If I was a Frenchman…

14883474_1117127295049951_6607406901691642794_o

My name could have been L’eon, or Anant if I was a South Asian guy. But on moving to Texas,  that would surely have shortened to Andy the brown immigrant turned Texan cowboy. But hey, I’m neither French nor a guy, garcon, hombre, l’homme… Je suis une femme, a woman, une fille, dama, a desi nari… so don’t get me wrong, I am not ‘nar‘ the desi man, my emphasis lies on ‘not’ and equally on ‘man’! Oui, I am quite the opposite, definitely a woman, the emphasis now on ‘definitely’ and ‘woman’.

Okay, so that issue being quite settled, I should think, here’s a commonly asked question among my desi brethren — bhaaiyon aur behnon, i.e. brother, sisters — and fellow countrymen (and women). “Are you settled?”

In my view thus far, isn’t this a loaded question? Yeah, yeah, in Texas, folks may walk around with loaded guns, but to be honest, I’m not afraid of those. However, I am leery of the missile I’ve had to dodge for as long as I can remember.

To give you a little background: well, I recently moved — no, no, not from India, but locally. In fact, ‘shifting’ from Mumbai to North America happened almost two decades ago. A.k.a. immigrating (or, ‘back home’ where it is commonly referred to as ‘migrating’ – perhaps because we take flight from our ‘matrubhumi‘ – motherland, across the seven seas… ‘saat samundar paar‘, on a transatlantic, or ‘transpacific’ flight; and when your friends don’t follow you peechhey peechhey, (hence you may make facebook friends and make feeble attempts at building an online following); and just for the records, I didn’t follow anyone either. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say, I’d moved, simply on a whim… (and did not change my mind on a dime). This dame was strong, and soon ‘settled’… or so she’d thought, until…

She moved down south – again, not just on a whim, but with purpose. As the years went by, my moves were frequent, and each time I often faced this loaded question, “Are you settled?” Believe me, the question rattled me, in fact it was most unsettling. Never could I  fathom, ‘why’.  One could argue that with the moves as frequent as 12 on last count, I should be quite adept at the process, right? Oops, I daresay, ‘wrong’!

You can, and may move as often as you can cope with it, but until and unless you make that shift inside your head, you’re still rooted in your motherland. As a consequence, your career can take a beating, your social life comes to a standstill, your bags, books and boxes will move with you… but your mind has remained in a faraway land, which also morphed while you were away, and is really no longer your home. Your heart too beats in a rhythm that is completely out of sync with the sounds that surround you here. Do you hear them? Are you even listening? You may as well be tone deaf. If so, then how would you communicate with those around you? You’re now in neither-land… yeah, you may as well be in Netherlands, with folks speaking Dutch, and you feeling out of your depth, secretly praying that they’d dumb-down their language. Bingo… that’s the secret sauce… learn their language (easier said, but not entirely impossible).

But remember, you’re not in Netherlands. You are in a nation that speaks the language you do speak… so it should be easy. All you have to do is change your thought process… remember the old adage, “When in Rome be like the Romans”, and all that? Well, if you wish to feel ‘settled’, embrace the culture that surrounds you…  you don’t have to shun what’s encoded in your DNA, but if you’re smart, you can adapt to your new environment… that’s key to survival… that’s fundamental Darwinism… that’s key to your inherent strength… even back in motherland the maxim was to adapt, to survive… or get trampled over, or worse, left far behind.

You can be French, Spanish, Japanese, German, English… American or American Desi, or Desi American… or cook up whatever name or ethnicity or race you wish to embrace. If you wish to feel ‘settled’ sooner rather than later, alongside the geographic change, the change must take place within you. The peace and the purpose within will follow, I have no doubt. In case you wondered about L’eon or Anant… well, my true name has its origins in ancient Sanskrit vocabulary… it means infinity… or a long epoch of time… eon — in other words, timeless… and that is a constant. So what else is constant… but of course, ‘change’… and that applies to every aspect of life. No matter your name, or your nationality, or ethnicity, race, color… learn to embrace ‘change’. Rest assured, your inner peace will follow. At least I plan to do just that, going forward. Better now, than never.

No matter where life takes me, the next time someone shoots that missile, I will smile and say, “Yes, I’m settled.” In fact, better still, I will not view that dreaded question as a missile… after all, why should I look for a deeper meaning to a polite, simple question, filled with some concern for my well-being? Just view it as misri — ‘sweet’. At least someone cared enough about my well-being to sweetly ask.  So now, I ask of you, “Are you settled?” 🙂

 

Hima Kala Kendra

We knew her as Ms Hima Devi.

