Page 1

POWERED BY GLOBAL ADJUSTMENTS

October 2017 Volume 8, Issue 8

Festival of lights

Join us as we celebrate Diwali this October

` 40


2

October 2017

culturama


culturama

October 2017

3

Dear Readers, Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian Senior Editors Lakshmi Krupa

Jayashree Arunachalam

Creative Head Prem Kumar Graphic Designer Ankita Santhosh VP Finance V Ramkumar Advertising Chennai Shobana Sairaj / Madhu Mathi Bengaluru Meera Roy

As I am a Libran, October has always been my favourite month. What a delight when this month rolls out with Diwali, our festival of lights. When we were renaming this 22-yearold magazine from its original title of “At a Glance” in the year 2010, we were attracted to the name “Culturama” because it is made up of two key words. The first is Culture, which is the sum total of our rituals, behaviour and way of life prompted by the beliefs we hold dear, by our very values and world views which drive those behaviour and traditions. The second word “Rama” in Sanskrit means “joy in the heart”. So Culturama seeks to demystify, unveil and jog our memory about Indian cultural aspects, increasing the joy of knowing our true self, at our very core. I hope my team and I have lived up to this mission, these past issues. As we raise the bar and recommit ourselves to reviving national understanding, we would love to hear from you on what aspects you would like to see changed and what we should do more of. I would be very happy if you write to me personally at the e-mail below. Just like Mr Bala Kumaresan, who

wrote to us this week saying he has been a regular reader for a decade. This note made for much celebration in our Global Adjustments Publishing family! He requested extra copies of Culturama so that he could distribute the article and interview on Rally for Rivers in various branches of his bank in towns like Gobichettipalayam in Erode district, Tamil Nadu. We are proud of, as well as humbled by our readership. It is not just expatriates, our original audience, who seem to continue to enjoy knowing about India, but many Indians are picking up Culturama as the “go-to” India magazine. Thank you for your visits to our new online home at culturama.in too. This month’s issue brings to you many interesting reads and pays tribute in the Holistic Living column, to the teacher within each of us. This teacher is easily awakened by simply learning to listen to the inner voice, finding daily quiet time, to remain in the stillness of just being. Wish you a happy festive season. Ranjini Manian, Editor-in-Chief globalindian@globaladjustments.com

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 No.: A2, SPL Habitat, No.138, Gangadhar Chetty Road, Ulsoor, Bengaluru – 560043. Tel +91-80-41267152, E-mail culturamablr@globaladjustments.com Delhi-NCR Level 4, Augusta Point, Golf Course Road, Sector 53, Gurgaon 122002, Haryana Mobile +91 124 435 4224 E-mail del@globaladjustments.com Mumbai #1102, 11th floor, Peninsula Business Park, Tower B, SB Road, Lower Parel, Mumbai – 400013 Tel +91-22-66879366 E-mail mum@globaladjustments.com Published and owned by Ranjini Manian at #5, 3rd Main Road, Raja Annamalai Puram, Chennai – 600028, and printed by K Srinivasan of Srikals Graphics Pvt Ltd at #5, Balaji Nagar, 1st Street, Ekkattuthangal, Chennai – 600032 Disclaimer Views and opinions expressed by writers do not necessarily reflect the publisher’s or the magazine’s.


4

October 2017

culturama

Cover Image

Culturama’s cover this month celebrates the Festival of Lights, Diwali when the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, is worshipped for prosperity.

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

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

Letters to the editor Dear Editor,

I came across the Eight Point programme of meditation in Culturama and enjoyed reading it. Sitaram Goenka, Director, 3F Industries Ltd, Chennai

Dear Editor,

I came to know about Culturama from my nephew. I read all the articles in a day and felt very happy and at peace. It is an extraordinary magazine, thank you for publishing it. Chinmoy Mahato, Bengaluru

Dear Editor,

Congratulations, culturama.in looks fabulous. Annelize Booysen, via e-mail

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


culturama

October 2017

5


6

October 2017

culturama

Contents Regulars

28 In Focus An exclusive interview with herpetologist Rom Whitaker on the global snakebite initiative

India’s Culture

58

8

A beautiful love story between an Indian and a Russian

Short Message Service

India Diaries

Short, engaging snippets of Indian culture

44

Look Who's In Town

Expats share their views on work and life

66

Myth and Mythology

On the cycle of birth and death

36

India Insights

Some household cures for simple problems

Journeys Into India

48

Hit the Road

Discover the ongoing conservation efforts in Kerala

64

Holistic Living

A skillful spiritual teacher can come to our rescue

Relocations and Property 70

Space and the City

Property listings in Chennai


culturama

October 2017

7


8

October 2017

culturama

SMS by Suzanne McNeill

Short cultural snippets for an easily digestible India

Word: Khichdi The word khichdi derives from the Sanskrit khiccā, a dish of rice and lentils. Mixed with spices and vegetables, khichdi is still a staple, comfort food across all regions of India; and as a meal that is high in protein, was often served to patients because it is easy to digest. It was the inspiration for the Anglo-Indian dish, kedgeree. Colloquially, khichdi has become a common, versatile Hindi word that is used to mean a mixture or medley of things, usually when things are thrown together or a confused mess, anything from a hotchpotch to a chaotic jumble. An unpopular political alliance may be called a Khichdi Sarkar, and a frustrated driver might exclaim, ‘These road works mixed with monsoon have made a total khichdi of the road!’

Craft: Pashmina Luxurious textiles have been woven from pashm wool in the Kashmir Valley from as early as the 8th century BCE. Pashm is the fine, soft fleece from the undercoat of the wild Asian goat that lives at high altitude in the Himalayas. The name comes from the Persian language, but in Kashmiri translates to mean ‘soft gold’ whilst to Europeans it came to be known as ‘cashmere’. Pashmina (literally ‘made from wool’) shawls and stoles were prized for their warmth and natural lustre, and some were fine enough to pass through a woman’s ring. For thousands of years such textiles were worn exclusively by royalty, but production increased under the Mughals, and demand from European markets grew enormously during the 18th and 19th centuries. Srinagar remains the main centre of production of pashmina shawls, and the entire process is still done by hand because of the fragile quality of the fibre. The goats are now commercially reared, and the wool they shed naturally during spring is collected by combing. The fine wool is separated from the coarser outer coat, spun into yarn, and woven using handlooms before being hand dyed. The finished product may be embroidered with intricate stitches called sozani, unique to the Kashmir Valley.


culturama

October 2017

9


10

October 2017

culturama

Name: PV Sindhu Pusarla Venkata Sindhu is a professional badminton player and the first Indian woman to win an Olympic silver medal. Sindhu was born in 1994 in Hyderabad to parents who both played volleyball – her father won the bronze at the 1986 Asian Games. But from the moment she picked up a racket, aged only 8 and inspired by the success of India’s Pullela Gopichand at the prestigious All England Open Badminton Championships in 2001, Sindhu was passionate about playing badminton. She learned the basics of the sport at an Indian Railways facility, and then joined Gopichand’s Badminton Academy. She was spotted as a potential star early in her career, and rose through the national junior ranks in both the singles and doubles categories in meteoric style. Sindhu made her international debut in 2010, representing India at the junior level in tournaments in Sri Lanka, Iran and Malaysia, and continued to win major titles at regular intervals. In 2012 aged 17, she beat the London 2012 gold medallist stunningly to make it to the semi-finals of the China Masters Super Series tournament, and followed that by being the first Indian female singles player to win a medal at the World Championships in China in 2013. Sindhu completed a hat-trick of women’s singles title at the Macau Open in 2015 before her silver medal triumph in Rio in 2016. This year she won silver at the Badminton World Federation World Championships. Talented and hard-working, Sindhu is praised by her coaches for her indomitable spirit and her never-say-die attitude. Currently no. 4 in the world rankings, Sindhu is the youngest recipient of India’s Padma Shri civilian honour.

