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Friday, October 5, 2007
"Everyone of us needs a sanctuary to get away from the rigours of everyday routine. Neera Gulati describes how a bedroom can be converted into a haven with some planning, imagination and resourcefulness. One of the few certainties in life is the need to sleep. Since it is critical to our physical and emotional well-being, sleep is something all of us need- regardless of who we are, where we reside and how we live. And it is something we spend a considerable amount of time doing. The average eight hours a night amounts to a third of our lives. Every home needs a sanctuary where one can escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life or a secluded spot to just relax and revitalise. But to create this space needs planning, imagination, resourcefulness and most likely, work. Today, research supports the notion that a bedroom or any other space that accommodates sleep and its related activities, should be more than just a randomly arrayed place to sleep. They must be functional, comfortable, nurturing, appealing to the eye, above all else, restful and serene. To endow the bedroom with a serene and nurturing aura, opt for simplicity. A bed can tempt without all the fussy attire. Elegance and ease can meet head-on, by choosing the right elements. For instance, a plank bed frame elicits a rustic or provincial era. Polished metal or glossed wood may impart a modern or minimal aesthetic look.
Bedclothes are just as evocative. Frothy linens turn a bed sweet and romantic; crisp textiles lend it an air of tailored elegance and rich trappings give a bed a lavish look.
Thanks to its powerful presence, changing the bed can also change the very nature of the room. And making those changes can be as easy and inexpensive as dressing and draping the bed to evoke a new mood.
Drenching it with colour and pattern can offer definition by establishing a specific decorative style. Tenting the bed in various ways establishes a certain tone, be it historic, exotic, fanciful or romantic.
And changing the look of your bed need not be a big production. For example, you can create the look of a canopy bed without building a new structure. Simply hang fabric from a central point over the head of the bed.
Then, drape lengths of lightweight cotton over looks in the ceiling placed at either side of the head of the bed for a contemporary effect or at all four corners for a very dramatic effect. Whatever types a textiles are employed, it is important to consider the cleaning process.
Sheet, pillowcases, quilt covers need frequent laundering, so they should be able to withstand regular washings.
They must be colourfast, shrink-resistant, and require little or no special care such as hand washing or air drying. However valances and tents do not need to be washed frequently.
White linen is perhaps the easiest way to implement a quick change in the bedroom, and don’t forget the headboard. Colour and pattern, no matter how subtle, boost the perceived comfort quotient to the bed. Creamy tones of maize spiked with touches of green can make a simple iron bed alluring.
A bed that faces the door can give its occupants a sense of security when they are most vulnerable, since they can easily see who is entering the room.
Add built-in shelves around the bed to suggest a headboard where there is none while at the same time providing great open storage offering an arresting framework for a dramatic work of art, which can be placed behind the bed. By painting the shelves black, the decorative process can increase as they seem to cocoon the bed.
Maximising your mattresses: The average life of most mattresses is about 10 years. But quality of the mattresses and its use also matter. Deterioration inside a mattress can often go unnoticed until your body starts feeling it.
The stiffness and pain from tossing and turning are good indications of an old mattress. Do keep a check for the peaks, valleys, lumps, bumps and surface wear and tear in your mattress.
To be fair, looks aren’t everything, nor are they ever the most critical part of the equation in this instance. We all need our bedrooms to be hardworking spaces that meet a range of wants and needs.
This room must be extremely serviceable since it usually must harbour some of our most treasured possessions and contains all our accessories and clothes.
And there is also much to do in this space on a daily basis, such as grooming ourselves, selecting our clothes or getting dressed. If we are sharing the bedroom with a partner, the room must accommodate twice as many effects and double the action. Thus it is just as important to plan a bedroom as it is to plan any other space in a home.
A sense of separation from other activities in the home is critical for a bedroom. Achieving this will involve where you place the bed and how you dress it. Light and sound controls are also critical issues. If there are many windows in the room, hang thick curtains or blinds to block outside lights.
On the other hand, morning light is a powerful wake-up tool. If the room is noisy, introduce plush carpets, thick drapes or wall hangings to muffle loud sounds.
