Happy Diwali – A celebration abroad…without fireworks

Happy Diwali to ALL – Home and Abroad!

Happy Diwali
Happy Diwali

Over the years, while living overseas, the Diwali day has become just like any other other Indian festival day. You don’t really celebrate it, especially if it falls during a week-day when everybody is at work or school. So, what we do? We say ‘Happy Diwali’, just like we say Happy Holi, Happy Janmashtami, Happy Gurupurab…, but it doesn’t mean much. It is just like saying ‘Happy Holi’ instead of the exchange of the real colors during the Holi festival.
And sometimes, especially if it is on the week-end, we get together and celebrate with food and drinks. The fireworks are ‘optional’, mostly forgotten…

Everyone knows what Diwali symbolize; we say it all the times when we explain it to our ‘non-Indian’ colleagues and friends:
‘Diwali symbolize the victory of Good over Evil, Light over Dark…’ We have memorized it, just like little kids memorize the multiplication tables in the school, without paying any attention to the meaning.
The meaning of Diwali is not lost in translation; it is lost over time and over physical distance of countries far away from India!

Diwali is special day in Indian culture; it is a divine day for Indians. No one disputes it; no one should. Growing up as a child in India, I did not care for any meaning of Diwali or what it symbolized. The fireworks were enough for me; enough motivation to look forward to this day, to ‘celebrate’ it in the real sense. The day filled with sweets and all kinds of food and the night, yes, the real treat, the night full of fireworks. We used to count days to the Diwali night, just like kids count days to Christmas in the Western countries.
Different places, different times, different ways of lives…
Continue reading Happy Diwali – A celebration abroad…without fireworks

Past Bollywood Actors Quiz: Where are they Now?

Bollywood Quiz: Disappeared Actors, where are they gone!
Some of the Bollywood stars disappeared from the movie scene after making a huge splash. Some had personal issues; others were not so lucky on the big screen. Yet others decided to take a different path. Here is a quiz about some of the mega stars of the past. This is your chance to test how well you know your Bollywood!
Some from the old days, some no so distant.
Some happy endings, some not so.
Here we go! Good luck with the quiz:

Remember the light-eyed teenager Mandakini; the leading lady in RaJ Kapoor's film ‘Ram Teri Ganga Maili’? Where is she now?

Ayesha Jhulka played key roles in films like ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander’, 'Khiladi', 'Masoom'.... What happened to her?

Meenakshi Seshadri, known for her great acting in movies like Jurm, Ghayal and Damini, disappeared from the Bollywood screens. What happened to her?

Kumar Gaurav, the son of superstar Rajendra Kumar, was an overnight star with his debut movie Love Story. Where is he now?

Kimi Katkar created a stir for her film Tarzan (1985). She played opposite Big B in Hum and is still remembered for her Chumm Chumma song. Where is she now:

Saira Banu, the famous lead actress of 1960s and 1970s stopped acting suddenly in late 1970s. What happened?

Salma Agha made a splash with movie 'Nikaah', her soulful voice won her filmfare award for Best Playback Female for the song "Dil Ke Armaan Aansuon Mein Beh Gaye". What happened to her?

What happened to Sushil Kumar and Sudhir Kumar after their superb acting in the superhit movie Dosti in 1964?

Bhagyashree, best known for her debut lead role in the movie Maine Pyar Kiya, is nowhere on the Bollywood screens. Where is she?

Raj Kiran acted in around 100 films. Karz, Begunah, Basera, Maan Abhiman and Arth were some of his most memorable movies. Where is he now?

Continue reading Past Bollywood Actors Quiz: Where are they Now?

Old Hindi songs and the subtle Punjabi touch

Listen to old songs from Indian Hindi movies (now called Bollywood movies), you will notice two things:
1. A lot of songs are written in pure Urdu,
2. There is a clear influence of Punjabi language/wording on a lot of old Hindi (or Urdu) songs.
To understand this influence, you have look at the history of Indian Cinema in early 1900s. Before the Indian Partition in 1947, even though the movie production was concentrated in Bombay, north India was a prime spot for shooting the actual film scenes. Lahore and Delhi were commonly used for urban settings; the Kashmir valley and the Himalayan foothills were the key spots for natural scenery and natural beauty.
The political and religious unrest in Punjab in 1940s played into the Punjabi infusion into Hindi cinema. Many Lahore based actors, directors and singers moved to Bombay to avoid living amongst the riots and the social divisions. The likes of B.R. Chopra, Mohammed Rafi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Verma Malik… were impacted by the Punjab Partition and all of them made their name in Bombay film industry sooner or later. Pran, our favorite ‘Villain of the Millennium’, started in Lahore in Punjabi cinema in 19040, his first film was Yamla Jat. After acting in several movies in Lahore, he moved to Bombay after 1947 partition of India.

