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Bandra Fort now bears a cemented look

The 400-year old Castella de Aguada, popularly known as the Bandra Fort at Bandra Bandstand now wears a cemented look. The fort, a Grade I heritage structure was deteriorating. Hence, the state archaeological department undertook the task of restoring the ruins of the fort. However, during the process of restoration, they have completely cemented the walls.

“There were many small cavities in the walls which was destroying the fort. Since the fort is located near the sea, we had no choice but to use cement to strengthen the walls,” says an official from the state archaeological department on the condition of anonymity.

The state archaeological department and the Archaeological Survey of India follow the method of retaining the original look and feel of any heritage site while restoring it. Cement is usually avoided as in the past, cement was never used.

The fort was originally built by using rubble stone masonry and lime-mortar plastering which gave the fort is unique look. “We could not use lime as it is not available easily in such a large quantity. Moreover we had to carry out the restoration work immediately to save the fort. We plan to give the final touches using lime plastering when the stock arrives,” adds the official.

The restoration work began late last year with a budget of Rs. 60 lakh. The restoration work is supposed to be completed before the monsoons begin this year.

“It is good that the state archaeological department noticed the deterioration, took interest in the matter and started the restoration work. But being a Grade I heritage structure, they should have retained the original look and the character of the fort rather than using cement,” says P. Kapur, trustee of the Bandra Bandstand Residents’ Trust, the trust that manages the entire area starting from the Bandra Bandstand promenade till the Amphitheatre and the fort. “If not the entire fort, at least the original look of the entrance to the fort should have been retained,” he adds.

In the 16th century, the fort was used an important watchtower between the Salcette Island annexed by the Portuguese and the islands held by the British. Over the years, due to lack of maintenance and continuous deterioration, the fort saw a dwindling number of visitors and thus became the haven to couples and drug addicts.

“The fort was dilapidated and on the verge of collapsing. As a resident of the Bandra Bandstand area, I come here often. The fort does not look the same anymore. It does not look like a Grade I heritage structure; instead it looks just like a new construction,” says Nandini Joshi, a resident of the area.

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Mercedes McLaren Comes to Mumbai

The famous Formula One racing car McLaren Mercedes visited Mumbai this month. The car was exhibited at Hakone Racing Circuit at Powai, Phoenix Mills at Lower Parel, Oberoi Mall at Goregaon and Nirmal Lifestyles at Mulund.

The car is an exact replica of the car driven by Formula One ace driver Lewis Hamilton. The McLaren Mercedes team is one of the most successful teams in Formula One. They have won over 150 races. 11 Drivers’ Championships and 8 Constructors’ Championships.

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Will I ever get a credit card?

Journalists, lawyers, actors, politicians and the police are always envied for the kind of connections they have. This class of professionals have their way of getting things done in their favour. But these privileges do not coming knocking on their doors everytime. There are times when doors are shut only because of whom they are and the work they do.

Journalists, lawyers, actors and politicians and the police are black listed professions for banks when it comes to issuing credit cards and loans. Even if you want a credit card, it is a luxury. However, some of them have their way out.

I have applied several times for a credit card and have been refused every single time for the reason “profession not desirable” or “not credit worth”. What do banks mean by this? Am i engaged in some black business or something? I am a tax paying citizen of India. If I come within the tax bracket how can they classify me as not credit worthy?

After speaking to a number of banker friends, I got to know the real picture. Banks choose to harass the common man. In case journalists, lawyers, politicians, actors and the police default on payments and the bank uses harsh methods of recovery, the journalist will expose them in the media, lawyers will file a suit against them for harassment, the police, actors and politicians will use their connection against the bank.

Issuance of credit cards is the at the sole discretion of the bank but does that give them the right to deny credit to these professionals?

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Shoe Problem?

Being big made or small made is a problem in India especially when it comes to buying shoes. If you don’t get your correct size, you are left unsatisfied. There are very few shops that have the option of selling custom-made shoes.

I have a problem buying shoes of my size. I am very short and my height is 149 cm. My shoe size is 4. The normal shoe size of ladies is 5-10. Whenever I got to buy shoes, the shopkeeper sends me to the kids section and I get shoes with bows and buckles. During Christmas, I can get a variety of shoes with Christmas Trees, Santa Clause, Elves, Mistletoes and what not. Being a woman and an impulsive shopper, I cannot indulge in impulse shoe shopping. I am forced to order shoes. The good part about ordering shoes is that I can play around with the design and increase or decrease the height of the heel.

Fazal Shaikh is a Maharashtra State level basketball player and stands feet 10 inches tall. “My shoe size is 12 and this size is available only in a few shops and most of the time I have to order my shoes.”

Sruthi Gotipatti feels that the attitude of the shopkeepers must change. “My shoe size in 10 and I find it rather annoying when shopkeepers tell me that my feet are abnormal. Moreover, the shoes of those sizes are too ‘aunty-like’. It is high time shops stock adequate shoes of plus or minus sizes,” states Sruthi Gotipatti.

