Thursday, April 5, 2018

Tiffin Box continued

Tiffin boxes looked different during my school days. I had a steel rectangular tiffin box with a small rectangular 'dibba' inside. Sometimes the coloured steel boxes were in royal blue, purple, golden yellow and a funny green. Some people had an aluminium or a plastic tiffin box. The tiffin box for the school has become bigger and fancier now, with few shelves or partitions or decks. The food has become less nutritious and is usually packaged. Though we left for school at six am, almost all students carried a fresh meal. Thanks to our Mothers, who cooked meals without any house help nor the kind of support structure and ease of living which we have now. Some people covered their tiffin while eating, with the lid. The lid made a right angle with the base of the tiffin box, so one could not see what they were eating, unless you stared at them chewing. Unlike the Mumbai schools, our school was huge. Kids ran out to eat their meals in the sun in the school grounds. There was so much open space. On the first floor of the school, there was a staircase going to the terrace which was always locked. We could eat on the stairs leading up to the terrace. We all had our favourite tiffin time corners on the various steps of the various entrance points to the school building, under the trees, or in the end of the corridor near tenth grade. We did not call it 'Recess' or 'break'.. It was always 'Tiffin time'. The group dynamics shifted ongoingingly and we had one new member join for tiffin or one deciding to eat alone in class. Between two periods, when one teacher exited and another one walked in, we would stuff our mouth with food. Beginning of every period, we said a prayer. Saying a prayer with your mouth stuffed and the teacher looking at you, isn't very easy. During class, if you were hungry, you could eat if you knew how to open your tiffin quietly under the desk. I was a centre first bencher because of my height, The teacher's desk was right in front of me. Even yawning was a crime. I can't believe, I am yawning as I type the word 'yawning'. Words definitely have power. 

The school bell gave us some kind of a warning where we all had to freeze and stop talking. After a minute the second bell would ring and we were expected to move to our classrooms silently. 'No talking' was everyone's favourite phrase from the squad leader to the class leader to the class teachers to the school Principal. The Squads were four and named Jyothi, Preethi, Shanthi and Neethi. There were different coloured badges for each squad which we wore every day. 'Jyothi' was yellow and the symbol was a lamp for light. 'Shanti' was green and tree was the emblem for growth. 'Neethi' was purple and logo was a weighing scale for justice. 'Preethi' was a red rose and it was for love. There was a school badge for the class leaders only and it was discontinued later. During Sports Day in school, the four colours were used as Sashes by the girls doing the 'March Past', The silken sash looked great on the girls who were marching. I was not good in Sports so hardly was part of any games or competitions. Remember one instance clearly even now. I was in the sports day where there was an 'Elephant Race or PT. PT was Physical Training and I came to know much later. The senior girls formed a group with an elephant like structure. One kid student was riding atop this 'elephant' and another kid student was to be the elephant's trunk and keep moving her hand. I was light weight so chosen to be atop the girls' back who were the elephant. I was thrilled that finally I can show my parents that I am capable of doing something great . My Uncle, Aunt and Mom came for the event. I was sitting with them. When our race came, no announcement was made. My Uncle pointed out to me to go for my event. I ran to the group of 'Didis'. Yes, we did not call our elders by their names. Didi means an elder sister and was a mark of respect. By the time, I reached them, the girl who was the trunk had been chosen to be on top of the elephant. I was made the trunk in some other elephant group. I was so embarrassed and felt so bad that I lost my position atop the elephant where I could show my family. I had to bend down and move my hand and head like an elephant's trunk. I could not look up and see Mom. I was heart broken. Did not know if I could blame the teachers or the Didis for this 'ditching'. For days after that, I was hurt, embarrassed and pained. 

Did not know the word 'ditching' till I came to Mumbai to study. I knew that 'Ditch' was something where people or animals fell down. 'Ditching' is when a boy and a girl are in a relationship and one of them drops the other. When I joined college, 'dating' meant being in a relationship. Now, there are dating Apps. 'Chapter' is a lesson in a book. In colloquial terms, 'Chapter' means someone who is over smart. Mumbai folks use this word often as they refer to people as 'Chapter hai'  which means he or she is cunning or a philanderer. 
 The other day, our child came home with her food untouched. She said she could not open her tiffin box and her friends could not open it too. The Didi also did not succeed at opening the lid of the steel round tiffin box. She said she did take a few bites from her friend's tiffin. I felt so bad that even the Didi could not open her box and no one thought that she will be hungry or to inform her teacher who could open the tiffin for her. I thought of my childhood, I was so scared of teachers and Didis. There is no right way to do things. We keep learning along the journey. Taking different tiffin boxes, opening them and peeping into them. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Tiffin Box

