Page 1


India's Only Cultural Magazine for Global Citizens

VOLUME 3, iSSUE 10 december 2012

Brought to you by Global Adjustments

Centre stage

Celebrating India’s performing folk traditions


culturama | december 2012

D e a r

D e a r

R e a d e r s

R e a d e r s

AS WE bow to the year that has been and welcome the year to come, we picked the traditional Indian gesture of humble pride called ‘Namaste’ – ‘I bow to the divine in you’ – SOMEBODY once said, “Thean soul is healed by being with for me as our cover picture. It was exhilarating experience children.” AndinI couldn’t agree with that more. Their smile that recently the most famous Krishna temple, Guruvayoor, in always reaches their untouched eyes is like a beacon of light Kerala, to see this dance at midnight when performers bring in this quagmire everyday effortlessly bringing us emotion andofrhythm toroutine, life in the courtyard, and devotees back the present. I have always believed thatsmoothed independent sittocross-legged on old cobblestones, with age. India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru (read about him A thousand little lamps are lit by devotees around the in our Past Tens column), probably appreciated it the most, a sanctum, and in the glow of this light we are reminded of the much-needed respite from his difficult political path, which is light within each of us by Kathakali dancers and drummers, why children held a special place in his life. It is this sentiment and musicians. I thought an apt14, symbolic thatchanters India celebrates as ‘Children’s Day’this on was November image to share with our readers as we go into the season of Nehru’s birth anniversry. Christmas, the to world the green and redI colours As we sat down planover, this issue of Culturama, asked even matching the make-up on the dancers’ masks. myself, “When does childhood end and adulthood begin?” Christmas usually flurry of “gift” buying I am writing this note from means my girl’sahigh school reunion in and storesWe doing business “new” ideas. This year, how Mumbai. met brisk last as a groupwith of giggling 16-year-olds, ready to enter wide world young adults. about givingthe a special gift,as along with yourThirty-four material gifts, to years wentones? by and we rediscovered “gang” viacan the power loved If there are peoplethe who hurt us, we give them of Facebook. we met up, weIfwere "wise" womenwe in our the gift ofWhen total forgiveness? there are people have hurt, 50s;let sous much changed yet so much apology. was the same. givehad them a giftand of our sincere If there are We had who to reintroduce to people we sat incan thewe give people have beenourselves waiting for our company, same bench with for 13 years in classroom after classroom. them the gift of our undivided attention and time? These Our features were vaguely familiar but age had withered or gifts will stay in their hearts, long after the material gift has weathered us a bit… squeals of delight were heard as the withered and vanished. Like the Namaste, it will give joy to guessing game with quizzical expressions led us to discover receiver and the giver. whothe each one was. Going back to school and then spending Read on about touching and fun stories this end-ofa weekend in the hills nearby, we exchanged our lifeinstories; the-year Culturama as we present the gift of India’s precious life had happened without us even knowing it – there had stories and experiences. Read about India’s been cancer, loss of a child, loss of parents, brain folk and performing lung traditions in ourbells Feature story; sharethrough the Christmas spirit with surgeries, wedding and divorce…but it all there expatriate across as theso country in our Look hadour been grit and friends determination many women had Who’s scaled great section; corporateand ladders, run in Town spareset a up fewbusinesses momentsand remembering spectacular homes and offices.ofWe cried,through laughed,the sang, the devastating Tsunami 2004 ‘Currently danced and came back And relieved we still cared. Occupied’ column. do have a look the glitz and glamour And back with the feeling thatIndia the soul is also Photo of ourI came spectacular annual Beautiful Expatriate healed by being with childhood friends. So this issue, Competition awards ceremony on page 56. rediscover the child in you through our Feature story that traces India’s folk storytelling traditions; our A to Z that Ranjini Manian lists India’s popular children’s literature, television series Editor-in-Chief and movies trand our popular Child Friendly column by our E-mail: youngest writer. Finally, do reach out to a childhood friend this month and celebrate India’s Children’s Day in your own way. Happy Diwali to all our readers! Ranjini Manian Editor-in-Chief E-mail:

Follow us on

READERS SURVEY The Reader's view makes it all new!

The 15th Annual Beautiful India Expatriate Photo Competition

DEAR theentries! year ends a new one and send is nowREADERS, waiting forAs your Win and exciting prizes joinus usyour valuable input and help to change a good begins to do Awards a revamp of Culturama to suit your magazine on it's way to a perfect one. Thank you very forwe thehope stunning Ceremony! *!! Visit /Ů(!/! 0'!Ŋ)%*10!/0+7((%*+1.+*(%*!/1.2!50+ much for your time and thoughts! Please visit: culturama | december 2012


contents 24

8 Present tens

A Sure Shot

12 Past Tens

NOTHING speaks louder than words spoken in silence, thoughts shared in gestures or emotions lighting up one's eyes. In India's traditional performing arts, there is a world of stories waiting to be discovered, much like India's own little surprises hidden in the corner of life experiences. Our cover image is a fitting image for this issue that celebrates all that has been and all that is yet to come through words, thoughts and emotions lighting up, well, our pages! Photo Elena Eder, Germany

Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian

Consultant Editor praveena shivram

creative head J K Behera Editorial Coordinator Shefali Ganesh

Associate Designer Prem Kumar


Chennai trishla jain

Bengaluru mukundan T

Delhi-NCR preeti bindra, ruchika srivastava

MS Subbulakshmi 14 Short message service

Snippets of Indian Culture

18 A-Z of INdia

All's Fair in India

20 in your kitchen

Fun, Unlimited

50 seeing India

24 Feature

Home of Snow

Centre Stage 30 Look who's in town

Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai

56 at global adjustments

15th Annual Beautiful India Expatriate Photo Competition

44 season special

62 Holistic living

Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai

Note Worthy & Concert Listings

Bound Together

64 currently occupied

Time & Tide

48 picture story

Sea of Change


Handle with Care

Mumbai & Pune Farah bakshay


Advisory Committee N Ram, Camilla Skaremyr Krook, G Venket Ram, Marina Marangos, Suzanne Mcneill, Babette verbeek

Bengaluru 7/2, Edward Road, Off Cunningham Road, Bangalore - 560 052. Tel.+91-80-41267152 E-mail: Delhi-Gurgaon Level 4, Augusta Point, DLF Golf Course Road, Sector-53, Gurgaon - 122 002. Haryana. Tel.+91-124-435 4236. E-mail:

Happy Feat

38 Calendars

E-Culturama Shezina Kallarakkal, Samyuktha Sunil

Chennai (Headquarters) 5, 3rd Main Road, R. A. Puram, Chennai 600028, India Telefax. +91-44-24617902 E-mail:

54 being India

Feel the Pulse





Girl Interrupted & Chaupar

71 iseries

Book, Movie and Music Review

72 Tell us your story

Mumbai/Pune Rustom Court, 2nd Floor, Dr. Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai 400030. Tel.+91-22-66104191/2 E-mail:

The House Whisperer

74 & 76 space and the city Published and owned by Ranjini Manian at #5, 3rd Main Road, Raja Annamalai Puram, Chennai – 600028 and printed by Vivek Sachdev at NPT Offset Press Pvt.Ltd., Royapettah, Chennai - 600014. Editor: Ranjini Manian


culturama | december 2012


Property Listings


Letters to the Editor `40

Dear Editor, “The November issue of Culturama looked great! My family in South Africa enjoyed reading it and I can’t wait to share it with my friends too.” — Sunel Botes, South Africa


India's Only Cultural Magazine for Global Citizens

Dear Editor, “The festivals page in Culturama gives great insights with practical tips. I saw the Ganesh immersion thanks to it!”

Brought to you by Global Adjustments

— Patricia Harris, USA Dear Editor,

AUTOMATIC MAGIC Rediscovering the charm of childhood

— Allan Beacon, UK

Dear Editor, “I was going through the November edition of Culturama and as always, the glossy cover and the contents held my attention. But what moved me into emailing you was your splendid editorial about getting together with your school mates and how Facebook helped. I had a similar reunion with my school mates thanks to Facebook too. This issue certainly brought back memories of that reunion!” — Vancheeshwar Ramachandran, India Dear Editor, “I loved the article about my daughter Deepika Kurup in your November issue! This is so far the best article about her. Even though I loved the fact that you called her a genius, I think she is just hardworking and motivated. Keep up the good work in Culturama! It is a very good magazine, especially for people like us who are so far away from home.” — Meena Pradip or Kurup?, USA Dear Editor, “Culturama is such a beautiful magazine. I am so glad to be a part of it. I learn from it every issue and have relied on it since I got to Chennai!” — Kate Cathey, USA


“My family and I chuckled when we read the Child Friendly column about smart phones in the October issue of Culturama. It was indeed real observations by one so young.”

culturama | december 2012

“I have been enjoying Culturama since July and I really enjoy its content. Although Culturama already offers a lot and is very complete, there are a few more things I would like to read about. For instance, what happened in India in the past month? It could be a short update on the most important news events of India. The other thing would be to bring up the quality of your photographs. Already, the magazine is very dense in content, so the images should lift up and sell the content. It should also be interesting for people who just flip through it and then might get an incentive to read after seeing an image. And finally, Culturama offers so many stories that it makes the contents page a bit overwhelming. Why not group stories together under different sections? For example, India Leisure, India History, Expat Service, etc? Or, if it gets too hard to categorise the different stories, highlight the best ones of the month. Give them a bit more space, maybe an extra teaser line to sell them and add an illustration." — Babette Verbeek joins Culturama’s advisory board starting this month. She is from The Netherlands and comes with 10 years of publishing and media experience. As an avid Culturama reader, she shared her valuable insights that are being incorporated in Culturama’s future plans. If you would like to give us suggestions too, please do take our five-minute reader survey at


Jai Hind! Bharat Bala with children during the shoot of ‘Aao School Chale Hum’ or ‘Come Let's go to School ‘ video

A Sure Shot IN 1997, when India’s national song, ‘Vande Mataram’, hit television screens, two things happened: one, from a largely South Indian music composer, A R Rahman became a national sensation with his rendition of the song that struck a chord with young India; two, the spectacular music video that accompanied the song, capturing India with a hunger that pulsated through every frame in slow motion, made its creator, Bharat Bala, a household name. That’s probably ironic, considering Bharat Bala’s 300-odd advertisements had been a part of our lives for much longer, with memorable campaigns like Nescafe Classic, Incredible India, Bajaj, Tanishq and more. A critically acclaimed and award winning filmmaker (ads, documentaries and features), screenwriter and producer, Bharat Bala’s stamp of creativity is that smooth luminescence of dynamic thought on screen. If his advertisements changed the approach to branding, then his debut feature film, 'Hari Om,' pushed the boundaries of Indian crossover cinema, and his music videos,remain a class apart. Based in Mumbai and Chennai, Bharat Bala talks about the changing face of cinema in the country in an exclusive chat with Culturama. Fifteen years after Vande Mataram, and the magic remains untouched. What would you attribute its success to? Vande Mataram is a historical song that is associated with India and reflects not just patriotism, but also passion, vision, commitment and permanency. I wanted this album to be a timeless piece that even decades later, would remain contemporary. That is how I visualised this project when we started out. I believe that it is this quality that gives it its magic. There was also a passion that my father ignited in me when I was at the peak of my advertising career. He was a Gandhian and asked me, “When you can make products like coffee sell, why not sell patriotism to Indians?” He spoke of how the chant of Vande Matram had them beaten up during the freedom struggle. In the 1990s, when patriotism was lost, this was a radical thought that inspired me.


culturama | december 2012

Given that your wife, Kanika Bala, is an editor and co-creator of BharatBala Productions’ films, how do you sort the creative differences that are bound to crop up? The fact that both of us are creative people actually helps us a lot. There may be no clear boundaries at times on what we work on, but there is always a certain amount of give and take. Our ideas add strength to any concept we work on. Films are a larger-than-life medium and require some amount of passion and dedication. The belief and support that Kanika adds makes our ideas a sure winner. Your friendship with A R Rahman goes back many years and that’s probably one of the reasons why your collaborations with him are so successful. Do you think familiarity with collaborators makes better films? Or in this age of ‘newness’, is experimenting with new talent important? We are good friends and that adds to the belief he has in me and my thoughts. More than a technician, he is a creative person who needs to understand the idea behind the project to give

his best. That definitely makes the collaboration a winner. The fact that he has firm faith in my mad commitment to ideas makes us work. Yes, I do believe in exploring new talent as well. ‘Hari Om’ had British-Indian musician Nitin Sawhney composing the music. Simply because at that time I was listening to his songs! How do you handle criticism in an industry where you are as good as your last project? Criticism comes and goes and is, for me, just a good learning. When I made ‘Hari Om, it was not released in India. At the same time, we had rave reviews in Tokyo, Toronto and across the world. I had hopes of it doing well in India, but I guess it was

I do not think that enthusiasm can be drained if one has focus in life. Focus helps sustain this passion. I will always believe in, ‘Say what you have to say 100%’

Bharat Bala directs the cast of ‘Hari Om’ culturama | december 2012


We do live in exciting times in cinema today, but we are also more dependent on technology. I feel older movies actually tell a story better. We live in a racy age and audiences rarely seem to understand that technology is just a tool

too early for small productions like that to succeed here. I did not take that as a let down; instead, I looked at how people across nationalities laughed at all the right places in the film. I learnt that language doesn’t really matter, as long as the film communicates the same to all people! Charlie Chaplin once said that the hardest thing about making a film is to sustain the initial enthusiasm. Would you agree? What do you do to sustain your enthusiasm? I do not think that enthusiasm can be drained if one has focus in life. I take in things one at a time. When ‘Vande Mataram’ happened, I did not do ad films for a few years. Focus helps sustain this passion. Any idea, I believe, requires your fullest support and passion to cut through. I will always believe in, ‘Say what you have to say 100%’. Eight years after your first full-length feature film, you are now working on your next, ‘Mariyaan’. Ideally, how long do you let the story ferment in your mind before it comes on to the page? Developing a story idea takes a few months at the most. But my investment is in the time with scripts and getting the characters all fleshed out. Between the two movies for example, I had almost six scripts, but all of them don’t necessarily work out. Filmmaking requires focus and, yes, investment of time. How crucial do you think is language to the process of filmmaking? For instance, was it a conscious choice to make your first film in Hindi/English? And now, ‘Mariyaan’, in Tamil? First of all, I am an Indian. I hail from the South, was brought up in the North, worked in the ad industry in Mumbai. So it is not a choice of languages, it is more about understanding the sensibility behind it. ‘Hari Om’ happened in Hindi with a little English thrown in. ‘Mariyaan’ is based on real-life incidents and makes sense in Tamil. It is just the comfort level that one has with the making of a film. Today, given a chance, I can even attempt a film in Japanese. When you began work on ‘Taj Mahal’ in the IMAX format in 2004, it created quite a stir. Is that project still on? IMAX technology gives the movie-goer an immersive experience in a realistic way. IMAX is still new to India and there are only 600 screens across the world. So IMAX films essentially cater to a world audience. Yes, we are working on Taj Mahal too. It takes almost eight to ten years to make a film in this technology and I view it like a lifetime project for me! We seem to be living in exciting times in cinema today; not just fantastic movies are being made, but


culturama | december 2012

Filmi Fundas

• In 2002, a poll conducted by the BBC World Service ranked Vande Maataram as the second most famous songs of all time. Watch this video At: bfu6wm9 • Their second popular music video was ‘Jana Gana Mana’, India’s national anthem, featuring various musical giants of India. Watch this video At: http://tinyurl. com/54pvbr • HARI om won several awards including the best foreign film Award at the 2005 tahoe international film festival, and the best debut filmmaker award at the 2005 bangkok international film festival. • Bharat Bala directed the 2010 Commonwealth Games’ opening ceremony and its official music video as well. • BharatBala Productions is also working on a film featuring Nobel Peace Prize winners from across the world called ‘Gurus of Peace’.

