Monday, September 28, 2009

British Asians 'outsourcing murder' to India

A BBC investigation has uncovered the deadly practice of British Asians travelling to India to hire contract killers.

Family and business associates, who are lured to the sub-continent, are often the targets.
In a country where murder is cheaper and less fraught with risk, the perpetrators of these crimes are rarely brought to justice.
Campaigners in both India and the UK believe this to have claimed the lives of hundreds of victims over several years.
These armchair murder plots are hatched in the living rooms of Britain and executed mainly in the rural Indian state of Punjab.

'Foul play'
I made the journey to India to investigate these sinister crimes.

In a remote village, surrounded by lush green fields, a rickety ox-drawn cart trundles along the dusty lane.
It is here that a British woman, who was on holiday with her husband visiting relatives, was killed - the apparent victim of a hit-and-run accident.

But her relatives in India suspect foul play.

"Her husband wanted to re-marry. He told her to leave him - she said, 'I'll die but I won't let him go'," her mother revealed.
She was one of the first to arrive on the scene.

"They beat her up. They dumped her in the ditch and made it look like an accident. They wanted to show it like an accident. There was no blood, no car and no tyre marks."

Despite a lengthy police investigation, charges are yet to be brought against the suspects in India.
For legal reasons, we can not name the victim or her family.

Her killing bears striking similarity to that of another British woman, Surjit Athwal.
The 26-year-old mother of two disappeared in Punjab in 1998.

Two years ago, a British court found her mother-in-law and husband guilty of arranging her murder.
They had hired criminals in India to kill her. She was strangled and her body dumped in a river.

Her brother, Jagdeesh Singh, now campaigns for other victims' families.
"I think Surjit's case exposed for the first time in this country overseas outsourced killings. How the Punjabi community, settled in Britain, send their females back to the land of origin, in the full knowledge that they can have them murdered easily, swiftly and efficiently."

It is not only women that are lured abroad to be killed in these types of murders.
Raju, not his real name, recalls his brother's death during a visit to their ancestral village in Punjab.
"He was found on the floor, with a bullet in the head. We have evidence to suggest the murder was arranged by his wife and her lover. We believe the motive was to fraudulently claim insurance money."

So how easy is it for British Asians to outsource murder?

According to Indian journalist, Neelam Raaj, finding a person to carry out the killing is simple.
"The person who's taking the contract would just be a small-time criminal. He's usually a goon in the village."
In India, murder is cheap, with hired assassins paid up to $800 (£500).

Formerly, the modus operandi was a drive-by shooting, now it is likely to be a staged road accident.
And it appears there are few risks.

In the bustling city of Ludhiana, Jassi Khangura juggles life as a successful entrepreneur with a career in Indian politics.
He used to be a businessman in London, now he is an elected representative for the ruling Congress party in the Punjab legislative assembly.

"What we have in Punjab - and in many other states of India - is a criminal nexus that takes place between the police, the politicians and the criminals. That nexus gives the Indians that live in the UK a large degree of cover.
"Even if they're identified as the perpetrators of the crime, they're given a considerable degree of protection and that means they never get charged."

He alleges police corruption in the state is responsible for a trend which he believes claims the lives of up to a 100 overseas Indians a year.


But in the manicured grounds of his colonial-style villa in Punjab's capital, Chandigarh, inspector general of police for Jalandhar district Sanjiv Kalra says the figures are exaggerated and denies his force is riddled with corruption.
"From my experience, these kinds of things are more talked about than they are actually present on the ground," he said.
However, for many victims' families the search for justice in India is elusive.

They are now turning to the authorities in the UK for help. British detectives are increasingly being called in to solve these murders.

Commander Steve Allen of the Metropolitan Police Service has this stark warning.
"We have increased our knowledge of and our confidence in dealing with murders of British citizens overseas. We will follow you, we will pursue the evidence and we will bring you to justice wherever in the world you commit these offences."
Meanwhile, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office says it is currently aware of six British nationals who have gone missing in the Delhi and Punjab area.

