Spanish paper Sport claims Inter are in negotiations with Barcelona for Ivan Rakitic, but want to lower the €35m asking price. The 31-year-old midfielder is increasingly likely to leave in January, as he is not a first team regular at Camp Nou this season. According to Sport, Nerazzurri representatives met with Barcelona last week to discuss the situation. However, the €35m price-tag is considered excessive, especially as his contract is due to expire in June 2021. Inter are waiting to see if they qualify for the Champions League Round of 16, as that would give them a significant financial bump. It would also mean they’d need more players to cover the three tournaments. Another alternative to Rakitic would be his Barcelona teammate Arturo Vidal, who already worked with Antonio Conte at Juventus. Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports for just £11.99 per month including live LaLiga, Eredivisie, Scottish Cup Football and more. Visit: https://subscribe.premiersports.tv/
Month: November 2019
Carlo Ancelotti could be close to bidding farewell to Napoli and reportedly might consider to a return to Milan next season. There has been chaos at the San Paolo lately and Ancelotti’s reign seems to be heading towards the end. Now, Tuttosport claims he will not stay on after the current season. The reports have lately been suggesting that the 60-year-old might be interested if the Rossoneri were to make a move for him. Under Serie A rules, a coach cannot work for two clubs in the same season, so any move to San Siro would have to be next term, even if he does depart Napoli early. Milan have already replaced Marco Giampaolo and appointed Stefano Pioli as the second successor to Gennaro Gattuso, who ended last season one point away from Champions League football. With Ancelotti’s future unclear beyond this season, he might be tempted to take on a different challenge at San Siro. The Italian tactician previously had a highly successful spell in Milan, both as a player and coach, but would face a completely different challenge if he chooses to take on the job. During his spell in charge at the Giuseppe Meazza, his Milan team won the Scudetto in 2003-04 and two Champions League titles – in 2002-03 and 2006-07. The squad will be far off that level and he will have to turn things around just to bring Milan back into Europe. Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports for just £11.99 per month including live LaLiga, Eredivisie, Scottish Cup Football and more. Visit: https://subscribe.premiersports.tv/
Retiring Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan on Wednesday said among the current crop of slow bowlers, only Harbhajan Singh can match his record of scalping nearly 800 Test wickets. Muralitharan, who will quit the longer version after the first Test against India beginning on July 18 at Galle, said the Indian off-spinner stood the best chance of emulating his feat.”I think only Harbhajan can do this. I don’t know how old is he and how long he will continue. But he is the only one who can achieve this feat in Test Cricket,” Muralitharan told PTI from Colombo.With 792 Test wickets under his belt from 132 matches, Muralitharan needs eight scalps in his final Test match to reach the 800-mark.In comparison, 30-year-old Harbhajan has 355 scalps from the 83 Test matches he has played so far.With Twenty20 cricket taking precedence over other formats of the game, Muralitharan feared slow bowlers might struggle to survive and get where he has reached.”In current scenario Test Cricket is dying. One day Cricket does not have bright future. Only Twenty20 is going to survive. So it will be difficult for any slow bowler to survive so long,” he said.The wily off-spinner is just eight wickets away from the 800-mark but Muralitharan, who scalped 515 wickets from 337 ODIs, insisted he was not chasing any record.”I don’t run after records. I have the world record in my name. Although if I could get eight more wickets, it could have been a good way to end. I am sure I will be able to do that in one match. If not, no worries,” said the ace spinner.advertisementLooking back at his illustrious career, Muralitharan identified batting greats Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara as his toughest opponents.”If we talk about the consistency, then no other batman can match Sachin and Lara. They are the best against whom I have bowled.”I had to do extra effort against them. I am happy that I will be able to bowl Sachin in my last Test,” he said.Besides being the most successful bowler in the history of international cricket, Muralitharan has been part of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning team but the off-spinner does have some regrets.”I have achieved everything that an international cricketer can dream about. I have only one regret that I could not win (series) in India, South Africa and Australia. But one can not get everything in life,” he said.
Hours after the allegation of favouritism, Commonwealth Games (CWG) organising committee (OC) treasurer Anil Khanna resigned from his post on Thursday. Khanna, whose son Aditya is the chief executive officer of Rebound Ace India Private Limited — the Indian branch of Australian company Rebound Ace which was awarded the contract for laying of synthetic surfaces at the RK Khanna Tennis Stadium — told Headlines Today that he was resigning owning moral responsibility for the controversy. Khanna had come under the scanner over awarding of contract for laying of synthetic surfaces at the tennis stadium, which is a venue for the Games. He maintained that there was no conflict of interest as he was not the treasurer of OC when the contract was given to Rebound Ace. “I take moral responsibility and quit,” Khanna told Headlines Today adding, “I was not in the process of selection of the turf.” Reiterating that there were no financial benefits involved in the deal Khanna said, “There are no charges against me.” Dissociating himself from the Games, Khanna strongly denied any wrongdoing in the deal. He suggested corporate approach to ensure the success of the games. “I sought better corporate governance during the organising committee meetings. Revelations of corruption have come as a surprise and are shocking. In April, I had said there is a need for more corporate governance in the Commonwealth Games,” Khanna said. He however expressed concern about the timing of stories in media before the executive meet.
India captain Virender Sehwag scored the highest individual score in an ODI of men’s cricket smashing a massive 219 as India beat West Indies by a 153-run margin during the fourth ODI in Indore on Thursday. Score | Photos: Sehwag’s doubleThe win have given hosts an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match ODI series.Electing to bat at the city’s Holkar Cricket Stadium, the stand-in India captain Virender Sehwag required just 149 balls to reach the milestone which was punctuated 25 fours and six over the fence shots. The effort left the spectators in awe and Windies out of steam as a loss loomed large ahead for them.Starting the innings with opening partner Gautam Gambhir, the two were off to a quick start scoring at more than seven runs an over. A good strategy keeping in mind the dew factor, which made things worse for the Windies batsmen.In 10 overs India had amassed 63 runs at an average of 6.30 runs per over. And five over later the India score had swelled to 108 for no loss.Soon captain Sehwag was way past his 100, hitting a four to reach the mark that came off just 71 balls and included 10 fours and 5 sixes.However, no sooner had the captain reached the mark that his opening wicket partner Gambhir (67) ended up getting run out in Kieron Pollard’s over that culminated their 176 run stand in the 23rd over.Post that Sehwag and Suresh Raina went on charge and soon India’s total was way past the 200-run mark even as the two batsmen were gearing up for a big total on board.advertisementIn the 40th over, India score swelled past the 300-run mark and Sehwag and Raina, who had scored his half ton, were still in the middle.However in the 41st over Suresh Raina ended up getting run out on 55, but Sehwag was still in the middle and was looking all set to break Sachin’s record of 200 not out in an innings in ODIs.Sachin had reached the milestone against South Africa in Gwalior in February 2010.In the 44th over Sehwag lost another partner in Jadeja, who fell cheaply, but he carried on and ended hitting a 200. But his hunger continued and he just went after the West Indies bowlers.That wasn’t all as he hit a four off Andre Russell to complete his double ton and ended the over with an over-the-fence shot.Cleary he was like a man possessed, who was feedin on the Windies bowlers. Finally on the third ball of he 47th over he departed. He went for a six off Pollard, but mistimed it to substitute A Martin at long-off and he was walking back with a massive 219 against his name.At the end of the India innings the score was 418/5.West Indies inningsIn reply West Indies could only put 265 runs on board that too with some fine batting display by Denesh Ramdin, who scored a resolute 96 even as the rest continued to play visits in the middle.The visitors lost their opener Kieran Powell early off a run out when the team total was 13. Clearly the Windies were under pressure, not to speak of the dew factor, which was coming in to play at the Holkar Cricket Stadium.They lost more wickets with the other opener Lendl Simmons and one down batsman Marlon Samuels falling on paltry totals. Windies were 81/3 on the last ball of the 12th over. Soon Rohit Sharma, who is have a good nick with the bat in the series, came around to scalp his second wicket in the innings, getting rid of Danza Hyatt and reducing West Indies to 90/4 in the 14th over.But West Indies misery was far from over as wickets kept falling at regular intervals and pressure continued to take its toll on the Windies batsmen and they had already lost five wickets by the time their score reached 100.The pressure continued to mount even as India bowlers pressed further and as a result wickets kept falling in minutes. The only person, who tried hard to contain the India attack was Denesh Ramdin, the number five batsman, who held fort on one end providing a bit of stability to the innings.Finally Ramdin fell four runs short of a ton with Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma combining to take his wicket on the second ball of the last over as West Indies ended up losing the match by a massive 153 runs.The win gave hosts India an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match ODI series. The last ODI will be played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk, Chennai, on Sunday.advertisement
Team India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has quite a funny bone.Speaking to a newspaper on the incident where Ishant Sharma and Virat Kohli flipped the middle finger to the audience and their fans, Dhoni said they won’t be able to do so any more.Playing down the incidents, Dhoni said, “I have taped the fingers of both of them. Now they won’t be able to lift them. It’ll be interesting to see if they can repeat what they did.”Earlier, Virat Kohli was fined 50 per cent of his match fee for flipping the middle finger to the audience during the second Test match.A few days later, Ishant Sharma had followed suit when he flipped the middle finger to tanting fans at a go-kart session.
