhendi Bazar or Behrampada without being recognised.

He made many people angry. I remember I had done a funny illustration about Dawood Ibrahim’s sister in Mumbai for one of his stories. Dey told me people in Dongri were angry both with the illustration and the story. I then realised the perils of crime-reporting. A couple of days after a story like that, he’d be back, roaming the bylanes to meet his khabris and look for stories.

It’s so ironic that his massive informer network couldn’t tip him off about the danger to his life on Saturday. Dey will live in the lives of all those crime journalists who work passionately and without fear. This will alarm them but I’m sure it won’t deter them.
RIP Dey.
Goodbye, chief!

The Wedding Photographer weds Reality

In Features on June 8, 2011 at 10:06 am

Sick of those fake ‘Kodak moments’ littered through photo albums? Say hello to candid or ‘natural’ wedding photography.

Sonali Desai

All of us have had to endure wedding albums filled with badly (or indifferently) shot photographs that have been thrust on us by over-excited relatives or friends. So, it might be surprising to find that those albums might soon become objects of nostalgia, thanks to a brave new breed of wedding photographers who are raising wedding photography to the level of an art form.

For them, wedding photographs are longer about saying ‘cheese’ or ‘Kodak moments’ that look too artificial and posed on hindsight, but about capturing the real expressions of real people in real settings. And what’s more, this candid and stylish new approach to wedding photography that entertains no fake smiles nor flashy backdrops is finding many takers among the younger generation.

No surprise there, either. For instance, if you ever come across the portfolio Anbu Jawahar – one of most sought after names in this emerging field – on Facebook, you would surely stop for a while to go through his work. Whether it is of the wedding set, the bride, the groom, the place or the people, every shot looks natural, simple, yet exceptional.

Anbu started shooting pictures only as recently as 2008, but his candid photographs from a friend’s wedding were appreciated so much that he decided to go professional. “Earlier people used to look into the camera, smile and then get clicked, but now people understand the art of photography, they need natural pictures than just a pose. I try composing the photography for wedding after talking to the couple, understand their rituals and I look for moments that speak to me, and that is how you bring in a best shot,” he says.
Prabhu Shankar, an architectural photographer who recently got his wedding photo shoot done by Anbu, says, “The best thing about him is that he can give you the best shot even in natural light; he does not require artificial lights, he can click anywhere at anytime. I chose him because I wanted my wedding pictures to be natural and not with poses.”

Nishal Lama, a wedding and a fashion photographer who follows the same approach, says that people are showing a lot of interest in a candid style of photography. “People have become more mature about photography; they don’t want the mundane stuff and capturing candid moments is all they ask for these days.” Nishal says that even though fashion photography needs to be customized, he tries his best to keep it natural. “Photography is nothing but freezing a moment. For instance, instead of taking a child to the photo studio, take him to the garden, let him play and then click the photos.”

Nishal also thinks that this type of photography is not really new, saying “most of the famous Indian photographers never shot their subjects when they were in a conscious state of mind. This is a western concept that is becoming popular now in India.”

others, like photo journalist Ayush Ranka, are slightly skeptical about the trend. “I feel that not many people understand candid photography and I don’t think there are many people who would go for it,” he says.

Kumar Sawan, a photographer who started by clicking snaps on his mobile is philosophical in his response, saying, “Everyone’s perspective differs from each other and so one cannot really say that photography has changed with time. The technology is the only change I see. But a natural photograph would speak to you and not a pose.”

Rustambagh’s guardian of dogs

In News on June 8, 2011 at 10:00 am

This housewife has been taking care of all the stray dogs in her locality for which she has been threatened and abused by her neighbours and even summoned by the police

Sarmistha Acharya

Stray dogs are creatures to be shooed away for most people. Not so for Rustambagh Layout resident Kalpana Mehta. For the past eight years, 50 year-old Kalpana has been taking care of more than 15 dogs in her area. Twice a week she feeds all the dogs with five kgs of food that includes milk, rice, biscuit and packaged dog food. Every month she spends about Rs 10 to 12,000 of her own money for feeding the stray dogs. After seeing her care and love for the dogs, now a few of her neighbours too have started taking care of them, while others contribute small amounts to help her meet her costs.

There were total 20 stray dogs in her area (near old Airport Road) when she started serving them from the year 2003 onwards and now the number of the dogs have come down to 15 as few of them died in road accidents. In all her work for the dogs, Kalpana is supported by her husband Deepak, a corporate executive.

