Friday, December 18, 2009

Blogging by Mail Part 2 :)

Stephanie has just received the gift pack I put together for her.

Go, have a look at the Happy Sorceress' blog to see what I made for her ...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Blogging by Mail....

How does it feel to get a parcel all the way from US full of lovely, carefully-chosen gifts? And that too, when the only thing that connects you with the sender is a blog. .. Exquisite, I must say. New media indeed connect, and how!



I signed up for Stephanie's Blogging by Mail initiative and have received a wonderful gift pack from Amelia barely few minutes back and am really excited...

She has included some very lovely gifts: two big slabs of dark chocolate, soft, adorable pair of socks in a pretty shade of light green, a scrub, a set of lovely hand creams in some delicious flavours like Cherry blossom, Vanilla Orchid, Wild Jasmine and a scented candle..



Amelia, I can't thank you enough..

Friday, December 11, 2009

Technical hitches and a poem

Google reader is behaving erratically. My new posts are not being updated and am quite worried as I don't know how to set this right.

Bloggers with a gifted techie side, please help...

Other than that, there's a small poem I would like you to read.

A government hospital is written on my poem blog, Short and Sweet. Feedback, discussions most welcome on that site.

I wrote this the same day I posted the matar sandwich recipe.. Now you know why the quick fix. i had visited a filthy hospital ward that day and my spirit had drooped low, very low...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Quick fix



What do you do when you are feeling extremely nervous?

I for one, eat, sleep or write.

Here's a quick post, more to keep my mind away from certain things, than for the sake of updating the space here.

This is a sandwich recipe, extremely simple and delicious.
Made it for breakfast some days back.

Peas sandwich

Ingredients

Two cups of fresh / frozen peas

4-5 cloves of garlic

One inch piece of ginger

Half a green chilli (adjust according to taste)

Salt

Heat frozen peas in water for 5-6 minutes, till soft. Discard the water, wash and dry.

In a chutney jar, grind the peas, garlic, ginger, salt and chillie to form a course paste. Do not add water or mash it too fine.

In a pan, heat a small spoonful of oil and fry the peas paste for 3-4 minutes.

Spread this on bread. You may toast it too... I feel this sandwich goes better with coriander/pudina chutney but ketchup works just as well...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Another tag comes my way pretty soon. I loved doing this one. Thanks G for tagging me...

Here it goes:

1.Where is your cell phone?
Near the keyboard

2.Your hair?
Oiled and tied


3.Your mother?
great cook, very giving

4.Your father?
unworldly

5.Your favorite food?
daal bhat pickle @ home, sizzlers outside

6. Your dream last night?
can’t remember.. was something about ahmedabad

7. Your favorite drink?
Sprite, Screwdriver, chhas

8. Your dream / goal?
to write well, earn more than enough

9. What room are you in?
office

10.Your hobby?
making jewellery, reading

11.Your fear?
losing people

12.Where do you want to be in 6 years?
better pay, house, baby shud be fine

13.Where were you last night?
office

14.Something that you aren’t?
….?

15.Muffins?
gladly

16.Wish list item?
Graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi, Big Sur, Dharma Bums, Broken April

17.Where did you grow up?
Ahmedabad

18.Last thing you did?
saved some copies

19.What are you wearing?
jeans, top camouflaged in sweater and shawl

20.Your TV?
not sure which brand

21.Your pets?
three lovebirds, including a very silly baby

22.Friends?
Yes!!

23.Your life?
more than good

24.Your mood?
happy

25.Missing someone?
not at this moment

26.Vehicle?
not now, ahmedabad days, I had a Honda activa bike.. now it lies unused in Kolkata

27.Something you’re not wearing?
a cap

28.Your favorite store?
shops at Gariahat, New Market, spencers

Your favorite color?
light green of the fields, pink/red to wear

29.When was the last time you laughed?
some minutes back

30.Last time you cried?
5-6 days ago

31.Your best friend?
Reni, my sis

32.One place that you go to over and over?
City Centre Salt Lake … if I could, Ahmedabad, Himachal/Uttaranchal

33.One person who emails me regularly?
my father

34.Favorite place to eat?
Peter Cat

I tag Solilo, Dhiren, Doremi and Shweta

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Poems — In your language :)

This is an excerpt of a lovely poem by Baruk:

in your language, not mine
will i abuse and curse at you
and scream and rail and rant at you
in your language, not mine.


The poem has been recognized by Amnesty International (Aotearoa New Zealand) and was read out on Courage Day.

Also read this post called Grin and the interesting discussions in the comment section.

Initially when I began reading his blog, I thought his posts were too full of anger. Then, I slowly got used to his way of writing and began loving the way he morphs his angst into lovely, strong poems.

Ever so often, I feel sad that poems only pose prodding questions in a wordy way, questions to which we have no answers and so get frustrated. Once out of the system, the best a good poem can do is to act as a catalyst for more thoughts, introspection and sometimes debates. But even within this limited scope, poems can do a mighty lot.

Read about George Orwell's take on poems that I mentioned in this long post. He says that poems can survive even in the face of totalitarianism. Excerpts from Orwell's essay are written towards the end.

Coming back to this poem...

As I read In your language not mine again, I realise how relevant it is in the vicious times we live in. The immediate connect reading it this time was with the episode in which MNS members of legislature allegedly manhandled and even slapped Samajwadi party MLA Abu Azmi when he began taking his oath in Hindi. Some people were actually cheering the vandalism as another act of bravado in defense of Marathi asmita...

My favourite poem from Baruk is Api's thlan

Friday, November 20, 2009

Eye donation follow-up

I wrote an article sometime back and in the course of my research, I talked to a large number of doctors, grief counsellors, eye banks, cornea recipients and donor families.

Here are somethings I discovered and these I am sharing with you.

1)What is eye donation?


Eye donation essentially means recovering the cornea, the transparent cover on the pupil. This part is transplanted on the recipient to improve / restore vision. Donation from one person gets two corneas, that are used separately on two persons.

2) Who can benefit?

Cornea transplant is necessary when the cornea gets damaged due to prolonged illness, neglect and poor treatment. Doctors said that poor patients from rural areas form the biggest chunk of cornea recipients because often they approach a doctor when the damage is already done. Some patients born with congenital cornea defects can also benefit from eye donations.

In some cases, a cornea transplant is also used as therapeutic grafting to aid in healing of damaged tissue.

Contrary to my notion, eye donations thus do not cure all kinds of blindness, but only corneal blindness.

3) Initiatives:

Under the Hospital Cornea Retrieval Programme (HCRP), grief counsellors are appointed at hospitals where about 6-7 deaths occur daily. These counsellors approach the bereaved family and suggest eye donation. Donations have drastically gone up at places where HCRP has been implemented.

As of now, grief counsellors, appointed by NGOs, are paid paltry amounts. Under the 11th five-year plan, government has come up with grants for grief counsellors.

Whose eyes cannot be used for transplant:

Eyes of a person who has died of slow virus diseases like AIDS; Mad cow disease, Rabies, Hepatitis, Encephalitis, Septicemia, Snake bite, Tetanus, Luekaemia, or had certain eye infections, iritis (inflammation of anterior segment of eye), low corneal endothelial counts cannot be used for corneal transplant.