even the audiences are a lot more discerning. Is it more creatively satisfying being a filmmaker today, as against, say, 10 years ago? I would say it is the other way around. We do live in exciting times, but we are also more dependent on technology. I feel older movies actually tell a story better. We live in a racy age and audiences rarely seem to understand that technology is just a tool. Finally, what are the three things you would tell aspiring filmmakers to stay ahead of the competition today? I would advice filmmakers to make films with passion and give the audience something to take home from the movie. Secondly, stay focused. Believe in your idea and your story. Don’t compromise the idea and you will see it deliver. Be true to yourself. Lastly, be fearless, it will speak for who you are.

culturama | december 2012


Past Tens

An Indian's footprint worth following

S u san P hi l ip

MS Subbulakshmi

A woman of serene beauty, clad in glowing Kancheepuram saris, Indian classical musician, MS Subbulakshmi, is still alive in the minds of her fans, as they let her compelling voice transport them to a plane beyond the mundane world The First Few Years: Music was in her blood. Her grandmother was a violinist and her mother played the veena. MS Subbulakshmi was born on September 16, 1916, the second of Subramania Iyer’s three children. Her earliest memories must have been full of the sound of music. The First Few Notes: Subbulakshmi learnt Carnatic music from Semmangudi Srinivasasa Iyer, and subsequently, Hindustani music under Pandit Narayanrao Vyas, both teachers and musicians of national repute. She gave her first stage performance aged ten, when she sang a Marathi song at the Madurai Sethupathi High School. (She cut her first record when she was ten too.) The First Few Shows: A more organised show came a year later, when she sang at the 1000-pillared hall in the Tiruchi Rockfort Temple. But it was at the tender age of 13 that she struck her first high note. The Madras Music Academy, which normally hosts only experienced musicians, invited the young, mostly untried girl to perform. She wowed her audience then, and continued to do so till the end of her life. In High Places: The venues of her recitals include the UN General Assembly (UN Day 1966), the Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama (1963), Carnegie Hall, New York (1966) and Royal Albert Hall, London (1982). She sang in many languages, including Tamil, Malayalam, Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali and Gujarati. The Magic of Meera: She made a brief foray into the celluloid world, and her role as Lord Krishna’s devotee Meera in the eponymous film brought her national 12

culturama | december 2012

recognition. But she preferred live concerts and soon quit films. Awards and Honours: She was the first musician to be conferred India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna. She was also the first Indian musician to receive the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award. The Songs She Has Sung: Many songs are inextricably associated with MS Subbulakshmi. The ones that come most easily to mind are Venkatesha Suprabhatam (listen to it here: ctuvw34), Vishnu Sahasarnamam (http://tinyurl. com/8l9xsyz), Bhajagovindam ( c2jver4) and Hanuman Chalisa ( bugvjmc). Monikers Many: She was Kunjamma to her contemporaries and elders, Ammu Patti to the generations that followed. To Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru she was the Queen of Music, and then famous vocalist Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan dubbed her ‘Suswaralakshmi’, Goddess of the Perfect Note. To her fans, she is simply MS Her Life and Times: In 1936, Subbulakshmi met freedom fighter Sadasivam, and they married four years later. They did not have children together, but she considered his children by his earlier marriage as her own. Their love and mutual support was an inspiration to many. The Legend Lives On: On December 11, 2004, MS breathed her last. But the legend lives on, both as a musician and as a humble, compassionate human being. .

Short Message Service S aritha R ao

Bengali/Bangla g Showcasin aspects of re in Indian cultu tible easily diges snippets


bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengali bengalI bengali bengali bengali UNTIL 1905, West Bengal and East Bengal (now Bangladesh), were the same state and the language spoken across the region was Bengali or colloquially, Bangla (baa-ng-laa). According to the 2001 Indian census, there are 83,369,769 speakers of the language in the country making it, at that time, the second most spoken language in India. The most prolific and perhaps best-known name in Bengali literature is that of the Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. Apart from short stories, novels and poems, Tagore also wrote the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh. Spoken Bengali varies from its written form. So, while the greeting, ‘'Namaskar’ (na-mas-kaar) is written in Bengali as having an ‘a’ vowel, it is pronounced as ‘Nomoshkor’ (no-mosh-kaar). Also, among the words that are common to Bengali and other Indian languages, those with a ‘va’ alphabet are pronounced as ‘ba’. So, Monday is ‘som-vaar’ in many of India’s languages, but pronounced in Bengali as ‘som-baar’. When in Bengal, if all else fails and you are unable to understand what is being said, simply say, ‘Ami bangaali boli naa. Tumi ki, English bolte paro?’ or ‘I don't speak Bengali. Do you speak English?’

Paithani Sari Photo Julie Grant Weiss, USA

MADHUBANI (ma-dhoo-ban-ee) is a folk art form traditionally practised by women from the region in and around Madhubani in Bihar. It is also known as Mithila (mithee-laa) paintings, after Princess Sita’s hometown, in the epic Ramayana. As a result, the Ramayana characters are a popular theme and so are scenes from nature, folk deities, mythological figures and other Hindu Gods. Madhubani has its origins in the ritual decoration of walls and floors of the ‘Kohbar’ or nuptial chamber. The dyes were traditionally derived from natural sources like flowers, rice, clay, bark, etc. The choice of colour depended on the community of the women painting the mural, as well as whether the mural was drawn on the floor or the wall. Today, an array of themes is painted in many colours on paper or canvas and, sometimes, even as decorative murals in offices and homes. Madhubani’s appeal can be seen as far as Japan. Over a thousand of these paintings are displayed at the Mithila Museum in Tokamachi.


culturama | december 2012

THE Paithani sari is named after the place of its origin, Paithan, situated about 40 km from Aurangabad, Maharashtra. It was called ‘maha-vastra’ (grand attire), part of trousseaus and worn on special occasions like religious ceremonies and weddings. A signature Paithani carries a criss-crossing border design along with colourful motifs on the ‘padhar’ (end-piece), usually borrowed from nature. The motifs and buttis (small gold motifs) are worked in gold thread when placed in the body of the sari, and in colour when on the shimmery end-piece. The sari background is usually in magenta, peacock blue, turmeric yellow and crimson. Dual-shaded saris, called ‘dhup-chaav’ (light and shadow) are also made with different colours in the warp and weft, for example, red and green. It takes a month to hand-weave one simple Paithani and several more, for a more intricate one.

culturama | december 2012


Short Message Service

Photo Saritha Rao, india Photo aditi rindani (

The Siddis THE Siddis are also known as Habshis. They are an Indian Scheduled Tribe, presumed to be descendents of Abyssinian slaves, sailors and domestic help, who arrived on ships belonging to Arab traders and the Portuguese. They settled along the West Coast of India — Gujarat, Maharashtra, parts of Goa, North Karnataka — and in Andhra Pradesh too. The island fort at Murud-Janjira (Maharashtra) was occupied by the Siddis in the 15th and 16th centuries. It is renowned as the only one along the coast that withstood onslaughts by the invading Dutch, Portuguese, British and even the formidable fort scaling Marathas Siddis do not marry outside the tribe, the main link to their African origin — distinctive Negroid physical features — is still intact.Though they look African and also have a drum dance that is said to resemble the East African Ngoma, the Siddis are completely Indian in their way of life. They even speak the language of the region they live in.


Buddhist Monks A ‘PATRA’ or begging bowl holds symbolic importance for Buddhists. There are numerous legends about the Buddha having begged for alms. In some sects of Buddhism, groups of monks, like the ones in the picture, head out early in the morning in single file to beg and receive alms of food, money and items of ritual worship. The focus is not so much on the giver or receiver as much as on the act itself. The monk or nun will receive alms with no ego, expectation or attachment. The Buddhist follower will give alms in the same spirit.

Photo courtesy L&T construction

WHO would have thought that the first person to have represented India at the Olympics in athletics was of British descent? Norman Pritchard won two silver medals (Men’s 200 and 200 m hurdles) in the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, but the question of his representing India or England is controversial. Milkha Singh, nicknamed ‘The Flying Sikh’ represented India in the 1956 Olympics and won two golds at the 1958 Asian Games. At the 1982 Asian Games, athletes like P.T. Usha, Shiny Wilson and M.D. Valsamma put India’s name on the world athletics map by winning a total of 20 medals. While Indian states have their own training academies, athletes like P.T. Usha have opened coaching schools to mentor young and rising stars to go on to participate in competitive events including the Olympics.

Photo stasa Mlekuz, Slovenia


culturama | december 2012

culturama | december 2012


A to Z of India S u san P hi l ip

All’s Fair in India

Life is a celebration in India! All through the year, there’s an important event happening somewhere in the country. Check out this medley of melas for a cornucopia of culture and cuisine Photo Mike Eliseou, UK

Aranmula Vallamkali: This annual boat regatta on Kerala’s River Pampa is full of colour, sound and excitement. Unique river craft called snake boats are rowed by about a hundred oarsmen each. The race is a major tourist attraction during the Onam festive season. Book fairs: All four major metros of India – New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai – are venues of mega annual book fairs. All facets of the book industry have a presence at these fairs, which attract lakhs of visitors. Look out for bargains and rare volumes at second-hand book stalls on the sidelines. Chennai Sangamam: This week-long cultural extravaganza held in Chennai during the Pongal festival aims to revive dying ethnic arts and boost folk artistes. Traditional music and dance performances are put on at public spaces, and authentic cuisine from various regions of Tamil Nadu is also served up.

Fashion Week: The India Fashion Week at New Delhi and the Bangalore Fashion Week in the Garden City are used by the country’s top designers to showcase their latest collections. The Delhi event is considered the biggest such show in Asia. Goa Carnival: Just before the start of Lent, it’s party time in Goa. For three days, parades with bands and floats are taken out, and there’s dancing and merry-making in the streets. The celebrations are at their exuberant best at Panaji, the state capital. Hampi Festival: Come November, the capital of the erstwhile Vijayanagar Empire comes alive again. Located in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, for three days this World Heritage site hosts a cultural extravaganza of music and dance shows, drama and pyrotechnics, set amidst ancient temples and palaces. International Kite Festival: Makar Sankaranti or Uttarayan is a special day on the Hindu Calendar. On this date, many Indian cities organise kite flying competitions, a tradition perhaps introduced by Muslims from Persia. The biggest Kite Festival is probably the one at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Photo marina marangos, greek-cypriot

Photo basia kruzewska, USA

Desert Festival: Held at Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, this three-day event gives you a glimpse of the colourful dances of the region, macho males vying for the title of ‘The Man with the Longest Moustache’, a camel polo match and a soul-stirring concert of folk music under a moonlit sky. Elephant Festival: Kaziranga National Park in Assam attracts hundreds of visitors from India and abroad during a week-long celebration of the Elephant each February. The gentle giants and their mahouts gather in large numbers and put up a display of dances, games, races and even a ramp walk.


culturama | december 2012

Jaipur Literature Festival: Billed as the largest such event in the Asia-Pacific region, it is held in January each year, and attracts authors from India and abroad. There are interactive sessions, workshops, readings and discussions. Noam Chomsky, Philip Pullman, Bill Bryson, Monica Ali and Jhumpa Lahiri are among the big names expected to attend the 2013 edition. Khajuraho Dance Festival: In February/March every year, the heart-stopping grandeur of the nearly 1000-year-old Khajuraho temples becomes the backdrop for top exponents of the various classical dance styles of India, such as Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Manipuri. Ladakh Festival: The highest plateau in Kashmir becomes a magnet for tourists every September, when it showcases the art, culture and sport of the Himalayan region for two weeks. Colourful processions wind through the streets of Leh. There is also a keenly-contested polo match for the Ladakh Festival Cup.

Photo stephen reid, UK

Maha Kumbh Mela: Considered the most sacred of Hindu pilgrimages, it occurs once in 144 years! The last one was in 2010. There are ‘Ardh Kumb Melas’ held annually, and ‘Purna Kumbh Melas’ once in 12 years. On these auspicious dates, the waters of the Ganga and Godavari are believed to be especially effective in cleansing sins. Nauchandi Mela: Starting out as a simple cattle fair in the 17th century, this annual event at Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, now lasts a month, beginning on the second Sunday after the Holi festival. It has the distinction of being an example of communal harmony as visitors pay homage at both the Hindu Nauchandi Temple and the Muslim Dargah of Bala Mian. Ojiyale Festival: One of the most important events in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, it is celebrated mainly by the Wancho tribe, usually in March. People gather to give thanks, pray for prosperity, and also to celebrate. Some traditional rites include the exchange of rice beer in bamboo tubes as a mark of goodwill. Photo basia kruzewska, USA

Thrissur Pooram: As a ‘sound and light’ show, this takes some beating! Held every year at Kerala’s Vaddakumnathan Temple, highlights of the 36-hour extravaganza include exhilarating performances by percussionists, a procession of opulently caparisoned elephants, and a magnificent fireworks display as the grand finale. Photo elaine wood, australia

Urs: In the seventh month of the Islamic Calendar, Ajmer in Rajasthan hosts India’s largest Muslim fair. The venue is the dargah (tomb) of Kwajah Moinuddin Chisti, who founded a Sufi order. The six-day event marks his death anniversary. Qawwalis (religious songs) are sung throughout the day, and at night, special poetry sessions are held. Vautha Fair: At the confluence of the rivers Sabarmati and Vatrak at Vautha, Gujarat, a bustling annual fair is held, usually in November. People from surrounding villages shut up their homes, move into tents on the sprawling fairgrounds for five days, and buy and sell everything from cattle to handicrafts, from machinery to food. Winter Festival: For three days every December, Mount Abu in Rajasthan hosts a carnival to showcase the culture of the region. Folk dances and music, colourful processions, water sports, hot air ballooning, and even cricket matches are part of the agenda. Photo marina marangos, greek-cypriot

Pushkar Fair: Each October-November, the banks of the Lake Pushkar in Rajasthan become the venue for what is believed to be the world’s biggest camel fair. Camels are decorated, paraded and raced. There’s even a beauty contest for them! Qutub Festival: Organised by the Delhi Tourism Board, this festival at the Qutub Minar, a heritage monument in Delhi, hosts traditional concerts and classical dance performances juxtaposed with more modern music and dance shows. Rose Festival: Believed to be India’s biggest exhibition of roses, it is held in Chandigarh during February/March. Besides being mesmerised by varieties of roses, you can also sample local cuisine at food stalls. In southern India, Ooty and Bengaluru also host well-attended flower shows. Surajkund Mela: At this crafts carnival held annually in February, you get to see live demonstrations by master craftsmen, not only from India, but also from other SAARC countries. Shop for handicrafts and textiles, savour the rural ambience, and enjoy the classical and folk art performances that are part of the fair.