In early 1900s, Punjab was one of the most prosperous region of India and Punjabi actors were preferred for the lead/main roles because of their fair complexion and taller/stronger stature. Starting with Prithviraj Kapoor (Kapoor family), Rajesh Khanna, Sunil Dutt, Dharmendra… Punjabi dominance in Bombay film industry was very noticeable and they brought Punjabi culture with them. Even more is true about poets and song writers.
For example, if you listen to ‘Roti Kapda Aurr Makaan’ movie’s songs, there is a clear Punjabi influence. The song ‘Mehangai Maar Gayi’ starts with a mixture Urdu and Punjabi:
‘Usne kahaa tu kaun hain, maine kahaa ulfat teri
usne kahaa takta hai kya, maine kahaa surat teri
usne puchhaa chaahata hai kya, maine kahaa chaahat teri
maine kahaa samjhaa nahi, usne kahaa kismat teri…’ Continue reading Old Hindi songs and the subtle Punjabi touch

TED Talk: A Saudi, an Indian and an Iranian in a Qatari bar

The Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani delivers a comic piece to the TED audience in Doha, Qatar. This is an interesting take on some the most serious issues and perceptions surrounding Muslims and the Middle East.

Oh, and also included are some pieces of common advice to the people with brown skin when boarding an airplane in America!

Most of the time, as we can see from this comedy, even the most serious and touchy topics can be better addressed when wrapped in laughter!
Instead of politicians and religious leaders, we need more comedians talking about the cultural and religious differences! Continue reading TED Talk: A Saudi, an Indian and an Iranian in a Qatari bar

TED Talk: East vs. West — the myths that mystify

We often compare our Indian culture, values and traditions with the West. We always look at a culture through the values and the lenses of our own culture, our own definition of values and morality. There is no surprise, that we are often biased in our observations. This bias can be conscious or subconscious, our views are seldom neutral.

In this interesting TED talk, Devdutt Pattanaik takes an eye-opening look at the myths of India and the West. The speaker explains how these two fundamentally different sets of beliefs about God, death and heaven help us consistently misunderstand one another.

The speaker links the the business aspect to our culture and our myths. How we look at our business and operation is through the eyes of our own culture. The best ways to deal with dynamic and diverse markets is through the culture of our customers.
So, what is the ‘right’ or ‘suitable’ way to approach a situation or a business problem? It depends. It depends on the situation and it depends on the ‘eyes’ of the culture and mythology. Continue reading TED Talk: East vs. West — the myths that mystify

Cricket World Cup 2015: A Trivia Quiz!

ICC-Cricket-World-Cup-2015Are you a real fan of the cricket?
Do you know your game?
Test your knowledge!
Here is a trivia quiz on 2015 Cricket World Cup.
Good luck!!

Please go to Cricket World Cup 2015: A Trivia Quiz! to view the quiz

Other Quizzes:

Continue reading Cricket World Cup 2015: A Trivia Quiz!

Top Bollywood films of 2014

BestBollywoodMovies2014HappyNewyearBest Bollywood Movies of 2014
When in comes to Hindi movies and Indian Cinema, the tastes differ, the personal choices vary. Some like action while others prefer drama, and yet others long for serious films. Here are some of the best 2014 Bollywood movies:

Queen – Rani (the name translates to the ‘queen’) is an average girl with below-average self confidence. After her fiancé calls off their wedding, she embarks alone on her honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam. This comedy-drama film is beautifully directed by Vikas Bahl. The film stars Kangana Ranaut in the lead role with Lisa Haydon and Rajkummar Rao playing supporting roles. This is a lively and a well-done movie, highly praised by the audience and the experts alike.

