NRI: Sharmas’ ‘Pranna’, Indian Restaurant in Manhattan takes off


Indian restaurant in NY sweetened Steve Jobs deal

Barodian Couple’s US Gourmet Icon Is A Haunt For A-Listers

Ramaninder K Bhatia | TNN 

Vadodara: When Apple CEO Steve Jobs wanted a hushhush meeting with New York Time’s top executives to convince them to get their product onto IPad, he walked them i n t o Pranna, o n e o f the biggest rest a u r a n t in Manhattan’sMadison Avenue in 2010, specializing in Southeast-Asian cuisine. Jobs ordered Mango lassi and penne pasta. Neither item was on the menu, but the restaurant’s Indian owners Rajiv and Payal Sharma did not fail the great visionary. T h e S h a r m a s q u i ck ly whipped up the dishes, so that Jobs’ meeting with the 50 top executives of NYT could go on without any gastronomical disappointment, at least.

     Despite the hustle and bustle of its three bars and lounges, the group had its meeting in one of the several special private seating areas, without inviting any unnecessary attention. “The meeting was in the cellar lounge and Payal was personally taking the order. The Apple team had booked the table well in advance, but revealed only two hours before the meeting that Steve Jobs himself who would be attending,” Rajiv smiles as he recalls the moment, relaxing in his family home in Vadodara’s Gautam Nagar.

        “They demanded complete secrecy. We met him briefly when he complimented us for the place and ordered another serving of mango lassi,” he adds.

     Here, on their annual visit to their hometown, Rajiv and his vivacious wife Payal Sharma confess that they didn’t make much of the meeting then, but after Jobs died, and when his authorized biography written by renowned biographer, Walter Issacson’s came out, the real import of that event sank in.

        “The book mentions his visit to Pranna on page 505, that’s when people started calling and visiting us to see the place where the great man once dined. We have now built a small shrine for him in the cellar lounge, and introduced the two dishes on our menu, Its our little tribute to the great man who made our place famous by his visit,” says Payal.

      An unassuming family, the Sharmas keep a low profile and quietly slips in and out of Vadodara during annual sojourns from their adopted home in Long Islands. Till the time, Rajiv is not prodded, cajoled and bullied by close friends to talk about his work, there is no inkling of the high-profile status that his “mega Asian, super sexy” restaurant has earned for itself in the heart of the New York city.
“At 22,000 sq ft, it’s the biggest restaurant, which is our dream child. We opened in the middle of recession in 2008, and the beginning was expectedly lukewarm. However, its popularity has now soared beyond all our expectations,” says the couple, reeling off names of celebrities who have dropped in for special events or its more famous Peoples’ Brunch every Saturday.

     Megan Fox, Kirsten Dunst, Tiara Banks, Olivia Wilde, Jude Law, Hillary Swank, Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams, Jack Nicklaus, Chelsea Clinton, and Cristiano Ronaldo have all been spotted in Pranna restaurant and lounge in the past two years.

        Neither is Bollywood fraternity behind with likes of Imraan Khan, Shabana Azmi, Javed Khan, Anil Kapoor, Abhay Deol, Vivek Oberoi, Kailash Kher, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Atif Aslam having made due appearances.

        “It was the launch party of the annual swimwear edition of Sports Illustrated in February 2009, four months after we opened in the middle of the recession, which made a huge difference,” Rajiv reveals.
Today, the place, with its soaring roofs and expansive space built on three levels and exuding Zen-like atmosphere, is the toast of the town, which serves over 100 Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese and Indian dishes. “Pranna means ‘breath of life’ and we wanted our place to breathe in the busy Manhattan.”

    And, to think, that this, one-time corporate honcho did not ever want to step into the family profession. Born in Ahmedabad and brought up in Vadodara, this naturalized Gujarati — whose father was from UP and the mother a Punjabi — hails from a family which brought the Kwality restaurant chain to Gujarat.

     His father Baijnath Sharma moved to Baroda to open Volga. Rajiv studied at Rosary school and MS University.

      Big, bigger, best Weekly footfall at Pranna is close to 10,000. Every week, close to 100 cases of Johny Walker Black and Grey Goose Vodka each are consumed, besides thousands of other bottles of liquor and wines. The three bars stock beer from all over the world. At any given time, Pranna can accommodate 2,000 people with a seating capacity of 500. It has over 100 dishes for its small and large plates.