Xhibitions: There are established exhibition centres in most cities, where there’s always something going on – a handicrafts fair or a display of handloom textiles, a silk exhibition or a leather show. Check the local papers for news of these exhibitions, and spend a pleasant evening browsing and picking up bargains. Yellamma Devi Fair: A religious celebration held to honour the Goddess Yellamma Devi, this is a very important event in Karnataka. There are actually some five fairs, held between October and February, at the hilltop Shri Yellamma Devi temple. The biggest of these fairs falls on a full moon day when a sacred procession is taken out. Zanskar Karsha Gustor: A famous Buddhist festival of Ladakh, held at multiple places on the Zanskar mountains, it is also known as the Fete of Oracles. Essentially celebrating the victory of good over evil, the two-day event includes masked dances and the spectacular Black Hat dance.

culturama | december 2012


In your Kitchen H arini S ankaranara y an


Unlimited A community born out of the British Raj, the Anglo Indians add their unique charm of laughter, dance and music to India WHILE the British ruled India, it was but natural for a new community to be born. The Anglo Indian community today is the only community in India whose native tongue is English. Born of mixed parentage, the offsprings were more British in their demeanour than Indian. In post-Independent India, many immigrated to foreign shores leaving only about 1,50,000 Anglo Indians in their native land. Many of them found jobs in the railways and telegraph departments and the women became teachers or nurses. There was nothing, however, that diminished their spirit. The reputation that they were happy- go-lucky was not to be taken lightly. The Anglo Indians worked hard and partied even harder. “There was always laughter, music and dancing whenever there was a chance,” admits Marlene Camoens, proud of her heritage. Party meant food and lots of it. The food of this community was a perfect amalgam, drawing from the British cooking techniques and adding a dash of the exotic Indian spice. “Since the community is scattered all over the country, the spices of preference would depend on the local favourites,” explains Marlene. So it was pepper down South, mustard oil near Kolkata and kokum on the West Coast. The food was never overtly spiced and the ever-present meat always had an Indian twist. The British love for soup and the local pepper rasam became Mulligatawny Soup — literally translated as ‘pepper water’, and the roast chicken


culturama | december 2012

would have turmeric and ginger with a garnish of coriander leaves. The Railway Mutton Curry (so called because it was first served on the train) was a mild curry served with coconut rice, as was the Ball Curry, made of minced meat in gravy. Bread is ubiquitous in the Anglo Indian house. Breakfast and dinner always must have some bread and lunch some meat and a stew with some dumplings. For those with a sweet tooth the dessert options are Caramel Custard and Bread Pudding, followed by a cup of strong black coffee. Christmas is always a big celebration that includes a big Christmas lunch, lots of carolling and, of course, dancing! Some Ginger Wine for those who don’t drink, Christmas cake and pudding, all following a meal of roasted chicken, coconut rice and minced ball curry and the ever-present Devil’s chutney, a delicious mix of raisins and chillies. In case you are still feeling peckish, there are always Kulkuls (see recipe on the next page) and Rose Cookies to satisfy those hunger pangs. Like other communities, Anglo Indians have worked at adopting the local customs and cuisines and have started to blend in. “Though the Anglo Indians are a close-knit community, they now are more inclusive in their social life. In fact, I have more friends from other communities today than maybe my grandparents had in their times,” says Marlene. But the distinct characteristics that have defined the Anglo Indians still remains and with it their love for food and music and all things happy.

culturama | december 2012


Kulkuls Ingredients

Did you know? The earlier definition of Anglo Indians included any offspring with British or European parentage born and raised in India. But today, Anglo Indians refers to offspring from a mixed British—Indian parentage. Famous Anglo Indians include George Orwell, Rudyard Kipling, Cliff Richards and Freddie Mercury. Bengaluru has the highest population of Anglo Indians in India.


culturama | december 2012

1 cup all purpose flour 1 tbps soft unsalted butter Powdered sugar to taste A pinch of baking powder Water to mix the dough Oil to deep fry.

Method • Rub in butter into the flour and add sugar to taste. (The amount of sugar can be increased or decreased according to sweetness required) • Add baking powder and mix well • Add a little water to the flour and knead into a soft pliable dough. • Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes. • Roll the dough into small balls. • Using the back of the fork, press the balls of the dough against the tines of the fork and roll to resemble little shells. • Deep fry in hot oil till golden brown. • Drain on kitchen paper and store in airtight boxes when cool. • The more traditional recipe omits the sugar in the dough. Instead, use a cup of sugar to make a thin sugar syrup. Proceed making the dough and frying the Kulkuls in hot oil. After draining the Kulkuls on a kitchen towel, drop them into the sugar syrup. Stir for a minute and remove. Leave the sugar-coated Kulkuls to air-dry before storing them in airtight boxes. A thicker sugar syrup will yield Kulkuls with a harder sugar crust but equally delicious.

culturama | december 2012


Feature S u z anne M c N ei l

Centre Stage

An arresting expression by a Yakshagana artiste

A look at India’s rich repository of performing folk traditions passed on from generation to generation, and continuing to survive in rural India


culturama | december 2012

Photo aseema trust chennai

IF YOU have tapped your feet to Bhangra, watched a Kathakali performer apply his make-up or stepped aside as a wedding band marches by, then you have participated in a modern-day incarnation of at least one of India’s many and diverse performing folk traditions. Whilst modern media and particularly Bollywood song and dance may have replaced centuries-old folk dance, music and theatre in urban regions, the traditional performing folk art of India is still to be found in the country’s villages. A common feature of these traditions is that they are essentially oral customs, passed on from generation to generation by personal instruction in which written material is almost completely absent. They took their inspiration not from the performances of devotees in the temples or poets at the courts, both of which locations saw the birth of classical, highly refined genres of theatre, dance and music but from the village square where rural people participated in group dances and singing during festivals.


The folklore and legends of India come alive in its myriad forms of traditional theatre, often performed in the open in performances that are steeped in a culture and ritual that dates back many centuries. Often, the plays begin at dusk and are performed throughout the night in rural areas and village squares. There are no sets, props are minimal, but the actors wear resplendent costumes, head-dresses, and face paints. Stories are drawn from India’s epic narratives and regional folk tales and combine drama, dance and song with wit and humour (and frequent allusions to current social, political and economic conditions!). Yakshagana, prevalent in Karnataka, literally means the song (gana) of a yaksha, which, according to Hindu, Jain and Buddhist texts, were nature spirits associated with the woods, mountains, lakes and wilderness. Yakshagana performances begin at dusk with the beating of several fixed compositions

on drums for up to an hour before the actors emerge. The drama consists of a narrator backed by musicians playing on traditional musical instruments. The actors dance to the music, with actions that portray the story as it is being narrated. All the components of Yakshagana, music, dance and dialogue, are improvised and it is not uncommon for actors to get into philosophical debates or arguments without going out of the persona of the character being enacted. Therukoothu, meaning street drama, is one of the most celebrated forms of village theatre or folk opera in the state of Tamil Nadu. Stories told with song and dance from the Mahabharatha and the Ramayana form the basis of Therukoothu performances but it also borrows heavily from other historic Tamil texts. Usually it is performed only by male artists, dressing up as both male and female characters. The most popular form of entertainment in the villages and towns of northern India, before the advent of Bollywood, Nautanki still commands huge audiences. It is based on the folk story of the wooing of Princess Nautanki of Punjab by a local boy, Phool Singh, and is accompanied by elaborate musical recitals. Nautanki features intense melodic exchanges between two or three performers, sometimes backed by a chorus. Melodrama, exaggeration, garish costumes and shrill music characterise the song-and-dance extravaganza Jatra, which has flourished in Bengal for centuries. Jatra performances mostly centre around the life of Lord Krishna, and are known as the Krishna Jatra. As with Therukoothu, all the parts are played by male actors.


India’s folk music is often oriented towards movement and dance, and the boundaries between music and dance, and music and theatre can be blurred. Although it has many forms, India’s folk music is characterised by distinctive rhythmic cycles, the style of which has gone on to influence classical ragas.

Photo: basia kruzewska, usa

Tamil Nadu's Therukoothu performers

Photo Saiyud, USA culturama | december 2012


A Tera Tali dancer before the performance

Photo courtesy Praveen Singh Rathore ( Photo Emma Horne, UK

Parvathy Baul captured in a Sufi trance

Lavani is a combination of traditional song and dance popular in Maharashtra, performed to the powerful beats of dholak, a percussion instrument. The name is said to derive from the word ‘lavanya’ meaning ‘beauty’ and the songs are full of passion and erotic sentiment. Lavani is always performed by a woman and where once it overstepped the mark of social decency, Marathi films have played an important role in making the genre accessible to mass audiences, and portraying it in a positive light. Light music combines with expressionist poetry on subjects such as love, nature and philosophy in a folk music form called Bhavageete. This is particularly popular in Karnataka, and is said to be related to the classical Ghazals, the expressive


culturama | december 2012

form of poetry of love and separation. From Bengal comes the devotional music form known as Bauls, influenced by bhakti and sufi sects and derived from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘divinely inspired insanity’. The music, which is performed by mystic minstrels, is played on the ektara, a simple one-stringed instrument, and represents a search for spiritual liberation. Perhaps more expressive of the vast range of human emotion and trials are the Songs of Rabindra, Rabindra Sangeet, a repertoire of over 2,000 songs written and composed by the great Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore, which are regarded as cultural treasures. For these, he drew on both Indian classical music and traditional folk music as sources, and encouraged by Tagore himself, the music has often featured in Indian films. As with all the performing folk traditions of India, folk music draws on the country’s epic narratives. Pandavani, from Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, narrates in song tales from the Mahabharata. In complete contrast, marching drum and brass bands playing Punjabi folk songs and Bollywood numbers are a feature of many weddings and parades.


Folk dances range from the simple to the complex and sometimes acrobatic. On festive occasions, Kashmiri women perform the uncomplicated Ruf: facing each other in two rows, they move rhythmically backward and forward. Equally unrehearsed is the Kaikottikali of Kerala, danced during the festival of Onam. The women form a circle, clapping their hands as they dance round a lighted brass lamp. From Gujarat a

culturama | december 2012


Photo ravi chaudhary, India

Photo Yana Fetova, Ukraine

A Nautanki performer in action

traditional dance form called Garba, always performed during Navratri, has spread to the metros — though the performers no longer balance earthen pots with lighted lamps on their heads as they step, sway and spin in unison! Years of practice are required to perform Tera Tali, a folk dance from the desert state of Rajasthan that has been passed down through generations of families. Two or more women set up a fast rhythmic pattern as they dance to the beat of cymbals tied to their arms and legs. In Mizoram, in the north-east, the beat is created by long bamboo poles that are arranged by one group of dancers in criss-cross patterns on the floor and clapped together to form the rhythm, whilst another group dances deftly between them. North-east India also has a tradition of martial dances, which feature performers in bulky headgear and elaborate costumes brandishing swords and spears. In Madhya Pradesh, the Gaur dance is performed by tribals and recreates the hunt for bison. India’s two most popular folk dances are now known internationally, thanks to their adoption into Bollywood songand-dance routines, and the influence of the Indian diaspora. Bhangra from Punjab, which was originally performed to celebrate the harvest, is energetically infectious and features crouches, leaps, swirls, skips and hops — and the iconic twist of the wrist — whilst Dandiya, from western India, partners men and women weaving in patterns and clapping together little sticks (the ‘dandiya’). Another Navratri dance, the modern form is performed by large groups of dancers, swaying and tapping in unison.


From these stylised forms of folk dance it is no great leap to Kathakali, perhaps the most iconic of India’s performing


culturama | december 2012

Kathakali performers of Kerala

arts. ‘Kathakali’ translates literally as ‘story play’ and came into being in Kerala during the 17th century. Classically taught, but rooted in India’s folk traditions, it combines the five elements of dance, drama, song, music and expression/gesture to portray stories derived from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Traditionally, performances were held in temples, starting after dusk and continuing until dawn, but contemporary performances have been abridged, and modern storylines introduced to the traditional canon. Prior to the performance, the players spend hours meticulously applying their distinctive make-up, a rigorous exercise in itself. The make-up is made from natural products, ground into fine powders. The colours denote good and evil in characters. Green is used to paint the faces of the gods, whilst combinations of green and red signify the complex mix of good (pious or kingly) and evil in a character. Black represents wickedness or ignorance. These are applied as a thick paste and so facial expressions that depict the all-important rasas, emotions, are hugely exaggerated. Fear, anger, love, ridicule, pathos, heroism, wonder, disgust and peace are thus conveyed. These are accompanied by complex hand gestures or mudras – there are 470 combinations – to convey the performer’s thoughts and emotions. There is no dialogue in Kathakali. Just like Kathakali, Yakshagana, Therukoothu and Nautanki have adapted to survive in modern India. The performances are of a much shorter duration, and are often the vehicle for contemporary social messages. New Nautankis, for instance, have centred around issues such as health, women’s empowerment and emigration, whilst Therukoothu, which once educated rural people about religion and history, has been successfully adapted to convey information about legal rights. Yakshaganas now include storylines from Shakespeare and Indian films. So the next time you are lured by the intoxicating beat of the dhol onto the Bhangra dance floor, remember you are sharing in a folk celebration that is grounded in the ploughing, sowing and harvesting of the earth of rural India.

culturama | december 2012


Look who's in Town benga l u r u

Francesca (inset) and her family (above)

The Italian Christmas Italians FRANCESCA COSSA and FEDERICA GIORDANO wish Culturama readers ‘Buon Natale’ as they share their experiences of Christmas in India’s Silicon Valley TRAVELLING for an hour to buy her favourite Italian mozzarella left Francesca impressed at the vastness of Bengaluru. That was three years back. Now, as she puts it, “I have all my favourite shops close to home and Bengaluru has developed so fast.” Federico Giordano would probably agree, about Bengaluru being a city on the fast lane. “When I moved to the city last year, I found it very noisy, with all the cars honking and coming from everywhere without rules. It was very hard for me to cross the road. And then I saw two men on a bike with a goat in the middle! I thought, ‘Tomorrow, I’ll fly back home on the first plane’. But then, day by day, I started to fall in love with the weather, I learned to cross the road, I cannot hear the horn anymore, and the most important thing, I made new friends. Everything became easier and now, in my second year in the city, I am happy we moved,” she says with a hint of pride. One that is echoed in Francesca’s choice of living in “an Indian area and not a typical expat compound”. “We wanted to live as Bangaloreans did,” she adds matter-of-factly. In Milan, where Francesca is from, Christmas is a white, snowy experience,


culturama | december 2012

which is probably why, for her first Christmas in Bengaluru she says, “It left me feeling alone in a city of 8 million inhabitants!” Probably why Federica decided to fly back home for her first Christmas after moving to India. But this year, she is all set to relive the Christmas spirit in Bengaluru, much as Francesca gears up for her third ‘Indian’ Christmas. Milan to Rome Francesca: As a Christian, Christmas for me is very important. It’s a family festival and in Italy we love to celebrate it with a grand lunch with relatives at home. It’s winter and it’s cold and, if we are lucky, it snows! Well, let me tell you, a ‘White Christmas’ is the best Christmas one can have! We prepare the Christmas tree with all the decorations; we also prepare the Christmas Crib (Creche). All the houses are decorated and full of Christmas lights…it’s fantastic! The food we prepare for Christmas changes from town to town in Italy. In Milan, Christmas is not Christmas without the Panettone. It’s the typical cake we eat for the festive occasion, and it’s one of the things I miss most here!

