Interviewing interesting personalities
ONE of the advantages of heading a magazine that is widely respected and read is the kind of interaction you have with eminent personalities.
I have been lucky in interviewing a host of innovative individuals who have transformed the sectors that they operate in, bringing about much-needed changes in India. For this issue, for instance, I met quite a few interesting personalities, some of whom have changed the very dynamics of my venture.
One such person is Mumbai-based architect Hafeez Contractor, someone whom I’ve always looked up to, more so in the field of architecture. The meeting we had with him in Mumbai was fascinating, opening our eyes to a range of issues. The interview, carried in this issue, is informative and knowledgeable.
The other person I met was Mana Shetty, the ever-positive lady on the move, who has multiple facets – besides being a designer, she is also a philanthropist and – perhaps because of her marriage to eminent Bollywood star Suniel Shetty, a socialite.
She has a fine sense of design and everything that is beautiful appeals to her. We had a very candid interaction and I emerged out of it with this immense sense of humbleness and how one must be thankful for all that they are blessed with.
Our cover story this time is on the ambitious Smart City project being undertaken by the Narendra Modi government across the country. About a hundred ‘smart cities’ will be developed over the next few years. We take you on a virtual tour of the ambitious plans and the real time action that is happening on the ground.
Other interesting reads in this issue include features on the Sydney bridge – which has fascinated tourists from around the globe – the national Air Force Museum and the a technology input by Saurin Shah of Kenya, which makes for an interesting read.
Globally, women are making a mark in different areas and India is no exception. We feature an interview with Dr Riddhi Shukla, who has trained herself in cosmetic surgery. The feature reveals how bold and beautiful women are working towards a better personality, inside-out. She shares some myths and facts that will inspire women to overcome physical challenges.
BJP stuns UP
THE phenomenal victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the recent elections to the Uttar Pradesh state assembly has been an eye-opener in Indian politics. The clear mandate for the party in India’s most significant and populous state comes as an endorsement of the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
For a state with tens of millions of uneducated and poverty-stricken citizens, UP electorate has shown political maturity. Yogi Adityanath has proved his mettle in Parliament representing Gorakhpur many times as its MP. Mr Modi’s remarkable efforts at ensuring the victory of his party in one of India’s most important political states is an endorsement of Adityanath’s capabilities as a national leader. The electorate in the state also gave a resounding blow to dynastic politics, rejecting two leaders – Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi – who were virtually staking a claim for what they consider their family inheritance. The BJP’s success in UP should awaken the political class dominated by families – from Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu – that it is no longer easy to confound the electorate with such feudal ideas.
In this month’s cover story, we focus on the beginning of the end of dynastic politics in India and the promise that the new BJP government provides to the state. For a state with tremendous potential for growth, UP needs a determined leader focused on transforming the sector. And we believe the new chief minister Yogi Adityanath is cut for the top job in the state.
Our second lead article in this issue is a conversation with Karan Grover, the top Vadodara-based ‘green architecture warrior,’ someone who is dynamic and zealous about his work.
“To build green, you must have elements in the building process and materials which are green,” the architect told us in an extensive interview. “There is no point in me building a simple green building and having door handles and locks and window mechanisms which require enormous amounts of energy to make.”
Another prominent individual who is being featured in this issue of Urban Vaastu is RS Sodhi, managing director, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd, the leading producer of Amul brand of milk and milk products. The Anand-based head of GCMMF elaborates on the plans of India’s leading dairy and on the country’s cooperative sector.
We also feature an interview with celebrity chef Harpal Singh Sokhi, who offers some inputs on healthy food habits and on the reasons contributing to rising obesity among young Indians.
Our regular features include one on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Sutlej river in India, spiritual learning and festivals and the ancient world of the Huns. Finally, I would like to wish our readers a very safe summer – drink plenty of water and keep indoors. Happy reading!
February has been an exciting month at Urban Vaastu with our team interacting with some great personalities of India.
We had memorable interactions with our Special Correspondent going to Puducherry and meeting five prominent personalities –Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, Lt Governor Kiran Bedi, Tourism Minister Malladi Krishna Rao, Tourism Director R Mounissamy and Tourism Secretary BR Babu. Interview with Chief Minister is the Cover Story of this issue and many more interviews and features will be seen in forthcoming issues.
Another important personality is Chairman VK Saxena of Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC). He focuses on the KVIC’s efforts to encourage khadi culture to vie with modern fashion trends in the country.
Our interaction with Jayshree Lalbhai was stimulating after the recent inauguration of Kasturbhai Lalbhai Museum in Ahmedabad. The Museum is now the pride of Ahmedabad and is housed in ancestral twin bungalows of the Lalbhais one of which is more than a century old.
Aparna Sud, a leading production designer associated with several Bollywood films, shares her experience after bagging the Filmfare Award 2016 for ‘Best production design.’ She had designed the Pan Am jet replica in the film Neerja. She contributes to guest column for this issue.
One of our stories looks at the Hoover dam in the US, which was one of the most challenging engineering projects ever executed. While the dam in Nevada is an engineering wonder, it has been in the news after the recent disaster involving the Oroville dam in nearby California.
We also feature the river Ganges. In Hindu mythology Bhagirath brought the river to earth by propitiating Lord Shiva.
March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day (IWD); this year’s campaign theme is #BeBoldForChange. IWD has been observed since the early 1900s and is a call for gender parity.
In Andhra Pradesh, the state legislative assembly organised a three-day National Women’s Parliament last month. ‘Empowering Women – Strengthening Democracy,’ was the theme for the event.
We also have our regular features, which among others cover the ancient civilisation of Mongolia and the festival of Ratha Saptami, symbolizing the change in season from winter to spring and the harvesting period. It is the time to worship the lord Sun, the sustainer of all life forms and the spiritual significance of Adityahridayam, the devotional hymn associated with Surya. The recital is said to bestow courage and confidence to the ‘bhakt.’
I’m sure all our readers will enjoy this power-packed edition to the fullest. Happy Reading & Happy Holi.
Dramatic changes in the Indian Republic
AS India celebrates its 68th Republic Day we can calmly look back at the highlights of the past 12 months. One of the most noteworthy events of the year was the demonetisation of the rupee, which expectedly caused problems in the beginning.
There were long queues outside banks and ATMs, as millions of people desperately sought to withdraw cash. For almost two months there was an acute shortage of cash and many people had to struggle. Fortunately, the crisis is now virtually over and you can comfortably withdraw money.
Indeed, the payments system has become smoother. Increasingly, many people – and not just the highly-educated or tech-savvy consumers – are making online payments. The decline of cash is evident not just in cities, but even in rural areas. In fact, hawkers (including those selling wares on pavements) are also adapting to online payments.
The government launched the new digital payments app, Bharat Interface for Money (Bhim), which promises to dramatically transform the payments business in the country. Its Unified Payment Interface (UPI) is also taking off in a big way.
And many private platforms including Paytm and MobiKwik, besides international majors such as Amazon have been reporting hefty growth in online transactions in recent months. According to the Reserve Bank of India, while money transacted using mobile grew by nearly 370 per cent last year, mobile banking transactions expanded by a hefty 175 per cent.
Major changes are also happening in the Indian pharmaceutical sector, which is expanding rapidly both in the domestic and international markets. Our cover story focuses on this sector, which has been expanding at 15 per cent annually over the past five years.
India is the largest exporter of generic medicines, accounting for a fifth of the global market. Pharmaceutical firms from here have a major share of the market in countries including the US. According to estimates, 30 per cent of the American pharmaceutical needs are met by exporters from India.
Indeed, the country is blessed to have one of the most sound and well developed pharma sectors in the world. Right from generic medicine to high-end ones, we have something to fit every pocket.
Our other features include an interesting piece on Singapore, a small country in size but a leader in infrastructure, which can be a great model for many nations; another article on waste management; and our regular features on architecture, travel and tourism, temples and religious places, the ancient world and numerology.
2016: A year of ups and downs
THE year comes to an end and I wish all our readers a very happy 2017. It has been a year full of ups and downs, of hope and disappointments and of pain and pleasure.
