culturama your cultural gateway to india
November 2013 Volume 4, Issue 9
The modern art of telling traditional Indian stories
festive 33 Culturama's season guide
Choose from specially hand-picked Indian gifts
Dear readers Recently, I was driving along the National Highway from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the northern and southern tips of India, respectively, and found the four-lane drive an awesome experience. Bravo India! As we turned off onto a slightly smaller but green road, we saw on the roadside a pair of brown hands working up a lather of shampoo on a head of short hair. The small frame had a skirt and shirt on. As we pulled up, I saw seven-yearold Sheela reach on tiptoe for a dented aluminium pot to wet her hair and coax more foam from her shampoo sachet. She was bathing on a main road where a hand pump sat. Going briskly from spout to handle, she pumped it for more water, and, when it didn't work, jumped to the front and primed the pump with the few drops she had in her vessel. The next time she worked the handle, a gush of
water filled her tiny pot and flowed into her baby hands. She rinsed her hair, shook back her locks and was done with her weekly hair wash. We dedicate this issue of Culturama to Sheela and other innovative and resilient children of India as we celebrate November 14, the birth anniversary of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, as Children’s Day. Chacha Nehru, or Uncle Nehru as the children of India lovingly refer to him, loved the little ones. Our Feature story this month captures the modern art of telling India’s ancient stories, while our A to Z gives you a glimpse of India’s traditional and still popular games. But as we went about working on the rest of the magazine, we realised that the spirit of children, that unmistakable quality of positivity, permeated our other stories as well, albeit quietly. It is there in our In Focus personality, Suhasini Maniratnam, as she forges ahead with India’s one-of-a-kind film festival. It is there is our Picture Story that walks the corridors of South Indian temples, capturing everyday moments with tenderness. It is there in our Seeing India story on Odisha that shows you just where the people of that city get their strength from as they grapple with the aftermath of Phalin. It is there in our Holistic Living story that talks about the power of now, that children seem to magically hold in their hands. And it is there in India too, in the Sheelas that you might encounter, in the pockets of hope you will find in the unlikeliest of places. As Nehru’s own little girl, Indira, once said, “How can you be Indian and not be proud”? As we light the lamp of goodness this Diwali, let’s keep that in mind. Happy Diwali to all our readers! Ranjini Manian Editor-in-Chief email@example.com
Credits Cover image Elena Eder, Italy
Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian
Letters to the editor
Consultant Editor Praveena Shivram Business Head Sheeba Radhamohan Editorial Coordinator Shefali Ganesh Senior Designer Prem Kumar Consultant Designers 2adpro Circulation Manager R Vijayan Advertising Bengaluru T Mukundan Chennai M Dhiviya Delhi/NCR Preeti Bindra, Ruchika Srivastava Mumbai/Pune Farah Bakshay, Rachana Sinha To subscribe to this magazine, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or access it online at www.culturama.in
“Culturama as a magazine is a good miniature of the Indian mind. With strong roots that draw from culture and tradition and branches that show the diversity of the society. We particularly enjoy as to how the expat and the Indian both contribute and enrich the magazine. It is India both past, present and future .Congrats on 18 years and many more years to come. Culturama symbolises the true India spirit of Athithi devo bavah, everyone is made welcome and at home.” Viswanathan Anand, India
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Editor’s Note: Vishwanathan Anand, the Indian Chess Grandmaster, will be playing against Norwegian chess star, Magnus Carlsen, in the World Chess Championship 2013 to be held in Chennai this month. Here's wishing Anand the very best from Culturama! Turn to page 43 for more details.
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Errata In our October 2013 issue, we regret the error in the mention of Sheraton Park Hotel & Towers in the 'Thought Leaders' column.
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On our website and our magazine we are now using the five icons below to help guide you through the contents. They are based on our five areas where Culturama can really help – giving you an insight into India, its life and culture; finding you great places to shop and fun things to do to enrich your Indian experience; helping you find a home; and connecting you to new friends.
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Culturama’s contributors 01 Susan Philip is a freelance writer based in Chennai, and the editorial coordinator of Culturama’s various coffeetable books. 02 Harini Sankaranarayanan is an ardent foodie and a professional chocolatier. She has a degree in Hotel Management, English literature and theatre.
03 Ian Watkinson is a wrestler of words, a cooker of curries, a dabbler with the tabla, a persistent photographer and haphazard historian. 04 Virginie Vlaminck is a Belgian photographer living in Chennai for the past two years. She is a passionate anti-pollution activist, spreading awareness through her photographs.
05 Neil Miller is Head of CrossCultural Services at Global Adjustments. He is an American and has been living in Chennai for the past two years. 06 Eknath Easwaran (1910— 1999) was a spiritual teacher, author and founder of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in California. www.easwaran.org
07 Devdutt Pattanaik is the Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, and a writer and illustrator of several books on Indian mythology. www.devdutt.com 08 Anita Krishnaswamy is President of Global Adjustments and a relocation expert. She has years of experience working with expat clients across the country.
Advisory Board members 09 N Ram is an award-winning journalist and former Editorin-Chief of The Hindu. He is Director of Kasturi & Sons Limited, publishers of The Hindu. 10 Suzanne McNeill lived in India for seven years, first in Chennai and then in Delhi. She has now returned to Scotland, where she works as a freelance writer and graphic designer.
11 Babette Verbeek is a correspondent for BNR Nieuwsradio who previously worked in Amsterdam and Milan. Now she joyfully explores the beauty of South Indian culture. 12 Marina Marangos is a lawyer by profession but enjoys travel and writing. She lived in India for two years before moving to Australia. She blogs at www.mezzemoments.blogspot.com
13 G Venket Ram is an acclaimed photographer and the creative mind behind many a Culturama issue. To know more about his work, log on to www.gvenketram.com 14 Beth Chapman is an American business management consultant living in Bengaluru. Former President of the city’s Overseas Women’s Club, Beth is an Indian culture aficionado.
15 Diane Chatterjee is a Scottish insurance professional who has lived in Mumbai for the past seven years. Besides indulging her passion for Indian travel, craft and cuisine, she has been on the Board of Mumbai Connexions, a society for expats. 16 Marcel Van Mourik is a Dutch photographer living in New Delhi for the past three years. Together with his cameras, he is passionate about discovering Indian culture.
On the Cover
Contents Journeys into India
Take a trip to South Asia's second largest brackish water lake, Pulicat, and read our tribute to the spirited people of Odisha
26 Steering tales India's ancient stories with a contemporary twist!
Festive Season Gift Catalogue
Spiritual guru and teacher, Eknath Easwaran, tells us how to train the mind to stay in the moment
From the other side
Culturama's pick of uniquely Indian gifts for the festive season
An expat's viewpoint on the child-friendly Hindu monkey god, Hanuman
10 In focus
Suhasini Maniratnam, actor par excellence, talks about the Chennai International Film Festival
India’s Culture 14
A-Z of India
A fun list of India's traditional games
Look who’s in town
Expats in India share their stories on a practical theme for everyday survival in India.
See what’s going in Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai
Soulful moments captured around the temples of South India
At Global Adjustments
Read about the doll festival celebration with our expat guests
A cross-cultural perspective to living and working in India
Give to India
Featuring worthy causes across the country
A space for India’s abounding world of literature
Short message service
Short, engaging snippets of Indian culture
In your kitchen
We bring you the unique cuisine of Nagaland's Sema tribe
Relocations and Property 68
Practical advice from Global Adjustments’ relocation expert.
Space and the city
Property listings across the metros.
In focus by Ranjini Manian
1 In conversation with Suhasini Maniratnam, national awardwinning actor, filmmaker, screenwriter, film critic, and film curator
Speaking to Suhasini Maniratnam is like speaking to the girl next door. In my case, she is really the girl next door as we have been neighbours for over two decades. We share much in common being part of the privileged sandwich generation with older parents to care for and young adult children to cater to. Yet, we lead very different professional lives. This conversation was a great eye-opener to her enchanting world of cinema with a vision for the future via the Chennai International Film Festival (CIFF) that she orchestrates annually. “We might be in the movie making business today but the sheer magic of watching movies is still a high for a lot of us in the film industry. Unless one has been a passionate movie fan, there is no way you can be involved in film making,” she says with her characteristic forthrightness and her warm smile. Suhasini won the national award for the Tamil film, 'Sindhu Bhairavi' (http://tinyurl.com/oaekl92), and has done more than 350 films in the four South Indian languages of Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu. Her family has, in fact, three more national award winners – her father, the handsome veteran actor Charuhasan; her uncle, the super gifted iconic star of South Indian cinema, Kamal Haasan; and her husband, India’s filmmaker par excellence, Mani Ratnam. “My most exciting and among my top 10 best roles Suhasini strikes a pose as Ramanujan's mother on the sets of the is the mother to math genius Ramanujan that I play in the period film, 'Ramanujan', based on the life of India's greatest mathematician
upcoming film of the same name, simultaneously being made in English and Tamil. I play a role unlike any expected of me but I didn’t have to rehearse at all for the film as I look like and do what my biological grandmom and mom did,” she says. Her enthusiasm for cinema, even after three decades (she made her cinematic debut in 1980), is infectious, and I, for one, who have watched her grow through her cinema, am more than curious to see how she has transformed the CIFF. Readers of Culturama too have exclusive opportunities (see inset at the end of the article) to be part of the CIFF that will take place from December 12 to 20 in various venues across Chennai. When we finished our chat, I walked her across the road, this girl next door, and watched her footprints in a pensive mood, as she sauntered off to do some counselling for women in and outside the world of cinema. Excerpts from the conversation. How did your journey with CIFF begin? Like art curators, you have a group called film curators. The world over there are only 200 of them. In India, there is just a handful and they are either film buffs or film journalists. Very rarely do film directors and artistes become curators. I am the curator for the Dubai Film Festival, consultant and advisor to the Berlin Film Festival, Busan Film Festival and an Indian Film Festival in New York. The Tokyo Film Festival also takes my advice. But it was at Busan that my journey with CIFF began. The Busan Film Festival
Suhasini with her husband, Mani Ratnam, at the Busan International Film Festival, Korea
was started by one man, Kim, who only had his passion for cinema as his support. He believed that films that are released elsewhere should be featured in the festival. Today, Busan is equal to Cannes. After I saw Korea having a Busan, I thought why can’t we have one too? That’s when I got involved with CIFF. This is the 11th year. We have 30 members, all from within the industry. Even Mr. Amitabh Bachchan is impressed that this festival has so many from the film industry participating and getting involved.
Suhasini (third from left) at the launch of the 10th Chennai International Film Festival
One of the official venues of CIFF all set for the excitement of the festival
Do you think CIFF has the potential to become the next Cannes Film Festival? Anything is possible. It’s like the difference between a Five Star Hotel and eating gourmet food from a chef. You know the chef’s ladle will do the trick; our festival is like that. All the delegates who come here don’t want to go. Some even tell us “Don’t grow”, because the attention to detail won’t be there. Ours is a very friendly festival, almost like a carnival, where the common man can interact with filmmakers after every screening. We have around 4,500 people attending every year. You have to be a genuine film buff and you can have access to 160 films over nine days. Expats too can benefit from this festival, as we have the various consulates providing us with movies to screen. CIFF is almost like a community with curated quality films for the discerning audience. Take away the glamour of Cannes, which is only a recent addition anyway, and you will find the same spirit here. What is your earliest memory of watching a movie? I must have been five years old when the then superstar, MGR’s film called ‘Periya Idathu Penn’ released. Those days you had something called a ‘tharai ticket’, which literally translates to ‘floor ticket’. It was for those who couldn’t afford seats, and so sat on the floor, right in front of the screen. So there I was, sitting very close to the screen. In the climax of the film there was a fierce fight between MGR and the villain. Being an ardent MGR fan I wanted him to win the fight.