Food: Chikki Sometimes called peanut brittle, chikki is a crisp Indian sweet that is made from just two ingredients, peanuts and jaggery. Chikki is enjoyed across India, and regional varieties include other nuts such as cashews, almonds or pistachios, puffed rice, sesame or even desiccated coconut. It can be flavoured with ginger or cardamom. Chikki is very simple to make. Dry roast 1 cup of peanuts, then remove the husk and cool. Add 2 tbsp water to 1 cup of jaggery in a pan and heat, stirring frequently, until the syrup thickens and turns golden brown. Mix in the nuts and any flavouring, and then quickly pour the mixture onto a greased tray. Roll the surface flat under parchment paper, make horizontal and vertical cuts and then leave the chikki to cool. The key to perfect chikki is heating the sugar syrup to the right consistency. To test it, drop a small amount into a bowl of cold water. If it snaps easily, the syrup is ready.


culturama

October 2017

11


12

October 2017

Feature by Team Culturama

culturama

trade then and now


culturama

This diwali, as the country gears up to welcome lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, into its homes, and as markets look optimistically at the festive season, Culturama traces the journey of India’s economy since the 16th century and shows how the country has come a full circle, learning from the past to create a positive future

October 2017

13

On August 15, 2014, Narendra Damodardas Modi, the Prime Minister of India, in his Independence Day address, said, “I want to appeal to all the people world over, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, ‘Come, make in India’, ‘Come, manufacture in India’. Sell in any country of the world but manufacture here. We have got skill, talent, discipline, and determination to do something. We want to give the world a favourable opportunity...Come, I am giving you an invitation.” The Prime Minister’s words were more than just a clarion call; they marked three significant markers in India’s development as a country. One, they were testimony to India’s optimism and confidence in its own ability to create a bright future. Second, they conveyed the country’s openness to collaborate with other countries, and its decision to be a willing player in the world market – a stark departure from the sheltered approach of the post-Independence nation. Third, it seems to have stemmed from an idea that powered the Independence Movement – Swadeshi. While the earlier concept of Swadeshi was for Indians to make their own goods for personal consumption – and thereby avoid foreign goods – India is now looking to make and export to the rest of the world. Trade and manufacturing are not new to the subcontinent. India was once one of the biggest economies on the global scene. However, policy changes – influenced by changes in the political landscape – meant a shift in gears for a few decades. During that time, a sense of unease with regard to opening up the economy and collaborating with multinational corporations persisted. However, the economic crisis of the 1990s changed the country, and made way for a shift in the country’s psyche. A country’s economics and politics are closely linked; and it is by observing both that one can truly understand the journey a country has undertaken over several years. It is to provide this holistic sense of understanding of how just how far India has come that Culturama traces the subcontinent’s journey from the 16th century to the present day.

1500–1820 The World’s Market India’s annual average rate of growth of GDP: 0.19% In 1700, India’s economy represented roughly a quarter of the world’s trade. A trading society since the Bronze Age civilisation of the Indus Valley, India is estimated to have had the largest economy of the ancient and medieval world until the 17th century. By the time the Mughal Empire was coming to an end, India was far more prosperous than any of the European countries whose merchants came to trade for textiles and spices. The country’s mercantile and banking institutions were sophisticated for the time, and such business ventures were formed and run by long-established trading families from India’s many castes and communities. The West Coast Parsis and Gujaratis were experienced navigators, shipbuilders and foreign traders. The Jains and Marwaris were moneylenders and bankers, whilst the southern Chettiars were a famous merchant community. To this day, members of these old trading families still dominate the business activity of the country. European merchants had been trading with the coastal communities of India for centuries, and by the 17th century had begun to establish permanent


14

October 2017

culturama

footholds along the peninsula seaboard. The Mughal Emperor Jahangir (1605–1627) enthusiastically agreed to a commercial treaty with the British East India Company, which gave them exclusive rights to build warehouses to hold the goods they collected before shipping to Europe in return for goods and rarities from the European markets. The Company invested in textiles, particularly calico and muslin – all the rage in Europe – and by the 18th century had expanded into cotton, silk, dyes, tea and saltpetre for gunpowder. From humble beginnings the Jagat Seth family, part of the Marwari community, had risen to become powerful businessmen and moneylenders, controlling the revenues paid by the Nawab of Bengal into the Imperial mint. Such was their status at the Mughal court that the Emperor conferred the title ‘banker of the world’ on the family’s charismatic head. They engaged with the European powers as money brokers, monopolising the exchange of bullion and lending money to foreign merchants, British, French, Armenian alike, and eventually conspired with the British to depose the Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 in favour of a rival. This was to give the East India Company its first decisive victory in India and helped establish its principal trading colony.

1820–1870 Colonial Dominance India’s annual average rate of growth of GDP: 0.38% The political power of the East India Company gradually expanded throughout India from 1757 onwards. It gained the right to collect revenue in Bengal in 1765, and soon stopped importing the money it had used to pay for goods shipped back to Britain. Instead, the Company used the revenue collected from the provinces under its rule to purchase Indian raw materials, goods and spices, as well as to finance the wars it waged to gain more territory. India changed from being an exporter of processed goods for which it received payment in bullion, to being an exporter of raw materials, and an importer of the manufactured goods made possible by the onset of the Industrial Revolution in Britain and beyond. This exploitation of India’s resources devastated the economy, and delayed the country’s industrialisation. The indigo plantations of Bengal and Bihar were an important economic aspect to emerging British power in India. This valuable dye called ‘blue gold’ was one of the most profitable commodities traded by the East India Company, which controlled production. Farmers who leased land from local zamindars (the aristocratic landowners) were compelled

to grow indigo or pay a fine, and received a miserly payment for their crops. In 1859,the farmers’ resentment led to a nonviolent uprising against the oppression of the planters. This was suppressed, but influenced public opinion significantly (a British official noted that ‘not a chest of indigo reached England without being stained with human blood’). Championed by Gandhi a hundred years later, non-violent resistance aimed at undermining the colonial economy was to become the route to India’s independence.

1870–1913 India’s Entrepreneurs India’s annual average rate of growth of GDP: 0.97% By the final quarter of the 19th century, the Indian economy had changed fundamentally. The fine cottons and silks once exported to markets in Europe, Asia and Africa were replaced by raw materials – cotton to English factories in Lancashire, opium and indigo, sugarcane and tea – and India now imported manufactured goods, often the same finished cotton fabric now returned to its origin. Yet the well-known business communities – the Jains, Chettiars and Marwaris, the Parsis and the West Coast Muslims – continued to thrive, through partnerships and trading groups that evolved into managing agency houses. These gradually bought into and replaced many British businesses, particularly in the jute and tea plantations. Local attempts to found cotton factories in India – after all, India was providing both raw material and markets – naturally followed. Parsi businessman C. N. Davar (1814–

1873) built on the family business as brokers for English commercial firms engaged in trade with India and China to participate in a number of new and successful ventures in banking, shipping and engineering, and ultimately a textile mill to spin yarn. Inspired by his enterprise, Davar’s contemporaries soon followed, and by 1862 British officials were warning that Indian competitors would inevitably


culturama

October 2017

15


16

October 2017

culturama

undermine their Lancashire counterparts. Eighty-six textile mills had been built by 1900. India’s greatest industrialist, J. N. Tata (1839–1904, also from the Parsi community) began his career in 1877 in the textile trade. His vision was bold from the start, importing a finer quality of cotton yarn from Egypt than available locally and, importantly, investing in sophisticated machinery from the United States whose output could compete with British imports and would make the products globally competitive. His vision was pioneering, and he identified three key areas for India: steel, electricity and scientific research. J.N. Tata laid the foundations for Tata Steel (formerly Tata Iron & Steel Company, now the world’s fifth largest steel company), the Tata Power Company Ltd. (currently India’s largest private electricity company) and the Indian Institute of Science (the pre-eminent Indian institution for research and education in science and engineering).

almost all the sectors that independent India would need. The endeavours of pioneers such as Birla ensured that India would have the indigenous industries she needed to support meaningful independence.

1950–1973 Independence and the Five-Year Plans India’s annual average rate of growth of GDP: 3.54% Whilst Gandhi advocated the empowerment of village communities as the basis for the new nation, others believed that modern technology and industry would transform the economy. Congress leaders formulated a new model of mixed economic growth, which combined a centrally planned controlled economy with social justice and would balance the market and the state. Private enterprise was to subordinate its interests to the requirements of the overall plan and be content with the limited profits that were in accord with the objectives of a welfare state. Conglomerates such as those of the Tata and Birla families would continue to operate throughout the economy and were required to meet the