A Walk in the Clouds NANDA DEVI NATIONAL PARK The first time anyone saw Nanda Devi-which at 7,816 m is the highest mountain in the Indian Himalaya outside of Sikkim-from close up was in 1934 when two British explorers, Eric Shipton and H.W. Tilman, accompanied by three sherpas, found a,A Walk in the Clouds NANDA DEVI NATIONAL PARKThe first time anyone saw Nanda Devi-which at 7,816 m is the highest mountain in the Indian Himalaya outside of Sikkim-from close up was in 1934 when two British explorers, Eric Shipton and H.W. Tilman, accompanied by three sherpas, found a way to its base. They inched their way through the precipitous gorge of the Rishi Ganga, a tributary of the Dhauli Ganga in Uttaranchal’s Chamoli district. And at the end of their arduous journey, they were astonished to find themselves in a vast amphitheatre of grassland, its gentle slopes a stark contrast to the vertical cliffs that had hindered their way at every step.Their exploration still ranks as one of the finest ever. It takes eight to nine days of strenuous walk to reach the sanctuary-the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Everything that goes with trekking must be carried and although there is a rudimentary trail, traversing the Rishi Ganga gorge is still a Herculean task. The route appears to defy logic as it ascends cliffs, cuts across pastures, skirts birch forests and alternates between steep ascents and abrupt descents.All around the way lie the summits of a protective ring of mountains with glacial rivers tumbling into the Rishi Ganga, and finally an inner gorge which can be brutal and spectacular. The sanctuary has been closed to regular trekking since 1982; however, organised treks are permitted up to Dibrughetta. – by Suman DubeyOn a Float and a Prayer OUT OF THE BODY EXPERIENCE. FLOATING DOWN THE GANGAadvertisementThe trouble with out-of-body experiences is that everyone thinks they’ve had one. Truth is, only five in every 100 people actually experience one, usually those with strong spiritual beliefs, while under the influence of psychedelic drugs or an obsession with the paranormal. I qualify for none of the above, so I’ll attribute mine to a near-death experience while indulging in an extreme sport where the spirit was willing but the body certainly not.Body surfing down the Ganga is not for the faint-hearted though it looks deceptively easy. Shivpuri, above Rishikesh, is where it happens, with rafting down the river as an initiation rite. After some hairy moments while negotiating a series of rapids, the body surfing routine seems like a cakewalk, placid and inviting. But that can be dangerously misleading. Your lifejacket is meant to keep you afloat when you slide off the raft but the shock of encountering the freezing water is the first warning that this is going to be one rocky ride, literally.The second warning arrives when you realise that the placid surface conceals a powerful undertow, not to mention any number of hidden rocks and whirlpools. Even with your feet pointing downstream and the lifejacket keeping your head above water, it’s pretty much of a lottery since the current can suddenly drag you off course and you quickly find yourself on the rocks. That isn’t as bad as getting sucked into a whirlpool which can be the most frightening experience of your life, or what’s left of it. The rush of adrenaline and naked terror is a potent mixture, and there are moments when body and soul seem detached from each other. Your life rests in the hands of one man: the expedition leader on the raft. I am not a religious man but I learnt the power of prayer that day since I lived to write the tale. PS: Don’t try this at home. by Dilip BobbShark Tales ANIMAL ENCOUNTER.LAKSHADWEEPAfter the crazy chaos of the fashion week in April, I wanted to go to a place where I could get some relief and rejuvenation but with a little bit of adventure thrown in. I had been snorkeling in Andamans before but wanted to try the peace and quiet of Lakshadweep this time around. Needless to say, it was simply spectacular and unlike anything I had ever experienced.The pristine blue colour of the ocean just overwhelms you as you circle over Lakshadweep. We took intense scuba diving lessons for three days to prepare ourselves for our deep sea diving. Imagine going mid-ocean and being dropped 60 feet under water with hysterical fishes floating around you, it was no joke. But I must say that we could only do it because the safety standard at the scuba diving institute was just impeccable. Since we went just a little before the monsoon, the water was a little rough.I got a chance to swim with sharks circling around me. It can’t really get more thrilling than that. Other water bodies like lobsters, eels and crabs also floated around me. As the Lakshadweep islands are the only atolls in the Indian waters, it’s oceanic location keeps it unperturbed by tourists. This is why the unique coral reefs remain pristine without much interference from civilisation. Lakshadweep’s raw charm was just so intoxicating that I cannot wait to back their again. – by Tarun TahilianiadvertisementOn Cloud NineHONEYMOON SUITE . THE DUNE, PUDUCHERRYThe Dune was created to offer luxury while celebrating nature and giving organic living a new lease of life. There’s also a restaurant here which is a gastronomic delight. It’s a little secret tucked away 14 km en route to Puducherry. A private, very private, a stand-alone elevated honeymoon house perched atop a 50 feet tower, is perhaps the place you can count on for the most intimate experience of your life. And that’s how they wanted it to be. Located at The Dune, a 30-acre ecologically-sensitive haven, the Tower House, as it is called, opens up to some of the most breathtaking sights of the Coromandel Coast.The two-level silver-coloured enclosure combines ancient wisdom- complete with vintage decor showcasing traditional art and architecture- and the comforts of modern living amidst the fragrance of oils and rare flowers. There’s no TV or AC, just a DVD player with choicest movies and an in-house mobile phone that keeps you connected with the other facilities on offer-suspended swimming pool, yoga, massages, not to mention 700 meters of sandy beach and lots more. That’s just one part of the story.The labour of love of Frenchman Dimitri, The Dune was created to offer luxury while celebrating nature and giving organic living a new lease of life. Built by artists from Tamil Nadu Arts & Crafts in two years, The Dune also has a unique Food U Need (FUN) restaurant that is truly a gastronomic delight. Based on hypo-toxic diet (food without toxins) of French biologist Jean Seignalet, the menu is a fusion of many cuisines. A night at the Tower House would cost Rs 7,200, but the memories will be etched in your heart forever. by S.S. JeevanMedium is the Massage MASSAGE. ANANDA SPA, HIMALAYASNowadays, any hotel worth its five stars has to have a spa, usually an addition to the pool area. The USP of Ananda is that the spa is the main experience, which is why it’s called a “destination spa”. So why is a massage here any better than at the myriad spas that have sprouted across the country? For one, as Nicky Hilton famously said about the three essentials for a great hotel: “Location, location, location.”Situated on a ridge in the Himalayan foothills surrounded by 100 acres of virgin forest overlooking Rishikesh Valley, the 21,000 sq ft spa, among the largest in India, is what attracts most guests to this pristine hideaway. If the fresh mountain air, spa menu and outdoor yoga sessions are not enough to rejuvenate body, mind and spirit, then Ananda’s signature massage-the “Abhyanga”-a traditional Kerala creation using natural herb oils and other exotic potions, is your short cut to therapy heaven.advertisementTwo men work your body using rhythmic strokes that penetrate deep into your skin, leaving you feeling like you’ve just had the best sex of your life. Like the ad says, this massage reaches parts of the body that others don’t. Ananda specialises in combining ancient Indian and western, so there’s everything from Swedish to Ayurvedic and body wraps. Most high-end spas offer the same but here, it’s the location and the view that opens the mind, along with the pores.Unlike the distractions of a five-star hotel, Ananda, as the name suggests, exudes peace and tranquility. Conde Nast Traveler has just ranked it the number one spa in the world. It has an enviable proximity to the Himalayas, the home of therapeutic herbs and natural crystals, the Ganges down below and perhaps some spiritual energy from