Quick bytes Your all-time favourite filmmakers: In world cinema, that would be Vittorio De Sica, Krzysztof Kieślowski and Christopher Nolan. In India, it would be K Balachander and Satyajit Ray. The book you are currently reading: Jhumpa Lahiri’s Lowland The last film that you watched: The Japanese film, ‘Like Father Like Son’ The first film that you remember watching: Madurai Veeran If cinema were to the food of life: I will never go on a diet!
Suhasini with India's iconic actor, Amitabh Bachchan
To add to my woes, there was also a snake behind MGR, and he had no clue about the snake, but all of us in the cinema hall started screaming. When others did not know how to warn their favourite hero, me the five-year-old action queen got up from my place, quickly ran to the screen and started shooing the snake saying, “Choo choo!” The entire audience burst out laughing and that is how, at the tender age of 5, I changed the screen play of a climax scene into a comedy sequence. Little did I know at that point that I would later on go to a film school and study techniques of screenplay writing and cinematography! When you watch the new wave of Tamil cinema or even the general trend in Indian cinema, do you think it is going downhill compared to the Golden age of cinema that you were a part of? You can’t take a moral stance on this. The new wave of filmmakers thinks they know everything. They don’t want teachers, especially no moral lectures. That is why you are not able to see too many positive things in films. For them, whatever they accept is positive.
I won’t really say the 1980s was the golden period, but for women, yes it was. For performers like me it was a golden period. Look at Vidya Balan today, she’s doing better than even Shah Rukh Khan. Technologically, though, I feel that all the mistakes can be corrected now. Those days we could not CIFF — Culturama Exclusive afford to make mistakes. If we were fat, we looked fat; they weren’t able to reduce us. There are a lot of chances now, trial and error has become too much now. Perfection is not a criterion; it’s a disadvantage of technology. What are the two things an expat needs to keep in mind when watching an Indian film and vice versa for the Indian? For the expat, talk to Indians and find out which is the first Indian film you should see. Don’t go for a pot-boiler first, you will be culturally shocked, and when you watch Indian films in theatres, you have to clap, whistle, and look around you. In India, Expatriate readers of Culturama can avail of this exclusive watching movies is like a religion. You have delegate pass for CIFF 2013 by e-mailing your photo and contact to let yourself go. For the Indian, switch off details to your cell phone! And don’t be put off with firstname.lastname@example.org. Submit a film to contest for the the accent in foreign films. Slowly, you will ‘Film Buffs Award’ on the website understand. 1 www.chennaifilmfest.com
A to Z of India
by Susan Philip
Back in the game! 1 Many of India’s traditional games, played by generations of Indians in by-lanes, fields, temple corridors, school compounds, palace courtyards and street corners are fading from collective modern memory. We hope this round-up of traditional Indian games brings back happy childhood days for some and sparks curiosity in others
This is a team game, played by both adults and children. It involves singing popular vernacular film songs. Each team sings the opening few lines, and the opponents have to respond with another song beginning with the same phonetic alphabet as the last word sung. Office parties and get-togethers often see enthusiastic antakshari contests.
This is a traditional sport of Assam. A team game using a rubber ball called ‘dhop,’ it calls for immense speed, stamina and a degree of acrobatic skill too.
Board games They were highly popular in India from the days of yore. Everybody played them – housewives, kings, monks, and even the gods! Older Indians still love to play games like Ashta Chamma, Aadu Puli Attam and Pallankuzhi (similar to Mancala).
Ezhu Kallu Many versions of this game are played in villages across India. Basically, it involves breaking a tower of piled-up stones by throwing a ball at it and building it again before your opponents hit you with the ball and get you out. It is also called Satoliya, Pitthu and Lagori.
The Ganjifa is a unique set of cards used in India. Of Persian origin, they’re circular, and traditionally made of wood or ivory. They are exquisitely hand-painted with motifs of kings, queens, gods, goddesses, and flowers and animals too.
Photo Madhurima Singh
Famous games of Indian origin
Hopscotch by other names
Chess comes easiest to mind. Ludo has its roots in Pachisi and Snakes and Ladders came from Gyan Chopar or Moksha Pattamu, which has a religious twist. Polo is also believed to have taken birth here.
Little girls everywhere in India play it. Squares are drawn with chalk on flagstones, or just etched with a stick on the hard ground. Pandi, Ekka Dokka and Tokkudu Billa are some names it is known by.
A rudimentary form of cricket, this is a favourite pastime of boys. It is played with a small wooden stick, pointed at both ends, called the gilli, and a danda, or long stick which is used to strike the gilli and lift it as far as it will go.
A game native to the state of Mizoram, it is played only by men. Two players stand within a circle, gripping a thick wooden rod under their arms. The object is for one player to push the other outside the circle.
This highly popular sport is indigenous to Tamil Nadu. It celebrates the bravery of village lads, who are required to tame a bull using just bare hands and skill. The winner collects the bag of prize money tied to the animal’s horns. Often, participants and spectators are injured. There is a question mark over the ancient sport because of its dangerous nature as well as animal protection issues.
A corruption of two fused words – Kai (hand) and pudi (catch), kabbadi has acquired international fame. Players form two teams. A member of one is sent to raid the other and tag opponents who are declared ‘out', before returning safely to his own side, all the while chanting ‘kabbadi kabbadi…’ without drawing breath.
Lattu That's the Hindi word for a spinning top. The dexterous winding of the string around the pointed end, the expert flick of the wrist that sets the top spinning and the deftness with which it is lifted to rest, still spinning, on the palm, make instant heroes of little boys.
Naga wrestling Played in Nagaland, combatants grip each other’s girdles and try to shake off the other’s hold using muscle power combined with fancy footwork. Wrestling, in many avatars, is a common sport in India.
Ordinary games Universally popular games are played by Indian children too. Hide and seek (Chupa Chupi is one name), blind man’s buff (Aankh micholi), marbles (goli) and tag are as well beloved here as the world over.
Revival of traditional games Old games are being eased out by urbanization and technology, taking with them chunks of history, art and bonding. Many organisations are making focused attempts to revive and preserve games played in the past. Foremost among them is Kreeda. Look for their products in toy stores. And keeping pace with technology is Desi Adda, a Playstation 2 game which weaves a number of traditional village games into a Bollywood-type story.
Pacheta This calls for excellent hand–eye coordination. All it needs is five small stones. The most common variant is for a player to pick up a stone, throw it up, pick another from the pile on the ground and catch the airborne one, throw both up, pick up one more, and so on. If you miss a catch, the next person takes over.
Quaint games There are many that fit this description – Karnataka’s Kambala, a buffalo race, the Pushkar camel race in Rajasthan, and Asol Aap, a canoe race in the Andaman and Nicobar islands are a few.
Mallakhamb Malla means gymnast, and Khamb is pole. Multiple participants contort themselves, stretch and balance on the pole with amazing dexterity and sense of timing. There are even national-level Mallakhamb competitions.
Photo Kreeda Games
Silambam The art of fencing with staffs, this is an ethnic sport of Tamil Nadu. There are references to it in Vedic literature, and it is still popular in rural areas. Expatriates from India took it to Malaysia, where it has found many enthusiasts.
Vallam kalli Translating as the game of boats, this one is from the southern state of Kerala. Uniquely shaped snake boats with teams of oarsmen rowing to the tune of rousing songs and egged on by excited crowds skim the waters of the Pampa River. The main contest is for the Nehru Trophy.
Photo Emmanuel Mancion, France
Tickdiya They are dried seeds of the Kaner (oleander) tree. They can be put to different uses by the inventive gamer. One favourite is to drop the seeds in a random bunch, and try to pick them out one by one without disturbing the others.
Uttarayan festival Held in Gujarat every year, it is a colourful battle of kites of all shapes and sizes. Eagerly looked forward to by adults and children, it takes place at several centres in the western Indian state.
Photo Ben Bowling USA
Zodiacal influence Many of Indiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s traditional games are seasonal. The kite festival takes place during Makar Shankaranti, when the sun enters the house of Capricorn. Dahi Handi is played during Janmashtami, Lord Krishnaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s birthday on the lunar calendar. Diwali, the festival of lamps, is also associated with card games.
X and O
Armed or hand-to-hand contests have been popular throughout India from Vedic times. Kalaripayattu from Kerala is a famous martial art, while Musti Yuddha and Thang Ta are from Varanasi in the north and Manipur in the east. These and several others tested the mettle of students who took formal training, and also served as good preparation for real battles.
Also known as naughts and crosses, this game is a favourite of children everywhere, India included. It needs quick thinking, and finishes quickly too. An ideal pastime.
Yubee Lakhphi A rugby-like game played by Manipuri men, it involves catching and holding on to a greased coconut while opponents try to snatch it away.
by Suzanne McNeill Short cultural snippets for an easily digestible India
Crafts of India: Marionette-style puppets, Rajasthan
Photo Diana Grieger Germany
The nomadic Bhaat community of Rajasthan are known as craftsmen and performers of a distinct style of puppet theatre called kathputli, whose history goes back at least 1,500 years. Kathputli string puppets are carved from mango wood, with oval faces painted with distinct features: large eyes and mouths, arched eyebrows and moustaches. They are colourfully dressed in costumes and headgear of the medieval Rajput era. The puppets are manipulated using strings attached to the puppets' head, waist and hands that are tied to the puppeteers’ fingers, rather than a support. The head puppeteer produces the shrill voices that are characteristic of the puppets by speaking through a bamboo reed. The dramas are accompanied by a group of performers, including singers, narrators and musicians and the recurring themes tell of the heroism of historical characters, the chivalry of Rajput rulers and tales of love and intrigue.
Tribes of India: Gond Tribe
Sindhi is the language of the historical Sindh region where north-west India now borders southern Pakistan, and its name derives from the Indus River that once formed the area’s western boundary. It is a local language in Kutch, Gujarat, and is also spoken in Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Sindhi is a rich language with a vast vocabulary and an ancient literary tradition. It traces its origins to an old IndoAryan dialect spoken at the time the Vedas were compiled, around the 12th century BCE, and is considered one of the purest descendants of Sanskrit. The Quran was translated into Sindhi in the 9th century CE, and treatises on astronomy, medicine and history were also written at this time. Between the 14th and 18th centuries it became a popular literary language, particularly for the devotional poetry of the Sufi mystics. Tell a new Sindh acquaintance that you’re pleased to meet them: ‘Awhaan saan mili Khushi Thi’.
Central India was home to several Gond kingdoms from the 15th to the 18th century, a region defined loosely as ‘Gondwana’. One place.com Photo musethe clan, the Raj Gond, had a sophisticated feudal order, with local rajas exercising authority over groups of villages, but the settlements weren’t permanent, and land was lost as the Marathas expanded into the region from the west. Today, the Gond, a Dravidian people, make up central India’s largest tribe: the census of 2001 records 10.6 million Gonds across Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. They are primarily agriculturalists, cultivating cereals and herding cattle. The Gond worship a distinct pantheon of village deities and spirits, and some are animists.