Recalling how she started feeding and taking care of street dogs, Kalpana said it happened after she got a pet dog of her own that she used to take down the street for a walk every day, when she noticed the stray dogs. “After seeing those stray dogs I felt like doing something for them and I started feeding them biscuits. This went on for a year, but soon I faced opposition from my neighbours, who were all against this service of mine for the dogs,” said Kalpana. She said that people would even burst crackers to chase the dogs away at the time Kalpana would feed them.

Recalling some of her unpleasant experiences, Kalpana says, “I have got all kinds of abuses because of the affection for these animals. My neighbours have abused me saying, why don’t you take the dogs home or buy a plot for them. One of them called me a bitch, saying I’m one among the stray dogs. I was even threatened by a neighbour saying they will call the police, which some of them eventually did. In 2006, the police summoned me and said if the neighbours don’t like my feeding the dogs then I have to stop it or do it in a careful manner so that they won’t be disturbed.”

She used to feed the dogs between 5 to 5.30 pm in the afternoon which was disturbing the neighbours as it was the time when people came back from work or children came back from school. In order to avoid further alienating the neighbours, she changed the feeding time to 2.30 in the afternoon.  She would lead the dogs to an empty plot at the end of the road where she would feed them. “These dogs don’t quarrel with each other while having food and they behave just like human beings seated on a table to have food. They wait for their turn to be fed,” says Kalpana.

Apart from feeding them and taking care of their health, Kalpana has also ensured that the male dogs have all been sterilised, as a result of which their number has remained constant all these years. “I personally ensure that the dogs are operated and brought back after getting vaccination by Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA),” said Kalpana.

Kalpana has also had to fight the civic authorities to save her dogs from being captured as part of the BBMP’s 2008 drive to cull all ferocious and diseased dogs in the city. “When the dog catchers captured the dogs in our area, I stood against it, and with the help of a friend, freed all the dogs they had taken,” says Kalpana proudly.

Issue 31

In Editions on June 8, 2011 at 9:35 am


Many of the party and wedding halls in the city where you celebrate occasions you hold dear or sacred operate illegally. They either have no licence or do not follow a sanctioned plan, reports Asha Menon.

Asha Menon

Out of 170 party halls in south Bangalore, 110 are unlicensed, according to a list drawn up by the BBMP’s Department of Health as of date December 11, 2008. This came as a reply to an RTI application that was filed by Ravindranath Guru of Coalition against Corruption (CAC).

On September 23, 2006, Guru had attended a meeting with Lokayukta Santosh Hegde and a few Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials. Various issues were discussed among which was the misuse of basements. Guru said that basements were being misused, unlicensed party halls were functioning and that many of the halls have not followed the sanctioned building plans. In the meeting it was decided that a survey was in order, to determine the extent of misuse. Those present included joint commissioner (zonal), joint commissioner and deputy joint commissioner for health and health officers (East, West, South).

A statement issued by the joint commissioner of south (health) regarding this meeting, says that the BBMP officials had asked their next in command to study the situation and send in their report by May 30, 2009. The officers were asked to investigate the allegations by collecting information on all halls in every zone, and checking if they had followed the sanctioned plans and if they have licences to operate.

If the allegations were indeed true, then BBMP must warn the operators that legal action can be initiated against them at any point. Also, the public must be informed that the halls are under scrutiny so that they are not cheated of their money. For this, the municipal authority must hang boards on illegally operating halls. The public notice must inform the public that these marriage halls are not legal and should not be rented out for functions.

Meanwhile, Guru was using the RTI Act to track the progress of his complaint. “In February 2007, under RTI Act, I filed an application asking for certified copies of executive orders issued on the decision taken at that meeting,” says Guru. The joint commissioner for south (health), BBMP, replied saying that 64 party halls operated out of the basement. The response did not give enough clarity on the question Guru had asked, and so he filed another RTI asking for the details of the 64 party halls with their addresses.

There was no immediate response, except that they would give the reply in a week. Guru got a reply after many months on December 11, 2008. “It said that there are 170 party halls out of which 110 are not licensed.” The reply says that there are 51 licensed ones and nine ones that had closed down.

“In February 2009, we filed a complaint with the Lokayukta’s office in this regard,” says Guru. What they had expected was a thorough inquiry into the corruption that made this illegal activity possible in such a large scale. “We wanted to know how this situation had come about,” says Guru. He was expecting halls to be closed and officers to be taken to task. Instead, he was told that action was being taken to license the halls. A few weeks ago, at the Lokayukta office, the CAC members were assured that “action was being taken.”

