C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Bollywood's grand ‘young’ style diva

RekhaRekha, who can be unarguably termed India's Greta Garbo, continues to be Bollywood's ever-graceful style diva and still sets many a heart aflutter even as she turned 53 on Wednesday.

"She is a true style diva when it comes depicting the Indian look. She looks fabulous in the traditional Indian saris. I would say that she brings out the best of Indian outfits. She carries them very well. But I wouldn't like to see her in a western outfit," Shantanu of designer duo Shantanu and Nikhil said.

The actress, who is synonymous with style and beauty for her fans, surprised many when she bagged the MTV Lycra Maha Style Icon Award in 2004. In 2006, British magazine Eastern Eye listed her as one of "Asia's Sexiest Women" in their September issue.

A rare blend of beauty and talent, Rekha also hogs the limelight for her timeless beauty and mysterious lifestyle. She is quite secretive about her personal life, lives alone with her secretary Farzana and doesn't socialise much except to attend award functions.

She manages the media's prying eye tactfully and always keeps her cool.

"I'm a very shy person. Unlike what has been insinuated, it's not a strategy to retain my aura. I'm not trying to live up to any mystery woman image. People might think that I am not married and have no children, the conventional lifestyle you know, but I see it this way - as long as you are alive, you have a chance to have a future. At least there is hope," she was quoted as saying.

As an actress she evolved with each role she played. Be it a courtesan in Muzaffar Ali's "Umrao Jaan" or a housewife in "Ijazzat" or a fun-loving girl in "Khubsoorat", she has always proved her mettle.

After watching "Umrao Jaan", nobody could believe that she could barely speak Hindi when she came to Bollywood as her enunciation of Urdu in the period film was flawless. She won the National Award for it.

"As a performer, she is inspiring. It's not only 'Umrao Jaan' but her entire career and characters that she essayed through her performances that are extremely inspiring," Aishwarya Rai said in an interview.

Rekha gave memorable performances in "Ghar", "Muqaddar Ka Sikandar", "Khubsoorat", "Silsila", "Vijeta", "Utsav", "Khoon Bhari Maang", "Zubeida", "Bhoot" and "Krrish".

But she disappointed her fans and critics in Mira Nair's controversial "Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love" in 1996 and as a wife who turns to prostitution in "Aastha: In the Prison of Spring" the following year. Many felt it was the end of her career.

But Rekha remained unperturbed by the criticism.

She said: "After 'Aastha: In the Prison of Spring' people had a lot to say about my role of a wife who moonlights as a prostitute. I don't have problems playing anything. I've reached a stage where I could do justice to any role that came my way. It could the role of a mother, a sister-in-law, negative, positive, sensational or anything."

Born Bhanurekha Ganesan to well-known Tamil actor Gemini Ganesan and Telugu actress Pushpavalli, Rekha's personal life has been quite tumultuous. She was born out of wedlock and was disowned by her father. Her mother later forced her to work in films.

She made her first appearance as a child actor in 1966 in a Telugu film "Rangula Ratnam". Three years later she made her debut as heroine in hit Kannada film "Goadalli CID 999" with Rajkumar.

In 1970 she forayed into Hindi films with "Sawan Bhadon", paired opposite Navin Nishchol. The movie was a huge hit and Rekha became a star overnight.

Despite being overweight, she got many offers and gave hits like "Kahani Kismat Ki" and "Raampur Ka Lakshman" and there was no looking back.

In her heyday she scorched headlines for her link ups with co-actors like Jeetendra, Vinod Mehra, Kiran Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan.

Rekha continues to work and some of her recent releases include "Kudiyon Ka Hai Zamaana", "Bachke Rehna Re Baba", "Yatra" and "Krrish". — IANS



An American account of Partition

Very few get an opportunity to see history in the making. Not many become a part of history, and just a few have the privilege of witnessing it. Phillips Talbot is one of them.

At the age of 23 in 1939, Phillips was sent by the Institute of Current World Affairs in New York to India to "observe and report on the dynamics of contemporary India".

For young Phillips, who was working as a local reporter with the Chicago Daily News and was aspiring to "be a foreign correspondent in a European capitals such as London, Rome or Berlin", the fellowship given by the institute, he thought, was an "exposure" and would "set him on the road to becoming a foreign correspondent".

Since 1939, when Phillips landed in India and till he left the country in 1950s, a new history of the Indian subcontinent came to be written. He saw not only the demise of British imperialism, but also the rise of two nations - India and Pakistan.

