Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Dear friends, This blog has shifted to: See you there Take care

Monday, July 17, 2006

A for Arangetram, B for Bharatanatyam...

I still remember her tired but happy face at the end of the class. She would wait for the Mango Ice cream after that. She was initiated into the Indian classical dance form, Bharatanatyam, at a very young age. Perhaps she was a mere five year old, when I used to drop her to her dance class in Malleswaram. The 'she' I am referring to here is my dear niece who will, in a few days, ascend the stage. Her 'Arangetram' is to be held in August in Houston. The first performance, the first applause and the first word of appreciation is always special for an artiste. Rangapravesham (a Sanskrit word) and Arangetram (a Tamil word) are the names given to a dancer’s debut performance. It is more prevalent in Bharatanatyam tradition. Though equivalents of Arangetram can be found in other classical Indian dance traditions like the 'Rangapravesh' for Kathak or a 'Rangmanchpravesh' for Odissi, the practice is most popular in connection with Bharatanatyam. Bharatanatyam has been practised for thousands of years. The art is said to have directly evolved from Lord Shiva known as Lord Nataraja (King of Dance) who is the cosmic dancer. According to 'Abhinaya Darpanam' and 'Natya Shastra', Lord Brahma gave the Natyaveda or the science of dance to Sage Bharata. Bharata presented the art form with a group of Gandharvas (heavenly musicians) and Apsaras (heavenly dancers) in the court of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva having been reminded of his majestic performance instructed Bharata the essence of the art through his followers. Being pleased with the astute nature of Bharata, Lord Shiva instructed Lasya (graceful movements) through Goddess Parvati. Goddess Parvati also instructed the art to Usha, the daughter of the Sun-God. Usha taught this to the milk-maids of Dwaraka, who in turn taught the art to the women of Saurashtra. From there, the art pervaded the whole world. The main purpose of dance is to evoke Rasa, which means sentiment or flavour among the audience. Abhinaya Darpanam says: Yatho Hasthas Thatho Dhrishti Yatho Dhrishtis Thatho Manaha Yatho Manas Thatho Bhavaha Yatho Bhavas Thatho Rasaha This is a very important verse and it means: Where the Hands go, the Eyes should follow Where the Eyes go, the Mind should follow suit Where the Mind goes, the Psychological state should follow Where the Psychological state goes, Sentiment arises. A good dancer needs to evoke the sentiment of the audience by following the essence of this verse. Dance is of four kinds according to sage Bharata - Natya, Nrtta, Nrttya and Abhinaya. Natya or Nataka has some theme or story for it. This is a combination of music, dialogue rendering and rhythmic movement of the body. Nrtta is the portion of dance which does not relate to any psychological state or Bhava. Nrttya is dance that relates to sentiment or rasa and the psychological state. This dance is fit to find a place in the court of great kings. Abhinaya is that form of dance which is rich in expressions and evokes feelings among the audience. There is a strong association of Bharatanatyam with the temples. This form of dance that was developed in the South of India is now mainly restricted to the State of Tamil Nadu, mainly due to the fact that it received encouraging patronage from the kings reigning the area during the Chola, Pallava and Pandava period. The temples that were constructed bear strong evidence to this with their rich architecture depicting the various aspects and poses of Bharatanatyam. The dance form was initially practiced by Devadasis (Devotees or servants of God) and was performed in the temple. It then moved to the courts of kings who nurtured and lavishly encouraged the artists. Later and in the present age, the art is practiced and taught by women/ men of affluent families. Adavus Adavus are the basic steps taught to the students. Adavus are of different kinds - Tattadavu, Natadavu, TattaMettadavu, Kattadavu, Kudittamettadavu, Maiadavu, Mandiadavu, Sarigaiadavu and many more. These lead to Jathis or Korvais( a combination of adavus set to intricate rhythmic patterns) and Theermanams (effective finishing to Jathis in a sequence). Adavus are done in the Araimandi (half sitting postures). Sitting in the proper araimandi posture is an essential feature of Bharatanatyam. Further the Adavus have to be executed with Angasudham (clarity in the bodily postures). Mudhras The students are taught the various Mudhras (hand gestures). Mudhras are a means of communication for the dancer to the audience in expressing the theme of the song and in bringing out the essence of the meaning. They are like words which form the sentence. In addition to Mudhras the dance student will have to master the various: Shiro beda (Movement of the head) Drishti beda (Movement of the eyes) Vaksha beda (Movement of the chest) Kati beda (Movement of the waist) Parshva beda (Movement of the side) Pada beda (Movement of the feet) which is a very important aspect. Namaskaram The dancer or the student starts and ends every session of dancing be it a class, practice