Monday, June 16, 2008

Looking for JB

June 15, 2008

H/l: 10,000 posters between hope and an answer
Intro: Family has made posters with details of missing Frenchman's disappearance from Mumbai last year; any new leads will emerge only out of them
from: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: Jean Baptiste Talleu (26) went missing from Mumbai on December 5, 2007 and till date there is no news of the missing Frenchman’s probable whereabouts or worse, his death. His family visited Mumbai this year to meet the police, but as time passes, all further routes have dried up.

Jean’s mother Marie-Claire and brother Vincent are now banking on posters and a Rs 2,00,000 reward to help get the cycling enthusiast back. Speaking to Sakaal Times via email, Vincent said, “We have printed a total of 10,000 posters and flyers with Jean’s photo and details but we have left them with our friends in Mumbai. We are searching for a company of professionals that could help us with the posting of the posters and flyers. If you have any idea, please tell us. We need the posters to be placed at many strategic places but from here it is not easy. Jean-Baptiste could be anywhere in India.”

The search has dried up and the Talleus are nearing breaking point, especially since everything now hinges on the posters being put up and people responding to them. “The French Consulate has done everything, but didn't find any clues. They are now waiting for leads to come out of the posters,” Vincent said.

Marie-Claire may visit Mumbai again to speak to the cops and address the press. In the meantime, the Talleus have launched a desperate search on the internet with various forums but the key lies in India. “We have met the media, we also wrote on forums on the internet, but to touch local people in India the best is posters (sic), but we struggle with getting them spread,” Vincent said.

The family is hoping that Jean-Baptiste is still in Mumbai and may have embarked on his planned cycle tour of the country without knowing that an alert has been issued for him. “The police say they done (sic) everything they could. It seems obvious to me that there hasn't been any activity on his bank account after he arrived in Mumbai, otherwise we wouldn't be looking for him there,” he said.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

There is no justice in this world

Does it matter to you, God, that I really hate the rains? No, don't laugh, or I'll pull your moustache. It's all your fault, you with your three seasons and all that blah about the city getting respite from the heat. Call this blas-fucking-phemy, but you are a sadist.

I have had to wade to office in really yucky water at some parts near Churchgate station. Quite apart from that, despite a windcheater, my shoulders and my bum (!) got wet, and I was wearing denims. Every sucker who lives in denims knows that denims never dry up - not in the monsoons, anyway.

Then I reached office after a brisk and, by turns, slippery 15-minute walk to office. On the way, I got increasingly drenched and needed to go to the loo. Once I got there, I learnt that a) The peon on morning duty had decamped without telling anyone and b) The guy on afternoon duty had not turned up yet.

So I sat on the dusty, creaking and shadowy staircase because I needed to eat my packed lunch. Somehow I got the chicken and bread lunch out without spilling anything, noting grimly that the new Rs 1,300 Reebok sack, supposedly waterproof, had fuckin' ALLOWED WATER IN.

After I had finished my lunch and was seriously contemplating peeing on the staircase (it's wood and there was nobody in the building anyway), the peon on afternoon duty sauntered in and asked, "Arre, madam tumhi aalat?" Then he opened the front door whilst whistling a cheery tune, and once the door opened, watched in stupefied amazement as I made a bolt for the loo. I looked like I was chasing after my kid's kidnappers.

Then when I was nicely settled in my chair and turning the fan on a speed of 4 (for maximum and quick drying), the rain stopped and a weak ray of sunlight filtered in through the window.

After being drenched. After spending an hour on a dark and dusty staircase. After a torturous hour of thinking longingly of the toilet.

I put my head down on my desk and wept.

Advice for the rains: Whack all office boys and eat lunch before leaving home on Sundays. Also, carry extra plastic bag to furtively pee in.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The boy who lived

May 29, 2008

H/l: Aaj ki raat mere dil ki salaami le le...

Intro: Short film made after Naushad Ali's death is a great story well told

Byline: Vrushali Lad

It's easy recounting a rags-to-riches story of an ambitious young man setting out into the world to realise his dreams against all odds. But filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta didn't have it easy by any means – he was recounting a true story and the hero of his tale passed away just as research on his life was underway.

But Dasgupta persevered, and culling information from family collections, old associates, interviews and photographs, presented the journey of one of the greatest musicians of Hindi filmdom, in a fitting tribute to the boy who gave up all and won much more back. Dasgupta's 39-minute documentary film on the life and genius of musician Naushad Ali is sensitively put together in the Films Division-funded 'Naushad Ali – The Melody Continues'.

Naushad's story began in true filmi fashion: as a boy, he loved Hindi film music so much that he would regularly skip school to catch movies at a local theatre in Lucknow. Later his father told him to choose between music and his family. Naushad chose music and moved to Mumbai, never to return to his ancestral home in Lucknow but to remember his grandmother and the trees and houses of his childhood till his dying days.