Statistics:

About 1.1 million people suffer from corneal blindness in India and families of only about 15000 people consented for eye donation in 2008.



Source: Eye Bank Association of India

Points to remember:

Eye must be removed within six hours of death

Gently suggest eye donation to a calm person of the bereaved family, if possible after 30 minutes of 'grief window'. By this time, the family has actually accepted the death

Contact the nearest eye collection centre immediately

The removal takes 10-15 minutes and is free

It can be done at home or any other place where the body is kept

It does not disfigure the face

Eye donation by a single person helps restore sight of two corneal blind people

Religious leaders throughout the world have voiced their support

Source: Doctors, National Program for Control of Blindness website

Related posts:

Eye donation follow-up 1

Hope amidst grief

The End of an Era

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pumpkin Corn soup

This soup was made by my sister's father-in-law. I tasted some and loved it. He shared the recipe in less than two minutes. Yesterday, when I saw fresh bright yellow pumpkin in the market, I thought of giving this a try.



Ingredients

About 200 gm ripe yellow pumpkin

A cupful of frozen / fresh corn

6-7 cloves of garlic, 1 " piece of ginger

1-2 green chillies

Finely-minced coriander

Salt to taste

Boil the pumpkin, let it cool. If using fresh corn, boil these along with pumpkin. Do not throw away pumpkin stock. Use it as required later to make the soup. Grind boiled pumpkin to a pulp in a chutney jar. Crush ginger garlic in a mortar. Separately crush the green chillies. Soak frozen corn for a while and remove the water. Wash well.



Heat a spoonful of oil. Add ginger-garlic paste. Saute till the colour changes and add pumpkin paste. Add pumpkin stock to bring the soup to a thick consistency. Add corn, green chilly paste and salt. Just before switching off the gas, add coriander.

I suggest you do not give any of these ingredients a miss, or the taste wouldn't be as relishing. If I am not mistaken, he also added crushed groundnuts. I didn't try this though.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pet update

This little chap should begin to fly pretty soon...



This is the first baby from my pair and I spend afternoons playing with it..

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Karela-Matar Sabzi

Karela (bittergourd) has been a favourite in our family. While my sister can eat it in all forms, I like it crispy fried, or when the bitterness is reduced.
Sister had learnt a stuffed karela recipe from a Sindhi friend. In that dish, she carefully carved out the seeds and stuffed the karelas (soaked in salt for 10-15 minutes and pressed of excess water) with onions, tomato, garlic, etc. Then I guess she used to deep fry the vegetable and flow it in a spicy gravy. While V and others absolutely loved this dish, I could not have it for the raw bitter taste still lingered.

The best karela sabzi I have eaten so far was at a relative's house. I tried reproducing it today and it turned out just like that day. I was so so excited that one recipe of a great, jolly old foodie now survives with me. Here I am sharing with you the recipe.

Ingredients

3 karelas, sliced in rings and pressed dry after applying salt

A small cup of imli / tamarind pulp soaked in very little water

A cupful of matar / green peas

2-3 tablespoons of sugar

Salt and red chilly powder to taste.

Oil, mustard seeds, hing (asafoetida), haldi (turmeric powder)



Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy-bottomed steel pan. (I started with aluminum kadhai, but later shifted realizing the huge amount of imli that goes in this dish)

Add a teaspoon of mustard seeds, pinch of hing and haldi in that order. Next add karela. Saute till half-cooked and slightly brown, do not cover with a lid. Now add peas. The photo below is just after I added peas.



Saute till karela is crispy and peas are cooked. This should take 5-7 minutes.

Now, extract thick tamarind pulp. It should come to 2-3 tablespoons. As soon you add this, the veggies will get sticky and because of the sour addition, won't cook. So make sure you add imli after the karela and peas are tender enough. Immediately add a generous amount of sugar to balance the sour taste. I added about 1 1/2 tablespoons. Add salt and chilly to taste.

Delicious sweet-sour karela-matar sabzi is ready...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Anjan Dutt calls Bela Bose on 2441139

I heard 2441139 by chance on the radio. While I feel shy to speak in Bangla, I understand a fair bit and this song was beyond marvellous. Listen to this song first, even if you don't understand Bangla. Listen first. I have given the English translation below...



Picture this. A yellow phone booth with loud, bold black letters reading STD, PCO, ISD. Or if you want, picture a coin-phone, the large rectangular black box that used to stand silently by paan shops and was witness to many a life-changing conversations of love and denial long before the cellphone bug hit. Have we got the imagery right? Now picture a youth dialling a number and asking for Bela Bose. Here's what he says...

I have got a job Bela, are you listening?
No one can stop us now.
You can send back that proposal
and tell mother you are not marrying.

I have indeed got a job.
Just a few more months (of wait)
They will pay 1100 now,
Confirm the job after three months...
Bela, why are you silent, why don't you say something?


Hello... 'Is that 2441139?'
Bela Bose are you listening?
I have got you after a dozen wrong numbers
I will not lose you now at any cost...

Hello... 2441139?'
Please call Bela Bose, just once.
Meter's running on this public telephone
this an important, very important matter...

This time our dreams will really come true
After all this long wait
We have spent many a days in dusty dingy cabins by the road
Waiting with heavy breaths...

Just a few more days Bela, then freedom.
That blue-walled house in Kasba (will be ours)
In this white-black, trouble-ridden, bitter-sweet city
(We will start) our colourful life...

I have got a job indeed
Those times of sobs, of brawls are gone now
Hello... Can you hear me or not?

Bela, why are you crying silently?
I have indeed got a job
Those times of sobs and brawls are gone
Hello... Can you hear me?

Hello? **** Hello?
2441139, 2441139


I feel Bela has accepted a proposal and is all set to marry...The call came too late. The song, for me, is an ode to young love in a middle-class Indian background that strives and strives to set things right.

I could write a lot more about this song, and two other favourites by Anjan Dutt.. But may be, on some other post.

PS My computer speakers don't work. Let me know if you find any other better video of this album..

Link of Bangla lyrics here

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Contest :)


Thanks for voting.. I value every single of the 10 votes I got for the time and appreciation you kept aside for me, for Short and Sweet.


Ginger and Cardamom
has won the Original Poetry contest on Indiblogger. It's a great blog, and I have a lot of reading up to do.

So then, take care and keep in touch...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Important dates

From September onwards, till the end of the year, my days often pass in a restless gloom punctuated with reasons for celebration.
In India, come September and a series of festivals start. So, in general you are engrossed in a festive atmosphere.

For me, its my birthday that kickstarts the month. This year, towards the end, I finished a year of my first full-time job and was feeling pretty happy with myself, and grateful.

October is a breeze, but just towards the end of the month, I start missing my grandfather. On 26th, he would have been 87.

Bhau was a jolly fellow with love for good food and piping-hot dalwadas. He adored me with a very open bias. Anything was allowed for me, and his swiftest solution to aaji's complaints that I don't study as much I should was to 'take a year off'. Better still, he would say let her fail once. I was humiliated in front of my whole class when I failed in all possible subjects and from then on, I was stunned into being serious. So, it's good to fail, he would say.

And then, he had told me once, "I am going to live till 100. Even after that, I will become a ghost and meet you." That 100 bit always pinches me the most.

