Prahlad Bubbar gallery is bringing work of Italy’s most celebrated living photographer Gianni Berengo Gardin (born 1930), in his first UK exhibition since he was selected by Bill Brandt for Twentieth Century Landscape Photographs at the V&A, London, in 1975.
The Sense of a Moment: Gianni Berengo Gardin opens at Prahlad Bubbar from 11 April until 23 May 2014 and features original prints drawn from the artist’s personal archive. Berengo Gardin’s iconic images of post-war Italy will be shown alongside his first photographic series shot away from home, in a rarely documented rural India between 1977-1979.
Berengo Gardin was prompted to visit India’s rural heartland, the regions between New Delhi and Bombay, because “I have always been a great admirer of Gandhi and one of his statements is engraved on my mind. He said that Europeans and Westerners come to India and visit the big cities but they never go to see the villages, even though, in reality, India is made up of small villages.”
Over the course of two years, Berengo Gardin documented the India talked about by Gandhi in a fascinating series of portraits that intimately depict the lives of ordinary people, their rituals, customs and industry. These images were to later feature in his prestigious Scanno prize-winning publication India dei Villaggi (1980) and continue to serve as a remarkable record of life in India during an altogether different epoch.
Much like his Indian series, Berengo Gardin’s photographs of post-war Italy also capture a country on the brink of transformation, from an agricultural based economy, which had been severely affected by the consequences of World War II, into one of the world’s most industrialized nations.
Many of Berengo Gardin’s famous views of Italy will be featured in the exhibition, alongside previously unseen pieces. His iconic images of Venice will be shown as will Henri Cartier Bresson’s favourite shot by the artist, taken from inside a vaporetto – its glass and mirrors ingeniously reassembling the sharp-suited men aboard.
Gallery owner Prahlad Bubbar ( He is a leading specialist in classical Indian and Islamic art and widely known for his knowledge of the masters of 19th century Indian photography) is delighted to present this beautiful portrait of the countries in which he himself grew up, shot at a pivotal point in their histories by family friend and master of Italian photography: Gianni Berengo Gardin.
Activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal gave the ruling elite in India sleepless nights over corruption scandals in 2012 and shook the Indian middle class out of their infamous apathy. His newly launched political party—Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is calling for a total change.
The overall mood of his party is populist—whipping up anger against big establishments, an unprecedented belief in people and a stronger democracy much like the theory propagated by Indian independence leader Jayprakash Narayan who called for total revolution; a revolution that doesn’t merely change the government but the society and the individual. Cynics might mock Kejriwal’s utopian concept but as the drama unfolds; we’re sure it is an experiment worth watching. AGI quizzes Kejriwal about his movement and vision.
You’ve been a social activist most of your life. What triggered you to plunge into full-time politics? How’s the change been?
K: I joined the Indian Revenue Service as an income tax commissioner in 1995. Then in 2000, along with some friends, I started the NGO Parivartan. We wanted to help people to navigate issues related to income tax, electricity and food supply. Then from 2001 to 2005, I was involved in passing the Right to Information Act. By that time; I was only too aware of corruption in our society. 2011 saw the mass protests for Jan Lokpal Bill and stronger anti-corruption laws. We pleaded with them; while we were promised a lot nothing happened; the entire political system is corrupt. Whether it is BJP or Congress they are all hand-in-glove with each other. We were forced in politics. None of the present political party will pass a stronger anti-corruption bill because it will come to bite them only. Political cleansing is the crux of any social change so I thought it is necessary to be an active participant. The journey has been challenging but somewhere down the line it is positive to know that people wants a change now.
India has a multi-party system with over six recognized national parties and many state parties. How is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) different from any of these?
K: Firstly, we don’t have a central high command. Our party structure will follow a bottom to top approach where council members elect the executive body and also have the power to recall it. We will definitely not entertain criminals. We also will have a good representation of women, students, Dalits and other minor segments at all party levels. We will not indulge in dynasty politics, members of the same family will not get a ticket and we will keep all our financial dealings transparent. Our expenditure and income will be put up on the website. While we are a political party now our spirit is still that of a movement.
What is AAP’s strategy for the 2014 elections? How many constituencies will AAP represent?
