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Yellow-hued Wonder Read about the different varieties of mangoes – and pick your favourite

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Off the Beaten Path Planning a getaway? We suggest some places that are far from the madding crowd

May 2018 Volume 9, Issue 3

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Dear Readers, When the May issue of this magazine was being prepared for print, I took a second look at this month’s Feature on India’s ubiquitous fruit of the season – the mango. I was reminded of the terms of endearment used by my grandmother. She would call us “My Rumani”, “my Alphonso” or “my Malgova” – names of varieties of mangoes from different parts of India. The luscious golden skin of the king of fruits was compared to the chubby cheeks of her grandchildren, and the sweetness within was likened to our loving hearts. Mangoes were not cut and served to us in those days – each of us was given a whole fruit, with the skin, on a plate. Tearing the skin out in strips with our front teeth and biting into the fleshy, juicy pulp was a delight nothing has since lived up to. When the juice trickled down our elbows, we thought nothing about licking our arm to catch every last drop. Of course, we licked the plate clean, too. While I may not be able to recreate the summers of yesteryear, I do take a leaf from the memories and remind myself that the best, most pleasurable things in life are often free. I take my time to slow down and savour every moment with my loved ones, even as I strive to build a life of meaning and purpose. I wish that this summer is spent surrounded by the warm love of your near and dear.

Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian Managing Editor Yamini Vasudevan Creative Head Prem Kumar Circulation P Devaraj Advertising Chennai Shobana Sairaj Bengaluru Meera Roy Delhi/NCR Ruchika Srivastava Mumbai/Pune Ashish Chaulkar

To subscribe to this magazine, e-mail info@globaladjustments.com or access it online at www.globaladjustments.com Chennai (Headquarters) 5, 3rd Main Road, R A Puram, Chennai – 600028 Telefax +91-44-24617902 E-mail culturama@globaladjustments.com Bengaluru #333/1, 1st Floor, 9th Main, 14th Cross, 2nd Stage, Indira Nagar, Bangalore - 560038 Tel +91-80-41267152 E-mail culturamablr@globaladjustments.com Delhi-NCR Level 4, Augusta Point, Golf Course Road, Sector 53, Gurgaon 122002, Haryana Mobile +91 124 435 4224 E-mail del@globaladjustments.com Mumbai #1102, 11th floor, Peninsula Business Park, Tower B, SB Road, Lower Parel, Mumbai – 400013 Tel +91-22-66879366 E-mail mum@globaladjustments.com Hyderabad Suite-18, 3rd Floor, Rajapushpa Business Centre, Stone Ridge Centre, Opp. Google, Hitec City – Kondapur Main Road Hyderabad – 500 084 Tel +91 40 48687956 E-mail hyd@globaladjustments.com Published and owned by Ranjini Manian at #5, 3rd Main Road, Raja Annamalai Puram, Chennai – 600028, and printed by K Srinivasan of Srikals Graphics Pvt Ltd at

Editor-in-Chief | globalindian@globaladjustments.com

#5, Balaji Nagar, 1st Street, Ekkattuthangal, Chennai – 600032 Disclaimer Views and opinions expressed by writers do not necessarily reflect the publisher’s or the magazine’s.


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Cover Image Come summer, the wait for mangoes begins – and the golden-coloured fruit is relished by one and all. Picture: Rama Neelamegam

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

Contributors Susan Philip is a freelance writer based in Chennai, and the editorial coordinator of Culturama’s various coffee table books. Eknath Easwaran (1910–1999) was a spiritual teacher, author and interpreter of Indian literature. In 1961, he founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation and Nilgiri Press in California. Devdutt Pattanaik is the Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group and a writer and illustrator of several books on Indian mythology. www.devdutt.com Preeti Verma Lal is a New Delhi–based writer/ photographer. If God asked her what she wanted, she’d tell Him to turn her into a farmer who also writes lyrically. www.deepblueink.com.

Letters to the Editor Dear Editor,

The article ‘Global Nomads’ was a very good reflection of my life, which was spent in Germany, the United States and, now, India. I enjoyed reading it. -Jane Manor, Bengaluru

Dear Editor,

The India in Symbols segment is very well researched and written, and provides a wealth of information – more so for us Indians, who are unaware of the depth of our traditions and culture. -Sampath Kumar, Bengaluru

Dear Editor,

Culturama is one of my favourite magazines. I enjoy reading Ranjini Manian’s editorial note and Eknath Easwaran’s articles – both of them convey a useful message through interesting stories. -Sashikala Gopalan, Chennai

ERRATA: In the April 2018 issue, the photo used on Page 28 (see right) was wrongly credited to Melissa Freitas of Brazil. The photo was taken by Cassia Reis of Brazil. We regret the error.

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


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Contents Regulars

32 Feature Come May, and mango season is prevalent across India. We delve into the history of this much loved fruit and the many ways it can be relished.

India’s Culture 8

Short Message Service

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At GA Foundation

Young women need guidance and training to harness their talent and skills – a need that gave rise to the ‘Future Leaders’ programme.

Short, engaging snippets of Indian culture.

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India Diaries

A visitor to India recounts the small and big things that caught her attention and gained her love.

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Festivals of India

The month of Ramadan is a time for fasting, prayer, sharing and spiritual bonding.

Journeys Into India 46

Look Who's in Town

Filipina Gina Makawana shares her thoughts on the best of India – drawn from stays in both North and South Indian cities.

Relocations and Property 54

Space and the City

Property listings in Chennai.

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Hit The Road

Taking a weekend break? A full-fledged vacation? We give you our pick of some not-so-well-explored places that are worth a visit.

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Myth & Mythology

Was Sita a daughter, wife, princess or queen? Or was she all of this – and something more as well?

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Holistic Living

Our spiritual teachers show us that the answer to the deepest questions about life are to be found right here – within us.

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Value Vignettes

We begin a new series that looks at 12 qualities that enhance a woman’s character – and women who exemplify them. These values are not limited to women – they embellish a man’s personality just as much. In this issue, we touch on kirti or fame.


