Cycle your way to fitness

Statistics point out that every third death is due to heart attack, which can be attributed to our sedentary lifestyle. The younger lot is going the Aamir Khan way and taking to cycling, reports Parbina Rashid

THIS piece of news is for those who think possessing a Hero Honda Karizma (thanks to Dhoom 2) is the ultimate dream come true. The Peace Clubs of different schools have joined hands to observe 2007 as the ‘Year of the Bicycle’. And not without reason!

According to statistics compiled at the PGI, Chandigarh, every third death is due to heart attack, which can be attributed to our sedentary lifestyle. If that’s not inspiring enough for you to take to cycling (we know that John Abraham on his bike with a stylish Fast Track shades on his nose is any day more inspiring than a dowdy PGI doctor with depressing facts), then let our own cycle brigade do the trick.

Once you have a look at them, the conventional image of a cyclist, which probably sprang from Rajesh Khanna singing Dakia dak laya, will be erased from your mind forever. One of the cyclists is Michelangelo Francis, a teacher at St. John’s School, an artist and musician, who can easily be called the youth icon of the city.

Give him a choice and he would prefer to pick up his cycle, rather than his motorcycle or car. “Chandigarh is small and cycle-friendly, it is easy to commute on a bicycle here. So why use a car or a motorcycle and add to the pollution level? And not to forget the spiralling petrol price.”

Considering the fact that Michel often teaches his students about global warming and greenhouse effect, he literally “practices what he preaches”.

Another of them, Jeesu Jaskanwar Singh, is known for his bicycle expeditions to the Ladakh region. A lecturer in the Department of Correspondence Courses, Panjab University, he prefers to bicycle to his workplace too.

“I have been associated with various NGOs that encourage taking up bicycles as modes of transportation and has also been organising trips to Leh”, says Jeesu. A socially motivated youth, he has a piece of advice for the administration to encourage cycling; “Chandigarh can follow the footsteps of Oxford and other good institutions aboard that allow only cycles inside the campus.”

If it is the environmental and social causes, which are motivating the younger lot to take up cycling, then it is the lure of good health, which is motivating the older generation.

M. Ramaswamy, Senior Assistant Manager at the Reserve Bank of India, defies the norms of the status-conscious society in order to keep himself fit.

“I have been cycling around for the past 20 years in this city and look at me, even at 40 plus my blood pressure is normal and I am no diabetic,” says Ramaswamy, a former hockey player. “The busy schedule at the bank hardly gives me time for exercise. So cycling is the only way I can make up for my sedentary hours at work,” he adds.

And as far as the status quotient goes, Ramaswami does not pay much respect for the show off culture. “Who needs a car if one is physically fit?” he asks.

Trading the same path is Surjit Singh, also an Assistant Manager at the RBI. “I have been cycling to my work place for the past 18 years and I am absolutely fit,” says this 59-year-young, who had earlier served the Indian Navy.

But what about the time factor? Doesn’t it take longer to reach their destination? “The city is so small that if one uses a bicycle, instead of a car, one loses only 10 to 15 minutes to travel from one end to another,” they say in a chorus.

However, everything is not so rosy in this city, even with its small city status and cycle tracks. “There was a time when I used to bicycle around all the time but now I am scared to venture out on one,” says Aditya Prakash, one of the pioneer architects of the city. “Though the city now has cycle tracks, there are certain drawbacks, especially when it comes to the crossings,” he rues.

Another factor, as Ramaswamy points out, is that though the streets have become wider four times since 1980, it is still not enough to cope up with the growing traffic.

But that should not deter the youngsters to take up cycles and make use of the cycle tracks. That is a piece of advice from Francis Xavier Selvaraj, who is working with the RBI. At least till a child has completed his plus two, he should be made to travel only on bicycles, he feels.

So kids, go Amir Khan way and revive the innocence of Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander. Let the Johny boys and Hrithiks of the world go ahead with dare devil stunts on motorcycle; at least till you come of age.