K: We will be representing all the constituencies (there 543 Parliamentary constituencies in India). Our strategy will change on daily basis. We are travelling the various pockets of the country to identify the major issues. Our manifesto’s main aim is to pass the Jan-Lokpal bill. Decentralisation of power is another point where people are strongly involved in daily governance. We are following the model of countries like the US, Brazil and Switzerland. Free education and health is an area to look into. It has become increasingly difficult even for urban middle class to go to private schools and hospitals; so these are imperative things the government should provide. Land-acquisition and farmer’s issue is also major concerns. Like highlighted in the Robert Vadra case; he was grabbing land not meant for him. Farmers are not getting the adequate cost. We are at the moment putting all our energy to reach out to the people. Our manifesto is dynamic; we will keep on adding things as we move.
So are people ready? Indians are known for being politically indifferent.
K: That’s because people did not have any choice. They had given up because they saw no hope in the present system. Today, they have an alternative and I am hopeful they will come and vote.
AAP runs purely on donations but “cash for vote” is a notorious reality in Indian politics- especially to catch out poor, uneducated and uninformed voters. How will you tackle this issue?
K: I understand it’s a major challenge. Buying and selling votes is an age-old concept. The party along with various NGOs are sensitising all kinds of voters. One must also see why the voters were doing this? Till now they knew that after the election is over; none of the elected representatives will be actually keeping any of the promises so they thought why not take full advantage of the situation. But now they have an alternative and we are sure they will choose us.
Apart from corruption, according to AAP what is the other burning issues facing India? What is AAP’s stand on FDI, for instance?
K: While FDI is welcome in some sectors in others it wouldn’t be favourable. For instance, if FDI is bringing new technology, better practices it is welcome. But thinking that investment is coming is wrong perception. There are instances which show that if they are bringing the money in, they are taking out more three years later. So, it’s not an inflow but an outflow of capital. As far as the retail section is concerned; the promises made are the company will remove all the middle men. They will give better deals to both the farmers and the consumers. The middlemen are traders; they might be inefficient but they are traders. If a company comes into picture only they will get all the profits in effect these traders will be unemployed. The assumption that the company will make it easier for both the farmers and consumers is wrong as they are in a monopolistic situation. It is a universal phenomenon. These companies are not coming here for charity. They are here for profits. Another promise is to make cold storages why do we need a Walmart to make cold storages why cannot we do it? The government has enough funds. So these questions need to be answered first.
You’ve recently been seen campaigning for women’s safety. Keeping in mind all the recent events, what’s your stand when it comes to gender sensitisation?
K: Gender sensitisation and strong laws go together. The laws should be undoubtedly strengthened in this respect. We need fast-track courts where the guilty are punished within two months. We also need to teach our police and judiciary to treat the victims with sensitivity. Molestation shouldn’t be treated as a minor issue. It should be treated as a grave matter.
The roots of your movement lie in socialism, but the foundation of middle class aspiration in India is capitalism. There is genuine concern that the corruption that has taken root in India is unfixable. Do you think this perception will hamper your campaign?
K: We are neither socialist, capitalist, leftist nor Right wing. We’re fed up and we want a solution. It is not people don’t want to be honest. They don’t have a choice and they end up with bribing but we are hopeful that if the system is more organized and transparent things will change. They are as disgruntled as us and I am sure they need a change.
The annual international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition features a range of exciting works from an ornate necklace and video art to contemporary calligraphy this year.
Shortlisting entries for the first time from Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and India, the prize was set up by the V&A and Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives in 2009 following the inauguration of the exceptional Jameel Islamic galleries at the V&A in 2006, the small but powerful exhibition features this year’s award winners of £25,000 – alongside the other eight shortlisted finalists – selected by this year’s judging panel which includes British designer and architect Thomas Heatherwick and 2011 Prize winner Rashid Koraïchi.
The four calligraphy entries all feature intriguing, unique and detailed concepts of adaptation and development of one of the most influential scripts of the world; Saudi Arabian artist Nasser Al Salem finds that focussing on certain aspects of Arabic calligraphy, he is able to magnify and create abstract shapes of certain words or letters. His repetition of the word ‘all’ has been precisely distilled into striking and elegant vortex.