INGREDIENTS FOR SUCCESS: The Sharmas

Bad Governance: Karnataka Govt playing with careers of Engineers


Absorption of 1,300 contract engineers unconstitutional: HC

TIMES NEWS NETWORK 

       Bangalore: The high court on Friday delivered an important verdict affecting major government departments like PWD, water resources and rural development.

       It declared as unconstitutional the absorption of 1,300-odd engineers who were appointed on contract basis against backlog posts of SC/STs. The division bench of Justices N Kumar and HS Kempanna dismissed the petitions filed by these engineers challenging the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal’s May 25, 2009, decision.

       The bench affirmed KAT order wherein the Karnataka Civil Services’ absorption of persons appointed on contract basis against backlog vacancies was set aside as unconstitutional. This affects 801 assistant engineers and 511 junior engineers who were absorbed as per the 2005 rules.

Bad Governance: NMMC tries to close down Super Specialty Hospital


HC warns of action against officer who ordered hosp closure

Rosy Sequeira TNN 


Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Friday asked the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) what action it proposes to take against the officer who directed closure of the super-specialty Hiranandani Fortis Hospital in Vashi for operating beds in excess of its sanctioned limit. The court also warned that if the NMMC does not take action, it shall initiate action against Dr Ramesh Nikam, the health officer, who issued the order. 
    Justice Sharad Bobde and Justice Mridula Bhatkar was hearing a plea by Hiranandani Healthcare Private Limited challenging Nikam’s June 26, 2012, order passed under the Bombay Nursing Homes Registration Act, cancelling the hospital’s registration and ordering it to stop functioning. 
    NMMC’s counsel Y S Jahagirdar said the hospital flouted norms regarding the number of beds it operates. “There were violations,’’ said Jahagirdar, adding that while the hospital has 150 beds sanctioned, an inspection revealed that it was operating 158 beds. But the judges questioned whether the officer followed the law while issuing the order to shut down immediately. “What right does he have to pass such an order? There may be a case of life and death emergency in the hospital,’’ said Justice Bobde. The judges also remarked that every day, they come across cases of illegalities by government officials. “What’s going on? There is a limit to insensitivity,” said Bobde. 
    The judges observed that an inference can be drawn that the order was mala fide. They pointed out that while four other hospitals were also found with violations, notice was only issued to Hiranandani to shut down immediately. “This shows the order was mala fide. How can you direct the hospital to close?’’ asked Justice Bobde. 
    Jahagirdar submitted that the hospital can appeal within a month of the order. But the hospital’s advocate Zal Andhyarujina said, “The order shows a pre-determined mind and the law is that when the public authority shows pre-determination, then a writ petition is an appropriate remedy.’’ Jahagirdar conceded that the order could not have taken effect because it is contrary to the Act. “Therefore, it is for the court to decide,’’ Andhyarujina insisted. The judges said the NMMC must tell the HC what action it proposes to take against Nikam. They asked Jahagirdar to inform the court at the next hearing a week later.

MALA FIDE ORDER: The Hiranandani-Fortis Hospital in Vashi

Bad Governance: NMMC tries to close down Super Specialty Hospital


HC warns of action against officer who ordered hosp closure

Rosy Sequeira TNN 

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Friday asked the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) what action it proposes to take against the officer who directed closure of the super-specialty Hiranandani Fortis Hospital in Vashi for operating beds in excess of its sanctioned limit. The court also warned that if the NMMC does not take action, it shall initiate action against Dr Ramesh Nikam, the health officer, who issued the order.

         Justice Sharad Bobde and Justice Mridula Bhatkar was hearing a plea by Hiranandani Healthcare Private Limited challenging Nikam’s June 26, 2012, order passed under the Bombay Nursing Homes Registration Act, cancelling the hospital’s registration and ordering it to stop functioning.

       NMMC’s counsel Y S Jahagirdar said the hospital flouted norms regarding the number of beds it operates. “There were violations,’’ said Jahagirdar, adding that while the hospital has 150 beds sanctioned, an inspection revealed that it was operating 158 beds.

      But the judges questioned whether the officer followed the law while issuing the order to shut down immediately. “What right does he have to pass such an order? There may be a case of life and death emergency in the hospital,’’ said Justice Bobde. The judges also remarked that every day, they come across cases of illegalities by government officials. “What’s going on? There is a limit to insensitivity,” said Bobde.