What he observed and wrote to the Institute of Current World Affairs in the form of a diary has now been compiled and brought into a book, titled "An American Witness to India's Partition".

Essentially, the book is not a reporter's account, but a narration of a scholar-observer who was able to "deftly combine the roles of scholar, diarist and journalist", writes the eminent historian B R Nanda in a foreword to the book.

Nanda described the book as "unique and useful" for policy makers and for those who watch events.

The interesting parts of the book are Talbot's perceptive profiles of Indian leaders - Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Jinnah and others whom he met. He had his first glimpse of Gandhi at the Ramgarh Congress in March 1940 and was amazed at the spell he cast on an audience, which Talbot estimated at between 50,000 and 100,000.

"The decision at age 23 to take that fellowship transformed my life. Through all these succeeding decades, South Asia has been at the centre of my interest "writes the author in the book's preface.

Perhaps it is this interest that brought the now 90-year-old Talbot to India to release the book "An American Witness to India's Partition" published by SAGE.

At a book release function in New Delhi here this week, more than the book Talbot was the object of curiosity of the intelligentsia. Here was a man who had interacted directly with Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose and seen Jinnah working.

The question-answer session reflected the sense of historical curiosity by the audience.

"Did you realize India and Pakistan of today in 1947? What was Gandhi and Subhas Chandra Bose relationship, what type of leader was he? Who is to be blamed for the partition - the Muslim League or the Congress?" These were the kind of questions that kept coming up.

Talbot said that the concept of Partition was not something unknown in the forties, Burma was carved out of India during that time, and boundaries in Europe were being drawn "so partition was in the air".

He, however, blames the failure of the Cripps Mission as one of the reasons for the Partition of the Indian subcontinent. — ANI



Blair now in parking row

Tony Blair His heavy security detail and his plans for a roof terrace and solar panels have already riled his neighbours, but this hasn't stopped former British Premier Tony Blair from getting into an even bigger dispute. Neighbours of Blair, who lives in Connaught Square in London, have reportedly received a letter asking for their views on proposals to ban parking along a nine-metre stretch of road for anyone except Blair.

It means two residents' parking bays outside Mr Blair's house would be set aside for his exclusive use 24 hours a day. Parking bays on the opposite side of the road will also be converted to "Blair only" spaces, reports The Telegraph.

Martin Low, the Director of Transportation for the Westminster Council, has acknowledged receipt of this his letter where miffed neighbours have complained about being handed out temporary parking arrangements.

Many residents are known to be disgruntled at being unable to park near their homes when the square is full, having lost several bays to Blair and his bodyguards.

Should the proposals be approved, it would mean the loss of six "shared use" spaces, where members of the public can park using a pay and display machine, and a gain of three residents' only spaces.

The proposed scheme would be paid for by the Home Office, which oversees Blair's lifelong security arrangements. Residents have until the end of the month to file their objections. —ANI



Spanish funds for Varanasi’s development

The regional government of Andalusia in southern Spain is planning funding of cultural and heritage development of Varanasi, one of the world’s most ancient cities.

Gaspar Zarrias, vice-president of Andalusia in southern Spain, who is on a two-day visit to India, will discuss the modalities of cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

UN officials here said the meeting would dwell upon the new initiatives for cooperation in the area of heritage-based development of the city. The visit of Andalusia’s vice-president and the delegation of the government also coincide with Spain’s National Day on October 12, they added.

UNESCO would be lending technical support through the Network of Indian Cities of Living Heritage, established by the UN body in 2006 with the support from the Ministry of Urban Development and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

The Network aims to promote sustainable, heritage-based development of India’s historic cities.

“The Network of Indian Cities enables its members to share ideas and expertise so that India’s most historic regions and cities can develop in ways that value their heritage and use it as an engine for socio-economic growth,” said Minja Yang, director of the UNESCO’s New Delhi office. — PTI



Now, perfumed rail tickets

Now, train tickets will be a treat to your nose. The railway ministry is in talks with consumer goods companies, which are keen on advertising their products like soap, shampoo and perfume on train tickets.

“The modalities are being worked out for dispensing perfumed tickets. To begin with, it may be introduced for monthly tickets and then for other categories,” said a senior railway ministry official. —PTI



Supermarket bags latest status symbol!

London: It may not seem likely, but supermarkets shopping bags have become the latest status symbol. According to a survey carried out by food firm Ginsters, 56 per cent of Britons feel that their choice of supermarket gives a clear indication of their social standing.

The survey says one in eight believe shopping at supermarkets reflects their place on the social ladder. As a result, the average Briton spends an extra £ 260 a year at an uptown supermarket.

