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    How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Michael de la Merced, a DealBook reporter for The Times based in London, discussed the tech he is using.

    Q: You cover mergers and acquisitions. Whats your favorite tech tool for doing your job?

    If Im being candid, its my iPhone X. Its by far the computer that I use the most; its my phone; its my primary camera; its my main way of procrastinating ... I mean doing research.

    Q: Whats so great about the iPhone X?

    As a gadget nerd, I obviously find it satisfying to have the latest and greatest toy, and its much faster than my old iPhone 6S, with a better camera.

    But to me, its also a remarkable evolution of the smartphone, where the technology seems to melt into the background a little bit more, and it feels like youre just interacting directly with data, photos, movies and so on.

    Q: But its all glass. Do you fear breaking it?

    Only about every other minute. I do keep it in a case. Even though Id prefer to admire the design of the phone itself, Id like to avoid shelling out hundreds of dollars in repairs.

    Q: Are there any special tools like websites, filtering tools or apps that you use to stay on top of M&A news?

    There are specialized sites and tools, like Standard & Poors Global Market Intelligence (which once was called Capital IQ) and a really pricey Bloomberg terminal, thanks to our employer. But these days, curated Twitter lists are honestly one of the best ways to spot what people in the deal community are thinking about.

    Q: You recently moved to London from San Francisco. How do you use technology differently there?

    Im a bit more mindful of social norms. Over here, as my wife reminds me, its generally rude to check your phone at a meal or in a social setting. People here still care about technology, but outside-of-tech denizens seem far less obsessed by it. Thats not a bad thing.

    Q: What tech trends do you see emerging in London or Europe in general?

    More regulation. Europeans value privacy much more than Americans do, and are really trying to impose their particular worldview on American tech giants like Facebook and Google, companies that evolved with a much different perspective. Itll be fascinating to see how that clash plays out in the coming years.

    Q: When youre not working, what tech products are you currently obsessed with using in your daily life? Whats so great, and what could be better?

    Not a day goes by that I dont ask the household Amazon Echo something. "Alexa, whats the forecast?"

    Then, in a much more exasperated tone because the Echo willfully ignored my request:

    "Alexa, whats the forecast?" "Alexa, I didnt ask for the weather in that town 20 miles away." And so on.

    Im also weighing getting a GPS tracker for my dog, because (a) Im curious about how much she runs around on her daily walks with her dog walker and (b) Ive spent way too much time in San Francisco.

    Q: Youre a finance guy. Do you think people should be buying bitcoin?

    If I knew the answer to that, that would probably mean Im misapplying my talents right now.

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    If 2017 taught you anything about personal technology, its that the onus is on you to protect your personal data and devices.

    Tech companies arent going to do that for you. (In fact, they are generally the ones failing you.) So why not make protecting yourself your New Years resolution?

    Last year, I recommended some resolutions for making your tech less frustrating, like doing regular maintenance on your devices, being a strategic shopper and purging the e-waste sitting around your home.

    But this years cybersecurity nightmares, from the ransomware attack to the Equifax hack, underscored the need to protect yourself. Here are some recommendations for living a safer digital life this new year.

    Update Your Software

    One of the most damaging cyberattacks this year involved ransomware, a form of malicious software that locks up peoples data and threatens to destroy it if a ransom is not paid. In May, the ransomware known as WannaCry affected more than 200,000 Windows computers in 150 countries. Security experts believe the malware spread through machines by getting people to download it via email.

    Heres the kicker: Microsoft had already released a security update that would have prevented the WannaCry malware from infecting machines. But the hacked computers were behind on downloading the updates. The cybercriminals generally targeted hospitals, academic institutions, blue-chip companies and businesses like movie theatre chains. But this episode was an important reminder that keeping your software up to date is crucial.

    This rule of thumb applies to anything that touches your information security: operating systems, antivirus software, your internet router, your password management app and your web browsers. Keep these important components up to date with the latest security enhancements, and you will be better off than most.

    Read Privacy Policies

    Amid Ubers laundry list of scandals, which included sexual harassment accusations and an undisclosed security breach, there was an important revelation that everyone can learn from. It involved, a free service that unsubscribes you from junk mail.

    To gather intelligence about its competition, Uber bought information about its main rival, Lyft, from How did Uber do that, exactly? scanned the contents of its users inboxes and sold anonymized data, information that did not have individuals names attached to it - in this case, emailed Lyft receipts - to Uber.

    Many were shocked to learn about Unroll.mes business model. But the truth was always there in the fine print: The companys privacy policy clearly stated that "we may collect, use, transfer, sell and disclose non-personal information for any purpose" and that data can be used "to build anonymous market research products and services." Still, people were understandably outraged by the misleading nature of A company that promised to rid you of spam mail scanned your inbox and sold information about you to other companies, including marketers.

    So make it a habit to read a companys privacy policy. As boring as it sounds, a bit of reading will go a long way. I recently considered using a free internet service for sending a fax, and upon reading the privacy policy I learned that the company collects sensitive information like Social Security numbers and drivers license numbers. (I went out and found a traditional fax machine instead.)

    Delete Unnecessary Apps

    The episode also raised awareness of the sheer number of third-party apps that may be leeching off your personal information. There are probably apps and web services you dont remember downloading or subscribing to, and they could still have access to your data.

    At least once a year, its worthwhile to do an audit of your third-party apps. On your smartphone, delete apps that you have not touched in several months. For a clean break, in some cases, you will also have to visit the companys website and request that your account is deleted entirely.

    Also check your primary online accounts, like Facebook, Twitter or Google, to see which apps are hooked into them. Chances are you have used those accounts to quickly sign up for a web tool or app. The ones you never use may still be leeching off your personal data, so you should disable them.

    On Facebook, go to the settings page and click on the Apps tab to see which apps are connected to the account. On your Google account page, you can find a similar apps list labelled "Connected apps & sites." And on Twitter, go to the Apps page under "Settings and privacy."

    On my neglected Facebook account, for example, I had 82 connected apps. After removing many unused or defunct apps, like LivingSocial, Words With Friends and Draw Something, I had 32 left.

    Use a VPN

    In April, Congress voted to overturn privacy rules that would have made it more difficult for broadband providers like Comcast and Charter to track and sell information about your browsing history to advertisers. The stronger privacy rules never went into effect, meaning nothing changed. But the privacy repeal underlined the sheer magnitude of data that internet service providers can collect and share with you. Subscribing to a virtual private network, or VPN is a meaningful safeguard for your online privacy.

    When you browse the web, a broadband provider helps route your devices internet traffic to each destination website. Every device you use has an identifier consisting of a string of numbers, also known as an IP address. When you are on the internet, a service provider can see which devices you use and which sites you visit.

