culturama your cultural gateway to india
July 2015 Volume 6, Issue 05
Call of the Almighty Wherever in India you may be, you can be part of Eid-al-Fitr celebrations â€“ we tell you how.
Dear Readers, "Hello. Helloo... Hellooo!" "Why do Indians say so many hellos when there is a tiny pause, even if I am just thinking of a reply at the other end? They just fill it with 'hellos'?" I was asked this question by one of my early expat clients. In response, I told him that we were still dogged by the memory of rotary phones and poor connections – and we feared that if we didn’t check to see if the other person was still able to hear us, we would be speaking to the walls! Of course, I said that in jest. Partly, the truth behind the multiple 'hellos' is our ingrained tendency to avoid hurting the other person in any way possible. We fear that phrases such as, "Are you there?" or "Can you hear me?" or "Are you listening?" would be tantamount to questioning the other person’s hearing or attention span. So, we safely repeat “hello” in different tones and decibels! Don't believe me? Call an Indian friend, speak normally for a few seconds then subside into a pause. And see what happens.
Today, of course, the cell phone has taken over the country by storm – there are now 93.2 mobile phone connections for every 100 people! And with FaceTime, Skype and Viber taking over, the very meaning of a 'call' has taken on new dimensions. The fun telephones we used to have with rotary dials and colours are collector’s items now – they have given way to sleek palm-sized instruments that some women tuck into their sari blouses as they go about their daily chores or hop off and on buses and bikes. We capture the spirit of this change in Picture Story (Page 46) with a collection of images that capture the ways in which phones – and communication – have changed over time in India. Even as I am writing this, my phone beeps – it is a message from a dear friend, inviting me to join her for Eid festivities at her place. This is truly the spirit of secular India, where we extend our hands and hearts to each other – this month’s cover stands as a dedication to this trait. Eid-alFitr is one of the most important festivals for our Muslim brothers and sisters, and it is celebrated grandly across the country. We have put together a guide of how this momentous day is celebrated across major cities in India Impressions (Page 56). And as several thousand people kneel in prayer across the country on the holy day, I too shall say a prayer for world peace and happiness. Eid Mubarak to one and all!
Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian Managing Editor Yamini Vasudevan Sub-Editor Shefali Ganesh Creative Head Prem Kumar VP Finance V Ramkumar Circulation S Raghu Advertising Bengaluru Meera Roy Chennai Sindhuri Rajkumar/ Sunil Krishnamurthy Delhi/NCR Neha Verma Mumbai/Pune Arjun Bhat To subscribe to this magazine, write to email@example.com or access it online at www.culturama.in Chennai (Headquarters) 5, 3rd Main Road, R A Puram, Chennai – 600028 Telefax +91-44-24617902 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Bengaluru 17/16, Ali Asker Road, Off. Cunningham Road, Bengaluru – 560 052 Mobile +91 99869 60316 Email email@example.com Delhi-NCR 1414, DLF Galleria Tower, DLF Phase IV, Gurgaon, Haryana – 122009 Mobile +91-124-4389488 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Mumbai #1102, 11th floor, Peninsula Business Park, Tower B, SB Road, Lower Parel, Mumbai – 400013 Tel +91-22-66879366 Email email@example.com Published and owned by Ranjini Manian at #5, 3rd Main Road, Raja Annamalai Puram, Chennai – 600028, and printed by K Srinivasan of Srikals Graphics Pvt Ltd at #5, Balaji Nagar, 1st Street, Ekkattuthangal, Chennai – 600032 Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian Disclaimer Views and opinions expressed by writers do not necessarily reflect the publisher’s or the magazine’s.
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Commemorating 20 years of learning, sharing and promoting Indian culture at Global Adjustments With 10 hand-picked snippets about each of the 29 Indian states, this book is a collector's item. Visit www.globaladjustments.com to read the book for free. For bulk orders, write to email@example.com.
This animated video is a guide to the unique cultural markers of all 29 states, as well as a mnemonic tool to help you remember them in alphabetic order. View the 29 States video at www.globaladjustments.com
Advisory Board Members N. Ram is an award-winning journalist and former Editorin-Chief of The Hindu. He is Director of Kasturi & Sons Limited, publishers of The Hindu. Suzanne McNeill lived in India for seven years, before returning to Scotland. She is a freelance writer and graphic designer. Marina Marangos is a lawyer, but enjoys travel and writing. She lived in India for four years before moving to Australia. www.mezzemoments.blogspot.com G. Venket Ram is an acclaimed photographer and the creative mind behind many a Culturama issue. www.gvenketram.com
Contributors Susan Philip is a freelance writer based in Chennai, and the editorial coordinator of Culturama’s various coffee table books. Preeti Verma Lal is a New Delhi-based freelance writer/photographer. www.deepblueink.com Jen Mullen is a language graduate, who has lived in the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and India. Áine Edwards is an India enthusiast who documents her journey through writing and photographs. She is a water sports fanatic, cross-cultural business consultant – and Irish to boot. Eknath Easwaran (1910–1999) was a spiritual teacher, author, and interpreter of Indian literature. In 1961, he founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation and Nilgiri Press in California. Devdutt Pattanaik is the Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, and a writer and illustrator of several books on Indian mythology. Visit www.devdutt.com
Letters to the editor Dear Editor,
“My family and I have been in Bangalore for two years and have been subscribing to Culturama. We have enjoyed the magazine’s stories from the perspective of expats!” Jon Magidsohn, UK
“It was nice to see the May 2015 issue of Culturama. I liked the issue and have passed on a copy to my friends as well.”
Islam, in a religious context, means ‘voluntary submission to God’. This photo, taken in New Delhi, captures the true spirit of the religion. Picture by Aurelie Marsan, France.
T.K. Srinivas Chari, India
“When I was in Chennai from 2011 to 2014, Culturama was a regular read. I am back in France now and subscribe to the magazine online. I was surprised to see my photograph in the June 2015 issue of Culturama in the article on page 50 (Holistic Living). I am framing this for my living room.” Hugues Albouy, France
“I received my first Culturama copy through my friend. I find it to be a nice magazine and a very good read. I specifically enjoy the travel section. I also like to read the tips from expats in the ‘Look Who’s in Town’ section, because a lot of us share common experiences in this new culture. Looking forward to the next issue.” Susanne Matsché, India
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From rotary dials phones to sleek cellphones, India is just a call away.
Whatever our religious beliefs, it is possible for every one of us to uncover the core of goodness that lies within.
Myth & Mythology
The ritual of fasting is not one of denial, but one that incorporates an expression of gratitude.
Regulars 12 In Focus
26 Feature The West may have Superman and Spiderman, but India is not far behind – the subcontinent has its own share of desi heroes, who are suited to comics books and movies.
India’s Culture 08
Short Message Service
Short, engaging snippets of Indian culture.
Festival of the Month
Guru Purnima is the time when we pay homage to the Guru, the one who leads us towards eternal knowledge and wisdom.
Journeys Into India 38
Explore the multitude of cultural influences in the city of Hyderabad, or walk through the forgotten city of Kuldhara.
India is becoming a hotspot for surfers – and Chennai, with its long beaches, is home to a number of surfing schools and events.
A recap of events, people and places that made news in the past month.
Ten for the Road
Trivia about an Indian state – featuring Meghalaya this month.
Look Who’s In Town
A space for discussing the best from India’s world of literature.
Expats in India share their stories on a practical theme for everyday survival in this country.
The Lighter Side
Thinking of book a day at the spa? Read this first.
Calendar of Events
See what’s going on in the main cities and suburbs.
Give to India
Featuring worthy NGOs and charitable organisations across the country.
At Global Adjustments
Jeevanshakti, a programme by the India Immersion Centre, helps students dream big – and achieve their aims.
Relocations and Property Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, is celebrated with pomp across India. We bring you the sights and sounds from different cities in the subcontinent.
Space and the City
Property listings in Chennai.
by Suzanne McNeill Short cultural snippets for an easily digestible India
Art/Craft/Textile Seep ka Kaam (Jodhpur) India pays tribute to nature’s original worker – the oyster. Seep ka Kaam, literally meaning ‘oyster work’, uses mother-of-pearl, the glimmering, iridescent inner layer of material that lines oyster and other mollusc shells. The material has been used for decorative purposes for centuries. The craft of mother-of-pearl inlay work was brought to North India by the Mughals, where it flourished thanks to a plentiful supply of pearl oysters from the Indian Ocean. Jodhpur is associated with Seep ka Kaam, in which wooden articles are embellished with mother-of-pearl, cut and polished into fine slivers, and glued into depressions carved in the objects to create intricate designs.
Urban Adventure Sarojini Nagar Market (Delhi)
Food Vindaloo Curry (from Goa)
Situated in South Delhi, Sarojini Nagar (or SN) Market is a popular destination for a huge variety of goods from T-shirts to colourful ethnic jewellery to electrical items, and a sizeable fruit and vegetable market. Upmarket showrooms selling national and international brands are flanked by street-side stalls, whose vendors invent comic rhymes to attract shoppers. SN Market is Delhi-ites’ favourite place for fashionable clothes at affordable prices. Shops here sell export surplus and rejected international brands – often at throwaway prices. Bargain with enthusiasm, and you could seal a deal at the end of the haggling process! (Tip: Check the clothes for defects.)
The number of red chillies that go into a Goan vindaloo has given this dish a reputation for being fiery hot. A legacy of the region’s Portuguese colonists, the ingredients that create the sauce of a true vindaloo are a rich blend of vinegar, garlic (vin means wine, and aloo comes from Portuguese alho – the word for garlic), garam masala (a mix of spices) and chillies, which were introduced to India during the early 16th century and quickly adopted into local cuisine. Beef or pork is marinated overnight in this sauce, then cooked slowly until tender. The curry has a delicious hot and sweet vinegar flavour. Try this vindaloo recipe: http://tinyurl.com/ckwyt99
Photo: Bertrand Plancon
Photo: Olga Suihkonen, Serbia
Interpretations Offered with Love
Words Uttar vs Uttar (North vs. Answer)
Little bowls made from dried leaves are filled with sweetsmelling roses, strings of jasmine buds and tulsi (holy basil) are prepared for devotees to buy and offer to the gods as part of puja (worship). By seeing these flowers, we know it is in southern India. Flowers are essential to India’s festivals and prayers, and fragrance is a key component of offerings in the South, whilst in the North, the visual pleasure of the offering is more significant.In cities along the Ganges, such as Rishikesh and Varanasi, similar arrangements are prepared, but include non-fragrant golden marigolds and a wedge of camphor that is lit before the offering is set afloat on the river. In this photograph, if you observe carefully, a ball of cotton thread is soaked in the water to soften it, so it can be used easily by nimble fingers that thread the garland.
Uttar, or Uttara, means ‘North’ in Sanskrit. It refers to geographic locations including the North Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, or districts such as Uttara Kannada, the northern region of the central state of Karnataka. Uttarakuru is the name of a divine land beyond the Himalayan ranges in ancient Hindu and Buddhist mythology, populated by spiritual beings, and in Hindu tradition the spring equinox is called Uttarayana (‘northern movement’). Uttar also means an ‘answer’ or ‘reply’ in Hindi – a response to something said or written. They may pose a question, and demand “Uttar do!” (‘do’ pronounced ‘though’), which means “Answer me!” In the Kaun Banega Crorepati, India’s equivalent to Who Wants to Be a Millionare?, the right uttar can earn the winner one crore (ten million) rupees.
