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Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Fuel prices reduced in India
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Good news for the ones on the road! Pressure from the Left allies has forced the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre to cut retail prices of petrol and diesel by 4.25 per cent and 3 per cent respectively.

The cut, attributed to lower prices of crude, is likely to hit oil companies who are still reeling under the losses sustained due to the earlier global crude price gains.

Announcing the price cuts, Union Oil Minister Murli Deora said that the government, keeping the totality of circumstances in mind, has decided to reduce the retail price of petrol by 2 per litre and diesel by 1 per litre from midnight on Wednesday. It may be recalled that the government had effected a price rise in June to reduce losses at state-run fuel retailers after global crude prices soared.

With the fall in oil prices, the UPA government had been under attck from the Left party allies to push down fuel rates. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had also given the nod to roll back the prices increased in June.

The country imports 70 per cent of its oil and the June rise helped push wholesale price inflation above 5 percent annually, prompting the central bank to raise interest rates.

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posted by a correspondent @ 2:36 AM   0 comments
Kargil Shias rubbish AISPLB nikahnama
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Kashmir’s Kargil is saying no to the Shia nikahnama. The Shia-dominated town has in fact rejected the model nikahnama adopted by the All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB), which provides a Muslim woman with a right to divorce. Shias found support from the Sunnis too who said the nikahnama was against the Islamic law.

Rejecting the new nikahnama, Shia leaders said that Islam has given women the right to marry to any person of their choice but she has no right to divorce. A true Muslim cannot act against the teachings of the holy Quran, they added.

Terming the AISPLB decision as against the Islamic rules, they said only the man has right to divorce under Islamic law. Alleging that the All India Shia Personal Law Board was trying to subvert the Muslim laws, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) too has said no to the model nikahnama.

There is widespread belief among the Shias in Kargil and Ladakh that the new norms were against the teachings of Quran and Prophet Mohammad.

Just a few days ago, on Novemeber 26, the AISPLB had adopted a model 'nikahnama' at a meeting in Mumbai in a bid to protect women not only in case of domestic violence but also provide security if the situation of a divorce arises.

The nikahnama was born considering that the women are the weaker sex and needed protection. However, with protests against the model code gaining in strength, it might end up as a still-born.

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posted by a correspondent @ 2:35 AM   0 comments
28 million deaths can be averted by prompt action on AIDS, says WHO
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Act now, or AIDS will gobble you. According to the world Health Organisation, if the world acts now to curb the disease, at least 28 million lives could be saved by year 2030.

A research report from WHO has warned that AIDS is set to join heart disease and stroke as one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Pointing out that at least 117 million people will die from AIDS by 2030, the study says that if new HIV infections are curbed and access to life-prolonging antiretrovirals is increased, the number can be brought down to 89 million.

The study warns that the future depends much on what the international community does now. However, experts around the world think it will be increasingly hard to sustain treatment unless new HIV infections are prevented. Condom distribution as well as new vaccines are the need of the hour, they feel.

The research study evaluated data from more than 100 countries across the globe. It established connections between mortality trends and income per capita, and factors including education levels and tobacco use.

While it may be possible to avert some of the impending damage from HIV and AIDS, other predictions are unlikely to vary significantly, said experts. With life expectancy expected to increase worldwide, the highest projected life expectancy in 2030 will be among Japanese women, at 88.5 years, they felt.

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posted by a correspondent @ 2:34 AM   0 comments
Fourth typhoon leaves Philippines numb
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Four typhoon attacks in three months! Nature’s fury is making Philippines duck for cover. Northern Philippines witnessed widespread damage as Typhoon Durian rammed into region on Thursday leaving thousands stranded. However, the weather offices have said the typhoon may skip capital Manila.

With the storm gushing in, Catanduanes, an eastern island, was totally cut off after power companies halted operations and mobile phone signals went dead. Disaster officials forced villagers along the coast to evacuate . Flash floods, landslides and storm surges due to Typhoon Durian have been forecast.

Packing winds of up to 190 kph and gusts of 225 kph, Typhoon Durian was feared to hit resort areas in Batangas province and Mindoro island.

Though Manila is not in the danger zone, the residents have been advised to gear up to face heavy rain and strong winds. It may be recalled that this September, as many as 213 people were killed when Typhoon Xangsane battered nation, leaving millions without power or water for days together. The recent run of typhoons damaged crops, transport links and power lines, dragging down third-quarter economic growth.

With the threat still looming inbound international airlines like Northwest Airlines have cancelled flights. The Manila administration declared a holiday for schools due to fears of heavy rain and wind.