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All it takes is a Spark!

a niche initiative to make the children realize that each one of them have the potential to spark and are indeed Unique. An overall development of the child along with emphasis on the physical aspect is provided at iSpark. We strongly believe that a strong body, mind and soul will help the children to be holistically happy and aspire to inspire others. At the studio, the physical activity is designed and monitored by experts and appropriate guidance is given towards healthy eating by nutritionists. Children are like buds and starting at a young age will make them bloom into beautiful flowers as adults. Programs for strengthening the mind and soul are integrated with the help of educationists, lifestyle coaches and yoga therapists. The studio is an initiative of SREI Foundation which believes in holistic development of all its other initiatives too. It is passionately founded by Manisha Kanoria Lohia who is a Montessori Directress along with the support of her father, Dr.H.P.Kanoria and her son Vedant Raj Lohia as young leading Director of iSpark. iSpark is doing a host of activities pertaining to the body, mind and soul this summer. Physical activeness through dance, theatre, traditional games, unstructured play and especially designed fitness related programs delivered by trainers are encouraged as part of the camp. Confidence, communication, culture, creativity, cooking, value based learning, taking care of pets, bonding and gardening are other activities. An add on is a session with the mother, grandparents and the child.

www.isparkholistic.com | contactispark@gmail.com | 044-43570807| 8825970607


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SMS by Suzanne McNeill

Short cultural snippets for an easily digestible India

Art/textile/craft: Bhujodi Weave The village of Bhujodi in the Kutch region of Gujarat has given its name to a hand-spun weave that developed as part of a barter system between neighbouring communities. Nomads and herders provided milk and fleeces to the village in exchange for blankets and other textiles made from the wool of the fleeces to protect them against the cold. To this day, the Vankars of Bhujodi weave cotton and woollen shawls, stoles, carpets and furnishing materials using traditional pit and shuttle looms. The wool (which nowadays may come from as far away as New Zealand) is spun by hand using a wooden turning machine. The yarn for the warp thread is twisted and starched to coarsen the threads before they are attached, or ‘pieced’, to the loom. The finer weft yarn is dyed using either vegetable or chemical dyes, dipped in diluted sulphuric acid to fix the colour and then rolled onto bobbins ready for weaving. Bhujodi weaves are distinguished by their intricate textured patterns and geometric designs, and the Vankars run seminars and help train young weavers and design students.

Words: Dhobi and Istri Dhobi has long been used colloquially throughout India as the word for a washerman, someone who earns a living by washing clothes. Dhobis provide services to almost all parts of semi-urban and urban India. Some of them work on an industrial scale as part of a large, structured group, sorting, checking and washing clothes and linen, drying, ironing and packaging them to be returned to their owners. Mumbai’s Dhobi Ghat, the biggest open-air laundry in the world, employs 7,000 dhobis who wash over 100,000 items a day in a vast maze of concrete pens. Others work individually, relying on household customers. ‘Dhobi’ found its way into the Hobson-Jobson Anglo-Indian Dictionary in 1886. The dictionary is sub-titled ‘a spice-box of etymological curiosities’; yet, dhobi derives quite simply from the Hindi word dhob, the noun meaning a laundry or batch of clothes sent to or from a launderer. In a wider sense, Dhobi is the name of the specific community of approximately 400,000 people whose traditional occupation this is. Hobson-Jobson does not list the word istri, which is often used alongside dhobi. Istri is the noun for an iron, and istri karna means to iron, to smooth or press. The istri wallah is a common sight on India’s pavements, plying his trade from a cart under a shady tree or awning.


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Name: Dinesh Karthik Dinesh Karthik is a wicket-keeper and batsman who is described as a giant of the domestic game in India. Karthik was born in Chennai in 1985. His father was a cricketer whose career had been sidelined because his parents wished him to put his education first. Consequently, he encouraged his son from an early age. As a batsman, Karthik rose through the junior ranks. He made his debut for Tamil Nadu when only 17, and by 19 had attracted much attention with some high-scoring innings. However, his form dropped and he turned to wicket-keeping. He made his debut for India in a one-day international in 2004, agilely stumping England’s top scorer Michael Vaughan. His international career coincided with that of M.S. Dhoni, one of the best wicket-keepers in world cricket, but despite some notable highlights it never really took off. Karthik has, however, been recalled to international cricket when other players have been injured or rested. In March, he spectacularly revived India’s final innings against Bangladesh, scoring 29 in the final two overs and hitting a six off the last ball that clinched the tournament and has made him a sudden superstar. Karthik joined the then newly formed Indian Premier League in 2008 playing as wicket-keeper for the Delhi Daredevils, but his best spell came when he transferred to the Mumbai Indians in 2012, batting and wicket-keeping in all their matches as they won their first IPL trophy. To date he has played 152 matches in the IPL, scored nearly 3,000 runs, and, by 2016, had the most dismissals as a wicket-keeper in the IPL. In the 2018 IPL season, Karthik is captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Food and Drink: Chahou Kheer Kheer is the generic name for any kind of rice pudding made with rice, milk and sugar, and it is popular across India. In Manipur in north-eastern India, chahou kheer is made using a variety of indigenous black rice called chak-hao, the grains of which are a deep black colour, but which turn purple when cooked. Black rice is heavier in texture than other varieties of rice, but is rich and sweet and its nutty flavour makes it suitable for desserts. To make chahou kheer, the rice is soaked and added to boiling milk with sugar, covered and simmered for about 10 minutes. Raisins, cashew nuts and grated coconut are stirred through and the rice is ready for serving immediately. No Manipur celebration is complete without a serving of chahou kheer, and nutritionists are discovering that black rice has numerous health benefits.


I Kur tis & Fa brics

I Dress Materials

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Business as usual at Ima Keithel

T

he Bhagavad Gita, a pivotal part of the great epic Mahabharata, can be considered a sort of manual for living. Among the many principles that underpin an ideal life that it talks of are the qualities that make for an ideal woman. In this new series, we look at some women of India – from antiquity, history and the present – who exemplify one or the other of 12 qualities that enhance a woman’s character. They are, of course, not values limited to women; they are feminine qualities that embellish a man’s personality just as much. We begin with kirti or fame, which can, in the modern context, be extended to mean a ‘brand’ of sorts.


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Value Vignettes by Susan Philip

To Market, to Market…

…with Manipuri matriarchs who have created a unique marketplace – set up by and for women traders. The system is a medium of opportunity, and an example of how right thought and effort can lead to longlasting fame or ‘kirti’. This form of Strength is latent in women (and men, too), but requires effort to find it. Once found, it can be used to build a lasting ‘brand’ The hills are alive with the sound of women’s voices – particularly the marketplace known as Ima Keithel. The north-eastern Indian state of Manipur is known for its feisty women, no less decisive and clued-on than their brave menfolk. And the Ima Keithel stands testimony to this.

set up a market exclusively for women traders. This wasn’t a development that happened on the back of the women’s emancipation movements that swept the globe in the 19th and early 20th centuries. As far as can be ascertained, it happened around 500 years ago.

Literally translated, Ima Keithel means Mothers’ Market. It is the largest market in Asia, possibly in the world, staffed and managed exclusively by women.