A low temperature promotes better sleep, while a warm bedroom can actually interfere with the same. This is because our body temperature drops during sleep and rises as our waking hour draws near. According to experts, the ideal bedroom temperature is 18 and 20 degree celcius, but that will not suit everyone. Women usually prefer a slightly warmer room temperature then men.
Buying linen: All cotton sheets soften with washing, while blends wrinkle less but aren’t soft. Egyptian cottons are extra lustrous and retain this sheen through repeated washings.
Mix and match to make a bed great by combining prints. The best principle to remember is that opposites attract. Curves should be balanced with straighter edges. For example, some perfect paving are lush floral with simple stripes or linear geometrics with curvy designs.
Accentuate the foot of the bed with a bench, a trunk or low bureau, or even a stack of antique luggage. Depending on the piece, it can assume any decorative style. It will also serve as a place to sit while dressing, to drop clothes on or for storage.
Colour is a powerful tool in decorating the bedroom as it can be expensive, versatile and inspiring. Furthermore its effects have been scientifically proven to affect physical, psychological and emotional well-being. Colours can be used to create a range of moods that enhances the way we function in a specific room. Also, take the size and shape of the bedroom into consideration. Choose colours that you are comfortable with and that make you feel good.
Everybody needs a place to put up his or her feet and relax, whether it is to sit quietly and read, gaze at the scenery outside (if there is one), or grab a short nap, in essence, somewhere to escape the stresses of daily life.
While a whole room devoted to this pursuit would be ideal, it is often unrealistic, give the space constraints most of us have. This sort of space can be carved out of the corner of a room, be it a bedroom, study, family room or home - office. Furnish this space with sensuous pieces, such as a cushy recliner on a chaise or a hammock or a swing hung inside to brings the outdoors in.
Don’t ignore the spaces outside your home. In good weather, transform a corner of a balcony into a spot for peaceful repose. Set a deck chair under an awning or tree, spread a blanket on the grass or hang a hammock somewhere.
Creating your bedroom retreat: Be creative and bold with decorating elements. Don’t hesitate to try daring colour combinations, over the top patterns or unusual textures into the mix.
Add all amenities you love. If you love music, invest a superior sound system; if you want to eat or drink in the space, consider a mini refrigerator, expresso machine or a bar. Use lighting as a tool. Vital to the atmosphere of the room, lighting can be used to create different effects at different times.
It can be targeted to accent a certain feature in the room, such as a coveted collection or to create a mood. Don’t forget the basics: function must still be a priority.
No matter how singular, eclectic, elegant the furnishings, they still must be practical and offer all the comfort you need. Make sure you have a comfortable, supportive bed, adequate lighting and ventilation and enough storage to accommodate your possessions.
The spaces we use for sleeping should be shrines to our personal needs and preferences and places where we can create a secret world. And we can learn how to design the spaces to fulfill these needs with forethought, planning and action."
