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POWERED BY GLOBAL ADJUSTMENTS

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King of space An exciting interview with cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko

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Rally for Rivers Raising awareness on the state of our rivers

September 2017 Volume 8, Issue 7

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Dear Readers,

Mindfulness-based stress reduction is becoming popular these days in the West. But such a small percentage of Indians are meditating regularly, isn’t it? People raised their eyebrows or smiled quizzically when I said I was headed for a week-long meditation retreat in California. Driving over the beautiful orange Golden Gate Bridge, braving the fog, we went into Marin County. I was headed to Tomales, in California, an hour’s drive outside San Francisco. A small town known for its golden Californian hills and valleys where the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation was established by Shri Eknath Easwaran over six decades ago. The author of over two dozen books and over 4,000 video talks, this professor of literature, born in Kerala, made his way over on a Fulbright scholarship to the United States. He ended up teaching meditation as a full credit course in Berkley, and some of the students joined him to establish the ashram to promote passage meditation and allied disciplines which provided such a

wonderful resource to so many. It was one individual inspiring another to realise his or her true divine potential. This month too, Culturama carries his column which you have all enjoyed over the many years, I am sure. He is not in his body any more but continues to live wherever people are practising passage meditation and trying to live a spiritual life. For a whole week, 16 of us spiritual seekers lived in a community home, reading, discussing, meditating and balancing silence, sound and service all week. I can reply to those who smiled and raised eyebrows now, it is about being comfortable with who you are, not where you are that matters. The past month has been one steeped in spiritual experiences for me, of the most wonderful kind. This edition of Culturama also carries an exclusive interaction I had with Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev on his Rally for Rivers. Read about it in our Thought Leader column (Page 12). Find out what you can do for our rivers and how we can together rally for this great national initiative. Hope you find this issue of Culturama, which brings to you soothing articles like the one about a cosmonaut in sync with nature (Page 48) thought-provoking. Enjoy the festival season. Ranjini Manian, Editor-in-Chief globalindian@globaladjustments.com

Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian Senior Editor Lakshmi Krupa Creative Head Prem Kumar Graphic Designer Ankita Santhosh VP Finance V Ramkumar Advertising Chennai Madhu Mathi 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 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.


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Cover Image

Culturama’s cover this month is a tribute to India's rivers. Photo: Melissa FREITAS, Brazil

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

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

Letters to the editor Dear Editor,

What a lovely cover Culturama August 2017 had. It was vibrant, quirky and fun. Ginny Jacob, Mumbai

Dear Editor,

The Speeches of Significance feature in last month’s edition was an eye-opener. Christie Hans, via e-mail

Dear Editor,

Kudos on the amazing cover in Culturama last month. What a fitting, new-age tribute to the young country India. Leela Murthy, Chennai

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

12 Thought Leader An exclusive interview with Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev on his Rally for Rivers

India’s Culture

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An interview with the author of Black British, Hebe de Souza

Short Message Service

iRead

Short, engaging snippets of Indian culture

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Look Who's In Town

Expats share their views on work and life

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India Insights

Dal is among the most important ingredients of most Indians’ food

Journeys Into India

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Myth & Mythology

Cultural imagery cannot be proved historically. But they are markers of faith that give meaning to the lives of the faithful

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Picture Story

Our photo story this month is on the mobile mayhem on the streets

Relocations and Property 66

Holistic Living

In order to be what you want to be, you have to cease being what you are

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Space and the City

Property listings in Chennai


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SMS by Suzanne McNeill

Short cultural snippets for an easily digestible India

Art/Craft: Kaavad India has a centuries-old tradition of telling stories with the help of props or puppets, or in front of a textile painted to show scenes from the narrative. Kaavad, which originates from a word meaning ‘panel’ or ‘half door’, is both the name given to a tradition of storytelling unique to the Kaavadiya Bhats, the itinerant storytellers of Rajasthan, and the portable shrine that is the focus of their narrative. It is a wooden box made like a small cupboard with up to ten hinged doors, painted all over in vivid colours with scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana epics and stories of local saints and folk tradition. The panels open

and close as the story unfolds, taking listeners on a visual journey. Carried from house to house, the Kaavad is a way of bringing the temple into the home and creating a sense of sacred space. The art form is native to the Bassi people of Rajasthan and dates back at least 400 years.

Word: Aam Aam is a Hindi adjective meaning ‘common’, ‘general’, ‘ordinary’ and ‘simple’. Increasingly it is used as part of a phrase that speaks to community and politics. So aam janta means ‘the general public’ and aam aadmi is a Hindi phrase meaning ‘the common man’. This was made famous by Delhi’s Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, who uses the words aam aadmi to mean regular Indian citizens. It is also the name of his political party – the Aam Aadmi Party, or AAP – which seeks to work for the common man and fight corruption. Aam has a second meaning; it is the name given to the mango fruit, and deciphering which aam is meant can only be done by context. Urban slang has combined the two meanings, and ‘Mango people’ is now slang for ‘common people’. It can also be used as a compliment: ‘You are no aam aadmi, look at what you have achieved!’


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Name: Mithali Raj

Mithali Raj is captain of the Indian women’s cricket team and India’s greatest female batter. Described as ferociously talented, she is the highest run-scorer in women’s international cricket and has led India to a one-day international (ODI) final twice, in 2005 and 2017. Raj was born in Jodphur to a South Indian army family, which moved to Hyderabad when she was young. She began playing almost accidentally at the age of 10 when her father started taking her to an all-boy coaching camp her brother was attending, partly to make her get up earlier in the morning! There her talent was spotted by Jyothi Prasad, a former Hyderabad bowler, and she went on to be coached by Sampath Kumar, a National Institute for Sports coach. The tough training regime meant she missed out on family and

school life and also gave up her passion for Bharatanatyam dance. Aged 17, Mithali was picked to play an ODI game for the Indian national team against Ireland, and scored 114 not out. Three years later she was given a Test cap and joined a tour of England. In that first game, nerves got the better of her and she was out for a duck, but on tour she mesmerised the crowd with her nimble footwork, her confident stroke play and the manner of her runs. In 2005 she was offered the captaincy, taking India to their first World Cup Final, and she has been the mainstay of the Indian team since then. The live broadcasting of the 2009 ODI World Cup took recognition for the women’s game to a new level in India; Mithali possesses star status and has had a huge impact on the next generation of female cricketers.

Food: Pootharekulu Pootharekulu , sometimes called paper sweets (pootha means ‘coating’ and reku means ‘sheet’ in Telegu), have a flaky, wafer-like texture on the outside and a sweet filling. The sweet originates from the villages of the Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh, and is made from fine layered sheets of rice batter, two per sweet. Melted ghee is brushed over the sheets, and then powdered sugar mixed with cardamom is sprinkled evenly over them, along with ground cashew nuts.The sheets are folded across and along, and more powdered sugar or jaggery is added in stages. Making the rice sheets is an art mastered by the women of the district. An earthen pot is heated upside down over a fire; when it is very hot, a fine cotton cloth is dipped into the runny batter and, in one movement, is used to spread a very thin layer of it over the top of the pot where it sets immediately, is whipped off and stacked up as each sheet is cooked.


