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India’s first sea bridge, the Pamban bridge in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, was opened to public almost a century ago in 1914

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JULY 2012

editorial note

July 22-23

TEEJ FAIR The advent of the monsoon is celebrated by tying swings from trees. Women wear green, sing and pray to Goddess Parvati. Ghevar, a sweet is especially made for the occasion. Where: Jaipur

CHAMPAKULAM BOAT RACE Held uninterrupted for almost 500 years, it marks the beginning of Kerala’s boat race season. Held on the River Pamba, it sees participation of 100-foot-long snake boats. Where: Alappuzha, Kerala

July 1, 8 & 15

July 7- 8

July 24

NAG PANCHAMI Snakes are venerated and fed milk on this day. Indulge in a little cobrafeeding and listen to the music of the snakecharmers on the streets. Where: Across India

July 1-31

July 4-6

GUREZ FESTIVAL This three-day event showcases the traditional folk dances and songs of the Gurez locals. Enjoy white water rafting on the Kishenganga river and exhibitions on its sidelines. Where: Gurez Valley, Jammu and Kashmir

Khusrau dariya prem ka, ulṭī vā kī dhār, Jo ubhrā so ḍūb gayā, jo ḍūbā so pār. Khusrau! the river of love flows contrary to reason He who floats has drowned, and he who has drowned has crossed over. —Amir Khusrau (1253-1325).

July 22-23

GUSTOR FESTIVAL The Black Hat Dance or Masked Dance is the major attraction. The dispersal of storma (sacrificial cake) brings the festival to a close. Where: Karsha Monastery, Ladakh

Navdeep Suri AFP

MANGANI FESTIVAL Karaikal Ammaiyar, the only woman among 63 Nayanmars (devotional poets who worship Lord Shiva), gave away a rare mango to Shiva when the God came to her begging for alms. In memory of the event, Lord Shiva is showered with mangoes during the festival. Where: Puducherry

t is scorching hot. The baked earth sizzles. Dry, dusty winds play with pieces of paper on deserted streets. The birds are silent. A farmer looks up at the cloudless sky. Eyes dazzled by the sun seek the shadows. Yellow amaltas blossoms are bleached white. Green turns to brown. 30, 40, 50, the mercury continues to rise. A sweat-drenched country waits to exhale. And then. Dark clouds, the colour of Lord Krishna’s skin, gather on the horizon. Thunder announces the arrival of newness. Streaks of lightning cut through the descending darkness. The first drops fall. At first uneven. Soon a steady staccato beat. Trees lose their dusty cover. Puddles and paper boats delight the young. Eyes feast on a freshly washed world. The farmer’s lips move in thanksgiving. The smell of the earth assails the emotions. Now, it’s time to inhale. After the gruelling summer months, the arrival of the monsoon rains is celebrated throughout the country. The season, one of six in India, is the most awaited. So much so that it is inextricably intertwined with our popular culture, art, music, dance, poetry and literature. Also, in a primarily agrarian society like ours, the showers have a ripple effect on the economy. Former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee best summed it up. He once said: “The monsoon is the real finance minister of India.” In this issue we bring you images that capture the magic of the monsoon and descriptions of this life-giving season by four well-known Indian writers. This month we, also, bring you an extract from The Sufi Courtyard: Dargahs of Delhi. One of the most important of these monuments is that of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. The narrow bylanes that lead to it are lined on either side by vendors selling kebabs, trinkets, prayer caps, flowers and more. It is like walking into medieval India. If you happen to visit on a Thursday, the qawwali sung in the courtyard will drown you in divine bliss. It was a well-known disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin, philosopher and Sufi mystic Amir Khusrau, who is said to have contributed to this form of music as also to the development of the tabla (a popular Indian percussion instrument) and the sitar (a stringed musical instrument). Khusrau is well known for his riddles and poems. I leave you with one of them.


INTERNATIONAL MANGO FESTIVAL Taste 1,100 varieties of mangoes, including rare varieties, for free. Also, participate in mango-eating contests and quizzes. Where: Talkatora Stadium, Delhi AFP

BONALU During the festival, dedicated to Goddess Mahakali, devotees, especially women, make offerings of cooked rice, jaggery, curd and milk. An elephant procession is taken out on the concluding day. Where: Hyderabad

Nava-masa-dhrtam garbham bhaskarasya gabasthibhih I Pitva rasam samudranam dyauh prasute ras’-ayanam II For nine months, the sky drank the ocean’s water, sucking it up through the sun’s rays, And now it gives birth to a liquid offering, the elixir of life. —Ramayana, Valmiki


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PERSPECTIVES July 2012 n VOL 26 No. 4/2012

JULY 2012 Editor: Navdeep Suri Assistant Editor: Abhay Kumar


MEDIA TRANSASIA TEAM Editor-in-Chief: Maneesha Dube


Creative Director: Bipin Kumar


Senior Assistant Editor: Urmila Marak

The rains are here. We celebrate the season when the weather is pleasant and the verdant vistas

Editorial Coordinator: Kanchan Rana Design: Ajay Kumar (Assistant Art Director), Sujit Singh (Visualiser) Production: Sunil Dubey (DGM), Ritesh Roy (Sr. Manager) Brijesh K. Juyal (Pre-Press Operator)

India This Month Chairman: J.S. Uberoi President: Xavier Collaco Financial Controller: Puneet Nanda


Send editorial contributions and letters to Media Transasia India Ltd. 323, Udyog Vihar, Phase IV, Gurgaon 122016 Haryana, India E-mail: Telephone: 91-124-4759500 Fax: 91-124-4759550

India Perspectives is published every month in Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Bengali, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Pashto, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Sinhala, Spanish, Tamil, Turkish, Urdu and Vietnamese. Views expressed in the articles are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the Ministry of External Affairs.