Passport to Murder will be broadcast on BBC Asian Network at 1800 28 September 2009.

Source: BBC World News

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Balloon | गुब्बारा


The Oscar winning director Danny Boyle will be releasing his film Slumdog Millionaire on Blu-ray soon. But he has surprised everyone by keeping a short called Manjha to be part of this Blu-ray DVD release. Manjha is directed by Rahi Anil Barve. The short film is about child sexual abuse and has won many awards. Rani Anil is currently busy preparing for his directorial debut with White Cloud Pictures. His forthcoming venture is titled Tumbad which is based on folk tales of Maharashtra with an underlay of horror.

Road Movie | सड़क फिल्म

Road, Movie Sneak Peek TIFF 09 from dev benegal on Vimeo.

Road, Movie directed by Dev Benegal and starring Tannishtha Chatterjee Satish Kaushik and Abhay Deol was India's first breakthrough feature at the acclaimed Toronto International Film Festival. The film was an official selection and had it's world premiere at The Winter Garden Theatre on September 18.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Anish Kapoor at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

The Royal Academy of Arts will hold a solo exhibition of the acclaimed artist Anish Kapoor later this year. The exhibition will cover Kapoor's career to date and showcase new works.

रॉयल कला अकादमी इस साल के प्रसिद्ध कलाकार Anish कपूर की एकल प्रदर्शनी आयोजित होगी. प्रदर्शनी की तारीख और प्रदर्शित करने कपूर के कैरियर नए काम को कवर किया जाएगा.

One of the highlights, Svayambh, has the appearance of a vast mass of wax that moves almost imperceptibly on sunken rails leaving a residue in its wake.

Kapoor's work, Shooting into the Corner (2009), features a cannon that shoot projectiles of red wax into a corner at regular intervals. The wax will build and take on new forms as the show continues.

His early pigment sculptures - such White sand, Red millet, Many Flowers (1982) - secured Kapoor's early reputation at home and abroad.

Also included in the exhibition will be stainless steel reflective sculptures, (left to right) Non Object (Door), 2008; Non Object (Pole), 2008; and Vertigo (2008).

Anish Kapoor will open at the Royal Academy of Arts on 26 September and run until 11 December.

Source: BBC News

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is Buying Art The Prerogative Of Moneybags And Old Fatcats?

pic above: Details from Manjunath Kamath's
'Ironing the King's Clothes'

In this entire melee where is the small time art enthusiast who has the passion but not the deep pockets that seem to be a pre requisite in case you want to pick up any art at all? Is art out of bounds for all but wealthy patrons and flushed-with-funds-Johnny-come-lately varieties? Veteran journalist and art critic Sunil Mehra asks the million buck question:

Nothing more dramatically highlighted the boom in the Indian art market than the country wide income tax raids on art galleries this April. Painters are the new glitterati - parvenus and connoisseurs solicit their attention, tabloids track their openings, filmstars and fashionistas, industrialists and corporations vie to bid for their works. Indian art has elicited dizzy bids at Indian art auctions.

The icing on the cake has been the launch of two multi crore Art Investment funds: one launched by Geeta Mehra of the Sakshi Gallery; the other by Neville Tuli of the Osian Art conglomerate. And shortly banks will be accepting art works. As collateral. Message? Indian art has ARRIVED.

Not really. I learnt this, to my everlasting benefit, from THE venerable Husain himself when I started out as a journo with a weekly news magazine and tremulously owned up to my nagging insecurity, my feeling of utter inadequacy in writing about HIM. “Write without fear but write with honesty” he assured me. “Trust your instinct. To appreciate art you need intuition. You need an eye. Not an art education. Buy what you like. Write what you feel.”

That advise held one in good stead throughout one’s journalistic career. One minor amendment I did make. I took care to educate myself. I realised that if I was to write anything anyone would respect I HAD to take the trouble to study and educate myself on the subject I was holding forth on. What one said after that was informed even if it wasn’t absolute.