While the number of illegal halls in south Bengaluru is mind-boggling, Guru says that the situation is not very different in the other zones. “The Deputy Commissioner of Health’s reply to my RTI application says that out of 53 marriage halls, five do not have parking facility and 12 do not have licences. In the west, the reply said, out of 85 halls, 51 operate without a licence.”

In June 2009, BBMP put up boards on some of the halls, warning people against booking them. “Most of these halls have now taken these boards down and have started functioning,” says Guru. A public notice (dated June 6, 2009) given by the municipal authority, in a prominent English daily, orders the closure of some of the party/marriage halls. But, CityBuzz tried booking with three of the halls that were listed in the notice and they were open to taking a booking.

The first one, we spoke to, was Ganjam Kalyana Mantappa. It was the fifth on the list of “Party/marriage halls having no licence” (BBMP notice issued by the Office of the Commissioner, on June 6, 2009). The rates here are Rs 84,000 a day and they are open from 6am to 10pm. Catering will need to be arranged by us, they said. They do not accept cheques made out to the hall, but the Ganjam Nagappa and Son (HUF).

At Jayanagar’s GNR Kalyana Mantappa (number 17 on the list), the rates are Rs 1,05,000 for two days. It is Rs 60,000 for a day and extra for lighting, catering, etc. No cheques will be accepted here.

At Krishna Kalyana Mantappa in the same locality (number 18 on the list), the rates are Rs 95,000 for two days. This non-AC hall cannot be rented out for a day. No cheques will be accepted here, either.

We checked if there were any legal hassles and all the three halls assured us that there would be none.

Buildings and spaces being misused is a pet peeve with Guru. One of his earliest battles was against a party hall that operated in his residential locality in Banashankari. “In the 40×60 site, they were operating two party halls. One was in the basement and the second, on the first floor,” he says. It had been operating since 2000, and he moved permanently to the neighbourhood he had known for over three decades in 2003. When the deafening sound and traffic congestion got on the residents’ nerves, Guru filed an application under the RTI Act.

“There had been a small house in that compound and the owner of the hall had bought it and had taken a change of land use, for office space. It was not meant to be a party hall, but he ran one anyway. BBMP officials did not seem to bother with it. Also, the license issued in 2000 was for the earlier building (the small house) and not the new, larger one that was constructed on the same site. We took the matter to the High Court and it ordered the hall to be closed.” Today, shutters are down on the building.

Commissioner’s list of violators
A notice came out in an English daily, announcing the closure of some halls in the south Zone, on June 6, 2009. “The Commissioner of BBMP has ordered the closure of the following party/marriage halls falling under the south zonal jurisdiction of the BBMP that have not obtained the industrial licence officially and violated the building bye-laws by converting the basement parking facility into lunch homes and running industries.”

Party/marriage halls that have obtained licence but are not allowed to run lunch homes and yet violating the rule

  1. ChandragiriPalace, Chandra Layout
  2. SVParty Hall,KSExtension
  3. Nandini Party Hall, Padmanabha Nagara
  4. Deepashri Party Hall, BSK II Phase
  5. Urs Party Hall, BSK II Phase
  6. GK Party Hall, BSK II Phase

Party/marriage halls having no licence

  1. Balaji Kalyan Mantapa,Mysore Road
  2. Shadi Mahal, Bapujinagara
  3. Bhavasara Kshatriya Kalyana Mantapa,Gandhi Bazar Main Road
  4. Nageshwara Kalyana Mantapa,NAT Road
  5. Ganajam Kalyana Mantapa,Bull Temple Road
  6. Rai Rai Kalyana Mantapa,Pampa Mahakavi Road
  7. Chandrashekara Bharathi Kalyana Mantapa,Pamapamahakavi Road
  8. Sharada Prasad Kalyana Mantapa,Pampa Mahakavi Road
  9. Parvathamma Kalyana Mantapa,Bull Temple Road
  10. Jagadguru Renukacharya Kalyana Mantapa, SBN Hall
  11. Bharathi Krupa, Girinagara
  12. Smt Lakshmmma Venkata Rao Kalyana Mantapa, Girinagara
  13. Hanumanthappa Kalyana Mantapa, BSK III Stage
  14. Deepam Party Hall, BSK III Stage
  15. Krishna Convention Hall, Karesandra
  16. Sai Pushpanjali Kalyana Mantapa, JP Nagar
  17. GNR Kalyana Mantapa, Jayanagar
  18. KrishnaKalyana Mantapa, Jayanagar
  19. Samskruthi Party Hall, Jayanagar
  20. Lakshmi Venkateshwara Kalyana Mantapa,Kankapura Main Road
  21. Navarang Marriage Hall, Gurappana Palya
  22. Shyamanna Kalyana Mantapa, BTM Layout

The notice says that the named halls will be closed down at any time by the municipal authority and “steps will be taken to demolish buildings violating the building bye-laws”. It cautions the public from booking the halls.

