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India's Only Cultural Magazine for Global Citizens

VOLUME 4, iSSUE 5 july足2013

Brought to you by Global Adjustments

Light, Life & Hope Our heartfelt prayers for the victims of Uttarakhand


culturama | JULY 2013

Message from Team Culturama Life is what happens while we are making other plans. As we were going to print Culturama July, the state of Uttarakhand declared a three-day state mourning. Team Culturama, along with 1.2 billion Indians, shares the suffering and pain of the victims of the flash floods in Northern India. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. Annad bhavanti bhutani Parjanyad anna-sambhavah Yajnad bhavati parjanyo Yajnah karma-samudbhavah All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rains. Rains are produced by the performance of yajna [sacrifice], and yajna is born out of prescribed duties, including protection of the environment. Bhagwad Gita, 3.14 Let's recommit to protect nature so she protects us, and let's revere water in our lives.

Om shanti shanti shanti Asking for peace from natural disasters Peace from other people Peace from our own heart

We encourage readers to donate generously to the PMO Relief Fund at photo Olya Morvan, Ukraine

culturama | JULY 2013


D e a r

R e a d e r s

TADASTHU is a powerful Indian belief. We are told as children to say and think positive things always as we believe that demigods float about the Universe and when you wish for anything they simply say “So be it – Tadasthu” and it comes true. Culturama July 2013 is proof of this. When Sushmita Sen, the first Indian to win the Miss Universe title in 1994, was crowned in Manila, the pride of India seemed to swell. This elegant Bengali beauty, with brains to match her brawn, did us proud. I listened to her Question Round during the Miss Universe contest ( and was delighted. I then read about her going to be trained in etiquette by an expert in San Francisco before her world tour of meeting royalty and country heads wearing the Miss Universe crown. As I was on the cusp of a niche entrepreneurship idea, setting up a relocation company called Global Adjustments, to work with expatriates who come to do business in India (we have been bringing you this magazine Culturama for 18 years too), I decided I had to up the level of my etiquette quotient to work with the world. So I set off to find the same expert that Sushmita had used. Syndi Seid of Advanced Etiquette became my mentor too; she was a diminutive Chinese American, with great elegance and warmth who took me under her wing as her second student from India, although a far cry from Ms Sushmita Sen. I used Syndi’s knowledge too by adding cross-cultural training to our services. In the early years, along with my team, I spoke and taught what I had learnt to Indians doing business with the world. How to use a dozen forks and knives for Western dining etiquette, how to seal a deal over a meal, nuances of small talk, shaking hands and using titles of people in an apt way, guest duties and host responsibilities, and so on. But at the back of my mind I always wished I could meet Syndi’s first Indian student, Sushmita Sen. Today, we have the privilege of bringing to our readers an exclusive interview with this fearless trailblazer, so aptly named Sushmita, which means a “lovely smile”. It was Sushmita’s interview that took us deeper into the world of fashion, prompting us to present a comprehensive Cover Story on India’s growing fashion industry. Our cover, created by artist Gautam Patole from Mumbai, captures not just the essence of fashion in its Indian, earthy avatar, but also symbolises Sushmita, who takes the epithet of “Indian roots, global wings” very seriously. There are our regular features as well in this issue bringing out different facets of glamour — the glamour of history in our In Your Kitchen column that traces the Muslim Moplah community of Kerala; the glamour of spirituality in our Seeing India column on Varanasi; or the glamour of moonlit streets in our Picture Story — Culturama celebrates India’s beauty, within and without. Ranjini Manian Editor-in-Chief E-mail:


culturama | JULY 2013

culturama | JULY 2013


Letters to the Editor

Cover Artwork Gautam Patole, Mumbai, india Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian

Consultant Editor praveena shivram

Business Head Sheeba radhamohan

Editorial Coordinator Shefali Ganesh Senior Designer Prem Kumar


Bengaluru mukundan T Delhi-NCR preeti bindra, ruchika srivastava Mumbai/pune Farah bakshay, Rachana Sinha Chennai dhiviya m

Dear Editor, “As Carnatic musicians, we travel far and wide across the country and abroad. Our fusion band ‘Anubhoothi’ has become our platform to experiment with World Music and also to interact with musicians from different cultural backgrounds (musically and otherwise). Indian musicians are indeed Cultural Ambassadors as the art form holds deep religious and spiritual significance and is steeped in our rich cultural heritage. We always maintain that the easiest way to connect with Indian culture is through our music. Recently, flipping through the June issue of Culturama, we chanced to see the mention of the Pancha Bhootha Thathwa (the five elements of Nature) and were happy to note the lucid manner in which the magazine tried to convey the nuances of Indian culture! The world has become a smaller place, and when multinational or multi-cultural collaborations have become the order of the day, we sincerely believe Culturama is doing a great job in deepening the understanding of our culture! — Trichur Brothers, renowned Indian classical musicians

circulation Manager r. Vijayan Advisory Committee N Ram, G Venket Ram, Marina Marangos, Suzanne Mcneill, Babette verbeek, beth Chapman, diane chatterjee Chennai (Headquarters) 5, 3rd Main Road, R. A. Puram, Chennai 600028, India Telefax. +91-44-24617902 E-mail: Bengaluru 7/2, Edward Road, Off Cunningham Road, Bangalore - 560 052. Tel.+91-80-41267152 E-mail: Delhi-Gurgaon Level 4, Augusta Point, DLF Golf Course Road, Sector-53, Gurgaon - 122 002. Haryana. Tel.+91-124-435 4236. E-mail: Mumbai Rustom Court, 2nd Floor, Dr. Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai 400030. Tel.+91-22-66104191/2 E-mail: Pune CTS No. 37/1 Bund Garden Road, Next to Jehangir Hospital, Pune 411 001 Mobile: +91-9545453023 Email: To subscribe to this magazine (hard/soft copy), write to 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. Editor: Ranjini Manian DISCLAIMER: Views and opinions expressed by writers do not necessarily reflect the publisher's or the magazine's.


culturama | JULY 2013

Dear Editor, “I continue to read Culturama, which is interesting in spite of almost four years of living in India.” — Pascal Reynaud, France Dear Editor, “Every one of your Culturama issues is pleasant to read, especially the May issue. Suzanne McNeill has been able to coherently bring out the gist of 100 years of Indian Cinema. She must have researched a lot and has written well. Also, I liked the thought of the Super Ten box of practical advice for expats and the simple yet neat narration of the Khajuraho experience in your Seeing India column.” — Mohan S, India Dear Editor, “Culturama is an in-depth window to the real India, with refreshing quick bytes and calendars for the action bound. The advertisements are catchy and the production stylish.” — Alagappa Rammohan, Chicago

culturama | JULY 2013


Culturama’s Contributors

Susan Philip is a freelance writer based in Chennai. and editorial coordinator of Culturama's various coffee-table books.

Harini Sankaranarayanan is an

ardent foodie and a professional chocolatier. She has a degree in Hotel Management, English Literature and Theatre, and loves exploring different cuisines.

Bipin Khimasia is the President and CEO of Mainstay Teleservices Ltd ( BPO) in Bengaluru. He is an avid travel photographer and has lived in Kenya and Canada, before moving to India in 2007. Ian Watkinson is a wrestler of words, a cooker of curries, a dabbler with the tabla, a persistent photographer and haphazard historian. Avehi Menon is a freelance TV producer, part-time teacher, part-time writer and full-time traveller.

Neil Miller is Head of CrossCultural Services at Global Adjustments. He is an American and has been living in Chennai for the past two years. Eknath Easwaran (1910–1999) was a spiritual teacher, author and founder of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in California. Devdutt Pattanaik is the Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, and a writer and illustrator of several books on Indian mythology. Anita Krishnaswamy is President of Global Adjustments and a relocation expert. She has years of experience working with expat clients across the country.


culturama | JULY 2013

Culturama’s Advisory Board Members

N Ram is an award-winning journalist and former Editor-inChief of The Hindu. He is Director of Kasturi & Sons Limited, publishers of The Hindu.

Suzanne McNeill lived in India for seven years, first in Chennai and then in Delhi. She has now returned to Scotland, where she works as a freelance writer and graphic designer. Babette Verbeek is a correspondent for BNR Nieuwsradio who previously worked in Amsterdam and Milan. Now she joyfully explores the beauty of South Indian culture. Marina Marangos is a lawyer by profession but enjoys travel and writing. She lived in India for two years before moving to Australia. She blogs at www. G Venket Ram is an acclaimed photographer and the creative mind behind many a Culturama issue. To know more about his work, log on to Beth Chapman is an American business management consultant living in Bengaluru. Former President of the city's Overseas Women’s Club, Beth is an Indian culture aficianado.

We welcome Diane Chatterjee, a Scottish insurance professional who has lived in Mumbai for the past seven years. Besides indulging her passion for Indian travel, craft and cuisine, she has been on the Board of Mumbai Connexions, a society for expats.

culturama | JULY 2013


Contents 52

On the Cover

26 Fashionista

India's fashion industry is here to stay and how!

Understanding the underlying ethos that binds the many Indians

64 Ladies of the Lotus

India’s People

Kamalini, an NGO in Delhi that works to empower women

12 Sen’s the Word

Sushmita Sen, Indian actor, model and queen of fashion in an exclusive conversation


56 Binding Factor

66 Spotlight

Featuring India’s biggest influences and events


62 Leading the Trail

Stories from India’s mythology reinterpreted for practical living

Journeys into India

52 Tale of a City

Varanasi, the city of light, life and death

54 Valley of Silence India’s Culture

14 A-Z of India

The head to toe checklist of Indian ornaments

Exploring the silence of Chandratal Lake, in the heart of the Spiti Valley

58 Make up your Mind

Training your mind means experiencing the vivd stillness of life

18 Short Message Service

60 Drops of Faith

24 In Your Kitchen


Snippets of Indian culture

Tracing the cuisine of the Muslim Moplah community from Kerala

48 Midnight Patrol

A rare look at Bengaluru under the cloak of midnight

47 & 57 Postcards from India


culturama | JULY 2013

The spiritual bond of women and water cuts across cultures and boundaries

32 Look Who’s in Town Expats in India share their stories on a practical theme for everyday survival in India

40 Calendars

See what’s going in Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, and take a look at our pick of the month

68 Festivals of India Ramzan & Guru Purnima

70 India Writes

A space for India’s abounding world of literature.

Relocations and Property

72 Tell Us Your Story

Practical advice from Global Adjustments’ relocation expert

74 & 76 Space and the City Property listings across the metros

culturama | JULY 2013


In Focus

Ranjini Manian

Spotlight on an Indian trailblazer

s ’ n e S d r o W the l and actor, mode n ia d In , n e S ita Meet Sushm shion as she fa f o n e e u q ted e won the undispu ged after sh n a h c e if l w ho talks about own at 18 Universe cr iss M t s ir f India’s

PHOTO Gautam Patole


culturama | JULY 2013

FAME in India can mean several things to several people. To some, it is the thrill of recognition on the streets; to some it is the power that comes with it; and to some, the money. But there is that rare breed of personalities to whom fame means only one thing — the opportunity to expand its aura and take in as many people as possible within. Sushmita Sen is one such. In 1994, when she was crowned Miss India, the nation that watched the entire pageant on newly discovered satellite television, was surprised that this tall, dusky, 18-year-old Bengali girl had won. Within a few months, when she brought home the Miss Universe crown, and thereafter made a successful Bollywood debut, became socially active, and did the unthinkable of adopting a baby girl (Renee) when she was just 24 and single, the nation ceased to be surprised. We knew that Sushmita’s personality was a force to reckon with and her unmistakable magnetism pulled us into her special world. “I love being beautiful and I am very unapologetic about it. I recognise beauty comes in every shape, size and form, but I also know that to achieve something in life it has to be an entire package, of hard work and determination, not just the way you look, and that you don’t have to explain ever,” she says in her characteristic forthright manner. Today, Sushmita is an established Bollywood actor (17 years in the industry and still counting), successfully runs her I AM Foundation, a charitable organisation supporting various causes for children and women, and is a single mother of two (three years ago she adopted another baby girl, Alisah). In an exclusive interview to Culturama, she talks about motherhood, failure and how she learnt at 18 to carry India in her heart. You have adopted two lovely girls proving that maternal love comes naturally to women, even at the age of 24. How do you hold your own despite criticism and controversies, evolving gracefully as a mother, and being single all the while? Wow, long question! Yes, I have adopted two beautiful daughters. I had Renee when I was 24 and Alisah ten years later. At this stage I learnt how to be better at being a mother. I think for most people in this world, anything that comes from within, which is a way of life or a principle you live with, you don’t have to go to war with it. It’s something that just flows naturally. To hold one’s own is a tough one because life is not the same all the time. The only thing which is constant is your belief and you follow your beliefs; and once you start doing that it becomes a habit, as it has been in my case. What would you say most contributed to your practical education in life? Life itself, more than anything else, and good schooling. The fact that my father was in the Indian Air Force meant we were posted every three years to different parts of India. So every time I had to adapt to a different surrounding, different atmosphere, new friends, new school and new everything. Life teaches you that as long as you are willing to change with the changing times, are happy to adapt and choose to adapt, it becomes easier.

