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Love in the time of Kargil

The pain of partition spurs a young Indian doctor to create a website streaming Indian and Pakistani music

"I run the site from a small hostel room at the All India Institute of Medical Science, and I hope that music will be the food of love..."

That's Dr Vishal Bhatia speaking. His parents and grand parents were victims of the partition, and that tragedy has spurred him to promote peace between the two countries.

The 26-year-old Punjabi doctor has launched Mehfil, a website that streams Indian and Pakistani music. His interest in the web translated into the creation of the music site in August 1998.

Ghazals have been Vishal's "love and hobby" and Sufi music has "strongly" influenced him. Mehfil specializes in these two genres.

Gulzar's Mirza Ghalib was the first song to be streamed from the site. Also featured are Ghulam Ali, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Munni Begum, Jagjit Singh, Pankaj Udhas and Reshma. The site has short write-ups on the artistes.

The music is steamed on Realaudio, which means you can listen to it when you are online.

The site had 200,000 visitors in the first six months. And then Vishal decided to sell it. After a while, he changed his mind and wanted to return the advance. The site was buffeted by legal wrangles and was offline for sometime. It is back in business from January 1, 2000, and this time from a server of its own.

"We got the full support of Mr Gulzar, who is guiding us in the selection of music. We are planning to have an official inauguration of the site and Mr Gulzar has agreed to come," Vishal told The Music Magazine.

The site already offers free e-mail, and plans to get into Indian music e-commerce.

Another area Mehfil wants to look into is hosting the artistes of other South Asian countries. A Bollywood search engine and e-mailing in all Indian languages are in the pipeline.

Visit Mehfil

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Media praise for your favourite e-zine from India:

*Fantastic site -- Hitbox
*Web's best -- Britannica
*Superb coverage... worth tuning in to -- Rediff
*Classy -- Deccan Herald

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