Today, the Ima Keithel is nothing short of a brand. Located in Imphal, the capital of Manipur, only married women are allowed to set up stalls there. And for the women who trade at the market, age is just a number. It is the older women, including grandmothers, who make use of this window to be active and contributing members of the family, leaving the younger ones to raise their children.

The women of this tiny state took the initiative to be commercially active long ago. Their menfolk, famed for their warrior-like nature, were drafted under an ancient forced labour system to fight wars and work on farmlands in distant places. So the women, instead of languishing in their homes, took the reins of life into their own hands. They

The matriarchs gather with their produce and products early in the day, and are at their allotted spaces till the


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market closes at night. The stalls, for which the women pay a small rent, are passed down from generation to generation, either from mother to daughter or from mother-in-law to daughter-in-law. The women sell all kinds of local produce and handicrafts. You can buy spices, clothes, currency garlands to be used as offerings to the divine, vegetables and fruits, honey, fish, gardening tools, cane baskets, and a lot of other things as well. Although bargaining is expected, the women are not in the business for cut-throat profits. For them, the Ima Keithel is a way of being self-sufficient. And also of staying informed. They discuss politics, societal norms and what is happening around them and in the world. As a result, they are aware and The market stalls are passed down from either from mother to daughter, or from mother-in-law to daughter-in-law.

Ima Keithel in its older (above) and modern avatars (top)

articulate, and can take conscious decisions regarding life not only for themselves but also for their families. The experience of the Ima Market has given the Manipuri women immense confidence. In 1939, they organised protest meetings and rallies against the policies of a local ruler favouring the British at the expense of the local population. This prompted the British to try to get the buildings housing the stalls sold to outsiders. But the women opposed the move tooth and nail. The resistance they put up was known as Nupi Lan or Women’s War. So strong were the ‘mothers’ that the British backed down. Ima Keithel went on with renewed vigour. Over the years, the tradition continued. And the market still stands firm. Even an earthquake was not able to destroy it. In January 2016, a quake of 6.7 magnitude struck Manipur and other parts of north-eastern India and neighbouring Bangladesh. The buildings housing the Mothers’ Market were reduced to rubble. But the women carried on. They simply relocated to the roadside. The matriarchs took the opportunity to start a campaign for better facilities. In February 2018, buildings renovated


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by the state administration were declared open, and around 5,000 women vendors moved into their new business address. They are confident that the Ima Keithel brand will grow from strength to strength. The Mothers’ Market has now become a must-see spot on the tourist agenda, apart from its importance to the local economy. And even today, if someone wants to get a feel of current events and thinking, the best plan would be to visit the Ima Keithel. At the core Strength is latent in every woman. And also in every man. Sometimes you need to dive deep to find it, but it is there. Use that strength to stand up for what is right, and to turn a setback into an opportunity. You’ll find that you have achieved kirti – fame – and created a brand, even if it is in your own limited circle. Echoes at home and elsewhere There are many examples of Indian women besting the odds to achieve fame, individually or collectively. Here’s one: The Shri Mahila Sewa Sahakari Bank Ltd. is a bank for women started by women in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It was an initiative taken by poor, mostly illiterate members of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), an organisation formed to Irom Sharmila help women working in the unorganised sector. Although these women contribute much to the economy, their services are not recognised, and they are often treated unfairly by financial institutions, including the formal banking sector, in matters of loans and working

Ranjini Manian (left) with a vendor at Ima Keithel

Editor’s Note At the Ima Keithel, most of the women are Vaishnavites (devotees of Lord Vishnu) and have a huge tilak covering the bridge of the nose and a good part of the forehead – the ‘brand’ is thus both external and internal. Kirti – fame or brand – is every woman’s birthright, and comprises both inner values and external appearance, neither of which have any reference to colour, religion or economic status. That’s the takeaway for us all. capital. To address this issue, about 4,000 women contributed Rs. 10 each as share capital in 1974 to establish the bank, which is now a viable financial venture. And in Manipur itself, Olympic boxer Mary Kom and civil rights activist Irom Sharmila have become ‘brands’ in their own right. Well said! “The woman who can create her own job is the woman who will win fame and fortune." – Amelia Earhart, aviator and writer; the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean

Organisations like the Shri Mahila Sewa Sahakari Bank Ltd were started to help women, especially those who were poor and illiterate.


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India Diaries by Diana Banks

A Time to Remember My first visit to India after some 70 years on this planet. Oh, what have I missed! Arriving in Delhi to see Lutyens’ dream, still visible despite the ravages of an expanding India – 80 years after his master plan was conceived. To stay at The Imperial – a haven of peace in that bustling city. No one can portray the colours, smells, traffic, noise and, above all, the smiling, happy people teeming in the capital. To dine with an elegant old lady, a friend of my hosts’, who remembers walking out of Northeast

The Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi

There is plenty in India to charm and seduce – a visitor recounts the little and big things that caught her attention and gained her love


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(Clockwise from top): Wild Mahseer in Assam; watching rhinos at Kaziranga nature reserve; the Madras Club in Chennai; the Mohamed Quli Qutb Shah Mausoleum in Hyderabad

India at partition and leaving her grandmother to die on the side of the road. No bitterness here – that is true Christianity, or whatever you may choose to call it. Then on to Wild Mahseer, the most elegant of tea gardens, in Assam. To see dolphins in the mighty Brahmaputra and have freshly cooked fish curry on the wide sandy banks is just magic. On to Kaziranga and jeep safaris taking us into herds of rhinoceros, deer, monitor lizard, elephant and a myriad of brightly coloured birds. Then our treat, a brief elephant ride, taking us into the heart of the wildlife and within a few yards of buffalo and rhinos with newborn young. But the icing on the cake is the whisper: “Tiger”. We see a faint shape behind a bush some hundred metres away. We wait and the shape disappears into the bush to emerge into open ground, unbelievably a rhino spots it and, head down, sees it off, turning in the air. Extraordinary. What a privilege and what a debt we owed our guides.

On to Hyderabad and a surfeit of culture. Extreme wealth is a difficult concept to come to terms with, but the legacy of the Nizams’ riches gives us tourists the chance to wonder at temples, mausoleums, forts and museums. Sobering too to see the young ages on the plaques for expat Brits in the churches. Finally to Chennai, to be hosted at the Madras Club and to see that splendid memorial to The Raj so wonderfully appreciated and honoured by the current custodians – another great privilege. So are my memories of India. It must be the people, so friendly, welcoming, kind and with an innate charm that is as natural as their smiles.