To hold one’s own is a tough one because life is not the same all the time. The only thing which is constant is your belief and you follow Your beliefs; and once you start doing that it becomes a habit

What is the importance of supporting social causes and what does your foundation do differently? Oh! We do everything differently! That’s one of the greatest things about the ‘I AM Foundation’. I AM is simply as generic as recognising that I am different, I am unique and there are no two DNAs that are the same. So, as a foundation, we decided that since there are already so many organisations doing an amazing amount of work, it would help to help them. We focus more on causes for children and women. We stay away from giving money to people and, instead, procure whatever it is that people want from us through the money we raise. We try and get incubators for hospitals, things for orphanages and we have nine girls studying in Vrindavan with their food and sanitation also taken care of by us. I wish that nine was nine thousand, but that’s the agenda, to keep going. For us, it’s like this: each time you change one life, an ‘I AM’ life, you change the way you look at the world in the coming years. That is called belief. For every Sushmita Sen that makes it big, there are a hundred who don’t. How would you advice people to face failure? You can’t be defeated unless you allow it. I have had so many films of mine fail, but at no point did I attribute that quality to myself. I always recognised that yes this film of mine bombed at the box office, but Sushmita Sen did not fail. For any person out there who does not make it, who fails in the film industry, they should know it’s just a matter of the film failing, or this particular profession not working for you. Choose wisely your own strengths. The minute you start cloning other people, then you are asking for trouble. You should want to be you and whatever that is, it’s beautiful and successful. When you are on the international scene, do you do anything intentionally to remain “Indian”? No! Never! In fact, I have to say this, that I find both the media and the celebrity quite pretentious that they believe you should go to an international film festival or any big international event and wear a sari to remind everyone that your soul is Indian. You can’t dress a soul in a sari. As far as I am concerned, I would wear a ballroom gown because you do in Rome what the Romans do, it’s as simple as that. But God helped me at the age of 18 when I wore India on my chest. I just know what it is to be an Indian without having to wear a sari.

To know Sushmita’s idea of a good leader, her stress-buster and other quick bytes from her life, log on to culturama | JULY 2013


A to Z of India

Susan Philip

26 facts and more on an Indian theme

All the trimmings Trendy or traditional, ethnic or modern, textiles or trimmings, apparel or ornaments, India is a treasure trove for anyone with the slightest interest in clothes and fashion. Here’s a mere sampling of what this country’s ‘dressing-up box’ has to offer


arrings: Together with neck chains, they’re the most common accessory of the Indian woman. They’re available in mind-boggling variety, of both style and cost. From sparkling diamonds set in gold to terracotta, shell, bead and thread ornaments, there’s something to suit every taste and budget. In olden days, both men and women had their ears pierced, and for many Indian men, time has come full circle.


nklets: In their simplest form, they are chains women wear around the ankles. They range from delicate to chunky, and often have tiny, tinkling bells. Traditionally made of silver or baser metals, gold anklets are also available. Originally, gold anklets were worn by royal families, as most other Indians felt, and some continue to feel, superstitious about wearing gold on their feet due to its association with Goddess Lakshmi.


indi: The red dot that most Indian women wear on their foreheads was traditionally an auspicious mark made with vermillion powder, but can now be store-bought as disposable stickers. They come in fancy shapes and colours, and may even be encrusted with stones. photo Silva Paananen, Finland





lutch Bags: They come in such a variety of designs, you’re absolutely spoilt for choice. Beaded, embroidered, with mirror-work, in jute, leather, cloth or synthetic materials, each region of India has its own ethnic special, and no one can have just one. upatta: It’s a length of cloth worn with salwar-kameez sets, to match the ensemble. Dupattas can be plain, printed, embroidered, and embellished in various ways. Scarves and stoles are variations of the theme, and are used by men too.


culturama | JULY 2013

lower Power: Nature provides the best adornment. Fresh flowers perfume the hair as well as add a simple, inexpensive touch of glamour to the plainest of outfits. A garland of jasmine threaded into a plait or a rose tucked into an up-do or buttonhole lifts the spirits and the senses. ota: It’s a narrow ribbon woven with silver and gold threads, and sewed on to fabric, applique style. When used to adorn the edges of dupattas or turbans, they provide a touch of glitz.


air Ornaments: Flowing tresses are considered a sign of beauty in Indian culture and are embellished with elaborate stone-studded grips and slides and gilded tassels. For an exotic look, wear a Maangtikka, a chain with a pendent at one end and a hook at the other, which can be hung along the hair-parting, with the pendent resting just below the hairline.

photo Pia Berglund sweden

ehndi: It’s a paste made of henna leaves, used to make auspicious temporary ‘body tattoos’ in a beautiful, rich red, at weddings and other functions. Intricate, floral, geometric or paisley designs are drawn on the palms, often extending to the back of the hand and stretching up the arms.


ose Ring: What was once almost a rite of passage (with roots in acupuncture) in some Indian communities has now become a fashion trend adopted across all sections of women, from teenagers upward. Take your pick from a tiny stud, a ‘septum ring,’ or even a huge hoop.


nternational Indians: India can give a good account for itself in the fashion world. Clothes and accessories by the likes of Satya Paul, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Manish Malhotra, Ritu Beri and others are much sought after. Names such as Fab India, Titan, Nakshatra and Gitanjali are held in high esteem for ethnic wear, watches and branded jewellery.


odhpurs: That’s one of India’s contributions to Western fashion. The name comes from a style of trousers, baggy around the hips and thighs, but tight around the calves and ankles. It was introduced to England by the Polo-loving Pratap Singh, scion of the Jodhpur royal family, and was adapted by the English aristocracy.





amarbandh: These waist belts are pieces of traditional jewellery usually worn by women, but there are versions for men too. They are used on formal occasions such as weddings. Commonly made of faux gold, and sometimes stone-studded, they serve to keep the sari in place, and, when worn by men, could have provision to hang an ornamental sword. ac: Tree resin extracted by the lac insect can be coloured and melded into myriad shapes and hues, and lends itself beautifully to jewellery-making. Lac bangles, earrings and chains are easily available in India, and go with most types of outfits.

photo Ran Levy Israel

hdani: Literally meaning wrap, it is a piece of cloth women use as a veil, with ghagras and similar North-Indian outfits. It is worn draped over the right shoulder, around the back and over the head, sometimes tucked into the waist. It is often decorated with beads and other embellishments. olki Jewellery: An expensive variety of ethnic Indian jewellery, uncut diamonds and other precious stones are embedded in gold or silver, to make stunning ornaments. A more affordable cousin is known as kundan, where glass and coloured stones are used in place of real gemstones.

culturama | JULY 2013


A to Z of India


oyal Fashion: India’s royalty lived life king size! They patronised the biggest names on the world’s fashion scene, and sported bespoke jewellery from Cartier, sportswear from Louis Vuitton, custom-made footwear from Salvatore Ferragamo, and bags from European designers, to name just a few.


hoes: There are many varieties of typical Indian footwear. Jutis are embroidered or beaded slip–on shoes. Mojaris are closed shoes with long, curled toes. Kholapuris are handcrafted leather slippers, taking the name from the place of origin – Kholapur district of Maharashtra. The oldest is possibly the paduka, comprising a sole with a sort of knob to be gripped between the first two toes.


aba: This long, flowing coat is a variation of an outer garment or overcoat used in olden-day Iran. It was worn by both men and women in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Indian version being wider than its Persian counterpart.


niquely Indian Accessories: Sindoor, also known as kumkum, or vermillion, is considered auspicious by Hindus. Married women wear a smear of it in their hair parting. The mangalsutra, mangalyam or thali is a chain with pendants and other attachments, and is a symbol of marriage. Bangles are worn by young, unmarried girls and married women, while toe-rings, another symbol of marriage, have become a fashion statement.


ajani: It’s a type of loose pant or pyjama, often richly embroidered, worn mainly by the men of Gujarat, particularly while performing the traditional Garba dance.


aist Jhoomer: A key ring clip which can be tucked into the sari waistline, it’s both practical and ornamental. They come in silver and other metals, beaded and stonestudded, with chains and tiny bells. Often a part of the bridal accessories, they are stylish yet traditional.


clusively Indian: India’s many tribes have retained their distinct identities despite the relentless march of modernisation. They make jewellery and accessories such as bags in ways handed down through generations. Each tribe’s handicrafts have a distinct style, and locally available material, such as shells, grass, coins, cane, feathers, and some metals, are used.



emple Jewellery: Inspired by ornaments adorning temple idols, South India is famous for this type of jewellery. Traditionally, they were made of precious stones set in gold, and tended to be large and eye-catching. Modern adaptations use beads and semi-precious stones, and are available in silver and baser metals too, so they’re stunning, yet affordable.


culturama | JULY 2013

jshtinuam: This is a boat-shaped cap worn pressed down on the head. It’s also called a Kulah. Caps or topis are important accessories in India, as are turbans. Styles and shapes differ from group to ethnic group.


ardosi: A technique of gold thread embroidery on rich fabrics such as satin and velvet, it is used to add grandeur to clothes. Often, tiny mirrors and semi-precious stones are worked into the embroidery.

culturama | JULY 2013


Short Message Service

Suzanne Mcneill

textile Sungudi

Madurai al Short cultur snippets for an easily dia digestible In

Crafts of India Leather Craft


THE craft of leather embossing practised in Shantiniketan, north of Kolkata, grew out of the artistic and educational principles taught by West Bengal’s greatest poet, Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore believed in the tapovana system of learning from nature, with an emphasis on art and culture. From this aesthetic vision grew the craft of Shantiniketan. The leather is soaked, stretched and dyed. It is cut into shape using simple templates, and the surface is smoothed and burnished to prepare it for embossing. A die is made of the design and placed in a ball-press machine along with the leather, which is then compressed and takes on the imprint of the die. Colours are applied to the embossed areas, and after drying the leather is stitched into its final shape and lacquered. Shantiniketan products range from purses, clutches and handbags to small decorative items such as storage boxes, footwear and key rings.

TAMIL NADU boasts of several regions that excel in weaving expensive, opulent silk textiles for saris, in various patterns and weights. The ancient city of Madurai, however, has long been associated with a simpler less showy style of sari textile called Sungudi. Sungudi saris are made of high-quality, fine-count cotton and patterned in age-old traditional ways including tie-and-dye, hand-painted dots (or buttas) and block printing. The decoration of the border and pallu (the end of the sari) can be more specialised, with zari (silk thread) work adding contrast and refinement. Sungudi saris are a staple dress for many women in South India, as they are a practical option in the humid, tropical climate of the region. They are affordable and easy to maintain. Today, Sungudi manufacturers are promoting modern innovative designs in an attempt to restore the preeminence of the textile.

art Pichwai Paintings


Photo Courtesy:

ALONGSIDE the formal school of miniature painting that flourished in courtly Rajasthan in the 16th century were various folk styles of painterly works that utilised the same strong colours and bold compositions of their aristocratic counterparts. Pichwai (pich meaning ‘back’ and wai meaning ‘hanging’) are decorative curtain cloths that are hung in shrines behind the deity, most often the God Shrinathji, a manifestation of Lord Krishna. It is said that Shrinathji emerged from the Govardhan Hill, near Mathura. To save the self-manifested idol from destruction during the oppressive reign of Aurangazeb, the God was carried to Nathdwara. His shrine became a centre of pilgrimage and an inspiration to local artists, who illustrated tales of Krishna, often shown as Shrinathji holding the Govardhan Hill on his finger, as an offering to the deity.


culturama | JULY 2013

culturama | JULY 2013


Short Message Service

Interpretation Thali EACH region of India serves a version of thali that reflects its culinary heritage and delicacies. The word ‘thali’ translates as ‘plate’ and is used generically to mean a selection of small portions of up to 12 different dishes, served in bowls called katoris, and presented on a round tray made of stainless steel. Rice or bread is served alongside. Pictured here is a South Indian thali, lined with a banana leaf, which includes the peppery rasam, a selection of vegetable curries served dry or in a gravy, and side dishes of dal and chutneys. A thali offers a complete meal that presents the six categories of taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent) categorised by the age-old principles of Ayurveda, a variety of textures and a balance of nutritionally healthy ingredients to cleanse and repair the body. PHOTO Francois Daniele, France



Tribes of India Naga

Photo Courtesy:

BHOJPURI is spoken by around 33 million people who live predominantly in a region across northern India that includes east Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and extends into western Nepal. It is one of a cluster of languages known as the Bihari languages, and used to be considered a dialect of Hindi. This is disputed by native speakers, who point out that Bhojpuri scholars were integral to the development of Hindi as the language for independent India, and that they used Bhojpuri as a base for their work. The literary history of Bhojpuri has been traced back to the 8th century AD, and forms a rich body of folklore, riddles, proverbs and poems. India’s first President, Dr Rajendra Prasad, came from the Bhojpuri-speaking region. Greet your Bhojpuri acquaintances with a friendly ‘Pranaam’, and ask them how they are, ‘Tuu thiik hauuva na?’


culturama | JULY 2013

AS MANY as 66 Naga tribes have been identified in recent years, numbering around four million people. ‘Naga’ is an umbrella term for the tribal peoples who share similar cultures and traditions and form the majority ethnic group in the green landscapes of the north-eastern Indian states of Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, described as ‘high and haunting lands’. Nagas tend to live in hill-top villages where they farm, weave textiles and carve woods. Power resides in a council of elders, and young boys and girls are admitted to a morung or youth dormitory at puberty for instruction in Naga culture and traditions, although this system is disappearing. Many Nagas are Christians as a result of 19th century missionary efforts. Naga tribes are instinctively isolationist. They have long resisted outside domination, and in 1947 opposed inclusion in the Indian state. To this day, factions are fighting for selfdetermination.

culturama | JULY 2013


Short Message Service

Urban Adventure

Parry’s Corner, Chennai IF YOU’RE shopping, but keen to experience an alternative to the creeping mall culture of Chennai, then head to Parry’s Corner at the southern end of North Beach Road at the heart of the old British trading centre of George Town. This is the city’s traditional wholesale and commercial shopping area, a crowded, rectangular warren of criss-crossing streets that each specialise in just one particular type of merchandise, be it textiles, flowers, beads, Christmas decorations, lamps or shoes. Finding your way back to a particular favourite might be a problem, as you negotiate cows, rickshaws and motorbikes, and attempt to retrace your steps through the maze-like streets! Aim to go before noon – it gets very busy after midday. Take water with you, as most of the shops don’t have air-conditioning, cover knees and shoulders, and plunge in!