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posted by a correspondent @ 2:33 AM   0 comments
Toyota to enter small car business in India
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Many an auto maker is mulling over making their presence felt in the small car segment in India. The latest bid has come from Toyota Kirloskar Motor, which has hinted at entering small car business. The move may be seen as an attempt to boost sales to two lakh units by year 2010.

An announcement t this effect is expected from Toyota Kirloskar Motor soon. The company is in fact studying how to grow in the Indian market, and a decision would be taken at the right time.

The company’s Bidadi plant in Bangalore boasts of a capacity of 60,000 units per annum. The mall car from Toyota might be designed by Toyota group firm Dahitsu, the a major in the mini-cars scene. However, the company has not taken a final decision on whether Daihatsu or Toyota would introduce a model from their stable in the Indian market.

The Kirloskar group has 11 per cent stake in Toyota Kirloskar Motor and has investments amounting to Rs 1500 crore. Four new models are in the offing, it has been reported.

Meanwhile, a related report said that the Toyota Motor Corp plans to produce more cars overseas than in Japan for the first time ever in 2007. The Japanese behemoth would expand overseas car production to around 4.4 vehicles, up from 4 million in 2006. It may be noted that Toyota had in 2003 overtaken Ford Motor Co as the world's No. 2 automaker in annual global vehicle sales.

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posted by a correspondent @ 2:31 AM   0 comments
49% foreign investment in Indian stock exchanges permitted
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In a pioneering effort, the Union Government has allowed 49 per cent foreign investment in the stock exchanges. The move comes close on the heels of the Securities and Exchange Bureau of India’s (Sebi) move to allow public shareholding in bourses.

According to reports, within the 49 per cent, there is a separate foreign direct investment cap of 26 per cent and a foreign institutional investment ceiling of 23 per cent. The policy for foreign investments will apply to all companies in the securities market, including bourses, depositories and clearing corporations, the reports added.

It is learnt that FDI will be allowed with prior approval of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), while FII will be allowed only through purchases in the secondary market. This apart, foregn institutional investors will not get representation on the boards of the exchanges.

Reports further said that an overall cap of 5 per cent has been imposed on a single foreign investor, including persons acting in concert.

Significantly, the Bombay Stock Exchange has been awaiting guidelines to complete its demutualisation and corporatisation process and announce its plans for a strategic sale of 26 per cent.

It may be recalled that Sebi had earlier notified offers for sale, placement of existing shares held by members and also private placement of fresh shares to increase the public shareholding of stock exchanges. It had said that no entity, either individually or together with persons acting in concert, shall be allowed to acquire or hold more than 1 per cent of the paid-up capital of the exchanges without prior approval of the stock markets regulator.

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posted by a correspondent @ 2:30 AM   0 comments
Justice K G Balakrishnan is India's first dalit Chief Justice
Finally, a Dalit is at the top f the judiciary set up in the country. With the appointment of Justice K G Balakrishnan, a senior judge of the Supreme Court, as the 37th Chief Justice of India, the country has honoured a Dalit.

President A P J Abdul Kalam cleared the appointment of 62-year-old Balakrishnan as the new Chief Justice of India on Friday. His tenure will be till May 2010. He succeeds Justice Y K Sabharwal, who retires on January 13, 2007.

The ascent of Justice Balakrishnan to the Supreme Court top post has also given Kerala another laurel. Justice Balakrishnan hails from a poor Dalit family in Kottayam in Kerala.

Starting his career in law way back in 1968 as an advocate, he was appointed munsif in the Kerala Judicial Services in 1973. He later resigned and resumed practice in the Kerala High Court. Come 1985, and he was appointed judge of the Kerala High Court. In 1997, he was transferred to the Gujarat High Court and he took over as Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court in 1998. In 1999, he assumed charge as the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court. On June 8, 2000 he was elevated to the Supreme Court.

The new Chief Justice of India has many a landmark judgements to his credit, many of them dealing with Constitutional and other matters, criminal laws and public interest litigations (PILs).

Prominent among the landmark judgments is his order declining to show any leniency to two sisters who were found guilty of kidnapping 13 children and murdering nine of them, in Mumbai. He awarded them death sentence.

Justice Balakrishnan was part of the Bench, which held that courts could not interfere in criminal proceedings in PILs and thus gave relief to Railway Minister Lalu Prasad in income tax cases. He had also come down heavily on the practice of High Court judges granting bail to the accused during their visits to prisons.

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posted by a correspondent @ 2:30 AM   1 comments
Iran rubbishes UN sanctions
Soon after the UN Security Council decided to slap sanctions on Iran for its nuclear programme, the United States too has called for a tougher international action against Tehran. The UN sanctions has clamped a ban on supply of nuclear materials to Iran and freeze the country's assets abroad.