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Hit The Road by Preeti Verma Lal

Be it for a weekend road trip or a longer getaway, why not pick a place that is not overrun by tourists? We give you our pick of some not-so-well-explored places that are worth charting a route to

Photos: Preeti Verma Lal

Off the Beaten Path


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“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” F. Scott Fitzgerald mused in The Great Gatsby. I am not sure about life beginning again with summer, but every summer darts are thrown on the map for a new holiday destination and new itineraries are scripted. This summer, don’t run to the travel agent who might get into another touristy destination spiel. Don’t pick the brochure and head to where everyone is heading. Explore something unusual. Pick a not-so oft-talked about destination. Do something different even if you are going to where you have gone before. Here are a few such summer getaways, easily accessed from the main cities and metros.

Kurseong (from Kolkata) It is Darjeeling’s lesser known cousin. Beautiful. Quiet. And away from the gaze of the everyday tourist. Before stepping into

Kurseong, pack a little courage in the heart. Hairpin bends, death valleys, and a treacherous road lead into the hilly town where a nun with a compassionate heart, Mother Teresa, is said to have found her calling; a brave soldier, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, spent time in the house of his elder

The Hill Railway Train in Darjeeling


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Photos: Preeti Verma Lal

brother; where tea is hand-rolled for the ritzy Harrod’s; where Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the famous blue train hisses between Darjeeling and Siliguri on a gauge track; and where 100 types of tea blends – and tea leaf fritters – get served at Cochrane Place, a boutique hotel. Perched 4,783 ft above sea level, Kurseong borrows its name from the white orchid and was once the haven for the Britishers during summer months. But the mountainous, inaccessible terrain sent the British scurrying to Darjeeling. That left behind quietude as largesse for Kurseong. Here, while the world sweats, you can trek, swim, find piety in temples, haggle in the local bazaar, amble through tea gardens and drink chaang, local fermented millet brew, out of bamboo tankards.

Photos: Preeti Verma Lal

Good to know: Fly into Bagdogra – from there, Kurseong is a 90-minute drive away. New Jalpaiguri (53 km) is the nearest railway station. Take the famous Darjeeling Hill Railway train and steam through until Kurseong station. Must-see: Toy Train station, Dow Hill, St Mary’s grotto, Forest Museum, Ambootia Shiv Temple, Netaji Kothi, Salamander Lake.

Malihabad (from Lucknow) If you love iambic pentameters, you must have heard of Malihabad. As the suffix in poet Josh Malihabadi’s name. If the silver screen is where your eyes find solace, you must have seen the dusty village in the iconic films Umrao Jaan and Junoon. And if you like raking history, you sure must have heard of the man who seeded Malihabad – an Afghan, Afridi Fakir Mohammad Khan Sahib Goya who married 11 times and had 52 children. But in summer, Malihabad is only about one thing: mangoes. It is the mango capital of the country. Within its 20 sq km radius grows about 700 varieties of mangoes. Mangoes are everywhere. But there is one tree that is the most famous of all – a 100-year Asroor Mukarar mango tree on which grow 300 varieties of mangoes, each grafted sedulously by Padma

Clockwise from top left: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Museum; Kalimullah Khan of Malihabad; kakori kebab

Shri Kalimullah Khan. So unusual is the tree that it has found a mention in the Limca Book of Records. Not too far away is the village of Dussehri, its claim to fame being the original 300-year-old Dussehri tree which the locals believe was not planted by humans; it rose from the earth as a blessing. And on the way, there is the village of Kakori where a kind chef invented the kakori kebab for the toothless Nawab. Good to know: Malihabad is 35 km from Lucknow’s airport. Hire a cab from the airport. Visit the palaces where films Umrao Jaan and Junoon were shot. Walk by the home of poet Josh Malihabadi.


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(Left and Top): Jaigad Fort; (Above): Thibaw Palace

Ratnagiri (from Mumbai) Ask a foodie and he will tell you that Rantagiri is all about mangoes, the home of the famed Alphonso mangoes. A history buff will narrate the poignant story of King Thibaw, the Burmese king, and the royal family that was exiled to Ratnagiri in 1885 and lived in social isolation for nearly 30 years (the Thibaw Palace is a museum now). The devout come here for the 400-year-old Ganesh temple built of pule (white sand) and is believed to be a self-created monolith of Lord Ganesh. The Maratha pride still walks the rampart of the 16th century Jaigad Fort. Ganapatipule is the most popular beach in the region. It gets crowded in summer, but it is somewhat customary to visit the beach and the Ganapatipule Temple that stands on it. Try local delicacies like masala pomfret, Malvan chicken curry and fried prawns. Good to know: Distance between Mumbai and Ratnagiri is 330 km. There are no flights from Mumbai to Ratnagiri, but enough bus/train/taxi options are available. Must-see: Ganpatipule Beach, Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary, Jaigad Fort.


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Kailasanathar temple in Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram (from Chennai) Mention Kanchipuram and the exquisite silk sari is the first montage that pops up in the head. A sari made of pure mulberry silk thread, a tradition with a geographical indication (GI) tag. Legend has it that the Kanchipuram weavers descended from Sage Markanda, the master weaver of the Gods who wove tissue from lotus fibre. The looms whirr in the city, which was the capital of the Pallava dynasty during the 6th to 8th centuries. Today, Kanchipuram is a must-do on the pilgrim’s list. Good to know: Kanchipuram is 73 km from Chennai. Must-see: Kamakshi Amman Temple, Emkambareshwara Temple, Vaikunta Perumal Temple. Pick up an exquisite silk sari directly from a weaver while you are there.

Mathura and Vrindavan (from Delhi) Be careful of your sunglasses in Vrindavan. Do not be surprised if a local hollers, “Take them off, take them off!” In the temple town, wearing sunglasses is not an offence, it is a money-magnet – the tailed ones snatch them away. Beyond the monkey warning, Vrindavan talks in ‘Radhe’ lingo. Every woman is addressed as ‘Radhe’ (in continuation of the Krishna–Radha lore) and men hunch hours to make gold Weaving of a silk sari


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National History Day is a world-wide competition where students explore topics in History. The AISC students featured here did well at the school level competition and went on to excel at the regional competition in Singapore. They have now qualified to compete in the final round in Washington, D.C. this summer with projects covering a variety of topics, such as "What Brought American Prohibition to an End?", "Brown v. Board of Education", "The Silver Age of Comic Books", "What do we want? ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act]!", "Truth and Reconciliation Commission: The Compromise Towards Healing South Africa." and "Blackbeard's Last Stand".

w w w. a i s c h e n n a i . o r g #AISCAcademicExcellence


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Government Museum, Holi Gate; Banke Bihari, Nidhivan, Rangaji Temple (largest temple in Vrindavan) and the ISKCON Temple in Vrindavan. On the way to Vrindavan, do not miss the Gita Temple that has the entire Bhagavad Gita written on a red pillar in the garden.