session or concert with Namaskaram (obeisance). The dancer pays her / his respect to Lord Nataraja, the teacher and the audience with folded hands. (S)he touches Mother Earth and prays for her forgiveness and asks her permission to stamp on her during the dance. Margam Margam is a complete course of Bharatanatyam that are performed in a concert. These include: Pushpanjali (Meaning - offering respects with flowers. This is the opening piece in which the dancer offers respects to the lord, teacher and the audience and (s)he does Namaskaram). Alaripu (Which is the opening item and is made up of footwork and uses head gestures and eye gestures). Jathiswaram (This is a pure dance item with intricate foot work and does not involve any Abhinaya or expression of moods). Shabdam (This involves footwork and for the first time the dancer introduces some Abhinaya). Varnam (This is the most important piece in any recital and involves Jathi Korvais and Theermanams and a theme is elaborated with Abhinaya depending upon the Varnam chosen). Padams (These are songs of different composers chosen for Abhinaya. They involve very little footwork and mainly use Mudhras and facial expressions to bring out the mood in the song). Tillana (This is the culminating pure dance item with complex rhythmic patterns executed in the form of Korvais and has a short piece of Abhinaya). Mangalam (The dancer ends the recital with Managalam- meaning an auspicious ending. Here, (s)he does Namaskaram to conclude the recital). Rangapravesham or Arangetram Arangetram is a Tamil word, which means the 'etram' or ascending of the 'arangu' or performance stage by a dancer, on the completion of her/ his training. This is the blossoming of the student of Bharatanatyam into a full-fledged artist when (s)he enters the stage for the first time. It normally takes 5-6 years of dedicated training and practice to come to this level. The dancer must have at least mastered one whole Margam or complete course. Rangapravesham or Arangetram is only a beginning in the dancer's career. The dancer has to master several aspects of Bharatanatyam and this takes years of dedicated practice. Costume and Jewellery Bharatanatyam is a dance form derived from the temples of South India and hence uses rich colorful costumes and jewellery. The costumes are mainly made out of pure Kancheepuram silk with dazzling jaris (gold laced borders). The jewellery used is called temple jewellery and mainly uses red stones and pearls with a dash of green and white for combination. Carnatic Music & Bharatanatyam Bharatanatyam is strongly linked to Carnatic music. The various rhythmic patterns and compositions used for dancing are drawn from Carnatic music. In order to become a full-fledged dancer/ choreographer/ teacher, a Bharatanatyam dancer must have a strong mastery in Carnatic music. Further, in order to gain mastery in Nattuvangam (the art of conducting Bharatanatyam recitals), a background in Carnatic music is essential. Dancers who are Carnatic Musicians as well, have a strong advantage in the world of Bharatanatyam. Arangetram takes place in the presence of critics, fellow artists, family and friends. Arangetram takes place only after the student (artist) has acquired a substantial and qualitative high standard repertoire. It is an old tradition and is mentioned in the third century classic 'Silappadikaram'. In the third chapter, "Arangetrukaadai" or the chapter of ascending the stage, the poet Prince Ilango Adigal describes the graduation concert of the twelve-year old dancer Madhavi. The Arangetram is an exceptional performance in the life of a dancer and the teacher. The Rangapravesham effectively states that the young dancer is now not merely an amateur, but a budding professional and the audience must decide whether this status has indeed been reached, and in doing so pass judgment both on the dancer and on the Guru. Then, in order to be meaningful the Arangetram is a performance that demands the equal involvement of teacher, performer and audience in the pursuit of artistic excellence. In this sense it is an event that symbolically unites the artistic community. The guru is publicly acknowledged for all the hard work in training the dancer; the dancer is introduced and judged, critically, but not too harshly, as after all it is a first performance. After the arangetram the dancer can perform alone and he/she can also give training to others. Its necessary that before they can take upon the task of teaching, they should have a good understanding of music and other aspects of dance. The learning process does not end at arangetram. Students still go to their teacher to learn more and this process of learning is basically never ending. It is important for them to have a trained person correcting them and guiding them, otherwise they will stagnate. Arangetrams have acquired a different significance as a result of an explosion of interest in Bharatanatyam during the 1970s and 80s. In addition to the artistic role both within and outside Asia, Bharatanatyam, true to its name has been the artistic representative of Indianness and of ancient heritage. And the Rangapraveshams have in turn become the symbol par excellence of ethnic heritage.