When it comes to clothes, the number of tailors and plus sized clothes’ shops in the city are many. “The plus sized stores do not have my size. Hence, I get all my clothes stitched. There are only t-shirts of my size available at select outlets” adds Fazal Shaikh.

Shopkeepers feel that they lose out on revenue when they stock odd sizes, the investment and infrastructure costs are high but the sales are low. But there are some shops which cater to people who have big feet or small feet. “We provide the facility for ordering shoes from any of our designs at no extra cost. The shoes will be ready in a week”, says Vipul Chheda, owner of an Adidas showroom at Parel. “We take order of shoes but we charge about Rs. 50 – Rs. 75 more depending on the nature of modification. We can make minor adjustments provided the design is similar”, adds Iliyaz of Bombay Shoe Mart located at Crawford Market.

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Music therapy with a special touch

“Music . . . can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable”. This line by Leonard Bernstein holds true for the children of Priyanj Special School located in Goregaon West. As you enter the school, you are greeted by the smiles of enthusiastic children singing, banging the desk and making noise. These children look any other children but in reality they are autistic.

Apart from their regular sessions of special education, art and craft training, speech and language therapy, occupational and sensory integration therapy, individual counselling, self-help training and computer education, music sessions has made a big difference to these children in improving their social skills.

Eight-year old Raveena Poojari can play on the keyboard just any song that she has heard on the television while Vedant Roy, also eight-years old, can play on the keyboard any tune that a person hums. For Deepayan Dasgupta, music has made him talk; his speech has improved through music. Prathamesh Naik, Deepanyan Dasgupta and Devansh Rathor, all of nine years can learn any song and immediately sing in tune. “Music has made these children more verbal and has improved their social skills. Earlier getting them to talk was very difficult but now they have started responding to people,” says Dr. Reesha Dhulap, the school principal. Saurabh Jadhav can barely speak but once the bongo is handed over to him, he gets engrossed with it. “The children here are immensely gifted. They have never attended any formal music class but they have the knack of playing music just by ear. I just teach them the notes and give them the pitch. Raveena has the ability to remember song lyrics and has even written them in her exam answer paper!” adds Dinesh Kumar, the music instructor.

The school that started in the year 2000 has recently formed their own band that performs at various places. The school band consists of singers Devansh Rathore, Deepanyan Dasgupta, Vedant Roy, Ritika Shetty and Prathamesh Naik accompanied by Raveena Poojari on the keyboard, Saurabh on the bongo and Ingrid Lobo on the tambourine. The children are now in the process of learning to play the guitar.

When asked about the difference in teaching music to autistic children Dinesh Kumar answers, “While teaching these children, I have to wait for them to respond. I had never heard about autism before and after getting involved in teaching these children, I have gained lots of patience and satisfaction.”

Though these children have their limitations, they have emerged victorious with their special gift of music.

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Today’s aeromodeller, tomorrow’s pilot

Take a trip to Mahalakshmi Race Course on a Sunday morning and you could witness an exciting sport practiced there – aeromodelling. When the horses are not in action, aeromodelling enthusiasts fly radio-controlled, scaled-down versions of airplanes and helicopters. Aeromodelling is the art of making miniature aircraft models that look and fly like real aircrafts. It is a combination of craft, a bit of engineering expertise, coupled with creative imagination.

Aeromodelling is highly developed in the United States of America. With the lack of open spaces here, the hobby is suppressed,” says Ashok Baijal, the Deputy General Manager of State Bank of India, who frequents the race course every Sunday. “The race course is the only open space in Mumbai where we can fly planes for free”, says S. K. Mishra of Indian Hobby Centre. The Mahalakshmi Race Course has started a Flying Club that provides third party insurance for an annual fee of Rs. 200.

Categories of aeromodels

Static aeromodels are replicas of airplanes that exhibit minute details of real airplanes. They are incapable of flight. These serve as learning tools in the world of aircrafts. Construction of these models demands a high level of engineering expertise, craft, carpentry and knowledge about the aircraft. Flying aeromodels are capable of actual flight. They need considerations of weight, balance and strength. Their main focus is on the aerodynamics than just external appearances. Balsa wood, polystyrene foam, bits of glass fibre, cloth and plywood is required for its construction. Some plastic moulded parts like the propeller and spinner cones may be incorporated. Glow fuel (70% methanol, 10% nitromethane and 20% castor oil) is used to fly these airplanes.

It is beneficial for beginners to use kits rather than trying to build models from random sheets of balsa wood. The hobby is prevalent in India since almost three decades. However, aeromodelling kits are being imported since the last seven years. In Mumbai, aeromodelling kits are available on retail only at India Hobby Centre. The kit includes a plan of the airplane, pre-cut strips of Balsa wood and a manual on how to get started.

“There is no joy in buying readymade airplanes. When you create your own airplane, there is immense satisfaction. You’re first crash motivates you to rework on your airplane,” says Ashok Baijal. Mehernosh started aeromodelling with a zero budget. “I went to the race course and watched others flying. There is a skill to operate the remote control and I learnt it by watching others and flying their planes,” he says. His interest in aeromodelling initiated him to study aeronautical engineering. TYBSc student, Ralph Cornelius worked at India Hobby Centre and earned the body of an airplane which he assembled. His passion has motivated him to invest in a chopper.

