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Journey of a young genius

In his pursuit of excellence, the path he chose was the one involving technology. However, not many know that Anand Chandrasekaran, YGL honouree 2010 and one of the most celebrated names in the international mobile ecosystem, started his amazing journey from Coimbatore. “I studied at the Carmel Gardens and subsequently did Electronics and Communication Engineering at PSG. The city has undoubtedly contributed to my entrepreneurial attitude,” he remarks.

Anand who obtained MS in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University avers, “The move to the US was the turning point in my life. Silicon Valley is similar to Coimbatore when it comes to accepting young ideas. This encouraged me and two of my friends to start Aeroprise.” Aeroprise Inc’s mobile workflow management solution is one of the most-deployed mobility tools worldwide for service management. In Anand’s words, “What Blackberry does to emails, Aeroprise does to service management.”

Anand is now the director of product management at Openwave, where his role is to build the firm’s ‘ecosystem infrastructure’ products which help telecom operators know their target better. Young Global Leader The Young Global Leader honour by the World Economic Forum came in search of Anand this year. “I’m glad I was chosen among 190 others. I am looking forward to becoming a committed member of the forum,” he divulges. Anand will be attending the forum in Tanzania. YGL is an honour bestowed by the WEF every year to recognise the most distinguished leaders under 40. Nandita Das and Agatha Sangma feature among the Indians honoured this year. Others who have received this honour include Sachin Tendulkar and Barkha Dutt.

Anand discloses, “YGL summit deals with issues pertinent to the society. It could be a focussed problem like ‘Removing Worm Infestation’ or an abstract idea like ‘Involving youth in civic matters’. One cannot achieve these goals in a year. It requires constant work over a period of time by an enthusiastic group of individuals. YGL gives them a platform to develop new ideas.”


It was dusk on my end,

When you came with the promise of love,

Dreams took a fresh bend,

And my heart flew like a Dove.

Still there are moments I fret,

“Is this another false call?”

For I do not want to regret,

And back into the days so blue, to fall.

Your silence is unfathomable,

And the distance burns my soul,

Shhh…I wanna be all yours,

Be mine, just be mine.

Young guns of Coimbatore

Anula Aboobacker meets four shutter bugs who are fresh from Light and Life academy run by the iconic photographer Mohammed Iqbal.

The girl next door

During a chat with expresso, the effervescent and bubbly Anu Hassan came across as a down to earth, no hassles kind of person. That perhaps explains her appeal to the audience who consider her as one of their own

It seems Anu Hassan does not like to hold back any punches. Hailing from an illustrious family of cine artistes, she has the courage to disregard the rules even while talking to the media, some­thing rare to find in filmdom.

When we ask her who her main critics are, pat comes her reply, leaving us blink­ing in surprise at her refreshing candour. “The entire state is. I always get brick­bats for the I way dress and the jewellery that I wear,” she laughs.

She agrees that this openness some­times lands her in trouble. “What I’m in the front of the camera is what I’m at home. I’m short tempered and incompe­tency turns me off. I have never hidden these negative aspects of mine from the public,” she discloses.

Anuradha Chandra Hassan was here in the city on Monday to announce the first winner of ‘Hamam Grihapravesham Offer 2010’. When expresso met her, she was busy coordinating with the organis­ers, helping them conduct the function smoothly! But doesn’t the criticism affect her celebrity status? “See, I do not see myself as a celebrity. I’m just another well known person. My audience has al­ways seen me as the girl next door,” she says, and narrates an interesting anec­dote. “I was attending a function with another actress. Suddenly a lady came and asked her (the other actress) for an autograph while I sat there quietly ob­serving them. After getting her auto­graph, the lady came to me and suddenly pulled my cheeks and said ‘nee namba ponne thane’! I was surprised and my joy knew no bounds. Of all the compliments that I have received so far, that was defi­nitely the best,” she recounts.