Global Perspectives: Connecting to Central Asia and SCO


Partnerships: Celebrating Relations


Culture: Rhapsody in Water


Tribute: Painter Manjit Bawa


Heritage: Mansions of Kolkata


Book Extract: The Sufi Courtyard



Reviews: Film: Beyond Bricks and Mortar


Verbatim: Swati Piramal


This edition is published for the Ministry of External Affairs by Navdeep Suri, Joint Secretary, Public Diplomacy Division, New Delhi, 140 ‘A’ Wing, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi-110001. Telephones: 91-11-23389471, 91-11-23388873, Fax: 91-11-23385549 Website: Text may be reproduced with an acknowledgement to India Perspectives For a copy of India Perspectives contact the nearest Indian diplomatic mission.



COVER PHOTO: Peacock, the national bird of India. A dancing peacock and the monsoon are closely associated and inextricably woven into our psyche, culture, art and letters. COVER DESIGN: Bipin Kumar



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RAGA The rains are here. We celebrate the season when the weather is pleasant and the verdant vistas



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Pouring Music Each raindrop is pure melody, says Anita Nair he sound of rain in the night brings to mind wellbeing while lost in meandering thoughts. Life exhales. The relief of having got past the summer. In my little cottage in Bengaluru, I lie on the bed staring at the roof. The monsoon descends with great fanfare. A flat, hammering rain that drums on the roof in an urgent, monotonous beat. Persisting vigorously till everything is wet and sodden before it stops with the same abruptness with which it began. I think then of the benign monsoon. Of days when the rain announces itself with the call of the koel high up in the mango tree. Of the gentle non-intrusive rain that makes you want to curl up with a book, a cup of tea and tapioca chips and nibble away at book and chips, knowing both bites are guaranteed to please. This is the rain a friend’s father sought in his retirement years. It is this side of the rain that the young couple holding hands in a coffee shop in Bengaluru knows. This is the rain poets celebrate. The coffee shop on St. Marks Road is an island and the couple a smaller island. Oblivious to the freshly laundered world around them, cocooned by the falling rain, this is a moment in time. Someone picks a guitar and strums it. The coffee machine growls into life. The aroma of coffee beans meshes with the cool air. The sky stretches a dull grey. Ashes flung over the face of the sun. The ground is wet and squelchy. A relentless drip-drip. But a wave of content washes over me. The monsoon, when it comes, gifts a wash of serenity. Of quiet content.



(The author is a popular novelist and poet) G BRINDHA


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Magic Unfolds Time for feasts and plenty, says Bulbul Sharma n the village of Shaya in Himachal Pradesh, nestled amidst the hills of north India, where I live most of the year, the temple organises a grand feast to welcome the season. Delicious kheer (rice-based dessert) is prepared early in the morning by the villagers who rise at dawn to gather in the temple courtyard. They believe it is important for everyone to take part in the rain feast. Different kinds of wild flowers appear as if by magic during the rains, and the pale pink, yellow, and blue flowers cover the hillsides. The wild raspberry shrubs begin to flower and the rambling musk rose is like a huge bouquet of scented blossoms. Red-billed blue magpies, the noisiest birds in the hills, fly around screeching the latest news. The sky changes dramatically every minute and you can sit back and watch it for hours as the pattern is always different in the sky. Hundreds of small waterfalls emerge out of nowhere and the hillside begins to gush with water from springs hidden under rocks and ferns. Every inch of the hillside, which was barren during the harsh winter months, now rolls out as a lush emerald-green carpet. The rain also brings out all the delicious fruits in our gardens. The trees are laden with gold-and-pink peaches, ruby-red plums, and juicy apricots. The village is busy and bustling with people picking the fruits. The apples are still not ready, though the children love its crisp, sweet-and-sour flavour. The pine forest washed with rainwater gleams like a jewel and every house in the village has a new look.



(The author is a short story writer and painter)


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The Homecoming Rains leave you breathless, says Jerry Pinto any years ago, the rains were marketed to the Arabs who came to watch the spectacle of cloud and water, elemental dramatics played out against the largest screen in the world: the sky. I thought their fascination had to do with the deserts in which they lived. I was wrong. To watch a rainstorm approach makes you catch your breath. And it has nothing to do with where you live or what your relationship to water is. Mumbai’s relationship with the rains is like almost all human relationships. It is ambivalent. The city waits for the rains, impatiently. But when they come, it is never ready. Until you walk through Malabar Hill again, with the shriek of peacocks and the smell that ittarmakers all over the world have tried to capture, but have failed. The rich aroma of earth refreshed by rains, a smell that speaks of tomorrow. For the real red earth and pouring rain moments, there is no place quite as wonderful as Goa. As summer departs, the south-west monsoon winds begin to pile clouds over the horizon. If you are ever lucky enough to be sitting on a beach when the rains arrive, you will see a pyrotechnic display of tremendous virtuosity. Blinding daylight can go to tremulous twilight in minutes. Lightning forks and dances through the black clouds. Then the first fat drops begin to fall. From June through September, the state will be wet and green and beautiful. Your best option is to find a place on the beach and sit down and watch the rain come home again.



