ESB honors India

Here’s the Empire State Building dressed up Saturday night in India’s colors, in anticipation of the India Day Parade which was to take place on Sunday, August 20, with Rani Mukherjee as the grand marshal:

ESB%20India%20colors%202 ESB honors India

and here’s Madison Avenue on Sunday morning, with the barricades up and the NYPD on the scene, prior to the parade kicking off:

Madison%20Ave%20pre parade%202 ESB honors India


NYPD%20Madison%20Ave%202 ESB honors India

Abhay Deol was in town too, to promote Mela, and after his press event for them, he was heading to the parade with the Mela folks to man the booth there, meeting and greeting the crowds.  More about him and them shortly.

Something old, something new, something madrasi, something blue?


royal%20wedding%20souvenir%202 Something old, something new, something madrasi, something blue?

Yes, in spite, or perhaps because of my Irish roots, I was up before daylight to watch The Wedding.  So sue me.

My mother and her generation grew up watching the royals across the Irish Sea and observing how they marked their big milestones.  On Christmas Day, people would listen to the Queen’s address, and so on and so on.  Then, there was Diana and her little princes, who grew up before our eyes.  When I lived in Spain, Wednesday was the day the “pink press” magazines would appear (Hola!, Semana, etc.) and they chronicled the Spanish royalty, the Monégasque royalty, the British royalty and everyone else with a title from Sweden to Lichtenstein and all others in between.  The portero in my building and I would pour over them, dissecting what they were wearing and who they were dating, marrying and burying.  (By the way, if you ever want to read a scathing and hilarious take on what it’s like to write for this special subset of Spanish media, get a copy of Maruja Torres’ Oh!  Es él! Viaje fantástico hacia Julio Iglesias)

So today, in between watching all the hats of varying brim sizes and architectural flourishes, as the BBC America coverage cut away at one point to one of the many celebrations going on around the island, I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard someone mention “Madras pipes”.

Er, wha?

Is that some band of hardcore Carnatic musicians, of the kind you see perform in Chennai in December?

Not quite.

It turns out that the good folks at the University of St. Andrews – where the now-newlyweds first met – were having a party to celebrate the nuptials of their two famous graduates, and one part of the morning’s entertainment was some musical accompaniment from the Madras College Pipe Band, a group of 26 traditional Scottish pipers.

Madras College?  So what’s that, then?

Here’s how the school’s website describes the history:

Madras College takes its name from the system of education devised by the school’s founder the Rev Dr Andrew Bell. He was born in St Andrews in 1753, the son of a local magistrate and wig-maker. He studied at the University where he distinguished himself in mathematics. He became a clergyman of the Church of England and took up an appointment as chaplain to the regiments of the East India Company in Madras. One of his duties was to educate the soldiers’ children. Because there was a shortage of teachers, he used the older boys, who had been taught the lesson by the master, to instruct groups of younger pupils. The pupils who assisted the teacher were called ‘monitors’. This method of education became widely used in schools at home and abroad. After his return from India, Dr Bell made it his life’s work to travel the country and encourage schools to adopt ‘the Madras system’, as it had come to be known. By the time of his death in 1832, over 10,000 schools were using his methods.

To make sure that his educational ideas would be preserved for the future, he made arrangements for the fortune his success had brought him to be used to found a school in his native town of St Andrews. By selling some land he owned he was also able to give money to the neighbouring town of Cupar so that in the end he founded two schools. One is the present Bell Baxter High School in Cupar which was originally called Madras Academy. The other is Madras College in St Andrews. The senior part of the school is still on the original site in South Street where the modern school has grown up behind the impressive 1833 quadrangle.

There’s even a Madras tartan!

Code of conduct at the cinema

code of conduct%20small Code of conduct at the cinema

After gathering inputs from listeners far and wide, Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode of BBC Radio have compiled this bang-on code of conduct for cinema-goers.   Hearing some of the experiences people shared over the past few weeks have been enlightening:   one man’s child was thrown up on by the woman in the row behind them, another person had to endure the woman next to him getting up and exiting their row for five – yes, five – bathroom breaks, and on and on.

Can’t recommend Simon and Mark enough.   They’re smart and funny and carry on like an old married couple most of the time as they discuss movies on their weekly show.  

Sadly, even though Hindi films often make it to the UK Top Ten, those films are almost never discussed by the good doctors, owing to the fact that there’s practically never any advanced screening for the press.

Happy Diwali!

 Happy Diwali!

...or Deepavali, whichever floats your boat

Please, Mark Thompson, don’t take away my Raj & Pablo

 Please, Mark Thompson, dont take away my Raj & Pablo

I don’t know how many years it’s been since I started listening to the BBC Asian Network, but it’s been a while now.   I loved this station from the get-go for all the bhangra and the chat shows and the radio soap opera, and soon I was listening to it at work and downloading podcasts to take on the go.

And the biggest discovery for me was the irreverent pair Raj and Pablo and their weekly show about the Hindi fillum biz, Love Bollywood, and it became a staple for me.   I wouldn’t miss it for anything.   They have weekly call-ins from Bombay with Rajeev Masand for the latest gupshup and they also interview the biggest names in the biz.

I was saddened and concerned to hear that the entire BBC Asian Network may be shut down as part of the Beeb’s cost-cutting measures.

Given how large the South Asian community is in the UK, and how far back the community’s roots in the UK go, it seems terribly impolitic for the BBC to even consider doing away with the rich and varied offerings of this station.   It’s quite a distinction to have an entire BBC Network devoted to the community, and if I were Asian, it’d feel like a slight to see it on the chopping block all of a sudden.

If you’d like to learn the latest news about what’s being done to influence the BBC before they make a final decision, and find out how you can get involved, visit the Save the Asian Network website.

When the Denver Nuggets met B’wood

Renu When the Denver Nuggets met Bwood

On November 24th, at the Denver Nuggets – NJ Nets game halftime, Denver dance doyenne (and instructor) Renu Kansal took to the floor of the Pepsi Center with her Bollywood West troupe to perform.

I had been anticipating this event almost as much as they all had, since Renu had entrusted Top Secret discussions of musical choices with a few Bollywood Fugly friends some two months or so back.   The merits of pieces like Maarjani (from Billu Barber) and Mauja hi mauja (from Jab We Met) were debated against those of Rangeeli Raat (Money Hai to Honey Hai) and Mourya Re (Don – The Chase Begins).

In the end, the final line-up was Mourya Re, Mauja and Jai Ho.

With the Big Night now behind her, I asked Renu to tell me all about it:

Btw, the Nuggets won 101 – 87.   Were they so pumped from the exhilarating Hindi film music that they thundered on to victory?   I’m just sayin’……

halftime%201%20v2 When the Denver Nuggets met Bwood

Maria: How did you feel out there?   Did it all go by really fast?   Or did time seem to slow down?   Were you watching the audience faces?   Any little missteps or surprises? [Read more...]