I noticed that I love eating the leftovers from my child's tiffin box. I almost always take a bite when I am putting the box for a wash. Today I realised why. I ate the plain 'Paratha' of last night with pickle and Viola! That is how it exactly tasted when I was a kid. I simply loved it. After having a full meal, I ate that one leftover paratha with the mango pickle with the masala eaten away. It was divine. My taste buds must have changed multiple times in all these years but this 'Paratha' had the right softness and the pickle tasted perfect with it, just like how my Mom and Chachi made it. All along, when I used to taste the leftovers from their tiffin box, I thought I was checking if the food tasted okay when cold or was it spoilt or did the child like it. Have been smiling like a child since I know the real reason behind it. The taste took me down the memory lane. We had no kitchen tissues in those days, we used newspapers to wrap or cover the food. One day, my tiffin was 'Khara Bhaat' i.e. Vegetable Pulao made in the Gujarati way. The paper on it was from an old notebook of mine and the blue ink ran over the yellow rice. I did not eat my tiffin that day but the memory of the handwritten notebook paper and the blue ink stained  yellow rice, remains fresh. Shop keepers or vegetable vendors did not have plastic bags. Everything was wrapped in a 'Thonga' made of brown paper or newspaper or old official documents . Suddenly, I am missing the 'Jhaal Muri' taste in the 'Thonga'. I am salivating for it. 'Jhaal Muri' and the stick 'Kulfi' were the treats we got for 25 paise. Gauri Bai would give us the pennies while cleaning her cupboard, which was always so organised. She would remember something and try to locate it in her cupboard between neatly stacked white sarees or in the pockets of her travel petticoats. 

Bai had these pockets stitched by Jagdish Bhai, our tailor/ Darji before her Teerth Yatra/ pilgrimage. The money was stitched in a cotton pouch and then put in this pocket with a running stitch. She had her travel 'Peti' or iron suitcase ready with clothes and toiletries for any sudden trips. She could leave the house at a moment's notice. I am just the opposite. I take long to pack, though I am getting better at it. I managed to take a two day holiday without missing any of the essentials of travel, except oil. I can't travel without basic oil in my bag which is used as a moisturiser or sunscreen or medicine. This time I gave it a skip. After a swim and Yoga at sunset, we went to our room to bathe and change for dinner. Since it was a pretty place, I decided to make myself look prettier. I do not know to apply makeup on self other than lipstick. I applied the Kajal pencil as an eye liner...a thick line on my lids. I was feeling very good about my achievement. The family did not notice the extra black lines on me. Leisurely dinner in the moonlight with our children's favourite Pasta with Arrabita sauce and Garlic Bread. I chanted my Hanuman Chalisa in the jungle. No, I was not scared but it was Hanuman ji 's birthday. Back in the room, I realised that I had forgotten my night suit. Luckily, I had a spare set of clothes for a rainy day. I literally carry clothes for a rainy day as during one holiday in Mahabaleshwar to enjoy the monsoons, we ran short of clothes  especially kids' clothes. Had to give so much for laundry at the hotel. The semi moist clothes came back and that was the best they could do in the Mahabaleshwar rains. Brushed my teeth and washed my face. The eye liner was in tact. I thought, I forgot to wash my eyes. Used some cotton which was there in the fancy stone box by the sink, but no good. The liner remained steadfast. Little did I realise when I applied the eye liner that it is water proof and it won't come out with water. No oil in my toilet kit. I tried spitting on the cotton ball and wiping my eyes with it. By now, I was panicking. I took the hotel towel and spat on it and rubbed my eyes. Little difference it made and now the eyes were hurting by being mauled by me, the spit filled cotton ball and the towel. I gave up. Brushed my teeth once again to remove the dirty taste of the eye liner from my mouth. Thankfully, the body was tired after the bi annual holiday swim and slept off. 