Meanwhile, the US state department has opined that UN resolution was not enough. Adding that the Bush Administration would persuade the global community, especially nations like Russia, to impose stronger penalties individually. This according to the US would include stopping banks lending to Iran.

However, the sanctions have been rubbished by Iran, with Tehran reacting defiantly to the unanimous vote by the Security Council imposing the sanctions. Tehran said that the country would press ahead with its uranium enrichment programme, insisting that the Security Council could not limit what it described as Iran's peaceful nuclear activities. Saying that the sanctions imposed on it are illegal, Iran added that it was being punished for exercising its right to nuclear technology.

The UN resolution demanded that Tehran end all uranium enrichment work, which can produce fuel for nuclear plants as well as for bombs. The resolution, under Chapter Seven of Article 41 of the UN Charter, makes enforcement obligatory but limits action to non-military measures.

Meanwhile, Russiahas said that the resolution did not authorise the use of force. Saying that the sanctions sent a strong message to Iran about the need to comply with the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Russia has however watered down its statement in a bid to take account of its concerns over provisions like freeze on the assets abroad of specific Iranian individuals and organisations. Russia, it may be noted, is building a nuclear power station in Iran.

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posted by a correspondent @ 2:29 AM   0 comments
BBC tunes in to file-sharing territory with Zudeo
The BBC has forayed into unexplored territory. The trusted global news broadcaster has announced that hundreds of episodes of its popular programmes will for the first time be made available on a file sharing network.

According to BBC top sources the decision follows an agreement between the broadcast company’s commercial subsidiary BBC Worldwide and Java-based BitTorrent client technological firm Azureus.

It may be recalled that Azureus had launched a video sharing site similar to YouTube, christened Zudeo which enables users upload and view content.

The USP of Zudeo according to of Azureus, is that it offershigh definition videos. Zudeo users have to download a programme to access and upload content. With the new BBC Worldwide- Azureus agreement, users of Zudeo will be able to download legally, high-quality versions of popular BBC programmes.

The company has also made it fool proof by making preventing these programmes from being traded illegally on the internet. For this, the titles will be protected by digital rights management software, said BBC officials. The deal is part of a company drive to reach the largest possible audience.

Significantly, the pricing for the BBC content on Azureus’ Zudeo has not yet been revealed. According to Azureus, the new deal would be totally different from that offered by traditional file-sharing networks. Users will also be able to link to programmes from blogs, social networks, and fan sites, it is learnt.

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posted by a correspondent @ 2:27 AM   0 comments
Monday, December 25, 2006
New Maruti Baleno in 2007
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The Maruti Baleno has always been an underrated car. Nobody wanted to buy it when it was first introduced in India, and the ridiculously high price did not help either.

Anyway, over a period of so many unsuccesful years, the price was considerably reduced and sales picked up, though it was all a bit too late. Maruti is determined not to make the same mistake wit the New Baleno.

The new Maruti Baleno will be competitively priced - that means around the price of the Hyundai Verna and lesser than the top end Honda City models.

I am a lover of the earlier Baleno though. Something in its chunky looks appeal to me, and with the right paint and trim, I prefer it lookswise to many of the more modern cars. Sadly, there were never any engine options either for the power hungry or the economy-crazed. I shall be adding more information on the new Baleno after the Christmas-New Year break and photos too. Do come back to read then.

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posted by a correspondent @ 9:32 PM   0 comments
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Judging a man who is too shocked by a threesome
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This is a letter I wrote to Cary Tennis of Salon.com, who writes the column -- Since You Asked. Please do read the original column by clicking here before you read on.

Re: My boyfriend freaked out because I had a threesome

Dear Cary,

I have been a reader of Since You Asked for more than 7 years, and I have been provoked to reply to anything you or your predecessor wrote very rarely. Because, whether I agree with your final solution or not, there has always been a balance, and I think you lost that in your reply to the Threesome letter.

When I read "this guy is nuts" in the first line, I thought that it was a natural way to take the extreme view on one side, and then talk from the other side in the second part of your letter. However, there was no second part to it!

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I am in India, have moved from a little Christian-dominated village in India (yes, we have such villages here) to a Christian dominated town, then to a Hindu dominated town, then to Bombay where no religion matters, and then to Delhi where all religions and all cultures matter and all are at each other's throats in a sometimes threatening, sometimes cute, way. So at any time of my life, I have been variously accused of being too conservative, too liberal, too amoral, too moralistic, too Western, too Indian, and judgemental - the entire gamut. One thing I have learnt from all is that despite my own personal beliefs, and sometimes strong disapproval of what I see around me, I never judge the ones who are more liberal or more conservative than me in such harsh terms. I never say they are nuts. I just move away.