       The judges observed that an inference can be drawn that the order was mala fide. They pointed out that while four other hospitals were also found with violations, notice was only issued to Hiranandani to shut down immediately. “This shows the order was mala fide. How can you direct the hospital to close?’’ asked Justice Bobde.

     Jahagirdar submitted that the hospital can appeal within a month of the order. But the hospital’s advocate Zal Andhyarujina said, “The order shows a pre-determined mind and the law is that when the public authority shows pre-determination, then a writ petition is an appropriate remedy.’’ Jahagirdar conceded that the order could not have taken effect because it is contrary to the Act. “Therefore, it is for the court to decide,’’ Andhyarujina insisted. The judges said the NMMC must tell the HC what action it proposes to take against Nikam. They asked Jahagirdar to inform the court at the next hearing a week later.

MALA FIDE ORDER: The Hiranandani-Fortis Hospital in Vashi

West Bengal: Education and Violence :


Students beat up teachers, five injured

Prevented From Copying In Exam Hall, Students Attack Teachers At Berachampa

TIMES NEWS NETWORK 

Kolkata: Four teachers and a non-teaching employee of Chandraketugarh Sahidullah Smriti Mahavidyalya in North 24-Parganas were beaten up after they prevented some students from cheating in the examination hall.

      The college at Berachampa, North 24-Parganas, was the centre for BA, BSc and BCom examinations and around 400 students from Basirhat College took there exams here.
They have been copying rampantly for the past few days and on Friday too they tried the same. Students taking the Sanskrit exam started copying answers from textbooks. Since it was the last day of the examinations, teachers decided to act tough. Around 1.30pm — 30 minutes before the exam concluded — they seized answer scripts from three students and wrote adverse remarks on them.

      After the examination ended, as the teachers and non-teaching employees were coming out of the examination centre, a group of students, accompanied by some outsiders, pounced on them. They first attacked one of the non-teaching employees who had alerted the teachers. They beat him up with sticks. When the teachers came to his rescue, they were also beaten up.

      Zafar Ali Mondal, the nonteaching employee, and Bengali teacher Atiqul Islam were hit by rods and were critically injured. Three others, including history teacher Rupa Chakraborty, English teacher Saurabh Bhattacharyya and education teacher Sulagna Chatterjee were also injured.

     Atiqul and Zafar received deep injuries on their skulls and started bleeding profusely. They were taken to the Berachampa primary health center and shifted to a private nursing home in Barasat after their conditions deteriorated. The doctors suggested both of them to undergo CT scan.
Meanwhile, trouble broke out at Basirhat College as well. There were rumours that students from Basirhat had been attacked at Berachampa. As a result, studentsof Sahidullah college who were taking their exams in Basirhat College were also attacked by local students.
A large contingent of police, led by senior officers, rushed to Basirhat College and rescued the Sahidullah College students.
A police team also went to Sahidullah College in Berachampa and brought the situation under control.
Education minister Bratya Basu said, “I have sought a report from the vice-chancellor of West Bengal State University with which both these colleges are affiliated. We will punish the guilty irrespective of party colour.”

Bengali teacher Atiqul Islam, who was beaten up by students at Berachampa on Friday

Good Samaritan Barun Biswas Murdered in W Bengal


In Tragedy, A Lesson In Kindness

Crusader Wouldn’t Have Wanted Revenge, Say Students And Colleagues

Sabarmati Roy TNN 

Kolkata: Teachers and students of Mitra Institution, the north Kolkata school where slain social activist Barun Biswas taught, want the assailants to be counseled so that the cycle of terror and violence that plagued Sutia in North 24-Parganas finally ends.

     Barun had raised his voice against the mass rapes by a gang that had terrorized Sutia
in 2001-2003. It was his campaign that forced the administration to act and four of the accused were arrested and jailed.

     Those who knew Barun believe he would have wanted the killers to be reformed.

     “Barun Biswas stood for justice and a world where people — both men and women — could live with dignity. In the crime-prone belt where he carried on his crusade, dignity of life will remain elusive till those who committed the barbaric acts realize they were wrong,” said Santanu Basu, who teaches geography at Mitra Institution. Barun taught Bengali.