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Excerpts from an exclusive interview conducted by Culturama’s Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian, where Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev talks about his Rally for Rivers, raising awareness about it and the role women can play in sustainability...

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We can see parallels between the River Rally and Mahatma Gandhi’s salt satyagraha. What specific role do you see our women being able to play in this? Salt satyagraha was against someone. It was more a protest against whatever British laws were there. When someone else creates problems for us, we can fight them. But when we are the source of the problem, who are we going to fight? Fighting, protest or agitation is not what is needed. This is on one level an awareness campaign and on another level a push for a mandatory, enforceable policy on how we should treat our soil and our waters. In the past 60 to 70 years, the way we have exploited our resources and the pressures of population have led to a situation where the amount of water, per capita, is today only 21% of what we had in 1947. By 2025 we will have only 7% of that. Farmers are killing themselves, and our soil’s macronutrient levels are going down drastically. We have prepared a policy recommendation document in consultation with scientists over the past four years. Since states take the final call on what happens to rivers, their efforts are needed, which is why I am driving through various states to raise awareness. All the Chief Ministers are participating in these events – from Kanyakumari to the Himalayan foothills. I am on the road for 32 days.

Namami Brahmaputra is an international festival that celebrates the beauty of the Brahmaputra river. It is organised by the Assam Government. It was the first river festival to be held in Assam. The first edition was celebrated from the March 31 to April 4, 2017. The then President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, inaugurated the festival. The Expats Rally & A River Tidbit

five-day programme hosted activities to showcase Assam’s art, heritage and culture. The event was held in 21 districts across the state that are touched by the Brahmaputra.

Apart from this, we are also going to have skill enhancement programmes for farmers. They are, after all, the ones who live next to the rivers. Research has shown that shifting from paddy to fruit cultivation enhances farmers’ income by seven to eight times. This shift needs skills; we are going to teach them how to create a mango graft, for instance, or any fruit graft to grow trees. In this aspect, women are the best! It is a gentle, careful activity and women can do it much more easily. Hinduism and rivers are so beautifully connected. When we are supposed to respect and consider them holy, why then are we unable to take good care of them? There are many aspects to this. Essentially, poverty and population pressure; besides, nobody has time to attend to those things. We launched a programme a year and a half ago, and the Madhya Pradesh government made it huge – it is called Namame Narmada. There is a huge sentiment about the Narmada in Madhya Pradesh. People do parikrama around the river, which is 1,300 km. They used that emotion to galvanise many things. But that is not going to work everywhere. Emotion is not good enough to save a river. We need a law, an enforceable law.


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How can MNCs help the Rally for Rivers? They must help raise awareness among their employees. There is also much to be done in the cities in which they are operating, in terms of raising awareness, as well as in the rural areas. If they consult us, we can tell them what they can do. On September 1, we will have thousands and thousands of people standing with placards, between 8 am and 11 am, across the country. Everybody can wear a badge in the factory and they can go around with that. Your vehicles can have Rally for Rivers stickers. The idea is that nobody in the country should misunderstand this. Everybody should know we are in a dire situation when it comes to water. Three corporations (two public and one private) have come forward to adopt rivers. Adoption of rivers is for a minimum of 8 to 10 years. We will rejuvenate rivers in 2018 after the completion of the rally and they can take this up as a CSR commitment.

Expats Rally & A River Tidbit

Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred or holy river. Traditionally, four fairs are recognised as the Kumbh Melas: the Haridwar Kumbh Mela, the Allahabad Kumbh Mela, the Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Simhastha, and Ujjain Simhastha. These four fairs are held periodically at one of the following places by rotation: Haridwar, Allahabad (Prayaga), Nashik district (Nashik and Trimbak), and Ujjain. The main festival site is located on the banks of a river: the Ganges (Ganga) at

How do we rally support for good causes, the way you have?

Haridwar; the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganges and the

You must become a living example, otherwise who will rally with you? If you want to be in a safe place and you want to put others in the street, it is not going to work. They must know that you have stuck your neck out for everything.

at Nashik; and the Shipra at Ujjain. Bathing in these rivers is

Yamuna and the invisible Sarasvati at Allahabad; the Godavari thought to cleanse a person of all sins.


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Feature by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

Save our

rivers Rivers have always been the bedrock of our civilisation and the lifelines of India. But in just one generation, most of our rivers have suffered dangerous levels of depletion. For a nation with 1.3 billion people, we cannot turn a blind eye to this grave crisis of our times


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Our Dying Rivers India has essentially grown along the banks of major rivers. Our ancient civilisations were born along the waters, and they perished when the rivers shifted course. This is a culture that never saw rivers and water as a commodity. We realised that this was a fundamental building block of life. For many millennia, we maintained the sanctity of this relationship. But in the past few decades, due to the pressures of population and development, our perennial rivers have become seasonal. Many of the smaller rivers have already vanished. The Ganga and Indus are two of the world’s most endangered rivers, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The Narmada, Krishna and Kaveri do not reach the sea four months of the year. Water levels in almost every major river have declined severely. Our well-being and the nation’s well-being are intimately connected to the well-being of our rivers. If we do not act now to reverse the serious decline of these lifelines, the next generation will pay a very heavy price. The Stark Facts •

Twenty-five per cent of India is turning into desert.

In 15 years, we may have only half the water we need for our survival.

The Ganga is one of the most endangered rivers in the world.

The Godavari was dry along much of its length last year.

The Kaveri has lost 40% of its flow. Krishna and Narmada have lost around 60%.

In every state, perennial rivers are either becoming seasonal or totally going dry. In Kerala – the Bharatapuzha; in Karnataka – the Kabini; in Tamil Nadu – the Kaveri, Palar and Vaigai; in Odisha – the Musal; in Madhya Pradesh – the Kshipra. Many smaller rivers have already vanished. Most major rivers are the subject of interstate water disputes. How This Affects You •

Estimates say 65% of our water needs are met by rivers.

Two out of three major Indian cities already deal with daily water shortage. Many urban residents pay ten times the normal amount for a can of water.


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We consume water not just to drink or for domestic purposes. Eighty per cent of water is used to grow our food. Each person’s average water requirement is 1.1 million litres a year.

Flood, drought and rivers turning seasonal are increasingly leading to crop failure across the country.

Climate change is expected to cause worse floods and droughts within the next 25 to 50 years. During the monsoon, rivers will flood. The rest of the year, drought will follow. These trends are already beginning.

Isha Foundation is proposing a comprehensive river rejuvenation plan to reverse this decline and revive our rivers. Saving Our Rivers Most solutions offered so far only talk about how to exploit our diminishing water supply. But what is needed is a comprehensive plan that will ensure rivers flow throughout the year. With over a decade of experience in matters related to the environment and sustainability, Isha Foundation offers a core solution to stabilise and revitalise our rivers.