1913–1950 The Swadeshi Movement India’s annual average rate of growth of GDP: 0.23% Demands for independence were growing by the early years of the 20th century. Alongside the call for independence, there was also a call for Swadeshi, a strategy that aimed at improving economic conditions in India by following Hindu principles of self-sufficiency. By boycotting British products, reviving indigenous manufacturing and buying and using locallymade goods, Indians would ensure their resources did not leave the country’s shores. G.D. Birla (1894–1983) was born into the Marwari community. Although his family were traditionally moneylenders, G. D. Birla began his career in the jute business in Calcutta, and saw his business soar as the outbreak of war caused supply problems throughout the British Empire. Birla Mills was established in 1919 in Gwalior, and Birla soon ventured into other enterprises, building up a huge empire scattered throughout the country that encompassed sugar and paper mills, tea and textiles, cement, chemicals, rayon, The Hindustan Times newspaper, Hindustan Motors and the aluminium producer Hindalco. Birla was a close associate and supporter of Mahatma Gandhi, and his empire encompassed

demand for consumer goods. Meanwhile, government itself assumed direct control of heavy industry, and employment in the state sector exploded. In the spirit of Swadeshi and to protect domestic industry, the government blocked foreign investment and set very high import tariffs. It thwarted private competition by instituting a convoluted system of elaborate licenses, regulations and accompanying red tape that earned it the nickname ‘License Raj’: up to 80 government agencies had to be satisfied before private businesses could be set up, and their production was to come under government regulation. The result was decline and economic slowdown as aspiring businessmen were put off by the regimen of approvals, and entrepreneurship was stifled. By 1973, India’s economy had declined to a 3.1% share of world income. Not everyone capitulated, however. Dhirubhai Ambani (1932–2002) was an ambitious and energetic business tycoon


culturama

October 2017

17


18

October 2017

culturama

who founded Reliance Industries, now one of the world’s biggest conglomerates and the first Indian company to feature in the Forbes 500 list. After a formative spell working in Yemen, Ambani began his entrepreneurial career in Mumbai in 1958, exporting spices to the Gulf States and importing polyester yarns. Soon Reliance began producing nylon textiles at a mill in Ahmedabad under the brand name ‘Vimal’, and by 1972 the textiles business was a well-established household brand across India. During the 1980s Reliance expanded into petrochemicals, and oil and gas exploration, and then diversified further into telecommunications, IT and logistics.

1973–2001 Economic Liberalization India’s annual average rate of growth of GDP: 5.12% Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision of a new India was created for the best of purposes – to build a proud new nation based on democracy and socialism – but it led to an over-regulation that, instead of lifting the country out of poverty, burdened it with bureaucratic hurdles and stifled its innovators. In 1991, a balance of payment crisis brought India close to default, and intervention by the International Monetary Fund began the processes of liberalising the economy and opening it up to foreign investment.

waste disposal! Success in the service sector – communications, IT and the ‘back office’ projects established by so many international corporations – is the fuel for much of the country’s dizzying growth, an average of 7% annually since 1994. Bengaluru in southern India is now a global IT centre. In 2007 it boasted 150,000 IT professionals compared to 120,000 in California’s Silicon Valley, and the city’s growth has continued into this decade, with the number of new residents with technical talent outstripping that of the San Francisco area (recorded at 44% compared to 31% for California). Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune also outstripped their US counterpart as global destinations for technical talent. Many of the world’s major IT corporations – including Microsoft, Google and IBM – have a major presence in Bengaluru, whilst the number of high calibre start-ups is also on the rise. Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has raised the call of ‘Make It in India’ by which he invites multinational companies from around the world to set up their businesses in the country. It shows a clear return to the roots of the Swadeshi idea – the country utilising its strengths and resources for the common good. This self-assurance also demonstrates that India has lost its fear of being dominated by other external forces, and has instead become confident that it can work hand in hand with external partners for mutual benefit. In many ways, India has come full circle, learning from the past to create a positive future.

2001–2017 Doing Business in India India’s annual average rate of growth of GDP: 7.5% The changes made by the Indian government from 1991 onwards focused on creating export-led capabilities and building economic stability. These efforts at liberalisation have made for a consistently high economic growth rate and more opportunity for companies to do business in India. Under the new open-door policy, foreign direct investment is now possible in Indian ventures in many fields, and successful partnerships have been launched in a wide variety of sectors from construction, energy and automobiles to insurance and

From the implementation of GST (Goods and Services Tax) in 2017 and the inking of new trade deals with Japan including in fields such as civil aviation, trade, science and technology, and skill development, strengthening of the service and logistics sector, bolstering ties with Denmark, Korea and countries in Africa, this has been an eventful year for India that is looking to improve its economy.

Historical GDP figures from the work of historian and economist Angus Maddison. 2001–2015 GDP figures from http://www.tradingeconomics.com/india/gdp-growth-annual, accessed on 9 July 2015.


culturama

October 2017

19


20

October 2017

culturama

India in Symbols by Susan Philip

Colours of

Magic A primer on the colours that are special to India and Indians


culturama

October 2017

In a nutshell Saffron, white and green are the predominant shades of the country’s national flag which flew high in the month of August, marking the 70th anniversary of Independence. Those three shades were chosen mindfully because they matched the aspirations of the freedom fighters of the nation that evolved from a mix of kingdoms and fiefdoms, presidencies and regencies. Meaning and Deeper Meaning Children in India are taught that the saffron on the flag stands for sacrifice, white for truth and purity, and green for prosperity. That is at a simplistic level. Saffron is the colour of fire, and so it symbolises divinity, worship and the burning away of impurities. It is also associated

21


22

October 2017

culturama

The white swan or Hamsa is associated with Saraswati, Goddess of Knowledge. According to Hindu lore, the swan has the ability to separate pure milk from the water mixed in it

with sacrifice because it is the colour of the cloth that sages drape themselves with. The implication is that base pleasures of the world have to be sacrificed to gain wisdom and understanding. It stands for both renunciation and the attainment of a level that is above the world. Priests and holy men in India, whether Hindu, Buddhist or Jain, wear saffron robes. Christian bishops and nuns in India too often adopt this shade for their garments. Saffron is the colour of valour as well. It was favoured by the Rajputs, known for their bravery, and the Sikhs use it a lot. White captures the spirit of the non-violent noncooperation which powered India to freedom. It was a movement which pursued truth peacefully and with a pure heart. In Hinduism, the colour has multiple connotations. It is the colour favoured by Saraswati, the Goddess of Wisdom. She is depicted wearing white garments and seated on a white lotus. So it is the colour of knowledge. It is also traditionally associated with widows. While on one level it symbolises a pure life dedicated to worship, removed from worldly pursuits, it is also, necessarily, associated with mourning. Green brings to mind fertile farmlands, and India’s is largely an agrarian economy. In the classical dance form of Kathakali, which relies heavily on colour symbolism for characterization, green is always the hero’s colour.


culturama

October 2017

23


24

October 2017

culturama

The stuff of legend The white swan or hamsa is associated with Goddess Saraswati. According to Hindu lore, the swan has the ability to separate pure milk from the water mixed in it. It thus symbolically stands for the ability to identify truth amidst untruths, discern what is good amidst what is not, and separate the spiritual from the worldly. The swan also has the ability to glide over water without letting the water impinge on it. All these are qualities which true wisdom and understanding gives the seeker after knowledge. They are the blessings of Saraswati. The swan symbolizes the ability of an enlightened man to assimilate what is true and good in life’s experiences, discard the rest, and move on. Scientific substance White, as a symbol of knowledge, makes sense in a scientific way when it is seen as the coming together of the whole spectrum of colours. It is all-inclusive, it does not differentiate among shades, and it is the perfect combination of all elements. Saying it in verse (in Sanskrit language) Yaa Kundendu-Tussaara-Haara-Dhavalaa Yaa Shubhra-Vastra-avrtaa Yaa Viinnaa-Vara-Danndda-Mannddita-Karaa Yaa Shveta-Padma-asanaa Yaa Brahma-Acyuta-Shankara-Prabhrtibhir-Devaih Sadaa Puujitaa Saa Maam Paatu Sarasvati Bhagavatii Nihshessa-Jaaddya-Apahaa


culturama

October 2017

25


26

October 2017

culturama

Meaning (of the Sanskrit verse): Salutations to Devi Saraswati, who is pure white like the jasmine, with the coolness of moon, Brightness of snow and a sheen like a garland of pearls; and who is covered with pure white garments, Whose hands are adorned with Veena and the boongiving staff; and who is seated on a pure white lotus, Who is always adored by Lord Brahma, Lord Acyuta, Lord Shankara and other Devas, O Goddess Saraswati, please protect me and remove my ignorance completely. The Aikya factor Saffron, or orange, is usually perceived as a warm colour. As saffron was always an expensive condiment, it was linked to nobility in the olden days. The upper-crust women of ancient Rome wore garments dyed using saffron. In China too, it marked the higher ranks of society, as well as being the preferred shade for the robes of Buddhist monks. White is associated worldwide with peace and purity. Unlike in Hinduism, it is not considered a colour of mourning in Christianity. Christian brides usually wear white as a symbol of innocence and virginity. Priests wear it to signify holiness. But in Japan it has connotations of mourning, with the white carnation standing for death. In a secular sense, white stands for what is hygienic and sterile. Doctors, nurses and other paramedical staff have white coats that signal cleanliness. Green is almost universally a positive colour, one that is associated with life, new beginnings, prosperity and good luck. In terms of religion, green is very special in Islam. It is said to be the favourite colour of the prophet Mohammed. Also, one of the ways in which Paradise is described in The Quran is as a place where ‘people wear green garments of fine

silk’. In lay terms too, it is mostly an upbeat shade. ‘Go!’ says the green traffic light. On the other hand, it does have a few negative connotations – think green-eyed monster and greenhorn. End quote “Bhagwa or the saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work. The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct. The green shows our relation to (the) soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends.” — Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, former President of India.


culturama

27

October 2017

Advertiser's Feature

Best of Both Worlds Parents in Chennai can give their children both Indian values and international standards at KC High, which is shifting its Grade 1 Grade 12 campus from Kotturpuram to Navalur.