Anu remarks that anything new ex­cites her. The first love of this Trichi girl was without doubt basketball. She repre­sented Trichi district as a student of St Joseph’s Anglo Indian School and con­tinued her dribbling even at the fibre­glass basketball co urt at BITS Pilani.

A dual degree in Physics-Management from BITS does not mean that she is a nerd, she insists. “Of course, I did well in school and college. However, most of the time, I was playing basketball, acting in plays or singing,” she divulges. “BITS taught me a lot. Unlike other colleges, attendance is not compulsory there. This teaches you to stay focussed and set your priorities right. Students become more responsible and attend classes out of their own will,” she explains.

Once out of college, Suhasini Mani Ratnam asked her to take up the lead role in the movie ‘Indira’ (1995). The state government appreciated her talent by bestowing the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for the Best Supporting Actress for the movie ‘Run’ in 2002.

She says that her willingness to try out new things pushed her to take up the of­fer to anchor a talk show ‘Coffee with Anu’ which is still continuing in its third season. “I make sure my guests were the celebrities and not me,” she spills out her success mantra.

A Jazz singer and an adventure sport freak, she now runs a chain of juices and smoothies company, ‘Squash’d’ run by a group of women employees, mostly from economically deprived families.

Anuradha says that she loves being in Coimbatore as “no one else can treat guests better than the people here”. Re­vealing that her best friend Poorni lives here in the city, she says that Kovaiites are more courteous and that there is a polished sheen to their mannerisms. “The driver who dropped me here today called me ‘akka’ instead of madam and I liked that very much,” she reveals.

Once the interview was over, she was mobbed by her fans. When we saw her asking them “Photo edukanama? vaa..”, we were bowled over by her obvious warmth and affection for them.

_Anula Aboobacker


Wanna be a virtual farmer?

expresso explores how an online game, FarmVille on the hugely popular Facebook has managed to capture the imagination of so many in less than eight months

Given a chance, would a resident of the city go to a village and engage in farming? Looks like the answer is yes, at least virtually. ‘Facebookers’ across the world are hard at work, tilling their land, harvesting vegetables, milking cows… just to make their farm a little heaven!

FarmVille developed by Zynga is one of the most popular games on Facebook and is creating a buzz among the city folks. Launched in June 2009 on the social networking site, it uses cutting-edge technology to let players farm virtual plots of land. According to online sources, 62 million people have signed up and about 21 million play everyday from different parts of the world. expresso gave into the addiction and started farming too and in the process met quite a few interesting farmers in and around Coimbatore.

Hari Narayanan is a photography student from Saibaba Colony. He calls himself a full-time student and a part-time farmer and admits that he started farming due to peer pressure. “Most of my friends were playing and were gifting me cows, trees, hens etc. Unable to curb my curiosity, I joined them thinking I will explore it for a short while and now I cannot resist playing FarmVille.” Hari is in level 33 now. Farming has become more easier for him as he owns tractors, windmills, grapes, strawberries, bananas and also farm animals like cows, horses, sheep, hens and even turkeys.

On FarmVille, a new farmer can choose his custom avatar and is given a small amount of farm coins and a small piece of ploughed land. He is expected to go to the market, get seeds and start his cultivation. The harvest can be sold for online coins. Sending gifts to your neighbours is a social norm in FarmVille, it not only improves your relationship with your neighbour, it also increases your chance to get gifts. If you are lucky, you will end up getting barrels of grapes, ponds, tractors, farm animals etc.

You will be rewarded with farm coins if you visit your neighbour’s farm in his absence and drive out the foxes, shoo away the crows and clear the weeds. Your growth in FarmVille is calculated in terms of levels and the farmcoins / farmcash you earn.

Pheba is a young housewife and plays the game regularly. She finds it boring to sit at home doing almost nothing and admits that is the main reason she took to farming. “To be frank, I feel happy when I earn virtual cash,” she chuckles.

