You should never sell your morals or your ethics. If what you sell is at odds with your moral compass or is in some way unethical, don’t sell it. No matter what it is, and no matter how much you stand to gain, it isn’t worth your character.Never sell anything in any way that might be illegal. You can make more money on the outside of a minimum security prison than the inside. Ill gotten money isn’t real money because it isn’t really earned.Never sell something you don’t believe in. If you don’t believe what you sell will benefit the people to whom you are selling it, you are being dishonest. You won’t sell well, and your prospective clients will see through your incongruity. Go find something else to sell.Never sell yourself short. Never sell to people who don’t value you and what you do enough to pay for it, or to treat you with respect and dignity. Never sell for people who don’t treat you with that same respect either.Never sell something to someone who will not derive the value from having bought it. I’ve never understood why people would claim they could sell “ice to an Eskimo,” nor have I ever seen anyone who said such a thing sell. Selling isn’t something you do to someone.Never sell someone less than they really need. If they aren’t going to generate the outcomes they need by buying less than they should, don’t take their money and allow them to fail. You are better off hanging in there and helping them buy what they really need.Never sell someone more than they really need. When you put transactions above relationships in sales, you end up not having too many relationships. You also end up not having too many repeat clients, and are left with little to no wallet share.
Essential Reading! Get my first book: The Only Sale Guide You’ll Ever Need “The USA Today bestseller by the star sales speaker and author of The Sales Blog that reveals how all salespeople can attain huge sales success through strategies backed by extensive research and experience.” Buy Now Everything is important, but not everything can most important. When it comes to metrics, more is not always better. There are, however, some metrics that tell you much about your sales results—and your challenges. These three metrics in sales can tell you a lot about what you need to know to improve.New Opportunities CreatedOne metric towers above all others and that metric is “new opportunities created” and the value of those opportunities. Because it’s true that you cannot capture an opportunity you haven’t first created. New opportunities created is the start of all good things.This metric is a gauge of your effectiveness in acquiring meetings. It tells you how well you are doing prospecting, and it also might provide an insight into your work ethic. It’s good to be an excellent prospector, but not if you don’t do enough it. A good work ethic will take you most of the way to your goals, but not if you are ineffective.Opportunities created is a critical metric for another reason: It is the best indicator of your ability to engage in sales conversations that result in your dream client deciding to explore change—and eventually agree to change. New opportunities created means you are adept at the exploration conversation about why your dream client should change in a way that allows them to engage with you on what is sometimes a tricky conversation—and often the conversations that cause them to buy from you long before you get to the Commitment to Decide (what you know as closing).No more pushy sales tactics. The Lost Art of Closing shows you how to proactively lead your customer and close your sales. Average Deal SizeI tend to like all deals, small, medium, and large. I’ve had small sales grow up to monster deals. I’ve also had huge deals turn out to be something less than I imagined possible. You can grow deals, and contracts can also occasionally shrink through no fault of your own. There is also the fact that a deal that might be small in some company or industry might be a massive deal in another company or industry.Deal size does tell you a lot about where you spend your time. It indicates what kind of targets you are pursuing. Because it is rare for large clients to pursue sales organization outside of an RFP, large deals that were created by a sales rep suggests they are targeting hard-to-win, competitive displacements, something you might think of as your “dream clients.” Win customers away from your competition. Check out Eat Their LunchTiny deals might mean you are not targeting the prospective clients that would benefit the most from your solution, and it might also mean you aren’t as effective in larger, more complex deals. You might be creating many opportunities that aren’t large enough to allow you to reach your goals.One of the ways you make it easier to reach your goals is to win deals that are larger than your average sales. You need to create and win fewer deals. Your average deal size can tell you much.Win PercentageThere it is: Ink! Alternatively: “No ink!” You win some, and you lose some. You want the balance to be “won,” but no one goes undefeated in sales. The very best reps with the highest close rates still lose plenty of deals.Your win rate provides an idea about how well you sell. It’s the ultimate metric because, in the end, you will reach your goals or quota by winning opportunities (either new revenue or new logos or some combination thereof).Won deals indicate that you created a preference to buy from, “preference” is a complicated mix of intangibles, many of which your dream client wouldn’t recognize as a reason for giving you their business. A high win rate is often an indication of how well you control the process. In many cases, a high percentage of won deals measures how well you create value for your dream client; their experience working with you is a preview of what your dream client hopes will be their experience with your company.A low win rate is an indication of a lack of effectiveness, even though it can be incredibly difficult to tell where you might be struggling to produce better results. It could be a lack of ability to control the process. Frequently, the challenges show up early in the sales conversation, the exploration of change. If there is one area where the real struggle exists in improving win rates is in building consensus.What Else These Metrics Tell YouYou might have wondered about metrics like the number of phone calls you dialed or the number of meetings. The three metrics above will tell you if you are doing enough to get meetings.These metrics, over time, whether or not you are improving. Deals getting bigger and win rates improving is usually a sign you are getting better over time.You can look at a host of other metrics, like deal cycle times, the profitability of deals, the time deals are in stages of your sales process, and the growth of existing clients. There is no end to the number of metrics that might show up on your dashboard, but these few fundamental metrics are often enough to decipher where you are succeeding and where you might need to improve.With these three metrics, you can keep your own scorecard.
Get the Free eBook! Learn how to sell without a sales manager. Download my free eBook! You need to make sales. You need help now. We’ve got you covered. This eBook will help you Seize Your Sales Destiny, with or without a manager. Download Now There isn’t much better than asking your dream client a question to which they answer, “That’s a great question.” You may have had clients say those very words to you, but you may not know what made it a good question—or how you might achieve that outcome in the future. When you understand the meaning of “that’s a great question,” you can repeat it.Statements and QuestionsIn sales, we spend much time working on our talk tracks. It’s important work, mainly because you need to make your points clearly and crisply. While it makes sense to work on dialogue, improving it and delivering it effectively with confidence (it is just as important to know what to say and how to say it), you aren’t likely to spend nearly as much time on what you might call “power questions.”Here is a statement: “We’ve been in business for 65 years, we have over 100 locations in the United States, and we work with some of the best, most recognized companies anywhere.” That statement doesn’t do much for you. There are many salespeople who believe that is the right place to start a conversation (In Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away From Your Competition, I call this kind of approach “entering from the left,” as it relies on external proof that you belong in the room).Win customers away from your competition. Check out Eat Their LunchHere is a better statement: “One of the ways our model is different from others is that we invest more in the three areas that have the largest impact on the overall results. The price is a little higher, but if you need the results, it is almost always worth it to invest. It lowers your overall costs.” It’s better, even if it’s not perfect. It starts a conversation around results and different choices.Here is a question: “What changes have you made to your customer experience strategy over the last twelve months, and what changes do you believe you might make in the next twelve months?” Let’s unpack the assumptions in this question. First, it presumes you contact has made changes over the twelve months. Second, it suggests that they should have already decided what they need to do in the future.While the second statement may be useful and practical, the question may be better and even more effective.Your Real OutcomeYou want to create value early in the sales process (read this post to see what I mean when I say create value). While there are many ways of creating value, helping your client learn something they don’t know and that may benefit them is useful. You are teaching them how to look at their problem, think about their choices, and why they might make one choice instead of another. Let’s refer to these ideas as “being a consultative salesperson,” even though there are other attributes and skills that belong to that idea.If you were to boil the statement “that’s a great question” down to its essence, what you would find is that you helped your client discover something about themselves. Let’s return to the question about the changes the client made in the not-too-distant past and is preparing to make in the rapidly-approaching future. If the client hasn’t made any real changes, you have exposed a gap. The same is true if they have not yet decided to do something different in the future. You may also have exposed the fact that they aren’t aware of what they might have done and what they should be doing.Your bedside manners matter here. If you have a hint of condescension, you can cause people to feel as if they have to defend themselves, in which case, you have achieved precisely the opposite of what you are going for here. You want an answer that sounds like, “That’s a great question. We’ve made a few little changes, but nothing that has moved the needle.”Questions That Expose a GapYour statements don’t often create a gap, even when they are as direct as something like: “Your results are half of what you should be getting.” Those words can cause resistance to you and your ideas, and they can also create incredulity, even when your prospect should be doing double what they are now.Why would you ask “So, what’s keeping you up at night,” when you have better and more compelling questions you can ask? There is no reason to ask, “What do you wish your existing supplier did differently,” a question that lacks any sense of subtlety. If you are going to be that direct, why not start with, “What’s it going to take to get your business?”Indirect questions that start at Level 4 (strategic outcomes) tend to rise to the level of “that’s a great question.” Questions like, “What do you believe to be the factors that most contribute to the challenges you are facing now, and what prevents you from doing something about them?” There is a value in exposing and discussing the factors that prevent them from the results they need. Even though your contacts have an awareness of these factors, the question provides a context in which to hang those factors. It also begins a conversation about what needs to change and why.A Few Words About Values-based QuestionsSome questions carry more weight than others. Questions about values tend to be dense. These kinds of questions get to identity, culture, the soft stuff that matters most to producing results. A question like, “It sounds like you are concerned about your team. What impact is it having on them, and what do they need from us should you decide to work with us in the future?”Like anything you say or ask, your delivery matters. If you are not other-oriented and sincere, these types of questions are dangerous in your hands.If you want to be more compelling, start by asking questions that help your clients discover something they would not have discovered without your help.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Monday offered prayers at the Dwarkadhish temple before starting his three-day campaign in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat where the Assembly polls are due later this year.After his arrival at the Mithapur airstrip near here, Mr. Gandhi went straight to the famous Dwarkadhish temple to offer prayers. He was accompanied by Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki and state party in-charge Ashok Gehlot.The Patel quota agitation leader, Hardik Patel, welcomed Mr. Gandhi to Gujarat with a tweet.“Congress ke rashtriya upadhyaksh Rahulji ka Gujarat mae hardik swagat hai..Jay Shri Krishna (a warm welcome to Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat…),” Mr. Patel tweeted.Mr. Gandhi will later visit some of the villages near Dwarka before reaching Hanjrapar, where he is scheduled to lead a rally on a bullock cart. | Photo Credit: PTI After the rally, Mr. Gandhi would interact with villagers through the platform of ‘gram sabha’ Several wooden cots have been arranged at Hanjrapar, so that Gandhi and other leaders can have a dialogue with villagers, a release issued by the Gujarat Congress said.On his way from Dwarka to Jamnagar city during the day, Gandhi will address the public at different locations and interact with locals, farmers and fishermen.In Jamnagar, Mr. Gandhi is also scheduled to hold a meeting with traders and business community, the release said. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi offers prayers at Dwarkadhish Temple.