But as we all always say every cloud has a silver lining. Globally there have been tragic events of terrorism and trauma, calamities and crass behaviours and bullets and bombs killing thousands of people. Sadly, violence rages across in countries including Iraq and Syria.
Back home, the demonetisation move of the NDA government has brought a tornado kind of effect. There have been discomforts and inconveniences, but the common man by and large has been very patient and supportive of the move.
There is a sense of pride and confidence that most of the citizens have. And if this works we will see a sea change in our economy. Our cover story this time focuses on the radical move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took a daring decision to shatter the parallel economy of black money by demonetising notes of `500 and `1,000.
It will take some more time for the full impact of the decision to be felt and ordinary people may continue to face problems in accessing cash. Thankfully, however, the government is doing everything to encourage alternative financial products including debit and credit cards, digital money and transactions and a host of other ways of making payments. These will undoubtedly push India into a new financial era in a matter of months.
We also have interesting features on light houses, infrastructure in Germany and technology – how to get it right. All these make for good reads. We have had an opportunity to interact with two exemplary personalities Sindhutai Saptkal and Dr Chandrakant Giri, whose interviews are published in this issue.
The former is an ‘iron lady,’ who has defied many; her determination has overcome pain and agony and personal tragedy in her life and is now deeply engaged in helping orphans. Dr Giri, a respected, US-based scientist – who has had a few patents to his credit – talks about spiritualism in professional life. He is a member of ISCKON.
Of course, we also have our regular features that I’m sure will keep our readers engaged and entertained. I wish all of you a Happy New Year and hope that 2017 will be a good year – not just for the nation and for the rest of the world – but also for you personally.
India’s major urban crisis
URBAN India has been facing a major crisis for several years now, as hundreds of thousands of migrants from rural areas seek opportunities in cities. Most of them are impoverished and do not have money to buy or even rent flats or small housing units.
Inevitably, they end up living in illegal slums where they pay hefty rents to unauthorised ‘landlords.’ The ‘housing colonies’ – if they can be described as such – are unhygienic, sources of diseases and have an appalling lifestyle. Yet, millions of rural Indians who have migrated to cities are forced to suffer because of the absence of affordable (both in terms of rental homes or ownership ones) housing units.
Our over story in the current issue focuses on this enormous problem that is hurting India. While millions have to suffer by living in such uninhabitable homes, hundreds of thousands of other city-dwellers also have to bear the unhygienic surroundings and other ugly features of such settlements.
Fortunately for India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is focusing on the urban crisis and is encouraging local civic bodies to do something to resolve the housing crisis. We hope that his Smart City mission will be a success and will bring relief to millions of ordinary Indians around the country.
In this issue, we also highlight several other contemporary issues. Our piece on the ‘Smog of the decade,’ – which virtually crippled Delhi last month – focuses on the worst smog crisis that residents of the national capital witnessed. The high levels of air pollution in Delhi were partially caused by the excessive bursting of fire crackers. Irresponsible citizens, who do not consider the consequences of their ‘celebrations,’ contribute largely to the crisis that many of our cities are facing today.
In our regular column on Prime Minister Narendra Modi – where we feature reports and articles on him – we focus on some of the contemporary issues that have cropped up over the past few weeks: demonetisation of Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes, use of mobiles to deal with the cash crunch and the promise of a home for every Indian by 2022.
On the lighter side there are interesting pieces on urban food and furniture, on the river Godavari, and an interesting interview with an entrepreneur, Ankit Dave, on ‘virtual reality.’
So happy reading for all our readers.
IT is one of the most joyous and festive occasions in India, when literally hundreds of millions of people get together and share their happiness. Families rejoice and celebrate the most popular festival in India, with many travelling hundreds of kilometres to be with their near and dear ones.
Diwali – which this year begins towards the end of October and continues into November – is a time when people celebrate their happiness. They buy colourful clothes and gifts, burst firecrackers, share their love with family and friends and also pray for a better year ahead.
On this glorious occasion, I convey my best wishes to our dear readers. Our cover story this time focuses on this unique festival, as well as several other key Indian festivals, which bring people together to celebrate love, share their happiness and enjoy with their dear ones.
In this issue, we also take you on a fascinating journey to Madurai, where the historic Meenakshi temple attracts millions of devout visitors every year. Another interesting feature takes you on a journey along the lifeline of Madhya Pradesh, Narmada, the fifth-longest river in the sub-continent, and known as the ‘giver of pleasure.’
We have some very interesting personalities being featured in this issue or contributing articles. One such person is Bangalore-based architect Lester Rozario, who is very clear about the role of modern-day architects. “I feel quite strongly that it is the architect’s moral responsibility to be more sensitive towards the environment,” he tells us in an interview.
Our guest columnist this time is YogeshMehra, the co-founder and CEO of Yolo Homes, who has travelled around the globe, studying contemporary residential living formats. He elaborates on the health city concept and bemoans that most of our central city areas are bereft of greenery or natural elements.
We also feature the ‘NarendraModi Corner’ where we highlight some of the major initiatives taken by the Prime Minister in October in pursuit of his unique ideas.
Our regular architecture expert, RevatiRajwade, kicks off a four-part series, exploring the architectural aspects of renowned engineering feats in relation with structural elements. She starts off the interesting series by taking a look at pedestrian bridges.
As we enter our third year of publication, I am all excited about the new series and subjects that we plan to introduce over the course of the year. I look forward to ideas and suggestions from our readers and also eagerly await some contributions on interesting topics.
A very special anniversary issue
October will always be a very special month as it marks our anniversary. These two years have been very enriching, exciting, educational…and humbling. A lot of people – including experts, professionals, busy-business folk and of course even students, housewives and friends – have been our support system, being there, guiding us and contributing in their own way the best they can. As a gesture to show our gratitude we have a special feature with their messages and autographs.
Architects have contributed greatly to our society, providing homes, offices and other facilities, soothing our minds and lives. In this issue, which has prominent Indian architects on our cover, we spoke to some of the most illustrious and creative minds of our times.
Brinda Somaya, Gauri Parikh, Reza Kabul and P. Venkat spoke about their fascinating profession and the role of architects as builders of society. Indeed, we have had an overwhelming response from the profession and plan to feature interviews with other leading architects in the future.
Beginning this issue, we start a new feature called Viewpoints – Connecting with the PM. Narendra Modi is one of the most transparent world leaders, whose thoughts and ideas are articulated on his web sites. We have decided to capture a series of interesting items that appear on his official sites.
This remarkable issue also has an exhaustive interview with Harsh Dhingra, chief country representative, India, Bombardier Transportation, the world’s leader in transportation. The company, which has tied up closely with the Indian government and Indian Railways, has done ground-breaking work for the railway infrastructure in India.
Our Urban Furniture columnist Pankaj Sabharwal answers the number one query most people have regarding interior partitions: what are these partitions which are now becoming a rage? Do we need to up the designs of our dwellings and follow these speedy ‘blossoming fads’? A simple solution to this query is increasing our knowledge on interior partitions, he writes.
We have a very interesting feature on ‘New Technologies in India’ which is a rather relevant topic considering how much they impacting our lives! Y Madhuri takes us on a tour of River Bramaputra.
Dr Ravi Rao has some very useful inputs on entrances and site excavation in our Vaastu section. You all can try out my very own protein rich salad. I am sure our regular features on cool trends, city scapes and zoom in will excite you as always.
I wish to end this note by thanking the entire team of Urban Vaastu and the Advisory board who have been silent but the most resilient support. They have believed in it and it is this belief that drives me to make the magazine innovative and packed with exciting articles.
Wishing all our readers a very Happy Navratri.
Welcome to our luxury edition
FOR us, dear readers – and we are sure for you as well – this is a landmark issue. For us, this bumper issue marks our second anniversary, months when we enthralled you with fascinating features.
I am sure you will find the current issue charming and irresistible as we take you on a journey of luxury and smart and stylish living in some of the most memorable places, not just in India, but even around the globe. We also launch you our very first luxury edition…so relax and enjoy!
We take you on a visit of the ultimate and stylish abodes of the rich and famous. Our experienced writers expose you to some of these wonderful homes. Our writers also talk to you about modern urban styling.