Cheese on silver

In Features on June 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm

There is a new fine-dining restaurant in Indiranagar, Spaghetti Kitchen, which will serve authentic Italian dishes

“Bangalore was a natural choice,” says Italian Celebrity Chef Bill Marchetti when asked why another Italian restaurant on 100 feet road, which is already lined with Casa Piccola, Little Italy, Italia and the likes. Marchetti says that the people in this city love Italian and Mediterranean cuisines. “They are a good number of non-Indian restaurants, when compared to Indian ones, in Bangalore.  The city’s dining culture is classy,” he says. Therefore, Spaghetti Kitchen, the popular landmark for authentic Italian cuisine, could delight Bangaloreans with its newly launched outlet at Indiranagar.

After garnering much appreciation with its exclusive service and world-class quality in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, this Italian chain now comes to Bangalore to make its mark. Every dish on the menu has been created by Chef Bill Marchetti to give you a taste of true Italian palate.

Talking about his love for food, Marchetti says, “I cook the food I like to eat, and most of the dishes that is on the menu come from what I’ve had in childhood.” But he does not cook and decides only what goes on the menu. “I have a fleet of good chefs who work under my guidance,” he says. Praising every Indian’s love for cooking Bill says, “Every Indian knows the basics of cooking and so it was easy for me to teach Indian chefs, unlike in the west where we only see fathers cooking barbeque on a Sunday.”

The exotic menu at the restaurant includes signature dishes like Penne Vodka, Black Pepper Chicken, Sea Bass and Tiramisu as well as the popular Parmesan Cheese Potatoes and Triple Chocolate Biscotti. There are also delicious antipastis, insalatas, risottos, lasagnas and thin-crust pizzas. Marchetti’s assortment of dishes promises to delight diners. “We pay special attention to ingredients and training our staff, so that discerning customers have a classic fine dining experience like none other,” says Marchetti.

Spaghetti Kitchen was launched by Blue Foods (Pan India Food Solutions Pvt. Ltd.) on May 19. At the function, Vinay Gopinath, Head – Sales and Marketing, Blue Foods, said, “We have been evolving with every outlet we have launched. This one has a open kitchen and a bar.” Designed as a refreshingly open and stylish restaurant, this restaurant is defined by its spacious settings and elegant décor. Spaghetti Kitchen is a delight with authentic Italian flavor, served in a contemporary atmosphere.

The restaurant is located at 100 feet road, Indiranagar, Bangalore.

Chef’s Picks:
1. Fluffy potato and cheese Gnocchi with an authentic rich Bolognese meat sauce or with Gorgonzola blue cheese and French Cream
2. The crunchiest Cracker Pizza with Italian pepperoni salami or simply and elegantly as a classic Margherita Piemontese chestnut filled profiteroles with hot Maracaibo chocolate sauce and chocolate-coated wine-+soaked figs

“When you are passionate about something, you usually find a way”

In Interviews on June 1, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Old-timers quickly lapse into nostalgia when they talk about the bygone days of Bengaluru. The work of Christina Daniels, whose evocative photographs of old Bengaluru was recently on display, shows you why.

Sonali Desai

She was not born in Bengaluru, but has vivid memories of the city’s charm while growing up here. In her own words, “When I think of my childhood, I see tree lined roads along which we cycled to school, occasional cars, sprawling bungalows aplenty, neighbourhood games that broke up lazy afternoons and the genial feel of a small town where everybody knew each other.”

It’s the magnificent old Bengaluru that was that inspires Christina Daniels, whose visual documentation of the city’s architectural heritage was recently on display Koshy’s. Her evocative photographs are a must-see anyone who wants to relive the memories of the Bengaluru of yore. Titled Cantonment Fables, her exhibition of photographs on Bengaluru’s colonial era architecture was also followed by an informal session when several old residents of the city shared their recollections of the Bengaluru of yesteryears.

Born in Thiruvalla (in central Kerala) in 1976, Christina moved to Bengaluru with her parents as a four-year-old. She now works at Dell as a part of the company’s Marketing Communications team.

