Thursday, May 19, 2011

What is it with men and their maids?

Think "Maid in Manhattan" and what usually came to mind was a fairytale Hollywood romance between Manhattan hotel maid Jennifer Lopez and aspiring Senator Ralph Fiennes.

Not any more. The arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn for attempted rape at a luxury Manhattan hotel has robbed the phrase of all its charm.

Although lawyers for the head of the International Monetary Fund have denied the charges, there’s no denying Strauss-Kahn is the latest celebrity to get into trouble over their maids.

In March, Bollywood star Shiney Ahuja was convicted of raping his maid in a case that shocked the world's largest film industry.

This week, former California Governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledged fathering a child more than a decade ago with a member of his household staff.

And NBA star Kobe Bryant was charged with sexual assaulting a hotel concierge in 2003, though the charges were later dropped.

What is it about celebrities that they take such risks at the cost of their family and careers? Are the famous more likely to cheat because they are powerful and hope to get away with it? Share your views.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

7 in world's 100 richest. What about India's 'hidden' billionaires?

The number of Indians in the annual Forbes rich list came as no surprise. But stud farm owner Hasan Ali Khan wasn't among the seven Indians in the Top 100.

Khan, who insists he earns a modest living as a scrap metal merchant, is accused of illegally stashing billions of dollars in overseas accounts.

Media reports suggest the Pune-based businessman will have to cough up 620 billion rupees in tax evasion penalties. That's over $1.3 billion -- and may be just a fraction of Khan's net worth.

A fortune of $9 billion is good enough for a place in this year's Forbes Top 100 list. Does that mean India is home to more such 'hidden' billionaires?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Somebody save Delhi's Airport Express

And you better do it quick. The Airport Metro guys aren't too happy with the way things are going for the New Delhi Airport Express. Two weeks after its launch, just about 6,000 people have been hopping on board every day.

No great shakes if you consider the other Metro train network -- yup, the slower one which is always crammed with people -- ferries some 1,500,000 commuters daily.

When the Airport Express opened, I was one of the few who made a beeline for the Dwarka Sector 21 station to fully experience its snazziness.

It was Day 2 and so I didn't get a Metro souvenir, a garland or even a petal. Those were gifts reserved for the lucky souls who used the airport Metro on the first day. I did get plenty of stares though, being the only commuter in sight -- the rest were all Metro employees.

After I bought a token for Shivaji Stadium (inaugural fare 80 rupees), I walked to the security line where a burly guard stood next to the X-ray baggage scanner. When the guard asked a fellow employee to switch it on, I guessed there hadn't been too many commuters before I walked in.

I turned a corner and used the stairs to descend to the platform level below and was relieved to find a fellow commuter waiting below. Yup, it isn't really fun to walk on a deserted platform and ride a ghost train, is it? More commuters walked in while I waited.

The Metro Express runs every 20 minutes and soon enough, the glass doors opened and I had stepped inside the train for my debut journey on the Airport Express. As I whizzed past the dark tunnels, my eyes took in the shining screens with station info, the spacious luggage racks and the blue-hued cushioned seats. Not to forget the liveried Airport Express stewards who could answer all passenger queries. Surely a boon for foreign tourists, some of whom were on the train, trying to find the quickest possible route to Ramakrishna Ashram.

A lot more people got in at the Airport station. I noticed the train halted there for a couple of minutes -- possibly for the benefit of passengers with heavy luggage.

Shortly afterwards, the train moved to the elevated section of the line. From inside the Metro, you realise why this part of India's capital is so beautiful, especially with the spacious roads and the lush greenery of Delhi Cantonment.

Don't miss the imposing Manekshaw Centre which looms on the left. A station later (Dhaula Kuan, which is still under construction), the Metro hurtles into Delhi's Ridge area and then descends underground once more. Next stop Shivaji Stadium where I get off astounded -- I had covered the distance in less than 20 minutes. As the Metro sped off towards the New Delhi railway station, its final destination, I explored the station complex -- a shining steel structure which seemed festooned with escalators and elevators.

Given the staff strength, commuters would find it difficult to conjure up enough paan stains and spit to sully the complex. And I sure hope they won't, because destroying something as world-class as this would be unpardonable.

Will I take the Airport Metro again? Yes, but not too frequently. The Dwarka Sector-21 station is a bit out of the way for me -- they will have to start more feeder buses within Dwarka before they win me over. Also, from Shivaji Stadium, it takes me another 15 minutes to walk to my office on Barakhamba Road. But on the whole, the Airport Express is a boon for frequent fliers and train passengers, and of course a joyride to be enjoyed by lovers of Delhi.

More info on Airport Express fares, stations here

Related posts from Toe Knee's blog

An ode to the Delhi Metro
Reflections from the Delhi Metro
Surviving Delhi's Bus Rapid Transit Corridor Part I
Surviving Delhi's Bus Rapid Transit Corridor Part II
Surviving Delhi's Bus Rapid Transit Corridor Part III

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Breakfast at Tiffany's: 50 years of "mean reds"

Watched "Breakfast at Tiffany's" today. It's a movie I'd been trying to catch for some years now -- and it just happened to be showing on the telly. Coincidentally, it's 50 years since its release and I can understand why people still talk about it.

This 1961 film was perhaps Audrey Hepburn's most challenging cinematic role and she excels at playing the eccentric Holly Golightly.

Hepburn lost the acting Oscar to Sophia Loren that year (perhaps unfairly) but there's no denying she brings the character to life.

I'd loved Hepburn in "My Fair Lady" and "Roman Holiday" but there is something magical about Hepburn's "mean reds", her personality and her equation with the cat in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" that will make this the more memorable role.

I'd read the novella some years ago and had been wondering if the film version did it justice. Critics often say Hepburn's Holly is a toned-down version of what author Truman Capote created in "Breakfast at Tiffany's", but I say it's an improvement. I liked all the changes for the film version and my only regret is they should have got an Asian actor to portray Holly's Japanese neighbour. Others think so too.

As for the film's controversial 'happy' ending, which Hollywood romance would be complete without it. The unresolved ending of the novella had left me dissatisfied. What's the point, I thought as Holly and her cat went their separate ways.

The movie (spoiler ahead) instead brings Holly, the cat and the writer together in the rain, in an embrace that almost suffocates the poor feline. (Animal rights activists, where were you in 1961?)

Hepburn's rendition of "Moon River" (which won the Oscar for 'Best Song') is one of my favourites and watching the famous sequences unfold on screen was even better.

All in all, a great way to spend my Sunday. If you're a sucker for Hollywood romances, this one is for you. If you haven't already, go watch "Breakfast at Tiffany's".

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