We engage in chats with prominent citizens. For instance, you will find us chatting with Dakshesh Shah of Armedia, the ultimate makeover destination and one-stop solution to a new you.
We are also feature an interview with Umang Hutheesing, who has gained fame around the globe besides India. We take you on a tour of one of his most prized possessions, his historic haveli, which is creative, elegant and an icon of style.
Pankaj Sabharwal guides us on how to create walls and ready them for your collection of famous paintings by Hussains, Raja Ravi Vermas or your Gaitondes and Picassos.
In our advisory section, our expert throws light on the luxury tax – how does it effect a citizen and what all services and products come under their preview.
With the Olympics coming to an end, can we not salute our young performers, Sakshi and Sidhu, for their outstanding performance, not to forget Deepa Karmankar?
We also bring the spotlight on the Tripati Triumala Devastam, the abode of the ultimate supreme being, Lord Balaji, and his spiritual teachings. We take you on a pious trip to the temple towner.
We turn two as October sets in next month and we look forward to your suggestions. I am sure you will have plenty of suggestions on the kind of stories and features that you would like us to carry in the future. We eagerly look forward to your suggestions.
And as I sign off this edition, I would like to pay my tributes to Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader who passed away recently. Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew down to his village in Gujarat to deliver an emotional eulogy to the 94-year-old spiritual leader, who ensured the expansion of the sect in India, the US and the rest of the world.
A towering personality
“Do your duty and be detached from its fruit” – the Bhagwad Gita
IT is very rarely that one interacts with a person and emerges from it as a much more aware and enlightened individual. This happened to me recently after the extensive interview – which my colleague Tillana Desai and I had – with Baba Ramdev.
As we walked out of his ashram in Haridwar after the interaction, I could feel his energy. The guru’s passion and perseverance are infectious and one learns a lot more besides yoga and ‘Pranayama’ from him. He has abundant knowledge even on corporate matters.
A towering personality with millions of followers all over India and in other parts of the world, Baba Ramdev is basically a humble person, who radiates warmth and happiness. He smiles often during the interview, shows respect for the other person and exudes confidence.
Yoga and Baba Ramdev have become synonymous in recent years and he has contributed significantly to the growing popularity of India’s gift to the rest of the world. For me, the interaction with the legendary guru was one of the most enlightening events. We feature him on the cover of this issue of Urban Vaastu. Our cover story focuses on alternative remedies including Ayurveda and homoeopathy.
Another interesting feature in this issue is on the three-day SathyaSai World Youth Festival, which was held in the main ashram of SathyaSai Baba, at Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh between July 12 and 14. About 3,000 delegates participated in this event to celebrate love and service. Indeed, in these days of violence and terror attacks, SathyaSai Baba’s message of equality, compassion and service to mankind assume significance.
Taking off on a different tangent, we catapult you to a different world of architecture – one that could ensure an alternative home for mankind on Mars. Yes, experts have already begun work on designing materials that would help in creating a habitat for future settlements of humans on Mars.
Closer to home and on our own planet, there is another heavenly country that beckons. Georgia is a unique land, with picture-perfect scenic beauty and a warm and friendly people. We feature an interview with KetevanBochorishvili, the deputy minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia.
We are also starting a new feature on India’s famous rivers, beginning with the Ganga. So sit back and enjoy this eclectic mix of articles, features and interviews. For a quick dekko at what it is all about, also visit our website where we feature a video promo about the magazine.
Bringing a seachange in governance
NINETEENTH century American theologian and author James Freeman Clarke put it aptly when he wrote: “The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman thinks about the next generation.”
I am reminded of this famous saying – and I am sure many of our readers too have similar sentiments – when I see our busy Prime Minister working 16 to 18 hours a day in a bid to transform this country. When Narendra Damordas Modi, led the BJP to a stunning victory in general elections in May 2014, he raised the hopes of hundreds of millions of our countrymen – especially the youth – who entrusted him the task of bringing a seachange in governance.
Two years in office as Prime Minister, Modi has not disappointed his voters. His popularity ratings are still high – a recent poll found it at a remarkable 74 per cent – and the BJP leader continues to lead from the front. He steers government policy, pushing ahead with reforms, urging ministers and bureaucrats to cut through the red tape.
Importantly, in a country where many politicians have been caught with their fingers in the till, there has not even been a whiff of a scam in the Modi administration.
Our cover story puts the spotlight on the man that India has reposed its trust in and who many believe will ensure that the country will emerge stronger – economically, socially and technologically – over the coming years thanks to his determined efforts.
In this issue we also feature an interview with a prominent educationist and now Governor of Gujarat, Om Prakash Kohli. “We must accept both Indian knowledge as well as modern times equally,” the head of the state told us. “Today’s youth should be ‘pakka’ Indian and liberal-modern.”
Last month, we had featured an interview with Shivani Gupta, founder of AccessAbility, who has been passionately pushing ahead with the agenda to ensure accessibility for the disabled in public places. Continuing with the theme, we feature an interesting piece in this issue on the need to develop barrier-free architecture, not just as a gesture, but to ensure it becomes a way of life while designing new buildings.
Sports fans in the country are preparing to watch one of the greatest sporting spectacles in the world, the Olympic Games, which kick off in Rio de Janeiro next month. Some of the greatest athletes and sportspersons from around the globe will be competing in the games for a fortnight. Read about some interesting nuggets relating to the Rio Olympics in this issue.
‘Sagarmala’ promises a seachange
CLAUDIUS Ptolemy (100 AD-170 AD), the Greco-Egyptian writer and polymath (he was also a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer and poet), had written about the ancient ports of south India. Even before him, Strabo (64 BC-24 AD, a Greek geographer, historian and philosopher, had referred to the Roman trade with India and the existence of ports along the country’s west coast thousands of years before his time.
Indeed, India has a long maritime history dating back 4,500 years ago. Not surprisingly, many of the coastal communities – from Gujarat down to Kerala – have for centuries ventured overseas, mainly in search of trading opportunities.
Unfortunately, for a significant part of the post-Independence era, India’s ports sector stagnated; our ports became laggards and were over-taken by several super-efficient ones in our neighbourhood, notably Singapore, Colombo and Dubai.
But a seachange is occurring in the port segment, as billions of rupees are being invested in upgrading existing ports and developing new ones, both in the public and private sector. The central government has also launched the ambitious ‘Sagarmala’ project, which promises to transform the sector. Our cover story focuses on these dramatic developments.
We also have several interesting features for our readers in the June issue of Urban Vaastu. For football fans, who will be keenly watching the month-long Euro 2016 – either on their smartphones or TVs, or attending some of the matches in Europe – we have an interesting feature on the 10 stadiums where the games will be played.
Last month saw millions of devout Hindus descend on Ujjain to participate in the Simhasta Kumbh Mela, which takes places once every 12 years. Our writer travelled to the holy city and filed a report.
We also focus the spotlight on India’s dying lakes; these water bodies are being choked with the dumping of effluents and industrial waste. We also carry a tribute to Poornima Pakvasa, a Gandhian, who was dedicated to improving the lives of tribal girls in Dang district in Gujarat. She was one of the satyagrahis who joined Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March in March 1930.
In this issue, we also introduce three new features, focusing on lifestyle, health foods and fitness. And another exciting roll-out in this issue is our travel section, which is now open for all our readers. You may send us photographs taken during your recent holidays (along with a brief write-up and description of the places) and if we find them interesting – and the images of good quality – we will surely try to publish them at a future date.
Gujarat’s dynamic Chief Minister
WHILE voters in five states – Assam, West Bengal, Tamil, Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala – are exercising their franchise and waiting with bated breath for the results to be announced on May 19, in Gujarat, one of the most developed states of India, its first woman chief minister, Anandiben Patel, completes her second year in office on May 22.
Our cover story focuses on the quiet and hard-working head of government in Gujarat, the achievements of her government and the phenomenal development that has happened in the state.
In this issue, we also feature an interview with another strong woman, New Delhi MP, Supreme Court lawyer and BJP spokesperson, the doughty Meenakshi Lekhi. She shares her views on a host of issues dear to hear, including waste management, sustainable energy and smart cities.