Demographic integrityHe said the BJP would ensure the unity of the people and the demographic integrity of Tripura.He downplayed the separate State demand the IPFT raised before it forged the alliance with the BJP.Mr. Shah complained that a section of the local administration officials are working for the CPI(M) and appealed to them to work impartially and adhere to the model code of conduct. He said the promises made in the party’s Vision Document for Tripura would be executed with commitment, if it was voted to power. Also, cross-border oriented development projects would be initiated with cooperation from Bangladesh Campaign mode: BJP president Amit Shah, flanked by party leaders, addressing the media in Agartala on Monday. BJP president Amit Shah on Monday criticised the Congress for not actively campaigning in the Tripura election with the “sole intention” of helping the CPI(M). However, he said, the BJP will win the February 18 elections defeating all “violent means” adopted by the Left.“The Congress is not seriously campaigning in this election. It visibly wants to help out the CPI(M),” Mr. Shah told presspersons on the second day of his last round of campaigning in Tripura.He was optimistic of installing a BJP government in the State, as there is “so much anger” against the “misgovernance and failures” of the Left Front government. “Twenty-five years of continuous rule is a long time, but the Left Front government has failed to provide drinking water, build civic amenities, develop infrastructure and bring in investments. The State remains most backward,” he said, adding that there were 7,42,000 registered unemployed youth.Mr. Shah on Sunday attended two roadshows, one at Bamutiain west Tripura and the other in Agartala, and a few election rallies.On Monday, he addressed a rally in the tribal-reserved Takarjala constituency, where Narendra Chandra Debbarma, president of the BJP’s alliance partner, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), is contesting. | Photo Credit: PTI
The Home Ministry informed the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that there was no specific intelligence input about terrorists planning to attack the Sunjuwan army camp in Jammu. Minister of State Hansraj Gangaram Ahir informed Parliament that “terrorists are helped by local Over Ground Workers (OGWs)” in Kashmir.“Though there were general inputs that militants may attack vital installations/camps in the Jammu region, there were no specific inputs about this attack. All such inputs are shared amongst all concerned agencies. Security arrangements are periodically revised based on emerging threats and intelligence inputs,” Minister of State Hansraj Gangaram Ahir informed Parliament.Three heavily-armed men allegedly belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) stormed the Sunjuwan camp of the 36 brigade of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry on February 10, killing six people including five soldiers. The three terrorists were gunned down in an operation that continued for more than 30 hours. Mr. Ahir said 38 terrorist incidents were reported from Kashmir Valley and two incidents from the Jammu region till February 15 this year. In 2017, eight incidents of terrorist violence were reported from Jammu and 334 were reported to have occurred in the Kashmir Valley.“The Government has also continuously encouraged policies to mainstream the youth, including providing employment opportunities to wean them away from militancy.₹80,068 crore has been announced under the PM Development Package, 2015,” Mr. Ahir said.
The western Rajasthan town of Jodhpur remained peaceful after a special court on Wednesday pronounced the judgment against self-styled godman Asaram Bapu.There was apprehension that his followers and supporters would create trouble in the city. With the police adopting tight security measures, no followers were visible anywhere in Jodhpur.The Special Judge delivered the verdict in the Central Jail, which was turned into a fortress. The area around it, where drones kept a vigil, remained out of bounds for the people. The city’s residents heaved a sigh of relief after several days of tension.
Chandradhar Das, 102, went home from the Silchar Medical College Hospital on Thursday. But he did not know why, just as he had no idea why the police had taken him to a detention camp for foreigners in January.“Thankfully, he hasn’t be able to feel his ordeal because of dementia. What matters is that he is back home,” the centurion’s daughter Niyati Roy said from their home in Dholai, about 30 km from southern Assam’s Silchar, headquarters of the Cachar district.Jailed for deportationMr. Das was one of 109 men and women lodged in Silchar Central Jail as declared foreign nationals to be deported. As on May 15, six jails in Assam had 986 ‘declared foreigners’ who are not entitled to minimum basic facilities that convicted criminals enjoy. On Wednesday, he was granted bail unlike others lodged in detention camps.The State’s Border Police, tasked with detecting and detaining foreigners, had suspected Mr. Das to be a Bangladeshi who entered Assam without valid documents after March 25, 1971. The district police chief referred his case to the Foreigners’ Tribunal 6, or FT-6, which asked him to furnish documents to prove his nationality.In its order on January 2, the tribunal said it had given enough opportunities to Mr. Das to file a written statement, and, “under the provisions of the Foreigners’ Act, 1946, burden of proof lies on the O.P. (opposite party) to prove that he is not a foreigner”. The case had gone against him “ex parte” because FT-6 did not have a government pleader for months.Forum comes to aidUnconditional Citizenship Demand Forum, a Silchar-based group, took up Mr. Das’s case last week. “We came to know about his plight a few days ago when his daughter approached us. Whether or not he was a foreigner was secondary for us. We wanted a sick old man, who cannot remember anything, to get treatment and spend the last days of his life with his family,” Kamal Chakraborty, the forum’s leader, said. Members of the forum and Ms. Roy met Cachar Deputy Commissioner S. Lakshmanan on Tuesday, requesting his help in releasing the elder.“We brought the case to the attention of the FT-6 member. He understood the sensitivity of the case and granted bail on humanitarian grounds as well as on legal count because the tribunal did not have a government pleader for a long time,” Mr. Lakshmanan told The Hindu.Mr. Das was taken to the hospital immediately after his release and provided treatment. He was discharged on Thursday morning. “We have known happiness after months,” his daughter said.Ms. Roy said she could not understand why her father was declared foreigner despite possessing a citizenship certificate issued in 1966 from Agartala in adjoining Tripura. Her citizenship as well as her mother’s, incidentally, is not in doubt.The old man’s trip back home coincided with a government pleader being appointed for FT-6.