Udupi (from Bengaluru)

Vaishno Devi temple in Vrindavan

leaf art. The evening aarti in Vrindavan and Mathura is on everyone’s wish list; so is the peda (a sweet made from milk) of Mathura and aloo-puri-lassi in Vrindavan. Be careful before hiring a guide – look for accredited/licensed guides to ensure you are not ripped off. Good to know: Mathura/Vrindavan is 161 km from Delhi. Must-see in Mathura: Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi,

Do not get confused with the repetition. Udupi lies in the Udupi taluka which is part of Udupi district. That is Udupi, a holy town famous worldwide for its Kannada vegetarian cuisine. Udupi’s history revolves around the story of the 1,500-year old Krishna Temple and the mutt of 13th century Sage Madhvacharya who founded the Dvaita philosophy. During summer, Kapu and Malpe beaches are the best places to sink the toe in the cool sea. There is St Mary’s Island, where, as the story goes, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama landed and claimed the island in the name of Mother Mary. Good to know: Udupi is 422 km from Bengaluru; the nearest airport is Mangalore (59 km). There are two direct trains and overnight bus options. Must see: St Mary’s Island, Museum of Anatomy and Pathology, Shri Krishna Temple.

Krishna temple in Udupi


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Feature by Suzanne McNeill

Yellow


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It is May, which means one thing: The onset of mango season across India, and the usual debate on which variety is the best of them all. Read on for a brief history of this much-loved fruit, and the many ways it can be relished

hued Wonder


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Photos: Chris SCALES, USA The mango has been famed for its fragrance and flavour for several centuries, and was often regarded as a symbol of power, prestige and passion.

Few have resisted the appeal of the ‘King of Fruits’, which has been cultivated in India for over 4,000 years. The many warlords and conquerors who invaded India’s lands were smitten by mangoes. Alexander the Great took several varieties of the fruit with him when he returned to Greece. The Portuguese set about cultivating and improving the stock, whilst the Mughal emperors were famous for their obsessive love of mangoes. Babur was encouraged to create his Indian empire on introduction to the fruit; Humayun established a courier system to supply him with mangoes during his retreat to Kabul; and Akbar established an orchard where he grew 100,000 mango trees. Shah Jahan had his own son, Aurangzeb, arrested for failing to supply him with mangoes from his favourite tree, and as emperor, Aurangzeb used mangoes as both currency and as a form of diplomacy, sending the fruit to Shah Abbas

of Persia to support him in his fight for the throne. The fruit was a metaphor of power and prestige. Kama, the god of love and lust, fires arrows made of five fragrant flowers, including the mango flower. The sensuous shape of the fruit means that it has long been associated with love and fertility. An ancient Sanskrit poet wrote: As the mango flowers begin to swell, to put forth sprouts, to bud and finally to blossom, Love too swelled, sprouted, budded and blossomed. The 1978 film Junoon (‘Intoxication’) plays on this association in a scene set in a mango grove where young women sing a song about rain and love. The mango season begins with spring flowers and ends during the monsoon season. The Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib proclaimed himself a connoisseur of mangoes, and his letters made many mentions of the fruit, praising different varieties, discussing problems


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with transportation, and thanking friends for sending them to him. He quipped ‘Mangoes need to have two qualities: They need to be sweet and there needs to be plenty’. Bengali poet and writer Rabindranath Tagore wrote of the flower: On this love of mine have traced their autographs the pollen of the mango-blossom, and the dew-cooled fragrance of the sephalika the twitterings of the doels in early dawn and the rapturous touch of the beloved. The mango tree is sacred to Hindus, and the leaves are used to adorn the entrances to homes during festivals to signify good fortune. The Jain goddess Ambika sits beneath a mango tree, and the Buddha caused a mango tree to grow from seed in an instant at the sacred site of Shravasti. Buddhist monks took mangoes with them wherever they went, and mango trees were planted along India’s ancient highways as a symbol of prosperity. The shape of the fruit has long fascinated India’s craftsmen, and it is an iconic motif woven into shawls and saris and block-printed onto textiles. Such is the love for the mango that dedicated festivals are held in many cities and heritage tours take place in Uttar Pradesh. The media is not far behind – the forthcoming season has already been analysed, as happens every year. The Indian Express noted in January that delayed flowering may affect the availability of crops in western India, but that there will be a possible glut in the market later in the summer. Andhra Pradesh’s Department of Horticulture released a statement the same month reassuring the public that they are

(Clockwise from top): A painting depicting the Buddha planting a mango seed at Shravasti; a mango tree shelters the Jain goddess, Ambika

monitoring problematic ‘climate conditions’, and Karnataka’s State Mango Development and Marketing Corporation told the media in February that good rainfall and increased good practice certification means they are anticipating expanding foreign exports of the fruit. The arrival of temporary street stalls and shops stocked with mangoes is celebrated in headlines such as ‘King of fruits makes its grand entry into markets’.


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Regional Specialties All said, the Indian public is very picky about mangoes. Shoppers feel the texture of the fruit, check the colour and smell the fragrance before buying. Each region has its own cultivars and favourite varieties that go into cooling drinks, sweet desserts and tangy pickles. It is the core ingredient in seasonal specialities, whether ripe or raw, and an intrinsic part of India’s gastronomic heritage. Many mangoes are just eaten fresh, sliced into segments by street vendors and quickly swallowed with the juices running down the fingers. Here is a guide to some of India’s different types of mango, and what they are used for.

The foothills of Mount Girnar in Gujarat have given their name to the Gir Kesar mango, another variety with golden yellow skin. It is juicy and popular with cooks as, like the Alphonso, its flesh isn’t too fibrous. Kesar mangoes are available from May to July.

Alphonso

Culinary Notes

Gir Kesar

Western India: The sunshine yellow Alphonso mango is India’s most popular variety, the ‘king of mangoes’ and superior to all other fruits in its exotic scent, sweetness, richness and flavour. It is cultivated only in Maharashtra, and is available from mid-July. It is said to be named after the Portuguese explorer, Afonso de Albuquerque, who established trading colonies in Goa; the Portuguese settlers introduced the variety through grafting selected mango cultivars on existing rootstock. Medium in size, the Alphonso’s saffron-coloured flesh is firm, sweet, satiny and buttery with little fibre. This is the variety of mango that’s most widely exported.

