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MARCH 12, 2006
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 BT Special
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Trade Battle
Hots Up

The never ending fight between European Union and the US has taken another twist. The EU has threatened to impose up to $4-billion-worth of sanctions on the US, after the WTO upheld a ruling that the latter failed to end an illegal tax rebate for exporters. Analysts believe that us now has three months to act to avoid the reimposition of retaliatory measures. A look at the flare up.

e-Credit: What Next?
In most developing countries financial service providers are not yet in a position to use modern credit risk management techniques. Many developing economies still need to establish functional credit information systems in order to improve the quality of financial information. Will they?
More Net Specials
Business Today,  February 26, 2006
Looking Feet

The best way to discover a city is to walk. Not convinced? Our reporters joined five walking tours in five cities to make a point.

Lesson in history: Guide Pai (left) shows his fellow walkers around a recently renovated portion of Mayo Hall





Victoria Redux

Sunday morning. 7.30 a.m. and I am standing over the grave of a soldier who died in 1806. Actually, there is no grave; my memory is a bit dodgy on the date too; but there is a dead soldier, at least a plaque dedicated to him. There are several plaques in the church-did it slip my mind to mention that I am in one, Trinity Church-and each is dedicated to a soldier; many, I am told died on the long voyage from England to India. This, Trinity Church, was the preferred place of worship of the resident English upper class in the 1700s, 1800s and part of the 1900s, right up to India's independence. It was also used to measure Bangalore's elevation (height above sea level, and anyone who has even a casual acquaintance with trigonometry can show you how this is done) at one time, a small engraving on the second step leading up to the church attesting this fact.

There are six of us here on this overcast morning. We are here to take a walk through time. It is a two-km walk, which will take around two hours to complete and Arun Pai, Big Five consultant at one time, venture capitalist, Bangalore-boy (he claims to have played street cricket with another Bangalore-boy Rahul Dravid) and walks-entreprenuer (he has several, including a pub crawl), is our guide. This is the Victorian Bangalore walk and it starts at around the time Major (later Lord) Cornwallis defeated Tipu Sultan in the Battle of Mysore (1792; the Third Mysore War) and ends at the turn of the 20th century, when the Empire was at its peak.

The walk takes us-an assorted bunch of long-time residents, recent migrants and tourists-through famous streets, villas and churches. "I am not a qualified tour guide or a historian," admits Pai. "Bangalore just has some interesting history and walking seems to be the best way to tell it." He has spent time with old-timers, read cartloads of books and is a veritable fount of interesting (and sometimes gristly) trivia. Human sacrifices at Trinity Church, anyone? We visit several villas that have survived the ravages of time and the demands of a growing city; one such is the residence of V.S. Thiruvenkataswamy, a man who made his fortune by cornering contracts for supply of oil to the British. We also walk through Mayo Hall, which today hosts several courts. It was originally built to honour the memory of Lord Mayo, the only Governor General of India killed in office. Then we are back on the arterial mg Road, walking past the remnants of Tom's Pool Parlour, another Bangalore landmark of times past. "The Bangalore I know is all it, but there's so much history," gushes fellow walker Radhika Lakshman, a British Indian yoga exponent. That there is.


Chandni Chowk: Born in 1650 as Shahjahanabad, this part of Old Delhi still thrives

Walkin' Blues

In one of those ironies that make a reporter's day, I discover, in my quest for a good walking tour that Delhi, the city with the most cars in the country also has several walks. intach (Indian National Trust of Art and Cultural Heritage) has two, one of Old Delhi and another, Mehrauli; and The Habitat World (at the India Habitat Centre) has Habitat Walks on most Sundays.

I pick the Old Delhi walk and find myself standing in front of a Jain temple opposite Red Fort on a still-nippy Saturday morning. There are 10 others with me, including Bhanupriya Rao, intach-volunteer and history buff. It was in 1650 that Mughal emperor Shah Jahan started building what is now known as Chandni Chowk. He named the place Shahjahanabad.

Chandni Chowk was divided into lanes, with each lane housing people of a particular vocation; lanes such as Kinari Bazaar, Chawri Bazaar and the famed Paranthewali Gali exist even today. The area is full of surprises: the local branch of State Bank of India is in an 18th century colonial house that was once part of the estate of a famous courtesan Begum Samroo; further down is Sunheri Masjid, from the minarets of which Nadir Shah supervised his army's sacking of Delhi in 1739.