In a fresh bout of controversy involving the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), the prestigious institute allegedly refused to screen a diploma film of one its former students following threats issued by the rightwing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).Hora (‘fortune teller’) – a 23-minute documentary short directed by Harishankar Nachimuthu, a former president of the FTII Students’ Association (FSA), was scheduled to be screened at the institute’s main campus on Thursday evening but was allegedly cancelled by the authorities citing ‘security reasons’.The film, which focused on socio-economic issues through the prism of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) – a radical and predominantly Dalit and working-class troupe skillfully using protest music in their often-dazzling performances.The content of the film, which apparently seemed to be the cause of controversy, was approved, scrutinised and mentored by the FTII faculty.“Till yesterday, there appeared to be no problems with the scheduled screening. However, today I abruptly learn that the screening is to be cancelled after police authorities reportedly advised institute administration of problems during the screening,” said Mr. Nachimuthu, speaking to The Hindu.A statement issued by the FSA alleged that the institute decided to cancel the screening following threats by the ABVP.The statement, which condemns the FTII administration’s move, reads: “The ABVP has a history of being detrimental towards freedom of expression…can an art school function independently when such organizations dictate the content of our films being made within our campus?”Maoist contentIt further stated that the ABVP raised questions about the alleged ‘Maoist’ content of Mr. Nachimuthu’s film.“The KKM is not a banned organisation and the performances documented in the [Mr. Nachimuthu’s] film took place with police permission. Some of the songs and performances [by the KKM documented by the film] are about Babasaheb Ambedkar’s principles and vision and cannot be termed ‘Maowadi’ by the ABVP. We are living in an environment where any organis—ation can demand the screening of a student film within an institute to be cancelled,” read the statement, condemning both the FTII authorities and the ABVP.“It appears that the FTII administration only wants to teach its students to create frivolous and unthinking ‘entertainment’… today, they don’t want to screen our films, tomorrow they won’t permit us to write and the day after they won’t let us think,” remarked Mr. Nachimuthu, a native of Chennai.The FTII administration, however, refuted the allegations as “preposterous” and “baseless”.“Mr. Nachimuthu did not give any prior requisition to book the Main Theatre for the screening of his documentary. Moreover the first screening of a student’s new documentary is normally only for internal viewing. Documentaries are generally screened for internal assessment only and are not scheduled for screening for general public unless otherwise decided,” said FTII Director Bhupendra Kainthola.Public screeingHe further contended that public screenings of student projects were not allowed without prior permission, as various pre-requisites like obtaining a CBFC certificate, logistics and availability of infrastructure among other things had to be met before the outside public could be invited for the screening.“In this case, Mr. Nachimuthu invited outsiders for the screening without intimating us. He publicised the screening schedule on social media keeping the authorities in the dark. As the film does not have a CBFC certificate, the institute had not scheduled the screening. The allegation that FTII cancelled the screening under pressure from a particular organisation is so preposterous and baseless that replying to it would lend it dignity,” said Mr. Kainthola, issuing a strong rebuttal.Activists of the KKM have been hounded for years by the Maharashtra ATS and accused of purveying ‘objectionable’ literature and carrying out Naxalite indoctrination before the Supreme Court provided relief to three of their members in January last year.This year, an FIR was booked against six of its members for delivering allegedly ‘provocative’ speeches at the ‘Elgaar Parishad’ held at Pune’s Shaniwarwada Fort on December 31 as part of the bicentenary celebrations of the Bhima-Koregaon battle – a day before the clashes at the village of the same name.
Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Wednesday said the party would start its “struggle” against the ruling Congress government for allegedly distorting history related to the Sikh faith and Sikh gurus by misrepresenting facts in the Class XII history book of the Punjab School Education Board.“We would start the struggle to force Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and the Congress government in the State to apologise to the’’Khalsa Panth’ for repeatedly and deliberately insulting the Sikh Guru Sahiban,” he said.Mr. Badal said a 48-hour long protest “dharna” would commence in Amritsar on November 1. “I will sit for the first 24 hours and then the SGPC [Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee] chief Jathedar Gobind Singh Longowal will sit for the next 24 hours,” said Mr. Badal.He said the next phase of the “struggle” would be announced at the conclusion of the dharna in case the Congress government did not apologise.‘Exemplary punishment’ Mr. Badal asked for exemplary punishment to all those responsible for insulting the great gurus through blasphemous versions of history. “Mere withdrawal of the repeatedly sacrilegious textbooks was not enough to atone for the grave sin ,” he added.
The Indian National Lok Dal on Wednesday announced the names of six Lok Sabha candidates in Haryana, which is going to the polls on May 12.Senior INLD leader Abhay Singh Chautala said the party has decided to renominate Charanjit Singh Rori, its sitting MP from Sirsa. Mr. Rori had in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections defeated Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee president Ashok Tanwar.Balmiki from AmbalaThe other five candidates are all new faces. “Rampal Balmiki, who has been a member of the Yamunanagar Municipal Corporation for four terms and has also held the position of Deputy Mayor, has been declared the party candidate from Ambala,” said Mr. Chautala.In Karnal, the INLD has decided to field Dharambir Padha while from Sonipat seat Surender Chhikara will be its candidate. Suresh Koth will contest from Hisar and Mahender Singh Chauhan from Faridabad.Mr. Chautala added that the candidates for the remaining four seats, including Kurukshetra, Rohtak, Bhiwani-Mahendergarh and Gurugram, will be announced on Friday.“The party is deliberating on a few names for these seats and once our party chief [Om Prakash Chautala] approves them, the announcement will be made,” he said, adding that a woman candidate may be fielded from one of the four seats.Mr. Chautala hit out at the ruling BJP government in Haryana and said that the people were fed up with the its anti-people policies and had made up their mind to throw the party out of power.On the recent tie-up announced by the Jannayak Janta Party and the Aam Aadmi Party and their decision to contest all 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana, Mr. Chautala claimed that the people will not accept the alliance.He said the main motive of the alliance was to keep his father Mr. O.P. Chautala, who is serving a jail sentence in connection with the teachers’ recruitment scam, behind bars and not allow him to campaign in the State.Dig at brother AjayTaking a veiled dig at his brother Ajay Chautala and nephew Dushyant Chautala, who has floated the JJP,Mr. Chautala said that those who ditch their own parties have a “short political survival”.(With PTI inputs)
A total of 12 people, suspected to be Rohingya Muslims from Bangladesh, were arrested in Mizoram for entering the State without valid travel documents, a police officer said on Monday. Eight women and four boys from Bangladesh were taken from a house to Bawngkawn police station here on Sunday, Deputy Inspector General of Police (Northern Range) Lalbiakthanga Khiangte said. It is suspected that they might be victims of human trafficking.Mr. Khiangte said the arrested people had mobile phones without sim cards in their possession. Investigation is on to find out their identities. The 12 people were found in the residence of a woman who claimed that her cousin who lived at Tahan in Myanmar had asked for her a favour to keep the ‘guests’ before they were taken to the neighbouring country. In late April, eight Rohingya women were detained at India-Myanmar border Vairengte town for trying to enter Mizoram illegally and were pushed back. They had claimed that they were from Kutupalong refugee camp at Sabulara in Bangladesh and were abducted on April 19 by a group of men who brought them to Mizoram by truck. More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine state to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017 after a military crackdown, triggering a massive refugee crisis.