And a third woman, who transformed the world of architecture by redefining shapes and going beyond the rectangular form is also featured in this issue. We pay our tributes to Zaha Hadid, the pioneering architect, who passed away in Miami in March. The Iraqi-born architect refined architecture with her fluid style and impeccable designs.
In this exciting IPL season, can we forget cricket? No, but we feature interviews with two prominent members of the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (Cabi), where they talk of the challenges that they faced in convincing sponsors about the need to back the teams that have participated in one-day international and T-20 international matches.
With the exam fever coming to an end and parents and their children seeking admissions to institutions of higher learning, we feature an informative piece on education loans in our advisory section.
Wood is an important material that is increasingly being used in our homes. But it has to be handled in the right manner for maximum benefits. Our Vaastu expert, Dr Ravi Rao, shares some useful tips on the subject of wood.
An interesting feature is one on courtyard houses, which are to be found all over the country. These airy homes, with a view of the open sky, are a joy to spend time, especially during the harsh summer months.
In the Heritage and Culture section, you will find interesting articles on Chaitra Navratri, the nine holy nights of spring, which are a time to cleanse the body and soul; and on the ancient land of the Punt in north-east Africa.
For teenagers and tweens, summer in the Indian sub-continent means ice-creams, sugarcane and watermelon juice, ice ‘golas,’ stylish glares and other things that keep one cool. It also spells summer holidays to be spent in cooler climes.
Happy reading and happy holidays!
In the service of their motherland
It is one of the noblest professions, but also one of the most dangerous, especially in neighbourhoods like ours, where enemy nations are always fishing for trouble. Personnel of the armed forces are perhaps the only people who have to obey the orders of their superiors, even if it means sacrificing their lives, all in their line of work and for their motherland.
Soldiers and officers of the army, sailors from the navy and pilots and other personnel aboard fighter aircraft are trained to take on the most challenging tasks, even if it endangers their lives, and all for the greater good of their country. We sleep comfortably in our warm beds at home at night, thanks to our soldiers and other armed forces personnel who maintain vigil on our land, sea and air borders.
Our cover story focuses on the custodians of our borders, the men and women who serve their country selflessly. The Indian Armed Forces are undergoing dramatic changes as the government invests large sums in modernising the three wings.
We also feature interviews with three senior retired army officers, who discuss the challenges that the forces confront. One such officer talks about the bravery of his son, Capt Vijayant Thapar, who was martyred in the battle of Tololing in the Kargil war almost 17 years ago.
Despite India not being engaged in a conventional war, scores of our soldiers and officers are killed every year along the borders. Our hearts go out to their families and dependants, who have to rebuild shattered lives and struggle ahead, even as they overcome the grief caused by the loss of loved ones.
In this issue, we have featured interviews with experts (or carry their views) on topical subjects including the union budget, the Real Estate Regulation bill and changes to tax laws relating to Real Estate Investment Trusts. We also feature an interview with Aneesh Bhanot, brother of Neerja, the PanAm air-hostess who was shot dead by terrorists at Karachi airport in 1986. The biopic on her, directed by Ram Madhvani and produced by Atul Kasbekar, has been a huge hit.
Our travel writer takes you through the streets of Cairo, sharing his experiences of the wonders of ancient Egypt. We also have an interesting piece on five of the oldest temples of India. As usual, an exciting package of articles to keep you busy. Enjoy!
Time to improve rural education
SCHOOLS in rural areas may not boast of sophisticated facilities that some of the modern institutes in cities have, but many of the village schools in India have nurtured students who have come out with flying colours in board exams, got through tough entrance tests and have got admission to prestigious institutions.
Lack of facilities including laboratories, libraries, playgrounds and swimming pools have not restrained outstanding students in rural areas. Many of our top scientists, political and business leaders, professionals, artistes, musicians and sportspeople have come from humble backgrounds, studying in schools with the bare minimum of necessities. But this has not prevented them from reaching the zenith of success.
Yet, remarkable though these success stories are, there is no gainsaying the sorry state of affairs of rural education in India. Many of the schools do not have functioning buildings and classrooms, teachers are absent most of the time, and parents hesitate sending their daughters to school because of the absence of toilets. All these result in a high rate of dropouts.
Our cover story in this issue focuses on rural education. Despite governments spending enormous amounts over the decades, the challenges in ensuring good education to the vast majority of students who live in the villages are formidable. There are of course many activists, NGOs and volunteers who are doing a good job, helping students in state-run schools to overcome the enormous problems that they face. We illustrate two examples, one from Haryana and the other from Goa.
Last month, Prime Minister NarendraModi launched the Start-Up India initiative to encourage the youth to take risks and start their own ventures. One such successful entrepreneur, AlokBajpai, who founded Ixigo.com nearly a decade ago, was present at the launch of the initiative, and is our guest columnist this month.
Our travel feature this time focuses on Copenhagen, the lovely capital of Denmark. We also feature Surat in the Cities section of the magazine. And in Celebrity Homes, we take you to Mandvi in Kutch, where the Vijay Vilas Palace stands splendidly by the seaside. Plus we have our usual features and columns that will keep you informed and entertained.
Remarkable transformation in farm sector
One of the biggest challenges in a country the size of India is to feed the 1.3-billion-plus people. For a country that has been ravaged by severe droughts in the past, and where memories of starvation deaths in pre-Independence days are still fresh in our minds, India has indeed made rapid progress in agriculture.
Today, we are a leading agricultural nation, exporting foodgrains and a host of other commercial crops. From being an importer of wheat – under the PL-480 plan – in the 1960s, we have enough to feed our people. And while agriculture’s share in the GDP has fallen significantly in recent years, thanks to the emergence of the services sector, it still provides livelihood to more than 700 million Indians.
Our cover story focuses on the remarkable transformation that has come about in the Indian farm sector. Technology is also being deployed in the sector, with growing cooperation between the Indian Space Research Organisation and agricultural institutions.
This issue also takes you on a journey to Bhopal, the city of lakes, and the capital of one of India’s largest states, Madhya Pradesh. The article talks about the different cultural influences on the city’s architecture.
Our regular travel column also takes you on a fascinating discovery of Athens, the historic city, which boasts of some of the most iconic structures built on earth. Discover the history of the ancient Greek republic, wade through its pulsating capital and take a guided tour of the remarkable architectural wonders that dot Athens.
Our guest columnist this time is young entrepreneur and pioneer of crowd funding in India, Ishita Anand, the founder and CEO of BitGiving, an online, community-driven crowd funding platform that has helped in raising funds for the Indian ice-hockey team, a mountaineer and victims of the Nepal earthquake and the Chennai floods among others.
And as winter finally eases its chilly grip over many parts of India, we welcome the onset of balmier weather. February is one of the best months to travel across the sub-continent, especially before the onset of the summer holidays.
Looking ahead: the next 15 years
As we welcome a New Year, it is time to ponder over the highs and lows of the year just gone by. 2015 has had its share of ups and downs, but I believe overall it has been a good year for India. At a time when major global economies – including the Euro area countries, the UK, Japan, the Asean-5, Russia, Brazil and South Africa – are grappling with recessionary pressures, India has done exceedingly well.
India is today the fastest-growing large economy, expanding at a faster clip than even China. Several innovative programmes of the government, such as the Make in India initiative, have brought in billions of dollars in foreign direct investment.
Of course, we have our fair share of problems including rising prices, growing pollution and reckless urban development. But looking at the crisis in many parts of the world – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, to name just a few – we are lucky we live in a stable and democratic world, where millions of people of different religions, castes and communities share a common bonding.
Having crossed a major milestone – the first 15 years of the new century and millennium – it is now time to look ahead to the next 15 years. Global analysts and experts predict that India will be among the top-three global economies by 2030, right behind China and the US. We are a surprisingly young country, with more than 65 per cent of our population below the age of 35.
These millions of young people – both in urban and rural areas – are aspiring for new jobs and opportunities and eager to acquire new skills and higher education. We at Urban Vaastu believe that with such a vast population of young men and women, India’s future will continue to remain bright.