Rukmini Devi Arundale


Namaste vs Salaam

photo Bipin Khimasia India

BHARATNATYAM is regarded as India’s pre-eminent classical dance form, a status it owes single-handedly to its revival in the 1930s by Rukmini Devi. As a beautiful young Brahmin, Devi had already shocked conservative society by marrying a middle-aged Englishman, the Theosophist, G.S. Arundale. Her interest in India’s traditional dance forms led her to perform a Bharatnatyam recital at a Theosophical Society convention in 1935. Bharatnatyam had always been danced in the temples by the devadasis, the handmaidens of the Gods, but no woman born into respectability had danced it in public. Devi’s performance was a turning point, and the Arundales founded the prestigious Kalakshetra Dance School in Chennai in 1936 to further its study. In later years, Devi served in India’s Upper House of Parliament, and helped found the Animal Welfare Board of India in the 1960s. Rukmini Devi Arundale died in 1986.


culturama | JULY 2013

photo Cesare Pagani Italian

Past influencer

BOTH ‘Namaste’ and ‘Salaam’ are forms of greeting that you will encounter in India. ‘Namaste’ is common to India’s Hindu and Buddhist communities, and is usually accompanied by a gesture in which the speaker gives a slight bow with the palms of their hands pressed together in front of the chest. Derived from Sanskrit, ‘Namaste’ is a combination of two words, ‘namah’ meaning ‘bow’ and ‘te’ meaning ‘you’, and is an acknowledgement of the divine in each of us. The Islamic salutation ‘Salaam’ originates from the Arabic word for ‘peace’. It is usually accompanied by a low bow with the right palm placed on the speaker’s forehead. Salaam is also used colloquially by Indians when greeting their employers, especially in the lower strata of society, a practice remnant from the British era.


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In Your Kitchen

harini sankaranarayan

Understanding an Indian community through their food

Coast Effective What do you get when Arabs of yore land in the coast of Kerala for trade and having fallen in love with the magical beauty of the place, decide to stay back? You get the wonderful world of Moplah Muslims keeping the flavours of the past alive

THE verdant coast of Kerala has always attracted visitors. The green landscape, abundant rain and rich produce of vegetables and spices made it an ideal location for people from all over the world to make a beeline for Kerala when they had an opportunity. And so, long before the Portuguese arrived on the Kerala coast, and well before the Mughals invaded the north of India, the Arabs had a quiet and peaceful trade agreement with the rulers of Kerala. Like many traders who came to India, some of them stayed back. They married the local women and settled down on the north Malabar Coast. They became the Mappilas (son-in-law) of the land. This later morphed to become the name of the new community. The British, unable to master the local language, later used a more tongue-friendly name. The North Malabar Muslim community were now called the Moplahs. Unlike the strict Kerala Namboodri Brahmins, whose cuisine we explored in the earlier issue, the Moplahs included a lot of meat in their daily cooking. Abida Rasheed, a Moplah Muslim, traces this abundant use of meat to their Arabic heritage. “Our food has a lot of Yemeni influence,” claims Abida who lives in Kozhikode and is known to the culinary world for popularising her native cuisine through food festivals all over the country. “Unlike the Mugalai food, the Moplah food is simple. We do not use complicated spices or cooking techniques,” she adds. The food is lighter and less oily. Of course, the cuisine does use some of the abundant local spices. Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and coriander are some of the staple spices. Ginger and garlic are added for the depth of flavour. However, milk products such as cream and yogurt are rarely used. If the Mughals had their Naans and Kulchas, the Moplahs have their ‘Pathiris’ a thin chapatti made of rice. There are at least ten variations of this bread, each taking on the flavours based on the stuffing used. The pulao is replaced


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with ‘Neichoru’, rice fragrant with ghee and finished with local spices. The day would begin with a typical Kerala breakfast — puttu with curry which could be vegetarian but more often than not contain some form of meat or seafood. The staple for lunch would be rice, but not the typical Kerala red rice. “Our food tastes extra special when cooked with traditional utensils such as the Palakadan chatti (clay pot of Palakkad mud, the most flavoured one), cheena chatti (cast iron vessel) and puttu kutti (cylindrical steamer)”. Abida even carries her pots and pans as she travels the country popularising her native cuisine. Lest one thinks that the Moplahs do not include any vegetable in their staples, Abida is quick to add, “We do add a lot of raw bananas, ladies finger or okra and drumstick leaves.” However, one may not find the pumpkins and yams which find a place in the rest of the Kerala cuisine. The Moplahs also have their own versions of the biryani, of which Abida recommends the fish biryani to actually understand the flavours. A wedding feast would more often than not feature a whole goat stuffed with a chicken, which in turn is stuffed with rice and eggs, cooked whole and served to the guests. Dessert is not only unusual in their ingredients and flavours but also laborious. The most famous of them being the ‘Aleesa’, a porridge made of wheat with mutton or sometimes chicken, cooked with ghee and sugar. No celebration can be complete without the aleesa and the muttamala — a dessert made almost entirely of eggs. The lightly cooked egg white is garnished with a fine trellis of egg yolk cooked in sugar syrup. The Moplah Muslims blended their food habits with those of indigenous people and a new food culture emerged with its richness and variety. Abida Rasheed, on her part, continues to popularise the Moplah style of cooking keeping alive the flavours of her past.

Recipe Malabar Konju Porichathu (Malabar style fried prawns)

PHOTO AND RECIPE COURTESY: Ente Keralam. the restaurant hosted a Moplah food festival CURATED by the Moplah cuisine expert, Ummi Abdulla.

Ingredients for first marination: Prawns Turmeric powder Lime juice Pepper Salt to taste

250 gm 5 gm 1 tsp 5 gm

Ingredients for second marination: Kashmiri chilli powder Chilli powder Coriander powder Rice powder Oil to fry

8 gm 5 gm 5 gm 5 gm

Did You know?

Method of preparation 1. De-shell and de-vein prawns and leave their tails on. 2. Marinate the prawns in the first mixture of turmeric powder, lime juice, salt and pepper for 20 minutes 3. Once the prawns have marinated in the first mixture, add the second set of ingredients; Kashmiri chilli powder, chilli powder, coriander powder and rice powder. Marinate this for another 10 minutes 4. Deep fry the marinated prawns and garnish them with onion rings, lime wedges and fried curry leaves.

The Moplahs were the first Indian Muslims and their presence dates as far back as 629 AD. There are at least three Moplah communities in Kerala – the Muslim, Christian and Jewish. Prem Nazir and Mammootty are some of the famous Moplah Muslims from the film fraternity and Fathima Beevi another from the political world.

culturama | JULY 2013



Suzanne McNeill

A comprehensive narrative on India



culturama | JULY 2013

The Indian Fashion industry has blossomed in the last decade into a rapidly growing market of fashionistas who want the best of both Indian and Western fashion. We take a look at its aesthetic journey over the years as it continues to make inroads into the global arena as well as into the Indian psyche

India has a long and distinguished history of textile manufacture, dyeing and decoration. Each region has its own rich textile heritage and style of native dress, from graceful saris, vibrant skirt-and-blouse ghagra cholis, to salwar kameez, the Persianinfluenced trouser and tunic. Traditional menswear includes the dhoti, an unstitched length of fabric wrapped around the waist and legs, and the elegant sherwani coat for formal occasions. The kurta, a long, loose shirt, has become a unisex item of clothing. During the 20th century, Western dress began to make inroads into urban Indian society. For some, Western wear indicated sophistication and modernity. It was convenient and comfortable. Rapid globalisation, the rise of corporate culture and the boom in India’s retail industry have resulted in a wide variety of options for men and women to choose from, and an increase in Western-style dressing. A Changing Scene Despite this, the Indian fashion industry has been gaining prominence in recent years. The country is one of the world’s biggest exporters of textiles, with cotton, silk and man-made fibres accounting for 11% of overall exports in 2010. Indian ethnic designs are coveted by fashion houses and garment manufacturers around the world, and there has long been a niche market for India’s skills in textile embellishment and decoration. And looking good has always been integral to India’s culture, along with a certain flamboyance and love of adornment. As with so much of India’s culture, cinema has played its part in influencing the nation’s style, with each era of film stimulating new styles of costume design that boosted the fashion industry. The media, too, has stimulated fashion’s current boom. Magazines such as Elle, Cosmopolitan and Verve are specifically devoted to the fashion scene, now joined by Vogue, and fashion-based programmes have proliferated on satellite television channels. All have increased awareness amongst India’s aspiring middle class about changing trends in global fashion, and increased opportunities for local and international designers. A Modern Idiom Commenting on the Indian market at the launch of Vogue India, the editor, Priya Tanna, said, “Indians are a colourful people. We’re never going to shy away from colour. I dread to think of a day when we become a grey country.” She was drawing attention to the increasing sophistication of Indian fashion-followers, who have a high awareness of international fashion brands, but look to marry that with the best of Indian design rather than simply follow the trends of the West. It’s an aesthetic that has found wide acceptance in India’s affluent domestic market, and the style and type of clothes that Indian designers tend to produce are also well suited to neighbouring markets like the Middle East that rely on India for such output. Many of the country’s emerging designers take their inspiration from the spirit of India, its opulence, its fabrics and its dyes. This approach was pioneered in the 1960s by the designer Ritu Kumar, who almost single-handedly created and defined the Indian fashion industry. Kumar's interest in traditional textiles and prints led her to interact with craftsmen and artisans to track down designs in long-forgotten textile districts. She reinterpreted these time-honoured motifs in a new and modern idiom, fashioning contemporary garments that she sold (and continues to sell) through her own boutiques. Other designers followed Kumar’s lead, reviving age-old artisanal techniques such as vegetable dyeing, block printing and embroidery.

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COVER STORY Indian Luxury Today’s creative designers continue to look to the ethnic designs of the past that take them close to India’s cultural roots and provide a distinct style to their modern-day haute couture. Consequently, the production of garments for the international market beyond India’s neighbours, such as the United States and Europe, is not significant. Some 95% of business conducted during India’s Fashion Week is for the country’s domestic market. Overseas buyers and stores may consider buying parts of traditional collections or outfits, but selling them as a whole is difficult, for both reasons of wearability and commercial viability. Someofthisisdowntoproblemsofsupplyanddelivery.International fashion labels depend increasingly on ever shorter lead times that require fast production processes and distribution, which is not suited to the delicate production of Indian garments. For many current designers, however, the real prestige (and money) comes from selling to domestic buyers, essentially India’s monied elite. The growing wealth and disposable incomes of the country’s middle and upper classes is creating big opportunities for local producers, and as a result their need to look outside India for commercial success is limited. Commentators on the fashion scene also point to India’s position as a target market for international brands, evident from the number of launches over the past decade. India represents a huge market. Those who can afford it are unapologetic about spending lavishly on luxury goods. An Indian Identity There is one area in particular where Indians are prepared to spend extravagantly on couture: the lavish, unrestrained Indian wedding! It’s not just the bride who dresses up. Grooms, too, want to wear traditional, colourful Indian outfits, and have replaced their sober suits with chic ensembles in which they resemble modern maharajas, whilst other family members will also place orders for customised clothing. For one wedding, a designer might get 40 family members ordering five elaborate outfits each! This strong domestic market for high fashion provides a vision for India’s fashion houses. Analysts believe that designers should establish a strong brand identity by utilising and building on aspects of India’s unique culture, which will then enable them to carve out a special niche for themselves in the competitive world of international fashion. Dream Weavers Here’s a guide on the elite creatives, whose work is celebrated in India and beyond, with apologies for all the many other talents we’ve left out in this short resume. Ritu Kumar

Foremost amongst India’s fashion designers, Ritu Kumar bridges the gap between traditionalism and modernity. By translating her research into historical designs and motifs into a modern idiom, Kumar demonstrated that the products of hand-work can be as profitable as machine-work, and even more glamorous.

