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VOLUME 1, iSSUE 12 february 2011


Previously known as At A Glance – Understanding India

Whole Hearted In conversation with India’s legendary dancing couple

Kindred Soul The story of India’s colourful puppet tradition

D e a r

R e a d e r s

I HAD the opportunity to visit the J F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC recently. Apart from the almost palpable presence of JFK in this living museum, it was a particularly clever display that caught my attention. There were rows of tables with men emptying sacks of rice on to them. I went closer and realised that this was not just a random act, but an artistic impression of something with a definitive message. Sixty-six grains of rice made a gram of Uncle Ben’s rice and each grain stood for a human being. So the artists had mounds of rice to show: • People eating at MacDonalds every day • Number of refugees in the United States • Number of billionaires in the world, and so on It was ingenious, simple yet deeply thought provoking. To actually see the entire human race shrink into little grains of rice also put things in perspective, on where we stand with respect to the vast universe we belong to. The big picture was so eloquently represented and it was so tangible, that I realised how much energy we divest in the quagmire of misunderstandings, when with a dose of love, we can walk freely. And what better month to remember that thought than February, the month of St Valentine! So this issue, we have showcased the myriad facets of love through an eclectic collection of stories: be it Coffee and Conversation that features the legendary dancing couple, the Dhananjayans; the main Feature on the puppet tradition of India that works tirelessly to build bridges across communities; the India & I story of an expatriate’s tryst with the Dalai Lama; and many such anecdotes that thrive in the country’s inherent philosophy of peace through understanding. Ranjini Manian Editor-in-Chief

Look Out For! Our live blog and our page on Facebook! It’s where readers can share their experiences with the community at large. Log on to and leave your mark. culturama | February 2011


culturama | February 2011


culturama | February 2011


contents 12 Coffee & Conversation

Love in the Time of Movement

16 Culture

WHAT better time is there to celebrate love than in the month of February? With a smile that can melt hearts, the Rajasthani child on our cover page perfectly captures the spirit that we embody in this issue — love for people in our lives, love for the arts, and quite simply, a love for life.

Seeing it Through 18 24 by city

Cochin Snapshots Scale Back

20 INterpretations


34 Calendars

22 Feature

Handful of Stories Photograph: Anita Wedick, Singapore

26 INdia on a platter

Under the Sea

30 India Immersion Centre Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian Managing Editor Praveena Shivram Associate Editor Poonam M Ganglani Contributions saritha rao creative head JayaKrishna Behera Associate Designer P Lakshmikanthan E-version Jeyabal Rajasegaran Advertising Chennai Anupama Raj, Yuvarani Peter Bengaluru Shubha Seetharaman, Divya Vasan Delhi-NCR Preeti Bindra, Ruchika Srivastava Mumbai & Pune Farah Bakhshay, Viji subramaniam, Ashish Chaulkar Advisory Committee Timeri N Murari, N Ram, Elaine Wood, James J Williams, G Venket Ram, Carmen HUTHOEFER-HEINRICH

Pongal Potluck

32 Look Who’s in town

Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai & Delhi


Delhi-NCR Level 4, Augusta Point, DLF Golf Course Road, Sector-53, Gurgaon - 122 002. Haryana. Tel.+91-124-435 4236. E-mail: Mumbai/Pune Rustom Court, 2nd Floor, Dr. Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai 400030. Tel.+91-22-66104191/2 E-mail:

Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai & Delhi

40 Photo feature

Temple Towers


Business Model 44 Postcard

Still Life

44 india Quiz 46 Tales of India

Keeping Count

48 India & I


Chennai 5, 3rd Main Road, R. A. Puram, Chennai 600028, India. Telefax. +91-44-24617902 E-mail: Bengaluru 216, Prestige Center Point, Off Cunningham Road, 7, Edward Road, Bengaluru 560052. Tel.+91-80-41267152/41148540. E-mail:


20 INdia inventions

Tune In & A Voice in the Crowd 52 PORTRAIT OF INDIA 54 SPACES

Back to the Grind


56 Holistic living

Beyond Boundaries

58 iSeries

iRead, iSee, iAsk

62 your festivE Calendar 64 mind, body & soul

Published and owned by Ranjini Manian at #5, 3rd Main Road, Raja Annamalai Puram, Chennai – 600028 and printed by K Srinivasan of Srikals Graphics Pvt Ltd at #5, Balaji Nagar, 1st Street, Ekkattuthangal, Chennai – 600097. Editor: Ranjini Manian


culturama | February 2011

Bite Sized Buzz

70 space & the city

N e w s w o r t h y

Hot Spots

Letters to the Editor Dear Editor,

IF THERE are still any doubts of the reality of climate change, then this recent report from Environment Canada 2010 should put those doubts to rest. According to the report, the national temperature across Canada exceeded the average by 3 degrees Celsius, making 2010 the hottest year in the country till date. Environment Canada has been recording the national temperature since 1948. While the report did not specifically explain the reasons behind these high temperature readings, a climate expert said that similar results are expected for other countries because of the global warming phenomenon. Source:

“Usually when a magazine arrives, I wait to read it when I have time. But I always feel drawn to Culturama – for the beauty of the artwork, the quality of writing and the variety of themes. Certainly you all should be congratulated for such a super job. You’ve qualified for the New Year already!” — Dr Charles M Savage, Knowledge Era Enterprises International Dear Editor, “Congratulations on another good issue of Culturama. I must say that your magazine has been consistently good.” — Ravi Venkatesan, Chairman, Microsoft India Dear Editor, “I would like to tell you how useful your magazine is with the number of foreign guests I receive. All my ten grandchildren are either married or live abroad and their young friends love to visit India. Many have taken copies of the magazine back with them.” — Dorothy Saldanha Send your reader feedback to

Solar Power DESPITE high temperatures beginning to be recorded in different parts of the world, it isn’t unpleasant news all the way. Recently, India passed a milestone in its push to become one of the world's biggest producers of solar power. India is embracing renewable energy as it faces up to rising emissions growth caused by reliance on coal for power generation. Last month, India auctioned 620 megawatts of solar projects to 37 companies, an early step in a program that aims to have 20 gigawatts of solar generating capacity by 2022. Achieving this goal would see India outpace many nations in installing solar power--the International Energy Agency predicts the U.S. will have 17 GW of solar capacity by 2020. Source:

culturama | February 2011











love in the time of movement

THERE are many ways to define love – through words, through gestures, through neatly packaged gifts, and sometimes, even through food. But it takes two performing artistes, the legendary dancing couple of India, the Dhananjayans, to show us that definitions go beyond the familiar. Six decades of togetherness later, when every nuance of their being exudes this emotion, we have to agree. Having grown up together in the famed Kalakshetra campus of dance in Chennai, Dhananjayan and Shanta have earned the reputation of being seamless and soulful together on stage. Their long list of national and international recognition and the success of their 40-year-old dance school, Bharatakalanjali, is proof enough. But as we listen to their story, each completing the other’s sentences, almost unconsciously, we realise they are not any different at home either. Culturama presents snippets of their conversation.


culturama | February 2011

First Look

Dhananjayan: As far as we are concerned as a couple, we started growing together in the Kalakshetra campus. For me, she was the first girl I met in Kalakshetra when I arrived as a village brat. I was just 13 years old from a remote village. I did not know the local language and couldn’t speak English. So when I first arrived, I met Shanta. She was 8 years old and was the only one who spoke Malayalam, my native tongue. She was asked to take care of me then, and I think, she has been taking care of me since. First impression is always the best impression, like Rama meeting Sita in the Ayodhya gardens. Shanta: (smiles) Well, I was too young to really form any impression, but it’s nice to know this now. I think it took me a few years to understand the mutual admiration we had for each other, I think it was when I was 14 or 15. Though, I didn’t reciprocate so much! Dhananjayan: That’s true. I was more open and expressive. But we couldn’t mingle as freely as the young people today. We had to think about our teachers, our elders, who were looking at us with watchful eyes. Shanta: I still remember the time we performed together as Rama and Sita and the scene of Sita’s swayamvar. Rama breaks the bow and is married to Sita and he is supposed to hold her hand and sit together. That was a very difficult time for me. Dhananjayan: For her it was difficult, for me it was easy! Shanta: He loved it! He was waiting for an opportunity and I would move away from him on the seat, because it was such a tiny seat and he would say, “Why are you so scared? What’s going to happen to you?” And I would say I can’t because everyone was looking at us, especially when they know the kind of feelings he has for me as he made it very open. Those were the days when it was difficult, it’s not like now when everything is straight in the open.

Dhananjayan: There was a lot of talk going on around us, apprehensions of how it would work between us – I was from a poor background, while she was from Singapore and that meant affluence. The disparity existed in their minds, not ours. Shanta: They all thought because I was quiet and didn’t reciprocate, he was a fool to like me. They imagined I would go back to Singapore and get married to somebody there. People talk, you know, but I was so quiet, I knew what was happening, I knew in my heart he was the only one for me and I didn’t even tell that to him! In between, for three years, I went back home. That was a crucial period. All I told him was, “I will be back”. I did not want to promise anything or say anything else, but I knew very well that this is the person for me. When the time came, I just told my parents. All they wanted to know was I would be happy come what may, that I could stand on my feet, that it wasn’t some infatuation but was indeed true love, and that we could be independent. It was so easy and my parents were so open about it. Dhananjayan: And so, six decades now. I am 72 and she is 68, six decades of living together…

Ties that Bind

Dhananjayan: As far as we are concerned, marriage has been the binding factor in our performances. In Kalakshetra, our performances only involved characters in dance dramas. It was only after we came out of Kalakshetra did we start ‘duo bharatnatyam’. In that period of time, I am talking about the 60s, Bharatnatyam was a solo concept. So when we began, it was not just a novel idea, but people welcomed it as they could see aspects of both the male and female on stage. We brought in a new dimension to the arena of Bharatnatyam performances. We connected and worked very well, because we had been trained in the same institution. We had the give and take attitude, and judiciously combined our talents to enhance the quality of the performance and the art. We were both passionate about projecting the art rather

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than our individuality. Having come from Kalakshetra and having trained under Rukmini Devi, we wanted to keep the quality of the art shining and also bring it to the public, to communicate that the art is greater than the individual. Shanta: And it was not consciously, you know. We wanted to grow as artists, the art just let us grow. Also, to me, the identity of the dancer and the spouse slips into the other. It was nothing new when we got married, because we were already trained like that, we grew up together like that, so it was just a natural transition. In this stage of our life, when we are all by ourselves, like any other husband and wife, I don’t think the question of music or dance comes in between, you don’t even consciously think about it.

Step by Step

Dhananjayan: As a teacher, I am a very strict disciplinarian, like a father in the house. If I am strong and disciplined, Shanta is the softer side. It’s exactly like a household. When the father reprimands the child, the child will go to the mother. Because of my attitude, students are disciplined. At the same time, they want freedom, which Shanta represents. If there is something they want to ask, they will ask Akka, that is Shanta. She has always been called akka. So we complemented each other like that. Anything to do with philosophy or the creative part of the dance, the students will come to me, while Shanta takes care of the engineering part, the technical part of it. Whatever I choreograph or create, she chisels and smoothens it to perfection. So that is how we have kept a very good balance.

Mutual Admiration

Shanta: I have always admired his personality and his expressions, the smooth transition of the abhinaya, the flow of it and the depth of it. That is one of his strengths, the best part of him. And sometimes I did wish that I had his personality. Dhananjayan: I admire her body’s precision and her rhythmic sense. I tend to go off a little, as I am more concerned about my involvement and expression and communication with the audience. At that juncture, I might water down my body language and precision, whereas she insists and is very meticulous about her body precision and mudras.