November is extremely uneasy. In the first week falls a date I remember in spite wanting to wipe it off from my mind. Towards the end of the month is a date that struck our family real hard.

December offers hope. Promises a new year that would be better, gentler. And in that hope, I have spent a wonderful decade in which God more than made up for everything.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Please vote for me


Please vote for my blog Short and Sweet which has been accepted in the Original Poetry Contest category on Indiblogger. It will take you a few minutes to vote, or create an account if you are yet not on Indiblogger...

Also, may I go a step ahead and say that I would be grateful if you ask your friends on the blogroll to check out Short and Sweet and vote for me...

Here's the voting link..

Wish me luck!

--Gauri

Monday, October 12, 2009

Broken April, Books...

Of kanoon and love: Have I told you Broken April by Ismail Kadare is one of the most beautiful, poetic books I have ever read? I first read Kadare's Palace of Dreams, for the blurb seemed to give away a vague similarity to Orwell's 1984. 'Palace of Dreams' was good enough to pursue Kadare. Luckily, I found him in the British Council. I read 'The Pyramid' and 'Spring Flower Spring Frost' but while these three novels make fast, tense reading, they are not the kinds to haunt you. Broken April unsettles you with alien codes of conduct (Kanoon) in the backdrop of silent love in the misty mountains of Albania.

Just when Gjorg Berisha is walking up the mountains, racing against time to pay the blood tax, and as he makes his way back home, the black ribbon on his arm constantly reminding him — and others — of the death that he may soon deliver or take upon himself, the newly-married couple is wandering off in a pretty horse-drawn carriage somewhere nearby. Their eyes meet briefly and their paths take different destinies. In this brief moment the story takes a desolate turn. The description is so vivid, I could actually see the towers of refuge and the carriage chugging along the lonely road. Read this book to know the fascinating variety of life, culture and codes exist in the world we live in.

PS: I have been trying hard to buy a copy of the book, but am told its not available in India. Other two books I am hunting for since long (on recommendation by some dear blogger friends) are The Dharma Bums and Big Sur by Jack Keroauc. Anyone, any information on what store in India has a stock of these books, please let me know. I would be very grateful.

***
Just bought: The cover and blurb of Rooftops of Tehran, Mahbod Seraji's first novel, enticed me enough to buy it. I am down only some 40 pages, but don't like the second person present narrative style. I know I have read it before and liked it, but in this novel, it does not seem to fit. I am off all books for now for a novel that disinterests me halfway leaves me feeling too dejected, shall I say cheated? Saying this, I reserve all my rights to absolutely adore Rooftops of Tehran and change my opinion by the time I reach the last page. :)

***

Getting to know new writers: I consider Baruk's blog my window to a unique, different world I would not know of otherwise. The other day, I read up on Maori writer Witi Ihimaera and today I read about Kynpham sing nongkynrih who writes in Khasi and English. Baruk has posted a beautiful poem by Nonkynrih here. Read more about him in the article 'I write in a language that the elite frowns upon' by Trisha Gupta.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Handmade bookmarks

This September was special for me. And to express my gratitude, I was on a bookmark-making spree for almost two weeks. Here's what I made:


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

These are a mix of Peyote, Ladder and Brick stitches. The last round one is a favourite. Still not decided if I should make it a bookmark or use it like a button...

With the high power that I have, after every fabulous brush with the minute needle and seed beads, my right eye begins to ache and I pray to God to let me keep on at this thing at least till I am 50 and more.. :)

Let me know how you liked these.

Related posts:

Learning peyote stitch

My necklaces

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Eye donation

I noticed that many people have been directed to my blog while searching for links on eye donation. I wrote this article (Hope amidst grief) way back in September 2006 and posted it on the blog after failing to get it through newspapers. That many people are curious to know about eye donation, and that my post might be useful in some way even today, is heartening.

My brush with the process, I still consider too personal to put it on the blog.

Now, when I think of those moments when the decision was made, I wonder if I myself would be comfortable with donating my eyes. I am not sure. To be honest, we tend to have too possessive a connect with our bodies, at least I do, and the idea of my eyes being plucked out unnerves me.

I hope with time, this silly preoccupation will wane of and I will be ready in the real sense for there's this very scientific, practical and noble angle to organ donations. It is a beautiful, extremely tempting proposition to use a part of your body — that will anyway turn to ashes, or be eaten up by bugs underground — to show someone a world he has yet only heard of.

Why just eyes, doctors say even other organs can be used if the decision is taken well in advance, say in the cases of persons on life support. The eldest member of Gharpure clan donated his entire body to a medical college. He had conveyed the decision and it was honoured.

So, for all those wanderers who come to this blog looking for more reading on eye donation, here's my advise. Follow your heart, for most often, it will get you to do the right thing.

For those who have not read the two said posts, take sometime to read, and pass on the message...

Related posts: Hope amidst grief: Eye donation

The end of an era

Also read this interesting conversation on eye donation on Manju's blog

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Why has English become a necessity?

I came across this wonderful article on Mint and it's a must read.

Freedom to study: Anil Sadgopal


“I will take this chit, take a bus straight to Rashtrapati Bhavan and ask the President why we ever fought for our independence when I don’t even have the freedom to study in my mother tongue.”
he had said when he was being denied admission to St Stephen's College, Delhi, apparently because he had studied in a Hindi-medium school.

But, our preoccupation with the language continues. It crops up everywhere, ever so often...

The first thing the NGO person said was, "Hamare bachchon ko English nahi aati. Aap bas unhe English sikha dijiye."

"Our children don't know English. You just teach them English..."

He said a lot other things, in a tone I disapproved of, of how pathetic the kids were in the said language.

So, the emphasis was English... And I wondered why, for the students of an Urdu medium school, should English be imposed with such a fanatic reverence.

The students who came up for the class were indeed extremely weak. The attendance has dropped as days have passed, but one Class V student is persistent.

I have taken a special liking for this girl because she turns up regularly two days a week, with her books and pens and sits expectantly. She struggles to read basic English words like his, this, with, that, the, is. Her face cringes with effort to recollect a correct meaning, to pronounce w-i-t-h and yet, she labours on.

The first time she began reading, she spelt out each single letter- I-- T--- IT, H--I--S HIS and so on. In this manner, reading one and a half paragraph took one and half hours... Also, her writing is all jumbled up, with no space between different words. I am basically a lazy person, but if I have stuck to this class for one month now, it is because of this girl.

I wonder how she was promoted to class V without being able to read that, when, why, what or know what these words mean.

What her teachers do in class? Do they eat from the children's tiffins and polish their nails? (A very smart girl in Pune indeed told me this. "I left the Zilla Parishad school because the teacher doesn't teach there. She eats from our tiffins and paints her nails in class."

I have digressed. Lax education system in our country is not a matter of debate anyway. It is a taken fact.

The thing that disturbs me is our preoccupation with English. Take Japan for example, the country has excelled beyond excellence without being crippled by English.

In India, English has somehow become irrevocably linked with the confidence and job prospects of a student. It has become a standard benchmark to judge capabilities.
I remember my parents, who struggled with the language and often felt snubbed because of their inability to speak 'posh English'. The idea that English is the only way to surge ahead has somehow taken deep roots. This mindset, coupled with the pathetic tribe of teachers, is set to ruin our country.