The four calligraphy entries all feature intriguing, unique and detailed concepts of adaptation and development of one of the most influential scripts of the world;
Arabic script is certainly shown to be very adaptable in this exhibition – Typographer Pascal Zograbi successfully blends the contemporary pursuit of the ‘new’ by reshaping and paying homage to the rich heritage and multiple styles of Arabic calligraphy in creating new fonts for digital and design platforms.
Influenced by Charlie Chaplin’s film Modern Times, Moroccan artist Mounir Fatmi constructs digital calligraphy circles as cogs of a much larger machine gathering pace to represent the modernity of the Arab world in his video artwork Modern Times: A History of the Machine.
Lebanese furniture designer Nada Debs combines specially commissioned Arabic font with the minimalism of the country she was born in – Japan – to create a hybrid tatami/prayer mat of concrete which features a poem written in a blend of Japanese Kanji and Arabic Kufic scripts.
Another inherited and much vaunted practice aside from calligraphy are carpets, jewellery and embroidery which feature as the remaining entries; Azeri artist Faig Ahmed – who lives and works in Baku – has had his double artworks created according to Azerbaijan’s ancient weaving traditions but has subverted the centre of the carpet to include abstract designs which meld ancient and contemporary.
Inspired by the tribal jewellery of women in the Western Sahara and the work of refugee crafts charity Sandblast, French designer Florie Salnot seeks to raise awareness of their craft made from limited resources by taking up the task herself – rendering sand and plastic bottles into a marvellous necklace of Plastic Gold.
Istanbul’s incredible architecture serves as the direct inspiration for Turkish fashion designers Dice Kayek work Istanbul Contrast, which features a trio of intricately beaded dresses. Indian textile designer Rahul Jain also alludes to the past through his textiles in recreating sumptuous silks inspired by the era of the Mughal emperors, which depict snow leopards and birds of paradise.
Pakistani artist Waqas Khan’s meditative geometric drawings amplify and distil the traditional mark-makings of miniature painting into a large and abstract work of simple beauty. Finally, Laurent Mareschal, a French artist, has created a witty and literally fragrant work by stencilling Islamic geometric tile patterns onto the gallery floor by using different Middle Eastern spices – alluding to the ephemeral and the senses in his unique subversion of permanence.
The 3rd Jameel Prize has certainly excelled itself this year in that it continues to feature an exciting and internationally diverse range of contemporary practices enlivened and inspired by Islamic culture, craftsmanship and arts, as well as going beyond artifice in engaging with various communities and craftsmen in the artistic process.
UNTIL APRIL 2014
Dice Kayek has won the £25,000 Jameel Prize 3 forIstanbul Contrast, a collection of garments that evoke Istanbul’s architectural and artistic heritage. The judges felt that Dice Kayek’s work demonstrates how vibrant and creative Islamic traditions continue to be today. Their translation of architectural ideas into fashion shows how Islamic traditions can still transfer from one art form to another, as they did in the past. Ece and Ayşe Ege were presented with the prize by Martin Roth, Director of the V&A and Fady Jameel, President of Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI) at an awards ceremony at the V&A on Tuesday 10 December
by Ranbir Jhutty
The last gentleman of what used to be gentlemen’s game exhibited his skills for possibly the last time today.
Why is Sachin Tendulkar loved all over by the people is not hard to fathom. He embodies the qualities everyone wants to see in his child. He has been a hardworking, honest man dedicated to his extended family not just his wife and kids, who scripted a rags to riches story through sheer grit, determination and dedication to his chosen vocation. Sachin never looked for shortcuts, did not let success go to his head, kept his mouth shut in an era when thanks to TV and social media everyone thinks his/her opinion matters to others and must be expressed. He came at a time when India was worried about who after Gavaskar?
He embodies the qualities everyone wants to see in his child. He has been a hardworking, honest man dedicated to his extended family not just his wife and kids, who scripted a rags to riches story through sheer grit, determination and dedication to his chosen vocation.