    VPNs help cloak your browsing information from your internet provider. When you use VPN software, your device connects to a VPN providers servers. That way, all your web traffic passes through the VPN providers internet connection. So if your internet provider was trying to listen in on your web traffic, all it would see is the VPN servers IP address

    VPNs arent perfect. They often slow down internet speeds significantly, and some apps or services dont work properly when you are connected to a VPN. But everybody can benefit from using a private network, especially in certain situations, like connecting to an open Wi-Fi network at a cafe or an airport.

    Protect Your Hardware

    Smartphones like Apples iPhone X and Samsungs Galaxy Note 8 reached several milestones this year. Their screens look terrific, and they are incredibly fast - and they are pricier than past smartphones. The iPhone X costs upward of $999, and the Galaxy Note 8 costs around $950. The downside is they are not more durable than previous phones.

    The trend with these fancy new smartphones is to make the display take up as much of the face as possible. That means that a larger part of the body is composed of glass, which is susceptible to shattering. (The iPhone X even has a glass back so it can be charged wirelessly.) This trend is likely to continue because people love having more screen.

    So now is a good time to start investing in protecting your smartphone. Get a case or a screen protector - or both. Screen protectors help protect screens from scratches, which weaken the structural integrity of a display and may eventually lead to large cracks. A good case will protect your phone from scratches and absorb impact in those areas when your device is dropped.

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    As we inch closer to 2018, it amazes me to think to take a look back and see many of the advances in technology within the wealth industry. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will exponentially transform how we do business for the better. Organisations must change how they do business and they must change quickly. Heres how:

    n AI Correlation Matching: "Look-a-Like clients" will become a mainstay for how to gain a share of wallet.

    Since broker-dealers and firms are required to keep their customer correspondents and the data on their customers for up to seven years, theres so much potential to use all this data to gain a share of wallet. The issue was that no one had actually been able to segment it properly, figure out all of the different types of customers, associate the right information, and then compare them until now.

    By using AI, and adding in and defining additional rows of data whether its customers age, geography, marital status, the value of their house, etc., youre able to start modeling out your clients, and find your best ones. AI allows you to basically create a list of top clients, products and services that they have bought and compare them to all of your other customers by matching up those data points (like a column comparison in Excel). In doing so, you will quickly see that you can uncover multiple opportunities where your "Look-a-like clients" have not done the same. Its an exciting and innovative way to find previously unknown opportunities, and a computer can uncover them exponentially faster than a human.

    n Customer Service: Front office and back office data will be combined to predict customer segments, sales, service, and support needs before they occur.

    As broker deals and firms begin to segment their different types of customers, at the same time, computers are starting to correlate that data to anticipate a customers next move through machine learning. Through AI, a computer can keep track of every movement and click the customer makes online, through an adviser, or with a call centre, and begin to recognise patterns.

    For example, if the market looks like it will drop, firms can automatically send customers an alert since they already anticipate the types of customers that will eventually go online, check their balance, and make a phone call to customer service.

    From a business perspective, AI reduces both cost and time, since it also cuts down the number of calls that roll in through customer service, since firms are being proactive and sending customers information ahead of time.

    n Unsupervised machine learning will expose multiple sets of previously unknown trends in our industry.

    Computers can process and analyse huge amounts of data, from disparate sources, on multiple levels, all at the same time, and with no hidden agenda. The goal of unsupervised learning is to model out associations and clusters along with the distribution of previously unknown characteristics. By using such techniques, firms will be able to find new hidden patterns within their existing customer data that could help them better service and support their customers. The uncovering of this information will dramatically help them increase customer satisfaction and lower the risk of losing clients and/or advisers.

    n Compliance will become a driver of business revenues as AI will begin to help them model out success.

    Considering the fiduciary responsibility that our industry has, we will begin to see how Compliance and regulations can help support revenue growth by better aligning the necessary data for customer life stages, where certain types of products are sold to certain types of people, with certain financial similarities, i.e. everyone already knows that initiating a conversation with a 22-year-old about debt management and not an annuity is the right thing to do. However, AI will better help find the nuanced data that helps prove why potential opportunities may exist for certain products/services. Inherently, this means that every firm will now have more than just the gut feel of an adviser they will have scientific evidence.

    n AI will deliver on the promise of personalisation by contextually combining who the customer is, where they are in their life, with the specific products and services that are required The right recommendation, with the right information, at the right time!

    Once firms start realising that everyone goes through similar sets of circumstances at different stages of our lives, and the more theyre able to model these out, the faster theyll be able to anticipate their customers needs. Humans are tribal by nature, and it is this unknown pattern that will truly break down how products and services are delivered today. We are on the cusp of some industry-changing breakthroughs in AI; the first firms that recognize this and act quickly are bound to gain a tremendous edge, outpacing all who leave it for tomorrow.

    (The writer is VP and Head,
    ISG - Wealth Management at Mphasis)

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  • 12/30/17--21:32: Hooked to crochet
  • She was five years old when she first tried her hands at crochet, unaware that this will one day become her passion. Alina Shermeen inherited this talent from her mother and though it has been some time now, the 21-year-olds interest has not waned.

    "As a child, I used to always sit next to my mother when she crocheted, trying to understand the technique. Soon I started doing it myself and slowly evolved a liking towards this art. I started making gift items and gave it to my friends on special occasions," says Alina.

    Apart from crochet, Alina has a keen interest in embroidery, baking, vegetable carving and flower arrangement too. Working with wool is another favourite pastime for Alina. Another quirky hobby of hers is making delicious-looking cakes using sponge, glue, paper and tissue. "I was in class four when I first made a cake like that and served it to my grandfather. He was very impressed with my efforts and took a spoon to taste it. We stopped him just in time," she laughs. Today, she also takes classes at home for children who are willing to learn this form of art.

    "I eagerly wait for winter to start as this is the season for crochet. I make shoes that can be worn indoors during winter. Apart from this, shawls, cardigan, clothes for a newborn and jewellery pieces like earrings, neckpieces and anklets are some of my other crochet items. I also embroider on pillow covers and dresses," adds Alina.

    Her creativity doesnt stop here. She also designs dresses for Barbie dolls, an idea that she got from one of her students. "It has been three years that I have been making clothes for Barbie dolls. Instead of spending money buying an extravagantly dressed doll, my idea is to customise these dresses according to the kids choice." Though she was a student when she first started crocheting, she never compromised on her studies. She says, "I was a bright student but I was never overconfident. My passion for arts and craft never came in the way of my studies. I made sure I took an hours break in between my studies for crochet. That way, I concentrated on both of them equally."