I always remember her as a lady with immense attitude, a cigarette between her fingers, puffing smoke in our middle school classroom. After a while our Victorian “ha, hoo” shocked by her stance, simply stopped.

Hima was just Hima… cool. No, we did not use that term then. But in my mind, I always remember Hima as an angry woman. Upset with the world outside, while the insides of her brain were immersed in drama – Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, Shakespeare… and continually pacing in the classroom, her feet were perhaps eager to dance in Manipuri while her fiery eyes matched the exaggerated movements in a Kathakali.

She once picked on me in class announcing rather dramatically that I would be the first to go behind the ghunghat (a long veil drawn over my face) — symbolic of a newly-wed bride (in another era)… 😉 Would she chuckle, I wonder, if she knew that I almost missed that opportunity of wearing the coveted veil… or would she roll her eyes in disbelief!

I wonder if anyone remembers how we were summoned to pay an immediate visit to Strand Book Stall – no, not New York’s Strand that claims to hold miles of books in its single store in Manhattan, but the one off Pherozeshah Mehta Road, and a stone’s throw from the Reserve Bank of India building in Mumbai. Alas, Mr. T.N. Shanbag has also passed on. The book, I remember, that was imperative for us to get – in middle school, again, within walking distance of this ‘bookstall’ (a book lover’s delight)  – was the late 17th century literary work of John Bunyan… The Pilgrim’s Progress!

There’s very little I actually knew then about this doyenne, a grand dame if you will… every now and again I run a search to find so little. While updating my previous post that I wrote five years ago, in the comments I added some articles others have referenced her in. But here are some visuals… piece these together to learn a little bit more… note how far back these will take you…

Hima 10Hima 8Hima 7Hima 6Hima 5Hima 4Hima 3Hima 2

 

Although there are few references available, there’s little doubt in my mind that hundreds and thousands of students who were under her tutelage, however briefly, would always have at least an atom sized space about Hima, in their memory. We loved you, admired you. Few can emulate your grace, sharp wit, your elegance, your style, your sense of timing, your voice, the words, the tone, the pitch, diction, the drama… you will stay with us.

 

 

 

 

 

Seeking fame. What’s your name?

Isn’t that quite like seeking the elusive dame?

Here’s an easy route: Love yourself. The world will clamor to clutch you with their greedy grips. Ouch!

But what’s the alternative to getting famous? Duh… getting infamous. So, titillate

If you’re wondering why this inane post, I’ll share my agony. Nothing to do with whether or not I’m seeking fame. I just posted the following on The Wall…  oh no, it has nothing to do with Pink Floyd. If anything it’s the complete opposite. Well, coming to think of it, may be it is because of it that Facebook has called it their Wall. You know, the isolation that folks in today’s world experience, across the board. Aren’t we all “just another brick in the wall”?

So, the post on my Facebook Wall reads:

“Why not just use the neuter gender?

Two recent incidents bring on a sardonic smile, making me wonder… The first at a small party recently when I met someone, had just introduced myself, when the lady said to me right away, “Don’t mind my saying so, but your name is very common.”  Okayyy… 🙂 My mind flashed: “Should I change my name so as to sound more uncommon? I already have – onscreen – in my virtual world (which she doesn’t know)!”

Then again, a couple of days ago online here on fB someone remarked, “Oh, with a name like yours, it looks like you’re not even from this world!” Since we were in a pleasant conversation, I introduced myself in a private message. Pronto followed another response, “Oh, don’t tell me you’re a ben.” Arrey bhai (or ben)… did I ever climb up Big Ben claiming to be anyone other than who I am? Besides, for those who know me only as one among their thousands of virtual friends, what difference does it make anyway? So of course, my thoughts went all over the brain-map with synapses crisscrossing. (“Random thoughts reined in”, says my WordPress slug-line) 😉

Consider this recent trend of political correctness where actors-actresses prefer to use the term ‘actor’ (I wonder why)… What are we afraid of? Should we just remove the feminine gender altogether? Why not just use the neuter gender? (Hence the two videos above. I’m now watching these videos in a new light, seriously!) Who am I to judge those women actors who’re dancing, or point fingers at the makers of the movie, or critique ‘such’ songwriters, or the choreographers, or even the audiences who went bananas over these numbers. I’m not the world’s policeman, policewoman… oh, darn!