Friday, July 14, 2006

It pays to be a non-Hindu in Hindustan

Our politicians are really farsighted! Do you think 'Reservations' is just a political gimmick? If you say 'Yes', well, I differ with you. Our politicians want to serve our country. They are thinking about the future .... but the only difference is that they are thinking about their future and not ours. "Give a man a fish and he is hungry again tomorrow; give him a rod and teach him how to fish and he’s set up for life" this quote goes perfectly in line with the reservation scenario. The point is that professional politicians do not want to set people up for life. It is not possible to build a reliable, self-perpetuating vote-bank on the basis of teaching people to be independent. You cannot rely on their gratitude to vote you back to power time and again. A mosquito can't drink blood just one time, can it ? Now if you set up the schedule caste for life it will be just one incident and the gratitude would fizzle out. Any self-respecting politician hopes to hold on to power through his lifetime and to hand over the reins to his children before he rots in hell. And then their children will be trained on how to cheat their own country. Thus from one generation to other,from outside to the inside everyone is kicking us like a football. We all love football, don't we? So just Sit and watch the fabulous game they are playing with our lives. Just keep watching how the poor becomes poorer and how the rich becomes richer. I have been reading ever since these Mumbai blasts happened that Muslim terrorist groups are behind these barbaric acts. I would like to go off tangent here a bit.When we became independent, India was divided in the name of religion for the first time. Otherwise, for thousands of years, there were so many religions. The political leaders of India, Nehru and company, decided India would be a secular country. Secular means you wouldn’t face any hurdles because of your religion. What really happened was it became a politics of votes. It’s not that politicians love any minority. So it gave minorities special privileges which was not given to the majority. So the politicians gave them the feeling they were saviours of minorities. And that’s what politics is all about – if you work for Hindus you’re branded ‘communal.' In the field of education, there should be a uniform policy to govern education in India. All educational institutions must have the same set of rules. After the blasts in Mumbai, a tabloid reported that the next target is Ayodhya. The Ayodhya issue is the faith of Hindus that this is the birthplace of Ram. Why can’t Muslims accept this and say: Okay, our forefathers may have done something, right or wrong. The disputed site is 40 feet by 80 feet. It’s been proven by archaeological evidence that this is Rama Janmabhoomi (the birthplace of lord Rama). Babar destroyed it when he invaded India. They have destroyed 30,000 temples and we’re only asking for three temples. And they have special meaning: Rama Janmabhoomi, Krishna’s in Mathura and Kashi Vishwanath (Shiva) in Benares. This would cover 75% of Hindus who mostly worship Rama or Krishna or Shiva. If Muslims would only accept these three as temples then this would help build bridges of understanding.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What’s the price of a Mumbaikar’s life?

The 193 people
whose names
appear on this
page may have
died because
someone paid
their killers
Rs 2 lakh. Or
over a thousand
rupees a life.
Courtesy: Mid Day

Mumbai back on track: A look at some of today's newspapers

Click on the image for a larger view Design: RK

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Front page of today's newspapers

Click on the image for a larger view Design: RK

The Pattern in Mumbai attacks

  • Explosives hidden with stealth.
  • Timed to perfection for maximum damage.

