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NRI business magnet with a golden heart

By Deepak Arora

Dr Ravi PillaiNEW DELHI, Feb 3: It is a welcome reprieve to meet noble souls of the like of Dr Ravi Pillai. While destructive elements continue to hog the headlines, humanitarian mission driven activities of this wealthy NRI, embalm the sores making one believe for a moment that the world really is a good place to live in.

Many might call him a professional messiah of sorts who not only makes wealth but distributes it too. He is the modern day Avataar of the great Samaritan, nursing the ambitions of thousands of people.

Dr Pillai left backwaters of Kerala in 1978 for the Gulf to strike rich. Thirty years down the line, his business turnover is US $ 2.5 billion per annum.

Dr Ravi PillaiWith his sheer hard work, business acumen and closeness to the Royal families, Dr Pillai has taken to new heights self respect for the Indians in the Gulf. What is amazing is that he is the largest employer of skilled people in the Gulf.

The NRI business tycoon, who is currently resident of Bahrain, is the Managing Director of the Gulf-based industrial contracting and oil refining company Nasser S. Al Hazri (NSH).

The NSH and other divisions of his business groups in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE employ a total of 35,000 people in the industrial contracting and oil refining sector. These include 28,000 Indians, thus making him the largest employer of Indians in the Gulf.

But the dream of this business magnate is to continue to give back to his motherland and whatever manner he can. He plans to recruit another 20,000 people from India in the next 3 to 6 months.

“We have recently signed several multimillion dollar contracts with various international clients, which will enable me to recruit another 20,000 more people from India in the coming three to six months, as our operations in the Gulf are being expanded,” said Dr Pillai, who was conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award by Indian President Pratibha Patil at the recently concluded Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in New Delhi.

Giving details of the new contracts, he said, “We have recently signed a $1-billion contract in Qatar.” The company also plans to recruit about 1,000 fresh engineers from India.

“We are planning to recruit 1,000 fresh engineering graduates because of our ensuing expansion. We need 400 mechanical engineers, 400 civil engineers, 150 electrical engineers and 50 instrumentation engineers.”

Responding to a question of difficulty in getting huge number of visas, he said, “Our Company has gained a very good reputation over the years across the region. Therefore, there is no problem in getting visas for our employees.”

Another amazing aspect is that his employees have been remitting to India an average of Rs 70 crore per month. “This will increase with our fresh recruitment drive. This is in line with our group’s mission of constantly supporting our country’s economic growth,” he added.

Dr Pillai says that the most coveted and prestigious “Pravasi Bharatiya Samman 2008” conferred on him motivates him to work even harder and contribute more for the welfare of the Indian community in the Gulf and towards the development of his homeland.

Dr Pillai, who has combined the philosophies of Karl Marx and Adam Smith, practices welfare economics. It is for this reason, he is also renowned for his philanthropic deeds. He has set up a charity trust with a seed money of Rs 10 crore for starting an orphanage in Kerala.

“Initially, the centre will accommodate 100 orphans from different parts of India and they will be given the best care and education until they grow up and are gainfully employed,” he said, adding that he would set apart 20 to 30 percent of his earnings towards similar charity projects in different parts of India.

He has also set up the Upasana Hospital and Research Centre in his home town of Kollam in Kerala where the poor receive free medical treatment.
At Upasana Nursing College and School in Kollam, considered the best nursing institution in Kerala, students from poorer sections of society are given free admission with the same facilities given to students from merits and management quotas.

Dr Pillai is also exploring the possibility of entering into micro financing projects to help unemployed people and families with no income to become productive members of the community.

This year, the Gulf-based NRI entrepreneur plans to turn into reality the much-talked about concept of Medical Tourism by unveiling a new Rs 100 crore medical resort in Kerala.

His plans a big entry into the hospitality, roads and highways and the petro-chemical sectors in India. “We are planning to enter the hospitality sector in India in a major way with operations from Delhi to Chennai,” he added.

Dr Pillai plans to build one of the finest hotels in Delhi and Chennai. “These hotels will be of international standards and will provide the best facilities available in the hospitality sector,” said Dr Pillai, who is also chairman and managing director of Dubai-based Versailles Hotel and Air Choice Travel & Tourism.