High experience global challenges in a local context.

Many international families, either Indian or expat, shift to Chennai and look for excellent schools. Local families also seek outstanding schools that provide global educational and economic opportunities. They want the best of both worlds: the academic rigor and ethical values of traditional Indian schools, and with the creative and caring culture of international schools. Families can find both these qualities in Chennai’s own KC High.

Affiliation with the Cambridge Assessment International Education (formerly Cambridge International Examinations) has provided a strong framework for curriculum design while retaining a unique flavor that piques the interests of the kids. Using Cambridge for English, Science and Mathematics, together with Checkpoint Exams in Grades 5 and 8, teachers check that KC students are indeed achieving at a very high level by international standards. In the social, technical, and artistic subjects, the local curriculum emphasises character development, culture and academic rigor.

Founded in 1998 by Valli Subbiah, KC High is built on a foundation of student-centred international standards with traditional Indian practices. Its highly professional teachers recognise that some children think spatially or visually, others are verbal, and still others are hands-on with a need to try things out. They have created a caring and compassionate teaching philosophy in which each and every child learns and achieves in a supportive social environment of joyful discovery and practical learning.

Now, KC High has added the IGCSEs for Grades 9 and 10, and is planning to be an IB Diploma School for Grades 11 and 12 from June 2018. In January 2018, KC High will complete its move to a purposebuilt campus in Navalur on OMR. Designed around principles of learning, its hexagonal, student-centred motif has created a stunning new facility, with ample studios and learning laboratories, high-tech classrooms, a comfortable cafeteria, top-notch sports facilities, and many adaptable spaces.

KC High’s formula is experiential education rooted in the Chennai context. Teachers and parents support a wide array of student-led initiatives, projects, and community activities. Whether hosting the Namma Chennai carnival, partnering with students from neighbourhood schools, cleaning up beaches, interviewing Chennai artists, or acting with local theatre professionals, the learners at KC

The shift to Navalur represents the culmination of an 18-year journey from being a small neighbourhood school to a world-class institution. The new campus realises the founder’s dream to offer unparalleled, globally recognized, socially relevant education to Chennai families. For details, call 24473551/42030425/9445290115 Website: www.kchigh.com


28

October 2017

culturama


culturama

In Focus by Ranjini Manian

October 2017

The Reptile Man Rom Whitaker is already well known as one of India’s foremost herpetologists and founder of the Madras Snake Park and Crocodile Bank. In conversation with Ranjini Manian, he talks about early life and his new passion – the global snakebite initiative

29


30

October 2017

culturama

Early life I grew up in New York State and when I came to India at age seven, I was already a snake catcher. My mother was an unusual woman who was very happy to let me bring snakes home (they were non-venomous in New York). She’d ask if we could keep them instead of the usual reaction of “get that thing out of here!” Moving to India was exciting. We were in Juhu, in then Bombay, which was just beginning to be colonised by movie stars. My stepfather Rama Chattopadhyay owned India’s first colour processing lab for movies, so we were in the centre of what became Bollywood. We’d go fishing in Powai Lake next to actor Shammi Kapoor and chat with him.

School, college and beyond I spent eight years of boarding school in Ooty and then in Kodaikanal. The Western Ghats really helped me understand forests. I went out with local hunters (in those days, it was hunting and not catching). I enjoyed getting out in the field and learning a lot from the local people. Then when I was graduating from high school, I read all the American college catalogues to choose one. I chose Wyoming University only because it said Wyoming has more deer than people! There, I spent more of my time hunting, fishing and goofing off. But my love and interest for snakes remained.

I dropped out after managing a year there and went to Florida, to the Miami Serpentarium, then the biggest venom production centre in the world. It was run by Bill Haast, whom I had read about in my schooldays and had actually written to in the 1950s. He said if you’re ever in America, come visit us, and that’s just what I did. I worked with them for two years before the Vietnam War caught up and I was drafted into the army.

The birth of Snake Park My experience in America planted the idea of setting up a snake park in India. It is the land of snakes, yet we have so many misbeliefs and misconceptions. I was a proselytiser for snakes, and that’s how the Madras Snake Park was set up through a series of wonderful coincidences and great people. The first year had a million people coming in. Even at only 25 paise a ticket, it was enough to keep things rolling. I then wanted a reptile park but the space was tiny. We’d need a big place to keep big animals like crocodiles. I can imagine how odd my ideas sounded to people; but they caught on, and with the help of organisations like WWF, the Madras Crocodile Bank was set up. We started with 14 crocodiles and have ended up with 2,500 today. I wonder if they’re rabbits or crocodiles!

The global snakebite initiative Recent statistics in India show almost 50,000 men, women and children die from snakebite, of which 98% are


culturama

in rural areas. It shocked the heck out of us. The unknown statistic is how many survive snakebites but lose a limb or are completely incapacitated. Generally, males are bitten, and they’re often the primary breadwinners of their families, so it’s a very serious thing for rural India in particular. As a result, almost everything we’re doing now on the Global Snakebite Initiative is aimed at the rural community and labourers. We launched the programme in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu in September, tying up with the forest, fire and police departments, and a large group of students. We made a template backed up with a couple of videos to break down the problems; very simple videos that can be translated into different languages. This awareness campaign targeted a couple of things. The first is how to avoid snakes, by keeping places clean and keeping rats out of the house. The second is what to do if you’re bitten. The focus is on getting to a hospital and being administered an anti-venom injection. The anti-venom manufacturers were very pleased to hear this, so they – and the Infosys Foundation – doled out enough money to make the films. The healthcare company USV also gave Crocodile Bank a CSR grant to spread this campaign to seven states which have been identified as the “most snake-bitten states”. The sky is the limit after that.

The problems with anti-venom There isn’t a map yet of which state

October 2017

31

Nearly 50,000 die every year in India from snakebite. View the public awareness video, which is part of the snakebite mitigation project, on https://tinyurl.com/yajrrbls

districts have the most snakebites, and which hospitals get the most patients who require treatment for snakebites. The antivenom available could also be of better quality. Along with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Department of Biotechnology in Delhi, we’re trying to help anti-venom manufacturers improve their product. But this isn’t the only problem! Here’s an example: the Russell’s viper is a snake that causes most of the deaths in India because it’s big, has long fangs and very toxic venom. However, the venom from this viper in South India is different from the venom of the Russell’s viper from North India. Why? Maybe they’re genetically different because of the food they eat. The cooperative we set up to produce anti-venom gets all its snakes from one district in Tamil Nadu – Kanchipuram – which is then sent to anti-venom manufacturers across the country. Unfortunately, the anti-venom produced from a South Indian Russell’s viper might not work against the venom from a North Indian Russell’s viper. We now need to take different samples of venom from across the country.


32

October 2017

culturama

Rom Whitaker at the Global Adjustments headquarters in Chennai

Awareness is key The snakebite problem is a dynamic combination of conservation, ecology, human welfare and medical health. We need to live with snakes. In rural India, 20–30% of crops are eaten by rodents, and snakes keep this population in check. So all we need is awareness on how to live with them in the right way. A lot of the things we have achieved is through support from big companies in their CSR programmes. Constant awareness in remote areas can reduce snakebite deaths by 50% in a year if we just keep at it.

Inspired by Rom Whitaker's work, the 20th edition of Global Adjustments' Beautiful India Photo Competition has 'Wildlife in India' as a special category, open to Indian participants as well. Rom will also be part of the awards ceremony on November 5.

