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For the love of inclusivity An interview with V.R. Ferose of India Inclusion Summit

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Of Royal Romances A look at some of India's most beloved love stories

February 2017 Volume 7, Issue 12

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Dear Readers,

Love makes the world go around. In February, especially, thanks to Saint Valentine. Love makes India go around all the time; we don’t celebrate it just on a particular day. I was thinking of three kinds of love – love of self. love of others and love of the Lord. We dedicate this issue to all three. Love of self is symbolised in our unusual Culturama cover page of a woman mesmerised by the Taj Mahal. Love of the Lord in this edition comes to you via the picture story of the Golden Temple, the most sacred place of worship in Sikhism, one of India’s gifts to the world. Love of others is manifested in the form of building inclusive mindsets. The

Inclusivity Summit helmed by SAP Leader Ferose is inspiring and, in an exclusive interview with Culturama, he talks about the idea of inclusivity and more. Global Adjustments had the privilege of training the first-ever wheelchair under-23 basketball team of India, representing the nation in an international tournament. Their willingness to learn and assimilate from our programme on international etiquette, team building and emotional intelligence was so touching to see. The team left for their Bangkok match equipped with increased love of self, even being able to thank us confidently in Thai with a Terima Kasih. The youngest of the players, a 13-year-old, said, “I am not really afraid, but can’t imagine I will be flying in the air tonight. Thank you for teaching us to be ambassadors of India”. And as they waved the Indian flag which our team had hand-made and coloured for them, the pride of the saffron, white and green filled all our hearts. Their coach, a war veteran, beamed. It was love, actually. Ranjini Manian, Editor-in-Chief globalindian@globaladjustments.com

Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian Senior Editor Lakshmi Krupa Business Head Archana Iyengar Creative Head Prem Kumar VP Finance V Ramkumar Circulation S Raghu Advertising Chennai Archana Iyengar Bengaluru Meera Roy Delhi/NCR Ruchika Srivastava Mumbai/Pune Arjun Bhat To subscribe to this magazine, e-mail info@globaladjustments.com or access it online at www.culturama.in Chennai (Headquarters) 5, 3rd Main Road, R A Puram, Chennai – 600028 Telefax +91-44-24617902 E-mail culturama@globaladjustments.com Bengaluru No.: A2, SPL Habitat, No.138, Gangadhar Chetty Road, Ulsoor, Bengaluru – 560043. Tel +91-80-41267152, E-mail culturamablr@globaladjustments.com Delhi-NCR Level 4, Augusta Point, Golf Course Road, Sector 53, Gurgaon 122002, Haryana Mobile +91 124 435 4224 E-mail del@globaladjustments.com Mumbai #1102, 11th floor, Peninsula Business Park,

STOP PRESS

Tower B, SB Road, Lower Parel, Mumbai – 400013 Tel +91-22-66879366

We just received high praise for Culturama's January 2017 issue from Hon'ble Chief Minister of Puducherry V. Narayanasamy “Culturama magazine is doing a good service for the nation, publishing a free magazine for the past two decades and this edition on Puducherry was really excellent!”

E-mail mum@globaladjustments.com 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 – 600032 Disclaimer Views and opinions expressed by writers do not necessarily reflect the publisher’s or the magazine’s.


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Cover Image

Culturama’s cover image this month pays tribute to India's enduring symbol of love, the Taj Mahal. Photo: Melissa Freitas, Brazil

Advisory Board Members N. Ram is an award-winning journalist and former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu. He is Director of Kasturi & Sons Limited, publishers of The Hindu. Suzanne McNeill lived in India for seven years before returning to Scotland. She is a freelance writer and graphic designer. Liz Neisloss is a veteran journalist and writer who has worked for CNN based from Singapore, Chennai and at the United Nations in New York. She is now based in Mumbai. G. Venket Ram is an acclaimed photographer and the creative mind behind many a Culturama issue. www.gvenketram.com Annelize Booysen is a business consultant and social entrepreneur. She lived in Asia for more than a decade, which included three years in India. She is currently based in the United States. Namita Jain, founder of Jaldi Fit, is a leading fitness guru and a businesswoman who helms Kishco, a world-class cutlery brand.

Contributors Susan Philip is a freelance writer based in Chennai, and the editorial coordinator of Culturama’s various coffee table books. Eknath Easwaran (1910–1999) was a spiritual teacher, author and interpreter of Indian literature. In 1961, he founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation and Nilgiri Press in California. Devdutt Pattanaik is the Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group and a writer and illustrator of several books on Indian mythology. www.devdutt.com

Letters to the editor Dear Editor,

The yellows and greens of Puducherry seemed to pop out of the pages of Culturama in the January edition. I especially enjoyed the food column and can’t wait to try out some Creole cuisine on my next road trip. Manasvini Mahadevan, Chennai Dear Editor,

Shri Eknath Easwaran’s piece, What’s the Point of Slowing Down was a real eye-opener for me. It’s so relevant especially in this day and age of whatsapp and instant gratification. Charles Renaud, Bengaluru Dear Editor,

I thoroughly enjoy reading your SMS column. In particular, the Word of the Month for January Gadbad made for a fun read. Kudos. William Chang, New Delhi

culturama – Subscribe Now! Get your copy of Culturama as a hard copy or as an e-magazine - visit www.globaladjustments.com to subscribe For other enquiries, e-mail us at culturama@globaladjustments.com or call us on +91-44-2461 7902


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Contents 46

Look Who’s In Town

Expats share their views about life in India.

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Calendar of Events

See what’s going on in the main cities and suburbs.

38 Feature On the evolution of the South Indian thali.

India’s Culture 8

Short Message Service

Short, engaging snippets of Indian culture.

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Festival of the Month

This month find out how India celebrates Vasant Panchami and Maha Shivarathri.

Journeys Into India

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Visit the stunning Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Holistic Living

Picture Story

There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope and its endurance. Love will never come to an end.

Regulars

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India Impressions

An interview with V.R. Ferose of the India Inclusion Summit on the need for an inclusive India.

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India Now

A recap of the events and people that made news in the past month.

Stories of India

On the enduring royal romances of India.

Relocations and Property 70

Space and the City

Property listings in Chennai.


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SMS

by Suzanne McNeill Short cultural snippets for an easily digestible India

Art/Craft Stone Inlays of Agra The graceful floral and geometric patterns that cover the ivory-white marble of the Taj Mahal represent India’s most magnificent expression of parchinkari work. The decorative art of inlaying semi-precious stones in marble, most often in stylised motifs of flowers, fruits and vines, came to India from Persia in the early 17th century. Thin sheets of colourful semi-precious stones such as jasper, cornelian, topaz, mother of pearl, turquoise, lapis lazuli and jade are cut using steel wire and then individually ground by hand into delicate shapes, some just slivers only a few millimetres in size. The marble base is covered with a layer of henna paste, and an outline of the pattern is scratched into the surface so that the areas to be carved stand out. The recessed areas are filled with glue, the inlays inserted and the surface buffed and polished. Nowadays the craft is applied to anything from vases, boxes and plates to flooring.

Food Achaar

Word Love Marriage

Preserving foodstuffs is essential in warm climates and crunchy, tangy pickles, or achaar, have been stapes of Indian meals for centuries. The fiery chillies spiced up everyday humble khichari, made of rice and lentils, and, accompanied lavish Mughal feasts. Pickles are made from finely chopped vegetables or small enough to be preserved whole, most commonly mango and lime, but also onions, cauliflower, carrots, radishes and cucumber. They are marinated in brine or tempered in oils with spices. Coastal communities make pickles using fish, whilst Parsis make pickles of dried Bombay duck and in Coorg pickles are made out of wild boar.

For centuries, marriages arranged by parents or relatives of the bride and groom have been the norm throughout Indian society. However, in present-day India, more young Indians are choosing their own spouses, particularly in urban areas. The social fabric of Indian society has become more flexible, and interaction between opposite sexes has increased. Individuals may find their own partners through work, through posting their own profiles on matchmaking sites or via social media, and take matters into their own hands. So it is a common icebreaker to ask an Indian friend, ‘Was yours an arranged marriage?’, and for them to reply, ‘No, it was a love marriage!’ to everyone’s admiration.