Urban Adventure: Nizamuddin’s Tomb, New Delhi
Past Influencer: Yash Chopra
The shrine of the revered Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin (d. 1325) is located near the junction of Lodi Road and Mathura Road, south of Sundar Nagar. The entrance to the shrine is through a small covered market. Here, stall holders sell incense, pamphlets, green-and-gold wall hangings and pink flower heads for devotees to present to the saint. A narrow doorway at the end opens into a white marble courtyard at the centre of which is the saint’s tomb, resting in a domed mausoleum with latticework and arches, and surrounded by a sandstone mosque, tombs, and devotees praying and relaxing. Dress respectfully (women should cover their heads), carry small change with which to buy offerings to the saint or present a donation, and prepare for an urban adventure that, in the heart of the city, takes you back to the Middle Ages!
Film director, producer and script writer, Yash Chopra made over 50 films during a highly successful career that spanned five decades. He came to be known as the ‘King of Romance’, but his first films were hard-hitting social dramas. His films of the 1960s and 1970s were ground-breaking, introducing new genres such as the cult gangster films of the 1970s, Deewaar and Trishul, which established Amitabh Bachchan as a superstar. Chopra always moved with the times, though, and took a new direction in the 1980s, making heroine-centred films such as Chandni. His romantic films had high-quality soundtracks and established the vogue for filming in foreign locations such as Switzerland. In the 1990s, Chopra directed newcomer Shah Rukh Khan in several films including Darr, considered both a blockbuster success and a cult classic. Yash Chopra died in 2012.
Intricately worked white floral embroidery has been associated with the elegant city of Lucknow since the craft was brought there by craftsmen from the Mughal courts of New Delhi. Chikankari began as white-on-white embroidery, worked on delicate, sheer fabrics such as muslin, chiffon and organza. The embroiderer follows a pattern that has been block-printed onto the ground fabric, and the effects are built up by the type of stitch used and the thickness of the thread. Up to 40 different stitches are used in chikankari. Particularly prized is shadow work, where the embroidery is stitched to the back of the design so that the colour of the thread, or rather a shadow of the colour, shows through the front of the fabric. Motifs are Mughal in character, with flowering stems and creepers, roses, jasmine and lotus flowers.
Textiles: Chikankari, Lucknow
Words Bangla versus Bangla
Kalamkari is both an art form and the name given to the painted textiles that are produced by kalamkari artists using vegetable and mineral dyes on cotton. The name is said to come from Persian, kalam meaning ‘pen’ and kari meaning ‘work’ or ‘craftsmanship’. Two distinct styles of the art developed under the Mughal and Golconda Sultanates in the eastern state of Andhra Pradesh. One, around the holy town of Sri Kalahasti, produced a figurative style of art, depicting architecture, temple ritual and the Hindu deities, as well as scenes from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas. To this day, this form of kalamkari is drawn freehand. The other centre is the town of Machilipatnam, where kalamkari is produced using a series of woodblocks. This is more Islamic in style, with images of flowers, peacocks and elephants, and particularly the tree of life motif.
Bangla is another word for ‘Bengali’, the language of West Bengal, which is one of the world’s most widely spoken languages. It is used synonymously with ‘Bengali’ to denote anything from music and film to food and news as pertaining to the region, hence expressions such as ‘Bangla song’ and ‘Bangla culture’. The Hindi word bangla, meaning ‘of Bengal’, became in the Gujarati language the word bangalo and thus the English word ‘bungalow’. It was used to denote a house in the Bengal style, which traditionally was only one-storey high and surrounded by a verandah. The British first used the word to describe the earliest, rather lowly lodgings of the sailors of the East India Company in the 18th century, but it developed in meaning and came to be used for the luxurious homes of the officials of the British Raj.
Photo Candice Gibory, France
Art Kalamkari of Andhra Pradesh
Interpretations This little baby sleeps soundly in a home-crafted cradle that displays the ingenuity of mothers in rural India. Using materials close to hand, she has woven a basket that is far from simple, with contrasting canes and patterns of weave, and suspended it close to the ground from the ceiling of a hut. Her baby slumbers warmly wrapped in local cotton textiles and shrouded by an embroidered shawl. A little pink bow decorates the cradle, along with a bright yellow plastic rattle, the only touch of the contemporary world in this timeless scenario. The love and the care that envelop this small child is touchingly apparent in this beautiful cameo of maternal devotion.
Photo Imnaonen Pongener
Smoked pork cut in
Heading to Nagaland
1 The Sema tribe of Nagaland, a nomadic warrior tribe, live up to their reputation of strength and presence, even in their food!
Axone ngo Awoshi (fermented soybean and pork) Ingredients For the Gatte 100 gm of Axone (fermented soybean) 1 kg smoked pork, chopped Two large tomatoes, diced 5 green chillies cut into two halves (use less, if you cannot tolerate chillies) Salt to taste Water to cook the Axone For the Garnish 5 cloves of garlic crushed 1 thumb-sized ginger, sliced (very important that it is not crushed – becomes bitter when crushed) Sichuan pepper 20 gm (roasted for 1 minute and roughly crushed by hand) Method • Cook the axone in about half a cup of water with tomatoes, chillies and salt until all the water evaporates. (The longer you cook, the better axone tastes). • Add a cup of water and bring the axone back to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add the pork. Cook until all the water evaporates. Repeat the process three times to make the pork tender because smoked pork is usually hard in texture. • Add another cup of water or more depending on how much gravy you would like and when it comes to a boil add the garlic and ginger. • Cook for two minutes and then add the Sichuan pepper. As soon as you add the pepper, remove the pot from the fire.
The verdant slopes of the Himalayan hillside look calm and serene and the Brahmaputra Valley far to the north-eastern corner of India appears mysterious. Nagaland, which borders Myanmar on one side, is home to as many as 16 tribes. Octoli Tuccu, a cross-cultural manager based in Chennai, belongs to one of them. “The Sema tribe has a reputation for being extremely aggressive. This is really no surprise because we are a warrior tribe,” explains Octoli with quiet pride in her voice. Originally head hunters* (not of the HR kind), they led nomadic lives. Ask about the origin of the various tribes — and you will learn that their history is shrouded in folk tales and songs. It is believed that their original home could have been central China. Their nomadic wanderings could have brought them to their current homes. The food of the Nagas is simple to the point of being almost unknown to the rest of the country, the cuisine uses very little spice in the preparation. “It is most unlike the food from the rest of India. We do not use cinnamon and cardamom. Coriander and cumin are unheard of. But we use plenty of ginger, garlic and, of course, a whole lot of chilli,” she says. Continuing to describe her native cuisine, Octoli adds that very little oil is used. Most foods are stir-fried, steamed or cooked as a stew. As hunters, all animals were considered fair game. To preserve the food, the Sema tribe, as did most Naga tribes, ferment or smoke their food to be used in leaner times. Many of them consumed what they reared. Octoli’s own family was self-sufficient and preferred chicken and pork. Beef was not popular because cattle were difficult to rear. Most Nagas have just two meals a day – lunch and dinner. Lunch is an early affair, a meal had before they set out for the day. Rice, being a staple, was present at every meal. Besides the rice, there would always be a stew of meat and vegetables. Pumpkins, onions, yams, cabbage, beans and potatoes found their way into the stew. The vegetables are always a
little crunchy, with a bite to them. With just salt added, the stews are liberally garnished with slivers of ginger and garlic. The spice factor is not neglected. Plenty of chillies, especially the Sichuan pepper (locally known as Mezinga), are used to make sure you reach for your glass of water. Chatini (Chutney), is an integral part of the meal. The ginger used is different from the ginger we are familiar with and adds a different dimension to the food. The leaves of the ginger and garlic plants are also used extensively in cooking. Dinner is almost always the same as lunch and is sometimes had as early as four in the evening. With very little oil used, Naga food is probably among the healthiest of cuisines, if you can train your tongue to tolerate the heat. Some common dishes are the fermented bamboo shoot, which is served with fish and pork. Axone is one of the most popular dishes of this region, in which soybean is boiled, fermented and either smoked or sun dried and served with smoked pork or beef. Smoked meat is produced by keeping the meat above the fire or hanging on the wall of the kitchen for 2 weeks or longer. This meat could last for the whole year. Anishi, another delicacy, is made of yam leaves which are made into patties and smoked over the fire or sun dried. If you can get hold of some fermented soybean (it is the same kind that the Japanese use to make Miso), do try to cook something that the Sema tribe would really enjoy. The same recipe could be followed to make smoked beef as well. 1
* The human head was believed to be the receptacle of the soul and was regarded as an object of immense vitality and creative energy. Head hunting was propelled by the desire to acquire a head for retention in one’s house or village, which would, as a result, be blessed with human and animal fertility.
Feature by Suzanne McNeill
One of India's traditional storytellers
Steering tales 1 Modern forms of storytelling are reinventing Indiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ancient mythological stories for this new gadget-friendly world, effectively garnering attention and holding the interest of both the child and the adult
Photo E Nolte
Storytelling has been an integral part of Indian culture for centuries, and India has a rich heritage of traditional storytelling styles. It is a land of myths and legends that tell tales of brave gods and pious men. As well as entertaining people, these carefully mask society’s dos and don’ts and transmit values across generations. Traditional stories contribute deeply to the identity of the people of India. The Ramayana epic, the story of Rama, banished to the forest with his wife Sita, who is then kidnapped by the demon Ravana, is one of the greatest sources of narratives for Indian folk stories. Another is the Mahabharata, the story of the five Pandava brothers including the superb archer Arjuna, and their war with their cousins, the evil Kauravas. Religious texts such as the Puranas that eulogise the gods and the Panchatantra tales, a series of colourful animal fables, inspired mythological stories and folk tales that would be passed on from generation to generation. Village bards would tell stories to the assembled village panchayat under the shade of the banyan tree, breaking into song during parts of the story. Children throughout rural and urban India grew up listening to stories told to them by their grandmothers. Each region of the country developed a rich repertoire of stories based on these founding narratives, as well as its own unique style of narration – see Cathy Spagnoli’s article ‘Once Upon a Time’ in Culturama, November 2012, for a fascinating overview of the different styles of storytelling. This traditional custom of passing down epics and village folklore from one generation to the next through storytelling is, however, slowly dying out in many areas. Satellite television has found its way to even the most remote villages in India, challenging traditional forms of storytelling in Indian society. Modern society, however, offers new and different ways of communicating the old stories, and many people are making a concerted effort to revive the storytelling art, whether through adapting new media or through reinventing performance art. Here are some of the modern twists on the traditional art of Indian storytelling that are responding to changing times.