Thursday, September 6, 2007
"The city is home to Infosys, Google's Research and Development Center, and some of the world's most talented (and inexpensive) software engineers,' said a report published by global media giant CNN-Time Warner group. India's growing presence in the global economic arena has received a boost with Bangalore emerging as one of the best places to do business in the world, joining the league of cities like London, Shanghai and Singapore, a latest study says. Bangalore, known as the world's back office, is among the 12 cities named in the 'Best places to do business in the wired world' list recently compiled by Business 2.0, a magazine published by global media giant CNN-Time Warner group. Other cities which find a place on the list are -- Tokyo , Hong Kong, Barcelona (Spain), Helsinki (Finland), Seoul, Stockholm (Sweden), Tallinn (Estonia) and Tel Aviv (Israel). 'The city is home to Infosys, Google's Research and Development Center, and some of the world's most talented (and inexpensive) software engineers,' the report said while describing Bangalore. Each place is described along with the availability of free Wi-Fi points, best place to get down to business, best place to celebrate closing the deal and move on"
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
"What BJP Rule Meant Coalition politics is greatest legacy of Vajpayee government Christophe Jaffrelot For the first time in post-independence India, Hindu nationalists were in a position to rule the country between 1998 and 2004. The impact of this unique phase has not been assessed yet. The BJP had been voted to power to make a change after decades of Congress rule and two years of the Third Front. The Vajpayee government did make a change a few weeks after taking over by deciding on nuclear tests. Previous Congress governments had contemplated this move, but no prime minister after Indira Gandhi had gone ahead with it. This strategic shift may remain the only irreversible innovation of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Certainly the Vajpayee government introduced new measures but most of them have been undone by the UPA after 2004. Education is a case in point. M M Joshi, as HRD minister, tried hard to saffronise the textbooks and appointed Hindutva-minded ideologues in key committees. But all this is history today. In the economic domain, the real change had started before, with the Narasimha Rao government. The NDA simply made the evolution deeper and quicker, as evident from the “strategic sales” regarding a few PSUs which amounted to their privatisation. No significant reform of the labour laws took place, for instance. In the realm of diplomacy, the Vajpayee government accelerated the rapprochement with the US and Israel, but they were already on the Congress agenda, as the opening of an Indian embassy in Tel Aviv and an Israeli one in New Delhi showed in 1991.
Six years in office, in fact, might have changed BJP as much as BJP has changed Indian politics. The party was supposed to be allergic to caste politics because it divided India (and the Hindus), but Vajpayee toyed with the reservation issue the same way as his predecessors did — granting quotas to the Jats of Rajasthan who overnight became OBCs and a BJP votebank. The BJP was also supposed to be clean, but party president Bangaru Laxman himself — not to speak of the rest — was caught receiving bribe.
The real gift BJP gave to India was political stability through the setting up of a coalition pattern. Between 1989 and 1999, India had had five general elections and six PMs. Obviously, the old Congress system had gone, and nothing had replaced it. The BJP displayed remarkable flexibility by admitting that it would not be in a position to govern India alone and that it would have to dilute its ideology to make alliances. The creation of the NDA in 1998 will perhaps turn out to be a real milestone in Indian politics.
The BJP then made three major concessions
by putting on the back burner Ayodhya, Article 370 and a Uniform Civil Code. As a result, the NDA was in a position to prepare a common election manifesto in 1999 and the Vajpayee government lasted five years, something a non-Congress government had never achieved so far.
The Congress, though reluctantly, has emulated this strategy by shaping the United Progressive Alliance in 2004. Certainly it was not easy for Congress to admit that its decline was irreversible — at least in the short run — but BJP had set a pattern the party had to imitate if it wanted to compete successfully. The BJP, therefore, has helped Indian democracy to cope with the growing fragmentation of the party system — because of regional, communal and caste identities — which might have perpetuated instability at the Centre had not India entered the era of coalitions. Today, India looks like a more modern democracy because of a growing bipolarisation of politics which offers a rather clear choice to voters.
Each time Hindu nationalist leaders have been in office at the Centre, the sangh parivar has, however, been under strain. In 1977-79, ‘dual membership’ had been a key reason for the abortion of the Janata experiment. During 1999-2004, similar issues resurfaced. On one hand, the BJP was made of swayamsevaks who were supposed to pay allegiance to the RSS and its agenda; on the other, they were partners in the NDA framework who did not share their Hindutva-based ideology.
The RSS acknowledged what came to be known as the compulsions of coalition politics — so long as the organisation found reasons to rejoice in some of the decisions of Vajpayee’s government like the nuclear tests and the education policy. Things changed when some of the reforms contradicted the programme of RSS and of some of its other offshoots. Economic liberalisation, for instance, was harshly criticised by staunch advocates of swadeshi.
More importantly, the VHP never understood that no progress could be made regarding its plan to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya though its friends were in office. Gradually, the idea took shape that BJP had used the organisation to mobilise voters, but once in office, it was not willing to pay its debt. The relations between BJP and RSS — as well as VHP — turned really sour after the 2004 defeat that the latter attributed to the dilution of the party’s ideology.