No, so the post did not end there. Here’s more…

That also reminds me of many who want to befriend me here on Facebook. Then some even ask “Are you a man or a woman?”. Seriously! So, some dear friends here have piped in, coming to my rescue, while I’m oblivious to the query – snoozing in some other time zone. (Perhaps such curious minds are in some twilight zone, I’m wondering. Light rays must penetrate through one’s lens to hit the retina, right? Only so much of a physics lesson, ok!) Then again, if folks can have names like “Babloo”, “Paploo”, “Simple”, “Dimple”, “Munni”, “Sheila” … you get the drift… why not, “What’s my name”…

What’s in a name… and all that jazz… Despite the inanity of this post, I will reward my dear friends here who read through it all, empathized with my agony. This song brings sukoon… Essence of the song: “Time”, “change”, “the name will be lost” “this face will morph over time” “whether or not we meet again” “The voice will sound the same”.

Film: Kinara (1976); Playback Singers: Bhupinder Singh, Lata Mangeshkar; Music Composer: Rahul Dev Burman aka Pancham da; Lyricist: Gulzar

Perhaps my thoughts will continue to flow just as randomly. Peace.

A sassy lassie asked her sexy chum, “Umm, so what’s hidden behind the choli?”

Coyly her chum replied, “That’s my heart behind the choli”… Sassy lassie, saucy again, asks, “Pray, what’s behind the chunari?” Sexy lady shot back, “That’s my heart behind the chunari”. As these two rustic young girls danced away on screen over two decades ago, off screen, given a chance, some Indians still scream, “Blasphemy! Anand Bakshi, Bollywood’s lyricist stooped so low – depicting such disrespect towards our nation’s cultural heritage!” Now if that isn’t an attempt at cultural hegemony, what is! These sanctimonious critics never fail to condemn the songwriter who penned over 3500 songs in almost 650 Hindi films over 45 years since the late 1950s until the onset of the 21st century.

A few weeks ago, I touched upon a similar issue. Now didn’t songs penned by other acclaimed lyricists too have double entendre skillfully interlaced in their verses too? Somehow I believe that because those names were heavyweights of Hindi films in the ’50s-’60s-’70s-’80s, e.g. Sahir Ludhianvi stood his own ground, undeterred by critics or politics; or songwriter-poet Hasrat Jaipuri, intrinsic to the quartet team along with renowned lyricist Shailendra and composers Shankar-Jaikishan – each one of them most talented, but together whose careers took off in films largely promoted by actor-director-producer Raj Kapoor of RK Films. Critics may have been cautious and wary about voicing their concerns over their artistic presentations. We never witnessed such attacks when overtly sexual references were clearly visible in most of Raj Kapoor’s films… at that time it all passed under the guise of ‘art’ and brushed aside with one brilliant stroke that is coined as “showmanship”. Brilliant Public Relations, I say. It always amazes me that in the early ’60s — 30 years before ‘the choli song’ —  neither did the Indian janta raise their eyebrows, nor did the Censor Board clamp up at this depiction – a middle-aged man playing tricks with a bathing beauty à la Krishna… oh no, who could possibly dare to frown upon, or cause a furor over this!

Ironically, the following ‘evergreen’ ‘devotional’ song is from a film produced under the RK Banner in 1978; and the lyrics are penned by the same songwriter — Anand Bakshi. I doubt if critics ever pointed a finger to fault either the lyrics writer, or the film’s producer- director-editor… 😉

Don’t get me wrong… showman Raj Kapoor was ‘great’ more because he was astute. He had the finger on the Indian janta’s pulse. He knew what worked, and what made them tick. Behind their saintly facades weren’t these holier-than-thou types — in reality — virile men eager to ogle, just pretending to look askance? Given every chance each of them would certainly crave for more than one glance!

Here’s yet another iconic song – nothing obscene about the song nor its depiction. It was written by another heavyweight lyricist, Majrooh Sultanpuri. Picturized on a much-revered actress, Meena Kumari, I doubt if most listeners have ever given a second thought to the deep implications of the lyrics… with a smile on her face, dancing amidst debauched men, the courtesan narrates the sad tale of how her modesty was compromised, and how her state came to be.

Many a film has been made with ‘mujra’ dance songs that either tell a sad tale (Umrao Jaan, Baazar, etc) or forever wooing the degenerate male for money money money. Sometimes even filmmakers like Yash Raj Films have brought in top-rated stars in special appearances to perform an “item-number” – any fingers pointing at these “first families” of Indian films? Dekho dekho… a stark scenario — resplendent with dark kohl, kajra, and plenty of oomph. Censors, critics, the young and old – they all danced to ‘their’ tune, “chunari” was cast away… the question of “chunari ke peechey kya hai” just did not arise… was it the free-fall of lyrics, the descent of decency, or is it… “Hey, to each his own; get a life!”