Looking at the responses to your advice in TableTalk, I suspect you live in a more or less uniform cultural environment. In that environment, what the majority believe is right. In many ways, from my experience, the tyranny of extreme libertarians is no different from the tyranny of extreme fundamentalists. I have seen both, and I believe the pressure both subject you to is the same. Yes, this guy thinks having a threesome is an unforgivable act. But all he has done is think like he belongs to 1950 AD. That is a sin only in the liberal theology. What if he belonged to 2050 AD's value systems and morals - and believed that sexual fidelity is a disease? Truth is, even 2006's values differ heavily depending on your peer group and location and cultural environment, and we are nobody to judge the values of the past or the future.

My stand on the topic: He is as right or wrong as she is when he freaks out over a threesome.

From her letter, it seems she thinks he has all these rights and wrongs. And I am sure she has her rights and wrongs too, and a threesome is a right. Who am I, or him, to question her on that? And who is she, or you, to question him on his beliefs? What you do when two people have incompatible beliefs is to understand the situation, see if you want to come to a compromise (if it is even possible) and if not, walk away holding your head high. His shock is only as big as her shock might be if he believes in ritual deflowering of teenage girls due to some obscure religion he might follow.

Yes, of course he has gone nuts in his reaction. That is what happens, and might happen, to anyone if they find that the person who chose to live with is too modern, or too conservative, or too cannibalistic, or too vegan, for your own tastes. People freaking out is no evil. Advise her to let him put his freak on, think about her situation carefully, and act on her decision. Let him live his life his way. After, who knows if tomorrow, the real Gods would come down and tell us that those who have not had an orgy do not qualify to commune with universe? Or that sex with a furry animal is necessary to wipe away the impurity of sex with humans?

PS. There is always the possibility that the guy is using it to emotionally gain an upper hand over his girlfriend. If that is the case, she has to leave him, just the same as if they come to the conclusion that he can't accept his girlfriend's past. In any case, a bit more understanding is called for, out of sympathy for a fast diminishing minority he represents.
posted by a correspondent @ 1:03 AM   0 comments
Friday, December 22, 2006
Toyota charms consumers
TNS study says Toyota is the most trusted car company.

Toyota can rest assured now that consumers have rated it the most trusted car company. A TNS study to understand consumer perceptions about the automotive industry revealed that Toyota’s strong global image is due to its high ratings for manufacturing safe products, promoting road safety, and using innovation.

The study saw as many as 18,000 consumers from 18 countries participating. They were asked to rate corporations from the passenger car, commercial vehicle, tyre and oil sectors, which in turn revealed that safety and environment are the most important issues facing the automotive industry today and corporations that rate highly on these two parameters are generally perceived to be the most trustworthy. Globally, Michelin and Goodyear were the most trusted tyre companies – Michelin leads in Europe and Goodyear led in Asia and the Americas.

Meanwhile, Shell bagged the highest ratings for the most trusted oil company globally. Consumers rate Shell high for promoting the development and use of alternative fuels and technologies.

In the Indian context, Maruti Udyog and Hero Honda finished on top for the most trusted company title. Bharat Petroleum scored top slot in oils, Tata Motors in commercial vehicles and MRF in tyres. Maruti and Hero Honda were rated best for creating jobs, improving lives and for product safety.

The rankings were based on a global corporate social responsibility, according to TNS.

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posted by a correspondent @ 10:41 AM   0 comments
India's Auto sector waits for Union Budget 2007
The Union Budget is round the corner. As always, the automobile sector players too are waiting with bated breath to know what the FM’s briefcase has in store for them.

The government is likely to pay heed to the demands of the automobile industry and reduce the excise tax on cars to 16%. This move will bring all automobiles under a uniform excise duty rate, something which the industry had been campaigning for. In the prevous budget the excise tax had been reduced from 24% to 16% only for small cars which measure less than 4 metres in length and with an under-1,200 cc (petrol) engine capacity or 1,500 cc (diesel). The excise cut is going to be a part of the government's long-term strategy to make India one of the largest carmakers in the world (India is currently 11th largest) and attract more foreign investment in the sector. Consumers can expect cars to get cheaper although how much of the savings are passed on to the buyer will depend on the manufacturer.