Related Post: Speak Correct, O Really?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Beheaded

Every once in a while, I come across news of witch-craft murders in rural parts of West Bengal. Such incidents are alarmingly common in villages of Orissa too. Like yesterday, I was particularly disturbed after reading about a man who beheaded his aunt with one swift lash of his tangia (an axe-like tool) in Mayurbhanj district.

That was not the gory part that upset me though:

The man actually walked about 8 km to a police station, with the severed head in one hand, the axe in another, and surrendered himself.

I asked someone to read the copy and his reply humbled me.

"This is very common there. The tribals, they are so simple people, they do such crimes on an impulse, and then don't know what to do with the head. So, they walk all the way with it and submit it to authorities."

Simple is the word my father also often used for the tribals of Panchamahals in Gujarat. He had spent the best, brief years of his childhood in a place called Dahod. Dahod was teeming with wilderness and tribals then and joy of his association with the innocent folks — with all their poverty and superstitions — has not faded till this day.

"They are very simple people who do not know greed," he says.

When I used to read about such witch-craft murders earlier, I was revolted with the sheer violence of the description. My immediate reaction was one of disgust and reproach. Last evening's brief conversation has changed the way I see things.

The act is not as violent as the ignorance, the haplessness of people staying in such remote, neglected regions is...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Anonymous Smiles updates



These are the postcards that have been recently sent to Mumbai, Mangalore, Pune, Delhi and other places...

This one, is a little special to me:



For details, visit Anonymous Smiles

Related posts: Click this link

Friday, August 07, 2009

Kinley Ad: 'Vishwas kar'

We were told something about emotions manipulated in advertisements in college. These days, I am seeing more and more such ads that are targetted on unsuspecting, sentimental, rather foolish people who have a lot of money to spare.

Take the new Kinley advertisement for example. It starts off with a rucksack-totting young man in some village where little boys are having a gala time at a tubewell, bathing with absolute relish. This youth looks thirsty but unsure. Then an old man gently calls him to his shop and hands over a Kinley bottle. Problem solved, the best of human bond established. The young man holds that bottle close to his heart for the rest of the journey. Trust, motherly love perhaps and all the good things in life packaged in one bottle of water. Give me a break!

Let me tell you how trusting one bottle of Kinley won't put the problems of a huge chunk of people at rest.

In Kolkata, on my way to office, I come across at least five roadside water pipes lined with jerry cans, women waiting in queue. Forget roadside, even in my building, which is huge, the water supply is far from good. It is full of iron and the dal used to take a long time to cook even with the Aquaguard and iron-nil. I, and many others, have got a RO machine to solve the problem. Many people get a supply of those huge Bisleri jars every day or two. Some send their maids to a water pipe near the main gate to get 'sweet water'.

But, this is the easy way out, the kinds you and me can afford to take and take. What about the rest whose monthly income equals less than my restaurant bill? To supply good drinking water is the government's responsibility and it has since long washed its hands off the issue. May we assume that a huge nexus of multinational giants, RO companies and bureaucrats is working hands in glove to further the manipulative economy of clean, sweet water? Ah, that reminds me of the famous question MP Hema Malini asked in the Parliament. Read Hema Malini in soup over water purifier ad

After Aila struck, an acute crisis of potable water was highlighted by major dailies.

(Access article on e-paper Water Crisis Deepens in Sunderbans on page 4, TOI Kolkata, issue dated June 25, 2009 to view story and accompanying photos)


The fact is, and it was duly covered, that the Sunderbans had a pathetic network of drinking water facilities much before Aila struck. Women and children had to walk miles, they still have to, to get a pot full of murky water pumped out from a tubewell.

Read on e-paper Sunderbans: Island of Despair on page 3, TOI Kolkata issue dated March 17, 2009.

Move on to Murshidabad. The district faces an alarming crisis of arsenic content in water. Most of the villages rely on hand pumps to get their supply of drinking water. We saw quite some photos of boys having fun, bathing and drinking water from the hand pump in Murshidabad villages, quite similar to the scene depicted in the idealistic ad. But not all can trust (or afford) a bottle of mineral water to solve their problems.

Read e-paper article Poisoned Water: Dying on False Promises on page 2 of TOI Kolkata issue dated March 22, 2009


An expert voice to sum up this article. Sunita Narain: Bottled water costs us the earth

The article mentions how the mayor of San Fransisco banned the use of bottled water in government buildings and how the mayor of Salt Lake City asked public employees to stop supplying bottled water at official events. Narain goes on to say, 'But in India, bottled water is growing as an item of necessity: private industry is meeting the drinking water demand left increasingly unfulfilled by public utilities. In most cases, people are paying prices that they cannot afford to because they have no alternative source of clean drinking water.'

The Kinley ad, and many other such manipulative commercials first fool me into tears and then wake me up to reality. As I write this post, I wonder what my rant will achieve? But then that is what we can do best. Write our anger off, spread our indignation to more and more people and hope it boils down to something concrete. Journalism cannot propel issues beyond a certain point. But within those boundaries, perhaps it is our duty to get frustrated and spread the word, even if it may seem as mundane as ads that anger you.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Names Changed...

Here's something that I have been pondering over since some time.

You must be aware that newspapers should withhold the name (and any other information that can reveal the identity) of molest or rape victims. In one particular instance, I felt sad that the same standards were not applied even when the story seemed as scandalous, or at least with similar possible outcomes — something that would bring shame to the victim and the family. Why? Because the concerned person was a man...

A senior citizen was operated upon after he shoved a glass tea cup up his ass. The news was published with the name and photo of the withered old man with salt-pepper beard on the hospital bed, visibly in pain. Even if we say the act was pervert, the act of publishing the news with such relish (and visual aids) also perhaps bordered on pervert lines. In my view, his name also should have been concealed because the publicity was sure to bring him and his family the same kind of scandal that a rape / molest victim needs to be sheltered from. Also, the old man was a victim himself, his act had caused no one but him a lot of pain and shame.

Besides, what was achieved by publishing the name? Is information for the sake of it justified? What was achieved by publishing his photo? All his shrivelled face must have served for would be as an excuse to crack lewd jokes.

Now, consider the issue with a hypothetical twist. Imagine a 60-plus woman had shoved a glass up her ass. I am sure, some hypocritical sense of dignity would have prevented her name from being revealed. I use the word hypocritical because the same standards were not applied to the old man, just because he was a man. An interesting instance of gender bias, isn't it? Who knows, if the incident was published even minus the woman's name, moral purists may have lambasted the newspaper with expressions like Scandalous, Against Indian Culture, Against Indian pride and all such crap, refusing to believe that Indian women could ever indulge in bizzare acts of sexual gratification...

This incident, which happened quite some time ago, came back to my mind after another news came up recently. A middle-aged married man, with two kids, was tonsured and his face smeared with vehicle oil for reportedly harassing a married woman with obscene calls and messages over the past three months. And yes, his name was not changed in the report. Anyone who has faced such calls, or been molested on crowded buses may have vehemently wished for such, or worse public humiliation for the accused. But, actually seeing the photograph on page — a scared, shamed man, his face turned grey with humiliation — didn't exactly elicit a reaction of feminist jubilation.