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Name to Know Yash Chopra A legendary Bollywood film director and producer whose career spanned five decades, Yash Chopra was known as the King of Romance in Bollywood for making the biggest blockbusters in the romance genre. Chopra was born in Lahore in 1931 to a Punjabi Hindu family, the youngest of eight. He studied engineering, but his passion for filmmaking led him to Mumbai where he collaborated with his brother, BR Chopra, a director-producer. He directed his first film in 1959, an acclaimed social drama called Dhool Ka Phool. In 1973 Chopra founded his own production company, Yashraj Films, which was to go on to make some of India’s most successful and iconic cinema including the classic cult films starring Amitabh Bachchan that established the actor as the ‘angry young man’. In 1989 he made Chandni starring Sridevi, which came to define the ‘Yash Chopra style’: films that were lavishly produced, heroine-oriented, romantic and emotional. The family-friendly stories centred around love triangles, passionate affairs or conflicts between individual desire and family duty. They depicted aspirational lifestyles, with melodic music and song-and-dance sequences set in exotic locations, particularly the Swiss Alps. The films reflected the new optimistic India. Associated with Shah Rukh Khan since the 1990s, he directed several romantic films. He was the recipient of numerous Filmfare awards, civilian honours and an honorary award from Switzerland. He died in 2012. Here’s a classic scene from Chandni: https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQRgIawoRUQ

Interpretations Wedding Mehendi Adorning the hands with intricate designs of henna is a symbolic event in the preparation of Indian brides. The groom’s sisters decorate the bride’s hands and feet in a prewedding ritual called the mehendi ceremony, and the belief is that the deeper the final colour, the more she will be loved by her husband. The length of time the mehendi retains its colour is considered particularly auspicious for the newlyweds, and it is deemed to represent fertility. Mehendi has a cooling effect that is said to sooth pre-wedding nerves. The paste is made from the powdered leaves of the henna plant, and applied using a plastic cone or paint brush by a professional mehendi artist. The intricate designs – arabesque patterns of flowers, vines and paisley – are drawn on the palms, often extending to the back of the hand and even up the arms. Though this is primarily a North Indian ritual, many South Indian weddings today incorporate the mehendi ceremony. The event is a colourful and lively celebration, with the women dancing and singing time-honoured songs. Here’s a scene from the Mira Nair film Monsoon Wedding that depicts a traditional mehendi song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0L7gKd1c3I


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India now by Susan Philip

The month that was

As we enter a new month, we quickly recap the events, people and places that made news in the past month

Q: BHIM is not just an acronym. It carries a reference to one of India’s greatest leaders. Can you name him? A: Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the father of the Indian Constitution. Incidentally, Bhim, or Bhima, is also the second of the five Pandava brothers, heroes of the Mahabharata, the famous ancient Indian epic. He was known for his strength.

Trade on India INX India INX, India’s first international exchange, has commenced trading. The Bombay Stock Exchange Ltd. (BSE) started trading activities at the facility, located at GIFT City, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. India INX was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of the BSE. Corporate bodies and institutions in India can use it to trade in international securities. It will cover all global

Politics and Polity The people will speak The Chief Election Commissioner has announced the dates for elections to the Legislative Assemblies of five states. Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur will go to the polls between February and March this year. The political machinery is in overdrive in all of these states, and alignments and re-alignments are the order of the day. Some names to watch out for: Akhilesh Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Irom Sharmila, Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Kishore.

Business Matters BHIM it across! India now has a new digital payments app – the Bharat Interface for Money or BHIM for short. Based on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), you can use it to send and receive money. All it needs is UPI-activated bank accounts. And if you want to send money to those who don’t have UPIactivated accounts, you can use the IFSC (Indian Financial System Code) or MMID (Mobile Money Identifier) Code to do so. Transactions can be carried out with the user’s fingerprints. As of now, it is available only for Android phones.

markets and is equipped with technology billed as the world’s fastest – response time is pegged at four microseconds! To find out more, log on to http://www.business-standard. com/article/markets/bse-s-india-inx-10-things-to-knowabout-our-1st-international-exchange-117011000301_1.html

Arty Happenings An art show to remember Now into its third edition, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale has made a space for itself on India’s art calendar. Deep in the south of the country, in the state of Kerala, this event, spread over 108 days from December 2016, will see 97 artists from 31 countries participate. Organisers are expecting a whopping half-amillion visitors! The concept, a revolutionary one for India, has meant a lot, particularly at this time when Indian art is gaining increasing


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global recognition. The exercise, which began in 2012, offers emerging artists a novel opportunity to showcase their work without considering markets and saleability. It removes the perceptual barriers of what art should mean, and gives both the artist and the audience the freedom to express and explore. The current edition, curated by Sudarshan Shetty, is titled ‘Forming in the Pupil of the Eye.’ Among the unconventional displays is ‘ongoing’ art work, where artists draw over or add to their own previous day’s efforts, so that each day the paintings look different.

Makarova and Elena Vesnina to reach the top spot. However, subsequently, Mirza and her Czech partner Barbora Strycova lost the Sydney International final to Timea Babos and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Experience the ‘Sea of Pain’ if you have the chance to visit the Biennale.

Renowned actor Om Puri passed away in Mumbai. He was 66. Puri, who acted in acclaimed Hindi movies, like Ardh Sathya, Jaane Bhi do Yaaron and, more recently, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, as well as in several British and Hollywood films, has many honours to his name. He was a recipient of the Padma Shri, a civilian honour instituted by the Government of India, and also won two National Awards for cinema and two Filmfare awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. He was a BAFTA Best Actor nominee in 2000 for his role in East is East, and was conferred an honorary OBE in 2004 for his contribution to British cinema. The acting fraternity and fans mourned his untimely demise.

The December–February season is chock-full of art events in India. Find out more at http://www.india.com/travel/articles/january-2017india-festivals-and-events/

Sports Spots Take a bow, MS Mahinder Singh Dhoni, arguably the most successful of India’s cricket captains, has announced his retirement from the helm of the game’s ODI and T20 formats. (He had already stepped down as skipper of the country’s Test squad.) The decision, though a graceful one, making room for younger blood to take over the mantle, has left his fans brokenhearted. Dhoni, who has one of the safest pairs of hands behind the wickets besides a rare facility with the bat, especially when the chips are down, has clarified that he will still be available to play for his country. Click on http://www.mapsofindia.com/my-india/cricket/dhonirenounces-limited-overs-captaincy for a quick look at what Dhoni has achieved for his team and country.

Doubles ups and downs Tennis ace Sania Mirza picked up her first title of the year when she won the Brisbane Doubles Trophy partnering Bethanie Mattek-Sands. They defeated Russian duo Ekaterina

Q: Mirza’s victory at Brisbane was bitter-sweet. Do you know why? A: She was dethroned as the No. 1 doubles player by her partner.

End of an Era A thespian bows out

Did you know, as recently as in December 2016, the actor, tweeted: ‘I have no regrets at all. I have done quite well for myself. I didn't have a conventional face, but I have done well, and I am proud of it.’

This and that Look Who Was Here! India had two high-profile visitors recently – from two widely different fields. One was our very own Sundar Pichai Google’s CEO. The other was Hollywood star Vin Diesel. Pichai, visited his alma mater, IIT Kharagpur. Vin Diesel was in the country to promote his xXx: Return of the Xander Cage. India’s Deepika Padukone is his co-star in the movie.