He Lives On Bhimsen Joshi 1922—2011 In the Western world of opera, just as you can’t say “Pavrotti? Who?”, in Indian classical music, you must know Bhimsen Joshi. Born in Karnataka, Bhimsen Joshi was fascinated by music from an early age and ran away from home when he was 11 in search of a teacher. His despairing father finally found him a brilliant guru. Joshi first performed live in 1941 and his powerful voice, amazing breath control and subtle tone won him acclaim. As well as mastering the various genres of Hindustani classical music, he popularised devotional music, and his live concerts, recordings and film soundtracks gave him a huge fan following. It is as a master of the khayal genre that he is most remembered. This is a virtuosic, highly improvisatory style of singing in which the singer directs anew the song’s melody, rhythm and tempo each performance. Joshi was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in 2008. Watch him sing a khayal: http://tinyurl.com/GA-SMS01
In Focus by Áine Edwards
Riding the Wave of Success The word ‘surfing’ usually evokes thoughts of Hawaii, Australia and Bali – but India is now joining the global surfing community. Here, it is not just a sport, but a means to bridge cultures, provide employment opportunities and reinforce a sense of environment consciousness
The sport acts as a bridge between expatriates and locals. (Left) Mukesh Panjanathan surfing the waves at Mahabalipuram. Photos: Áine Edwards.
When a person steps into the water as a surfer, caste, ethnicity, culture or economic or social status no longer serves to define a person. Rather, it boils down to the basics – the smile on a person’s face when he or she catches a wave or shows their skill. The basis of surfing is to have fun. It is good for the soul and body; it builds confidence and empowers people. Once you catch your first wave, the achievement you is feel so strong that there is no turning back. It is an addictive sport – you will always want one more wave. The emerging Indian surf scene welcomes everyone with open arms, irrespective of culture, age or gender – all you need is the will to try and a qualified surfing instructor to teach you what to do. It is like a big family, it’s got a village feel, where everyone knows each other’s names. This makes the country one of the most unique and welcoming surfing locations in the world – and has earned it the moniker of the ‘Shangri-La’ of surfing.
India has one of the largest populations in the world, and a coastline that stretches for thousands of miles, yet the surfing community is small and dispersed. Most of the surf schools are based in traditional fishing villages – on the eastern coast, they stretch from Tamil Nadu and move northwards through Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. On the western coast, it moves from Kerala through Karnataka to Goa, and as far as Gujarat. The good news is that the community is growing every year. Although the present set of surfers is often called the ‘first generation’, enthusiasts talk of traditional fishermen surfing the waves since the 1700s in Chennai (then Madras). Charcoal drawings have been found of men standing on their catamarans, steering through the shore break, just simply to bring their catch home, after a day’s work at sea. They had learnt to surf for their livelihood. The word ‘surfing’ evokes thoughts of Hawaii and California, Australia, Bali and so on - but India? Can you
With more surfing competitions being held in recent years, India looks set to invite more surfers to its shore.
really surf? Isn’t the sea too dangerous? Won’t rip currents suck you out to sea or pull you under? There is a mystery around the ocean and a fear of the unknown. Yet, people visiting and playing on the beaches or in the sea often present a picture of childlike, unbridled joy.
Bridging Cultures, Creating Opportunities Long stretches of beaches constitute the coastline of Chennai. Major fishing villages such as Kovalam and Mahabalipuram are only a short drive away. Both villages have natural coves where you can see waves that are suitable for surfing – both simple waves for beginners and challenging waves for the technically advanced. Safety-wise, surfers have become volunteer lifesavers. Over the years, the number of accidents in towns where surfers are based has reduced dramatically, because these volunteers help those on the shoreline understand where it is safe to swim and play. The culture of surfing in India has emerged through an amalgamation of influences from expatriates and tourists. David Hearn, an Australian businessman and CEO of
Upcoming Surfing Events July 25 to 26: Deep South Challenge at Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu. Visit www.quest-asia.com/deep-south-2015 August 7 to 9: Mahabs Surf Classic at Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu. September 18 to 20: Surfing and Stand Up Paddle (SUP) competition at Covelong Point, Tamil Nadu. Visit www.covelongpoint.com
Surfing has provided youngsters with new career opportunities, and made them environmentally responsible.
anyway. Today, the same locals cheer on their children from the shoreline, proudly watching the young athletes as they dance on waves and surf with the expatriates. Visitors come to surf, or learn, or just watch the action from the shade of one of the many beach-shack-style restaurants. It also provides a common ground for visitors to connect with locals in an immersive way – gaps in culture are bridged and relationships formed, thanks to surfing.
Temple Surfboards (www.templesurfboards.com), is one such contributor. He has not only made Mahabalipuram his home, but has also been instrumental in creating employment and building the surf culture there. The town is primarily a traditional fishing village with an established tourist trade around the UNESCO-listed heritage sites. When Dave first arrived, the locals feared the ocean and they begged him not to surf the waves. However, Dave, knowing he could handle the waves, went into the water
In July 2014, the Surfing Federation of India (SFI), in conjunction with the International Surfing Association (ISA), ran an instructor course at Mahabalipuram to qualify surf schools in India. Mukesh Panjanathan, who runs a surf school in Mahabalipuram, has grown his business over the years. With Dave’s support, he has been able to buy learner boards – the tool he needs to teach. This, at a time when other surfers in India have approached banks for a loan, but bankers, not yet exposed to the business of surfing, rejected their requests. At Kovalam, water sports enthusiasts Arun Vasu of the TTK Group and Yotam Agam of Earthsync have been instrumental in supporting Murthy Megavan to set up Covelong Point (www.covelongpoint.com). They recently opened a modern school with a restaurant, accommodation and changing facilities, providing a sustainable source of
Surfing Schools across India
Whether you are an experienced surfer or a newbie, here is a list of schools you could get in touch with. List provided by Surfing Federation of India.
income for the village and supporting a series of social causes. There are now many surfers in Kovalam village who compete as award-winning athletes and take home prize money to their families. Surfing has changed the collective futures of the athletes, their families and the villages. From children, they grow into healthy young men, employed in a sport that keeps them near their families, yet exposes them to the world out there. The young surfers no longer hang out on street corners; but sport athletic physiques and stand on the shoreline before or after school, counting the waves and watching the swell. They’ve got the look; a universal dreamy gaze, looking for that wave to ride. The expatriates have found an escape from the busy lives of work and the large Indian cities, a chance to be with nature and connect with the Indian culture through a common ground like surfing.
Eco-Friendly Community Surfers across the world are ecologically conscious people, who help to spread awareness. Pollution is a global problem that needs to be tackled locally, a case of being the change you want to see. The ocean is an extension of the home, so surfers would rather keep it clean. India has its own share of trash problems on land and in the sea. The currents move the trash around, it floats in the sea or washes up on the beach. This is a problem Mukesh tackles with dedication. One of his happiest moments was seeing a fisherman use bins made from recycled material, which he placed on the beach. According to Mukesh, “Present day trash and the way it affects the marine system is not fully comprehended by the locals. Luckily my eyes were opened when I learnt to scuba dive with Temple Adventures. Then, I became familiar with the underwater world and gained new insights.” Over the next couple of months, there are competitions and festivals planned, of which two will be held in Tamil Nadu. Participants and spectators alike are invited for the events, which will host Indian and international surfers. It is at these times the dispersed surfing community gathers and grows together, learns to win and lose, advance their skills from their peers, and introduce the public to surfing.
Arambol, Goa Surf Wala Contact person: Edy Rodrigues Details: www.surwala.com; +91 75078 08400 Agonda, Goa Aloha Surf Community, Contact person: Velu Details: www.facebook.com/velu.surf; +91 7066811613 Vizag, Andhra Pradesh Lonely Surfers Contact person: Anudeep Andy Details: www.facebook.com/ LonelySurfersSurfSchool; +91 96420 86790 Gokarna, Karnataka Cocopelli Surf School Contact person: Sandeep Samuel Details: www.cocopelli.org; +91 81057 64969 Udupi, Karnataka Shaka Surf School Contact person: Tushar Patiyan Details: www.facebook.com/TheShakaSurfClub; +91 99867 42710 Mulki, Karnataka Mantra Surf Club/School Contact person: Kiran Kumar Details: www.surfingindia.net/mantra-surf-club; +91 96631 41146 Kovalam, Kerala Kovalam Surf School Contact person: Varghees Antony Details: www.kovalamsurfclub.com; +91 99957 90627 Auroville, Puducherry (Pondicherry) Kallialay Surf School Contact person: Samai Reboul Details: www.surfschoolindia.com; +91 97873 06376 Mahabalipuram (off Chennai) Tamil Nadu Mumu Surf School Contact person: Mukesh Panjanathan Details: mumusurfer.wix.com/indiasurfing; +91 97898 44191 Kovalam (off Chennai) Tamil Nadu Covelong Point Surf School Contact person: Murthy Meghavan Details: www.covelongpoint.com; +91 98409 75916
India now by Susan Philip
The month that was
As we enter a new month, we take a quick recap of events, people and places that made news in the past month
Milestones to Remember A victory for individual freedom When Dr. Manabi Bandopadhyay took charge as the Principal of the Krishnagar Women’s College in West Bengal, she received the customary sweets, bouquets and good wishes. Only, in her case, it meant a lot more than usual – Dr. Bandopadhyay is the first transgender college principal, not only in India but probably in the world. Born as ‘Somnath’ in a traditional middle-class Bengali family, she underwent a sex re-alignment operation a decade ago to release what she knew to be her true identity. The move has been hailed by officialdom, academicians and students alike. Described as an ‘able administrator’, a ‘strong personality’ and a ‘fine human being’ by colleagues, the educationist herself doesn’t feel that the achievement is too much out of the ordinary. She views it simply as an increase in her responsibilities as an individual.
Business Matters Stree Shakti to the fore Banking, biotechnology and the media have powered four Indians to the Forbes list of the world’s ‘100 most powerful women’. Arundhati Bhattacharya and Chanda Kochchar, who head the nationalised State Bank of India and the private sector ICICI Bank, respectively, Kiran MazumdarShaw, founder of Biocon, India’s largest publicly traded biopharmaceutical company, and Shobhana Bhartia, Chairperson of HT Media, which publishes the Hindustan Times among other papers, have done India proud. So have Indra Nooyi, Chief of PepsiCo, and Padmasree Warrior, Chief Technology Strategy Officer of Cisco, who are of Indian origin. These women are up there with the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (who tops the list), USA’s Hilary Clinton and Melinda Gates and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw was one of the 12 CEOs who shared their wisdom on inter-cultural aspects of business dealings in ‘Make it In India’ by Ranjini Manian and Joanne Grady Huskey. Pick up a copy today (details on Page 53).
Did you know? The Rajya Sabha, India’s Upper House of Parliament, has unanimously passed the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, envisaging the creation of a national commission for transgender communities and state level commissions.