Diseases in developing countries kill thousands of people around the world, and the World Health Organisation has now recognised snakebite as one of these problems, giving impetus to our programmes to get government departments involved too. If you add up the number of people killed by other animals every year, that number is just a fraction of those killed by snakebites. Also, consider the cost to the economy. Snakebite deaths cost the economy of Sri Lanka $10 million annually. A country like India will have a far higher number. People are attracted to snakes, whether positively or negatively. They want to hear about snakes, and they want to know about these problems. This is a good wicket for us to start from.


culturama

October 2017

33


34

October 2017

culturama

At Global Adjustments Foundation by Team Culturama

A Whale of a Time Global Adjustments Foundation empowered students of MOP Vaishnav College for Women and launched a Happiness Centre

There's something quaint about the way all students and faculty at MOP Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai, greet each other: “Happy day”. It was made all the happier at the valedictory function for the recently concluded holistic life workshop conducted by the Global Adjustments Foundation (GAF), titled Aspiration to Achievement. Spread over eight weeks, the “finishing school” programme for third year students taught students what it meant to have an aspiration and then to internalise their goals and work towards it. Contrary to popular opinion, a finishing school is not the end; it is the beginning of things to come when students step into the big, bad world. The workshop armed students with tools they would need for this process and, based on the enthusiastic feedback from students across streams, it hit its mark, and more. Ten trainers worked with the students in sessions tailor-made for what a young woman would need. Ranjini Manian, Usha Ramakrishnan, Akshaya Balaji, Janani Nagarajan, Lakshmi Subramanian, Chitra Ganesh Bhuvaneswari Srinivasan, Akila Satheesh, Vijay and Master Kebiraj had sessions with the students on topics ranging from emotional intelligence and communications skills to fitness. Vijay and Master Kebiraj, in particular, received wild bursts of applause. The former is a fitness coach, and the latter taught the girls karate and self-defence.


culturama

The programme’s success was summed up best by student representatives who gave feedback on the sessions they went through. Hussaina, a student of Food Science Management, said she had grown up with a fear of facing society. “In our homes, girls have to get engaged after Class 12, and I thought I must do the same,” she said. “But I now feel empowered by positivity. I have a clear path ahead of me and know what to do next. I now have the courage to stand up.” This sense of empowerment was echoed across students. Akshara, a student of Computer Science, said the workshops helped her control her quick temper. “I would get angry for small things,” she said. “We were taught a method to tackle this. Being quiet and not thinking for 30 seconds. It worked marvellously.” She was also the type of person who would constantly worry about the future, but has now learned to enjoy the small things. “I have started living in the moment.” There were a lot of stories on how specific modules of the workshop led to personal connections and change. Sociology student Samyukta said that being a combination of Pakistani, Malayali and American by birth had the result of a lot of pandemonium at home. “Cultural intelligence was one large takeaway on a personal level,” she said. “We learned P.R.O.U.D. communication: saying precisely what you mean to say, and in a way to help the other person understand.” A fun and growing important module in today’s climate, was titled “Build my life, build my country”, on unity, integrity and compassion. Students from different regional backgrounds would face each other and ask and

October 2017

35

answer questions about their own culture. Anagha from the journalism stream found it particularly inspirational. “I have always been prouder of my South Indian identity over being an Indian as a whole,” she said. “But I learnt to be accepting, and to break the North–South barrier in my mind. Our country has flaws. We need to recognise and fix them and love our country a bit more. India deserves it.” In the background of horror stories today on the Blue Whale challenge, this life-affirming group of students was particularly inspiring. Global Adjustments Foundation’s Ranjini Manian linked this to Ken Blanchard’s famous 2002 book, Whale Done, on empowering leadership. Blanchard teamed up with a group of scientists from San Diego Seaworld, and wrote about how a five-tonne killer whale could be trained by an 85-kg trainer to do tricks. How? Catch the whale doing the right thing, and reward it. “There’s a killer whale living within us,” Ranjini told the students. “It’s our own mind – which can be our best friend or our worst enemy. Instead of harping on the wrong things you might do, put an awesome sticker on yourself.” GAF also inaugurated a Happiness Centre at MOP Vaishnav College. On the first Wednesday of every month, students can sign up to go in between 10.15 a.m. and 12.15 p.m. and interact with the Foundation’s trainers for counselling, Q&A sessions, meditation, or just simply unwind with some music.

For such free workshops for women in your institutions, please contact Usha Ramakrishnan at +91 9840520394. E-mail: usha@globaladjustments.com


36

October 2017

culturama

India Insights by Team Culturama

Grandma’s Medicine Cabinet Some household cures for simple problems


culturama

October 2017

37

In times past, in India run-of-the-mill ailments did not depend on sophisticated equipment for diagnosis, nor did they need high-powered medicines to treat. Remedies for everyday problems such as an upset tummy or a blocked nose, an adolescent tendency towards oily skin or the aches and pains of old age were treated with things commonly found in the Indian kitchen or in the garden. Many of these remedies are still as effective. Let us take a look at some household cures for simple problems.


38

October 2017

culturama

Tulsi Tulsi, the Indian basil, is useful for several ills. Soak 30–40 leaves overnight in a litre of water, strain and drink the water through the day to ease asthma. For relief from a persistent cold, boil some tulsi leaves with some crushed ginger, cloves and black pepper corns till the liquid becomes a dark brown. Add a little honey to this, and drink it hot. Those who are prone to colds and coughs can build up their immunity by boiling a few tulsi leaves and adding the liquid to their first cup of tea regularly each day.

Honey Honey is very efficacious for coughs and colds. Those suffering from a severe attack can try a tablespoon of lukewarm honey mixed with a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon powder daily for three days.


October 2017

culturama

39

Neem Neem is a powerful antibacterial agent, and is quite useful in fighting the common cold. Strip a couple of neem twigs of leaves, and boil the twigs in water with a pinch of turmeric. Inhale the steam as it boils, covering your head with a towel and holding it over the vessel. When it boils down, strain the liquid and drink it three times a day, mixed with a little honey.

Bishop’s weed Bishop’s weed, known as omam in the South and ajwain in the North, is also effective in cases of indigestion. Boil the seeds in water along with cumin, strain and drink in small quantities till symptoms disappear.

Black Plum The black plum, known as Jamun or the Jambu fruit, is believed to be excellent in controlling blood sugar. Eat the fruit when it is in season, and dry the seeds to keep for offseason times. Powder the seeds with fenugreek and have a teaspoon full before bedtime. If you want to control your cholesterol levels before they get out of hand, substitute jams with a paste of honey and cinnamon powder. Have it with bread, rotis and even idlis and dosas every day.

Pomegranate Pomegranate is very good for stomach disorders. Cut up the rind of a fruit, boil down in water, filter, mix with honey and sip to control diarrhoea and vomiting.


40

October 2017

culturama

Clockwise from top left: black plum, cinnamon, saffron and gooseberries

Cinnamon Cinnamon is also a remedy for chronic arthritis. A teaspoonful of powdered cinnamon can be mixed in a cup of hot water, along with two teaspoons of honey, and drunk every day for long-term relief. Also, a topical application of one part of honey with two parts of lukewarm water and a teaspoon of cinnamon powder on affected areas brings quick relief.

Gooseberries Gooseberries are good for lustrous, healthy hair. Eat a few fresh berries. A paste made of gooseberries boiled in milk and mashed into a pulp, applied to the scalp and left on for 20 minutes before washing strengthens the roots and gives the hair bounce and sheen.

Herbs For a nagging headache, try applying a paste of 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder, a quarter teaspoon of dry ginger powder and a few saffron strands, mixed with water. For a constipated tummy, a drink of milk boiled with turmeric and figs works wonders. So does a brew made of the dried and powdered leaves of a hibiscus plant. Ginger soaked in honey and chewed slowly will relive flatulence. The kitchen can also provide many beauty aids. A mixture of gram flour and top of milk, combined with a pinch of turmeric powder and a few drops of lemon juice rejuvenates dry skin.


culturama

October 2017

41


42

October 2017

culturama

Festivals of India This october india celebrates diwali, the festival of lights

Diwali

October 18 and 19 Diwali or Deepavali is one of the biggest festivals in India. All across the country it is celebrated with great pomp and splendor. It is also known as the ‘festival of lights’ because people decorate their houses and shops with diyas (tiny clay lamps that are filled with oil, with a cotton wick inserted and lit). In recent years, tea lights are commonly used. On Diwali, people wear their best clothes, light diyas and place them around the house and offer prayers to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Another common way of celebrating the event is by bursting crackers and fireworks and exchanging gifts. A unique facet of Diwali is that the origin of the festival is attributed to different myths across the subcontinent. In North India, it is Lord Rama’s return to his home, Ayodhya, after his 14-year exile. During his exile, he defeated a demon king named Ravana who had abducted his wife, Sita. In the South, Deepavali was the night when a demon named Narakasura was defeated and killed by Satyabhama, one of Krishna’s wives. People in the East pay homage to Kali, the goddess of destruction. Kali puja, held the day before Diwali or on the same day, is the most popular festival in West Bengal after Durga puja (held during Navaratri). Idols of Kali are constructed and displayed in public spaces known as pandals. People also celebrate by bursting crackers. To do: Don’t forget to offer the household and neighborhood staff the Diwali baksheesh or bonus by giving them a box of sweets and a generous tip. Visit friends and join in the festivities – especially when it comes to bursting crackers and some friendly, harmless gambling (playing cards, dice, etc). Legend has it that goddess Parvati played dice with Lord Shiva and declared that whoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper.

