Books, Lit Fests, News, Movies, Art, Fashion and TV of course... "I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book." - GROUCHO MARX

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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Friday, July 28, 2006


Pictures, they say, tell more than a thousand words. At least this one does. Shashi Tharoor, India's hope for the United Nations top post stands here as it were between worlds.

One that represents India, another that represents the world. If you take a closer look at picture, it will give you a glimpse of modernity meeting tradition. For those of you who have spent time in the true heartland of India, you'll know what I mean. Those parts of Kutch, the painters working on those amazing Madhubani paintings in Bihar - you'll get the drift.

To see that painting in the backdrop of this setting says something about the many facets of the writer and diplomat extraordinaire - Shashi Tharoor.

He flits between worlds. That much is apparent in his books. From 'The Great Indian Novel' based loosely on the epic Mahabharata, he went on to give readers his take on the world of Bombay's 'Showbusiness'. In 'Riot', he put together a story told through the eyes of various people. Caught in the midst was an American aid worker who really does not belong to any side in the riot.

If you have been charmed by the fiction, Tharoor has been equally at ease with non-fiction too. Whether it is tracking 'India's Journey from Midnight to Millennium' or analyzing the four pillars of Nehruvianism or going not quite 'Bookless in Baghdad', Tharoor has won readers the world over through his ecletic views.

It is those views that are unravelling quick time on a global stage. As he gears up for one of most closely watched race in the world, he takes on the job of winning over the hearts and minds of not just one or two but the 157 states that make the United Nations what it is today. Well, technically, he doesn't have to win all 157 of them, but the effort that he has put to his current South-East Asian mission, gives one a mere reflection of the seriousness and the depth of his zeal to see a world where the United Nations clearly plays a bigger, broader role.

Some view the 28 years he has spent with the world body as a deterrent. For him, it gives him an insiders perspective. One which gives him insights into the inner workings of an organisation where the world 'complex' would merely end up sounding simple.

As the UN looks for its eight secretary-general in its even more turbulent 60-year old history, they couldn't look for anyone better than a man who truly believes that: "A world without the United Nations is a world without hope."

PS: Another post on all the book stuff will be up soon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


How often have you heard that voice? The one that belongs to that lovable three and a half year old dude on Sesame Street. Yes, Elmo.

Now for the trick question.
How often have you been able to put it down to the voice of a 45 year old?

You read that right! A 45 year old voicing for someone who'll forever be three and a half.

Impossible? Not quite. The amazingly talent Kevin Clash has been doing that since he came on board Sesame Street, which he gamely admits was "many moons ago."

He laughs at his own ability, "the Peter Pan Syndrome", takes us on a joy ride when his daughter wants to speak to Dad/Elmo in the same breath.

It sure has been a long journey for Kevin who always wanted to be a puppeter. In fact, he started making puppets by helping himself to his father's wardrobe. Now, there may a whole research, design, production department helping him live each day, doing what he loves.

Love, it has to be. How else does Being Elmo and co-producing show result in not one or two but NINE Emmys.

That's quite an achievement for a puppet no less. So, if you are wondering - can a book be far behind? Let me assure you - it isn't.

Kevin has signed a major book deal with Broadway Books to write an inspirational book for adults.

What's it about? Hmmm... the lessons that the three year olds around us can teach us of course.

Seriously, it's titled 'What Elmo Taught Me' and will draw upon this Baltimore man's unique experience as a parent, master puppeter and performer whose work has enchanted millions around the world.

Having met Kevin/Elmo, Elmo/Kevin and flitting through his on-screen and off-screen personas, I can't wait for that. I'd suggest you don't too. The book will hit shelves around the world later this year.

Monday, July 24, 2006


This is one story we all want to hear. After all, who hasn't made their road trip without that battered copy of their Lonely Planet. The internet might have truly revolutionised searches, simplified travel plans, but nothing beats the sheer joy of thumbing through a beat up copy of one's Lonely Planet.

What's fascinating about Lonely Planet is the story that spawned the successful publishing phenomena that it is today. If you have wondered how two backpackers with 27 cents to their names end running a multi-national company that ranks as the most successful travel publishing business on the planet, then you've got to hear from Tony and Maureen Wheeler.