It involves creating and maintaining tree cover for a minimum of one kilometre on either side of the entire river length and half a kilometre for tributaries. The benefits of tree planting have been indisputably demonstrated by Project GreenHands, Isha’s award-winning initiative and one of Asia’s largest environmental movements. Native forest trees would be planted in governmentowned land along riverbanks. Organic fruit tree cultivation would be taken up on private farmers’ lands. This solution ensures that rivers are restored while also enhancing famers’ livelihood by more than doubling their income in five years. The availability of fruit also improves nutritional intake among people. The benefits of this simple yet highly effective solution are corroborated by many scientific studies. Trees help keep rivers perennial, alleviate floods and drought, increase precipitation, mitigate climate change and prevent soil erosion. The time to act is now! Join the movement to save our rivers.


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Join #RallyforRivers Movement to Save Our Rivers To create awareness and momentum amongst all sections of society and the government, Isha Foundation is organising a “Rally for Rivers� awareness campaign in consultation and collaboration with the Ministry of Environment. Expats Rally & A River Tidbit

Pushkaram is an Indian festival dedicated to worshiping of rivers. It is also known as Pushkaralu (in Telugu), Pushkara or Pushkar. It is celebrated at shrines along the banks of 12 major sacred rivers in India, in the form of ancestor worship, spiritual discourses, devotional music and cultural programmes. The celebration happens annually, once in 12 years along each river. Each river is associated with a zodiac sign, and the river for each year's festival is based on which sign Jupiter is in at the time. Due to regional variations, some of the zodiac signs are associated with multiple rivers.

Conceived by Sadhguru, the rally will be flagged off from Isha Yoga Center, Coimbatore on September 3 and culminate in Delhi on October 2, covering 13 states and 21 major cities. Sadhguru will be driving this entire stretch of 6,560 km across India. With leaders and celebrities actively participating in various legs of the journey, the city stops will generate local awareness by involving everyone from the young to the elderly, schools and universities, clubs and institutions, farmers, the government, NGOs and local citizens. Documentaries, music concerts and cultural performances including renowned artistes will ensure the event is not only informational but also celebratory and motivational in nature. For details, visit http://isha.sadhguru.org/rally-for-rivers/


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India Insights by Team Culturama

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Dal up Dal is among the most important ingredients of most Indians’ food. Dal is made from several different varieties of pulses, lentils, peas and beans

Each region community in India has its own ways of preparing dal. In North India, for instance, dal-chawal or dal-roti, a gravy of dal with spicy aromatics and herbs like curry leaves and coriander, served with rice or rotis (wheat-based flatbread) is a regular feature. Many refer to a dal-chawal or dal-roti meal as their ‘comfort food’ because it is hearty and simple to make. In Tamil Nadu, a dal side dish is served at the beginning of a larger meal. It is seldom eaten as the only or main part of a full-course meal. Here, lentils or split peas are cooked and served plain or with a minimal garnish alongside a generous dollop of ghee (clarified butter). This is followed by other sides called sambar and rasam.


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Healthy and hearty Dal is also a great leveller. It is a cheap source of protein for a large section of India’s poor and is often the central pot on the tables of the affluent! It can be made as simply as one pleases or as elaborate as detailed by recipes handed down generations from royal kitchens. There are also some varieties of dals like the chickpea (called chana in Hindi) that can be used to make gravies as well as light, healthy snacks. Here’s a quick recipe for one such snack called sundal. • Soak a cup of chickpeas overnight. • Pressure cook until they are soft. • Toss gently with a small amount of oil, mustard seeds and desiccated coconut and curry leaves on a pan. This is a healthy evening snack. It is also a traditional treat given to guests who arrive to one’s home during festive days.


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Another interesting dal-based dish is the rajma! Here’s another quick recipe: • Soak a cup of red kidney beans overnight. • Pressure cook with rajma masala (a readymade spice available in stores), chopped tomatoes and onions (1 each) into a gravy. • Serve with rotis or hot rice on nippy nights! Some simple pleasures you can treasure as part of your India experience.


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Lentils are also a part of various dishes. For instance, the famous South Indian dosa (rice-based crepe) is made with a paste of rice and lentils! It is also an important ingredient in the making of dosa’s most loved accompaniment, sambar. Some dals, like gram dal and urad dal, are also used as garnish for various dishes. For instance, while making vegetables, dals, sambar or other gravies, oil is first poured into a hot pan, followed by some mustard seeds and a small quantity (about a teaspoon or so) of gram dal and urad dal along with curry leaves, chopped garlic and asafoetida. Once all the mustard seeds have spluttered, the garnish is poured on top of a prepared dish! Did you know? There are seven broad varieties of commonly used pulses (dals) in India. These include mung, urad, garbanzo, masoor, pigeon pea, black-eyed peas, kidney beans among others. Dal is a famous lake in Kashmir, though it has nothing to do with lentils! Dal in Kashmiri means Lake.


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At GAF (Global Adjustments Foundation) by Team Culturama

Care for the care-givers

GA Foundation, as a part of its endeavour to provide holistic life excellence, touched the lives of over 600 nurses Well-being of nurses is critical so that they can provide their best service. GA Foundation, as a part of its endeavour to provide holistic life excellence, touched the lives of over 600 nurses. More than 600 nurses from Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, were empowered in batches of 100 through a free two-hour interactive workshop. Some of the tools we provided them with, to achieve this included self-praise, meditation, using a mantra or magic-word to calm down at stressful times, finding “me time� to recharge and using the right words to communicate effectively. While hospitals have various periodic training sessions for nurses, this motivational workshop helped shape their inner personality. As a follow-up measure, GA Foundation mailed them short audios to be played during meditation to help them make it a daily practice. Sister Selma, Senior Nurse Educator, Apollo Hospitals said of the workshop: Nurses who are the very back bone of the health industry are often the most stressed group of individuals, trying hard to balance their professional and

personal lives. Ranjini Manian and Usha Ramakrishnan came as a blessing to our nurses. Their sessions were really appreciated. The thoughts they inculcated is us, of being celebrities in the hearts of our patients through compassionate care was very encouraging and boosted our spirits. We crave appreciation, and do not receive it. Self appreciation was a new concept, which helped us look within. Chief Operating Officer, Apollo Hospitals Subbaiah Viswanathan said: Through a series of structured workshops the team from Global Adjustments has taught over 600 nurses multiple approaches to nourish self esteem, reach their highest potential by not looking for external validation and ultimately allowing them to experience the true joy of being in a profession that allows them to meaningfully impact lives. I am deeply thankful to the Global Adjustments Foundation team for their commitment and passion. For such free young women workshops, please contact Usha Ramakrishnan at 98405 20394. Email usha@globaladjustments.com


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iRead by Marina Marangos

Longing &Belonging An interview with the author of Black British, Hebe de Souza

I am talking to Hebe de Souza, the author of Black British. I immediately identify her surname as Goan/Portuguese in origin and her first name as Greek. These parts, though easily identifiable, hide a whole different history. Place us in the context and the history of your story. Black British is very closely aligned to my life growing up in India in the 1960s when the country was emerging from the shadows of the British Empire. It is the story of a young Goan/ Indian girl leading a very English lifestyle in a newly independent India. I wanted to show what happens when a great Empire collapses, how some people are left behind and become displaced. It is a story which has not been written before.