Happy New Year – This film is one of the most expensive films ever made in Bollywood. The action packed heist story can also be branded as a comedy film. The movie has a lovely direction by Farah Khan and is produced by Gauri Khan. The star studded cast includes Shahrukh Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Boman Irani, Sonu Sood, Vivaan Shah and Jackie Shroff. It is a very entertaining film, and has rightfully clinched the most number of trophies at the 2014 Stardust Awards ceremony.

PK (Peekay) – This is a comedy film but a brave one – a full fledged satire on God and the religions. Some of the scenes include money extraction at temples, coconuts being offered in at a church… There is nothing comic about a Muslim girl’s dialogue, “Itna chota nahin ho sakta hamara khudaa, ki use hamare school jaane pe aitraaz ho.” (Our God cannot be that ‘small’ that he would object to girls attending schools). The plot begins with an alien landing on Earth but is stranded in Rajasthan when his spaceship’s remote control is stolen. The film stars Aamir Khan in the title role, with Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, Boman Irani, Saurabh Shukla, and Sanjay Dutt in supporting roles. The truth delivers under the guise of comedy is always a brilliant idea, nothing so alien about that.
Dedh Ishqiya – Crackling humor, fitting dialogues and beautifully written story that is punctuated by comic scenes throughout the movie…. This a refreshing comedy directed by Abhishek Chaubey and is a sequel of Ishqiya. The Movie stars Madhuri Dixit, Arshad Warsi, Naseeruddin Shah and Huma Qureshi in the lead roles. I wish I could understand more Urdu!

Haider – The film is a modern-day adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet. The crime drama is set amidst the 1995 Kashmir conflicts and civilian disappearances. Haider, a poet, returns to Kashmir to seek out his disappeared father and ends up in the middle of the state politics. Directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, it stars Shahid Kapoor in the lead role, co-starring Tabu, Shraddha Kapoor and Kay Kay Menon, with Irrfan Khan making a special appearance.
Continue reading Top Bollywood films of 2014

A vegetarian Thanksgiving feast – The Indian Style

An Indian Thanksgiving for the vegetarians!A vegetarian dish
So, you don’t eat turnkey, or any other meat dishes! However, with Thanksgiving approaching, everybody is talking turkey. Thanksgiving menus are built around turnkey and meat entrees; without turkey, it is not really a Thanksgiving dinner, right?
If are vegetarian, you have a big dilemma at your hands – what to cook and what not to make for this holiday family feast! There has to be something in your dinner menu that stands out!

Don’t feel left out, there are millions of vegetarians out there facing the same question. Of course, we all take this challenge differently or underplay it, like….
“Thanksgiving is not really our holiday; we don’t celebrate it!..”
“We will just make one extra dish,… and a desert….that should do the trick!”
“Have to sleep early for Black Friday shopping next day, we will do something special for Christmas…”

If you are looking for an excuse to avoid thanksgiving dinner, there are plenty of them out there.
But, Why? Why pass on the chance to get together and have some fun with your family and friends! the Thanksgiving is all about showing the appreciation and thanking your loved ones! So, go on; celebrate! Put something together for the feast! Something that you are good at, something that is filling and ‘festive’!

The menu does not have to be American style or Indian style; it can be either, or a combination of the two. Pick out the dishes that you really enjoy; talk to your friends, build a menu in advance! Believe me, it is not that hard! You can start with something common.

Here are the suggestions for an Indian thanksgiving menu: Continue reading A vegetarian Thanksgiving feast – The Indian Style

Why not ‘Made in India’?

Can India replace China as world’s manufacturing hub?made-in-india
The question is often asked, but seldom answered. The reason: there is no good answer; no one knows if this is possible in the near future. There is a wishful thinking and a hope, but no clear proof so far.

China has established itself as a dominant force in the manufacturing arena. Chinese have experience, which is hard to replace or reproduce. They have infrastructure specifically designed for outsourced manufacturing and they have no shortage of labor. As a result, ‘Made in China’ is a world force to reckon with.
However, China may be reaching its capacity in manufacturing labor. The wages are going up, the labor market is becoming more demanding. There are only so many workers you can hire at the rock bottom wages.

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. The western companies need to find an alternate to China; they need a back-up plan at the very least. That’s why more and more companies are looking towards Indonesia, Vietnam, and oh yes…India.

India is world’s second most populated country; no shortage of worker here. hence the question: Can India replace China as a manufacturing hub for the western companies? If you ask anyone including the Indian Government, the answer is Yes, with an ‘*’. Anything is possible, as they say and India has the size to stand against China. So what is the problem? Why India has not made much progress in this area?