Into the Future

Dhananjayan: I think the changes we witness today in Bharatnatyam are good; it is moving in the right direction. A lot of improvements, innovation and


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creativity have happened in the field. I would also add that we have been pathbreaking in our way. Within the traditional creativity, we have broken a new path for the younger generations to evolve. We brought in a lot of new elements to the old Bharatnatyam repertoire, despite criticism. We must again thank Kalakshetra for that, as they taught us to take criticism in the right sense. Shanta: When we did all those creative new ideas, we did it with understanding. It was not just for the sake of change that we did it. We did it with the conscious effort to develop what we had learnt. So we were very strong about what we thought, and if someone criticised it, we took it in the right spirit and tried to improve on it. Today, the younger generation is much stronger, they are not afraid of creating something new. More importantly, the audience, at least in Chennai, accepts

so many different performances from different genres. Dhananjayan: All new creativity, whatever it is, should pass the test of time. I find that the younger generation nowadays go for shortcuts, whereas ours has been very deep rooted. They want quick fame, quick money. There are no shortcuts in art. Any and all display of talent does not become art. Art means it should touch your heart. For that, you have to first feel it. So you have to go deep into whatever you do with total discipline, devotion and dedication. These are the three key words for success. Shanta: I agree. One should have a deeper knowledge of what one is doing. Just because you want to do something different, it’s not okay to take something from here, something else from there and put it together. That’s a shortcut, like a bubble that won’t last long.

Soul Speak Shanta: How long do you think you would like to keep on performing? Dhananjayan: As long as people would like to see me. If they say, stop it, enough, I will stop. Shanta: Suppose they are polite and won’t say it? Dhananjayan: Then you can tell me where to stop. Dhananjayan: Suppose I am not there, what will you do? Shanta: What will I do? I have to go on with my life … do some teaching and be happy seeing my students perform, look after my two sons and grandsons. I will think of you and do my karma. What about you? If I am not there, what will you do? Dhananjayan: I think I will be completely broken. Shanta: That will be there, of course, mutually. We will always feel empty ...

Cult ure

s a r i tha r a o

Seeing it Through AMONG Hindus in Kerala, there is great reverence attributed to eight objects collectively known as Ashta Mangalyam (eight auspicious objects). This platter is part of the bride's trousseau in some communities. On the day of Vishu (traditional harvest festival in April), people set eyes on this platter first before beginning a prosperous new agrarian year. While the actual objects differ by occasion, community and location, a regular on the list is a Vaal Kannadi (hand mirror) which is meant to bestow abundance and wealth on the beholder. And the most sought after mirror is a distortion-free Aranmula one. The uniqueness of the Aranmula Kannadi (mirror) is that the reflective surface is not mercury-backed glass but metal! When you place a fingertip on a normal mirror, you see a gap between the front edge of the glass and the image on the reflective backing layer. However, in the Aranmula mirror, this gap does not exist. In that sense, it is a true reflection. The secret of achieving true reflective quality on metal is known only to a set of families in Aranmula, Kerala, and this knowledge was inherited as a legacy from their bronze-caster forefathers who moved here in the 18th century from Sankarankoil in present-day Tamil Nadu. Legend has it that they were required to create a resplendent crown for the local deity using bell metal. But they failed to create an alloy that would, after polishing, befit the grandeur. A widow from the community dreamt about the exact composition that would make the metal as reflective as a mirror. When it proved true, the community also began to create mirrors. Each mirror is painstakingly made by hand and, depending on the size, could take about six months to make. The clay used for casting, the higher concentration of tin in the copper-tin alloy and the duration of heating the alloy are but some aspects in a process where purification

of the metal is of great importance to get a good shine. Even polishing the metal is said to be an elaborate process, done for a few hours a day for about three days. A round mirror of 5� diameter set in an ornate brass frame costs about Rs. 8,000. A major component of the cost is the labour. But the other factor is the considerable wastage in the manufacturing process as the metal plates are almost glass-like in their fragility. Traditionally, the demand for the product grew when it was included in the Ashta Mangalyam. However, owing to the price, it is now considered a precious and unique artefact. Aranmula mirros have now been granted GI (Geographical Indication) status and they are currently manufactured by the Parthsaradhy Handicraft Centre in Aranmula (www.

culturama | February 2011


24 By City

cochin Snapshots Things to see and do in one day

A vital port in the days of the spice trade, Kochi (formerly Cochin) has the distinction of being an eclectic patchwork of cultural influences – Arab, Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese and British SIGHTSEEING Ernakulam (the mainland) and Kochi (the port) are twin cities and between them lie islands like Wellington and Bolgatty, all linked by bridges and ferries. The main historical sights to be seen in a day are in the Mattancherry area of Fort Kochi. St. Francis Church Behind the simple facade and walls of the St. Francis Church lies the site of Vasco Da Gama's grave, long after his remains have been shipped back to Portugal. Built in the 1500s, this church is one of the oldest in India.


culturama | February 2011

Paradesi Synagogue and Cemetery The synagogue and cemetery on Jew Street stand testimony to a once-sizeable community of Jews (almost none today). The synagogue, built in 1568, is the oldest in India. Inside the Synagogue do notice the glass chandeliers above you and the Chinese hand-painted tiles underfoot. Dutch Palace or Mattancherry Palace Now a museum, this modest palace was built by the Portuguese for Raja Veera Kerala Varma in 1555 and renovated by the Dutch in 1663. It contains exquisite murals and a coronation hall.

Chinese Fishing Nets Watch the local fishermen harvest their catch with Chinese fishing nets that have now become the visual symbol of Kochi. Head to the beach at Fort Kochi or take a ferry to Vypeen or Kumbalangi Islands. NOTE: Kerala Tourism has a walking guide on its website for Fort Kochi. ENTERTAINMENT Fort Kochi Jetty is the place to head to for boat rides and dolphin sighting in the afternoons. If time permits, opt for a leisurely ferry ride through the backwaters. Soothe stressed nerves with a traditional Ayurvedic therapeutic massage. Or experience a Kathakali dance performance as well as Theyyam and Kalaripayttu (traditional martial arts). More information at or DINING Sadya is the quintessential Kerala festive meal served on a banana leaf at specialist Sadya restaurants. Fish is a must-try, especially the Fish Fry with local spices and the Karimeen Pollichathu (Pearl Spot steamed in banana leaf). The best restaurants to taste local fare in Kochi and Ernakulam are Seagull (near the beach), Grand (M.G. Road) and Shala. Kashi is a well-known cafe-cum-art gallery on Burgher Street that is popular among tourists. SHOP Culture Shoppe is the official agency of the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala, to promote Kerala souvenirs. They have an office at Kochi, but you can simply order online at http:// for free delivery across India. Visit Kairali, the state-run handicraft outlets at Mattancherry (Fort Kochi) and M.G. Road (Ernakulam) for typical Kerala items and numerous products made from coconut shell and banana fibre. Walking on the “Jewish” street near the synagogue to ruffle through antiques is a must. Their wicker baskets of yore are delightful.

India Inventions

Susan Philip


Scale Back Recoiled THE foot ruler and the measuring tape may be ubiquitous in the 21st century, but next time you hold either of these in your hand, stop a moment and think – more than 1500 years Before Christ, someone was holding a very similar tool too! Doesn’t it send a tingly feeling down your spine? The measuring scale, or ruler, is known to have been used by people in the Indus Valley Civilisation. An ivory scale dating back to 2400 BC was one of the priceless antiques excavated from Lothal. Known as the Mohenjo-Daro Ruler, this scale is divided into units corresponding to 1.32 inches, and what’s more, calibrated to 1/16th of an inch and marked out in accurate decimal subdivisions. Other scales have been found in archaeological explorations of the region too – a bit of a scale made of shell was found in Mohenjo Daro, and a bronze one was recovered from Harappa. It is apparent that the people in those long ago times used the scale to make advanced calculations. Bricks excavated from various spots show that their dimensions are integral multiples of the scale. The weights and measures used by the Indus Valley people reached Persia via trade routes, and were modified there. Within the region itself, they gradually evolved. The Maurya kings used a complex measurement system, and centuries later, the Mughals standardised measurements to determine the size of land holdings and collect taxes. Still later, in 1957, the Indian Government adopted the International System of Units. But it all began in the Indus Valley!

THE Sesha Vahana* is found in Vishnu and Shiva temples, but is particularly important in Vishnu temples. Snakes in general and cobras in particular have an important role in Hindu mythology. They are associated with the netherworld, and have several names, identities and stories attached to them. The king of the snakes is Sesha or Adi (primal) Sesha. Adisesha is also known as ‘Ananta’ or the endless one. This multi-hooded snake bears the earth on its head. It is also the couch on which Vishnu reclines, amidst an ocean of milk. In this form, Vishnu has Brahma the creator seated on a lotus, extended from his navel. Sculptures of this form in Tirumeyyam and Mahabalipuram have Adisesha emitting poisonous fumes at two demons, Madhu and Kaitabha who come to attack Vishnu. As a vahana, Adisesha has five, seven or nine heads. Each ends in a stylised face of a snake and a lion. The crest jewel that has magical properties is also depicted. The deity within, is usually installed in a standing posture. In some temples, the idols of Vishnu with his consorts are shown seated, as they would appear in Vaikunta. In some vahanas, under the coils of Adisesha, are 8 elephants and under them the tortoise. All these animals are said to bear the earth. *Sesha means snake and Vahana means the mount. Source: ‘Temple Vahanas of Tamil Nadu’ by Pradeep Chakravarthy, designed by Kalamkriya Limited and published by Mrs. Chandra Sankar Editor’s note: Snakes symbolise man’s negative tendencies such as anger, jealousy and Ego. Mastering them is the goal of life and hence they are symbolised as mounts or held in the hand of a deity. culturama | February 2011


Photo Courtesy:


P o o n am M g a n g l a n i


f o stories Take a peek through the curtain of India’s puppet traditions, as the character of a young puppeteer takes us with him on his journey.