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India Impressions by Ranjini Manian

For the love of inclusivity The problem with understanding disability is the disability in understanding the problem


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V. R. Ferose - Founder and Managing Trustee of the India Inclusion Foundation and (right) with Thangavelu Mariappan, India's third-ever gold medallist at the Paralympic Games

In 2012, V.R. Ferose and some volunteers started the India Inclusion Summit (IIS). It is a community-driven platform designed to create awareness in mainstream society on the need for inclusion and to identify the role corporates could play to support people with disabilities and drive inclusivity. It provides a channel for unsung heroes to share their inspiring personal stories and share innovations in the field of disability. The seed of inclusion planted five years ago has grown beautifully and this year IIS celebrated five years of existence in a grand way. IIS was held in Bengaluru in November 2016, and it brought together eminent personalities and thought leaders. Among the speakers at the conference were Anshu Gupta, Founder, Goonj and a 2015 Ramon Magsaysay awardee; Haben Girma, a White House ‘Champion of Change’; Felicia Shafiq, Canadian 2016 Olympic Paralympic women’s volleyball team member; and Mariyappan Thangavelu, India’s third-ever gold medallist at the Paralympic Games and his coach Satyaranayana. Anshu provoked the attendees to think big and pay attention to the ‘non-issues’. He said, “The world needs more doers. Let’s work together to help promote inclusion." Haben, the first person who is deaf blind to graduate from Harvard Law School, said Harvard told her that they had never had a deaf blind student before. Her response, “I have never been to Harvard before either,” blew them away. She told Harvard, "We don’t have all the answers but let’s try and find a solution." Haben, an internationally acclaimed

accessibility leader, advocates engaging more with the disabled community as she sees disability as an asset that drives innovation. Mariyappan was five when an accident left him with a permanent disability. He braved all odds to become India’s third-ever gold medallist at the Paralympic Games in Rio at the age of 21. He never let his disability dampen his spirits and is an inspiration to all. He says it is his disability – his misshapen right big toe – that gives him the leverage when he jumps. These stories and many more inspired the attendees of IIS to view disability differently and to accommodate people with or without disabilities to foster inclusion. Ferose believes that when a lot of intangibles come together, a tangible happens. V.R. Ferose is an iconic leader at SAP. He is their Senior Vice President and Head of Globalisation Services now. In an exclusive tête-à-tête with Ranjini Manian, Editor-in-Chief of Culturama, he talks about the IIS, its evolution and more... When did it occur to you that there was a need for a platform like the India Inclusion Summit? What is your vision for the Summit? My son’s diagnosis of autism, at 18 months, was a defining moment that changed my life forever. Since then we have struggled to get him the special care and other medical needs that every parent with special needs goes through.


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Welcome Dance at IIS 2016 by Shree Ramanashree Academy for the Blind

It also exposed me to the challenges we face in society – from awareness, lack of empathy, schools, medical systems, employment, and so on. While I was fortunate in many ways to have the access to take care of my son’s needs, most people are not. I deeply felt the urge to change things. The India Inclusion Summit was started in 2012 as a platform to celebrate the uniqueness of people with disabilities. While it started as an annual event, our mission is to create a movement to make India inclusive. It may sound like a bold goal, but I am confident that if we get the entire community engaged, we can make a meaningful difference. Every year, almost 1,000 people attend the event. Our online reach is over 2 million. We raise funds to drive projects throughout the year. We have raised over Rs. 50 lakh. This year we are supporting five fellows with a seed funding of Rs. 2 lakh each. What was new at the India Inclusion Summit 2016? That was an exciting year for us – we started the Inclusion fellowship – a first step towards building a community focused on inclusion; we had live streaming of the event – so that more people could view it remotely; we had a separate ‘meet the author’ section; we had an exciting line-up of speakers; so there was a lot of exciting new things while keeping the event as inclusive and inspirational as possible. We also had an Inclusive Retreat between Dec 2 and 4, in Ahmedabad with a smaller group of 40 people to further continue the conversation on inclusion. How did the idea come about? The idea started over an informal conversation with

India Inclusion Summit artwork

Today, every section of society – NGOs, schools, government, corporate, and so on are working in silos Dr Arun Shourie (former Cabinet Minister and journalist). His own experience of raising a son with cerebral palsy gave him deep insights into the challenge. He asked me to get corporates and the community together under one roof – to debate the issues and drive the change. While our original idea was very modest, I am glad that it has grown into one of the most sought-after inclusion event in the world. What are some areas that have been constantly overlooked and need focus to create more inclusive spaces?


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2016 Inclusion Fellows with Kalyani Khona – L to R: Aman Srivastava, Neha Arora, Anusha Reddy, Abhinav Dey, Sunil Jain

We have a massive challenge ahead of us – while there are many aspects that we need to fix, what is important is to have a unified view. Today, sections of society – NGOs, schools, government, corporates, and so on are working in silos. We need an integrated approach – an end-to-end solution to the challenges we face. Without this, people with disabilities and parents will continue to suffer. Should we be encouraging people to openly work on speaking about their disability? Personally, I think we should openly discuss about our abilities / dis-abilities. However, this is a personal view and to each his own. Society is different in different parts of the country and treats people with disabilities very differently. What could a good, inclusive organisational policy look like? How do we coach HR and co-workers?

Kalyani Khona - Co-founder, Inclov - Matchmaking platform for people with disabilities.

Inclusion should be a way of life and needs to be practised from the top. I have seen good policies not being practised; and great inclusive organisations which practise the true spirit of inclusion (without focusing on policies). Everyone needs to walk the talk and it needs to be embedded in the culture. A good HR policy should only be a re-enforcement of the spirit of the organisation. I think the most important aspect is to treat ‘specially abled’ persons as anybody else. Any special treatment is an indicator that we consider them as less capable. This also works against their confidence.


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February Calendar of events

Presenting the best of India’s events in different categories across Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and nearby suburbs

Art/Exhibitions

Crafts Chennai

Workshop NCR

The Crafts Council of India presents Craftepreneur – an exhibition of contemporary crafts produced by artisan entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs who have used craft skills to create lifestyle products and textiles. The three-day exhibition cum sale will showcase crafts, textiles, bags, jewellery, décor and home accents.

Phad painting or Phad is a style of religious scroll painting and folk painting practised in Rajasthan. Kalyan Joshi, son of Padmashri awardee Lal Joshi, was born in Bhilwara district in a Joshi family, widely known as the traditional artists of phad painting for the past few centuries. Learn art appreciation, techniques of traditional painting and make your art miniature to take along at this event.

Date: February 16–18 Time: 1000 hrs – 1900 hrs Venue: Lalit Kala Akademi, Greams Road

Date: February 4 Time: 1000 hrs Venue: Craft Village, 19B, Shivji Marg, Westend Green Farms, Rangpuri Delhi

Exhibition Mumbai 'Look Once. Look Twice’, Bharati Pitre's next solo show pays a tribute to everyday life that stands out for its ordinariness and metamorphoses into extraordinariness. Date: Until February 6 Time: 1100 hrs onwards Venue: Jehangir Art Gallery, Mahatma Gandhi Road


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Food

Festival NCR Rekhta Food Festival, in association with Delhi Food Walks, promises a grand feast of delectable Kashmiri, Awadhi, Hyderabadi, Mughlai and Sindhi cuisines. The festival will also feature the finest selection of popular street food. In addition, you could slurp some kulharh chai as you breathe in the beautiful Urdu poetry. The festival is free and open to all upon registration at jashnerekhta.org. Date: February 17 Time: 1600 hrs onwards Venue: Indira Gandhi National Centre For The Arts, 1, C. V. Mess, Janpath, Rajpath Area, Central Secretariat, New Delhi

Tour Chettinad If you love cooking and want to explore a region gastronomically in absolute luxury, try this culinary holiday. Join the culinary tour of Chettinad with a stay at the boutique hotel The Bangala including all expenses and a two-day cookery class by the master cooks at the property. The cost for the tour is INR 30,000 which includes train tickets, three

meals per day, one night and half day stay at The Bangala on a twin sharing basis, cooking demonstration on both days of eight classic Chettinad recipes, tour of Chettinad, and much more. Date: March 4 Venue: Chettinad

Walk NCR From sweet to sour to spicy, enjoy a variety of mouth-watering Indian food on a Food Walk starting at Haveli Dharampura. Enjoy the delicious high tea and chaat at the 200-yearold Haveli Dharampura which was renovated from its rubbles. Date: Until February 20 Time: 1630 hrs Venue: 1424, Meena Bazaar, Jama Masjid, Patel Gali Road, Old Delhi

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Events

Standup comedy Bengaluru

Theatre Various Cities

'Madrasi da' is Aravind S.A talking about men and women or the lack of them in his life from a middle class person’s perspective. Running commentary. Crawling ambitions. Long distance delusion. Single? You are his new best friend.