Rishikesh and its army of holy men. The Abhyanga massage is special, but if you’re looking for something exotic-and erotic- check out the Kama Sutra room, designed for couples to enjoy the treatment, together. – by Dilip BobbIce Station Zebra EXHILARATING EXPERIENCE HELI-SKIING, MANALISkiing in India has been limited to the modest runs at Solang Nala or Gulmarg and its neighbourhood, or the erratic powder at Auli, not accounting for the moonlit descent of Trishul on wooden skis by early enthusiasts or the trans-Himalayan ski runs by army and mountaineering veterans.All that was until Everest-veteran Roddy Mackenzie set up Himachal Helicopter Skiing in Manali in the early 1990s. Since then, this has translated into the de facto world standard for cutting-edge descents-6,000 ft and more of vertical runs and, occasionally, more than 50,000 ft of weekly descents. The slopes around Manali rival the best heli-skiing in Canada and in terms of terrain and verticals, it is unparalleled. The use of helicopters does away with the need for fixed lifts, thus reducing the impact on the Himalayan slopes.At the same time, it liberates skiers from the monotony of fixed slopes, and each day offers a new run on a fresh slope with the added thrill and palpable risk of avalanche dangers. It also exposes them to the science of avalanche mapping and risk alleviation. The thrill of heli-skiing in the Himalaya is unique-new terrain along every run, distant views of high peaks, fresh Himalayan air, wilderness and unexplored terrain up above, a vibrant village life and culture at the lower levels, apple orchards and forests around Manali, and the fact that it’s so exclusive.You’re all alone-it’s just the slopes, the snow, the wind and you. Over the last decade and a half, Himachal Helicopter Skiing has hosted some big global names such as the Norwegian ski team, the Murdochs and Abba’s lead singer Frida. Veterans claim that Himachal has the best crystalline powdered snow (called Curry Powder) they have ever skiied on. by Rupin DangLife’s A Beach HIDEAWAY HAVELOCK ISLE, ANDAMANSPrimitive, pure and pristine, Havelock island is one of the world’s best island getaways. For starters, this island-a three-hour boat ride over 30 km east of Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago-has some of the world’s most stunning beaches and dense forests. One of only 36 inhabited islands in the archipelago, it is far removed from civilisation but yet close enough for you to not really miss it. Two years ago, I spent an exhilarating week at the Wild Orchid Resort on the island and was frankly impressed by the quality of food-you don’t expect Thai and Burmese cuisine on a tiny island.Most tourists head for Havelock’s central attraction, Radhanagar beach, but I decided to act on a whispered tip from a foreign tourist and headed for Elephant beach, a tiny foliage-framed silver sand strip away from the beaten path. Foreign tourists have this knack of discovering places where Indian tourists wouldn’t venture because a car won’t take them there. So, there I was, trudging on the 45-minute trail of Elephant beach, lugging my snorkeling equipment. There was a coral reef with clear water right outside the beach. The experience was out of this world. by Parvin Dabas (The author is an actor and model)Emperor’s Brew CUP OF CHAI . MAKAIBARINestled in the misty chai-country at the foothills of the Himalayas in north Bengal is the famous Makaibari tea estate, home to the world’s best tea. It is here that efforts spanning 15 years in unconventional methods of tea farming finally produced the best Darjeeling cuppa yet-the silver-tipped Imperial- savoured even by the royal family of Japan.”Our collaborator in Japan had taken some of this tea to Emperor Hirohito’s palace,” says Rajah Banerjee, owner of the estate. In July 2003, around 56 kg of the variety was produced and sold at an auction in London for a whopping Rs 18,000 a kg. “After we developed the tea, we put it up for auction at J. Thomas. The rest is history,” says Banerjee. The sale toppled the record held by Castleton tea estate, whose Muscatel had once fetched Rs 13,000 a kg. The silver-tipped Imperial is an Oolong tea, produce of the second flush which appears between mid-May and mid-June. It is fine Darjeeling-and not white-tea as is popularly believed.The silver tips emerge when the buds are plucked off the tea bushes after being exposed to early morning sunlight. The bushes are planted at over 4,500 ft. The Makaibari’s silver tips are handcrafted to imbue a distinct Darjeeling flavour. What Jane Austen would’ve wryly called a storm in a teacup. – Swagata SenThe Juggernaut Rolls YATRA. PURI, ORISSAScorching heat and stifling humidity notwithstanding, a sea of devotees descends every year on Orissa’s beachfront town of Puri to be part of a ritual that never fails to astound. As three majestic chariots carrying the statues of Lord Jagannath and his siblings-Balabhadra and Subhadra- haltingly make their way through a packed thoroughfare for their annual sojourn to another temple barely 3km away, the smelly town is swept up in a religious frenzy.Drenched in sweat, a million-odd faithfuls dissolve into a collective delirium. Having arrived in every conceivable manner from distant places, they swim in varied emotions. Some sway to the chants, others simply stand in silent prayer. Union with the gods though does not come easy amid the cacophony. As the rich jostle for space with the poor, the undying piety on show makes for a spectacle. No wonder, Lord Jagannath’s grand car festival gave English lexicon a new word-Juggernaut. – Ruben BanerjeeOn the Memory Track TRAIN JOURNEY . KURSEONG TO DARJEELINGFor me the best railway journey in India is from Kurseong to Darjeeling on the school train at 6 a.m. I did it last winter and it is magnificent because the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a pioneer in mountain railways. I love it in particular because my father was once a director of that railway and I went to school on it as well. One of the extraordinary things about the journey is you are still pulled by steam and there is only one other regular steam-run engine in the country. Steam engines are very old indeed and it is wonderful to see and hear them work. Beyond Kurseong, there is the steepest section of the journey and you really see the little engine bursting its guts. It is a wonderful sight-steam everywhere and that smell of coal smoke, which brings back memories of childhood railway journeys.The scenery is brilliant-sadly, not enough effort has been made to stop encroachments on the tracks. That does need serious attention. There are two or three things to look out for when you are on the train. If there’s no fog, you can see the Kanchenjunga peak. When you do see it after leaving Ghum station you almost feel you can touch it. Then you also get to see the lovely Darjeeling tea gardens. I love tea and drink Darjeeling tea for breakfast every morning so it’s wonderful to be in the place where the tea comes from. The other great thing is the passengers, the way they jump on and off as the train runs. It really is going back in time and for someone who loves tradition, it’s just perfect. by Sir Mark TullyThe Sound of Silence FOREST TO GET LOST IN FOREST TO GET LOST IN. SILENT VALLEY, KERALAThe Valley is an ecological treasure trove, possibly the last of its kind on the once verdant Western Ghats. Silent Valley. The name is a misnomer. Its always abuzz. The sounds come careening in from all corners- a quadraphonic symphony that even a maestro would find difficult to compose. The high-pitched squeals of the Malabar squirrel feeding on the summit of the trees would do any soprano proud. The racket-tail drongo competes actively with them. The alto is provided by the deep-throated hoots of the Nilgiri Langur. The droning sounds made by millions of crickets provide the sur for this awesome natural concert. The canopy of this vast virgin tropical forest is so dense that the bright morning sun is hardly visible. How the Valley got its name remains a subject of much debate. Locals call it Sairandhiri, which means the forest in the valley.Located about 75 kms from Pallakad in Kerala, the Valley is an ecological treasure trove, possibly the last of its kind on the once verdant Western Ghats. In the seventies there was a plan to dam the Kunthipuzha river, which flows through the Valley, to provide hydro-electric power for the state. But a sustained agitation by ecologists built around its best known resident, the lion-tailed macaque, saw the Centre step in to stop construction. To minimise disturbance only day treks are now permitted by the Kerala forest department from the nearby Makkalu rest house. Time though is of no consequence for even an hour spent walking through the dense jungle is well worth it. A swim in the crystal clear waters of the Kunthipuzha is something no spa can match. You return back in silence, overwhelmed by nature’s magnificent offering. Maybe that’s how the Valley got its name.