    Alina recently made a sofa-shaped tissue holder which gained a lot of appreciation from her family and friends. The best part about her work is that she recycles the leftover crochet materials to make handbags, doormats and table mats.

    "It is a good exercise for the hands and also increases concentration levels. Crochet is definitely a stress buster for me and I can do it at any given time," says Alina.

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  • 12/30/17--21:32: Spotting the trends
  • From capes and drapes to cold shoulders and nautical stripes, last year saw many head-turning trends hitting the runway. Fashionistas all around the world were seen embracing bright colours, with the highlight being the unicorn trend that took social media by storm.

    However, the new year is bringing with it some brand new trends as well as revivals of a few classic favourites from grandmas wardrobe. Metrolife gives you a sneak peek into what designers expect to be the biggest trends of 2018.

    Floral prints

    "Floral prints and fringes of the 60s will be something to look forward to this year," says designer Bani Khurana.

    Designer Ruchira Nangalia adds, "Fashionistas can choose to go bold by opting for a clash of prints. This year is going to see a mix of geometric patterns with florals prints and floral on floral."

    Art-infused prints

    "A lot of artsy and quirky prints will make their way into 2018. For example, one can expect to see fruit prints on sweatshirts and bold logos for T-shirts," says Bani. Designer Ruchira Nangalia says, "Art-inspired prints on Indian textiles with hand block prints or screen prints are going to be seen in the coming season." Designer Payal Jain says, "This pattern was there the previous year too but was used more conservatively. However, this year it will be used extensively."

    Colour of 2018

    Shades of purple like eggplant, lilac and ultra violet will rule the year, says Designer Bani. "These will manifest in some bold fashion statements defying stereotype."

    Trending hues

    "Sorbet pastels like blush, pistachio and lilac are some of the other colours to look forward to in 2018," says designer Ruchira Nangalia.

    "Bright colours will have a strong presence in the fashion industry this year," says Payal Jain.

    Old is gold

    Designer Bani Khurana says, "The wide-legged jeans of the 90s will make a comeback along with side-slit T-shirts worn with pedal pushers." A trend that will be carried forward from 2017 will be the fringe, which gives a classic romanticism to dresses.

    Looks to look forward to...

    Designer Payal Jain says, "There will be three big looks this year. Vintage, which will involve going back to the classics in terms of necklines, corsets, short jackets and puffy sleeves. Minimalism will find a lot more takers and the outfits will have no or less bling elements, moving away from complicated drapes to more themed ones. Eclectic garments with a lot of mix and match will do the rounds this year. This look will incorporate less of whites, blacks, greys and beige and more bright and vibrant colours."

    Ruchira Nangalia points out, "Romanticism, minimalism and clash of prints are going to be the biggest trends in 2018. Romantic fabrics like satin will be at the forefront but these will be balanced with minimalistic designs."

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  • 12/30/17--21:34: Weaving timeless designs
  • Designers David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore prefer to let their work do all the talking. They have an eye for detail and that shows in every garment that they make. The duo work around traditional fabrics to not only revive it but give it a contemporary twist.

    David and Rakesh always look forward to visiting Bengaluru not only because it is an important market but also because they love the vibrant culture of the city.

    Recently in the city for the Blenders Pride Fashion Tour, David takes time off to chat with Nina C George about their latest collection and what keeps them

    What is your latest collection about?

    Our new collection brings together contemporary and casual outfits. We have worked with block printing to present it in a very modern way. What comes through is the technique and finesse of the garment.

    What inspires you both?

    We draw our inspiration from the environment and the culture that we live in. Sometimes, the markets that we sell could also become a source of inspiration. Our work is always the result of our environment and we prefer to reach out to our potential buyers through a language that we know.

    Do you believe in infusing practicality in your designs?

    Creating designs for the ramp or for fashion shows is just a platform for a designer to communicate to a larger audience his or design her philosophy. But designing for practical, everyday purposes is also what makes a designers business run. The best collections are the ones that capture the core beliefs of every designer.

    Does designing for celebrities interest you?

    We dont design for celebrities but there are celebrities who wear our clothes. Actors dont really have a style of their own. They are guided by their personal stylists. Styling celebrities does not interest us.

    What do you think about the Bengaluru market?

    Bengaluru is one among our sophisticated markets.

    Do you come here often?

    Bengaluru is very special for me because I did my schooling here and lived on Brunton Road for most of my childhood. Bengaluru was beautiful in the 80s and 90s. I could walk down Brigade Road, without getting knocked down by a hundred people. Today, I cant even cross the street.

    What is your design philosophy for the New Year?

    We have always been a bit against trend. We advocate and believe in creating garments that ensure long-term quality and sustainability. Creating something for short term use, is to us, a wasteful proposition. We want to create garments that are timeless.

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    Niharika Vivek had no plans of becoming a fashion designer but the lure of destiny was too strong to resist.

    When she went to Mumbai and tried her hand at fashion designing in the hope of learning something new, little did she know that she would fall in love with this profession soon. Four years on, Niharika is now an established presence in the fashion industry, especially in Bengaluru.

    The designer is well known for her Indo-western designs that are loved by a wide range of Sandalwood and Kollywood actors like Kavya Shetty, Shruthi Hariharan and more.

    She gets candid in a chat with Asra Mavad about her inspiration and more.

    Did you always want to be a part of the fashion industry?

    No, not at all. My interest in the fashion industry came at a later stage in my life. It was only after I completed my degree in commerce and finished an animation course, that I decided that I wanted to experiment and do something different. That is how I ended up at a fashion school in Mumbai and I have not looked back since then.

    You recently showcased your designs at Bengaluru Fashion Week. How was the experience?

    It was a great experience and I had an amazing time. I got to meet a lot of fashion enthusiasts and it was nice to share our thoughts on various trends and designs. Being backstage was a lot of fun as well. There was a lot to learn from this experience.

    Whats your favourite part of working in the industry?

    Personally I love working with all the newbies in town, be it photographers or makeup artists. Working with people that are new in the industry is like a breath of fresh air, they always come up with interesting ideas that makes work all the more exciting. It is nice to give them a chance. I personally would have really loved it if I was given such chances when I was new to the industry.

    Who are the designers who inspire you?

    Georges Chakra is a designer who has greatly inspired my own work, I really look up to him as a designer. Another all-time favourite designer is Manish Malhotra. I love all of his creations.

    What do you think will be trending in 2018?

    I believe floral is here to stay. It may not be as big of a trend as it was in 2017 but we will definitely be seeing hints of floral here and there. Other than that, denim is definitely going to blow up.

    Any advice for aspiring designers?