(The author is a poet, writer and journalist) PHOTO: INDIA PICTURE


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Misty Mystery Time of renewal, writes Ashok Vajpeyi ains invariably bring back childhood memories. In the small town of Sagar in Madhya Pradesh, where I grew up, it would rain sometimes for many days without a break. Happily, sometimes the severity of the rains would force schools to close. However, going to school under an umbrella and then sharing it with a friend and getting partly drenched was a familiar happening. It would not only become cool, but even cold. We would shiver, but would still watch the surrounding hills and their slopes go beautifully green. In my state, many medieval rulers had special mansions built for spending and enjoying the rainy season. One such palace is the Jahaz Mahal in Mandu, which is rich with the romantic legend of Roopmati and Bajbahadur. If you happen to be in Mandu in the rainy season, you can witness the romance, the beauty and the grandeur of both history and the monsoons. Or go to Amarkantak, the hills from where the mighty and irrepressible Narmada originates as a small stream, shy and coy, almost concealing herself in the vast green cover of grass and trees. The forests of Betul and Bastar, in Chhattisgarh, could be another site to soak in the monsoons. The earthy smells, the fragrance of freshness and renewed vegetation, the calls of birds and animals can take you to a situation, where the world is no longer too much with you. Wherever you go in India, in the hills, in the historical sites, in the forests or by the sea side, monsoon is an on-going festival.



(The author is a poet, essayist and cultural critic)



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India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna (fourth from left) with other SCO members and observers at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit, Beijing


CONNECTING TO CENTRAL ASIA AND SCO India is heading for a challenging and a more rewarding phase in its engagement with the region TEXT: MANISH CHAND

ith the energy-rich Central Asia emerging as the hub of a “new great game,” India has proactively stepped up its diplomatic and economic engagement with the strategically located region. In many ways, the summer of 2012 marks a milestone in India’s diplomacy in the region as New Delhi unveiled a pioneering “Connect Central Asia” policy in Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. India’s renewed focus on the region was abundantly



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evident at the 12th SCO summit in Beijing. The region’s importance for India, an emerging world power and energy-deficit nation, cannot be overstated. The six-nation SCO comprises Russia and China, the two regional giants and permanent members of the UN Security Council, and the energy-rich Central Asian states, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. India, Pakistan, Iran, Mongolia and Afghanistan currently have observer status in the SCO.

There are strong security as well as economic-energy imperatives for India to join the SCO, which has emerged as a pre-eminent platform to promote peace and development in the region. From the security point of view, the incestuous web of radical Islamist militants and terrorists – what the SCO calls the trinity of evils, including terrorism, extremism and separatism – and the thriving narcotics trade has made the SCO an attractive multilateral platform for India to enhance its counter-terror operations in the region. India has already forged links with the Tashkent-based Regional Anti-Terror Structure (RATS) and is now looking to join the SCO’s joint anti-terror exercises which are open to only members. Against this backdrop, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, who represented India at the Beijing summit, made a strong pitch for a “larger and more constructive role” for New Delhi in the six-nation grouping as a full member and underlined many advantages and strengths India will bring to the SCO if it were admitted as a full member. “India would be happy to play a larger, wider and more constructive role in the SCO as a full member, as and when the organisation finalises the expansion modalities,”

Krishna said. “We welcome the general trajectory of the SCO towards expansion and redefinition of its role. We feel a wider and more representative SCO will be able to deal more effectively with the common challenges of security and development in our region,” he said. Underlining India’s proactive participation in multifarious SCO activities as an observer, Krishna stressed that India is already engaged with the SCO member states in areas such as information technology, management and entrepreneurship development. “We will be happy to share with SCO countries our unique experience in specific areas of economic endeavour, such as banking, capital markets, micro-finance, small and medium enterprises.” Given elaborate procedures and rigorous criteria, India’s admission into the SCO, however, could take up to two years after the SCO members unanimously decide to open the doors for new members. Russia and other Central Asian states have backed India’s full membership. In his meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Beijing, India sought China’s support in securing full membership of the SCO. Another powerful strategic imperative for India to join



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There are strong security as well as economicenergy imperatives for India to join the SCO