Sunil Gavaskar was the original Little Master who silenced the West Indian quickies, gave it back to the Australians and told a generation of Indians that it was time to stop confusing timidity with politeness and to stand up to the world. In case of Sachin it was the bat that did all the talking. He was core to the renaissance in Indian cricket which culminated with the World Cup and Champion Trophy titles. His greatness lay in the fact that he was ready to sacrifice for the good of the game and country. It could be something as small as giving up shots which were getting him out to now his place in the Indian team. Sachin even did not hesitate in giving up captaincy, whether it be the Indian cricket team or the Mumbai Indians, as he felt there were others who could do a better job. As Sharad Pawar has revealed, Indian capitancy was his for asking for a second time but he recommended MS Dhoni.
His records may be broken but just like there will never be another Lata or Kishore, cricket fields around the world will not see another Sachin for whom the game was a passion and not a means of livelihood. If wishes were horses then the fairytale ending to the Sachin saga would be to see him come out of retirement in 2017 and be part of the Indian team that wins the Test World cup in 2017. May be the God above will make true this wish for God of Cricket. Adieu Sachin. We wait for your next avatar.
Adieu Sachin. We wait for your next avatar.
If brain power is a nation’s asset then right now India’s balance sheet is loaded with NPAs. The public utterances of two leaders from different fields reveal the intellectual deficit at the top which is among the reasons why India’s sorry state today. The gentlemen being referred to here are India’s petroleum and natural gas minister Veerappa Moily and former chief of Indian Army, General VK Singh. One is from North and the other from the South, so the sample effectively reflects India. Both have been shooting and scooting, going against the adage that it is better to keep quiet and let others question your intellectual capabilities rather than prove them right by opening your mouth.
Moily has been hard-selling childish solutions to India’s oil problems. This includes shutting the petrol pumps from 8 in the night to 8 in the morning and, propagating car pooling and increased use of public transport. The minister says this will help exchequer save money and reduce the subsidy bills but goes on to waste Rs 50 crore of taxpayers’ money through mega fuel conservation campaign and hires Viraat Kohli and Saina Nehwal as brand ambassadors. The gems are sure to keep on flowing out. The minister has earlier been accused by an Indian Member of Parliament (MP) of transferring an honest officer whose stand was proving detrimental to the interests of an Indian oil giant. The MP also accused Moily of helping the same company by delaying the imposition of a $1.8 billion penalty. The minister had questioned the MP’sintegrity because the MP had used leaked documents. Moily must be excused for being a dinosaur in the era of Wikileaks.
At a time when China is becoming a fat-cat bully, India cannot afford to humour intellectually and morally-handicapped overambitious people or their supporters.
The utterances of the second person need to be taken more seriously. The controversy arising out of the response of former chief of Indian Army, General VK Singh, to a so-called secret report being leaked to a newspaper reminded me of an interesting anecdote by a retired official of the Indian Foreign Service. The gentleman had been twice rejected by the Military selection system before he made it to the IFS. Years later when he was an Ambassador, he had a chance encounter with a General at a dinner party he was hosting. After dinner, with the guards down after a peg or two, he told the General about his failure to get into the Army and asked him why despite his strong academic background he had been rejected by the Army. The General said it was exactly because of his intelligence that he was rejected. Intellect is not an asset appreciated for selection in the Army. The General may have said this jocularly to humour the Ambassador but General Singh’s loose talk seems to suggest that the General may have actually spoken the truth.
A soldier is supposed to put the national interest before self-interest. But General Singh has been doing the opposite for quite some time now. First he tried to get an extra year at helm by fighting with the government over his date of birth and now his irresponsible statements have created trouble in a state whose cup of woes is already brimming. As a retired army man he has the right to take his war with the Congress government to the political battlefield but he must ensure that national security does not suffer collateral damage. General Singh has a greater responsibility towards the nation than the Congress leaders, ministers, their crony journalists and officials because he was the Chief of the Indian Army while his opponents are, to borrow a phrase used by Mohinder Amarnath in another context, a bunch of jokers. General Singh must realise that he can harm India in his brawl with the political establishment. He must also be ready to face character assassination attempts as he is now treading the minefield of politics. He enjoys certain brand equity with either an Anna or Narendra Modi or for that matter the media only because he was the Chief of Indian Army. Singh must prove his worth minus his appellation of General to be accepted as a political force or now as they call them civil society. Publicly divulging state secrets does not behove a soldier and creates doubts in the mind of the Indian people whether he is putting up a façade to settle personal scores.