Well, there are many ‘problems’, not just one. Continue reading Why not ‘Made in India’?

The top executives in America… and the path

Climbing the corporate ladder: The ‘top executives’ in USA and the path to the top jobs
A job in the IT field or a small businesses ownership – when it comes to the favorite employment preferences of the Indian Americans, these are the two most common perception.  The new generations of Indian engineers and medical professionals are crowding the US industries. The thrifty approach of first generation Indians over the decades continue to contributed towards successful family businesses as well well as upbringing of a highly educated second generation of American Indians.
One field where Indians have not fully caught up is the top executive tier of the US companies. While we continue to move into the middle class management, the success in the top tier jobs is not that prevalent.
One thing to keep in mind, there are only limited numbers of top executive jobs. There is only one CEO, CFO or COO in a company – large or small. There could be many head-of-department positions in larger corporations but the numbers are relatively small. So, this could be one of the reason for limited success beyond middle management; there are just not that many jobs for top executives and competition is fierce for this cream of the crop.

The ‘top executives’: A summary
Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (US Department of Labor), here is an insight into the American ‘top executives’:

What Top Executives Do
Top executives devise strategies and policies to ensure that an organization meets its goals. They plan, direct, and coordinate operational activities of companies and organizations. Continue reading The top executives in America… and the path

We love soccer….but only every four years!

Brazil eats, sleeps and drinks football. It lives football! ~ Pele

The World Cup fever is in full swing all over the globe. Soccer, called ‘football’ everywhere except in America, is one of most popular sports if you step outside America. Many European and South American countries including Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Italy, Uruguay and England have some of most fanatic soccer culture. Soccer is their favorite pastime, a part of their daily life.

And, every four years during the FIFA World Cup, the soccer mania is everywhere, even in America. It is the World Cup time… and boy, we love the World Cup soccer! During this season, even the America joins the FIFA World Cup fan club band wagon.

FIFA, Fédération Internationale de Football Association, is the international governing body of soccer. It organizes the World Cup. During early days, FIFA pushed for Soccer to be a part of Olympics, but without success. So, they started their own world competition repeating every four years, just like Olympics. Today World Cup is as popular as Olympics, if not more, in most parts of the world. The sport commands billions of audience during this competition.

2014 World Cup in Brazil is no exception. USA, along with other 200 plus other countries competed for one of only 32 slots available in the World Cup match-up. The most talented teams are in the field in Brazil, fighting for the top honor – to be the 2014 World Cup Champion.

In many countries, especially in South America and Europe, football (the soccer, as they call it in America) is a religion. Christiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Fernando Torres are worshiped like gods, more popular than the Hollywood stars. Continue reading We love soccer….but only every four years!

‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou

A tribute to Maya Angelou – a life well lived.

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom Continue reading ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou

Indian Elections and the Change – Not so fast

They say, time changes everything. Now, how fast or how slow? – It depends on the time or the force of change!

The Indian elections bring one of the biggest change in the political scenery. The Congress Party – the ruling party for decades, has been voted out. The Gandhi dynasty is gone, for now. The Indian public have spoken, They wanted a change, and the change they got; at least that’s what they think!

However, lets be clear; BJP is the winner by default not by merit. People wanted congress gone, no matter who the opposition is. The change is more driven by the fact that Congress was dissed by the masses, not because BJP is embraced by everyone. In other words, the common man on the street was more interest in ousting the Congress party. As a result, BJP came out a winner in big way.

This is a major change in Indian politics after a long time. The majority of Indians are happy about the results. But, are they more hopeful for a better future, for a better India? Not necessarily, not if you look around. Nothing is changing in a hurry; there is nothing new on the horizon!

For example, take the case of common corruption. The corruption runs deep in India, it is an accepted way of life. When it comes to corruption and the common ailments of Indian society, the boundaries of political parties don’t matter. No matter who sits in the high office, the middle management is still the same. An honest police chief will be always honest no matter if congress ruled or BJP. A corrupt office will still be corrupt, even if there is s change in the political party. So, the things have hardly changed for the common man even though there is a major political change.