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A CANDLE flickers before me and I see a pair of beady eyes staring back in the darkness. The day has been long, my smile is tired, but my companion remains unfazed. He is, after all, a divine creation. I close my eyes as I recall the expressions of awe that gripped our performance, just a few hours earlier – he, Lord Rama, saving his Queen from the clutches of the evil Ravana; and me, the puppeteer, a humble medium of his movements and message. I open my eyes and the puppet’s painted features, permanently frozen in time, take me back to a day twelve years ago. I was a young apprentice then, eager to set out and learn the ways of traditional puppeteers. And so, with a few coins in my pocket and a dry thirst for knowledge, I began my journey one fateful night. I had heard of the famous ‘Bhat’ community in Nagore, Rajasthan, near the small town where I lived, and set out to discover what they called the ‘Kathputli’ form of puppet theatre. I was to meet an old friend of my father’s, Baldeb bhai, whose own father had been a favoured puppeteer among the royal families of Rajasthan and Punjab. I arrived at Nagore one warm night and knocked on Baldeb bhai’s door. A robust man with a large moustache that curled upwards at the ends led me in. He adjusted his yellow turban and with a voice that was surprisingly soft, he asked: “What do you know about kathputli?” I didn’t know much but I had heard many things from villagers who brought back stories of their travels. “That the puppets are large and beautiful and pulled up and down with strings,” I replied. The next day, he took me to a nearby fair, where a kathputli performance was in progress. Settling ourselves among the audience, I could see a huge puppet about one-and-a-half-feet tall, flitting around the stage with a sword in hand. “That,” whispered Baldeb bhai, “is the great Rajasthani warrior, Amar Singh Rathore.” I was riveted by Amar Singh’s wooden face and brightly painted features, his blood red lips and his thick black beard. His body and limbs were stuffed with cotton, covered in elegant orange robes. He bounded around the stage with great speed and when I looked closely, I realised that he had no legs to restrict him. “These puppets don’t speak much, so their movements have to speak for them,” explained Baldeb bhai. “That is why they have no legs and their hands have no joints. Every mild pull of the string makes them leap and hop and dance.” Over the next few hours, I watched in wonderment as Amar Singh chopped off the head of the Mughal courtier Salawat Khan, the dark strings almost invisible against the curtain behind them, making them real before our eyes. The show came to a close with Amar Singh’s own death, a melancholic folk tune deepening our sadness. I clapped for Amar Singh’s exploits, and for many months after that, I observed other brave warriors on stage, eventually guiding the feats of Amar Singh himself. And then one day in the middle of March, Baldeb bhai came to me and said, “You are ready to learn new things now.” He gave me a small piece of paper with a name written on it and just like that, I set off to Maharashtra. I was to meet an old acquaintance of Baldeb bhai’s who led a group of shadow puppeteers in a village called Pinguli, on the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka. It was a long journey from Nagore, and after some listless days and nights, I found myself ambling through a religious festival in Pinguli, where I was to meet my new mentor, Thakore Sahib. I observed from a fixed stage in the centre of the village square that a show called ‘Chamdyacha Bahuliya’ was about to begin. Curious, I peeped into the area behind the screen and saw countless leather puppets, all paper-thin and garbed in royal Mughal robes, waiting to play their parts. A small, dark-faced man – whom I later learned was Thakore Sahib himself – was intently adjusting an iron lamp behind the screen and a few seconds later, a dancer-puppet rose up, casting shadows in the darkness and swaying piously in honour of Lord Indra, King of the Heavens. The screen then burst

Photo Courtesy:

culturama | February 2011


Photo: Thorsten Vieth, Germany

to life with scenes from the Ramayana, 65 dark silhouettes at battle on the screen, as Thakore Sahib gave them voice from behind. As the beats of the ‘dholak’ and the crowd’s cheers faded into the night, I walked up to Thakore Sahib and spoke to him as he put his puppets away for the night, carefully separating the celestial beings from the demons. The next day and for many months thereafter, I took my place behind the screen, sometimes as the valiant Rama, sometimes as the flying Hanuman and sometimes as a tree or a chariot. But one night after a performance, I found a thin bamboo box wrapped in paper at my bedside, with two small puppets of Rama and Sita carefully placed side by side. Beneath was scribbled a short message: “The journey of life must always move forward.” In the months that followed, I travelled far and wide with only these two companions to comfort me. I soon found myself in Palghat district in Kerala, where a group of nomads offered to teach me their art of glove puppetry. They called it ‘Pavakathakali’ and explained how it was inspired by a local dance-drama of great fame, where beautiful men with painted faces depicted episodes from the Mahabharata. Every evening, we would sit together in an open space with brass oil-lamps and the village audience would gather to watch our wooden dolls, all of two feet tall, beautifully adorned with peacock feathers and whirling in our hands. It made me feel light inside, learning about things I never knew before, as we moved from one village to another. I sensed the same feeling in a fellow puppeteer named Debashish, who moved with us and often played the conch shell during our performances. When I spoke to him, I learned that he was an apprentice too and that his father was a puppetmaker in West Bengal. We became good friends over time and when he had to return home, he asked if I would like to come with him to learn what his father could teach me. A few days later, we found ourselves together in a train to Nadia district, West Bengal. Debashish’s father was a tall, thin man with a deep voice

that quite frightened me. His first question took me by surprise: “Have you ever been in love?” I blinked once or twice and stuttered a few words. He laughed and said, “It’s all you need to make a figure of Lord Krishna, son.” And over the next few days, I watched and learned as he crafted an almost human-sized puppet of the divine lover, with a body of painted wood and a face of clay, held together with a rod. He pierced holes in both hands and created joints on the right elbow for the Lord to hold his flute or arrows or chariot. I was fascinated by this process and together, Debashish and I got to work on the other puppets, preparing for a ‘Putul Natch’ rod puppet performance that was to take place at the village fair a few months later. We made twenty heads for ten bodies, since, as his father explained, different heads would be used for the same frame. We made some animal heads too and created characters from Bengali legends. When the day arrived, I watched in amazement as our lifelike figures emerged through an opening in the curtain, tied to the waists of the hidden puppeteers and animated by their movements. A symphony of Bengali folk tunes filled the air, heightened by strains of the harmonium and violin. The entire night passed in revelry and laughter, as if in a dream, and when I awoke the next day … I knew the time had come to return home. And so I did return home and spent many years perfecting the traditions of puppetry and imparting my own knowledge to apprentices who came my way. My journey taught me much about life and the world, and as I lay Sita next to her Rama, I closed my eyes and let the entire whirl of my thoughts and experiences drift away.

Sources:, Special thanks to Mansingh Zala of Meher, The Troupe, Ahmedabad, for some insights into Indian puppet traditions. 12

culturama | February 2011

India on a Platter

P o o n am M g a n g l a n i

under er the sea “Please Sir, Mr. God of Death, Don’t make it my turn today, Not today… There is fish curry for dinner.” – Bakibab Borkar, famous Goan poet

IF YOU’VE ever fancied having the sea on your plate, as ambitious as that seems, then the coastal region of Goa might prove a worthy comrade. This tiny south western state on the Konkan Coast of India is a haven of culinary treasures and will willingly share her riches with all who seek it. Ruled by the Portuguese for over 400 years, the culinary impact of colonialism has trickled down to form a conspicuous part of present food traditions, particularly of the Roman Catholic community in South Goa. As seafaring explorers, the Portuguese relied largely on food that could be stored over several months, mirrored in the profuse use of preservatives like vinegar, sugar and pickled spices in the region’s food. These give Goan cuisine its characteristic twang, distinct from the cuisines of its coastal neighbours, Mangalore and Kerala. A special ingredient that binds the three, however, is a special fruit from the mangosteen family called kokum’ unique in each state. A classic Goan meal opens with the sweet-sour kokum sharbat, a cooling health drink that counters the sunny heat of the region. Thereafter begins a carnival of tastes and colours on the plate: the juicy prawn rissoles, fritters stuffed with cheese and prawns, are delightful in their combination of crispy and soft textures. Pickled prawn balchao, made with twelve different spices, also strikes with its thick and feisty quality, signalling


culturama | February 2011

an indulgent experience ahead. The centre piece of Goan cuisine, the punchy ‘fish curry’ then follows, drowned in steaming white rice. This is often also paired with sanna, an elegant rice cake fermented with palm toddy and marked by a sweet tinge, perfectly complementing the acidic curry. As much as it revels in sea food fares, Goa is equally renowned for its pork preparations, including the wickedly tasty pork vindaloo cooked with garlic and chillies. Topping the meal is the legendary bebinka, a luscious multi-layered pudding made with palm jaggery and coconut, dusted with clarified butter between layers and baked. The laborious process is common to Goan specialties, reflected in the exquisite perfection of its final products. The culinary habits of the Brahmin communities in North Goa remain faithful to their Hindu origins and are partially vegetarian. Khatkhate, a rich vegetable stew prepared with at least five vegetables, is a popular delicacy, while solachi kadi, a luscious coconut and kokum preparation, never fails to please the palate. While Goa has lured tourists from all over the world to its shores, its culinary traditions have stood resolute, resisting the globalisation of flavours that one might have expected. Thus, while a medley of other cuisines is on offer, the visitor can always be assured of a true-blue Goan culinary experience, with a sea of quintessential fares to discover.

Goan Fish Curry Ingredients Coconut, grated – 1 Goan red chillies, whole – 7 to 8 Coriander seeds – 1 ½ tbsp Garlic cloves – 6 White cumin seeds – ¼ tsp Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp Kokum petals – 3-4 Refined oil – 2 tbsp Onion (medium) – 1 Green chillies – 3 Salt – ¾ tbsp Seer fish cubes – 500 gm Coriander leaves, chopped – 2 tbsp Water – 3 cups

Method 1. As preparation, clean and soak the red chillies in half a cup of warm water. Gently warm the coriander seeds and white cumin seeds in a pan or micro-wave oven to release flavours. Soak the kokum petals in half a cup of warm water. Slit the green chillies and finely chop the onions.

3. Grind grated coconut, red chillies, coriander seeds, garlic cloves and white cumin seeds to a smooth paste, adding the water in which the chillies are soaked. Special thanks to Chef Regi Mathew, Chief Operating Officer, Oriental Cuisines; and Chef Babu Abdullah, Executive Chef, Oriental Cuisines, for sharing a wealth of information on Goan cuisine. Visit ‘Kokum’ for an authentic coastal fare (Tel: 044-42185462).

Photo & Recipe Courtesy Kokum, Chennai

2. Wash, drain and marinate the fish cubes with salt and turmeric powder.

4. Heat refined oil in a heavy bottomed pot/ pan. Add the onions and sauté until transparent. Put in the green chillies. Add the ground spices, soaked kokum with the water and two additional cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce the flame to simmer. Cook the gravy for 10 minutes 5. Add the marinated fish cubes and cook for 12-15 minutes. Adjust the seasoning and the consistency. Stir in the chopped coriander leaves and serve.

Quick Bytes ▪ The Daivadnya Brahmins of Goa consider fish to be a ‘sea vegetable’ and oysters to be ‘sea fruits’. While mostly vegetarian, sea food is therefore a part of their regular diet. ▪ Fenny, a kind of liquor made from the juice of cashew apple, is Goa’s popular drink. The state has registered for a geographical indicator, allowing it to claim the sole right to use the term ‘fenny’ for drinks created in the region. ▪ The popularity of Vindaloo dishes inspired the song ‘Vindaloo’ by the British band Fat Les, as the unofficial chant of the England football team during the 1998 FIFA World Cup. The song declares: “We all like vindaloo, we’re England, we’re gonna score one more than you!”

In the Kitchen To remove corn silk, dampen a toothbrush and brush downwards on the corn until every strand comes off. A dull knife works better than a sharp one for slicing cheese. It also helps to warm the knife before cutting cheese. No bread crumbs? Use finely crushed cornflakes, wheat flakes or any other unsweetened cereal as a substitute.

Seasonal Fruits Gooseberry Where North India, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, from January to May What One of the richest sources of Vitamin C and antioxidants, it helps promote hair growth When It turns a light green colour when ripe How Popularly eaten after being soaked in honey or in a salt solution. This also acts as a preserve

culturama | February 2011


Pongal Potluck ON JANUARY 12, the India Immersion Centre (located at Global Adjustments in Chennai) resonated with the sounds of Pongal O Pongal, with 14 different nationalities ringing in the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu! America, Germany, Morocco, France, Mexico, Malaysia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Korea, Singapore, Africa, India and Scotland celebrated Pongal with much gusto. The event began with a presentation and a talk on Pongal, highlighting the significance of various rituals and traditional practices. The brief talk also touched upon harvest festivals in other parts of the country, like Lohri in Punjab and Sankranti in Western India. Soon after this introduction, everyone made their way to the IIC’s terrace, where an authentic Pongal ambience awaited them. A painted mud pot

What's Cooking at IIC?

sitting pretty over a clay stove lit with firewood; tall sugarcanes forming a mini roof over this pot; and the milk slowly coming to a boil. While we were waiting for the milk to boil over, signifying abundance of the harvest season, the 25 guests participated enthusiastically in a kolam contest, after which, they gathered around the mud pot in a circle for the customary folk dance. Since the theme of this year’s Pongal celebrations was the cross-cultural potluck, guests had the opportunity to sample six dishes from six different cultures, apart from the traditional sweet pongal. The event ended with the guests feeding a cow and its calf that were dressed up for Pongal, right up to red nail polish on their toes!