    Its important to remember that there is nothing wrong in being a little different and trying to make a statement. But trying to be different all the time and set trends also might not be a smart idea. Its important to strike a healthy balance between the two, as sometimes we designers just need to go with the flow and follow the ongoing trends. Also, always make it a point to learn from your mistakes and be patient.

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  • 12/30/17--21:38: A grand welcome
  • Most B-town celebrities are in joyous mood and have ushered in the New year with their near and dear ones at exotic locations around the world.

    Akshay Kumar with wife Twinkle and their kids are in Cape Town in South Africa, while Kareena Kapoor Khan and Saif Ali Khan are vacationing with their son Taimur Ali Khan in Europe and Sonam Kapoor is off to London. The newly married couple - Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli are in South Africa.

    Sanjay Dutt, who is shooting in Kyrgyzstan for his new film Torbaaz will be spending his new year in Dubai with his family. Shilpa Shetty too is holidaying in Dubai with husband Raj Kundra and son Viaan, while Madhuri Dixit is enjoying her time with husband Sriram Nene in Japan.

    Basking in the success of her last film Judwaa 2, Jacqueline Fernandez is in Bali with her family to ring in the New Year. Even Alia Bhatt is in Bali.

    After having a rocking year professionally, Rajkummar Rao is off to Thailand with girlfriend Patralekha. With no show this year on-screen, Chitrangda Singh, who has been busy shooting for films like Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster 3 and Bazaar is off on a family trip to Phuket.

    However, some celebrities chose to bring in the festivities within the country. Aamir Khan, who wrapped the third schedule of Thugs of Hindostan is in Goa, not only to celebrate the New Year but also celebrate his marriage anniversary with wife Kiran Rao.

    Salman Khan will apparently be at his Panvel farmhouse while Shah Rukh Khan might be in Mumbai as his kids are at home.

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  • 12/30/17--21:38: Bringing on the bling
  • Nishara Kiran never really set out to be a designer. But her transition from a student of microbiology to a fulltime designer was effortless as she always had a passion for styling and designing.

    She may not have completed a course in fashion designing but her creations are sought after not only among young women but also by celebrities.

    Her imagination and design philosophy is evident in each of her creations. "For designing lehengas, I always prefer to work with zardosi because it gives the garment a rich look. I think gowns look best when designed in lace. But
    I keep experimenting to give every garment a twist," says Nishara.

    She sometimes mixes bling with lace to make gowns. She adds that she makes sure every garment has a different character to it. "I add layers to A-line dresses and sometimes add ruffles to pallazos. These additions give the garment a unique style and these are trending right now," adds Nishara.

    The young designer observes that women like deconstructed clothes and dont want to pick up anything that is predictable. "Today, women like wearing an outfit in different ways. Droops over ones shoulder, bodysuits and gowns are fast-moving," she says. Most of her collections are designed in blue, purple, wine red.

    "I dont think that only a heavily embroidered outfit looks good. I like to keep my designs simple, straight yet attractive. I believe that less is more," she says. She also adds that she lays a lot of emphasis on the way the neckline and sleeves are designed. "These two aspects play a major role in enhancing the look of the outfit," she adds. Nishara points out that when it comes to accessories she likes to keep it simple.

    "I dont think anything should be done in excess. The makeup and accessories must always blend with the outfit. One must attempt to make ones own style statement with their choice of accessories," she says.

    Aafreen K, a student of NIFT wore a red embroidered gown.
    Punchline: "I like the way the gown flows and fits well. The lace combined with embroidery, gives the outfit a rich look. It is perfect for a grand occasion."
    Price: Gown (Rs 20,000)

    Tripti Thimmaiah, a student of Mount Carmel College, wore a gold sequined top and paired it with wine red palazzos.

    Punchline: "I like all my outfits to have a bit of bling. I find the contrast attractive."
    Price: Top (Rs 1,800) and palazzos (Rs 1, 200).

    Sana Q, a student of Garden City College wore a blue gown made from organza.
    Punchline: "I find the metal-studded belt a perfect contrast to the blue gown."
    Price: Gown (Rs 6,000)

    Kashmira H V, a student of St Josephs College of Commerce, slipped into a yellow ochre A-line dress.

    Punchline: "I like this outfit because of the way it is designed. Layering on A-line dresses is a new trend. I like the dress because it is simple yet elegant."
    Price: Dress (Rs 6,000)

    Madhavi Singh from of Jain College, chose to wear an off-shoulder top with black pants and complemented the outfit with a suede jacket.

    Punchline: "The outfit is elegant and just perfect for the winter."
    Price: Black pants (Rs 2,400), top (Rs 1, 500) and jacket (Rs 4,200).

    Trupti Patil, a student of MVJ College of Engineering wore a purple gown made from satin.

    Punchline: "The outfit looks grand and it will look impressive when accessorised well. It is apt for a red carpet event. "
    Price: Gown (Rs 10,000)

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    Actor Radhika Chetan is all geared up for the new year. After winding up the shoot of films Asatoma Sadgamaya and Hottegaagi Genu Battegaagi, she is currently busy with Chase. The actor believes that 2018 will be a good year for her.

    In a candid conversation with Tini Sara Anien, she talks about her plans for the coming year.

    What are your expectations from 2018?

    I will be busier. I also hope there will be many positive changes in the coming year.

    What are you busy with at the moment?

    I have three releases next year. I am shooting for the thriller movie called Chase. The post-production work for Asatoma Sadgamaya and Hottegaagi Genu Battegaagi is going on and they should hot the screens by first half of 2018. I have my fingers crossed!

    Any genre that you want to experiment with in 2018?

    I want to do comedy. It is a difficult genre to work in and the timing matters a lot. If one doesnt get that right, the joke will fall flat. It is difficult to make someone laugh. I also want to do a romantic musical like Dil To Pagal Hai. I want to keep working in different genres, especially non-thriller ones.

    Do you have any New Year resolutions?

    I never used to make any till now. But I have a few things in mind for 2018. I want to pen down my thoughts and plan things better. I want to be more organised. I would like to travel more, especially with my parents. In 2017, I learnt how to ride a bike and swim. I want to learn horse-riding this year. Dancing more is also on my list.

    Is January 1 important to you or is it just another day?

    Its a big day for me. I believe that the first day of the year defines how my year ahead will be. I want to kickstart the year on a positive note. I feel everyday is a new opportunity. But January 1 is a good reminder of how I want the rest of the year to be.

    How do you see the industry shaping up in 2018?

    The industry has changed a lot. The year ahead will see more quality films. I also hope that a lot more people will watch Kannada films.

    Has Sandalwood changed from when you came into the industry?