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History is littered with people who were driven out of their homeland for one reason or another – in our case we are lucky – we choose to leave So this leads me into my next question, about the title of Black British. What made you choose this title – was there any controversy in this choice? Was it your first choice? In India, my father and his family were definitely considered black British as they were so Anglicised. They only spoke English, read English authors, sang English songs. I was very conscious of having an English culture, particularly at school where I was so different from my classmates. In the book I wanted to show how my family was displaced by colonialism three times in four hundred years. My family is originally from Goa, which was colonialised by Portugal in the 1500s. That’s when they lost their original name and original religion to take on a Portuguese name and convert to Catholicism. They then migrated to British India in the latter part of the 1800s. This time they kept their name and religion but lost their language and everything that made up their culture. And the reason for this loss was that moving from Portuguese Goa to British India was a migration from one country to another even though it is the same land mass. To be successful, migrants anywhere in the world have to adapt and become part of the new country. My family was no different. They wanted to be successful and to achieve success they had to adapt and forgo their language, customs, food and all the related items that make up a culture. They had to speak English, sing English songs, live in English houses and take on all aspects of a British-in-India life. In time they forgot their language, their music, their dances, everything. To all intents and purposes they became British. They had to. They had to become Black British! The problem arose when India got her independence, the British went fleeing back to Britain and the family was stranded as strangers in their own land. That situation set the scene for a third displacement. For a title I had thought of “Sins of the Raj” but in the publishing process the editor absolutely loved Black British, so that is how it came about. The story of Black British is told by Lucy, the third daughter in the family, possibly modelled on you and there is undoubtedly a memoir in this writing. Can you

tell us how you married up fact and fiction and why you wrote the book the way you did. I was very conscious of privacy – being a unique situation that applied to family members scattered the world over, I was very aware of the impact it might make on many lives. So I changed the names of all family members with the exception of my wonderful Uncle Hugh. The second consideration was that I wanted to describe a lifestyle, a Goan/Indian family leading a very English lifestyle, in an emerging India. The adaptation of the family to an English way of life came in the generations before Lucy’s life. In our generation we stood out like a sore thumb. So you have explained how you came to write the story but is there also an aspect of your life in Australia that made you realise that you had to share this story with a wider audience? I have been in Australia now for 43 years and have told lots of stories about my life in Kanpur. Friends constantly tell me how different my growing-up years were from theirs in Australia; in particular, Christmas celebrations. With


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and headed to Kanpur in search of a better life. He settled there, your father was born there and, subsequently, so were you. They became successful in their own right and you lived in this big sprawling house surrounded by a beautiful garden but there was also a sense of isolation and separation from the world. The house is on the cover of the book; I particularly wanted this and the publisher agreed. I wanted to describe the house and I wanted to show its impermanence in our lives. Over the years, successive generations of my family sought to compensate for the enduring inconsequence of their existence by leaving what they assumed was an indelible mark on history. They repeatedly modified the ancestral place. So periodically parts of the verandah were imprisoned and a generation later, released.

us, Christmas was never a one-day affair. Instead, it was a month-long preparation of ordering the ingredients, then cleaning them and making the Christmas cake. It was also cleaning and decorating the house. In the book I devote a whole section to Christmas and make the point that though exhaustive cleaning was seen as a Christmas tradition, its roots lay in practical necessity and were unrelated to anyone’s religion. My Hindu friends cleaned their houses for Diwali. Other cultures ‘spring’ clean. There are very good reasons why these tenets evolve. Now I get feedback from lots of people who tell me my story evoked their own memories of Christmas. The book is full of these beautiful scenes where you are being teased or you are teasing your sisters, helping mummy or listening to her explanations about life and school. The Catholic nuns in particular feature strongly and had such a hold on your education. You talk about specific details – were there bits that you struggled to remember? No it was all here in my head. People asked me if it was cathartic to write about this time and my answer is ‘no there was nothing to be cathartic about’. But it was sad because it reminded me, brought to the forefront of my mind, the loss of an idyllic childhood with family now scattered to the far corners of the world. Your great grandfather was the one who picked up his bags

So the house that Lucy grows up in is the house that Jack built. I thought no one is going to really understand growing up in this crazy place, so I decided to put it on the cover. The house has subsequently become a Saint Mother Teresa orphanage, which I am happy about. There weren’t many other people who lived like us, so, yes, we were fairly isolated. We also spoke English, so if we walked out of the house into the town there were not many who understood us. The houses in South Delhi are big and have high walls and I remember how isolating that felt when I lived there. We didn’t have high walls because colonial regulations did not allow them, but we had hedges and, strangely enough, it is the same in Canberra in Australia and you see what the connecting thread is – of course, it is Britain. In the book, sadness comes over Lucy as she turns to her father and says, I don't want to leave Kanpur. What were your own thoughts at that time? It was a double-edged sword. While we led an isolated existence, life was interesting and exciting because there was school, learning and books but once we had outgrown that stage, once all the books had been read, our lives were empty. In the book, Lucy watched her eldest sister go through that process so she knows it is inevitable that her time will come. And though the future beckons with twitching, bewitching fingers it is still a wrench to pull up your subterranean roots and leave your heritage behind. The turning point for Lucy was undoubtedly Uncle Hugh’s death. He had narrowly escaped being killed in World War I and had a close relationship with the daughters of the family. He never lost an opportunity to hand out advice to


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craft cafe by

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the girls. “Be careful you are not left holding the ladder for someone else to climb.” “You are intelligent girls, don’t waste your life.” Finally and perhaps my favourite is: “I wish I was in heaven sucking oranges.” His choice of fruit was never explained. He could come down to a child’s level and talk to Lucy in a way she could understand. When Lucy was six years old and her mother went on a pilgrimage to Europe, Lucy missed her dreadfully. Uncle Hugh helped her through this trauma in a constructive way. It was after Uncle Hugh’s funeral that Lucy said to her father, “Daddy I don’t want to leave Kanpur” – he answered, “Neither do I” but then went on to explain very patiently to his youngest daughter why the time had come to leave.

Some people picked up on Uncle Claude and his sexuality but also the suffering that it must have entailed. Others have remembered playing games on the carpet, having to go to confession and singing around the piano. Many readers love the character of the mother. My mother was a very strong character, and had it not been for her perhaps we would not have been half of what we are today. However for the sake of balance and fairness to my parents I dedicated the book to my father. My father mercifully subscribed to non-violent behaviour so we were brought up with respect. He was forward thinking and insisted on a good education for us and on our being whole individuals with a strong sense of entitlement. Finally, what are you working on now?