Such tensions need not be overemphasised though. The sangh parivar survived similar drama in the late 1970s-early 1980s. It proved then that it was truly resilient and it is showing the same kind of quality today. However, the tenure of the Vajpayee government reconfirmed the deeply ambivalent nature of this movement: it cannot win power alone, but it refuses to share power either.
The writer is director of CERI, Paris.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
In 1947 it was a provincial outpost. Today it's the most globalised city in India. Ian Jack reports from the boom town of Bangalore .
One early morning in Bangalore - at about six, before the traffic thickened and made the timing of any cross-town journey the subject of doubting speculation - an enterprising young man called Arun Pai took me in his car to the edge of the Karnataka Golf Association course, where he asked his driver to stop. On one side, greens and bunkers. On the other, big new buildings coated in glass and occupied by IBM, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs. 'I always take my foreign clients here,' Pai said, 'and ask them to tell me which famous author stood almost in the same position.' Article continues Many people have no difficulty. The answer is Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist and author of The World is Flat, and this is the setting of his book's first sentence, when Friedman is about to swing from the first tee and his partner tells him: "Aim at either Microsoft or IBM." As a first sentence it hardly ranks with "The past is a foreign country ...", but Friedman's book, the world's most popular gospel of globalisation, has sold 3m copies. It takes its several heroes from the IT business; one of them is Nandan Nilekani, co-chairman of the Indian software company Infosys, who gets the credit for inspiring the title by insisting to Friedman in 2004: "Tom, the playing field is being levelled." But you might say that its real hero is Bangalore, or Bangalore as Friedman sees it: the leading example of how a city populated by clever, ambitious, English-speaking technicians in what is still known as the developing world can use the tools of the new information age to abolish geography - to undercut European and American costs so much, with no (or better) effect on quality, that it destroys the historic advantages of adjacency, when the counting house was best placed next to the warehouse and the warehouse next to the factory.
The 600 pages of Friedman's book radiate a gung-ho optimism, and perhaps for that reason it is more widely read in India, a country that for most of the 20th century suffered the pessimistic prognoses of the outside world, than in Britain. To look for a British equivalent you might have to go back to Samuel Smiles and his Victorian testaments to hard work and self-help and his glorification of the great engineers. As I went around Bangalore this month I often thought of Smiles and the first industrial revolution - of its ruthlessness and chaos, its model factories and choked sewers, its slums and philanthropists, yet running through its new kind of people, freshly urbanised and adapting to the factory clock, the thread of a belief that they were at the centre of a new kind of world.
Arun Pai, my guide that morning, is an example of this new kind of person, or new at least in India. Inspired by the walking tours of London, he created a small company, bangalorewalks.com, and every Sunday he leads groups of people through the history of the city as manifested in its monuments, churches, parks and barracks. At this, he is quite brilliant; from plain and obscure objects he can draw stories that take you to Napoleon and the conquest of Everest. To listen to him, Bangalore has been affecting the course of global history ever since Lord Cornwallis took it from Tipu Sultan in 1791.
But walking tours aren't how Pai makes his real money. That comes when a software company, usually American, asks him to introduce one of its newly arrived executives to India: the bewildering totality of it. Pai has a one-day course. He takes them in his car to the famous Friedman site, to the ancient Hindu temple behind the new Marks & Spencer's, to the new suburbs and shopping malls. He may recall a few recent cultural references, such as the American passive verb, to be "Bangalored", meaning to lose one's job to cheaper competition overseas. He can do Hinduism in five minutes. Most of the questions are about cows, but beggars and caste are also popular topics. He has persuasive answers for the innocent from Kansas, and to demonstrate and sharpen his skills he asked me to ask him any question at all about noticeable aspects of India. I asked why it was that Indian advertising never depicted any human being with a skin shade darker than olive, when so many of the population, especially in the south, were by no means so light. Pai said that it was just a local edition of a universal fact: the enduring appeal of whiteness. But he agreed that this answer might not satisfy an American executive who happened to be black, or indeed anyone from a society that has adjusted to multiculturalism in way that India, for all its divisions of religion, language and caste, has not.