Elephants, both African and Asian, have long been considered empathetic animals. They help baby elephants stuck in mud holes, use their trunks to lift other elephants that are injured or dying, and even reportedly reassure distressed individual elephants with a gentle touch of their trunk. But it’s one thing to witness something that looks like consolation, and another to prove that this is what elephants are doing. Now, scientists have shown that Asian elephants do indeed get distressed when they see others in trouble, and they reach out to console them—just as we do when we see someone suffering. Elephants, thus, join a short list of other animals, including great apes, canines, and some birds, that scientists have shown to reassure others.The study “is the first to investigate responses to distress by Asian elephants,” which “is inherently difficult to assess because one has to wait for opportunities to arise spontaneously,” says Shermin de Silva, a behavioral ecologist at the Uda Walawe Elephant Research Project in Sri Lanka. It would not be ethical to intentionally create stressful situations for the animals as a test, she notes—which is why, until now, researchers have had to rely on well-documented but anecdotal observations of wild and captive elephants to back up claims that they reassure each other.Joshua Plotnik, a behavioral ecologist at Mahidol University, Kanchanaburi, in Thailand, and Frans de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University in Atlanta, got around this problem by comparing Asian elephants’ behaviors during times of stress to periods when little upset them. For 1 to 2 weeks every month for nearly a year, Plotnik spent 30 to 180 minutes daily watching and recording 26 captive Asian elephants. The animals ranged in age from 3 to 60 years old and lived within a 30-acre area of Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand. Most of the elephants, aside from mother-juvenile pairs, were unrelated and did not live in family groups as wild elephants do. Instead, the park’s Mahouts, or keepers, organized them into six groups which they then guided through a daily routine—bathing and feeding them in the morning, and tethering them at night. But during the day, the elephants were left alone to roam and graze at will. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Plotnik watched the elephants during their free periods and recorded their reactions to stressful events, such as a dog walking nearby, a snake rustling in the grass, or the presence of an unfriendly elephant. Other researchers have previously shown that when upset, an elephant flares its ears and erects its tail; it may also trumpet or roar, or make a low rumble to show its distress. When elephants in the park saw another elephant behaving in this manner, the observers typically responded by “adopting the same emotion,” Plotnik says, “just as we do when watching a scary movie together. If an actor is frightened, our hearts race, and we reach for each other’s hands”—a reaction known as “emotional contagion.”For example, in one event recorded on video (above), the female Mae Perm rushes to the side of another adult female, Jokia, who was upset after hearing the roar of a captive bull elephant in another nearby park. Both elephants push their ears forward and raise their tails—but Mae Perm does so only after seeing Jokia’s distress. Mae Perm also makes loud chirps, which are known to be reassuring calls, and then caresses Jokia with her trunk, finally placing it in Jokia’s mouth—an act which “might send a signal, ‘I’m here to help you, not hurt you,’ ” Plotnik says. Jokia, in turn, places her trunk in Mae Perm’s mouth—a gesture which is probably like a hug, the researchers say.Sometimes several elephants were present when one was spooked by something. These bystanders typically reacted the same way, adopting the agitated behavior of the victim, as Plotnik calls the distressed individual, raising their tails, flaring their ears, and sometimes urinating and defecating while chirping. In some cases, they also formed a protective circle around the victim.Plotnik recorded 84 such stressful incidents, noting where each occurred, the time of day, weather, and what other elephants were present—and how these individuals reacted. For a control, he compared these incidents with periods with as many matching variables as possible, but when nothing stressful occurred. The researchers’ subsequent analysis—reported today in PeerJ—showed that the elephants’ emotional contagion and distinctive, reassuring behaviors happened almost exclusively in response to some stressful trigger.Most significantly, the elephants seemed capable of recognizing distress in their fellows, a behavior that may require empathy. “It’s that ability to put yourself emotionally into another’s shoes,” Plotnik says.But proving that is what elephants are doing will take more studies, he and others say, and preferably in wild, not captive, populations. “What is unclear is whether this reassurance primarily benefits the distressed animal, or the responders,” de Silva says.Nevertheless, the study “provides a very interesting first exploration” into the “post-distress behavior of elephants,” says Graeme Shannon, a behavioral ecologist at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, adding that the findings are “intriguing because they parallel what has been observed in captive and wild non-human primates, further underlining the complex cognitive abilities of elephants.”Some think the work may aid conservation efforts. “Any good science that supports the idea that elephants are sentient beings capable of empathy is important,” adds Cynthia Moss, an ethologist and director of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Kenya, who has observed “reassurance behaviors” daily among the elephants there for more than 40 years.
HONOLULU—Could glowing microbes be enticing ocean fish to snack on bits of plastic trash? That’s the intriguing idea floated here this week at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting by researchers studying the “plastisphere”—the sea’s millions of tons of drifting synthetic detritus. “It’s a whole new ocean habitat created by humans,” says microbiologist Tracy Mincer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. Past studies have shown that more than 1000 kinds of seagoing bacteria and other microbes can live on the plastic bits, which are often smaller than a fingernail. “Out there in the middle of the ocean, [microbes] are really looking for surfaces to glom on to,” Mincer says. But some colonizers do better than others, he reported. One big winner, according to a preliminary genetic analysis, are bacteria in the genus Vibrio—many of which are bioluminescent. Indeed, researchers making nighttime trawls for plastic trash noted that up to 40% of their catch was glowing. And such shimmering refuse could be especially attractive to fish that hunt by sight, Mincer says. That could be bad for the fish, but good for the microbes, which can thrive in fish guts. “It’s a good gig for the bacteria—they have all the right genes to put a tap in that keg.”See more ScienceShots.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)
NASA’s Kepler satellite has continued to set the pace in discovering planets around other worlds, even though its pointing mechanism failed in 2013. Its latest catalog, released earlier this month, contains more than 4000 exoplanet candidates.But ground-based astronomers are not taking this lying down. A group of European institutions today announce first light on a new planet-hunting instrument in Chile, the Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS). They hope it will open up the world of super-Earths, relatively unfamiliar objects between the size of small rocky planets and gas giants, of which we have no examples in our solar system. “It’s one of the most interesting classes of planets,” says astronomer Peter Wheatley of the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, one of the project leaders.Exoplanets can only very rarely be seen directly, because they are so faint and their host stars so bright. So astronomers have to detect them by other methods. Kepler and NGTS both do this by transits: If the orbit of the planet is oriented favorably, it will periodically pass in front of its star, causing the star to dip in brightness. Using an instrument called a photometer, which measures brightness very accurately, researchers can detect those dips and—from their duration and frequency—can deduce the size of the exoplanet and its orbit.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Previous transit surveys by ground-based telescopes have been able to detect only large Jupiter-sized or bigger planets because of the blurring effect of Earth’s atmosphere. Kepler’s mission was to stare at the same patch of sky for years on end so as to identify planets with long orbits and small size, down to Earth-sized or smaller. NGTS aims to fill the gap in between, focusing on planets between two and eight times the diameter of Earth—super-Earths to exo-Neptunes.Based at the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO’s) Paranal observatory in Chile, NGTS is an array of 12 telescopes, each with a mirror 20 centimeters across, built by a consortium of U.K. and Swiss universities and the German space agency DLR. Although NGTS is not part of ESO, any planets of interest can be followed up in more detail using ESO’s large telescopes in Chile, including the Very Large Telescope and the upcoming Extremely Large Telescope. “We’re a planet finder for their instruments,” Wheatley says.“Super-Earths are very diverse, but we don’t understand them very well,” Wheatley says. Some of those discovered so far appear to be rocky, whereas others seem to be fluffy and gaseous, or even to be “waterworlds” with deep oceans covering their entire surfaces. Unlike Kepler, NTGS will not always focus on the same area but will move its gaze so it can detect larger samples of different planet types. “You need a decent sized sample to study” the diversity of super-Earths, Wheatley says.“It’s very interesting, because NGTS is just filling the gap we have at the moment” between rocky planets and gas giants, says astronomer Isabelle Baraffe of the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, who is not involved in the project.One key part of follow-up observations is measuring a planet’s mass, which must be found by a different method, such as detecting the back-and-forth wobble of a parent star caused by the planet’s mass as it orbits. With a planet’s mass and radius in hand, astronomers can calculate its average density, which gives them a handle on what it is made of. Here NGTS has a key advantage: Kepler’s focus on Earth-like planets makes many of its candidates too small or their stars too dim to get a mass measurement, but NGTS’s wider field of view allows it to detect a larger number of more massive planets around brighter stars. So it will be easier to get mass measurements using the wobble method. “That’s the strength of NGTS,” Baraffe says.