Benefits of Aeromodelling

Aeromodelling is very useful for defence purposes and disaster management. “Through these airplanes, manless flights are possible during wars. Also, by attaching a camera, one can survey a disaster prone area and capture images,” says Ashok Baijal. “The government can start by encouraging aeromodelling as a sport and then look into its commercial benefits,” he adds.

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Escort Services: A Mere Click Away

“Do you want to earn Rs. 20,000 – Rs. 50,000 in a day? For more details call us on XXXXX XXXXX” says the ad on the site. Sounds like an advertisement of a placement company. Doesn’t it? A further look into the site reveals – “I offer the ultimate girl friend experience escort service to males, females and shemales. We can lose all our inhibitions and explore our fantasies together (sic),” says a banner on the website of an escort service operating in India. While another says “My vital stats are 40D-30-39. I can give u the perfect girl friend experience of a lifetime, because I am hot and h**** (sic)”.

The Internet is an enormous marketplace to sell products and services including the services of women. We often blame social networking sites as a source for delinquencies. However, it is the easy and unrestricted access to the Internet that has exposed minds to enormous unsolicited content.

When the words “escort services” are typed in a search engine, or on the very popular Orkut for that matter, the results obtained are deplorable with sexually explicit pictures and brazen text. These sites contain contact numbers and e-mail addresses of the agents or coordinators which is easily available with a click of the mouse. The sites also invite applications from “young and sexy women” to apply for positions as escorts.

Orkut has been in the limelight after being linked to the murders of TCS employee Koushambi Layek by Manish Thakur and the latest Adnan Patrawala case. The site is not new to cases of cloning of profiles and misusing pictures and searching for escort services on Orkut, well, isn’t exactly rocket science.

While authorities are busy playing net nanny, Orkut remains easily accessible to a large section of society dominated by youngsters.

Following are the transcripts of a telephone call made to a Mr. Verma whose number was procured form one such site.

Anjali: Hello Mr. Verma I would like to book an escort for my boss
Verma: Your boss???? (laughs)
Anjali: Can you supply a girl aged around 18-25 at J. W. Marriot?
Verma: Yes I can. Shall I e-mail you some pictures? Ask your boss to select.
Anjali: What is the cost of a girl?
Verma: Rs. 25,000 for one session that it two hours. Room rent and gifts are separate. Virgin girl Rs. 40,000 and firangs Rs. 50,000
Anjali: Is there any discount?
Verma: This is not a khirana shop to ask for discount. When shall I confirm the booking?
Anjali: How can I make the payment?
Verma: Cash or blank cheque. I will write the name.
Anjali: Ok thank you. I will speak to my boss and call back later.

On calling up the number on the website, the agent divulged all possible information without any qualms or actually verifying who was on the other side of that call. Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 says that whoever publishes or transmits in the electronic form, any material which is lewd and lustful or appeals to that interest shall be liable to punishment. The punishment on first conviction is imprisonment which may extend to five years and fine which may extend to one lakh rupees. In the event of a second or subsequent conviction imprisonment may extend to ten years and fine may extend to two lakh rupees.

The Information Technology Act, 2000 was enacted to provide legal recognition of electronic communication in India. On questioning an official from the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell in Mumbai, the official (on the condition of anonymity) said, “We are aware of the existence of escort services. Adult prostitution is not illegal in India. Child prostitution and those who live off the income of prostitutes is illegal. We are arresting such people frequently. Even after the arrests, their aides continue to operate in full swing.”

In spite of the “arrests” made by the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell, the persons running these escort services are unperturbed by the laws and the enforcers of the law.

The official further said, “The internet is an international source. This business has a large network. These websites are hosted abroad and we do not have much control over such sites.” But Section 75 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 says that this Act applies to any offense or contravention committed outside India by any person if the act or conduct constituting is located in India.

To this the official added, “We have been blocking escort services websites but after some time, the agents unblock them or they operate under another domain name. We can put an end to this nonsense only with the co-operation of the people.”

Though the process of investigation was not divulged the official maintained that certain things could to be to prevent children from “bumping into these sites.”

  • Set up a password to prevent children from accessing the internet without adult supervision
  • Activate a web locking system in the computer that blocks access to these sites
  • Activate the adult content filter option especially in Peer2Peer file sharing software
  • Display warnings mentioning “adult content” where blocking is impossible
  • Check the internet history regularly to monitor the content viewed.

Some cybercafés in India have blocked such sites but most of them thrive by serving customers who need a daily dose of pornography. Parents are aware of the kind of content out on the Internet. “I know my children are vulnerable to viewing such content. Therefore, the computer is in my bedroom under lock and key. I have also set a password for the computer and my children can use the computer only under my supervision,” says Richa Mehta, mother of three school children.

“I trust my children though they are smarter than me when it comes to the computer and internet. I don’t know about the existence of blocking softwares,” says another parent Lily Fernandes.

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