Our cover story in the New Year focuses on roads and highways, which are like the arteries that sustain economic growth. India is witnessing massive investments in its road network, a fact that would transform the economy – just as road and highway building contributed significantly to the development of the US and Japan in the 1950s and 1960s.
There are several other interesting articles and interviews in this issue, which also feature our regular columns. Happy reading and also a Happy New Year to our readers.
Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016
AS winter sets in, we are also preparing to bid goodbye to 2015, an eventful year for India. It was also the year when Indian Railways, one of the biggest transporters of people and freight in the world, embarked on a new journey.
Our cover story highlights the dramatic changes that are being planned by the government to transform this organisation, which is the lifeline of the nation. If the plans materialise over the next few years, Indian Railways will be introducing bullet trains – linking cities such as Ahmedabad and Mumbai – develop a high-speed diamond quadrilateral, set up dedicated freight corridors and establish world-class railway stations. For the 160-year-old Indian Railways, transporting 25 million passengers daily along its 115,000-km-long track network, these are indeed memorable times.
We feature an interview with renowned architect Dikshu C. Kukreja, who is also an urban designer, and a key member of CPKA, the leading Delhi-based multi-disciplinary architecture and engineering firm.
Another interesting feature in this issue is on site responsive architecture,which talks about helping and improving the quality of space of human comfort.We also have a feature on unique bridges around the globe, designed over the centuries, and which still continue to fascinate visitors.
Our regular feature by James Law talks about‘The Pad Tower’ which is the world’s first Cybertecture apartment tower located in Dubai’s Business Bay.
Last month, we introduced a new series on the majestic palaces of India. This month we feature the magnificent Laxmi Vilas Palace of Baroda, with an exclusive interview with Samarjitsinh rao Gaekwad, a member of theerstwhile royal family of Baroda.
Our Heritage and Culture section has some interesting reads on the Inca civilisation, the Hornbill festival and more.
And as the festive weeks roll in, here’s wishing all our readers Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Wildlife conservation – Our Lifeline
Preserving, protecting and conserving our wildlife is a major concern as the threats increase with every passing day. Sadly, there continues to be a spurt in the number of animals and birds being poached by global criminal syndicates, who kill these creatures for their hide, fur, bones, claws, teeth and flesh.
In this month’s cover story, we focus on India’s wildlife conservation efforts, the enormous assets that the country has and also the constant efforts by poachers to kill or maim animals and birds.
Our guest column for this month is written by Ms. Gagan Singh, CEO, business, India, and chairperson, Sri Lanka operations, JLL India. She talks about the need for a strong ethics policy in the corporate world to ensure equality and diversity at the workplace.
Our regular columnist James Law talks about his firm’s young architect programme, for students who believe in an aesthetically sound and environment friendly architecture.
In our travel feature you will discover the breathtaking architecture of the desert kingdom of Dubai, one of the seven emirates constituting the UAE, and one of the most vibrant cities in the Middle East.
We also feature an article on different types of floorings, one of the major aspects to make your home beautiful. The Vaastu Tips column also talks about flooring.
This issue will also see the start of a series on Indian palaces; we begin with Bhavnagar’s Nilambagh Palace and explore its history and development through the years.
Another new feature that we are introducing is one on Good Samaritans, men and women who devote their life for the betterment of society. In this issue, we talk to Harakchand Savla, who’s dedicated his life towards easing the pain of cancer victims and their relatives in Mumbai.
We celebrate the philosophy of non-violence with our Spritual Learning section.
Happy Diwali to all our Readers!
The Art-Beat of India
Before I elaborate what this month’s Urban Vaastu has in store for you, I’d like to thank all our readers for yourwhole-hearted support and encouragement throughout the year. We celebrate our first anniversary in October and look forward to informing and educating you for many more years to come.
Fromthe next issue, we will be delighted to have our readers write for us. We are open to any topics that are substantial and engage the minds of our readers. If we like what you write then we’d love to carry your articles in our magazine.
This month has a surprise. We have changed the look and feel of the magazine. Go through the pages and you will discover our redesigned magazine.
In this issue we focus on India’s cultural and art traditions, which have withstood influences from around the world for centuries. Indian art traditions have been influenced over the millennia by various civilisations, but have been able to withstand the alien assaults and thrive.
As part of the cover story, we have featured an exclusive interview with eminent Indian classical dancer and choreographer SonalMansingh. A recipient of several awards including the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan (two of the highest civilian honours in India), it was a pleasure to interact with the doughty dancer.
Our travel feature takes you to Prague, which is known as Europe’s cultural capital and is home to a number of famous attractions that have survived violence and destruction over the centuries. These include the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, Old Town Square with the Prague astronomical clock, the Jewish Quarter, Petřín hill and Vyšehrad.
We also have a very interesting read on cyclists who’ve covered the Manali-Leh-KhardungaLa terrain. The enthusiasts share their experiences with us. Our Hong Kong-based columnist, James Law, dwells on his foray into ‘Cybertecture X,’ which aims to develop new designs and technologies for smart cities.
We also feature an article on architectural wonders of the world that illuminate humanity and captures the inventive, creative spirit of man through the ages.Our heritage and culture section has an article on the nine-night festival of Navratri, which is held to worship Goddess Durga and her nine forms, culminating inDussehra, which symbolises the rise of shakti and victory over evil.
We also bring to you an article about one of the largest and most remarkable empires in Indian history, the Mauryan Empire.
We hope you likethe new avatar of Urban Vaastu, and will be a part of our celebrations and continue on our journey.
E-Commerce Reveloution in India
THE e-commerce revolution in India has indeed transformed the way millions of consumers shop groceries, fruits and vegetables, electronic goods, music and books, book their tickets, order food, make hotel reservations and carry out many other transactions. Though this transformation began a few years ago, it has accelerated over the past few months especially with a large number of new e-commerce portals sprouting up.
This has brought the world closer now as buying and selling of a wide range of products and services is just a click away. The world is in our palms, and a flick on your smartphone can get you what you desire. (Of course, the basic fact remains that you need money for doing this). Consumers save time, energy, money and other resources.
And that the e-commerce revolution has occurred in a ‘smarter’ world is no surprise. Our cover story in this issue focuses on the dramatic changes in shopping habits of millions of Indians triggered by the proliferation of e-commerce portals.
This month is a big mixed bag of goodies as we feature an interview with renowned German mentalist and magician Nicolai Friedrich who was recently in Ahmedabad for a mindboggling performance. We also pay a special tribute in memory of our late former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam (15 October 1931 – 27 July 2015) who passed away while delivering a speech at the IIM Shillong.
Our guest columnist this month, Ashwinder Raj Singh, the CEO, residential services, JLL, sheds light on the importance of solar power, and its impact on the real estate industry. International architect James Law writes about ‘A manifesto for design for humanity’ in his regular column.
In Urban Spaces, we take you to Ajmer, the bustling though unplanned and chaotic city in Rajasthan. We highlight the charms of the city of the Dargah and the tranquil Ana Sagar lake. This time the traveller’s focus is on Marrakesh, an intriguing and ancient city in Morocco.
The Ancient World feature focuses on another country in the Middle East, Syria, currently undergoing a major crisis. Plus we have our regular features under the Home & Office Space and Heritage & Culture sections.
We are thrilled to announce that next month Urban Vaastu will be a year old. The October edition of the magazine will be a special anniversary issue, where we hope to get involved with our readers on a more personal level and hope to hear from you.
The Monsoon effect
‘Woh kagaz ki kashti, wo barish ka pani…’ The melodious ghazal by Jagjit Singh touched millions of hearts and made one feel nostalgic. Even today, monsoons have a way of bringing back bitter sweet childhood memories. They have a way of reminding us about those carefree times when the first downpour would bring excitement, even as the dark overhead sky thundered, as if telling us to rejoice in its glory.
Even as adults, we love to enjoy a cup of piping hot ‘chai’ and partaking of some pakoras or ‘makkai’ (corn) on Mumbai’s Marine Drive, Ahmedabad’s Kankaria lakefront, or Delhi’s Rajpath, enjoying the rains.
With the Indian economy relying hugely on abundant rains during the four-month monsoon, the nation waits with bated breath every year at this time for predictions from the weather office. A good monsoon season is a bonus as it boosts demand for industrial and consumer
products and services in both urban and rural areas. Deficient rains can have a devastating impact on the economy and the nation.