Yesterday I had the opportunity to watch a show, “100 Years of Bollywood 1913-2013”, an interesting production, a retrospective montage – a representation, a depiction of Hindi cinema through the decades — all the way from its nascent, silent avatar to its current day melée between dance, drama, music, action — each of the elements jostling for attention.

I was thoroughly enjoying the music – both, the very old music from my grand-parents’ era continuing through my parents’ youth, to my childhood, youth and adulthood; but one thing struck me as odd, even as I was watching the audio-visuals,  listening to the live music, tapping my toes and clapping my hands in sync with the rhythm of songs that are almost a part of me now — credits were given to the music composers, to the actors and filmmakers but what about the lyricists? What about those who had penned the words that we uttered, and sang? Why no mention or credit to the film poets? Even as this thought quietly rankled, suddenly I felt some harsh brakes that caused a jolt and hurt like whiplash! 

A slide in the presentation had singled out Anand Bakshi and mocked himcondemned him thus — A lyricist who was renowned for writing good lyrics, had stooped so low in the ’90s with these lyrics — “Choli ke peechhey kya hai, chunari ke neechey kya hai”. Translated literally the song wold read: “What lies beneath the blouse?” “What lies beneath the veil?” But as in poetry, in film lyrics too one goes beyond the literal. Obviously, in this case, this director/writer of the staged show preferred to interpret the lines literally. For a moment I wasn’t sure whether this was a backhanded compliment to Anand Bakshi, or if it was a deliberate attempt at singling him out to deride the man who has been long gone, but not before he had contributed much to Hindi Films over his lifetime; and one who reached great heights — all on his own strength, merit, determination and steam. He rode his own horse. His written words spoke for him and surpassed any “showman” in Bollywood.

Shouldn’t those who presented this show at a fundraiser for Ekal Vidyalaya in the US yesterday, have displayed better judgment than to pass judgment on a contentious issue such as this? To a packed house of 1100 people — young, middle-aged, as well as senior Indians — surely this could have been left for the audience to gauge the rise or demise of aesthetics in Indian cinema. After all, Indians or not, this was US soil the show was presented on… both national anthems were recited – The Star Spangled Banner, as well as Jana Gana Mana… did they not factor in the sentiments of all who were present? Finally, I’m sorry to say, as far as I’m concerned, this single instance was the show’s undoing. What could have ended on a fun note… ended with a jarring sound.

Sorry, some folks – twenty years ago, or twenty years hence can’t pull away from ‘choli’… perhaps that is why they do not remember this song in the same film, penned by the same lyricist. He wrote a heart-wrenching song – an ode to all mothers. Even Anand Bakshi ji himself had asked his critics the same question – why were they hung up on the choli song? Did they even notice the poignant words — Every mother loves her child – be he the devil incarnate, or God himself. “Apney bachchey tujhko pyarey, Raavan ho ya Ram”.

Think deep… whether a newborn infant, or an aging adult, isn’t it hard to break away from Mom?

Now I wouldn’t like to disappoint the few who may be interested in this other song… I mean the ‘mother’ song. So here it is, in its entirety.

“Won’t you visit India anytime soon!”

DSC04958

Numerous friends and acquaintances pose this question often – at least more often than I’d care to answer; or even to respond with some plausible explanation – one way or another. “Explanation”, because if my answer is in the affirmative, surely there’s a reason why – an occasion, a wedding, to circuit the golden triangle (or is it quadrilateral?), or just because familiar foods and fashion beckon, (while some forgettable foibles may silently mock). Or if there are no plans in the offing, then why not? Doesn’t one’s matrubhumi and matrubhasha mean anything? Have I turned so ‘firang‘ that des ki yaad hee nahin aati? Veiled under surprise or an understanding nod hides indignation… “How can someone who has lived in India for a lifetime not want to return – if only for a brief 10 days or two weeks!”

If I had not immigrated, still a resident in India, perhaps my thoughts may be a variant of the above. Perhaps… but here’s the fact, I am no longer living in India. For many years now, have been away from what was once home – with its good, bad, ugly… that was home, and I knew no better, nor worse – although I’d traveled abroad a few times before I actually immigrated. When one travels, one’s a tourist… everything you view is just looking at the veneer. No matter how perceptive you are, the time – or rather, shortage of time – gives you zero luxury to scratch beneath the veneer of life outside of India (or your home country). You live in hotels, or park with a friend (or some distant relative) who may obligingly put you up for a couple of days, and on occasion, may even rise to give you beyond bed, bath and breakfast — no no, don’t jump to conclusions… I meant, provide you with dinner and take you on a day’s outing to the closest National Park – which may be a couple of hundred miles away from their own residence.