Comic books and graphic novels One of the first ways that the modern era embraced the Indian storytelling tradition was in the publication of illustrated comic books for children that relate tales from the great epics, mythology and oral folklore of India. Amar Chitra Katha (meaning ‘Immortal Picture Stories’) has published quintessentially Indian stories since 1967, and many young Indians grew up on their fables, parables and life-stories
of the gods. It is said that the company’s founder, Anant Pai, was dismayed at the failure of young competitors in a televised quiz show, who could answer questions on Greek mythology but did not know the answer to the question, ‘In the Ramayana, who was Rama’s mother?’ He was determined to fill the gap. The first book was on the life of Lord Krishna, and received an overwhelming reception, selling over half a million copies. There are now hundreds of titles on ACK’s list, in over 20 languages, encompassing legends, teachers and saints, tales from ancient Indian history, and stories from Sanskrit classics and biographies of kings, freedom fighters and great women. For many Indian children, particularly those who study in English medium schools, the books have taken on the role of the grandmother and are the primary source of stories about India. ACK’s publications were modelled upon American superhero comic books in their heroic storylines and standard layout with panel divisions and dialogue balloons, yet they stand apart in their cast of heroes. The comic book genre has expanded in recent years, as young creatives, brought up on the ACK stories, experiment with dynamic retellings of the classics in graphic novel form. Mumbai-based artist Vivek Goel has teamed up with Delhi writer Vijayendra Mohanty to form Holy Cow Entertainment, publishing Ravanayan, a
ten-part comic series that reimagines the life of Ravana, the evil king figure of the Ramayana. Instead of the ten-headed demon, Ravan is handsome, part-sage, part-demon, a powerful king and a fierce worshipper of Lord Shiva. The story looks at the Ramayana universe from a darker side, turning conventional versions of the epic on their head. Vimanika Comics also narrate stories of Indian mythology with a contemporary influence. Their striking graphics come from the world of science–fiction, or fantasy, showing Shiva with rippling muscles, billowing hair and striking a defiant rather than a meditative pose.
instrument called the tambura, which is decorated with small jingling bells and peacock feathers, delivers episodes from the great Hindu epic, energetically accompanied by four backing musicians. The story is told in a mixture of prose and song
Television cartoons and animated films India’s repertoire of stories quickly became the subject matter of television cartoons and many dramatise the lives of the gods and focus on the childhood of the deities, such as Hanuman and Ganesh, bringing children closer to India’s mythological stories. Cartoons made by Chhota Bheem and Ultra Adventures found immediate success with the family market with simple animation techniques. Full-length animated films are relatively new to India’s vast film industry and recent collaborations have changed the landscape completely. Arjun: The Warrior Prince, made by India-based UTV Motion Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures, was released last year to immediate acclaim. It was specifically made to connect with adults (critics commented that it would compel them to test their memories of the classics!) as well as engaging children’s attention. The film has been lauded for its simple and straightforward storytelling and its valiant effort to relive the mythology, with one critic noting that it’s an excellent way of introducing children to the epic tale from the Mahabharata. Most notably, the animation has been praised as vivacious and vibrant, and a big step forward for the Indian animation industry.
Pandavani reinvented Storytelling through music is one of India’s oldest traditions. Pandavani is an ancient folk tradition that narrates the legends of the Pandavas from the Mahabharata through song, and evolved amongst the tribal people of Madhya Pradesh. A singer, holding a single-stringed
The supremely talented Teejan Bai in the middle of her performance
rendered dramatic by the gestures of the singer. There are many such epic singing traditions throughout India, some of which are in danger of slipping into oblivion. Pandavani, however, continues to thrive in a modernising world in the performances of two extraordinary women. As a child, Teejan Bai was disowned by her community for daring to take up Pandavani, which was seen as a male preserve. Her uncle taught Teejan the stories, and she learnt her skill in the traditional manner, performing in villages. She is now an international artiste. Teejan has never lost sight of the tradition of Pandavani, but brings her own distinct voice and dramatic manner to it, composing new songs and styling her own instrument. As her performances progress through the narrative, the tambura becomes a prop as well as an instrument, used to personify Arjun’s mace or his bow or chariot, at others the hair of queen Draupadi. Teejan Bai was awarded the Padma Shri in 1988. The outstanding young star of the tradition is Ritu Verma, who in her twenties was already performing at international storytelling festivals and hosting drama workshops. Her performances alternate between sultry, smooth singing and forceful, rapid speaking and it is said that Verma can command vast audiences with a single gesture or the raising of an eyebrow. Admirers, both in India and overseas, have noted that the strength of these artistes is their profound belief in and respect of the stories they tell. Through their performances, they have evolved modern techniques of storytelling that allow these great epics to release the energy they harbour.
godlike persona. The shows include dance, music, martial arts and animation as well as puppets that range from 3 inches high to 25 feet, and tackle social issues such as health awareness programmes and women’s issues. Dadi D. Pudumjee is the name most closely associated with modern puppetry, showcasing it as a living, breathing form of expression. His company, Ishara Puppet Theatre, seeks to absorb new influences and to innovate, integrating his puppets into the storytelling style rather than using them as just props. As well as adaptations of the Rama and Sita stories, Ishara Puppet Theatre has based performances on tales 2,500 years old that tell of the wise King Vikramaditya and the spellbinding stories related to him by the wily ghost Betaal, as well as the Rajasthani Romeo-and-Juliet style love story of Dholu and Maru.
Drama and puppetry As a child growing up in Karnataka, playwright Girish Karnad was taken to see travelling theatre groups (his parents were deeply interested in their plays), and became an admirer of Yakshagana, the improvised music-drama form of village theatre. In the spirit of India’s folk theatre traditions, he has gone on to compose plays that use history and mythology to tackle contemporary issues. He is another storyteller whose earliest influences came from indigenous stories, particularly the Mahabharata. His first published play Yayati was based on the story of an ancestor of the Pandavas, and ridiculed life’s ironies. Tughlaq, which relates the life of the idealistic 14th-century Sultan of Delhi was an allegory of modern life,
Dadi D. Pudumjee with his trusty companion, the puppet!
ending in disillusionment. In 'Nagamandala', Karnad framed an unhappy contemporary marriage in imagery drawn from Kannada folk tales. Modern puppetry is another theatrical medium that is being used to impart social messages in India, as well as relate traditional stories. Katkatha, formed by an enthusiastic group of puppeteers in 1998, aims to promote and popularise puppet theatre by exploring its various forms and pushing boundaries. The show 'About Ram' adapts the story of the Rama–Sita relationship from the Ramayana to show them as human beings capable of doubt and rejection, rather than
Photo Ravi Mittal
A storytelling network has spread across India, run by professional storytellers determined to treasure the human experience of storytelling and put it back at the heart of people’s lives. The Chennai-based Indian Storytelling Network focuses on the traditional styles of storytelling, such as Villupattu and Harikatha and how these styles can be made meaningful in the modern world. http://www.indianstorytellingnetwork.org/ Kathalaya (‘House of Stories’) in Bengaluru seeks to revive the wonder of storytelling in children’s lives through workshops and storytelling festivals. http://kathalaya.org/ Acoustic Traditional is an annual festival of indigenous storytellers that specifically showcases storytellers from ancient cultures and tribal communities across the country. http://acoustictraditional.org/ 1
A gallery of storytelling Comic books and graphic novels http://www.amarchitrakatha.com/ack/ http://www.holycow.in/ravanayan/ http://tinyurl.com/VimComics Here’s a family cartoon telling the story of Ganesh http://tinyurl.com/BalGanesh Check out the trailer for Arjun: The Warrior Prince http://tinyurl.com/ArjunTrailer Modern Pandavani divas http://tinyurl.com/TeejanBai http://tinyurl.com/RituVerma An interview with actors performing Girish Karnad’s Tughluq http://tinyurl.com/GKTughlaq Modern puppet masters interpreting the old stories http://www.katkatha.org/katkatha2011/ http://tinyurl.com/IsharaPuppet
Culturama's Festive SEason gift catalogue Over the years, our readers have asked us how they could find elegant gifts for the festive season. So here’s our pick! It is A small selection, but we hope it will be a good starting guide!
Pamper your senses
Framed paintings of artist Mark Rathinaraj, known for their artistic expressions of people from daily life, are perfect to deck up any wall.
Get gift vouchers from Oryza for a relaxing foot reflexology and scalp massage combination for this festive season.
Price: Rs. 11,450/- onwards
From: Focus Art Gallery, TTK Road, Alwarpet, Chennai. Ph: +91 98840 00055 www.focusartgallery.co.in/
From: Oryza Chennai: Chamiers Road +91 44 42110930 /40 Bengaluru: +91 80 41328321 www.oryzadayspa.com
This charming pure silver bowl is not only beautiful but functional as well! The detailed fretwork on the bowl is interspersed with silver coins, which makes this a great India memento.
This aesthetically-fitted rosewood cash box with brass banding and stringing is part of the store’s large collection of ethnic artefacts and colonial furniture.
Price: Rs. 40,000/- upwards From:Vummidi Bangaru Jewellers, Rani Seethai Hall, Anna Salai, Chennai. Ph: +91 44 28292003 www.vummidisilverware.com
Price: Rs.38,000/From: Moorthy’s Tardeo Road, Mumbai. Ph: +91 22 23512876 www.moorthys.com
Make the colours of the rainbow come alive with this multi-hued Tussar silk sari.
These bright coir doormats with multi-coloured motifs, make for an unusual and exciting gift.
Price: On request From:L’Affaire Great Kailash Market, New Delhi. Ph: +91 11 40548866 www.laffaire.net
Price: Rs.900 onwards From:India Circus, Mumbai. Ph: +91 22 61314666 www.indiacircus.com
Soft and cushiony
Take your pick from Elanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wallpapers, furnishings, bed linen, carpets, accessories and table linen that signify style, sense and quality.
Therapeutic and aromatic fragrances always leave behind that lingering sense of well-being that gets even better with Reed Diffuser, a 24-hour experience with no fire and no ash problems.
Price: Rs. 400 upwards From: Elan Teynampet, Chennai. Ph: +91-44-24361754
Price: Rs. 400 upwards From: Ripple Fragrances, Mysore and Bengaluru. Ph: +91-0821-4241541
A clock specially designed for children at Chennai's only destination for branded children's furniture, furnishings and accessories.
The speciality of the weave and colours of this unique Tanchoi Silk Sari came from the Three Choi brothers, who taught India this form of weaving.
Price:Rs. 9,200 From:Peek-a-Boo, Express Avenue Mall, Royapettah. Ph: +91-4424992365
Price: Rs. 3000 upwards From: Prasiddhi, MG Road, Bengaluru. Ph: +91-80-25594586
Sequinned cutwork patterns with a satin skirt in brilliant shades of blue and green make this beautiful customtailored evening dress stand out from the rest
This slip-on black shoe with stylish metal trims is a handcrafted and exceptional show of leather craftsmanship.
Price: On request From: Amrita the Design Place Jagannathan Street, Nungambakkam, Chennai. Ph: +91-9840683242.
Price: Rs.13,500 From: H&S College Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai. Ph: +91-44-28222282
Elegantly embroidered silk stoles that can be teamed with ethnic or Western outfits are the most thoughtful gifts for the season.
Handcrafted in the old metal-smithing technique, this Cuff Bangle is made of sterling silver and 22 carat gold plated.
Price: On request
Price: 3,000 upwards
From: Shilpi Boutique, C.P Ramaswamy Road, Chennai and 4th Main Road, Besant Nagar. Ph: +91-4424997526
From: The Jewellery Project Sadashivnagar, Bengaluru. Ph: +91-80-23616239
A delicate composition of filigree work in 18 carat gold and a ring of diamonds, this traditional Indian Jhumki is a handcrafted beauty.
Celebrate your big moments in life with these dazzling rings with green 0.37 carat emerald or 2.21 carat blue tanzanite, set in 18 carat yellow gold.
Price: Rs. 65,000 From: Gehna 22, Casa Major Road, Egmore, Chennai. Ph: +91-9841039449
Price: Rs.35,000 and Rs.55,000 respectively. From: Mehta Jewellery, C.P Ramaswamy Road, Chennai. Ph: +91-4424662665
Princess cut natural blue sapphires with round and baguette cut diamonds in the form of a pendant are a beautiful gift for your loved one.