    There are a lot of positive waves now. I see a lot of scope for acting in the projects nowadays.

    Are you content with your work?

    I am happy but I want to do a lot more. I dont want to settle. I want to keep working with different directors and actors in the industry.

    What can easily make you smile?

    A beautiful song and the sound of water.

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  • 12/30/17--21:42: Yesterday once more
  • This picture was taken in 1968 in Bangalore at Napoli restaurant in Majestic area. I was then a drummer with the Johnny Pereira band and on an eight-year contract with the restaurant. This picture was taken during one of our performances on New Years eve.

    Seen in the picture along with me are Johnny Pereira on the alto saxophone, Johnny Figredeo who played the double bass and Paul Johnson, the keyboardist. We were all members of the same band.

    Johnny Pereira later migrated to Canada. Since I was the youngest in the band, I was bullied by all. Johnny Figredeo was also a good singer. I learnt almost all the jazz songs that I know today from him. Paul passed away a few years ago. I remember him to be a very reserved person. We all lived together and spent a lot of time with each other.

    I always knew that I wanted to become a drummer. As a child, I would set a tune and begin to drum on anything that was in an inverted position. I am a self-taught musician and I took to learning jazz and drums just after completing my schooling in Bombay and joined the band at Napoli. Most pubs and restaurants in the city those days had live bands playing through the day and night. Old Bangalore was the most preferred place for many a young man and woman. At Napoli, we had a morning session just for the youth where a lot of youngsters would come to hear us play.

    I lived in Gandhinagar, close to Majestic. It was very cold those days and I remember that I had to wear a cardigan throughout the year. Commuting in the city was a breeze. The minimum fare for autorickshaws was only 50 paise. I used to frequent MG Road and Brigade Road to watch the latest movies at Rex, Plaza or Symphony. I shopped for my shirts from Sadhwanis on M G Road and suites from P N Rao. Three Aces on Brigade Road was a favourite haunt.

    Over the years, I have lost count of the number of bands that I have played for. I currently play with Dr Thomas Chandys band called Jazz Revival. Whenever I look at this picture, I am reminded of good old Bangalore where there was a live band performing in every nook and corner of the city. Today it is sad that the tradition of a live band is slowly fading.

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  • 12/30/17--21:46: Promises to keep
  • A brand new year is here, a time for new plans and resolutions. Sandalwood stars have much to look forward to in 2018 and a few of them shared with Metrolife their resolutions for this year.

    "I love sleeping and need my eight hours of beauty sleep. Unfortunately, sometimes I am not able to get enough sleep because of my busy shooting schedules. This year, I want to have enough sleep and not just that, I want to wake up by 5 am everyday. This means that I would be eliminating nightlife. Moreover, I also want to eat more sensibly and do yoga systematically."

    "I dont believe in New Year resolutions but since it is an opportunity to start afresh, I would reflect on my work and put in more effort this year. Compared to the past few years, in 2017, I travelled a lot. I would like to continue doing that. In the coming year, I want to be more focussed and organised. I would also like to work in serious films and work harder on my business ventures. Basically, I want to be more happy.

    "I do not like to make New Year resolutions. I hope that 2018 will be good for me. I want to be more calm and patient in my approach to things and enhance my qualities. I want to listen more and talk less. I have been working on this for a while and will continue to do the same. I also hope to do advance levels in kathak. On the home front, I like to go ahead with my terrace gardening."

    "I would like to be a better person and a better actor in 2018. Whatever I havent been able to achieve last year, I want to this year. I hope to perfect my performance. I was a part of theatre earlier, so I want to act more on stage as it is a challenging and satisfying process. On the personal front, I want to learn baking. That said, I dont want to plan anything and will treat the new year as a clean slate, where I can start everything afresh."

    "I have two releases lined up in 2018, Kathe Ondu Shuruvagide and Fortuner, and I want them to do well. Discussions about a Bollywood film are also happening and I have my fingers crossed. I want to work on more meaningful scripts. I also want to dedicate more time on fitness and learn acrobatics in a big way. I also wish to stop partying for at least six months in 2018."

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  • 12/30/17--21:48: Winds of change
  • What changes are Bengalureans looking forward to in the New Year? Pothole-free roads, better traffic management, effective garbage disposal, more green cover... the list is endless.

    Most Bengalureans hope that the New Year will bring in some good cheer. Vijayaraghavan Venugopal, CEO - Aeronutrix Sports is a marathon runner and wishes to see the city transformed into a more runner-friendly one.

    "I am sure my fellow runners would agree with me that Bengaluru needs better pavements and cleaner roads to run on. There has been a lot of digging in several parts of the city in the last year. I hope all the infrastructural work that was started would be completed within the stipulated deadline," says Vijay.

    Those who work in various IT parks across the City point out that massive traffic jams clog the roads during peak hours. They say that if carpooling is successfully implemented, it will not only ease a lot of congestion but help in reducing the pollution levels.

    Kiran Rao, employed with an IT firm in Manyata Tech Park, says that he would like to see carpooling made mandatory by the Bengaluru Traffic Police. "It must be made mandatory for those working in IT companies. This will reduce a lot of vehicles on the road and make for easy movement," he suggests.

    Safety of women, especially for those who travel at night, needs to reviewed on an urgent basis, feels Pavithra Vijay. A fitness freak and runner, Pavithras day starts early and she says that she sometimes dreads running in the wee hours without a male accompanying her. "The fear of somebody stalking me or taking a picture is always there at the back of my mind. If I ever get into trouble I dont know who to call or run to," she says. Pavithra also feels that the roads must be maintained well and the green cover should be increased in the city. Echoing Pavithras views is Sharmistha Sikdar, a homemaker, who feels that the safety of women is not being given as much importance as it should be.

    "One can never get through to the helplines in case of an emergency and the pink Hoysala, that was launched exclusively for women, is not of much help because we hardly see them around," feels Sharmistha. She also hopes that the flow of traffic would be better managed in the coming year.

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  • 12/31/17--16:30: A whiff of Whiskey !
  • Having grown up with dogs, when I moved out of my parents' place, one of the most difficult things I had to make peace with was not coming back to four paws, two happy eyes and an overworked tail! After many months of contemplation, I decided to go ahead and adopt a furry angel myself.

    I had mentally prepared myself to make many rounds of the dog shelter to find the right one, my very own first dog for whom I was responsible and no one else. Little did I know that I would find and fall in love with my furry baby within minutes of setting eyes on him.

    Walking around the kennels, I saw many shapes, sizes and breeds of dogs waiting patiently to be taken to their forever homes. Sadly, taking them all home wasn't an option. It was then that I saw this confident pooch. He was full of life and jumping up and down in his kennel, trying to get my attention with his with mischief-filled eyes. I walked over to his kennel.