This excise cut will be a crucial factor for global auto majors like Suzuki, GM, Volkswagen etc who are in the process of setting up or upgrading manufacturing facilities in India to cater to future local demand and the export market. Last year’s Budget had also reduced the duty on raw material, which is now between 5 per cent and 7.5 per cent compared with 10 per cent earlier. The Indian automotive industry is currently worth about $32 billion and is projected to grow to over $145 billion by 2016. It is expected to double its contribution to the GDP from the current 5 per cent to 10 per cent. The industry has so far attracted investments worth over $12 billion, with about $8 billion in the pipeline, according to government estimates.

Ever since the Indian Government reduced excise duty on small cars in the Union Budget 2006, most auto majors have been crying foul. Excise duty on small cars was reduced from 24% to 16% as a part of the broader auto policy and in a bid to make India the small car manufacturing hub of the world. Small cars have been defined by the Government as petrol cars with an engine capacity not exceeding 1,200 cc and not exceeding 4,000 mm in length, and diesel cars of engine capacity not exceeding 1,500 cc and not exceeding 4,000 mm in length.

Maruti seems to be the happiest with the excise cut on small cars since it's the leader in the segment and is planning to launch the New Zen -Estilo (1100 cc petrol) and the diesel Swift (1300cc diesel) both of which will benefit from the lower excise duty. The excise duty cut has already resulted in global auto firms — like Suzuki, Nissan and Hyundai — lining up over $6-billion investment plans to build small car bases in India. And some in the government feel removing this sop now might go against the FDI flow.

However most auto majors including Hyundai, Honda, Toyota and General Motors are piling on the pressure on the Government to cut cuty to 16% for all cars in the upcoming Union Budget 2007. This seems obvious since their priduct portfolio relies majorly on larger cars which are still taxed at 24%. Also it seem right to have a uniform duty structure for all cars and not to disriminate on the lines the Government has drawn.

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posted by a correspondent @ 10:39 AM   0 comments
India's auto sector sees a boost
The auto mart in India seems to have evolved like never before. With vehicles carving a niche in the global market place, laurels have been pouring in from European and US automotive majors of the likes of BMW and Daimler Chrysler. The global auto manufacturers are fast recognizing and accepting the vehicles and components from India, said a report.

The government too has set its best foot forward to enable acceleration of the Indian automotive sector.

The government has emphasized that it would take all the necessary steps to make India world’s manufacturing workshop. The Centre has readied a mission plan for the automotive sector for 2006-2016 period to up turnover by four times. It is believed that the mission plan would take into consideration all the strata of the society, particularly the lower section in rural locales.

India today has the capacity to buy. With the level of disposable income on the uptrend, especially among young adults, coupled with and low EMIs, have made buying a vehicle the easiest task ever.

A recent RNCOS research report has said that the Indian automobile segment is currently one of the top auto industries in the whole of Asia, and that this sector would see a further growth with adequate support from the part of the government.

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posted by a correspondent @ 10:35 AM   0 comments
Djinn in the GK I Market
Today, I went to GK 1 market in Delhi and got promptly confused.

The reason was a school girl in her school uniform.

Now, for a school girl in her school uniform to confuse you, you have to fit certain criteria. They are 1) You should be born and brought up in a small village where you never get to see beautiful people or where no one really bothers about their looks beyond an oil bath or two a day 2) You have escaped from said village and moved to bigger and bigger and stranger and weirder cities progressively in your life in pursuit of riches and happiness and 3) the constant moving about and the shifting cultural landscapes around you make you uncomfortable in almost any given social environment.

And so the girl in the school uniform confused me. She confused me because it was 4:30 PM in December in Delhi and it was reasonably cold, and she was wearing a short skirt and a sweater. Now, in GK 1 market, everyone was nicely dressed up in woolens and shawls and pullovers and jackets - the kind of stuff which I had never seen till 10th standard, seen only in magazines and English movies till post graduation, and would kill you if you were in Mumbai for 12 years in its swealtering heat. They were wearing gloves, they had caps on, and looked like fat woolen pumkins.

So how could this girl, this big fat girl, wear a short skirt? The fat can probably handle a bit of the body's heating requirements, but it could be uncomfortable nevertheless. And anyway it was not like she refused the acknowledge the winter - she had a sweater on. So either she was cold upstairs and hot downstairs, biologically implausible, but not improbable. My research on Delhiites's physiology has not proceeded much - which is to say, not at all.

Considering the amount of cleavage on display in Delhi, compared to Mumbai, I am confused further. Why legs and not cleavage? Normally, Delhi women display cleavage, and legs, only rarely. So why legs in the winter and not cleavage? In the case of this girl, it could be that she was roaming around after school, and schools are okay with legs and not cleavage. Still, what could motivate someone to don apparel patently unsuited for the winter?

