Sunday, September 24, 2017

186. Durga Pooja this year

Navratras have started and Durga Pooja is round the corner. The weather is gradually turning to the better as if to add its bit to festivities. It is neither too hot nor too cold. 

Navratras have their own unique cuisines. Kuttu ke aate ki roti, makhaane ki kheer and a lot more delicious dishes which are otherwise not to be seen during the rest of the year. Dandiya, Garba, Ramlila,devotional music - all form part of Navratra celebrations. The celebrations will culminate into the much-awaited Durga Pooja.

Newspapers are full of preparations for the big occasion. Idols of Goddess Durga and preparation of pandals are integral parts of Durga Pooja festivities. This is the time when artistic skills of Bengalis are on full display. What I find very interesting is their ability to relate the festival to contemporary social issues. Every year, they come up with new ideas.

In Kolkata, a long street alpona ( traditional Bengali art of colourful designs and paintings done on the floor) was unveiled on Mahalaya day. Over 400 people including 300 students from art colleges created this masterpiece. The one kilometre long alpona had vivid colours and beautiful designs. Since we have such decorative traditions ( e.g. Rangoli) in other parts of the country as well, it will be nice if this experiment can be replicated in other parts of the country. This will be a good link in the Swachh Bharat campaign and will be an added attraction for tourists from abroad.

Another interesting aspect of this year's Durga Pooja is uniqueness of themes of pandals. In Chittaranjan Park, mini-Bengal of Delhi, the theme of the pandal this year is confluence of the culture of Bengal and the north-east. The idols will be draped in attires from the North-East while the pandal itself will be of traditional Bengali pattern. Organizers of the Durga Pooja at Matri Mandir in Safdarjung Enclave have decided to focus on women empowerment in their pandal. They will showcase life-size cutouts of women icons like Everest climber Poorna and Boxer Mary Kom. This gels very well with Durga Pooja which symbolises the power and strength of women.

People seem to be waiting with a lot of eagerness and zeal for Durga Pooja. This year's festival promises to go much beyond the traditional. 


Sunday, August 27, 2017

185. Fondness for jail

This is quite interesting. In Akola, Maharashtra, a restaurant has been opened recently which looks like a jail.Those who serve food here wear the uniform of prisoners. There are jail-like grills in the restaurant.  Pictures of Hindi film villains and their dialogues adorn the walls. As per reports, the restaurant is doing brisk business.

Now that so many big people are going to jail, common people also seem to be tempted. They also want to know what is so soothing about jail that high and mighty are making a bee-line for it. What comfort is there inside which people fail to find outside? Is it so that moments of silence and peace are available only inside jails? Or is it so that the experience of eating good food behind the bars is thrilling. Unfortunately, most common people seem to be unaware of what they need to do to land in jail. They have to make do with jail restaurant.

I am not sure if so many people would visit the jail restaurant if there was no guarantee that they would be allowed to come out after meals. Jail can be a good experience for a short period. Beyond a point, there are temptations of jail-break. Luckily, restaurant-break is not as big a crime as jail-break.

I am quite impressed with Batook Maharaj who discovered the hidden desire among common people to be in jail and eat there. He has proved to be quite innovative. I am not sure, if this bright idea originated in India. I am sure, this is going to be emulated on a big scale. I only hope, the customers don't get carried away to the extent that they refuse to pay for food  they consume inside the jail restaurant. If this happens, the innovative business model may die an early death.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

168. Don't

Don't humiliate me so much
That I start developing thorns,
Pricking both worthy and unworthy,
Losing sense to separate
The right from the wrong...

Don't make my skin so thick
That I start rebounding what I get,
Hitting you, the culprit 
Or someone I love
Who is an easy prey.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

167. Flowers in wild


Flowers bloom on a wild plant,
Growing in a forlorn forest,
With no one to watch them,
No one to savour their fragrance.

Hardly are flowers bothered,
Hardly do they feel worthless,
Their aim is to spread beauty,
Their mission to impart fragrance,

They will keep blooming
And withering away in hope
That someone will come some day
Who must not return empty-handed.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

184. What is in a name?

Shakespeare was dismissive of the importance of names when he asked, "What is in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." If he had been alive now, he would have known better. Imagine someone trying to send Osama Bin Laden(and not a rose) to his girl friend on the Valentine's Day. With the same smell, the results would be totally different.