    If I was asked to describe my first impression of this little one, it would resemble a caricature that came to life and jumped out of the artist's drawing board. From his happy and playful eyes to his half-cut furiously wagging tail — I really don't know what about him had me fall for him hook, line and sinker. All I knew was that I found my fur ball.

    That's when I knew that this could wait no more and I marched off to the reception to do the needful paper work to bring him home. Half an hour later 'Mr Whiskers' (as he has been nicked named) and I walked out of the shelter, him on his new leash and me head over heels in love with this goofball.

    Five years on, Whiskey has become a globe-trotting little Indian mutt who has decided that the fresh mountain air and the open spaces of estates in Malawi suit him better. He has shifted base to my parents' place, where he is pampered and fussed over like a little prince. He now lives with his frican girlfriend Lola and they spend their day running around chasing squirrels, making social calls on fellow four-legged friends in the neighbouring houses, or going on vacations to Lake Malawi. He is sure living life king size…

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    Certain places in Kodagu have held ceremonial importance to the Kodavas. The village green, called the mand, is where the annual festivals, such as the Puttari (rice harvest festival), are celebrated. Likewise, ceremonies related to birth, marriage and death are observed in the ancestral houses or the ainmanes. The clan ancestors are remembered and shrines called kaimada are built for them. Local deities are propitiated every year when villagers gather here during the respective temple feasts.

    A prominent village green of Kodagu is the Biddatanda Vade (courtyard) in Napoklu. Napoklu became famous when the Storm Festival (a music festival) was organised here in 2012.

    In this village green, ceremonial dances such as the naad kolu are performed during Puttari and other festivals. The naad kolu is a kolata, a village dance where men from the naad (shire) gather and beat small sticks as they dance in a circle, during Puttari. This place is a microcosm of the Kodava traditional locales. Biddatanda Vade is mentioned in a number of books on the region such as Kaveri Ponnappas Vanishing Kodavas and Mandira Jaya Appannas Kodava Jaya Bharatha.

    Biddatanda Vade is named after the family, Biddatanda. Kodavas are known to have family names and each family has a history behind it. Likewise, Biddatanda C Ponnappa and his son Ashok claim that the Biddatanda descended from one of the four brothers of a family.

    The four brothers built farmhouses three km apart from each other in the Naalnaad region of Kodagu long ago. The first was Kalyat (ancestor of Kalyatanda family), the second was Biddat (forefather of Biddatanda family), the third was Baliyat (ancestor of Baliyatanda family) and the fourth was Cheriyat (forefather of the Cheriyatanda family).

    On one side of the Vade are, the Kaimada, a shrine dedicated to the Biddatanda ancestors; the Makki Sartavu sthana, a place dedicated to the local deity, which is behind a large tree, and the graveyard, called thuthangala. On the other side lie the village greens. Makki Sartavu is a powerful Shastha (Aiyappa) deity revered fervently in Western Kodagu. An ancestor of the Biddatanda family had brought the Makki Sartavu deity to the region. Men of the Kondira family wear the white ceremonial kupya-chele, a traditional attire comprising a wraparound tunic and cummerbund, and help manage the annual Makki Sartavu festival.

    In front of these three structures is the Mahadeva Kota Temple. This temple was in ruins but Dinesh, a member of the Biddatanda family, took some ancient papers in the familys possession and went to the tantri of Kallengat, a powerful priest well- versed in rituals, who wanted the temple to be remade under his guidance within 80 days. This tedious task was accomplished by this enterprising member of the family.

    Every year, the Kodavas conduct a mand namme (village green festival) where people from various village greens come together and celebrate. The last one was on December 25, 2017 in Gonikoppal.

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  • 12/31/17--19:48: Nurturing a special talent
  • Hamsakutira, a non-profit organisation based in Bengaluru, has been transforming lives through the right music intervention. It was started by music therapist and veena artist Geetha Bhat in 2003. The organisation aims to promote Carnatic music as a means of healing and uses it to correct and improve learning capabilities of children, with a special focus on special children. Many students have benefitted from learning music here, their creativity and academics have improved. Adults also come here to learn the nuances of raga and tala for relaxation. But the beauty of Hamsakutira lies in what it does with those who face bias and discrimination from the society.

    Aims & activities

    "Music is universal. It can be used to promote emotional intelligence, as a means of self-expression, and to promote self-growth and analysis. In special children, music therapy works wonders. Here, a special childs or adults baseline ability is assessed and subsequent intervention is provided. Their attention span increases and some of the behavioural problems like temper tantrums come down. Even parents of children with the disabilities report a reduction in their anxieties after listening to music. Music is also known to reduce other psychiatric symptoms. Effects of certain ragas on our emotional state are well documented," says Geetha.

    Hamsakutira also wants to change the mindset of the music community regarding the abilities of people with special needs. Children with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and learning disabilities receive music therapy from Geetha and her team. She believes that it is easier to teach musically gifted children, but challenging to impart musical training to those without that specific talent. Dr Meenakshi Ravi, also a music therapist, says, "For those with high levels of stress and suicidal tendencies, music therapy is enormously beneficial." She wishes to see music therapy reach greater heights through such efforts.

    Training & therapy

    Which form of music is better for those with special needs - vocal or instrumental? "Instrumental training involves multiple senses and the sensory integration brought via musical training." At the same time, Geetha points out that there is no standard template for music therapy.

    Each student is different. Sometimes training begins with Tibetan bowls or drums that are less noisy. Naveen, a child with dyslexia, was introduced to musical notes through Veena and then went on to singing. Aditya, a 14-year-old who always had a liking for music, has improved in other areas subsequent to music therapy. His father, Rajashekar, says, "Earlier he would hardly speak to me on the phone, now he can carry on a conversation. His tolerance level has improved so much that they have started him on computer training in the school."

    Geetha adds that her special needs students are empathetic as well. They sense a performers stress before a concert and show kind gestures like bringing the participants some water.

    Her special students have performed at prestigious platforms like the Academy of Music at Chowdaiah memorial hall and Karnataka Fine Arts Council.

    Terminally ill patients in Karunashraya, a hospice, have listened to Hamsakutira students soulful music and thanked the performers for taking them to the divine. Residents of old age homes have also had the joy of listening to a Veena recital by Geetha. Their performances were appreciated by veteran musicians like Suma Sudhindra and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. "It was transformational in a sense. Our children performing at prestigious platforms meant that the community was becoming more accepting," says Geetha.