The Shakespeare comedy theatre festival returns with four adaptations across 11 cities in India. Starring some of the biggest names from Bollywood, this four-month tour is guaranteed to be India’s largest theatre festival. Witness comical interpretations of Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear and As You Like It, all written and directed by the renowned actor Rajat Kapoor. For details https://www. facebook.com/SCTFIndia

Date: February 4 Time: 1530 hrs Venue: The Humming Tree, 949, 3rd and 4th Floor, Doopanahalli, Appareddipalya, 12th Main Road, Indira Nagar

Concert Mumbai Anadi (without beginning) Anant (without end) is an upcoming concert featuring tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain and Kala Ramnath who belongs to a violin dynasty from India – a unique musical lineage of seven generations which straddles both the classical systems of the subcontinent. Date: February 7 Time: 2000 hrs Address: Fine Arts Society (Sivaswamy Auditorium), Fine Arts Chowk, R.C Marg, Chembur

Date: Until April Venue: 11 cities across India


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Festivals of India this February India celebrates divinity with vasant panchami and maha shivarathri

Vasant Panchami

February 1

Vasant (or Basant) Panchami derives its name from two words – vasant or ‘spring’ and panchami or ‘fifth day’. As the name indicates, this festival falls on the fifth day of spring. The festival is observed primarily in North India due to the sharper contrast between the winter and the spring there than in the South. Yellow and orange are closely associated with the festival and people mark the day by wearing yellow or orange clothes, eating sweet dishes flavoured with saffron and display flowers of those hues in their homes. In Rajasthan, it is customary for people to wear jasmine garlands. To do: If you are in Punjab, participate in the kite flying that occurs. If you are in West Bengal, visit a pandal (a public place where people worship deities) to savour the sweets and fruits distributed after prayers are offered to Goddess Saraswati.

Maha Shivarathri

February 25

Maha Shivarathri, legend has it, falls each year on the day Lord Shiva married goddess Parvati. It is believed that fasting through the night on Maha Shivarathri and spending time in prayer will release one from the karmic cycle of life. Devotees chant verses from scriptures in praise of Lord Shiva on this day. Many people visit Shiva temples in their neighbourhood or go on pilgrimage to important Shiva temples in the country to mark and observe the day. To Do: Isha Foundation organises a free live webstream of Maha Shivarathri celebrations led by Sathguru Jaggi Vasudev, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Visit http://mahashivarathri.org/live/ for more information.


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Learn from the Bhagavad Gita by Team Culturama

Chapter 7 Capturing the essence of the Bhagavad Gita in a single sentence, one chapter at a time; accompanied by an inspirational photograph from our Annual Photo Competition.

Never give up on yourself. Photo: Marlon Pieris, Canada

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Stories of India by Yamini Vasudevan

Of Royal Romances


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India is a land that brims over with love stories and many of them are from royal households. We take a look at some of the most beloved stories India is said to be a nation that is in love with the idea of love. Romance underlines many of the subcontinent’s legends and folklore, and the yearning for the beloved is the theme of many a famed movie that was (and continues to be) made here. History is also testimony to this fascination with the idea of romantic union. The records of royal lives are replete with love stories, which have been passed on faithfully over the generations. Many of these tales have been replicated on the silver screen as well – to critical acclaim in many cases, it should be added. All Is Fair… A common feature that underlines these tales is the power of love in overcoming all barriers. A story often recounted is that of Samyukta (or Sanyogita), the princess of Kannauj (in modern-day Uttar Pradesh), who fell in love with a valiant prince named Prithviraj Chauhan whose rule extended to parts of large swathes of North India (including

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parts of present-day Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh). She heard some poets sing of his exploits against Muhammad Ghori, the Sultan of Ghurid Empire (present-day Afghanistan), and was impressed by his strength and skills. It is also said that Panna Ray, an artist from Prithviraj’s court, visited Kannauj and showed his king’s portrait to the princess. The same painter, upon returning home, painted Samyukta’s portrait and showed it to Prithviraj. The two of them fell in love with each other, but the longstanding enmity between Prithviraj and Samyukta’s father, Jayachand, meant that consent to their union was not forthcoming. On finding out about his daughter’s love for Prithviraj, Jayachand invited all the kings to his palace for a swayamvara (an event at which a princess chooses her suitor) except Prithiviraj. To add insult to injury, he got a statue of Prithviraj made, with the head bent low, and installed it at the door. Devastated, Samyukta secretly wrote to Prithviraj and expressed her desire to marry him. On the day of the swayamvara, Samyukta walked past all the kings, went up to the statue and garlanded it. Immediately, Prithviraj, who had been hiding behind the statue, jumped out and whisked her away in his chariot. Even as Jayachand tried to rout the prince with this army, Prithviraj defeated him and took Samyukta to his kingdom.


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A still from the film Jodhaa Akbar starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan

Religion No Bar Another beloved royal love story is of Akbar and Jodha Bai – which encapsulates several unique features. Born as Heer Kunwari into Raja Bihari Mal of Amber (present-day Jaipur), she was married to Akbar in 1562 – in what is said to be the first instance of matrimony between the Hindu aristocracy of India and a Muslim ruler of Delhi. While the motivation behind the union was a political alliance, Akbar and Heer Kunwari are said to have fallen in love after marriage, and to have shared a very close bond. She was given the title ‘Mariam-uz-Zamani Begum’ (Mary of the Age), but was fondly referred to as ‘Jodha Bai’ (although some historians claim that this was not her original or given name). The mother of Akbar's eldest son and successor, Jehangir, she was allowed to follow Hindu customs and rituals and is said to have been one of the reasons behind Akbar’s (and later Jehangir’s) acceptance of different faiths and his attempts to introduce inclusive policies to exemplify his kingdom as a multi-ethnic entity. Interestingly, Jodha Bai was the longest serving Hindu Mughal Empress – from 1562 to 1605 (over 43 years). While Akbar and Jodha Bai’s marriage paved the way for more such unions between Mughal princes and Rajput

princesses, their love story has been passed down through generations as an example of how a couple should create an amicable relationship, despite personal differences. A similar tale of love conquering all – not just religion but class, too – is that of Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth sultan of the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golconda in SouthCentral India. When the young prince was once passing through a village, he saw a beautiful woman named Bhagmati and immediately fell in love with her. Going against his family and court members, who opposed his decision to marry a commoner from another religion, Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah finally got his way and married her. He is said to have shared a loving relationship with Bhagmati till his death. He bestowed the title ‘Hyder Mahal’ on Bhagmati after marriage and founded an entire city around her. The city was named ‘Hyderabad’ in her honour, and holds this name even today. Unfortunately, Bhagmati’s name is said to have been obscured from historical records by the kingdom’s prime minister. In Separation and Death The most famous tragic love story – one that has been the subject of many a novel, play and movie – is that of Salim and Anarkali. Salim, the son of Mughal emperor Akbar, fell


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The classic film Mughal-e-Azam was based on the love story of Salim and Anarkali

in love with a beautiful courtesan named Anarkali. She, too, loved him deeply, but their marriage was opposed by Akbar as he did not want his son marrying someone who was far beneath them in stature. Incensed by his father’s refusal, Salim is said to have raised his own army and waged war against Akbar. His army was crushed and Salim was defeated. In order to save the prince from Akbar’s wrath, Anarkali is said to have agreed to sacrifice her love and life. Legends say that she was entombed alive, with Salim reaching her tomb too late to save her. A lesser known story is that of Bappaditya, the prince of the Bhils in Rajasthan. When he was an infant, his father was displaced as the ruler and he was adopted by a priestly family and brought up in a remote fort. The adolescent Bappaditya, unaware of his royal lineage, wandered through the forest and herded his cows. One full moon night, he chanced upon a princess from Solanki, a neighbouring kingdom, who was sitting on a swing and was surrounded by her friends. When the young Bappaditya approached them, the princess’s companions are said to have teased them as being the incarnation of Radha and Krishna. Bappaditya and the princess must have been enamoured of each other that they participated in a (mock) marriage ceremony performed by the princess’s companions. However, this marriage is said

to have been divined by the royal astrologer of Solanki, and the angry king swore revenge against Bappaditya for this marriage. Fearful, Bappaditya fled with his companions. A series of events led him to uncover his lineage and he joined the royal army of Chittor. His exploits took him to Ghazni, where he expelled the Muslim ruler and married the daughter of his enemy. He then went back and conquered the throne of Chittor. With time, Bappaditya expanded his kingdom and married several women. However, his one-time marriage was treasured by the Solanki princess, who continued to pine for him until news of his death reached her ears.


