Bonds beyond borders
It’s not just inter-caste, but inter-country marriage. A few share their experiences with Manpriya Khurana

Gisela with husband Shiv Singh
Gisela with husband Shiv Singh

It's a scenario where wedding invitations map out the Atlas instead of addresses. It's inter-caste marriage, rather inter-country or may be inter-continent! It's literally a reverse brain drain where you hop much more than the seven seas and acclimatisation goes miles beyond jet lag. A brief tête-à-tête with Chandigarh residents married to foreigners still seems to be minus flipside.

For Michaelangelo Francis, art & photography teacher, it didn't really involve a second thought (or a second's thought) before tying the knot with a Peruvian. "I was very sure, there was absolutely no apprehension," he declares and adds, "Marriage is anyways all about adjustments, but when there's bonding, these things don't really matter. But yes, obviously, there's endless comparison, everything is different." In enter, the food, culture, customs, and societal differences. And opposites need not be always odd.

Shares Gisela, better half of noted sculptor Shiv Singh, "Before I met my husband, I was already a part of an Indo-German association back in Germany, so I had some sort of idea about India and was already interested in it." Laughs Erin Chechi, an artist and a yoga instructor from Seattle who married a software professional from Chandigarh, "I considered India like this land of saints and Himalayas and mystery, I had a very fantasy-like idea of India. An inter-continent marriage brings in a lot of variety and spice into your marriage, I'd recommend it to everyone."

As for the cross-culture comedy, incidences galore. Particularly true of unsaid, Indian rules. As Gisela says, "After our marriage we visited this distant relative and I kept addressing my husband by his name. When I was told how in India they don't do it, my first reaction was like - Then why did my mother-in-law give a name to my husband, if I can't address him by his name?"

Recalls Erin, "I remember when we had this really big fat Indian wedding in this village, I was dancing like anything and they told me that Indian brides don't dance at their weddings." That's not it. She adds, "Right now, we're in Manali and everywhere I'm travelling people think he's my guide. It's funny." Let alone culture, not knowing your spouse's language could be boon rather than being a bar for communication. Laughs Michaelangelo while talking of his wife Kelly, "She speaks Spanish and I know her language. I keep worrying her a lot but any wrong word in Hindi and she understands it. She may not know its meaning but she gets it."

Finally there's a blurring of differences till they fade into oblivion and are no more visible. Then living in Cambodia or California is normal, like it's always been. Randa Singh, Alliance Française teacher, from Beirut, Lebanon, has been married to Gurpreet Singh for two decades now. She says, "I've been here since 1993 and have been married for 20 years. Now nothing seems strange or odd, it's all a part of life."

Meanwhile Kelly's, loving and living up the India experience, having watched Shah Rukh's DDLJ 17 times, included. "It's completely different for my culture but I'm loving it." While Gisela struck a balance with the best of both worlds. "Somehow you remain in between, give up a lot of earlier culture while retaining other things. At times, it's an advantage; I kept good part of both cultures."

The charm of the unknown, of a territory hitherto unfamiliar, remains. Shares Gisela, "I think it takes a lifetime or longer to discover the other person, I see it as a challenge…And I think, given a chance I'd do it again." Quips Michaelangelo, "It's fun, there's a lot of initial inquisitiveness and by the time you know each other, 10-15 years have gone by." Need anyone spell more?

Epic mode
Jasmine Singh

Aishwarya Rai  It's a drill with Bollywood. A few, best of the best, toss up themes, which are then followed like a religion over a period of time. Comedy, drama, thriller, murder mystery, mush, and the most recent movies based on epic characters. Rajneeti coming from Mahabharata and now Raavan drawing close parallels to the character of Raavan from Ramayana.

At a video-conference on Thursday, Abhishek Bachchan shared the thrills and challenges of his upcoming release. "Raavan is by far the most challenging and exciting role of my career. It is a unique film by Mani Ratnam, which is exciting," shares Abhishek, adding more on the real hurdles during the making of the film. "Raavan has been shot in the jungles and difficult terrains. We would have to wake up early, drive close to two hours, then take a tractor, walk more, before we hit the final locale," he shares.