Art: Maniam


culturama

October 2017

43


44

October 2017

culturama

An American in Chennai Look Who's in Town Chennai Meet Mick Purcell, Head of School, KC High, Chennai When I was a student at the University of Texas in Austin, I had some dear friends from India, including Siby, a firstgeneration Malayali-American who used to make biryani and throw parties. That was my first point of contact in India. I did not do a lot of research or worry too much before moving to India. I just worked on having a positive attitude and optimism. I got rid of my cumbersome possessions, too, because I wanted to travel light.

born there too. Having lived in Mumbai during the Ganesh celebrations, we’ve had enough firecrackers!

Travel tales We have been all over India, because it is a great country for travel and affordable too. We love the Himalayas, and my wife and I went to Sikkim for trekking in April. For New Year’s, we are planning to go to Kerala. We are a Buddhist family, so Bodh Gaya is on our agenda too.

I’m taking home My Indian chappals.

Incredible India

Now that I’m here, I guess it is a little bit more realistic and less idealistic, especially after having been on Indian trains!

The best part of India is its people. The people are what make the country so fascinating. Somehow, 1.3 billion people have figured out how to live together, in spite of enormously different languages, customs, cultures, religions, and so on, through a lot of smiling, kindness, sharing of food, talking loudly, and head-shaking!

Favourite Indian food

Home and here

Then & Now

I love idli-sambar; it is a great way to start the day!

Celebrating India I have been a part of many festivals. My family’s favourite is Holi; it resembles Songkran in Thailand. My wife is from Thailand and we lived there for 10 years. Our children were

Now with the global economy, life can be pretty similar in India and the United States. Both countries have beautiful mountains and beaches where you can get away from it all. We can find Thai food and Mexican food in both countries! Both countries love sports with bats and balls, but of course it is cricket in India and baseball in the United States.


October 2017

culturama

45

craft cafe by

Poompuhar’s Craft café is a first of its kind craftthemed café located at the iconic Anna Salai of Chennai. Enjoy a fine dining experience and treat your taste buds to healthy and authentic South Indian cuisines, going back to our roots. Here, long-forgotten ingredients such as millets and palm sugar are used to reinvent and create new varieties of dishes! What stands out at the Café is the ambiance. With exquisite bronze and wooden sculptures, bamboo furniture and the vintage statues around will immerse you in a divine setting. The Craft café is also a fantastic venue to host corporate meetings, birthday parties, anniversary functions, kitty groups, farewells, get-togethers etc.

Poompuhar, No. 108, Anna Salai, Chennai - 600 002

Contact: 044 42111338, 044 28511338 Email:craftsrestaurant@gmail.com

Website:www.tnhdcltd.com | Shopping site:www.poompuhar.org | Artisan portal:www.tnartisaan.com


46

October 2017

culturama

Thought Leader by Ankita S

A Career in Santhosh Babu, the chairman of the Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation, talks about his journey in Poompuhar One look at Santhosh Babu and all the clichĂŠs that popular culture had me believe about Indian bureaucrats were shattered. Dressed in sleek trousers, a formal shirt and a blazer, Santhosh is a gentleman whose only aim at the moment is to increase the demand for artefacts making complete use of modern technology. He is the chairman of the Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation and his interest and knowledge in IT has given Poompuhar (the store run by Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation) its much needed break into the limelight. His


culturama

October 2017

47

passion to serve his country is one of the many reasons for his successful transition from being a doctor to an IAS officer now serving his country. Despite his innumerable achievements, he still remains down to earth, treating all his employees as his equals, while maintaining the balance between control and freedom. We met at his office where he showed me Poompuhar’s multiple advances in the field of crafts and then we settled down for a talk. These are some of the highlights of our conversation. Recently, Poompuhar received the National e-Governance Award. Tell us how this transformation into the digital space happened?

The Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation (THDC) was established in 1973 and since then a lot of effort has gone into its development. When I first joined, my initial idea was to make use of technology. So, we divided our work into three parts – Administration, Marketing and Design. Administration requires a lot of paperwork before a decision is made. So to reduce the decision-making time, we introduced ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) across 22 locations. As for marketing, we created a website (www.poompuhar.org) and an app. We also created our own pages on Snapdeal, Flipkart, Amazon, Shopclues, Craftsvilla and Indiamart. We use Agama-Shastra (a set of rules for design) for traditional designs. And for new designs, we use freelancers who mail us their designs after we give them our specifications. What can craft entrepreneurs learn from your success story?

Entrepreneurs should encourage arts and craft, by helping less-privileged artists to sell their artwork. That will lead them to success. Poompuhar surpassed its revenue target for2016–2017. At a time when a lot of indigenous crafts and craftsmen are struggling, how did Poompuhar turn the tide?

As leaders, we need to be proactive. We need to build relationships and networks and create trust. When your clientele increases, your team gains confidence. The reason for our success is our team strength and our massive use of social media which helped in the increase of our sales. According to you, why is it important to promote local crafts in these times of 'use-and-throw’?

We are mostly sentimental people; we like to restore our

memory from time to time. In a traditional society like India, crafts have always been an important family heirloom. So local crafts act as a reminder of our family. The other aspect is about our culture. In this modern society, everybody always tries to maintain their culture to ensure that they do not lose touch with their past. And the most important reason for the promotion of local crafts is the craftsmen who use this as a means of livelihood. What special initiatives can craft lovers look forward to from Poompuhar?

Firstly, we are trying to create a virtual reality showroom, the meeting for which is happening soon. And the second is that we’re trying to promote a story through our products, so we are building up content with the history of each product. What message should the younger generation take from your life to succeed?

Do everything with passion and always remember to live in the present, because we do not have control over the future and the past is long gone. Aim to help the less privileged and never be against women working. Aim for magic. What was your own personal experience like, of being a medical doctor first and then choosing a life in the service of the country as an IAS officer?

As an IAS officer, I’ve always wanted to help people. Remember that everybody is talented. They might require some direction; try to motivate them as a leader.


48

October 2017

culturama

Hit the Road by Devanshi Mody

Kerala

and curated conservation


culturama

October 2017

49

It’s only in South India that I realised the possibilities of cultural conservation Conservation seldom receives consideration in India, be it of natural resources or, even increasingly, culture – there is so much of it that it sometimes gets neglected, which is when erosion and dissipation commence. Kerala, however, projects a well-conserved countenance. Whilst the conservation of resources can be effected by mindful individuals in rudimentary ways, the conservation of culture is a far more complex undertaking to which Kerala has brought much imagination and sophistication. Jose Dominic of CGH Earth has certainly crusaded for the cause. I had heard much about him in niche travel circles. He is perhaps the most fascinating man in Kerala. He is also perhaps the busiest man in Kerala. But swinging by Kerala last month, I finally met Jose Dominic, who is better known for “creating” tourism in


50

October 2017

culturama


culturama

October 2017

51

Kerala. He is less well known for pioneering “conservation” as a clever, systematic and refreshingly different approach to luxury tourism in South India. As a travel writer I have experienced world-renowned resorts upheld as bastions of conservation, but they are often confined to energy and environmental conservation. It is only in South India that I realised the possibilities of cultural conservation after my inaugural CGH Earth Experience (Jose Dominic calls his creations “experiences” and not hotels). I recall in 2011 at Visalam in Chettinad this retreat impressed itself on my mind by being earth-conscious (not usual in India). There was an “Earth Hour” when the lights were knocked out for an entire hour at the entire property but this austerity was not devoid of romance as the General Manager hosted a candlelight supper by the garden pool and established the urgent need to conserve electricity (certainly in Tamil Nadu!). Plastic is a no-no too over a CGH Earth experience, so bags are of paper and water is bottled in glass. On a more recent visit to Visalam, I see posters of Parisian cafes on the poolside veranda and wonder why they are a part of the otherwise emphatically Chettinadu property. “Mr Dominic found those in the Karaikudi Antique Market” is the manager’s response. This immediately gives a local context to the adornments and it is this attention to detail that imparts a sense of place and preserves culture within the confines of a hotel. Every incidental embellishment is infused with local culture and is not just randomly placed. The Chittoor Kottaram is a ménage-à-trois between a princess of Kochi who inherited the Kochi Raja’s 18th century backwater retreat, Lady Hamlyn of the Hamlyn Trust in the United Kingdom who just restored the heritage property working with a local architect specialising in conservation, and CGH Earth who manage it. Dark wood is hewn into elegant ceilings, charming staircase, filigreed balustrade and pillars holding slanted red-tile roofs. All quintessentially Kerala. And amidst them are convened paintings from Rajasthan, North Indian paraphernalia, hefty chests and buxom furniture. Mr Dominic explains “kottaram” in Malayalam means “palace” and since Lady Hamlyn leases this mini-palace, he entertains her whimsical taste by regarding her as one of those eccentric royals who has travelled and stashed their shopping in their private residence. “JD” (as he is called) explains “kottaram” also means “private residence” and this is indeed the sole private residence of the Raja of Kochi, still royal-owned but open to guests as a heritage stay. When Suresh, the princess of Kochi’s husband, comes to narrate this abode’s history, the less glamorous side of