Later that Sunday morning, Pai took a group of us along the city's main thoroughfare, MG (Mahatma Gandhi) Road, in search of bungalows. The Victorian bungalow and its shady garden were once the trademarks of Bangalore - "India's garden city". Only a few survive. Land is too valuable and its price increases every week. "Take pictures, take pictures," Pai said when we stood in front of one. "It may not be here when you next come." In 10 years, people say (and perhaps hope), the city will look like Dubai or Singapore. Some of it already does.
Go back 60 years. Does the story of Bangalore's rise symbolise the larger history of independent India? Yes and no. In 1947, Bangalore contained about 500,000 people and has about six million now; the fifth largest city in India. In the same period, India's population, now 1.12 billion, has multiplied by a factor of three rather than Bangalore's 12, but urban growth rates that are much higher than the national average aren't unusual. When I first came to Bangalore in 1976, I didn't feel I'd left India behind. The same restrictions on consumption, the same brakes to aspiration, applied as much here as anywhere else in the country. Under the regime of Indira Gandhi (and of her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, before her), the Indian middle class grew to a kind of noble austerity in the cause of national self-reliance. On the other hand, even then, Bangalore was clearly exceptional. It was tidier, neater, greener, English was more readily spoken, a striking number of church towers poked above the trees in a country where, outside the far south, Christianity had made very little impact. Above all, there was (and is) the climate. Bangalore is 3,000ft above sea level, protected by its height from the enervating heat; the British called it a "no-fan station". When I asked Nandan Nilekani of Infosys how he explained the IT industry's attraction to Bangalore he made all these points - "It's the most middle-class, Anglicised, cosmopolitan city in India, with a better quality of life" - and added another: that a scientific and technical tradition already existed in the city, thanks to the aircraft and electrical instruments businesses that the government of India located there in the 1950s and 60s, militarily strategic factories that were as far away as possible from the borders of Pakistan and China, India's potential enemies. During the 1980s, even before economic liberalisation, it became known as the fastest-growing city in Asia.
It is also, as the historian Ramachandra Guha says, a mongrel kind of town: the only place in India where you can watch films in six Indian languages. Partly, this is British doing. After Cornwallis dethroned Tipu Sultan and restored the kingdom of Mysore to its former Hindu rulers, the British built an army cantonment on the high ground outside the gates of Bengaluru, which in the local language, Kannada, was the name of the town they had captured. The cantonment grew in size to become a "civil and military station" which drew thousands of Tamil craftsmen, tradesmen and servants, as well as Persian horse traders and British civil servants and brewers. A large Anglo-Indian population became established. Missionaries opened schools, a great park was laid out, exotic trees imported, courts and administrative offices built. The lingua franca of this new town, Bangalore, was English; just down the road in the narrow lanes of Bengaluru they continued to speak in Kannada.
The two towns became one municipality in 1949, but the differences between them persist. In Bangalore, I met men in their early middle-age, raised in the old city, who said that until their late teens they had never travelled the mile to the cantonment; and who had been warned by their parents that, when they did, they had better avoid the temptations of bars and hotels.
Bangalore became the capital of the new state of Mysore (since 1973, Karnataka) when the Indian state boundaries were redrawn in 1956. The official language of Karnataka is Kannada. But thanks to the successive flows of migrants from other Indian states, only about 30% of Bangalore's inhabitants claim it as their first language. That means the city has no dominant majority, a welcoming absence as far as new migrants and businesses are concerned but a fretful one for the native Kannada speaker, who, if he lacks English, may feel excluded from the new consumer culture of his own capital city.
Consequently, in what some Bangaloreans consider a political sop to the natives, Bangalore will be renamed Bengaluru within the next year or two. When it appears in airline timetables and on departure boards, a stranger might imagine that the new, more Indian name reflects a new, more Indian reality on the ground. But the opposite will be the case.