“We are too different. Our culture is different, adopted from a far off island and left over from a bygone era. You cannot stay in Kanpur. If you do, you’ll be a living sacrifice to the glories of yesteryear.”

My next project is to do with literary essays about non-violence, racism and gender issues. I believe that being brought up in that unique setting I have a different take on these subjects.

Did you have a target audience – who were you writing it for?

Another project involves a new book set in Australia with a heroine or lead character who is Anglo-Indian. The other side of the story will be the parental background and the difference it makes to children as they are growing up in a respectful setting. I write as I celebrate independent India turning 70 on the 15th of August this year.

To start with, my feelings were so strong that I had a unique story to tell, that I just wanted people to read it. I am still surprised at how different people raise different points that resonates with them. It has been rich in that sense.


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Hit the Road by Devanshi Mody

Off the beaten track

Journey with us to a place juxtaposing Siva and Vishnu temples, both millennial and pre-dating the great Chola temples

Would you be curious about a visiting a place where forts have Siva lingams encrusted into their rock bases and cave temples are 2,500 years old? A region reputedly arid but abounding in flora and fauna unfurls motley landscapes and emerald pockets roll into African Savannah-like expanses. My editor is intrigued when asked these questions. And she should be! Who would have guessed that Chettinad could be so varied and wealthy in everything from ancient temples to patches of great natural beauty? Every Chettinad story seems a copy-paste of some prototype designed to perpetuate itself for all eternity, regurgitating the same clichĂŠs about Chettinad mansions, Athankudi tiles and Chettinad cuisine whose grand diversity is reduced to Chettinad chicken and Chettinad vegetables invariably recommended at the same addresses. The year 2011 first brought me to Chettinad. I saw little other than our hotel, Visalam, and the Cricket World Cup matches my brother Samir was addicted to. I have since frequented Chettinad many times, always avoiding Visalam as Samir said we could never match the magic of that experience which must remain sacrosanct. Now, I Photo: Sameer Mody decide my favourite retreat can no longer be resisted. I coerce Samir along, and Mum too. I have an inkling


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that Visalam, nooked in a tranquil village away from chaotic Karaikudi, could bring adventure. Manager Febin Thomas appoints the Mr Ramu, their local guide and a “character,” to unveil Chettinad’s hidden delights. First stop: the Thirumayam temple duo, 7th century Pallava period Siva and Vishnu temples, placed together like a diptych. Boasting splendid architectural features they have the sanctum sanctorum carved into rock upholding the historic Thirumayam Fort on a hillock. The Sathyagirisvarar Siva temple’s enormous lingam looms before an exquisitely sculpted Nandi of commensurately massive proportions. Behind the Nandi shoots up an immense Lingodbhava, a lingam encapsulating Siva whose flowing hair manifests staggering artistry. This temple’s beauty bewitches, the serenity is hypnotic. The July sun pierces fiercely down at us as we cross to the Thirumeyyar Vishnu temple with its terrific 12-armed Chakkarathalwar Vishnu. Beyond pillars bearing gigantic figures and sculpted shrines reclines Renganath, endlessly on the five-headed serpent Anantha attended by saints and celestials. Here, goddess Lakshmi’s absence strikes. A


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At the village Aiyyanar temple filled with terracotta horses, I’m denied the merest glimpse of the deity and instructed not to cross a given point

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priest elucidates that Vishnu’s crooked arm over his heart symbolises Lakshmi held closely there. An open-air enclosure pulsates with nagas embowered in rock beyond which the Thirumayam Fort towers. The Thirumayam Fort arrests with an unexpected lingam concealed in the rock base (arguably unique in India) and accessed via a treacherous ladder. Pilliyarpatti Temple’s stratospheric Ganesh icon is in mammoth proportions, sculpted into a cave. To the original cave temple Ramu attributes over 2,500 years. To its extensions sensational yalis bring beauty. The lovely and neglected Nemam Siva temple set on a large tank enchants with unusual stonework like carvings of a bent old woman whose weakness is accentuated by the superbly chiselled arched spinal cord. Spot the curious dancing sphinx with Ganesh’s head, a woman’s chest and a lion’s body. Pillars are adorned not with the expected yalis but majestic sculptures like Murugan enthroned on a peacock exuding supreme pride, a dancing Perumal and an atypical standing Saraswati bearing the veena in one hand like a spear.


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Photography is strictly prohibited. I implore the priest – just one? Another Siva temple that catches my fancy Ramu dismisses, “Only 600 years old…” Samir chuckles. Abroad, 60-year-old monuments get bestowed UNESCO titles. At the village Aiyyanar temple filled with terracotta horses, I am denied the merest glimpse of the deity and instructed not to cross a given point. Come evening Ramu whisks us past streaming eucalyptus and cashew plantations and water bodies that impress with birds to a forest. You could be in the African savannah. We see an old indigenous banyan tree drooping magnificently over this landscape. We walk into the forest, zigzagged with magnificent butterflies and sporadic bursts of turquoise as a fleeting peacock vanishes like a silken blue ribbon between the arch of trees on which large birds flop heavily. Birds call, tall termite hills conjure Cappadocia and imprinted sand suggests traffic of civet and wild boar. We must tarry into the evening to see them. But it is dinner time. I discover: linen-soft banana parottas (flaky breads), flounces of idli porial (rice cake curry), velveteen curry leaf kulambu (tangy gravy) jazzing crafty little ghee dosas (pancakes) and elai sapadus (full-course meals) where mango

pachchadis (chutney of sorts) and ghee-roasted banana stem attain epicurean pinnacles. The extensive and intricate use of spices resolves into softly undulating flavours that strum the palate teasingly. Chettinad cuisine is spiced, not spicy, it is finally demonstrated. It can be dulcet too, emphasise my inaugural aadi kumbayan (Chettinadu lentil sweet drenched in lush black jaggery), semolina and white jaggery ukra (a mushy sweet), kavuni arisi (purple sticky rice sweet) and semolina and coconut Rangoon puttu (steam cake). Textures are as nimble as a scurrying Chettinadu peacock. At breakfast, dal-studded kappa (tapioca) puttu with brinjal and potato avial (stew) awes. A blushing bougainvillea from the flowered canopy over the outdoors breakfast pavilion gently descends upon our meal – an unexpected ingredient this! I muse, “Chettinad deserves lingering over. It has it all – mansions, temples, flora, fauna, gastronomy and cunning young chefs.” Ramu interjects, “But Chettinad has no shopping, so people won’t stay.” Hasn’t it? Saris, woven plastic baskets, terracotta pots, Siddha stores that entice Mum into buying remedies for every conceivable ailment – imagined too. Karaikudi’s antique market possesses me and black palm sugar or organic mill-fresh coconut oil can inspire dedicated shopping expeditions.