Ritu Beri

Ritu Beri made her name overseas as the first Indian designer to present a show in Paris, in 1998, having gone there as a protégé of the legendary French embroidery master, François Lesage. Her colourful collections are romantic yet flamboyant, with rich displays of luxurious silks, brocades and the prevalent use of Mogul motifs.

Rina Dhaka

A design for a Miss India event early in Rina’s career caught the eye of Rohit Khosla, recognised as one of the early innovators of the fashion industry in India, and who proved


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Ritu Kumar

Ritu Beri

Rina Dhaka

Rohit Bal

Sabyasachi Mukherjee Tarun Tahiliani

JJ Valaya

Manish Malhotra

Anju Modi

Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna to be her major source of inspiration. She is best known for her themed Western wear collections utilising crochet, stretch jersey, woollens and spider web motifs. Rohit Bal

Described as ‘India’s Master of Fabric and Fantasy’ by Time magazine, Rohit Bal designs theatrical pieces ranging from romantic, corseted silhouettes to regal sherwanis, all underlined by a strict attention to detail that includes the dramatic staging of his shows. Bal has also made his name through collaborations with big brands such as Hidesign and Mitsubishi Outlander.

Sabyasachi Mukherjee

Mukherjee’s signature style creates international styling with an Indian soul by combining unusual fabrics, textures and detailing, fusing styles and adding embellishments in vibrant colours. Mukherjee draws inspiration from the outsiders, the antique textiles and the cultural traditions of his home town, Kolkata.

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Tarun Tahiliani

Tahiliani is known for his ability to fuse Indian craftsmanship and textile heritage with a Western-tailored silhouette. He uses rich fabrics and consciously blends the old world with the modern. His current collection matches African and Indian prints, chikankari embroidery, nets and chiffons, and his collections always contain black.

JJ Valaya

Fashion Models

Inspired by the royal history of Rajasthan, Valaya’s love of the imperial shines out in his opulent designs, which are embellished with beadwork, embroidery and crystals. Valaya is best known for his bridal collections and bespoke clothing, and even his Western-style, ready-to-wear collection is gorgeously decorated.

Malhotra moved into mainstream fashion design following a successful career as a film costume designer. His design sensibility encompasses voluminous, flowing silhouettes for women and clean, structured cuts for men. He has a particular fascination with Kashmiri arts and crafts, and textured chikankari embroidery from Lucknow.

Anju Modi has been a force promoting the potential of fashion in India for over 20 years. She is committed to working with master artisans across the country to revive and sustain traditional textile crafts. Modi is a revered couturier and creates designs that are romantic, natural and inspired by the fabulous fabrics that are her passion. She is one of the founder members of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI).

Manish Malhotra

Anju Modi

Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna

The designs created by this partnership are chic, clean and crisp. Their lines are almost geometrical, and their aesthetic is minimalist. A recent tie-up with Wills Lifestyle has seen them create a brand, Cue, that offers high-quality Western wear with some of the sheen and shimmer that marks them as Indian designers.

When Vogue launched in India, its first cover featured Bollywood stars Bipasha Basu, Priyanka Chopra and Preity Zinta, and included an article about the synergy between fashion and film in India. That continues to this day, with celebrity appearances on the catwalk, and the ensuing press coverage is an essential way for India’s upcoming designers to get noticed. India’s amazing success in international beauty pageants also interacts with the fashion world – both Ritu Kumar and Rina Dhaka have designed for contestants for beauty pageants, whilst Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai, winners of Miss Universe and Miss World titles in 1994, began their immensely successful careers as models. Indian women have broken into the rarefied world of the international supermodel, the two most famous being Lakshmi Menon and Moni Kangana Dutt.

Fashion Schools

The National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) was set up in 1986 to develop fashion education, research and training, and now has 15 centres across India training aspiring designers. The International Institute of Fashion Technology (IIFT), founded in 1990, offers a vast programme of degree courses, industry collaboration and international tie-ups.

Fashion Shows


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The fashion year in India is ruled less by the seasons and more by celebrations and festivals. However, the industry is gradually changing to a more Western way of presentation, with top designers now showcasing two collections a year. India’s premier fashion showcase is Lakmé Fashion Week, which takes place in Mumbai twice a year. In March 2013, 78 designers from across India took part, presenting collections from ready-to-wear to haute couture. The next event will take place this autumn, dates to be announced. Check out these photographs online for the best of Lakmé Fashion Week 2013: The FDCI’s India Fashion Week is the other big show to look out for, with a strong emphasis on upcoming designers. It takes place in New Delhi in spring and autumn. FDCI also sponsors an annual calendar of fashion events, works alongside government ministries to promote the Indian fashion industry and raise professional standards.

culturama | JULY 2013


Look who's in Town bengaluru

Martina at a roadside henna stall in the city

One Stop City

Irish Martina Mullins, till recently a resident of Bengaluru, takes us off the beaten track in the city. She lets us in on her itinerary for a short day trip to the IT corridor of the South MARTINA MULLINS came to Bengaluru in 2006 working for Ericsson Ireland and oversaw the operations as Relationship Manager. Little did she know then that her designation would have so many layers. For one, she met and eventually married a true-blue Bengalurean, Srikanth. Secondly, she found that her relationship with the city was deep enough to continue to be in her thoughts, even after moving to the Middle East four years later. “There is so much more to the city than the IT world. There is an authentic South India experience waiting to be discovered if you are willing to go off the beaten tourist track. You need to embrace the simple local life,” she says. And as she gives you a detailed itinerary for the day, you know that Martina has left a part of her soul in India. Maybe it lives in the many photographs people took of her at various tourist destinations in and around the city. “If the photograph requests weren’t amusing enough, it sure was when people often asked me, ‘Madam, are you an Anglo-Indian?’” When in Bengaluru For your fix of Hindu architecture, head to Bull Temple Road at Basavanagudi, see the Dodda Ganesha Temple, Bugle Rock and the Nandi Bull. After that, amble along to Gandhi Bazaar. This street market has a huge array of stalls. Enjoy the buzz of activity as a festival approaches. The crowds and activity here are as significant as the festival itself.


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Every couple of hours, it is filter coffee time. Once I was asked if I’d like a foot or a yard of coffee, an experience I cherish – watching this man juggling the coffee between two cups held a foot apart, it was a marvel that he did not lose even a drop and with a flourish, hands you a delicious cup of filter coffee. Relax on a footpath at Jayanagar 4th Block and have a henna artist decorate your hands. To complete your day, you can indulge in some culture at the Ranga Shankara Theatre at JP Nagar. This is an amazing auditorium with mostly amateur but very high standard performances. Keep an eye for the events as they have ‘Play a Day’ weeks! And if you are an early riser, then do go for a morning walk at Lalbagh through amazing trees and gardens along the lake front. Depending on the season, a carpet of different colours awaits you. When in Ireland Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle for all its spread of lush greenery. Experience the tranquility of country life and visit a farm specialising in tillage, beef and dairy. Our staple diet includes potatoes. Check out the various varieties, colours and flavours. And always carry a raincoat or an umbrella, it will never be wasted.

culturama | JULY 2013


Look who's in Town delhi

Enric on a fun evening in Jaipur

Cheers to Delhi!

Writer, translator, teacher, Spaniard Enric Donate Sanchez describes the very cosmopolitan nightlife in the capital city ENRIC Donate Sanchez is a writer who carries Spanish in his heart and English in his mind. At least, ever since he first visited New Delhi in 2002 as part of a volunteer programme. “It was really hard to adjust back then. I was young, my English was poor, but I have learnt the language now and feel much more comfortable,” he says. “I have visited Delhi in 2004 and 2006, till I finally moved in 2008 with a job in Jamia Millia Islamia as a Lecturer of Spanish and Catalan. From there, I jumped into tourism, translation and writing, which is what I do currently,” he adds. After five years of living in Delhi, Enric can tell you a lot about the obvious in the city – from its “extreme weather, its irritating traffic and overwhelming humanity everywhere – but he can also tell you a lot about its soul. “Sometimes, I pass by some monument, not the more famous ones but those tiny ones in parks where you will never find a tourist and I feel like I am living in the Rome of Asia.” And, of course, mention the city’s nightlife and Enric assures you that it is just as obvious and enigmatic as the city. Delhi Dos TLR (The Living Room) and Out of the Box at Hauz Khas Village, and Blue Frog at Qutb Minar are great for live music and drinks. Sky Lounge is my favourite place when there is a theme party. It is on the 25th floor of the Parikrama Restaurant. The view of Connaught Place is superb and the music usually mixes Indian tunes with Western hits. The combination of inside and outside spaces makes it a good choice for any season.


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Mocha in Defence Colony. The atmosphere here is special, with old furniture mixed with aTurkish style café and a very international menu. Personal choice: strawberry hookah with orange juice. They have a happy hour rolling all night long. Tipsy Tips It is better to know where you go in advance. Some localities don’t have many bars, so you will need to take a car or taxi to move somewhere else. There are lots of good offers in the less popular pubs. Happy hours are common and might have really good deals, some even including food. Even though there is an official night charge of 25% over the metre charge, sometimes you will need to bargain hard to get a nice price, especially if you are a foreigner. When in Spain Pubbing in Barcelona, where I am from, is not the same as in Anglo-Saxon countries. It starts later and it has its particular style. Drinking is usually part of the food experience, so usually it pairs with a nice meal or happens only after proper eating. Definitely stay up till dawn, especially in summer, near the beach, and eat churros with chocolate for breakfast. As for the three best places to visit, go to Mirablau, a disco and bar with glass walls on the slope of Tibidabo Mountain; visit La Caseta del Migdia, which is in a forest in Montjuic Mountain and open only in summer; and go Fàbrica Moritz, an old brewery that reopened recently.

culturama | JULY 2013


Look who's in Town chennai

Monika visits the Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram

The Great Outdoors

German Monika Lange takes us on a walk, swim and trek to escape the noise of the city and head to the tranquil outdoors THERE are some things Monika Lange definitely misses about her hometown in Germany. And it’s mostly got to do with the outdoors. “There is a lake near our house and at least once a month we cycle around this lake. In summer, we go swimming at the lake or take a boat tour. And winter is about skiing or taking a ride on a sleigh,” she says animatedly and then adds wistfully, “Sometimes we do miss the snow, but after eight months in Chennai, we have learnt to love the outdoors here as well.” From a small city in Germany with a population of a thousand, Monica finds the shift to Chennai, a city with a million people, understandably overwhelming. “I wonder why there aren´t more accidents on the street with all this crazy traffic! Nevertheless, I’m happy that Chennai is now my new hometown and that I have the opportunity to experience living in an Indian city,” she says, before telling us to grab some “sunscreen, a hat and a bottle of water”, and taking us on a guide to the outdoors in Chennai. German Good Times In Germany, we meet our friends often and go on weekend trips together. There is a small harbour where we often catch up with friends for a German beer or wine. Above all, many events such as festivals, musical or sport events happen at that place. Now in India, we found other opportunities for outdoor entertainment. Of course, because of the weather we are not able to do plan something for the entire day, so we limit our outdoor activities to just the mornings or evenings.