What could be going on here that I am missing? Is she a djinn? William Dalrymple says there are djinns in Delhi. This one looked hardly like a djinn, but it is not wise to assume such things about djinns. There is nothing to stop a djinn from turning up in GK 1 market as a school girl. That might explain the strange constume. Djinns dwell in strange realms, and it is possible they do not bother about the minutae of human winterwear.

Perhaps, she was just human and poor. The poor have great resistance to the cold, compared to us middle class weaklings.
posted by a correspondent @ 6:49 AM   3 comments
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
2008 Chevrolet Equinox Sport photos and pre-launch news

The Chevy Equinox gets more powerful engine and better styling for 2008

GM’s new sport version of the 2008 Chevrolet Equinox is all set to hit the tarmac. Automajor General Motors Corp this week lifted the wraps off its compact Equinox sport utility vehicle and said that it would roll out the beauty by next summer.

Equipped with a more powerful engine and six-speed automatic transmission, larger wheels and some cosmetic features, the 2008 Chevrolet Equinox has been designed to give itself a more aggressive look. Auto enthusiasts may recall that the original Chevrolet Equinox had hit the showrooms in mid-2004 with not much hype. However, GM had earned much goodwill due to the vehicle. For 2008, the ride height has been lowered, stabilizer bars added and it gets a 140 mph top speed.

The 2008 Chevy Equinox is seen as competing with the Honda RAV4 and Mazda CX7 compact SUVs. It will also face the challenges posed by BMW's X3, Ford Escape and Jeep Liberty.

Analysts believe that though the SUV features may not bring in much cash inflow, GM might gain in terms of an image boost through the Equinox. The company has said that the version will deliver 263-horsepower performance, compared with the 185-horsepower of the traditional Equinox, and hit the 0-60 mph benchmark in seven seconds.

Price is still a secret with Chevrolet; but the vehicle will be available for the public in Q3 2007.

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posted by a correspondent @ 2:31 AM   0 comments
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Mitsubishi iCar for India, says Reuters - price and pictures

The Mitsubishi iCar will be produced intially in India in SKD form.

This news was originally reported first in the Hindustan Times or by Reuters. We tried to find the original source, but with no success.

Anyway.

The iCar is out of this world. Take one look at the photos, and you will know. You seriously think this car can be produced and sold in India? We are not so sure. Read on to find out more about the iCar.

First, the Mitsubishi iCar is powered by a 600 cc 3-cylinder engine. Power till be at 52 PS.

Now, space age looks or not, can the iCar with a 600 cc engine be sold in India? The small cubic capacity of the engine might be a tough sell in India. On the other hand, the iCar has produces 52 PS - I think that might be more than the power produced by the Maruti Alto. The average car buyer might just get confused and give the Mitsubishi iCar the go-by.

Then, the space age looks. There is a good chance that the iCar might be looked upon as too fragile. I don't think it is, but you know how conservative the Indian market can be. Or perhaps things have changed - the Swift looks too funky too, and it is selling well.

The problem might be the price. Convert the price directly from its UK price, and you get around Rs 7,00,000. Now, no 600 cc car in India is going to be sold, space-age or not, at a price of 7 lakhs. For the Mitsubishi iCar to be a decent proposition in India, it has to be priced below 5 lakh.

So what is going to happen? To begin with, the iCar story that appeared in Hindustan Times might be a misunderstanding. Perhaps, they are just planning to assemble the car in India and export it. Perhaps, Mitsubishi has an ace up its sleeve in the pricing department. Perhaps, the market might be too thrilled to have a state of the art car and might plumb for it. Who knows?

For the time being, all you can do is to enjoy the pictures. So here they are.

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posted by a correspondent @ 11:51 PM   4 comments
Murky games the Indians play

India's sports embarassments continue in the Asian Games.

The world's second most populated world that boasts of many a success story in the sports arena has been humbled, yet again. Sports and games in India have a number of heroes with a halo around them. However, when it comes to an international event, India as a sporting nation returns beaten and bruised.

Asian Games 2006 could not have been more disappointing, to say the least. As the mega event wound up, India finished eighth, even behind Uzbekistan. The medal tally read just 10 gold medals, and an overall 54.

The 15th Asian Games was yet another occasion for a nation on a cricket over-diet to sit up and think. Mysteriously enough, India didn't even have any idea of its own team size. There have been reports that no official was able to tell how many sportspersons had taken part in the 15th Asian Games at Doha from India.

The team size was so big (some say it's 350-plus) that the Indian presence was everywhere on the field, but nowhere near the victory stand. While many an athlete we sent to redeem our pride were not to be traced, some others sank without trace. There indeed were a handful who won the 54 medals, but then considering India's team size the, the number of medals they bought proved to be a matter of ridicule than anything that would have made the Indian citizen or the government proud.