 Excerpts from the interview:

You have been documenting Bengaluru’s architectural heritage in photographs for some time now. When did you start?

I first began working on photographic documentation of Bengaluru in 2000, but it really picked up momentum only since the last two years.
Why ‘Bengaluru architecture’ as a theme?
I am interested in architectural photography. And then, Bengaluru is my first love. So Bengaluru’s architecture has become my primary focus.
How would you describe your recent multimedia presentation Cantonment Fables at Koshy’s?

I think it was an interesting evening that combined a sharing of visual memories through photographs with the narration of different oral histories of the city.

Tell us some of the interesting stories narrated by long-time Bengaluru residents at Cantonment Fables.
The older residents at the event shared slices of life from the past that gave us a glimpse of life in Bengaluru in the 50s, 60s and 70s. They touched on themes as diverse as the transport system, the abundance of urban wildlife in those times and a whole bunch of stories around a particular house on St Mark’s Rd that was owned by two sisters, and lies deserted to this day. Jacqueline Colaco also shared her photographs of growing up in the 70s.
Finally, old Bengaluru was often shrouded in historical myth that related to the British Empire. KVK Murthy brought in a touch of that when he narrated how many years ago he had discovered the Sarawak House in Bengaluru. This was of course a reference to James Brooke who defied the East India Company and set himself up as the Rajah of Sarawak. It’s worth asking what could have been the connection between that legendary figure and this faraway outpost of the British Empire.

How did you develop an interest in shooting pictures of old Bengaluru?
My interest in this area – photography of old Bengaluru, and specifically in the Cantonment – was inspired by a talk that I heard many years ago by Narendra Pani, given at Select Bookstore. Peter Colaco’s work here has also been an inspiration.

Did you always have an eye for photography?
Well, I was interested in photography since the time I was in high school. But I owned my first SLR only in my mid-twenties, and that’s when I began to explore my interest in photography. Much of this expressed itself in my documentation of Bengaluru’s architectural heritage.

What do your parents have to say about your work?
My mother has always encouraged me with this project. In fact when I lose my focus, she always reminds me that I need to continue my work on this project. My father died before I discovered my interest in photography.  But he has always encouraged me to dream and follow my heart.

You’re also a writer and communications professional. How do you manage your time?
It is difficult sometimes, but when you are passionate about something, you usually find a way. This might often involve sitting up late into the night!

What do you write?
Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, travelogues, film reviews, book reviews, marketing communication. A better question would perhaps be whether there are any genres that I haven’t dabbled in!

Tell us about your schooling and college days…
High school was in Bishop Cottons and college in Jyoti Nivas. The 80s and mid-90s were some of the best times to be growing up in Bengaluru.

What are your hobbies, apart from photography?
Writing, reading, theatre, music, travelling, dancing…

What plans do you have for the future?
I would like to take my work on photographing Bengaluru into a book that brings together Bengaluru’s many histories, futures and cultures.

Paws to fraternise with claws

In Features on June 1, 2011 at 3:16 pm

A club for pets, the first of its kind in the city, could soon be a favourite among pet-owners. It offers many facilities including day care and a swimming pool exclusively for dogs

Sarmistha Acharya

Now people don’t have to anxiously search for play areas for their pets. Dogs and cats will no more be confined to their homes. A dedicated pet club has come in the city, where among other facilities, there is a swimming pool which is exclusively meant for dogs.
Located at Sarjapr road, Paw & Claw is a club for pets. Spread across an acre, it is a kind of resort for pets and offers different kinds of services including boarding (both for dogs and cats), day care, grooming services, a play area and a swimming pool for dogs.
The owner Adnan Khusro Quraishi claims that this is the first pet club in Bangalore. Here the owners can accompany their pets and spend the day with them. Or if the owners are busy, then they can avail the day-care facility and leave their pets in good hands. Adnan believes that a club has more than the immediate benefits of care and luxury, and that it can help pets learn socialization. Through the club, he says, they will become friendlier to people and other pets.

He believes that the club is a necessity, since there is no place in and around Bangalore for or dedicated to pets. Added to this, dogs are not allowed into parks in the city. The pet owners have to wait till night to take their dogs out for a walk.

The swimming pool is an effective way to exercise your best friend, he says. Fifteen minutes spent swimming is as good as a 15-mile-long walk for a dog because swimming is an exercise during which the whole body works and therefore there is overall development. There are no convenient walks in the city for such a long stroll and also, the swimming pool will save the owners some time.