This beginning leads into an absorbing story told through Dasgupta's eyes, as he chronicles the rise and rise of Hindi film music's enfant terrible Naushad Ali. The story within the story is that the film, screened this week by Films Division at Cuffe Parade, almost didn't get made.

Dasgupta almost shelved his work after Naushad died in year 2006. "I had started work on it just a few days before he was hospitalised in April 2006. I thought I would continue with it once he was discharged. But he didn't make it and I wondered how I could make a film about his life if he wasn't there on camera and to guide me as the work progressed," the Bengali filmmaker and National Awardee says.

"Then I internalised the idea that Naushad Ali would never die. I started afresh." The film initially seems dull since there are no family members on camera to describe Naushad's early life. But five minutes into the narration, the film picks up pace and comes to life when Dasgupta presents Naushad in Naushad's own words.

Most people forgot Naushad's second death anniversary this year. Dasgupta's film becomes especially precious for this reason, since it presents a picture of the composer in an impish yet sensitive manner.

For instance, in an early video clip, Naushad describes how his mother wrote to him in the 1950s, telling him that she had selected a bride for him but had told her family that the groom was a tailor in Mumbai. "When she wrote to me, I agreed to be a 'tailor' just to placate her. By then I had already scored the music for a few films and it was popular. And during the wedding, I was tickled to find that the band kept playing numbers from my films – my family finally realised that the tailor was famous!"

Another clip shows an old Naushad at his plush bungalow Aashiyana at Bandra's Carter Road, singing melodiously with family members while playing the harmonium. Dasgupta says, "Apart from being a great musician, he was a great singer and he lived constantly in the world of music. But he had other unusual interests. For instance, do you know that he was a keen fishermen and hunter? Till he died, he was President of the Maharashtra State Angling Association."

Naushad was also a photography enthusiast, and his love for the visual medium prompted him to produce three Hindi films.

However, Naushad slowly began to phase himself out of the film music scene when Western music began pervading Bollywood. "Suddenly there was the Rumba, then the Samba, then Cha Cha Cha. I had no use for such music. I always was and always will be committed to Hindustani classical music," Naushad states in a short colour video.

In fact, his score for the 1960 superhit Mughal-e-Azam was an acid test for him as a musician. "A lot of film composers told me that the public would reject the music outright. Nobody had the patience with classical music, especially when it was set to Urdu shayari. But my director K Asif had full faith in me, and this was proved in a surprising way.

We were to begin recording for the Tansen song, which plays in the background as Salim romances Anarkali in the palace. When Asifsaab asked me who would sing the songs, I said only Bade Ghulam Ali Khan had Tansen's genius. Asif agreed to get him on board. But Khansaab charged Rs 25,000 per song – a shocker since even top singers then charged about Rs 500 per song. But Asif agreed and immediately handed over Rs 10,000 as advance payment.

When you saw that people were willing to invest in true talent, it inspired you to give your best for them. Sadly, that devotion to the craft was missing in latter day filmfolk, and I was not interested in many projects offered to me later," Naushad reminisces emotionally on camera.

In an interview given to a film magazine in the 1960s, Naushad spoke of himself as a man who "did nothing to further the cause of music. The music has existed for several thousand years. I only presented old wine in new bottles."

Naushad faded from the public eye altogether after Pakeezah in 1971, only for his music to resurface one last time for the eminently forgettable Taj Mahal: An eternal love story in 2005, a year before he passed away. The fact that the film did not do well nor was Naushad's music lauded, only served to prove that the genius of his composition probably belonged to another forgotten era.

At the end of the film, Dasgupta cleverly weaves a voiceover by Naushad onto a visual showing the many awards and honours the musician won in his lifetime. In a soft voice laced with nostalgia, Naushad says, "A lot of people, many of them journalists, ask me to name three of my best songs. I often ask myself if I have a best song. My best song is still to come, I haven't composed it yet…"

Like Dasgupta promises, the melody continues…

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Accidental occurence

June 3, 2008

H/l: Male, young, and prey to the roads
Intro: A recently published study shows clear pattern in road accidents in Maharashtra
Byline: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: Even something as seemingly random as a road accident has a pattern. More worryingly, this pattern dictates that most road accidents in Maharashtra happen during the monsoon months and that most victims are in the age-group 21 to 29 years.

These findings emerge from a research conducted by four doctors at the Karad-based Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences University, and was recently published by the Indian Journal of Community Medicine. The study, titled 'Pattern of Road traffic injuries: A study of Western Maharashtra' comes up with some interesting points.

The study throws light on many aspects of road accidents, and can help hospitals and police plan first aid and surveillance on accident-prone roads better. Maharashtra has the highest number of registered vehicles and contributes 11.5 per cent of road accidents and 13 per cent of road accident deaths in the country.

An average of 200 accidents are reported daily resulting in 23 fatalities and 134 injured persons. As per the Central Institute for Road Transport, Maharashtra had 79,806 road accidents in 2007, resulting in 10,735 deaths.