It is this combination of self education and intuition that helped one pick up good art on the cheap. I picked up my first Bawas in 1989 for the princely sum of Rs 20,000 paid in instalments over a whole year: two small works that are today priced at a mind boggling Rs 50 lakhs each. Was he the mega star he became then? Not quite. But I liked the work, the man and went with my instinct.
Likewise Bhupen Khakhar: good friend, wonderful soul and brilliant artist. Quite unable to afford his canvases I picked up sketches, random drawings for Rs 5/8/10/20,000 over the years. Over the years one realised one was sitting on a treasure trove of unusual drawings and sketches that revealed the innermost recesses, the subcutaneous of the artistic genius. Suffice to say those rare works are today worth an enormous amount of money.

There is a moral to this story lest I be misconstrued as the smug, pompous twit giving himself a pat on the back. You have to trust your gut instinct. Quite like my good friend Rajive Sethi who is wealthy enough to buy work from any of todays star painters. Yet, very recently he bought up an ENTIRE exhibition of a young, obscure Bengali painter called Tanmoy Samanta. His reason? He loved the wit, the skill, the intelligence of the artist. So he put his money where his mouth was and bought ALL of him off the wall. And did it pay off! Within the space of the last two years young Tanmoy has become a hot ticket: galleries are rushing to feature him, collectors are stampeding to buy him. And he is laughing all the way to the bank!

Examples are legion. Young Anandjit Ray was obscure in the late Eighties. Today he is a star with a long wait list of buyers and gallerists. Renu Modi, the intrepid owner of Gallery Espace discovered and launched young Rooshika Patel from Baroda. She once sold for Rs. 20,000. Today she sells for two lakhs plus. Ditto the quirky Manjunath Kamath whose fantastical magic realism canvases remind you at once of Rousseau and Marquez. Tomorrow’s rising star? Mekhala Bahl who just showed at Alliance Francaise in Delhi. Her maiden exhibition has been a sell out. The bigger works sold for Rs 90,000 to 1,50,000. One predicts her rates will double in an year.

So how should YOU buy art?

Go for the smaller work
Love an artist whose canvases seem too pricey? Enquire about smaller works or drawings. Much cheaper and often much more interesting. A friend picked up some fabulous sculpture and paintings walking through the student exhibits at the Baroda School of Art. Last month some expat friends picked up gems from the Delhi College of Art student exhibits. Last I went there some years ago Bhupen Khakhar was gleefully picking up paintings by the new-kids-on-the-block.

Trust the underdog
Remember, today’s strugglers are tomorrows stars. So put your chips on these dark horses and the derby might well be yours! Vishwanadhan, the Paris based star painter from Kerala was discovered the same way by a premier Paris museum. The rest, as they say, is history.
4Watch the rising stars
Pick up the larger works by the ‘second rung’ artists. Their time may come…and soon. Iranna is big today but he will be mega tomorrow. Shobha Broota’s smaller works are easy on the eye and (hate to sound like an accountant here!) great value for money in the long run.

Go with your gut instinct
Ultimately all art is about love. Its your love for it that lends it enduring value. And that is something all art lovers/ buyers would do well to keep in mind when buying art. If you can afford it and gives you joy go for it. Remember beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. And profits in his pocket! But that should be incidental and not central to your decision. Believe me you won’t go wrong. I didnt!

Galleries of Note Around India
Gallery Espace
16 Community Centre
New Friends Colony

Vadehra Gallery
D-178, Okhla Phase 1

Visual Art Gallery
India Habitat Centre Lodhi Road

Art Heritage gallery
Triveni Kala Sangam Tansen Marg

Pundole Art Gallery
Hutatma Chowk

Gallery Chemould
Kala Ghoda

Shreeram Mills
GK Marg, Lower Parel

Tao Gallery
Sarjan Plaza
Dr. A.B. Road
Cima Gallery
Ashutosh Chowdhury Avenue

Chitrakoot Gallery
Gariahat Road

Aakaar Prakaar
Hindustan Park

The Presidency
St. Mark’s Road

Apparao Gallery
Wallace Garden, Nungambakkam

Aurodhan Gallery
33 rue Francois Martin Kuruchippam


Friday, September 18, 2009

Daud | दौड़

Daud (Hindi: दौड़, meaning Run) is a 1997 Hindi movie by Ram Gopal Varma, starring Sanjay Dutt and Urmila Matondkar, with music composed by A. R. Rahman