Alphonso mangoes are best enjoyed eaten as they come, but the fruit is also pulped, then thickened with milk or cream, whilst Kesar mangoes are used to make ice cream, halwa and the frozen milk Chunda dessert kulfi. Aam ras is a popular dessert made in western India with the pulp of these varieties, mango nectar that is made by blending the peeled and chopped pieces of fruit with a pinch of cardamom powder and some saffron strands. It is chilled before serving and traditionally eaten with pooris, the puffed fried bread. Aam ras is served at weddings, sometimes as part of the thali meal. Amrakhand is a similar local dessert made with mangoes blended with thick homemade curd and chilled. Mangoes are preserved as chunda, a raw mango sweet pickle or marmalade made with turmeric and sugar and flavoured with chilli and cumin. Chunda is made in big batches to last the year. In earlier times it was Amrakhand made by laying out the grated mango in the heat of the sun to dissolve the sugar, but most cooks will now use quicker, stove-top recipes.

Kulfi


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Culinary Notes Banganapalli

Hard, sour, unripe mangoes are the basis of southern India’s mouthwatering Avakkai pickles, one of the most common homemade condiments in homes. The mango is chopped with the skin in place, and left to dry naturally over a couple of days. The pieces are mixed with oil and a selection of spices, left to steep for several days, and then bottled in jars. Avakkai pickles accompany rice and plain dal. Mango Thokku is a tangy, spicy chutney made with grated sour mango, spices and jaggery cooked in sesame oil, cooled and bottled to be eaten with curd rice and paratha flatbread. Grated sour mango is mixed with cooked rice, pulses, cashew nuts and spices to create a savoury side dish. Totapuri

Southern India: Andhra Pradesh is one of southern India’s most significant ‘mango belts’ and a supplier of high-quality fruit to its neighbouring states. Juicy, fibreless Banganapalli mangoes are large yellow fruits that have a sweet but slightly sour taste. They hail from the village of the same name in Andhra Pradesh and are available from May to July. They are also called Safeda mangoes. Neelam mangoes are a favourite in Hyderabad, particularly in the month of June when they are at their most abundant. Small in comparison to many other varieties, they have an orange skin and a distinctive floral fragrance. The texture and taste of the Badami mango from Karnataka is similar to that of the Alphonso mango. It is widely grown and best eaten in May. The Rasapuri mango is oval-shaped, juicy, although fibrous, with excellent flavour. It is commonly used to make pulp. Greenish-yellow Totapuri mangoes are grown throughout Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and are named for their distinct shape, which looks like the beak of a parrot. The flavour is unusual, tangy and piquant rather than sweet, and they are eaten dusted with salt and chilli powder or used in salads. For the most part, Totapuri mangoes are used to make chutneys, pickles and other processed mango products for export. It is probably the first variety to hit the markets during mango season. The production area of Mulgoba mangoes is predominantly in Tamil Nadu, but the variety is also grown in the neighbouring parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. A fully ripe fruit is very large, and can weigh up to 1.5 kg. It is

Centuries of Islamic influence have brought pungent, meaty curries to Hyderabad, where mangoes are incorporated into main dishes. Chopped, uncooked mango pieces are added to Kairi Murg, or Mango Chicken, at the final stage of cooking. Mango pulp flavours the lamb dish Amras ki Boti, and raw unripe mangoes are a main ingredient in Kairi ka do Pyaza, a green mango, lamb and onion curry. Kairi Murg

round and remains green when ripe – look for a pink blush at the tip to indicate it is ready to eat. The flavour is rich, spicy and sweet. The Sindhura variety of mango, which is grown across southern India, has green and red skin, with a succulent fibrous pulp. It is also called ‘honey’ mango as it is so sweet, and consequently is used in making jam, jellies and preserves. Northern India: : The state of Uttar Pradesh produces many of northern India’s best mango varieties. Green Dussehri mangoes are intensely sweet and best enjoyed by tearing off the tip and sucking out the sweet pulp and juice. They are one of India’s older varieties, and were grown in the Nawab of Lucknow’s gardens in the 18th century. Mango groves exist all around the small town of Malihabad, 30 km from Lucknow, and 80 per cent of the country’s produce of this variety are grown here. Their season is brief, June to July. Chaunsa mangoes, also from Uttar Pradesh, are amongst


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Langra

the sweetest mangoes grown in northern India and said to have been named by the warrior emperor Sher Shah Suri after his victory over Humayun in the Battle of Chausa. They are golden yellow in colour, with a red blush, an exquisite aroma and fleshy, nectar-like pulp. Chaunsa mangoes are available in July and August. Langra mangoes are medium in size, oval shape and Dussehri a green colour even when ripe. The flesh is bright lemonyellow, very juicy and without fibre. The variety is available May to August. It is believed to have originated in Varanasi and said to be named langra, meaning ‘lame’, after the name of the man who planted the mango seed in his garden. Although grown around the region, aficionados claim that only those grown on Varanasi land are authentic in taste. Himsagar

Eastern India: The Himsagar mango season lasts just four weeks. A speciality of West Bengal and Orissa, the Himsagar mango has a thin green skin, smooth and creamy flesh and vivid fragrance. It is eaten raw or used in desserts and milk shakes.

Culinary Notes Northern India also has mango dishes that combine seasonal mangoes with Hindu and Muslim culinary influences. Shakaramba, or mangoes with semolina, is a Diwali Shakaramba specialty in Lucknow that mixes smooth, soft, fried semolina with mango pieces that have been sautéed in butter then cooked in sugar syrup. Chilled Panha, or raw mango cooler, is a delicious way of using mangoes before they have ripened fully. The chopped green mango is boiled in water, liquidised and then reheated with sugar, saffron and cardamom to make a concentrate. Stored in the fridge, a small amount diluted with chilled water is perfect for hot, muggy days.

Kancha Aam er Chatni

Kacha Aamer Tok Dal

Bengali Green Mango or Kancha Aam er Chatni is the most widely cooked of West Bengal’s many chutney recipes, and is served as a palate-cleansing course with crispy papadums before dessert. The sliced mango is tempered with spices in hot oil, and then cooked gently in water before sugar is added and the heat raised to reduce the liquid. Kacha Aamer Tok Dal combines the flavour and goodness of mangoes with lentils in a tangy soup.


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At GA Foundation by Team Culturama

Nurturing our Leaders A mentor-mentee session underway at the Future Leaders workshop; (Top): The batch of 30 girls at the end of the one-day workshop.

Women need the right guidance to focus their knowledge and skills – the younger we start, the better it is

Global Adjustments Foundation created the ‘Future Leaders’ workshop to help harness the potential of young women through a mix of interactive activities, sessions by experts, tailored modules to enable self-reflection and much more. Here is a brief look at the structure of the program and its offerings. What makes these girls Future Leaders? Young women are a gift – well educated, multi-talented and tech savvy. With all of these traits, they are the future leaders of our nation. All it takes to make them leaders is to equip them to cross over life’s speed-bumps and help channel their energy, so that they become a balanced, confident and productive workforce of the nation. Global Adjustments Foundation identified 30 stars from the 900 students who had been trained through a finishing school programme, Aspiration to Achievement among students of MOP Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai. We immersed them in an interactive and


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GA Foundation Board Members GAF is honoured to present our Advisory Board Members and thanks them sincerely for their professional and warm help in championing women.