Contestants boogying their hearts out on the second season of Nach Baliye
BEST FOOT FORWARD: Contestants boogying their hearts out on the second season of Nach Baliye

The second season of Nach Baliye is on. Gayatri Rajwade visits the sets in Film City, Mumbai, and captures the mood

The candy pink façade of the building says it all. After all, there is a spray of wild magic in the air with silver butterflies and Grecian gowns, ice-blue lights and downy-soft red feathers and bang in the middle of this all is, well, Masterji, resplendent in white and giving the choreographers the telling-off of their lives!

All in a day’s work we are assured and how cool it is that we wonder—as the stars dress up, their choreographers get a dressing-down!

Wondering what all this is about?  Think dance unlimited, stars galore and spiff unrestrained as Star One’s Nach Baliye (season 2) takes a merry bop across the haloed boulevard of television ratings and boogies closer to its grand finale in just a few weeks from now.

The show is down to its final four jodis and as the lights beam, the cameras roll and action booms out from the megaphone, a quiet, verdant corner of Film City in Mumbai perks up to the buzz and bounce of dance—in mast style and it all starts with fur!

Buzzing of busy bees

Dressed a la Jeetendra style (all white!) complete with fur on collars, lapels, boots et al, episode anchors, fellow-actors and husband and wife team, Apurva Agnihotri and Shilpa Saklani, have just about shed the fleece (kind courtesy a rather practical producer!) that the judges line up for the jazz!

Yes, Saroj ‘Masterji’ Khan is quite the eye-catcher, what with her large butter fly earrings and director Kunal Kohli does look rather snazzy in his rose-tinted tie & dye shirt but it is style diva Malaika Arora Khan, “going green with envy” to quote her, who does quite a number in her gorgeous emerald gown showing off her tiny waist to perfection.

The dazzle is mind-boggling and it is one big happy family from where we see it. The production crew, a bevy of young 20-somethings and 30 pluses, all mill around in raucous amity, briefing and de-briefing, dunking down endless cups of tea and tweaking up audio levels. The dance floor gets a final swipe to rid it of non-existent dust-balls, a make-up man falls off the set, gold patterned stars dance on the wooden floors, the disco lights twirl under the feet of the judges and the show is ready to roll.

But first things first. A quick dekko at the starry contestants down to four couples from 10!

Boogying Couples

Capturing the imagination of viewers across the country is ‘non-actor’ Tina, none other than Hussain ‘Shabash India’ Kuwajerwala’s petite, pretty wife who quite expected to get the boot in the very first round but ended up with the votes instead!

“I really believed that unlike the other couples participating, we could only rely on the votes that Hussain would get from his fans, but we have come this far and it has been a huge surprise,” she smiles. College sweethearts, who got married just last year after a nine-year courtship, are thrilled with just the chance to be with each other even if it means just practising endlessly to dance. So keen were they to be a part of this show that Tina at the behest of her husband even considered doing a bit role in a serial so that when the selections came up, Nach Baliye would deem her ‘eligible’! Never mind all that, she did get an offer on the show and here they are in the quarterfinal round shaking their booty.

For Gauri Pradhan and Hiten Tejwani (Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki) dance was not the guiding force as were their numerous fans. But with their spirited manoeuvers not only have their fans grown but also their confidence and ability to shake a leg! “So here we are shooting our serials by day and rehearsing by night,” they smile. But ever the perfectionist Gauri has to get every single move spot on while Hiten prefers to go with the flow. Having said that, Hiten remains wise to the vagaries of marriage! “Two and a half years of being married has taught me that wife is always right, so if she stops rehearsals to make me hold her hand just so, I say okay and start again and again and again,” laughs Hiten.

As for Gouri and Yash Tonk, Nach Baliye brings them right back where they started (they met during the shoot of Kahiin Kissi Roz), in the limelight while for Tanaaz Lal and Bakhtyaar Irani, life is one big red rose, what with waiting for the show to finish before finally tying the knot!


