Video: What is Pongal?

Today is Pongal, a harvest festival celebrated in South India. In other parts of India the festival has different names: Sankranti, Lohri or Bihu. The underlying idea is the same – it is like the American Thanksgiving festival points out Dr. Geeta Vasudevan in the video interview below. Families get together, cook special dishes for the celebration, offer prayers and then sit down to eat a special Pongal meal. The  one main difference between Pongal and Thanksgiving is when the big meal is eaten. Pongal is typically a breakfast/brunch affair, while Thanksgiving meal tends to be a late lunch or an early dinner.

There is a set ritual that is followed for Pongal in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu. For starters, everyone is up pretty early on this day. The lady of the house is generally in charge of Pongal celebrations. The first thing she does is take a shower and either she or someone in the house decorates the front yard with kolam, which are these colorful, intricate geometrical patterns. Take a look at this video about kolam and the kolam maavu (powder) guy or the guy that sells the powder.



Once the house is swept and cleaned and the kolam decorations are taken care of, the next thing is to get the special food organized for the celebration. That special food is  Pongal – the centerpiece dish of the celebration. The dish is cooked with with the newly harvested rice.  There is a spicy and sweet version of Pongal and this is to to reflect the ups and downs of our lives. The pot of Pongal has to overflow since this signifies an overflow of abundance of food, joy and happiness as Dr. Vasudevan explains in this video.

An offering of the Pongal, along with sugar cane and flowers are laid out on a banana leaf and the family offers a prayer. And then they all sit down to eat their Pongal meal.

And, if you are lucky enough maybe you will get to see a traditional Pongal celebration at DakshinaChitra near Chennai. Here is a peek into Karagam dance performed by Noorjehan at Dakhshina Chitra.


Podcast: Ira Pande on Shivani, Chetan Bhagat and Books in India Part-1

LISTEN to Ira Pande

Ira Pande is an author, editor, translator and teacher. She worked in the publishing industry for many years and was the managing editor of Dorling-Kindersley and chief editor of Roli Books India. She also worked as the chief editor at India International Center.

A gifted storyteller with a keen eye for details, Pande has translated the works of Shivani (her mother) and Manohar Shyam Joshi from Hindi into English. Pande translated Shivani’s Diddi and Apradhini and Joshi’s T’Ta Professor  into English.

In Part-1 of our conversation Pande talks about how and why she translated these books into English and the change in Indian publishing landscape and the impact of Chetan Bhagat. A banker-turned-author Bhagat’s books are a big hit with Indian readers.

A highlight of our conversation is Pande’s discussion about her mother’s book Apradhini. This is an unusual collection of stories from 3 different perspective on the same subject – women in prison for committing crimes of passion. Pande shares how her mother got the idea to write about women in prison. Sometime in 1971 Shivani received an invitation from a doctor in a Lucknow prison to come and meet the female inmates and listen to their stories. What started out as a visit turned into a powerful experience for Shivani, and she then became the medium for these women as Pande puts it. Shivani did not write to titillate as Pande put it, and instead wrote about crime without diluting the moral dimensions.

Tune back in Part-2 of our conversation with Ira where she talks about Jaipur Literary Festival and books.

Podcast: Kittu Kolluri on Entrpreneurship and Investment Part-1

LISTEN: NEA’s Kittu Kolluri on Entrepreneurship and Investment Part-1

Kittu Kolluri Podcast on The Kamla Show

Kittu Kolluri

New Enterprise Associate’s  Managing Partner Kittu Kolluri is an engineer-turned-entrepreneur-turned-investor. In 2006 I  met with Kolluri at NEA’s Sand Hill Road office in Menlo Park, to find out how he made this transition from being an engineer to an investor.

In Part-1 of our conversation Kittu describes his transition from an engineer to an entrepreneur to an investor. Who inspired him to become an engineer? What did he learn from his mentors, one of them being the legendary investor Jim Clark.

Kolluri also talks about his childhood and growing up in Hyderabad, India and how he was inspired while in sixth grade to study engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). After studying engineering in India and the US, Kolluri started work at SGI, a company founded by Jim Clarke. While at SGI Kolluri got to work with Clarke quite closely and later on joined him at his healthcare startup Healtheon.

Kittu is a graduate of IIT, Madras and State University of New York, Buffalo.

Photo credit: NEA

Podcast: Kittu Kolluri on Entrepreneurship and Investment Part-2

LISTEN; Kittu Kolluri on Entrepreneurship and Investment Part-2

Kittu Kolluri Podcast on The Kamla Show

Kittu Kolluri

In 2006 I met with Kittu Kolluri at NEA’s Sand Hill Road Office in Menlo Park. He had just joined the VC firm and I wanted  to find out how he made this transition from being an engineer to an investor. Around the time of the interview one of Kolluri’s portfolio company Teracent was acquired by Google for an undisclosed amount. Since then Kolluri has had quite a few successful exits for his portfolio companies.

In Part-2 of our interview Kolluri talks about  entrepreneurship and the books that helped and inspired him on. His advice to entrepreneurs is they first need to validate their idea with customers and then look to raise money. He shares an example of how they used this strategy to raise money for Neoteris, a startup that he headed after Healtheon

Kolluri  started his engineering career at SGI, and while there got to know Jim Clarke, who  co-founded Netscape and Healtheon. And in Michael Lewis’ bestseller The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story, which is about Clarke there was quite a bit about Kolluri and how he worked with Clarke.