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Picture Story by Team Culturama

Golden Temple Calling

A visit to the iconic Sri Harmandir Sahib (the abode of God) in Amritsar, also known as the Golden Temple, is an inspiring experience for Indians and nonIndians alike. Every day over 1,00,000 people from all walks of life come to this temple. Not just that, they also participate in the free community kitchen (called langar) and eat meals at the temple. It is a feature common to Gurudwaras all over the world. Sri Harmandir Sahib is the holiest Gurudwara of Sikhism. There are four entryways to the temple but no doors indicating that people of all faiths are welcome.


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Taking a dip at the holy tank is a must-do for believers at the Golden Temple Youngsters embrace faith in ways that bring them closer to the divine, with technology

It is mandatory for everyone to cover their heads while entering the temple

Reading the Japji Sahib, a Sikh prayer

The kitchen serves free, fresh, hot meals to everyone irrespective of religion or nationality and visitors can help in the kitchen too


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A school group tour to the Golden Temple

A trek up the first storey of the Golden Temple provides a great viewing spot and also many an interesting photo-ops

A Sikh warrior called Nihang, a practictioner of the Sikh martial arts called Gatka

The two poles represent politics (Akal Takht) and religion (Sikhism). The pole representing religion is slightly higher indicating religion comes first


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Feature by Devanshi Mody

Thali-sman of taste

On the evolution of the South Indian thali

The thali has evolved and how. The South Indian thali and its evolution in Tamil Nadu especially excite. I first experienced this evolution during a thunderstorm in a thatched hut at Fisherman’s Cove in December 2010. The winds didn’t quite sweep me off my feet, but my first ‘evolved’ thali blew me away. Silk-clad, rose-strewn, a table stood for us; six chefs cooked for three people. Whilst rods of rain struck the hapless beach and the oceans roared in tumultuous protest, we trotted on through stylishly plated ethnic cuisine: tapioca vadais and ivy gourd fusion samosa as prelude to a silver thali. That bespoke thali was designed to show me, from Paris, that South Indian cuisine, often considered more chunky than chic, can sophisticate into lissom creations so


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light they fly off your plate – without the intervention of a thunderstorm.

Navigating the four southern states on a plate needed four hours (even 3-Michelin-starred meals don’t).

Exploring ‘evolution’ requires inquiring into what something has evolved from. I discovered the traditional thali at Southern Spice, before the restaurant’s stunning resurrection. If we thought a compact metallic disc carpeted in green banana leaf dotted with little goblets betokened a circumscribed meal, then a banquet ensued. First, fried or steamed items of unpronounceable names (like kuzhipaniyaram!). Then, gravies of myriad hues, textures and flavours whose nuances were then wasted on me appeared in the little goblets courted by Malabar parathas, appam, idiappam and variety rice culminating in plethoric desserts.

After dissecting 12 starters including beetroot dumplings, multifarious vadais, and so on (amidst chefs’ protestations that insufficient samples were furnished) and a procession of spice-stomped mains, you’d stamp authentic upon Rain Tree in Chennai. But perhaps the Chettinadu thali’s ‘evolved’ rose-petal ice cream scandalises purists. On visiting Dakshin I stumbled on the thali’s philosophical and scientific significances. The restaurant’s temple-bell lamps and temple-door menus already suggest the sacredness of food, associated intricately with the divine. Dakshin’s famously inimitable and plumply delicious banana dosas have tales


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entrenching their origin in temple culture. Chef Praveen Anand, who took this delicacy out of the temple and into the restaurant, researches and reinstitutes obsolete recipes when not discussing Vedanta, third century vadais, Tamil king Nala’s ninth century culinary treatise – apparently the world’s first – and establishing that Tamil Nadu, not France, invented multi-course meals with 28-course sappadus, but that’s another story! Let’s just say his savvy young successor Chef Vinod tautly sustains tradition (innovative jackfruit-mangobanana ice cream notwithstanding) with flawless flavours perennially in fashion, whilst educating the adventurous with themed thalis like the esoteric Pondicherry thali. But excessive exoticism didn’t always tickle conservative locals. When Simply South unleashed a Mediterranean thali, replacing indigenous ingredients with orange vathal kozhambu, melon olan, and so on, these inventions startled not a few. Chef Koushik, their creator, bewailed the timorous Chennai palate whilst expounding the religious and scientific profundities of a Tamil thali whose three courses, sambar sadam (rice), rasam sadam and mor sadam, correspond to the three gunas (tendencies): sambar is also called kuzhambu, literally meaning ‘get confused,’ and sambar’s opacity embodies tamo guna (imbalance or chaos); limpid rasam represents rajo guna (passion); pure-white buttermilk symbolises sattva guna (balance, harmony and goodness). Meals signify spiritual progress from muddled indolence through clear action to an apotheosis in self-realisation.

Exploring ‘evolution’ requires inquiring into what something has evolved from


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South Indian cuisine, often considered more chunky than chic, can sophisticate into lissom creations so light they fly off your plate

When Chennai became more experimental, the newly figure-conscious sought slimming foods. But even in 2013, before millet mania assailed Chennai and millet-only restaurants manifested, Park Hyatt’s Executive Sous-Chef Balaji Natarajan was hazarding unprecedented all-millet thalis, entirely reinterpreting the traditional thali with healthier en vogue millet substitutes. Chef extensively researched millets, excavated recipes from rural interiors and deployed them in elegant creations. And, no, it wasn’t unbridled creativity that landed a pizza on my father’s thali – obliging Chef B knew it was all my father ate and, no, mercifully it wasn’t a newfangled millet-based pizza… I once asked Chef if he had Michelin-starred training, given those streamlined textures. He regarded me, bewildered, ‘We just use ancestral slow-cooking methods from our villages.’ Perhaps ‘evolution’ is regression to age-old techniques and halcyon days when people cooked with time and pernickety and achieved extraordinary subtleties today near-extinct outside gastronomic restaurants. Now, even the professedly health-conscious prefer a traditional thali with fusion flashes as at the spectacularly revamped Southern Spice. Natty presentations include banana-leaf-shaped plates cast in silver streaked by vibrant chutneys on a silver tray evoking an oil-paint box. You have artful service equipment and feelings of ‘posh’ without


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adulteration of the traditional thali. Innovations like asparagus koottu or rural rarities evince originality without overwhelming, explaining Southern Spice’s unmitigated popularity. The evolved thali is oft about ‘style’ and Chef Mohammed Siddiq at Club House unveils his resolutely modern Deccan thali in a crafted white ceramic plate aureoled in petals of little white dishes that replace traditional metal goblets, thus upholding his new bistro concept. With the flakiest veechu parottas, fragile idiyappam, the lushest spinach and tangiest kozhumbu traditional flavours remain, but textures and presentations are smartened. For the thali’s ultimate evolution head to Svatma in Thanjavur where you have Brahminical Thanjavur thalis for lunch, chiselled seven-course South Indian suppers worth a Michelin-star, maybe two, and a chef worth kidnapping. Svatma’s all-veg and sassily too. Was that too big a mouthful? Let’s serve it up again in bite-size portions like supper itself. This meal not only refines and redefines but radically deconstructs the traditional thali. What in typical South Indian restaurants lands generously but often unceremoniously on your thali streams in chichi morsels

at Svatma sensationally presented by Chef Leo Lawrence, who twists and turns Tamil food into acrobatic positions expected rather in the Kama Sutra than on a plate. Thrilling fusion strokes enliven local cuisine excruciatingly fine-tuned like a Thanjavur veena. Daily-changing tasting menus might include tamarind-teased pineapple rasam, raw mango curry salad, baby potato roast with a black lentil dip, kothu parotta transmuted into gingerly spiced satin threads and silken semiya accompanied by onion gravy and velveteen spinach puree speckled with corn curried à la Tamils. Desserts could be prissily plated exotic halwas or homemade ice creams including jackfruit ice cream. Gluttony is law at Sangeetha, where crowds throng for unabashed excesses. My fondest memories of Chennai are of the quintessential thali every Sunday at Sangeetha when we’d join in the frenzy, burrow into mountains of snow-like white rice oozing volcanic eruptions of sambar, rasam, kozhambu, avial, pachchadi, koottu and what not. The colours, the flavours, the sounds (burps galore) remain indelibly etched in my memory. We’d be horrified if the Sangeetha thali ‘evolved’. Primitive pleasures are often the nicest!