We walk past Paranthewali Gali where the wok-like utensils used to fry bread are slowly coming to life, and Sheesh Mahal, a decrepit building that once housed St Stephen's College. Stopping only to sample some Makhan Malai, a frothy concoction of whipped cream, yellow gobs of butter and coarse ground sugar, we walk down the brass-makers' lane, Gali Guliyan to the Jama Masjid. That very imposing structure (circa: 1650s) is a fitting end to the walk.

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Eight For The City

Shah Ali Banda: A busy street in the old city of Hyderabad

Get this: Hyderabad has not one or two walks, but eight. They are organised, in turn, on the last Sunday of every month by the local tourism department. This Sunday, it is the turn of the Shah Ali Banda Walk. The walk starts from Rafa-e-Am, one of the oldest schools in the city (founded in 1895), and about 12 km south of Hyderabad's central business district, Somajiguda. Over the next two hours we pass: houses of minor retainers of the Nizam; the Jali Ki Masjid, thus named after the intricate jali (lattice) work that characterises it; an old Hanuman temple; the city walls themselves (built by the Mughals who occupied Hyderabad in 1680); and Aliabad Sarai which once served as a checkpoint for visitors. The walk ends there, outside one-room structures along the walls that once housed horses. Today, they do shops.

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The French connection: Joraghat at the Strand in Chandannagore

Rue de l'histoire

Kolkata's best-known walk isn't actually in Kolkata; it is in Chandannagore, an old French settlement 39-km from the city. The walk from one end of the promenade at the settlement to another, a distance of 1.5 km, takes around 30-minutes. Called the Chandannagore Heritage Walk, it is organised by Chandannagar Heritage, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), and is a veritable walk through the area's history. Chandannagore first became a French colony in the late 1600s; its ownership changed several times till 1815 (this was a period when Anglo-French rivalry was at its peak) when it reverted to the French who ruled over it till 1952 when, along with Pondicherry, it became part of India.

The promenade, or Strand, as locals term it, is bedecked with lights and surrounded by lush foliage. Every second building has a history to it. Then, there's Institut de Chandernagore, one of the oldest museums in this part of the world. Among its exhibits is a canon used in the Anglo-French wars. Further down the promenade is a church that is over 200 years old; a temple of similar vintage that now serves as an auditorium and library; and finally, near the river (the Ganga), a dilapidated structure with its lower floor fully submerged. This is Patal Bari (the underground house), and it is where Rabindranath Tagore and reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar used to stay on their visits to the settlement.

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Secret River

Banganga: Mumbai's oldest Hindu holy-spot actually happens to be in Malabar Hills

If Hindu mythology is to be believed, we are standing on the banks of a water body created by Lord Ram. This is the Banganga tank in the Malabar Hills borough of Mumbai, and the source of the water is supposed to be an underground tributary of the Ganga that came to the surface as a spring when Ram, on his way back from 14 years spent in exile, and thirsty to boot, shot an arrow into the ground to tap a vein of water. "Banganga was the first of all Hindu sacred places in the city," says Abha Bahl, an architect who works on projects that have something to do with urban design and heritage conservation, and co-founder of The Bombay Heritage Walks (it organises, apart from the Banganga Walk, 19 others, with 14 around the Fort area and four in different areas of the city).

On this Sunday, there are around 50 of us standing by the side of the 150 m X 170 m tank. In the exact geometric centre of the tank is a long metal rod, symbolising Mount Meru, the centre of the world according to Hindus. All around the tank are temples. Our walk takes us to seven of them (and two memorials). The most famous of these is the Walkeshwar Mandir; the original was reportedly destroyed by the Portugese; what stands in Banganga today is a 20th-century reproduction. Most of the temples have undergone renovation; the only one that hasn't is the Jabreshwar Mahadeo temple, built in the 1800s (the temple looks as if it was forcefully placed where it is, on top of a flight of steps, by a giant hand; that explains its name; Jabreshwar is derived from the Hindustani word for force, zabardasti).

Along the sides of most temples are the residences of priests. Some fifth generation priests live in a few houses; in others, there are people who have nothing to do with the temples. And right in the middle of this (the tank, the temples, the priestly residences) are some modern residences. Then, this is Mumbai.

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