Sunday 29 January 2012

When the West doesn't know Indian saree...

Once again the Indian attire is in the news, not because of commoners, but because the western media has called Anarkali dress worn by Shilpa Shetty as saree. Even though many fashion designers from India keep saying that saree, our traditional garment, is one of the best known Indian outfits in the international fashion world, Daily Mail, a UK tabloid called Anarkali dress as saree!
On Friday, the tabloid carried an article on Bollywood actrress and former Big Brother winner, Shilpa Shetty, making her first post-pregnancy appearance. While the actor wore an off white and red Anarkali suit with a duppatta, the report called the garment a saree. The tabloid, unfortunately, failed to recognise the Indian outfit. ‘Shilpa Shetty’s sari shows off her baby bump’, read the headline.
The article also read: “The Bollywood actress glowed with expectant mum pride and she looked stunning in her beautiful sari, which showed off her baby bump.”
And funnily, people also started posting comments on the tabloid website about the faux pas. “That’s not a sari. It’s called an Anarkali,” posted ZB from India.

Another comment, posted by Zak, read, “Its Not a sari it’s a freakin anarkali dress (sic).”
Radh from London said: “Daily Mail, it is not a saree that she is wearing but in fact a 3 peice outfit called a 'Lengha'.”

Then, Kudeza, also from London, said: “That's not a sari for a start! Anyway she looks gorgeous and definitely glowing.” And Kudeza goes on to explain the dress in another comment: “All those that are calling this a "Lengha" - You are all wrong too. A Lengha is a separate top + long skirt. What Shilpa is wearing is called an Anarkali Suit as the top is all one piece!!”

Shwetha Singh from Bangalore joins the debate and says: “Shilpa is wearing a traditional Indian Dress (Salwar Kameez- Anarkali Style) She is wearing salwar kameez There are many varieties of Salwar Kameez For Eg:- Patiyala Style, Plain A cut, Umbrella Cut, Chudi dar, Anarkali Style..... n many more....... so she is not at all wearing a saree.”

Indian designers feel that at a time when a global fashion giant like Hermes has come up with an exclusive sari collection and designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier have done their interpretation of the saree, such ignorance is amusing. 

But is it really such a big deal? If given a thought, yes it is. There’s no wonder that Westerners get confused between an Anarkali and a Churidaar, but saree has been often worn by many global celebs! 

Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova was dressed in a traditional Indian saree when she addressed a press conference in Lonavala, Mumbai. 

Tennis players Serena Williams and her sister Venus Williams were in traditional Indian saree during a function on the eve of the WTA Bangalore Open Championship in Bangalore in 2008.

Russian tennis player Maria Kirilenko wore a saree during a photo shoot at the Sunfeast Open 2007.

Serbian tennis player Jelena Jankovich was in traditional Indian saree during a function on the eve of the WTA Bangalore Open Championship in Bangalore in 2008.

Tennis player Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia wore an Indian saree during the 2007 Sunfeast Open in Kolkata.

Paris Hilton had even done a cover shoot in a saree.

Actress Liz Hurley attended The Breast Cancer Foundation's Hottest Pink Party at The Waldorf Astoria in New York City, in a beautiful saree.

Ashley Judd, YouthAIDS Global Ambassador, was in a saree at the YouthAIDS Gala: Faces of India at the Ritz-Carlton, Virginia.

R&B quintet Pussycat Dolls walked the red carpet at Conde Nast Media Group’s 4th Annual Fashion Rocks in a black saree designed by designer Rocky S.

Supermodel Naomi Campbell walked the runway in a saree at the Mai Mumbai show at Lakme India Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2009 at Grand Hyatt.

Anna Kournikova in saree
Serena Williams and Venus Williams in saree
Jelena Jankovich in saree
Jelena Jankovich in saree
Paris Hilton in saree
Liz Hurley in saree
Pussycat Dolls in saree
Ashley Judd in saree
Naomi Campbell in saree
Not just these, even Anjelina Jolie, Eva Mendes, Gisele Bundchen, Pamela Anderson, Tania Zaetta, Nicole Scherzinger, Madonna, Dame Helen Mirren, Ashley Judd and others were bewitched by this Indian outfit and appeared in some beautiful sarees on some occasions. 
Angelina Jolie in saree
Madonna in saree
Eva Mendes in saree
Tania Zaetta in saree
Gisele Bundchen in saree
Nicole Scherzinger in saree
Helen Mirren in saree
Pamela Anderson in saree
Ok, leaving that apart and justifying their ignorance, we can just pardon them by saying even we cannot tell which is an Abaya and which is a Burqa. But will that justify it?