Their story began when they arrived in Sydney on Boxing Day in 1972 after a six month Asia overland trip from Europe. In late 1973 they started Lonely Planet Publications to publish 'Across Asia on the Cheap', the story of their trip from London to Australia.

From that self-published guidebook, grew Lonely Planet as we know it today. It has more than 500 titles in print. Even though, they have spawned an enormously successful business, both Tony and Maureen take time out to spend at least six months travelling.

Their road trips will soon have them in our sunny shores, so watch this space for more of their not so Lonely Tales.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Yes, it does always seem like an incredibly long way to the floor or the gym. To the exercise shy, not quite yoga struck, this book is going to be more than welcome.

If that stretch seems miles away, read Sharon Bakar's brilliant post on the book. You just might change your mind about exercise, yoga and that stretch - not necessarily in that order.

I have, now if only I could find that funky studio that takes you in without lycra gear.


So said White Spokesman Tony Snow to The First Lady of the Press, the legendary Helen Thomas. The point in question was about the US vetoing a UN Security Council resolution demanding Israel halt its attacks in Gaza.

As we all knew, by the time the media conference went live, ten nations on the council voted in favor of the resolution, and four abstained. As one of the five permanent members on the Security Council, the United States has veto power over resolutions.

John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN had already gone on record saying "in light of the fluid events on the ground," the United States believed the Qatar-sponsored resolution was untimely and out of date, and would have helped inflame passions in the Middle East.

What happened at this briefing was truly revealing, and clearly showed Snow has been away from it all way too long.

Thanks to Crooks and Liars for the full view:

Monday, July 17, 2006


You get an interview to remember.

I was drawn to this splendid interview almost by accident courtesy Bala.

Two of television's greats sharing the stage, always makes for great viewing and this one didn't disappoint.

For the large part, because Dan Rather, the ex-CBS face told the story as is. The style was relaxed, the stands clear. Rather talked about everything including the controversial 60 Minutes broadcast about President Bush's National Guard record.

LARRY KING: "You're saying that was a fair report, I mean that was--you believe that report to this day?"
RATHER: "Do I believe the truth of the story? Absolutely."

For someone, who in my view, has lived with guts and glory seeing him stick by his side of the story was quite something.

There was a quiet determination in Rather's manner, but no anger over what happened. He treated what could have been annoying questions with the ultimate respect.

What stood out clearly though was his love for the news. He dismissed calls for retirement and put himself in the category of a 'working day reporter'.
Now, this is what I call true class:

CALLER: Hi, Mr. Rather. What advice would you give to a young aspiring journalist who looks to you as an American icon?
RATHER: Well first of all, I really appreciate that. But I'm not an icon, I'm a reporter who got lucky. And I really mean that. And I think it's important to understand that. Icon status should be for people who find a cure for cancer or Alzheimer's Disease, not for working day reporters. Now for your question about advice, one, read, continue to read. Commit yourself to a lifetime of reading. The other is learn to write and keep on learning to write. Because writing is the bedrock, the fundamental necessity of the craft. I think a lot of people who want to get into journalism, particularly television, don't understand that. So, those are two things. The other I would say, is that old Winston Churchill line of never, ever, ever give up.

If that's got you drawn to the chat, read the full transcript here:


Never imagined I'd end up reading this. Let alone enjoying it. But a prolonged spell of house hunting, interspersed with some rather serious reading, coupled with rather officious visits to lawyer's offices et al, had me all knotted up, in dire need of what they call de-stress.

Then 'The Devil Wears Prada' came my way and the wicked cover already had me giving it more than a second glance. A couple of pages down, I was hooked to Lauren Weisberger's splendid read that re-defines the term 'bad boss' for years to come.

If you've been griping about yours, take heart, you haven't yet met the MOST impossible boss in the history of impossible bosses.

To cut a fabulous long story short, it takes you through the life of Andrea Sachs, a small-town girl fresh out of college, who lands the job "a million girls would die for."

Being hired as an assistant to Miranda Priestly - the enormously successful editor of 'Runway' magazine, Andrea discovers more than just a Boss From Hell.