Our cover story focuses on the importance of the rains for rural and urban India as well as the need to conserve natural water bodies. Lack of adequate preparations on the part of civic bodies results in disruption of normal life in many of our cities (including New Delhi, the national capital, and Mumbai, the financial and commercial capital), crippling rail and road services. Water-logging in many areas also results in the outbreak of monsoon-related diseases which are increasing rapidly. We also discuss the importance of rain water harvesting and how civic bodies should increase awareness about these issues.
An interesting read in this issue is our Guest column, where we have Dr Kanan Desai, the assistant commissioner of police of the women’s cell of Ahmedabad, talk about women’s safety and why Gujarat is amongst the safest states of India.
Internationally renowned architect James Law talks about ‘The Future of Architecture’ in India and the challenges he’s faced as an architect working in the country.
Our travel section takes you to Rome, the historic city in Europe, and gives you a taste of the essence of the city.
We also bring to you an exploratory ride on the safe tracks of high speed bullet trains across the globe.
We also have other fascinating and stimulating features including the Advisory section that talks about tenants’ rights and obligations, My Space and Vaastu Tips on ‘Kitchen Gardens’, and a piece on the evolution of the Persian Empire.
With the first anniversary of Urban Vaastu just around the corner, we hope to involve our readers in this exciting journey that we undertook 12 months ago. We constantly strive to improve our offering with every issue and we value your feedback and suggestions. Hope the rainy season sees the beginning of a greener tomorrow for all of us.
Tackling the health crisis
THERE is an epidemic out there in Indian cities, but unlike epidemics of the past, this is not related to a communicable disease. Worryingly, the cardiovascular disease epidemic that is raging across urban India is increasingly attacking the young, especially those at the peak of their productive lives – men in their 20s, 30s and 40s, professionals who’ve acquired the best of qualifications and are working in leading corporates.
High-stress levels, irregular work hours, sedentary lifestyles, improper food habits including consumption of junk food, excessive smoking and drinking and lack of exercise are factors that are seeing an increasing number of Indians succumb to cardiovascular diseases. Sadly, for a country that has for centuries nurtured and encouraged stress-busting concepts including yoga and meditation, it is a travesty that an increasing number of young people are becoming victims to these ailments.
But even as an increasing number of Indians are succumbing to lifestyle diseases, the country is emerging as a major hub for medical tourism, with thousands of patients from around the globe seeking remedies for a range of ailments. Foreigners are seeking treatment for several diseases, getting organ transplants done and also routine surgeries and procedures because of the excellent quality of tertiary healthcare in India and the presence of an army of skilled doctors and medical professionals.
Our cover story focuses on India’s dynamic healthcare sector, which has made great strides in recent years. Indian physicians and surgeons, at both public and private hospitals, treat a wide spectrum of diseases, deal with the maximum number of patients (as compared to their counterparts in the west) and are quick to adapt to new techniques and procedures.
One way out of the crisis caused by high stress levels is to adopt an organic lifestyle, as our guest columnist this month, Bengaluru-based entrepreneur MalleshTigali, points out. “Plant-based diets help to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce blood pressure, and are also rich in sources of dietary fibre,” writes Tigali. “Fruits and vegetables independently contribute to preventing cardiovascular disease. So start a new chapter in your life today and embrace all things natural.”Sound advice for the new generation in India.
Last month, one of India’s most prominent architects, Charles Correa, passed away aged 84. Charles has designed iconic buildings all over India and even in other parts of the world. We pay a photographic tribute to this great architect.
In our Urban Spaces section, we have interesting features on Thane, a historic city on the outskirts of Mumbai, which is witnessing rapid growth. Indore, another historic city in Madhya Pradesh, is the subject of another article. And for some light reading, we have an excellent travel piece on Sydney, one of the happiest cities in the world.
Amazing changes on the home front
IT’S been a tiring day at work. You are driving home, but traffic is moving at a frustratingly slow pace. You are hungry and craving for some warm meal, but it will take at least another 40 minutes before you reach home. You then have to place the dinner in the micro-wave to heat it, then put the clothes into the washing machine, quickly sweep the dining room and the kitchen. In the process, you will miss out on your favourite television programme as you’ve forgotten to put it on record mode. The daily drudgery can take a heavy toll on you.
But now for some good news: thanks to technological innovation, top international and Indian companies, concerned about these daily hassles that impact the quality of life of millions of consumers around the globe, have come out with a remarkable solution – creating the smart home for a smarter you.
As smart homes increasingly become a reality even in Indian metros, a consumer can switch on the air-conditioner at home from her car using the smart phone as a remote. The same device can be used to switch on the microwave and air-conditioner, get the home cleaning robot to do its chore, turn on the record function on your set-top box, and to get the washing machine going, all with a few quick jabs on the smart phone, even as you are caught up in a traffic snarl. Of course, while leaving home one has to put the clothes in the washing machine, the food inside the microwave oven and the domestic robot in the right room.
Our cover story in this issue focuses on the amazing changes that are occurring on the home automation front in India, as information technology and telecom companies roll out new products and services. And real estate developers are also designing smart homes that will make these once esoteric concepts a reality.
Despite the remarkable technological changes that are occurring in the designing of homes, ultimately a building should be architecturally beautiful so as to “move you in mind and spirit… challenge and stimulate your intellect,” and “leave you both calm and in awe,” as our columnist, Hong Kong-based cybercture pioneer James Law, so eloquently writes in his column, describing true beauty in architecture.
One city in India’s neighbourhood that is extremely tech-savvy and ‘smart’ is Singapore, where almost everything works with clockwork precision. Our travel feature this time focuses on the city-state, which is not only a shopper’s paradise, an efficiently-administered metropolis and a green haven, but also a commuter-friendly place.
Other interesting features in this issue include a piece on Mumbai’s central suburbs, on Gandhinagar, Gujarat’s green and well-planned capital, and on the concept of industrial corridors. Plus, we have our usual features focusing on Home and office space and Heritage and culture. So sit back, relax and enjoy reading Urban Vaastu.
The summer exodus
FORTY…41…42.5…43. The mercury is on a relentless rise and temperatures in most parts of India are soaring. Millions of Indians would be busy packing their bags and preparing to head out to the mountains and cooler climes of hill stations. School children and college kids would have finished their exams and are eagerly looking forward to that long vacation.
Summer time is holiday time in India and millions of Indians will be enjoying their dream holidays. Indeed, it might come as a surprise to many of our readers that a mind-boggling 1.2 billion domestic tourists travel across the country every year. In contrast, less than 7.5 million foreign tourists visit the country.
India’s domestic tourism sector – comprising hotels and resorts, tour operators, taxi and car rental firms, retailers, vendors at informal bazaars and of course airlines – is booming as the travel bug bites millions of Indians. Our cover story this month focuses on this remarkable business that has transformed dramatically in recent years.
Of course, hill stations have been around in India for at least a century or two. Many of them were ‘summer capitals’ for the colonial rulers, who would abandon the plains during the harsh summer months. The Himalayas, the Aravallis, the Vindhyas and the Western and Eastern Ghats are dotted with hill stations, which continue to draw a large number of Indians.
And Bollywood has also done its bit to popularise hill stations and other holiday destinations – who can forget Amitabh and Rekha romancing in Yash Chopra’s Silsila in one of those lovely places?
In our Urban Spaces section, we feature two interesting articles. One is about Mumbai’s western suburbs, where new projects keep popping up with amazing frequency. While the local authorities are busy constructing flyovers, widening existing roads, developing metro rail corridors and improving the infrastructure at business hubs, developers are also promoting new projects.
The second feature is on the evolution of Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Odisha, which is undergoing transformation. It is one of the few ‘planned’ Indian cities, but unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the planning appears to have got derailed. Our guest columnist this month, ShobhitAgarwal, managing director of the capital markets division of international property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle (now known as JLL), writes about the new curbs imposed by the Reserve Bank of India on inflows into the real estate sector from a few countries.