With wife Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in tow things wouldn't have been that difficult. He definitely doesn't get the pun in it. "Aishwarya is my wife, but she is also my co-star on the sets. Of course, I did take care of her. I made sure that whatever stunts were given to her were 100 per cent safe. On the whole, she is sensible enough to understand the professional aspects of work."

For someone who hasn't much cared about the 'fight for the top slot', Abhishek wants to be different in every movie. "I have done close to 40 films, and I have grown as an actor with every film. I can't say I am satisfied with my work because no actor can, I just want to give the best entertainment to the audience."

Who cares about competition, when you get to work with the best of directors, who will give you to play grey shades with a difference and style (read Ram Gopal Varma and Mani Ratnam). " Both are the best creative directors of the industry, with styles unique to them. I have enjoyed working with both," says Abhishek who has no qualms about admitting that he is a director's medium. "I choose work that inspires me. I am sure no actor would refuse to work with Mani Ratnam, at least I wouldn't," he smiles. Busy with the promotion of the movie, where he plays Beera, with a touch of grey and white, we will see a lot of Abhishek in the coming month. "Khelen Hum ji Jaan Sey, Game, Dum Maro Dum, Dostana 2 are some of my upcoming projects," he shares.

Best of both worlds

Grammy-winning maestro A R Rahman is all set to enthrall music lovers across the US, with a fusion of Hollywood-Bollywood music and hopes to attract new audience this time.The 44-year-old musical genius, popularly known as the 'Mozart of Madras' said that normally he gets a mixed South Asian audience.

"Because of the success of Slumdog Millionaire, we're hoping at least a percentage of the audience will be new," Rahman said at the preview of the event.

The 45-day world tour titled "AR Rahman Jai Ho Concert: The Journey Home World Tour" will kick off in New York tomorrow. The 150-minute concert has been created in such a way to reflect the career growth of Rahman from Roja to his latest hit Slumdog Millionaire and will also include songs from Laagan, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Dil Se, and Rang De Basanti among others.

From the Big Apple, it will move to New Jersey, Washington DC, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Raleigh and Atlanta; after which it travels to other world cities in Canada, France, Switzerland, Holland and Britain.

"We tried to pick out songs that would be universally appealing, to mix together elements in ways that have never been done before. It's very exciting," Rahman said.

The tour is internationally produced by Deepak Gattani and Rapport Productions. "From the myths of rural India to the colours of the festivities, the rhythm and beats of the urban culture, this musical concert will have it all," said Gattani.

"It will be a blend of the East and West, from Bharatnatyam to pop and tap dance," said Amy Tinkham creative director of the concert.

The 150-minute show will be a theatrical experience that will blend new technologies with powerful dance arrangements and acrobatics.— PTI 

Serial to serious

He does enjoy his 'Serial Kisser' image but actor Emraan Hashmi says he is not too ecstatic about it and would rather be known for giving meaningful cinema to Bollywood.

"I love it... It's uncoventional...It's first of it's kind and it does not bother me at all," Hashmi said here while shooting The Crook: Its good to be bad. "Its something people tag you with... Which I do enjoy but I m not very ecstatic about it," he said.

Hashmi feels his main purpose in being Bollywood is to give meaningful and entertaining cinema. "These tags do not last long very long and I am here to give a meaningful and entertaining cinema for which I want to be around and known," Hashmi said.

After some successful performances in thrillers like Gangster, Raaz, Awarapan and Jannat, Hashmi said he can call himself as a successful star. "I guess its very important to be a successful actor who can give box office hits which I have been able to do," he said.

"It's important to give back to those who have invested in you apart from being a good actor," he added.

Commenting on his new controversial film on racism that is being shot in Australia, Hashmi said his character in the movie was like a wild child who was from a middle class family with a dream to migrate to a developed country.