Sports Spots Mumbai pips Chennai at Kolkata
The curtain came down on the highly popular Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament when the Mumbai Indians (MI) lifted the trophy in the eighth edition of the event. They defeated Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the final match at the famed Eden Garden ground at Kolkata to notch up their
second victory in the annual series. CSK has also won the trophy twice since its inception, and have been in the finals every time since 2008. Rohit Sharma was declared the Man of the Match and Andre Russel the Player of the Tournament. Those uninitiated in the complexities of the IPL might find themselves somewhat at a loss in cricket-crazy India. For a quick primer, look up the ‘A to Z of IPL’ in Culturama May 2013 – http:// tinyurl.com/ostlk8a
End of an Era Peace at last A chapter closed when Aruna Shanbaug breathed her last at a Mumbai hospital. The woman, who would have turned 68 had she lived a few days longer, had been lying in a vegetative state at the King Edward Memorial Hospital for over 40 years. She went into a coma after she was brutally raped and strangled in 1973 by a ward boy at the hospital where she worked as a nurse. Her personal tragedy made medico-legal history. Aruna’s case has influenced India’s laws on life-support treatment. She was being cared for by the nurses at the hospital, but there have been questions raised about the merits of the treatment prescribed by the doctors in charge of her case. In 2011, her biographer and friend Pinki Virani filed a petition seeking a direction to the hospital to stop her nasal feeding, so that she might “die peacefully”. While the court passed a historic ruling that passive euthanasia could be allowed in some cases, it however dismissed the petition made on Aruna’s behalf. She succumbed to pneumoniarelated complications.
This and That The last ride Joyrides in ornate, silver-plated open carriages strung with fairy lights and pulled by horses bedecked with plastic flowers behind their ears are part and parcel of Mumbai’s Marine Drive and other tourist hot spots. In fact, in the 18th century, these carriages, locally known as Victorias, were an important mode of transport in Bombay Presidency. However, the
carriages will soon drive into the pages of history, with the Mumbai High Court ordering the state government to phase them out within a year. The court has said that Victoria rides are ‘completely illegal’ as authorities stopped issuing licenses to the carriages in the 1970s. The state government has been asked to arrange for the rehabilitation of the approximately 700 families who depend on Victorias for their livelihood, and also to see that the horses are well cared for. Did you know? Many Victorias are hired out to the Bollywood film industry. Some have featured in iconic, even key, scenes. Spot them in blockbusters ‘Sholay’ and ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ and in ‘Victoria No. 203’, a remake of ‘Diamonds are Forever’.
A king is crowned
When 23-year-old Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wodeyar sat on the silver throne known as ‘Bhadrasana’ in the palace city of Mysore, the US-educated young man assumed the mantle of titular head of the erstwhile Mysuru royal family. He was crowned amidst chanting of verses from the Vedas, the ancient Hindu scriptures. Yaduveer is the 27th head of the Wodeyar dynasty, and succeeds Srikanthadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, who died childless in 2013. Yaduveer is Srikanthadatta’s nephew, and the adopted son of his widow. The Wodeyar dynasty ruled the Kingdom of Mysuru from 1399 to 1947, when Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar, father of Srikanthadatta, acceded his kingdom to the dominion of India, but continued as the Maharaja until India became a Republic in 1950. Q. When the British ruled India, an arbitrary legislation allowed the Colonial power to annex kingdoms and principalities where the rulers died without leaving a male heir. It became one of the triggers for the First War of Independence in 1857. What was the law called? A: Doctrine of Lapse.
Ten for the Road by Susan Philip
29 Indias: One Nation, published by Global Adjustments, has 10 hand-picked snippets about each of the Indian states. Read the book for free at www.globaladjustments.com. Global Adjustments has created an animated video that captures the cultural markers of all 29 states: http://tinyurl. com/m734xsm
Explore the 29 states of this fascinating subcontinent. This segment will set out a collection of interesting, bite-size facts from each state – this month, we look at Meghalaya 1.
How the Land Lies: Located in the eastern sub-Himalayas, the state is named Meghalaya – the abode of clouds. True to its name, it is almost always under cloud cover. At Cherrapunji, close to the capital Shillong, the average annual rainfall goes up to 12,000 mm, making it the wettest place on earth. Nearby Mawsynram has been giving it stiff competition for the title of late. Part of Meghalaya borders Bangladesh.
Political Pressures: Meghalaya was carved out of Assam, and was conferred statehood on January 21, 1972. English is the official language of the state.
Past Glories: There is archeological evidence of human settlements in this region since the Neolithic era. In fact, the jhum (slash and burn/shifting type) form of agriculture associated with Neolithic times is still practised here. The region is also significant in the context of the history of the human race because of its possible role in the domestication of rice.
Ethnic Fingerprint: The Khasis, Jaintias and Garos are the main tribes – the original inhabitants of the region. They are believed to be of either Mon-Khmer (Cambodian) or TibetoBurmese origin. Each tribe established its own kingdom. Even after a treaty was signed with the British during the Colonial rule, the tribes continued to live in comparative seclusion.
Culture Quotient: Dance is integral to life in Meghalaya, particularly of the Khasi tribe. Dance is associated with the milestones of human life, as well as the cycle of nature. Distinctive forms of music, such as the phawar, and instruments such as the shaw shaw (cymbals) and the duitara (a stringed instrument) make music special in Meghalaya.
Personality Plus: Patricia Mary Mukhim is a woman of substance. Social activist, teacher, writer, journalist – she wears
Photo: The Khasi Heritage - conservation forum
many hats. Her areas of interest include consumer rights, conflict management, gender sensitisation and campaigning against drug addiction. She has won several awards, including the Chameli Devi Award for outstanding women journalists, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s FLO award, and the Padma Shri – one of the highest civilian honours given by the Government of India. 7.
Sights to See: Soak in the medicinal hot springs of at Jakrem, swap stories about the ‘one that got away’ at Ranikor – an angler’s delight, and revel in the beauty of exotic orchids in the forests of Mawsmi, Mawmluh and Sohraim.
Tasty Treats: Jadoh, Meghalaya’s answer to the biryani, is made with rice and pork – and is a delight for the taste buds. The nakham bitchi, a sort of soup, cuts the heaviness of the food. And those who have the head for it can round off the meal with kyat, a local brew.
Crafted with Care: Weaving is a major occupation, and cotton and silk textiles woven in the state are much sought after. The ‘khasi lock’, a special type of lock, is a unique product, but sadly, only a few locksmiths in a few villages still practice the indigenous craft. Wood carving and basketry are other handicrafts that the state is known for.
Worshipfully Yours: The Mawjinbuim cave, about 55 km from Shillong, is famous for its stalagmite, which is shaped like a Shiva lingam, and is revered by Hindus. It is considered particularly holy by the Jantia tribe. Thousands of tribesmen gather here to celebrate Shivaratri, the festival associated with Lord Shiva.
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The Heat and Dust Project: The Broke Couple’s Guide to Bharat by Saurav Jha and Devapriya Roy
Reviewed by Yamini Vasudevan
Talk about road trips – and they conjure up an impression of a carefree ride through scenic places, carefree conversations with locals, and an epiphany about life and living at the end of it all. However, all that would be a possibility, if you have the budget to ensure a bump-free ride. If not, what you might end up with is a journey that is ‘unforgettable’ for other reasons. Heat and Dust Project is one such account – by a DINK (Double Income, No Kids) couple that decided to give up their jobs and undertake a road trip across the country. The catch? It is on a 500-rupees-a-day budget. This means that they have to skip the fancy hotels with panoramic views and comfortable beds, even the ‘decent’ ones – and stay in places that offer little more than a door and four walls. Food, of course, is another issue – after all, no one is giving them chow for free! This is not a travelogue that presents the world through rose-tinted glasses. When Saurav claims that they should include expenses for bottled water into their budget as well, it awakened in me a sense of harsh reality. When the couple talk about finding themselves in a dirty room and red stains in the toilet (they hope it is due to paan), I couldn’t help but wrinkle my nose. And when the arguments begin to creep into their conversation, I crossed my fingers. Such is the writing – it envelopes the reader and makes him/her a part of the journey. Having said that, I would add that some parts of the narrative did make me feel slightly depressed – probably because the word ‘travel’ is always associated with fresh sheets, soft beds and the aroma of an exotic meal. It is also an eye-opener as to how I (and many others of my generation, maybe?) have become so used to creature comforts that we find it hard to look beyond them. Despite their attempts to cover the whole of India, the authors only managed to travel from Delhi to Uttar Pradesh, Himachal, Rajasthan and Gujarat in this book – the country is so huge that what was to be a single book is now slated for a trilogy. While waiting for the other two, I am tempted to take a leaf out of Heat and Dust Project, and undertake a road trip of my own.
About the Authors: Devapriya Roy is the author of two popular novels – The Vague Woman’s Handbook (2011) and The Weight Loss Club (2013). She writes a column for scroll.in and runs a blog called ‘Nine Rasas’ on Times Of India. Saurav Jha is a commentator on energy, security and geopolitics. He contributes regularly to World Politics Review and The Diplomat. He published The Upside Down Book of Nuclear Power in 2010 and his second book, Growth Is Dead! Long Live Growth!, is due for print. Read more at www.theheatanddustproject.com
Feature by Suzanne McNeill
Desi Comic Capers
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Shaktimaan! India’s many superheroes may draw inspiration from their Western counterparts, but they are a unique breed – with a heavy dose of moral ideology added to their character
Batman, Indian style. Illustration: Rajkamal Aich.
A growing number of Indian superheroes are making their presence felt in home-grown films, television series, novels and comic books. Competing with their famous American counterparts in looks, physique and superpowers, their stories are, nonetheless, firmly rooted in an Indian context. Whilst their creators draw inspiration from the plot elements and visual style of Western superheroes, many of them are derived from India’s colourful mythological past and the connection between India’s superheroes and the heroes of the epics remains close.
are combined in a re-imagining of Garuda as an endearing superhero in an animated series for children that follows Garuda’s childhood as he learns that he can fly and has unbeatable physical strength.
Who is a ‘superhero’? Stan Lee, the legendary comic book creator, defines a superhero as “a person who does heroic deeds and has the ability to do them in a way that a normal person couldn’t. So in order to be a superhero, you need a power that is more exceptional than any power a normal human being could possess, and you need to use that power to accomplish good deeds.” He could be talking of the characters in the Indian epics who possess the extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena and powers that typify a modern superhero, as well as the moral ideology that is integral to the hero’s character. Several mythological characters have been remodelled into new superhero forms. The immense strength and courage of Lord Rama’s great ally Hanuman, the monkey god, lends itself to a re-imagining of Hanuman as an Indian superhero in an animated children’s feature film, Hanuman, from 2005 (pictured above). This builds on the blessings granted him during his childhood by the gods – to be able to change his form at will and the ability to cross the ocean. He is granted immunity from fire and bestowed with immense speed. Blessed with these powers, Hanuman helps Lord Rama in his search for Sita and his defeat of Ravana. Half-vulture, half-man, and vahana or vehicle to Lord Vishnu, Garuda is usually invoked as a symbol of violent force, of speed and martial prowess. Mythology and fiction
This remodelling has achieved notable success in Amish Tripathi’s Shiva trilogy (The Immortals of Meluha, The Secret of the Nagas and The Oath of the Vayuputras), which is the fastest selling book series in the history of Indian publishing. Tripathi re-imagines the Indian deity’s life and adventures in stories that are pacey and entertaining. The stories encompass the creators and destroyers of the world and are set in the once-proud empire of Meluha, which is now threatened by drought and attacks of terror. An ancient legend predicts that when evil reaches epic proportions a hero will emerge. Called to fulfil his destiny, this is a flesh-and-blood Shiva, who is depicted on the covers of the books with battle scars and a sculpted physique.