Further, a couple of sportsmen, who the Indians treated as Gods till recently, turned the worst enemies of India on the Doha international forum. The ugly spat between tennis players Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, Jaspal Rana gifting a piece of his mind to the association that sent him to Doha and the like rendered India even weak in Doha.

The paltry 54 medals and the unprofessional spat between sportsmen and the official-level indifference did no good to India's reputation. Mind you, this is a nation that is already going ga ga about hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games. India, funnily enough, is bidding for 2014 Asian Games as well.

The 10 gold, 18 silver and 26 bronze tally sketched a picture of a utterly sketchy team spirit. India, who once took pride in being one among the best in disciplines like athletics, hockey, shooting, golf, tennis et al saw itself being pushed down the cliff by its own team members. Bad performance, unsporting attitude and leisure-loving officials ensured India's fall.

Sports lovers back home still haven't got over from the shock. It is once in a few years they get to look forward to something other than cricket. This year's Asian Games, when it opened in Doha, was a welcome change for the television buff too. However, they ended up being a disappointed lot thanks to the performance of the team. To top it we had the Lee-Hesh nonsense. When will India learn to keep performers like the 15th Asiad team at bay? When will we learn to punish the Leanders and Maheshs for making a mockery of our sentiments?

posted by a correspondent @ 8:07 PM   0 comments
Sunday, December 17, 2006
The Trauma of Anupama and Aryan Vaid in Bigg Boss

 

Today, Anupama Varma was thrown out of the Bigg Boss's house. For those of you who have not been keeping track of Bigg Boss on Sony, they were the couple very much in love in Bigg Boss. Last week, Aryan Vaid was thrown out by the pubic in voting, and this week, Anupama followed him.

Why did this happen? If we try to do a psyhological analysis of the votic public, they would be seen to have two motivations. The first is that having a romantic couple on Bigg Boss makes for more interesting watching. Second, perhaps sympathy would take over. And they would vote out one, and then the next so they could take their loving off TV and into their own private lives.

The romance was real corny, at least to me. Aryan would hang around wherever Anupama Varma was in the house, and generally keeping mouthing sentimental stuff, and Anupama would go all baby-baby -i- am-choo-chweet on him. As Ragini later said in provate camera in the confession room in the Bigg Boss' House, its a little discomforting to see someone aged 30 speak like a baby all the time. I agree, but my feeling is that the public ha no such hassles. Anyway, once they were offered the option of voting Aryan out, they did that.

In the post-eviction interview, Aryan was overly emotional and looked like he would cry. If he was acting, that was probably his best performance in his career. It seems he declared his true love for Anupama and said that he could nto live without her, though he wished she would survive and win the game and stay on in the House. The public thought otherwise - they were too taken in and in the next week, prompty voted Anupama out so she could join Aryan in the real world outside.

Somehow, I got the feeling that Anupama knew this would happen - and love or not, did not want much to lose the game. The baby talk was gone the next day, she made attempts to patch up frayed relations with everyone, there was a newfound friendship with slimy Deepak Tijori guaranteed to backfire -- and occasionally looked a little pissed that Aryan said he could not live without her, and now the public might vote me out too, boo hoo.

But the traume I referred to in the title is not this. It is the traume the couple faced due to live TV and Sony's idea of what the public wanted. Once it was clear that there was something brewing betwene these two, Sony started playing up as the start of a true love in the Bigg Boss House. Every intimate moment (that could be shown on TV) was shown, and every weekend, Arshad Warsi, the host, would pose questions at both designed to make them squirm, or at least, force them to profess true love.

Folly of follies - they went and asked the parents of both Anupama Varma and Aryan Vaid what they thought about the relationship, and whether they would be happy to see the couple get married. The parents said its their kids' wishes that matter. Now imagine what normally happens in the lives of celebrities - they would flirt, they would start an affair, they would get to know each other better, sometimes they would realise that its all hormones and happily sleep with each other, and no one would even bother. Marriage may or may not come into the picture at all. And here, after 2 weeks where they haven't managed a single hot smooch because of cameras that are tracking them everywhere, Sony asks them about marriage. In their real lives, such a question would probably provoke ringing epithets. Sony, on the other hand, wants it to be a Hindi movie from the 70s or a Saans-bahu serial with appropriate morals. I truly, truly wish Arshad was cringing inwardly every time he had to ask them and their parents about marriage and intrusive questions about their private lives and feelins which only a senile middle class auntie these days would pose.

posted by a correspondent @ 8:56 PM   1 comments
Friday, December 15, 2006
Maruti Zen Estilo pictures and price

Waiting for news and pictures on the Maruti Zen Estilo? Good.