Today researchers unveiled the largest ever set of full genomes from a single population: Iceland. The massive project, carried out by a private company in the country, deCODE genetics, has yielded new disease risk genes, insights into human evolution, and a list of more than 1000 genes that people can apparently live without.The project also serves as a model for other countries’ efforts to sequence their people’s DNA for research on personalized medical care, says study leader Kári Stefánsson, deCODE’s CEO. For example, the United States is planning to sequence the genomes of 1 million Americans over the next few years and use the data to devise individualized treatments.The deCODE whole genomes study is “an amazing piece of work” that “was impossible 5 years ago,” says human geneticist Daniel MacArthur of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was not involved in the research.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)DeCODE is the controversial Reykjavik company that 19 years ago set out to develop drugs by mining Icelanders’ genetic and medical data for disease genes. It failed to get access to the entire country’s health records, but recruited volunteers who now represent more than 40% of Iceland’s population of 323,000. The company eventually went bankrupt, reformed, then in late 2012 was bought by Amgen Inc. All along, deCODE has churned out papers on genetic variants commonly involved in schizophrenia, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases, mostly by comparing markers scattered along the genomes of healthy and sick people.Now, thanks to cheap genome sequencing, deCODE has sequenced the entire genomes of 2636 Icelanders and combed them for much rarer mutations. By drawing on the country’s genealogy records and on already-collected marker data, the company also calculated who among more than 100,000 other people carries these variants. In an overview paper and three related papers published online today in Nature Genetics, deCODE offers a sampling of what these data revealed.The company found several new disease genes, including mutations in one gene, ABCA7, that double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in people of European ancestry. Genetic marker studies had pointed to this gene, but could not nail down specific high-risk variants. Another paper estimates how quickly the Y chromosome mutates. This analysis suggests the last common human ancestor traced through the male line lived about 239,000 years ago, almost 100,000 years more recently than had been thought. The new rate of Y chromosome mutation will help refine the dates of key events in human evolution and migration, says Agnar Helgason of deCODE.Iceland’s genomes also yielded a bounty of so-called human knockouts—people who carry two nonfunctional copies of one of the roughly 20,000 human genes. Thus, their cells don’t make that gene’s protein. Such individuals could shed light on the function of many genes and point to new drug targets if the knocked-out gene somehow protects against disease. DeCODE found that just over 8000 Icelanders carried 1171 knocked-out genes. Many are probably redundant and not essential or don’t affect health—3% of the missing genes are involved in distinguishing smells, which may have mattered for ancient humans but not for modern ones. But others are potentially intriguing, including a couple that may be involved in hearing. The company now plans to ask some of the people lacking a functional gene to come in for clinical testing so researchers can figure out what the missing genes do.“This is just sort of scratching the surface,” Stefánsson says. MacArthur says there are undoubtedly other findings that Amgen is keeping to itself for now: “It’s clear they’re not giving everything away in these papers,” he says.Geneticists say large population databases will be essential to pin down what portion of people carrying potentially harmful mutations will develop disease, and if the effects can be mitigated by other genes, for example. That is also one goal of President Barack Obama’s proposed Precision Medicine Initiative, which centers on a genomics study of 1 million Americans. “The benefits are enormous,” MacArthur says.
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As he enters the stage, the atmosphere is electrified. The roar of the crowd and an endless standing ovation seems to move him as he clasps his hands together in acknowledgment at a recent sold out concert in Michigan. Elegantly clad, charismatic, he remains an amazing musician at 84, in spite of ill health that has dogged him in recent years. In Hindu mythology, the origin of classical music began with the first sound of the Nada Brahma or Om. The Nada Brahma was believed to be the purest sound ever made, a representation of divine power, and it is the ultimate goal of every classical musician to attain that level of purity. Ravi Shankar at 84, still creates divine music. The first thing that strikes you about Ravi Shankar is his child like smile and beautiful deep eyes brimming with warmth and sweetness.There is humility and innate honesty with which he talks about his life. His life story has all the ingredients of a masala movie, and being a TV and movie junkie, he probably would enjoy seeing it enacted on celluloid.Uprooted at the tender age of 10 by brother Uday, Ravi Shankar moved to Paris to join his brother’s troupe of exotic dancers who had made a great name for themselves.He got a taste of glitz and glamor at a very young age and loved it, not to mention dazzling innumerable women that were spellbound by his charm and musical genius.Then he gave it all up to train for 18 hours every day, under Sarod maestro Baba Allauddin Khan. With him was Baba’s son Ali Akbar Khan, and Baba’s gifted daughter Annapurna Devi whom he married and had son Shubho. Ali Akbar Khan went on to achieve world fame in the Sarod and today operates a music school in California. Raviji’s daughter Anoushka is a spitting image of him. Anoushka says she has to stare at her father all the time when they perform together, because they never rehearse and 90 percent of the time it is all improvised on stage. Anoushka was born to Sukanya Ranjan a Carnatic vocalist and her famous father while Sukanya was still married to another man. Ravi Shankar married Sukanya when Anoushka was 7 years old and they moved to California, where they have been living ever since though they have been spending a lot of time in India recently. The love bonds of Raviji and Sukanya are still strong after three decades, despite the 34 year age difference between the two.“They are such a beautiful couple,” says Anoushka. “It’s so cute. They still don’t know that we all know that they still hold hands under the table, and my dad will never go to sleep without saying good night to my mom and they still leave these little I love you notes for each other. It is so amazing, and after so many years!”Sukanya’s smile can light up the darkest interiors, and every time you meet the Shankars you feel like you’ve just been enveloped in a huge blanket of warmth, simplicity and genuine affection. In a candid and exclusive interview with Little India, that began after a concert in Michigan and ended in Illinois, Ravi and Sukanya Shankar talk about making music, their life together, Anoushka and Norah Jones, his two wonderfully gifted daughters, his son Shubho, and the state of classical music today.What are the earliest memories of music? Ravi: I was lying in Benaras on the roof at night, watching the stars and hearing my mother sing thumris to me as she put me to sleep. My father was highly educated and in the service of the Maharaja of Jhalwar, a small native state in Rajasthan. But he was never there while I was growing up. My mother had become a close friend or sakhi of the queen, among the ladies in the queen’s court. She was not a trained musician, but she heard many famous lady musicians like Gohar Jan, Zohra jan and others who visited the zenana (ladies court). She had a very sweet melodious voice and sang a variety of folk songs, thumri, kajra and dadra, apart from telling me mythological stories and the names of all the stars and about her childhood. I was very close to her and she was a strong, but short, influence in my life. I was barely 12 when we parted and 16 when she died.Sukanya: I come from a family of musicians and music lovers from both sides. My father didn’t like us singing outside, but loved music and I saw all these musicians coming home. I was a child prodigy at four but hated music, because as soon as I would come from school the music teacher would always be sitting there waiting for me. My father however loved to hear me sing so I had to continue my training whether I liked it or not.I first saw Raviji perform live at the music academy in Madras when I was about 10 or 11. It was a mesmerizing experience. It was so electrifying and fantastic it seemed like Maya, an illusion, not real or of this world. But after it was over, I forgot about it. It was much later when I went to London and heard Raviji’s music again that I started liking music. I met him at 17, in the early 70s, when my friend Viji, Lakshmi Shankar’s daughter, asked me to play tanpura with Raviji at a concert. I still remember the first time I saw him. He was coming down the stairs, he was so handsome and godlike, that I was just frozen to the spot. I even forgot to do pranam, until Lakshmi aunty nudged me and asked me to do namaskaram!It took 5 more years and the rendition of raga Yaman Kalyan, I hear that did it for you!Sukanya: Yes, but by then I was married. I think I was always in love with him.You chose to have Anoushka with Raviji even while married to your ex husband. That took a lot of courage, especially since you came from a traditional and conservative background. How did Raviji respond to your decision?Sukanya: I was so much in love with him, and maybe that is what gave me the courage. He was involved with other women too and had hrefused many times to have the baby with me. The one thing that Raviji has always had is honesty. Almost all his ex-girlfriends are friends with him to this day. He never misled anyone. He was traveling a lot and there were always women, but they knew what to expect. He is also a deeply caring person. All the women he has been with agree when I say this, he made them feel very special. At one time I was one of those women, but he made me feel as if I was the only one, the most precious thing in his life. He felt he could not participate or accept responsibility as a father or give the baby his name and he told me that upfront. He wasn’t sure he wanted to get married.He was also told it was not good for his reputation. But I was adamant. I felt that since I couldn’t have him, his baby would be a part of him, that would always be with me. But Anoushka from the time she was a child had this deep attachment for him.Once when she was little she saw him on TV and said baba looks like me doesn’t he? She would always want to run to him and dip her biscuit in his tea and I was petrified she would do it in public. Anoushka has always been mature for her age and somehow there is this deep bond between them and you tend to gravitate to where you belong.Raviji, your brother Uday Shankar was way ahead of