The method in all these attacks is similar but for the victims and their families it's the madness that can never be explained. There seems to be a sinister pattern in the war room leak, Agni failure, Insat 4 C failure, Srinagar blasts, and the recent Mumbai blasts. Have the people in power by focussing on vote bank politics such as reservation, minority reservation, et all, neglected the countrys security and allowed the enemy deep inside India? This is a frightening thought! Its Shame that 1993 blast culprits are not yet punished. Till Indian governments follows the Minority appeasement policies, these are bound to happen. Since thousands of years similar cross border terrorist acitivities are happening. How can these happen without the support of the people within? People supporting these activities should be punished swiftly irrespective of their religion. Such kind of people have no right to live in India. People should not forget that these kind of minority appeasement policies only produce people like Hitlers and Nazis, which is more dangerous.

Blasts Rock Mumbai: A Shameful Act

Got this mail from a cousin of mine who resides in Mumbai. This is another day in history which every Mumbaikar will never forget. At 6.05PM - a time when most of the office-goers are bound home in what is called Mumbai’s lifeline - The local train was hit by a series of Bomb Blasts which have rocked the city tremendously. I was lucky to be safe and sound in office. Family is also fine. Kam and Vats are safe too. The series of blasts in Mumbai are shocking and cowardly attempts to spread a feeling of fear and terror among our citizens. My heart reaches out and grieves for all those affected by these blasts and who have lost their near and dear. It was heartening to see numerous volunteers and the whole of Mumbai supporting each other and going out of their way to help one another. Do you still say it is one of the rudest cities?

Why does telephone networks fail during emergencies?

  • Mumbai has about 124 telephone exchanges, which handle 2.31 million telephone lines.
  • Mumbai contributes to 10 per cent of the close to 7 million cell phone subscribers in India.
During emergencies, everyone is trying to call at the same time and there aren’t enough routes for the calls to get through from. Since nearly everyone has a cell phone, the problem is compounded.
A network crash ensues when the switching capacity at Switching Centres (the telephone exchange equivalent of mobile phones) is overreached. Furthermore, some hours are marked as Busy Hour Call Attempts (BHCA), during when phone lines are at their busiest, and there is a limit to the number of calls that can be put through in one hour. Big exchanges can handle up to 5 lakh calls per hour. Unfortunately, during BHCA, every number dialled — regardless of if a connection is established or not — is counted as call. So if you hear an engaged tone, do not re-dial as this will only further reduce the chances of not only yours, but anybody else’s call getting through. Wait for three to five minutes before trying again. Service providers need to work towards increasing their switching capacities before dishing out numbers to prevent crashes such as the one that happened on Tuesday. What About landlines? Telephone traffic analysis must be conducted periodically between telephones in different parts of the city. The data should be analysed and if we find that telephone traffic between, say, Borivli and Churchgate exchanges is high, then their handling capacity should be increased. When a call is made from a mobile phone to a landline, or vice versa, it adds to the calls taken by these exchanges, further burdening them.

CHRONOLOGY - Major attacks in India since 2001

Following is a chronology of some major attacks in India in the past five years:

Oct. 1, 2001 - Militants storm the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly complex, killing about 35.

Dec. 13 - More than a dozen people, including five gunmen, die in an attack on the national parliament complex in New Delhi.

Sep. 24, 2002 - Militants with guns and explosives attack the Akshardham Hindu temple in Gujarat, killing 31 people and wounding more than 80.

May 14 - Militants attack an army camp near Jammu, killing more than 30, including several wives and children of soldiers.

Mar. 13, 2003 - A bomb attack on a commuter train in Mumbai kills 11.

Aug. 25 - Two almost simultaneous car bombs kill about 60 in Mumbai.

Aug. 15, 2004 - Bomb explodes in Assam, killing 16 people, mostly school children, and wounding dozens.

Oct. 29, 2005 - Sixty-six people are killed when three blasts tear through markets in New Delhi.

Mar. 7, 2006 - At least 15 people were killed and 60 wounded in three explosions in Varanasi.

July 11 - More than 100 people are killed in seven bomb explosions at rail stations and on trains in Mumbai.