Chinese President Hu Jintao (right) with S.M. Krishna at the summit; (below) a meeting in progress

the SCO is the geographical contiguity of all SCO states with Afghanistan which makes it an influential forum for pushing a regional approach for stabilising the violence-torn country in the run-up to the phased withdrawal of the US-led coalition troops by 2014 and beyond. Kabul, a long-time special invitee to the SCO, was upgraded to the status of an observer at the Beijing summit. India, which has pledged ` 111.72 billion for the reconstruction of the violence-torn country, has welcomed the SCO’s role. Speaking at the plenary of the summit, Krishna described Afghanistan as the “most important security challenge” and underscored that the SCO “provides a promising alternative regional platform to discuss the rapidly changing Afghan situation.” In this context, Russia and India, which partnered along with Iran in the Northern Alliance that helped overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001, share similar concerns. However, there lies a potential challenge for India: India’s interests in Afghanistan may not be in harmony with that of China and its ally Pakistan, which is also an observer and is likely to be upgraded to a full-scale member when the grouping expands. It will require much ingenuity and innovative thinking on part of Indian diplomacy to manage this potential conflict of interests in the SCO over how to help spur Afghanistan’s transition to a modern, democratic and economically vibrant state. Against this backdrop, India is heading for a challenging but also a more rewarding phase in its engagement with Central Asia and the SCO. With its core strengths in capacity building, IT and human resource development, India is uniquely poised to transform the resource-rich strategically located region that suffers from a massive infrastructure deficit. Culturally, India is strongly placed with its soft power attractions — many Tajiks and Uzbeks who are trained in India speak fluent Hindi and love humming Bollywood songs. Outlining the “Connect Central Asia” policy at a track 1.5 initiative in Bishkek, Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed mapped out the future trajectory of this crucial

relationship. “India is now looking intently at the region through the framework of its ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy, which is based on pro-active political, economic and people-to-people engagement with Central Asian countries, individually and collectively.” The 12-point formula maps out an ambitious roadmap for accelerating India-Central Asia ties which, among other initiatives. includes: i) building on strong political relations through the exchange of highlevel visits, ii) strengthening India’s strategic and security cooperation with Central Asian countries, with focus military training, joint research, counter-terrorism coordination and close consultations on Afghanistan, iii) stepping up multilateral engagement with Central Asian partners using the synergy of joint efforts through existing fora like the SCO, Eurasian Economic Community and the Custom Union, iv) setting up of a Central Asian University in Bishkek to impart world class education in areas like IT, management, philosophy and languages, v) setting up a Central Asian enetwork with its hub in India that will provide tele-education and tele-medicine by linking all the five Central Asian States, vi) harnessing Central Asia’s energy, agriculture and natural resource potential, vii) enhancing medical and pharmaceutical engagement through greater investment and joint production in this sector, viii) improving land connectivity by reactivating the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). Amid a rapidly mutating international power and the shift of power from the West to the rest, India has also taken care to distinguish its brand of engagement from the predatory resource diplomacy of others which seek to exclusively pump out Central Asia’s riches. Looking ahead, India’s membership of the SCO and a more proactive engagement with Central Asia could be a potential gamechanger as it brings a non-prescriptive liberal democratic perspective to the ongoing transformation of the region and the larger strategic goal of converting Afghanistan into a hub for trade and energy, connecting Central and South Asia. —Manish Chand is Editor, Africa Quarterly, and Senior Editor, IANS



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The largest ongoing project is the upgradation of the Varzob-I Hydroelectric Power Project in Tajikistan, which was commissioned in 2008 at ` 740 million


Celebrating Relations

(Clockwise from left) Minister of State for Communications and IT Sachin Pilot (4th from right) at the inauguration of India-Armenia Centre of Excellence in Information and Communication Technology at Yerevan, Armenia; work in progress at the Varzob-I Hydroelectric Power Project in Tajikistan; students at the Jawaharlal Nehru India-Uzbekistan Centre for IT in Uzbekistan

India launched its Connect Central Asia policy to honour 20 years of relations with the region TEXT: MEENAKSHI KUMAR

o celebrate 20 years of its relations with five Central Asian countries — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan — India launched its Connect Central Asia policy this June. Central Asia is part of our neighbourhood and three of the five countries in the region share borders with Afghanistan, this gives the region immense geo-strategic significance. There are other reasons why these countries have a special focus. Says Ajay Bisaria, Joint Secretary (Eurasia): “We are part of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Gas Pipeline, an ambitious energy project connecting Central Asia with South Asia. Also, the Central Asian region by virtue of its geographical location and vast



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natural resources, including energy reserves in the Caspian basin is of special interest to India as one of the largest consumers of energy.” India was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the five Central Asian countries after they gained independence in 1991. It was quick to set up missions in all five countries and host state visits by their leaders. India started development partnership programmes with them to share its expertise and help develop their economies. These partnerships have been based on targeted project assistance and capacity-building. Among the many development projects is the renovation, modernisation and upgradation of the

Varzob-I Hydroelectric Power Project in Tajikistan. At ` 740 million, it is being undertaken by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation and Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd. At the unveiling of the Connect Central Asia policy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed talked of setting up a Central Asian e-network with its hub in India — replicating the success of Pan Africa e-network. An ambitious project linking all five countries, it will help deliver teleeducation and tele-medicine. Says Bisaria, “We face numerous challenges, including language barrier, lack of compatible infrastructure and the absence of adequately trained manpower in IT. But we are

confident of overcoming these challenges and implementing the project successfully. The project will have enormous long-term benefits. It will help create people-to-people bonds, apart from building IT capacity in these countries which in turn will create markets for India’s giant IT industry.” These development partnerships help in building capacity, generating employment and exposing the Central Asian countries to state-of-art technologies. In the long run, they help to garner goodwill for India from the people who benefit from the projects. As Bisaria points out: “These projects also promote ‘Brand India’ in the Central Asian market, emphasising India’s benign presence and economic strengths.” n