So the new maruti Zen Estilo is here. I haven't seen it on the streets yet, but there is a lot of curiosity building up about it. So let us take a look at the Estilo once again.

Update with more info on features and price:

Build quality - okay. The car doesn't feel very solid. However, this is just an initial impression. The Estilo is definitely a good looking car though. The design is that of the 5-year old Suzuki MR Wagon, and this car truly is not a successor to the sprightly Maruti Zen. However, the overall feel is that of a sophisticated japanese car. The Zen Estilo has a cheerier interior than most cars with an abundance of beige colour, and serves to make it look a bit spacious. You get a driver's side airbag and ABS on the top-end Zen Estilo at a price of Rs 30,000 extra. The low end Zen Estilo LX comes to you from Maruti at an ex-showroom price of 3,26,000 in Mumbai. That version of the Estilo will have black bumpers and no power-steering, power windows or central locking. The Maruti Zen Estilo VXi, the top-end version, has all that plus remote entry, rear defogger, tachmometer and ABS.

The Zen Estilo engine:

The Estilo has the proven engine of the Maruti Wagon R under its bonnet. We are talking 1061 cc, 64 bjp, 8.45 kgm at 3500 rpm. The engine does its duty well on the Maruti Wagon R, and it is expected to be an even better performer on the smaller and lighter Zen Estilo.

Styling of the Zen Estilo:

Nothing great, but its modern enough. Much more modern that the Wagon R, definitely, and better looking than the Santro Xing too. It looks a bit like a Daewoo Matiz - but remember that the Matiz was one of the best looking small cars ever produced in the world.

Interiors of the Zen Estilo:

Dual tone. Lots of beige. That's nice. The facia looks reasonably modern - I personally like it a lot.

Space:

You will get a lot of headroom, maybe not as much as in the Wagon R - but then maybe no one needs that much headroom. If you are broad shouldered or on the plumper side, you may feel a bit cramped though.

Acceleration and top speed of the Zen Estilo:

A 0-60 timing of 6 seconds or a bit more, thats quite decent for a car in this class. It will be a little bit faster that way than the Wagon R.

Colours for the Zen Estilo:

Purple Fusion, Champagne Beige, Virgin Blue and Olive Green. More colours expected at launch.

Labels:

posted by a correspondent @ 3:06 AM   27 comments
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
From Delhi to Kerala and back
One Reddy with rings on most of his fingers, the president of some association of builders in Andhra Pradesh sat next to me. Brown land lay below, first of AP and then TN.

And there appeared a series of mountain ranges, black and scattered, and I sat up and stared down. (Sorry if I sound corny from now on - this is my blog, after all - and if you are my wife passing uncharitable comments, PHTTHHBBT!!). White clouds bundled up against them on one side like froth, sometimes bubbling over to the Kerala side. On the other side, greenery erupted. I have turned up my nose at greenery at most places I have seen in Maharashtra like Matheran or Murud or Panchgani, even Lansdowne, but the Kerala greenery is another thing altogether.

The approach to the Kochi airport makes you feel like you are gonna land in a coconut grove. The plane followed a medium sized river, packed with trees of all variety on either side, and then suddenly in the middle of what looked like a jungle, we touched down and an airport terminus styled in the old nalukettu style sprouted up. Yes, I had seen it earlier, but it was still a nice thing to see.

Once in the car which had come to pick me up, I looked around - and the abundance of green and bright sunshine hits me in the eye. Green and greener and dark and darker it went, the roads were reasonably smooth like a mallu heroine's tummy, and people in check shirts and lungis casually draped walked by, looking like they owned the state. They do, I guess. After the slightly sheepish, long-suffering look of the lower classes in Delhi, the obvious confidence of the lower class Malayalee was striking. Hail commies.

The taxi driver was a delight too. I am not a natural talker, but have been talking to people like I am making up for the years of shy silence. In the next two hours, we discussed politicians, elections, private sector and tourism, schools and students, the ever-boiling Mullaperiyar dam controversy between Kerala and Tamil Nadu, was pointed out temples and churches and old bridges and told the right way to drive down a hairpin-infested incline... and I sat there and responded in my best Kanjirappally-accented Malayalam. When we reached home, he happily explained to my Acha (dad) that as we were talking animatedly all the way, we didn't bother to stop somewhere en route for refreshments. There it was. Proof that I am a damn good fake - indistinguishable from a real talker. I rock.
posted by a correspondent @ 5:22 AM   0 comments
 

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