Suhasini Maniratnam Actor and activist

Mindfulness and meditation practice is a key aspect of all programmes run by the Foundation.

introspective one-day Future Leaders’ workshop conducted at the Global Adjustments Foundation Center. How does the program help cultivate leadership qualities? Our unique curriculum includes topics such as self-esteem building, expressive communication, leadership skills, financial and time management, inclusive thinking and equilibrium living. These are covered by our key trainers and global experts. The goal is to help maximise the girls’ emotional, physical and leadership skills. The session includes practical sessions of self-reflection, group study, mentor–mentee meeting of minds and practical tools that challenge old patterns while forming new ways of thinking and behaving. The tour of the physical space in the halls of the Global Adjustments building, with its aesthetic doors and windows, was symbolic of opening windows and doors in their mind. At the core of the day was mindfulness and meditation practice – a key aspect of all our programmes. Do you have any more such programmes? Empowering women across strata has gained momentum at Global Adjustments Foundation and we propose to reach out to more colleges in the coming academic year and also empower the corporate and government women workforce. And is this program free? Yes the next 100 programmes are free of charge. The cost of all our workshops are underwritten by the Foundation. So, institutions and employers, if you are keen to provide customised workshops to your students and women team members, contact us today. Together we will ‘Champion a woman- she will build a nation.’ For customised workshops for students and women team members, contact Usha Ramakrishnan at +91 98405 20394 or usha@globaladjustments.com

Suhasini Maniratnam, hailing from Paramakudi, a small town in Tamil Nadu, is today a President’s Award winning actor, who has acted and directed films in all four South Indian languages (Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam). A keen activist, with experience in diplomatic matters as Honorary Consul of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, she is passionate about women’s empowerment. She is the founder of the Naam Charitable Trust, which works with women at the grassroots level. As GAF’s advisory member, she helps scale our efforts and strengthens the belief that supporting women’s education and championing their cause is exactly what the nation needs.

Giovanna Vivoli Brand strategist Giovanna Vivoli is an Italian from the Tuscan town of Massa-Carrara who has relocated to India. She advises us as a brand strategist and project manager in the marketing and communication areas. She is a proud activist for gender equality and has served as a volunteer board member on non-profit organisations for women’s rights in Europe. As GAF’s advisory board member, she applies her professional skills to spread the word of our cause for women’s empowerment far and wide.

Monika Gonser Social scientist Monika Gonser, from Heidelberg, Germany, is a sociologist with a focus on labour market integration and migration. Based at the Heidelberg University of Education, she worked as executive manager for a research group that looked into the local integration of refugees in that region. Currently, she is working as a visiting professor in the field of local sustainability measures at IIT Madras in Chennai, India. She adds great value as our advisory board member by evaluating the impact of our women’s life coaching workshops in diverse segments.


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Look Who's In Town by Team Culturama

Of Spices and Art From biryani to marble inlay, Filipina Gina Makawana has seen and experienced the best of what India has to offer during her stays in both North and South Indian cities

Gina Makawana came to India for the first time in 2006, when she accompanied her husband, who worked as a chef with The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra. They stayed there till 2008. Three years later, the couple moved with their daughter to Chennai, when Gina’s husband took up the position of Executive Chef at the Leela Palace Chennai. The Filipina says she enjoyed her stay in the North, but finds people in the South are more friendly (albeit more conservative, too). She shares with us her experience of life and living in India.

Then And Now Coming from the Philippines, when we found out that Chennai has the longest beach, we were very excited! We even rented a house near the beach. Unfortunately, it is different from the beach we imagined. However, things have changed a lot since our arrival in Chennai in 2011. When we first came here, we had to endure power cuts, and found it difficult to


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Festive Fervour We often get invited by our friends to celebrate Diwali with them. It was a great experience, more so for our daughter, Sophia. She loves the sparklers! The whole city was lit up with all the fireworks. That is also the time of the year where we receive a lot of Indian sweets, chocolates and nuts from friends.

Sightseeing We have been to Udaipur, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Goa (my favourite as it reminds me of my home in the Philippines). Before we leave, we would love to visit Kashmir – I have heard a lot of good things about it.

Loveable India

source imported groceries. Now, everything is available in the malls, and you have all foreign brands available. The city’s skyline has changed – more high-rise buildings are coming up, signalling growth and development.

India on a Platter I love mutton biryani, especially cooked with the whole fresh carcass of lamb. People here usually eat it with curd but I prefer to eat it with gorkeri (sweet mango pickle).

I love the spices I get here! I cannot cook biryani without them. I am lucky to have a husband who is a chef who can make me Indian food even after we leave the country. I also find Indians and Filipinos to be very similar when it comes to family. We maintain very close family ties, and have large extended families.

I Am Taking Home... The art! I find the people here to be very artistic, from the daily rangoli that ladies create in front of their homes to the mehendi they put on their hands and feet. I will be taking some detailed miniature paintings from Udaipur and marble inlay work from Agra. And a lot more – so long as they fit in my luggage!


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Festivals of India

Month of Ramadan

Photos: Amore Marcello

May 15 to June 14 Ramadan falls on the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, and the entire month is regarded as holy as the Qur’an is said to have been revealed to Prophet Muhammad at this time. Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection and intense worship, and Muslims are called upon to use this month to re-evaluate their lives in the light of Islamic guidance. During Ramadan, Muslims have to undertake a fast from dawn to dusk. The period of fasting is for 29 or 30 days (with the number of days determined from the lunar calendar). Fasting is regarded as one of the five major pillars of Islam and teaches self-restriction and patience. Special prayers are held every night, after the fast is broken, and the Qur’an is recited in mosques around the world. The month of Ramadan is also a time when Muslims give to charity and/or perform charitable deeds. The end of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr, is marked by grand celebrations. The fast is broken with an evening meal, a communal religious observance, called iftar. One of the popular dishes, made typically only during Ramadan, is haleem, , which is made with mutton and wheat. Haleem is also served in many restaurants, and is a sought after delicacy.


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Bringing the world to India

Global standards. Indian warmth.

Creating Empowered Global Citizens

Relocation | Realty | Academy | Publishing | Foundation

www.globaladjustments.com

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Myth & Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik

Sita was not just a daughter or wife, princess or queen – she embodied multiple roles, with each role representing a different facet of nature

When a daughter steps out of her father’s house after marriage, the father is supposed to say, “May you find happiness wherever you go.” But Janaka told Sita something else: “May you bring happiness wherever you go.” Perhaps because Janaka was a good father who had brought up his daughter to be autonomous and responsible for her life and those around her or perhaps because Janaka knew his daughter was a goddess – the earth itself.