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New York, I Love You | Indie Movie

In the city that never sleeps, love is always on the mind. Those passions come to life in NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU – a collaboration of storytelling from some of today’s most imaginative filmmakers and featuring an all-star cast. Together they create a kaleidoscope of the spontaneous, surprising, electrifying human connections that pump the city’s heartbeat. Sexy, funny, haunting and revealing encounters unfold beneath the Manhattan skyline. From Tribeca to Central Park to Brooklyn the story weaves a tale of love as diverse as the very fabric of New York itself.

Director:Jiang Wen, Mira Nair, Shunji Iwai, Yvan Attal, Brett Ratner, Allen Hughes, Shekhar Kapur
Cast:Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha, Andy Garcia, Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson, Natalie Portman, Irrfan Khan

Monday, September 14, 2009

Kurukshetra 2009 | The Difficulty of Being Good

Gurcharan Das is convinced the Mahabharata holds relevance even today. He uses the epic to understand modern day issues such as the Ambani row and Satyam scandal

For the past year or so, I’ve found myself in the grip of a rather strange condition. It all started with my umpteenth reading of C Rajagopalachari’s retelling of the Mahabharata. I picked up the book—an old, red calico-bound hand-me-down—on a particularly stressful night when the doctors just couldn’t figure out why my pregnant wife was getting frequent bouts of fever. I wanted a ‘comfort’ read where I knew the plot inside out, a sort of curd rice for my troubled mind. Since then, even during happier times, my predilection for the epic has turned into an obsession.

I’m convinced that the Mahabharata’s claim, ‘What is here is found elsewhere. What is not here is nowhere’, is not a boastful exaggeration. Therefore, I was looking forward to Gurcharan Das’ book, The Difficulty of Being Good, with schoolboy enthusiasm. While the prescriptive and preachy Bhagwat Gita, a very small part of the grand epic, has a kind of mass appeal, it is the Mahabharata, with moral ambiguity in almost each of its verses, that remains a source of endless fascination for the more serious scholars of Indology. Das’ book, in many ways, is his personal quest to understand what he calls the subtle art of dharma, which is at the heart of the Mahabharata. It’s a word that could mean duty, justice, law, custom or the righteous way of life. But none of them quite captures the essence as is repeatedly conveyed in the epic by the actions of the dramatis personae.

Das sets himself the steep task of decoding dharma and applying it to understand modern-day issues such as the Ambani row and Satyam scandal. Now, Das is renowned as one of the most meticulous researchers outside the world of professional academics in India. While doing research for India Unbound, he was aghast to find that not a single person involved with something as monumental as the liberalisation of the Indian economy had kept a diary of events. As a result of meticulous research, an eye for detail and probably the time he spent in Harvard as a student of philosophy, the book offers not just an Indic perspective on dharma, but also an indepth comparison of Mahabharata heroes with their Greek counterparts.

‘The Iliad is bloodthirsty, driven by anger and violence. The Mahabharata is just as gory, but it questions the violence… Achilles, like Arjuna, faces a conflict between the demands of divinity and humanity. After doing wrong, Achilles is able to get on with it. Arjuna however, never quite forgets that the Pandavas are employing deceit in order to win.’

Das focuses on three to four key events in the epic, such as Bhishma’s vow of celibacy and the destruction it brings, Duryodhana’s burning envy for his more admired cousins, the game of dice and Draupadi’s disrobing, and Arjuna’s last minute fear of fighting. Yudhishtra, the very embodiment of dharma, is clearly Das’ hero. He points out how dharma for Yudhishtra evolves from being an inflexible, absolute principle when he agrees to play the game of dice already knowing the result, to realpolitik or pragmatism when he, the firmest believer of ahimsa, declares war and presides over dodgy moral decisions to win a just war.