Padma Vibhushan for Sachin, Edmund Hillary, Pranab

Padma Bhushan for Mrgnad Desai, Sunita Williams, Shrilal Shukla

By Deepak Arora

Pranab MukherjeeNEW DELHI, Jan 25: Cricket star Sachin Tendulkar, Grand Master Viswanathan Anand, renowned mountaineer Edmund Hillary and Union External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in public affairs have been chosen for Padma Vibhushan among 13 people who were named for the nation's second highest civilian award on the eve of the Republic Day.


Sachin TendulkarAsha Bhosle in art; Justice (Dr) AS Anand, PN Dhar in public affairs; Dr E. Sreedharan and Dr Rajendra Kumar Pachauri in Science and Engineering; Lakshmi Narayan Mittal, NR Narayana Murthy, PRS Oberoi and Ratan Naval Tata in Trade and Industry are among the other recipients of the Padma Vibhushan this year.

Shrilal ShukalThe Government also named 35 persons for the Padma Bhushan and 71 other for the Padma Shri Awards. Prominent names among Padma Bhushan awardees included Meghnad Desai, Sunita Williams, Dominique Lapierre, Shrilal Shukla and Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar.

The other names inlcude KV Kamath, Shiv Nadar, Prof Kaushik Basu, Prof. Ji Xianlin, and others.

Prominent names among Padma Shri awardees include Hans Raj Hans, Madhuri Dixit, Manoj Night Shyamalan, PK Narayanan Nambiar, Tom Alter, Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Dilip Sardesai, Vinod Dua, Prof Amitabh Mattoo, Baichung Bhutia, Dr Amit Mitra and others.

Shrilal Shukla known for objective, purposive satire

NEW DELHI: An IAS officer of UP cadre Shrilal Shukla has become the recipient of the Padma Bhushan award for brilliance in the field of literature. The writer known for his objective and purposive satire in contemporary Hindi fiction was elated to have the honour.

His book Raag Darbari is said to be the first satirical novel of its kind in Hindi spanning a wide spectrum of post-Independence rural India, specifically Avadh. He was awarded the Sahitya Academy award for this book.

"It was Shrilal Shukla who took wit, irony and sarcasm to great heights in Hindi literature. Raag Darbari is generously peppered with folk witticisms of Avadhi, the powerful dialect in which Tulasidas, Malik Mohammad Jayasi and many Sufi poets made their mark," according to Chandra Prakash, a book store owner.

His important works include Sooni Ghat Ka Sooraj — his first book that came out in 1957. It was followed by a series of satires Amgada Ka Pamva in 1958. He received the Vyas Samman in 1999 for the novel 'Bisrampur Ka Sant'.

Portuguese wines make inroads in India

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, Jan 19: An enchanting moment when boundaries lost meaning and a harmonious feeling of warm welcome engulfed Delhi chills welcoming the grand entry of award winning Portuguese wines from the Alentejo region into India.

The region is blessed with exceptional light and sun conditions together with humid Atlantic breezes and the perfect soil for some good vintages.

Amidst saucy tete a tete on the forthcoming visit of French President Sarkozy and his girlfriend Carla Bruni, the wine glasses Tchin Tchinned to the scuffle of passing winter breeze as diplomats and experts joined hands in raising and playing down political issues. Well, all for the cause of a sip of the refined nectar from the languish regions of Portugal.

Hosted by the Portuguese Ambassador, Mr Luis Filipe Castro Mendes, in the lush lawns of the Portuguese embassy, the gracious hosts welcomed all with their winner charms. The Herdade do Esporao wines are a successful story because of the rich fruity flavour coupled with Elegance.

Connoisseurs and sommeliers whiffed the oak and distinguished fruit flavours to comment on the wines. Harshal Shah, Brand ambassador Brindco, went for the matured elegance of Touriga Nacional. The lovely French lady, Isabel Leclaire, Brand Ambassador for the Italian wines, Opera, favoured Alicante, for its rich character.

The gathering revelled in the rich hospitality of the Portuguese who offered all the wines through out the evening instead of regret laden empty bottles.

The selection of wines ranged from the Esporao whites to the Esporao red, Alicante and Touriga Nacional. Esporao Red Reserva from the Alentejo region is a vinification of Trincadeira, Aragones and the famous cabernet sauvignon grapes. The Esporao white is a private selection fermented in French oak casks and is a well bodied delicate wine.

With the wine market in India blooming into a niche business, the Portuguese wines will offer to the newly developed Indian palettes a challenging option. Especially since Porto wines have been already around for many years.