Borrowed Influences Nonetheless, Indian superheroes have always drawn heavily on their Western counterparts. Writers and filmmakers who have grown up with famous characters such as Batman and Captain America have demonstrated, in film adaptations and retellings, how ingrained these influences inevitably are. India’s first screen adaptations of a classic (and costumed) superhero story were in the 1960s. Actor Jairaj played the hero in both Superman and The Return of Mr Superman, who, as a baby, is sent from the doomed planet Krypton to earth. Here, he is adopted by an elderly couple in India who name him Shekhar. His arch rival is the evil Verma, who hatches a plan to become rich by devastating parts of India by natural disasters and then buying all the abandoned land. In the cult film Mr India (1987), Anil Kapoor uses the superpower of invisibility to defend India from
Stoneman, and to bring harmony to society. Shaktimaan was taught to energise the seven chakras of the body through yoga, which granted him mystical and supernatural powers. He could fly faster than the speed of light and could hear sounds from thousands of miles away. He had the power of invisibility, extraordinary vision and supreme physical strength. The protagonist of the animated series Chhota Bheem (2008 onwards) is an adventurous and big-hearted nine-yearold boy (picured below) who lives in a fictional city-state called Dholakpur in India, and is blessed with extraordinary and stunning powers that he uses to help the needy and fight the dacoits, evil thugs and beasts who threaten his town. So appealing is Bheem’s character that the series has become a gentle guide offering lessons in life to its enthralled young viewers, prompting them to be honest, considerate and generous, to avoid jealousy, to aspire to true sportsmanship, and to tackle life with humour.
a foreign villain, Mogambo, a brilliant but insane general whose island hide-out is modelled on that of Dr No. In 2004, a comic book version of Spiderman was launched, setting the story of the simple Indian boy Pavitr Prabhakar (a phonetic distortion of ‘Peter Parker’; pictured above) against a backdrop of monuments such as the Taj Mahal and the Gateway of India. Pavitr, dressed in a combination of Spiderman’s iconic bodysuit and dhoti, encounters a yogi who grants him the powers of a spider in order to fight the evil that threatens the world. The villain is a rakshasa – an evil spirit from Hindu mythology.
The Big Picture It was on television, however, rather than film, that India saw the creation of new, indigenous superheroes who captivated the imagination of young viewers and quickly became role models. The children’s series Shaktimaan, starring Mukesh Khanna, ran for nearly 10 years from 1997 on Doordarshan and introduced a hero who had been chosen by a mystical sect of saints to defeat Kilvish, the king of evil, and his minions Dr Jackal, Plastica and the
Even Bheem has his mythological counterpart – he is Bhima, the mighty warrior from the Mahabharat – and he is not the only character transformed by clever packaging into a superhero, connecting younger generations with their heritage. Bollywood’s new crop of superheroes have been built on the larger-than-life characters and screen presence of film celebrities, with their equally strong physiques, combined with amazing special effects and sci-fi themes that are ideally suited to India’s burgeoning multiplex theatres. Krrish (2006), starring the well-muscled Hrithik Roshan in a black mask and sweeping overcoat, relates the story of Krishna, who has inherited special abilities from his scientist father, which he uses to avenge his
The league of Indian superheroes as by Rajkamal Comics. Illustration: Rajkamal Comics
father’s supposed killers. Hailed as Indian cinema’s first true superhero, and the first time an Indian superhero flies across the (Singapore) skyline, the film-makers rejected any parallels between Roshan’s character and Superman. Instead, the story combines elements of the Hindu epics, Chinese martial arts and extra-terrestrials and spaceships. Released in India just before Superman Returns, Krrish outperformed the Hollywood blockbuster.
Lending a Desi Touch A new generation of home-grown, sophisticated superheroes is to be found in the hugely popular collection of superhero-centric comic books published since 1986 by Raj Comics. Largely based on mythology and then fleshed out by established writers, the desi superheroes share the common traits of all superheroes, including motivation (often a personal vendetta), a secret identity that protects the hero’s friends and family, a distinctive costume, a rogues’ gallery of enemies and a backstory that explains how the heroes and heroines acquired their abilities. Nagraj was their first superhero, and established the brand. Nagraj, who has turned against the evil scientist who created him, possesses millions of snakes of various sizes in his body, which he uses to fight against terrorism in a fictional city called Mahanagar. Doga was raised like a dog by a wicked dacoit, wears a dog-like mask on his face and has the power to order dogs to perform any task. He has huge physical strength, is trained in boxing and martial arts and can bear intolerable pain. Super Commando Dhruva is a trained acrobat who has an array of deadly gadgets and is an expert motorcyclist. He fights crime and is seeking to avenge the suspicious death of his parents. Parmanu has a day job as Inspector Vinay, but in crisis he dons a special suit that contains the power of atoms and that can fly him to any
An Unlikely Superhero Malegaon is a small town in Maharashtra, not far from Bollywood, that is known for its indigenous film industry. Nasir Shaikh, a video parlour owner, found that the town’s audience did not understand English movies like Superman and Spiderman, yet loved the action scenes in the movies. He started out by editing the dialogues of the movies, and then decided to make his own brand of Indian superhero movies on a skeleton budget and a VHS camera. His efforts led to Malegaon ka Superhero – a movie starring Shafique Shaikh, a tobacco addict. Ironically, on screen, the skinny youngster fights the tobacco barons of the district. In real life, he died from mouth cancer just a day after the film was given a special screening in 2012. Watch the movie at: http://tinyurl.com/phy53ya
Rajkamal Aich reimagines Western superheroes in Indian form, and creates his own cheeky Indian superheroes as well. Clockwise from top left: The Black Widow; Laddoo Boy; the Invisible Man; Jalebi Woman. Illustration: Rajkamal Aich
place, where he fires atomic blasts against Delhi’s criminals. The superhero warrior Bhokal was originally a prince from the fairyland of Parilok who must avenge the death of his parents. He has a magical sword that can cut anything and emits fire, and a shield to protect him against any kind of attack. Shakti was an ordinary housewife who was wronged by her husband but saved by Kali and transformed into a superwoman to deliver justice. Dressed in tiger skin and with a third eye, Shakti can generate fire with her hands and change any metal into a weapon. She fights against all who commit crimes against women. In complete contrast to all this buffed and muscled heroism are the collection of mischievous illustrations by
artist Rajkamal Aich called ‘Superheroes in India’. Rajkamal re-imagines his superheroes as popular Indian foodstuff. Thus, ‘Laddoo Boy’, with his sweet, ball-shaped head, has the power to throw laddoos at great speed and with deadly accuracy, whilst ‘Jalebi Woman’, crowned with a syrup-laden spiral batter and wielding a ladle, dunks her enemies into sugar syrup after tying them in knots. The series grew out of an early photographic project called ‘Batman in India’ in which Rajkamal placed miniature toys of Batman or Robin in front of food or in places and situations that were innately Indian. He has also created a series of illustrations juxtaposing American superheroes in stereotypical Indian contexts – comic depictions with cheeky references.
Look Who’s In Town Chennai
The Big Picture
For Romanian-French woman Ruxandra Cruceana Passieux and her French husband Arnaud, life in Chennai is a dream come true I fell in love with India at the age of 13 when I first read Maitreyi – a novel by Romanian writer named Mircea Eliade, who lived in Calcutta. I was fascinated by Indian culture, history and civilisation. After living in a dictatorial regime in Romania for about a decade, travelling and seeing other countries and cultures came as a breath of fresh air. For my husband, India was the fantasy land his mother had described from the journeys of her youth – of spices, saris, mangoes and living in Madras. When we got the opportunity to live in Chennai, our hearts missed a beat! Of course, Chennai of 2015 is not the Calcutta in my books! I quickly realised that India will not reveal her mysticism immediately. Indians live different ‘lives’ during the day and we find it fascinating to discover how they manage to keep a fine balance between work, religion and family. India on a Plate Coming from France, known for its sophisticated cuisine, it is fun to discover new tastes and flavours. Here, there is a lot of choice when it comes to fruit and vegetables – most of them are unknown to us. The local market amazes us with the colours and smell of spices and herbs. Wanderlust We have travelled to Rajasthan, Agra, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Pondicherry, Chidambaram and
Trichy. During our trip to Rajasthan, we took part in a function that a caravan owner had organised in the Thar Desert. We were amazed by how, in a few hours, a very refined meal was organised in the middle of the desert, under a beautiful full moon. Another time, we were trapped in the middle of a wedding procession near the groom, who was riding a white horse. We plan to visit Leh, Amritsar and Varanasi. What I would like in India… Installing public trash bins everywhere. I am taking home… A sitar.
Best Indian friend: All our Indian and French work mates Favourite Indian food: Palak paneer for me and spicy Hyderabad biryani for my husband Favourite hang-out spot in India: Mahabalipuram Intolerable India: Trash Loveable India: Indian people and their culture
Look Who’s In Town Bengaluru
Inroads Into India American Chris Bouvin tells us about the strong ties he and his family have with Bengaluru This is my first stint in India though I have worked with teams from India since 2006. My former colleague Monoj Sinha taught my colleagues and me about South India – so well, in fact, that he would ensure that if someone travelled to the United States, they would bring me biryani spice-mix! During my first few visits, India seemed like one country to me. I never understood why people talk about the multiple countries within a country. Now, having visited different places across India, the different cultural nuances are becoming evident. India on a Plate I love biryani, butter chicken and paratha (until you count the calories!) – still, nothing compares to a (familiar) fat, juicy steak or hamburger and fries. Wanderlust We are trying to see as much of India before we go back to the United States for the summer. We have already visited Kerala, Goa, Chennai, Mumbai, Varanasi, Hyderabad and the Himalayas. We are also connecting with folks in the neighbourhood and in the school, and exploring Bengaluru. A
haircut and head massage at the barber’s on Old Airport Road is a fun way to spend a Saturday morning. A couple of new hobbies we have picked up on the weekends is squash and riding the Royal Enfield we bought when we first arrived. What I would like in India… Increase the flyovers in Bengaluru ten-fold – no more U-turns. I am taking home… The two stone elephants we bought from Nikaara Store and anything from Sunries homegood store. I don’t think we can limit ourselves to one thing. We wish we could take back the warmth of the people in Bengaluru…which is what brought us here to begin with.