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Out in Chennai Fisherman’s Cove: Located on the ECR (East Coast Road), it’s a lovely place for the weekend. Over here, you can swim in the beach or in the pool. The children can play in the sand while parents relax with a cool drink. And you can enjoy fresh fish for lunch at the restaurant. Theosophical Society Park: This nice green oasis in Adyar is perfect for a walk. The best time to go is in the late afternoon on a weekend. St. Thomas Mount: This is close to the airport and you can walk up the hill or drive up. On the top of the hillock you have a wonderful view of Chennai, and it’s wonderfully quiet and calm, away from the sounds of city traffic. Cycle Story My husband loves to go cycling and one day he decided to buy a bicycle from a friend. His first experience was on a Sunday afternoon. Actually, he only wanted to go to a street nearby to buy some things, but he came back after 45 minutes! He was sweating a lot but happy because he didn’t have an accident, and he said, “It’s possible to cycle in India, but you have to be brave.” When in Germany You should definitely join a barbecue party for an outdoor meal and the opportunity to meet new people. Another option is to go hiking in a forest. You can see animals in their natural habitat and enjoy the fresh air and silence. We also have a lot of old castles in Germany that are worth a visit.

culturama | JULY 2013


Look who's in Town mumbai

Mumbai Masala We catch up with American blogger Jean Spraker as she shows us where to go for short weekend trips around Mumbai

Jean (left) strikes a pose with a friend at the Gateway of India

FOR Jean Spraker, her Mumbai experience began a year ago with what she calls “a soft landing”. “I arrived on Easter weekend and went to mass at Mt. St. Mary’s and brunch at the Trident. My husband had the apartment ready for me, so I never experienced the extended hotel stays common for most expats,” she says with a smile. “Now, I embrace Mumbai’s diversity and energy, but, like anyone, I have occasional moments of frustration, especially when it comes to time. You need to be prepared to adapt to Indian Stretch Time!” she adds with a laugh. And with that colourful little description of India, Jean’s weekends have undergone a paradigm shift. “In the US, most people have Saturday and Sunday off. For us, that meant weekend motorcycle trips, swimming in our pool,


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and just relaxing at the house. Since coming to India, that is no longer the case because my husband works Saturdays. When we have a busy weekend, it is usually spent with other expats going out to dinner or other activity,” she explains, before giving us the low-down on where to go and what to do on weekends in Mumbai. The Best of Mumbai Dinner: Expats enjoy trying new restaurants in the city. Several local expat groups have dinner clubs as part of their offerings, so do check them out. Movies: Mumbai is the home of Bollywood. Like Los Angeles, it has a vast offering of movies and wonderful theatres. I recommend Cine 180 at R City Mall with its recliners and great servers who bring your food to you. Historical Mumbai: Whether it is a ride to Elephanta Island or a tour of one of Mumbai’s great museums, Mumbai has a long history and many wonderful locations to explore. Tip Time Be sure you have included travel time in your estimates. The average commute in Mumbai is two hours each way. And be willing to be adventurous with options, but use common sense. For example, no visit to Mumbai is complete without a local train ride, but do take a local with you and consider a Sunday morning train when the crowds are smaller. Best Weekend Experience Probably my favourite weekend experience was getting up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday to participate in the Mumbai Marathon. We rode a train from Vikhroli to CST (Victoria Terminus) and walked to support the Foundation for Mother and Child Health, a local charity. We also ate at Leopold Cafe, a famous expat hangout featured in the book by Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram. It was a great day with great memories. When in the United States In Texas, if someone invites you to a BBQ, you need to let them know if you are a vegetarian. People in the United States don’t automatically serve vegetarian options at gatherings, especially a BBQ. Don’t miss the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. It is the quintessential Texas experience. If you are in Houston during the spring, you can take a drive out to the Hill Country and see the wild flowers. And if you are there in the fall, be sure to watch at least one live football game.

culturama | JULY 2013




Presenting the best of India’s events in different categories across the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and nearby suburbs. For more such events, log on to


Exhibition of Weaves – Chennai

Jalsa – Style Shop – New Delhi

Date: July 11 and 12

Date: July 25

Time: 1100h to 2000h

Venue: The Hyatt Regency, Bhikaji Cama Place, Ring Road, New Delhi

Venue: Vivanta by Taj Connemara, Wallajah Hall, Binny Road, Mount Road, Chennai Taj Khazana, the in-house lifestyle boutique of the Taj Connemara will showcase its collection of Varanasi weaves – meticulously hand-woven saris, dress materials and dupattas in rare silks, chiffons, georgettes and cottons. Contact 044-6600 0000 for more details.

For style under one roof, head to Jalsa’s exhibition of exclusive designer wear for adults and children alike. Bringing together an assortment of exquisite designs by different designers who want to retail but are constrained by various financial obstacles, Jalsa has today become a name to reckon with in the fashion industry. Visit for details, or call 09810338174.

Abstract Art Show – Chennai Date: August 2 to 18 Time: 1030h to 1830h Venue: Artworld – Sarala’s Art Ganeshpuram, Third Street, Chennai



Canadian artist Vera de Jong will have her second solo show with acrylic paintings. The paintings are highly textured and abstract but with figurative references. Vera’s work incorporates aspects of her knowledge of carpentry and the many years she spent in Japan before coming to India. Call 044-24338691 for more details.


culturama | JULY 2013



Presenting the best of India’s events in different categories across the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and nearby suburbs. For more such events, log on to


The SmaranniK Theatre Festival – Bengaluru

Original Musical from Little Theatre – Chennai

Date: July 6

Date: July 7, 8, 9 and 10

Time: 1930h

Time: 1800h

Venue: K.H. Kala Soudha, Ramanjaneya Temple Compound, Hanumanth Nagar, Basavanagudi, Bengaluru

Venue: Museum Theatre, Egmore, Chennai

SmaranniK, a Bengali theatre group, celebrates its first anniversary with a multi-lingual theatre festival. For the Bengalis in the city, check for the full schedule. For English speakers, catch the play, ‘Crisis of Civilisation: A Journey with Tagore’. This 90-minute play, based on Tagore’s last lecture, intends to inspire the audiencetorediscoverIndia’sNobelLaureate,Rabindranath Tagore. Book your tickets at

From the makers of the popular Christmas Pantomimes, The Little Theatre presents ‘ATITA – Into the Unknown’, an original musical directed and scripted by B. Krishnakumar. The play is based on a time after Earth’s destruction and traces the journey of a spaceship carrying survivors to a new planet called Atita. For advance bookings or further details call 28211115/9677125738 or e-mail

Opera Show – Mumbai Date: July 9 and 15 Time: 1830h Venue: National Centre for Performing Arts, NCPA Marg, Nariman Point, Mumbai NCPA and the Metropolitan Opera of New York will present the famous opera, Il Trovatore. The musical, produced by David McVicar, is an interesting story featuring four talented singers — Sondra Radvanovsky, Dolora Zajick, Marcelo Alvarez, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. With beautiful costumes and lovely music conducted by Marco Amiliato, don’t miss this opera show!

culturama | JULY 2013




Presenting the best of India’s events in different categories across the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and nearby suburbs. For more such events, log on to


Waterfall Rappelling Trek – Mumbai Date: July 13 and 14

Photography Trip to Spiti Valley – New Delhi

Time: 1000h to 1700h

Date: July 14 to 28

Venue: Vihi Waterfalls, Kasara Ghats, Maharashtra With the arrival of the monsoons, Backpack Holidays is organising waterfall rappelling at Kasara Ghats. The scenic Kasara Ghats are located in Thane district and are known for the Vihi waterfalls at a height of 120 ft. With safety measures in place and under expert guidance, this waterfall is the best spot for rappelling. The duration of the trek will be for a day. Email backpackholidays@gmail. com for details or call 9892974968.

Voyage Photogaphique is a unique France-based company organising photography trips across the world. They have three such trips planned in India in the coming year. The first is an exploration of Spiti Valley in the Himalayas. The second is Pushkar in Rajasthan, from November 8 to 22, and the third is Kerala, from March 15 to 29. Each trip is limited to only eight participants and is open to amateurs and professionals alike of any age. To register or to get on to their waiting list, write to

International Fashion Week – Bengaluru Date: 25 to 28 July Venue: Hotel Lalit Ashok, Kumara Krupa High Grounds, Bengaluru This annual event brings together international fashion designers from India and buyers on a common platform. In its ninth edition, the fashion week showcases Indian fashion to the world with designer product displays and fashion shows to be held on all four days. Visit for more details.


culturama | JULY 2013

Advertiser's Feature

Express luxury Located in the heart of Chennai’s business district, E Hotel is a unique boutique hotel that boasts of not just luxury but also of being part of one of South India’s largest mall, Express Avenue.

The Stylish | The Luxurious | The Irresistible Express Avenue Mall, Gate # 1, Patullos Road, Chennai – 600 002 T: 2846 3333. E: W:

Everything about E, a luxurious hotel, adjacent to Express Avenue in Chennai, reflects thoughtfulness and intentionality. The beautiful layout and feel of the hotel is the result of the meticulous intentionality of owner, Mrs. Kavita Singhania. From each piece of artwork to each staff member, she has carefully made sure that every guest has a great experience. The hotel rooms are spacious and have a very open and generous floor plan. The unique layout of the bathroom allows you to enjoy the entire room without feeling closed in. The rooms are individually decorated and each has its own comfort without being a shock to the senses. Their bar, Elixir, located on the first floor, brings a modern and tasteful feel to the weary traveller while enveloping you in a sea of colours and experiences. Care has also been shown to make sure you enjoy your experience in any spot whether overlooking the Buddha Garden or in your own private party room. The restaurant, Entrée, which conveniently opens directly into Express Avenue Mall, welcomes you with its colourful and brightly lit dining area. The space is used well with comfortable seating for groups up to eight. The entire décor is pleasing to the eye and makes for a positive atmosphere for any meal. Entrée’s buffet serves only vegetarian foodand even has a Jain section. Still, there is no compromise on the variety of tastes and experiences. From classic Indian dishes like Paneer Methi Malai to Mexican stuffed peppers to made-to-order Italian pastas, Entrée delivers for nearly all tastes. None of the dishes are too heavy and all of them carry a nice delicate taste with a generous amount of flavour and spice. The chef makes any kind of pasta you would like and serves a perfect portion in front of you with some of the best garlic bread in town. The staff is pleasant and helpful and obviously proud of the food they serve. Appetizers start you off on a great light note that prepares you for the rest of the food. Desserts are light and tasty, with the baked yogurt stealing the show, efficiently using a wide variety of fruit and chocolate with something for everyone. Hotel E makes for an ideal location for someone stopping through Chennai who wants to be near the action, yet also find a place of calm. Whether on your own or with a group, you will find that Hotel E has handcrafted an experience especially for you.

culturama | JULY 2013




Featuring interesting cultural spaces in your city


Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai Established in the 1900s to mark the visit of the Prince of Wales, this public museum is a cultural landmark of Mumbai. The gallery showcases a representative collection from archaeology, Indian miniature paintings and decorative arts. The natural history section is a major attraction for children. The museum has exclusive exhibitions and guided tours.


India Habitat Centre, New Delhi India Habitat Centre (IHC) is the collaboration between several corporate entities and non-profit organisations to bring together India’s most comprehensive convention centre. IHC is home to offices, a club, restaurants, and is also a performance venue for cultural activities. Check out IHC’s event calendar that includes performances, heritage walks and film screenings.

Nrityagram, Bengaluru

Artworld – Sarala’s Art Centre, Chennai

This dance village situated at Hessaraghatta in Bengaluru is the dream project of danseuse, Protima Gauri. The village follows the Gurukul tradition, where students stay with the teacher and train in dance, martial arts, yoga, meditation and learn Indian literature, mythology, poetry, Sanskrit, music, and the history of dance. Nrityagram is open to visitors from Tuesday to Saturday from 1000h to 1400h.

Artworld is one of the oldest galleries in South India and is celebrating its fourth decade of existence in the city. Established initially as Sarala’s Art Centre in 1965, Artworld was set up in 1997 as a second-generation gallery to promote Indian art. Artworld has held path breaking exhibitions in several countries. The gallery deals with established artists of the country and promotes young talent as well.

culturama | JULY 2013

culturama | JULY 2013


Art beat

Team culturama

A Brush with India Canadian artist, Vera de Jong has lived in India long enough to not only call it her home but also internalise her myriad experiences and express them in a thoroughly captivating splash of colour SEVENTEEN years ago, Canadian Vera de Jong came to India and with her husband George Penner, who spent his childhood here, she settled in Hyderabad. George started a website company and she rented studio space and devoted herself to painting full time. On August 2 her second solo show will open at Artworld – Sarala’s Art Centre, Chennai. “In those days Hyderabad was a quiet town. Well, for a town of 8 million, of course,” says Vera with a smile. She studied Telugu and learnt her way around the city, got to know other painters and the few galleries that existed at the time. She began to participate in group shows and eventually Hyderabad’s Daira Gallery hosted her first solo show. “I fell in love with India when I arrived,” she says. “So much about being here moved and challenged me. Its energy and contrasts fascinated me. The heat and colour and intensity were something I’d never experienced before. India has changed so much in the last decade and a half – I tell people I’ve been here long enough to remember the good old days,” she laughs. “But back then it was an important epiphany to realise that this country was utterly itself, and that it was me who would have to change. Instead of wanting it to be different than it was, I adjusted myself to meet and accept it. Painting was a

way of processing that experience, of coming to terms with the frustrations and hard edges of this country, but also its beauty and sudden gifts,” she adds. Vera works in acrylics. Her paintings are highly textured, ‘abstract’ but with figurative references. Many are multi-panel pieces. She spent five years in Japan before coming to India, but while still living in Canada she studied carpentry. When, six years ago, she and George moved to Kodaikanal, far from anyone who would stretch canvases or frame her pieces, she began to incorporate all these aspects into her work. Evolving into a style that is all her own, she now builds her supports from canvas stretched over thin ply, and builds a frame which becomes a permanent part of the painting, sourcing all her materials from the wood shop in town and an art supply store in Madurai. The finished painting embodies for her some aspect of how the world seems, something that feels true despite geography or the group to which one belongs, some commonality of experience. “What we share as humans is so much more important than what separates us,” she says, “If you really watch and listen and forget yourself a little that becomes so clear.”