Federica and her family (above) and her daughter on Christmas Day (inset)

Federica: We are from Rome, so it’s always very cold on Christmas. In fact, this year will be our first Christmas in T-shirts and slippers! In Italy, we usually go to the church on Christmas Day, where we meet our friends. But the real celebrations are on Christmas Eve, with a big dinner. We have fried vegetables, pasta with fish and baked fish. At midnight, children unwrap their presents that Santa Klaus has left for them under the Christmas tree. Christmas lunch is ‘tortellini in brodo’, a special soup with homemade pasta, and baked lamb with potatoes. And like Francesca, I too miss the typical Italian Christmas sweets like panettone, pandoro and torrone. Expat Tips Francesca: The OWC Christmas Bazaar is a must! They recreate the Christmas atmosphere of our Christmas bazaar back home! Kids can take pictures with Santa, there are choirs singing Christmas carols and a big cake sale. Plus, all the money raised goes entirely for charity. Try to decorate your house as you used to do back home. It helps to feel the Christmas atmosphere. Organise a Christmas lunch at home (you can have this catered from any good restaurant in the city) and invite friends over, exchange presents and play some nice Christmas music. Shops & Stores Francesca: In Commercial Street and the area close to it, you will find artificial Christmas trees and decorations. If you want a real tree you can go to ‘Floratech’ on Sarjapur Road. They sell trees in big pots, evergreen, but not exactly the same kind of tree we use in Italy. The Turkey lunch is not so Italian actually, though the best butchers in town are ‘Bamburies’ on Richmond Road and ‘Abba Food’ on Aga Abbas Ali Road. Federica: We brought our Christmas tree and decorations from Italy, but will probably shop for more in city malls like ‘Hypercity’ or ‘Phoenix’. For the lamb, I would also recommend ‘Bamburies’ on Richmond Road.

When in Italy Francesca: I would definitely ask anybody celebrating Christmas in the North of Italy to go to the mountains, especially the Dolomitis. You should go to Trentino, Bolzano and Merano for their outstanding Christmas bazaars. You can also go to small villages like Cortina D’Ampezzo, where you will find the exact Christmas atmosphere of the big cities. And finally, don’t miss the Midnight Mass Celebration! Federica: You must go to St. Peter’s Church in the Vatican where the Pope lives. This is the most important place for Christians and during Christmas time you can see a beautiful and huge Nativity scene recreated, and a very tall and bright Christmas tree. The most important event is on Christmas Day, when the Pope will bless you in more than 60 languages!

culturama | december 2012


Look who's in Town d e l hi

Agnes Voss

The German Christmas Hungarian Agnes Voss married to a German diplomat, wishes readers ‘Kellemes Karacsonyi Unnepeket’ from the capital city

“WHEN we arrived three years ago, my first impression of the city was the freedom of anarchy. But today, I realise, that there is an inner structure to life in Delhi,” says Ágnes Voss. And with that simple yet profound insight, it is evident that the capital city has not only seamlessly integrated itself into their lives, but the family too has permeated the very heart of Delhi. Coming from the land of the famous German Christmas Markets, their first Christmas in Delhi was almost a surreal experience. “Sitting outside in the sunshine and laughing about the Germans who are freezing back in cold Europe is a special treat of every Christmas celebration in our house,” she says with a smile, before sharing a few valuable tips of celebrating Christmas in Delhi. Christmas Back Home In Germany, Christmas preparations are like Diwali preparations in India. Everyone is busy buying presents, baking traditional cookies, and decorating the house inside and outside (putting on as many lights as possible). There are also beautifully decorated Christmas markets everywhere, with food, sweets, and traditional wine like ‘Glühwein’ (a sort of spicy hot red wine). On Christmas Eve, the Christmas tree is decorated and the tradition is that children should not see it before the church service. Streets are almost deserted that evening till about 11 pm, when many people go back to church for midnight mass, often with beautiful Bach corals. On Christmas Day, people visit or invite their extended family to exchange presents and have elaborate and very festive lunches together. Stuffed duck with apple or orange, accompanied by


culturama | december 2012

Agnes Voss's family enjoys a cosy Christmas eve at home

red cabbage and the traditional Christmas cake, ‘Stollen’ (a type of rich fruit cake) are regulars. Expat Tips The lucky thing in Delhi is that there is a German Christmas Bazaar for a couple of days in December, where you even get the traditional wine! You could also attend a German language Christmas church service. If someone is looking for Christmas decorations, one can find them at handicraft melas or buy them at the Christmas melas organised by international schools. India Effect Celebrating Christmas in India is, of course, a very different experience. In Germany, the crispy cold weather in December is very much part of the whole Christmas atmosphere and when we are lucky, the snow makes it unforgettably beautiful (thus called White Christmas). It contrasts perfectly with the warm, candle-lit atmosphere at home. On the other hand, India invites us to concentrate more on the spiritual side of Christmas, since commercialisation is less intrusive. Furthermore, the family gets closer, as it does for most expatriates living abroad, which makes Christmas more intimate in India. When in Germany I highly recommend visiting one of Germany’s famous Christmas markets, with the one in Nuernberg (Bavaria) being, perhaps, the best known one. Drinking Glühwein in the cold weather is a must for every adult spending Christmas in Germany. And a Christmas market visit could also include buying of beautiful decorations and listening to traditional Christmas carols sung by local choirs.

culturama | december 2012


Look who's in Town chennai

Tiia, wearing a festive red headband, and her family, pose with Santa Claus

The Finnish Christmas

Finnish Tiia Väätäjä, wishes all readers ‘Hyvää Joulua’ as she gets nostalgic about Christmas back home and how to recreate that magic in Chennai

COMING from “the land where Santa Claus lives”, Tiia Väätäjä’s first Christmas in Chennai was anything but typical. “The city doesn’t dress up for Christmas that much. You don’t hear Christmas carols everywhere and the TV isn’t filled with Christmas programmes,” she says. But two years of living in Chennai with her family, Tiia has not just fallen in love with the city but also found that special Chennai Christmas spirit. “After the first Christmas in India, my kids said that it was perfect and fun and magical,” she adds with a smile. So here are Tiia’s tips to make your Christmas count in Chennai. From Santa Land The most important day for us is Christmas Eve. We decorate our homes with Christmas flowers, elves, stars and window lights, starting as early as the beginning of December. Closer to the date, we bring the Christmas tree inside and let it melt first, as it is quite cold outside. On Christmas Day, our family gathers around the TV to hear the declaration of Christmas peace. In the afternoon, we usually go for Christmas sauna. And then it’s time for the Christmas dinner, when we eat ham, carrot casserole, turnip casserole, rosolli (simple beetroot salad), salmon and boiled potatoes. For dessert, it’s quite common to have a prune dessert cream. For kids, the most important part is when Santa Claus comes to visit. He is greeted with Christmas carols and offered the best chair in the house. He sits for a while and chats with everyone. Then he hands the gifts and leaves before they are opened. After all, he has to make it to all the homes around the world, so he can't stay for very long!


culturama | december 2012

Expat Tips Keep an open mind. You might not get exactly what you are looking for, but sometimes close enough is good enough. We also adapted some new customs like lighting up the advent candles every advent Sunday and it gave us the chance to enjoy the Christmas feeling a little bit longer. If you have a chance to invite relatives to spend Christmas here with you, do it. There is nothing that gives more joy for the kids than grandparents who travel to celebrate with them. Shops & Stores For your plastic Christmas tree and decorations, head to Parry’s Corner. There are many small shops selling loads of Christmas decorations. You can also find really cheap decorations from Saravana Stores, T Nagar. Last year, they had a nice collection of Christmas stars. Prices range between Rs 25 and Rs 75. For our Christmas ham, we ordered from Crust and it was excellent. I have also heard that many have bought their turkeys from different hotels in the city. Remember to order in time. When in Finland I would definitely spend Christmas in Lapland (Northern Finland) and go meet Santa Claus at Rovaniemi. Santa Claus Village is right on top of the Polar Circle. If you are lucky, you might also see the Northern lights light up the sky. While in Lapland, ride the reindeer sleigh or go on the husky safari. Don’t miss an authentic experience of a traditional Finnish Christmas sauna! .

culturama | december 2012


Look who's in Town

Caron and her family light up Christmas Day with their smiles!

M u mbai

The British Christmas

Dutch-Britisher CARON WILlIAMSON wishes Culturama readers a ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Prettig Kerstfeest’ too!

‘WHERE’ and ‘how’ were the two things on Caron Williamson’s mind when she landed in Mumbai two years ago with her family. Starting from where to buy groceries to how to safely clean vegetables to constantly falling sick in the first few months, the Williamsons’ settling-in process sure has had its difficult moments. “Now, I have come to love Mumbai, and all the excitement of a major international city. At the same time I have found the expat community incredibly supportive and small enough that you do actually bump into people as you would in a tiny village. I love that dichotomy,” says Caron, who gives us handy tips on celebrating Christmas in the Maximum City. Christmas Nostalgia I'm half Dutch so we do the present-giving on December 5, when Sinterklaas leaves a sack at the door. In my husband’s family in Scotland, it all happens on 25th and is very family focused. We gather together on Christmas Eve and the children leave a little snack for Santa and his reindeer, like a mince pie and a carrot. If Santa is lucky he might get a little whisky too! Christmas morning is about presents, a festive breakfast, church, and after that, the main event of the day: Christmas dinner. This is usually turkey and all the trimmings: stuffing, roast potatoes, carrots, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, pigs in blankets, and of course, the obligatory Brussels sprouts which hardly anybody likes or eats. But it simply wouldn't be Christmas without sprouts!


culturama | december 2012

Expat Tips Firstly, be aware that it is a bit surreal spending Christmas here because it is so hot and sunny. Also there is none of the hype and build-up that you get in Europe. Secondly, you will miss family more than you might imagine. For us that meant we did more socialising at Christmas. Thirdly, enjoy the fact that you are doing something different, instead of missing what you used to do. Find a charity that means something to you and volunteer or donate. Top Shops The Grand Hyatt, JW Marriott, Trident BKC and Le Pain Quotidien are all good bets for buying Christmas food stuffs like cakes and panettone. The Marriott and Hyatt also sell turkey, but you have to order it well in advance. You can buy plastic Christmas trees and decorations on Hill Road in Bandra. For something a bit classier, try The Shop on Pali Hill and Sanctum in Khar. When in Britain Somerset House has an ice-skating rink which is just beautiful. Also, there is the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland for a taste of Christmas delicacies from all over Europe. There are loads of pantomime shows on at Christmas which are part of a great British tradition of farce and slapstick. Also, any of the malls will have a Santa’s Grotto. If you have little ones, you just queue up and pay a nominal amount to meet Santa and get a little gift from his sack. It makes a great photo opportunity!

culturama | december 2012



Photography Workshop

December 8 and 9| 0930h to 1800h Hotel Parle International, BN Agarwal Market, Vile Parle East, Mumbai Learn the basics of photography from professional photographers in this weekend workshop aimed at beginners. Jayanth Sharma, wildlife photographer, will conduct the workshop. Register at There is no age limit for participants.

Guns N Roses India Tour December 9 | 1600h MMRDA Grounds, Mumbai

The iconic hard rock band is touring India and Mumbai is one of the cities they are performing in. Guns N’ Roses have sold more than 100 million records world-wide and have been nominated for a Grammy Award three times. Book your tickets on

Opera Screening

December 23 | 1400h and 1830h National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), NCPA Marg, Nariman Point, Mumbai ‘La Clemenza Di Tito’ (The Clemency of Titus), is an opera seria in two acts composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He has examined political and romantic intrigue through compelling use of the opera seria form. Performed by Godrej Dance Theatre Godrej in conjunction with the NCPA. Call 022-22824567 or 66223724 for tickets.


culturama | december 2012

For a slice of culture in Mumbai through Culturama’s pick of events this month

Art & Sculpture Exhibitionand Sale

Till December 16| 1800h Gallery Art and Soul, # 1 Madhuli Apartments, Dr.Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai Artist Vikram Bawa exhibits his collection of art that have been part of national and international shows. The collection titled ‘The Other Side’ is divided into two parts: ‘Fallen Angel’ explores the process of soul searching while ‘Voyeur’ is about blurring the gender lines. Call 022-24965798 or 32536266 for more details.

Stand-up Paddle Boarding

Till May 31, 2013| 1930h to 1030h H20 Water Sports Complex, Girgaum, Chowpatty, Mumbai Learn this new sport that uses a modified surfboard and a long paddle to surf the waves. Stand-up Paddle Boarding will be taught in batches throughout the week. The complex also rents out equipment for other water related sports. Call +91-2223677546 for more details.

Forest Trail

December 16 | 0630h Dadar and Vashi Junction The Bombay Natural History Society is organising a one day trail through Karnala Sanctuary. The walk will be through the forests to watch resident and migrant birds. Some rare birds like the Nilgiri Flower Pecker and Crested Serpent Eagle can be spotted while on these trails. For registrations, call Hornbill House at 022-22821811.


For a slice of culture in Delhi through Culturama’s pick of events this month

Mikulas Day for Children

The Delhi Ibsen Festival

Hungarian Information and Cultural Centre, # 1A, Janpath, Near Claridges Hotel, Delhi Join in the pre-Christmas festivities with the Mikulas Day celebrations, that marks the feast of Saint Nicholas. The Hungarian Centre will welcome Mikulas to give out presents to over 100 underprivileged children. Call 011-23014497 or 23014992 for more details.

Kamani Auditorium, # 1, Copernicus Marg, Mandi House, New Delhi The Dramatic Arts and Design Academy will host a theatre festival under the auspices of the Royal Norwegian Embassy to present the diversity of the work of Henrik Ibsen. To be performed by international theatre groups, each day will present a different production. Call 011-43503351 or 43503352 for more details.

Guns N Roses India Tour

India-Colombia Dance Performance

December 6|1000h

December 12 | 1600h

Leisure Valley Grounds, Sector 29, Gurgaon The iconic hard rock band is touring India and Gurgaon is one of the cities they are performing in. Guns N’ Roses have sold more than 100 million records world-wide and have been nominated for a Grammy Award three times. Book your tickets on

Spanish Raga Music Concert

December 22 Instituto Cervantes, # 48, Hanuman Road, Delhi The band, ‘Spanish Raga’ will present a fusion concert of Spanish and Indian music. The band consists of Inaki Conejero on the guitar, Tripunithara Kannan on ghatam, Vipin Manohar on the tabla, Priya Pai’s vocals, Krishna Kumar on the sitar, Ashok Koshi on the flute and Angel Montejano on the guitar. Call 011-436 81900 for details.

December 1 to 7|1900h

December 13 and 15 | 1900h Instituto Cervantes, # 48, Hanuman Road, Delhi Get ready for a dance and music show from India and Colombia by Indian and international dancers. The performance will begin with an Odissi dance, followed by North Indian classical music. Dance and music from Colombia will feature chanting from Africa, as well as drum rhythms accompanied by live percussions and instruments from Peru. Call 011-436 819 00

A Korean Flute Concert December 21 | 1900h

The Attic, # 36, Regal Building, Connaught Place, New Delhi Enjoy a Korean flute concert by Sung-Pil Yang, accompanied by Jaeseung Sin, a Korean percussionist. The ‘Daegeum’ is a large bamboo transverse flute used in traditional Korean music. It has a buzzing membrane that gives it a special timbre and is used in contemporary classical and popular music. Call 011-23746050 for details.

culturama | december 2012




English Play

December 5, 6 and 7| 1930h Ranga Shankara, 2nd Phase, J P Nagar, Bengaluru Theatre group Evam is staging its widest touring play based on the runaway, best-selling novel by Chetan Bhagat – Five Point Someone. This adaptation follows a story of what life is really like within the confines of India’s premiere educational institute, the IIT. Buy tickets on www.indianstage .in or call 09243777970.