Best Indian friend: Too many to name Favourite Indian food: Butter chicken Favourite hang-out spot: Anywhere in Goa Intolerable India: Whitefield roads (in Bengaluru) Loveable India: Bengaluru’s weather
Photo: Marina Marangos, Greece
The Lighter Side by Marina Marangos
The Mystic Masseur Ayurvedic medicines are as old as the hills in India and its promises are many – rejuvenation or relaxation, glowing skin or A slimmer body An invitation popped into my e-mail. I note that my e-mail is working and not subject, as it usually is, to all the elements, so I need to take advantage of this boon and read on. The invitation is to a Spa, a well-known one, and it promises the earth and a little more. I am tempted – so tempted – but then again, I hear stories and wonder about the real truth, the real experience, and hesitate enough for the delete button to come into view. Ayurvedic medicine is as old as the hills in India (some say about 5,000 years old) and, of course, has a lot to commend itself for. It emphasises balance and health, and those are excellent starts. The question on everyone’s lips, botoxed or not, is: Does it work? And, do I want to subject my body to it? Of course it might entirely depend on what you are hoping for. There are many – some famous, others infamous and others never registering on any celebrity scale – who simply feel the need to go and explore the experience in a week-long or, sometimes, a month-long session. It is part relaxation, part detoxification and part getting away from it all. Usually the resorts are tucked into pretty hillsides or the hinterlands of beach resorts, but there is no doubt that they are flourishing and multiplying. The same can be said for their eager participants who check in, ready for the hot stones, the cleansing experiences and the deep meditation and huge deprivations. As one Spa put it: “Here you get good ambiance to relax [no, it is not a typo] and get lost with the nature.” I love the idea of ‘ralaxing’ – it is a combination in my eyes of relaxation and racking (the medieval torture practice of tying people to a rack and tightening the screws). As for getting lost with nature…well, who doesn’t like a nice ramble? Others proclaim treatments for diabetes, infertility, hair loss…and
Photo: J.F. Vial, France
the list goes on. You can have a ‘whole body rejuvenation’ at a cracking price and, if you go in for the Abhayanga Massage – your results may include a delaying of the ageing process. These are not to be laughed at, but I guess I am a bit of a chicken and would have never thrown myself in for the whole body rejuvenation lark (although it is clear that I would have been a younger, bushy-tailed and bright-eyed thing if I had). Friends who have committed themselves willingly to these programmes – and I use these words carefully – have reported the intense satisfaction and “ralaxation” offered by the many massages and treatments. If you are lucky to have a Thirummal Massage with hot oil and two masseurs working on you, you are told that it ‘promotes biological fire’. Goodness, who would not want some of that! Now that you are in India, let your body embark on this Ayurvedic voyage and see where nature’s harbour might lead you. You might be pleasantly surprised – as was my husband, when he succumbed to a whole head massage (a quick preview provided in the photo above!).
Seeing India by Jennifer Mullen
PhotoS: Jennifer Mullen
Go back in time to get a glimpse of how the Nizams of Hyderabad lived and study the magnificent architecture – maybe with a plate of biryani at hand
If you ask most expats in India about their travel bucket list, it will surely include places such as Rajasthan, Kerala, Agra and Goa. These are destinations to be admired and savoured as part of methodically planned tours. But even if you live here for many years, you are often just scratching the surface when it comes to experiencing the infinite variety of places that India has to offer. One way to ensure you are acquainting yourself with as many faces of India as possible is to take shorter, spontaneous trips to less obvious tourist destinations. With this in mind, one evening we sat down with a map and an airfare comparison website to work out where we could go, in the shortest flight time, for the cheapest fare, that would be as architecturally, aesthetically, culturally and gastronomically different from our ‘native’ Chennai, as we could possibly get.
The answer turned out to be Hyderabad. Our first slightly sceptical thought was, “Isn’t that just some place in the middle of India, with a lot of people working in IT, and eating biryani?” With a shrug of the shoulders and an open mind, flights were booked and, the following week, off we went. When living as an expat in India, one of the most exciting feelings is jumping on an aeroplane on a Friday night, to spend a weekend in a completely different state. You know there will be the familiar sight of tired business people returning to their families and women enveloping small children into the butterfly wings of their colourful saris in the noisy bustle by the luggage carousel. As you exit the airport, you are momentarily stunned by a wall of heat and the cries of taxi drivers, with character lines etched deeply on their faces, like intricate maps. Yet, there will be small differences, such as the new and unfamiliar sound of the local language, like a familiar tune, but now played by a different instrument. Your own corner of India, which you have cautiously come to know through your everyday routine, will now feel far away, as you gaze at unfamiliar street signs, written in a different script. It may even evoke memories of that first time you set foot on Indian soil. At first glance when leaving the airport, Hyderabad is smart and surprisingly quirky. There are go-cart tracks next to the airport car park and, approaching the
city on the smart new flyover, you can see a large building the shape of a fish. As in a lot of other places in India, many contrasting neighbours co-exist comfortably – Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians; tradition and globalisation; old districts and new suburbs. You instantly feel that the multicultural blend of people harmonises and complements, like the flavours in a biryani. The history of Hyderabad is inextricably linked to the rise and fall of kingdoms – therefore, a good place to start your visit is the Golconda Fort, which comes from Telugu words that mean ‘Shepherd’s Hill’. Dating from 16th century, this mighty structure feels more like an ancient town, as its perimeter wall alone is more than 10 km long. The fort has 87 semicircular bastions, some still with cannons, eight gateways and four drawbridges. One cannot help but admire the planning that went into such places – for example, the Victory Gate welcomes you ominously with iron spikes, which served as a deterrent to enemies on elephants. At certain strategic points, such as just below the dome, a hand clap can be heard from over a kilometre away, which acted as a warning system hundreds of years before Morse code,
In Hyderabad, as in a lot of other places in India many contrasting neighbours co-exist comfortably – Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians; tradition and globalisation telephones and texting were even thought of. The fort is set in impeccably manicured gardens and there are many twisting, dusty tracks which snake up to the Baradari (the place where the Qutb Shahi kings held their general assembly meetings) at the top. The fort is nothing short of magnificent and totally superseded our expectations. As we climbed back into our air-conditioned car and gulped down water, we smiled proudly at our lack of planning, heading off with no preconceptions of our next destination and trusting only the knowledge of our local driver. On reaching the Qutb Shahi Tombs, similarly as at the fort, we imagined a quick 10 minutes of stretching our legs and taking a few token photographs. We were, however, totally transfixed by the thousand-year-old architecture,
symbolising where Persia collided with India for centuries. Despite the ongoing renovation work, we immersed ourselves in the serenity of the open spaces and cerise bougainvillea trees in full bloom, which complemented the striking onion domes, arches and pillars. Of course, we were in one of India’s largest cities, so any hint of tranquillity is promptly swallowed up by a cacophony of horns, engines and urban life as soon as you leave the tombs. Hyderabad is a city of extreme contrasts, such as ancient and modern, ornate and ramshackle, as well as wealth and poverty. At the very heart of Hyderabad is the Charminar, which, according to historical sources, was built to commemorate the eradication of a deadly plague. From the top, the view over the famous bangle shops and fruit stalls of the Laad Bazaar is breathtaking. Like arteries, the boulevards pump a yellow flow of auto rickshaws, carrying people off to the vital organs of the city. The Charminar has Islamic-style architecture, crowned with four regal minarets. Standing on top and listening to the call to prayer from the Makka Masjid opposite, just as the golden rays of the afternoon sun were lengthening, we felt that we had come one small step closer to
comprehending India’s cultural identity, at the crossroads of east and west. Our final port of call the following day was the Chowmahalla Palace, which gives great insight into the grand courtly life of the Royal Nizams. Being so close to the centre of Hyderabad, the large expanses of lawns were another pleasant surprise and there were some very interesting exhibits, such as an exquisite vintage yellow Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. If you have a sense of humour, do not miss the opportunity to dress your family up in traditional royal Nizam attire for an old fashioned kitschy photograph, and see who can maintain the sternest facial expression. A brief weekend trip will only give you a small taste of any new Indian city and, sometimes, you just have to surrender yourself to spontaneity. You can, however, be confident that you will fly back home with weary feet from walking, dust on your clothes, but a much greater understanding of how another piece fits in with the whole Indian jigsaw puzzle. Looking to make a trip to Hyderabad? Turn to the next page for Culturama’s Handy Hyd Guide – your guide to some of the best that the city has to offer.
Handy ‘Hyd’ Guide Getting there: Several state and national roads join Hyderabad to important cities and states. Being the South Indian Railway’s headquarters, the metropolis is well connected to all major cities such as Chennai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai. Air traffic in and out of the city is handled via the Rajiv Gandhi Airport – local carriers such as SpiceJet and Indigo have regular flights to the city.
Must visit: While Hyderabad's Charminar occupies the number one spot in the ‘must visit’ list, the city offers many more attractions that every tourist must include on their list. The city's Tank Bund (Bridge) is a ‘hit two birds with one stone’ kind of place – as it crosses over the famous Hussain Sagar lake, and is the ideal setting for a scenic stroll. For the shopaholic, the Laad Bazaar is the place to go. For the movie fanatic, the Ramoji Film City is like a dream come true – for it is here that ‘reel’ life is captured in like-like sets.
History and Heritage: The Taj Falaknuma Palace is not just an uber-luxury hotel. Known as the ‘mirror of the sky’, the Falanuma Palace was built in 1894. Commissioned by Sir Nawab Vikar-Ul Umra, a Hyderabadi nobleman, it was designed by British architect William Mard Marret. It took 10 years and four million rupees to be built, and a rumoured 22 years to perfect. It caught the eye of the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, Mehboob Ali Pasha, Sir Vikar's brother-in-law, who was rumoured to be so smitten by the Palace that Sir Vikar,
Culturama has put together a quick guide to the best parts of Hyderabad. Keep this handy if you are planning a visit. The Falaknuma Palace. Photo: Wikipedia
his prime minister, had no choice but to succumb to timehonoured tradition and offer it as a gift. Since 1995, The Taj Group of Hotels has sensitively restored the palace and has added in 60 glamorous rooms and suites.
Literary Ambitions: Hyderbabad’s unique culture and essence has been captured in many literary pieces. While Zohra, a novel by Zeenuth Futhehally, describes the pre-independent conditions and societies of the city, Madras on Rainy Days by Samina Ali illustrates the spirit of the city and discusses the tug between the different, changing aspects of the city. Hyderabad: A Biography by Narendra Luther discusses the roots of the city's uniqueness and provides a good introduction to the city’s political and cultural history.
Foodie hotspots: Hyderabadi cuisine consists of a vast catalogue of rice and meat dishes – a true experience of the city is not complete without having a plate (or two) of its iconic biryani. The Pakwaan Restaurant and Paradise Hotel have won the hearts of the locals and tourists with their mutton biryani. Aahaar Kuteer is an ethnically designed restaurant that serves food based on traditional recipes. To round off the meal, treat yourself to a sundae from the Naturals chain of ice-cream parlours. A popular snack is the ‘Karachi’ biscuits – a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth treat that has been perfected over the years by the Karachi Bakery. The Bakery is literally an institution in the city, and locals would insist that you must take home a box of their legendary biscuits.
PhotoS: Bogusia Sipiora
Seeing India by Bogusia Sipiora
One sunny winter afternoon, while driving through Rajastan, we followed the sign that led us to the dusty outskirts of Jaisalmer. Not more than 20 km from the tourist city, we found Kuldhara – one of the villages abandoned under bizarre circumstances by the Paliwal community that is famed for its Vedic knowledge and the ethereal beauty of its women. Interesting, the story of the Paliwals orginated from a kingdom named Pali in the Thar Desert of India. One day, sometime in the 13th century, they moved to the erstwhile state of Jaisalmer and settled in 84 villages around the city. They were very hardworking, and exceptionally intelligent and diligent people. They knew the art of growing water intensive crops in the desert; they could identify areas with gypsum rock layers running under the ground surface to ensure water supply for the crops. With their knowledge and capabilities, they transformed the sandy land into an oasis that became prosperous. Unfortunately for the Paliwals, their prosperity caused them to become targets of Mughal invasions. Some sources say that Jaisalmer’s Prime Minister laid a lecherous eye on the Paliwal chief's beautiful daughter – this hurt the pride and honour of the orthodox community. The Paliwals were brave, and fought off both invasions – so much so that the Mughal invader ordered that animal carcasses be put into all the wells that Paliwals used to get their water from. The religious Brahmins of the community, their honour wounded, left the village overnight. They are said to have left a death curse on the villages – to date, the fear of anathema stops locals from venturing to these parts. Today, Kuldhara is a heritage site with yellow stone remains that greet you as you approach the entrance. Even though the houses are ruined, and only strains of stones lift the curtain on their shapes, it can be noticed they were
In the village of Kuldhara, the remains of a civilisation – long forgotten and abandoned in Rajasthan – comes alive built with a great sense of geometry and urban planning. Scientists say that the architecture of the Paliwals’ villages could be compared to developed urban colonies with gridlike streets and spacious houses with a cart garage in front. Highly evolved forms of houses, temples, step wells and other structures indicate a long period of development – which was stopped overnight! According to some sources, until about 30 or 40 years ago, all 84 villages stood just as they had been left. Then the government started distributing permits to take away the carved stones from the houses. I think this was the end of era of Paliwals. I wish people had known how precious the stones they took away were and how it destroyed a historical place. Wandering among that stone theatre in the sun setting light I experienced a magical silence and a breath of a mystical history. This article previously appeared in Culturama, September 2011.