Silver-gold plated four stone Amrapali bangles paired with a silver-gold plated Amrapali long chain with semi precious stones are great for the festive season.
Price: On request
From: Sultan Jewellers T. T. K. Road, Alwarpet, Chennai. Ph: +91-44-42107122
From: Amethyst Cafe Anna Salai, Chennai. Ph: +91-44-45991600
The Fujifilm Instax-Mini 8 camera is a great gift with instant prints on a click and a compact size too
Light up your homes with these tea light holders made of glass crystals. The holders come in the shape of spheres or as boxes.
Price: Rs. 6164 From: Fuji Film India Call +91-8939828124 or mail email@example.com
Price: Rs.1,800 upwards From: Rani Arts & Teak, Harrington Road, Chennai. Ph: +91 44 42327887
Ornately engraved metal bookmarks are a great keepsake. They come in designs such as the map of India, Mahatma Gandhi silhoutte or a lotus flower, all designed by Anand Prakash.
To celebrate the festive spirit, Taj Coromandel offers an exclusive range of gift hampers that include a variety of handpicked accessories, chocolates, sweets and more.
Price: Rs.350 upwards
Price: Rs. 4500 upwards
From: Samasta CP Ramaswamy Road, Alwarpet, Chennai. Ph: +91-44-42721110
From: Taj Coromandel, Ph: 91-44-66002827
This Empire State Bag crafted from soft, genuine cow banjo leather conveniently doubles up as a car or cabin baggage and is perfect for a day trip.
This innovative jewellery box helps you store your bangles and watches. A good gifting option for the season.
Price: Rs.9200 From: Viari Radha Krishnan Salai, Mylapore, Chennai. Ph: +91-44-42049399
Price: Rs. 2000 upwards From: Sanskrriti, Ph: 91-44-28194489
Selma doing what she likes doing best – Waltzing!
The Mumbai Waltz
Look who’s in town Mumbai 1 Austrian lawyer and dance instructor Selma Kriegner talk about what’s keeping the rhythm alive in Mumbai
When Julie Andrews in ‘The Sound of Music’ sang, “The hills are alive, with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a thousand years”, there was a shared moment of a soulful connect that we felt, no matter which part of the world we were from. We could feel the songs of Austria, we could appreciate it, and we couldn’t get enough. For Selma Kriegner, who is from Vienna, the City of Music that gave the world Mozart, that feeling is in her blood. And she carries her in-built passion for music and dance to the city of Mumbai. “This is actually my second time in Mumbai,” she clarifies. “And I am surprised about the fact that Indians know quite a bit about Austria. I am also happy that even though Western classical music might not still be so popular in India, there are quite a few Western recitals, opera films and concerts on a regular basis conducted in the city, especially at NCPA.” For someone who grew up learning the Viennese Waltz, the Foxtrot, Tango and Boogie, it was quite a revelation to discover the Dance Sport Association Maharashtra (DSAM), which has been conducting regular dance championships for the last five years. Here’s Selma’s little guide to dance enthusiasts in the city looking to feel a bit of what Julie Andrews was singing about.
Step into Mumbai
If you want to learn Ballet or Ballroom and Latin Dance, be prepared to try out different schools at locations. Don’t get worried if you have enrolled in a
dance class and the address is in a filthy building in a side lane of a busy and congested road in the suburbs. As soon as you enter the class, you feel as if you are in a different world and enjoy every bit of it because it is the teachers and other students who make you feel welcome. The best way to find out what’s going on is asking like-minded people. Networking is the key word in every aspect of living in Mumbai.
My Mumbai Dance
I recently participated at the fifth DSAM Championship. I was competing in the Latin dances, Cha Cha and Jive. There were 300 couples and I was the only “Westerner”, but guess what? I never felt like a “foreigner” because everybody was friendly and did not treat me differently. Also in the dance shows I choreograph or classes I conduct, it is such a pleasure having mixed groups of Indians and non-Indians enjoying the Viennese Waltz to the music of Dutch Andre Rieu or a Cha Cha to the German Rapper Sido. By the end of the day we all share the same passion: dancing!
When in Austria
It is easier to find a dancing school in Austria, be it Jazz, Ballet, Contemporary, Ballroom or Latin through ads or an Internet search. Even Art Centers such as ‘Museumsquatier’ offer classes. Other places to check out include clubs that offer salsa classes with Cuban teachers or Rock n’ Roll classes in a bar playing only oldies from the 1950s and 1960s. 1
The Brown family happy to be back in Chennai
Look who’s in town Chennai
Madras to Chennai 1 Britishers Phil and Catrine Brown on visiting the city, which was once home to them when Phil was posted here as the British Deputy High Commissioner, after 19 long years
For the Browns, Chennai, or Madras as they prefer to call it, is where they discovered a part of themselves, and ended up leaving a little of their soul behind when they had to leave in 1994. It was where their eldest daughter, Jasmine, was born; it was where they first encountered that thrilling roller-coaster ride through the city’s traffic in an auto; it was where they met a whole world of friends; and it where they shook hands with the city’s spirit in her hospitable culture and her pulsating rhythms. “The big thing is to come back and find people welcoming still; it’s so pleasurable,” gushes Catrine, feeling the familiar rush of the city take over. “Coming back to see a city expanded this much has been an interesting experience,” adds Phil alluding to the number of flyovers that have sprung up in the city. They are quick to notice several things that have changed — Phil’s office, for one, has now moved inside the Cottingley residence, or that the city’s name has changed — just as they are quick to notice the things that haven’t — the residential roads that still smell of the old Madras they know so well or the city’s spirit that is still warm and friendly. And so, we couldn’t think of a more perfect family to take us through the ups and downs of coming back to a space that was once familiar, especially in a country like India where anything you say or do, the opposite is also true!
What we miss
Our home! Our biggest shock was to see that the home where we lived, No. 6 Boat Club Road, is now the German Consulate!
What we like
The malls and the kind of brands that we see there are impressive; we can get everything here! Amma Naana too has mushroomed into a three-storeyed store. The Café at Chamiers is a welcome change, too. The ECR those days ended with Fisherman’s Cove, now the road extends beautifully all the way to Mahabalipuram. That’s a big improvement!
What we did
Got into an auto, of course! All four of us fitting into an auto is not an easy task, with each of us being so tall. Phil had to almost fold himself in the front with the tiny driver! It was truly exciting with the near misses on the chaotic roads.
What we say
The temperature is still bad, so ladies, bring your hand fan along. Forget your training schedule, as you can’t really walk here in the traffic. And expect a lot of attention! 1
GLOBAL WELLNESS SERIES
1 Dr. E. Ravindra Mohan, Senior Consultant, Ophthalmology, Oculoplasty & Orbital Surgery at Global Health City gives tips on how to care for the eyes Tips for children: • Do not neglect anything that looks different. It could be something simple, but it could also lead to something serious. • Never ignore a squint in the eye; the condition does not go away and doesn’t bring good luck as some believe. • Children often have refractive errors in their vision, which is usually corrected by wearing the right pair of glasses. About one in five children have this condition. Symptoms to look out for are the child holding a book too close to the face, a child complaining of frequent headaches, or a child with hereditary vision disorders. • Motivate children to eat a healthy diet including plenty of vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables and carrots. Tips for adults: • If you suffer from frequent headaches, always get a full eye check-up done. It could be because of eye muscle weakness and not wearing glasses to correct the same. • A good time to start regular eye check-ups would be around the age of 40, when most people need reading glasses. • Diabetic patients need to have an annual eye check-up done that includes a detailed examination of the retina. Strict control of blood sugar levels is vital to prevent or slow down the serious and often blinding condition called diabetic retinopathy • Computer professionals must follow prescribed steps to reduce eye strain and must contact an eye doctor if they have tiredness of the eyes, burning sensation or headache during work. 1
November Calendar of events
Presenting the best of India’s events in different categories across the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and nearby suburbs
Art & exhibitions
Group Photo Exhibition Chennai
Solo Art Show Gurgaon
A group of photographers from different backgrounds went on an adventure to the city of Leh and captured their experience in photographs that bring the essence of the city alive. Titled “1 Ladakh at heart – 10 lenses”, this exhibition tells the ancient story of Leh, giving it different perspectives that are beautiful, magical and full of stories. Call +91–9790926402 for more details.
Sculptor Narayan Sinha will present his solo art show, ‘DEBI’, a collection of his recent works. It is a series of skillfully sculpted and creatively assembled works using cycle bells, bent rods, twisted machine parts and other bric-a-brac. Contact +91–124–4932000 for more details.
Date November 16 to 25 Venue Lobby, The Hilton, 124/1, J.N Salai, Guindy, Chennai
Solo Art Show
Date October 5 to November 15 Time: 1100h to 1900h Venue Art Alive Gallery, 120, Sector 44, Gurgaon
Photo Exhibition New Delhi As part of the Delhi Photo Festival, eminent photographer Raghu Rai’s works on the topic of ‘Trees’ will be on display. In his photographs, the tree is idealised for its beauty and mourned when it is destroyed. Through his lens, the tree is seen as a living monument — not only as a graphic symbol but also with a human presence around it. Call +91–11–28755940 for more details. Date Till November 30 Time 1100h to 1900h Venue Photoink, MGF Hyundai Building, Faiz Road, Jhandewalan, New Delhi
Workshops & events
World Chess Championship Chennai Watch the biggest chess match of the year — the World Chess Championship — between chess aces Viswanathan Anand (India) and Magnus Carlsen (Norway). The build up to the championship will begin with the Chennai Chess Blitz to be held at the Nehru Indoor Stadium, while the match between Anand and Carlsen will be at the Hyatt Regency ballroom. Visit www.chennai2013. fide.com for more details. Date November 7 to 28 Venue Nehru Indoor Stadium and Hyatt Regency, Chennai
Global Adjustments and Sheraton Park Hotel & Towers present
The 16th Annual Beautiful India Expatriate Photo Competition
The 16th annual Beautiful India Expatriate Photo Competition from the stables of Global Adjustments is back. Be there for the glittering awards ceremony, and check out the photo exhibition that captures India from the multi–hued perspective of expatriates under the categories of Into India, Faces, Places, and Culture & Festival, and a new category, also the theme of this year's competition, Peace. By invitation only. Call +91–9841654816 for more details.
Date November 10 Time From 10 a.m onwards Venue Sheraton Park Hotel and Towers, TTK Road, Alwarpet, Chennai
Weekend fun for children Bengaluru
Workshop for Children Bengaluru
An exciting weekend event for children, Cubbon Park Capers will be held in the heart of Cubbon park. The two-hour sessions will include storytelling, park tours, and naturebased games. For children between 2.5 to 5 years, Aarti Kathpalia of 'Tickets and Tales' will host the session, while Vikram Sridhar of 'Tahatto' will conduct sessions for older children aged between 6 to 12 years.
Big Thinkers is organising a workshop for children between 6 to 14 years titled, ‘Namaste India!’ The session will be an interactive one teaching children facts about India through folk tales from across the country. It will also cover historical events and cultural signposts of India, to get the participants to understand the country better. Call +91–9663400443 for more details.