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Look Who's in Town Chennai By Jane Kataria

King of space An exciting interview with cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, who is among the only two people from Earth to have spent over one year in space

Who hasn’t dreamt of travelling in space? Those sci-fi movies sure do make it all look easy. Watching Star Wars makes one think space is accessible to all! While that may not be the case yet in reality, there are few people who have devoted their lives to bridging the gap between the boundless starry skies and the land on which we live. These people are called either cosmonauts or astronauts or taikonauts depending upon whether the spacecraft was launched by Russia, the United States or China, respectively. There are very few who have been launched into space from this Earth, and it was indeed my singular honour to meet Mikhail Kornienko, a Russian cosmonaut who has been bestowed with the highest title of Russia, the Gold Star of Russian Federation. He is not only a cosmonaut but also one of the only two people from Earth who has spent over one year in space. Jane Kataria: Good afternoon Mr. Kornienko. Welcome to Chennai. How do you like India? Have you been to India before and what brings you here? Mikhail Kornienko: Good afternoon. This is my first visit to India and to Chennai. I first visited Mumbai, then Kudankulam, the nuclear power plant built by Russia’s Rosatom, and now I am in Chennai. During my visit, I will be giving lectures in several universities, colleges and schools under Rosatom’s programme to popularise Russian science and technology.


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JK: Talking about technology, how easy or difficult is it to reach the International Space Station? MK: Technology is constantly improving and I must say that now it has become much easier to reach the International Space Station (ISS). It takes just six hours, and the G-force that cosmonauts are subjected to has also reduced. For example, in 2010 it took us two days to travel to the space station and it wasn’t very good for our health to be in a confined space for two days, in a capsule; sleep and meal intake during that travel were not very comfortable. Now in six hours of takeoff we are at the station where cosmonauts prepare a good lunch for us when we arrive hungry. And we can change and even shave… JK: What is a day like at the ISS? MK: We have a very well-defined routine. Wake up, hygiene, treadmill and fitness, breakfast and then the work starts. We receive different tasks from Houston USA, Mission Control Center from Russia, and from Japan. We perform a lot of tests, conduct different experiments and collect all the data. JK: How did you decide to become a cosmonaut? Was it your childhood dream like it is for many young boys? MK: My father was a pilot working in a cosmonaut rescue-team. And I wanted to become a pilot as well. But I couldn’t pass all the medical requirements, so I served in the army and tried to become a cosmonaut. And, yes, you can say my childhood dream came true. JK: But how is it possible that you, at the age of 57 now, have such perfect health to pass all medical requirements for a cosmonaut? I have been an air hostess and I know that many pilots retire at the age of 45. MK: I celebrated my 50th birthday and my 55th birthday in orbit. I look forward to celebrating my 60th birthday in the space station as well. (Smiles) JK- Amazing! Congratulations! And what is the secret of your excellent physique and health? MK: See, I am a military man. Discipline is the main key and, of course, no bad habits like smoking, drinking. Plus morning exercises. JK: Unbelievable! Most of us follow the same rules, but I don't think we can ever pass to be cosmonauts…. What are the requirements for space tourists; do they have to have to go through the same procedure? MK: Space tourism is a commercial travel. All that you

We have a very well-defined routine. Wake up, hygiene, treadmill and fitness, breakfast and then the work starts. We receive different tasks from Houston USA, Mission Control Center from Russia, and from Japan. We perform a lot of tests, conduct different experiments, and collect all the data need is about $50 million or so and you are in. The tough physical screening of cosmonauts does not apply to space tourists. JK: Well, probably because they go just as visitors? MK: Exactly. They are like children in a museum who are not allowed to touch anything. Basically, the cosmonauts


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work in space, completing different tasks, while space tourists only visit. It is good if you can spend so much why not make your dream come true. Space tourists enjoy the breathtaking views of the Earth from the space station. JK: You spent five-and-a-half hours in open space. What did you feel, how did you prepare, were you scared? MK: Cosmonauts are not super humans; we also have fears. Moving in orbit without a roof above one’s head and witnessing more than 15 sunrises and sunsets in a day is challenging. It is hard both physically and emotionally. Wearing a space suit, we dive into the endless cosmos. It immediately becomes warm when the sun rises and cold when it sets. Space walking is an experience like none other. JK: What motivates a one-year stay at the space station? MK: We have a mission to prepare humanity for long distance travel, like to Mars. I realise that the ability to do so is partially upon me. It is for a greater cause. JK: What do you miss most in space? What do you ask from Earth? MK: We can order different things from Earth and we can even receive parcels from our families. We are always happy to receive fresh oranges, apples, onions and garlic because these are so rare aboard the space station. I requested for posters of nature and sounds of nature such as that of

We have a mission to prepare humanity for long distance travel, like to Mars. the ability to do so is partially upon me thunderstorm, rainfall, the rustling leaves, gurgling creeks, crushing waves, and chirping of birds. When my colleague Kelly Scott heard these sounds, he right away asked for a recording. Being away from Earth, we miss the beauty of mother Earth in its simplicity. JK: And how does the Earth looks from space? MK: Earth looks amazing from the orbit. In spite of having a carefully scripted and heavy workload, cosmonauts enjoy every glimpse of the mother Earth. It is mesmerising. Enchanting! I miss the picture-perfect views of the Mediterranean Sea holding within itself the harp-shaped Cyprus. There are no countries and no boundaries from space, it is one blue world. There is no other planet that we call home.


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Look Who's in Town Mumbai

‘Don’t want to leave India’

Meet Danny Carroll, a British national who has lived and worked in India for over 20 years When I was first offered the opportunity to come to India on business, I refused the job as I did not eat Indian food! That was at the beginning of 1996 and I was supposed to come on a six-month posting, and I am still here. My neighbours in London were from Delhi. So I spent time with them. They asked me two questions. Where was I staying? And I was in 5-star hotels. So they advised that food would not be an issue. Did I have a return ticket? And I did. So they advised, ‘go out and give it a try and if you don’t like it, just come back!’ Needless to say, I didn’t go back. Then & Now Before I came to India, I did not want to come. Now I live in India, I do not want to leave! Celebrating India The craziest festival I have been a part of is probably the Holi festival – the festival of colours in March. Getting covered in different coloured paints was also fun at that time but created some issues. I have white hair and found that it took me weeks to get the pink paint off it, so I walked around with pink hair for weeks! About work in India Being a cigar aficionado myself, I was delighted to be selected as the Brand Ambassador for Gurkha Cigars in India, and last year Sofitel Mumbai BKC had launched a Cigar Lounge in association with Gurkha Cigars. It has been a privilege to bring an urbane lounge for enthusiasts in the city. The property offers all the essential luxury elements expected from a five-star hotel for both domestic and international travellers. I had recently experienced the

5-Senses Weekend Staycation package with my wife at the property, which was introduced on the occasion of the hotel completing five years. The offer helps guests indulge all their five senses including taste, smell, touch, hearing and sight through a collection of luxurious services and facilities, including a luxury car pick-up and drop anywhere within Mumbai, a rejuvenation spa treatment for a couple, a special makeover for my wife at their SJP Salon and a delicious spread of breakfast, buffet dinner along with sinful chocolates, macarons and other exquisite in-room amenities. Travel tales I have travelled and lived in many places in India. One of my most memorable experiences was working and living in the coal mining area of Bihar in a place called Dhanbad. It felt like going back hundreds of years in human development and progress. And working two kilometres underground, and a further two kilometres away from the bottom of the lift shaft in over 130 degrees humidity really was an experience that left an impression on me! Two places that I am yet to visit and very keen to go to are Varanasi (during the Kumbh Mela) and Puducherry, which I, shamefully, still have not been to.