Picture Story by Team Culturama
India Cal (( ((
This antique model is a reminder of the times when phone calls were a rarity. The rotary dial ensured that one never dialled a ‘wrong’ number. Back then, the phone was given a pride of place in the home – and there was a person to ‘handle’ it. After all, it was a lifeline of communication for those who were near to one’s heart but far away physically. Photo: Catherine Harte
‘Public Call Office’ or PCO phones were set up for those who needed to make urgent calls. The quaint chicken on the wall, which probably kept many a caller company, makes one wonder if the phone was kept outside a shop that sold eggs! Photo: Christa Martin-Kurz, Germany
No one is immune to the lure of cellphones or ‘mobiles’ – it comes in handy not just in connecting people but in ensuring that the business of the day is in order. Today, one can ‘book’ special prayers at temples, or ‘fix’ special prayers at home – by tapping a couple of buttons! Photo: Kees Koster
Money may make the world go round, but it looks like technology brings people together. The expat and the Indian seem to be swapping numbers (and maybe stories?) – and, going by the smile on their faces, making plans to keep in touch. Photo: Maayan Gutgold, Israel
Calendar of events
Presenting the best of India’s events in different categories across Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and nearby suburbs
Art & Exhibitions
Exhibition of Paintings Bengaluru Dyu Art Cafe will host an exhibition by Canadian painter Vera de Jong from July 31 to September 30. Vera has made India her home for the past 19 years. She works in acrylic, and her paintings bring together elements from the abstract and figurative. The show will consist mainly of multi-panel works. You can also meet the artist from 1800 hrs onwards at the exhibition. Vera’s works can be seen on www.veradejong.com. Date: July 31 to September 30 Venue: Dyu Art Café, No.23 MIG, KHB Colony, Koramangala, 8th block Time: 1100h to 1900h
Exhibition of Contemporary art Delhi Episode presents a unique wall art exhibition, showcasing abstract creations of metal sculptures. The dramatic range of metallics is available in varying hues and silhouettes named Dynasty, Time Machine and Kaleidoscope. Complementing collectibles in home décor and floor art pieces are also available. Visit www.episodesilver.com for more details. Date: June 5 to August 16 Venue: Episode, No.84, Meher Chand Market, Lodhi Road Time: 1100h to 2000h
Exhibition of Korean Paintings Chennai InKo Centre and K-Art will present the Chennai Chamber Biennale. The event is a bi-annual exposition of contemporary Korean paintings in Chennai. The exhibition will have on display more than 100 paintings that have won acclaim across the world. Fifteen Korean artists will be present to introduce their works of art and interact with local artists. Date: July 27 to August 6 Venue: Lalit Kala Akademi, Egmore
Exhibition of Art Mumbai The National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, is hosting an exhibition of art work by artist Jamini Roy titled ‘Jamini Roy 1887—1972: Journey to the Roots’. Curated by Ella Datta, the exhibition showcases around 200 artworks of Jamini Roy including paintings, sculptures, drawings and sketches. Date: June 5 to July 12 Venue: The National Gallery of Modern Art, Madame Cama Road, Mantralaya, Fort. Time: 1100h to 1800h
Children’s Theatre Festival Chennai and Bengaluru InKo Centre will present the production Puppet Fantasy, Hooray by Manetsangsahwa’s Company at two Children’s Film Festivals in India in Chennai and Bengaluru. In Chennai, the Little Festival curated by The Little Theatre, a popular children’s theatre group, will be held on July 12. In Bengaluru, the AHA! Festival will be hosted by Ranga Shankara on July 14. Date: July 12 and 14 Venue: Musuem Theatre, Egmore, Chennai & Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar 2nd Phase, Bengaluru
Exhibition of Designer Garments Chennai Amethyst will showcase an exclusive clothing collection from two labels – Vrisa and Translate. Vrisa is a collection by designers Rahul and Shikha whose clothes are inspired by the Silk Route era, with exquisite embroidery and prints. Translate by Vinita and Vikas Passary has transformed traditional ikat weaves into contemporary wear for women. Call +91 44 45991630/31/32 for more details. Date: July 15 to 22 Venue: Amethyst, Whites Road, Royapettah Time: 1100h to 2000h
Trek to Raigad Fort Mumbai
English Theatre Delhi
Treks and Trails will organise a one-day trek to Raigad Fort, 125 km from Pune. The fort once served as the capital of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the Maratha King, in the 17th century. The fort is situated at a height of 1350 m above sea level. Contact connect@ treksandtrails.org for more details.
The Aadhyam Theatre Company from the Aditya Birla Group will present William Shakespeareâ€™s The Merchant of Venice. The play is a riveting tale of romance and revenge, generosity and greed. This ritzy new production marries the magical words of the Bard with trend-setting imagery from the 21st century: abducting the audience into a heady world of cocktails and casinos, money deals with mafia, romance and revelry, pride and prejudice.
Date: August 1 Venue: Swami Narayan Mandir, Dadar Time: 1030h
Chennai Kidathon Chennai Chennai Kidathon is the first of its kind in marathons for children in India. Organised by the Madras Cosmopolitan Round Table 94, the marathon is being held in aid of charitable causes. The event aims to raise awareness of health and fitness among children. It is open to children between ages 3 and 14, with run categories ranging from 500m to 4 km. Register at www.eventjini.com/ runs/chennaikidathon Date: August 9 Venue: YMCA Grounds, Nandanam Time: 0600h onwards
Date: July 11 Venue: Mandi House, Central Delhi Time: 1930h
New@Global Adjustments by Cross Cultural Services
Indecent Proposal(?) There is a fine line in the corporate world between wellintentioned friendly overtures and sexual harassment – and both Men And women are affected by it
“Global Adjustments's SHW programme was an excellent learning on a subject that is rarely discussed, and it was presented most effectively.” - Participant Vivek Kumar Choubey, Praxair
Even when she first met him at the interview, Sudha was struck by how friendly Ravi seemed. She was happy when she was told that he was her reporting manager, as he seemed like an easy person to work with. However, Sudha soon began to feel that Ravi went beyond being just ‘friendly’. He would often wink at her when making a comment, and touch her shoulder when speaking to her. Once, he even grabbed her hand to pull her towards the canteen. For fear of offending her boss, Sudha kept quiet. In the hypothetical scenario given above, would you say that Ravi’s behaviour constitutes what is deemed as ‘sexual harassment’? Answer: It does. It is deemed as sexual harassment for a boss to make intrusive inquiries into your private life, or persistently ask you out or touch you. Did you think otherwise? Maybe you felt that Ravi was just ‘being friendly’? Sexual harassment is one of the most misunderstood concepts in today’s corporate environment. Given that there is a fine line between well-intentioned friendly overtures and uncalled-for advances, men and women are often confused about how they should react if they find themselves in situations like the one given above. One of the reasons behind the lack of awareness in corporate Indian is that it has been just six years since the Supreme Court recognised sexual harassment as a human rights violation and provided guidelines for employers to redress and prevent it. Around 40% to 60% (www.indiatogether.org) of working women in India are said to have experienced some form of harassment. Men also experience harassment, but it is often overlooked, and the time has come to raise awareness. Appropriate behaviour and communication play a critical role at the workplace. Often, it is difficult for a victim to decide if an incident could be regarded as ‘harassment’. In turn, they may suffer from shame, loneliness and insecurity. On an organisational front, this could result in a drop in productivity and attrition of talent. Combating sexual harassment involves an understanding of your rights as an employee/employer – and actively putting them into practice, so as to ensure that a productive and harmonious working environment is established. Global Adjustments has developed an effective programme, ‘Sexual Harassment at the Workplace’ (SHW), which gives participants improved understanding alongwith the right tools to address and prohibit such acts. For more information, please contact us at email@example.com or +91-44-2461 7902.
Spotlight by Team Culturama
Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra July 18 The Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra, held in the town of Puri in Orissa, is a much visited festival for its grandeur and colour. Puri is home to the Lord Jagannath temple, which is dedicated to Lord Krishna. During the annual rath yatra or ‘journey of chariots’, Lord Jagannath (Krishna), his elder brother Balabhadra (Balaram), and sister Subhadra set out to visit their aunt, who is housed at the neighbouring Gundichi temple. The trio stays there for a week, after which they return home in another grand procession. The 45-foot-tall chariots that carry the Gods move with a force that gave a new word to the English language – ‘juggernaut’, which is defined as ‘large unstoppable force’. The dome-shaped chariots are made afresh every year, and the idols that travel in them are crafted every 12 years. Interestingly, the idols are all made from wood, and do not have arms and legs. While there seems to be no historic
evidence to explain this anomaly, a local legend says that the idols were crafted by a mysterious carpenter who put forth the condition that no one should see them before they were completed. The king of Puri, however, was ridden by curiosity, and peeked in. The carpenter, actually a divine being, scolded the King for his impatience and said that the idols would never be finished. A unique phenomenon in this temple is the ‘Jara Thakurani’ or ‘Triplet Goddesses’ who are known to cure any form of fever for an offering of milk and bananas. The ancient kalpa bata bruksha or banyan tree inside the temple is supposed to have special powers – it is said that one’s desired will be fulfilled if he/she ties a sacred thread around it. To Do: Listen to the rhythms of the ‘Dahuka boli’ or poetic songs that are believed to control the movement of the chariot. Look out for the ‘Banati’ players, who perform the age-old art of spinning fire balls.
Global Wellness Series
Breaking the 'C' word
Detecting breast cancer early would help prevent the most common type of the disease afflicting women, says Dr. Jacob George, Consultant - Medical Oncologist at the Global Cancer Institute.
The incidence of cancer has risen worldwide but has attained epidemic proportions in India. One of the most common cancer affecting females is breast cancer. This cancer presents itself as a breast lump most of the time which is easily detected by the person herself. Many do not come forward and delay seeking medical attention mostly because of fear and sometimes ignorance. With early detection and treatment breast cancer can be cured. Annual mammogram screenings for women aged above forty years [or a decade earlier if patient has family history of breast cancer] helps in early detection. Early screening can pick up breast lumps which are not even felt by the individual and thus detect early stage disease. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The combined use of these three modalities, together with the use of newer molecular markers has helped us in individualizing treatment in patients with breast cancer. With continuing scientific research, breast cancer management is still evolving. What does this mean for patients? Better care and more chance of surviving the illness- but at a higher cost. However one of these advantages is of early detection and treatment. The onus is still on each individual to seek medical attention at the earliest.