    Hamsakutira also conducts Naadaprayatna, an annual inclusive event where all the students of the organisation showcase their talents. Geetha has given several lectures regarding music therapy at hospitals, at non-profit organisations and holistic medical centres to educate people. Hamsakutira wants to groom more people in the field of music psychology and therapy as there are only a few organisations and individuals across the country doing this work.

    At grass-roots level

    Anasooya Vasudevan, a student of Geetha, is one such socially inclined person who carries out music therapy for children. Krithika was a child who hardly spoke, but after months of training learnt to sing a devotional song, much to her parents delight. Hamsakutira is also looking to do collaborative research with others to scientifically advance the field of music therapy.

    It also works with slum children by offering them counselling, by creating awareness about various forms of abuse and conducting personality development programmes for them. It wants to start a vocational rehabilitation centre for those with special needs. "We want music and movement to become part of academics across all schools. Our education system should also sensitise children towards the needs of those with disabilities," says Geetha.

    For more information, log on to

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  • 12/31/17--19:54: Nolamba marvel in Avani
  • Little is known about the Nolamba dynasty that ruled for over 300 years from Hemavathi in the present day Andhra Pradesh. The Nolambas were minor rulers who enjoyed the patronage of the powerful Rashtrakutas. They were weakened by the Gangas and eventually, overpowered by the Cholas. Three grand temple complexes are all that remain of this dynastys glory.

    These are the Kalleshwara Temple in Aralaguppe, the Bhoganandishwara Temple in Nandi and the Ramalingeshwara Temple in Avani. The Nolambas were Shaivites and the temples they built were dedicated to Lord Shiva.

    Recently, I drove to Avani to visit the Ramalingeshwara Temple. It was a 32 km drive from Kolar. It was a refreshing drive with beautiful scenery, where rocky hills protected emerald green fields.

    Mythological significance

    Avani is a small village with mythological significance. It is said that Sage Valmiki had his ashram in Avani and Sita, after being banished from Ayodhya, spent some time here. It is also believed that she gave birth to her twin sons in a room atop the hill located in the middle of the village. The hill is now popular among those fond of trekking, and the village is inundated with adventure enthusiasts during the weekends.

    There are many places across India and in Nepal that are believed to be the location of Valmikis ashram, and Avani is one among them. Every rock, structure, waterbody or hill in and around this village has a story associated with the Ramayana. It is also believed that Sita was contained in the earth here and thus, the place received the name Avani (meaning earth).

    Tales and temples

    The Ramalingeshwara Temple complex is at the foot of the hill. A huge gateway sans a tower leads to the temple complex. The early 10th-century temple has many shrines, each housing a linga. The four major shrines are one each for Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna. The priest said that these lingas were installed by Rama and his brothers in order to seek forgiveness from Lord Shiva for fighting with Ramas children - Lava and Kusha.

    There are other minor shrines, such as those of Anjaneya, Vali and Sugriva. There are lingas scattered across the complex and some in the mantapas. Theres a unique mantapa called ganji mantapa, where gruel is served to the devotees. There is another mantapa housing the navagraha (the nine planets) and another one housing a Nandi (the vehicle of Lord Shiva).

    The Ramalingeshwara Temple is considered as the main temple. All the rituals are carried out here. There is a shrine dedicated to Goddess Parvathi, attached to this temple. The goddess is known as Sitaparvathi here. The plan of the temple is typical and has a garbhagriha, an antarala and a navaranga. The outer wall is decorated with well-carved sculptures.

    The Lakshmanalingeshwara Temple is the most ornate of the three and houses the largest linga. The Cholas and Vijayanagar rulers have added elements to the original Nolamba structure. This temple also has a garbhagriha, an antarala and a navaranga. The navaranga has four well-carved pillars in the centre, depicting dancers and musicians.

    Fine architecture

    These four pillars hold up a ceiling with nine panels carved with Uma-Maheshwara surrounded by the ashtadikpalakas (gods of directions). The Shatrughneshwara Temple is considered as the oldest structure and is similar to the Lakshmaneshwara Temple in terms of the plan but in addition, has an ornate entrance gateway.

    The external decorative elements for all shrines include five mouldings ornamented with friezes of elephants, lions, yali (a mythical creature), makara above which are wall props and reliefs of yakshas, and the images of Shiva, Vishnu and Ganesha. The tower atop the garbhagriha is reminiscent of the Bhoganandishwara Temple and is a pyramidal structure. This temple complex built over 10 centuries ago inspires awe because of its simple, understated elegance.

    Head to Avani for a lesson in history and mythology. Explore the village and listen to the tales. The adventure lovers can always trek to the hill.

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  • 12/31/17--21:16: Unique gaming heritage
  • Ganjifa is an ancient Indian card game that is believed to have been popularised during the Mughal period. During this time, ganjifa cards were presented as gifts to royal dignitaries and visitors. As it became popular among the Indian royalty, craftspersons were employed to make ganjifa cards with Indian themes. Not only did ganjifa entertain the players, it also gave them an opportunity to learn mythological stories.

    While each region has its own version of the game, Mysore ganjifa is the most popular due to its intricate designs that are painted using natural colours made from herbs, flowers and seeds. "Mysore ganjifa is unique as the art is hand-painted on an ivory base. This is then lacquered on for durability," says Ganjifa Raghupathi Bhat, an artist who has been designing ganjifa cards for over 30 years.

    Mysores tryst with ganjifa got prominence during the reign of King Krishnaraja Wadiyar III. Then, as many as 18 types of ganjifa games were in existence. Of these, ganjifa card decks with the themes of Dashavatharam and the Ramayana were the most popular ones. While many of the cards had deities on them, other motifs such as elephants appeared as well.

    This game was, in fact, not only played by the royals, but also by the commoners. The only difference was that the royals used the cards made of expensive material like ivory, shells and deer leather, while commoners used the ones made from affordable material like paper, wood and fabrics. While ganjifa cards can be found in various shapes, it is traditionally made in a circular shape. Today, not many are aware of ganjifa game. And efforts are underway to revive the traditional game.

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  • 12/31/17--21:20: A feast that does not pause
  • Dasoha, a tradition of offering food to devotees, is practised by various maths and temples. Though it takes place daily, it sees a new peak during Jatra mahotsavas (car festivals). One such practice is the maha dasoha conducted by Sri Gavimath in Koppal, which has become famous for its sheer scale. It has not only redefined the meaning of dasoha but also expanded its possibilities. The event takes place as part of the Gavisiddeshwara Jathra and this year, the Jatra will happen for three days from tomorrow.