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means that his dharma is being challenged; Ravan has defied the civilised code of marital fidelity. Ravan wants to make Ram’s field, his forest; he wants to make Gauri, Kali. Every jewellery dropped is a reminder of how close civilisation is at risk of being overrun by the forest. When Ravan is killed and Sita rescued, Ram demands proof that Gauri, the field, bound to a single man, did not even momentarily become Kali, the forest, bound to no man, hence available to all men. The only way this can be done is through the trial of fire. Sita goes through the trial of fire and the fire does not touch her, proving that neither in thought nor in action did she ever think of any other man. Despite this proof of chastity, the people of Ayodhya ask Ram to reject the queen of soiled reputation. The same laws and traditions – the Raghu-kula-riti – that demanded Ram obey the commandments of his father now demand that Ram respect the wishes of his people. And so, Sita is sent to the forest. The earth can be wild or domesticated. Wild, she is the forest. Domesticated, she is the field. Wild, she is a woman. Domesticated, she is the wife. In Hindu mythology, wild earth is visualised as an unclothed goddess, Kali, fearsome, naked, bloodthirsty, with hair unbound. Domesticated earth is visualised as draped in cloth, Gauri, the goddess of civilisation, gentle, demure, beautiful. Gauri’s cloth represents the rules that turn nature into civilisation – rules such as marital fidelity that ensure that even the weakest of man has conjugal security. Sita is Gauri – the clothed goddess. As Gauri, she is the wife who follows her husband wherever he goes. When Ram prepares to set out into his exile, she follows him – not because he asks her to follow, but because it is her duty to be by his side. He tries to stop her, but she insists on fulfilling her role as wife. Ram cannot dissuade her otherwise. And so he sets out with her. Sita thus is not the obedient wife – she is the dutiful wife, the one who knows her responsibilities. Sita’s role as Gauri is further reinforced by Anasuya, the wife of the Rishi Atri, who gifts Sita with a saree which never gets soiled. Later, when Sita is abducted by Ravan, she starts leaving pieces of jewellery, ostensibly to leave a trail behind her so that Ram can find her. But by abandoning her jewellery, a subtle symbolic message is been given to Ram. It

It is strange that Ram, the only Hindu deity known for being faithful to one wife, is also the only Hindu deity to abandon his wife. This clearly is meant to highlight the difference between Ram, the husband, faithful to his wife, and Ram, the king, sensitive to the wishes of his people. Ram, the king, has Sita sent back into the forest but Ram, the husband, never remarries. He places next to him an effigy of Sita made of gold, the metal which symbolises purity, suggesting that he does not doubt his wife’s fidelity but he does respect the laws of Ayodhya and its royal household, however misguided they may have been. Who is this Sita in the forest? Gauri or Kali? She is Gauri to her children – raising them as powerful warriors who on their own are able to defeat the mighty army of Ram. But she is also Kali – the one who has shaken off the mantle of civilisation. She will not be bound by rules of civilisation. Rejected, she refuses to return to Ayodhya as queen or wife. She does not feel the need to follow her husband, this time, as wife. She does not feel obliged to represent the prosperity of the household that rejected her, or bring good luck into it. When asked to prove her chastity once more, she returns to the bowels of earth, whence she came from. When Ayodhya asked their king to abandon his queen, they inadvertently ended up losing Janaka’s daughter who took away all happiness with her.

Published in Sunday Midday, 29 March 2009. Reprinted with permission from www.devdutt.com


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Holistic Living by Eknath Easwaran

My Teacher Was My Real

“Me”

The secret of absorbing spiritual wisdom is to open our hearts wide and give all our love to our spiritual teacher, who symbolises our Atman in the present moment

When I was a student at college, every weekend some students would have a holiday by going boating; but my idea of a holiday was to make for my village, about 50 miles from the college, to be reunited with my grandmother. I used to go by train to the little town of Palghat. From Palghat to my village, it was seven miles of beautiful road with big trees on either side, sometimes with monkeys swinging from them. I used to enjoy walking along it, but more than the monkeys, and more than the trees, and more than the brooks, what gave me joy was the knowledge that every step would bring me closer to my granny. At that time I didn’t know she was my spiritual teacher; she was just my grandmother. When I arrived home, she would hold my hands and look and look at me; she didn’t need words. The first question she would ask me was, “What did you learn this week?” This gave me just the opportunity I had been waiting for. I would put my hands behind my back and say, “Now, Granny, listen carefully. The professor who teaches me logic has taught me what a syllogism is.” I really thought my granny was simplistic, though I didn’t dare call her so. With the childlike simplicity of the spiritual woman, she would say, “Now, son, give me an example of this great learning that you have absorbed.” So I would quote my logic professor and say, “All men are mortal. I am a man. Therefore, ergo, I am mortal.” She just laughed and laughed and said, “I pay all this money so that you can learn this trash?” Then this unlettered, untutored woman stated the syllogism perfectly: “All men, all creatures, are immortal because the Lord lives in them. I am a creature. Therefore I am immortal.”


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Photos: Brian

The secret of absorbing such spiritual wisdom is to open our hearts wide and give all our love to our spiritual teacher, who symbolises our atman for the present. When I would run home to see my granny, I did not know I had an atman. Now that I look back I see that my grandmother was my atman. That is why I loved her; she was my real “me,” my perfect “me,” my pure “me.” I didn’t know this intellectually, but deep inside, from the very depths of my heart, a little voice was saying, “That’s you.”

But he will quietly say, “There is no Ramana Maharshi here. There is nobody here. It’s all empty. I am just an empty keyhole.” You apply your eye closely and look through this empty keyhole, and in the dim distance, you see the immense glory of the Lord flaming up against the background of the cosmos. Article courtesy Blue Mountain Journal (https://www.bmcm.org/ inspiration/journals/) Extracted from ‘My Teacher Was My Real “Me”’, Fall 2017.

Look through the keyhole This is what happens to us when we see a great saint like Sri Ramana Maharshi. People whose hearts are not open, who have the window of their consciousness bolted and barred, look and see only a dapper, brown little man in a dhoti. But those whose hearts have opened, who are searching for the answer to the riddle of life and have flung the doors of their consciousness wide open, have only to see Sri Ramana Maharshi seated quietly before them to hear that little voice within them say in its sweet tones, “That’s you.” Beautiful hymns have been composed to Sri Ramana Maharshi; great singers and poets have described his beauty.

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


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culturama

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culturama

May 2018

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Culturama May 2018  

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