Will staying on be worth it? Well, you have to read this book to find out.

If it's the lists that get you started on a book, here's more.

'The Devil Wears Prada' has been published in 27 countries and was on the New York Times best seller list for six months.

Not bad at all for a debut!


Opened my hotmail to find this:
"Dear Parent,
I wish to discuss regarding Dhruv's performance and in this regard may I request
you kindly to meet me in person on Wednesday the 12th July between 1.30 pm to 4 pm."

Boy, do I have several issues with this (never mind the English!):
a) I have a name and for the kind of money we end up paying for pre-school, it would be really really nice if the teacher remembered what it was!
b) We had a parent-teacher meeting about a month ago and Dhruv passed with a glowing report - apart from that 'pencil grip' thing.
c) If it is about his performance - you wouldn't be calling me anyway would you?
d) What is the unmentionable he committed that you can't mention in the mail or even in a phone call?
e) Why do you assume that every parent would be just sitting at home, rushing to make it for the said appointment, which in this instance has been set like a day from now. Life is about OPTIONS.
f) And if it has nothing to do with his studies, can we please skip this. At the last parent teacher meeting, one particular teacher in question went on and on about my daughter's hair, how it really irritated her, how I should blow dry it, pin it, clip it, how her hair got into the teacher's way - but I'm not about to start on that...

Right now, I'm just gonna fret, fume and spew over till I can make that next phone call to find out WHY?

Friday, July 14, 2006


Asked Rahul. When the phone networks were down, when people went missing, when things went wrong that evening in Mumbai, Television did what television does best.

'This coming in first to ____'...
'The pictures of the disaster first in to ____'
'In an exclusive interview, blah, blah learnt'
'We are here, first to break the news....'
'You saw this first on....'

And the list goes on.

Pretty much at the same time the rest of the world was getting the same stuff on their wires, through the television feeds, though the net and through whatever others sources of information we share in this information age.

Bloggers, on the other hand, went about their job quietly yet steadily.
a) They made no proclamations.
b) None of them - not Sepia Mutiny not India Uncut not any of the other superb Mumbai blogs came up with those turn me off line like 'this news came in to my blog first'.
c) They were all helping each other, one step at a time in the true spirit of a community reaching out to each other.
d) And to steal Zafar's term they were all truly 'Dil Se'.

Need more reasons for real time journalism and heroes at work?

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Will someone please tell me why Shabana Azmi and Rahul Bose are being passed off as citizen journalists? Would anyone care to hand over the mike collar for a PTC to any Ram, Shyam or Hari for their journey on a Mumbai train post blasts if they weren't established Bollywood faces in the first place?

Write to me at


If some of the electronic media coverage on the night of the Mumbai blasts was to be believed -
a) We would have seen a repeat of 1993
b) The Bombay Stock Exchange's benchmark Sensex index would have crashed
c) The worst is yet to come

I switched on CNN first and knew they didn't know their M from their N's, the minute the anchor Fionnuala Sweeney, referred to Brahma Chellaney as 'SHE'. No apologies followed even after the phoner recut rolled out a distinctly male voice. Come on, he's one of India'a better known analysts, how does one of the world's leading network get that wrong?

What followed was inane questions like:
- What could be the motivation of such attacks?
- Why would Mumbai be an attractive target for militants?
And the guest (can't remembered who it was) went....
"Mumbai once considered one of the wretched cities of the world, is now a shining economic miracle" .... if only it were that simplistic.

That blabber was enough for me to swtich to the BBC, who did a far better job covering the blasts. No over the top, jumping beyond the desk kind of anchors, no excitable reporters, I got my news just the way I wanted it. Straight, crisp, clear. That's demonstrated in the BEEB's superb web coverage as well. Who needs six screen crosses, if the pictures can't tell the tale.

As we have seen, Mumbai hasn't crashed. Muslims queued up to donate blood to Hindus and vice versa. And in the biggest show of Mumbai's famed spirit - the Sensex came nowhere near crashing. Investors defied fears of a sharp sell-off, driving the it up 3%.

Mumbaikars from all walks showed them....
as did these superb blogs - the true 'citizen journalists' of the day....