But then, in the 17th book of the epic, Mahaprasthanika parva, when the Five Pandavas and their wife Draupadi are trekking up Mount Kailash, Yudhishtra is the only one to reach heaven in human form, as the others keep dropping dead—in reverse order of their adherence to dharma. First to fall is Draupadi. Yudhishtra interprets this saying that though the Pandavas were all equal unto her, Draupadi had great partiality for Arjuna. ‘She obtains the fruit of that conduct today.’ On Arjuna’s death, Yudhishtra reasons, ‘Arjuna had said that he would consume all our foes in a single day. Proud of his heroism, he did not, however, accomplish what he had said. Hence has he fallen down. This Phalguna disregarded all wielders of bows. One desirous of prosperity should never indulge in such sentiments.’ But wasn’t Arjuna’s adherence to dharma uniformly better than Yudhishtra’s, as Das himself points out?

In an epic full of such ambiguities, one can’t expect the author to interpret every act in detail. However, there are two significant areas where Das disappoints. The application of Mahabharata’s dharma to modern day India is far too simplistic. If Anil Ambani has Duryodhana-like envy for his more successful brother Mukesh, the argument can also be flipped if, as some suggest, Mukesh is denying Anil what is rightfully his.

He draws another dodgy parallel. The otherwise righteous Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was a mute spectator when a ‘scam tainted’ Pratibha Patil was propped up by his party, much like the blemishless Bhishma, tied down by his allegiance to the king of the day, kept quiet when Draupadi was disrobed.

But most importantly, does the book add to our understanding of the moral subtleties of the great Indian epic? The late poet AK Ramanujan, in a 1980s essay titled ‘Is there an Indian Way of Thinking?’, did the job of explaining contextual morality in supreme fashion in just about a dozen pages, although his canvas wasn’t limited to the Mahabharata.

By the time I finished Das’ book, an effort so grand in intent, I couldn’t help but feel like that semi-golden weasel that rolled in the ashes of Yudhishtra’s opulent Ashvamedha yagna in the hope of turning all gold. ‘But, alas my body remains the same; so the great Yudhishtra’s Ashwamedha yagna is not equal to the selfless sacrifice of a poor family.'

Source: Open Magazine

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Red Baraat | Indian Brass Band Culture

I saw Red Baraat at the opening of Susheela Raman's concert in New York City - Lincoln Centre OutofDoor Summer 2009. I liked their young approach towards the Indian Brass Band music. Also, the traditional bandwalle are the essence of Indian weddings.

Still from the movie Salaam Bombay - directed by Mira Nair

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Reinvention via Recession | Young Professionals in India

By Sonia Sarkar

How a spunky bunch of Indian professionals have used the recession as a springboard to better things.

The global meltdown has taken its share of victims in the past ten months. But for some, it has been an opportunity to rediscover themselves by responding to their inner calling. Here’s a story of four young people who felt the heat of recession, but saw it as a ‘golden moment’ to reboot their career plans. Of course, it takes courage to take the plunge and start afresh. But it does have its rewards. Switching has been a booster shot of enthusiasm for these young professionals. And guess what? They just have one thing to say, “Thank God! It was recession.”


Sumit Ray had just done his fifth month in his first job at a private English news channel in Delhi when he received his termination letter in January this year. At the time, he was working as an assistant output editor, and he knew that recession was in the air and the channel’s operations were being downsized. But still, nothing could have prepared him for the blow. “I was shocked to read the letter,” says the 24-year-old, “I never expected my first job to end so abruptly.”

Seven months have passed since. Sumit’s thinking has changed. “Now I thank God that it happened. Had it not been a crisis, I wouldn’t have found my true calling,” he says, with job satisfaction writ large on his face. The Delhi youngster now works as a research analyst and writer for a historical tourism website called And soon, his tryst with history will also be part of a book that he’s working on.

A post-graduate in English literature from Delhi University, Sumit has always been fascinated by the architecture of the Medieval and Mughal period and characters of that era. “When I completed my post-graduation in English, journalism seemed to be the hedonistic option,” he says, “It is only when I lost the job that I realised that my heart actually lay elsewhere. So, I didn’t even try hunting for any jobs in media houses. Instead, I joined this tourism website. And I have rediscovered my love for history and the passion for writing.”