Recently, I read the story of a marine engineer from Jharkhand who was finding it difficult to get a job, because he was named Saddam Hussain. Despite worse academic records, his peers got plum jobs in multi-national companies while he was left high and dry. The former Iraqi President was hanged long back, but his ghost continues to survive. Immigration authorities at any international airport would go into a tizzy at the mention of Saddam Hussain. They will do their best to satisfy themselves that the Iraqi dictator did not enter the person lock,stock,barrel and name.

When Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan named their son Taimur, there was a lot of hue and cry in social media. Those who had never read history in their school life searched internet to find out who Taimur was and decided that it was dangerous for the society to name someone Taimur. They found mere mention of the name ' Taimur' threatening and had the spectre of yet another invasion of their motherland.

In the matter of names, Americans seem to be much more adventurous than Indians. As per a report, American parents are increasingly giving intimidating names to their newborn babies. Danger, Arrow, Pistol, Arson, Gunner, Cannon, Trigger, Blade, Dagger, Chaos, etc. are some shining examples. Their babies may be the most innocent in the world, but their names are enough to scare anyone away. Imagine someone saying," I will visit your house tomorrow with Dagger."

I think, time has come to bring out two separate collections - one of the names to avoid and the other of names which inspire awe. Let us hurry up with these collections and make our choice before the recipient grows up and is in a position to protest.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

166. When you stop

Things will not stop
When you stop,
They will run the same
Or may be better
When you stop.

People as good as you
Or may be better
Will come in droves 
To take your place
The moment you stop.

Reason for you to stop
Has to be better
Than your unreal fear
That things will stop
When you stop.

Don't stop if you so wish,
But don't deceive yourself,
Don't overrate yourself,
Things will keep moving
With you or without you,
No one here is indispensable.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

75. In the hills of Kumaon

Kumaon in Uttaranchal is full of natural beauty. People generally flock to Nainital and nearby areas. But if someone is looking for some solace, there are other beautiful areas like Mukteshwar, Jageshwar, Binsar and Kausani which are much less crowded than Nainital, but no less beautiful. These areas are easily accessible. From Kathgodam, the last rail-head, these can be reached in 2 to 4 hours by car and the road condition is fairly good. Apart from buses, shared taxis are also available.

I recently visited these less talked-about gems of Uttaranchal. It was nice walking in hills, sipping hot tea/coffee sitting in the verandah of my guesthouse while it was raining and savouring fruits of the season like plum, apricot and peach. Near Mukteshwar, I found garden after garden of trees laden with these fruits. In Binsar, Rhododendron flowers were in full bloom. I passed by village shops selling Rhododendron and lemon squash bottles. Among sweets, there was delicious Bal Mithai, made of milk which can be found all over Kumaon.

Occasionally, snowy peaks of Himalayas were visible from these places. Watching sunrise and sunset over the hills was a sublime experience.










Sunday, May 14, 2017

183. On abbreviations

Abbreviations are very useful. They save time and space. Now-a-days when we are so busy watching TV, surfing Internet, sending out tweets and posting messages on FaceBook,where is the time to write full version? Twitter has put on us the constraint of characters and helped invent many more abbreviations which we otherwise may not have been able to think of. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Youngsters seem to particularly enjoy abbreviations. Everyday, they come up with new ones, primarily to take revenge on their ever-snooping elders.By the time the slow-learning elders are able to decipher the abbreviations, the youngsters are ready with fresh ammunition. This constant game keeps elders conscious of their limitations and puts them in their place.At this rate, the time may not be far when youngsters will speak a language totally different from that of elders. Then, elders will be speaking English(E) and youngsters English(Y), E and Y meaning Elders and Youngsters.

While some abbreviations sound good and are pleasing to ears even if their meaning is not clear, there is one which I find quite intimidating. On someone's death, everyone writers 'RIP'. Everyone wants to condole, but in abbreviation. Where is the time to write 'Rest in peace'? So many people are dying on social media everyday, we just cannot do without the abbreviation. 

Gone are the days when well-wishers used to make it a point to attend cremations.I can understand the anguish of Rishi Kapoor who recently lambasted young actors who could not find time to attend the funeral of Vinod Khanna. But youngsters have their own ways. 'RIP' on FaceBook or Twitter is good enough for many of them.

I am a bit old-fashioned.When someone writes 'RIP', I feel that my body is being ripped apart. RIP is the reason I am scared of dying.