However, it’s back to the performances where not only do the contestants compete, even the choreographers get to strut their stuff and what is on offer is lots of bling, some Spanish flings, loads of hot leather and tiger prints and yes a presentation that gets the five hundred rupee appreciation notes floating. “No words can describe this (dance)” says Saroj Khan to the very yo Harshal and Vitthal (Tina and Hussain’s choreographers). But, no more! See it for yourself as the stardust sprinkles down, the music sweeps you away and the heart feels the beat of dance.

Watch the excitement of Nach Baliye on Star One at 8:30 pm on Monday, December 4.

Matka Chowk
Street Charity
Sreedhara Bhasin

Since the dip in mercury I see more and more puppies running after strangers. Maybe, they are looking for warmth, or a good home to nestle in when evening falls or maybe some glimmer of hope. When I was a child, I brought home many stray puppies; fed them and bathed them and tied them to a pillar in the verandah. They looked happy till night fell. The nocturnal calm was then pierced by the endless whimpering and crying for the mother. It went on till my father untied the poor creature and returned it to the mother.

I have lately been approached by a number of puppies – in the lake, in the neighbourhood, in the park and they all seem too eager to latch on to a human. I have heard the adage that dogs can tell who love them. These puppies are quite clueless because they are approaching people who like to keep a spic and span home and do not want their nice Ficus plant all chewed up. At the same time, I see a lot of people with no home at all, taking fine care of these animals.

There is a Shiv Mandir in the area where I live and a large number of people now inhabit the footpaths around the temple. They are the new ‘Homeless’ of Chandigarh. They have their one item of belonging on which they sleep, eat or beg. They don’t particularly look miserable or worried even in this weather. Many of them seem to have a bond with the street dogs that live around them. I see an old man in a ramshackle wheelchair, who lovingly hails the dogs each morning and shares his crumbling rotis with them. Sometimes I see puppies snuggling under his one and only threadbare blanket.

In the US too, one sees a great number of homeless people, often standing on highway ends with placards in their hands- soliciting charity. Many of them have a dog in tow. In winter, the dogs too wear a sweater.

I see very few children, who can afford a home, picking up these puppies. I too, desist from doing so now, since life has taught me the malevolent thing called practical sense. However, I see the carpenters in the furniture shops building makeshift dens for the puppies. I also see the office peons stuffing newspapers in wooden crates for the puppies. There is a maidan next to our office. A band of what looks like nomadic villagers have set up home there in gypsy style – with two long horn cows, some roosters and an immobile caravan of deities. They too have a few healthy looking dogs chasing the squirrels and scooties alike.

I have friends in the US who act as foster parents for homeless puppies, meaning they raise the puppy for the animal shelters till a good home can be found for them. In Chandigarh, we might laugh at such an idea. However, a good heart does not necessarily mean a good home. I see kindness in the most unlikely places. I am hoping, this is just a beginning!

Smriti Sharma

They don’t need the latest machines and technology to transmit their thoughts on paper. Modest in demeanour, their miniature art is marked by sheer simplicity. Meet this team of seven miniature art artistes from Rajasthan who were in the city to participate in a 10-day miniature art camp that concluded on Saturday. The camp was organised by the North Zone Cultural Centre at Kalagram.

Engrossed in putting final strokes to their paintings titled 12 Massey (12 seasons), the self-effacing artists spoke at length about this dying art called Mewad art. And if you thought that these paintings apart from adorning walls of big forts served no other purpose, think again! Centuries ago, in the absence of any decent mode of communication, these paintings were used to communicate all happenings and mishaps.

Elaborating more on this, Shankar Kumawat, one of the senior most among the artists, says, “When the kings used to go out on hunts, they used to carry an artist with them who could paint each and every sight of the entire game so that they could show these to their queens and the masses”.

So to recreate the magic of a long-gone era, special colours are extracted from the plants and mixed with edible goond (gum) from trees for the desired effect. Specially crafted slender and sharp brushes made of squirrels’ hair are used. Mostly, colours in all the paintings remain the same. So we have the lal, hara, kesariya, aasmani to depict Lord Krishna with his Gopis and the same riot of hues to illustrate the Maharajas in their diverse moods at their forts in Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur et al. And to denote the ornaments and the jewels worn by the kings and their queens real gold is used. The technique is to beat a very fine and thin sheet of gold into powder that is then mixed with gum and rubbed over by a precious stone called Hakib.