"My character in the movie is a crook who at times uses unfair means in his life which are not appropriate but it does not mean that makes him a bad person," he said. "We do apply unfair means sometimes in life that we don't expect ourselves to do...We make mistakes, we realise and change ourselves and I think that's a sign of growth," he added.

"Crook is a film that deals with that and deals with a guy who wants to get out India like millions of those middle class youths who believe that opportunity for them is anywhere in the world except in their own country,' Hashmi explained.

Other projects lined up for the star is 'Once upon a time in Mumbai', a Ekta Kapoor production, where he will be playing a gangster. — PTI

On safe ground

Actor Vivek Oberoi, who extended his IIFA trip here to help in the rehabilitation in Sri Lanka's war-ravaged areas, says the presence of Bollywood stars has helped country's image as a safe destination.

The country is keen to repair an image battered by the civil war that lasted for close to three decades. The government rolled out red carpet to Bollywood stars for the India International Academy Awards (IIFA) gala but big names like Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan boycotted the event over protests by Tamil bodies in India.

However, Oberoi said the presence of Bollywood stars will help spread the goodwill.

"You have had many global celebrities come down to Sri Lanka on one platform and endorse your nation and enhance your brand value. These are things that are immeasurable in terms of value. So many fans across the globe suddenly wake up and say wow my favourite star. He went to Sri Lanka. Vivek Oberoi went there with his family. That means it is safe," Oberoi said.

Oberoi visited Sri Lanka's former war-ravaged Vavuniya city and other areas in the district to begin rehabilitation project there. He, along with his parents, traveled to Vavuniya by air and was accompanied by Abeywardena.

The 'Company' actor held discussions with the District Secretary of Vavuniya, NGOs and the displaced and resettled civilians.

Later he visited resettled people in Nedunkerni in Vavuniya district. The actor is reportedly planning to build a school there with the help of local and Bollywood artistes.

Deputy Economic Development Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywarden said the award show had generated a lot of good will for Sri Lanka.

"As many as 610 million people in 110 countries will watch the IIFA award ceremony on July 4. Our target is to increase the number of (global) tourists by 50 per cent by 2012. We will achieve our target," Yapa said.

"In the end it is not a question of who arrived or not. What is important is the message that was sent to the world stating there is a conducive atmosphere in Sri Lanka for such an event to be held and anyone could visit the country and spend a holiday in a peaceful atmosphere," the minister added. — PTI

Name it, have it

Bollywood actor Aarya Babbar will use a pseudonym for his comic series Pushpak Vimaan.The actor, who is the son of Bollywood star and politician Raj Babbar, said he would use his nick name 'Gorky' for the mythological comic book series. The nickname was given to Aarya by his father.

"I felt a need of a pen name and decided to go ahead with this. Perhaps a different name also allows the writer more freedom visually and to be something else," he said.

About his comic series, he said that he had done research on Pushpak Vimaan for four years and read many books related to various characters in Ramayan and the Mahabharata. "Currently, I am working on the graphics and sketches of my character's looks," he said.

Debuting with Ab Ke Baras opposite Amrita Rao in 2002, the 29-year-old actor has been seen in films like Guru and Jail. — PTI

Side Lanes

The tea planter fraternity at Chandigarh is vast. They meet once a month, play golf and manage their homes and farms in more or less the same style as they maintained their gardens. Perforce, the number of servants has decreased, but a planter and his wife stand out because of their elegance and ability to multi-task in a quiet but efficient manner. 

At get-togethers, their stories are legion and often very amusing. It is only then that we realise how dangerous a planter's life is. The weather gods might drown him; he could be "sent upstairs" by disgruntled workers, or worse still he might fall prey to the various animals that call his estate their home. Courage is a very important factor in their day-to-day dealings. I wonder why companies which need labour laws, marketing, manufacturing and packaging, do not ask specifically for retired planters? These men and women are well versed in HRD, mob control, across-the-table-dialogues, hard work and perfection in whatever they do.