As part of the first phase of the project, he has been visiting Delhi’s historical monuments, such as the Old Fort, Red Fort, Hauz Khas, Qutab Minar and Humayun’s Tomb. “I love visiting historical places, but I never liked reading about them in books as most of them project history in a very mundane way,” he continues. “Visits to historical places have been ‘easy to forget’ experiences. But my work aims to fill this gap.”

The content that he is developing for the website will be a narrative piece—a mix of facts and fiction from the crinkly pages of history. The book will be a collage of ‘not so famous’ stories from the lives of famous historical characters, speckled with incidents that took place at these very sites over the ages.

Sumit’s pay, at Rs 15,000 per month, is not that much more than his previous job’s, but he’s not complaining. In fact, he says, he is “happy” and “excited” to invest his hours in a job that he is passionate about.

Family support is a big bonus. “I do understand that there is a fair amount of risk involved in this project,” he concludes, “as the website or the book may not do well in the market. Although both my parents had been in government jobs for years, they encourage me to do something unconventional. This gives me the motivation to move ahead.”


Eight years ago, when she watched the Jennifer Lopez starrer, The Wedding Planner, Kanika Sethi got a glimpse of her dream job. She wanted to be Mary Fiore, the film’s protagonist, planning such grand weddings in real life. Fiore is a hard-working, beautiful, single woman who makes quite a career for herself as a wedding planner. “It was thrilling to see her handle such wealthy clients so professionally. I dreamt of a similar life,” says Kanika, who spent around 20 years in Muscat before moving to Delhi around two-and-a-half years ago. She had an early brush with the profession, having assisted a family friend cum wedding planner in Muscat on a couple of projects. Moreover, she also had a month’s internship with a local wedding planner in Minneapolis, US, under her belt—while at college, studying the all-so-job-assuring discipline of marketing.

After her graduation, though, Kanika couldn’t escape the logic of a conventional career, despite her inner motivation for something more dramatic. ldquo;After receiving the Bachelor’s degree, a conventional marketing job at Sheraton Hotel in Muscat was the best option that I could have thought of at that time,” she says.

Three years later, when her family moved to Delhi, she took up a corporate sales executive’s job with Wizcraft, an event management firm. “I enjoyed my work thoroughly, but somewhere deep inside, I felt that this is not what I plan to do in my life for long.”

Once the recession began to bite, her company lost a couple of clients, and she had to take a 15 per cent cut in pay. “I realised that this is the right time to take the plunge,” says Kanika, who quit Wizcraft in April this year to be a wedding planner. It wasn’t just a whim. There was a start-up strategy in place. “A wedding has an emotional string attached to it,” says Kanika, “There will be barely anyone postponing his or her marriage plans till the global economy recovers. In fact, this is the time when people would need a wedding planner—who would be able to offer the best deal at a restricted budget.”

Well aware of the risks, Kanika focused on keeping it simple. “I haven’t taken an office on rent and haven’t hired any staff as yet. I want to see how things turn out before I incur any huge expenses,” says the 29-year-old.

In the past four months, she has executed two engagement ceremonies. One of them was the engagement of well-known fashion designer JJ Valaya’s niece Ankita Ahluwalia. “They wanted an unusual ‘get-up’ for the event. So, I gave a European touch to the banquet hall with white and silver makeover ornamented by crystals and candles. Since the concept of a wedding planner is still in its infancy in India, people are ready to experiment with ideas.” Her service fee: 15 per cent of the wedding budget.

“I am extremely focused about my target clients, so I am confident that getting decent offers will not be a problem,” says she. And now that India’s grand wedding season is about to begin, Kanika has bagged five grand weddings already. She’s doing what she loves and has a shrunken pay cheque at her ex-job to thank for it.