While we safeguard the honour and dignity of women who have been wronged, perhaps we can be a little more sensitive to those whom we think have wronged. At least in the first case. In the second case, I am not really sure. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gayatri Devi passes away

A little over a month after Congress issued a circular asking its cadres to shed off their royal hangover — to be more precise, to stop using titles like Maharaja, Maharani, Yuvaraj and so on, a Maharani who stood up against the same party, and won with a landslide margin (recorded in the Guiness Book!) whose elegance and charm got her a place in Vogue's list of one of the most beautiful people in the world, is no more.
 

Monday, July 27, 2009

A thoughtful post

I found an interesting piece on religious conversion written by Manju Joglekar on her blog. Please share your views / comments on her space.

Read article here

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Learning Peyote, Brick and Ladder Stitch

One big accomplishment over the past month is that I have learnt three basic bead-weaving stitches. This is something that I have wanted to learn since a long long time, but could not find anyone to teach me. Then, I chanced over a jewellery-design book and things changed. :)



I have made the large earrings using ladder and brick stitch based on the instructions on this site

I have made an even-count peyote stitch bracelet with small earrings to go with it. These are made from a very basic ladder-brick stitch combination, also used in the large earrings.

The bookmark is made from three small peyote stitch segments woven together, the instructions for which are in the book Jewelry and Beading Designs for Dummies by Heather H Dismore and Tammy Powley that I got from the British Council.

Jewelry and Beading Designs for Dummies by Heather H Dismore and Tammy Powley

I found a lot more books on jewellery making in the library, but this book was the only one in which the three stitches (peyote, ladder and brick) were mentioned with instructions. However, after I spent quite some hopeless hours trying to make a simple even-count peyote with instructions from the book, the internet came to the rescue. These are the sites that I have referred to for brick stitch and peyote stitch

Here are the things you need to start any jewellery project:



Seen here is a reel of nylon thread (called Nymo in all western jewellery-making sites), a long-nose plier, earring hoops, hooks, a very fine needle, Fevibond to secure the knots and assorted beads. All sites mentioned them as Delica beads, but in Indian stores, no one recognized either the name Nymo or Delica. In gujarati, we call these as 'kidia' moti. The best quality that I have come across yet is in a shop called Bhavsar in old Ahmedabad. All other packets I got have a somewhat irregular size, and so, the slightly small beads tend to get stuck in the needle and you have to rework. You can find most of these materials at a shop that sells embroidery materials.

Bead-weaving in particular and jewellery-making in general needs a lot of concentration. Way too often my mind wanders and I make mistakes, have to start all over again. However, it's fun, how one small project involves you, and how making a small earring becomes your mission for a day. You sit occupied with colours and patterns, and once a design is done, the joy of creation leaves you with a silly smug.

Related post: Some necklaces that I made

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hooch killed him eventually

I remember the tired man
with a cycle cart.
He took us four-year-olds
On a joyride round and round
on days when he was sobre.
On days he was high on hooch*
He used to swear and make a scene
And snatch her home at odd times.
As hundreds die in my city
I remember him, long dead now;
He didn't die in a mass tragedy, no
But hooch killed him eventually.

*Hooch: Country-made liquor / spurious liquor.

Ahmedabad death toll crosses 100: Read article


Friday, July 03, 2009

Being comfortable in your skin and Michael Jackson

I never saw MJ moonwalk till news channels filled the piece on TV after his death. Never is an exaggeration. May be a glimpse of the amazing feat once or twice, but that's all. I always used to get saddened every time his face flicked on TV, was splashed in the newspapers...

'What has he done to himself??? Why is he like he is?' I remember wondering with a disapproving shrug. Yes, I had read about the many surgeries, but I still couldn't fathom why someone, especially someone as high as him, on such a pedestal of fame, was plagued with a dissatisfaction of the superficial kind, being obsessed with 'how i look' instead of may be 'how / what / why i am'...

Pouring over the photos, the only time he looks alive and kicking to me is as a kid, a part of Jackson 5, then may be till the 70s. That's when his skin looks fed with real blood, real emotions, love or hate. Proceed to the era of white face with red lips — the star value is there, the life force is missing.

How plastic surgery changed his face

I read this article that state's what a mess MJ had become when he died and it sent a whole lot of gloom down me. One little lesson I learn from the moonwalking giant's life and death is to be comfortable in your skin. Otherwise, no matter what giant you become, you may end up pained and plastic.

Looking good is important. But feeling good is much more crucial. And feeling good should not lean too much on one's looks...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Few quirky, lovely poems and how poetry can breathe free in face of censorship

It's strange how you read what you do. Looking back, I realise that my appetite to read and my choice was directed by a series of coincidences — due to statements made by the way, interesting blurbs, names referred persistently by disconnected sources...

It was through one such convoluted reading spree, that I got curious about Allen Ginsberg. Having read Jack Kerouac's On the road, and having finally decided that I wanted to read more of him, I began surfing the net for beat writers. A series of web links enlightened me about people like Ken Casey, beat weirdos like Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg rang a bell for some reason.

After a very long time, in Ginsberg I have found a poet I quite enjoy. Here's an except from A Supermarket in California:

In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit
supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!

What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles
full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes! --- and you,
Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?

I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the
meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.

I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price
bananas? Are you my Angel?


Ginsberg has that typical focussed link between him and his words — he seems to obliterate everything else. There's no room for explanation, he doesn't bother to cut out ambiguity and his thoughts flow unrefined and unmanipulated. That Ginsberg saw Whitman in the supermarket may be due to the psychedelic drugs beat writers indulged in to get 'poetic visions'. But the fantasy has been written crisply, with a sense of real time and humour.

I tried to see how many figures of speech I can find in the lines and here's what I got...

In my hungry fatigue


Metaphor, Personification: Fatigue given the animate quality of being hungry

Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands- Hyperbole

Wives in the avocados, Babies in the tomatos- Is this Assonance? (the sound of avocadoes and tomatoes)

And you, Garcia Lorca- Apostrophe

I saw you, Walt Whitman..... Apostrophe

...and eyeing the grocery boys- Perhaps hinting at Whitman's (debated) homosexuality

Who killed the pork chops?

Synechdoche: Pork chops mean pigs
Personification: The idea that pork chops can be killed...

Another racy poem is Velocity of Money. An excerpt:

Now everybody’s atheist like me, nothing’s sacred
buy and sell your grandmother, eat up old age homes,
Peddle babies on the street, pretty boys for sale on Times Square -
You can shoot heroin, I can sniff cocaine


Reasons why I liked this:

1) Brevity: Thoughts are short and crisp, the flow is quick.

2) Vivid imagery- Peddle babies on the street, pretty boys for sale...

3) Conflict- While he says everyone is an atheist like him, there's a pinch of regret in the statement, nothing's sacred.

4) The poem is full of metaphor, including the title...

5) The economy Ginsberg complains of is all the more relevant today...

Other (tad lengthy poem) that caught my attention was September on Jessore Road.

Jessore Road is near the airport and stretches all the way to the Bangladesh border. That it had caught Ginsberg's fancy made me curious about the poem. Here are the lines that touched me the most:Allen Ginsberg- September on Jessore Road

Where are our tears? Who weeps for the pain?
Where can these families go in the rain?
Jessore Road's children close their big eyes
Where will we sleep when Our Father dies?