One out of 10 people asserted that they feel embarrassed if spotted in a supermarket that has a downmarket image.

The firm claimed that many people considered the supermarket as a higher status symbol than their education.

Similarly, almost half of the 1,631 surveyed said the right carrier bag was more important than a fashionable handbag.

"According to our study, the carrier bag is the accessory of 2007," the Daily Mail quoted Larry File, marketing controller for Ginsters, as saying.

"Among the fashionable crowd, you need to be seen with the right supermarket bag to make an impression. Knowing this might have saved someone like Victoria Beckham a small fortune."

Peter Jackson, professor of human geography at Sheffield University, said: "People will often say they go to a supermarket for convenience or value. But really what they are looking for is somewhere that is full of, as they put it, 'nice people like me'."

Professor Clifford Guy, a retail development expert said: "This kind of snobbery undoubtedly exists but the distinctions are being blurred. — ANI

’Smart’ trollies to check junk food shopping

Supermarket shoppers may soon be using “intelligent” trolleys that warn them if they’re buying too much junk food, experts say. While many would be happy if they could simply get their trolley to go in a straight line, the high-tech model will have a computer screen and barcode scanner.

It will read each product’s individual code to give customers information about calories, nutrition, ethical sourcing and the environment. U.S. technology services company EDS outlined the concept in a study paper published this week. It said the screens would reduce the need for lots of packaging for food, helping stores to tackle environmental concerns.

“Shoppers want barcode readers on their trolleys to calculate the nutritional content and tell them when they have blown their calorific budget,” said EDS’s Sion Roberts, director of consumer industries and retail.

The paper said a third of shoppers want barcode scanners fitted to their trolleys. Most prefer to get information from labels on the food, according to the survey of nearly 1,000 people. Some shoppers are already using advanced trolleys. Trials of touch-screen computers on shopping carts have been trialled in stores in the US. — Reuters



Haleem Eating Contest 
Impatient gobblers of ‘patience’

Food lovers in Hyderabad recently took part in a unique competition of gobbling up 'Haleem' as much as possible in one minute. Hyderabad is famous for its non-vegetarian dish "Haleem" which literally means patience, because it takes long hours to prepare the dish. It is made of wheat, mutton, gram, pulse, curd, onions and vegetable oil with a sprinkling of spices. It is served with lemon juice.

The contestants were given 2 kg of vegetarian haleem in three boxes.

The winner of the competition was Mohammad Saleem who managed to eat 2 kg of haleem in 30 seconds.

"I am feeling really good. They gave us two minutes to finish it but I don't know in how much time I finished that much," said Saleem.

An eatery in the city, called 'Pista House', started organising this competition in 2003 with vegetarian versions of haleem during the Muslim holy month of Ramzan.

The owner of eatery said he organised the competition despite recent terror attacks in the city to ease tension among residents.

"We have organised this competition to make people feel a little relaxed," said M. A. Majeed, organiser of the competition.

Haleem, a preparation that has its roots in the Arabia, is the most sought after dish during Ramzan. — ANI



Australia to extradite  Dr 'Death' soon
Neena Bhandari

Australia is moving towards the final stages of extraditing from the US India-born Jayant Patel who has been linked to 87deaths of patients he treated between 2003 and 2005 at a Queensland hospital.

Dubbed "Dr Death" by the Australian media, Patel worked in the Bundaberg Base Hospital in Queensland and has been in the US since 2005. In what is probably the worst medical-negligence scandal in Australia, he allegedly falsified his application to practice medicine in this country.

He then falsified death certificates and refused patients' transfers to other hospitals to cover up "botched treatment and surgery".

Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine said: "I am advised the final signed affidavits are now with the Federal Justice Department. This was the result of close consultation with Commonwealth officials to prepare the best possible case for extraditing Jayant Patel."

A US court will ultimately decide whether extradition will be granted. However, there are still a number of steps before a decision will be made by the US on the application for Patel's extradition.

Prosecutors are pursuing 16 charges against him, including three charges of manslaughter, three charges of grievous bodily harm, two charges of negligent acts causing harm and eight charges of fraud.

In Queensland, manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Medical practitioners are much in demand in Australia, especially in remote towns, but Patel's case sparked concerns over the recruitment of overseas doctors.

Patel, banned from surgery in two US states, was employed at the regional Bundaberg Base hospital for A$200,000 per annum in 2003. In late 2003, he was promoted to director of surgery at the hospital.