Vera de Jong’s paintings will be exhibited from August 2 to 18 at Artworld – Sarala’s Art Centre, 1/12 Ganeshpuram 3rd Street, Chennai. ( Exhibition opening is between 1830h and 2030h, Friday, August 2. 46

culturama | JULY 2013


IN  T HIS MAGAZINE Reach thousands of expatriates and Indians through Culturama, India’s only cultural magazine for expatriates. E mai l : cul turama@ gl obal adj Websi te: w w obal adj

Postcard from India

In Line with India

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culturama | JULY 2013


Picture Story

Bipin Khimasia

Where images speak a thousand words

Midnight Patrol A friend of mine from France once asked me to head out with her and take some pictures of buildings and places in Bengaluru. My immediate reaction was, “No way! Not in this crazy traffic!” She immediately added that she was thinking of a late night shoot. “Nobody sees the city after it shuts down,” she said. So, late one night, we set out, taking pictures between midnight and 3 AM.


culturama | JULY 2013

01 Our first stop was Shivaji Nagar, which is a multi-religious location with almost four churches, five mosques and some fabulous temples, all within walking distance of each other! That night, St Mary’s Basilica near Russell Market was beautifully lit (I do not know the reason) and I managed to snap some great shots of the church from a distance. 02 Then we walked along MG Road/Brigade Road to witness the ongoing construction of the new “metro”. Surprisingly, there were workers carrying out the construction at this late hour. 03 The City Market was somewhat busy, mainly due to delivery trucks ready to offload produce for the coming day. The workers were curious about our presence at the market, though, as I brought my camera to eye level all of them took position around the truck, as if posing for the picture. 04 As we walked around the City Market, we came across a street with great architecture. I have, curiously, never noticed this building during the day. The street lights lit up the building with a warm glow, providing just enough light for the picture. 05 On one of the side streets, we were surprised to see hand-pulled garbage trucks. It seemed strange to see them so neatly arranged when we were walking on garbage, mostly left over vegetation from vendors sorting out the vegetables for the next day. 06 At around 2.30 AM, we drove past Avenue Road and stopped over to have a piping hot cup of chai. This refreshed us enough and wetted our appetite for food. So we drove to Capital Hotel to have an early breakfast of eggs and toast.

culturama | JULY 2013


Same Difference

Team Culturama

The Lonely Walk Celebrating the obvious and the not-so-obvious contrasts of India According to India’s 2001 census, 9.6 million children have never entered a classroom. And of the 32 million that began school in 2004, less than half will complete the compulsory eight years of education. The statistics of India’s literacy are certainly shocking, so when we see images like these, of a girl child no less going to school, it gives us hope. But what really made us sit up and take notice was the girl’s expression. It simply brought home the fact that children are the same across the world — that as much as we might sit in the comforts of our home and lament the state of education or joyfully cheer students going to school, there will be days in the child’s life when school is the last place to be! Photo Veronica Guzman, Mexico

Now this walk is diametrically opposite to the one above that we need a moment to just grasp the differences. For one, this child is certainly not on her way to school. Secondly, she isn’t balancing heavy bags filled with books or lunch, but a stick and some pots on her head. And finally, she is literally and metaphorically on the toughest walk of life — the tightrope. Street acrobatic groups might be dwindling in cities, but they remain popular in small towns and villages. Here again, it was the child’s expression that caught our attention and brought home the fact that children, no matter where they are or where they come from, are always looking ahead, eager and hopeful. Photo Tobias Schmidt, Germany


culturama | JULY 2013

culturama | JULY 2013


Seeing India

Ian Watkinson

Travelling around India with an expat

Tale of a City

The city of Varnasi remains the nerve-centre of Indian spirituality throbbing with unspoken secret of life, the universe and everything else in it, shared by all who stream past this ancient city


culturama | JULY 2013

HOWEVER much we prepare ourselves for a first visit to Varanasi it will prove inadequate grounding for the experience. The city connects immediately with something primal and deep within the subconscious, fine tuning its visitors’ senses and imbibing them with a hidden energy which subtly recalibrates cognition. It seems to alter core value systems in a very archetypal way; perception of the world is uniquely readjusted, a new and different connection with reality seems to have installed itself deep within. The feeling prevails that everyone else here is privy to that same knowledge; that we all share the unspoken secret. That the same empathetic hidden switch has been turned on in all who stream past in this ancient city — beggars in profusion, Pandit Brahmins, saddhus plastered with white ash, cycle rickshaws with tinkling bells, ascetics with elaborately decorated foreheads, widows in mourning, barbers, hawkers, thieves and pilgrims jostle on the riverside creating a melting pot of humanity. Kashi, the City of Light. Also, the city of wonder, poverty, death and suffering. Nothing here is hidden from the eyes of man — all life is visible; its joys, its pains, its cruelties and ultimately its natural cessation. For Western eyes, the final vision of death in all its horror and decay is usually sanitised — death almost denies its presence in our daily lives, whereas in reality it is the fate of us all, rich or poor. Nowhere is this open reality of death more clearly perceived than here in Kashi. For this is also the City of Shiva. The myriad main ghats scattered along the western bank of the mighty Ganges are bordered north and south by the funeral ghats of Manikarnika and Harischandra, with their open wood pyres billowing smoke endlessly day upon day. Shiva’s domain. Here death is seen in a starkly different way — that along with the grief of relatives and

friends for the passing of the deceased there is also a celebration, a new opportunity, an ending of one form and emergence of another, a progression, even ‘moksha’. There is vibrant colour everywhere – not black and sombre but saffron and marigold. Flame and heat and smoke swirl around the crackling pyres of wood. The Doms (a caste) are the keepers of the cremation grounds, maintaining the ever burning sacred fire alive. The Doms handle the dead, as it is considered polluting to people of higher castes to touch a corpse after the final death ceremonies. They weigh and sell the wood for the pyres on huge balanced scales above the ghats, from cheaper woods to rare perfumed timbers such as sandalwood. They crack the skulls of the burning dead with long bamboo staves, ensuring that the bodies are burntto the bone before committing the hot ashes to the mighty Ganga to be carried away to the sea, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and the human physical form is absorbed again by the water and world from whence it came, and the wheel of life turns one more cycle. Feared and respected by the higher castes, the Doms have grown wealthy from death. The usually divisive barriers of caste dissolve between the people on the central ghats, their lives interacting on a daily basis — just as the dense morning mists over the river dissolve into sunshine while chanting pilgrims thread their way up the river, leaving trails of bright marigolds in their wake. At the bustling Dashashwamedh Ghat, the flower sellers ply their wares, small cardboard floating trays with a crystal of camphor to set aflame and a bright orange marigold to offer to the great mother Ganga. Lakshmi is one of them — a ten-year-old who has never been to school — selling floral offerings with her sister and their young mother. Nearby, on his rough wooden dais, sits Krishnakumar Tivari,

a Brahmin Pandit nicknamed “Butchee”, waiting to perform puja for pilgrims under his bamboo umbrella. Nearby sits Raja, a kindly boatman, waiting for customers. Another jocular Brahmin trades hilarity and jovial banter with his grinning bhang-addled companion, and Anil the boat owner practices his yoga with impressive agility. Clothes are washed, baths among the rivers’ flotsam and jetsam taken at intervals, customers found and rupees exchanged. Periodically the chai wallah will appear, with his heavy metal teapot and stack of small clay cups, and over the course of the day one or other of this community of people will buy the tea for the others. They interact, laugh, joke and share food and drink without reserve or hesitation; the flower girls, the boatmen and the Brahmins. Each day, after the big evening public Arti is over and the thronging crowds have left, my friend Butchee performs his evening puja at his small Shiva temple on Prayag Ghat. “Butchee” is the local archarya — his nickname I believe is abbreviated from Battacharya. Another calm and humble old Sannyasin, who we call the Christmas Tree Baba (because of his love of silver thread and tinsel embroidered into his clothes) joins us with his orange-clad friend, who sports a shock of soft white hair and silk-like flowing beard. I ring the bell at puja every evening as we are few — the sanyasin, Butchee, the boatmen and the flower girls sitting in front of the lingam, an old and sunken stone smeared with ash laid low below the floor. We sit around the fire in front of Butchee’s modest temple and share their feast of small potatoes cooked in the glowing embers. Here is firm resolve and unbending loyalty to others, here is true friendship, a family even. The clear light of humanity burns fierce and bright and true in all of their eyes, in all of our eyes – the light of Kashi.

culturama | JULY 2013


Seeing India

Avehi Menon

Travelling around India with an Indian

Valley of Silence

Chandratal Lake, in the heart of the Spiti Valley, literally translates to ‘Lake of the Moon’ and lives up to its epithet in its expansive silences and mythical charm

Photo riverbank studios


culturama | JULY 2013

Photo riverbank studios

I STARED down the road. It curved around a bend and then appeared again in the distance. It was almost saying, ‘catch me if you can!’ There were five of us and a smattering of locals helping us, looking far sturdier than us city folk. They were tying our heavier luggage and basic essentials on four donkeys standing by. The sun was high above, staring down at us. This was our last mile. A 13-km trek that would lead us to Chandratal Lake. As with every destination, this journey too began much earlier and that’s usually where the stories are. Five of us, friends from different walks of life, decided to do a trip to Spiti Valley and, specifically, Chandratal Lake. Ardent mountaineers, trekkers or people with a love for fresh mountain air always have Spiti Valley on their agenda. It is a desert mountain valley located high in the Himalayan mountains between Tibet and Himachal Pradesh. Spiti has a distinctive Buddhist culture similar to nearby Ladakh. We left from Delhi, on a muggy July morning, packed with bare essentials, books, music and enough Maggi to feed a small village. Once out of the city and into the mountains, the air got lighter and so did our mood, as we settled into the excitement of the trip ahead. The route that we had decided to take was Rampur – Pooh – Nako – Kaza – Chandratal – Losar – Rohtang –Manali – Delhi. Just outside Rampur was a massive roadblock caused by a landslide and an entire line of vehicles packed tightly, bumper to bumper. Hungry and with no hope of moving forward for a while, we decided to whip up a quick meal. A portable stove, matches and Maggi are all you need. We hovered around the fire, forming a human shield to protect it from the wind. It was our first taste of what the days ahead were going to be like. The landscape slowly changed. The mountains got larger, more majestic. Poplar and fir trees gave away to starker and deeper valleys. The skies were brighter, pollution free. As you drive into these mountains, it’s not just the landscape; you also notice the difference in culture, physical appearance and food. People are gentler, offer you wider smiles and live a simpler lifestyle brought on by necessity and environment. An obscure little signboard hidden around a bend informed us that we were passing a village called Pooh! We had to get off and take pictures. Apart from the usual jokes and funny poses near the sign, the spot had breathtaking views. A dull gray river far below contrasted against brown mountains dotted intermittently with the whites of small cottages. The most dramatic change in landscape was just before we reached Nako village. It was around dusk, so the sky was a bright golden. After a series of turns overlooking a mountainside, surrounding a narrow, deep valley, it suddenly opened up. We were treated to an open expanse of mountains weathered by age and ahead, the sounds of a river, the colour of aquamarine. Nako was the prototype of many villages we would see on this journey. Similar houses with Buddhist prayer flags strung across, a few acres of paddy, a monastery, rosy cheeks burnt by the sun and steaming hot bowls of thukpa (Tibetan word for noodles).