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At Global Adjustments by Team Culturama

Supporting women entrepreneurs

Rohini Manian, CEO, Global Adjustments and Editor-in-Chief of Culturama Living, was one of the distinguished jury members of Homepreneur Awards 2017 held at the Lady Andal Auditorium on August 6. The initiative was started by Brand Avatar to applaud and celebrate women who have successfully turned their unique ideas into flourishing businesses from home. After receiving an overwhelming 8,000 entries, 150 women were interviewed personally and 50 we rewarded. “I am very happy to have been associated with Homepreneur Awards and I believe it is extremely important to recognise talent, especially when it comes from women. If you educate and support a woman, you educate a family and promote the nation. The idea of running a business from home opens many doors for the family. We, at Global Adjustments, are very happy to support this initiative,� says Rohini who not only encouraged women participants but also decided to support two of them in enhancing their business.

The Homepreneur Award has been a huge motivation, and has came at the right time. Moreover, Rohini Manian coming in as an investor was an unexpectedly pleasant outcome. This has given me great confidence that my business will reach the next level very soon and that my clothing line will be in the market soon.

Shalini Visakan I am proud and honoured to have won the Homepreneur Award as well as to have been chosen as one of the top 18 women being offered mentoring and investment support! I thank Rohini Manian for being my mentor and I am sure with her guidance and support I will be able to excel.

Sheetal Diya Kinger


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Learn from the Bhagavad Gita by Team Culturama

Chapter 14 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.

Live a lifestyle that matches your vision Photo: Allison Joy Jacobson, USA

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Picture Story by Advika Srinivasan

Mobile Mayhem

Photo: Basia Kruszewska

Being on an Indian road is a sureshot way to find those perfect kodak moments. For where else will you see nimble motorcycles speed past loaded bullock carts? Cars driving frantically beside autorickshaws or trucks overloaded with goods, but this is nothing in comparison to the clamorous buses with people spilling out of the doors. If you are lucky, you might spot a towering elephant or a camel in the midst of all the chaos in Kerala or Rajasthan. Here are some astonishing sights that can only take place on our roads in India...

red' right I am just so 'ty

, France

erre Benichou

now! Photo: Pi


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Celebrating ayudha pooja with our trusty ol' bikes! Photo: Mia Kotakorpi, Finland

Fuel costs are sky-high these days, but I am hardly worried. Photo: Melissa Enderle, USA

Did I mention, I love coconuts? Photo: Bernadette Baars

Sometimes finding a decent parking spot is my biggest worry. Not today, though. Photo: Virgine Bompoil, France


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Festivals of India This september india celebrates onam and navratri

Onam

September 4

The traditional harvest festival of Kerala, Onam, is celebrated in the state over 10 days. It is believed that this is the time when the mythical king Mahabali pays a visit to the land. Mahabali had been so popular that the Gods in heaven became afraid of his power and banished him from his land; he was, however, given a boon that he could visit his subjects every year. People decorate the doorsteps of their homes with flower pookkalam or patterns, and take part in feasts and sports to mark the return of their beloved king. The last three days of Onam are regarded as the most important. To do: The Onam sadya or feast is a mouth-watering collection of delicacies specially made for the festival. There are also competitions for the best pookkalam or flower pattern, in which you can participate.


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IN  T HIS MAGAZINE

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Navratri

September 21–September 29 ‘Navratri’, which means ‘nine nights’ is a nine-day festival that honours three female manifestations in the Hindu pantheon – Durga, the goddess of primal energy, Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, and Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge. An interesting aspect of this festival is that its celebrations are solely dedicated to showcasing and celebrating the feminine aspect of the universe. The first three days are said to be dedicated to Goddess Durga, the next three to Goddess Lakshmi and the last three days to Goddess Saraswati. Celebrations vary from state to state. In Tamil Nadu in the south, Navratri is marked by the custom of Kolu – a display of dolls ranging from that of deities to scenes from village life. The Mysore Dasara, celebrated in Karnataka, another southern state, is a grand 10-day affair. The city of Mysore has a long tradition of celebrating the Dasara festival and the festivities attract a large audience including foreigners. In the eastern regions, particularly in West Bengal, Durga Puja is a key part of the celebrations. Colourful idols of the goddess slaying the demon Mahishasura add to the gaiety of the occasion. In keeping with the festivities, aarti, a form of

homage, is performed to the beat of the dhak (a drum), while some followers perform a dance called dhunuchi naach. In Gujarat in the western part of the country, the garba raas and dandiya raas play a huge role in the celebrations. Another festival that comes under the banner of Navratri is Dussehra, which is especially popular in the north. Celebrated after the nine days of Navratri, it is supposed to mark the triumph of Lord Rama (an avatar of Lord Vishnu, the Creator of the Universe) over the ten-headed demon ruler Ravana, who had abducted Sita, Rama’s wife. In North India, celebrations are held in the form of parades known as Ram Lila, where the viewer sees passages enacted from the epic Ramayana (which details the life of Lord Rama). A much-awaited part of the celebrations is the burning of giant effigies of Ravana, which involves a significant exhibition of pyrotechnics. The day after Navratri, called Vijaya Dashami, is a time when people begin new ventures or begin their first class in art forms such as music and dance.


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Myth and Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik

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Icons for Vajranabhi Cultural imagery cannot be proved historically. But they are markers of faith that give meaning to the lives of the faithful


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Vajranabhi, son of Aniruddha, grandson of Pradyumna, and great-grandson of Krishna, was king of Mathura and leader of the Yadava clan. He had heard a lot about Krishna, lovingly called Shyam, and so wondered how his illustrious ancestor actually looked. Sadly, no one he knew in Vraja had actually seen him.

and turned around for his devotees; Balaji of Tirumalai in Andhra who waits atop the seven hills for Lakshmi; Ranganatha of Srirangam in Tamil Nadu who reclines like Vishnu on the Ocean of Milk; and Guruvayurappan in Kerala, the child who appeared with four arms. These icons anchor the Bhagavata culture of Hinduism.

So Vajranabhi went to the city of Hastinapur, in Kurukshetra, on the banks of the Ganga, and enquired if anyone there had seen him. “I was too young when he came here,” said King Parikshit, son of Abhimanyu, grandson of Arjuna, the great Pandava.