On April 1, 2005, Patel's bosses signed on a $3,547 business-class, one-way airfare for him to travel to the US, despite him being neck-deep in accusations of fatal incompetence.

The Bundaberg Hospital Commission of Inquiry was told how in one case a doctor turned off a woman's life support ventilator because Patel wanted her bed to operate another patient.

In another case a nurse said she had seen Patel try to drain blood in a "stabbing motion" from the man's heart, using a hard needle some 50 times.

One charge related to the care of an Aboriginal woman who developed gangrene in her leg after she was allegedly left without treatment for weeks following an amputation.

Questions being asked are if the Australian medical system needs to undergo a major health check to ensure checks and balances are in place while recruiting overseas doctors.

Dr. M. Srinivasa, former president of the Overseas Medical Graduates Association of Australia, says: "There are very strict policies and protocols in place for overseas medical recruits. The Australian Medical Council administers the national examinations of overseas trained medical practitioners seeking to practice medicine in Australia. I have been here practising for 35 years, and this was a one-off case."

Indian doctors here also fear that they will be tarred with the same brush.

As families and loved ones of Patel's patients await justice, this city of clear skies, sunshine and sugarcane with an urban population of over 43,000 and only four hours drive north of Brisbane is yet to come to terms with the pain and suffering caused by one doctor in their public hospital. Patel treated a total of 1,202 patients during the period the deaths took place. — IANS



NCERT trains Afghan academicians

With a view to helping Afghanistan strengthen its elementary education system, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has organised a 40-day-long training-cum-workshop programme for academicians from the country.

The 40-member Afghan delegation, headed by Seddiq Weera, a senior policy adviser in Afghanistan’s ministry of education, comprises teacher-educators and academics involved in school and teacher education there.

The ongoing training programme uses a multi-method approach that includes lectures, group discussions and group work, a NCERT official said.

“Field visits to teacher- education institutions working in the field of elementary education, District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) and schools in Delhi as well as two Regional Institutes of Education (RIE) in Ajmer and Mysore will help them give field experience,” he said. On their decision to seek India’s help to upgrade the level of their school education, Weera said India was known for its high quality of education.

In addition, India had a rich cultural heritage. And, both the countries had many socio-cultural commonalities. India had also been contributing a lot in the reconstruction and rebuilding of our country, he said. — PTI



Gas Pipeline Network
India six times behind Pak: Assocham

Pakistan is nearly six times ahead of India in terms of gas pipeline network with coverage of 56,400 km in 1050 towns as against India with 10,500 km network covering 20 cities, according to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham).

A paper brought out by the Assocham on “Gas Sector - A Comparison between India and Pakistan”, points out that Pakistan has created a 31,000 km of distribution network to serve its domestic and commercial consumers in large locations as against 11,000 km of distribution network in India that cater to consumers in limited pockets.

Interestingly, while Pakistan has in its possession nearly 1600 CNG stations, in India their number is just at 380 and the gas throughput in Pakistan is 38 MMSCMD per day as against 8.5 MMSCMD gas throughput in India.

The number of gas customers in Pakistan is estimated at 19 lakh, which in case of India is just 5.50 lakh, and Pakistan runs vehicles on CNG whose number is estimated at 15.60 lakh while in India, their number is just 4.60 lakh.

In economies of scale like France, USA, UK and Germany, their gas pipeline network in km is respectively measured at 1,55,943, 18,341,138, 2,65,155 and 2,30,448 with their respective pipeline density of (KM/mmscmd) 1,405, 1,086, 1,016 and 1,015.

In country like Italy and Spain, their gas pipeline length and network is measured at 1,71,699 km & 16,295 km with respective pipeline density of 975 and 319 KM/mmscmd per day.

Commenting on the paper, Assocham president Venugopal N. Dhoot said that the gas availability in Pakistan was undoubtedly quite large as compared to India but given the imports of gas and even its domestic availability in India, its pipeline network is extremely poorer and the main reason attributed for the low and limited pipeline network in India is because this sector has been thoroughly regulated, which has now been opened for competition.

The paper further says that since the pipeline network in India does not reach out to most of the potential demand centres, a number of industrial projects which would ideally run on gas (due to its higher efficiency and environment friendly nature) have to depend on much more costlier and more polluting alternative fuels.

“Thus the unmet gas demand in India is probably much higher than what is reported”. India currently has only one major cross-country pipeline in the form of HBJ pipeline and there is estimated to be considerable unmet demand even in the states serviced by this pipeline”, says Dhoot. — TNS



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