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WATER The traditional boat race in Kerala combines sporting skills with carnival cheer




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he deafening noise, cheering crowds, boats in a myriad shapes and sizes, the musicians and the song of the oarsmen, come together to make the boat races in Kerala a not-to-be-missed spectacle. July marks the beginning of the race season that continues up to Onam, which could fall as late as August-September. Over the last few years, this unique cultural extravaganza has even had participants from abroad. Alappuzha, a town marked by meandering backwaters, crowds of coconut trees overhanging the banks and a lifestyle that has adapted to the waterscape, is where one of the most important races, the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, is held every year on the second Saturday of August. The genesis of the Nehru Trophy boat race goes back to 1952 when a race of boats was held in honour of then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Impressed by the spectacle, he instituted a trophy comprising a silver replica of a snake boat mounted on a wooden abacus. Now, numerous teams vie with each other to win the coveted prize, which has come to be known as the Nehru Trophy. Boat races in Kerala trace their history hundreds of years back when the region was part of the royal state of Travancore. Drained by many rivers and canals, it is not surprising that people have woven the



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NAVIGATOR The nearest airport is at Kochi, 65 km away from Alappuzha. The international airport is at Thiruvananthapuram, about 160 km away. Located on National Highway 47, Alappuzha is wellconnected with major cities in the state and in the country. There are trains to and from major destinations in the south. Alappuzha is also connected by boats across the backwaters with Quilon and Kottayam.




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• President’s Trophy Boat Race is held on Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam during Onam • Kallada Boat Race is held on the Kallada River, Kollam • Indira Gandhi Boat Race is held on the Ernakulam Lake during the Cochin Carnival in the last week of December • Champakulam Moolam Boat Race held on the River Pamba in Alappuzha marks the beginning of the boat race season in July • Aranmula Uthrattadi Vallamkali is the oldest river boat fiesta in the state held during Onam • Payippad Jalotsavam is a three-day carnival held on the Payippad Lake


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watery landscape into their daily lives, and into their festivals. The network of canals has necessitated the use of different kinds of boats — from kitchen boats to cargo boats and pleasure boats to the magnificent chundan or snake boat. Days before a major race, a carnival spirit grips the people of nearby towns and villages. The starting and finishing blocks are worked out and organisers work overtime to give the final touches to the decorations and set up temporary bamboo podiums at strategic corners. For the participants (both men and women) the preparations begin much earlier. Apart from the participants, there are the vanchipattu singers, who help the rowers to maintain the rhythm with their songs and beats. The boats can be over 50 metres long and accommodate over 100 people. The prow of the boat curves like the hood of a snake and hence the name, snake boat. Many cultural organisations put up floats and cultural presentations atop grandly decorated boats. While these add to the general merriment, all attention is riveted on the participating boats. By the time the qualifying events begin, the crowd has already worked itself to a frenzy. The cheering continues unabated with the winner of the snake boat race being greeted with a crescendo. n



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Lifetime of

Memories Manjit Bawa, who was inspired by Indian mythology and Sufi poetry, is known for his brilliantly colourful canvases TEXT: INA PURI

(Left) The artist at work; (above) his painting


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ou cannot live by another’s memories,” he declared passionately. Certainly for Manjit Bawa, memories mapped a life so unique that it belongs to no one else but him. Unlike others, he relived memories technicoloured! As he travelled to historical or archaeological sites or to the mountains with his brother Manmohan and friend Ranjan, he would record in his sketch book not only hastily painted landscape studies but also mustard fields, a blazing cadmium yellow in the sun, emerald green flocks of parrots and the deepening For Manjit blue of the skies. He never forgot the landscape of Sohna, Bawa, memories glorious at sunset — it was an explosion of mapped a life red in fiery shades of vermilion, crimson so unique that and scarlet. In his reminiscences, this it belongs to remained his first artistic challenge, the no one else obsession to capture the essence of that but him vision pictorially on his canvas. Whenever he painted the background red, I would feel that he was in the act of reliving that sacred moment. A range of colours had been squeezed on the palettes in preparation and from these, he chose shades as varied as amber, burnt sienna and dark green to mix with red before he was ready with the exact tonality of red he sought. He never used a shade straight out of the tubes. He would be finicky, absorbed as he blended the shades to bring about that inner radiance so intrinsic to his art. Manjit recalled being receptive to music since boyhood, accompanying his mother on the dholak (drum) at satsangs. Later, he accompanied his sister,



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Manjit with his dog Chandni in Dalhousie; (right) an untitled work

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(Clockwise from above) At a concert in Kolkata; his oil on canvas paintings