- Raj ChengappaA Majestic Canvas VIEW OF THE HIMALAYAS. SANDAKPHUKanchenjunga surpasses all. It is perfectly sculpted. It holds the eye like a coronet on the crest of the Earth. Dotted through the arc of the Himalayas are spectacular viewpoints that take in scores, if not a couple of hundred kilometres, of the mountains in the sweep of an eye. From the top of Churdhar in Himachal Pradesh, a 3,650-m high summit in the Sirmaur district, you can see the snow arc its way from the Dhaula Dhar near Jammu and Kashmir to Nanda Devi and Trisul in Kumaon. From Kalpa in Kinnaur, the Sutlej drops steeply 1,000 m, yielding on the other side to Jorkhandan and Kinnaur Kailash, summits of almost 7,000 m which in clear weather appear to be at arm’s length.From the top of Binsar in Uttaranchal, the ragged panorama of the Gangotri peaks in the west at Api and Nampa in western Nepal, the three-pronged crest of Trisul and, at sunset, the burning pyramids of Panchchuli. But if there is one view that surpasses them all, it is the stately massif of the Kanchenjunga. From any angle and in any season, the world’s third-highest mountain, which India shares with Nepal, has a bewitching appeal. It is close. It is perfectly sculpted. It is almost spiritual. And it holds the eye like a coronet resting on the crest of the Earth.See the sun rise on it from Tiger Hill or better still from Sandakphu on the Singalila ridge. It’s about a 10-hour trek from Darjeeling, but the effort is worth it. Watch the clouds swirl in the monsoon season, a shaft of light striking the summit when all around is dark and gloomy. Or gaze on it in the clear bright air of the winter months when it seems to lean back, at peace with itself and the world.- Suman DubeyThat Healing Touch PLACE FOR NATURE CURE .SOUKYASoukya means wellness in Sanskrit and it has brought Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Duchess of York, among others, to experience the wonders of natural medicine. It translates to wellness in Sanskrit and that’s what everyone from Desmond Tutu to Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson come to experience at Soukya on the outskirts of Bangalore. With Dr Isaac Mathai at the helm of affairs, Soukya is flooded with patients from the West suffering from cancer and heart disease to arthritis and stress-related ailments. Soukya integrates Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Naturopathy and Yunani systems of medicine.The duration of treatments varies from 15 days to six weeks and comprises combinations of diet, physical fitness, yoga, massages and natural medication. “Prevention is better than cure and the best time to take stock is when you are still alright,” says Dr Mathai. The one-mile walking track, for instance, is filled with oddly-shaped sharp stones and water and everyone is encouraged to walk it everyday. “It stimulates the nerve ends and it is very important to learn to walk on this. Ninety per cent of the people who come here are unable to walk this stretch the first day, but by the time they leave all of them manage to do one round everyday,” says Dr Mathai. With vegetarian-only meals and smoking and alcohol strictly prohibited in the sylvan sanctuary with its endless water bodies, the nallukettu houses, the relaxing reflexology and shiro dhara routines, there is very little that cannot be conquered, including ailments. In all, it’s back to the basics-a sort of return to nature-that this place ensures.- Nirmala RavindranSingin’ in the Rain PLACE TO WATCH THE ONSET OF MONSOON . KOVALAM”The sea sways like an angry beast. Whitecaps sketch nervously across the chaotic waves and then foam out like spilled champagne on fine sand.” Late May in Kerala-and everyone’s on the edge. It’s that time of the year when the monsoon, with its two wet dripping arms, embraces a hot, humid Indian subcontinent. And if you want ringside seats to watch weather at its theatrical best-there’s no place like the Kovalam Beach. The sea sways like an angry beast. Great lumbering swells hoist from the surface; whitecaps sketch nervously across the chaotic waves and then foam out like spilled champagne on fine sand. The evening breeze blows its bugle and palm trees flap around like curtains. There is an expectant hush, a stillness in the air. And then it happens.The hot blue sky suddenly turns black, accompanied by a loud thunderclap and lightening streaks. The horizon blurs against an opaque scrim of rain. Low clouds let out bullets of rain that fly across the sea and chase the crowd into the nearby trees. “Monsoon,” shouts a woman with delight, her wet red sari clinging to her body as monsoon winds bearing ribbons of moisture from the sky empty themselves in great sexual spasms. “I come here every year?it’s great to experience the first monsoon shower just as it hits India,” says the woman’s husband, holding an umbrella that’s been blown inside out. The sky darkens, the rain comes down harder. And then the deluge begins.- Vijay Jung ThapaLord of the Jungle ROOM WITH A VIEW .TREE HUT IN WAYANADA magical tree house perched on a century-old giant banyan tree 80 feet above the ground. Want to wake up on a misty dawn touching the clouds or brushing shoulders with those chirping birds? It’s quite an out-of-the-world experience at the amazing Green Magic Tree House perched 80 feet above the ground on a century-old giant banyan tree, 4,000 feet above the sea level. And the view below? An exquisite expanse of dense, virgin, tropical evergreen forests all round. A four-hour drive from the nearest airport of Calicut (70 km), meandering through misty high ranges and acres of coffee and spice plantations, the tree houses are at the Jungle Park Resort, Vythiri, Wayanad. The wooden houses, built by Wayanad’s adivasi craftsmen much in line with their original abodes, have used only eco-friendly, locally available material. But it is no less comfortable. Each house has two bedrooms, carpeted verandahs, bathrooms with flush toilets, wash basins, running water, shower etc. But sorry, no TV, music systems or telephones. Vintage hurricanes fuelled by kerosene and solar energy light up the night. The only way to get to the “cloud house” from the terra firma is via a “bamboo lift” operated through a combination of pulleys and counter-weight of water. The cuisine is strictly vegetarian and organic with no touch of chemical fertilisers or pesticides. No bottled mineral water either but only the water from the stream in the farm used after filtering. Other forbidden items are chocolates, aerated drinks etc. But why crib, aren’t you out of the world?- M.G. RadhakrishnanWord’s Worth BOOK STORE STRAND BOOK STALL, MUMBAI”In 1935, the first three Penguin books that I bought cost me Re 1,” recalls Padma Shri recipient T.N. Shanbag, a voracious reader and a book store owner with a difference. The proprietor of Mumbai’s legendary Strand Book Stall remembers selling his first book at a 20 per cent discount on November 20, 1949, from a kiosk at Mumbai’s Strand Cinema. “The publishers in Britain got complaints from booksellers all over the country and they wanted to stop supplying to me. But see where things are today,” remembers Shanbag.At a dinner in 1951, Russian scholar Manya Harari told Shanbag of a book translated by her that was banned in Russia. Shanbag immediately ordered 1,000 copies of Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago that went on to become a worldwide phenomenon. No other book store across the country thought people would be interested in buying the Russian tale. But it brought prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to Shanbag’s little kiosk, which started an association that led to numerous invitations to Teen Murti Bhavan. President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Dr Vikram Sarabhai, Jayaprakash Narayan, G.D. Birla, Aditya Birla, Stephen Hawking, N.R. Narayana Murthy, Azim Premji, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Nani Palkhivala have visited his stall at some point or other.