Join us for a complimentary cookery demonstration of unique Indian dishes by a culinary expert! Time: 10:30

am to 12 noon Venue: India Immersion Centre

Friday, Feb 18

If you enjoy this preview, sign up for our cookery classes of exotic Indian recipes once a week.

RSVP: Lakshmi at 9710947713 or email:


culturama | February 2011

Look who’s in Town





Nathalie Jauffret, Indian Souls Photography, Magali Reynaud

Project Manager Localization, AREVA T&D Chennai

My India, My Country Indians seem to be less stressed and they are more positive than the French, even if life is often hard for a lot of them. That is a good lesson of life for us. My Favourite Indian Lakshmi, my yoga teacher. Thanks to her, I have opened my mind to spirituality. My Indian Cuisine I like especially paratha which can be eaten with so many dishes. My India Insight I dislike the inequity between women and men. I believe that education can contribute to make real changes. My Tip to India We like to plan everything; we need to know what the future will be. Please understand this way of thinking because we need to anticipate so we can be on time.


Philippe Jauffret, Head of French Business Center, Ernst & Young India

My India, My Country There is a special historical and cultural relationship between France and India. India has a rich and long heritage of the crafts, (embroidery, for instance), which is also the case in France, and we should treasure them. My Favourite Indian Anshu Gupta, who founded Goonj (“echo” in Hindi). They recycle urban waste resources such as clothing and school materials. ( My Indian Cuisine France being my native country, “gourmet” is my second name! More seriously, my husband and I definitely like South Indian food, biryanies, tandoori, and marinated food, and children could eat baskets of butter naans! My India Insight Women wearing colourful saris are one of the endless sources of inspiration for my photography. What I would personally like to hear is “hello/thank you” when going to the market place… I reckon it starts changing. We learnt from Indian people to be optimistic! My Tip to India For one, the sense of time is different in France. As such, time is linear, people are expected to be punctual, do one thing at a time, and would not tolerate delays or interruptions.


culturama | February 2011


Nigel Bird

Chief Operating Officer, Foodworld Supermarkets




Ivone, Hans and Camila van Wuijckhuijse

COO IDBI Fortis Life Insurance Co. Ltd.

My India, My Country There are so many exciting festivals that one gets caught up in here! I do have to admit that the first time I had coloured powder thrown at me during Holi was a little surprising but great fun, and of course, Diwali. What a great time to be in India!

My India, My Country I think one of the biggest similarities between India and the European world is that we talk with our hands and feet. The dissimilarity is that here people eat with their hands, which is culturally not done in Europe.

My Favourite Indian Narayana Murthy, Kishore Biyani.

My Favourite Indian The male part of the family prefers Priyanka Chopra, whereas the ladies are enthralled by Hrithik Roshan.

My Indian Cuisine Since arriving in 2004 I have been so blessed in trying all types of Indian cuisine, and I love them all, but if I had to choose one it would be the Hyderabad Biryani. My India Insight Having lived and worked all over the world, I have to say the one thing that stands out is the people here. No matter where you go or where you are, I find the Indian people fantastic; they are friendly, warm and very welcoming and helpful. My Tip to India It is not that you have to remember how you interact with us; it is we who need to come here with more of an open mind and enjoy the differences, be swept along with all that is Incredible India.

My Indian Cuisine Paani Puri and Sev Puri. We also love Samosas, though to be honest, we haven’t actually ever eaten anything we didn’t like in India! My India Insight Everyone is so positive and spontaneous in their approach! One thing that bothers me is people living on the streets, which is not common in Europe. We are not able to change these things, because it is a part of life in India. We are trying to take everything as it is. My Tip to India Women are as well-respected as men; there is no difference in the treatment of the two. -In Europe, people are more assertive, which is considered a virtue. Hierarchy is not in the way. -People may not be as hospitable as you are where we come from.

culturama | February 2011



film 8 Prithvi Theatre, 2100h

1 Piramal Art Gallery

English Play ‘The Caine Mutiny Court Martial’ is one of the finest courtroom dramas of post World War II. In just two acts, it lays bare the tragedy of war and probes deep into the psyche of men who are in the forefront of the battle. There are two more shows of this play on the 9th at 1800h and 2100h.

1 H20, 1000h till sunset

Classic Comedy Watch a bunch of clowns interpret one of Shakespeare’s classics in Hamlet – The Clown Prince. Also on at 1800h and 2100h on the 19th and 20th.

27 Nehru Centre Auditorium, 1830h

Historical Play After the roaring success of ‘Walking on Broken Das’, Ashvin Gidwani’s new offering, ‘History of India’ promises to be the funniest, wittiest and sensational re-look at India’s history.

23 Tata Theatre

Indian Classical Dance Kishore Mosalikanti, renowned choreographer of Kuchipudi, the classical dance form of Andhra Pradesh, will perform with his troupe for the first time in Mumbai.

1 Premchand Roychand Gallery, 1100h to 1900h

culturama | February 2011

1 Paradox Pink

Interiors Fall Collection Photography Exhibition Paradox Pink, leading interior store, To commemorate the 150th year of present some fall trends and tips to Rabindranath Tagore’s birth anniversary, prepare your homes for the winter. On this exhibition will present to you a till the 28th. glimpse of Bombay and Santiniketan during the times of Rabindranath 1 At Banyan Tree Café, 1930h to Tagore, captured through the lens of the 2330h renowned photographer of his times, E. Happy Hours O. Hoppe. On till the 28th. Everything on the menu is 20% off during Happy Hours. On till the 10th.

WORKSHOPS & EVENTS 1 Podar Jumbo Activity Centre, 1600h to 1830h


Tata Theatre, Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, Experimental Theatre, Little Theatre,Godrej Dance Theatre, Piramal Art Gallery NCPA Marg & Dorabji Tata Road, Nariman Point, Mumbai – 400 021

Prithvi Theatre

Nehru Centre Auditorium

Premchand Royalchand Gallery

Hacienda Art Gallery

Paradox Pink

Gate Way of India


FOOD & SHOPPING Pick of the month

Indian Classical Dance ‘Sthree Katha’ is a Bharatnatyam (classical dance of Tamil Nadu) performance by Mythili Prakash, one of the world’s leading Bharatanatyam exponents.

Sailing On the 14th of every month till March, go sailing in a French Yacht in the Mumbai harbour. Reporting time for the same is 1545h.

Lunch Buffet The Beach Shack offers 50% discount on every second lunch buffet from Monday to Thursday, till the 15th.

Emotional Intelligence Workshop ‘Let’s Emote’ brings to you a fun and thought-provoking emotional intelligence 1 Saptami, Holiday Inn workshop that nourishes the emotional Strawberries Galore Join the hotel’s month-long promotion development of your child. Open for and relish various delicacies such as children between the age group of 5 to salads, desserts, pastries, pancakes, 7 years. O till the 22nd. smoothies, etc. made out of this romantic fruit.

20, Janki Kutir,Juhu Church Road, Mumbai – 400 049 Tel: 2614 9546 Near Nehru Planetarium, Dr. Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai – 400 018 Tel: 222496 4680/2496 4676. Near Regal Cinema,Colaba, Mumbai – 400 005

Ground Floor, Great Western Building, Next to Artist Centre,Fort, Mumbai – 400 001 Tel: 22837232 8/A, Raghuvanshi Mill Compound, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai – 400 013 Tel: 65881818/65945600 Colaba, Mumbai – 400 021 Tel: 98210 81566 Netaji Subhashchandr Bose Road, Chowpatty, Mumbai Tel: 23677546

Capoeira Classes

S.S. Sahani School,8th Road, Khar (West),Mumbai – 400 051 Tel: 98690 55371

Podar Jumbo Activity Centre

Banyan Tree Café

Holiday Inn

1 At Beach Shack, 1230h to 1530h

Sunday Brunch Trident takes you on a high-spirited tour across the globe every Sunday with a limitless selection of inspired world cuisine. Priced at Rs.1,950, all inclusive, all through this month.


14 Gateway of India, 1600h to 1800h


Capoeira Classes ‘Cordao De Ouro India’ is conducting classes in Capoeira, a Brazilian form of dance and martial art that synchronises moves to music. Courses are conducted for children and beginners. Contact the venue for schedule and details.

After a gap of three years, artist Shruti Nelson presents a new body of works, on both paper and canvas, at Hacienda Gallery. On till the 12th.

10 Experimental Theatre

1 O22 Trident, 1230h to 1530h

1 S. S. Sahani School

1 At Hacienda Art Gallery, 1100h to 1800h Solo Exhibition



Photography Exhibition Parasailing Richa Arora will display her photographs If you’re looking to get your adrenalin on the theme of ‘Light’ at the venue till pumping, try something different the 10th. this week. H20 promises that their instructors have experience of over 5,000 flights and there are certified life guards hovering nearby. A flight costs Rs. 1,090.

15 Prithvi Theatre, 2100h

* Event details are correct at the time of printing. However, we encourage readers to call and reconfirm at the venues concerned. Numbers beside each event indicate the date. Events are divided into categories like film, music, etc. Addresses and phone numbers of venues and places mentioned are listed under Venues.

Behind Flora Restaurant, Dr. Annie Besant Road, Worli Sea Face Road, Worli, Mumbai – 400 030 Tel: 98202 02163

Queens Mansion Building, BMB Gallery, Ground Floor, G.T.Marg, Fort, Mumbai – 400 001 Tel: 65109308 Sakinaka Junction,Andheri Kurla Road, Andheri East, Mumbai 400 072 Tel: 40851800

Trident Hotel C – 56, G – Block,



1 Tasqeen Macchiwalla

9 Yelahanka Air Base

MUSIC & THEATRE 5 Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira, 1745h

Spring Festival Concert Classical strains will fill the air at this year’s Spring Music Festival. The programme includes a violin, ‘veena’ and flute ensemble by H.K. Venkata Ram, H.K. Ashwin Anand and G. Ravi Kiran.

25 ICCR, 1830h

Flute Recital Stir your rhythmic senses with a 90-minute flute recital by H.S. Shreyas Bharadwaj.

Workshop by Glass Crafters Glass Crafters – The Stained Glass Studio, Bangalore presents genuine stained glass and mosaic courses and workshops for artists and hobbyists. There will also be a sale of products including lampshades, panels and much more, all through the day. Contact the venue for more details. On till February 28.

1 Max Mueller Bhavan, 0930h– 1830h

Photo Exhibition ‘Frozen In Time’ ‘Frozen in Time’ comprises fifty photographs, both in colour and black and white, and a video installation of selected dance photographers and artists from Germany. Represented by internationally famous dance companies like William Forsythe and Sasha Waltz, this exhibition offers a glimpse into an art form that hovers between documentation and artistic autonomy. On till February 6. Log on to ins/in/bag/ for details.