A few interviewed for this article admitted that FarmVille has altered their lives. “The first thing I do when I wake up is visit my farm,” says Abinandhan, a budding cinematographer. He is on level 41 and is the owner of four dairy farms, seven tool sheds, three red barns and a huge farm land. He is now busy cultivating cabbages and bell peppers, as he says they ensure good returns.

Shirin, an engineering student and a farmer on level 30, says that her friend once hung upon her when it was time for harvesting, “suddenly he said, oh my God! it is time to harvest my sunflowers and hung up,” she laughs. She admits that sometimes she cannot stop thinking how much more she should earn to enter the next level.

What makes FarmVille so addictive? “I feel that I’m actually doing something and that keeps me hooked,” Hari remarks. “The way the game is designed is also exciting. Zynga releases new items according to the season. We had snow and Christmas trees for Christmas. After the Haiti earthquake, every farmer was requested to buy white corn to contribute to the survivors. Today we got an intimation that about one million dollars has already been contributed by FarmVille farmers to Haiti. This makes the game more close to real life and hence addictive.”

Do not think that every player is a youngster. According to online sources, 24 percent of its fans are above 35. Sujatha, a 30 plus working woman from Kalaipatti says that each day, she spends at least one to two hours on her farm. “It is a stress buster after a day’s work, so I recommend it to everyone I know.”

As for David who works for Centre for Advocacy and Research, this 40 something farmer on level 20 avers, “FarmVille teaches one about team work. You share gifts and get rewards. Our kids who didn’t know anything about farming have actually started to understand the problems a farmer faces while tilling his land. I have seen some interesting competitions. A couple I know competes on FarmVille. It has become a place to socialise and develop relationships.”

But do not think every player has fallen in love with it. There is a ‘I hate FarmVille’ group on Facebook with a fair number of fans. “I don’t like it at all,” says Ambika Balaraj, “I started playing because of the number of cows, goats and trees I used to get from friends but I stopped playing immediately afterwards. It is such a waste of time.”

Venkat Ananth, a journalism student who has a good online presence on social networking sites including Facebook replied, “I do not play FarmVille and do not think I ever will.”

All said and done, one has to be also aware of the dangers lurking behind these games. Number one is of course time. “Farmville can eat into your time, so I do not recommend it at work places and schools,” says David. Experts have also raised their eyebrows on some farmers giving up real money to Zynga to earn virtual cash (40 dollars gives you 240 farmcash).

Real life farming is much messier and requires the farmer to engage in back-breaking work and deal with issues like pests, irrigation or crop rotation. Will the real life tillers laugh at the city folks for calling themselves farmers, even virtually?

_Anula Aboobacker


Kovai needs more bus shelters

 When it comes to infrastructural development, Kovai is far ahead of many other districts in Tamil Nadu. Despite the growing number of vehicles in the city, wide roads, well-positioned bus stops and signals have made the city one of the most congestion free traffic networks in the state.

But the lack of proper bus shelters in many parts of the city has come as a major blow to commuters who solely depend on the public transport system. With the mercury soaring high, the common man is finding it difficult to seek shelter from the blazing sun.

The number of bus shelters on the entire Avinashi Road is almost nil. It is to be noted that bus shelters on the road were pulled down nearly two years ago in connection with the road widening project. It is almost a year since the road work was completed, yet no action has been taken by the Corporation to rebuild the bus shelters.

“It is very hot and I find it very difficult to wait for a bus without a bus shelter. It is like standing inside a big oven,” said Rajalakshmi, a teacher. Murugan, a worker at a private mill recalled that while he was standing at the Hope College bus stop, a girl swooned unable to bear the heat. Many college students also expressed difficulty due to lack of bus shelters. “We had our model exams in the afternoon and it was very difficult to go to college in the blazing hot sun and lack of bus shelters makes matters worse. So most of us go to college in the morning,” said Namachivayam, a Bio-Tech student.