Festival of the month
Guru Purnima July 31 The word ‘Guru’ means ‘dispeller of darkness’ in Sanskrit, and Guru Purnima is dedicated to the teacher who dispels the ‘darkness’ of ignorance. It is a festival that is observed by several religions in India – Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. The Hindus regard this as the day when Lord Shiva (destroyer of evil; one of the Hindu holy trinity) became the first guru and imparted knowledge to sages. In that form, he is known as Dakshinamurthy. It is also said that sage Vyasa, who wrote the Mahabharat, India’s great epic, was born on this day. Buddhists believe that the Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath (in present-day Uttar Pradesh) on Guru Purnima, which made him their first guru. Mahavira, the Jain guru, adopted his first disciple on this day. Meditation and thanksgiving prayers are a common part of Guru Purnima celebrations. Hindus read the important scriptures on this day and listen to talks by great masters. To Do: The Isha Foundation organises special gatherings on Guru Purnima in Tamil Nadu, which are webcast as well – visit www.ishafoundation.org for more information.
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Portrait of India by Team Culturama
Guru or Jupiter is the teacher of the Gods, and he is seated in a chariot driven by eight horses. The eight horses represent the eight branches of knowledge. Brihaspati, the teacher for all the devas or divine beings, is the presiding deity of this planet. Picture: Courtesy ‘Art Heritage of India: A Collector’s Special’, published by L&T-ECC & ECC Recreation Club.
India Impressions by Preeti Verma Lal
Call of the Almighty
The festival of Eid-Al-Fitr – one of the most important festivals for Muslims – is grandly celebrated across India. We bring you the sights and sounds from some of the important cities, and tell you just where you should go to experience the festivities in full Eid-al-Fitr, also called ‘Feast of Breaking the Fast’, is the most important festival in the Islamic calendar. Held in the ninth month of the lunar calendar, Eid marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and is celebrated on the first day of Shawwal (the tenth month of the Hijri calendar). During Ramadan, Muslims observe dawn-to-sunset fasting for 29 to 30 days. The exact date of the Eid festival varies depending on the sighting of the moon. However, in most countries it is celebrated on the same day as in Saudi Arabia. With about 14 percent of the population comprised of Muslims, India has the third largest Islamic population. As a run-up to Eid-ul-Fitr, mosques are lit up, shops go on an overdrive, sweetmeats are stacked, kitchens are cluttered with biryanis (flavoured rice and meat dish), sewaiyan (fried vermicelli), shahi tukda (milk and bread pudding) and kebabs. New clothes are also bought for the occasion. Eid begins with prayers in a mosque and is followed by celebrations that range from special Eid delicacies to meeting family members and donating alms to the less privileged. Eid-al-Fitr is the only day when Muslims are forbidden from fasting.
Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir) If you are in Srinagar during Eid, head to Lal Chowk. The place bustles with the holler of countless shopkeepers, the hurry of merrymakers and the aroma of delicacies. Shops in Goni Market, Regal Chowk and Zaina Kadal are famous for jewellery and apparel. The biggest congregation gathers at the historic Eidgah to offer prayers; special prayers are also offered at Dargah Asar-e-Sharif Hazratbal, which is considered the holiest Muslim shrine in Kashmir. The name of the shrine comes from the Urdu word Hazrat (respected) and Kashmiri word bal (place). Situated on the left bank of Dal Lake, the Dargah contains a relic – the Moi-e-Muqqadas, believed by many Muslims to be a hair of Prophet Mohammad. Eid is never complete without the Wazwan, a lavish traditional meal that consists of over a dozen-and-a-half dishes cooked in special nickel-plated copper vessels over wood fire. The common Wazwan Eid dishes include tabak maz (fatty lamb ribs deep fried in ghee), rista (balls of minced mutton cooked in a gravy of spices and red chillies), rogan josh,
Photo: Aurelie Marsan, France
aab gosht (large pieces of lamb's shoulder cooked in milk), and mirch korma (mutton cooked with lots of red chillies). On Eid, you cannot miss out on gustaba (minced mutton balls cooked in yoghurt, butter and spices, but no chillies).
New Delhi Nothing beats the Eid chaos in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk – it does not sleep during the holy month of Ramadan. The waif-thin lanes get clogged with street-side shops that pop up for Eid. Even in the middle of night, you can pick up hot stuffed parantha or syrupy jalebi. Stacks of sewaiyan are everywhere. Kebabs get brown in coal pits and the haleem is simmered in pots. Only available during this holy month, haleem is a thick, pasty dish of pounded wheat, lentils, meat, ghee and spices cooked on low flame for more than 10 hours. One of the best places to eat haleem is Gali Kababiyan at Jama Masjid. On Eid-al-Fitr, all roads lead to Masjid-i Jahān-Numā (commonly known as Jama Masjid) where the devout gather to offer Salat-al-Eid (special Eid prayers). Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1644 and 1656, the mosque
has three great gates, four towers and two 40-metre high mina-rets made of red sandstone and white marble. It is the country’s largest mosque and its courtyard can hold 25,000 people. A total of 899 black borders are marked on the floor for worshippers.
Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) Being the seat of the Awadh kingdom, Lucknow is known for its Eid celebrations. The devout gather at Aishbagh Eidgah, the biggest prayer ground in the city. Prayers are also offered at the Aasifi Masjid. On Eid, all of Lucknow seems to be swathed in white. Men wear traditional chikan embroidered kurta, an art form that was introduced by Noor Jehan, wife of Mughal Emperor Jehangir. Shoppers pick up the best chikan kurtas and saris from rows of shops outside Choti Imam Bara, in Hazratganj, the Chowk and Aminabad. After the prayers, the Old City is laden with the whiff of kebabs, especially kakori and galouti kebabs which are specialties of the capital city. For the sweet-toothed, there is the traditional Awadhi rose petal sheer khurma (vermicelli pudding).
Photo: Carles Berruezo Domingo
Mumbai (Maharashtra) In Mumbai, everyone flocks to Mohammed Ali Road (Masjid Bunder, South Mumbai) for the Ramadan delicacies ranging from meat dishes such as cow tongue soup, goat brain gravy, roasted quail bird, and goat leg soup to sweets like malpua, mawa jalebi, rabri, phirni and falooda. Minara Masjid, the city’s most famous mosque is known for its stained glass windows. During Ramadan, the Minara Masjid is decked with lights and the entire place bustles with foodies. Suleiman Usma Mithaiwala is a famous sweet shop
Eid begins with prayers in a mosque and is followed by celebrations that range from special Eid delicacies to meeting family members and donating alms to the less privileged. with About 14 percent of India’s population comprised of Muslims, the festival is celebrated with pomp across cities in the subcontinent
Idgah: A Story for Eid
Written by Munshi Premchand (1880—1936; real name Dhanpat Rai Srivastav), Idgah is a short story set on the day of Eid. Hamid, the protagonist, is an orphan living with his poor old grandmother. Unlike other children, Hamid had no new clothes or shoes for Eid. All he had in hand was three paise that he had received as idi (money that elders give children as blessings on Eid). In the fair, while his friends spent money on rides and candies, Hamid picks a pair of tongs for his old granny because she often burns her hand while making rotis. On returning to the village, Hamid gifts the tongs to his grandmother who initially chides him for his stupidity. But when Hamid reminds her of how she never had a pair of tongs and often burnt her fingers, she bursts into tears and blesses Hamid. Idgah is one of Premchand’s most popular stories – its beauty lies in the manner in which it subtly weaves the spirit of giving that is synonymous with Eid. Photo: Ted Osius
IN T HIS MAGAZINE
Photo: Richard Buttrey
Photo: Enric Donate Sanchez, Spain
Eid Delicacies around the World Eid may be known by different names around world (Hari Raya, Bayram, Sugar Feast, and so on), but a common thread running through the celebrations is the effort that goes into preparing special delicacies for the whole family. We explore some of the popular food items made specially for Eid in different parts of the world. Egypt: Fata (made with meat, rice, onions and vinegar) and kahk (cookies filled with nuts and wrapped in powdered sugar) Indonesia: Kue lapis legit (also known as the thousand-layer cake) and ketupat (rice cake)
in the vicinity. The largest prayer gathering takes place at Azad Maidan in South Mumbai. Prayers are also offered at other mosques: Juma Masjid (in Craw-ford Market; originally in Dongri but reconstructed in 1775 and completed in 1802); Moghul Masjid (in Arthur Jail Road; constructed about a century ago); and Anjuman-i-Islam which was founded in 1874.
Hyderabad Eid festivities in this historic city centre around the Charminar, which gets insomniac during Ramadan. Built in 1591, Charminar is a mosque and a monument. Situated on the east bank of Musi river, Charminar borrows its name from its four (char) towers (minar). While laying the foundation of the Charminar, Qutb Shah, one of the earliest Urdu poets offered prayers and wrote a couplet: Fill this my city with people as thou hast filled the river with fishes, O Lord! If Qutb Shah were to step into Hyderabad during Ramadan, he would know that the Lord had answered his prayers and â€˜filled his cityâ€™. In the marketplace around Charminar, centuries-old shops do not down their
shutters even at night and men/women throng to the bustling marketplace for Eid shopping. In its heyday, the Charminar market had some 14,000 shops. Today, Laad Baazar is known for jewellery, especially exquisite bangles, and the Pather Gatti is famous for pearls. Every evening the city resonates with the call of the muezzins and the air is heavy with the aroma of haleem.
Chennai On Eid-al-Fitr, the Dargah Hazrat Syed Moosa Shad Qadri (commonly known as Mount Road Dar-gah) is the place to be. Located in Anna Salai, the dargah is the place where 17th century saint Hazrat Syed Moosa Shad Qadri lived after arriving from Baghdad. When he died, his family buried him next to the house and built the dargah. Thousands of men and children in skullcaps offer prayers here. Several hotels create special Eid buffets that offer a variety of kebabs, gucchi pulao, nalli gosht biryani, gulkand shahi paneer and haleem, among others. The desserts include umm ali (Egyptian bread pudding) and mahalabia (milk pudding).
Myanmar: Desserts made with semolina such as semolina pudding or cakes Somalia: Xalwo (commonly known as halvo) made with cornstarch, sugar, spices and oil Iraq: Klaicha (rose-scented cookies filled with dates and nuts) Bosnia: Dolma (stuffed vegetables) Uighur Muslims: Traditional xinjiang noodles Java: Brongkos (dish made with oxtail meat, tofu, and red beans)
Photo: Meenakshi Madhavan, Creative Commons
Photo: Galina Zagumennova
Holistic living by Eknath Easwaran
Let the Search Begin Whatever our religious beliefs, it is possible for every one of us to uncover the core of goodness that lies within
Photo: Jocelyn Wright, New Zealand
5 Join Us Every Saturday India Immersion Centre in Chennai facilitates a weekly spiritual fellowship group following Easwaran’s Eight Point Programme of Meditation. E-mail us for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are in other cities, visit www.easwaran.org for e-satsangs.