Indian Metal Festival December 15| 1100h

Manpho Convention Grounds, # 90, Veeranapalya, Nagwara Ring Road, Bengaluru Take in 10 hours of ear-pounding metal by International and Indian bands at the extreme Metal Festival. French metal band, Gojira, is the star player and Indian bands include ‘Gutslit’ from Mumbai and ‘Agnostic’ from Guwahati. Buy tickets at www. or call 09243777970.

Handicrafts Village

Till January 2| 1100h # 24 & 26, Bidadi Industrial Estate, Mysore Road, Bengaluru Indian crafts, clothes and food, all in one place is what defines Handicrafts Village. The village has craftsmen from across India demonstrating their art to visitors. Cultural programmes will be held and an elaborate food court is also present. Call 080-22099999 or 09632280255 for more details.


culturama | december 2012

For a slice of culture in Bengaluru through Culturama’s pick of events this month

Guns N Roses India Tour December 7| 1600h Bharatiya City, Thanisandra Main Road, Chokkanahapalli Hegde Nagar, Bengaluru

The iconic hard rock band is touring India and Bengaluru is one of the cities they are performing in. Guns N’ Roses have sold more than 100 million records world-wide and have been nominated for a Grammy Award three times. Book your tickets on

Solo Art Show

January 2 to 7 Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath Art Complex, Kumara Krupa Road, Kumara Park East, Seshadripuram, Bengaluru Artist Aishwarya Ramachandran’s solo show will feature her works on tigers titled ‘Tiger Trails’ in colour and in black and white. Along with its artistic implications, these artworks also aim at increasing awareness of the endangered national animal. Call 080-22263424 for details.

Photography Exhibition

December 7 to 28| 1000h to 1900h Tasveer Art Gallery, # 26/1, Sua House, Kasturba Road, Bengaluru Award-winning and critically acclaimed photographer, Raghu Rai is exhibiting his photographs titled ‘Divine Moments’. The exhibition has photographs that are taken of people on the streets and other public spaces. The venue is closed on Sundays. Call 080-40535212 or 09986284251 for more details.

culturama | december 2012



10th Chennai International Film Festival

December 13 to 20| 0930h to 1130h Woodlands Theatre (Royapettah), Inox Cinemas (Chennai City Centre), Sathyam Cinemas, South India Film Chamber (Anna Salai)

Passage Meditation Presentation

December 15 | 1400h India Immersion Centre, # 5, 3rd Main Road, R.A Puram, Chennai – 600028

Organised by the Indo Cine Appreciation Foundation, the festival will showcase international and Indian feature films. More than 100 international films will be screened. The festival hopes to highlight the art of filmmaking in different cultures across the world. Call 044-28212652 or 09840151956 for more details.

A long-time passage meditation practitioner, Ranjini Manian will run a one-hour introductory presentation on this practical method of meditation. Originated by Sri Eknath Easwaran of the Blue Mountain Centre of Meditation, this free introductory presentation will be interactive, fun and experiential. Email Ranjini at easwaransindia@ for more information.

Chennai Salsa Festival

The Franco Indian Literary Prize

December 8 & 9 Le Royal Meridian, # 1, GST Road, St. Thomas Mount, Chennai A must-do for Salsa enthusiasts in the city, the festival will have over 24 workshops with instructors from across the world. In its fifth year, the event invites participants who are not just Salsa buffs but also Zouk, Zumba, Cha Cha, Hip Hop, Mambo, Tango and any other style of dance. For more information and registration, call 09940174123 or 09845239123.

International Postgraduate Medical Training (IPMT) December 14 to 21 Sevenday residential programme DMI – St Thomas International Centre, Hill Top, St Thomas Mount, Chennai – 600016

The IPMT, hosted by the Anthroposophical Medical Society Chennai Chapter is a course that offers a scientific and holistic understanding of health and education based on Anthroposophy. For more information, contact Parimal at contact.ipmtindia@gmail. com or visit www.amsindiachapter. com for more details.


For a slice of culture in Chennai through Culturama’s pick of events this month

culturama | december 2012

Till December 7 CGH Hotels and Alliance Francaise, Pondicherry Hidesign and Gitanjali present Pondicherry’s first Franco–Indian Literary prize, 'The Gitanjani Literary Prize.' The prize will be celebrated with a seven–day festival. The festival will have writers William Dalrymple, Ananda Devi, Hubert Haddad and more. For further details, call +91 96552 36558 or mail .

Chocolate Gift Boxes for Christmas December 1 onwards

‘Simply Chocolate’ offers more than 50 varieties of handcrafted pieces of exquisite imported chocolate for any occasion. Children love their chocopops, and they specialise in making chocolates with logos and monograms. Limited quantities of hand-rolled truffles are also available. Prices start at Rs.150 for a box of 12. Do place your Christmas orders by December 15. For orders and enquiries, call 09677022881.

culturama | december 2012


Season Special R anjani G a y atri

Note Worthy

Renowned vocalists and sisters, Ranjani and Gayatri, take us through a personal journey of Chennai’s celebrated music season, also known as the December season

COME December, it means the month of Christmas, of festivity in the air, and the promise of the approaching New Year. To the Carnatic music world, it means only one thing – that of the cloudburst of music descending on the city of Chennai, the word “season” signifying a grand pageant of the best of classical music and dance occupying centre stage in the city. We were children of thirteen and ten when we experienced our first “Season”. This festival is not just about multiple concerts happening in multiple venues (called sabhas) at the same time. It is about how music literally pervades every street in the hallowed region of Mylai, or Mylapore, that hoary suburb, which is traditionally the seat of fine arts in Chennai. Our day used to start at 6 am around the Kapaleeswarar Temple, where we followed a group of people singing beautiful classical compositions. There was no stage, no mikes – just musicians singing from their heart and a small group of listeners (or rasikas as they are called) who heard the best of classical music soaked in devotional fervour – with the temple bells clanging distantly. How many unforgettable moments of music have those mornings given us! The Season concerts fall into a general pattern – lecturedemonstrations and academic sessions in the morning, concerts by young and upcoming musicians in the afternoon, and the veteran and star performers in the evening. During the morning sessions, papers are presented by the best of musical and academic minds. As the day progresses, the mood builds


culturama | december 2012

up, as the musicians with top star billing typically perform in the latter half of the day. It is not uncommon to see avid listeners literally running from one hall to another, armed with schedules of concerts for the entire month! There are also those listeners who pace themselves out, and choose to either stick to the concerts in a particular sabha, or carefully select their favourite performers and follow them about. Every sabha would have a grand inaugural function starting with the pipe music, or Nadhaswaram, which is considered an auspicious beginning to the festival. Awards and prestigious titles are bestowed on a few musicians for their contribution to classical arts. Each sabha hosts a plethora of concerts through the day, which includes traditional carnatic music concerts, jugalbandhis (combination of artistes from different disciplines), dance recitals, theatre and operas. When we performed our first concert here way back in 1986, we remember how generously many great musicians made time to come and listen to us. Another unforgettable vignette is that of the late Semmangudi Srinivasaiyer, the grand doyen of music, listening to an afternoon concert, from the first floor gallery, his head covered in a muffler! As girls visiting from Mumbai, the Music Festival was an exhilarating experience, as we took in as many concerts as we could, intensely discussing and dissecting all that we heard with our friends and fellow musicians. Apart from the hall seating, there was also a unique dais seating facility, where the listeners could actually sit right next to the raised platform near the musicians’ stage. You could observe the expressions of the musicians from

close quarters, even before the curtains opened and the concert started! Both of us found this so exciting, that we would make a beeline for the stage even when we had tickets in hand for the more expensive, regular seating in the hall! Now, as we sit on the stage, and see the eager faces of young listeners who sit around us, we are reminded of those nostalgic memories of our childhood. We made Chennai our home in the year 1993, performing as a violin duo. We played the violin alongside many musicians including veterans like Smt.D.K.Pattammal, Dr.M.Balamuralikrishna and the then younger stars like Vijay Siva, Sanjay Subramaniam, Sudha Raghunathan and T.M.Krishna, who are celebrated artistes today. Vijay Siva’s meticulous concert planning, Sanjay’s flamboyance, Sudha’s glamorous stage presence, Krishna’s confidence and booming voice – we observed and savoured them all! Later, when we transitioned into vocalists, all these experiences would add colour and textures to our music. There is no doubt that to a performer, the Season, or the Margazhi festival, is the ultimate destination. Whether one is a young upcoming musician, a seasoned veteran or a popular star, your concert during the Season is the ultimate showcase for your prowess. We plan our concerts in advance, taking care to present new compositions and different ragas (specific melodic scales in Indian classical music). As we gear up for this Season, performing ten concerts in a span of thirty days, we can only think of one thing to say about this wonderful festival, and that is, “It happens only in Chennai, thank you Enchanting Tamil Nadu!”

Editor’s Note: Culturama encourages readers from across the country to visit Chennai between December 3 and January 5, no matter where in India, for a taste of the Music Season, often described as one of the world’s largest cultural events.

The Indian Dance Festival is an annual event conducted by Tamil Nadu Tourism at Mamallapuram. The natural seashore ambience of the festival brings in a large number of visitors from across the world. The show celebrates the spirit of Tamil Nadu’s arts and highlights the traditional dance forms of the state. This year, Tamil Nadu Tourism is including both classical and folk dance forms of India. Entry is free for this month-long festival that will be held from 25 December 2012 to 25 January 2013. www.ttdconline. com/mobile offers various options for booking from your mobile phone.

Brought to you by Tamil Nadu TourisM culturama | december 2012



The much-awaited season of the year in the city of Chennai, December plays host to a series of music and dance concerts. Culturama recommends the concerts and performances listed below, though do refer to local dailies and log on to for up-to-date details of performances.


The music season is a more relaxed experience than Western formal classical music, so here are a few dos and don’ts: Do book your tickets in advance. Tickets are sold at the venue. Do stay as long as you can and take a side seat if you need to slip out as performances can last up to three hours. Do catch a few end-pieces of performances as they often have the best numbers. Don’t hesitate to keep ‘tala’ or rhythm by beating your palms on your thighs rhythmically to show appreciation (Click here: http:// to watch how one form of the tala is done) Don’t expect too many English explanations, savour the almost spiritual experience Do eat lunch at one of the sabhas on traditional banana leaves

Epic Women – Dance Conclave

December 20 to 23 Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, # 18, East Mada Street, Mylapore, Chennai Enjoy dance performances by award-winning artistes like Bharathi Sivaji, Urmila Satyanarayana, Padma Subrahmanyam. These dancers will highlight epic women like Savitri, Helen of Sparta, MS Subbalakshmi and Frida Kahloa through dances and talks. The conclave is convened by dancer, Anita Ratnam. Call 09884036140 or 044-24995621 for more details.

Kalakshetra Annual Art Festival

Music Academy Season Performances

December 21 to 31| 1830h to 2030h Rukmini Arangam, Kalakshetra, Tiruvanmiyur, Chennai – 600041

Dec 15 to January 1, 2013 Music Academy, TTK Auditorium, # 168, T.T.K. Road, Chennai – 600014

Revel in music, dance and drama in the beautiful ambience of Kalakshetra. The famed names in this year’s festival include Carnatic vocalist Sudha Raghunathan, Hindustani vocalist Kalapini Komkali, and many more. Don’t miss the dance dramas Gita Govindam and Shakuntalam, stories from Indian epics, enacted by the Kalakshetra Repertory. For further details, contact 044-24520836, 24521169, 24521170 or visit

The most popular destination among music aficionados in the city is the Music Academy. Concerts during the season are spread throughout the day. Some of this year’s performers include Carnatic vocal by Sanjay Subramanyan, TM Krishna (all of TM Krishna’s concerts this season are free) and more. For further details, call 044-28112231 or 28115162.

Brush up Narada Gana Sabha Festival December 14 to January 1 # 254/ 314, TTK Road, Alwarpet, Chennai.

The Isai (music) Natya (dance) Nataka (drama) Vizha (festival) at Narada Gana Sabha is just what the name suggests – a blend of all the performing art forms. A must visit for not just the performances, but also for the food served at the venue. Call 044-24990850 for more details.


culturama | december 2012


on your December Season vocab!

An assembly or gathering, in this case of music lovers, promoting music, dance or art Kutcheri: Vocal performance or concert of classical music Ragam: The scale or set of notes that form the musical composition Alapanai: Explanation of the notes used in the song that is to be sung Mudras: Hand symbols used to convey some expressions Abhinayas: Facial expressions that show emotions Saapadu: The traditional South Indian meal that is served on a banana leaf. Tiffin: A snack or an in-between meal like dosas or idlis, varieties of tiffin are served

Advertiser's Feature

State of Grace NaMaargam, which means, ‘Not the Path’ is a dance show by a group of four dancers conceived as an artistic conversation in rhythm

IT IS a journey that almost everyone takes from time to time. A journey that needs to be made, to realise the purpose of existence and the path can be varied. It is in this philosophical path that mind, spirit and body come together to bring the greater good for each individual, and therefore mankind. Through dance and music, rhythm and words, which come together in a glorious choreography that experiments, exults and looks for the deeper meaning of the Pure Consciousness, NaMaargam prevails. The technicalities that have been built into the production enhance the work of four distinct Bharatnatyam dancers, who take centre stage through colour, interpretations and dance. Conceived and directed by KSR Anirudha, NaMaargam is being produced by Sreshta and Krithika Subrahmaniam, with the unique and traditional artistic and choreographic

direction by Prof. Sudharani Raghupathy. The entire production is the adaptation of the compositions of Vidwan Madurai Sri N Krishnan, along with some select musical compositions of G Srikanth, K.S.R.Anirudha and Vedanth Bharadwaj. Choreography, under the expert guidance by Prof Sudharani Raghupathy, is by senior dancers Priya Murle, Priya Dixit, Prabha Dixit and Krithika Subrahmaniam, who are also the performers in this production. Padma Bhushan, Vidwan Madurai N Krishnan, disciple of the doyen Sri Ariyakudi Ramanauja Aiyyangar, eventually imparted music that was not just melodies and lyrics but treaties in spirituality. Vadhyar, as he was fondly known, was a spiritual guru to many. Prof. Sudharani Raghupathy has been in the field of Bharatanatyam for 65 years and she is perhaps one of the rare dancers to have performed before several visiting dignitaries to India since 1956. Her gurus in the field of Bharatanatyam include Shri K.P. Kittappa Pillai, Shri U.S. Krishna Rao and Smt. Mylapore Gowri Ammal. Her training in Carnatic music was under violin maestro, Shri T. Chowdiah and Vidwan Madurai N. Krishnan. She was the first Indian at the Randolph Macon’s Women’s College, Virginia, USA, in 1964-65 to have majored in the World History of Dance, Studio Arts and the Martha Graham technique of modern dance under Eleanor Struppa, and Western music from Elaine St. Vincent. ‘Shree Bharatalaya’ is an institution of fine arts that she founded in 1970. Her choreographic mettle is well reflected in her dance dramas acclaimed the world over. On this special 65th year, Prof.Sudharani Raghupathi will be receiving her latest accomplishment, the ‘Natyacharya Award’ at the Music Academy. Sreshta presents the NaMaargam premier show as a celebration of her dedication to her students and this divine art form.