At a time when China is becoming a fat-cat bully, India cannot afford to humour intellectually and morally-handicapped overambitious people or their supporters. The elections of 2014 could be the inflection point after which India either takes off or crashes into the abyss. Those positioning to be part of next government must remember that with great powers, comes great responsibility. The electorate must once again not repeat the mistake of handing the sword to the monkey.
This April, UK became the first country outside South Asia to legislate against caste discrimination, bringing a sense of triumph to many in British-Asian circles finds out Dhanya Nair
There is a sense of triumph in some British-Asian circles. This April, UK became the first country outside South Asia to legislate against caste discrimination. dalits (previously called Untouchables) in the United Kingdom have recorded a landmark victory after the British parliament finally agreed to outlaw caste discrimination.
In a major U-turn, the House of Commons, which had earlier trashed an amendment to include caste among other forms of discrimination, voted for legal protection for the four lakh dalits living here. Jo Swinson, the equalities minister, told the House of Commons that the government recognised that caste discrimination existed in the UK and it was “unacceptable”. “Very strong views have been expressed in the Lords on this matter and we have reconsidered our position and agreed to introduce caste-related legislation,” she stated.
When I heard the news, I was puzzled. Yes, I am only too aware of racism but caste discrimination in UK?
According to Davinder Prasad, General Secretary of Caste Watch, one of the pioneer charities in the UK, to fight against this discrimination, caste issues hit the UK shores with the migration wave of the fifties and the sixties. It was the time when many from India, Pakistan and other parts of the sub-continent arrived for the first time in UK. “We were in a new, alien land starved for friendship and familiarity. We stayed together forgetting the differences regardless of our country, caste, creed or community. As time went by people got better jobs, got up in the economic ladder and the status quo kicked in,” explains Prasad.
In India, caste discrimination was found mainly among the Hindu community but in UK it transcended religious lines. Groups like Caste Watch and Dalit Solidarity Network have lobbied regularly and effectively in Britain. “When you are born in low caste, you are treated as a sub-human. Historically, Hindus who faced discrimination changed their faith but slowly caste crept in other religions too. In UK too you will see caste discrimination is rife not only among Hindus but among Muslims and Sikhs too. History has showed that the best way to eliminate discrimination is stronger laws,” says Prasad.
In India, it is all too common to hear about dalits who are killed and raped even today when they try to assert their constitutionally granted human rights. But how does it pan out in Britain? Here discrimination takes the form of abuse, subtle taunts and caste based humiliation in schools and offices and the oldest form of discrimination in the book—not giving promotion/job opportunities to people owing to their caste.
Caste discrimination also intensified because as someone in a foreign land you felt alienated from your culture. “I’ve met many families who invariably practiced caste discrimination because they wanted to retain their culture and stick to their roots,” says 24-year-old, Saira Macleod, half Indian-half Scottish film-maker whose film Segregation and Survival documents the story of this historical discrimination within India and its journey to Britain.
For many of Britain’s dalits, migration was an act of secession from an unjust social order. But these families soon found that prejudice was also an ingenious migrant that quickly raised its ugly head in an unfamiliar world.
Britain’s dalits agree that casteism is a bigger culprit because it focuses on a set hierarchy and is not characterised by an emotion. It prevents people from getting out of their hierarchy, denying them opportunities to grow. As caste is determined by birth it cannot be changed. Several British-Indian groups have opposed listing caste as an aspect of race on the academic point that a caste-race amalgamation is false and that education along with legislation will change mindsets.
“At least, people have an opinion about racism that it is wrong. The problem with casteism is that not many outside the South-Asian community are aware of it; hence they can’t even form an opinion,” says Macleod. In the absence of strong laws, talking and forming an opinion only makes it all the more difficult.
Yet, both are complimentary systems of oppression that feed off each other. Caste and race might not the same; but the experience of being made inferior either by casteism or racism is equally appalling. “For victims both are equally disturbing. Many South Asians would even say it is like a double whammy because we have to face White racism and caste discrimination too,” says Prasad. “But what makes things particularly challenging is that it is very difficult to make a White person understand that caste discrimination is not a part of our culture because of lack of strong laws,” he concludes.