      “Barun’s murder, a decade after the Sutia rapes, is proof of the lawlessness in the area. It was clearly a revenge killing. But we don’t want harsh punishment to be meted out to the killers. They must be counseled so that understand what they have done and reform their ways,” said Basu.

      He was among several teachers, former students and guardians who travelled to Barun’s home near Gobardanga on Friday to pay their condolences to the bereaved family. He is survived by an ailing father and two brothers.

      Barun did not marry, fearing it would hamper his social service. “He was a terrific human being, always optimistic and full of life. I still can’t believe he is no more. He was fearless and protested against injustice of any kind, be it trafficking or rape. He refused to get married or get into any relationship that would come in the way of serving the people. Nowadays, it is rare to come across someone as selfless as him,” Basu said.

     His students, too, feel that best respect that could be paid to Biswas was to clean up the belt without the use of force. “What is done cannot be reversed. But if he was here today, he would not have wanted the accused to be severely punished. He was always against corporal punishment and believed that explaining politely, yet firmly, worked better in ensuring that a wrong did not get repeated,” said former student Biswajit Dey.

     Other ex-students said Biswas was a great teacher, cool tempered and forever ready to offer advice. While he was against corporal punishment, he was firm and made sure mistakes were not repeated.
Very few know that Barun regularly organized blood donation camps and raised funds to distribute blankets among the needy in winter.

     Gopal Chandra Mridha, a colleague and relative of Barun, rued the lack of support from the administration. “Had the administration been proactive, Barun would not have met this fate,” he said.

      Though political leaders have jumped in to cash in on the sympathy wave, his close associates and family strongly deny he had any kind of political leaning whatsoever.

       (Clockwise fro top) Women in Sutia protest the killing of social activist Barun Biswas on Friday; former student Biswajit Dey stands in protest in front of Mitra Institution where Biswas taught; infuriated women attack a policeman after Biswas’ murder

‘Rape village’ up in arms after crusader’s killing

Cop Outpost Ransacked, Road Blocked

Sanjib Chakraborty TNN

Gaighata (North 24-Parganas): Hundreds of women, armed with brooms and bamboo sticks, attacked police, ransacked a police outpost and blocked a key road for 10 hours on Friday in Sutia, some 80km from Kolkata, to protest against the murder of a schoolteacher who had saved the area from a gang of rapists ten years ago. At least 40,000 people turned up for the funeral of ‘Mastermoshai’ Barun Biswas.
The spontaneous outburst of anger took the administration by surprise. Sutia residents are furious with police for not being able to protect Barun despite several earlier attempts on his life. The RAF was called in to lift the siege but the armourclad men did not know how to take on an army of women.

Locals believe Barun was murdered by the gangsters who were jailed or forced to go underground because of his crusade against the rapes. Their suspicion was deepened by the arrest of Bhim Biswas, a close aide of Susanta Chowdhury, one of the prime accused in the Sutia gang-rape case.


Between 2000 and 2003, Sutia was one of the worst badlands in the country. Gangrapes were a daily affair. Teenagers were raped in front of their mothers, wives in front of husbands and mothers in front of children in a horrific strategy to terrorize the population. If any woman protested, the gang would barge into the house and rape every female in the family. Women could not even step out of Sutia as the gang ran it like its personal fiefdom. Even the police didn’t dare interfere.
Then, Barun, a quiet 26-year-old schoolteacher, rose in protest and led a campaign that ended the reign of terror. Barun’s fightback is the stuff thatBollywood blockbusters are made of, but the blood, guts and bullets and bombs were all too real.

He was shot dead by three men on a bike as soon as he stepped out of Gobordanga railway station on Wednesday evening. The gang shot him in the back, as a hundred people watched in horror. Biswas turned around to face his killers and took the second bullet in the chest. If the killers had planned to silence the voice of protest, the result was just the opposite.

People streamed out of their homes at night and when daylight broke, the sleepy policemen in Sutia outpost found themselves surrounded by a huge crowd of women. The mob stormed in, drove out the cops and wrecked furniture. A police bike and a jeep were damaged. Then, the protesters moved to the streets. The blockade of Gobardanga-Berigopalpur Road started at 5am. Bombs and bullets fail to deter crusaders Apolice team from Gaighata tried to evict the women by force but was beaten back. SP Champak Bhattacharya rushed to the spot with a large police and RAF contingent but the mob refused to budge, demanding to know why 11 of the Sutia rape accused were still roaming free. It took hours of negotiation before the blockade was lifted at 3pm on the promise that the killers would be arrested.