- Kimi DangorLoo and Behold MUSEUM. SULABH INTERNATIONAL, DELHISulabh International Toilet Museum, the second of its kind in the world, is a fine place to contemplate fall from grace. Just how did a country that pioneered the modern toilet 4,000 years ago-Indus Valley toilets were linked to a brick-lined sewage system-end up having over half its present one billion population squatting in the open? “I thought the museum would be an interesting way to inject life into a dull subject,” says Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, the force behind the Sulabh movement. The museum, near Delhi’s IGI Airport, entertains, informs and inspires. It traces the evolution of the bowl from the optimistic-Egyptians included the toilet along with personal effects into the pyramids of Pharaohs-to the disgusting-denizens of medieval Europe dumped you-know-what onto the streets, replicas of imperial potties like the one French monarch Louis XIII sat on while conducting court business or the book-shaped toilet with Shakespeare’s works inscribed right down to “flush and burn” dry chemical used by astronauts.- Sandeep UnnithanDance Till You Drop NIGHT CLUB NIGHT CLUB . ELEVATE, NOIDA1,00,000 watts of music, a dance floor that converts sound into vibrations and cutting-edge lighting makes this a fave in clubbing circuit. What Studio 54 was to the 1970s, Elevate is to this millennium’s mavens. Coming alive after dark, Elevate-inspired by London’s Fabric-has made Noida a hub in the clubbing circuit. That, too, on the fifth floor of a mall meant for the fam. Watching Centrestage Mall transform itself rather eerily from a mallrats’ paradise to party-till-dawn spot is as incongruous as watching the Pope light up. But it did. Step into this subterranean club and the first thing that strikes you is how the name fits like a glove. Booming with 1,00,000 watts of music, body sonic dance floor that converts sound into vibrations and cutting-edge lighting, the three-level club has managed to lure not just the rockers and ravers but also an entire subset of Israeli and European DJs, hiphop hustlers, Bhangra break-beat acts and a whole medley of popular acts, making this a must-swing-for-a-gig destination. To really lose yourself at Elevate, head for the terrace, check out the 5 a.m. bars of Orion, down some shots, bebop to the music, watch the sliver of daybreak, smile. Cover charge: Rs 1,000 per couple (may be higher on some nights).- Supriya Dravid70 mm Luxury CINEMA EXPERIENCE . WAVE, NOIDASink into the plush platinum lounge, settle down on the comfy bomber chairs, lift your feet up and enter the reel world Pony up for bottle service at Wave Cinemas if you are craving a decadent time while watching a film. Taking cinema viewing to a whole different luxe level, this is as super fabulous as it can get. Sink in to the plush platinum lounge, settle down on the comfy bomber Lazyboy chairs, lift your feet up and just float right in to the technicolour terrain. Indulge. “There has been a serious shift in the lifestyle of Indians as a lot of them are travelling abroad and are exposed to finer things in life. We wanted to bring in a sense of luxury to cinema and make people feel as if they are watching a film in the confines of their own home theatre with people catering to their whims,” says owner Monty Chaddha. At Wave, personal butlers lavish you with delicious refreshments (think complete meals), perk you up with drinks and other accoutrements throughout the duration of the film (i.e. if you remember to watch the film). Imagine getting pampered for three hours and 20 minutes. We bet you’ll never want Karan Johar to ever edit his films. It is cinema paradiso at Rs 750 per person.- Supriya DravidDelhi’s Best Kept Secret URBAN OASIS.JAMALI-KAMALI, DELHIIt’s in the shadow of the Qutub Minar, literally and metaphorically. Nestling between skinny socialite designer houses and on the way to fat cat farmhouses, the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, which houses a complex of monuments dating to the 13th century, is the Delhiite’s best kept secret. Devoid of the selfflagellatory joggers, paunchy politicians and surreptitiously necking couples who wait to ambush the unsuspecting visitor in the better-known historic green, Lodhi Gardens, this lush veritable forest popularly known as Jamali-Kamali, boasts of several ruins and is sparsely populated. There is the odd pair of squirrels and the solitary boy playing marbles, but otherwise, the air fairly singes with silence. From its most famous monument, Jamali-Kamali, a mosque and tomb dedicated to the Sufi saint Sheikh Fazlullah aka Jamali and the unknown Kamali, to the beautifully restored Rajon ki Baoli, the self-contained garden yields a fresh delight every 500 metres. From provisional Governor-General Charles Metcalf’s bridge to the elevated marble tomb of Shah Quli Khan (brother of Adham Khan, a general and foster brother of Akbar), the park is, like the identity of Kamali, an enigmatic enclosure perfect for the lost art of simply wandering aimlessly. Step into the 13th century ruins of Sultan Ghiyathu’d-Din Balban’s tomb or grab a view of Delhi from Metcalf’s canopy. The greens are a little patch of perfect peace. Even the rude inscriptions on the walls of Zeenat loves Murtaza and Raj loves Soni cannot change that.- Kaveree BamzaiTech Tonic COMPUTER BAZAAR . NEHRU PLACE, DELHIOver two decades ago, Nehru Place was a huge, ugly, government-built clump of over a dozen buildings housing mostly old economy industries like food and textiles besides government offices. The 100-acre complex was a far cry from becoming the city’s first business hub envisaged in the 1960s. Then, at the start of the computer revolution in the early 1990s, computer traders began occupying office space. Soon they were hawking accessories and printers to the rest of India. With close to 2,000 dealers, it is Asia’s largest computer bazaar. J.P. Modi, chairperson of the Delhi Computer Traders’ Association, says it supplies nearly 40 per cent needs of the country’s IT industry. This IT hub hosts everything from swank Sony showrooms to the cartridge refill guy operating out of a briefcase. This is the place to slap together the cheapest computer in India or repair in a jiffy the laptop your vendor deemed unserviceable. No machine is given up for dead, no matter how old or how beaten up. Electronic rebirth is only a few components, minutes and screwdriver turns away.- Sandeep UnnithanWho Stomps Harder? PLACE TO FEEL PATRIOTIC .WAGAH BORDERAs the sun takes its last bow for the day, the joint checkpost at Wagah-the only road link between India and Pakistan-turns into a port of high-voltage patriotic fervour. The checkpost, roughly 23 km from Amritsar, comes alive with the beating retreat-a carefully choreographed drill by India’s Border Security Force (BSF) on one side and the Pakistan Rangers on the other to mark the lowering of their national flags. The ceremony, since Partition, has over the years turned ostensibly hostile. A kilometre short of Wagah, roadside hawkers sell small national flags and sunshades in tricolour to the crowds heading for the visitors’ gallery to watch the spectacle. When it’s time, a battery of high-megawatt speakers facing the Pakistan side blare out patriotic film songs. And then amid loud cheers of “Hindustan Zindabad” and “Vande Mataram”, the BSF personnel, matched in ferocity by the Rangers, march menacingly towards each other stomping feet high and hard on the road. The cacophony on the Indian side is matched in volume and spirit on the Pakistani side. The iron gates are shut for the night. But soon after the ceremony, called “Victory Parade”, the crowds surge near the zero line smiling, waving and clicking pictures. The loud patriotic rivalry melts away, making Wagah a port of silent cross-border bonhomie.