Sunday, April 22, 2012

Heena tattoos, fridge magnets & more: A little bit of fun at the Columbia Journalism School

Know the feeling when you have been wanting to do something since long and it finally materializes? Well, I wanted to put mehendi on people's hands, spread the crafts stuff I make, and share Indian trivia with people.

Questions like, "What's this dot on your forehead?" or "What's this tattoo paste made of?" can lead to conversations that go deep into Indian cultural roots. So, this little Spring Fest celebration on the college walk of the Columbia University, Graduate School of Journalism, was worth sitting in the sun for hours on a lazy Friday.

The Society of Professional Journalists helped me put this together and the proceeds I could raise went to the SPJ. I will remember the excited girl who was delighted after putting a bindi on her forehead, or the old woman who loved the salwar kameez as the sweet highlights of my *Fulbright experience.

Putting Mehendi on the hands of an Australian exchange student 

For those who have been following this blog for long, you probably know I love to spend midnight hours with scissors and papers, glue and threads, beads and needles. This time around, finding time for my pet passion was an ambitious juggle between school assignments, long readings pulped with statistics on the poor, the homeless and the drug crisis of the 90s, a Harvard Business School case on LinkedIn and professional networking sites, job hunting, and more, and more. But it was worth it. This is the kitchen table in the wee hours of Friday:

That colorful table with scissors and scraps :) 

 I made fridge magnets, something I have wanted to do since years after I saw hobby ideas on How About Orange's site. Then, there was the staple bookmarks and cards. I love to mark my readings with these bookmarks; in school I used to copy-write stunning paragraphs and poems by my favorite authors on the back of the bookmarks and get high on good writing just by flipping the bookmark over. Don't you think bookmarks are perfect little non-intrusive presents for friends young and old? And the cards, they liven up the long letters sent by snail mail.

 Some bookmarks and fridge magnets

I got mehendi cones from - no two cents for guessing - from Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights. They have a mind-boggling range of Indian products, so many desi items, sometimes I feel even a store back in Ahmedabad, India, would be put to shame. These were very good cones, it was an absolute pleasure to put mehendi with these. And Lyuda, who's a graduate Biology student with an interest in neuroscience, she loved it. In fact, she was the first person to come by the table, go back to get cash, and actually linger around while I finished decorating someone's hand. Time is such a precious commodity in NYC and that patient wait really meant something to me.

Owly Images
Lyuda loves the mehendi!

Starting with the artsy stuff, I plan to go the tummy route now. What better way to make India come alive in NYC than cooking some spicy (OK, not-so-spicy, to suit the taste buds here) Indian food? Next week I plan to make deep-fried pastries with potato-peas filling: samosas :) 

*The DEADLINE for the 2013 Fulbright scholarships is July 15. Go to the USIEF site for details.  


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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Shokhiyon mein: Prem Pujari, a song translation

A man in a khaki shirt with a bright red jacket balances a butterfly net on his shoulders and flicks his muffler in place as he walks to wild yellow flowers. A red chiffon stole coyly sneaks into sugarcane bushes. With a cerebral twitch that he made into a style statement and his signature tilted hat, he continues looking for his lady love. He finds her after she hits him with a twig and jumps down to him from her perch on a haystack, skinning sugarcane with her teeth. Meet Bollywood actors Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman as they take romance to another level in the song ‘Shokhiyon mein ghola jaaye’ from the 1970 Hindi film Prem Pujari:

Mix the youthfulness of flowers with these playful moments
And top the blend with some wine,
The intoxication that would result,
Is love.

He nods as she moves away from him and walks from haystack to haystack. Her stole falls on the golden pile and the camera zooms on it to pan to Dev Anand who waits with a smile. She hides her face behind the sensual chiffon cloth and then drops it, Dev Anand catches it. Without the drape covering her slender body, with the feeling of freedom that every young woman in new love feels, Waheeda begins to climb a haystack on a makeshift wooden ladder as she sings:

It was a laughing childhood; it’s a tempting season now,
If not dealt with carefully, it’s a ball of fire
If you touch it gently, it is dew (2)
In the village, in the fair, on the road or when you are alone:
The one you remember again and again,
Is your love.

Her beau throws the stole back to her, the fabric glides towards her, she catches it and flicks it on her shoulders with a laugh. Then she glides down the stack and is surprised that he is not in sight. He sings from his hiding place in hay and she bites a dry strand of grass while looking for him. But, she doesn’t look for long. As if she’s confident he’ll walk back to her, she rests on a stack. The camera zooms to the red heels she dangles, then we can see her man walking towards her. He comes close, she doesn’t mind the proximity. He tells her how beautiful she is:

Gold melts in your complexion,
Nectar oozes out of your body as if
A note is being softly played at night,
The one who waits for you in the sun, in the shade or in the dancing winds,
That is your love.

Butterflies fly out of the net in a whirlpool of air and flutter by the lovers. They then run in the fields. She almost stumbles once, and that adds to the romantic simplicity of the visuals. They celebrate their love again:

If I remember him, my loneliness vanishes,
It feels like someone has started playing the wedding flute in a desolate town,
The pride that doesn’t fade whether you are uphill, downhill; any time of the being,
That is love.

‘Shokhiyon mein ghola jaaye’ penned by Majrooh Sultanpuri blends innocence with longing and intense courtship with playful patience: something almost extinct in these days of speed-dating.

A diva of romance and with a career as an actor, director and producer spanning close to 60 years, Dev Anand died at the age of 88 in December 2011. He still makes hearts flutter. Kishore Kumar’s voice complements Anand’s charisma well, the playback singer had a knack for matching his voice with the persona of all the screen characters he sang for. Kumar developed his own distinctive style of yodeling, blending classical notes with the funky, the mischievous and the sensual as and when it called for. His greatest hits were with music directors Sachin Dev Burman, who also composed this song, and his son Rahul Dev Burman.

Waheeda Rehman (born 1936) has aged gracefully. She still plays character roles, the more recent performance was in a film called Delhi 6. Lata Mangeshkar (born 1929) has sung 'Shokhiyon mein.' She still sings, her next song is for a film that is expected to be released in 2012.

-Gauri Gharpure
March 26, 2012

This was for John Bennet's magazine-writing assignment. Long shot, because the Indian dancing-round-the-trees routine seems very lame to the Western audience. That said, I adore this song and went ahead with the unusual choice. Also read this book review that I submitted as a backup.

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