“kottaram” also means “private residence” and this is indeed the sole private residence of the Raja of Kochi, still royal-owned but open to guests as a heritage stay conservation is also intimated. He says the property, when inherited, was in ruinous state, with roof and walls ravaged. An accountant who worked abroad, he invested his life savings to restore the place and when his finances exhausted, was verging on selling when he contacted CGH Earth, knowing they are conservation-oriented. They introduced to him Lady Hamlyn with the ample funds required to restore and conserve cultural jewels like these. Brunton Boatyard takes conservation to higher echelons still. The colonial edifice is imperious. As you enter its


52

October 2017

culturama

East Indies at Eighth Bastion showcases an intriguing menu of dishes culled from various Dutch ports in the East Indies. And so you have a taste of culinary conservations too

colonnaded precincts built around a central courtyard where a historic cannon ruminates, you are asked to guess the establishment’s age. Easily 200 years old, you say. Would you believe that this assuredly “Raj-era” building was long a razed and desolate colonial boatyard that JD recreated from scratch, modelling it identically on the original structure. He has an immense sense of history and is an encyclopaedia of Kerala’s culture and even sourced old swing-fans from Fort Kochi’s antique markets to give an authentic colonial air. The parade of old portraits features figures historically relevant to Fort Kochi. Rooms conserve antique furniture discarded from old houses. The hotel’s History restaurant, which looks historic, has a menu compiling dishes from various communities that historically occupied Fort Kochi. East Indies at Eighth Bastion showcases an intriguing menu of dishes culled from various Dutch ports in the East Indies. And so you have a taste of culinary conservations too.


culturama

October 2017

53


54

October 2017

culturama

Muziris has been much in the news since Roman coins and miscellaneous foreign objects were excavated. It has also become the site of the Kochi-Muzuris Art Biennale that some say is ranked third in the world. This is the ancient port to which St Thomas the Apostle came bearing Christianity and which has one of the first synagogues in India, besides the first mosque in Asia. The guide tells how teak and ivory were taken to build the Temple of Solomon since when Jews have been in Kerala. Once Israel invited back Jews, Kerala’s Jews left, some selling their old houses on the street where the old synagogue stands. JD says he acquired these himself envisaging a B&B so as to conserve Jewish culture. Come evening, he says, the Jewish community would put out their tables onto the street and enjoy communal drinks and food. JD wants to restore some vestige of this charming practice. Conservation can be taken to root level—literally, proves Marari Beach Resort. Most of the resort is planted with palms with a clutch of villas interspersed in a rustic sprawl. There is also an organic farm where the resort revives traditional farming techniques, growing fruit and vegetables and some paddy and offers organic farm kitchen suppers. I experienced something similar in the Seychelles on Fregate Private Island, but Marari is the only extensive operation I have encountered since. And Kerala’s martial arts are kept alive and kicking by introducing them to ayurveda as in the vigorous Kalari massage that kneads your body only with the feet.


culturama

October 2017

55

AT HOME- “ONE CALL , DOES IT ALL”

SALOON SKIN Exfoliators Facial therapy Micro Derma abration Laser hair reduction Wart removal

SLIMMING

HAIR

Catalayse reductor Electro therapy Face sculpting Body massage

Micro nutrient injection Cosmetic Hair

Casmara facial Keratin Mecademia hair spa Eyebrow tattoo 4k bridal makeup Spa Pedi & mani Cut n curls

ALL THE ABOVE SERVICES ARE AT-HOME SERVICES Contact us for more details on services and appointments. +9190805 58006 | Contact.avocadocare@gmail.com


56

October 2017

culturama

Learn from the Bhagavad Gita by Team Culturama

Chapter 15 Capturing the essence of the Bhagavad Gita in a single sentence, one chapter at a time; accompanied by an inspirational photograph from our Annual Photo Competition.

Give priority to divinity. Photo: Helle Stromholt, Denmark


culturama

October 2017

57


58

October 2017

culturama

India Diaries by Jane Kataria

Finding Love in

India

Ever wondered what brings people from different countries to Chennai? Work? Business? Career opportunities? Travel and adventure? What about love?

She heard the sound of another e-mail. In the past few days, she had got used to the sounds of beeping and buzzing, as e-mails popped up on her different devices. Although irritating, it was nice to receive so many messages; she was happy at the same time to find herself so much in demand. Just like an office job, her quest to find a husband-to-be consumed her day. The same routine, she thought, as she checked the messages from the previous night and replied to a few, and arranged to meet some of the wannabe-grooms. The frustration had become routine too. “They were all the same,” she thought, ”And they are all differ from my perception of life, beliefs and expectations.” It was difficult to hold on to the conversation with a few, and so she said “No” and “no” to all 680 profiles that appeared in her inbox…. Until one day while looking at these routine e-mails her eyes stopped on the photograph of a well built, handsome gentleman who called himself timid. Fate had already brought Tatiana to Mumbai. In Sahaja Yoga, she had found purpose of life. It was natural then, she thought, to find a life partner who appreciates and understands the philosophy that had touched her heart. Deep inside Siberian Russia from where she came, her choices had little chance of being understood. But destiny is not without a sense of humour – the person she couldn’t stop chatting with and took her eyes off was of Christian religion. And he wasn’t even from Mumbai where she was expecting to find a match. He was a Chennaite. They met. It wasn’t any romantic set up, the Russian diaspora gathered in a hall to welcome the groom to be. These were people she called family while her parents were far away. Yet something inside told her that it wasn’t just a meeting; in fact, her destiny was to be decided that day. Would he be as well-groomed and caring as he appeared online? He wasn’t quite sure either. A Russian girl not only desired to meet him, a techie from Chennai, she had considered taking their conversations


culturama

October 2017

59


60

October 2017

culturama

much further than a date. Doubts and questions were crowding his mind as he suddenly stumbled in front of a lady with a beautiful hat. He noticed that she took her eyes off her phone, raised her head… and her eyes… from below the brim of that hat… Now after being married for two years and being parents to a cute daughter, Milana, they still remember that first meeting. “I felt myself like the hero of Titanic, when he first met the heroine Kate Winslet, because she was wearing a similar hat, and had similar deep, kind innocent eyes and I was carried away” – remembers Vijay. She came to the train station to see him off to Chennai that evening. The train moved and she grew smaller and smaller and eventually just a waving silhouette. Tatiana felt lonely and vulnerable. It was at that very moment that she felt she needed him. The train wasn’t visible anymore and she was sad to see him departing. Her thoughts were interrupted by her phone. Must be a taxi, she thought.

It wasn’t. It was an official proposal. “Will you marry me?” Vijay asked. “Yes!” she said and hung up the phone. “I thought a hundred times before making that call,” he says, “Tatiana had never been to Chennai, knew nothing about Tamil culture and what if she couldn’t adjust?” She agreed to visit him in Chennai, to meet his parents and make that life-changing decision. Both have been through marriages that did not work out. Both had walked that path of resentment and disappointment, so both had a sound decision to make and had to try hard to make this relationship work. And their parents and relatives did not interfere this time. “Chennai is my home now and I thank God for having found my love and family here. He is the ideal husband I was dreaming of,” says Tatiana, “I have learnt to make idlis and dosa for breakfast. I don’t speak Tamil yet, but hopefully will start soon, once my one-year-old daughter gives me more free time,” she smiles and adds, “Dream! Because dreams do come true.”


October 2017

culturama

61

kerala BACKWATER BLISS

milesworth holidays india • srilanka • maldives • and beyond

TEXTILES | CRAFTS | GIFTS | HOME | ACCESSORIES 12 A-C Co-Optex Grounds 350, Pantheon Road, Egmore Chennai 600008 Tel: 044-28191457 Open 10:30 am to 7:00 pm Monday to Saturday www.craftscouncilofindia.org

visit: www.milesworth.com Milesworth Travels & Tours Pvt. Ltd., 39 R M Towers, 108 Chamiers Road, Chennai. Tel: +91-44-24320522 / 24359554 Fax: +91-44-24342668 E-mail: holidays@milesworth.com


62

October 2017

culturama


culturama

October 2017

63


64

October 2017

culturama

Join Us Every Saturday Global Adjustments Office, Chennai,

Holistic Living by Eknath Easwaran

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.