Adnan’s venture is inspired from personal experience. “I have three Rottweiler dogs. All breeds of dogs need regular exercises and I found no space for this in Bangalore. Therefore, I came up with the idea of this club.” He had been considering this idea for over three years and he started work on it six months ago. While the idea came from Adnan, he was ably assisted by few of friends in this initiative.

Pet owner Vinay Kumar M S believes that others like him will definitely take an interest in Paw & Claw, particularly because of the various facilities the club provides. “I have heard from one of my friend that dogs have got diabetes also. So if the club is proving some health-related services such as facility for swimming then owners will surely line-up for its membership,” said Vinay Kumar. Kumar says that the day care service would be really helpful for owners since most of them are working and having a safe place to leave their pets behind will be welcome.

Banshankari’s Guru of RTI

In News on June 1, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Retired government officer Ravindranath Guru utilises the RTI Act to ensure that his neighbourhood is not cheated of funds and developmental works

Asha Menon

Every ward needs a Ravindranath Guru. This 68-year-old retired government officer and resident of Banashankari Second Stage has consistently ensured that funds allocated to his locality are used productively. His one, effective weapon and ally has been the Right to Information Act.

Three years ago, a children’s library was listed under the ward development work. “Five lakh rupees was allotted for it,” says Guru. “But by the time the building came up, a board that read ‘Senior Citizens’ Office’ was put on it. We filed an application under the RTI Act asking for the relevant documents and wrote a letter along to the Directorate of Libraries and when they sat on it, we took it to the joint commissioner of the Corporation. We took up the issue with Department of Urban Development, the commissioner of BBMP and the MLA in charge. Finally, we got our library. All this was managed without going to court and only through RTI.”

There are more victories. Guru took on the allocation of funds for the maintenance of public toilets. “There are three in my vicinity – one is kept through a public-private partnership and the other two, by solid-waste management contractors. Our annual budget earmarked Rs 15 lakh for the maintenance of these three toilets. That is Rs five lakh for each toilet a year, Rs 40,000 for each a month and Rs 1,300 for each a day. Why spend so much on a public toilet? Through the RTI Act, we asked for the tender details and how much each contractor would be paid, and how they reached their estimates. When we raised questions with the joint commissioner and the zonal commissioner (of BBMP), they were surprised. The MLA immediately said that this work was not needed. If we had not questioned it, contractors would have claimed this amount with bogus bills.”

Rs 20 lakh was allocated for the maintenance of a playground, under planned expenditure one year. Under the non-planned expenditure, Rs 50 lakh was again set aside for the maintenance of the same playground, says Guru. “We asked for the work order, estimate and tender notification under the RTI. Soon, the MLA said that the work is not required and the funds were diverted to better the local hospital.”

Guru’s latest fight has been regarding the funds listed for solid-waste management. “In 2006-07, 100 wards were allocated Rs 33 crore and in the next year, 2007-o8, the amount was revised and increased nearly thrice to Rs 95 crore. So there should be an improvement in services. We took the work order and the number of people employed for this. According to the contract, employees are played ESI and Provident Fund, and also given safety gear like gloves and mask. But you talk to any cleaner and they will be clueless about PF and ESI. When have you last seen a worker wearing the safety gear, which has been billed under the contract? We have taken this up with the Lok Ayukta.”

This constant badgering for better governance also brought home some threats. “Some miscreants attacked my house in 2006. They broke the windows; even climbed to the first floor to break some more.” The police complaint he registered did not come to much. “It is still going on in the court somewhere,” he says. Nothing seems to deter him.

Senior citizens play an active role in bettering their locality, according to Guru. “Every individual works for his career and children. At least when they retire they can work for the society,” he says. He dismisses health concerns that come with age. “I have arthritis, diabetes and a heart condition, but it becomes a problem only when I sit and ponder over it.”

He appeals to youngsters to take an active interest in bettering their neighbourhoods. “Nowadays, IT people want to exercise their social responsibility. We ask them to spare sometime in the weekends for such work.” Guru does not believe that Residents Welfare Associations are the only way to work for a better locality. In fact, he was expelled from the RWA in his neighbourhood. “I questioned and rallied against the commercialisation of sites which are given approval only for residential buildings.” It was a threat to the local builders, he says. “Our RWA had become dominated by them.” Today Guru is part of an NGO called Coalition against Corruption, and going strong in his battle to use citizens’ rights to improve governance.