‘My Body My Wisdom’ Designed to bring you closer to your subjective self and inner experiences, ‘My Body My Wisdom’ will take you on a therapeutic and transforming journey, allowing you to reconnect with your body’s intelligences through music, dialogue and metaphoric exercises. The workshop is priced at Rs. 7000 (Rs. 5000 for students) and includes all meals and accommodation for three nights. On till February 6.

Trade Event ELCA Power International is a leading trade exhibition in India, promoting players from the power, electrical, lighting, service provider and new and renewal industry. The event is on throughout the day, until February 7

Lunch Buffet Enjoy an array of your favourite delights at Red Bamboo Shoots’ lunch buffet, from Monday to Friday. The buffet is priced at Rs. 275 only. On till February 15.

1 Café Masala

Hop over to Café Masala for an exclusive dinner buffet with your loved ones. Each plate is priced at Rs. 475 and promises an unforgettable fine-dining experience. On till February 15.

3 Crowne Plaza Hotel

Bangalore Fashion Week Bangalore Fashion Week (BFW) has been conceived and created by Dream Merchants, with a vision to showcase Bangalore’s fashion industry to the global fashion world. BFW will include fashion shows, lifestyle parties, after-hour soirées, press conferences and designer product exhibits. On till February 6.

Yoga for Health and Happiness Reduce stress, relax your mind and improve your health with various yoga ‘asanas’ and meditation techniques. Dinesh Kashikar, a follower of the ‘Art of Living’ techniques, will guide you through this unique programme which combines traditional knowledge of the scriptures with the objectivity of modern science. On till February 6.

4 Urban Solace, 1300h

Bangalore International Exhibition Center

10th Mile, Tumkur Road, Madavara Post, Dasanapura Hobli, Bengaluru

1 Red Bamboo Shoots

4 Koramangala Indoor Stadium, 0600h–0800h 4 Bangalore International Exhibition Center


Pick of the month

Painting Exhibition In this exhibition, artist Mantu Das addresses different social issues using art as a personal language. Intertwined in his personal narration are multiple references of history, recreating them within an urban space. On till February 12.


1 Gallery Serendip, 1100h–1900h

Aero India 2011 Organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries, Aero India 2011 has emerged on the international arena as a renowned aerospace exposition and is an ideal platform for manufacturers, vendors and suppliers of the aviation industry. The event is on all through the day, till February 13.

3 Jyoti Auditorium


* Event details are correct at the time of printing. However, we encourage readers to call and reconfirm at the venues concerned. Numbers beside each event indicate the date. Events are divided into categories like film, music, etc. Addresses and phone numbers of venues and places mentioned are listed under Venues.

Executive Lunch Platter Spice up the work day with an executive lunch platter at Urban Solace, featuring red Thai curry, sweet corn chicken, green Thai curry and other favourites. The offer is on every Monday and Friday, all through the month.

Café Masala

5th Floor, Eva Mall, Brigade Road, Bengaluru 560 001 Tel: (080) 41118433

Crowne Plaza Hotel

No.43, Electronic City, Bengaluru 560 100 Tel: (080) 30030303

Gallerie Serendip

No.211, 1st Floor, Sobha Main Road, Green Glen Layout, Bellandur, Sarjapur Road Bengaluru 560 103 Tel: (080) 25740750


11, 12th Main, Vasanth Nagar, Bengaluru 600 052 Tel: (080) 22261485

Jyothi Auditorium

Central College Campus, Palace Road, Gandhi Nagar, Bengaluru 560 032 Tel : 9686350529 / 9880731645

Koramangala Indoor Stadium

80 Feet Road, Koramangala, Bengaluru 560 095 Tel: 972030190/9341983219

Max Mueller Bhavan

Indiranagar I Stage, 716, CMH Road, Bengaluru 560 038 Tel: (080) 25205305

Red Bamboo Shoots

Museum Inn 1, Museum Road, Off M.G.Road, Bengaluru 560 001 Tel: (080) 41113338/41113333

Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira

9th Main Road, Near Devagiri Venkateshwara Temple, Banashankari 2nd Stage, Bengaluru 560 070 Tel : (080) 26647224

Tasqeen Macchiwalla

No. 3, 4th Cross, 2nd Stage, Michael Palya, Indiranagar, Bengaluru 560 008 Tel: 9845198365

Urban Solace – The Gallery

32, Annaswamy Mudaliar Road, Ulsoor, Bengaluru 560 008 Tel: (080) 25553656

culturama | February 2011




music & dance

5 Italian Embassy Cultural Centre

* Event details are correct at the time of printing. However, we encourage readers to call and reconfirm at the venues concerned. Numbers beside each event indicate the date. Events are divided into categories like film, music, etc. Addresses and phone numbers of venues and places mentioned are listed under Venues.

The Sicilian Girl The film traces the story of 17-year-old Rita, who one November morning in 1991, approaches the Chief Prosecutor of Palermo, intent on vindicating her father’s and brother’s mafia-related deaths. From then on, her days are counted, as she is forced to leave Sicily for Rome. Call the venue for the right timings.

8 India Habitat Centre, 1900h

Piano & Ballet Concert A unique combination of a piano recital by concert pianist and conductor Tamás Vásáry and a ballet performance by Henriett Tunyogi. This event is in organisation with the Hungarian Information and Cultural Centre.

14 India Habitat Centre, 1900h

1 Palm Court Conference Room, 1430h to 1700h

Art Workshop Conducted by Rohit Kumar Sharma, every Saturday and Sunday through the month, this workshop is priced at Rs. 3,500 for three months. This workshop is open only for adults.

1 Palm Court Conference Room

Must Eat At

Orange Hara

Sahib Sindh Sultan

Indian Food 3-4, Ground Floor, Southern Park Mall, District Centre, Saket, New Delhi Meal for 2: Rs. 1,500

North Indian & Anglo Indian Food, Classical Indian Performances Photography Workshop 3rd Floor, Ambience Mall, Part of the monthly performance series Conducted by art-photographer Achal NH 8, Gurgaon 22 India Habitat Centre, 1900h titled ‘Pehchaan’ (Identity in Hindi), Kumar, winner of the National Academy Meal for 2: Rs. 1,200 Peepli Live the venue will feature Gauri Diwakar’s Award, 1997, instituted by the Lalit Directed by Anusha Rizvi, Peepli Live is Kathak performance, followed by a sitar Kala Academy, Delhi, this workshop is a satirical film on the increase in farmer recital by Rahul Chatterjee, accompanied on every second and fourth Saturday of Khan Chacha suicides in rural India and the media’s by Akram Khan on the tabla. Kebabs Take Out, the month. By invitation only. handling of the subject. 75, Middle Lane, Khan Market, 28 India Habitat Centre 16 India Habitat Centre New Delhi 23&26Italian Embassy Cultural Centre Classical Indian Dance Book Launch Meal for 2: Rs. 250 Freedom Odissi, the classical dance form of Niyogi Books launches ‘Thanjavur: A Young theater director Irena (Kasia Orissa, will be performed by a group of Cultural History’, narrating the history Smutniak) comes to a Turin prison to dancers, all disciples of Sudhakar Sahu. of Thanjavur starting from its early days develop of grandeur during the Chola empire. a performance piece on Christ’s Passion Through words and images, Pradeep with the convicts. Irena hits a brick wall Chakravarthy and Vikram Sathyanathan Craft House when none of the prisoners will play weave together known and unknown Bangla Sahib Road, New Delhi Judas. So she develops another idea: histories of the various rulers and of the Tel: 42500200 present the Jesus story but without a Big Temple into a rich tapestry of cul& traitor, and without the sacrifice. tural heritage that is Thanjavur. Contact First Floor, Time Tower the venue for details. Main M.G. Road, Gurgaon Tel: 0124-4200952

Pick of the month


20 India Habitat Centre, 0800h

4 Epicentre, 1930h

Puppet Theatre Festival The 9th Ishara International Puppet Theatre Festival will feature the popular fairy tale, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, designed and directed by Dadi D Pudumjee. On the 9th Wayang Golek Sunda’s experimental performance will use wooden puppets called wayang golek to recreate the ‘The Death of Ravana’ from Ramayana.

7 India Habitat Centre

Finger Puppet Show Family Theatre Girovago E Rodella presents Manoviva, a five-finger puppet that walks and has performed in eighteen different countries of the world. The first part of the show is about the circus theme, with tricks to catch the attention of the audience. The second uses symbols taking the show to a surrealistic level. On till the 14th.

20 Epicentre, 1930h

English Comedy Directed by Aamir Raza Husain and produced by Stagedoor, ‘Move Over’ is a modern day comedy based loosely on Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.


culturama | February 2011



Nature Walk Nikhil Devasar of Delhibird leads a walk to see the migratory birds and ducks in Sultanpur National Park.


1 Open Palm Court Gallery

1 Craft House Painting Exhibition Titled ‘Reverberations’, artists Priyendra Valentine’s Day Special Declare your love and affection this Shukla and Rakesh K Baderia will Valentine’s Day by gifting your loved display their paintings till the 5th. ones a special something from Craft House. From a special spa hamper at Rs. 21 Experimental Arts Gallery 1,200 and gourmet tea packs, to warm Solo Exhibition scarves and mufflers, and designer ‘How Blue is my Ocean’ will showcase jewellery, there are gifts available from artist Bipasha Gupta’s paintings. On till Rs. 150 onwards, through this month. the 25th.

1 Bookwise

Coffee-table Books If you are looking for specialists in coffee-table books, contact Bookwise for exclusive offers.

1 Evok

Designer Interiors Take your pick from this home fashion store which sells home interior products and services.

1 Address Home

Home Accessories Walk into Address Home for designer cushions, bedding, crockery and other home accessories.


Apparel House, Ardee City Road, Gurgaon

Experimental Art Gallery Open Palm Gallery, Visual Art Gallery,

Habitat World, IHC India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi–110 003 Tel: 24682001–09, extn 2037, 2038


125A, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi Tel: 26499568

Italian Embassy Cultural Centre

50 - E, Chandragupta Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi–110021 Tel: 26871901/03/04


JMD Regent Arcade, MG Road, Gurgaon

Address Home

55A, Middle Lane, Khan Market, New Delhi


* Event details are correct at the time of printing. However, we encourage readers to call and reconfirm at the venues concerned. Numbers beside each event indicate the date. Events are divided into categories like film, music, etc. Addresses and phone numbers of venues and places mentioned are listed under Venues.




18 Cholamandal Artist Village, 1900h 1 Forum Art Gallery, 1030h – 1830h

fortnight for an hour, followed by an evening of beer and relaxation. The German Films Group Show group meets at 4:15 pm for a 4:45 pm The Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan Forum Art Gallery presents ‘Woman start. Also on February 26 and 27 are presents, ‘The Art Collector’, as part of 2011’, a collection of artwork that Valentine Hash runs at Pondicherry the Friday Movie Club @ Cholamandal celebrates female synergy. Curated by — don’t miss that one! For details, Artist Village. Also on February 25 at Shalini Biswajit, the exhibition showcontact Sashi Varma at 9840866083 or the Film Chamber Theatre is the 2003 cases the multifarious postures and Michael Long at 97898 42220. German tragic-comedy film, ‘Goodbye manifestations of women represented Lenin’, at 1800h. Contact the Goetheby various artists including A.V. Ilango, Institut for details. K. Muralidharan and Razia Tony. On 17 Apollo Wellness Plus view till February 10, from Monday to Music Therapy Sessions Saturday. Apollo Wellness Plus has introduced 25 InKo Centre, 1900h unique music therapy for healing of the Old Partner mind, body and soul, offered in partner4 Apparao Gallery Directed by Lee Chung-Ryoul, ‘Old ship with the Muthuswamy Deekshitar Art Exhibitions Partner’ set the record for the highest Foundation. Classes are held every Stimulate your creative senses with mulgrossing independent film in Korean weekend from 5 pm to 7 pm and include tiple art exhibitions at Apparao Gallery film history. The film explores the mantra chanting backed by instrumental this month. On view are Jamini Roy’s, wonderful relationship between Choi, an and classical Carnatic music. Contact ‘The Fish Eyed Cosmos’, Krishnama80-year-old farmer and his 40-year-old the venue for registration and details. chari Bose’s ‘Paper Workss’ and Sakti cow, diagnosed with cancer. Set in the Burman’s ‘Yesterday Once Again’. On rural town of Hanul-ri, South Korea, till February 28. Contact 28332226 for the documentary-narrative is a wistful details. portrait of South Korea’s agrarian past. Entry is free and all are welcome.