Draw closer to your teacher If you are prepared to undertake the long journey, the teacher will give you the map and all necessary instructions, but you have got to do the travelling yourself

I have said many times that Saint Francis lives in the words of his prayer. Gandhi may be said to live in the second chapter of the Gita, on which he based his life. Similarly, you can say that I live in my eight-point program, and I can assure you that I live in my audio and video recordings for those who are practising my method of meditation to the best of their ability and following the instructions faithfully with an open heart. You have to remember that when I started to meditate, my own spiritual teacher, my grandmother, had already passed away. At first I felt very much on my own, but at every stage, when I turned to her for guidance, I found answers to my questions. In spite of our best efforts, however, there will be times in meditation when we find ourselves in a difficult predicament – times when the senses defy us, when self-will goes on a rampage. Then it is that an experienced, skillful spiritual teacher can come to our rescue.

Photo: Kathlijn FRUITHOF, Belgium

Once, on a drive in the country, my wife and I somehow managed to back our car into a particularly awkward position with the axle over a rock, so that we could neither go forward nor backward. Three strong young fellows who happened to be walking by stopped and tried to help, but they only succeeded in getting the car more completely wedged in.


culturama

October 2017

65


66

October 2017

culturama

Finally a friend called a nearby service station to bring a tow truck, and in less than fifteen minutes we were able to drive away. That is the kind of service a spiritual teacher performs. A good spiritual teacher is like a tow 42 truck driver who is on call twenty-four hours a day, and one of the hooks in his vast assortment is just the right size for us. When we get ourselves stuck in meditation and find we cannot go forward or back, he pulls us forward just enough to get us free. Then, the moment we can move again, he removes the tow chain and lets us go forward again on our own.

It is good for us to remember that the guru, the spiritual teacher, is in every one of us. All that another person can do is to make us aware of the teacher within ourselves. The outer teacher makes us aware of the teacher within, and to the extent we can be loyal to the outer teacher, we are being loyal to ourselves, to our Atman. When people used to sit in the presence of Sri Ramana Maharshi and praise him, he would just smile as if to say, “There is no Sri Ramana Maharshi. I am just a little keyhole through which, when you fix your eye with complete concentration, you can see the beckoning, irresistible vision of the Lord.”

At Home Wherever You Go When you know the Self, the Upanishads say, everything in life is known, because it is this Self that is the essence of all things. To realise the Self is to love all creatures – in fact, to become love itself. How are we to make this supreme discovery? Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us in a famous passage: “Three things are necessary for salvation: one, to know what we ought to believe; two, to know what we ought to desire; and three, to know what we ought to do.” The scriptures and mystics of all religions concur on what to believe: that the core of our personality is divine, and that the purpose of life is to discover this divinity for ourselves. What to desire, then, is the Lord himself, which

Photo: Manfred ZINK, German

If you are prepared to undertake the long journey, the teacher will give you the map and all necessary instructions, but you have got to do the travelling yourself. That the teacher cannot provide. The purpose of visiting a spiritual teacher is to be reminded that there is a destination, there is a supreme goal in life, and we all have the innate capacity to undertake the journey.

is why mastery of desire has been called the key to Selfrealization. Meditation enables us to withdraw our desires from frustrating, foolish channels and redirect them towards the Lord in an overwhelming, overriding flood of longing to be united with him forever. When this is understood, the third requirement – what we ought to do in life – becomes clear. Deep in our heart is the awareness that anything less than Self-realisation will leave the human being unfulfilled. So please read the instructions on meditation again and again and follow them very carefully. That is the most important thing anyone can do. As compulsive desires fall away, you will find you have such security, such energy, such love and respect for everybody, that instead of feeling empty you will feel fulfilled; instead of feeling lonely, you will feel at home wherever you go.


culturama

October 2017

67


October 2017

culturama

Myth and Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik

Birth vs Death Death entraps us, prevents us from moving on, moving ahead. Birth and rebirth is seen as good and glorious

Hindus do prefer birth anniversaries (jayanti) over death anniversaries (punya tithi). However, we can qualify this by saying most Hindu festivals are about the birth of a God (Ram, Krishna, Hanuman, Garuda) or about the death of a demon (killing of Mahisha by Durga, Ravana by Ram, and Naraka by Krishna). Both these events, birth of a god and death of a demon, are seen as evoking positivity. This is very different from the Christian practice of mourning the death of Jesus Christ (Good Friday) and commemorating the martyrdom of saints, or the Shia Muslim practice of mourning the death of the Prophet’s son-in-law’s family (Muharram).

Photo: Sylvia RICANEK, Germany

68


culturama

October 2017

69

In Islamic and Christian traditions, death is valued and so tombs and graves become monuments. Traditionally, in most Hindu communities, no relic of the dead was kept in or around the house. In later Hindu monastic tradition, the body of a dead teacher was buried and a Tulsi plant grown above the grave. Though it is not worshipped, the place of burial is thus marked. This practice may have come from Buddhists who would keep relics (tooth, hair, bones) of great teachers, after their cremation. When Muslim kings started building tombs for themselves, many Hindu kings also demanded that pavilions and “chhattris” be built to mark the spot of their cremation. We find this practice in Rajasthan. This practice continues in modern times, with tombs being built to mark the cremation spot of leaders who were Hindu as in the case of Mahatma Gandhi and Indira Gandhi. The mourning of Imam Hussain continues in Shia Islam even 1,400 years after the event. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is enacted by many communities even after 2,000 years. By contrast, Shiva is called “Smarantaka” and “Yamantaka”, destroyer of memory and death, for that is what liberates us, makes us step out of history and discover the timeless soul.

Photo: Anna BOZZI, Italy

The reason for this is that birth is seen as auspicious and death as inauspicious in Hindu worldview. Ramayana is more sacred than Mahabharata, because Ramayana describes the birth of Ram, while Mahabharata does not describe the birth of Krishna. More value is placed on Bhagavata Purana where Krishna’s birth is described. All religions have something like “all soul’s day” where the living remember the dead. In Hinduism, this is the fortnight of “pitr paksha” when rituals are performed for the dead. But there is a difference. The dead in Christianity and Islam are in purgatory, having lived their life in full, waiting for the Final Day of Judgement. The dead in Hinduism are waiting for rebirth. But by and large, association with death is shunned in Hindu traditions, especially when compared with the value placed on death in other religions.

In Hinduism, memory of death prevents progress, wisdom and liberation. It holds you down. Fear of death creates all mental modifications that can only be unravelled by yoga. Death and fear of death are seen as entrapping. So after a funeral, one is advised not to turn and look back at the crematorium. The past has to be forgotten. Hence, Hindus place greater value on mythological narratives than on historical narratives as compared to other religions. Death entraps us, prevents us from moving on, moving ahead. Birth, rebirth, even double birth (via thread ceremony and accepting a guru) is seen as good and glorious. In the traditional Hindu scheme of things, it is better to forget the past (the West often mocks this as Hindu denial), and focus on the future. The auspicious direction is the east (purva) from where the sun rises. The auspicious orientation is the north (uttar) where stands the still and permanent Pole Star. West, linked with sunset, and south, linked with death, are inauspicious. Past is death and death is bondage that denies us liberation (mukti).


70

October 2017

culturama

4 Chennai Property Your solution provider for excellent quality rentals of home and office with 21 years of experience in ‘global adjustments’. Write to us at info@globaladjustments.com

Boutique Space for Rent in Nungambakkam Ethnic ambience to suit your taste and showcase your ware • 600 sq. ft ground + mezzanine • Furnished for boutique use • Bright lighting, 2 ACs and 3 fans • Ample hanger stand with more than 300 hangers • Lots of rack and storage space • Display table and cash table available • Fitting room • Restroom facility • Inverter backup • Comfortable car parking space For details, call 90032 57192

Brand New Apartment for Rent in Kotturpuram • 3 bedroom, 2,500 sq. ft • Semi-furnished with modular kitchen and ACs • Remote-controlled gate • 100% power backup • 2 car parking space • Security systems

For details, call 90032 57192 For more properties, call Global Adjustments at +91-44-24617902/+91-9500 111 777, or e-mail realty@globaladjustments.com Please note that any changes to the information above are done at the property owner’s sole discretion. Global Adjustments assumes no responsibility for such changes.


culturama

October 2017

71


Culturama October 2017  

Learn about the fascinating world of snakes and snakebites in our interview with Rom Whitaker, simple household cures for simple problems in...

Advertisement