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Look Who’s In Town Chennai

Entertaining India Raffaela Schneid, Marketing Manager, DICV (Daimler), on the sights and sounds of India that move her… My parents lived in India for over seven years so my mum would tell me exciting stories about their life in Chennai, for example, when a monkey decided to become their pet! When I decided to visit India on my own, I talked to some of my colleagues at the German School in Oslo who had spent months living in India – they all loved it and couldn’t stop talking about the friendly people, amazing food and incredible culture in India!

Then & Now I always try to visit a new country without expectations or prejudices, so when I first arrived here I was open to everything. This way, there was never a dull or scary moment but excitement only. I learnt something new not just every single day but every hour! Coming back for the second felt like coming home and still there is more to discover.

India on a platter Food here and back home doesn’t compare at all – in a good way. After eating North Indian and South Indian food for two months I really struggled with European food. Everything tasted bland and boring so I went to buy Indian spices and started cooking dal, curry and chutney myself. I am so happy to be back in India and find it difficult to stop eating all the yummy dishes on offer!

Festivals of India I was treated to two Indian weddings, a sublime dance dinner where traditional dances were showcased and took a cooking class. During Navrati I was mesmerised by the beautiful songs and intriguing smells during prayers. It was a very touching, emotional but also cleansing experience.

Sightseeing I travelled through Kerala during the monsoon and fell in love with its mountains and hill stations. There is something magical about driving through lush green tea plantations with fog rising from the ground and clouds streaming over the mountain tops. The train ride from Kanyakumari to Madurai was also a life-changing experience.

What I would like to change in India I think Indians should be prouder of being Indian. I have hardly seen another country where so many people have a smile on their face and things always seem to work, somehow. There is a beauty to Indians I find captivating. The food is delicious, the culture so multifold and let’s not get started on all the different languages and traditions. What a heritage!

I am taking home… I would bring a spice rack – but fill it to the brim! I can’t picture my life without flavours – from garam masala, curry leaves, mustard seeds, cardamom and tamarind to so many more. And an Idli steamer. How else would I be able to make my favourite breakfast in the whole wide world?


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Art Mart by Pushpa Chari

Crafted with love At Kamala, the Crafts Council of India’s special New Year gift to Chennai On January 27, Kamala opened its doors to a one-stop shopping experience of handcrafted lifestyle products which weave the unique beauty of Indian crafts into our everyday lives – a New Year gift to Chennai. Remember grandmother’s house where the aesthetic of craft defined every functional product from chased and beaten copper and brass vessels to stone cooking patrams (vessels) in which sambar bubbled and boiled all day, and lamps and saris worn by the women of the household shot with wondrous colours and weaves. Kamala, the craft shop of the Craft Council of India (CCI), seeks to bring the remembered resonance back in a totally contemporary context, yet touched with the magic of diverse craft skills and imagery. To this end, artisans across India have used their unique hereditary craft skills to make specially designed, wellfinished products for Kamala to fit today’s sensibilities. The Kamala collection is also about ingenuity, elegance, play of colours and the occasional touch of playfulness. Look out for papier mache animals dressed in chic black and white stripes, marble Ganeshas and Buddhas, where god also lies

in the detail, mounted folk art frames for the wall, cool grass mats for the floor, wooden table lamps where form meets function and a plethora of gifts and gift boxes dressed up in hand-painted folk art. Kamala has on offer for the table: table mats, table cloths, runners and coasters carrying imprints of ancient embroideries, appliqué, folk art and captivating hand block printed motifs. Also for the table is a range of serving dishes crafted out of terracotta, stones, ceramics and metals featuring organically flowing patterns and minimal embellishment. Bedspreads crafted with dramatic weaves, ikat patterning and embroidery carry forward the craft theme. The plethora of saris, blouses and stoles representing the fabled weaves of Banaras, ikat, Maheshwari, Chanderi, and so on, have been specially sourced for Kamala for their outstanding designs and weaves. Not to be missed are cushions celebrating ‘chintz’ revived by Kalamkari artisans from 16th and 17th century manuscripts, manuals and museum collections. The Crafts Council of India is a voluntary, not-forprofit registered body which works at providing sustainable livelihoods and professional marketing support to craft artisans. Kamala, 12 A-C Co-optex Grounds, 350 Pantheon Road, Egmore, Chennai


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India on a Platter by Archana Pidathala

Morsels of Love

Heirloom recipes from the author’s grandmother’s traditional Andhra kitchen ‘Ammulu, gather all the children and come sit down for lunch,’ my grandmother would call out to me from her kitchen around noon. Only she called me ‘Ammulu’. The five of us grandchildren would sit down on the floor cross-legged, knees bumping, eagerly waiting for ammama to appear from the kitchen. She would emerge with a large, steel plate of soft, handmashed rice, mixed with cooked yellow lentils (mudda pappu) and plenty of ghee.


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Ammama feeding us lunch was a daily ritual during the holidays at my grandparents’ home. As I look back now, I realise that a big chunk of my childhood memories have to do with the summers I spent there. Many of these happy recollections revolve around food. In a typical traditional Andhra household such as my grandmother’s, yellow lentils are slow cooked in a seasoned clay pot and finished off with a tempering of ghee and spices. While most leafy vegetables and gourds can and are cooked with yellow lentils to make pappu, the most well-known outside of the state is gōngūra pappu (roselle leaves cooked with lentils). Once we were done with this course, which was almost a preamble to the main meal, ammama would feed us rice mixed with rasam and a vegetable stir fry or vēpudu. The thin broth – with an intense tomatoey flavour heightened by the aroma of an asafoetida-led tempering – makes my mouth water even today. Earlier in the day, a visit by our vegetable seller decided which stir-fry made it to the meal. The crisp early morning air would be rent with cries of the vegetable seller calling out her wares. She would appear like some food-angel

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with a basket brimming with a variety of fresh seasonal vegetables. There were the gourds and squashes – bitter gourd, ridge gourd, bottle gourd, yellow cucumber, pumpkin; root vegetables – carrots, beetroot, potatoes, elephant yam, colocasia, sweet potato; legumes – French beans, cluster beans, broad beans, peas, hyacinth beans; and other perennial produce like onion, tomato, eggplant, okra, cauliflower and drumstick. Almost any of these vegetables can be stir-fried and flavoured with a hand-pounded melange of spices to make a vēpudu. Vegetables are cooked just long enough to retain their crunch and tossed in a spice mix. The spice mix is sometimes simple: just dried red chilli and garlic, or dried coconut and coriander seeds. At other times, it is more complex, combining all these ingredients with roasted gram or Bengal gram and jaggery. On some days, we would be treated to pulusu and annamu. Pulusu is a curry made with jaggery-infused tamarind water, flavoured with a freshly ground spice mix. A pulusu is all about balance of flavours as it is sweet, fiery and tangy, all at the same time. A four-spice powder often used at our home is made of dried red chillies, fenugreek, cumin and coriander seeds. Vegetables like sweet potato, colocasia, okra, bottle gourd and drumstick are often used in a pulusu. I knew the day we were going to be treated to a pulusu for lunch because as it would cook – the tamarind water beginning to reduce along with the jaggery and spices – a captivating aroma would fill up the kitchen.