7 Anna University, 1000h – 1700h

1 Fusion 9, 1100h-2300h

Architectural Exhibition The Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan brings you ‘Real Space-Picture Space’, an architectural exhibition at the School of Architecture and Planning, Anna University. On till February 25. Contact the Goethe-Institut for details.

Sunday Brunch Enjoy a Sunday Brunch featuring global cuisines like pasta, pizza, sushi and crêpes. The ‘spirit’ buffet is priced at Rs. 1,199 while the regular buffet is priced at Rs. 799. On till February 15.

Silver Jewellery Exhibition Take your pick from an exquisite collection of silver jewellery from Priya Sandhu of Silver Lining, New Delhi. Priya’s work combines the vibrancy of semi-precious stones with the timeless elegance of pure silver, and includes earrings, pendants and rings in contemporary designs. Shilpi will also be presenting a range of sarees in georgette, chiffon and crepe silk. Contact for details.


THEATRE & MUSIC 19 Kalakshetra Foundation, 1900h

Liquid Gems ‘Liquid Gems’ is a multimedia film theatre and fusion dance project by Fulbright Scholar, Artemis Preeshl, based on characters from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The play explores love in relation to the level of education, financial status and caste and is a joint venture with ‘Muktam’, the University of Madras performance group.


Yoga Sessions Arkaya Yoga presents a 190+40-hour programme for anyone on the path of self-discovery and enlightened leadership. Spiritual leader, Yogacharini Maitreyi will be present to conduct the course this month. For details, contact, 42144626 or log on to

Pick of the month

4 Shilpi, 1000-1930h


Exhibition & Sale Amethyst is organising a sale of stylish ensembles by ‘Plantation House’ from February 5 to 13. Also from February 19 to 26 is an exhibition of textiles under the label ‘Khoj’.


Whites Road, (Entrance next to Corporation Bank) Royapettah, Chennai 600 014 Tel: 42105070/28541917

Apollo Wellness Plus

7/4, Rutland Gate, 5th street Nungambakkam, Chennai 600 006 Tel: 9551090834/28330300/01

Cholamandal Artist Village,

Injambakkam, Chennai 600 041

Forum Art Gallery

57, 5th Street, Padmanabha Nagar, Adyar, Chennai – 600 020 Tel: 42115596

Fusion 9

2nd floor, Aruna Centre (Fortune Park Aruna Hotel) 145 Sterling Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai 600 034 Tel: 95001 22780

Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan

4, Rutland Gate, 5th Street, Chennai 600 006 Tel: 28331314

1 Hansel & Gretel, 1030h–1230h

Creative Workshops for Kids Let your children experience the magic of drama with ‘Act it Out’, through exercises in facial expression, body language and team work. The programme will take place on Saturdays and is open to children between 3 and 6 years. Also on this month is a ‘Story Club’ programme, which will include reading, sharing 26 Alliance Française de Madras, and discussion of story ideas through 1930h fun activities. Open to children between ‘Fortune’ Pop Concert 7 and 11 years. Contact 28152549/ Join ‘Fortune’, a cool Parisian power pop 98404 31549 for details and registra5 group with an electronic sheen, as they tion. dish out a mix of classical and modern pop music this month. Comprising 13 Chennai Hash House Harriers, four pop-rock bangers, their music is a 1645h balance between writing and production, acoustic, electric and electronic sounds. Run # 273 Take part in a family hash run every A date to be marked!

Alliance Française de Madras

24, College Road, Chennai – 600 006 Tel: 28279803

InKo Centre

No. 51, 6th Main Road, R.A. Puram, Chennai – 600 028 Tel: 24361224

Kalakshetra Foundation

Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai 600 041 Tel: 24520836


29 CP Ramaswamy Road, Alwarpet, Chennai

culturama | February 2011


Photo Feature

Ashok Viswanathan

temple towers SRIRANGAM, the largest temple town in India, is a Vaishnavite (devotees of Lord Vishnu) pilgrim centre located 7 km from Trichy in South India, not far from Chennai. Time has stood still in this island town enclosed within the seven walls of the gigantic Sri Ranganathaswami Temple, surrounded by the rivers of the Kaveri and Kollidam. According to a mythological legend, Vibhishana, the brother of demon king Ravana, was carrying the shrine of Lord Vishnu to Lanka, which was gifted by Lord Rama, also an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. On the way, he stopped in Srirangam to perform his daily prayers. He was supposed to carry the shrine straight to Lanka, as it would be firmly rooted wherever it was placed. Thus, Vibhisana asked a small boy playing nearby to hold the shrine till he finished his prayers. The little boy was Lord Ganesha in disguise, who kept the shrine down and ran away. And so, the temple of Sri Ranganatha is permanently located at this point. Extending over an area of 156 acres, the temple was built between the 11th and 17th centuries with several additions made to the complex by a succession of rulers – the Cholas, Cheras, Pandyas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara rulers and the Nayaks of Madurai. The Cholas reigned for about three hundred years over the Coromandel Coast and the greater part of Eastern Deccan, encouraging Hindu culture to flourish. The13-storeyed Rajagopuram at the first wall on the southern side was built in 1987. It rises to a height of 72 metres and is perhaps the tallest in India. Besides the Rajagopuram, there are 20 beautifully decorated gopurams in the temple complex. The main sanctum with a golden Ranga Vimana is set at the centre of the inner most prakaram (where the shrine is placed) and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu as Ranganatha. The sculptures are detailed and magnificent and of archaeological value. The temple attracts devotees, historians and foreign visitors. It represents the culture, history and architectural splendour of our country from time immemorial.


culturama | February 2011

culturama | February 2011


Business model

“Anybody who takes corporate responsibility into account would be my future leader. If all of us don’t get together with a little bit of thought about society, then we’re not going to get anywhere. The whole country going forward is a collective effort, so as far as I’m concerned, I believe that CSR is a factor in determining a good leader.” – Capt. Indira S. Mittra, India

“I think that Ratan Tata would be an icon for future India. He has brought in a lot of innovative ways of marketing and has gained a lot of recognition on an international level. He has also introduced a lot of products for the common man, like the Tata ‘Nano’ car. That is something that is needed here and in a lot of other countries as well. In that sense, I feel he has revolutionised Indian business” – Susila Anand, Malaysia

Topnotch Thoughts

Last month, we asked the question “Among today’s business leaders, who would you say is an icon for future India?” Here are some of the responses we received from our readers.

“More than business leaders, a few political leaders come to mind as future icons of India, particularly Rahul Gandhi. He reaches out to the younger generation, lives the way they do and has the same ideologies as them. I feel that he shares the views and ideas of fellow Indians who are looking to better our nation. For example, we all want to go green and I am confident that he will lead the way for our country’s environmental efforts.” – Naleni Amarnath, USA

“The person that comes to mind is the captain of the Indian cricket team, MS Dhoni. He may not be from the corporate world, but he has managed his personal brand very well. In eight years, he has become more valued than Sachin Tendulkar and that cannot have happened by accident. The best part is that we still don’t know how he does it. That, I think, makes him a true icon for business.” – Avinash Subramaniam, India

Inviting Reader Response! The topic for ‘Topnotch Thoughts’ next month is: “Do you think health and fitness play an important part in the Indian lifestyle?” Send in your responses in 75 words or less with a photograph by February 15 to The best entries will be published! 26

culturama | February 2011

Postcard from India

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Melissa Enderle, USA

1 2 3

Fact of the Matter

FOR the last six months, we have run this quiz that has highlighted India facts. We thank all our participants and winners who have faithfully sent us their responses. As we bid adieu to this column, we end by featuring last month’s questions along with the right answers.

4 5

Who was the first Indian actress to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha? Nargis Dutt Name the Hindu pilgrim town nestled between the Nar and Narayan mountain ranges. Amarnath “If there is a heaven on earth, it's here, it’s here and it’s here” – Who said this and when? Jehangir said this about the beauty of Kashmir Name the festival that celebrates the cold season in Punjab with a bonfire. Lohri Name the Mughal emperor whose title was "Alamgir". Who were his parents? Aurangazeb. Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal

6 Who wrote the national anthem of Bangladesh? Rabindranath Tagore 7

Where are the Mughal Gardens located? Rashtrapathi Bhavan, New Delhi

8 Name the highest mountain in India. What is its height? K2. 8611 metres 9

Which house of Parliament is the Indian budget presented in? Lok Sabha

10 Name India's first TFLOPS supercomputer. Param 10000 And the winner is

jair dsouza!

culturama | February 2011




Devotion manifested at its best, between man and God KANCHERLA Gopanna, a 17th century poet and composer, born in a village near the temple town of Bhadrachalam in Andhra Pradesh, grew up as an ardent devotee of Lord Rama. His myriad compositions praising Rama have paved the way for the tradition of Carnatic music, the classical music of South India. Working as the Tahsildar (revenue collector) for the Nizam Nawab Tanishah, Gopanna continued to serve the Lord through various acts of philanthropy that finally manifested into a temple at Bhadrachalam. Bhadrachalam is associated with the epic story of Rama, as he is said to have resided in the vicinity with wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, during their 13-year exile. Visiting Bhadrachalam for a fair, Gopanna was appalled at the decrepit, small temple for Rama. He began to immediately raise funds for the reconstruction of the temple, but soon enough, the funds quickly depleted. Local villagers implored him to continue the construction of the temple using the existing revenue collections. “O Gopanna, the completion of this temple is in your hands. Use the money now and we can repay the amount after the harvest season,” they chorused. Gopanna finally succumbed to their pleas, and used Rs 600,000 from the land revenues collected, without permission from the Nawab. The temple was completed, but that marked the beginning


culturama | February 2011

of Gopanna’s troubles. The Nawab soon discovered the funds imbroglio, and imprisoned Gopanna, saying that “he is not be released till the money is restored”. A shattered Gopanna beseeches Rama to relieve him from his misery through various devotional songs. The songs, which became extremely popular, effortlessly shifted from extreme desolation, entreaties, anger and a complete surrender and supplication to the will of God. After 12 years of imprisonment (legend says that it was Gopanna’s destiny to spend this time in prison to atone for his sins in his previous birth), Rama decided to come to the rescue of his devotee. Rama and Lakshmana visited the Nawab in the middle of the night at his bedchamber, disguised as young warriors. “Here is the amount due to you, Your Highness, now we insist that you release Gopanna immediately,” they said with authority. Gold coins with Rama’s own seal were presented, and the Nawab, visibly surprised at the presence of the two warriors and the gold, immediately gave the order for Gopanna’s release. It was only the next day that both the Nawab and Gopanna realised the truth, and the Nawab, overwhelmed by Gopanna’s devotion and Rama’s benevolence, returned the money to the Bhadrachalam temple.

illustration m r rajan

s u math i s u d haka r

Tales of India

India & I

M a r c - A n t o i n e hamet

Tune In LIVING in India is a challenge to buy music. Record stores usually have only Indian music! So, I have gone digital (but still cannot resist buying CDs when visiting a record store!). I now buy music online through ITunes. It is really easy to open an account and pay safely with PayPal. My best iTunes buys this year are: 1. The Violin Concerto from my favourite living composer, British born, Thomas Ades. If you want to listen to the music of today, this is the best, in my opinion. It really captures the mood of our world and at the same time it is not cut from the past, from where we come from. 2. India’s versatile vocalist, the Star of Bollywood film songs, Asha Bhosle celebrated this year her 77th birthday. I got a compilation called Safar: A Journey, which give a portrait of her art. 3. The French Diva Natalie Dessay, in Handel’s oratorio: Il Trionfo del Tempo. If she was Japanese, she would be part of what they call “Living National Treasures”. 4. Sir Simon Rattle’s beautiful cycle of the Brahms Symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic.