- Ramesh VinayakPerfect to the Tee GOLF COURSE DAL LAKE, SRINAGARThe course offers vistas of unmatched splendour. From the elevated par-three fifth, for instance, can be seen the Dal Lake in its complete magnificence. The setting is spectacular-the Zabarwan Hills as a backdrop and the Dal Lake spread out in front. Kashmir might not have much going for it right now but nature has been kind in piecing together a land that is often referred to as “heaven on earth” for its beauty. The Royal Springs Golf Course is much akin to the Garden of Eden. For one, apple is available in great profusion on the golf course-temptation lies at every step. Then the course offers vistas of unmatched splendour. From the elevated par-three fifth, for instance, is seen the Dal in complete magnificence. The landmarks of the town are never too far. Pari Mahal, once a Buddhist monastery and then a Mughal observatory, is a constant companion. The Shankaracharya Temple, the Char Chinar trees on the lake, the shikaras and the houseboats all flit in and out of sight. A round of golf can easily be stretched into a leisurely walk if one wants to taste the bounties of the course which meanders through apricot, peach, cherry, pear, and apple trees. At 7,234 yards, this is not a short layout but altitude does make the golf ball fly further. Imported Bentgrass that can survive harsh winters grows profusely on the sides of the narrow fairways. It took Robert Trent Jones Jr more than a decade to complete this project, but avid golfer Dr. Farooq Abdullah’s patronage helped, and the canvas now gives the American a sense of satisfaction.The Lure of the Mahaseer FISHING HOLE .MARCHULA, UTTARANCHALRudyard Kipling once observed that the Mahaseer is a game fish “beside whom the tarpon is as a herring, and he who catches him can say he is a fisherman.” For anglers anywhere in the world, there is no bigger challenge than catching a Mahaseer, one of the fiercest fighting freshwater game fish, exclusive to the sub-continent. Pound for pound it has unparalleled strength and endurance. This fish is the largest member of the carp family and the undisputed king of game fishes is the Golden Mahaseer which has been kown to reach 2.75 m (9 ft) in length and 54 kg (118 lb) in weight. Mahaseers inhabit both rivers and lakes, ascending to rapid streams with rocky bottoms for breeding. There is no fishing experience more enjoyable and challenging than to snare a Mahaseer. The bigger and heavier they are, the more the struggle, the more the thrill. The place to fish for Mahaseer nowadays is the stretch of the river Ramganga near Marchula at the boundary of the Corbett National Park. Opened up for fishing recently by the Uttaranchal government, it offers more than just an angling experience. While you are waiting for the line to pull, you can hear the call of sambars and even catch a glimpse of the tiger, if you are lucky. There are plenty of other fish in the river including the giant catfish but with the Mahaseer it’s the fight of a lifetime-and catching one of these battling monsters is the ultimate thrill.- Vijay SoniThe Zenith PLACE TO MEDITATE IN A CITY PLACE TO MEDITATE IN A CITY . ZEN GARDEN, PUNEAny place that can inspire you to meditate when it is not part of your daily routine has to be truly special. Picture this. A crisp winter morning, strolling through the mist shrouding the endless stretches of green, surrounded by exotic plants and birds, mini-waterfalls, designer rocks and sculptures, a sparkling stream, goldfish darting around in crystal-clear pools and an aura of serenity that is subliminally spiritual. Osho Teerth, or the Japanese Zen Garden, in Pune’s Koregaon Park area is the best place to meditate anywhere in India. It radiates the power of Zen and is an island of peace, almost a 12-acre work of art. The miracle lies in transforming an open drain into an eco-wonderland, complete with spectacular greenery, cobbled pathways, Buddhist statues and decorative wooden bridges. Created by the Shunnyo Foundation of the Osho Commune, it attracts hordes of visitors. Some come to gape in awe, others to seek solace from urban frenzy, Pune residents come to give thanks for this environmental haven, and some, like me, skeptics when we entered, but converts to the rejuvenating power of meditation after taking this magical mystery tour.- Dilip BobbFor the Love of it EROTIC PLACE . KONARKConduct a poll on India’s most erotic location and chances are Khajuraho will sweep the stakes. Quite unfairly, I’m afraid. Yes, the Madhya Pradesh temple town is better publicised and marketed to tourists, and the 22 or so Chandela-built temples (of the 80 that once existed) are indeed beautiful and covered with sculptures that are as exotic as they are erotic. But the Sun Temple at Konark, also covered with erotic and vibrant figures immersed in almost impossibly-acrobatic acts of lovemaking, has the advantage of being set against the backdrop of the most beautiful and secluded of beaches. The temple, situated some 35 km from Puri and 65 km from Bhubaneswar, was built in 1278 AD by Ganga king Narasimha Deva. Resembling the Sun God’s chariot, with 24 wheels and led by seven horses, it bears three images of the deity, positioned to catch sun’s rays at dawn, noon and sunset. These are the only figures in repose. The thousands of other figures on the walls of the temple vibrate with voluptuous abandon. The lovers are caught in acts of passion; the animals, musiciannymphs, birds and beasts frozen in animation. Unlike Khajuraho, where the figures are rarely larger than half-ametre, Konark’s couples are largerthan-life-making for easy action replays, as it were.- Shampa KamathWhere Time Waits for You IDYLLIC MEAL IDYLLIC MEAL . UNDER THE MANGO TREE AT HAMPIUnder The Mango Tree is more than just a restaurant, it is an experience meant to be savoured. For anyone on a romantic adventure trail, a meal here is a must-do. Set in picturesque Hampi, you have to wade through a banana grove to get to the restaurant. A huge mango tree provides a magnificent canopy to the restaurant from where you can get an awesome view of the river Tungabhadra, no matter where you sit.At this romantic eatery, cosy up, read or just chill and watch the sunset over the magnificent river. Footwear has to be removed at the entrance, and the seating is on the ground with walls as the backrest. Food is served on plantain leaves on colourful benches. People from all over the world form the clientele even though the restaurant does not serve any non-vegetarian food. As for the owner, the unassuming A. Krishna, his only aim is to “serve wholesome food, which brings the people back again and again”. For a couple, the restaurant can be a romantic refuge, as there is total privacy with no diners seated in front of you. A huge swing suspended from the tree swings right out of the restaurant taking you well into the river. As for the food, the Indian Thali is the best, fruit juices are fresh and the pancakes topped with honey are something to die for. Breakfast, both Indian and Continental, is highly recommended. An idyllic surrounding where time stands still, it’s the perfect place to dine, cozy up, read or just chill and watch the sunset over the magnificent river. Service is slow and friendly, and you are pretty much left alone Under the Mango Tree to relish the experience.- Nirmala RavindranLittle Wonders KEBABS . CHOWK AREA, LUCKNOWThe Tunde Kebab has a peculiar taste. Its masala is a mix of 160 spices and the recipe a family secret. Lucknow is best identified by its tehzib (etiquette), nafasat (delicate style), monuments and Tunde Kebab among other things distinctively typical of the old Lucknawi era. Nestled in one of the crowded lanes around Akbari Gate at Chowk, where once famous courtesan Umrao Jaan lived, stands a nondescript restaurant known the world over by its single dish Tunde Kebab and paratha (layered bread). Famous for its aroma, the kebab (prepared from minced mutton or beef) melts in the mouth leaving a lasting taste. And it has its own history. According to a legend, one of the noblemen about 150 years ago lost his teeth. Worried that he might be deprived of kebabs he asked his master chef to prepare such kebabs that he could relish without his teeth, indicating that the kebab should melt in the mouth instead of being chewed. The result: a unique kebab that acquired fame world-wide. Later the master chef’s son Murad Ali took it out of the palace. Ali was referred to as Tunda owing to his loss of a hand. So his preparation came to be called Tunde ka Kebab. Though the Nawabi era ended, Tunde ka Kebab not only survived but also became the main attraction for the locals as well as visitors to the city. Not only an uncommon name, it has a peculiar taste too. Its masala is a mix of 160 spices and the recipe a family secret. As the city expanded and Tunde Kebabs became a craze, new branches were opened at the Nazirabad-Aminabad junction 15 years ago and the Saharaganj Mall last year.