Tourism through Art

By Deepak Arora

Union Tourism & Culture Minister Ambika Soni with Vijay Thakur and Sushma AroraNEW DELHI, Dec 21: Incredible India has been propagating tourism through several punch lines such as Adventure, Beach, Ayurvedic, Religious, Golf and Rural tourism. But here comes the new punch line “Tourism through Art”.

This theme has been depictesd in the latest works of a versatile artist Vijay Thakur. His works, ongoing at the AIFACS gallery here, represent an outburst of creativity aimed at promotion of Tourism through Art.

Inaugurating the exhibition, Union Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni commended the show, for highlighting a novel way of promoting tourism art. She said “this will go a long way in putting art on the tourism map of India.”

Soni was also impressed by some of the works of Vijay Thakur that suggest effects of global warming on nature and humans.

Thakur, who is a leading figure of the Indian tourism industry, has been painting for nearly three decades. However, this is first ever exhibition.

Vijay Thakur with curator Sushma AroraSays Vijay: "I have been wanting to display my works for a long time. It was a chance meeting with Sushma Arora, who has had international exposure in Europe and the US, and the idea came to launch the unique concept of 'Tourism through Art'."

Says Sushma: "I have been looking for a unique theme and I found this in the works of Vijay Thakur. His dedication to arts and tourism is so impressive and it was great curating his show."

In Vijay’s art one can see intense human activity, extreme emotions and lyrical form of human beings, the energy pervading the cities or serenity and beauty oozing out of his landscapes and seascapes – be it in New York, Kaula Lumpur, Bangkok or in Rajasthan, Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Goa or Kerala.

Vijay has used Pen, Ink, Acrylic, Pastel and water colour as medium in these works.” The artist’s use of pure colours is a technique to compose structures in natural surroundings. Perspective and depth emerge from within the composition,” adds Sushma.

Union Tourism & Culture Minister Ambika Soni inaugurating the exhibitionSays Vijay: “When inspiration strikes, there is no stopping me to take up the challenge. The unknown and the known, the highs and the lows, emerge as compositions in monumental forms. A stroke and an etch is all that it takes to bring out the lucidity in colours as depths.”

Vijay has also been organizing tours ranging from two to three weeks of painters from France, the UK, Korea etc to India. “They not only come and enjoy their holidays but also paint and go back happily and display their works in their respective countries.”

While studying for his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at College of Arts, New Delhi, Vijay honed his skills under renowned art teachers. Having completed his degree in 1977, he kept his passion for art alive by sketching and painting during whatever little time he had while traveling to remote corners of India and the world for travel business.

Vijay also indulges in photography capturing people, places and nature.
His passion for photography resulted in his getting appointed as the Chief Representative of Pingyao International Photography Festival held each year in September in China.

He has been organizing trips of India’s leading lens men to China to exhibit their works for the past four years. Recently, 10 of his works were selected in PIP India Photography Festival 2007 and were on display at an exhibition in September last.

Recently, one of his got selected for the 2007 annual art exhibition of All India Fine Arts and Craft Society titled “Impressions”.

Shangri-La New Delhi Becomes First Hotel To Launch Enomatic Wine System in India

Text and Pix by Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 10: More and more Indians are raising a toast to wine than ever before. Little wonder then that major wine makers from France, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and Britain are showing a keen interest in the Indian market. Even domestic players are trying to expand their operations.

Keeping this in mind, Shangri-La New Delhi has become the first hotel in India to offer 32 wines and four Champagnes by glass under the Enomatic system.

Enomatic systems provide the best solution to maintaining the quality of the wines, as it uses " Argon ", an inert colourless and tasteless gas that replaces the oxygen, and therefore protects the remaining wine against oxidation. This innovation preserves the quality of the wines for as long as two months.

Shangri-La has thus become the first hotel to launch the Enomatic wine systems in India.

General Manager Andrew Steele said that “it is via Enomatic that we have decided to pioneer this technology in India. A unique choice and range of wines offer by the glass gives additional benefits and quality to our guests. It also gives an opportunity to showcase a wide selection of international wines from great Australian to beautiful Bordeaux wines to our local guests.”

Steele said the guests can select three choices of measures from a tasting pour, a small glass and a large glass. The choice of Red and White wines range from France, Italy, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Argentina and India. The tasting pour begins from Rs 75 and goes higher as per the measure.