“Our state is known as rangilo Rajasthan, so that explains the reason behind the use of chatakh (bright) shades”, adds Vishnu Kumawat, another artist in the camp. Interestingly all artists here have one thing in common. They all have inherited this art from their parents who in turn inherited the same from their parents. They call it Pita-putra parampara. Surprisingly this parampara extends to the women in their families as well. Their mothers, daughters and even their grandmothers are equally fine artists. “My grandmother at 85 still paints and my grandfather was a national award winner for miniature art,” says Suresh Sharma.

It took them 10 days to finish 10 paintings in the series, starting with sketching, colouring, outlining and shading. “Everyday we would sit at 9 in the morning and work till late in the night”, tells Amrit Lohar. With so much of labour and skill going in its making, this art is surely going to have a lot of admirers.

Closer to heaven
Smriti Sharma

Children learn paragliding at the Pinjore Flying Club.
Wings to soar: Children learn paragliding at the Pinjore Flying Club. — Photo by Pervesh Chauhan

In the beginning, gurukuls used to serve as centres of education (we are, of course, referring to the Mahabharata era) and now we have contemporary schools. But our modern-day gurukuls are no longer just about imparting education; they cover areas much beyond that. Ask any school goer what school means to him and chances are that he will mention the extra-curricular activities at his school. So the Pokemon generation loves to take up outdoor activities at school as well like horse riding, swimming, dancing and karate, etc.

How about paragliding? Well, the mere mention of the sport generates excitement and a spirit adventure in most of us. Then what about the children who actually get to do paragliding themselves. Meet the students of Dikshant International School, Panchkula, and you know what “thrill” means to them.

The students of the adventure club of the school were the lucky ones to have done paragliding at the Pinjore Flying Club. Paras, a Class VI student, is the youngest of the lot and perhaps the most thrilled. “I was really scared. I didn’t know what I was going to do and how. But when I saw the instructor around, I was a bit relieved”.

Sharing her experience, Himanshi, a Class IX student, says, “I was not scared at all as I knew I was going to follow all the instructions by the instructor and there was nothing to fear”. And what were the instructions that “pilot uncle” gave them? “He told us not to touch anything on the control panel and also to look straight”, quickly adds Pawandeep Kaur of Class IX.

Though what Piyush has to say about his experience is interesting. “When I flew up there, everything, including the houses and the people, looked so tiny. When I finished flying, I felt as if I am made for flying”. Well, certainly Piyush.

Mitul Dikshit, Director of the school, says, “Nowadays children need overall development of personality. With extra-curricular activities, including ones involving daring, students get to know their own capabilities and identify their interests”. With a school catering to all adventure needs of the students (they have river rafting and trekking on the cards as well), who would want to miss it even for a single day? — S.S.

Poet of promise
S. D. Sharma

Meri palkon mein qaid rehte hain, ashq thamte hain na behte hain/Ab naa kheloongi khushbuon se ‘Saba’ haath ye baar baar chhilte hain.” Seeking to articulate such apprehensions of reality in an imposing paradigm of words, a promising city poetess, Rupa Saba, is one of the few female nazm writers in Urdu from the region. Rupa was born in a literary family with a poetic vein and it was natural for her to have an inclination for creative writing from her very childhood. Her mother and mentor, Dr Gurbachan Kaur Nanda, an acclaimed Punjabi litterateur, had a profound influence on the writing prowess of the budding poetess but Rupa  was completely enamoured by the richness, felicity and the grandeur of Urdu language. So she ventured to contributing to and reading Urdu literature in the Devnagri script till she sought tutelage of famous Urdu poet Mahender Partap Chand to imbibe the language and parameters of ghazal creations.

Rupa, however, endeavoured to introduce herself as a prolific nazm writer in 1989 with her maiden offering Aahat, a collection of her nazms. Scripted in Devnagri, all the 100 nazms were steeped in the themes of human relationships and social and cultural relevance. Another spontaneous overflow of her blank verses, Oas (Dew) released in 1997 established her identity in the poetic circles while another book of nazms Aks (Reflection) brought out in 1999 was also well received.