his times. Not only was he a wonderful painter he also took Europe by storm bringing Indian dance and music to audiences abroad. I read that James Joyce said of him, “He moves on stage like a semi-divine being. Believe me there are still some beautiful things left in this world.”Ravi: Indeed, he was the first person who taught me that our art and cultural heritage was to be revered .He was not a trained dancer and mostly self taught.He could simply visualize movements while looking at photographs and sculptures and he also had seen folk dances at different festival and came up with brilliant, original and unique work.Of course later on he did study art, dance and history of different regions of India. He was also the first person to understand the importance of presentation. In the old days the musicians were supported financially by royalty and had to perform only before royalty. When the time came to perform before the regular audience neither they nor the audience knew how to go about things. Even the legendary musicians did not know how to present themselves before the public, what and how much to talk.Unfortunately there are still those who come up on stage and start bragging about their gharana and lineage and put other musicians down.I deplored that, and made it a point to focus on the music and the elegance of presentation. Luckily the younger generation has embraced that as well and most of them let their music speak for itself. My brother was the person who taught me a lot about the right stage setting, lighting, placing incense, and all the rules of decorum, and how to present the performance with elegance. As a result I have been very strict about certain things at my concert. I always ask for a proper stage, I don’t allow smoking and drinking and unnecessary chattering. I was criticized for that and told oh you are too westernized, this is not a western concert where every one has to stay quiet. We like saying wah wah. I said its okay to wah wah at the appropriate moment, but I will not allow business talk and women discussing their ornaments and people drinking and eating peanuts during a performance.You were initiated into this world of glitz and glamour at the tender age of ten, when your mother agreed to go with your brother and other family members with your brother’s troupe to Paris. How did that affect your development and how have you managed to keep a straight head through the years of such tremendous fame and celebrity?Ravi: I think my one regret is that I grew up far too quickly. I was surrounded by celebrities and beautiful women, all through the growing years so it was a way of life and something very normal for me. All the so called celebrities be it the great classical performers or people like Marlon Brando or Peter Sellers, were very sweet to me. It was exciting being surrounded by music, dance and being pampered, but I really didn’t have a childhood as such. It was when I was a little over 12 years that I started participating in dance and music in a more involved way. My brother was forever creating all these ballets on Shiva, Krishna and we all had to read a lot. I had read Mahabharata and Ramayana while I was in Paris itself, along with the literature of Tagore and was deeply engrossed in history and culture of our country from the very beginning.You met the legendary Rabindranath Tagore. Tell me about that meeting.Ravi: I still remember it very vividly. I was around 13 or 14 and to this day I have never met anyone like him. He was the Leonardo Da Vinci of India, so multi-talented. Looking at him was like looking at the sun. He had blazing dark eyes, and when we met, he remembered my father who had been in the committee working on Tagore’s Nobel prize nomination along with the famous poet W.B. Yeats.He put his hand on my head and said in Bengali, “babur mauto hawo, dadar mauto hawo.” It meant “be like your father, be like your brother.” I felt a shiver go through my entire being. It was an electrifying moment.You were doing very well abroad, living the good life, and yet you chucked everything up to go to a remote village of Maihar and study music under the very strict and austere guru, the legendary, unpredictable Sarod maestro Baba Allauddin Khan. I believe you saw him perform under strange circumstances and were very intrigued!Ravi:I met him in Calcutta in 1934 at one of the music festivals. I don’t think I will ever come across a personality like him in this lifetime. He had a band of orphan boys called the Maihar band. He was a genius. He had two sides to him, the sweet loving side and then the Shaivite side where if he saw a student making a mistake his temper was legendary. He was never unkind to good students, but had no patience with the dumber ones. It was amazing to see how he had taught the band so many different instruments.I believe he had even made an instrument out of steel household pipes and something that was a combination of sitar and banjo.Ravi: Indeed. He played the violin brilliantly, but strangely used his right hand for writing and playing most instrument except the violin and sarod. He was also an amazing drummer and if anyone played the tabla badly God help him. It was very strange to see that he was getting upset and beating up his musicians on stage with his bow.He was a very simple man, a sadhu. In fact I would be reminded of stories of the sage Durvasa and his temper when I saw baba. He had the same saintliness as well.He was vaishnav most of the time and a shaivate when he was teaching! The Shankars with George and Olivia HarrisonBaba Allauddin Khan, joined my brother’s troupe in 1935 and that immediately shifted my focus from dance to music, as I was more of a dancer then. I used to fiddle with all the instruments including sitar without really being serious, but baba’s genius bowled me over totally. After a year he went back to India, when I was 16. But 2 ? years later I followed him to his village of Maihar, leaving my wonderful luxurious life with my brother.I heard you had to undergo rigorous training for 18 hours and tried to run away once, when Baba yelled at you, and it was his son, the Sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan who persuaded you to come back! What do you remember most as you look back fondly. You dedicated the first sitar concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra to his memory.Ravi: Yes that’s very true. I had been very spoilt by the glamor and glitz of the life in Paris, where everyone fawned over me. In Maihar, everything was so Spartan and Baba was so strict, although he never raised his hand on me, while he mercilessly beat his other disciples. He even tied his son Ali Akbar to a tree and beat him. That strict discipline got to me and I did try to run away. But better sense prevailed and I am glad I came back. Baba was the only guru I had and I learnt a lot from him. He loved me deeply and had promised my mother to look after me and had adopted me as his second son. He taught me that no doubt today we had to earn money from music since the royalty was no longer there to support us, but music for us is devotion, meditation and prayer and we must always preserve its sanctity.That is why I did not even spare the then Prince of Jodhpur, Hanumant Singh who was drinking with his friends at the Tajmahal Hotel. I told him I would not play until he stopped. The same thing happened with the Maharaja of Nathadwara. I saw the famous singer Heera Bai sitting on a durree, next to the maharaja, and his cronies singing as they drank. I insisted on a platform above the audience and that every one stops drinking. There were times I left without playing if I saw the atmosphere was not right. This was something I insisted on as early as returning from Maihar and starting my public career. Ravi Shankar with a portrait of his Guru Baba AllaudinBaba was unlike any classical traditional musician I know. He was deeply rooted to tradition, but also so brilliantly innovative and creative. When he came to Europe, I took him to all the western classical music concerts and he listened to records as well.He experimented with so many things within the Maihar band and was far ahead of his times, but never got to showcase that brilliance on stage because he was a very nervous performer. He would get very agitated if even a little thing went wrong and lose control. He would have enjoyed the first concerto and the others I wrote subsequently.Contrary to popular belief that the Beatles introduced Ravi Shankar to the West, you undertook your first tour of Europe and United States in 1956.Ravi: It was actually Yehudi Menhuin, whom I had met in 1952 and struck a friendship with, who asked me to come over and talked a lot about my talent and Indian music. I met George Harrison almost 10 years later in 1966. I was already very well known in Europe and USA by then, playing in all the famous auditoriums. The only thing that happened was that my meeting George and the first part of the hippie movement happened simultaneously.They called themselves the flower children, there was freedom of everything, the youth revolution. It was very sweet and innocent then and it helped people become more open minded towards music of other nations. Suddenly the younger generation took to my music in a big way, and I became a super star in the pop sense. Even though the hippie movement had started, there were a lot of good things that I saw. It was at the beginning of the flower children era, with sincere messages of love and peace and spirituality. There was a lot of innocence, and I enjoyed performing at the Monterey Pop festival. However, 2 years later when I played in Woodstock I saw everything going downhill. Apart from drugs, I heard there was violence, even rape, theft and robbery.The superficiality with which these people were treating India, the clichéd scenario with the so-called Kamasutra Parties with hashish, the mockery of Buddhism really upset me. I would constantly admonish these people whenever they came to my concerts to stop taking drugs, smoking, to behave themselves.I’d tell them, “You wouldn’t be doing this if you went for a western classical music concert. Indian classical music too cannot be heard like pop and rock.” After my unpleasant experience at Woodstock, I stopped playing at all pop and rock concerts, much to the dismay of my managers who were trying to cash in on my popularity, but I’m very proud to say I stood my ground and went through that period with dignity.Now I meet some of those middle-aged people, the hippies of yesterday and thankfully, they have sobered down. Of course nowadays I only play in closed auditoriums like Royal Albert Hall, or Carnegie Hall where smoking or misbehavior is not allowed. Even though you greatly influenced George Harrison musically and also introduced him to Indian philosophy, you never jammed with the Beatles, or any other jazz or rock or pop musician from the West, and yet people lumped you in the same slot as these guys. There was this general perception that you were writing music for the Beatles, jamming with them, while all you were doing was presenting your music on a global stage on your own terms. Even when you collaborated with violin maestro Yehudi Menhuin and flautist Jean Pierre Rampal, essentially you were the one who wrote the