Date November 9 Time 1030h to 1230h and 1400h to 1600h Venue Cubbon Park, Bengaluru
Theatre Workshop New Delhi Actor Factor Theatre Company has a weekend workshop for children aged between 8 to 15 years to introduce them to theatre. The workshop will have professionals introducing important life skills through the medium of theatre. The end of the course will have the children stage a performance. Call +91–9871773909 for details. Date Till December 29 Time 1000h to 1230h Venue 221 A, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi
Date Till November 26 Venue Big Thinkers, No.270, 14th Cross, Indira Nagar, Bengaluru
Chennai International Film Festival Chennai The 11th edition of Chennai International Film Festival (CIFF) will be held for a week across theatres in Chennai. The festival screens the best of international and Indian panorama films, as well as showcasing the best of Tamil films to the world. The week will see more than 160 films from different genres and languages being screened, apart from interactive sessions with select directors. Visit www. chennaifilmfest.com for more details. Date December 12 to 19 Venue Various theatres across Chennai
Calendar spaces Know your city
Bengaluru Venkatappa Art Gallery The Venkatappa Art Gallery is dedicated to renowned court painter of the Wodeyar Rajas of Karnataka. The gallery displays all Venkatappa's paintings along with other well-known artists like M. F. Hussain and Yusuf Arakkal. Listed in the Lonely Planet’s travel itinerary for Bengaluru, the gallery stands right next door to the Government Archaeological Museum. The gallery is at Kasturba Road, Bengaluru. Call +91–80–22864483 for details.
New Delhi ICCR The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) is an organisation committed to fostering India’s external cultural relations. It helps formulate and implement India’s cultural policies and promote cultural exchanges between India and other countries. The council holds music concerts, theatre performances and more in centres across the city. Visit www.iccrindia.net for more details.
Mumbai Asiatic Society of Mumbai The Asiatic Society of Mumbai was founded during the British rule of India as a literary society. The society is housed in the then Town Hall of Mumbai, which is now a classified heritage building. The library of the society is home to more than a hundred thousand books that are rare and valuable. It also has priceless artifacts and over 3,000 ancient manuscripts in Persian, Sanskrit and Prakrit. Call +91–22–22660956 for more details.
Chennai Government Museum The Chennai Government Museum is located in Egmore, spread across 16 acres of land with six buildings. It is the second oldest museum in India and one of the largest in South Asia. The museum houses the National Art Gallery and others that cover a variety of fields such as archaeology, zoology, natural history and sculptures. The Museum Theatre, which is part of the museum campus, is a sought after venue for many cultural events and theatre presentations. Call +91 44 28193238 for more details.
Picture story by Virginie Vlaminck
Around the temple in 36 months 1 Hindu temples are a part of the daily life of most people living in South India, so I was quite compelled to have a closer look. Ever since I moved to Chennai two years ago, I have been taking regular phototrips, exploring different temples. What struck me the most is the fact that it isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t always just about the worship and the devotion, but the strong sense of family that you witness and the amount of learning that is going on in and around the temples in the smallest and simplest of acts.
01. Life around the temples is totally a family happening. Here are whole families spending time at the Brihadeeshwara temple in Thanjavur. 02. The priest is educating two young students within the walls of the Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Mylapore Chennai 03. How amazing to see the real love a priest shows for the outfits of the gods in a temple at the Mysore Palace! 04. Mother and son spend a pleasant evening on the temple grounds after their rounds of the different gods at the Brihadeeshwara Temple in Thanjavur 05. A small boy is overwhelmed by the temple elephant Lakshmi and is taught how to take a snapshot 06. Women making flower strings at the Lord Shiva Temple on ECR, Chennai
At Global Adjustments
Songs & stories 1 From songs and stories to traditional food, the Navratri celebrations at the India Immersion Centre was resplendent with vibrant colours of Indian culture A representation of the United Nations would be how the audience of the Navratri celebrations at Global Adjustments could be described. Around 50 scholarship students from12 nationalities were brought together by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) for an evening of song, dance and stories. The event had the ideology behind Navratri explained by veteran writer Gowri Ramnarayan through stories and songs, to the graceful accompaniment of dancer Krithika Shurajit who enacted them. The audience was wowed by the story of how the Trinity of Goddesses â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati, representing Wealth, Power and Wisdom respectively, got together to destroy the evil demon, Mahishasura. Along with learning to invoke Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed
god, at the beginning of Navratri to remove obstacles, the students also got to understand how the dolls symbolise the underworld of demons, the terrestrial world and the world of Gods, arranged on ascending steps. An evening of fun and learning got the expat audience like Michelle Segala from France wanting to come back for more. She said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;It was really an Indian world; the speaker and dancer combination was excellent.â&#x20AC;? So much so that a nineyear-old German, Vincent, sat in rapt attention, even trying to answer questions during audience interaction. The evening ended with 12 nationalities coming together for a traditional prayer that they were taught to sing, followed by delectable sundal (lentil-based snack)! 1
For the next event refer page 43 of this issue
Global citizen by Neil Miller
Whose time is it anyway?
Photo Magali Reynaud, France
1 Sure, time in India is eternal. But how does such a deep cultural understanding translate at the workplace? Are we missing the point, or, should we say, the minutes and seconds? The old joke of IST being ‘Indian Stretchable Time’ gets old fast, but never gets less true. My first interaction with this was when I was in a training programme with a group of young freshers. We were getting ready to take a break. I looked down at my watch and it read 10:33. So I said, “Let’s all get back together at 10:48.” Several of them looked up and gave me the strangest, most confused look I had seen since I tried to explain daylight saving time in the United States. I soon realized that this time, 10:48, had no meaning to them. They had heard of 10:45 and 10:50, but I honestly think this was the first time anyone had actually spoken of the time 10:48 in their presence. In India, time is not made up of minutes or seconds. It cannot be broken down into equal, countable parts. Time is made up of events, of priorities, of projects your boss gives you, of waiting for your friend to SMS you back. Time is moving forward, but none of us knows where it is going and it is pointless to wonder. Time for an Indian is like water for a fish. Why do I need to start counting water droplets when I’m swimming in the ocean? Here’s a bit of way-way-background information. In Hindu philosophy, the universe is created and destroyed once every 4–8 billion (with a ‘b’) years. This time is broken up into four
yugs of differing lengths of time. [FYI we are currently 5,000 years into Kali Yug, the last of the four, which lasts for over 400,000 years]. Each full cycle of all four yugs (4–8 billion years) is equivalent to one day in the life of Brahma (the creator god). A year for Brahma takes around 3 trillion solar years. It is believed that Bhrama is about 50 years old now. Of course, not all Indians grow up learning Vedanta philosophy and not all are Hindu, but these beliefs have a way of getting down deep into the brain. Compare this view of time with the classic Christian view which dominated Western thinking. Even within a few years of Christ’s death, some had stopped working because they knew that he would come back any minute. There has been an urgency communicated into thinking that the now can be very important. When in India, one must remember that time is no different than air, water and fire. It can be manipulated; it must be respected; but don’t be a fool and think that you can dominate it, divide it, categorise it and force it to do your bidding. Time is eternal and will always be there. Okay, so we’ll give a little extra wiggle room and make it 10:49 then? 1
Magical Myanmar 1 A holiday in Myanmar overflows with oldworld charm and the best way to get close to this unique country is through a luxury holiday with the travel guru Ramji Natarajan who heads TMIC, the preferred partners of Abercrombie & Kent ( A&K ) worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leading luxury travel company.
Situated on the most westerly point of the South East Asia, Myanmar with its sublime landscapes, rich history, serene people and deeply Buddhist culture, it is a destination like no other and a remarkable country to visit. Key cities to visit include Yangdon the capital city and gateway to Myanmar; Mandalay that was the last royal capital of the Burmese kingdom and the cultural core of the country; Bagan also known as the city of four million pagodas is the cradle of Myanmar civilization and Inle Lake, a magical, enchanting place with hills, lakes and monasteries.
Must See Myanmar:
Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon: An aweinspiring temple that lights up as the sun sets over it, encapsules the devout Buddhist nature of Myanmar Balloon over Bagan: The rising sun emitting an orange hue over the thousands of scattered temples along a bend in the Ayerwady River is a sight not to be missed. Cruising in Myanmar: Undoubtedly the best way to see this country is a cruise along its rivers, which provide you with a completely different view of the lesser known gems. Inle Lake: Switch your motor off in the middle of this serene lake and listen to the silence. Not only is the fishing style unique but also the technique of leg rowing where the fisherman balances one-legged on the prow of his boat and
curls the other leg around his oar. Sagar: Located at the southern tip of Inle Lake, is still an undiscovered gem. Ancient Century stupas dot the green hills, and you can see rice wine being produced and traditional hand-made pottery being made. Shan Hills: A rustic way to experience the slow and tranquil pace of rural Shan life is to trek across the Shan Hills, sleeping en route in a monastery and visiting a village chief's house. Peik Chin Myaung caves: The caves are of more interest to the local people and pilgrims who flock here to worship the Buddhist stupas within these impressive hidden passages. At TMIC and A&K, all of our journeys are individually tailored to suit needs, budget and duration. Call us for exclusive readymade trips, Individual & Group to Myanmar designed by destination experts. Contact TMIC (Preferred Sales Agent for Abercrombie & Kent in India) for more details & book your next Holiday to Myanmar. Travel Masters India Corporation (TMIC) New # 9, Visweswarapuram, Mylapore, Chennai â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 600 004 Tel:+91 44-42899900 | +91 9884830042 | +91 9004229075 email: firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org 1
Seeing India by Ian Watkinson
The endless odyssey 1 There are little pockets of magical charm and enduring enigma in India, if you only care to look. But in Odisha, the pocket becomes the land and visiting that space means a journey that begins 3,000 years ago
India is a land full of intriguing tales and unsolved mysteries. Host to a treasure trove of these mysteries is the state of Odisha or Orissa. Created from the powerful historical kingdom of Kalinga, it also has a varied cultural history and remarkable but delicate natural beauty. Traders have plied this eastern coastline for millennia across the Bay of Kalinga, as the Bay of Bengal was known. Precious stones, pearls and minerals were sought by merchants from as far afield as the Mediterranean and China. According to legend, the giant stone chariot built to honour Surya near the sea at Konarak housed a deity which was made from solid mineral magnetite, along with the surrounding temple walls. The deity allegedly hovered freely in the natural magnetic field. This became notorious among past seafarers as it sent their primitive compasses, made from shards of lodestone (again magnetic iron ore) into a useless spin. Whether this is merely myth or is even electromagnetically possible is open to debate, but the legend is a truly compelling story. The remote 2,000-year-old stone meditation caves at Khandagiri and Udayagiri near Bhubaneswar are testament to the importance of Buddhism in the culture of Odisha. Here, in 261 BC, the great King Ashoka of Maurya fought a terrible battle against the Kalinga Empire at Dhauli near
Culturamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tribute to our 800,000 displaced brethren in Odisha, as they brave the aftermath of cyclone Phailin. Give to cyclone Phailin victims http://tinyurl.com/lplzxxf