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Darshan and wife, Sharda on the tabla as they played the sitar. He loved to play the tabla and the flute. At the behest of friends, he even sang the haunting ballads of Sufi poet Bulle Shah. Perhaps it was his passion for music that lent his art its lilting quality. The memory of him as a child minding shoes in a gurdwara was never too far. An old lady had offered him a shawl to keep his shivering frame warm. But he flung back her offering, and eyes smarting with unshed tears, told her that he was no beggar and did not need her largesse. He always carried this sense of pride, about who Prior to his he was and where he came from, last show in unwilling to admit failure or defeat. London, Manjit As I revisited his childhood memories took part in a with him, often travelling to distant workshop that places, I learnt of his hardship, his involved a struggle, the romances and heartbreak, visit to China’s his grit and determination, in a colourSilk Route splattered and magical journey. Prior to his last show in London, Manjit participated in a workshop that involved a visit to China’s Silk Route and I can still distinctly recall his excitement at discovering a new culture and people in places like Urumqi, Turpan and Kashgar. To quote J. Swaminathan, “What makes Manjit’s work contemporary is its remoteness from the everyday present. His concern is not so much like that of the modernists with the fate of man in time as with the enigma of his very presence. Cut adrift thus from the historical context, his world beckons like the island of Circe with the persistence of mythology…” n



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A maiden in marble at Laha Bari

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olkata’s reputation as ‘the city of palaces’, made me decide to see some of these remnants of the past. The moment I get off the plane, the air I breathe in seems fragrant with history, redolent of a bygone era. I begin my tour at Sova Bazaar Rajbati, founded in 1757 by Nabakrishna Deb, who began as a munshi (clerk) to Warren Hastings, the first governor general of India (1773-1785). It is a five-minute walk from the Sova Bazaar metro station and consists of two major buildings on either side of the road. Says Aloke Krishna Deb, a descendant of Nabakrishna, who lives in a nondescript two-roomed flat, a few houses away from the celebrated palace: “We practically ruled Sutanuti at one point of time.” Sutanuti, the northernmost of the three villages that constituted Calcutta, is where Bengal’s rich had their mansions. He starts my tour of his palace from the freshly-painted thakur dalan or hall of the deity, maintained by the family ‘without any outside help’. This is the place where Nabakrishna held Durga Puja celebrations and where Swami Vivekananda was accorded a public reception on his return after delivering his famous speech at the Chicago Parliament of Religions, held in the US in 1897. The next stop is Naya Bazaar Mullick Bari, which represents typical architectural trends of 19th century Bengal. The façade is in the classical Doric/Palladian and Neo-classical style, with fluted Corinthian pillars. Unlike the British-built red-brick-and-sandstone buildings in Central Calcutta, the Bengali houses have lime plaster on the pillars and walls. Kaustabh Mullick, the present owner, shows me around. At one end of the inner courtyard is the thakur dalan, next to which is a marble statue of a Greek goddess. “My ancestor Nandalal was a zamindar (landed aristocrat),” says Kaustabh. A short walk from the Mullick Bari is the house of Sir Jyotindra Mohan Tagore, of the Pathuriaghata Tagore family. Built around 1850, the palace is famous for its mural panels on either side of the entrance and exquisite marble busts outside the thakur dalan. Near Thakur Bari, the house where Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore was born, is the


Statue of a sleeping lion at the elegant Marble Palace

Staircase leading to the interiors of Belgachia Palace



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Maharaja K.B.K. Deb Burman’s Tripura House has minimalist exteriors and oriental motifs inside


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Mira Nair’s The Namesake was filmed at Latu and Chhatu Babu’s home

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Pathuriaghata Ghosh Rajbati

Staircase leading to the interiors of Belgachia Palace

massive Pathuriaghata Ghosh Rajbari. Built by Khelat Chandra Ghosh, the mansion’s pillared and arched inner courtyard is possibly the most elegant of the North Calcutta houses. Inside, a marble staircase with wood paneling on either side ends in a corridor lined with blue and white elephants, originally used as flowerpot stands. A striking feature in the dining hall, which was once a nach ghar (dance hall), is a Belgian cut-glass chandelier. In the study a Thomasson Chronometre grandfather clock, brought from London to Kolkata in 1819, holds pride of place. The Belgachia Palace rivals the Chor Bagan Marble Palace in opulence and scale of construction. At the entrance is a marble bust of Alexander the Great on a stone pedestal. “The staircase is an engineering marvel because the entire flight of steps does not have any support from beneath and those cast-iron statues can be found only in Buckingham Palace,” says Sailen Mullick, the present owner of the mansion. Built almost a hundred years ago, the house has 54 rooms, adjoining it is a huge rectangular lake. Noted film-maker Satyajit Ray shot two of his masterpieces — Jalsaghar and Ghare Baire — in this sprawling one-acre mansion. The Marble Palace is the best known and possibly the most elegant in Kolkata. Adjacent to the flat-roofed Jagannath temple, built in 1821 is a pond with elaborate fountains and a teeming population of pelicans. Of particular interest are the marble lions that dot the gardens outside the palace. Walking distance from Marble Palace is Jora Sanko Thakurbari, an impressive red building that was home to the Tagore family — to which Rabindranath belonged — for nearly two centuries. The building where Rabindranath spent much of his childhood has now been converted into Rabindra Bharati University. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Another palace in the vicinity, the Laha Bari, near College Street, has porticos and colonnaded verandas that are a perfect foil to the exquisite chandeliers and stained glass windows inside. A discussion about Kolkata’s palaces would be incomplete without a mention of Tripura House on Ballygunge Circular Road, designed by architect Martin Burns. The exteriors of the building are minimalist, with a profusion of oriental motifs inside. n