5. Swiss flautist Emmanuel Pahud’s playing does magic in Debussy’s Prelude a l’Apres-midi d’un Faune, with Rattle (again) and his Berlin musicians. 6. Argentine pianist Ingrid Fliter’s Chopin Waltzes (especially No 10) was an emotional hit. 7. Being a long-time fan of British Trip Hop star Tricky, I got his new album, Mixed Race. It is a good follow-up to his moody and dark music. 8. For something different, I recommend a look at It is a New York-based producing company that proposes sound walks, like Varanasi in India (which I really liked) and some in China (in partnership with Louis Vuitton). You download it and you are ready for a different walk! 9. On the French speaking side, I got vintage George Brassens singing Alfred de Musset’s Balade a la Lune, right after listening to a Radio France podcast of a program on this poet. So with the web, it is immediately possible! 10. Another great experience was comparing Puccini’s opera aria from Madama Butterfly “Un bel di vedremo”. Try it and buy on iTunes (it is 4 minutes long): one version with Maria Callas, and another by Mirella Freni. Both versions conducted by none other than Herbert von Karajan.

The writer is French and has been living in Delhi for the last two-and-a-half years.

culturama | February 2011


India and I

Marina Marangos

A Voice in the Crowd 30

culturama | February 2011

The Dalai Lama, embodiment of Buddha on earth and the leader of Tibet, is a man of incredible inner peace. But he also has an acute sense of humour and the whole afternoon was dotted with anecdotes and funny asides that he shared with his audience.

HE IS a world leader but somehow not like any other. No suits, no economic degrees, and yet he is someone that people have a yearning to listen to and to emulate. On what was probably one of the coldest days in January, the Dalai Lama came to Delhi to speak on Tushita’s XIX Dharma Celebration. He appeared in his maroon robes, covered only with the customary bright orange shawl and the whole auditorium rose in reverence. He, in his turn, prostrated himself in front of images of Buddha that lined the backdrop of the auditorium before taking his place on a flower-filled dais. He did that with a wobble and a giggle and I heard the person next to me say, “There is happiness already”. The Dalai Lama is, of course, the embodiment of Buddha on earth and the leader of Tibet, but on this day to me he is an elderly teacher with the sparkle of youth in his eyes and a guffawing laugh to rival any schoolboy. He is a man of incredible inner peace but also has an acute sense of humour and the whole afternoon was dotted with anecdotes and funny asides that he shared with his audience. An audience of Tibetans, Europeans, Indians, young and old, all hanging from his soft, sometimes barely audible voice. He was speaking about attaining happiness and he started by stating that for nearly 3000 years, humans have been trying to find themselves. It does not matter if you are a believer or a non-believer, he urged honesty and commitment. Genuine cooperation and friendship are key factors. In a happy person there is no room for jealousy or competition and a warm heart is the basis of self-confidence. Trust brings friendship as does the practice of love, forgiveness and tolerance. His words were plain to understand and this in itself is a gift coming from someone who has undoubted

depth in intellectual thought. He said that giving benefit to others through positive karma is the best way to achieve long-term benefit for oneself. He even talked about how positive karma can neutralise negative karma and can overcome it. As time passes, something that was difficult or unattainable can, through sheer will and effort, become more attainable and realisable. It is that effort that can change our minds and create the inner peace that will give us happiness. Becoming happy is the way that we will cope and see reality as Buddha intended. The basis of this happiness is the ability to give unbiased love. He said that the way to achieve this is to enable ourselves to become detached from the situation, to equalise ourselves with the other person, and then to allow ourselves to feel concern for that other person in the way that we would want that person to treat us. He was happy to take questions but added with a giggle, “No silly questions.” On the platform with him was his translator who he would turn to whenever he searched for a word in English and to his side was Lama Zopa Rinpoche, who sat almost immobile for the entire duration of his talk. There was an abundance of questions from the audience all eager to benefit as much as possible from his presence. He answered them with the reality and concern that lie at the heart of his teachings. When asked how a parent can train a child to be happy, he recalled the time in Tibet when as a young child he was visited by British Consuls who were appointed from time to time and who would bring him a toy. That brought him happiness and he smiled at that recollection. However, as children grow older the maximum love and affection and meaningful guidance (not money) from parents is what can change a child’s mind and help him/her to gain happiness. He emphasised that it is not easy to be happy in a hostile or adverse environment but that so much is dependent on our inner standing and our ability to have a strong commitment and a continuity of effort to bring us the inner peace we need to withstand any adversity. After a few more questions, he ended by saying he drew strength from India’s rich traditional philosophy and its cultural diversity and with a short clap of his hands he said, “Thanks”, and rose from his dais. The audience rose too but he lingered and as people surged forward taking out their cameras and their mobile phones to snap his picture he extended his hand and gave thanks and blessings to all. It cannot be easy to be the Dalai Lama as there is so much weight upon his shoulders but if there is a lesson to be learnt and as he so plainly put it, life is about going through various stages to reach the final destination and there is no greater goal than achieving happiness in its course.

The writer is Greek-Cypriot and has lived in Delhi for the last two years. culturama | February 2011


Portrait of India

Maha Shivratri or the ‘Great Night of Shiva’ is celebrated between the 13th night and the 14th day of the dark half of the month of ‘Maagha’ (February-March). This night marks the transition from the darkness of ignorance to the dawn of knowledge. Mythology has it that life on earth began after this cosmic dance by Lord Shiva in his dancing form of ‘Nataraja’, as illustrated in this portrait. Courtesy: ‘Art Heritage of India: A Collector’s Special’, published by ‘L&T - ECC & ECC Recreation Club’. 32

culturama | February 2011


Back to the


Photo Sue, UK

Enter one of India’s traditional kitchens and hear the sound of stone against stone

THE song of birds, the sounds of paddy swaying in the light breeze, goats bleating and the rhythmic cadence of cows on the road – life in rural India can offer a diametrically opposite view of life in the country. Move closer to the cities and the sounds are quickly replaced by blaring horns and heavy traffic. The idyllic gives way to man-made necessities. A contrast manifested from within the house, starting with the kitchen. The sound of stone against stone in rural India, as rice is ground in the traditional “eyendram” or “chakki”, is the counterpart of whirring electric mixers. The chakki is a solid contraption of a heavy stone circular base, with another on top that comes with a handle on one end protruding on its surface (see picture). It comes with a hole in the centre where the rice is added, and the stone on top is rotated in a clock-wise motion to make dry powders. The “aatu kallu” or “sil bhatta” on the other hand, is the predecessor of the tabletop wet grinders. Primarily stone utensils, with a heavy pestle to grind the rice into a smooth batter, these traditional wet grinders make for slow progress, as the batter needs to be periodically scooped out to allow for more space. Quite an ordeal for that plate of dosa or idli! Even the traditional method of grinding spices makes use of these stone devices. A cylindrical stone on top of a stone surface, is rolled back and forth with the right amount of pressure, to grind the spices. Called the “ammi kallu” in the South and “silla” in the North, it takes approximately ten minutes to grind 100gms of a variety of spice, like cloves for instance. Mostly made out of granite, these contraptions are extremely heavy and bulky, look simple and plain, and can yet match any modern-day mechanism in its quality. Some even believe that spices thus ground enhance the flavour of traditional Indian recipes. When it comes to larger quantities, a simple, round-bottomed wooden utensil called the “woral” (in the South) and “okhali” (in the North), is used. These are mostly used to grind chillies or puffed rice, using thin, long wooden rods with an iron base to grind them into fine powders. In fact, these practices are mini rituals in many villages, where women come together, and set their movements to a rhythm of popular folk songs. Whirrs, buzzes, hums as against rhythm, pace, beats – did somebody mention music for the ears?

Holistic Living

ek n ath e s wa r a n

beyond boundaries MORE than a quarter of a century ago I attended a conference addressing the mighty role computers would play in reshaping the world. Since then, these powerful data-processing machines have taken over many functions on the campus, in the library and laboratory, in business and communications, and in many other daily activities. A Time magazine cover story titled “Can Machines Think?” examined recent advances in the capacity of computers to duplicate human behaviour. Contributor Robert Wright described the celebrated chess match between the reigning world chess champion and his manmade opponent: “When Garry Kasparov faced off against an IBM computer, he wasn’t just after more fame and money. By his own account, the world chess champion was playing for you, me, the whole human species. He was trying, as he put it shortly before the match, to ‘help defend our dignity.’ ” Fortunately, our human dignity does not rest on the ability to outmaneuvre a chess-playing computer. The article in Time reminded me of a question that arose at the conference I attended long ago: “Do you realise that these computers are going to do everything that we humans can do, even learn to think?” It was clear that the audience of scientists and businessmen was looking upon these astonishing mechanical monsters – which filled the space of a large room – as the last frontier of human genius. “Even if these super-machines could learn to think,” I commented, “it is only when we have gone beyond thought that we come face-to-face with the supreme reality.”


culturama | February 2011

Beyond Human Limitations

In the West, there have been great scientists from Sir Isaac Newton to Albert Einstein who have contributed to our understanding of the physical universe and our ability to create technological marvels like the computer. Similarly, in the East there have been great spiritual figures like the Compassionate Buddha, Shankara, Sri Ramakrishna, and – in our own times – Mahatma Gandhi, who have made the stupendous discovery of the supreme reality which lies in the depths of consciousness beyond the reach of the thinking process. Gandhi’s description of this reality is as scientific in its universality and verifiability as Einstein’s formulation of the law of relativity. “I do dimly perceive,” Gandhi stated, “that whilst everything around me is ever changing, ever dying, there is underlying all that change a living power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves, and re-creates. That informing power or spirit is God.”

Our Spiritual Roots

Although the Industrial Revolution has brought the developed nations many conveniences, its narrow emphasis on science and technology is in danger of becoming an end in itself and not the means to an end. The obsessive belief that we are our bodies and nothing more, that our problems have only physical or technological solutions, is robbing us of our humanity. Despite the vast explosion of information, we have almost lost our connection to the core of divine inspiration within us. We are fast becoming robots that can be programmed by the mass media, and any

Photo elena eder, italy

civilisation that loses the precious human capacity to cherish high ideals cannot endure for long. That is why I feel deeply that a spiritual revolution is necessary and urgent. While the impact of science is changing the face of the globe, I still have full faith that there will arise in the not distant future shining men and women who will remind us all of our deepest spiritual roots in accordance with the latent capacities and the current needs of the twentyfirst century. Many more Gandhis, St. Francises, and St. Teresas may have to appear to bring about a spiritual revolution which can correct the excesses of the Industrial Revolution.