The advantage across Spiti is that even though it has featured prominently as a tourist destination, it has not yet acquired the garb of one. Maybe due to its remote inaccessibly and its terrain, very little has infiltrated, other than the usual mobile network and Coca Cola products. So one learns how to stare for hours at the mountains, listen to the gushing of the river and value the silence. Or one can visit the monasteries close by. There’s the stunning Kibber Monastery, white and majestic, or the Tabo Monastery, which is said to have been founded in 996 AD. We stayed a night in Nako and carried on towards Chandratal. Chandratal, literally meaning ‘Lake of the Moon’, is located at 14,000 feet and surrounded by snowcapped mountains. It also looks especially beautiful on a full moon night. One of the many legends is that this is the location where Indra’s chariot picked up Yudhisthra (one of the Pandava warriors from the Mahabharatha) and took him to heaven and as a result the lake is a revered one. We started our walk to the lake. A dirt road leading two kilometres short of the lake, but to our luck, there had been landslides in the area and the road was blocked off further away. We walked slowly, taking in the view, letting the fresh air fill our lungs. The last leg is always the most difficult part. The entire walk showed no signs of a lake coming up, change in temperature, topography — nothing. So it was a combination of shock, relief and awe when, suddenly, down the slope in the distance, we could see a shimmer of blue. Chandratal Lake was worth every bit of the numbness in my legs. It’s a stunning illusion of blue-green surface but crystal clear. The first thing we did was drink water from the lake. Spiti is not a single experience. It’s more of an overwhelming collection of many tiny ones. Like a ball of wool, unravelling slowly. I had many ‘I-have-never-seen-that-before’ moments on the trip — such brilliantly blue skies, enormous mountains, the weight of silence and so many stars in one sky. It dawned on me that this is the joy of travel. Like the author Pico Iyer once said in an article, it’s the kind of happiness that doesn't depend on what happens.

culturama | JULY 2013


Global Citizen

Neil Miller

A cross-cultural perspective to India

Photo: Elena Eder, ITALY

Binding Factor With the many Indias coexisting almost subconsciously, a newcomer to India needs to look beyond the idea of “common knowledge” to understand the underlying ethos binding the country “WHAT is seekh kebab?” I asked while preparing some information for a training, completely surrounded by Indians of various backgrounds who all gave their answers. “It is just a meat kebab.” “Maybe mutton.” “I think it is minced meat.” “What is minced meat?” “Umm... it's like lamb I think. Just look it up on Wikipedia." As an outsider, it was unbelievable that there was not a common knowledge surrounding something so cultural as food. Shouldn’t every Indian know what seekh kebab is? (Turns out it is actually native Pakistani food.) The idea of “common knowledge” turns out to be not so common in a country made up of 28 unique states and 17 languages on their currency notes. People grow up with different food, different movies, different cultures all together, which makes it difficult to find the strands of the ties that bond. I was reflecting on this while having an evening with someone who grew up roughly 1,000 miles away from my hometown. I was overwhelmed at the similar culture that we were pulling from while reflecting on our growing up years. We watched the same TV serials, ate at the same chain restaurants, saw the same movies, heard the same music, and on and on it went. When it comes to trivia about American culture, we were pulling from the same knowledge pool, even though it would take a fourhour plane ride to reach each other’s home.


culturama | JULY 2013

Part of this is due to the mass industrialisation and “McDonaldisation” that exists in the United States. National brands have virtually taken over all the marketable space available so that every grocery store aisle has the same thing in California or New York. Not so in India. Here, the regional continues to dominate, despite our best efforts to force it all into one country. A newcomer to India has to spend time learning that not every Indian wears a turban and there is more to Indian cuisine than butter chicken (The majority of Indian restaurants outside of India are run by Punjabis). There is not one India, but many Indias and to expect that every Indian to know about seekh kebab is like asking an Italian to explain what wife-carrying is (ask a Finn). So what are the things that bind Indians together? Cricket is the ubiquitous answer, yet still one of the best ones. Traditional values, joint families, arranged marriages and the like are often cited as well but these things are changing. Probably the best example that I saw was at our annual company meet. During a certain activity, one person began singing, “Hum Honge Kaamyaab” (, and the entire room of Indians from many different backgrounds all began singing “We shall overcome” in Hindi. There are certain things that always cross cultures, even Indian ones.

Gautam Patole Culturama acknowledges and thanks Gautam Patole, a talented artist from Mumbai, for sharing his painting titled ‘Indian Beauty’, for the cover of our July 2013 issue.

Born in Mumbai, Gautam Patole is a self-taught artist. He started off as a photo journalist for national and international magazines, and soon began to experiment with oil on canvas, charcoal on paper and canvas, acrylic and ceramic. His paintings have travelled the country in solo exhibitions and group shows. Gautam runs a gallery, Art Desh, along with art promoter, Bharat Patel. The gallery that began as an initiative to promote upcoming artists in Mumbai has now developed into a vibrant community for artists and art lovers. Gautam is also associated with a lot of social causes like the ‘I AM’ charitable foundation run by model and actor, Sushmita Sen. He has also contributed his paintings of legendary classical musicians in support of Aikya 2011, Global Adjustments’ annual CSR event.

culturama | JULY 2013


Holistic Living

Tracing India’s spiritual wisdom

Eknath Easwaran

Make Up Your Mind

PHOTO Christèle Gauthier, France

Training your mind with affection is as easy as switching channels on TV – it’s quick, instantaneous and handy – or as enjoyable as training a little puppy – it’s gratifying, nurturing and a friend for life


culturama | JULY 2013

LIFE today is full of difficulties and conflicts. I think it was Trotsky who said that anyone who wants to lead a peaceful life has chosen the wrong century in which to be born. These are tempestuous times, fraught with turmoil and violence – which means there is all the more reason to have a well-trained mind. When you have a mind that obeys you, you don’t have to run away when trouble threatens – and neither do you have to retaliate. You can receive opponents with respect and oppose them resolutely, returning good will for ill will and love for hatred. Very often, in my experience, this approach will sober an opponent enough that he responds to you with respect as well. You train your mind to do this by switching your attention just as you change the channel on your TV set. There are many injurious channels in the mind, negative channels like anger, greed, arrogance, fear, and malice. But for every negative emotion there is a positive emotion, and you can learn to change channels. I was at a friend’s home when I learned to use a remote control to regulate the channels on his TV. My host said, “You just point this thing at the television and change it to whatever you like.” Because you have been brought up in a scientific, technological culture – not always an advantage! – you see nothing miraculous about this. There may be no visible connection between the TV and the remote control, but it works, and you take for granted that there is a scientific explanation. But I had to ask a friend who knows about electronics to explain to me how the remote control device sends a signal that allows me to change channels. That is exactly what I do with my mind. When somebody is rude to me – which is seldom – don’t think I am not aware of it. I am very much aware, but I can change the channel in my mind from anger to compassion as easily as changing channels on the TV. It is not good to let people walk all over us, and occasionally we need to resist when they try. But we can resist without losing compassion and respect if we know how to keep our mind steady. When your attention has been trained, if somebody does you a bad turn – which is very common in the world – you don’t blow it up into something big. That is what attention does. When you give little discourtesies to your attention, they get blown up into big balloons of frightening proportions. If you don’t give them attention, you simply brush them aside. Similarly, little cravings that should not present much of a problem – an urge to eat this, smoke that, do this, say that – get blown up to gigantic crises. We feel we have to act on them or burst. These selfish urges are part of the human condition, but often all we have to do when they come is to turn our attention away. If we can do this, we can puncture even a big temptation and watch it shrink smaller and smaller and smaller while we get bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s a strange, Alice-in-Wonderland world: where

we saw a temptation towering over us and threatening to devour us, we find ourselves standing tall as a giant while a tiny temptation says, “Excuse me, may I leave now?” Attention can be trained very naturally, with affection, just as you train a puppy. When something distracts your attention, you say “Come back” and bring it back again. With a lot of training, you can teach your mind to come running back to you when you call, just like a friendly pup. Don’t try to be drastic with the mind. Don’t act like a tyrant. Just keep patiently bringing attention back to the task at hand. Friends of mine had a dog named Muka, of whom I was very fond. Muka was a playful creature with boundless energy, and whenever he saw something running, whether it was a rabbit or a truck, he had to run after it. But he was so devoted to me that whenever I called him, even if he had taken off down the road, he would come running back. Our attention can be like that. When it sees a memory, it has to chase it, yapping, yapping, yapping at its heels. If it catches that memory, the memory has caught us. The moment attention takes off is the time to call, “Come back!” After years of calling it back, the great day will arrive when our attention will stay where we want it without our even needing to call. This is a glorious achievement, for it means there can be no resentment, no hostility, no guilt, no anxiety, no fear. Our attention will not dwell on any wisp from the past or the future. It will rest entirely here and now. When our attention does not retreat to the past or wander into the future, we are delivered from time into the eternal now. To rest completely in the present like this is infinite security and infinite joy. In the Upanishads, the perennial fountain of spiritual wisdom in India, the sages compute the joy of a person who has every material satisfaction the world can offer and say, “Let that be one measure of joy. One million times that is the joy of the person who rests completely on the present, for every moment is full of joy.”

Join us every Saturday India Immersion Centre in Chennai facilitates a weekly spiritual fellowship group following Easwaran’s Eight Point




E-mail us for more information at globalindian@globaladjustments. com. If you are in other cities, visit for e-satsangs.

Reprinted with permission from Take Your Time: The Wisdom of Slowing Down by Eknath Easwaran. Copyright The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, P.O. Box 256, Tomales, CA 94971.

culturama | JULY 2013


From the Other Side Indian spirituality through the expat eyes

Marina Marangos

Drops of Faith

Photo Linda Graeble, France

Water and women share a deep spiritual connection across the world, but nowhere is it more evident than in India – from the everyday to the divine


culturama | JULY 2013

WHEN I travelled up into the Uttarakhand in the summer, I was asked to return with a bottle of holy water from the Ganges. This was the request of my house girl, who wanted to use the water to purify and cleanse, to honour and pray, and to minister to the sick and weary. You don’t have to be Hindu to understand that in almost any religion the significance of water is imbued with notions of purification and cleansing. Perhaps here more than in other places, these principles are still maintained with efforts that amount to personal sacrifice and considerable hardship and it is often women who are at the heart of it. As

a child I was baptised into the Greek Orthodox Church by total immersion in a font and anointed with olive oil. My children went through that same process after I had carefully chosen their godparents, as much for their ability to look after them in case I came to an untimely demise, as their ability to be handed a very slippery, naked, wailing baby who did not appreciate being in the hands of the bearded fellow repeatedly dunking them in water. Whenever I went away, my sobbing mother would kiss me goodbye and then pour a pitcher of water after me, to make my journey as smooth as its flow. Women and water seem to have an unmistakable bond but also one which has strict delineations of what women can and can’t do. The Rig Veda portrays water as the foundation of the universe. Early Vedic texts talk about water as being a manifestation of the feminine principle known as Shakti. The suggestion, therefore, is that water is female and, of course, in India the goddess Ganga is also female. Water plays a hugely significant role in the lives of women in India. A side which is very visible — the carrying, washing and cleaning — and a side which is a little hidden from the public eye, of their ritual bathing and blessing. Pushkar has a sacred lake and it is here that for the first time I saw women bathing. They had all congregated on the steps of the tank and some were naked to the waist while others wore their blouses. They immersed their bodies and sprinkled water over their heads and seemed to rejoice in the exercise and in the cleansing process. These rituals of bathing and cleansing are much in evidence in the history you see all over India. The Amber Palace and Hampi are two examples where you can see communal baths just for the women and paintings or statues with women bearing water. The Golden Temple in Amritsar sits on the side of a massive water tank. This is a place that all Sikhs must try and visit at least once in their lifetime. Bathing here is as much a connection to the place as going inside the temple is and receiving the holy blessed food of the gods. Here, the women bathe but in the closed premises within the tank. When I was visiting the Himalayas in the summer, the village of Ghanghani where we stayed had hot springs, which were considered to be therapeutic. My female friend and I went to the women’s enclosure, which was surrounded by high walls with interesting depictions of the deity, to enjoy a very hot and cleansing experience. In the Kumbh Mela this January and February, perhaps 1,00,000 million pilgrims were on the banks of the rivers near Allahabad. The majority is men but there are women who participate in the bathing, washing away their sins in an attempt to attain a purer and better existence. Women are the water carriers and this is something that is still widespread in all the rural areas of India. Yet, they

Photo quadrantine nathallie, switzerland

As a child I was baptised into the Greek Orthodox Church by total immersion in a font. Whenever I went away, my sobbing mother would kiss me goodbye and then pour a pitcher of water after me, to make my journey as smooth as its flow are not allowed to fetch drinking water or do the cooking when impure (in India, that is during their menstrual cycle), though they are allowed to do work, such as washing clothes and cleaning, which are not considered polluting. I have always been amazed to witness the way Indian women, however hard and physically demanding it might be for them, adhere to their “snanam”, their bath, to start the day fresh and clean in a way that nourishes the body and the spirit. There is a bathing of the body but also the mind and women seem to have each ceremony embedded in their beings, whether it is touching and sipping holy water while saying mantras, to ritualistic sprinkling of water in marriages and often after a death, to bring them back to their core connection with the spirit and the magic of the water. Next time you see a woman carrying water, bathing her baby and herself, remind yourself of the effort that commitment takes and the importance for her fulfilling this duty however high or humble she might be. I returned to Delhi, bearing my bottle of holy water, conscious this was a promise that needed to be fulfilled.

culturama | JULY 2013


Myth and Mythology Practical tips from India’s ancient stories

Devdutt Pattanaik

photo Madeleine Holly, Australia

Leading the Trail

An ancient Indian story brings home the importance of a leader, the original change-maker, leading an entire community along in a new perspective ONE day, Brahma, father of all living creatures, found a grain of rice at his feet. “Who is responsible for you?” he asked. The farmer claimed responsibility, as he had sown the seed and harvested the grain. The seed claimed responsibility, as without the seed, no grain can be created. The soil claimed responsibility, as without soil a seed cannot germinate. The sun claimed responsibility, as without sunlight plants cannot grow. Finally, the rain claimed responsibility as unless there is timely rain, and adequate rain, nothing can grow. “Everyone is essential for the creation of the grain,” said Brahma, “But only one is critical: the farmer. For it is the farmer who makes a plant a valued crop. Without him, rice would have been just another weed in the wild forest.” So it is with business. Who claims responsibility for success? At the time of investment, no one really knows if the business will be successful. Success is always realised in hindsight. Who takes the credit for the business: the entrepreneur, his employees, the banker, the market conditions? It is very difficult to pinpoint a single factor for success. But ultimately, everything depends on the entrepreneur, who took the initiative to transform an idea into reality. Had he not had the desire, had he not overcome his doubt, the enterprise would never take shape.