In our Heritage and Culture section, we have inspiring write-ups on Lord Hanuman and on GoswamiTulsidas, the composer of Ram CharitaManas. In the Home and Office Spaces section, read about how to do up your study rooms, while Dr Ravi Rao’sVaastu Tips has special advice for those planning these rooms.
So buckle up as we take you on a wonderful journey in this issue of Urban Vaastu, which has a lot of interesting reading material for you during your vacation. Happy summer holidays!
A Joyous Season
IN an era when the institution of marriage is under enormous strain, especially in the western world, it is heartening for us in India that this beautiful coming together of two individuals and the concomitant social covenant – entered into with the blessings of elders and the endorsement of relatives and friends – continues to strengthen our society.
Weddings in India have always been among the most joyous social occasions for people cutting across socio-economic and religious strata. A marriage is still considered a sacred act and most parents eagerly look forward to the day their sons and daughters enter into a blissful alliance with their respective partners.
Most parents, irrespective of their economic background, start saving for their children’s weddings by investing in gold and other ornaments from an early age. Undoubtedly, the ratio of wedding expenses to incomes must be among the highest in India by any yardstick.
A recent survey in the US revealed that an average American wedding cost about $30,000 (less than Rs.2 million). But an average Indian wedding in the US adds up to about $65,000. Our cover story in this month’s edition of Urban Vaastu focuses on the Big Fat Indian Wedding.
The summer months are the busiest in India’s weddings calendar as hundreds of thousands of young couples embark on a new journey. Wedding planners, event managers, priests, jewellers, caterers, decorators and others get extremely busy as families prepare for the big event.
Continuing our focus on growth hubs in urban India, we take a look at central Mumbai, one of the most vibrant property markets in the country. Scores of high-rise buildings – some even as high as 80 to 100 floors high – are coming up in the central part of the metropolis, transforming its skyline.
We also feature Ahmedabad – both historic and contemporary – in another interesting article. And in our travel section, read all about that great European city, Paris, which continues to draw thousands of Indian tourists eager to soak in the rich culture.
April will see millions of Hindus celebrate Ram Navami, which marks the birth of Lord Rama, the Maryada Purshottama (the perfect man). Read all about the festivities that will be held across the country.
In the interview section of the magazine you will get to know the views of Pinaki Misra, the MP from Puri – and chairperson of Parliament’s standing committee on urban development – on a host of contemporary issues confronting the sector. We also feature an article by Anshuman Magazine, a real estate industry veteran and head of the India practice of CBRE, a leading international real estate services firm.
James Law, the internationally renowned architect – who is also on our advisory board – has an interesting piece on how to choose and get the best out of an architect. Plus, we have our usual features relating to Home and Office and Heritage and Culture. Happy reading!
The education challenge
MARCH may bring the curtains down on the financial year of the Indian government, various state governments and of the corporate sector, but for millions of students, it is just the start of an anxious period, when the knowledge that they have acquired over the past few months in classrooms will be tested.
India’s education system is undergoing dramatic changes, with governments renewing their focus on this crucial subject. India has had a mixed record in education – some of our prestigious institutions, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management have produced the brightest of professionals, many of who are heading multinational corporations, research academies, or even university departments. At the same time, India’s track-record when it comes to providing primary and secondary education, especially to the poorer sections of society, is dismal.
In the current issue of Urban Vaastu, we focus on the education scenario in the country, highlighting both the positives and the drawbacks. We appeal to our readers to spend some time in sharing your knowledge with the under-privileged; instead of giving a rupee to a needy person, it would be far better to provide useful insights, to help them stand on their own feet and support their family.
Cricket fever is upon us and will peak this month with the World Cup finals. India’s easy victory over arch-rival Pakistan in Adelaid eand South Africa in Melbourne saw the World Cup kick-off on a bright note for millions of spectators in the country.
In this issue, I am pleased to announce the launch of new two features, which will appear regularly from now on. One is a monthly column on design that internationally-renowned architect and pioneer of cybertecture, James Law, who is based in Hong Kong, will pen. The other is a travel column; Kunal Patel, an eminent architect, who is also on the advisory board of Urban Vaastu, will take time off from his busy schedule to describe some of the wonderful journeys he has undertaken around the globe. The first column that he signs off covers his memorable visit to Istanbul.
In our Celebrity Home section, we walk you through the ancestral home of music composer and singer, Sohail Sen, located near Versova beach in north-western Mumbai. It has been home for four generations of this family of musicians.
Prominent Pune-based industrialist Arun Firodia is our guest columnist this month. He writes about energy-efficient homes. The Urban Spaces section also features articles on south Mumbai, the most expensive real estate in India and Asia, and on the appalling standards of our roads and our driving habits, which result in unnecessary deaths.
The Home & Office section has a blend of useful Vaastu tips and some designing inputs. An enriching piece, narrating the spiritual journey of Sri Ramakrishna Parmahansa will surely soothe the readers’ soul.
The cricket carnival begins
THE excitement is palpable: as the ICC World Cup begins from mid-February, this cricket-crazy nation is getting ready to applaud its team, which will be battling to retain its 2011 victory. While hundreds of millions of Indians will watch the month-log cricket carnival, being played in Australia and New Zealand, on television; monitor the scores on web sites or on radio; and read about it all in the following day’s newspapers; many have also booked their tickets to go Down Under and cheer for their team.
India’s passion for cricket is reflected in the huge sums of money that are invested by governments, cricket bodies and even the private sector in building up top infrastructure including stadiums. While the lucky few manage to play matches in these fancy stadiums, large numbers of young Indians play in small ‘maidans’, on the roads or even in narrow by-lanes.
Unfortunately, our obsession with cricket has virtually deprived other games in the country of funding, resulting in appalling infrastructure, lack of facilities for budding sportspeople and an absence of trainers and coaches. While the Indian economy continues to grow rapidly – with the country ranking among the top-five global economies – our performance in other sports is dismal, resulting in the decreasing number of medals we win in global events including the summer Olympics.
Our cover story focuses on the pitiable state of our sports infrastructure. We talk to experts to find out the reasons for the continuing neglect of facilities for different sports.
In the January issue of the magazine, we featured an interview with globally renowned architect James Law and spoke of his remarkable work. This time, we carry the second part of the interview, where he tells us that India needs to build a strong basic foundation to ensure the success of its ambitious Smart Cities plan.
Our guest columnist, Anuj Puri, the chairman and country head of JLL India, focuses on the growing number of ‘green buildings’ that are being developed across the country. He believes greater awareness is the key to raise demand for green projects in India. In the architecture section of this issue, you will find an interesting piece on clock towers, which were once popular in many leading cities.
The advisory column highlights the many challenges that a home buyer faces while acquiring that dream home. We also provide useful tips for the potential home buyer. The Celebrity Home feature provides you an insight into the lovely Ahmedabad home of world billiard champ Geet Sethi and his wife, Kiran Bir Sethi, a designer, educationist and social entrepreneur.
Plus we feature many other interesting and informative articles on Indian heritage and culture. We also eagerly look forward to your valuable comments on the magazine.
INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to invite American President Barack Obama to be the chief guest at this year’s Republic Day parade in New Delhi is a landmark move that will bring two of the world’s leading democracies even closer. Ties between the two countries have been on an upswing, despite some minor hiccups along the way, in recent years.
Bilateral trade between the two nations, currently around the $100 billion-mark, is projected to rise to $500 billion over the next few years. Both leading economies are dependent on each other to a great extent. America needs engineering, information technology, medical and research professionals from India to ensure that its universities, space academies, research bodies, hospitals and corporates – from established ones to start-ups – continue to grow and pioneer new innovations.
It also needs cheap drugs from India, textiles, software services, business and knowledge process services, besides a range of other products and commodities. India as a huge market of 1.25 billion people also offers tremendous opportunities for US companies eager to expand their operations.
India’s funding needs are also humungous, especially in the areas of urban development, infrastructure, financial services, civilian nuclear technology and even in the social sectors. Besides, India also needs cutting-edge technology to improve efficiencies in several sectors. If these two great democracies work together and collaborate in several areas, the world – besides hundreds of millions of their citizens – will gain significantly. Our cover story focuses on the opportunities that this new equation throws up.