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The meal finale was always rice and home-set yoghurt; yoghurt so thick that it seemed to me like the clotted cream from Enid Blyton books. Yoghurt and rice was always a blank canvas wide open for experimentation. Our tiny mouths would be filled with morsels of yoghurt rice mixed with a stir-fry or pappu or pickle or a mishmash of all them, helping us build a rich taste for food and life. And thus would end our many-course daily meal. Sharing our grandmother’s home-cooked food from the same platter has tightly bound us cousins over years in a way that nothing else could. Every time we meet, we reminisce about the morsels ammama would feed us and unanimously agree that we will never have or find the same taste in anything ever again.

Five Morsels of Love is a collection of over 100 heirloom recipes based on G. Nirmala Reddy’s 1974 South Indian cookbook Vanita Vantakālu. In Five Morsels of Love, Nirmala Reddy’s granddaughter Archana captures a cross-section of their family recipes along with anecdotal stories and narrative introducing the reader to the flavours of the South Indian state Andhra Pradesh. The cookbook has detailed, well-curated and tested recipes ranging from wholesome vegetarian curries, spicy chicken curries, fiery spice powders and flavourful biryanis to celebratory sweets and all day snacks. The book is available for purchase at www.fivemorselsoflove.com


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Myth & Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik

The Goddess Meenakshi of Madurai At the Madurai Meenakshi temple an image of her marriage shows us that it is she who receives the groom’s hand, as against a conventional wedding where the groom receives the bride’s hand...


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We have all heard the story of Ram, a prince from North India, who went to the southern tip of India. But when was the last time you heard of a queen who travelled from Madurai in the south to Kailasa in the north to find herself a groom? That princess was called Tadaatagai, more popularly known as Meenakshi, she whose eyes are as shapely as the contours of a fish. The Pandya king of Madurai was childless and the gods blessed him with a daughter who was born from a pit of fire. She had three breasts, and it was foretold that the extra breast would disappear the day she met a man worthy of being her husband. She was taught the royal arts and sciences and she succeeded her father and then decided to go on the conquest of the world. She travelled north, defeating all the kings of the world, as well as the gods, and the ganas (servants of Shiva), and Nandi (mount of Shiva) and finally met her match in a young hermit who turned out to be Shiva. When their eyes met, Meenakshi realised she was Parvati reborn. Her extra breast disappeared, and she took the hermit-god, now named Sundareshwara, meaning beautiful lord, to her city of Madurai to be her husband and consort. The temple of Madurai is one of the grandest in Tamil Nadu spread over 14 acres with 12 large gateway towers

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known as gopurams, the tallest being the one in the south, and vast painted pillared corridors, one of which was once lined with cages full of parrots trained to chant the name of the presiding goddess all day. The current structure is less than 500 years old, built by Nayaka kings. The king asked the people of Madurai to give only a fistful of rice to feed the artisans. Thus everyone contributed to building the temple for their legendary queen. The older temple was attacked and plundered 700 years ago by a Muslim king called Malik Kafur, according to temple lore. References to this temple are found in the poems of Sundarar composed 1,200 years ago, at a time, when worship of Shiva gradually started overshadowing the monastic Jain traditions that had flourished until then in Madurai since the time of Chandragupta Maurya. Madurai was the city where the earliest gathering of Tamil poets, known as Sangam, was held. Historians date Sangam literature to around 2,000 years ago, but there is speculation that it is much older. There is even a theory popular amongst Tamil supremacists that Madurai is the city built in a fragrant Kadamba forest by the survivors of the ancient continent of Kumari Kandam (known to Western antediluvian enthusiasts as Lemuria) that went


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Vishnu, Meenakshi’s elder brother known as Alagar as per Tamil Temple lore, travels on a horse from his temple across the river Vaigai to attend the ceremony but reaches too late and so turns back irritated important to note that it is she who receives the groom’s hand, as against a conventional wedding where the groom receives the bride’s hand. Shiva’s shrine, separate from Meenakshi’s, and smaller, is held aloft by eight life-sized elephants, indicating the devotion of Indra, king of the gods, bringer of rain. In the month of Chitirai the marriage of Meenakshi and Sundareshwara is re-enacted in a month-long festival. Vishnu, Meenakshi’s elder brother known as Alagar as per Tamil Temple lore, travels on a horse from his temple across the river Vaigai to attend the ceremony but reaches too late and so turns back irritated. To appease Vishnu, Meenakshi and her husband meet him in the middle of the river and accept his wedding gifts, but he steadfastly refuses to enter the city of Madurai, thus venting the local Shaiva-Vaishnava rivalry. under the sea during the last Ice Age. It is estimated that in the temple corridors and towers there are over 33,000 icons, each one telling a story, some from the Puranas, some from local lore, such as the tale of how Shiva turned local foxes into horses and how a stone elephant came alive lured by the scent of sugarcane. The temple is lined with gigantic images of gods and goddesses, all kinds of mythical beasts such as the yali (a lion with an elephant's head), and of common people too: warriors, dancers, musicians, performers and tribals. The one that catches the eye is that of an effeminate man and a woman sporting a beard (a cross-dresser), revealing a rich liberal and artistic culture. There is even a thousand pillared hall with the famous ‘musical’ pillars made of stone. The main icon of Meenakshi shows her holding a parrot, symbol of Kama, god of love. She also has a small dagger on her waist-band, reminding everyone who is the overlord. On the temple wall is the image of her marriage. Here, it is

There are many tales associated with the temple’s legendary wealth. Like the tale of the sapphire pendant of the Goddess that was sent to England so that Queen Victoria could see it; it was subsequently returned. And of the jewellery gifted to the Goddess by an Englishman called Rose Peter in the 19th century in gratitude for drawing him from a building that was subsequently struck by lightning; he asked that he be buried facing the temple. There are chains of coins that came from ancient Rome via sea-merchants, and coins minted by the East India Company. Every night the festival image (utsava murti) of Shiva travels to the private chambers of the Goddess-queen on a palanquin in a musical procession. Her priests welcome him with flowers and he is placed on a swing next to the utsava murti of Meenakshi. The special room is full of fragrant jasmine flowers and has mirrors on the walls. Having spent all day taking care of her kingdom, she spends all night adoring her beloved. Thus is reinforced the value placed in Hindu traditions of the householder over the hermit.


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Holistic Living by Eknath Easwaran

A Love Worthy of Us

There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope and its endurance. Love will never come to an end

My grandmother was a remarkable woman. We come from a tradition that has been matriarchal for centuries, and within our large extended family – over a hundred people – Granny had weighty responsibilities. She liked to get up before dawn, long before the heat of the tropical sun became oppressive, and though I don’t remember her doing anything just for herself, she would work throughout the day. Self-reliant, afraid of nothing, she stood steady as a pillar when a crisis arose – a death in the family, for instance, or a failure in the crops. In worship, in work, she set an example for everyone.


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But Granny knew how to play too. She could throw off her years and join the children at their games – and not just the girls either; she played hard with the boys at tag and ball, and usually got the better of us. During a particular annual festival, she liked to stand up on the bamboo and palm swing we had fashioned in the courtyard, single out one of the strongest boys, and say, “Push me as high as you can!” And up, up she would go in prodigious arcs, wood groaning from the strain, while the women gasped and we boys stared in admiration below. Granny possessed a great secret: she knew how to put others first. If she bothered to think about her own needs, it was only after everyone else had been taken care of. On school days, she always prepared something special for my lunch – a favourite dish, a treat – and I would run all the way home to be with her. “Here comes the Malabar Express!” she would say. Then, though it wasn’t her own lunch time, she would sit next to me and keep me company as I ate. At one point, when I developed some illness or other, the local doctor prescribed a saltless diet for a year. Three hundred and sixty-five days without salt! I cannot convey to you what a sentence that was. In a tropical country where salt figures into almost every dish . . . well, my school friends said, “Why don’t you just throw yourself into the river?” The day after the order had been given, I came to breakfast with a long, long face. “What’s the use?” I said, staring down at my

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5 Join Us Every Saturday Global Adjustments Office, Chennai, facilitates a weekly spiritual fellowship group following Easwaran’s Eight Point Programme of Meditation. E-mail us for more information at globalindian@globaladjustments.com If you are in other cities, visit www.bmcm.org for e-satsangs.

plate. Everyone gave me a look of commiseration. But what could they do? They felt helpless. But not Granny. Serving me, she said quietly, “I am going on a saltless diet for a year too.” I don’t think I have ever had a better breakfast.