Bhubaneswar. Resulting in the loss of 2 lakh lives, this is thought to have spurred him to adopting the Buddhist religion. One of Ashoka’s stone edicts is carved into a hillside at Dhauli. His sincere, humanitarian messages, which unified India so long ago, are clearly as valid today as they were 2,000 years ago. Travelling the long, hard road inland to Simlipal National Park clearly shows the modern disparity between nature and commerce. Timeless rural villages dot the edges of the lush, wide savannah, surrounded by thick forest and dense jungle of silk cotton, teak and sal trees underpinned by hundreds of native plants species. Children from the villages stare wide eyed with curiosity at visitors. Now the Park and its future are troubled by increasing human demand for resources; development and politics on one hand and basic survival on the other. Poaching and illegal logging are taking their toll even in the heart of the reserve, which is the domain of the tiger — closed to visitors, but not to poachers. The sense of remoteness and wilderness is strangely unnerving but stunningly beautiful. Juxtaposing crowds of humanity with this remote peace, the great Jagannatha Vishnu temple in Puri is one of the largest and busiest in India. Thousands of pilgrims throng through its doors every day. Jagannatha is said to originate from a pre-Vedic god, worshipped as coloured wooden poles by the aboriginal tribal inhabitants. The current representations of the three figures of Jagannatha as Krishna, along with his brother and sister, are unique in India — they are made from carved wood and painted black, red and yellow. Many say this is an ancient tribal representation of the different races on the earth. Varied legends abound as to the source of the statues; one tells of an ancient King who dreamt of, and then found, the deity floating in the sea as a log. The Greeks, Romans and Chinese traded here, anthropologists have connected the Vishnu archetype of Jagannatha with the Greek and Roman gods of the sea, Poseidon and Neptune, and further back in history with the ancient water deity, Enki of the Sumerians. Another fascinating riddle of time and archetypal assimilation; which came first, the chicken or the egg? Arriving by sea now seems a little impractical, and the gentlest way to let the subtleties of Odisha blend slowly into
the traveller’s reality is to arrive by train. At first sight, the city of Bhubaneswar seems unappealing, at odds with anticipated marvels of history, cosmic legend and fabulous myth – a dull complex of huge roundabouts, looming sign boards and indiscriminately positioned concrete monoliths. Fortunately, the city’s 3,000–year culture quickly bubbles to the surface through this jangly synthesis of utilitarianism, for behind the modernity, Bhubaneswar is also is the home of some of the finest Nagara style temple architecture in India. A plethora of ancient temple buildings, from the 8th to 13th centuries, lie dotted in peaceful enclaves all over the city, predominantly built by the Kalinga dynasty. In style, these ornately carved stone temples are unique, with their graceful hyperbolic sided shikaras rising to join flat amalaka dishes on the summit. Further down the coast lies Chilika Lake, the largest coastal lagoon in Asia, which provides a tranquil haven for over a million migratory birds every winter and home to thousands of fishermen’s families. Pollution, extensive prawn farming and decreasing biodiversity seriously threaten this avian paradise. Where Chilika’s mouth meets the sea, endless beaches stretch north and south, and when the sun is far south in its low winter arc, it is possible to watch the sun set in the south-western sky over the Bay of Bengal like an orange orb slowly sinking into glowing sand. Odisha has been fertile ground for cultural dynamism and philosophy for millennia and only time will tell if Ashoka’s great ideas can hold sway in the years to come, as modernity and commerce clash head on with tradition. 1
Seeing India by Shefali Ganesh
1 Don your hats and wear your shades, for we are about to embark on an expedition to South Asia’s second largest brackish water lagoon, Pulicat Lake
We were a motley bunch of eager people, young and old, all set for our date with history. We were off on a one-day trip to Pulicat Lake or Pazhaverkadu (pa-ya-ver-kaa-du) that translates to ‘mangrove forests’ as the region was once covered with these. Pulicat is at a surprisingly close distance of around 60 km from Chennai; a sunny day and a vehicle are all one needs to escape the urban landscape to this charming suburb. The lake is known most famously as the home to a teeming population of migratory birds like the greater flamingoes that descend here every year and colour the lake a glorious pink. What many do not know is the significance of Pulicat’s historical links in the creation of Chennai city and in being one of India’s foremost trading hubs. The Pulicat Lake Heritage Walk organised by the AARDE Foundation, a not-for-profit trust dedicated to preserve Pulicat Lake and its
heritage, was a brilliant way of engaging with one of India’s best kept secrets. More so now, as the Pulicat Lagoon and its village have been tentatively proposed as a World Heritage Site among India’s nomination list. The Foundation, however, was quick to point out that that detail was beside the point, because there is so much hidden under these still waters that the entire experience was like going on an expedition to unearth exciting treasures lost to the mires of time. There was a definite air of excitement in the group as all of us got ready for this adventure. The Pulicat Interpretation Centre, run by the Foundation, was where we had our first brush with history. Literally so, as the Centre lies right on the border of an old Dutch Cemetery, and the road we had travelled on were the very boundaries of an ancient Dutch fort! We were standing on the area that had been the first Portuguese settlement in India. Our hosts treated us to a fascinating narration, and took us back in time when Pulicat was a flourishing trade point for India and the world. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to land here in the 16th century, followed by the Dutch in the 17th century and later on by the British. Starting trade from this port town, the British rule slowly moved further down and established itself in Fort St.George, then in Madrasapattinam, thus creating the history of Madras city. The history of Pulicat has been meticulously pieced together through the various landmarks that still exist in and around. This small backwater village was a major port city in
Photo Shankar Adisesh www.shankarphotography.com
the 10th century AD during the Chola regime, and we were shown the ancient Samayeshwarar (Lord Shiva) temple from these times. The Portuguese left their mark in Pulicat’s St. Anthony Shrine that still stands and the ‘Our Lady of Glory’ Church, of which the original structure was sadly demolished. The town served as the headquarters of the Dutch in this part of the coastline, at what was called Fort Geldria. The Dutch had obviously a successful run in the coast, as can be seen by the old port tax collection office with a structure typical of Dutch buildings. Pulicat had the first mint and gun making factory in India and its trade links crossed seas to Japan, Europe and all over South East Asia. As we walked through the lanes of the old town, we stepped into homes that have been around from the 17th century. The residents graciously showed us the huge, almost five feet tall urns that originated from China and Thailand, some still used to store grains. The urns are relics of Pulicat’s extensive trade links with the world. So also
are the town’s many religious landmarks, with a dominant Muslim link. Pulicat even has a very rare language of its own, called ‘Arwi’, which is Tamil written in Arabic script. It was developed by the Arabic speaking Muslims, for reasons that Tamil doesn’t accommodate all Arabic sounds and terms. We stroll into the relatively new Dutch cemetery (17th century) and take in the intricately carved tomb stones, some very elaborate, suggesting persons of high rank. The entrance to the cemetery has an arch that has on either side skeletal carvings, so detailed that each bone of the human body can be identified! And of course a trip to Pulicat without a glimpse of the lake and its winged inhabitants is not complete. The lake is the livelihood of the fisher–folk who are ready to take tourists on a boating trip. We were back to the starting point of our walking tour, tired but happy that we came, treasuring the yellow tour badge, new–found friends and our memories as a souvenir. For most of us, what started out as a picnic, turned out to be the most exciting, live history lesson ever! 1
Little Box of Things
01 Do carry drinking water and plenty of food, as Pulicat doesn’t have any eateries. 02 January 26 is celebrated as Pulicat Day and the AARDE Foundation hosts festivities and competitions for the residents of the town. To know more, log on to www.aarde.in 03 Support the local craftspersons by picking up some wonderful utility items made of cane at the Pulicat Interpretation Centre. The cold–pressed gingelly oil sold here is a must buy!
5 Join Us Every Saturday India Immersion Centre in Chennai facilitates a weekly spiritual fellowship group following Easwaranâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Eight Point Programme of Meditation. E-mail us for more information at email@example.com. If you are in other cities, visit www.easwaran.org for e-satsangs.
Photo Olya Morvan, Ukraine
Holistic living by Eknath Easwaran
1 From the past to the future to fantasy lands where reality has never visited, our minds are constantly in motion, turning this way and that, instead of simply stopping to be in the here and now
Sleepwalking is a fascinating phenomenon. I once read about a whole family afflicted with this problem. On one occasion everyone got out of bed, still sound asleep, to go to the kitchen for a midnight snack. In the morning no one could explain where the food in the refrigerator had gone. The Buddha would call all of us sleepwalkers. We go through the motions of living with little more awareness than someone who is dreaming. If we could watch our thoughts, we would find that instead of being here and now, our attention is constantly wandering everywhere and everywhen else – to the past, to the future, to fantasy lands where reality has never visited. Living in the present is simply a matter of being fully awake, which is what the word buddha literally means. How can we bring about such a state of mind? The great American psychologist William James gives us a clue in a quotation I found in a most unexpected place, Vogue magazine. (Actually, it was my wife, Christine, who found it.) This is a direct quotation: “The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. An education which should include this faculty would be the education par excellence.” In that one sentence we have the secret of life: the key to genius, to success, to love, to happiness, to security, to fulfilment. We live where our attention is. If attention wanders all over the map, our lives cannot help being scattered, shallow, and confused. By contrast, complete concentration is the secret of genius in any field. Those who can put their attention on a task or goal and keep it there are bound to make their mark on life. Attention is also the secret of joy. To enjoy anything, we have to be present. If our attention is scattered or distracted, as when we’re hurrying to do several things at once, no one is really there to enjoy the moment. The pleasure an artist finds in nuances of colour that the rest of us do not see, a musician’s acute enjoyment of harmonies, comes really not from the perceptions but from the capacity to be absorbed in them. When attention is complete, that capacity comes into every moment. Life’s ordinary joys are multiplied a thousand times. By one name or another, you will find training attention – “voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again” – at the centre of every genuine spiritual tradition. The Buddha, for example, placed great emphasis on what he called mindfulness. In other traditions, attention is considered the essence of true prayer. Even if you do nothing in prayer but bring your mind back whenever it wanders, one Catholic mystic says, your time is very well spent.
This is true in every aspect of life, because attention gives value to everything we do. That is why, whenever you recall a wandering attention, you are engaged in what William James called the highest kind of education. I call it training the mind, and it is very much like training a pup. If you try to teach a puppy to obey you for half an hour and then let it do whatever it likes the rest of the day, you will never have a well-behaved pet. Similarly, if you let your mind do whatever it likes, it will chew up your relationships, bully you into indulging it, and generally make a mess of your life. Here, what I recommend is simple but challenging: do only one thing at a time and give it your full attention. This is the key to doing a good job of any kind, and the secret of learning to live completely in the present moment. At first, doing just one thing at a time may seem impractical, even nonsensical. But I assure you that it can be done – and that as your mind grows accustomed to giving your best attention to one thing at a time, you will find yourself actually accomplishing more without pressure, burnout, tension, or fatigue. A wandering mind gets bored easily, so it likes to combine a task like brushing teeth with reading the Wall Street Journal or listening to a lesson on learning Italian. “Why waste time on your teeth?” the mind wants to know. “Why not do something interesting at the same time?” Actually, it is doing two things at once that truly wastes time. All we are doing in such cases is teaching the mind to do whatever it chooses. Years ago, in San Francisco, Christine and I saw Rodin’s statue The Thinker. A tourist next to us asked the inevitable question: “I wonder what he’s thinking about.” I wanted to say, “I know. He’s thinking, ‘How can I stop thinking?’” Most of us have asked that question when the turmoil of the mind won’t let us rest. At such times, we’d give anything to shut down the frantic thought-factory in our heads for just one healing hour. It took years for me to learn the simple answer: to train attention at every opportunity, even in little things, so the capacity is there when we need it. After a while of practicing this, you will make a wonderful discovery: in reality, there are no little things. Every moment is unique; every moment is precious. And life is a tapestry of such moments. When we are completely awake in the present, every moment is fresh; nothing is ever stale. 1 Reprinted with permission from Strength in the Storm: Transform stress, live in balance & find peace of mind by Eknath Easwaran. Copyright The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, P.O. Box 256, Tomales, CA 94971. www.easwaran.org
From the other side by Marina Marangos
Monkeying about 1 Monkeys and India go a long way, almost as far back as the epic Ramayana, which is why, even today, they are deified beings who are allowed to be naughty or nice or both!