• Seven blasts in 10 minutes • Over 200 dead, many more injured • Terrorists read the railway timetable well • Entire Western line paralysed • Prominent local leader under scrutiny • Cops get fired in late-night Mantralaya meeting • Once again, Mumbai fights back

Source: Reuters

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Mumbai train blasts: 'Guru Poornima' turns into 'Gory Amavasya'

Up to seven blasts have rocked Bombay's commuter rail network, ripping apart train compartments and reportedly injuring dozens. Hundreds of people returning home are feared dead, many more injured. All the explosions took place in the first class compartments of trains at a time when a majority of Mumbaikars were returning home from office. One television channel showed more than half-a-dozen injured people near the site of another blast in the Khar suburban station of Mumbai. One badly injured person lying near railway tracks was carried away by people using a long sheet of cloth. Dazed survivors were shown with wounds from injuries to heads, legs and hands on the railway station with little sign of any emergency medical aid. All local phones, including mobile services, in the city had jammed apparently due to congestion in the system as anxious people tried to reach their loved ones. Police officials said two more explosions took place in the Santa Cruz and Mahim suburbs of the city. CNN-IBN reported a fifth blast had taken place but there was no official confirmation. However, Anil Singh, of the Times of India newspaper told BBC World there were 10 dead from seven explosions. Indian television news channels broadcast images of the wounded sprawled on train tracks and being carried through stations, and The Press Trust of India news agency reported six blasts along the city's commuter rail network, which is among the most crowded in the world. Reuters said there had been at least four blasts.'s Syed Firdaus Ashraf, who was at Mahim railway station soon after reports of the blast came in, said he could see one train compartment was completely blown up in the explosion, and people were carrying bodies away. Bombay, India's financial center, and New Delhi, the capital, were reportedly on high alert. The Western Railway has suspended its suburban services soon after the blasts. Local telephone lines were jammed as panic-stricken commuters called their near and dear ones to alert them of the blasts. Commuters said there was no sign of the police even 30 minutes after the blasts. The Mumbai blasts came just hours after suspected Islamist militants killed seven people, six of them tourists, in a series of grenade attacks in Indian Kashmir's main city, Srinagar, which according to the police is the most concerted targeting of civilians in months. The Mumbai police have cordoned off all railway stations on the Western line and strict frisking and checking was being carried out at the Central and Harbour sections of local train services. Mumbai, a metropolis of about 17 million, has been hit by a series of bomb blasts in the past decade. More than 250 people died in a string of bomb explosions in Bombay in 1993 for which authorities blamed the city's underworld criminal gangs. More reports awaited.

A Blogger Comments on 'Comments'

Blogging without commenting in other blogs is like winking at a girl in the dark. Only you know what you are doing.

Comments and commenting behavior on blogs is really interesting. Some people love commenting, some hate it, some just want to flame and some just want to link to their own web site. Fascinating, isn't it?

Naturally, when I write something I want as many comments as possible. It makes me happy, it shows to me that the post is actually being read and it opens up for interesting discussions and different points of view.

I don’t mind getting the “Nice Article” or “This Rocks!” comment either. I like to know that what I’ve posted was received well. Also, when I leave a comment on someone's blog, I become part of a conversation. It’s not the soapbox of a blog. I add a little, you add a little, everybody adds a little, and the post along with those comments is just a little bit more than it was before. I allow comments on my site because I want to have a conversation. I think comments are really what makes the blogosphere come alive.

For me comments are a great way to talk to people right here on the blog. A great post is not a conversation, a great post starts a conversation. And they tend to flow very naturally when you’re commenting. Sometimes one post leads to another one. You might be influenced by one post and want to write another one. I do think there’s a knack to writing posts that invite commentary. I comment to let the author know I appreciated what they wrote or to add to the discussion.

Sometimes, some people comment very annoyingly. I have seen this mainly in News channels or on certain delecate topics like language, sports and religion. And also when it comes to movies and actors! The annoying “Comment preview” thing would stop many from commenting on your blog. Annoying comments slows down the process and scares users from posting comments. When leaving comments on someone’s blog, it’s not really a good idea to be rude or call the author derogatory names. That’s an ill thought out way to build bridges within the community.