The drive to be separate I said Granny possessed a great secret, but that wasn’t because she hid anything. The sad truth is that most people do not want this knowledge – chiefly, I think, because they fail to see the joy it brings, the sense of freedom. One day I came home after school with something deeply disturbing on my mind: I had seen, for the first time, a child with elephantiasis. It is a terrifying disease. This little boy’s legs had swollen badly. He walked only with great effort and of course he was unable to join in our games. I told my grandmother about him. “Granny, it must be awful for that boy to have elephantiasis and not to play.” Her face became very compassionate. She said, “Yes, everything in life will be hard for him.” Then she added, “But only one in a million suffers from elephantiasis of the


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leg. There is a much more dreadful disease that can afflict every one of us if we don’t guard ourselves against it all the time.” “What’s that, Granny?” “Elephantiasis of the ego.” The more I have pondered that remark down the years, the more perceptive it seems. Our swollen concern for ourselves, she was saying, constitutes the worst threat in life. And the teachings of every religion bear her out. Repeatedly we are told that ego or self-will, our drive to be separate from the wholeness of creation, is the source of all our suffering. It keeps us from accepting others, from sympathy and quick understanding. More than that, it alienates us from the supreme reality we call God. It alone prevents us from knowing that, as Meher Baba put it, “You and I are not ‘we’; you and I are one.” Puffed up by our self-will, we look out at the world through the distorting medium of our likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, opinions and judgements. We want everyone to behave as we think they should – the right way. When, naturally enough, they not only behave their own way but expect us to do as they do, we get agitated. And what we see through this agitation makes up our everyday reality. The word ego, as you may know, comes from the Latin for “I.” Sanskrit too has a precise term for self-will: ahamkara, from aham, “I,” and kara, “maker.” Ahamkara is the force

that continuously creates our sense of I-ness and its close companions “me,” “my,” and “mine”. When my grandmother told me about elephantiasis of the ego, I remember I asked her whether there was any cure for this malady. “Oh, yes,” she said. “Love of God.” First, we need to ask what we mean by “love”. The term has been used so shamelessly in connection with all kinds of things – soft drinks, paper towels, garage door openers. And love between a man and a woman, we are told, means a muscular, tanned fellow running hand in hand through the surf with a stunning, billowy-haired girl, or couples sitting across glasses of wine at a little hideaway restaurant. From such imagery we draw our romantic notions of love. But listen to Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians: Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offense. Love keeps no score of wrongs; does not gloat over others’ sins, but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance. Love will never come to an end. That is a love worthy of us. That is a love powerful enough to dissolve our self-will.

Reprinted with permission from ‘A Love Worthy of Us’, an article by Eknath Easwaran from The Blue Mountain Journal. Copyright The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, P.O. Box 256, Tomales, CA 94971, www.easwaran.org. (Extract from http://bmcmwebsite. s3.amazonaws.com/assets/bm-journal/2008/2008Autumn.pdf)


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yoga saga In Focus by Usha Ramakrishnan

Yoga practitioner and teacher David Miller on what moved him to take the path of vedic chanting and yoga‌


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Meet David Miller who spent his childhood in Chennai, where his father worked, as a part of the American Consulate, and his mother was a yoga teacher. He holds the highest degree in yoga training, two yoga certifications (Alliance certified). He has spent at least 1,000 hours studying texts such as Yoga Sutra (collection of aphorisms of yoga) and the Bhagavad Gita (a holy scripture). Today, he has students worldwide, recites the Gayathri Mantra and other Vedic chants (sacred chants of the Hindus) regularly and spends hours reading the Bhagavad Gita. What inspired you to take up the traditional Indian practice of yoga? I was a student then and I had seen my mother learn and become a yoga practitioner in Chennai. When my twin sister and I were taken to Yogamandiram, a Centre for Yoga and Ayurveda, to learn yoga, we both showed reluctance just as any teenager normally would. But when we are in this planet for a while and life teaches tough lessons, we resort to spiritual solutions that give us peace. I lost my sister and was deeply affected by her death; it was then that yoga became a solace for me. So I was initiated early and it later became my passion. I am grateful to my teacher Shri A.G. Mohan and my mother for taking me forward in this path. My mother has been a yoga teacher for 40 years. Our learning is based on Shri Krishnamacharya of Yogamandiram. What do yoga and meditation mean for you? Yoga and meditation are available for any age, caste, station in life, cultural background and religious belief or non-belief. The regular practice of yoga can develop a pathway for the mind to transcend the physical, mental and intellectual layers, and provide an avenue to experience our true nature of a peaceful mind and our best health. Meditation is not just for someone with a white robe sitting in a mountain peak in silence for hours together. It includes repeating a phrase from the religion believed in, sounds, deep breathing and reading – there are various tools that bring about inner peace, tranquility and clarity.

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How do people take your accent when you recite the sacred chants in Sanskrit, the age-old Indian language? People around me in America have been very open and I introduce the practice only to those who understand that yoga is universal. People in India also accept and appreciate. I have chanted in temples and I accept corrections that people point out. Recently when I was in Mahabalipuram, a tender coconut vendor complained about joint pains owing to tree climbing. I immediately demonstrated Utkatasana and he was very excited. However, I am not too sure if he tried it. What do you think the youth of India and America can learn from each other? The intensity and work ethics of Americans is great to follow and the wisdom and peace in Indians can be grown there. What is common to India and the United States is the diversity of culture. I also see generous and kind people in general, in both places. But I realise in my travel round the globe that what we all need is strengthening of relationships. Your wife Ibtisam is a Palestinian. What contributes to harmony in this intercultural relationship?

Ujjayi Pranayama A simple daily breathing practice

Ibtisam holds a Masters degree in Conflict Resolution. So I am lucky. We are kind, loving, generous and forgiving to each other. And we both respect each other’s style, culture, goals and prayer. I finish chanting Vedic mantras and she concludes with ‘Om Shanthi Shanthi Shanthi’. Yoga is about bringing your mind over body. Can you share your thoughts on it? I have experienced healing and peace in bringing my mind over body. A student of mine had psychological issues out of personal trauma and he also had a physical ailment. We intervened, assessed his individual need and began therapeutic yoga. He found peace within and gained normalcy. In general, when the mind is disturbed one should hold on to the mantra of one’s own belief, keep repeating to direct the mind positively. I guess continuous practice is the key.

This can be done lying down, seated or in asana (yoga postures), with eyes closed. Inhale through your nose controlling the airflow by slightly constricting the throat. This should produce a slight sound and one should be able to also feel the breath passing through the throat. Do 12 rounds - inhale 6, pause, exhale 6, and pause. For those who wish, a mantra can be introduced with the breath.


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At Global Adjustments by Team Culturama

Smiles all around after an informative session on India's harvest festival

Pongal-o-Lohri Members of the Overseas Women’s Club, Chennai were at Global Adjustments celebrating Pongal with Foodology, a recreational cooking company...

Say "Bhalle Bhalle' for Lohri, the north Indian harvest festival

Tapping away with the kolattams (traditional dance sticks)

An enthusiatic oyillattam, a South Indian folk dance


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At Global Adjustments by Team Culturama

Bringing in 2017 with a flourish

Global Adjustments Academy facilitated an experiential programme for Charlie Trimble, Founder, Trimble, and a pioneer of the GPS industry, and his team from UAE, New Zealand, UK and India.

Global Adjustments organised a training session for the first-ever wheelchair under-23 basketball team of India, representing the nation in an international tournament. Our programme on international etiquette, team building and emotional intelligence was a grand success.


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Culturama February 2017  

Join us as we celebrate love in all its glorious forms in this edition of Culturama!. Happy reading! Love of the Lord in this edition comes...