“But my literary contributions published regularly in Pakistan’s reputed and widely circulated Urdu magazine Takhleeq gave me a firm footing and recognition beyond the borders”, claimed a rejuvenated Rupa. Her latest Urdu book Anjuman-e-Khyal in the offing carries her Nazms on diverse of contemporary relevance.

Not complacent with her humble achievements, Rupa aspires to establish herself especially among recognised female writers. “I am still a learner and have miles to go yet...” says Rupa, quoting Altaf Hussain  Hali’s famous couplet “Hai justjoo ke khoob se hai khoobtar kahan, ab dekhiye thehrti hai jaa kar nazar kahan.”

And the show goes on….
Parbina Rashid

For writer, poet and playwright Narendra Mohan, the recent publication of his collected volume does not end his literary journey for what is a Lifetime Achievement Award for an actor is equivalent to the publication of a collected volume for an author.

Clichéd as it may sound, he believes that the show must go on. No, not even a controversial Mr Jinnah can come in between. So he returns to the city once again. This time for a reading session for his latest play Natak Jari Hai (tentative title).

“Mr Jinnah was unfortunate and it still hurts that the play was banned in Delhi,” says Narendra Mohan, referring to his controversial play. “I just tried to explore Jinnah’s psyche,” and his rueful smile says it all.

“Yes, I have willed myself to be careful this time, but one never knows what can trigger a controversy and as a writer it is my job to seek the truth,” he says.

But on the surface he seems to be unfazed by what happened last year. For the subject he has chosen for his latest play, too, is once again sensitive.

This time it is about a group of theatre people who suffered at the time of Emergency.

“It revolves around three generations of a family who have been into theatre and the suffering comes through the main protagonist Surekha and her husband Sudershan,” he tells us.

This is the first draft and open to changes once he gets the feedback from various people he will be interacting with through the reading sessions, but he lets us into the secret—it has a tragic ending.

In the author’s own words, it is not easy to recreate the turbulent times of the 1970s and the subject is embedded in a lot many controversies. To carry it off, Mohan is introducing puppets and masks for his stage version.

“This is a new experiment and no one has done it before. But it serves the purpose,” says the man who has penned more than 20 books and edited volumes, seven of poetry collection, six plays and a much-acclaimed tele-serial Ujale Ki Ore.

Though Abhinet, their own theatre group, is organising this reading session, he is not sure when his natak will actually be on stage. “Reading sessions are important because the drama involves so many elements— acting, dialogues, costumes and music. So it helps one to get inputs from all quarters,” he assures us as we question him on why does a playwright need to read out what is eventually going to be on stage.

But would he have much to say on the subject once the script goes out of his hand and falls into a director’s?

“Not much. Sometimes the end product is so different from what a writer conceives that it comes as a shock,” he says.

But Narendra Mohan has his own devise to counteract such shocks.

“I saw it happening with my first play Kalandar at the Allahabad Zonal Festival. After that I always sit at the back raw.” Cute, but we are sure that with a name that precedes the person it is not an easy job to remain inconspicuous!

Kitabon ka karobar
Anuradha Shukla

No community in the world probably knows more about the importance of books than the student community. Almost all its choices in life depend on books. Even at a later stage of your life, the scent of books reminds you of those special times. Time spent just flipping through pages of books or reading them seriously is time well spent. Books can be a fulltime occupation for the young—at least it is supposed to be! The student community from the city as well as outside does not have to work very hard to look for good books as the gurukul of books has everything they need.

This rare treasure trove of books is right at the doorstep of Panjab University students—at the old-books market in Sector 15-D. Coexisting with AC showrooms for books in the city, the bazaar is the undisputed leader when it comes to finding rare books. Even out of print books are available at rock bottom prices at this book bazaar under the open sky.

At the beginning of a new session and a few months before the exams, students can be seen here hunting for books or selling books from the previous session, says Tanved, who set shop some 22 years ago in the bazaar. Like him are dozens others into the same business like Deep Kumar who came here in 1969.