After playing with words and pictures for over 14 years as a copywriter in assorted advertising agencies, how much more lateral can you go? In April this year, Salim Riyaz Khan let his creative mind take a leap—one that dazed friends and shocked family members, especially his mother. He chucked up his job at Tangerine, an ad agency in Delhi, which was fetching him a monthly take-home of about Rs 50,000, and resurfaced 200 km from Shimla in Sangla Valley, Himachal Pradesh, to set up a coffee shop.

“Kya tum ab coffee bechoge (Will you sell coffee now)?” Salim recalls his mother asking when he broke the news to her. She lives in Meerut and is dependent on his earnings. So is his 21-year-old brother, who is studying law in a private college in the same city. His father died four years ago.

“She was worried about my idea of starting a business on my own at a remote location, as there isn’t really any profit guaranteed for some time, or at all.” He invested all his savings of Rs 4 lakh to set up his dream coffee shop.

Salim’s former colleague, Iona Sinha, a director at the same agency, has also quit her job and joined hands with him in his new venture. “It is great to have her on board,” says Salim.

It was the recession that prompted the venture. “The advertising company started feeling the reverberations of the global meltdown, and the inflow of projects was badly affected. Although my own job was not at stake, I sensed a salary freeze and imminent job cuts. In fact, the leanness in work gave me the time to think, and I decided not to spend a single day more in this ad-mad world. The cafe was the only option that I could think of, as it was sparked off by my love for the Himalayas and my fondness for good coffee,” says the 36-year-old owner of Café 42, which is set to throw doors open anytime now.

The name, of course, is taken from Douglas Adams’ cult novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which super-intelligent, extra-terrestrial beings create a gigantic super computer to work out the ‘ultimate answer’ to the ultimate question about life, universe and everything. After millions of years, the computer announces that it’s ready with the answer, and it turns out to be ‘42’. In the meantime, everyone has forgotten the ultimate question.

“As I got more and more disillusioned with my work,” says Salim, “I was looking for a lot of answers. The idea to set up the coffee shop came as the ultimate solution to all those questions, hence it had to be Cafe 42.”

But this is not only about a sole coffee shop in the hills. Salim is already thinking big. “I hope to set up a chain of Café 42s in other offbeat and spectacular inner-Himalayan locations,” he says. Hitchhikers, doubtless, would be only too glad.


It was meant to be his big move upwards. Already earning about half a lakh monthly at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) as a business consultant, Abhishek Chakraborty took the bait dangled by Ernst & Young, another consultancy, that was offering him a 30 per cent hike in his take home salary.

“But I never got a date from them to join duty,” says Abhishek. He had already put in his papers and served his three-month notice period at TCS in July last year, ready to hop aboard his new company Ernst & Young in October. But things did not quite fall in place as planned. And Abhishek turned out to be one of the early victims of the global recession, left jobless as he was.

“I could not join TCS back again as they had also started laying off staff by then. But instead of going to pieces, I smelt an opportunity here. I forced myself to get out of the comfort zone, and sat down and revisited my goals,” says Abhishek, who decided to make the most of the crisis phase by launching his own knowledge consultancy firm, Nurture Globe.

But it was not an easy path to take. His father, who is a transporter in the mining town of Dhanbad in Jharkhand, was firmly against his idea of starting out on his own. “My parents thought it was a wild dream to chase. But I turned a deaf ear to them, and I deliberately didn’t scout for jobs. It took me three months to plan out my business and I was fortunate enough to get the support of four former colleagues from TCS who found the concept interesting,” he says, flaunting a business card with ‘Managing director and CEO’ against his name.

One of his company’s projects is to design e-learning material on vedic mathematics. Another is a joint project with BPOs to develop e-course material in foreign languages, including Chinese, French and Japanese.

Besides the newly acquired status of an entrepreneur, Abhishek is also enjoying the money his company has earned in its seven months since inception. “The company was set up with the paltry sum of capital worth Rs 2 lakh, but we are earning average revenue of Rs 70 lakh every month. We will use this money to expand our client base,” says Nurture Globe’s CEO, more than pleased with the way things have turned out for him.

source: OpenMag
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