culturama | december 2012


Picture Story

P ra v eena S hi v ram Culturama’s fiction series continues, capturing the quotidian of everyday life in India through stories behind the ordinary, the mundane, the forgotten and the invisible

Sea ogfe Chan Photo jane staples, australia

MANICKAM’S laughter pours out like a bucket of pearls, running into corners I could never reach. He looks at me, and slips his soft little hands into mine, as the ocean breeze sends a cold wave towards us. It was five years ago that I found Manickam on this very beach. The tsunami had swallowed my family and spit me out in disgust to the far side of the lighthouse. Manickam lay next to me, also abandoned by the sea, unconscious. He would have been three or four, but it didn’t matter. When he opened his eyes, six hours later in the relief camp, he accepted me as if things had never been any different. The tidal wave had snatched his ability to speak, but who needed words when such communication existed? I could hear him even in my sleep. From the relief camp, we picked our way into the city. I never wanted to go back to the sea and Manickam never questioned it. We found an empty hole in a slum to call our own, and quickly befriended the rats and roaches. It seemed to be the best way forward. I donned the role of domestic help and went to three homes in the mornings and two in the evenings. It was enough to send Manickam to school, eat two meals a day, and buy him the odd snack. Sometimes, we even managed to catch a movie in the local theatre, our bodies slapped against the wooden bench right in front, our necks sore from stretching to see the tall stars on screen. But we preferred snuggling up on our frayed mat instead and gaze at the real stars to our hearts content through the hole in our ceiling. We survived. All past memories neatly packed away and put aside. Neither of us felt the need to unpack, even out of curiosity.


culturama | december 2012

Photo ralf topfer, germany

photo lee webb, usa

Until some ridiculous NGO visited Manickam’s school and launched the ‘The Sea is my Friend’ campaign. Manickam came home excited with the clean, white paper they had given him and a brand new box of crayons. He was to accompany the group that weekend to the dreaded beach to give colour to his locked up memories. I refused at first, but Manickam was unyielding. I finally relented, with the caveat that I would come with him. The weekend arrived and a huge bus came to pick us up. There was something different about Manickam’s eyes that day, as if he had been waiting for this. We reached the beach and the busload of expectant eyes and hands were split up into little groups. I held on to Manickam’s hand firmly, perhaps even hurting him a little. We found a quiet

spot away from the crowd. Manickam carefully put his paper and colours on the sand, and then, with a sudden burst of energy, rushed into the sea. It took me a moment to realise he was happy, but I dashed after him nevertheless. With life spilling out of his every pore, he takes my hand and we go deeper into the water. Our feet sink into the once familiar sand, dredging up a far away life. I lose my balance and fall into the water, panic dragging me deeper into the abyss of breathlessness. I open my mouth to scream but end up coughing out my dead family. Within seconds, calmness engulfs me. I feel one with the water. I pull Manickam in, the waves washing over us greedily, before we emerge, like photo ingrid ritter, UK resplendent water gods and goddesses, shimmering in the afternoon sun.

culturama | december 2012


Seeing India M arina M arangos

Home of Snow Trekking the Himalayas is as invigorating as it is challenging, as our writer discovers in this journey through India’s majestic peaks WE WERE four – two doctors, an actuary, who assesses risks but who secretly wants to be Ray Mears, and me, a middle-aged enthusiast, momentarily swayed by the attractive itinerary. We boarded the overnight to Dehradun and jumped into a 4×4, which took us on a six hour journey of tight U-bends, cavernous drops, breathtaking brimming rivers and landslides where the recent heavy monsoon had unstuck huge boulders of


culturama | december 2012

rock as if they were putty. Ravi, our tour guide, met us. When I enquired where we were going the next morning, he answered, “Straight up”. The path through the forest was beautiful. We stopped for the birds and the vistas and then walked for hours to get to a clearing, our first camp site by a small river called the Dayara Bugyal (a meadow). The clouds and the mist were rolling in and we were feeling tired but

tamil nadu let your spirituality soar

milesworth holidays india • srilanka • maldives • and beyond

visit: Milesworth Travels & Tours Pvt. Ltd., 39 R M Towers, 108 Chamiers Road, Chennai. Tel: +91-44-24320522 / 24359554 Fax: +91-44-24342668 E-mail: culturama | december 2012


content. The tents were put up and after a nourishing meal we retired quite early. The rain started half way through the night and if we had slept we were promptly woken as it pounded down on the tents. We awoke, pleasantly surprised not to have been swept away in a flash flood and started on our next walk, my favourite walk of the whole week. On the side of a mountain was dense jungle full of the most beautiful flowers and plants. We climbed from 2,750 m to 3,475 m and settled at our new campsite on the edge of the mountain. The winds picked up in the night. The good news in the morning was that our friend’s tent had not been swept away. The bad news was that Ravi announced cheerily at breakfast that this was our hardest day with seven hours of walking. We were climbing to our highest peak, some 4,200 m. The uphill was continuous; we crossed river beds, and walked along the sides of unstable mountains. We saw bear paw marks and fresh scat so they were definitely walking where we were walking! The porters ran down up and down these mountains with no change of pace, no change of clothing and no sign of discomfort. Most of them wore chappals. They wore all their clothes all the time and must have thought it amusing that we stopped for water, to take our jackets off, to put our thermals on and catch our breath frequently. At the highest peak, Surani, we did a puja and gave an offering to the little shrine, secretly praying for a safe return. Ravi, never one to mince his words, described the walk ahead as “mostly downhill but with some up bits and not so good bits”. True to his word, we walked along precipitous edges, screed that saw me losing my balance twice, and rounded a corner to a stampede of sheep and goats hurtling down the mountain at us. Seeing the camp site was some comfort, but altitude sickness and nausea had already set in for some of the group. We took the next morning off, which was restful, but the afternoon promised more challenges. I struggle with downhill at the best of times, but this was relentless and very muddy and slippery. We were all growing

weary. Ravi indicated that it was not far to a river and once we had crossed the river, the camp site was nearby. The river was a torrent; we edged our way across wooden planks with flagstones and got to the other side to see that we had to climb a whole mountain, “straight up” for an hour at the end of a very hard day’s walk and we were walking in the rapidly fading light. I was determined to make it to the top where a wet boggy forest clearing was waiting for us. They set the tents up in the dark and it started to rain heavily. We crawled into our tents and lay down exhausted. It rained all night and this time it was Ravi who spent the night awake thinking the little pond that we were camping by would flood our tents. We weren’t flooded, but very wet, so the next morning we waited for the rain to subside and I just hoped that the way we came up would not be the way we came down. Our new route was just as challenging and it started raining heavily again. Half way down we came across a camp of Gujjar pastoralists and everything immediately came into perspective. They live under a tarpaulin and sleep in the hay. They were cheery and beautiful, so we had no cause to complain. Our life was a bed of roses compared to theirs. They warmed up some of their thick and delicious buffalo milk for us to drink. So, with renewed energy, we went on to Bhagali village where we took refuge in the school and feasted on instant noodles. We walked solidly for perhaps three-and-a-half hours and turned back to look at how far we had come down the mountain .Very far! The last bit was on tarmac as we rounded a flowing river and went to the little village of Ghangnani, famous for its hot springs. That night we had a bed in a hotel (the tents being too wet for us to stay in) and a dip in the hot springs, which were unbelievably soothing on all those aching muscles. Our first wash in seven days! We returned to Barsu, our starting point, by jeep. And that evening, as if to remind us of their beauty and majesty, but also of their undisputed force, the peaks of Gangotri, Jaunli and Srikanth rose out of the clouds.

The writer is Greek-Cypriot and has been living in Delhi for the past two years. 52

culturama | december 2012

culturama | december 2012


Being India J a u me S an l l orente

Happy Feat A chance trip to India in 2005 led to a movement in health and education for children that has today touched more than 5,000 lives


culturama | december 2012

I LIKE to compare my relationship with India to an arranged marriage. This is the way I lived, and still live; my relationship with this fascinating and enigmatic country is sometimes so easy to understand and, at other times, is inexplicably strange. I landed in India for the first time in 2003. I was then working as a financial journalist in Barcelona, my hometown. Although I had wanted to take a vacation in Cape Town, the travel agent convinced me to change my plans at the last minute and make a trip to India, a country that — I must confess — I was never attracted to. I think that the same way in which a person has many facets, India has many facets, and that the impression it gives for the first time depends heavily on the person who is observing. My arrival in India was a shock. While I was aware of the beauty of its buildings, its breathtaking scenery, rich culture and folklore, the India that struck me was the one of extreme poverty, the great inequalities, and the lack of — rather obviously — the most fundamental human rights, equally available to all. I returned from my trip deeply upset by the social reality I had observed in India and could not understand how human rights could be denied to such a high percentage of the population with such impunity. There is a Spanish proverb that says “curiosity killed the cat”, but I think that curiosity saved the man and gave him an opportunity to grow and evolve. Therefore, and for some unknown reason, months after travelling for the first time to India, I felt the need to return. Maybe I wanted to “give a second chance” to this country that

so many had said such wonderful things about and of which I could only remember atrocities. I returned to India, but this time I visited Mumbai. The city horrified me even more than all the things I had disliked on my first trip. Millions of people crammed into huge slums, dirt, pollution, a breathing megalopolis, an unbalanced pace. However, on the last day of my trip I came across a small orphanage that was going through a difficult financial situation. I was moved by the story, and the past, of these children. I decided to return to Barcelona, quit my job, sell my flat, raise the money I could and return to Mumbai. I did not take such a radical step because of a love for India or a wish to change my life. I was motivated by a sense of social justice that I believe is common to all. Today, eight years after that decision was made, that little orphanage is Mumbai Smiles (, an organisation that implements projects in education, health and livelihood for more than 5,000 beneficiaries from communities living in the slums of Andheri (E). The road has not been easy, but it has been worth the effort. Although I first responded to India in a negative way, and she did as well (at least, that is what I thought then), we slowly learnt to respect and love each other, and today we are a very happy and well-matched marriage. Yes, I love India, and because I love my wife, I want the best for her. That is the purpose of my life.

Jaume is the Founder and General Director of Mumbai Smiles ( He has also authored the books, ‘Bombay, Beyond the Smiles’ and ‘Bombay Smiles: The Trip that Changed My Life’, which have been translated into more than seven languages, with a foreword by Dominique Lapierre.

culturama | december 2012


At Global Adjustments

role models

THE Beautiful India Expatriate Photo Competition lived up to its name with a display of beautiful vignettes from all over the country. Over 670 photographs from 70 expat participants from 21 countries made the competition a true amalgamation of cultures from across the world. This year, the photo competition marked its 15th year milestone with a special theme of Indian Weddings, and like a typical Indian wedding, the show had glitter, dance, music and, of course, great food at the grand venue, The Hyatt Regency! The photographs displayed represented the unique perceptions and ideas of the participants during their Indian sojourn. The categories included the regular — Into India, Places, Faces, Culture & Festivals — along with a new category on Indian Weddings. The judges for the event were Hemant Kumar Sinha, IAS., Principal Secretary, Chairman & Managing Director, TTDC; Jennifer McIntyre, US Consul General; Shinya Fujii, Director General, JETRO and Santosh Sivan, National Award winning Cinematographer, Film Director, and Producer. The highlight of the event was the Indian Brides Fashion Show. 17 expatriate women walked the ramp dressed as brides from different parts of India to cheering audiences. Interspersed with the muchanticipated announcement of winners in various categories, the show also featured a lively Indian dance. Ranjini Manian, Founder & CEO of the host company, Global Adjustments, said, “By immersing foreign direct


culturama | december 2012

investor families into India, we demonstrate that the India’s gap in infrastructural efficiency, we amply make up with the warmth of our culture.” Many participants felt this show was a personal tribute to the land they now call home. As Mari Kontio from Finland said, “I am in this programme because no other country we relocate to will offer us such a unique experience of participating in a fashion show wearing traditional costumes.” Olivia Gasser, another participant, added, “A big thank you to Global Adjustments for this amazing experience that will stay in our minds for a long time! It was good to be dressed like an Indian bride, wear a sari with beautiful jewellery. It is really good to spend moments like this, appreciate our new enviroment, and meet nice people here!” Babette Verbeek ended with, “Nandri (thank you in Tamil) to you all for a great experience! It was an honour and a lot of fun. I even got to wear an heirloom sari, I guess that's as authentic as it gets!” Chief Guest, Hemant Sinha congratulated Global Adjustments for “providing a platform for our expatriate friends to enjoy India for the past 15 years. The photos and the expatriates dressed as Indian brides were some excellent efforts by our foreign guests, and indeed our country provides so much opportunity with diversity from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari”. Jennifer McIntyre was overwhelmed with the glimpses of India’s many faces and places, as she rightly said, “Seeing these photos, I am inspired to visit so many places in India now.”

The spectacular exhibition of photographs kept our guests enthralled!

Elegant Kashmiri and Maharashtrian brides strike a pose The enthusiastic crowd cheered the participants on stage!