DSC05140

So what does this have to do with paying a visit to good ole India? Well, here’s my predicament. The situation has reversed. When I visit India, I’m now a tourist in what used to be my own country. Even before I land up there, I must suffer the rigmarole of procuring a visa… an arduous exercise in itself – if you haven’t yet acquired the PIO or OCI… which, in turn, would be a long-ish process by itself. Once I have the visa that will permit me to visit India as a tourist, I land up in a city that looks way different since when I left it almost a couple of decades ago. Wait, I said, “looks different”. I did not say, “smells different”. So, now there are new systems in place, I hear there’s a new airport that appears more inviting – speaking of Mumbai’s international airport. But say I head to the air-conditioned taxi stand (if there’s one), or if a friend has been kind enough to send a chauffeur-driven car to receive me (Wow… isn’t that cool, I’d almost forgotten about this distinct advantage of being in apna desh), what do I say to the cabbie or to the chauffeur? “Please could you drive me to XYZ Hotel” or pile on to my dear friend for all of the above… bed, bath, breakfast and beyond! Yes… this is where my troubles begin. As we used to say of Mumbai… “Someone may give you roti, but to offer a roof in times of difficulty”- oh, that would be very hard in Mumbai. Friends and family may have been hard up in the past, but they have a big heart… yes, true… no denying that. Today, times have changed. Friends and family “have arrived”. No longer are they hard up, but have hard cash. The burgeoning middle class has brought that. But even those without hard cash get on in life flashing the ubiquitous credit cards. Indeed, for the past twenty odd years, just as in the West, debt is nothing to be ashamed of. Keep your 22 carat jewelry in the safety of your bank’s vault, but many have vaulted into the big league, flashing their gold – credit cards. Well, so you ask, will these friends (or family) be inclined to putting you up in their 500 sq.ft. home – you, who is on vacation – while they head to work? Unlikely… although some may feel obliged to do so, the friend’s spouse and kids may be less enthusiastic about an outsider encroaching on their space for any length of time.

So, the next option — or better still, the first option — is to check into a hotel. “What, a hotel!” you think to yourself… In the city I lived my entire life, I now go and check into a hotel? Hotels are for vacationing spots. Hotels in metros are for the business type visitors… Who checks into a hotel in India unless you’re at a hill-station! Ah… now there. Caught me! But that’s been a trend now for sometime. Even in India, folks don’t go piling onto friends and family for a clean bed, bath and breakfast. For that, there are hotels of all categories. But yes, perhaps if you’re lucky, you’ll receive invitations to dinner or to brunch, or a quick power lunch. Or to a get-together, where one friend takes the initiative to get many friends together, so that one doesn’t need to negotiate through snarling traffic to visit folks in distant suburbs, or even at the end of the road you had once lived on.

DSC04823

All this sounds crazy, you think… for me it doesn’t. On the two occasions I visited India, in all fairness, a dear friend put me up for days! When I visited other cities, a dear aunt or a dear friend elsewhere put me up. But somehow, it does not feel right. I always feel I’m imposing. Is it my perception or is it just a silly notion in my head… Beyond the first couple of days I know I’m encroaching on their privacy. It’s not like in the days of youth – a sleepover at the friends’ house was fun. Now, a degree of formality has crept in.

We all change. When you live in a place, the change is so subtle you never quite notice it happening in real time. When you visit people after a length of time, those you had known closely in the past, the changes seem stark… you have to learn to be comfortable with the “new” person/s. But you aren’t going to be there visiting long enough to fathom the changes… to like, dislike or accept these changes would follow much later. How does one cope with that in the short term?

My sparse visits to India in fact caused me immense sadness – by the changes I was not quite prepared for. By the same token, those who met me had preconceived ideas about me. The general notions we have about NRIs unless we know them closely. Those I’d known as babies, had grown into adults now fully immersed in families of their own. They didn’t quite know me, and I had to face the fact these were no longer the kids I had loved to indulge with chocolates or ice-cream. The older relatives were now either ailing, or had passed on. The face and skyline of cities I had known had now changed into that of a ‘foreign’ city. India is as foreign to me now as the US, Canada, UK, Europe or the Far East was to me then before I immigrated from India. There’s much in this world I have not visited. Should I opt to visit one of the other nations, in another part of the world, or better still, travel just within the US – there’s plenty to enjoy here – for a week-long or two week vacation?

One final word… matrubhumi and matrubhasha always beckon, but when your mother lives within driving distance — or just a short flight away — to fly fifteen thousand miles with hopes of meeting just a few friends, one thinks again. That’s when Facebook or Facetime seem the more practical way to go.