Hanuman langurs are named after the Hindu Monkey God and are the sacred monkeys of India. You see them in temples, in parks, and sometimes even in your kitchens. They are cheeky and bright and quite capable of getting up to all sorts of mischief. I had gone into my kitchen looking for a banana from the fruit bowl and found none. I was surprised, as I knew I had bought them earlier in the day. I walked out of the kitchen and there in a tell tale trail down the stairs were the banana skins, with a grinning langur monkey at the bottom cheekily peeling the last one, before my very eyes. They truly are capable of anything and this, I suspect, is at the heart of the belief that the Hanuman monkey god teaches us that there is unlimited power in each and every one of us and very clearly in them. Hanuman is probably one of the most popular god idols in the Hindu religion and it really doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t matter which part of India you might find yourself in. His presence is ubiquitous and often oversized. You cannot fail to notice colossal red-brown edifices of the monkey god with its monkeyâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;like face but very human body. They are striking and almost fearful and you can well understand that Hanuman has the role of an avatar of Lord Shiva. My encounter with Hanuman came from the Chattarpur temples in South Delhi where worshippers seem to flock daily. There were hawkers and fruit carts, catering to the worshippersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; needs and for once in an Indian temple (perhaps an indication of his popularity) there were lines
Photo Marina Marangos, Greek - Cypriot
for orderly queues for the worshippers. He looks a little like a Photo James Williams, UK latter day action figure and often has a physique that suggests many an hour spent in the gym. He sports his monkey face and often holds a mace or gadha in the one hand, and sometimes a mountain he was rumoured to have moved in the other. He stands for two things that are paramount â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Shakti or strength and Bhakti or devotion. He is devoted and giving and he is known for this from his devotion to Lord Rama and the war he waged against evil. The stone he is sometimes seen to carry is a story in the Ramayana where stones were thrown into the sea to build a bridge over to Lanka, to find and bring back Ramaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wife Sita who was kidnapped by the evil Ravana. Others tell of his ability to fly and to turn himself into something as small as a cat or as big as a monster. In another adventure, Hanuman was sent to the Himalayas to find a powerful herb to cure the injured Lakshmana. He couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t identify the herb so he lifted the whole mountain and took it back to Lanka and administered the right herb to save Lakshmana. Rama was so grateful he embraced Hanuman like a brother. Stories abound and there are ones to follow his birth and early years to his later achievements and acts of valour. He certainly led a full life and for that reason alone he has attracted many worshippers. Most people regard him as a fearless protector. His superhuman strengths make him a Yogi for the mystics and those interested in his physical strength cannot but count him as one of their favourites. His presence in temples, it is said, keeps the surrounding areas free of evil spirits and demons.
Photo Marina Marangos, Greek - Cypriot
It is not uncommon for Hindus to fast on Tuesdays and Saturdays for Hanuman. Photo De Haan His birth is celebrated in April and the story of his creation is quite an interesting one. He was born to Anjana, an apsara, a beautiful supernatural female being, who was misbehaving out of boredom perhaps, and was throwing stones or pebbles at a monkey in the forest. The sage who witnessed this cast a spell on her and she became a monkey. She then devoted herself to the worship of Lord Shiva and after three years of selfless devotion Lord Shiva decided to redress her wrong by sending her a dessert to eat which left her with child. When she gave birth, the curse was broken and she became an apsara again. Her young baby became Hanuman and had supernatural powers bestowed upon him. It is therefore clearer for me now why the monkeys, and in particular the langurs, have this special status among Hindus. They are often harnessed for the purposes of driving off the more mischievous rhesus monkeys and to define territories. Here is one case where the animal world meets the supernatural and manifests itself to us to reveal the depth and the respect that they, and the monkey god who they are named after, enjoy throughout India. 1
Give to India by E. Scott Osborne
Special focus 1 This NGO based in the capital city has managed to create a space for special children, giving them economic independence and a dignity to life Founded under the trees in Delhi in 1986, Very Special Arts India (VSAI) is one of the oldest Indian organisations providing creative, performing and visual arts education for young people with disabilities. Year-round classes in pottery, art, drama, weaving, music and dance are combined with vocational and life skills, all in a supportive and productive environment. Although affiliated with the international umbrella Very Special Arts, VSAI is financed and managed independently. All services are provided free and the majority of funding comes from sales of products made by the young people themselves.
Today, VSAI has its own building, a charming hive of productive activities. Vats of liquid wax in bright oranges and reds heat on hot plates, and moulds of all sizes and shapes perch on counters. Baiju, a former VSAI student, now trained and paid to supervise candle-making, helps pour and unmould the finished candles. Students from orphanages work with volunteers, painting delicate designs on clay candle-holders, preparing them for upcoming holiday markets. Their labours create a beautiful finished product: star-shaped candles with gold painted accents, sure to be welcome at any Diwali festivities. Upstairs, students work on looms specially made to weave plastic ribbons from discarded audio-visual cassettes. In the next room, young women will sew this plastic â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;clothâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and create a stunning and shimmery black purse ready for the market. Fashionable and eco-friendly, these purses are exported and sold locally. Downstairs, the computer room is humming: students are focused on English language and graphic design programmes. Students with disabilities from all regions of India also compete at VSAIâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;sponsored events. These programmes offer a welcome platform for competition with peers. For the All India Art Competition, children submit paintings for prizes
palaces. forts. relive the past.
in multiple categories, organised by age and disability, and compete for recognition and prize money. This year, over 1,500 entries were received from 60 schools. The paintings are then reproduced in VSAI’s colourful and charming calendars, making them a popular annual sale item. And popular sales items are always needed: teachers and trainers are the main expenses of the organisation, plus art supplies. Executive Director Neelu Yadav says, “Apart from funding challenges, our biggest task is finding enough suitable teachers at an affordable salary. Currently, we have a staff of 25 providing all forms of specialised and vocational training.” Some of VSAI’s greatest successes are apparent not in this centre, but in homes, outside in the community. VSAI trains and hires former students whenever possible, offering productive employment to those who might not be competitive in traditional job markets. The ability to help disabled children become independent adults, able to marry and manage their own households, just may be the most satisfying and significant VSAI accomplishment. 1 5 Visit www.vsaindia.org or contact Neelu Yadav at 011-26134983 for details. If you live in New Delhi, walk into their centre at Plot No. 3, Sector C, Nelson Mandela Marg, Institutional Area, Vasant Kunj
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3 Fact File 01 VSAI is a day centre that services mentally challenged and disadvantaged youth. 02 VSAI focuses on skill development, basic literacy and income generation. The centre welcomes volunteers, especially those with an interest in visual, creative or performing arts. 03 Remarkably, VSAI is able to stimulate and challenge young people with nearly every type of disability. With the exception of the visually challenged, all types of mentally and physically challenged young people find purpose at VSAI. 04 Candles, calendars, note cards and other sale items are available for the public.
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Music & dance season
1 Hundreds and, we wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be exaggerating if we said thousands, of NRIs and tourists from all over the world descend to Chennai in South India for a period of one month to immerse themselves in this unique Indian cultural phenomenon â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the December Music Season
Leaning on the Eastern Ghats and the Coromandel Coast, sat the Carnatic region famous for its patronage of classical arts during its colonial avatar as the massive Madras Presidency. As its administrative centre, the town of Chennapattinam grew from its fishing villages and temple towns around the Fort to become Chennai. It has survived till date as the cultural hub for the arts, especially Carnatic music (classical Indian music) and Bharatnatyam (classical Indian dance). Patrons from various kindgoms and the other presidencies were in awe of these classical forms that have brewed in this landâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rich literature, folk traditions, and history. People from all over the country started travelling towards Madras to learn and master these forms. In 1927, the All India Music Conference held in Madras by the Indian National Congress brought together many artistes, patrons, and wellwishers who saw the need for a structured attempt to encourage this interest in classical forms and enable a musical culture. It launched the annual Marghazhi (maar-ga-yi) festival of music, which is now known as the December Music Season. Kutcheris (concerts), lecture demonstrations, harikathas, and award/title ceremonies filled the months of December and January, making this a temporary abode for many scholars, vidwans, students, patrons and fans to interact, learn and further develop this musical form. It was only in the 1930s, when more sabhas began to host their own kutcheris and other cultural events, that the
festival grew towards it present diversity. This December almost every sabha and cultural centre in the city will host not only Carnatic music concerts, but also throw open its hands for dance, drama, and other classical non-Carnatic art forms. If you are new to the culture of kutcheris, you will most probably spend the first few concerts in awe of not only the artistes but the teeming audiences, who sing along, carefully follow the beat, and excitedly jump up when their favourite song is finally sung. The December Music Season is also adorned with many other art forms and lecture demonstrations that analyse these classical forms. Should you be well-versed in the nuances of classical music to have fun? Actually, this season is the apt time for the curious to learn more about carnatic music, while everything pleases the ear. Out of place or clueless, as you hop from concert to concert, many faces in the audiences will become familiar and the large gatherings will merge into a very welcoming family. 1
reviewed by Babette Verbeek What is it about? ‘Half a Rupee’ is the title of one of the 25 stories in this book. The subjects of the stories vary, but roughly divided, three themes are treated – everyday life and hardship of the poor in India, private encounters of Gulzar with his famous Bollywood colleagues, and stories that deal with the emotional and practical aspects of the partition between India and Pakistan. Written in a simple and sober style, the stories carry a fairytale sort of magical quality combined with cruelty. No matter how alert his writing keeps you, the unexpected pinch or slap comes every time, remaining completely unpredictable.
Who is it by? Sampooran Singh Kalra was born in 1934 in what is now the Pakistani part of Punjab. After giving up his job as a car mechanic in Mumbai to become a writer, Gulzar was the name he chose for himself. Decades later, Gulzar is one of India’s most esteemed artistes. He’s especially famous for the numerous songs and scripts he wrote for Bollywood movies, but is equally well acclaimed as a director, poet and writer. Throughout his career he won several prestigious national and international awards. Gulzar still continues to work and win awards from Mumbai.
Why should I read it? Read it because Gulzar’s stories provide a peek into the lives of people that usually remain unseen. A world most expats living in India (and plenty of Indians too), don’t have any connection with. They are very human stories of ordinary and extraordinary people experiencing hardship, love and loss. Gulzar writes mostly in Hindi-Urdu but never in English. Gulzar’s friend, the writer Sunjoy Shekar, has translated these stories into English.
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When my landlord said everything was fine, I moved in but then simply couldn’t get my kitchen burner to turn on. Where is the bottled gas usually kept? – Mike Lloyd, New Delhi In India, until the advent of globalisation and the inflow of expats into the country, the concept of renting out fully-furnished houses did not exist. Houses were always unfurnished consisting only of the bare wood–work and electrical fittings. It was the responsibility of the tenant to bring in all the utilities including kitchen hook-ups, telephone connections, gas, white goods, etc. Post globalisation and modernisation, India witnessed a surge in commercial plug and play and fully fitted houses became common. When it comes to commercial properties, India is already matching up to global standards, although it is still catching up in terms of residential fitted properties. Our advice to you would be to completely understand the handover procedure. Please ask the landlord/responsible
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