It may be mentioned that the wine market in India is growing at 35 per cent per annum. The per capita wine consumption in India is 0.007 litre as compared to some western countries where it can be as high as 60 litre. However wine is fast becoming a part of urban lifestyles.

Le Beaujolais magic prevails

Text and Pix by Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 6: Like every year the tradition of uncorking the new harvest of Beaujolais on the third Thursday of November continues. This year’s edition was rolled out in 122 locations in Beaujolais and several places in France and indeed all over the world.

Delhi has seen many such fiestas and parties in 5-star hotels, spearheaded by the French Embassy and Air France in the past. This year Air France and Maison de la France (French Tourist office), in association with Rhones Alps, organised the much celebrated wine event of the year “Le Beaujolais Nouveau” here at Hyatt Regency.

Beaujolais nouveau is a red wine made from Gamay grapes produced in the Beaujolais region of France. It is the most popular wine, commonly known as vin de primeur, fermented for just a few weeks then officially released for sale on the third Thursday of November. This “Beaujolais Day” or “Beaujolais Nouveau Day” sees heavy marketing form the producers, with races to get first bottles of the vintage to different markets.

This event witnessed a gathering of diplomats, top corporate and the crème de la crème of Delhi’s top socialites. To make this event stand out in its own capacity Air France imported the Beaujolais wine as well as a variety of cheese and assortment of charcuterie especially from France to add an aesthetic flavour to the evening.

Genernal Manager Air France-KLM India Warner Rooptliep said “every year the Beaujolais Nouveau wines are eagerly awaited in France and across the world. Air France is glad to be able to bring this French tradition to Delhi.”

Director Masion de la France in India Karim Mekachera said “this is a very special event as it brings people together in a very festive spirit. It is a unique occasion to get together and taste the first harvest of the season which seems to astonish everyone as its aromas and savor seems to improve year after year. According to specialists, the Beaujolais Nouveau this year has strawberry notes.”

Initiated in 1987 and operating under the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism, Maison de la France aims to promote the entire spectrum of France tourism. With this event Maison de la France aims to bring awareness of the premium quality and extensive variety of France wine.

Maintaining its title as the world’s largest wine producer, France’s assortments of wine types, flavours and tastes is as diverse as the various wine regions in France. There are wine tours combined with hiking, bicycling and, best of all, sampling of France’s fabulous cuisine.

Blurring Swiss, Indian boundaries

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 5: Art is dynamic and forms create music that is visual and stories that can be sensed rather than perceived. Such is the beauty of cotemporary art as it transgresses dialogue and tradition to unfold yet another visual extravaganza with a riot of colours in the form of a show titled Sea Saw at The Stainless Gallery.

The exhibition is presented by Pro Helvita, the Swiss Arts Council, promoting Swiss art and cultural exchanges, and is on view until December 13.

The show is curated by Art expert Dr Alka Pande and the unique collaboration is between visual artists Pascale Mira and Michael Tschaeni from Switzerland and Indian graphic artist Aditya Pande.

The exhibition of paintings and installations interfaces between art, craft and design blurring geographical boundaries in the language of art and creation of the “new hybrid”.

The works of Pascale and Michael are a unique combination of narration, poesie and comic creating a world of fantasy at the same time. The visual stage enfolds in the form of set of characters which repeat and are placed into created situations. Michael draws his two children in all the canvases and the youthful gay nature on Plexiglas or acrylic sheet liven up with moments of translucent acrylic paints.

The backdrops and landscaping and the fantasy world is then created by Pascale on the same work. Pinks, lilacs, greens, blues and mauves and Indian influences as glitter bindis are so contemporary in nature and bring youth filled freshness to the entire space. The results are more art-decorative and an interior’s delight.

The Tschaenis technique of backwards painting in layers on the reverse of Perspex screens to build the narration filled with figures of children in active play situations. While Aditya creates digital imagery to create “the semi-human-inset-animal characters” generated using a gene pool of vector based lines. He uses a mix of techniques/media to create his partly caricatured and fictional characters.

The three artists together have experimented to amalgate three different streams of works into a visual landscape of narration. The concept is quite a mysterious narration but a visual feast for heavy eyes.

Indian designers show the art of being crystalline

NEW DELHI, Nov 22: Five top Indian designers are partnering Swarovski to use crystals not only in their clothing line, but also in shoes, jewellery and interiors, in an indication of what would be in vogue in the upcoming spring-summer season.