Explosions at Bodh Gaya!

My tympanic membrane is tired, and hardened from the continual onslaught of explosive news. Not only tired of the terrorism, I’m sickened by the endless rapes that women suffer mercilessly. Add to that the helplessness one feels, reading about the pointless deaths of hundreds, thousands – en masse!

Now, worse, am defeated by the mindless attempt at destruction of something sacred… not merely from a religious perspective; but it’s the sanctity of a brick structure that withstood the test of time, and weathered the elements for over two millennium – The Mahabodhi Temple! By using explosives, miscreants shook the foundations of an edifice that is symbolic of ‘ahimsa’, non-violence, and is sacred to millions of people across the globe.

A while back I posted photographs from a visit to the ruins of Nalanda, not far (56 miles) from Bodh Gaya in Bihar; also an institute of higher learning in Ancient India, particularly for Buddhist monks. I dread to think of the damage that depraved minds are capable of doing… and shudder at the thought of the pain they are causing those who are perhaps the few among the peace-loving people remaining in this world.

“Magaj”… cake-like dessert… from chickpeas!

This isn’t some crazy joke… I’m not kidding.

Yesterday, the god with aplomb – Ganesh ji – arrived with pomp, song and dance, at many households. In my home, he doesn’t arrive, he’s just there! Seated in several spots… Ganesh in photo frame; as art d’objet; on a Majolica-style decorative plate; as an acrylic painting … he’s settled in, oblivious to the dust settling on him. You know, Ganapati, as we refer to him endearingly, is a family member of sorts; although very fond of him, I play no special music in his honor.

Chickpea flour|Amul Ghee|Sugar|Almond Flakes|Cardamom|Slivered Almonds & Pistachios
Laddoos or Chickpea cake… they taste yummy… on Ganesh ji’s Birthday!

However, it was his birthday – in a manner of speaking – so I decided to make his favorite dessert – laddoos. Except, that I just got lazy about rolling them into little spheres; instead, poured  chickpea batter into a flat, deep steel plate (a thaali) — basically, chickpea flour roasted on low heat with dollops of Ghee warmed first in a heavy-bottomed pan; stirred continuously until the aroma fills your senses (but before it burns, naturally); then allowed to cool… then sugar & cardamom powder added, stirred in well. This then poured in thaali, as I started out to say…  note this entire viscous batter is still rather hot. This birthday boy is young; we take care of the cooling while he cools his heels.

Making Magaj… Gujarati style! ヅ

Once cool enough to eat, we then cut the ‘cake’ into cubes… nah, no candles required. If he tries to blow the candle, who knows what would happen… you see, Ganpati has an elephant-head with a trunk (yeah, he’s not exactly the normal boy from next-door… he’s special)! So… here’s the recipe for it… if you’re really interested in learning the detailed “how-to” in English, holler… if not, just enjoy the pix. Have fun… I assure you, this is made from chick-pea flour… Yummy… utterly, butterly, delicious… ummm Amul (Ghee)!

Making Chevdo… Surti Style!

ચાલો ત્યારે, ઘણા દિવસ થયા, ઘર માં કંઈ નાસ્તો નથી. મૂવી જોતી વખતે કંઈ ચાવવા તો જોઈએ ને! અરે ઘેર બેઠા બેઠા આમ પણ ભૂખ ખુબ લાગે. હવે શિયાળો શરુ થશે ત્યારે કકડી ને ઠંડી તો લાગશે, અને સાથે સાથે કકડી ને ભૂખ પણ લાગશે. તમને થશે, તો જમવાનું નથી બનાવતા? પણ એવું છે ને, જમ્યા પછી પણ જે નાસ્તો કરવાની મઝા આવે, એ કૈંક જુદી જ હોય છે. અને બીજું કે તૈયાર નાસ્તા – ચિપ્સ, બિસ્કીટ, નાચોઝ – એ બધું ખાઈ ખાઈ ને પણ કંટાળો આવે છે, ખરું પૂછો તો. એક નું એક, પૈસા નું પાણી,  કંઈ ભલીવાર નહિ… સાચું કહું તમને, સંતોષ જ ના થાય.   ヅ

તો આજે મને થયું, ચલ ચેવડો બનાવુ, તો લો, કલાક માં ચેવડો તૈયાર!  ચેવડો, એટલે કે આપણે પતલા પૌઆ હોય ને, એનો! બનાવવા નો સાવ સેહલો! લો અહીં તમને રીત બતાવું.