- Farzand AhmedWalk The Food FOOD STREET . KOLKATAWhen in Kolkata, do as die-hard, food-obsessed Kolkatans do, which is, treat chilli chicken-fried rice as staple Bengali fare and take pride in the kobiraji cutlet. The street food buff here seriously competes on his knowledge of the particular bylane that sells the best laal doi (sweet red curd) or the stall off College Street from where Swami Vivekananda would order his telebhaja (batter fries).Each food trail takes you through the maze of cobbled lanes and tram lines to what finally seems like the Holy Grail. Early mornings could either find you going to old Chinatown for fishball soup and pork chops or to the Blues Caf on Free School Street for a typically English bacon and eggs breakfast. In the afternoon, office-goers descend on the streets causing traffic jams in front of the Writers’ Buildings in search for a perfect fish-and-rice meal for as cheap as Rs 10, topped with a sandesh (sweet). The Dalhousie area almost fits into the tiny Dekker’s Lane where Chitto-da offers his famed chicken stew with toasted, buttered, and sugared bread. The prices make you wonder if he makes a profit at all. Evening sees phuchkawalas pop out at every street corner and stories circulate about who’s the best now. Then, there’s Park Circus biryani and haleem, and the tongue-burning kathi rolls of Nizam’s. Tangra is the evening destination for Chinese food. So, all one has to do here is hit the road. And believe that life is just about food.- Swagata SenEggstasy OMELETTE OMELETTE . MUSSOURIE MALLRashid ‘Guddu’ Ahmed has been making omelettes for the past 35 years and from Amritsar to Delhi to even families in Thailand (whose kin have studied in one of Mussourie’s many international schools), they have all savoured it on the Mussourie Mall. The thick muscular omelette, rising in the pan as if on steroids, evokes disbelief that it’s actually made of just two humble eggs. The “secret”, reveals Rashid, is in the beating and the pinch of turmeric that is added to cut the smell of the egg. Standing outside his tiny shop, with a token in hand, could be your longest wait for an omelette, because, even to the high and mighty, Rashid does not serve out of turn. Chances are that waiting alongside you are scions of Delhi’s Prithviraj and Aurangzeb road families or an MTV anchor on holiday. Rashid is cagey about giving the number of omelettes he sells daily but the delivery guy just offloaded 600 eggs for the second time in his shop today.- Bandeep SinghTandoori Nights in Chennai NORTH INDIAN MEAL IN SOUTH INDIA.PESHAWRI, CHOLA SHERATONIts menu hasn’t changed for over 20 years. No cutlery is used here and guests have to get used to wearing bibs, rather than napkins. The delicacies are prepared only in clay tandoors; some dishes, in fact, are kept take over slow fire for over 12 hours to give them the right consistency and flavour. From cricketers and film actors to businessmen, many dhoti-clad, the restaurant has always had people asking for more. Some, like this Parsi couple from the UK, stop over at Chennai just to savour and carry a helping of the famous Sikandari Raan for their loved ones across the seas. But it is just those “trusted 34 dishes” that have spread the magic of the North West Frontier cuisine in South India. The 86-seater Peshawri, a part of the ITC Bukhara chain, at the Chola Sheraton in Chennai is nothing less than a celebration of good wholesome food. It has won several awards too. “We have hardly felt the need to hold a festival,” says Chef Rajeev Kumar, adding that the Dal Bukhara and Tandoori Chicken have been all-time hits here. In keeping with the style of the cuisine, Peshawri has a quiet regal look, with cushioned stools and Mughal artifacts to give company in a dimly lit ambience. An innovative concept at the Peshawri is that of an open kitchen that gives the guests a chance to watch the chefs at work, and many, says Kumar, “have their own experimentations to suggest”. A meal for two costs between Rs 1,800-Rs 2,000. Cricketers Wasim Akram and Greg Chappell can never wait to lay their hands on their favourites whenever they are in the city. And Peshawri lives up to its reputation.- S.S. JeevanDuck, not Dosa SOUTH INDIAN MEAL IN NORTH INDIA. SWAGATH, DELHIOne day before 9/11 rocked the globe, Delhi’s diners were rocked by the culinary genius of Swagath, a seafood restaurant in Defence Colony. Owner Jayaram Bannan had already appropriated the south Indian ‘pure vegetarian’ territory in north India with his Sagar Ratna chain of eateries (41, at last count). Now, he had apparently decided to invade the rabidly non-vegetarian space with Chettinad-Mangalorean offerings.Five years on, the 180-cover restaurant still attracts 700 to 800 diners a day on weekends. The best part: it’s not the ubiquitous Mughlai or Chinese (that are also, mysteriously, on offer) which draw in the diners, ranging from Rahul Gandhi to George Fernandes to Yash Chopra, if you go by the guest book. Instead, the hottest sellers are the Crab Butter Pepper Garlic, Prawn Koliwada, Bombay Duck, Crab Chettinad and Fish Gassi made famous by Mumbai’s seafood troika: Apoorva, Trishna and Mahesh Lunch Home.Not surprising, considering that the head chef has been lured away from Apoorva, while Mahesh and Trishna have provided both cooks and managers.- Shampa KamathNew Kick on the Block COUNTRY LIQUOR .CHULI, HIMACHALIn Kinnaur, they call it the ‘wonder wine’. In the remote, mountainous regions of Himachal Pradesh, brewing country liquor from locally-grown fruits like apples, apricots and grapes has long been part of tribal traditions. But nothing comes close to the taste and tenor of ‘chuli’, a concoction home-brewed from wild apricots. It’s freshness and flavour renders it arguably the best country liquor. Savouring ‘chuli’ against the backdrop of the majestic, snow-capped mountains more than compensates for the ardous 150-km drive to Kinnaur from Shimla. Snowbound for six months from October to March, here ‘chuli’ is brewed around the year. At least 80 per cent of the households hold special permit from the state excise department for a nominal annual fee of Rs 50 to brew the liquor. Moreover, since apricot is the commercial crop of Kinnaur, the raw material is available in abundance. That also ensures high spirits at all times.- Ramesh VinayakWelcome to a No Fly Zone HIGHWAY EATERY .HAVELI, JALANDHARIt’s a new-age dhaba with a heady flavour of bygone Punjab. Haveli, a traditional Punjabi restaurant on the Grand Trunk Road near Jalandhar, has redefined roadside eating by a delectable blend of Punjabi cuisine and culture. Making a clean break from the dust-and-flies fixture of the highway dhabas, this 23-acre food plaza offers ethnic food in a folk-laced ambience imbued with neatness and nostalgia. “The idea was to offer highway hospitality in a hygienic and heritage setting,” says owner Satish Jain, 39, who has combined ingenuity with investment-of roughly Rs 30 crore-and has created a recipe of success that has, since inception in 2002, spawned a couple of copycats with “Haveli” suffix in Punjab and Haryana. On average, this 24×7 eatery attracts 8,000 customers every day.This 23-acre food plaza offers ethnic food in a folk-laced, free of flies ambience.The high turnover makes Haveli’s gastronomical delights easy on the pocket. Haveli’s USP is its ethnic look. From an exterior of “Nanakshahi” bricks to a bevy of antique artifacts, the place evokes the old world charm. Even the music is distinctly folk. Not surprisingly, it has become a must-stop eatery for the NRIs heading to or from Punjab in winters. While Haveli has expanded into a one-stop food plaza, Rangla Punjab, its entry-on-coupon eatery, takes the cake. Haveli has an all-vegetarian menu of Punjabi food cooked in desi ghee (clarified butter). Dal tadka, karahi paneer and kheer are its top-selling all-season delicacies. In winters, sarson da saagmakki di roti is the most favourite dish. Every evening, the place reverberates with folk songs and dances, keeping Haveli’s cash registers ringing.- Ramesh VinayakOn the High Road LONG DRIVE .FROM CHUNGTHANG TO GURUDONGMAR LAKE, SIKKIMDisappearance of the Sikkim Stag from these wilds back in the 1940s has left behind a poignant void, but driving through the larch and spruce forests of the upper Lachen Valley one can still witness the most dramatic transformation of landscape anywhere on the planet. And also experience the finest and most comfortable motorable tracks in the world.The drive winds through tropical rain forests. Two hours on, it follows a path set ablaze by brilliant Rhododendron blooms. Commencing from Chungthang at 5,300 ft, the early morning drive traces a route through tropical rain forests, home to the Red Panda, leaches and goral. Within two hours one is snaking through the tree-line, ablaze with either brilliant Rhododendron blooms in spring or the most dramatic fall colours in autumn. Another two hours of steep ascent and one touches the Tibetan plateau, with marmots scuttling between blue sheep and yaks grazing on open meadows, all this framed by the gleaming snows of Kanchenjau and Chomiomo, among the highest peaks of Sikkim. The drive literally begins from the south of these peaks, continues alongside and, finally, ends up north of them, at Gurudongmar Lake, with Edelweiss and Gentians scattered across the wind-swept meadows. By tea-time, one is back at 5,300 ft, or a less strenuous 8,000 ft to 9,000 ft at Lachen. Along the way, is an ascent of 1,000 ft per 15 minutes, not unlike that of an aeroplane. A standard restricted area permit opens the door to the picturesque North Sikkim.- Rupin Dang