Avinashi Road is not a sole case; the matter is no different at the Puliyakulam Road, connecting Trichy Road and Avinashi Road. Save a bus shelter in front of KR Bakes, there are no other bus shelters on the entire stretch. “Most of the bus stops in this area have trees, so we don’t face problems despite the lack of a shelter. But since there is no proper marking as to where the bus should stop, the drivers stop buses whereever they like and the people are forced to make a pell-mell dash to board the buses,” said Rama, a homemaker.

When expresso spoke to Corporation Commissioner Anshul Mishra, he said steps were being taken to rebuild the bus stops. “Earlier, a decision was taken to outsource the building works to private parties. But it didn’t work out because of government regulations.” Certain sources, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that though proposals were made to build bus shelters from Corporation fund, MLA fund or MP fund, no steps have been taken in this regard.

Published in Expresso on May 4

Cyrus (the Virus!!!) on prowl in Kovai

A red alert was sounded in public interest. The city was put under an unprecedented security blanket and policemen were spotted at every nook and corner after an intelligence report that a killer virus which had gone missing from the MTV studios was headed towards Coimbatore on Thursday! However, outwitting the entire police bandobust, the virus named Cyrus Broacha along with his wife Ayesha Broacha did somehow infiltrate the cotton city, but thank God, before inflicting much damage, he was fortunately cornered by the brave students of the School of Commerce and International Business at Dr GR Damodaran College of Science.

Defending himself with the armour of humour during a face-to-face that followed, this ‘Bakra’ discloses, “When we try and plan too much during pre-production of Bakra (a gag show on MTV), it usually backfires. Once we were trying to ‘kidnap’ someone in a taxi. The whole thing had been organised in such a manner that a mobile phone kept in the taxi would ring and the unwitting customer would pick it up and get instructions and get scared out of his wits. But even after I picked and dropped many unsuspecting guests, the mobile refused to ring. It was only quite later that we found the stupid mobile was damaged! Thus I became the bakra on that occasion.”

Speaking about his love for cricket, he rued that the unfortunate thing with most of us Indians was that “our passion for cricket is somewhat in inverse proportion to our talent. My highest score is 53 not out and that too when I played against an ‘all girls eleven’, while I was studying in class IX.”

Cyrus, who had started out in theatre, felt that it was the best medium to address social issues. “The only thing is that we need reasonably fine actors. But then, we needn’t worry as we have so many great actors in politics. We will be seeing them performing in May during the general elections.” A witty aside: “One of the most frightening incidents in my life was meeting Laloo Prasad. He had so much of hair (cups his hands) on his ears and he also started speaking in English, …too scary!”

“I do not agree when someone says that our politics is not headed by youngsters. Our former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is in his 80s and Manmohan Singh is in 70s. See, we have a much younger PM. By 2030, we will have surely elect someone in his 40s as our leader,” he quipped.

Cyrus admitted that he would love to join the army, provided it fulfils certain conditions like, “The battlefront and bunkers should be a totally air-conditioned area. The army should also provide me regular breaks for breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. If these conditions are accepted, I have no issues with joining the army.” Narrating his experience of meeting Bill Clinton, he said, “In the West, everything happens instantaneously. There is no time lag at all. I was about to meet Bill Clinton when suddenly I had this urgent desire to pee. I informed my producer of my desperate need to heed the call of nature and rushed into the rest room. You wouldn’t believe a moment later, Bill Clinton also walks in. To my absolute consternation, he comes to the closet adjacent to where I was trying to relieve myself. He was whistling and rocking back and forth. As he is 6’2, he was towering above me. He looks at me and says good morning ‘little boy’. I was petrified that I honestly swear I didn’t pee for the next 7 days.”

On whether his family tolerates his constant repertoire of gags, he mischievously glances at his betterhalf before saying, “I love my family because the first thing my wife told me when I returned home after meeting Mr Clinton was ‘take the towel out of the bed’. And I am dead certain that my wife is so much sweeter when I talk to her on the phone from some other country. So, yeah, they do treat me very well. ” “Do you know we have been married for a long time, in the meanwhile two Olympics have also been held. However, I haven’t bagged a gold medal yet,” he wisecracks.