Is this story true? For devotees it is true. Whenever they see a sacred image of Krishna in a temple, they feel they have seen a portion of Krishna’s transcendental beauty. And that fulfils them. Historians will not see this story as fact, as it is based on faith, not evidence. For them, it is simply a cultural imagery.

“I remember him,” said Parikshit’s mother, Uttara, now the old dowager, bent on a stick. She explained how Krishna had protected Parikshit, while he was still in her womb, from being injured by weapons hurled by Drona’s son, Ashwatthama, who had killed every other child of the Pandavas. She then proceeded to describe Krishna. Uttara’s description of Krishna was so spectacular that Vajranabhi commissioned many artists to capture the beauty of Krishna in stone. He told them all that he had heard from Uttara, his voice capturing her passion. But the beauty was so grand, so transcendent, that not one of the artists captured it completely. Some captured the beauty of his fingers, some the beauty of his toes, some the beauty of his smile. Vajranabhi worshipped all these images. Over time these images were taken by devotees to different parts of India and now we know them by various names: Banke Bihari of Vrindavan who holds the flute and bends like a dancer; the four-armed Ranchor-rai of Dakor in Gujarat, who withdrew from the battlefield; Srinath-ji of Nathdvara in Udaipur who holds aloft the Govardhan mountain; Sakshi Gopal of Odisha who bears witness to his devotees; Vitthala of Pandharpur in Maharashtra, who waits, arms akimbo, for his devotees; Krishna of Udupi in Karnataka who holds the cowherd staff

Likewise, there are many places in the world associated with other sacred figures. There are places with Buddha’s footprint. In the Buddhist world, there are places with Buddha’s relics such as his tooth and his hair. In Myanmar, there is even a stupa that claims to be the resting place of the left testicle; there is a separate shrine for the right. In Saudi Arabia, there are caves that mark the place where the Prophet Muhammad had his first revelation (ultraconservative Islamic forces forbid people from granting this place special status). In Jerusalem, there are churches that mark when Christ was buried. None of these can be proved historically. But they are markers of faith that give meaning to the lives of the faithful.

Published on 23 July, 2017, in Mid-day. Reprinted with permission from devdutt.com


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Learn a yoga pose by Namita Jain

Plough pose

Your body needs to be really flexible to do this pose. Lie on your back and raise both legs. With hands below the hips, lift your torso gradually off the floor, in a smooth movement and slowly lower both feet to

the floor behind your head. Legs should be straight and toes should touch the floor. Benefits: Stimulates the thyroid and abdominal organs; stretches the legs and spine.


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Holistic Living by Eknath Easwaran

In order to be what you want to be, you have to cease being what you are


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

I am a very hard-nosed person. I don’t get taken in by words and speeches professing high ideals. I ask, “How are you spending your time? What are your main preoccupations? How many pastimes consume energy and resources which you could be using to help others?” This is what ideals are about in practice: not what you say or what you write but how you order your life, how you apportion your time, how you distribute your resources, how you behave in everyday relationships. I don’t even go by financial contributions. I look at a person’s life, at the way his mind works, the way she goes through the whole day. Many of the careerists in those interviews worked in service professions. But the Buddha would remind us to look at the mental state involved. By thinking only about themselves, they ended up in an interior world where values dear to them had been ignored. Meister Eckhart, a great mystic of medieval Europe, made a pithy remark: “In order to be what you want to be, you have to cease being what you are.” It’s a painful reminder but a necessary one. Ideals are merely ideas until we translate them into daily life and that means learning to go against the conditioning that urges us to put ourselves first instead. Where meditation shines Today we often hear that the best way to help the world is for each of us to change ourselves. But I wonder how many really understand what this means. It implies much more than changing lifestyle. We need to go on changing and improving our thought-style. It is true that when we drive less, for example, we are contributing to cleaner air. And it is true that such examples spread, and that big changes consist of many individual choices. But that is only the surface. Every decision you make for others, against your own conditioning, sets in motion changes deep in personality. Deeper resources that will find new opportunities for selfless service are released. That is why whenever I see somebody changing herself to be kinder or more selfless, my heart leaps in delight. That person is changing the world a little, leaving it a little better than before. This is where meditation shines. In meditation we have the mightiest tool for changing our personality completely. And the marvel of it is that every way of thinking that you’ve been conditioned to, every way of speaking, acting and living can be changed into the perfect image of your highest ideals. In this sense, meditation can be presented as armour that

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can protect anyone from the siren call of social pressure and the mass media to ignore their ideals and throw their lives away in living for themselves. Come home to your ideals That is why I teach meditation. I am all ears when somebody says, “I don’t know how to be kind. I don’t know how to release deeper resources to make my life count.” I say, “I can teach you!” That is what meditation is for. Memorise a passage on kindness, memorie a passage on goodness, and then drive it inwards. You will become kind; you will become good. In practice, the spiritual life means remaking personality to reach the highest ideals that have been bequeathed to humanity by great teachers in all the world’s major religions.

or a clerk, it is possible to embody the highest ideals in your character and conduct.

When you meditate on passages from the world’s great scriptures and mystics, you are filling your mind with the highest ideals a human being can aspire to. Everyone can learn to do this. If you are one of the great majority of human beings who have allowed their ideals to get vague around the edges, meditation can sharpen and strengthen them. Simply refreshing these ideals in meditation can bring an immediate sense of relief, as if coming home again after a long absence or finding something precious you had lost and forgotten.

As meditation takes root in your life, however, greater opportunities will come. A great many people who have come to me in the course of this work have found, as their meditation deepened, that unsuspected faculties for service began to flow into their hands. Some found ways to channel these resources into existing jobs; others found new opportunities opening for them, such as a volunteer position in community service. One way or another, such opportunities will come the way of everyone with the deep desire to serve.

A deep desire to serve Many people have come to me to ask my opinion of what career they should pursue. I always told them, “Don’t ask what you want to do. Don’t ask what will pay the best salary or what promises the most prestige. Ask what the world needs that you can offer.” For those who are just setting out in life, I would appeal to you to choose a career that gives your ideals the fullest room for expression.

Many of these people responded by finding work in health care or education, where high ideals are precious. But a few chose to help me with their careers, not only basing their lives on meditation but sharing the work of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation. This lofty calling is rare, but in every generation, I feel sure, a few will arise who want to help carry the precious gift of meditation to millions of others around the world.

At the beginning, it need not matter what your occupation is so long as it is not at the expense of life. Whether you are a concert pianist or an athlete, a teacher Reprinted with permission from ‘Turning Ideals Into Action: The Spiritual Challenge’ by Eknath Easwaran from The Blue Mountain Journal. Copyright The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, P.O. Box 256, Tomales, CA 94971, www.easwaran.org. (Extract from https:// www.bmcm.org/inspiration/journals/)


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Culturama September 2017  

This month, Culturama is raising awareness about the state of India's rivers. Check out our cover story on the 'Rally for Rivers' and more.