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Who will control the web? How??

The largest democracy in the world is drawing attention of the world and this time, it is for censoring internet liberty. And this is not the first time the eyes of the world are on this country, following an uneasy tension between allowing free expression to its citizens and staunching sectarian violence among its people. It was one of the first countries to ban The Satanic Verses by its own writer Salman Rushdie. It was the country’s lawsuits which forced painter MF Hussein to live in exile during the last several years of his life. And now, it is the internet which is like a galaxy of words and pictures rife with potential to inflame sentiments across the globe.

The country’s Information Technology Act, 2008 limits the liability of Internet firms for material posted on their websites by users, including anything government regulators deem objectionable. The firms are supposed to be notified of offensive content -- by users or the authorities -- and then remove that when legally warranted. What one has to wonder is then, why did the government sanction a criminal lawsuit against companies?

Even the Wall Street Journal on January 16, made a similar valid question:
“If that’s how the system is supposed to work, then why did the Indian government just  sanction a criminal lawsuit against Google, Facebook and 19 other companies that all but ignores those protections in the information technology law?”

And overnight, the media attention is on Vinay Rai, a journalist -- not to forget that it is the media and media people who often cry for freedom and privacy – who has registered a criminal case against the content on Google's Orkut social networking site, YouTube, Facebook and several other smaller sites. 

Rai, who works as a journalist in Akbari, a Urdu weekly, accused them of violating various provisions of India’s criminal code by allowing material that is mocking or offensive to religious and political figures to stay on their social networking sites. According to him, such content can “create communal riots across the country”.

In a sign of the growing tension, the high court judge told the companies at a hearing that they must find a way to monitor and delete offensive content, or India could go the way of China and start blocking entire websites more actively. Indian Express reported:
"You must have a stringent check. Otherwise, like China, we may pass orders banning all such websites," Justice Suresh Kait said.

The Google is still trying to cope with a far more direct and severe censorship regime in the neighboring country, China. Two years ago, Google said it would begin directing users to an uncensored search engine in Hong Kong, and now it is making a renewed push in China to market products and services such as its Android mobile phone platform.
Yes, agreed that there millions of people who use social networking sites across the world and there are thousands who create accounts with fake identities each day. Men posing as women, women posing as men, people posting objectionable, abusive content every day. But is there anybody to regulate them?

According to Google’s transparency report, India made nearly 70 requests to Google to remove  content between January and June in 2010, one of the highest request rates of any country though less than the United States’ 92 and Brazil’s 224.

This is not the first time India is attempting to monitor and control electronic information. Last year, the government battled with Blackberry’s manufacturer, Research In Motion, threatening to shut the company’s service off in India if it did not allow government officials greater access to users’ messages.

Interestingly, before 2011, the public disenchantment with the government was not that great and it is exploding now through the Internet. Is it because of the public outrage over corruption and political dysfunction that is spilling into blog posts, Facebook posts and Tweets that the government is stepping up its enforcement against the web? But will the government’s decision to control the web and its content not “a clampdown on free speech altogether”?

There have been instances where people have kept themselves away from social networking sites. Users of all websites have the option to report objectionable content and that Indian laws make it essential for sites to then examine and delete content within a fixed period, if it's found to violate Indian guidelines. So it’s not just the laws, even the public can control offensive content.

Telecom minister Kapil Sibal had singled out Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi, when he had spoken to legal representatives of India’s top Web firms, the telecom minister reportedly described as “unacceptable” a Facebook page that offended her. But if it’s only to check offensive material on Sonia Gandhi, the government has to stop and think. It is this decision which led writers like Shobhaa De to tweet: “Sibalsaab, such outrage 2 protect privacy of one ‘Madam’ in a country of 100million internet users? We like our freedom and we shall have it!”, in what appeared to be a reference to Sonia Gandhi.