The Role of Meditation

We can all play a part in this peaceful revolution by practicing the spiritual disciplines which have come down the centuries in the great religions of the world. The heart of these disciplines is the regular practice of meditation. As we begin to find fulfillment within ourselves, we lose our dependence upon manipulating the external world to cater to our greed and our lust for power over nature. This shift in priorities can

lead to an artistic simplification of life which will keep the air pure, the water clean, the forests green, and fossil fuels abundant for our children. Finding fulfillment within rather than without enables us to move from the world of profit and power into the world of peace and love.

Join us every Saturday India Immersion Centre facilitates a weekly spiritual fellowship group following Easwaran’s Eight Point Programme of Meditation in Chennai. Email us for more information at easwaranindia@ or call Reema Duseja at 9884127304.

Reprinted with permission from “The Goal of Meditation” (Blue Mountain, Spring 2009). Copyright 2009 by the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, PO Box 256, Tomales, CA 94971, http://www. Eknath Easwaran (1910–1999) founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in 1961. The Center offers books and retreats based on the eight-point program of passage meditation that Easwaran developed, taught, and practiced. To learn more, visit culturama | February 2011




Book The Silent Raga

Film Moondram Pirai

Author Ameen Merchant

Director Balu Mahendra

Price ` 399

Language Tamil

IT IS the 1980s in Sripuram, Tamil Nadu. When Janaki, talented in playing the veena, walks away from her overbearing father and maternal aunt, she leaves behind not only a hard-earned, spotless Brahminical reputation, but also her beloved younger sister, Mallika. Ten years later, Janaki, now Janaki Asgar, lives in Mumbai. She receives an unsigned but hardly anonymous letter from her maternal aunt informing her of her father's failing mental faculties and Mallika's financial struggles. Janaki writes to Mallika requesting to meet her in Chennai. Both letters stir strong emotions for the sisters as each sister braces herself to meet the other. It is through their eyes and alternating narratives, that we piece together the story of their childhood. We meet the mother, dead but still a silent observer in the form of a garlanded portrait. We meet the bank manager father, Venkatakrishnan, a man who is melodramatic even in his silences. We also meet Gayatri, the girls' widowed maternal aunt, who exerts authority over the goings-on in the household. When the sisters finally meet ten years later it is not the misgivings of the past that take centre stage, but the strong bond they share despite a difficult childhood in a dysfunctional family. Silent Raga captures the social intricacies of Tamil Brahmin life in an Agraharam (traditional living quarters for the Brahmin community serving the local temple). It conveys the conservatism, the thrift, the social mores imposed on young girls of marriageable age as well as the paradoxes that are not spoken about. The vocabulary is authentic, the detailing is intricate and the protagonists are so well nuanced, that this evocative debut novel reads like a translation from the Tamil language.


culturama | February 2011


AT A brothel in Chennai, Cheenu (Kamal Haasan) finds a young woman called Viji (Sridevi) with regressive amnesia. Moved by her child-like state, he sneaks her out of there and takes her away to pristine Ooty where he is the headmaster at a local school. Cheenu becomes part-parent, part-friend to Viji's six-year-old self. The caretaking of this childwoman becomes his life's purpose. Cheenu struggles to keep intact this nearperfect life with Viji, but the world begins to intrude. Juxtaposed with Viji's naivety is the ripe sensuality of the aged school owner's young wife (Smitha) whose advances Cheenu finally spurns. When a woodcutter attempts to rape Viji, Cheenu becomes alert to her vulnerability and seeks the help of a local medicine man to cure her. When Cheenu is away, Viji's parents arrive at the doorstep of the medicine man looking for their missing daughter, whose real name is Bhagyalakshmi. The cured Viji/ Bhagyalakshmi recognises her parents but has no recollection of how she turned up at Ooty. A distraught Cheenu arrives at the railway station just as Viji's train is about to depart. He tries to remind her about their life together, but Viji does not recognise him. The train moves on and Cheenu is left with only memories of a period that Viji has no recollection of. Made by Balu Mahendra whose visual rendering of scenes is legendary in Tamil cinema, Moondram Pirai was also dubbed in Telugu (Vasantha Kokila) and remade in Hindi (Sadma). Kamal Haasan won the Silver Lotus award among the National Awards that year for his performance in the movie.



Photo: Alfredo de Braganza, Spain

For the Record Why does everyone shout, whistle and hoot while watching a film? Is it a part of the culture? Indians are naturally loud and exuberant when it comes to showing their appreciation or devotion, a fact personified during festivals or weddings. And that aspect spills over into the movie-going culture as well. Films play such an intrinsic part of life in India that the stars who adorn the screens have attained a largerthan-life status. So fans who throng the theatre take great pleasure in endorsing their support to the star or the film or sometimes even a dialogue uttered by their star through whistles and hoots. It is usually at its peak during the first weekend of release of a film, quickly abating as the weeks progress. Why do families bring their babies to the theatres? It’s usually uncommon back home. For most families in India, a family outing literally means everyone going out together. The concept of leaving a child behind with a nanny is virtually non-existent, with families preferring to bring the child with them to the theatre. Even if that means someone will have to stand outside the halls for most of the

film! Though you will be quite surprised to see most of them sleeping blissfully through the noise. Is it safe to eat the food served in the theatres? Usually, the food served in multiplexes is safe to eat, as they are catered by reputed food companies and are hygienically packaged. Most multiplexes today have restaurants of their own or host internationally-renowned fast food chains. If, however, you visit some of India’s older theatres, be vary of the food as they are mostly kept open. Why is there such a huge difference in ticket prices across the four metros? Tickets are priced based on the laws made by the State government and by each industry’s rules and regulations formed in association with the producers, distributors and theatre owners. So in metros like Delhi and Mumbai, you might find that tickets are priced double in the opening weekend, while in Chennai, the first two rows in the theatre, closest to the screen, will be priced at Rs 10, across all theatres. Prices also reflect the standard of living in that particular state and reflect the changing economics.





8 15

Your Festive Calendar

13 Vasant Panchami Dedicated to Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge and the consort of Lord Brahma the Creator, this festival marks the beginning of Spring. It is also celebrated as Shree Panchami or Saraswati Puja in West Bengal and in a few parts of Orissa. On this day, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped as the Goddess of Learning, the fountain of fine arts and science, and the symbol of supreme Vedantic knowledge.

Milad-Un-Nabi This festival commemorates the birthday of Hazrat Mohammad . Prophet Mohammad was born in 571 AD in Mecca in Arabia. On the day of Milad, the Prophet's teachings are repeated, the Quran is read and religious discourses are arranged in the mosques. The Muslims invite their friends and relatives for a grand feast on this day.



3 Maha Shivratri

17 Buddha Purnima

This is the Hindu festival dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Destroyer of Evil.

Celebrates birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha.

19 Holi


The spring festival of colour.

22 Good Friday A day that marks Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.

13 Rakshna Bandhan A festival that celebrates the bond shared by a brother with his sister.

15 Independence Day India celebrates its 64th Independence Day.


16 Mahavir Jayanthi Jain festival that celebrates the birth of Mahavira, the last Tirthankara.

25 Easter A day that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


culturama | February 2011

19 Nowruz The Parsi New Year.

22 Janmashtami Celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna.

31 ldu'l Fitr or Eid The Muslim festival that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting.

Mind, Body & Soul

D r Sa n d eep B u d h i r aja

Bite Sized

Buzz CITIES are abuzz with this little creature’s escapades that go by the name of ‘Chikungunya’. For the uninitiated, Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes or monkeys. So here are some frequently asked questions and facts you need to know:

What type of illness does Chikungunya virus cause? The infection can cause a debilitating illness characterised by fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, rashes and joint pain. The term ‘Chikungunya’ in Swahili language means ‘that which bends up’. The incubation period (time from infection to illness) can be 2 to 12 days, but as with dengue fever some patients have prolonged fatigue lasting several weeks. No deaths, neuroinvasive or hemorrhagic cases related to this infection have been conclusively documented in scientific literature, although it is thought to confer life-long immunity.

How is this illness treated? No vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for

Chikungunya is available. Treatment is symptomatic-rest, fluids and medicines like Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Acetaminophen or Paracetamol that may relieve symptoms of fever and aches. Aspirin should be avoided. Infected persons should be protected from further mosquito exposure (staying indoors and/or under a mosquito net during the first few days of illness) so that they do not contribute to the transmission cycle.

What can I do to prevent this illness? The best way to avoid the infection is to prevent mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or preventive drug. Prevention tips are similar to those for Dengue fever: ◘ Use insect repellent on exposed skin. Always follow the directions on the package. ◘ Have secure screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out. ◘ Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out.

India is now the Mecca of Medical Tourism. Specialists share their expert opinion to frequently asked questions on health and wellness. The writer heads the Max Institute of Internal Medicine, Max Healthcare, New Delhi.

culturama | February 2011


Space & The City

Global Adjustments

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15 years of bringing the world to India

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Delhi Vasant Vihar, Delhi Duplex Apartment for Rent

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For the above sample and many more such properties call 91 124 435 4236/9811111759 or email:


culturama | February 2011

Space & The City

Global Adjustments Easing your passage to and from India

Owners, list your property with us for MNC clients. Renters and buyers, we are your one-stop shop for all real estate needs.

15 years of bringing the world to India

Chennai Anna Nagar (Near Tower) Beautiful Apartment for Rent

Neelangarai Independent Bungalow for Rent

Neelangarai Individual Bungalow for rent

• 2,800 sq ft apartment in the first floor. • Three large bedrooms with balconies and a study • Two covered car parks • Piped gas, gym, fully air-conditioned, semi-furnished • 100 % power backup • Only expats, MNC company lease.

• 2,500 sq ft built-up area • Three bedrooms with attached baths • Beautiful garden • Covered car parking space • Servant’s quarters available • 100% power backup

• A guest house - An Executives residence • 3000 sq. ft built up area • Three bedrooms fully furnished and airconditioned • 100% power backup with 30KV Genset • Servants quarters, Lawn and swimming pool • Ample car parking space Mylapore First Floor of an Independent House for Rent • Fully furnished and air-conditioned • 3,000 sq ft with three bedrooms, three bathrooms and two kitchens • Marble and wood flooring • Includes home theatre,terrace, garden, indoor and outdoor bar units, two balconies and two parking spaces

Nungambakkam Brand New Commercial Property for Rent • Four floors available • Each floor at 3,500 sq ft • 100% power backup • Covered car parking and bike parking spaces

Client Speak Akkarai Beautiful Bungalow for Rent • Half-acre property with 3,500 sq ft builtup area • One-level house with four bedrooms • Fully furnished with home theatre • Swimming pool and 100% power backup • Neat mango grove with a gazebo

We received excellent support from Global Adjustments in the areas of city orientation, house hunting and settling in services. They have a broad knowledge and an experienced and courteous staff to make the relocation a pleasant experience. — Pankaj Chugh, John Deere

For more such properties, call Global Adjustments at 91 44 24617902/9551695968 (Chennai), or e-mail: Please note that any changes to the information above are done at the property owner’s sole discretion. Global Adjustments assumes no responsibility for such changes.


culturama | February 2011

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