In the Rig Veda, the poet wonders what existed before everything else. And after much pondering he concludes, the first to exist, even before breath, is desire – kama. Without kama, there would be no movement from formlessness (asat) to form (sat), from darkness (tamas) to light (jyoti), from hopelessness (mrityu) to hope (amrita). The entrepreneur is the seat of kama, without whom culture would not exist. Parakh once asked his father to what the family owed its fortune. His father said, “To the consumers who buy the metal we produce, to the workers who work in our mines, to the government who regulates us fairly, to the market that has been favourable, to the earth which provides us the minerals that we mine, but most importantly to my grandfather who invested all his wealth in the mining business. They were traders then, but he wanted to be involved in a primary industry, something close to earth, that would support all other industries. His family did not support him. So he raised capital on his own. That desire, and ability to cope with risk, of your greatgrandfather is the critical factor without which we would not be where we are.”

This article originally appeared in the Corporate Dossier, ET, October 2011. Reprinted with permission from 62

culturama | JULY 2013

footprint bed & breakfast

Stylish 9-room B&B near Park Sheraton in Chennai | Call +91 98400 37483


culturama | JULY 2013


Give to India

team culturama

Making a difference, every day

Ladies of the Lotus

This Delhi-based NGO empowers women through education and encouragement, helping them better their skills and earn a livelihood

Tailoring classes at full speed at Kamalini

Chef Ritu Dalmia at a 'Training the Trainers' session of Kamalini


culturama | JULY 2013

THE lovely lotus rises above the slush, reminding us to rise above our circumstances in life. Kamalini (Sanskrit for ‘lotus flowers’), the Delhi-based NGO, does just that; help women rise up the social ladder and build a future for themselves. Beginning as a small vocational training centre in 2007, this pet project of a group of well-meaning women now provides survival skills to hundreds of migrant women, domestic workers and school dropouts. Kamalini’s mission is to “boost skills and confidence in women” and thereby help increase their earning power and take better care of their families. Kamalini has two centres in Delhi, where women are taught tailoring, international and Indian cooking, handicrafts, basic computer skills and language skills. The NGO follows the open-schooling format and tuitions are also given through outreach programmes at the centre, and outside too. Volunteers, along with teachers from the centre, go on door-to-door campaigns around Delhi and its suburban areas to promote the NGO’s activities in training and education. Being a vehicle of change is not an easy task, as Barbara Spencer, Project Manager at Kamalini, tells us. “It’s difficult to manage the big gap that exists in the system. We have done extensive surveys with the help of corporate and student volunteers in the rural areas around Delhi. What we found was that girls don’t have the opportunity for basic education and hence lack survival skills,” she says. Taking this into consideration, Kamalini ensures that the support of the family is there for the women who enroll in their

sri lanka Volunteers at a French Mela in benefit of Kamalini

programmes. There is also no age bar, as at times, both mother and daughter in the family are eager to join. The NGO doesn’t stop at just training the women in life skills; they also help them get placed in an occupation of their choice. With recognition from the Government of Delhi, Kamalini provides training to women to undergo the ‘Technical Education and Community Outreach Scheme’ (TECOS). Over 200 Kamalini students have been TECOS certified and the NGO is tying up with corporates for placements. Kamalini students have greatly benefited by their soft skills training in areas such as discipline and hygiene and have had good employer feedback, despite being first-time employees. Students like Asmabano stand testimony to Kamalini’s success. A tailoring student at the NGO, she now helps contribute to her family by working at a boutique. Ask Asmabano what she likes best about her Kamalini experience and pat comes the reply, “Today, I study, work and earn! The easy and comfortable relationship between teachers and students makes us feel involved.” Barbara adds, “We are in talks with the Government Apparel Council for lending us training support and eventually placement in garment factories.” Strengthening the families of more than 500 women, Kamalini is an example of how socially responsible individuals can empower women through education and encouragement. Kamalini is at 33, Shahpur Jat Village, New Delhi 110049. Contact for details.

Pitch In

• Kamalini plans to expand to its own campus near Gurgaon in a year. Collaborate with the NGO towards their expanding facilities. • Employment tie-ups from companies are welcome. • Volunteers who can teach and take part in surveys are invited too.

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visit: Milesworth Travels & Tours Pvt. Ltd., 39 R M Towers, 108 Chamiers Road, Chennai. Tel: +91-44-24320522 / 24359554 Fax: +91-44-24342668 E-mail: culturama | JULY 2013



Shefali Ganesh

Focussing on India’s major influences and events

Chariots of the Gods Watch the unique spectacle of Gods going on a summer vacation! This month, the spotlight is on the annual Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra to be held between July 10 and 18 at Puri in the state of Orissa WHAT can you say about a festival that gave the English dictionary a new word? To say the Puri Jagannath Chariot Festival is massive would be understatement. The 45-foot-tall chariots that move with an almost destructive force, gave birth to the word “juggernaut” and it is just that – a “large unstoppable force”! Puri is home to the Lord Jagannath temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna. The rath yatra or a journey on chariots is when Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra, and sister Subhadra, set out to visit their aunt at the neighbouring Gundichi temple. They remain there for a week, after which they return home in another grand procession. The temple-dome-shaped chariots that the three gods travel in are made afresh every year and the idols that travel in them are crafted every 12 years. These idols are the only ones to be made of wood, unlike other Hindu temples, where the idols are made of stone or metal. Interestingly, the idol of Lord Jagannath does not have arms and legs. The story goes that the when the idols were being crafted by a carpenter, no one was allowed to see them before they were completed. The King of Puri, however, took an impatient peek and that is why the Lord is sans arms and legs! There’s much to look for at this festival — from the rhythms of the ‘Dahuka boli’ or poetic songs that are believed to control the movement of the chariot, to the ‘Banati’ players, people who perform the age-old art of spinning fire balls. Here are a few more things you could do:


culturama | JULY 2013

Read Check out Rajendralala Mitra’s book, “Account of the Temple of Jagannath, Lord of the World at Puri”. It remains the definitive narrative on the temple, its history, cultural significance and mythological stories. Do Book your tickets and accommodation in advance for Puri, as this festival has the world descending in Orissa! Shop Own a stunning canvas art poster of Puri Jagannath as a reminder of this spectacular festival. You can buy one here: Locate The ancient Kalpa Bata Bruksha or the banyan tree inside the temple is supposed to have special powers that fulfill desires if one ties a sacred thread around it. Another unique phenomenon in this temple is the ‘Jara Thakurani’ or the Triplet Goddesses who are known to cure any form of fever for an offering of milk and bananas. Connect There are several videos online that show you what to expect. Here’s one to get you started: ljxoa5h. And do check out the official website — www. — for more on the festival.

culturama | JULY 2013


Festival of the Month








Ramzan is the holy month in the Islamic calendar, when every Muslim needs to perform an obligatory fast from dawn to dusk. It marks the month when Prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the holy book, Quran. The period of fasting is for 29 or 30 days, and is determined by the lunar calendar each year. Fasting is one of the five major pillars of Islam and teaches self-restriction and patience. Special prayers are held every night before the fast is broken and the Quaran is recited in mosques around the world. The evening meal is almost a religious observance as a community and is called Iftar. To Do: Ramzan is when devout Muslims perform charitable deeds. Contribute to a charity of your choice. Get invited to an Iftar and sample the rich haleem, a traditional beef stew, and also their delicious desserts!


Guru Purnima Guru Purnima is an occasion that is observed by many religions. Hindu’s mark the full moon day in July as Guru Purnima in honour of the sage Vyasa, who compiled the Vedas, India’s ancient scriptures, and the epic, Mahabharatha. It was also on this day that Jain’s remember their patron saint Mahavira becoming a Guru or teacher with his first disciple. Buddhists celebrate through day-long meditations as they consider this to be the day Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon. Guru Purnima is also significant to farmers, as it marks the period when the hot summer ends and the rains begin. Go to: Guru Purnima is celebrated grandly at the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh (, Uttarakhand, and has devotees coming in from across India. If you are in Chennai, then do attend the free talk and puja by Swami Paramarthananda at Asthika Samajam at #2, Venus Colony, 1st Street, Alwarpet, Chennai. This is also a good time to try the rigorous Buddhist meditation practice of Vipassana.


culturama | JULY 2013

culturama | JULY 2013


India Writes A look at India's books and other literary trivia

Engraved in Stone – A Muzaffar Jang Mystery by Madhulika Liddle

Reviewed by Babette Verbeek

What is it about? Nerve-wracking times for Mughal nobleman and detective Muzaffar Jang. Assigned involuntarily by the Diwan-e-kul to solve the murder of a prominent trader, Muzaffar is under threat of ending up in the gallows, if unsuccessful. While trying to unravel the multiple mysteries he encounters during his investigation, romance blossoms. Muzaffar’s investigation takes the reader on a tour through 17th Century Agra. Past the newly built Taj Mahal and other famous monuments, but also into the magnificent households of the aristocrats and the simple shags of labourers. Who is it by? Madhulika Liddle gave up a commercial career in order to write. Since then she has been winning prizes and capturing readers. The series about the fictional Mughal detective Muzaffar Jang, of which 'Engraved in Stone' is the third book, comprises just a small part of her repertoire. She also writes short fictional stories, keeps a blog on classic cinema and writes about travel. Why should I read it? Read it because of the murder mystery that grows more intricate by the page while at the same time being taken back to the glory days of the Mughal Empire. Non-Indian readers might at times struggle with the amount of exotic names and functions. However, this also offers the benefit of getting wiser while being thoroughly entertained.

I Spy A Detective

If you have a penchant for mysterious crimes and unsolved murders and love a good detective to solve it for you, then here’s what you need to be picking off the bookshelves in India:


culturama | JULY 2013

The Feluda Series by Satyajit Ray: The iconic filmmaker’s detective series was a huge success among youngsters in Bengal, even though it was slightly amateurish in its plot and storyline. But Ray’s detective Feluda caught the imagination of young India and travelled the country on many adventures, bringing the muchneeded Indian flavour to detective fiction. Jasoosi Duniya (The Spy World) and the Imran Series by Ibn-e-Safi: Having moved to Pakistan after the Partition, this popular Urdu writer was best known for his detective series, some of which have now been translated in English. Staying away from clichés, in both storyline and characterisation, Ibn-e-Safi’s books are filled with wry humour, making us wonder why more of his books are not translated! The Vish Puri Series by Tarquin Hall: Now Tarquin Hall isn’t strictly Indian, but his “very private investigator” Vish Puri is very much so. Set in the sprawling metropolis of Delhi, this series is contemporary in its texture and sometimes garish in its humour, but the stories are interesting enough to keep you going. The Byomkesh Bakshi Series by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay: The quintessential Indian detective, Byomkesh Bakshi remains Bengal’s best-loved character and series by the author. Byomkesh, who calls himself the “truth seeker” and his sidekick, Ajit, who narrates the stories, a la Watson and Sherlock Holmes, take you on some fantastic adventures, with thrills and twists galore.

culturama | JULY 2013


Tell us your Story

Your real estate guide to India

anita krishnaswamy

When we go for a “walk-in” (before we move in) what are the essentials we need to check on? (British tenant in Delhi) Here’s a small checklist and guidelines for a tenant to inspect and question the agent who is helping you move in: For an apartment Confirm if all the work requested by the tenant has been completed. Check all air-conditioners – check if the remote controls are working, if the stabilisers are connected to the indoor unit to handle power fluctuations, and test-run all the air-conditioners at the same time to check if there is a trip in the power supply. Also, do ask for the contact details of the agency for air-conditioner maintenance. Check the water heater; please ask your agent if there is an auto shut off/timer fitted to the heater. Check if all door locks are in good/working condition. Make sure the windows close properly and if latches/ bolts are in good condition. Familiarise yourself with garbage disposal methods in your area; please ask your agent what system is followed, what are the types of disposal available (degradable and non-degradable), clearance timings and frequency during the day, and clearance during holidays. Ask for the contact details of the apartment association member/manager. Look for the identification of parking slots allotted to you. Check the list of keys; please prepare a detailed inventory of keys (two copies of the list) and try all the keys. Check all electrical fittings/appliances; please testrun all electrical appliances and procure the operating manuals for all white goods. For an independent house/villa All of the above plus Contact information for generator maintenance. Information on the pool and garden maintenance (if it is included in the rent and a part of landlord’s responsibility). Contact details of electrician and plumber. For gated communities All of the above plus Please do understand the rules and guidelines for the use of common areas and your responsibility towards the community you live in.


The ouse Whisperer For all those niggling questions you might have on housing and realty in India, write to

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culturama | JULY 2013

culturama | JULY 2013


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culturama | JULY 2013

culturama | JULY 2013



culturama | JULY 2013

culturama | JULY 2013


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culturama | JULY 2013

Culturama July 2013  
Culturama July 2013  

Just before we went to press with the July issue, the tragedy at Uttarakhand struck. We, at Culturama, share the pain of the victims, more s...