Like explorers, the intrepid Brits ventured into virgin, often hostile tribal lands in the North-East and deep South. They cleared brush, planted tea bushes from China , set up factories and bungalows and sold the product throughout the world. They saw to it that chai became a universal drink. In the evenings, tired and covered with fine tea dust, they went home, shouted koi hai? to the ubiquitous bearer and sat down for high tea before a visit to the local Tea Club, to raise an elbow with their peers from the surrounding gardens. To reach a club often took hours, but the planter measured distance by time not kilometres. He also invariably carried a change of clothes, just in case he ran into a herd of inimical pachyderms, which might wreck his car and chase its owner into the forest (if they had not already trampled him into the soil!).

When India became independent, Ower Johnston was the maalik of Rangmukh-Cedar estate in Darjeeling , West Bengal . He threw an annual bash at the club and with his Stewart Granger looks, was a much sought after companion. He also thought he was above the law. One morning, Johnston spotted a plucker stealing firewood atop a shade tree. Without any hesitation, he aimed his rifle, dropped the thief and then threw his body into the Teesta River, in full view of the stoic but silent watchers. His purpose was to set an example. However, the garden coolies never forgave what he had done. One day they managed to catch Johnston alone, hacked him to bits, packed him into a wooden tea chest and floated him down the same river where their friend had been disposed off so unceremoniously. Justice was swift, brutal and effective.

On a happier note, Bob and Curtis Skeene of Jardine Henderson, introduced Polo at Cachar, one of the princely states of the area. Donald Mackenzie, all of 6'6" booked shooting blocks in the area and bagged many large cats and elephants. Some of the trophies are still in North Bengal and the rest were shipped home.

The civil service officers looked forward to chai bagaan hospitality. After an evening of revellry, a pie eyed ICS officer sat on a howdah on top of a cow on heat. A jealous bull elephant attacked and threw the man down. The mahouts and shikaaris laughed themselves silly, till they realised that the man's back was badly bruised. He spent weeks at Jaldapara Game Sanctuary, cursing the indignity of it all. I am sure he went back to Vilayat, relieved he never had to look a tiger, an elephant or a native in the eye again. Inspite of the British hunters' departure, our wild life is dwindling. It is a sobering thought. 

Live healthy
Viva exclusive wellness outlet opens in the city

Viva - opens tricity's first-ever wellness outlet at Sector 8 on Thursday; delivering a promise of health and fitness.Rajiv Goyal, chairman-cum-managing director, Surya Pharmaceuticals Limited, informs that the store is stocked with unique and exclusive range of international and national brands of minerals, vitamins and herbs, including the regular medicines, healthcare and beauty products.

"The store also has multi-nutrient, omegas, vitamins, minerals and herbs that prevent diseases and keep an individual healthy. These include brands like Ascenta Health and Econugenics of Canada, Equazen of UK,

Nature's Answer of America, in addition to the regular offering of prescription items and FMCG products," he informs.

He says that Surya Pharmaceuticals are especially focusing on Chandigarh. "Changing lifestyles with increasingly sedentary work, almost no exercise and poor nutrition has made us prone to certain life-threatening deficiencies. Most of these deficiencies can be cured with organic remedies that are much in demand these days," he says.

The health products available at Viva help in prevention of allergy, cancer, heart problems, and bone and joint problems. Products for managing diabetes, weight gain or loss, for controlling ageing, and stress and health boosters for men, women, children and senior citizens are also available at the store.

"We are soon going to have a special test that would detect deficiencies of minerals and vitamins in an individual. This will help people make informed choices," Rajiv adds.

He further informs that Surya Pharmaceuticals plans to launch five such specialty stores across Punjab. "This is our 45th store and we plan to take the number to 100 Viva stores across Punjab and Haryana," he adds. — TNS

Words worth
With five books in Hindi to his name, author Manoj Singh has emerged as a novelist of admirable magnitude
SD Sharma

Maana ke parindon ke pankh hua karte hain, khwaabon mein udna koi gunaah toh nahin…" Indulging in such flights of fancy, Manoj Singh continues to pursue his literary passions ever since his formative years at Agra and Bhopal. Credited with five books in Hindi on varied themes, Manoj has emerged on the contemporary literary scene as a novelist of admirable magnitude.