Judges Santosh Sivan (left) and Jennifer McIntyre (right) with Ranjini Manian (centre) A Tamilian bride walks the ramp with a Muslim bride

Chief Guest and judge, Hemant Sinha (centre), with Cojudges Jennifer McIntyre (left) and Shinya Fuji (right) Judge Shinya Fuji gives Carlo Sem the commended prize for Culture & Festivals category

Judge Jennifer McIntyre gives Madeleine Holly the second prize for the Faces category

culturama | december 2012


1 Dussera Painting by Christèle Gauthier, France Won the Judges Favorite Award and 1st prize in the Culture and Festivals category

1st Prize, Places Double Cow by Douglas Vanherpe, Belgium


3rd Prize, Culture & Festivals - Lighting Up by Ben Bowling, USA

2nd Prize, Culture & Festivals – Thrill of Anticipation by Tobias Schmidt, Germany

3rd Prize, Places – Lake by Michelle Klakulak ,USA 58

culturama | december 2012




1 1st Prize, Into India - Bull Whispering by Diana Grieger , Germany


2nd Prize, Places - Goat Under Threat by Nana Oya , Japan

2nd Prize, Into India - Caught Snapping by Sophie Fontant, France

3 3rd Prize, Into India - Holy Pink by Olya Morvan, Ukraine culturama | december 2012



1st Prize, Faces - Policeman Strikes a Pose by Isaa Sayegh Sandrine, France


2nd Prize, Faces - School Girl Eating by Madeleine Holly, Australia


culturama | december 2012

3rd Prize, Faces - Lord Shiva by Johnny Baird, UK



1st Prize, Indian Wedding – A Wedding by Marie Julie Oliver, France


3rd Prize, Indian Wedding – Pardah by Michelle Klakulak, USA


2nd Prize, Indian Wedding - Wedding Ritual by Marlon Pieris , Canada

culturama | december 2012


Holistic Living E knath E aswaran

Bound Together Last issue, Sri Easwaran told us how a sense of oneness with all can be sustained in everyday living. In this last instalment of Chapter 3, he shows us how the experience of togetherness can bring an end to sorrow ONE of the most appealing fruits of this experience is that you become a stranger to loneliness – an utter stranger. All separateness is gone. You don’t have to close your eyes to see God; what else is there to see? You see the divinity in every creature, so your love goes out to all. Anger subsides and becomes love, fear subsides and becomes courage, greed subsides and becomes compassion. Without a sense of “I” and “mine,” you live in all and everyone lives in you. It’s not a social enjoyment; it’s a kind of enlightened rapture of watching yourself in many disguises – not as other people, but as yourself playing various roles. That is how the joy comes. And this brings an end to sorrow. I have seen children in India start crying as soon as they see their mother, then stop when they’re in her arms. When the mother asks, “Why were you crying?” the little one replies, “I don’t remember.” That’s what happens when the illusion of a separate self disappears: you forget to cry for yourself, because the very source of personal sorrow falls away. This is difficult to explain, but terribly important because it is so often misunderstood. Everybody has times when misfortune strikes us or those we love. Everybody grieves at such times; each of us takes these crises personally. When your sense of separateness vanishes, you experience such tragedies for everyone – and with such a vast field to absorb your capacity for sorrow, there is very little left for dwelling on your own suffering. Those who suffer most in life are those who dwell upon themselves so extensively that they can’t think about others. Conversely, those who suffer least are those who do not dwell upon themselves. It is the separate ego that feels personal suffering, and that separate self is rather like a dream – not unreal, but barely remembered in waking life. In dreams we are


culturama | december 2012

Photo armando bruck, brazil

happy, we are sad, but when we wake up, the dream world melts away. We know that in reality there was no pleasure and no sorrow. In the dream, we believed that there was pain; therefore we felt pain. Similarly, when your ego is hurt, it suffers, and because you identify yourself with your ego, you suffer. When you don’t identify yourself with your ego, sorrow goes out of your life. We want to protest, “Don’t you feel any grief, then?” Of course you do. You haven’t become insensitive; your sensitivity has simply been absorbed in the needs of everyone, joys and sorrows alike. It brings a joy and security that no power on earth can shake. When you go to the dentist, your body may suffer: the body is physical; it obeys physical laws. But in your heart is abiding peace, a joy that will never leave you. Of course you grieve! When half a billion people go to bed hungry, you don’t have to see them; they are in your consciousness all the time. But there is nothing that can cause you grief personally because you don’t put any demands on life for yourself. You don’t try to clutch at people for support; you don’t cling to pleasure or depend upon appreciation; you are satisfied in and by your Self alone. “Having attained that abiding joy,” the Gita says, “there is no more to desire. You cannot be shaken even by the heaviest burden of sorrow.” (6:21–22) In this state, though inwardly your mind is still, outwardly you may be ceaselessly active in selfless service. Full inside, you don’t need anything, but you are restless to give, to serve. This union of contemplation and action is a hallmark of the Gita, which urges us not to withdraw from the world but to conquer all selfishness and then throw ourselves into selfless service right in the midst of life, where there is so much pain, so much sorrow, so much violence, that every day there are things to be done: It is not those who lack energy or refrain from action, but those who work without expectation of reward who attain the goal of meditation. (6:1)

Selfish action imprisons the world. Act selflessly, without any thought of personal profit. . . . Every selfless act, Arjuna, is born from Brahman, the eternal, infinite Godhead; he is present in every act of service. . . . Therefore, strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world. . . . Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind. (3:9, 15, 19–20) This is what the Gita calls “action in inaction”: stillness at the centre, but immense energy released for the service of all: The wise see that there is action in the midst of inaction and inaction in the midst of action. Their consciousness is unified, and every act is done with complete awareness. (4:18) – End of Chapter 3

learn to meditate Date: DECEMBER 29 Time: 2 pm to 3.15 pm Venue: India Immersion Centre, # 5, Third Main Road, R A Puram, Chennai 28.

Introductory Presentation on Passage Meditation – Learn how to develop greater patience with yourself and with others. A longtime passage meditator, Ranjini Manian, will run a one-hour introductory presentation on this practical method of meditation, originated by Sri Eknath Easwaran. Email Ranjini at for more information.

Reprinted with permission from Essence of the Bhagavad Gita: A Contemporary Guide to Yoga, Meditation & Indian Philosophy by Eknath Easwaran (Nilgiri Press, 2011). Copyright 2011 by The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, P.O. Box 256, Tomales, CA 94971, culturama | december 2012


Currently Occucpied I an W atkinson

Photos Ian watkinson, uk

Tide & Time As the world succumbs to a global weather crisis, we remember the fury of the 2004 Tsunami in the wake of the recent cyclones, Thane and Nilam, to hit India THIS month marks the eighth anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, which claimed nearly 2,30,000 lives throughout the area – the worst tsunami in recorded history. The terrifying power of nature and the sea lies intertwined with the livelihood of the people of the Bay of Bengal. The tsunami memories come back like bad dreams every year when the cyclones emerge like whirling djinns from the usually peaceful waters. The wind moving southwards, whips vicious vortices of wind and water into tropical cyclones, and the coastal people from Myanmar to Mahabalipuram await their fate as the swirling cones of fury hurtle around the Bay. In 2008, Cyclone ‘Nargis’ landed in Myanmar claiming over 1,40,000 lives, and in December 2010, the eye of Cyclone ‘Jal’


culturama | december 2012

(Sanskrit for ‘water’) was predicted to strike Chennai with its full force, as it gained momentum and magnitude on its westward journey over the sea. Huge waves relentlessly thrashed the beaches along the Tamil Nadu and Andrha Pradesh coast with mocking impunity and vitriolic energy. The fisherfolk gathered their polystyrene catch-boxes, nets and long-tail engines and took shelter under the flimsy coconut huts on the beach scattered amongst the gaily painted boats – most of which were replacements for losses in the 2004 tsunami. “Big water coming, Sir, big water coming” said one animated fisherman, soaked to the skin and sitting with his frightened colleagues in the howling horizontal wind and rain. They didn’t understand what was happening, and were terrified another tsunami was

going to devastate their lives beyond comprehension and destroy their boats again. “No, no, big water is not coming, big wind is coming, go inland, go into proper buildings, take your things!” was my response … the same all the way along the beaches between Thiruvanmiyur and Elliot’s Beach, fisherfolk clustered everywhere in fear. Three hours later, 150 km out into the sea from Chennai, the storm capitulated, sank with a muted sigh into the reefs and calm again prevailed. In December 2011, Cyclone ‘Thane’ struck the South-eastern Indian coast with unrelenting fury – this time Mother Nature was not satisfied until she had fully vent her anger on the Indian coastal peoples. On the night the storm struck we were stranded, sleepless, in a train near Villupuram, inland from Cuddalore. As dawn broke, the severity of the damage seemed like a bad dream. Huge tamarind trees of mighty girth ripped from the ground like feeble weeds and tossed aside; a long low loader truck lay where it had been blown down an embankment next to the railway, its cargo a massive white blade for a wind turbine, now bent and broken in the shrubs. Ironically, its ultimate purpose was to harness the very energy which had destroyed it. Travelling by road from Chidambaram to Pondicherry, immediately after the cyclone hit, was heart wrenching – every electricity pylon along the country road was down for over 40 km, roads blocked with ancient uprooted tamarinds, coconut huts crushed by toppled trees or burned by overturned lamps. The paddy fields, bursting with fat grain and approaching harvest time, were flattened and useless; groves of mature coconut trees lay askew like matchsticks, destroyed by the thousand. Groves of valuable cashew nut trees ripped and torn apart like paper. The water tankers continue through the slow day, ferrying water to areas where it was most needed. Demonstrations by villagers block the road, protesting about the lack of drinking water. The police arrive in white Ambassadors and ironed uniforms and gently persuade the angry protestors to go home, if they still have one to go to. There is no resistance, no rising tide of anger amongst the protestors, which is often the flash point of brutal violence in India. “There is no one to blame, we are doing our utmost. We have to clear the roads first for the water trucks,” explains the Inspector.

Approaching Cuddalore, bare vertical rods of the frames of petrol stations rise starkly from the concrete – the cladding and then sheet metal coverings torn away and hurled randomly into the houses around like razor edged chakras. Glass-fronted buildings devoid of glass look bleakly out over twisted restaurant and bank billboards, concrete pylons lay on the crushed roofs of small cars, abandoned. Pondicherry has the look of a town hosting an urban guerrilla war, the avenues of trees lost will take hundreds of years to recover; the central park partially destroyed, the people in shock, the tourists vanished. Farmer, villager or educated businessman all reiterated the same thing – that ‘Thane’ had caused more long-term damage than the tsunami. Certainly, the death toll was far, far higher in the tsunami, but the aftermath of ‘Thane’ would affect the livelihoods of the coastal people for decades – 90% of the cashew trees amounting to over 25,000 hectares and nearly 1,50,000 hectares of paddy were lost. More recently, Cyclone ‘Nilam’ has been and gone without major damage. Things will be calm again until this time next year; the fishermen will fish, the paddy will grow. Time and tide pass us by, but the memories will never die. “The flesh endures the storm of the present alone, the mind those of the past and future as well as the present.” – Epicurus (BC 431–270).

Helping Hands If you wish to contribute your time or donate money towards relief work, here are a couple of options: Hope Foundation H-6/B, Hauz Khas, Ground Floor, New Delhi - 110016, India. Contact: 011-26515374, 26515373 Aid India 7/4, Besant Road, Gopalapuram, Chennai. Contact: 044-28350403

The writer is British and has visited and lived in India for several years.

culturama | december 2012


Myth and Mythology De v d u tt P attanaik

Handle with Care illustration devdutt pattanaik

We asked Devdutt if compassion and forgiveness were feasible qualities that could be practiced in organisations and he answers with this story from the Ramayana

WHEN Rishi Gotama returned to his house, he found his wife, Ahalya, in the arms of Indra, king of the Devas. Furious, he cursed his wife to turn into stone and Indra to be covered with sores. This story is found in the first chapter of the Ramayana, which deals with the childhood and education of Ram, Prince of Ayodhya. The sage, Vishwamitra, takes Ram to the hermitage of Gotama and shows him the stone that was once Ahalya. She has been condemned to be trodden upon by bird, beast and stranger. Vishwamitra asks Ram to touch the stone with his feet and liberate Ahalya so that she can rejoin her husband. In the different versions of the Ramayana, the story of Ahalya is told differently. In some versions, she is the guilty

adulteress who gets caught in the act. In other versions, she is innocent, duped by the wily Indra who takes the form of her husband. There are versions where Ahalya is the bored and tortured wife who finds solace in the arms of Indra. The narrators struggle to explain why Ram forgives Ahalya. It makes sense for Ram to forgive someone wrongfully accused than someone who is truly guilty. Often in business, we have to deal with people who have not kept their commitment, who have broken their word, who have demonstrated questionable integrity. There are attempts to justify their actions and plead their case. There are attempts to show that the conclusions drawn are based on false data, spread by mischievous forces. We have to decide if we have to let Ahalya stay a stone or liberate her from misery. We have to decide when the punishment, justified or not, is enough. It was clear to Paritosh that the caretaker of the company guest house was siphoning funds. But there was no proof. It was a combination of hearsay and gut feeling. Murlidhar, the caretaker, was told to go on long leave. In his absence, Jotiraj took over as caretaker and the services in the guest house showed a marked improvement at a much lower cost. The old-timers said maybe Murlidhar was simply inefficient. The auditors said Murlidhar was a cheat. Murlidhar insisted he was innocent. After six months of deliberations, Paritosh reinstated Murlidhar. Everyone wondered if Murlidhar was innocent or if he had been forgiven. When asked, Paritosh said, “I really don’t know. But the last six months have been harrowing enough for Murlidhar. If he was guilty, he has been punished. If he was innocent, he will learn to be more efficient. No one is perfect and people do make mistakes in life. If we do not forgive and move on, we will end up creating a smug, self-righteous organisation where there is no compassion. That is not the kind of company I wish to create.� Perhaps, compassion is also the lesson Vishwamitra was trying to teach Ram.

The writer is the Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, and a writer and illustrator of several books on Indian mythology. 66

culturama | december 2012


IN  T HIS MAGAZINE Reach thousands of expatriates and Indians through Culturama, India’s only cultural magazine for expatriates. w n. sgt lo or eb@a gl lao d n et n s t. sc. coomm dwe w sig b aj luasd tj ums et m

Postcard from India

Feel the Pulse

ly taken at e was actual THIS pictur engaluru, ur stay in B o f o g in nn the begi a camera with ably carried ri va in the e w n whe had been in we went. We r da ve na re an he K w e us n th a month whe day he (T . city for about us n y came upo f Rajyotsava da the state o rmation of fo e n o th ed es at ifi br gn si cele 1956, and is Karnataka in e were driving, w s A .) ar ye y er ev 1 r be m Nove Whitefield, so is parade in th s ed ss pa e w p. The colour driver to sto it at th l fu er I asked our w ere so po w ic us A . m e ed captur and th waiting to be e t ur ea ct pi gr a d was ory an the rich hist a! di In f o rt testimony to c pa is an intrinsi festivals that l, Evan Ryzebo


culturama | december 2012


Festival of the Month

5 December






CHRISTMAS in India has the same underlying spirit, but the celebration of Christmas varies in this country of diversity. There’s much to do, to share and to experience and we give you Christmas “at a glance” in your city! EAT The typical Western fare of turkey and cranberry sauce with yule logs are in many buffet spreads in India too. We handpicked a few which other expatriates have tried and tested. Mumbai: • Corleone, International Marine Drive (Rs. 2,350 with alcohol) • Café Prato & The Pavillion at the Four Season Worli (Rs. 3,500 per person with alcohol) • Indigo in Colaba and Bandra (Rs. 2,220 per person with alcohol) Delhi: • Imperial Hotel, Connaught Place.(Rs 4,000 for an exquisite selection of hors d'oeuvres and signature dishes like Norwegian salmon and more) • The Leela Kempinski, DLF City Phase III, N.H – 8 has a Christmas Day Brunch at Spectra (Rs. 2,500 onwards) • Epicentre, Apparel House, Sector 44, Gurgaon and India Habitat Centre for Christmas brunch Bengaluru: • Soul City, UB City, Vittal Mallya Road has a Christmas brunch with traditional and authentic dishes • Tango Calypso, Richmond Road has live music nights throughout December and a Christmas day five-course meal


Photo Debora Zerneri, USA

culturama | december 2012

• Palette at Vivanta by Taj has an exclusive Christmas Celebration Table with all traditional Christmas delights Chennai: • Hyatt Regency, Mount Road, Teynampet has a grand Christmas lunch on December 25 with a dedicated kids zone too • Taj Connemara Hotel, Binny Road, Mount Road for traditional Christmas delicacies • Sandy’s, R.A Puram, 1st Cross Road, R.A Puram has a great selection of cakes for Christmas