According to a recent study conducted by independent experts appointed by the UN more than 260 million people across the world are still victims of human rights abuses due to caste-based discrimination. In such a scenario, the British government’s decision to include caste discrimination in the Equality Act to protect the dalits is an affirmative and a brave step forward that promises that their adopted country cares for their freedom.
Ranbir Kapoor is the quintessential star kid and the scion of Indian cinema’s first family—Kapoor family. Carrying such a legacy would be a daunting task for anyone but Ranbir who has gone from strength to strength with each movie is proving that he is up for the challenge. Ranbir along with his parents—Rishi and Neetu Kapoor—as well as debutant Pallavi Sharda were in London to promote their latest film Besharam (Shameless). Dhanya Nair caught up with them to find out more about the film. Here’s the tête-à-tête.
AGI: Ranbir, how was it working with your dad who is such a great actor himself?
Ranbir: Initially, the thought of acting with him intimidated me slightly. But when I came on the sets it was a delight to see him at work. He was so natural and effortless in front of the camera. As a co-actor he was never intimidating but rather encouraging. It didn’t seem like I was working with my father but a very talented and passionate actor. So, in a way it was a great learning experience for me. But he didn’t force any lessons on me; he gave me space as an actor. I realised that despite working in the industry for 40 years he is still very passionate about film and film-making and that motivation is something I hope to learn.
AGI: Mrs. Kapoor what made you do this film?
Neetu Kapoor: Obviously my family. It was a nice script and a very unusual story plus I had this comfort where I was working with my own family, my son was there. So, I really had a blast. Really enjoyed it.
AGI: What is the film all about?
Ranbir: Well, first of all Besharam here doesn’t mean removing your clothes or embarrassing yourself. It is an attitude to live life to the fullest and follow your heart. It is also about knowing that there is no good way to do a bad thing. This is the gist of the movie.
AGI: This year marks the centenary for Indian cinema; the Kapoor family played a major role in shaping it. So, Ranbir if you had to give some kind of tribute to your family, what would it be?
Rishi Kapoor: To be honest, 100 years is not such a big landmark. We’ve a long way to go. In these 100 years, the Kapoor family has been active for almost 85 years; shaping Indian cinema. While this is heartening to know it is also important to remember that there is a long road ahead.
Ranbir: I think the best and the only way I can honour my family is by acting well. I think if I do my job well, they will be quite proud and it is the best I can pay them a tribute.
AGI: Pallavi, you’re an Australian. Did Bollywood play any role in your formative years? How was it working with the family in Besharam?
Pallavi: As an Indian growing up outside, Bollywood helped me to be in touch with my roots. I was the delusional Bollywood child who was completely taken by its charm. I used to walk with a bindi around and dupatta like Sri Devi in Chandani or sings songs from Lamhe instead of English numbers. It alienated me from other kids but that never deterred me to fall in love with Bollywood.
It was an immense opportunity to work with the entire family. What I learnt working with them was that being Bollywood superstars was one thing, being a great actor was one thing but the humility and grace with which they presented themselves on the sets and the way they approached me and my work was amazing. I am very new and very junior to them but they treated me like a fellow actor and that kind of humility is something I wish to inculcate.
AGI: Mr. (Rishi) Kapoor do you think Bollywood cinema has advanced over the years?
Rishi Kapoor: Funnily enough I used to be asked this question even a decade ago. I don’t think we’ve advanced a lot in terms of story-telling. Yes, we’ve better technology, better mediums to promote the film but somewhere down the line I think we don’t have enough soulful stories.
Besharam is scheduled to release on 2nd October across UK
We all know tiffin, tofu and teriyaki, but what about the more unexpected words that have come out of Asia? Word-lover Jonathan Galton gives us an example.
I grew up with a vague idea that tea drinking was a habit the British picked up in India. Not an unreasonable conclusion to draw from the tableaux of sari-clad tea pickers on the front of packets labelled “Darjeeling” and “Assam”, I suppose, but totally inaccurate. The early chapters in the story of man and tea are overwhelmingly linked to China.