Continuing our ongoing efforts to familiarise our readers with the concept of Smart Cities, we talk about the planned cities of the future in India, especially along the proposed freight and industrial corridors. We also provide a glimpse of one of the world’s ‘smartest’ cities, Singapore, which is familiar to a growing number of Indians who travel there.
In this issue, we also introduce a new feature, Growth Hubs, where we will be talking about emerging new localities within a city, or even cities that are undergoing rapid transformation. For a start, we are focusing on Vaishnodevi Circle in Ahmedabad, which is one of the most happening places in the city. We are also introducing a new cartoons page, where our cartoonist takes a lighter look at life.
In our Home and Office Space section, we tell you about the growing popularity of landscaping in India; we also discuss with an expert the finer points of landscaping, the selection of plants and also provide some maintenance tips.
And as winter slowly begins to lose its harshness, Indians across the sub-continent welcome the onset of the auspicious month of Uttrayan. Read all about the celebrations that will mark the beginning of the auspicious half of the year in our Heritage & Culture section.
Making Our Cities Safer
WHILE India is undergoing rapid urbanisation, with millions of people migrating to cities from rural areas, there is a corresponding increase in crimes that occur in our cities. Our cover story in this issue – Smart City, Smart Crime, Smart Policing, – takes an in-depth look at this growing problem.
Kidnapping, crimes against women, terrorist attacks, extremist violence and land grabbing are some of the major crimes that confront some parts of urban India today. Many of the police forces in our cities are getting modernised, with the state governments spending billions of rupees in upgrading their weapons, communication systems, transport and other infrastructure.
The central government is also coordinating the efforts and beefing up the security forces to ensure that citizens are protected from a variety of crimes. We speak to several experts to find out solutions to this problem.
In our Heritage & Culture sections, we have two interesting articles. One looks at the mystery of the visit of Jesus Christ to India and his travels across the sub-continent. The other elaborates on the importance of the Bhagvad Gita on the occasion of Shukla Ekadashi, which marks the birth of the Gita.
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the capital markets regulator, has cleared the way for property-backed investment vehicles. We analyse the impact of the entry of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), both on the real estate sector and the capital markets. We also feature an interview with Mr Kirti Shah, Partner, M&A Tax and Regulatory Services at Desai Hari Bhakti, on the investment potential and possible returns from REITs.
In our regular Builder’s Voice section, we feature an interview with Nishant Agarwal, Managing Director, Avighna India Ltd., a leading Mumbaibased real estate developer, which is focused on the premium residential market in the metropolis.
Another interesting piece in this issue relates to bedrooms and how they can impact us in our daily lives. Read all about the importance of light fixtures, flooring and walls in a bedroom. In the Urban Spaces section, we profile Chandigarh, the union territory, which is also the shared capital for Punjab and Haryana. India’s first planned city stands testimony to Le Corbusier’s preference for light, space and greenery.
We also feature an interesting interview with Kunal Patel, Director, Strategic Planning at HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt Ltd.
Mr Patel believes that governments must offer a conducive environment and provide incentives among other things to support urbanisation in the country. We are sure this feature-packed issue of Urban Vaastu will keep our readers engrossed and provide them useful information as well. Happy reading!
Smart Cities – Digital Urbanisation
Smart cities are the talk of the world. Ever since IBM rst coined the term Smart Cities, several denitions have emerged to dene them. These denitions refer to sustainable infrastructure, local economy, social awareness and more, elements that dene urbanisation itself, but what is common to the denitions is the introduction of information technology to minimise complexity, optimise resources and to bring in innovative solutions to solve the city’s challenges. The core outcome of smart city eﬀorts is to drive sustainable economic growth and prosperity for the citizens.
The cover story, Smart City: Challenging Journey raises the question, is it too expensive to build green-eld smart cities, those that are built from scratch? Such green-eld smart cities carry heavy cost implications. Given this fact, in order to ensure that the 100 smart cities promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi are built, we need a mix of browneld cities – converting existing cities into smart cities – and green-eld ones.
While online payments and information related to public services are already available in India’s metros and large cities, much needs to be done to bring the bulk of public physical infrastructure within the ambit of IT. From transport schedules and optimal routing knowledge to common payment modes and citizen’s usage data and much more, the path is clear. At the same time, innovative solutions that solve problems of traﬃc congestion and pollution are essential to create healthy urban living spaces. Leading smart cities around the world stand as examples in this regard.
Mr. Kamal Singal, CEO of Arvind Infrastructure talks of what makes the company a big brand in the real estate sector and of trends in the industry.
Property – residential or commercial – is a big
investment and it pays to learn the details of the tax savings that accrue to you. November’s Advisory guides you towards optimal tax savings through the interest and principal repayment on your housing loan as well as the standard deduction for repairs and maintenance.
Beauty is a necessary, yet often ignored component of urbanisation. Mumbai University, built in the Venetian Gothic style, is the perfect example of beauty, functionality and sustainability. The Beauty in Education – University of Mumbai tells you interesting facts –the structure bears resemblance to Oxford University. While the university building itself was nanced by Sir Cowasji Jehangir, a Parsi philanthropist, the library was commissioned by Premchand Roychand, a prosperous broker who had also founded the Bombay Stock Exchange.
Read the latest in kitchen elements, from ooring to tiling and cabinets in Doing Up Your Kitchen. Also read Dr. Ravi Rao’s expert advice in Vaastu for Kitchen.
Ancient Stupas of Sri Lanka isn’t just about architecture, it is the history of the island nation seen through its monastic architecture – evidence to the fact that religion and politics have always been interlinked.
To mark Guru Nanak Jayanti this month, we bring to you the interesting and spiritual life of Guru Nanak and his teachings. On gaining enlightenment, he had said, “There is no Hindu, there is no Mussalman” – a lesson that is particularly relevant today.
Focussing on Urbanscapes
Gujarat’s Sabarmati Riverfront has caught the nation’s attention. It is the ﬁrst comprehensive attempt to convert an Indian riverfront into an aesthetic public space. Not only does it focus on recreation and social infrastructure, it also focuses on economic development with the creation of a Central Business District. At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that the project is taking care of the low-income populace that had made the Sabarmati riverbed their home, dhobi ghat and farmland. Its inclusiveness alone makes it a project worth the attention.
The creation of the riverfront makes for interesting study. It leads us to the factors taken into consideration by planners and architects – both Government and private – and to how they overcame multiple challenges to build an inspiring riverfront. The Sabarmati Riverfront can easily be the blue-print for similar projects in future.
With shifting population from villages to towns and cities, there is increasing focus on urban spaces – our cities and towns. Traditionally, the focus has been on villages and the reason’s not far to see – 70% of India’s population had for decades lived in villages. What has escaped attention is the fact that this population had begun migrating to cities and towns years ago.
It is estimated that by 2050, 66 per cent of the world’s population will be urban. India is expected to follow the same pattern. The great migration is already visible. The 2011 census reveals that Indian urban population rose to 31.16 per cent from the 2001 ﬁgure of 27.81 per cent.
According to estimates, we need about 500 cities, which includes existing and new ones, to accommodate this vast populace. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the building of a 100 smart cities on his agenda, and
that is as it should be. At the same time, we are talking of planning and investing in our mega cities, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, with their bursting-at-the-seams infrastructure, to make them the most liveable cities across the world. Meanwhile, large cities like Bangalore, Ahmedabad and more are set to become tomorrow’s mega cities, if they aren’t already. They face a diﬀerent set of challenges. We discuss the challenges that each category of cities faces in this introductory article on creating liveable cities.
Public architecture is a much ignored, yet key element of the cityscape. Adalaj step well near Ahmedabad is one such work of art, initiated by a Hindu ruler and completed by the Gujarat Sultanate. While it was built to oﬀer water and rest to travellers and the local population, its architecture makes it a place worth the visit.
Your home is a big purchase, question is, have you checked all the documents? Understand the details of the documents you need and of the mandatory approvals. Read our expert’s answers to readers’ questions related to vaastu – the ancient science that makes our homes, oﬃces and public buildings oﬀer peace and comfort to us.
It’s the month of festivals. Wishing You A Very Happy Diwali !