Tuesday, July 11, 2006


There are days when your body and mind are simply stunned into disbelief. Today happens to be one of those days.

My phone was beeping most of last night, I thought I had set the wrong alarm. In fact, at some point I thought I was dreaming these sounds. 2am in the morning, I realised the calls and SMS's were all very real.

Mumbai had been rocked. This time by a series of sinister and well-coordinated bomb attacks aimed at crippling the rail network - the one thing that connects close to 6 million Mumbaikars each day.

The damage had been done, the death toll rose through the morning, the pictures were grim, but the people were staying calm. That for me speaks volumes about the true spirit of Mumbai. It's ability to cope with disasters - natural or man made tells you all about the inner vibrance of this bustling city. And that's the spirit no blast in the world can wipe out.


When you put your money in the bank, the bank doles out next to nothing in terms of interest on your dollars if it's in a normal account.

When you take a loan from the bank, the interest rate that stares you in the face is upwards of 3%.

In a news wire that just came in, Japan's finance minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said 'zero interest rates are desirable'.

Now, that's something I wish could work both ways. That would definitely bring smiles all the way to the bank and a spring in my step too.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Trust YouTube to get past the labyrinth copyright instructions to show you all.

If you missed it yesterday, here again is the mother of all HeadButts.

After watching the action in slow-mo, I feel another one who deserved it in the chest was none other than Buffon.

I still believe Zidane was wronged, though what exactly was said to result in that is something only Zizou can tell. If only refrees could also hear the sledging that happens on the pitch - who knows the next stage of technology will tell us just that.


The kids are back at school - finally. That means two-three hours of reading time on good days. Needless to say, the bad ones invariably outweigh the good ones.

Adding to that big grin on my face are some fabulous books for review. After months of waiting, I finally get a sneak peek of Vikram Chandra's eagerly awaited (at least for me) 'Sacred Games', together with Hisham Matar's 'In The Country of Men'. As they say nothing like a cracking good read.

Before I get to that - the Byron Bay Writers Festival looms. The tickets and the leave are sorted out, now for the visas. Time to get cracking. If you haven't already read about it, the Festival is into its tenth year. My pal Janet de Neefe tells me I'll be truly shocked by the size of the receptive audience. Can't wait for some rocking good times in the month ahead.


Yes, I admit, I have defied the rules of blogging.

But if you were faced with a similar situation of putting a roof over your head ASAP, I can assure you, you'd forget a lot too.

Over the past couple of days, Bala and I have sleep-walked through several apartments (I've truly lost count) from the east to the west, to the north and the south, to end where we began.

It's a looooong story, I'll try and cut it short over the next couple of days.

Watch this space.


Till it all fell apart this morning, my greatest couch potato World Cup moment was Zinedine Zidane exchanging his team T-shirt with Figo's (after France beat Portugal) and displaying it ever so proudly on the long run back to the dressing room.

So much can change in a few days.

Then Zizou was a hero.

Now, it's his head-butting moment that is attracting more than just ink.

For those who watched it carefully, you will remember, the moment when Italian Marco Materazzi held Zidane back. Then there was the exchange of words. What those words were, remain anybody's guess right now. What happened afterwards clearly demostrated they were strong enough for the headbutting that resulted in the red-card.

To think it happened in the 110th moment, at a time when the cliff hanger of a match was evenly poised at 1-1. Zizou's presence in the penalty shoot-out would have the difference between the Cup that distinguishes the best from the rest in the beautiful game.

It was sadder still to see that a Captain who brought his team so far, couldn't even make it to the podium to receive his medal.

Hopefully, when the dust settles, we will be able to remember Zinedine Zidane who became just the fourth player to score in two different World Cup finals.

His penalty against against Italy came in the seventh minute, when the game was just about warming up.

He'd scored with two headers in the 3-0 win over Brazil in the 1998 final in Paris.

The three others to score in two finals were Brazilians Pele (1958, 1970),
Vava (1958, 1962) and German defender Paul Breitner (1974, 1982).

Things pass, at some point the tragic end to Zidane's career also will and his sparkling skill on the soccer pitch is what he'll be best remembered for.