These 36 booksellers stock more than 30 lakh books. They fight the cold, the wind and the rains to keep sale and purchase of books going. They got into this business because of their love for books. Yes, all of them are well read and qualified themselves and many studied from Panjab University itself. “With no jobs, we started selling books right outside our alma mater”, says Javed who heads the Old Booksellers Welfare Society. Ironic, as these very sellers have contributed to many people reaching high positions. This also explains their love for books.

“The market is the biggest in Asia”, says Javed, adding that “it opens all seven days of the week.” As for the problems, weather is one as “the season to purchase books from students is from May to July in the scorching summers and sales start from August when it is raining”, says Tanved.

For a book lover, it a treasure trove lying in the open, covered with just plastic sheets. Love for books keeps bringing back old students like Kiran Bedi or the present Governor of Punjab to buy books from the market. Their USP is that students can find rare books, help books, fiction, for any and every course from here at prices that suit their pockets. And that’s where you can’t beat the bazaar!

Cultivating pleasure

Growing modernism may not have struck firm roots in the farming sector, but agriculturists from across the country are sure cultivating themselves at the Agro Tech 2006 organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

And it’s not just the new techniques of farming and modern equipment used throughout the world for tilling land and sprinkling insecticides they are learning about. So many of them are actually enlightening themselves about the new crop of pretty girls in hybrid clothes standing behind the counters!

Topping excitement

This is not the end. The cultivators in colourful turbans off-setting immaculate white kurta-pajamas are also soiling their hands with cheese topping the pizzas at the Dominos stall. Right, the one set up for the sons of soil and others at the country’s premier biennial agro-technology fair going on at the Parade and Circus Grounds in Sector 17 till December 4.

It may sound incredible, but descending on the exposition from remotes areas in Maharastra and Rajasthan after being informed about the event by the agriculture departments; so many of them are actually appreciating contemporary equipment and gadgets for the first time!

If Khet Ram of Jodhpur is seeing the premier of plasma television at a tractor just outside the food pavilion, Randheer Singh of a small village in Ferozepore district is impressed by the cattle feed Verka is offering. For, the 47-year-old agriculturist thought Verka was all about selling milk and ghee.

But judging by the response of the visitors, it’s the bright and cheerful tractors that are planting the seeds of desires in their hearts. For, the vehicles that promise not just fuel and work efficiency, but also comfort are too hard to resist.

Oh, Dear!

Guys, you have to see it to believe it. Except for World Space Radio receivers, the sleek and shiny tractors in alluring reds and enchanting yellows are equipped with all luxuries. Some of the vehicles even have red beacon lights.

If Mahindra’s ‘Shaan’ has a soft top and a laminated windshield that gives it the look of a pick-up vehicle, HMT’s Orchid with silencer in matt finish on one side gives it a smooth appearance. But it’s John Deere tractor in glossy green body and yellow seat that’s actually stealing the show!

Mahaveer of Jodhpur wants it as badly as you would need a “Merc” if you were going out to impress your gal with your affluence and status. Just because he cannot buy one right now, he is satisfied with its posters. “I will go back and raise a loan,” he asserts.

Rooted in technology

Just in case tractors and farming gadgets do not interest you, go to the trade event for savouring health foods. Companies like Dairy Craft India Private Limited have displayed low fat ‘Happy Cow’ cheese. In charge of the sales, A. P. Singh says it contains eight per cent fat, compared to 50 per cent in normal cheese.

You can also go in for special flour for the diabetics. Or pick up soya flour. It promises to reduce blood pressure and provide that extra protein you require for building up muscles. And in case you are living on the top floor with water shortage, go in for a solar water pump. Sounds sunny, indeed!

— Saurabh Malik

Health tip of the day

During lifting a heavy object, it must be held close to the body with the pelvis “tucked in,” thus maintaining the center of gravity close to the hip joints, rather than in front of the body to avoid back pain. Increasing the base of support reduces strain.

— Dr Ravinder Chadha


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