Sova Bazaar Rajbati


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Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya; (facing page) a devotee


Mystic Poet

Hazrat Abul Hasan Amir Khusrau is remembered as one of the founders of Hindustani culture, which is a synthesis of Hindu and Muslim traditions

hrough his playful riddles, songs, melodies and poems, Hazrat Abul Hasan Amir Khusrau, poet- disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, remains a household name throughout the subcontinent. He is remembered as one of the founders of Hindustani culture that is a synthesis of Hindu and Muslim traditions. Awarded the title ‘Tooti e Hind’, Nightingale of Hindustan, Amir Khusrau was a prolific writer of ghazals, qasidas, mathnawis, rubais and prose in Arabic, Persian and Hindi. The skilled mystic played a pivotal role in the evolution of Indian classical vocal and instrumental music, fusing local styles with Arab, Persian and Indian compositions. Born in 1253, Amir Khusrau was a favourite of the Delhi sultans. He wrote eulogies praising them, irrespective of the political upheavals and intrigues that continued throughout this period. After Jalaluddin Khilji, his ambitious nephew Alauddin captured power in Delhi and Khusrau continued to be retained as court poet… During this time, Khusrau wrote his book of poetry, Ghurrat ul Kamal, Prime of Perfection. In 1318, Khusrau completed his collection, Nuh Siphir, Nine Skies. It contains panegyrics of Mubarak Shah Khilji, describing historical buildings and commending the achievements of Hindustan



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HOME TO THE DESCENDENTS Hazrat Nizamuddin remains one of the greatest mystic personalities in the history of South Asian Sufism. Towards the end of his life, he bought a piece of land for his final resting place which grew into the Nizamuddin dargarh (mausoleum) complex in the Nizamuddin West area of Delhi. A village called Nizamuddin Basti came up around the dargah. For centuries it has been home to the descendents and devotees of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. The tomb of poet Amir Khusrau is also located within the complex.

Inner chamber of Hazrat Amir Khusrau’s dargah; (below) a qawwali session in the courtyard of the dargah


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in linguistics and metaphysics. Amir Khusrau’s fifth and last diwan (poetry), Nihayat ul Kamal, Place of Perfection, was compiled some time before his death. Tughlaqnama, an account of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq’s victory over Nasiruddin Khusrau, is another important literary contribution by the poet… Deeply influenced by the spiritual philosophy of Hazrat Nizamuddin, Amir Khusrau believed in the Sufi doctrine… The creation of the sitar and the tabla are attributed to Khusrau. Several Indian melodies as well as the development of qawaali are attributed to him. His music compositions include khayals, taranas, naqshs and other ragas that celebrate the fusion of Indian and Persian melodies. Khusrau’s father had introduced him to Hazrat Nizamuddin. On his maiden visit, the eight-year-old Khusrau stood outside the khanqah, refusing to enter the premises. He composed a quatrain and sent it to the shaykh (sheikh)… Hazrat Nizamuddin composed a verse and dispatched the response on a paper to the young Khusrau. The young Khusrau stepped inside to meet Hazrat Nizamuddin, and remained devoted to the Sufi throughout his life. Khusrau would often present his verses to Hazrat Nizamuddin for correction, acknowledging him as his master both in spirituality and literature. All his poetry books begin with sincere tributes to Hazrat Nizamuddin. When Khusrau finished writing a book, he brought the maiden copy to Hazrat Nizamuddin, who would offer prayers for its popularity... In 1325, when Khusrau learnt that his beloved Master had passed away he let out a shriek at Hazrat Nizamuddin’s tomb and cried aloud, ‘The sun has gone underground and Khusrau is yet alive’. Hazrat Amir Khusrau distributed his wealth amongst the poor, and spent the rest of his days beside the tomb of Hazrat Nizamuddin. He lost the desire to live and died six months later. Amanuddin Hasan built his mausoleum in 1605, during the reign of emperor Jehangir. Those who visit Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya usually begin by offering prayers at the dargah of Hazrat Amir Khusrau. They seek his intercession for the master’s blessings. Each evening, as the sun sets, haunting compositions of Khusrau are sung, enthralling devotees as they have done for centuries. n

Extracted from:

THE SUFI COURTYARD: DARGAHS OF DELHI by Sadia Dehlvi Publisher: HarperCollins Price: ` 699 Pages: 239



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(Facing page) Fatehpur Sikri complex near Agra; Raj Rewal’s Hall of Nations in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi



Beyond Bricks and Mortar A celebration of traditional, historic and modern Indian architecture that mirrors our society’s aspirations and the present times

nfortunately, just a few film producers have 15th-17th century India, when Hindu architecture first taken up the exploration and interpretation of made a mark and then the Mughals joined to create a the vast treasure of traditional, historic and secular architecture that modern India has inherited. This contemporary architectural content in India. was the phase when Hindu architecture with the patronage Manu Rewal, an accomplished filmmaker, in his two recent of the maharajas was witness to the development of iconic films — Medieval Marvels and Modern Spaces Indian Light temple and palace complexes. The construction during this — does just this. Manu, who has produced, directed and period was symbolic of the strength and the charisma of the rulers. The film focuses on select complexes written the films, traces the thought process depicting Hindu and Mughal elements and the and teamwork that goes into the design and secular fabric that emerged. For example, development of a project. Coming from a Hoshang Shah’s tomb in Mandu. The family that breathes architecture, Manu shows cinematography and commentary portray the his understanding of the subject and brings it details in plan and on the facades. The to the viewer in an articulate, comprehensive landscape is projected holistically as are the and meaningful style. The films focus on the MEDIEVAL MARVELS Genre: Documentary role architecture has played in our past and palaces and temples in Udaipur. It reflects the Director: Manu Rewal how it is a mirror of a society’s aspirations design principles addressed then towards the Producer: Public Diplomacy Division, and the present times. integration of nature and architecture. Ministry of External Affairs The latter half describes Mughal architecture Medieval Marvels brings us closer to



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finding its roots in India. Highlighted is the approach of commentary with the architect’s narration which provides Emperor Akbar in realisation of the Fatehpur Sikri complex further insights to the design development process. near Agra. It gives the viewer an insight into the design of The film captures the architecture such that the spirit the structures here, which incorporate both Mughal and carried in the volume of the created spaces comes across Hindu architectural components. Throughout the film one brilliantly. Whether it is the International Institute of is always kept in touch with the glorious art on the facades, Information Technology complex, Bengaluru, designed by be it the paintings or sculpted forms. After watching the architect Rajesh Ranganathan or the Hyderabad-based film, one is more confident in deciphering the thought and Value Labs of architect Prem Chandavarker, the film zeroes craftsmanship that were behind the creation of these down on factors that bring out the rapport of the natural historic monuments. elements to the man-built structures. It is also a reflection After Independence, Indian architecture has seen of the evolving dynamics in contemporary architecture in growing trends in explorations of modernity. These India. It amplifies that along with the emerging glass-box interpretations have been given a worthy dimension by global architecture, there also is a section of design architects such as Achyut P. Kanvinde, consultants who take pains to address critical Charles Correa, B.V. Doshi, Joseph Allen Stein issues of maximising natural light and and Raj Rewal. ventilation in the interior spaces, respect the context and evolve energy consciousness Modern Spaces Indian Light, the second solutions. The other chosen projects, film, delves into 21st century Indian conceived by architects Sanjay Mohe, Raj architecture. The focus is on projects which Rewal and Bimal Patel respectively, are a have been designed with priority given to the MODERN SPACES celebration of modern Indian architecture integration of light and landscape to the INDIAN LIGHT Genre: Documentary being on a progressive path and as thought interior volume of spaces. The film is about Director: Manu Rewal provoking as anywhere else in the world. five projects with explanations on the design Producer: Public Diplomacy Division, concept being provided by the architects of — Suneet Paul is an architect by training and the Ministry of External Affairs editor-in-chief of Architecture+Design, the complexes. Interwoven is a disciplined a leading Indian journal of architecture.



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elentlessly focused on public health and innovation, Dr Swati Piramal, director, Piramal Healthcare Ltd, is the first woman president of India’s apex chamber of commerce, ASSOCHAM, in 90 years. She has been nominated as one of the 25 most powerful business women in India for eight times. Recently, she was conferred the Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian awards by the Government of India. She spoke to Bindu Gopal Rao about her association with the healthcare industry.


Tell us about your journey with Piramal Healthcare Limited. It has been a satisfying journey. I am proud that I acquired a small company with a turnover of around ` 110 million and have turned into one of the top 5 companies in India, a top 10 contract research manufacturer in the world, and among the top three anesthesia manufacturers in the world.


“India is becoming the medicine maker for the world”

Tell us something about the healthcare industry in India? The biopharma industry is metamorphosing from a bulk drug producer, a generic exporter to one finding affordable new drugs not just for India but for the world. India is becoming the medicine maker for the world. With strong scientific skills especially in chemistry and biotechnology, India is taking strides to gain its rightful place at the head table of innovation led economies.

Are adequate investments being made in research and development in the healthcare space? To gain speed, India must increase public spending on healthcare and funding of fundamental research, increase public-private partnerships, increase tax relief for investment in research. Bottlenecks caused by inadequate manning and training of personnel must be improved quickly. Health policies must be transparent. Tell us about your association with ASSOCHAM? Serving as the first woman president of ASSOCHAM was a wonderful learning experience. I was fortunate to meet over 40 heads of state in 2009-2010 when the economy was growing at over 8 per cent. I visited every state in India and met with hundreds of small and large businesses and also the governments of the state and made recommendations for the growth of the economy. How did you react to the Padma Shri? I was humbled to receive so great an honour from the President of India. It encouraged me to do more to help reduce the burden of disease in our country. What are your interests outside work? My two interests are public policy and higher education. They take up a lot of my free time. I like reading, architecture, poetry, photography and cooking. n


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India Perspectives  

July issue of the India Perspectives

India Perspectives  

July issue of the India Perspectives