pieces and they played them alongside with you. Yet you were being berated by Indian classical musicians as well as critics very unfairly.Ravi: You are one of those very rare people who has pointed that fact out. It was like walking on a thin edged sword. On one hand I was receiving so much love and appreciation abroad, and I would have become a multimillionaire many times over and won many more Grammies, if I had jammed with all these musicians from the west. I composed the raga and talas for Menhuin and Jean Pierre Ramphal and they played my compositions. I never wanted to play Bach or Beethoven with them because I felt I was not trained in western classical music and hence it would be inappropriate for me to try a hand at it. The Indian musicians and critics, on the other hand, were very unkind misrepresenting what I was doing. They claimed I was Americanizing and commercializing our music, that I had become part of the pop and rock culture. My music, tantra, kamasutra, sex and drugs all were being lumped together. It was a strange atmosphere for almost 10 years Even the late Ustad Vilayat Khan, a wonderful musician, God bless his soul, would take digs at me. In the first 20 minutes of his recital he would say something to the effect of this is not the ” Beatley Sitar” that I’m playing this is the real sitar! Ravi Shankar with jazz legend Buddy RichIn fact I hated that loud and drug infested aspect of music. I had walked away from watching Jimi Hendrix because he was being obscene and set fire to his guitar. It was such disrespect to the instrument. Discordant music makes me physically ill. I have been a composer myself and I love to experiment all the time, but whatever I composed or experimented with was based on Indian music, be it classical or contemporary. But you will notice that I have never jammed with any jazz or rock artist. I am personally not interested in fusion music. It is very fashionable and popular today, but it will be forgotten soon. It is more of a gimmicky thing to sell records. I don’t want to criticize, but personally it’s not my thing.It was exhausting work, but I would go back to India and play the same raga for 5 hours, concert after concert, to prove to my critics that I was still as immersed in tradition and all I was trying to do was create an appreciation and understanding of our music. Today a lot of those musicians who criticized me have reaped the benefits along with their children, by finding fame and appreciation here.Since you mentioned the western artists and your collaboration with them, could you touch on those exceptional creations. Your West meets East CD with Yehudi Menhuin, the concerto for Sitar with the London Symphony Orchestra, and one of my personal favorites, The Chants of India, to name a few.Ravi: The first Concerto for Sitar was commissioned to me by the London Symphony Orchestra.Initially I thought that it would be difficult to handle sitar with the whole symphony orchestra. That is why I insisted on having amplification for the sitar.There are sections where the sitar and the orchestra perform separately, and again where they blend. It did require practice, but the end result was satisfying, as it was a unique thing to have done at that time. Of course, Indian classical music is all about improvisation. I had written the piece for sitar with enough space to improvise, especially the piece where I play coming in to lead the orchestra.The album with Yehudi Menhuin came out of a deep friendship and love that we shared. He was the director of one of the famous festivals, The Bath Festival in England at that time, and I had once mentioned to him that we should do a violin-sitar duet together. The opportunity arose in 1966. I wrote the entire composition and taught him everything. He was such a great musician, but what humility and sweetness, and he had such a deep admiration for different cultures, and so it worked out very well. Of course, I collaborated with others too, but whatever I have written has all been based on our ragas and talas.The Chants of India was something I had always wanted to do, and I want to do many such similar experiments. If you go to Chennai, you’ll find so many CDs on similar lines. They are so many people who have done chanting for years, others have tried to do it with classical music, and some have even tried to do it with pop music!So, I wanted to do it as traditionally as possible, and yet not to make it exclusively for just the Indians, because there is so much interest in the west in our Vedic culture now. I wanted to make it more international but without the influence of western instruments or orchestra. I wanted the album to be a genuine creation of Vedic mantras but with a universal appeal.This remains one of my favorites.Sukanaya: We were staying at George’s house and the recording was going on downstairs. I was not well that day and he dragged me downstairs to sing on it with him in spite of my hrefusing. Anoushka too was involved. George was really a true friend. Anoushka and Raviji and he would do a lot of fun things especially punning on words.Raviji, what are your memories of George Harrison and who would you say was the most gifted of the Beatles.Ravi: Well it is a popular perception that John Lennon was the best. I don’t think he was the best musically, but I think he was a wonderful writer. I introduced George to the philosophy of Vivekananda, and gave him the book Autobiography of a Yogi, to read. In later years George’s work took on a deeper, very philosophical meaning and musically he had become fantastic. He attributed it to my influence in his life. Whatever it was, he did develop a very deep appreciation of Indian culture and philosophy and it showed in his work and his life.The famous Jazz musician John Coltrane was also very deeply influenced by your music. He even named his son Ravi after you. When his hit album Meditations came out every one was agog, but you said that CD disturbed you.Ravi: Yes I had heard that he had been very influenced by my music and when I met him he had given up drugs, turned vegetarian and had been reading books on Indian philosophy. He met me a few times, studied with me and was fascinated by our music and the improvisation. In spite of the turn around in his life, the CD was full of pain and shrieks, a cry for help maybe and while others were going gaga over it I told him it disturbed me deeply. I didn’t hear music, I heard pain and screams. He died soon after.Talking of the Beatly sitar brings me to the late sitar maestro Vilayat Khan. There was always this perceived rivalry between the two of you. You were both opposites in personality. You were this elegant charmer and he was the chameleon who could be as charming and generous, but also unpredictably brash and outspoken. There was this famous incident in Delhi in 1950 where you both played, Allauddin Khan too was in the audience and then things took a turn for the unpleasant.Ravi: Vilayat Khan was a wonderfully gifted musician, and he passed away recently after a great career. The incident that you mentioned happened when we were playing at Red Fort and Ali Akbar Khan, and tabla maestro Kishan Maharaj were also on stage with us.All the famous musicians were there. I used to organize these musical events under the Jhankar Musical Circle Series and had been doing so for three-four years. That day I was also running a fever of 102 degrees. I was told we want to have all three of you Ali Akbar myself and Vilayat Khan, together on stage. I was a bit skeptical, but said fine. Vilayat Khan was very cordial and said, “dada prem se bajayenge” (we will play with love and affection) and I said fine. I also went along with whatever he wanted: let’s play raga Manj Khamaj, he said, and I said fine, and played in whatever beat he wanted, just to keep the warmth and camaraderie. Nothing really happened that was unsavory, but the musicians from Delhi started cheering as he was tuning his sitar.The next day it all started off with the musicians from Delhi claiming Vilayat Khan had overshadowed me completely, his jhala was superior, I couldn’t keep up with him etc, etc. I still didn’t dwell much on it until it came out in the newspapers in Bombay. I was very irritated then and in fact challenged Vilayat Khan openly to a rematch at a friend’s house. The legendary classical vocalist Amir Khan was there as were Ali Akbar Khan and Kishan Maharaj. Vilayat Khan immediately appeased me by saying dada let’s not get in to this. People indulge in idle talk and unless you hear me say something in person, don’t go by hearsay. I let it go. He was such a wonderful musician, but whenever he played, the first thing he would do would do would be to make digs at me! I smile about it now, but it was a bit trying.His son Shujaat Khan did say in an interview that his father had the utmost respect for you and perhaps would not have attained the heights that he did if it wasn’t for competition from you.Ravi: Yes, Vilayat Khan did say that to me also in person also. I have no ill will against him really. You have said that while you admire some Indian musicians you will never do duets with them because the genre focuses more on solo performances. However Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma said in his autobiography that he has never seen and will never see again the heights to which music elevated itself in the duets he saw between you and sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan, Alluaddin Khan’s son. There were rumors of the two of you drifting apart after your separation from his sister Annapurna Devi. Is there any remote possibility of seeing the two of you together again?Ravi: Unfortunately no. Our collaboration from the 1950s to the early 60s was indeed amazing. We had learnt from the same teacher and there was a lot of affection between us, so our juglabandi or duet was very novel, because before that there were rarely any instrumental collaborations and that two between two different instruments.As time passed we grew and developed differently and grew apart somewhere down the line. Then there were personality clashes too. He is a wonderful musician, but it’s too late to bridge the gap.Tell me about your association with Satyajit Ray. Though you have given music for several of his films he wasn’t happy and said that as a writer of music for ballet and stage you were unique, but film music was something else!Ravi: I met Ray sometime in the mid forties and I consider him a friend. He was again very multi-talented and his first film Pather Panchali for which I composed music was in my eyes the most perfect film I have seen. Everything about it, editing, direction, acting, the story line was just so perfectly balanced. The reason why Ray said the above was because around the time that I started composing music for his films I was exceedingly busy and I used to quickly come in, see the film, compose the music and run. Most musicians would stay for editing, mixing and making improvements, but the fact is whatever I come up with the first time is really my best offering. It’s true for all my compositions, not just film music.You have had a long association with both Ustad Allah Rakha and his son Zakir Hussain. Tell me about them. People say Zakir reminds them of a young Ravi Shankar in terms