Kolluri was one of the co-founders of Healtheon, a startup that wanted  to change the healthcare industry. Eventually Healtheon was acquired by WebMD. After Healtheon, Kolluri went to lead a networking startup called Neoteris that was acquired by Netscreen, which in turn was acquired by Juniper Networks.

Kittu is a graduate of IIT, Madras and State University of New York, Buffalo.

Photo credit: NEA

Video: Ash Kalra, San Jose City Councilmember on Crime & Infrastructure – Part – 2

Crime and infrastructure are two of the top issues for folks in San Jose and Silicon Valley. In Part-2 of our conversation we talk to Ash Kalra (D), San Jose City Councilmember about these twin issue.

He studied law at Georgetown University and headed back to his hometown of San Jose, where he spent over 10 years in the District Attorney’s office in San Jose. And in 2008 he ran for elections and won from District 2 in San Jose. He is serving his second term as a city council member. His next move? He announced his intention to run for California State Assembly in 2016.

In case, you missed here is Part-1 of our interview with Councilmember Ash Kalra.


Podcast: Prof. Greg Booth on The Making of Bollywood Music Part-2

Greg Booth

Greg Booth

Prof. Greg Booth is a musician, author and teacher at University of Auckland, New Zealand.

In 2008 Prof. Booth’s book “Behind The curtain: Making Music in Mumbai’s Film Studios,” was published. It highlights the contributions of individual musicians, who were part of a larger Hindi or Bollywood music orchestra.

The musicians came from different background spanning British military brass bands to jazz and traditional Indian music. For example – quite a few of the musicians came from the Indian state of Goa, which had a strong Portuguese influence. Many musicians came from a Catholic background and learnt to read and play music as part of their education. What was the musical influence that the Goan musicians brought with them into the Hindi or Bollywood music? That is one of the strands that Prof. Booth explores and highlight in this book.

In Part-2 of the interview Prof. Booth  talks about Chic ChoclateJoe MenezesLeslie Gudinho and Kersi Lord, whose music you might recognize but not know they were the ones who played that musical refrain because they were always behind the curtain. The people who were in front of the curtain were the music directors like C. Ramachandra,Laxmikant PyarelalSD BurmanRD Burman and others.

LISTEN: Prof. Greg Booth on The Making of Bollywood Music Part-2

Coming up is Part-3 of the interview with Greg.

Music credits: Amar Akhar Anthony, Barsaat, Albela, Teesri Manzsil, Aradhana and Bhoot Bangla.

Photo credit: Greg Booth

Podcast: Greg Booth on Indian Wedding Brass Bands


Greg Booth

Greg Booth

Prof. Greg Booth is a teacher, author & musician. In his book Brass Baja: Stories From The World of Indian Wedding Bands he takes us behind the scene into the world of the Indian brass band musicians, whose rich musical traditions and history has been largely ignored. It was way back back in the 17th century that the first wedding brass band made their appearance in India. Today, Indian wedding brass bands are an integral part of Indian popular culture and cinema. Most of all they are a big part of Indian wedding celebrations.

We spoke to Prof Booth about the evolution of Indian wedding brass bands and the introdution of western musical instruments into Indian music. For instance, the clarinet and violin were introduced from the west into traditional Indian classical music. And, the harmonium, which is such a large part of Indian music was introduced to India by European missionaries points out Prof. Booth.

LISTEN: Prof. Greg Booth on Indian Wedding Brass Bands

He trained in western classical music and then learnt to play the tabla from Ustad Zakir Hussain and Ustad Alla Rakha.

This is part one of a  3-part interivew on Indian Wedding Brass Bands, Indian film music and Bollywood. In part 2 and 3 Prof. Booth talks about the influence of western music into Bollywood and takes us behind the curtain into the world of Bollywood musicians.

Song Credit: Sheila Ki Jawani by Sunidhi Chauhan and Vishal Dadlani from Tees Maar Khan

Photo Credit: Greg Booth

Podcast: Prof. Greg Booth On Making of Bollywood Music Part-3


Greg Booth

Greg Booth

Prof. Greg Booth is a musician, teacher and an author. In his book “Looking Behind The Curtain Making Music In Mumbai’s Film Industry” he takes us behind the silverscreen to show us how music was (is) made in Hindi or Bollywood films.

In Part-2 Prof. Booth talks about the process of how songs were created especially in the 20th century. Big orchestras was a key part of the music making process. The situation in the film dictates the nature and style of music. In the book he highlights the music making style of music directors like NaushadShankar-Jaikishen, Lakshmikant-PyarelalSB Burman and RD Burman.

Cut to 21st century and the process of creating music for Bollywood films has changed with the introduction of digital technology. Oscar winner AR Rahman was one of the early music composers, who used digital technology extensively and pared down on the need for a huge orchestra. With the embrace of digital technology, the process of creating music has completely changed when compared to the 20th c. Another change that has come about is that today the musicians are in front of the screen, and not behind the curtain like their predecessors.

LISTEN: Prof. Greg Booth On Making of Bollywood Music Part-3

In case you missed, you might want to check our previous segments with Prof. Booth on Indian Wedding Brass Bands and The Making of Bollywood Music.

Music credits: Baiju Bawra, Barsaat, Farz, Caravan, Bobby, Roja and Aradhana