Not to forget, last year, Congress threatened legal action against the author of a fictionalized account of Sonai’s Gandhi’s life, which party officials described as defamatory.

When the government has plans to set up its own unit to monitor information posted on websites and social media sites, is there a need for blocking or banning social networking?

The crackdown on Web firms couldn’t come at a worse time for the emerging Internet sector in the country, which has a potential to grow from about 100 million users to more than 300 million within a few years, if nurtured.

Even the United States expressed concern over India’s effort to impose a code of conduct on web firms. US State Department spokesman Mark Toner had said: “Freedom of expression applies equally to the internet as it does in the real world.”

Hearings in the trial court will resume on March 13. Will the social networking giants recognize and learn their social responsibility by merely stepping into the court? One has to wait and watch.  

Saturday 14 January 2012

Al Khor Fly-in

It was already 11.50 am when Vij told me about the Fly-in at Al Khor. He wanted to visit the event not just to see the flights, but also to have a first-hand experience, sitting in those small flights. Then, we just thought of having lunch outside and left home, wondering if we would be able to see the event properly, as it was too windy.
Fly-in at Al Khor

We reached the Al Khor airport by 1 pm and as expected it was so dusty and windy. We could see people and small children covering their faces and trying to avoid dust from falling in their eyes. Though I could cover myself with the shawl, by the time we left the place, our dress, body and cameras were smeared with a fine layer of dust, not to mention the fine layer on the body of our car…
Small models for sale
This had a note saying don't sit inside ;)
There were a diverse range of light aircraft from Qatar and the Gulf region at Al-Khor Airport and we saw several aircraft enthusiasts from all over the region gathering around the flights and clicking pics. The crowd seemed to be excited, which was obvious through their cheer and smile.
Red beauties ;)
The Fly-in, fifth in the series, was organised jointly by Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA), Qatar Aeronautical College (QAC), light aircraft owners from Qatar and the region (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE), the remote flying section at the Science Club, Al-Khor Airport, the ultra-light amateurs, and regional flight clubs.

Looking what's inside...
The objective of the event was to educate Qatari youth about the concepts and practicalities of aviation, offering them an opportunity to plan their future and choose the adequate specialisation to make a career in the discipline, should they feel the urge to ‘reach for the sky’. It was also a great opportunity for those with a passion for aviation to immerse themselves in a fantastic and original experience by taking a closer look at a diverse range of aircraft - from jets, to propeller aircraft, to micro-copters and many others.
I loved that kid's glass and bunny cap :)
The event started on Friday at 8 am and the Fly-in began at 9 am and luckily we went on the second day and there was not that much of crowd. The display of remote-controlled aircraft, set to traditional, local music was an added attracted at the site. Had we visited on Friday, we could have witnessed a police squadron providing an air show accompanied by a ‘search and rescue’ scenario, followed by a flying show and then a remote-control display, accompanied by a commentary.
The potential of the Fly-in was evident by the number and stature of Qatari companies that had sponsored the event. We could see several private and government companies like Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Steel, Qafco, Ras Gas, Al-Khor Space City, Barwa Real Estate, Qatar Foundation and its partner the US Museum of Flights, and HBK Holding sponsoring the event, and their banners fluttered in the air.
Though, we went on time, we couldn’t take the flight as it was too windy! The offer by some of the small planes to take people around the airfield at a fee of QR150 per passenger seemed quite exciting and was a great draw at the event. Visitors had to register for the ride to be called in when their turn comes. There were conditions to take a ride too. The passenger had to be at least 16, fit for flying and wear protective gear.
The planes used were mostly gyrocopters, autogyros and micro light flown by professional pilots and the trip usually lasted around 15 minutes. The demand for the trip was very high and only a few had a chance Friday.
The event featured more than 30 planes, of small and light types, alongside one helicopter and a small passenger plane. Professional pilots were available next to their parked planes to answer the visitors’ queries.
After clicking some good number of pics we left the place and went to Al Khor town. We had not had any lunch and headed towards KFC for a quick bite and alas, it was sooo bland, sooo bland that we regretted going there!