શેકી લીધા પછી પૌઆ

પતલા પૌઆ ને પેહલા ચાળી લો, અને ધીમા તાપે  શેકી નાખવાના. હલાવતા રેહવું, જેથી પૌઆ નીચે બળી ના જાય. બરાબર શેકી લીધા પછી ફરી થી ચારણી થી ચાળી લેવા… પાવડર જેવો ભૂકો નીકળી જશે, અને કકરા પૌઆ બાજુ પર મૂકી રાખવા. સાઈડ પર થોડા લીલા મરચા ઝીણા સમારી ને રાખવા.

  • એક પેણી માં તેલ ગરમ કરવા મુકવું. બહુ નહિ, ફક્ત મસાલો શેકવા માટે. (આપણે તળેલો ચેવડો નહિ પણ પૌષ્ટિક ચેવડો બનાવીશું. આજ કાલ બધા ને ફિગર ની, ફીઝીક ની, અને સાથે સાથે તબિયત ની ચિંતા કરવી જરૂરી છે… પોતાનું સ્વાસ્થ્ય અને સુડોળ શરીર… માનસિક અને શારીરિક સૌન્દર્ય ઈઝ નેસેસરી!) ઓકે તો આપણે તેલ ગરમ કરવા મુક્યું.તાપ ધીમો રાખવો. (મધ્યમ).
  • તેલ ગરમ થાય એટલે એમાં થોડી હિંગ નાખવી, સાથે લીમડા ના પાન નાખવા. તતડે એટલે લીલા સમારેલા મરચા નાખો.
  • જરા એક-બે સેકંડ પછી થોડી કાચી શીંગ, થોડા દાળિયા, થોડા કાજુ, તલ… એટલું નાખી હલાવતા રેહવું. આ બધું તતડવા દેવું, પણ બળી ના જાય એનું ધ્યાન રાખવું. થોડું બદામી બ્રાઊન થાય એટલે એમાં સેહજ લીંબુ નીચવી નાખવું અને સેહજ મીઠું નાખવું અને સેહજ હળદર નાખવી. ખારાશ અને ખટાશ પ્રમાણસર મસાલા માટે જ નાખવી. મોઢા પર કંઈ ઉડે નહિ એનું ધ્યાન જરૂર થી રાખશો. ત્યાર બાદ, જરા ધીમા તાપે શેકવા દેવું આ મિશ્રણ ને. લીંબુ નીચવવા ના કારણ થી કાજુ-શીંગ-દાળિયા સેહજ પોચા થઇ જાય, એને સેહજ તાપ થી ફરી કડક કરવા માટે. બાદ સ્ટવ ને બંધ કરી દેવો.
  • નટ્સ નું મિક્સચર
  •  એક મોટા વાસણ માં જેમાં પૌઆ હોય, એની અંદર નટ્સ નું મિક્સચર ભેળવી દેવું. પ્રમાણસર મીઠું તથા થોડી સાકર પણ ઉમેરવી; અને સાચવી ને હળવા હાથે તવેથા થી હલાવો જેથી બરાબર પૌઆ અને દાણા બધું વ્યવસ્થિત રીતે મસ્ત્ત મિક્સ થઇ જાય.

    Chevdo… Ready! પૌષ્ટિક ચેવડો તૈયાર!
  • તમારો પૌષ્ટિક ચેવડો તૈયાર!  હવે ક્યાં છે મૂવી? થઇ જાઓ તૈયાર; એક બોલ માં લઇ માણો
  • મઝા ચેવડા ની, અને ચર્પી પ્રીતિ ઝીંટા ની… વોટેવર!    ヅ

Pablo Bartholomew… passionate artist, photographer, photo-journalist

Today, reminiscing about my ‘advertising’ career in India – soon fading; and while reviewing my sporadic flirtations with photography; about Ektachrome, Kodachrome (also now relegated to the archives of photography), my thoughts drifted to the time Pablo Bartholomew was doing a calendar assignment for Kodak.  The theme for that specific year (somewhere in the mid-’80s, I’d say), was ‘windows’.

An old-style building in South Mumbai — with arches that framed the window panes, enhanced by ‘money plants‘ and lilac ‘morning glory‘ vines around them (thanks to my mother’s green thumb, and deft gardening skills) — somehow, must have caught Pablo’s attention, probably during a recce (Was the ad agency for Kodak then O&M? I’m not certain of that). Of course, someone from the agency approached us to request for permission to shoot ‘our’ window. Once the permission was more-than-willingly granted by mother, a date was set; they brought across a pretty model who posed by the window, and Pablo Bartholomew,  standing three-four stories below, across the street, zoomed in on our ‘archaic’ building’s architectural detail. Certainly considered archaic for a day and age then, when Hafeez Contractor and Raheja’s hi-rises were the order of the day. You just have to look at Nariman Point, Mumbai of the 1980s to see what I mean. In contrast, someone mentioned to me just the other day that our 100+ years-old building may soon be deemed a heritage building. About that, well, we just must wait and watch.