This site has 48 poems written by Ginsberg.

Some other refreshing poems come from D H Lawrence.

The ones I particularly enjoyed are Lies about loveD H Lawrence- Lies About Love

We are a liars, because
the truth of yesterday becomes a lie tomorrow,
whereas letters are fixed,
and we live by the letter of truth.
The love I feel for my friend, this year,
is different from the love I felt last year.
If it were not so, it would be a lie.
Yet we reiterate love! love! love!
as if it were a coin with a fixed value
instead of a flower that dies, and opens a different bud.


Good Husbands Make Unhappy Wives D H Lawrence- Good Husbands Make Unhappy Wives

Good husbands make unhappy wives
so do bad husbands, just as often;
but the unhappiness of a wife with a good husband
is much more devastating
than the unhappiness of a wife with a bad husband.


I love these poems for the bold, sweeping statements Lawrence has made.

Such a non-committal, nonconformist streak is the reason I like the medium of poems. Here, writers can seize their right to speak their minds off without bothering to leave trails of explanations and footnotes. This kind of freedom of creativity — that includes the acceptance of the ambiguous and the abstract — is accorded to no other medium.

A reason why poets may evade the 'scanner' is perhaps because no one ( or certainly not many)takes a poet quite seriously. Poems are passed off as art, and given the belief that 'all art is useless' the controlling mechanism doesn't quite bother to eye it with such zeal as they try to keep a tab on journalists..

In this context, let me quote some paragraphs George Orwell has written in his essay, The Prevention of Literature:

..It follows that the atmosphere of totalitarianism is deadly to any kind of prose writer, though a poet, at any rate a lyric poet, might possible find it breathable..

..There is a whole series of converging reasons why it is somewhat easier for a poet, than for a prose writer to feel at home in an authoritarian society. To begin with, bureaucrats and other 'practical' men usually despise the poet too deeply to be much interested in what he is saying. Secondly, what the poet is saying — that is, what his poem 'means' if translated into prose — is relatively unimportant even to himself. The thought contained in a poem is simple, and is no more the primary purpose of a picture. A poem is an arrangement of sounds and association, as painting is an arrangement of brush marks. For short snatches indeed, as in the refrain of a song, poetry can even dispense with meaning altogether. It is therefore fairly easy for a poet to keep away from dangerous subjects and avoid uttering heresies: and even when he does utter them, they may escape notice. But above all, good verse, unlike good prose, is not necessarily an individual product..
(Here, Orwell cites examples of ballads)

.. And the destruction of intellectual liberty cripples the journalist, the sociological writer, the historian, the novelist, the critic and the poet, in that order..


While Orwell has written the essay with the thrust being on prose, the above words show that the position of a poet is relatively safe.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Of Brainvita, drawings and home

Though I checked my blog very frequently, a somewhat moody mindset kept me from writing anything. This also explains why comments remained unmoderated for quite a while. In between my no-write phase, I noticed my blog had jumped a page rank and now stands at a presentable 4. :) All in all, it's time to fill in here again...

My trip back home was good, but this time I realized with an errie finality that now my mind is quite settled here in Kolkata. More so than the touchy topic of choosing one of the two cities, it's about getting used to a particular lifestyle. I have become too used to my independent existence here and a little departure from routine, from my seclusion in the quiet afternoon hours makes me go very edgy.

I talked for long hours with my sister and tagged along with her to the many malls that have insanely cropped up in the city. In a few years, it seems malls will be within a hopping distance of everything and anything.

Aaji had kept aside a lot of precious little nothings for me to take away. So, I came back with a splendid wooden Brainvita plate designed on order. I always managed to leave one marble every single time (i regret i was just too lazy to use my 'genius' elsewhere) and the stall-owner at a school fair shooed me away after I won four Kit-Kats in a row...

She had also kept aside two drawing books. There were some incomplete drawings, one of which sis absolutely loved. I took out the book today and started completing the drawing. It's still not done, but looks cheerful.

How wonderful it would be if we could resume all things after such a silent, forgotten break?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

And I am thrilled...



This drawing I had done quite some days back, when I was pessimistic, a wee bit cynic and quite confused.. I have never thought of consciously making myself aware about politics, but by the virtue of the place I live now, talks, discussions and reading a large number of political stories by the virtue of my profession, I was quite more in touch with the happenings — and the speculations — than I have been all my life. (Otherwise I used to skip news on politics quite conveniently)

I still have no clear political ideology.

I love Modi for the change of face Gujarat has seen and I grudge him for what happened in 2002. I hate BJP and its allies like RSS, VHP for giving a fundamentalist slur to a religion as free and beautiful as Hinduism. I think Congress could have done a lot more than it has done, given the kind of trust people had (and continue to have in spite of many odds) in the party...

Initially, in West Bengal, the Left seemed to me an unusually principled, organized party — perhaps the only one that had such a clear set of dos and don't, so to say, a clear-cut party line... Trinamool seemed hopeless as an Opposition, with Mamata's shrill, often extremely illogical arguments.

But over a period of time, I was stumped by the single-minded allegiance pledged to the CPM by hoards and hoards of people. Something seemed grossly wrong. I was not ready to believe that such collective masses could be so in tune with the ideologies... A spin-yarn seemed to be working somewhere, and quite strongly at that.

Singur and Nandigram served to show people just to what extent the Left front takes itself to be superior to everything else. Highhandedness seemed at its peak in that period. Mamata Banerjee, for all her shrill, illogical rallies, had touched a cord somewhere. May be I could not relate to her but some people, who were disillusioned with the trust they put in the other fold time and again leading to nil, could. After 32 years of rule, people perhaps suddenly realized they need a change. May be they even felt they have been fooled by the hammer and the sickle... (It's a different thing that Mamata has given Singur the slip all throughout her campaign. The last she went there was in February)

As I see the projected results: Left 15, Trinamool 19, Congress 7, BJP 1 (at 11.46 am) I am thrilled, jubilant. Time for change...

It is quite possible the choice could turn out grossly wrong... Some people I know are of the opinion that come Mamata and industries will plummet, there would be a full-stop to any sensible development. But then, going by the things I have seen in the three years of my exposure here, it seemed the Left front was banking on all the development in its 32 years' tenure on Singur, Nayachar and Nandigram...

The choice may be wrong. But give me my right to choose. Perhaps, the people of Bengal took a chance this time. I love them for that.

And yes, the next time there's an election, I am reaching home in time. I am now hooked to the fascinating dance of Indian democracy.

Related post: The Good Governance

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

And that's where I come from...


Under the car was a baby cobra
Coiled with a hood of beauty and shine...
Alarming woofs of my playful, silly dogs
Made him rush to that garden of mine...

Leave him in peace and away you go
My little naughty ones,
You need not be with creatures divine, not just yet.
And away you go dear baby with no fear
Waiting is your mother with siblings nine..

He then slithered somewhere far away...
With my gentle push and a touch.
Happy were silly dogs, so was the baby cobra
These are the real pleasures of mine...

-Baba-12-05-2009

Dear Gauri,

Last night, a baby cobra of about 20 inches length came and
thrilled all of us. His hood was very cute, hardly measuring about
1.5" in width....