A good way to understand what has happened to Bangalore is to look at a street map. In the old city, the Kannada names, many centuries old, come from castes and occupations and bazaars. In the cantonment, the source of the names is obvious enough: Brigade Road, Infantry Road, Church Street. Then, to judge from the parentheses, a burst of patriotic renaming took place - Sir Mirza Ismail Nagar (Richmond Town), Field Marshall Cariappa Road (Residency Road) - though to no effect on how people think and speak of these places. In the suburban spread of the 1960s and 70s, the streets renounce any claim to history or romance, as though Stalin was in charge of the naming department. In Indiranagar, named after Indira Gandhi, the main street is One Hundred Feet Road: that is its width. Many streets are simply numbered, as are localities: a visitor can spend many hours in an auto-rickshaw looking for 597, 15th Cross Road, JPNagar Phase Two. But now that anonymity, these plain square houses in their numbered streets, no longer satisfies new money. The names and architecture of the most recent settlements, high-rises and gated communities could be described as postmodern or pre-post-colonial: Buckingham Court, Windsor Residency, Palm Meadows, 10 Downing Street. Some quite small houses have castellated battlements. The word "Residency", the title the British gave to the homes of senior imperial administrators, is very popular.
"People here speak of 'get-up'," an architect told me as we had dinner in a hotel. "They say to each other, 'What kind of get-up is your new house going to have? Mediterranean? English Castle?' They think they can do anything - anything! - and they want to shove it in your face." In the hotel bar, young Bangalorean men were braying and drinking - the sound carried across the hotel gardens. They weren't poor; this was an expensive hotel. A phrase that the former Sunday Telegraph editor Peregrine Worsthorne coined in the red-braces 1980s came to me: bourgeois triumphalism.
I came to Bangalore a few times in the 1980s and stayed in the homes of my then father-in-law, first in Indiranagar and then in the old Anglo-Indian colony of Whitefield. The sights and sounds I associate with these places were, and in most places still are, common to all India. You would go to sleep to the sound of the chowkidar, the night watchman, tapping his stick and blowing his pea whistle. In the morning there would be the cawing of crows and the cries of an early street pedlar, selling vegetables from a stall on wheels. Sometimes an occasional car would honk. The Whitefield house is now a restaurant, the Eurochine, and in Indiranagar they are tearing down 30-year-old houses all the way down the Hundred Feet Road to make way for the stores of the global brands: Benetton, Nike, Levis. Cars queue impatiently down every street and turning.
It does no good to be wistful. A bright young science graduate can expect a starting salary of at least 270,000 rupees (about £3,400) a year as a software engineer, and within a year or two will be earning far more than the professor who taught him. Between 200,000 and 300,000 people work in Bangalore's IT industry and not all of them will be so prosperous; call-centres, now referred to dismissively as IT's "low-hanging fruit", pay far less. The great majority, however, will earn far more than their parents. Rent and property are expensive - at the top end, a Bangalore flat can cost £1m - but credit is cheap. This new middle class has cars and takes holidays abroad (eight days in Singapore for £150). The very rich have servants and a manager to manage them. A servant - a driver, a cook - can double his salary by learning English. If the new recruit joins Infosys, which has become India's most applauded company, he or she will travel each day to a "campus" at Electronic City, which has a putting green, an orchard, a swimming pool, free bikes to get around, and a canteen that serves 14 different cuisines (one of them Jain, which omits garlic and onions). In recent years, more foreign chief executives and heads of state have visited this campus than the Taj Mahal, or so it is said, and "the Infosys tour" has become a cliche of books and TV documentaries. And of course, after getting out of your golf buggy and ascending one of the taller buildings, you can look out through the plate glass and see the slums beyond the fence, where a small boy is defecating next to a stray dog and the ditch runs black. India: land of contrasts. But supposing this replica of Silicon Valley were to disappear? The slum, the stray dog, the black ditch, the defecating child - all these would still be there.