Anyway, the point is, I was wondering, if by some remote chance I could find an image of this ‘window’, online… may be in Kodak India’s archives of their then much-sought-after annual calendars… alas, I couldn’t find any. Mother had this picture framed, which she proudly displayed on the wall for a very long time – more of a salute to her own gardening skills, than to Pablo’s eye for beauty, or for that matter with any connection to Kodak or creativity (in the photography sense of the word). 😉 Of course, people would often ask her if the girl with pensive mood by the window (in the picture) was her own daughter… in response, she would beam away but I daresay, admit with much aplomb, “Oh no, she’s a model! She even used our bedroom as her changing room!” Of course, I was not sure then, whether I should laugh or cry at this response. 🙂 😉

Well, to cut a long story short – during my search for this image, I came across some interesting links that gave me some insight into Pablo the photographer, and Pablo a 50+, independently-thinking Indian of the early 1960s. Hope you will enjoy viewing his portfolio. Click, if you wish to, on each picture, to view it at a larger scale. Also, you may want to click on the video to listen to Pablo speak about his own work in this interesting film.

For Pablo’s more serious pursuits in photojournalism listen to his interview on www.artbabble.org. His portfolio of photos on the Nagas exhibited at the Rubin Museum of Art, NY, is simply astounding… my heart skipped many a beat!

Pablo Bartholomew walked away from the Bhopal Gas Tragedy... well, almost!

Urban Indians’ bombastic attitude… nothing but talk!

“Words are cheap… “ is oft stated, and more so, it seems, by India and Indians. Charlie Chaplin went on to say ” … the biggest thing you can say is ‘elephant’.” Indeed, the Commonwealth Games 2010 may well turn out to be the proverbial ‘white elephant’, at least for India; to say the least, I’m ashamed! A mammoth opportunity to woe (and wow) the world… has fast faded, forever!

So, the stock market has spiked…  virtually to 20K, and along with it escalates euphoria among those following Mumbai’s Dalal Street, a.k.a. India’s Wall Street. There’s talk of going “from third world to the third most powerful nation”… would you believe that? I’d like to, but am sorry, and sad to confess… that just won’t sink into my head. So what, if the source (we’re lead to believe) is the US National Intelligence Council (and I can’t get around to believing the NIC has reported that, although, I concede, to not having read their entire report)!

Euphoria released a song, “Dilli Meri Jaan“, dedicated especially to the Commonwealth Games, one of four, created in recent times; if these weren’t enough, yet another one was released, “Come out and play, Balle Balle“. Kudos to its composer & singer, Anand Raj Anand, both, for the composition, singing, and above all for his implicit faith in the nation. Alas, not quite sharing this sentiment, at this moment, as I write, it seems the Games are “Khallas” (“over”), even  before they’ve begun. Doomed from the beginning, thanks to India’s ‘system’… i.e. corrupt government, now even the stadium ceiling has collapsed!

During July 2009 through March 2010 I assisted a buddy in India towards organizing a trade show, in anticipation of the Commonwealth Games; the event didn’t take off the ground, thanks to Indian bureaucracy, and lack of support from the sporting goods trade… only now am I beginning to understand that veterans in the local domestic trade could foresee the doom, way ahead. In hind-sight I’d say, promoting your brand of sporting goods in such a mired environment would indeed have been an expensive exercise… not quite in monetary terms, but certainly in the long run for your brand/s! A wise decision to steer clear, folks, I now agree, with a somewhat heavy heart, and long-faded hope.

Many will accuse non-resident Indians for an ‘unpatriotic’ stance, but the fact remains, that if most of the burgeoning middle-class India – and Indians – continue to wear an attitude that says “we’re resilient“, I say, this vindication is the fundamental reason for the nation’s slow progress… this tolerance towards mediocrity!   Again, many will react and say, “Hey, you’re being an armchair philosopher”; to those I say, we, out here, sitting so far away from mathrubhumi (motherland), are able to view India with a different perspective. Myriad and varied reasons lead us to make another nation our home; even so, it pains us to see India in this state, even until this day… along with pain, now there’s shame! Wake up ‘Shera‘! India, wake up to hard facts and reality… the roar from Beijing’s silent stadiums resounds!