Some six months back, Lali* had cornered a six-inch baby cobra. I had pushed it away with a mug full of water to let him to go, as a
stick would have injured him....

Of late, i have realized one thing...all babies, living beings should be
nurtured equally, loved and protected with care.

Baba


*Lali is one of our four pet stray dogs

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Lonely dark night...

This lonely dark night knows no God.
The church looks spooky,
temple sad; mosque uninviting.
This night has no religion;
It's just you and me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

His Eyes

He was then fifteen. He was a silent boy, thoughtful; and the quietness in his deep grey eyes seemed to me like a promise of warmth and understanding I had never known. There was a tightness in my chest, because it hurt to be shut out from the world of simple kindness he lived in. I sat there, opposite him, and said to myself that I had known him all my life and yet until this moment had never understood what he was. I looked at those extra-ordinarily clear eyes, that were like water over grey pebbles, I gazed and gazed, until he gave me a slow direct look which showed he knew I had been staring. It was like a warning, as if a door had been shut.

- Doris Lessing,
Flavours of exile.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Good Governance

As India plunges into nationwide Lok Sabha and Assembly polls this month, my small standing in the country, as her citizen, has suddenly become a hot topic. Why? Because I can vote and suddenly, I am in demand.

But like me, many others who stay away from their hometown and won't be able to make it in time to vote, will lose their chance. Then, many others will stay away for no party seems just right. Then again, many will vote not for a just candidate, but for the caste he belongs to.

Good governance. That's what we want at the end of this mad rat race.

BJP has a huge flipside because of the hardline, anti-minority image it has created for itself. It banks on the good governance bit though.

However, a good governance cannot be reached till a country is plagued time and again with separatist agenda. It cannot be reached till churches are attacked, Muslims and Sikhs are killed in riots and girls are beaten up, told what they should do or wear. It cannot be achieved till a political party decides what suits Hindutva and what does not.

Good governance cannot be achieved till we allow religion and caste to come out of our homes and entangle with everything and anything. There should be a demarcating line between your religion and your being a good citizen. Till we continue to mix the two to dangerous outcomes, we and our future generation won't be in a comfortable state of existence.

Good governance cannot also be reached till we keep on banking on reservation status instead of merit and intellect. Yes, good governance cannot be achieved by the carrot of reservation, when basic primary education is muddled with lax teaching policies, fatal corporal punishments and finding rats in mid-day meals. On the same lines, good governance cannot be achieved by finding an easy way out, by patronising health biscuits to do away with the responsibility of cooking a hygienic mid-day meal.

Good governance cannot be brought on sentimentality and emotions. Politicians are cunning, corrupt, divisive. And so, junta should be shrewd, opportunistic and manipulative to ultimately get what it wants. And wants should be prioritized well.

Good governance needs to start from the way down. It has been a long, tiresome wait. We are still waiting...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Of maids and earrings

Has it ever happened to you? That nagging guilt. You cannot find a costly earring, or think some cash is missing from your wallet. Zoooppp--- you lose no second in doubting the maid. In a second, guilt envelopes you. It makes you feel low and mean. And yet, doubt stands by stubbornly. You are crushed with two opposite, very strong emotions. The maid comes and goes and you eye her each moment, guiltily, stealthily, nervously. You think you are a bitch to do what you are doing and yet you can't decide whether to doubt, feel guilty or ask. What adds to the trouble is that you are no great sharp head yourself. You must have lost the earring or spent the cash on a glass of cold drink. You spend the rest of the day brooding over the loss. More so, you spend the rest of the day over loss of faith and plunge into complicated realms of morality. The next day, you try to ease your guilt by asking the maid to leave the clothes and just do the dishes. A bigger pile to wash the next day, you fool.

Or has it ever occurred to you that you are being used just like the rag she uses to mop the floor? You don't follow her about the house, watch her every move or nag her every other minute to wipe this corner or that. You believe she will do her work well and fair and don't interfere. And then you discover dusty corners, dishes not done well. You tell her gently to do things right and she doesn't reply back. She never does. She simply does what she feels like in one hour dot and leaves just as lazily and she came. And every few months a big tragedy falls on her house and you find yourself handing away one extra advance payment after the other. The work remains just as mediocre. Why should you ask work in return of help, you ask yourself. But why not, a more practical, slightly dark side instantly quips. Yes, why not. You are again down with two conflicting thoughts and end up feeling a perfect fool.

And scene no. 1 has many possible answers. After a fortnight, you find the earring from a forgotten box in the safe. Or, your maid comes wearing it absentmindedly and either owns up when you ask (if you ask) or cooks up a fabulous story that can put David Dhawan to shame...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Simple steps to happiness


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

How less they demand. And how much they give back...

My mother's love for gardens was instrumental in making us shift from a flat right in the city, to a house on the outskirts. She nurtured rose beds and creepers that gave huge orange flowers. She grew bhindi (ladies fingers) and brinjals and we were trusted with the task to collect them. The bhindis grew so much that we began gifting neighbours and family with the produce. After a time, we complained of 'garden fresh bhindi' she thrust down our throat in every possible form. Bhindi stir fried, bhindi with vegetables, bhindi with kadhi. Bhindi, bhindi, bhindi.

Those were the days when our garden had gone mad with a sudden flush of fertility. Everything grew and bloomed and blossomed. The Sona (Kanchan or Bauhinia purpurea) she planted all those years back is now a tree and covers the lawn with bright pink petals every winter.

When I moved here in Kolkata, I had a faint image of the kind of house I wanted. I wanted to recreate Ahmedabad in the small space I had. I bought lots of plants, only to realize I was either duped with bad cuts or the good ones just died due to watering too scant or too much.

When I set my eyes on this Adenium plant in the nursery, I knew I wanted it. It was costly and after some haggling, with both the nurserywala and my husband, I got it home. It has stuck. We have made some emergency visits to the nurserywala when the leaves turned soggy in winter. It was left in his care for a fortnight. This plant tends to go a little weak when it rains a lot or in cold. The nurserywala had told me told water it once a week. And so I did, only to realize that the plump obese stem (from which it gets its scientific name Adenium obesum) was shrinking away.

A person selling manure shook his head in disapproval when I told him this. "Water it daily, you understand. With this hot weather, how can you feed it just once a week." And he put some packets in my hand with precise instructions. That was about four months back. The leaves had developed some worrying spots then. I was keeping my fingers crossed after the medicine, manure and plenty of water routine. Last year, the flowers were great too, but now, they seem to have a new life. This year the bloom has been extravagant...

Click here to read the description.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Belief and Technique for Modern Prose

Jack Kerouac is a writer I got to know of through various blogs. I came across his name on the profiles of many bloggers and finally bought myself a copy of On the Road. I am half way through the book, but for some reason, it is not the kind I finish reading in one go (like Persepolis or Broken April)...

I wouldn't quite keep On the Road in my list of favourites, for the escapades seem too random and directionless. Yes, the writing is racy — and my reserve may be simply because of a totally different culture — the 'beat generation' that I can't quite readily digest.

Nevertheless, I found these 30 points listed by him very interesting:

Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, a list of thirty "essentials."

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for your own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside your own house
4. Be in love with your life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yrself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Don't think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You're a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Holi...