In almost every country and every age, there are a few men and women who see through the game of personal satisfaction and ask themselves, “Is this all? I want something much bigger to live for, something much loftier to desire.” Nothing transient can appease this hunger. It touches something very deep in us, caught as we are in our predicament as human beings: partly physical, partly spiritual, trying to feel at home in the world into which we have been born. Jewish mysticism puts this idea into haunting imagery. Shekinah, the Presence of God, is dispersed throughout creation in every creature, like sparks scattered from the pure flame of spirit that is the Lord. And each spark, seemingly alone in the darkness of blind matter, wanders this world in exile, seeking to return to its divine source. This scattering brings what the Sanskrit language calls ahamkara: literally, “I-maker,” the sense of being “an island unto oneself” – something separate from the rest of life, with unique needs and peremptory claims. In the end, it is this driving sense of separateness – I, I, I; my needs, my wants, apart from all the rest of life – that is responsible for all the wars in history, all the violence, all the exploitation of other human beings, and even the exploitation of the planet that threatens our future today. Yet underneath that separateness, what we seek is very natural – very simple, basic things, common to all. We want to love and to be loved. We want happiness and fulfilment, though we may have differing ideas of what that means. We want a place in life, a way of belonging, a sense of purpose, the achievement of worthy goals – whatever it takes; otherwise life is an empty show. These are all natural desires, and no amount of experience can erase them from our hearts. Why? Because these are the demands of what Meister Eckhart Tolle (author of Power of Now and A New Earth) terms as the “little spark” of the spirit, and that spark is real and inalienable: “nearer to us than our very body,” as the Sufis say, “dearer than our very life”.
What happens is that we interpret these yearnings wrongly. They are messages from the spirit which have somehow got scrambled by the world of matter, and we lack the decoder by which to understand. That scrambling is what Hindu mysticism calls maya: the wishful, willful illusion that the thirst in our hearts is physical and can somehow be slaked by physical experience. We wander searching for the right things in the wrong places, and life itself seems to delight in frustrating us. What we seek is always just around the corner... and when we reach the corner, it has ducked out of sight down the block. But there comes a time when the corners no longer beckon – we know they only hide blind alleys. In the end, then, life itself turns us inward – “away from created things,” as Meister Eckhart says, to “find our unity and blessing in that little spark in the soul.”
Finding heaven on earth The purpose of all valid spiritual disciplines, whatever the religion from which they spring, is to enable us to return to this native state of being – not after death but here and now, in an unbroken awareness of the divinity within us and throughout creation. Theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language, and the practices they follow lead to the same goal. Whatever our religious beliefs – or even if formalised religion is anathema – it is possible for every one of us to uncover the core of goodness that Meister Eckhart speaks about. It has nothing to do with theology and everything to do with practice. In other words, what we say we believe in is not so important; what matters is what we actually do – and, even more, what we actually are. “As we think in our hearts, so we are.” Goodness is in us; our job is simply to get deep into our consciousness and begin removing what stands in the way.
Reprinted with permission from ‘The Juggler’, an article by Eknath Easwaran from The Blue Mountain Journal. Copyright The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, P.O. Box 256, Tomales, CA 94971, www.easwaran.org. (Extract from http://www.easwaran.org/assets/nilgiri/bluemountain/Spring2009.pdf)
Photo: Elena Eder, Australia
Myth and Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik
Rituals of Gratitude
One can look at festivals and rituals through the lens of food – through denial, one is reminded of all the bounty nature provides us. Through rituals of denial, one is made grateful for everything that one gets in life
Every year, during the rainy season, comes the month of Shravan, when many people fast. The men who like their drinks abstain from alcohol for two fortnights. Some men do not shave. This period is equivalent to the Lent of Christians and Ramazan of Muslims – a period of cleansing and spiritual purification. Logical answers are often given to explain the practice of fasting – it cleanses of the system of toxins, gives the digestive tract rest, and helps the body develop immunity during the disease-ridden monsoons. This burden of making rituals logical began in the 19th century, when all things that could not be explained through science came to be viewed as inferior. Rituals, however, have been used by cultures to communicate ideas that shape the imagination and hence impact our emotions. One can look at festivals and rituals through the lens of food. There are festivals like Annakoota and Diwali when lots of food is cooked and feasts are organised to enjoy various delicacies. Special foods are cooked on special occassions to please particular deities. These are festivals of indulgence. Then, there are festivals when food is not cooked. The kitchen fires are put out. Everyone fasts or eats specific ritual food. These are festivals of abstinence. Shravan, Lent and Ramzan belong to the latter category. In the Smarta traditions, Vishnu, the householder, is traditionally associated with festivals of indulgence. Mountains of food are presented to the deity in various Vishnu shrines. Shiva, the hermit, is indifferent to indulgence and abstinence. With the Goddess comes rituals of sacrifice, which can extend from sacrificing a live animal to sacrificing
one’s own meal. Through denial, one is reminded of all the bounty nature provides us. Through rituals of denial, one is made grateful for everything that one gets in life. Food is closely associated with violence. This is obvious in case of non-vegetarian food but not so obvious in case of vegetarian food. Every field, every orchard, every garden is established by destroying a forest – hence, an ecosystem. Life is taken so that life can be sustained. To feed a lion, a deer must die. To feed a deer, grass must die. Fasting then is associated with non-violence. By not eating, one allows nature to regenerate. That is why fasting plays a key role in the life of monastic orders. One of the key reasons for worshipping cows is that milk can be obtained from a cow without needing to kill any animal or destroying any forest. But when milk went into mass production, even that changed. In the Bible, Abraham realises that his goats have to die so that his children can get food and survive in the harsh desert. He learns to be grateful for the sacrifice of his livestock and the generosity of God. In the Mahabharat, Shibi tries to save a dove being chased by a hawk. The hawk says, “What will I eat now?” Shibi offers the hawk his own flesh, and realises that, to feed the hawk, someone has to die. It is then pointed out to Shibi that, to save the dove, someone has to die. And, to save the king, someone else has to die. Humans interfere with the cycle of nature by creating fields and orchards and gardens. That is why during fasting, one is encouraged to eat wild roots and shoots and fruits fallen off trees, in other words, foods that are found in the jungle, food that was eaten by hermits – food that is not ‘manufactured’ by culture.
Published in Speaking Tree, July 17, 2011. Reprinted with permission from www.devdutt.com
Give to India by Shefali Ganesh
The Winning Goal
In 2009, Disha Lohabare stood in a football stadium in Milan, Italy. The radiant glow on her face just about managed to mask her nervousness. Her name was soon announced as the winner of the Best Female Player of the tournament – the announcement put an end to a lifetime of waiting and kickstarted her future.
Slum Soccer, based in Maharashtra, is a one-ofits kind organisation that promotes football as a means to social empowerment for underprivileged children
Disha, who was from the slums of Maharashtra, had participated in the Homeless World Cup – an international football event. Disha represented India in this unique event, in which homeless people from across the world competed for the title.
Vijay was joined by his son, Abhijeet Barse, who took the idea to a whole new level. From one slum in Maharashtra in 2000, Slum Soccer expanded to Chennai, Kolkata and more cities. Slum Soccer teams are formed by youngsters who are interested in kicking a ball. They are then trained by professionals. As Abhijeet explains, “Sports becomes a bridge to bring learning interspersed with fun elements. The game of football changes the mind – it imparts a new sense of confidence to the player, and has a larger impact than classrooms.” His experience has been that, through the game, youngsters can be convinced to give up tobacco and alcohol, when they are told that these vices slow down their performance. In fact, the police found that in slums where the game was popular, there were lesser instances of violence on the part of the youngsters.
Disha’s ‘slum-to-soccer star’ story is a life changing one, scripted by a man named Vijay Barse – a sports teacher from Maharashtra. On a rainy day some years ago, when Vijay took shelter from a downpour, he was entertained by the sight of a group of young boys who were playing in the rain with a tin box. Their enthusiasm for the game was infectious – and got Vijay wondering about what would happen if these boys were trained properly. Vijay gathered like-minded teachers and started to work with the group of boys he had seen. The idea behind Slum Soccer was born from the idea that the act of kicking a ball is therapeutic in itself, and was powerful enough to make them forget their background. It brought the boys together and gave them a sense of hope and positive energy.
Daily problems faced by underprivileged communities include unemployment, abuse, alcoholism and mental health issues – football had the power to change this, says Abhijeet. “A simple game does not require any equipment – the ball
could be made of rags, the goal could be a row of chappals and very little expertise is required to kick the ball. But the game brought together people with a sense of competition and a spirit that they normally lacked,” he explains. Adapting the game was easy, too – a gender equality tournament brought girls and boys together. One innovation that Abhijeet mentions is the ‘walking football match’, in which the boys did not have an undue advantage over girls in terms of speed. The effort helped bring about a change in the gender biases in these communities. Themes similar to Sum Soccer’s football coaching include nutrition, HIV/AIDS and other issues. The government and some NGOs are showing interest in the Slum Soccer concept. A radical effort that has begun in Central India is that of training children of poachers and of policemen – in an effort to unite them. Today, Slum Soccer matches are held across cities in India, bringing together people from underprivileged communities and showcasing their skills. Families of players like Disha have found a new lease of hope. However, ask Vijay and Abhijeet as to what brings a smile to their face? Their answer: Meeting hopeful youngsters whose lives were wasted earlier, but they are now leaders – all thanks to the kick of a ball. Visit www.slumsoccer.org for more details.
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At Global Adjustments by Team Culturama
I Can. I Will. Jeevanshakti, an initiative by the India Immersion Centre, provides life skills training to students from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them dream big – and achieve their aims Fifteen-year-old Muhammed Abdul of the Dr. GMTTV School, Chennai, stood up in front of a group of 10 people and shared his dream of becoming an environmentalist. He said he was concerned about the decreasing number of trees, and wanted to work towards a 'greener' India. The first step towards achieving his aim? Excel in his studies, and join a good college. Abdul was a participant in the Jeevanshakti initiative, run by the India Immersion Centre (the NGO wing of Global Adjustments). The programme focuses on improving student welfare and providing training in life skills to students from socially and/or economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The six-hour training session was conducted at the Dr. Guruswamy Mudaliar TTV Higher Secondary School (GMTTV) in Mylapore, Chennai, for students from 9th to 12th grades, and their teachers. The programme, held on June 16, touched on topics such as motivation, empowerment, career decisions and personality development. The programme began with an interactive 'I CAN' session – where participants are motivated to strive towards higher objectives in their lives, be it academic or career-wise. The boys were shown examples of personalities who had overcome economic and educational disadvantages to achieved great levels of success. The students actively participated in the session, and put forth their aspirations and goals. For example, Premnath, Abdul's classmate, wants to become a doctor to help people gain more access to medical care. The I CAN project tries to help students inculcate the habit of making decisions based on their strengths and passions, and to realise that they have the power to 'create' their future. By allowing students to think beyond present limitations, the programme motivates them to aim bigger and invest more effort into achieving these aims. Each
student is shown examples of people that have overcome situations of economic and cultural obstacles. To wrap up the proramme, a motivational and skills development session was held for the teachers. Ice-breaker games led to a passionate discussion on the betterment of the school environment. The programme helped bring out the teachers' passion to make a positive difference in the lives of their students. Many teachers emphasised the need for greater focus on non-academic aspects - within and outside school. The discussion ended with the teachers being given a a new definition of ‘TEACH’ - Transform Each to be Accomplished Confident Humans.
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As India gears up for Eid-al-Fitr, we take a look at how the festival is celebrated in major cities across the country. India Impressions li...
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