So what gives! The BJP promise of better days ahead – is it false? It may not be false, but it is not so true either. There is not going to a change overnight, let us be realistic. The web of Indian corruption and other political evils has deep roots, it cannot be eliminated by taking out the current ruling party. It is not so simple. It is not the color of a party’s flag but the color of money that drives India and the Indian infrastructure. And lots of that money is still black, no matter which party rules the high offices.

For an average man, there is hardly any change – nothing, nada, zero!!

So, are the better days ahead? Not in the near future, not for a common man. Continue reading Indian Elections and the Change – Not so fast

The ban on Affirmative Action – a new trend

Affirmative action has many names in different parts of the world. Some call it positive discrimination; Canada touts it as employment equity; it is ‘reservation’ in India and positive action in the UK. Affirmative action is the policy of providing special opportunities for a disadvantaged group of society who suffer from discrimination. It is an effort to ‘equal the playing field’ by favoring a weaker/minority group.

The nature of positive discrimination policies varies from country to country. Some countries, such as India, use a quota system, whereby a certain percentage of jobs or school vacancies must be set aside for members of a certain group. In some other regions, specific quotas do not exist; instead, members of minorities are given preference in selection processes. The US public colleges and Universities often consider race and ethnicity during admission process.

The Affirmative action is intended to promote the opportunities for the minority groups – to give them equal access to that of the privileged/majority population.

Now, there has been ongoing argument that the affirmative action is an unfair system and prefers certain groups during a selection process. The Michigan state has been in the news for many years now as the argument (for and against affirmative action) started in a school, leading all the way to the Supreme court. Here is a quick summary:

October 1997: Two students (Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher) sue the University of Michigan regarding the affirmative action policy used in undergraduate admissions after not getting into the College of Literature Science and Arts.

December 1997: Barbara Grutter sues the university regarding the Law School’s use of admissions, which considers race in reviewing applicants.

June 2003: The U.S. Supreme Court held in the Grutter case that diversity is a compelling interest in higher education, and that race is one of a number of factors that can be taken into account during the admissions process. The Court upheld the holistic review used in the Law School’s admissions policy. Continue reading The ban on Affirmative Action – a new trend

Best Bollywood Movies of 2013

The best Bollywood Hindi films of 2013
The tastes vary, the choices differ. When it comes to the Bollywood films, some like them spicy and action packed thrillers while others prefer sweet and romantic dramas. Some like suspense while others prefer plain old romance. The films below are some of the best standout Bollywood features from 2013.

1. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag: This is a sports drama film produced and directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra; the script is written by Prasoon Joshi, based on the life of Milkha Singh – an Indian national champion runner and an Olympian. The movie stars Farhan Akhtar, Sonam Kapoor, Divya Dutta, Pavan Malhotra, Yograj Singh, Meesha Shafi and Prakash Raj. 2014 Filmfare Awards recognized this movie with multiple awards including the Best Movie, Best Director, along with Farhan Akhtar receiving the best actor award.

2. Chennai Express: This is a romantic action comedy film directed by Rohit Shetty and produced by Gauri Khan under the film production company Red Chillies Entertainment. The film features Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone in lead roles, along with Sathyaraj, Nikitin Dheer and Kamini Kaushal. The movie is about a man’s journey from Mumbai to Rameshwaram and what happens along the way after he falls in love with the daughter of a local don. The melodious music is composed by the duo Vishal-Shekhar; the lyrics come from Amitabh Bhattacharya and Yo Yo Honey Singh.

3. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: This is a coming-of-age romantic comedy, directed by Ayan Mukerji and produced by Karan Johar. The film stars Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone in lead roles – the duo know for their on-screen chemistry. The cast includes Aditya Roy Kapur, Kalki Koechlin and Kunaal Roy Kapur. Madhuri Dixit appears in an item number titled “Ghagra”. The soundtrack score is composed by Pritam, with lyrics from Amitabh Bhattacharya and Kumaar. The popular songs include ‘Dilli Wali Girlfriend’ and ‘Badtameez Dil’.

4. The Lunchbox: This artistic film is a romantic drama written and directed by Ritesh Batra. It stars Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the lead roles. This unexpectedly refreshing and slow-developing love-story has a touch of loneliness, highlighting complicated human relations. The story is simple and supported by brilliant acting. The film was screened at International Critics’ Week at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and later won the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award also known as Grand Rail d’Or. It was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival as well. Continue reading Best Bollywood Movies of 2013