Whatever the truth of a popular story involving Emperor Shen Nung, a pot of boiling water, a nearby shrub and a gust of wind, Chinese references to tea drinking stretch back over 2,000 years. By the Tang dynasty (7th to 10th Century CE) tea was widely drunk across China, Japan and Korea. The name given to the beverage (and the plant) varied slightly between languages, with most of China calling it something like cha (the name used in Mandarin and Cantonese today), but those in the southeast opting for ta.
Cha was certainly the form that travelled to Iran, where it became chai which, drunk black and accompanied by dates and sugar cubes, still holds a focal position in Persian social life. As chai, the word has found its way into the vocabulary of Russia, the Arab World, North India, East Africa and most recently even Starbucks!
The first Europeans to encounter tea were the Portuguese, as written records dating back to the 1550s attest. As their major foothold in China was Cantonese-speaking Macau, the word the Portuguese adopted was chá. It is ironic that from Portugal, today a nation of coffee-addicts, one of Europe’s most enthusiastic tea-drinkers spread the habit to Britain. Although the first dated reference to tea in England comes from a 1658 London newspaper, it was Catherine of Braganza, who married Charles II a few years later, who really put tea on the English social map (other legacies from the Portuguese princess include the city of Bombay and, allegedly, the use of the fork).
Why, then, do we (almost always) call it ‘tea’ rather than ‘char’? The answer lies with another European sea-faring nation with trading interests in the Far East. Back in 1606, the first consignment of tea from China to Europe was shipped by the Dutch. They traded with the Fujian region where the word ta was used, and routed ships via Java where this had morphed into teh. As Europe’s principal supplier, the Dutch scattered their thee across Western Europe, giving the French thé, the Italians tè and the Germans tee.
And what about those tea pickers of Assam? My childhood theory actually played out in reverse. By the 19th century, tea had started to spread from Britain’s elite to all levels of society and demand for Chinese imports grew ever higher, prompting the East India Company to investigate the possibility of growing tea in India. Assam, home to an indigenous variety of tea, seemed a logical choice of location and by the 1850’s cultivation and import of Assam tea was in full swing although it was only well into the twentieth century that tea achieved the ubiquity in India that it maintains today. Most of India refers to it with some variant of chai or cha, while some southern languages use teneer (“tea water”) or simply ti. Round the corner in Burma they call it lahpet and eat it pickled as a salad, but that doesn’t really sound like my cup of tea.
Disclaimer: While the above is based on well-established theories of etymology, it should be noted that alternative theories exist for a number of the word origins described.
Indian banks have contributed to the deterioration of the economic condition, Ashutosh Misra explains how
Two recent advertisements in Indian newspapers highlight the reasons for the mess the Indian economy finds itself in. One was by the Delhi Agricultural Marketing Board seeking proposals from banks for depositing its money. Another was by the Punjab National Bank declaring a company as a loan defaulter. These are just symptoms of malignancy which afflicts the system. Banks have been lending to the wrong people. It could be because of corruption, crony capitalism or improper due diligence by the lenders. But whatever the cause, the effects are harmful for the economy and the country.
The fiscal state of the banks and scrips of some of them tell the tale. There has been a steady deterioration in the balance sheets of banks, especially those in the public sector. According to an RBI study, gross nonperforming assets (NPAs) have soared more than three times between March 2007 and March 2013. After declining from Rs 7 lakh crore on March 31, 2003 to Rs 5 lakh crore on March 31, 2007, NPAs shot up to Rs 18.39 lakh crore at the end of March 2013, an average growth of 24.7 percent in the last six years. Net NPAs have grown faster at an average rate of 29 percent since March 2007 to hit Rs 8.88 lakh crore in March 2013. The study estimates that NPAs have shaved more than 60 percent of net profit of banks since March 2010.