LOVE India has an ocean of people and causes to help. But often people don’t know where to start. Here are charities for the young and old known for the excellent work they do, with your donation going to the right person in an authentic way. Delhi: • Bal Sehyog: Behind Hanuman Mandir, close to Connaught Place Police Station: Shelter for homeless children since 1954, provides education for disadvantaged children and has a vocational training institute with accredited vocational courses. • Mobile Creches: DIZ Area, Raja Bazaar, Sector IV, Near Gole Market, New Delhi: Founded in 1969, this facility cares for children of construction workers. Tel: 011-23347635 / 23363271. Mumbai: • Akanksha: Voltas House ‘C’, TB Kadam Marg, Chinchpokli, Mumbai: An NGO with a mission to provide children from low-income communities

with education, Tel: 022-23700253, 23729880 • Little Sisters of the Poor: Mahakali Caves Road, Andheri East, Mumbai: An NGO managing the home for the aged, 65 years and above. Tel: 02228382535 Bengaluru: • Navachaitanya Old Age Home: Near Thimmarayaswami Temple, Horamavu Gandhi Circle, Banaswadi, Bengaluru: An old age home that provides comfortable, clean and hygienic boarding and lodging facilities with nursing and medical care. Tel: 080-65655555, 9448244695 • Abilashrayam Trust: #373, 2nd Cross, Muniswamappa Layout, Kodigehalli, Bengaluru: A registered NGO, working for child rights, senior citizen rights & rural development across India. Tel: 09880050186, 080-41226564 Chennai: • Kaakkum Karangal: New No.89 (Old No.47), Santhome High Road, Santhome, Chennai: A home for the old and destitute and orphaned children. They have six homes housing aged citizens, school going children and spastic children. Tel: 04424617754 • Udavum Karangal: No. 460, NSK Nagar, Chennai: An NGO that offers shelter for the destitute, providing treatment, care, rehabilitation and education. Tel: 044-26216321 PRAY Christians across the country mark the birth of Lord Jesus Christ on Christmas Day by participating in special midnight masses and day masses in English organised in churches. Delhi: • The Cathedral Church of Redemption, 1 Church Road, North Avenue. New Delhi. Tel: 011-2309 4229 • Sacred Heart Cathedral, New Delhi: 1 Ashoka Place, New Delhi. Tel: 011-23363593 • Church of Immaculate Conception, Kenhi Village, Sector 44, Gurgaon. Tel: 0124-2380506 Mumbai: • Holy Name Cathedral or Wodehouse Church, Colaba, South Mumbai. Tel: 022-22020121 • Mount Mary’s Basillica, Bandra (West), North Mumbai. Tel: 022-26423152 Bengaluru: • St. Marks Cathedral , #1, M.G. Road, Bengaluru. Tel: 080-22213633 / 22214201 • Infant Jesus Shrine, Bazaar Street, Vivek Nagar, Bengaluru. Tel: 080-25301206 • Ashraya, Lemontree Hotel, St. John’s Road, Ulsoor. Tel: 09663395276 Chennai: • St. Luis Church, No.10, 3rd Canal Cross Road, Gandhi Nagar. Tel: 044-22484912 • St. George’s Cathedral, Cathedral Road, Chennai. Tel: 044-28114261 • Santhome Cathedral Basilica, #19, Santhome High Road, Karneeswarapuram, Mylapore, Chennai. Tel: 044-24985455

culturama | december 2012


Child Friendly Yasmeena Khan


Buy Chaupar online at

girl interrupted IN THE media today, teenagers – girls, in particular – are being portrayed as the partying, carefree and popularityobsessed kind. While this is true of some kids in this world, in actuality, many kids do not act in an attention-seeking way. But these shows may be changing that. All TV shows use actresses made up like dolls and obsessed about image and beauty. The popular girls are always beautiful, while the “unpopular” ones are often ugly or overweight. And the unpopular girls, who some shows are centred around, are just as shallow as the so-called popular ones. When young girls watch these shows, they wrongly decide that the only way to be liked and be popular is to be beautiful and mean. A girl I know dyed her hair blonde at just eleven years of age because she wanted to be like a very popular girl. Twelve years ago, a twelve or thirteen-year-old would have just been thinking about maybe buying some lip-gloss or light eye shadow. But today, girls at ten and eleven have already visited six to seven make-up stores and probably own a large selection of glosses, eye shadows, and maybe even some blushes. Then, they begin to wear them at school. So what happens now? Everyone feels like they need to act grown-up to be popular and they begin to act ahead of their age. Take the recent Bollywood movie, ‘Cocktail’, for example. This movie featured two girls. Both girls were quite pretty, but the one that the guys went after was the crazy one who partied all night and wore Western clothes, while the other girl wore traditional Indian clothes. Coming back to India, this was the last thing I expected. Only goes to show how deep-rooted the media’s impact is, turning quiet girls into loud-voiced ones with clown make-up and a mind forever polluted by the TV’s trash. The writer is 12 years old, half-Indian, quarter-Pakistani and quarterDutch and lives in the United States. 70

culturama | december 2012

CHAUPAR, meaning four (Chau) ways (Par), is a traditional Indian board game believed to date back to the 4th Century. Said to have been played by the Mughal kings in North India, Chaupar is also played in the South as Dayakattai (da-yaka-te) or ‘the game of dice’. ‘Ludo’ is a modern-day version of the game. The game was originally played with a pair of brass dice that has 1, 2, 3 and 0 dots on each of their four sides, though today, a regular pair of dice would do. Draw the board shown above on a chart or on the floor, keep four differently coloured coins each for two or four players and start playing! All players keep their coins in the centre of the board (home). Each player takes up one of the arms and the coins start from ‘home’ across the respective arms in a clockwise direction throughout the board. The game starts with one player rolling the dice to 1 and 0 or 0 and 0 combinations and they can move one place from ‘home’ along the arm (if it is a regular pair of dice, then the player needs to role 6 and 6). The 0–0 combination is counted as the number 12 and entitles the player to 12 moves. Players throwing any other combination on the dice cannot move. They wait their turn. With each throw, the players can move one of their coins. Another option is to divide the number thrown between the coins. Say the number 12 is thrown, player can move one coin by 5, another piece by 3 and a third by 4 places each. The coins of one player can cut other players by landing on the same spot. The coin that is cut is sent back to the beginning of the game or ‘home’. Safe zones can be marked randomly across the board where no coin can be cut. After completing one round of the board, each coin comes to the top corner of the players’ arm on the board. From here the coin gets ‘home’ only when the player throws a five. Players win the game by getting all their coins back ‘home’.


What is it about? As personal stories go, this one is filled with nostalgia of a privileged life in an urban Bengali family of the 1960s, with a house in Kolkata and a holiday home in Bihar, with servants and caretakers aplenty. When the oldest daughter, Amu, runs away from home to join the Naxal movement, the parents are heartbroken. Rumi, the youngest daughter and the primary narrator, grows up unforgiving of Amu’s deed for the way it alters personal equations within the family. Who is it by? Diti Sen is a freelance writer and has written a book for children, called ‘The Two Friends’. Why should I read it? Read the book, not for its literary merit or the story itself, but for its portrayal, albeit brief, of what the Naxal movement of the 1960s and 1970s came to mean for the Naxalites, their families, and the tribals that the movement sought to emancipate. It’s also a foundation for the more recent rise in Maoist activity.

Album Quartet Genius Series

Book Red Skies & Falling Stars by Diti Sen

What is it about? Carnatic music is a system of Indian classical music that originated in South India. This series showcases four renowned 18th and 19th century Carnatic composers through some of their krithis (composition structures combining lyrics and melody), set to a raaga (specific combination of musical notes), and rendered by some of the most popular contemporary musicians today. Who is it by? This series features the work of four of the genre’s greatest names – Thyagaraja, Shyama Shastri, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Swati Tirunal – sung by some of the well-known musical talents of today including Bombay S. Jayashri, T.M. Krishna, Sudha Ragunathan, and Sanjay Subrahmanyan. Why should I listen to it? This album does not attempt to teach an appreciation of Carnatic music, nor is it a definitive album on Carnatic music. However, it does come close to providing a familiarity through repeated listening of the genre, the composers’ signature styles and the musical prowess of the vocalists. Especially useful to those interested in attending the Music Season concerts in Chennai all this month.

i hear

i read

S aritha R ao

i see

To order a CD, log on to

What is it about? Shashi Godbole runs a successful home-based traditional sweets business but yearns to be respected by her husband and their teenage daughter, who believe she is not good enough because she is not fluent in English. When Shashi visits her sister in the United States, she enrols for a ‘Learn English in 4 weeks course’. Through the course and with the support of the people she meets, Shashi learns to love herself a little more and also reclaims the respect she deserves. Who is it by? Gauri Shinde is an advertising filmmaker and this is her debut feature film. She is married to filmmaker, R. Balki, who’s made critically acclaimed films like ‘Cheeni Kum’ and ‘Paa’, also worth watching. Why should I watch it? In India, the derogatory ‘vernac’, is often used to denote those who are more comfortable in their own vernacular language and not quite fluent in English. The movie captures, with great sensitivity, the feelings of inferiority and inadequacy that such labelling evokes even within a family.

Film English Vinglish (Hindi)

culturama | december 2012


Tell us your Story

The ouse Whisperer Anita Krishnaswamy, President of Global Adjustments and relocation expert, will answer all those niggling questions you might have on housing and realty in India. Anita comes with many years of experience of working with expat clients across the major metros in India to help them find their perfect home. She can be reached at

If there is a construction going on right next to my rented apartment/ house and they are working on weekends and also late in the night, what are my options so that my family is not inconvenienced by this noise? (British tenant in Chennai) My response to this issue may be disappointing because there is no straight solution to this in emerging India. The construction of apartments/houses (commercial complexes not included) may take anywhere between 6 months to 3 years (even more) depending on various factors. Occupants of that neighbourhood do not have any control over timelines and the pattern of their working. This leaves us with two options. Option 1: Shortlist a property in an area which is completely developed, with no likely constructions in the near future. My opinion would be to lease a property in a quiet neighbourhood, even if it falls short of certain requirements of an ideal home. Option 2: If there is a construction going on in the neighbourhood of a property that you intend to lease, please check with the builders when it is likely to be completed. If it is a period you and your family can endure, please prepare yourself and your family for this inconvenience. It helps to double glaze your windows to cut out the noise. What other costs are we expected to pay for help we hire other than food and lodging? For instance, are we supposed to pay for doctor’s visits if they are sick? Is there state provided medical coverage? (American tenant in Mumbai) The staff that you employ in the house (cook, gardener, security, driver, top maid and baby-sitter) could be hired for a single package rate. This means you give them a consolidated salary. Other benefits may be negotiated during the time of hiring, like: Food Lodging plus travel during leave for live-in employees Travel allowance for non live-in employees Annual bonus, if applicable (Half or upto one month's pay after they complete a year) There is no state or employer-provided medical coverage. It would be a good touch if you paid their medical bills on proof of receipt, fully or partially. They would appreciate it and charity begins at home. Fringe benefits like covering educational costs for their children could be encouraging, but do ask that they provide documentation. Why is there no backing on the curtain in the master bedroom window? (British tenant in Chennai) Keeping light out with a backing cloth lining on curtains is the norm in India as well. However, with the recent advent and convenience of readymade curtain stores, some landlords may be fitting out windows easily with the single layer ones you get off the shelf. If you want backing, it has to be custom-made. Do ask your landlord during negotiation and he will probably agree to it, though it will take longer to fit out. Follow us on

If you have any comments, suggestions or queries for this column, write to 72

culturama | december 2012

culturama | december 2012


Space & The City

Global Adjustments

Owners, list your property with us for MNC clients. Renters and buyers, we are your one-stop shop for all real estate needs.

Easing your passage to and from India


17 years of bringing the world to India

South Bengaluru Spacious Apartment • • • •

3 Bedrooms All amenities Centrally located Fully furnished

Central Bengaluru Beautiful Apartment • • • •

2 Bedrooms Semi furnished Apartment complex With amenities

South Bengaluru Centrally Located

South Bengaluru Large Apartment

• • • •

• • • •

3 Bedrooms Semi furnished Apartment complex Commercial location

4 Bedrooms Fully furnished Gated community Modern kitchen


For the above sample and many more such properties call 91 80 41267152 /9986960315 or email:

Powai Furnished Apartment • 4850 sq.ft , 5 Bedrooms • Marble flooring & Modular kitchen • Gym & Garden • Two car parking, Servant room

Juhu Spacious Apartment • 2200 sq.ft, 3 Bedrooms with study • Semi furnished with marble flooring • Modular kitchen • Car Parking, Servant room

Powai Semi Furnished Apartment • 2125 sq.ft, 3 Bedrooms • Marble flooring • Well fitted kitchen • Car parking, Servant room

Powai Large Apartment • 2800 sq.ft, 4 Bedrooms • Modular kitchen • Marble flooring, 2 car parking • Garden and Servant room


For the above sample and many more such properties call 91 22 66104191/ 9769001515 or email:

Delhi Defence Colony Serviced Apartment for Rent

Delhi Vasant Vihar Duplex Apartment for Rent

Gurgaon Belaire Beautiful Apartment

Gurgaon Palm Springs Spacious Villa

• 3 Bedrooms • Brand new, Fully furnished and serviced • Internet, housekeeping, inverter back-up • Air-conditioned, aesthetic interiors

• Four Bedrooms • Aesthetically designed with character • Air-conditioned, 100% power back-up • Terrace facilities

• 4 Bedrooms • Centrally air-conditioned • 100 % power back-up and security • Fully fitted kitchen

• 5 Bedrooms • 100% power back-up and security • Clubhouse, gym, bowling alley and movie theatre • Children’s play area, garden and splash pool

For the above sample and many more such properties call 91 124 435 4236/ 981551070 or email: 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 | december 2012

culturama | december 2012


Global Adjustments Easing your passage to and from India

Owners, list your property with us for MNC clients. Renters and buyers, we are your one-stop shop for all real estate needs.


17 years of bringing the world to India

Charming House with Pool - For Rent ECR

Fully-furnished Modern House - For Rent ECR

Brand New Town House - For Rent ECR

• 3,500 sq. ft. • 4 Bedrooms / 5 Bathrooms • Lots of natural light • Safe and secure neighbourhood • Landscaped garden

• Avant Garde design • 3 Bedrooms plus study • Separate guest suite • Large private plot • Hi-spec home theatre

• 3 Bedrooms, 4500sqft • Contemporary architecture • Private rooftop pool • Spacious and airy living room • Home theatre room

Modern Villa in a Gated Community - For Rent ECR

Spacious Villa in a Gated Community - For Rent ECR

Two Brand New Apartments - For Rent South Chennai

• Design meets international specifications • 3 Bedrooms plus lounge • Children’s play area • Pool, gym and power back-up • 24 hour security

• 3400 sq.ft villa • 4 Bedrooms plus study • Private landscaped garden • Serene surroundings • 24 hour security, pool and gym

• Open style kitchen • Smart bathrooms • Quiet street • Can be combined as one living unit

Excellent Investment Opportunity @ ECR 3 last villas for SALE

Fully Furnished Luxury Apartment - For Rent South Chennai • 3400 sq.ft, 4 Bedrooms • Tasteful Interiors , sunny patio • Fully equipped kitchen (dishwasher and built-in oven) • Gym and power back-up • 1 of 4 apartments

• 5,400 sq. ft. each with an individual swimming pool • LED lighting, fully fitted to Western standards • Elevator from ground to first floor • Home theatre room and Sun Deck • Will easily rent to expatriate families from single MNC

For more properties, call Global Adjustments at 91 44 24617902/91 95516 95968 (Chennai), or e-mail: 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 | december 2012

culturama | december 2012



culturama | december 2012

culturama | december 2012


RNI NO.TNENG/2010/32752

REGISTERED No. TN/CC(S) Dn./396/10-12

Culturama December 2012  

Culturama brings out the best of December this issue, with stories of expat families in the cities of Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru r...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you