"We studied over 400 road accident cases before tabulating the results. We found that the proportion of male victims was greater than female victims by a ratio of 4.6:1. Besides, most of the road accidents occurring in Maharashtra during the year happen during the monsoon months of June to September," said Dr Supriya Patil, one of the researchers.

This is to be noted particularly since the monsoon months are approaching. The study further states that a staggering 60 to 80 per cent casualties take place during the daylight hours, thus shattering the belief that night journeys by road are more dangerous. "There is a significant association between the type of vehicle and overcrowding," said Dr Patil, adding that the general tendency among travellers is to fill the vehicle up to twice or more of its seating capacity.

There is a pattern even to the injuries sustained – most of the deaths result due to head injuries, followed by huge blood loss due to injuries to extremeties and the head. "Motorised two wheelers involved in road accidents lead to the most head injuries," Dr Patil said.

Road accidents in numbers
79,806 in year 2007
10,735 deaths in 2007
25 per cent of deaths by injury are due to road accidents: WHO
200 average road accidents daily in Maharashtra
60 per cent of road accidents are caused by speeding

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Senior netizens

June 1, 2008

H/l: Senior citizens' tribe increases on internet
Intro: Study says senior citizens are fastest growing internet user group in 2007
byline: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: If you thought your grandparents or your retired father would be the last person to access the internet, think again. A new research study published by the Internet And Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) says that senior citizens, especially those above 60 years of age, were the fastest growing internet user group in India in year 2007.

The study was conducted last year, when the government of India declared year 2007 as the Broadband Year in the country. The results were tabulated and recently released, and the findings are surprising. Of the senior citizens surveyed in nine metros and 15 Tier II cities in the country, IAMAI found that senior citizens are using the internet for a range of activities from e-mail to matrimony.

The percentages translate into sizeable numbers since, as per UN estimates, the senior citizen population in the country is expected to touch 7.5 per cent of the total projected population of 1,147,677,000 in 2008. Of these, about 25 per cent are already internet-savvy, says IAMAI.
The report states, "The maximum usage by senior citizens on the internet is for emailing (99 per cent), followed by surfing for information (70 per cent), online banking (38 per cent) and online shopping (21 per cent).

Online chatting, long considered the domain of younger age groups, is also catching on among this age group. A high 47 per cent of senior netizens chat on the internet, while 17 per cent were recorded to use matrimonial websites while surfing. However, the major use remains in financial transactions, with an average of 30 per cent users logging on for stock trading, online shopping and bill payments.

Other activities include using search engines (66 per cent), research (23 per cent), job search (20 per cent), astrology (22 per cent) and spiritual information (19 per cent).

Sunday, June 1, 2008

For the forgotten ones

May 27, 2008

H/l: Old age knocks on government's doors
Intro: …while Mumbai gears up for programme to highlight elderly issues
Byline: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: A group of professionals linked together by a love for the elderly and an empathy for their needs, have compiled a petition for CM Vilasrao Deshmukh's consideration. The petition includes everthing from securing a reasonable monthly pension for the elderly to amending laws for their protection.

"We will be taking the petition to the CM and the social justice department on June 14, a day before World Elder Abuse Day. We hope the government is receptive to the idea of treating senior citizens on par with the rest of society and stop the many abuses being meted out to them by their families and society," said one of the seven founders of the Silver Innings Foundation (SIF), Sailesh Mishra.

"Everybody gets old, but we tend to abuse our elders' rights to suit our convenience. SIF hopes to secure these rights and help families include the elderly in their daily functioning, instead of relegating them to the fringes," another SIF member, Amruta Lovekar said.

SIF, a coming together of professionals from various walks of life, has compiled the petition to target officials and citizens alike. "Apart from society, the government and police do not take senior citizens into account. Hence there are no specific laws and facilities for them, resulting in no clear framework and a gross abuse of basic rights," said Mishra. The petition will be posted on from May 29 to gather maximum popular support (see box).

Hearteningly, SIF is just a month old and works out of a tiny office at Lower Parel, but it already has over 150 members in a month since it started in April 2008 and over 40 per cent of them are youngsters. In an interesting twist, the website is being upgraded to include a blogging space for senior citizens, as also a dating service for the elderly. "It's basically about including them into mainstream life," said Mishra.

SIF is organising a month-long programme from June 1 to June 30 to highlight elderly issues, and will have workshops on legal rights, distribution of armbands and badges, and slots for dialogue between older and younger generations.

Attention: Vilasrao Deshmukh
The SIF petition recommends:
Form senior citizens forum in every community
Form vigilance committees in every urban residential colony
Set up multi-service community Gero-care centre
Start 4-digit national Elder Abuse Helpline
Give more power to local police station to act against elder abuse
Make elder abuse a non-bailable offense
Let third party lodge complaint on behalf of abused elders
Establish counselling centers
Have grievances centre in each tehsil/ taluka
Regular awareness campaigns through media