The designers - Tarun Tahiliani, J.J. Valaya, Manish Arora, Rohit Bal and Suneet Verma - used the crystals in a variety of media to showcase their creative brilliance on the theme 'Art of Being' at a press conference here.

The designers partnered with Crystallized Swarovski Elements (CSE), a brand from the leading cut-crystal label of Swarovaski, and displayed their creative brilliance.

'The forms given to the global trends by Indian designers through their local interpretations will make this country's fashion industry a force to reckon with in the global arena,' said Ute Schumacher, director of trend and design, CSE.

Through its partnership with the designers, the company is targeting a strong foothold in the Indian market.

Showcasing their creativity, each of the five designers decorated a space provided to them using the crystals.

Tahiliani interpreted forthcoming trends in jewellery, Valaya in lighting and fashion, Arora in textile techniques, Bal in shoes and Verma in interiors.

Tahiliani's theme, titled 'The Art of Being...Intimate', showcased a mannequin wearing ornaments studded with crystals standing near a wedding bed. Ropes of pearls, crystals and precious stones were lying on the bed and suspended from the ceiling.

'She is poised on the periphery of her wedding bed, getting ready for a new life and intimacy, but whose soul is searching for a deeper meaning for romance,' said Tahiliani.

Valaya's theme, 'The Art of Being...Quite', had a mannequin adorned with crystals standing under a tree in a meditative mode. A chandelier was put over a tree trunk to depict tree branches and leaves.

Arora depicted the theme 'The Art of Being...Physical' with religious images of gods and goddesses on walls with crystals used to adorn the images.

Bal's theme 'The Art of Being...Excessive' had a shoemaking shop with a shutter. A huge sandal decorated with crystals was kept in the middle of the store.

'It symbolised progress with every step out of the shutter. It also symbolises unleashing of opulence,' he said.

Verma's theme was 'The Art of Being...Relaxed' in which he showed a poolside view with mannequins sitting besides a swimming pool with crystals spangling their swimsuits and the cushions strewn around.

Diwali special 'Shangri-La Maharaja' box

NEW DELHI: The intricately designed pattern of inlay work is an exquisite work of art and is a piece-de-resistance amongst the carefully selected collection at Shangri-La, New Delhi.

With resemblance to a Persian carpet, the horizontal panel is a beautiful combination of sea shell work engraved on the surface of the wood. The fine details of intricate floral design intertwined with geometrical patterns demonstrated the distinguished skills of the craftsmen.

The ornately engraved treasure chest comes in two versions, one geared towards entertainment, with a set of playing cards, cigars and bottles of Cheateau Lafite/ Latour and Hennessey VSOP while the other comprises of true chocolate aficionado, exotic confections, silver coins and Ganesha.

Shangri-La Maharaja Box has limited editions.

The Mona Lisa mystery

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 22: For centuries, the Mona Lisa has beguiled art buffs, many of whom were unable to resist speculating on its origins and meaning. Now a French inventor claims to have some answers, including on the enigmatic subject’s famously missing eyebrows and eyelashes.

Parisian engineer Pascal Cotte says his ultra-detailed digital scans of the painting allow him to effectively burrow through layers of paint to “see” into the past of Leonardo Da Vinci’s 16th-century portrait of a Florentine merchant’s wife.

The world’s most famous painting originally included both brows and lashes, according to Mr. Cotte. He says his 240-megapixel scans of the painting reveal traces of Mona Lisa’s left brow, obliterated by restoration efforts .

“With just one photo you go deeper into the construction of the painting and understand that Leonardo was a genius,” he said at the U.S. debut of an exhibition detailing his findings.

As a boy growing up in Paris in the 1960s, Mr. Cotte spent hours staring at the Mona Lisa the first time he saw it at the Louvre. He later used his scientific training in light and optics to develop a camera that would let him examine the object of his obsession. Mr. Cotte, 49, estimates he has spent 3,000 hours analysing the data.


Groove to Charlie Charles tunes @ Shangri-La
Now Dr Mukesh Ambani
Interpretation of Life
Clean up campaign
Theme nights at Café Uno
Jassi rocks at Airtel's 'Dil se - Jhoom Le'
Indian teachers impressed with Australian teaching
Australian Studies Fellowships Awards for 2007-08



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