“My son too loves me. He is a huge fan of Ricky Ponting and constantly asks poor me why Ricky is not his dad. And each time I tell him, ‘Ask your mum’.” Speaking about the deadly spectre of cross-border terrorism, he remarks, “we should speak to our Pak brothers to put an end to it. In India, we have an even deadlier terrorism which comes with the tag of ‘reality shows’. I feel we should send Pakistan our reality show videos, then they would actually understand what real terrorism is.”

Cyrus has plans to do stand-up comedy in June and is also acting in a few Bollywood projects, some of which will be released by the end of the year.

The sign, an angel said

“And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger,” (Luke 2:12). On that cold December night, Angels from heaven thus announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds of Bethlehem. And the son of God was born in a stable amidst animals and shepherds.

The representation of this scene of nativity, popularly known as Christmas crib, in churches and houses is a tradition almost a thousand years old.

The first crib arrangement can be traced back to the year 1223 AD when St Francis celebrated the feast of Christmas in a way that would help people understand the poor surrounding in which Jesus was born. It is said that in an Italian town called Greccio, St Francis with the help of local people set up a real life nativity scene with the stable and animals. Many people from the town came with candles and attended a holy mass near the crib and praised the lord for sending his child born for the sake of the poor and for the ones who are good and simple at heart.

The crib set up by St Francis is now a far call. Time has changed, and today, arranging a Christmas crib has become an integral part of Christmas celebrations. Kids have a gala time decorating the cribs and in most houses, though the cribs are arranged by the beginning of December, Baby Jesus does not appear until the 25th. On the Christmas day kids rush towards the crib to take a look at the ‘new born Jesus’ and of course to collect the presents kept for them near the Christmas tree.

Express caught up with some enthusiastic bunch of engineering students of Park College, all ready for Christmas. “We have exams on 26th so we will be here for Christmas. But exams have not put our spirits down. We have made a beautiful crib at our home here,” they said.

Joshua, a second-year mechanical engineering student recalls when he was a kid arranging the crib was a duty he and his brother would mostly happily take part in. “To create the feel of a cave we used to rub charcoal on a paper and then assemble it as rocks around the stable.”

Sara, another engineering student, says she used to paint stones in black to create the look. She also recalls that once the structure of the crib is set by the adults, the arrangements and the decorations were done by the kids.

New trend which has caught up in the city is ‘readymade cribs’. Along with beautiful stars and Christmas tree decorations, readymade cribs are now commonly seen in the Christmas special gift sections.

But octogenarian George disagrees with the idea. “The manger is a representation of simplicity and I feel readymade cribs are an extravaganza. Arranging a Christmas crib brings the whole family together. What pleasure does one get buying a readymade crib?” he wonders.

Three years ago in an Angelus message Pope Benedict XVI said, “To set up the crib at home can be a simple but effective way of presenting the faith and transmitting it to one’s children. The manger helps us to contemplate the mystery of God’s love who revealed himself in the poverty and simplicity of the Bethlehem cave. It continues to be a sign also for us _ men and women of the 21st century. There is no other Christmas.”

This artilce was published in Expresso, the city supplement of The New Indian Express on December 19

‘It’s your life’