Sometimes a post will inflame you, but suppress your urge to lash out. Behave like you have some respect for the blogger or the person commenting (even if you don’t) and yourself. There is a way to disagree or correct someone without seeming like a raving lunatic. Acknowledge that you’ve read the blogger’s entire entry. State the points you disagree with and why. If you spot any errors, point out those errors without being sarcastic or rude. Under no circumstances should you call the blogger or others leaving comments anything derogatory. This should be common sense, but you’d be amazed at how often I see comments left on many blogs that reflect poorly on the person leaving the comment.

If you want to find the conversation in comments, you’ll have to wade through all the comments that are simply providing feedback without contributing to the conversation e.g. “Great post!”. So, while the advantage of comments is that they serve a dual purpose (conversation and feedback), the disadvantage is the very same: they serve a dual purpose (conversation and feedback).

One of the most powerful ways that you can interact with a blog, without having your own blog, is to comment. Which was what I did for a long time before I too started a blog. Even after starting one, I love to read blogs, find topics that interest me and comment on them.

Do you make comments when you read a blog that makes you think, giggle, growl, etc.? What if you don't know the person at all -- you just happened upon their blog by clicking from someone else's blog or doing a search on some unrelated topic... And what if it's not a "Domino-blog" or even a technology/ professional-related blog?

I find that I have no problem commenting on blogs where I know the blogger (or think that the person probably knows me). I have also occasionally commented on blogs where I don't know the blogger but it was a technical blog or a "professional" topic where I thought I had something to add to the discussion. Where I seem to have drawn my own line at the moment is on blogs that are more personal -- they're not by someone I know or related to a business/ professional topic. It's hard at that point to know if everyone commenting knows the person or is just... commenting. I get comments so far only from people I know or at least know by association.

My blog reading has certainly led to a lot of reflection on my part that as with real people, treating all bloggers with respect is very important. Simply because they are people too! Also, seek first to understand what is being said. Celebrate another's accomplishments. And use appropriate language.

If you expect the community to take notice of your blog, then get involved. Start reading and commenting on blogs that are similar to yours. When you leave comments make sure you leave a link back to your blog. What I have learnt is that not to comment for the sake of leaving your blog url, but add value and people will naturally come over to your blog. One of the great features of blogging is something called trackback. This is the ability to remotely leave comments on someone's blog. You write your answer or response to a given blog entry on your own blog and then trackback to the blog in question. This will leave a small link to your blog on their site inviting people to come and visit your blog. Trackbacks are popular and only some blogging hosts support this feature. Keep an eye out for it, it is a wonderful way to build traffic.

A blog is like a telephone. If you have a telephone that never rings, then don't blame the telephone, blame the fact you never told anyone the number. Make sure your blog url is included in your email signature. Any posts you make to mailing lists, make sure your blog url is included there. Don't be ashamed to advertise your blog where ever and when ever you can.

Finally, keep writing. Write simple and often. A blog that is updated frequently is one that will be popping up in the aggregators. A few entries a week is acceptable for the average blog. If you have a lot of entries to write, then think about staggering them over a few days as opposed to dumping them all on the blog site at once. Don't expect overnight success; traffic takes time.

[Why this post? Because I read a few 'annoying comments' today in a friend's blog whom I have blogrolled].

Friday, July 07, 2006

Waylaying near ATMs

Offlate, waylaying and thefts near ATMs has become very common. Most incidents of waylaying and robbing near ATMs happen in relatively isolated spots. Many such ATMs lack security guards, especially during the day. Ironically, in the city, more than one ATM is located on the same road. And all of them invariably have a security guard. But, the guards are seldom armed and armed security personnel are deployed only when cash is loaded into the machines from armoured vehicles. The customers enjoy no such security. Unless there is an emergency never withdraw cash from an ATM late at night. Even if you do, especially in comparatively remote locations, do not go alone. While inside the ATM, face the Machine in such a way that people outside cannot see how much money you are withdrawing. Since it is your money, you ought to be careful and extra cautious. There are just too many ATMs in the city and suburbs for the police to maintain a regular vigil. Never let any strangers distract your attention — an old trick employed even in regular bank branches — and in the process snatch your bags with money and disappear. All said and done, it's hard to discourage a determined criminal, especially if they know a large amount of money is at stake - as in many ATMs.