Sketch a dance: Swami Sarvatmapriyadas draws an elephant with his feet.If dancing and drawing simultaneously sounds daunting, how about sketching with one’s feet even while executing the intricate movements of Bharatnatyam and Kathak? Sounds implausible? But not for Swami Sarvatmapriyadas of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan in Ahmedabad, a leading order,Sketch a dance: Swami Sarvatmapriyadas draws an elephant with his feet.If dancing and drawing simultaneously sounds daunting, how about sketching with one’s feet even while executing the intricate movements of Bharatnatyam and Kathak? Sounds implausible? But not for Swami Sarvatmapriyadas of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan in Ahmedabad, a leading order of the Swaminarayan sect.The 29-year-old Swami mastered Bharatnatyam and Kathak as a medium of sadhana with the inspiration of his guru and the current sect head, Acharya Purshottampriyadasji. Last year, he entered the Limca Book of Records by sketching an elephant with his feet as he danced on a spread of vermilion powder in a remarkable 11-minute Bharatnatyam-Kathak performance.The late Swami Sahajhanand, the 19th century founder of the sect at present worshipped as Lord Swaminarayan, had laid down two distinct disciplines for attaining spiritual enlightenment- Rasikmarg, the art of paying obeisance through devotional songs and dance, and Gnanmarg, the path of knowledge and penance. Sarvatmapriyadas has adopted an extreme version of Rasikmarg.Ahemdabad, GujaratHe drew inspiration for the feat from a 19th century real-life episode that tells of Swami Muktanand, a disciple of Lord Swaminarayan, staging a dance in his devotion on a surface layered with vermilion. When the performance drew to a close, Muktanand discovered he had inadvertently created the image of an elephant.A similar endeavour, this time by Sarvatmapriyadas, requires elaborate preparation. First, the floor on which the performance is to take place is covered with wooden planks. Next, 40 kg of vermilion is spread over a 20 ft by 20 ft area. Finally, the layer of vermilion is covered with a white cotton sheet.advertisementClad in an ochre dhoti and sporting a headgear, the swami dances to the accompaniment of a bhajan, “Jay, Jay Ghanshyam…”, his steps switching between Bharatnatyam and Kathak to stay in sync with the instrumental music and vocal rendition. When the dance ends and the white sheet is lifted, a 15 ft by 10 ft elephant can be seen etched in vermilion on the sheet as well as on the floor.If showbiz like this can provide an easy route to potential followers of the Swaminarayan sect, devotees of its unique dance will certainly not be complaining.
Sunil GulatiJust after I was elected a couple of months ago at the US Soccer’s annual general meeting in Las Vegas, we announced plans to initiate an active international relations/outreach programme. Thereafter, I received informal feelers from the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and now I look forward to meeting,Sunil GulatiJust after I was elected a couple of months ago at the US Soccer’s annual general meeting in Las Vegas, we announced plans to initiate an active international relations/outreach programme. Thereafter, I received informal feelers from the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and now I look forward to meeting the Indians at the upcoming FIFA Congress in Munich.At the outset let me mention that I am not very familiar with the specifics of Indian football. But obviously there is a natural connection between India and me. I happened to be in Delhi three years ago when the AIFF hosted a Vision India conference for soccer.I don’t think Indian football has many easy lessons to draw from the US as the challenges in India are quite different from those in the US. Here we have millions of kids who play the game at school level, it is almost universal. Our big task is how to turn a very large participant base into a much larger spectator and television audience. In India, however, the interest in the World Cup, even without an Indian team participating, will be huge. But passing by a local school, one is more likely to see cricket bats rather than soccer balls.In India the challenge is to popularise football as a domestic game and attract greater participation and inculcate interest. Once these two ends of the spectrum are covered, the Indian football and sports institutions need to initiate a vibrant professional league and player development programme.Commercial interest, i.e., sponsorships will trigger spectator curiosity. With increased participation of people and fan following-as more kids watch it and get interested in the players-the game will gain popularity in India. Commercial partners indeed help in promoting a game and enhancing awareness. For instance, in America we know there will be a large number of people watching the World Cup and listening to broadcasts in multiple languages. INACTION REPLAYINDIA TODAY tracks India’s tryst with world footballIndia’s only brush with the World Cup came in 1950 when it turned down a late invitation to play in Brazil. FIFA had made it mandatory to play football in boots and the Indians were used to playing barefeet.Between 1951 and 1962 India was counted amongst the best of Asian footballing nations, winning the Asian Games gold in 1951 and 1962 in Jakarta.India was the first Asian country to reach the Olympic football semifinal, finishing fourth in Melbourne in 1956.India’s current FIFA ranking is 117, with Palestine at 115 and Hong Kong at 116.The highest-paid Indian footballer is captain Baichung Bhutia whose club salary per season has ranged between Rs 20 lakh and Rs 30 lakh. This season Mohun Bagan is expected to sign him for a salary around Rs 35 lakh.Thus American television and sponsors have paid money to attract advertisers and be part of the spectacle. This is true for the Olympics as well, which is driven commercially in part by a huge contract with the NBC.advertisementBut that does not directly translate into commercial interest for some of the sports- like swimming or gymnastics – that are part of the Olympic movement.So eyeballs for the World Cup do not lead directly into support for a professional league or domestic soccer, although it helps for sure.I often cite the example of Mia Hamm, a true sports icon in the United States. She is a great personality, a great player, a world champion multiple times and an Olympic gold medallist. Nike, like Gatorade, saw all that and jumped at the prospect of using her as an endorsee; that made her even bigger. A Gatorade commercial with Michael Jordan, a building named after her at the Nike campus, all enhanced public awareness. So here was a great soccer player who was made even greater. Same is the case with Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. I know sponsors have taken him even further in terms of awareness and appeal. But of course, he had to be a good sportsman in the first place.The boys line up: The Indians circa 2006To the big question then: has India missed the bus? I don’t think so. India has a great base in terms of human resources. But there’s a lot of work to be done. Clearly, the level of the National League is not where the Federation would like it to be. It will need a significant infusion of resources.What I can tell you is that in a fairly short period of time-after not having qualified for the World Cup in 40 years- the US has come a long way since 1990 (at present it is ranked fifth by FIFA). China qualified for its first World Cup four years ago. There are always first-time qualifiers- this year we have Angola and Trinidad and Tobago amongst others. So, why not India?On the other hand there are traditional soccer powers like Brazil, Germany and Italy that participate in virtually every World Cup, but tradition of such strength takes time.New York-based Sunil Gulati is the President of US Soccer and teaches economics at Colombia University.advertisement