Philanthropy is popular. Infosys has a foundation devoted to good works. Quite separately, Nandan Nilekani's wife, Rohini, estimates she has spent about $40m (£20m) of their money on children's educational and water projects, mainly in village India, over the past few years. This is a lot. Then again, her husband is one of Infosys's seven founders. When the company went public in 1993, 100 shares cost 9,500 rupees. The same shares today would be worth 24,440,000 rupees, 3,000 times their flotation value. (Many more people have benefited than the founders; stock options were once given to all employees, who now number about 80,000.) "It's just no use being an island of prosperity in this country, it isn't going to work," Rohini Nilekani said when I went to see her in her charity's office, and in that statement hover two large black clouds.
The first is inadequate, sometimes collapsing, infrastructure: roads, railways, sewers, drinking water, schools, electricity. The second is the growing divide between urban and rural India. Despite increasing urbanisation, about 70% of the population still live in agricultural villages. The reverse side of the economic liberalisation that made India's software industry possible is the crisis of Indian agriculture. Poor crop prices, exhausted soil, expensive fertiliser, falling water tables, and land that needs to sustain too many livelihoods: so far this year 1,000 Karnataka farmers are said to have killed themselves. And yet the odd thing, the thing that a more curious American executive might ask their guide, Arun Pai, is: given that the price (80 rupees, about £1) of a six-minute local call from my grand hotel surpasses the daily wage of the sugar-cane cutter in a field a few miles away, how come there is so little anger and unrest in Bangalore? The best answer to this question came from another software entrepreneur, Subroto Bagchi, who runs MindTree Consulting (its clients include Avis and Royal Mail). I went to see him at his house. He offered tea and when I said yes, went away to make it and brought it on a tray himself - striking behaviour; never before, in 30 years' experience of India, have I ever seen any Indian man of above average wealth do anything so humbly domestic.
Bagchi, like many other Indian IT success stories, likes to stress his middle-class origins, a term that has a more egalitarian implication in India than in Britain. Indian businesses in the past tended to be run by caste-based dynasties, with money and trading (as well as political) know-how inherited by succeeding generations. Bagchi's father, on the other hand, worked as a government officer in a remote, un-electrified district of Orissa State; Nilekani's father managed a textile mill; village postmen, teachers and railway ticket-collectors appear proudly in the biographies of others. According to Bagchi, it demonstrates the truth of the saying that the Indian IT business succeeded "not because who we knew but because what we knew" and having to compete in a global market without political protection.
I asked about the prospects of discontent, given the disparities of wealth in Bangalore. Bagchi said: "Tell me, where is the angst, where is the senseless killing? They're not even restless. They're not just content, they're quite grateful. Most people, labourers, maidservants, are making a better living. It doesn't occur to my driver that he has every right to be as well-dressed as I am. Just doesn't occur to him. You have to understand, we don't have a sense of urgency, our civilisation is 3,600 years old. For most Indians, it's been an upgrade from coach to business class. They're grateful to be where they are".
· Ian Jack began writing about India as a foreign correspondent in 1977 and lived for a time in Delhi and Calcutta. He edited the Independent on Sunday and then Granta magazine and now writes a Saturday column for the Guardian.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
When I was a kid, I asked my dad what my name meant - most Indian names have a meaning. He replied that Somaiah meant 'Chandra' or moon god, as 'Som' meant moon, and 'aiah' meant master or god.
However, after doing some research on my own, I have come to a different conclusion. My family comes from an Aryan tribe, as most Indians do. Aryans drank a hallucigenic drink made from a mushroom called 'Soma' (Amanita muscaria or the Fly Agaric ). This hallucinogen gave Aryans an edge over their enemies in battle because they went beserk and fought better, as they did not feel the pain of their wounds until the effects of their drink wore off, which was usually after the battle was over. One of the Aryan kings was especially fierce after taking this drug, and is referred in the Rig Veda as a master of 'Soma'.
Eventually this king became so accomplished that he was deified permanently into the hindu pantheon of gods as Indra.
So essentially the name Somaiah refers to Indra the king who got intoxicated and got into fights, which sounds a lot like the Coorgs of today!
Interestingly Indra, the Greek Apollo and the Norsk Thor all have the same root."