In a case of leaving the mess for successors, banks have also been pretty liberal when it comes to corporate debt restructuring (CDR). Stringent CDR norms that kick-in from 2015 are likely to curb the tendency of the companies to use CDR clean up their balance sheets instead of undertaking business restructuring. But the damage being inflicted till then will leave scars. Many lenders have discovered that the assets pledged with them either do not have the same value today as mentioned at the time of loan being granted or cannot be liquidated. Some borrowers have even pledged the same security to more than one lender. What is disturbing is that many companies under CDR may turn into bad loans if economic growth fails to revive. This will further harm the economy because as NPAs rise banks will shy away from lending. As the financial accelerator, made famous by the trio which included Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, starts working banks will cut down on lending when they must lend aggressively to revive economic growth. The credit crunch will result in further deterioration of economic growth and consequent rise in NPAs. It will result in a vicious circle where lending is curbed as the economy stalls even as more lending is needed to revive growth.
One of the effects of slowdown has been that banks are now focusing on retail lending such as housing, education and auto loans, and on non-metros instead of corporate and infrastructure sectors. This is also because corporate borrowers have put their plans on hold. In the past, banks especially from the private sectors such as the ICICI Bank were pulled up by the courts for hiring goons as loan recovery agents and harassing retail borrowers. The banks have not resorted to any strong-arm measures when dealing with the corporate delinquents. Hopefully this return to retail borrowers is not because they can be bullied and assets seized.
The Indian banking sector is set to be the fifth-largest in the world by 2020 and third-largest by 2025, according to a report. While it may sound good but it also means that the regulators, bankers and the government need to be more vigilant than before. The 2008 crisis has proved how imprudent, overambitious bankers can be a problem for the whole country or rather the world. The new governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Raghuram Rajan is credited with warning central bankers of the housing bubble in 2005, three years before Lehmann triggered the global crisis. Questions have been raised about his suitability for the job. The Economist had the following to say on his appointment at RBI: “He is not a specialist in monetary policy. His writings are of a free-market persuasion, tinged with skepticism about how rational investors are and worries about the unintended consequences of regulation.”
Rajan’s honeymoon with the stock and currency markets while looking for an excuse to find mention in the media has started on the right note. But he must realise that doing the right thing for the country and economy matters more than playing to the galleries. He must not deviate from the narrow path that will lead the country out of the mess created by the government even if it means letting the finance minister walk alone. Raghuram Rajan needs to listen to his team in the RBI and must let his work prove his critics wrong.
The salaried, farmers and the honest entrepreneurs have been doing their bit for the India economy and the country. Imprudent policymaking and, corrupt officials and businessmen have been the bane of the country. In fact the fence has started eating the grass. The need of the hour is for a level playing field where everyone plays by the book and, rules of the game are enforced strictly irrespective of his political and money muscle.
About Ashutosh Misra – India Correspondent. He is a senior business journalist who mastered the skills of the trade at the top India business daily, The Economic Times. He played a key role in the launch of Deccan Chronicle group’s business newspaper, Financial Chronicle
After making their mark in the telecommunications sector, Lebara Group is all set to enter the hospitality industry. AGI finds out
UK-based telecommunications giant Lebara Group have made a foray in the hospitality sector by acquiring a property in Chennai, which will be managed as a four-star hotel by the Indian Hotels Company .The 200–room hotel would be managed by the Taj Group of hotels under the Gateway brand. The Gateway Hotel is owned by LBR Hotels and Hospitality Services Pvt. Ltd, which is part of the Lebara Group.
Located on the Old Mahabalipuram Road, in the south of Chennai, the hotel aims to revitalise hospitality options in the area and its wider IT corridor. Ratheesan Yoganathan, co-owner and chairman of the Lebara Group, feels that this launch is an entry point for the Lebara Group and ‘heralds Lebara’s expansion into India and the hospitality industry’.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), India’s travel and tourism industry outperformed the entire wider economy in 2012 and will further outpace other notable industries such as manufacturing, financial services and retail. Even with increasing competition, Lebara’s leadership team and co-founders, Baskaran Kandiah and Leon Rasiah, is not shying away from competitive markets as Lebara’s growth has outstripped all expectations and has firmly established itself as the leading mobile virtual network operator.
Lebara’s initial product was international telephone calling cards, sold through independent mobile phone shops. Today, it is one of Europe’s leading mobile virtual network operators, providing low-cost international mobile products and services to customers across seven European countries and Australia. With this move the group hopes to make a mark in the hospitality sector as well.