Police records say that at least 30 women were repeatedly raped in Sutia between 2001 and 2003. The actual number could be even more. This is apart from 80 murder and robbery cases in the tiny hamlet, about 15 minutes from the Bangladesh border. With the mafia land out of police jurisdiction, the people were virtually enslaved until Barun Biswas, who lived in nearby Panchkuta village, gave them hope. He roped in locals to form the Pratibadi Manch. Hundreds flocked to him, from farmers to students and homemakers to doctors.

Eventually, news of his protest trickled out and made front-page headlines. The administration was forced to act and the kingpins of the gang — Susanta Chowdhury, Bireswar Dhali, Ramen Majumdar, Ripon Biswas, Anil Bala and Laxman Tarafdar — were arrested. In 2004, five of them were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Barun, as the prime witness in the case, was repeatedly attacked but refused to give in. Mancha president Nani Gopal Poddar, who too has escaped several attempts on his life, alleges that those absconding in the gang-rape accused and those jailed had plotted the murder. “On March 14 last year, two gunmen fired at me in Sutia Bazar. In 2003, goons hurled bombs at me. I somehow survived but was hospitalized for a long time,” said Poddar. “Barun’s murder was the handiwork of those who are operating from behind bars. Police should have been more active to arrest all the culprits,” he added.
Barun’s neighbour Arup Biswas also believes that the murder was plotted from behind bars to bring back the reign of terror in Sutia. “But the people will not bow to the criminals. The fight that Barun started, hundreds of people will continue,” he said.
Police say they are not yet sure what led to Barun’s murder. “The exact motive has not been ascertained. We are looking into all possible angles. We arrested a suspect on Thursday night and he is being interrogated. Raids are on to nab the others,” said the SP.

Food minister Jyotipriya Mullick condemned the murder and demanded a proper investigation. He said Barun was a Trinamool Congress activist.

LAWLESS ZONE: Residents of Sutia protest against the killing of Barun Biswas

Health : Cooking Oils


Know your cooking oils

       Physician Geeta Sundar gives tips on which oils are good for

      your  health and how we should consume them

The best oil is unsaturated, has high Omega-3 content, is naturally extracted in a cold press, and doesn’t contain chemical additives or adulterants. Soya, ricebran, mustard, til (sesame), rapeseed (canola) and olive oil are considered the best. Sunflower and safflower come a close second.

       Refined oil Refining involves removal of free fatty acids, bleaching and removal of objectionable odours. However, this destroys natural Beta-carotene and Vitamin E (which protects oil from becoming rancid) and leaves toxic cancer-causing residues. But refined oils have longer shelf lifes.

      Storage Oil should be stored in steel, glass or earthenware containers and never in plastic or tin, and in a dark place, away from direct light or heat to prevent it from disintegrating fast. Ideally, consume within a month of extraction. So don’t buy your oil in bulk.

      Packaging label This should display date of extraction (not date of packaging), toxic residue levels and vitamin levels.

      Deep frying Try not to deep-fry your food at more than 180º C (smoking oil); it can lead to diarrhoea, vomiting, mental depression, and fatty liver. Use a shallow pan with minimal oil and a low flame. Water in oil is also harmful; do not re-use oil especially if it contains food residues.

     Combining oils Use a combination of oils (alternate between the good oils) during cooking.

      How much oil to use? After our growing years, we need only about five teaspoonfuls a day. Excessive intake of oil is not good and leads to weight gain and other health problems because of obesity.

      Olive oil Its advantage is its high good fat content — MUFA (73 gms per 100 gms) and PUFA content (11 gms per 100 gms) and Vitamin E (14 mg per 100 gms). Virgin and extra virgin olive oil are names given to oil naturally and slowly extracted with no addition of chemicals. They have the best taste and are ideal for salads and pickles. They cannot be normally used for deep frying (use refined olive oil for this), since they ‘burn’ quickly and leave a bitter taste in the food. They can also solidify in winter although unsaturated, due to the presence of natural waxes. Olive oil disintegrates fast and has to ideally be procured fresh.