“People who do not take charge of their lives are lathicharged by life”- this famous quote from the biography of Dr Kiran Bedi was the topic of contention; audience, a lively bunch of MIB students of Dr GRD College of science; speaker, the gutsy super woman Kiran Bedi herself.
When the uber-confident voice of this strong willed yet humane icon reverberated through the hall, the mood was upbeat.
“Make fewer mistakes, other wise you get lathi-charged or slapped by life. It is the philosophy of life itself. The more focused and organised you are, the more you value time, and the lathis get avoided. If you are groping for a support system, then chances are there you will get slapped heavily,” she explained.
Urging the students to prevent making mistakes in life, she said that 90 percentage of the problems we face were self generated. “Forget the 10 percent over which you have no control, but make sure you avoid the 90 percent,” she said.
“Your life is in your hands. You can shape your own future, by being emotionally independent, by educating yourself in the right way. Get a job, not for the pay packets but to deliver quality,” she said and added that though to be employed was important, however what matters more is an individual’s strength of character. She asked the students to ponder over whether others could depend on them.
“Being a political science student, I read a lot about great personalities. I did in-depth research on the people who were the subjects of my studies. I was never content while reading just one book; I wanted to read a lot more to develop my personality,” she disclosed.
She asked the students to be research oriented and to be creative in approach. “Ask questions to yourself and try to find the answers. What India needs today is a creative and young leader. The country seeks team spirit and entrepreneurship. What is necessary is self employment and not lakhs on the road seeking jobs,” she said.
“Real meditation is listening to yourself with your eyes open. Watch you own thought traffic and manage it with your eyes open,” said this living legend who was given the moniker ‘Crane Bedi’ for ruthlessly towing away wrongly parked cars in Delhi way back in the eighties.
Later, the tables were and turned, the dais was thrown open to the students to interrogate this fearless achiever. An exclusive face to face session followed.
When the expected query on leadership was posed, she remarked, “Leadership is about living in the present leaving behind the past. It is about being there for others and by being an impartial and courageous leader,” recalling the infamous Tihar jail which she had literally changed from a living hell into a heaven for the inmates.
She told students how she allowed the terrorists residing there to listen to the radio and read the newspaper. “The prison was 100 percent under my control. Then why should I be scared of letting them hear the news? When I cared for the terrorists, even they changed their stance and agreed that India was a great country,” she said.
When asked about what a girl should do to acquire a professional attitude, she quipped,” All that is important for the boys. Setting priorities, time management and not making emotional blunders are equally important for both genders to be professionally empowered. But having children is a very important decision for girls rather than boys. It changes her whole life. A boy can always walk away but a girl can’t because she becomes a mother.”
The next question shot was a concern of most of the girls in the country. What to do when parents put undue pressure on the daughters asking them to marry sooner rather than later. “Fight back! You have to tell your parents you have educated me and made me live independently all these days, then why do you want to make me dependent on someone else now.” Her comment that “Parents marry of the girl hoping that she would lead a good life, but what they do not know is that she will come back with more trouble on her head” was greeted with a loud round of applause and giggles.
Finally when the session came to an end and she walked down the aisle, the aura was one of unalloyed reverence.

Note: This article was published in Expresso, the city supplement of The New Indian Express on November 14

Kiran Bedi volunteers to make Kovai safe

“If police refuse to register a complaint, log on to saferindia.com and file an e-complaint. The Safer India webmaster will forward the complaint to the concerned State police headquarters for action,” said Dr Kiran Bedi, country’s first woman Indian Police Service officer here on Wednesday.
Launching the Coimbatore chapter of Safer India at Dr GRD College of Science, the super cop who took VRS and floated the portal under the project ‘Mission Safer India’ earlier this year, assured that every registered e-complaint will be taken up in a maximum of 48 hours.
“The web master will also forward the copy of the complaint to the complainant and to the volunteers of Safer India in the region. The volunteers would then visit the police station on behalf of the complainant,” she said.
The idea is not getting many complaints but creating awareness that if police does not register a complaint, Safer India will, she said and added that this was a gesture which will promise citizens a power like never before.
She pointed out that most of the complaints do not see light because it lies “under the table” and the aim of Safer India is to put the complaints “on the table”.
“Once this movement takes flight, police will start registering complaints because they know that otherwise volunteers of Safer India will approach them. Gradually the crime rates would go down and India will become a lot more safer,” she hoped.
Dr K K Ramachandran, director, School of Commerce and International Business, GRD College said many students have enrolled as volunteers of saferindia.com.

Note: This report was published in the city page of The New Indian Express of Coimbatore and in the state page of Chennai on November 13.