An engineer by profession (BE electronics) and an MBA, this 1986 UPSC batch ITS officer, presently Deputy Director General (Vigilance and Telecom Monitoring), Punjab, is endowed with a rich vision, creative impulse and flair for expression in lucid language. Very few writers have received as much admiration as Manoj Singh, whose novel 'Bandhan' ran into four editions, including a translation in Punjabi. Manoj attributes his success to his life partner Rekha Singh. Here are excerpts from an interview with him.

You have been writing poetry, columns, short stories and novels, which genre appeals to you the most and what do readers prefer?

Every form of literature has its own significance, but the priorities of a writer or reader keep changing from time to time. As a youngster, I too started with poetry, which is normally impulsive and has an instant appeal. Endorsing my personal view without any prejudice, I feel poetry today has lost its sheen probably because of its failure to connect with the aspirations, ambitions and problems of the masses, and heritage of our land. See the poetry Mira, Kabir, Baba Farid, Bulleshah, Ghalib, Faiz or epics like Ramayana, these are love legends that still touch your heart. My poetry book Chandrikotsav is the celebration of the beauty of the moon and its romantic aura. Column writing is no literature, my book Vyaktitatav ka Parvbhav comprising articles on current affairs has been well-received. Similarly, my short story book Meri Pehchan is a wider reflection on the day-to-day life of all segments of society. Novel, as a literary phenomenon, made its impact comparatively late, but writing one is an arduous task.

What made your novels Kashamkash and Bandhan gain considerable popularity?

Novel is considered to be a living and evolving genre of literature, a fusion of form, thematic content, expression and the social milieu. My novels are not just lengthy prose fiction, but structured on reality; are issue-based and entertaining. You know one has to create a world of imagination, live with characters of a novel for years and describe them in a paradigm of lucid language so that readers identify and accept them. My novel Bandhan brings alive the trauma of families of patients suffering from Schizophrenia. It won rave reviews and I am proud to share that its Punjabi translation, done on persistent demand of readers, is being released. Another novel Kashamkash projects the evolution of women in society.

Any novel in the offing?

Yes. Hostel ke panno se is my latest take on the youth in India going astray. It is again an altogether new dimension of socio-cultural and political relevance. 

Fly high

Nike, Inc. (NYSE:NKE) unveils the Mercurial Vapor SuperFly II, a lightweight boot featuring a new, unique adaptive traction system designed for explosive acceleration. The Mercurial Vapor SuperFly II features a reengineered upper for enhanced fit and ball control for fast feet. 

The vibrant ultra-violet color boosts visibility on the pitch. "Nike, Inc. is the world's largest and most innovative football company," said Mark Parker, Nike, Inc.'s president & CEO. "Our success in the world's most popular sport is based on creating innovative products and experiences such as the new, incredibly light and responsive Mercurial SuperFly II boot and Nike Football, which connects the digital and physical worlds of football. These are among Nike's most advanced products to date and will help write the next chapter for Nike football."

In developing Nike Sense adaptive traction technology, designers created a smart stud that can extend and retract by up to 3mm, based on ground conditions and pressure exerted by the player. Directionally positioned blades maximize cutting and allow for quick changes of direction, while secondary toe traction provides added toe-off power for those first critical steps. Nike's design and engineering teams talked with some of the fastest players in the world, who emphasized that acceleration around a defender is just as important as beating him in a straight line. The Nike Sports Research Lab researched the world championship finals in 2006 and found that there were 845 slipping events over 63 games, or roughly 14 per game. Building on these insights, the Nike team collaborated closely with elite athletes including Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexandre Pato to create a boot that enables toe-off acceleration and minimizes slippage in game-changing situations. "For me, it's all about first-step acceleration, but twisting and turning around a defender is also important," Cristiano Ronaldo said. —TNS

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