of presentation, versatility and talent.Ravi: That is nice to know. Ustad Allah Rakha was no doubt the greatest tabla player of his time, but it was like taking a baby with me, especially the first 10 years or so, since he didn’t speak English. I had to do all his paper work and take care of all his needs. He and I were both TV junkies! What can I say of Zakir. He is his father and more. Not only has he carried the art of the Punjab gharana to greater heights, he is very familiar with other gharanas as well. He can take any thing-nakkara, dholak, bongo, jazz, African drums and come up with amazing sounds. His stage is the world and it’s a much wider, more global world today for him than it was for his father.You are one of the rare musicians who has combined both the Carnatic and Hindustani classical music to create a very rich repertoire.Ravi: Well it has been very exciting and I have also managed to introduce ragas that are of Carnatic origin to north Indian musicians. Of course the versions are based on the Hindustani style and my own interpretations. What most people don’t realize is that before the outside influences came into India, both systems of music followed the same Bharat natya shastra and we had no problems understanding and developing our music, or keeping the same tempo or counting beats on our fingers.Even the old Pakhawaj players from the south maintained the same system and we had so much in common technically. But with the advent of the emperors came the gold coins and the musical wrestling matches where the tabla player was pitted against the vocalist, and people started playing to the galleries.As a result the two styles of music became more and more distant from each other, and today it’s more of a competition, rather than appreciation for each other. I have tried hard to bridge that gap and I think I have been fairly successful in showing the unique similarities between both genres. But with the infiltration now of jazz and rock and pop, Indian classical music is facing greater neglect in India.You see the young musicians playing and speaking the same language in big cities, all that technology and loud sounds and Bollywood type music and lack of clothing. Abroad, it’s the opposite.Sukanya: I think Raviji has grown so tremendously as a musician. His music was always amazing. He has so much more to offer today. His music is so colorful and multidimensional. It is because his life has been so multidimensional if you see his journey. Uprooted from Benaras to Paris to all over the world, the emotional ups and downs, the pain in his life, it has all enhanced and enriched his work tremendously.The only thing I find irritating is that all the new South Indian musicians have adopted the ragas from Carnatic music that he introduced, and play them in his style and not in Carnatic style. Only the old music stalwarts understand the difference. I wish they wouldn’t do that and keep his style and the old style separate. It takes away the uniqueness from both.You both have started the Ravi Shankar Center for the Arts in Delhi to combat the neglect that classical music is facing. It has been a grand but exhausting project from what I hear.Sukanya: When I married him I realized how non-materialistic he is. His awards were lying all over the place and with friends, and I’m sure there are still some lying around somewhere. That is why I laugh when people crib about him getting this or that award. It means so little to him. He is so careless. A lot of his compositions are lost because he keeps writing them on scraps of paper and forgets about them. I really believe that ours is a living tradition and we must do everything to preserve it. No matter where we live India is always home and there is no place like home. People have been very helpful, but I think the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, so one eventually ends up doing everything oneself and it’s a lot of work. Finally the building is complete and functioning. I just hope that while the young musicians are dabbling in other things they still stay close to their roots.Ravi:I have poured in a huge chunk of my own money in it. The government and other organizations have helped, but it’s not like Russia used to be where they funded everything, but then of course they controlled everything too. The center is not going to be a school. There are plenty of music schools being run by others as it is. My focus is to have seminars, invite intellectuals and like-minded people who are keen to preserve our music, to have discussions and also offer higher studies in music. It has also been gratifying to have schoolchildren visit the center and be acquainted with their cultural heritage, and hopefully get interested in music. But we have just started after the building was finally ready and more things will be added on. There is also some talk of composing for a big production in 2006. Let’s see how that works out.Let’s talk about Anoushka, Norah and your late son Shubho. There are so many distractions these days for children of celebrities. In fact your disciple and friend Harihar Rao had mentioned that your son Shubho was multitalented just like Anoushka. He could play the sarod, the surbahar and the sitar and was also an awesome painter, but he was pulled in too many different directions and by the time he did start getting it all together, he passed away tragically at a young age. Do you worry about Anoushka being pulled the same way?Ravi: Shubho was not as strong minded as Anoushka is. Shubho was a very gifted painter indeed, but he also had such a wonderful touch on the sitar and was an amazingly talented composer. He performed on all my tours in the USA, but it was the wonderful music he gave for dancer Viji Parkash’s Indian stage productions that stand out in my mind. He was very creative and had a fantastic voice. If you listen to the cd Tana Mana he has sung a short piece in Khamaj, with Lakshmi Shankar and you can hear the rich timbre of his voice.As far as Anoushka is concerned, she is very strong minded and has her mother to ground her. She so multi-talented it’s amazing. I’m not saying this because she is my daughter. She picks up things so quickly, but more than that has the ability to go into it deeply.Whether its writing, or western music or Indian classical, or acting, she is exceptional in everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. Seeing her develop from the age of 9 ? to what she is today is a great joy for me.Of course, the times have changed. I learnt music the old traditional way.It was easy to be involved, learning from a strict guru, as I had, in a small village where there were no distractions, no entertainment.As my childhood was spent in Europe and America, that strict discipline was quite tough for me. Anoushka, on the other hand, has never had to face such difficulties.Everything has been served to her on a platter. There is a 61 years difference between her and me. The world has changed so fast, the whole lifestyle of the young people of today is so different. You cannot expect them to live the strict, disciplined lifestyle of the ancient gurukul system. It is sad, but having said that I think we have to capture the essence, which is the basis of the music, and pass it on properly. By God’s grace I have done it and it has worked. The good thing is today the younger generation is so sharp that there is no need to learn for 18 hours as I used to do. All they need is planned training, but no matter how talented you are, you have to remain focused.That is why I have told Anoushka to take a year off and decide what is it that she really wants to do and then focus on it. She is getting offers for so many different things. She is working on an album which I would describe as one based on Indian classical music and some “mirch masala.”Norah is so lucky and her stars are so powerful, I’m glad she is focused on what she is so good at, and that is the way I would like to see her continue.Sukanya: Anoushka is very sharp, and she was always very advanced for her age. Raviji and she are very similar in temperament. If they have to explain something more than once they both get frustrated. She will be very professional on stage even if something is bothering her, then come backstage and kick everything out of the way. I have taught myself and her to be honest. I used to lie a lot as a kid, because I was so afraid of my father: did you do this? No I did not, was my ongoing reply. When I left for England, I said, I am not afraid of anything and I am never going to lie. Fear makes you do so many things that are dishonest. Anoushka is also a die hard romantic like Raviji and very sentimental.To this day, and she has seen Mahabharata so many times, she cries every time Karna dies! I will shake my head and say you know the story, why are you crying again, but she will. Geetu (Norah Jones’s Indian name is Geetali) is very talented also and the girls are close. One time Raviji, Geetu and Anoushka were sitting together and it was so strange to see their shoulders are shaped exactly the same. In Kerala people saw us and said oh the older daughter (Norah) looks like the mom and the younger one looks like the father. We didn’t correct them!Anoushka’s new album has a lot of techno effects. She doesn’t play much of it for us, but whatever I have heard sounds really good. I believe it’s your dream, Raviji, to compose something for Norah and Anoushka where they could play together, though Anoushka joked that they tried something but it sounded so silly they started laughing and gave up.Ravi: Well there is no pressure. I would like to create a composition, if it happens it happens, if it doesn’t work out that is okay too. In my entire life I have never come up with anything with either commercial success in mind or just to make it click.Is it true that the your greatest inspirations and musical creations are not born in a serene room with burning incense but in the toilet!Ravi (amidst laughter):Well the answer is yes. It’s very peaceful and you have your own space!If you were to relive your life again would you change anything?Ravi: I would want to be born again as an Indian musician, but I would be far less lazy, start at a younger age and work harder to better myself.Is there anything we don’t know about Ravi Shankar?Sukanya: That he is traveling with his cat who has his own suitcase full of toys! Can you believe this? We are staying in downgraded hotels and are doing a bus tour because he will not travel without his cat! He also cannot let me out of his sight. One time he was teaching and usually it is for two hours.I went to Home Depot to pick up some things for the house and returned two and a half hours later to find that he had panicked, the police had been summoned and my car was being flashed all over the place!He also has to work constantly. People say why he is working so hard.Why don’t you stop him?If I do he will fall sick! He gives also gives a hundred percent in every relationship, but there are very few people who we know to be genuinely his friends. Others show up when they need something. He is one of the kindest, most caring, totally romantic people I know. I tell him he should be giving workshops on love and romance instead of music! Photos: John Churchville Related Items