    Mouth-watering dishes

    The Maha Dasoha begins on the full moon day in January and concludes on the no moon day, lasting 15 days. On the first day, the firewood is lit according to rituals, indicating that the cooking has begun. It burns continuously till the last day. Food is cooked and served continuously without a pause for a fortnight. Interestingly, devotees throng the venue even at odd hours. A pandal is erected on a four-acre plot, where around 4,000 people can eat at a time. Around 500 people get involved in cooking, and around 20 lakh devotees eat here over 15 days.

    Every day, loads of grains, vegetables and various condiments arrive in trucks. Also, devout farmers bring their produce on bullock carts and in tractors. About 20 lakh kg of jowar roti, 700 quintals of rice, 1,000 quintals of sweets, and 10,000 kg of pickle is prepared during the season. Nearly 600 tonnes of firewood is used.

    Perhaps, no temple or restaurant in the country offers as many items as this annual fair. The menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner changes everyday. The dishes include dry and wet chutneys, palyas, salads, sambars, bisibele bath and vegetable pulav. Sweet delicacies such as kesari bath, payasa and maadli (a type of dry sweet dish prepared in North Karnataka using wheat) are also prepared. Besides mango, lemon, chilli, garlic, tomato and mixed vegetable pickles, the maha dasoha kitchen also specialises in hunase thokku (a chutney made from tamarind). Uppittu, avalakki, idli, vada and mandakki are some of the items served for breakfast.

    Ramanagauda Balagauda, a school teacher who volunteers at the maha dasoha, says, "Last year, we made around three lakh mirchi bajjis in a day." There is no committee to monitor the operations. "People take up responsibilities once they reach the venue. Devotion and reverence for Gavimath unites everybody," says Sanjay Kotabal, a member of Gavisiddeshwara Vidyavardhaka Sangha.

    Dr D Veerendra Heggade, Dharmadhikari of Dharmasthala Temple, said
    in 2010, "Of late, we find everything at the jatras except spirituality and purity. However, this event is an exception."

    Former Lokayukta Justice Shivaraj Patil considers maha dasoha as an event worthy of an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. In his valedictory speech in 2016, he said, "As a student, I grew up eating at a dasoha. Ive seen the dasoha in different forms at institutions across the country. The maha dasoha here is totally unique."

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  • 12/31/17--21:24: Into the wilderness
  • Even at 7 am, the thick blanket of fog masking the lush green banks of the Tiger Tank in the Kabini Forest Reserve was refusing to lift. The mild breeze made no difference to the white vapour, but sent a chill down the spine. Sitting in the front seat of a safari jeep with chattering teeth, my curious eyes looked out for slightest of movements on the other side of the lake bank.

    I was at one of the famous water sources of the Kabini safari zone - Tiger Tank - in Nagarahole National Park (also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park), known for the sighting of striped and spotted big cats. In summer, Bengal tigers, Indian leopards and herds of elephants come to this waterbody to quench their thirst.

    Kabinis Bagheera

    However, I was there for someone else - my childhood hero Bagheera who took on the mighty Shere Khan in the captivating lines of Rudyard Kiplings The Jungle Book. Visiting the backwaters of Kabini had become almost irresistible, especially after watching the monsoon videos of black panther (melanistic leopard) on YouTube. Even on screen, watching the big black cat walking towards you with a majestic stride and staring with its emerald green eyes and tail up, gave a rip-roaring feel. The videos shot in the year 2017 showed an elusive black panther mating with multiple female leopards, and its hunting capabilities.

    Tourists, who had visited the park the previous evening, had sighted it resting on a tree, far from the safari tracks. This made me hopeful that my hero would not disappoint me and would turn up to say hello.

    Even my friend Mysore Pruthvi, who had over the years captured various moods of black panther, tigers and other animals in Kabini, said that the black cat had become more brave since the last season and had been crossing the safari tracks without being too shy. We waited at the Tiger Tank for almost 15 minutes. But there was no show.

    The sun began burning brighter, unveiling the serene beauty of the Western Ghats. For the next one hour, we combed the forest on uneven muddy trails whose width was restricted by tall trees and weeds. Yet, I was not lucky enough to sight any one of the 120 tigers and the 100 plus leopards that roam freely in the thick woods of the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve.

    However, the paradise of wilderness has something for each enthusiast. I enjoyed watching a pack of wild dogs (Indian dhole) readying themselves for a hunt, a herd of Indian gaurs escorting a new born to safety, an adolescent female elephant running in search of her herd, and at some distance, four to five elephants emptying the forest grass. Not to forget, I also got a sight of a herd of spotted deer.

    Let aside the sighting of big cats, for an urbanite like me, the jaded soul was rejuvenated, my lungs got a chance to breathe fresh oxygen and my body hit the refresh button. This itself made my visit unforgettable. As Jungle Lodges naturalist Prasanna said, Kabini happens to be one of the best places for watching wild animals up-close in their natural habitat. River Kabini (the place is named after the river) takes birth in the Wayanad district of Kerala and flows through these woods before joining River Cauvery. In its womb, Kabini safeguards not just flagship species like tigers and elephants, but also 350 others, including 270 types of birds.

    The greater chance of encountering animals has made this protected forest a paradise for wildlife photographers and nature enthusiasts. Every year, thousands of tourists make their way into the wilderness to spot animals, especially the carnivorous, and majority of times, they dont return disappointed. The chances of sighting temple road male leopard, tiger tank female tiger (and if you are lucky, its three cubs) and black panther are high. The luxuriant forest and bamboo thickets make it a perfect place for elephants, which number in hundreds.

    Paradise lost?

    Kabini, as part of Nagarahole, was a hunting ground for the kings of Princely Mysore and British officials. Then, the shallow waters of Kabini used to be the taming ground of wild elephants. Even today, we can see teak wood poles, which were used to tame the elephants, erected in the middle of the river.

    It was in 1955 that Nagarahole was declared as a wildlife sanctuary and in 1988, it was elevated as a national park. In 1999, the 643.39 sq km of Nagarahole forest was recognised as a tiger reserve, thus boosting conservation efforts in the region. However, wildlife photographers, who have seen the green cover wane over the years, feel that we have lost a portion of paradise here.

    This used to be such a thick jungle that rain drops never fell on the ground directly. However, after the construction of a dam across the river in 1974, the green cover began to disappear gradually. What used to be surplus water flowing area, now finds it difficult to meet the water needs of the animals in summer. To cope with the situation, solar powered borewells have been installed at several waterholes inside the park.

    Human-animal conflicts have increased as there are several villages near the comforts of the forest. There are also reports of several acres of land being encroached, forcing the animals to enter the farms.

    The jury is still out to know whether Kabini is a paradise lost or regained, but for nature lovers, it is a place must visit.

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