For more than three years now, I have been away from home during all the major festivals. I sorely miss the festivities in Ahmedabad, especially Navratri and Uttrayan. Diwali, which always used to be a quiet, foodie affair, doesn't even make its presence felt here in Kolkata. There, we had a good 20 day holiday in school and college, here it's only one day of Kali Puja.

On my way back home just now, I passed by holi pyres at almost all the crossroads. Most fires were dying down, one or two were still ablaze. I remembered the story of Prahlad and how he embraced the Holika chanting the name of God. How the ant changed to God himself and saved him.

We used to offer raw green mangoes in the flames, also coconuts and dhaani (popcorn) after the usual pradakshina. "Don't eat the mangoes before Holi, you will catch your throat," warned Indiraben everytime. And then, when the flames died out, I remember scouting for roasted coconuts with other kids once. I don't have very pleasant memories of the mad colour play, except for the very first time in our new colony. I must have been seven or eight then. But it's the evening fire a day before dhuleti that has always been very special.

Those dying fires in the middle of the night made me want to rush back home and listen from aaji the stories of victory of good over evil and all such things.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Some necklaces I made


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

I got hooked to making jewellery sometime in FY, college. Then I used the wires, threads and beads I got from Matcheswala (a store in Ahmedabad)and made a huge batch of earrings and necklaces.. Even held an impromptu exhibition and sale. That was a wonderful day, friends came over at the small house, we had a party of sorts and some sale :). The major turning point for my jewellery-making compulsion was a trip to Ajmer and and the Pushkar fair... There, to my joy, were many sellers squatted on the road, selling all kinds of beads. My sister and cousins had a tough time dragging me from the footpaths, for I used to squat by almost all the roadside sellers, haggle a lot and as I am choosy when it comes to beads, hop from one seller to another to get just the kind...

Cut back to Ahmedabad. On the secluded university road, sat a beadwala. He mainly had those square beads with letters written on them (they were a rage then). You could get him to make keychains or necklaces with names out of those... He also had some other nice beads and on one day, when I had a lot of time on hands, I sat there and asked him to show all the variety he had... I was thoroughly impressed and at once wanted all those... Somehow, I don't know how, I managed to cajole him into selling me his entire collection and there I was-- with bags of beads(many which I have used in the necklaces shown here)...At the time he sold off his stuff, he was planning to quit what he called a 'measly means of income' and get into something quick and risky... We chatted for a long time, and he was hell bent on giving it all up and running away somewhere. His name was Raj and I sometimes wonder where and how he is...

My interest in making my own jewellery has since then led me to markets in Hyderabad, to a Mumbai wholesale market and to the little-known narrow lanes of Kolkata. Now, my necklaces are far more finished than the FY days. (Matcheswala wires used to rust after 7-8 months!) I am not sure if all these details about beads and jewellery interest you... In college, Minal used to tease me and mimic 'Bhaiyya, aapke paas koi beads hai?" everytime she saw me, knowing my compulsive obsession with looking for new beads at handicrafts fairs... So that's how it goes...

I feel I am lucky to have chanced by a desire to make something and thankful for the day when I thought, "Damn, this jewellery is too expensive, even I can make it!" and started my bead-hunt... I am sure it's a passion that's going to last a lifetime...

You can read the short description of each necklace here

Do tell me how you liked the stuff...

Monday, February 09, 2009

Dev D

I wanted to see this film ever since I read TOI had given it 5 stars. Unprecedented!

Dev D is entertaining, sad, funny, contemporary, bold. It's witty, vulgar and charming. It's demanding, for the film cannot be described without using far too many adjectives.

The thing that amused me was that I found Paro more slutty than Chanda.

Chanda, the prostitute has an icy dignity about herself, a mysterious shield that keeps her happy in spite of being pained, focused in spite of having reasons to destroy herself. And she has the sweetest smile I have seen in ages. Her business she handles with thorough professionalism — the multi-lingual sex talk was impressive...

Kalki Koechlin must be congratulated for a wonderful debut.

The film had a nauseating aura of sorrow laced with humour, of the pangs of urban life. From MMS scandals, to BMW road rage, to drugs and booze, to sex trade, everything that we know in third person through newspapers comes alive on the screen in a manner sensitive and well-thought over.

We ran to buy the tickets of Luck By Chance as soon as Dev D ended. Seeing two films back to back momentarily helped ease the impact of Dev D. But when I slept the two films over, the next morning Dev D came out a sure winner.

In comparison, Luck By Chance is a typically entertaining, a quite predictable film.

Dev D is snappy, unpredictable and immensely relevant. It's a smart film, it's wholesomely entertaining. Don't go with your parents to see it though, you might have to fake blushes when you are really enjoying a dirty dialogue.

PS: I think it deserves the 5 stars. What do you think?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Enraged and tired, Borivali commuters finally protest

Angry commuters at Borivali station in Mumbai have blocked all trains on the station for more than four hours now. Harried rush from one platform to the other due to last minute diversion of local trains had already irked them no bounds and a sudden cancellation of a local at 9.10 am on Wednesday was a trigger. They demand more trains and better management. (A report)

Their fury was piling up, after gross mismanagement and discomfort when extra train platforms were added. As the news goes, their trouble started in August. This article, Railway woes for Borivali residents, throws light on what is behind the impromptu fury.

From what angry protestors say and the TOI report, this is what enrages the Mumbai commuter:

1) The railways needed more platforms to run more trains from Borivali

2) With no space available, they extended the platform number 1

3) Platform number 7 and 8 were introduced.

4) There is no exit point on platform no 8

5) So, Commuters who get off at platform 8 have to walk for at least 10 minutes to get out on the road.

6) Trains schedules are frequently and suddenly changed

7) Commuters complain that often a train supposed to come at platform number 1 is suddenly diverted to platform 8, they have to walk a good kilometre

8) Crowd of more than one or two trains gathers at platforms, making the walk slow and tedious.

9) Many miss their trains thus.

The fact that railways wanted to increase trains and so introduced new platforms is a silver lining. It is possible for a system as massive as the Indian railways to come across some glitches— after all, local trains do their bit in accomplishing the 'Six Sigma' services of Mumbai dabbawalas, as with being the chosen mode of transport for millions of Mumbai residents. But if inconvenience becomes the order of the day, a protest as this, is a natural consequence.

***

I remember reading somewhere on a blog, a writing so emotional and candid, about an incident on a Mumbai local. I don't even remember if it was a post or a comment, but someone had talked about a girl who sold rubber bands and earrings in the local . With an infant tucked to her, she was negotiating the crowd to sell her stuff.

Someone was haggling a lot and she, otherwise quiet and aloof, suddenly ran up a temper. "Saala do rupiye ke liye chik chik karta hai, mat khareedo."

The blogger apparently asked her something and she replied, 'Maa mar gayee, ab se ise leke aana padega".

And then I have heard there are women who have their kitty parties, haldi-kunkoo on the train. Who cut vegetables for the evening meal on the train. Who get up at four in the morning to cook for the family before boarding a train at six. I always linked Mumbai with its crazy fast life and local trains. This news somehow brought all these unrelated things I have heard or read about the trains.

The first time I was to board a local, I was quite scared. My cousin was like, "Gauritai, don't worry, you simply have to be there and ensure there's a crowd behind you. The mob will push you in and the mob will push you out."