The only time, I get to swim is when we are on a holiday which is twice a year thanks to the school and work schedules. I have stopped going for a swim regularly and now I am really missing it. At the pool, the parents wanted their children to become ace swimmers in one day. Each Mom was barking instructions to her child about how to swim, kick and breathe. One genuinely concerned mother, was telling her child to bring perfection in all that she does. The child wanted to play in the water but was coerced to join the Aqua Aerobics class. There too, the Mom's instructions to her child were louder than the Coach's instructions. All her commands sounded like those WhatsApp forwards which certain kind of people send every morning. Children are children but the mothers and fathers are of all kinds. Some want to make their children perfect in everything on the holiday break and some who just think all that their child does is perfect. I have a problem with both the sets of parents. Parenting is an area very dear to me and I have strong views about it. I feel the responsibility of raising a child is huge as we are taking care of the new generation. Giving them love is the only way to nurture them. They know their path, they know their growth. We are just there to take care of the sapling. We are there to make the world a beautiful place for the future generations. 

Keep tasting the leftovers from the tiffin box. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Amritsar Diaries

When I wrote the post on Makar Sankranti, I had friends sharing customs from so many of their festivals. I wasn't able to collate all of it. One interesting thing was Pongal is celebrated for four days. First day Bhogi is about cleaning the house and lighting a bonfire of all the discarded things in the night. Second day is to worship Surya or the Sun. People make Kolam with rice flour outside their house and on the doorstep. Third day is Mattu Pongal dedicated to cows and buffaloes. Fourth day is Kanum Pongal where apart from going to the temple, food is made and offered to the birds on a banana leaf. India respects Nature in all its festivals.

I was wondering how festive is Lohri in Punjab and then we went to Amritsar. Amritsar was a long pending thing in our list. The Golden Temple is divine beyond any imagination. The way the area is developed and the sound of Kirtan all over is so humbling. The beauty of Harmandir Sahib strikes you. It is mesmerising. No one is chatting in the Parikrama or the queue to go inside Harmandir Sahib. Just you and the Kirtan and nothing else.

Places to eat is Bharwan Dhaba. Kesar da Dhaba is over rated. It is in a dark dingy lane. The food has too much ghee and it doesn't feel clean. The owner is a nice man and am sure this has been there for generations and must be good. It did not sit my taste buds at all. The attitude of the waiters or the dark lane but something did not sit well with me.

Sadda Pind is the ' Chowki Dhani' of Amritsar. Much smaller than Chowki Dhaani of Jaipur. The village atmosphere created is beautiful. Each make believe house is constructed with a different layout and design and show cases one art/ craft of Punjab. I did Phulkari embroidery on a bedsheet. I did Chakki peesoing i.e. hand grinding the wheat. I worked on the loom and saw how 'chaddar' is woven. The women in their spare time were making small rice grains  with Rice  atta / flour. This is dried in the sun and then used to make 'Kheer' . The food there was low on Ghee and oil. The Makki ki Roti and Sarson Saag was delicious. The six degrees on the Mercury had something to do with it.

Ram Teerth is a place where Valmiki Rishi had his Ashram. Sita spent her time here and Luv Kush were born in this Ashram. Rishi Valmiki taught them here. The place has been done up with a huge pond and a walkway on all sides. Big Murti of Hanuman ji. We went there on our way to Wagah Border. The little detour is through villages and farmland. For miles, I could see only Kheti. There is a huge desire to write the blog in Hindi as I do not want to translate some words into English because I feel they loose their flavour. I still make mistake while writing 'loose' and all the words around it.
Jallianwala Bagh is heart breaking even now and Partition museum is heart wrenching. It is because of the sacrifice of all the people that we are free today. We spent a few hours in both the places which are a stone's throw away from the Golden Temple. In the Jallianwala Bagh premises, Lions club was having a blood donation drive in tie up with a shady NGO. Not a good place to do that, according to me, but they were getting the numbers.

Durgiana Temple is pending. We did go to the Golden Temple on all the days we were there. It was calming. It would be a lie if I said that I did not think of Operation Blue Star while I was there. And the divinity enveloped me.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Makar Sankranti, Maaghi Ganesh, Basant Panchami, Madhav Ashtami.

Makar Sankranti is not just a kite flying festival. There is much more to it. The sun moves its position  towards the Northern hemisphere. It signals the end of winters and the onset of spring. Sankranti comes on 14th January every year. All the 'Tithi' fall in place. Another festival is Vishwakarma Puja which happens on 17th September every year. The Indian calendar or 'Panchaang' is the world's best calendar. It gives you not just past and future days and dates but gives you the same for years to come and years gone by. It also tells one the planetary positions and the movement of the stars and the planets. The eclipse and 'Nakshatra' movement are predicted much in advance. This all has been done by our 'Rishis' much before the advent of telescope and computers. The world follows lunar calendar. In India, we always had sidereal calendar which means that we knew not only that the sun is the centre and planets are going around it, but we also calculated all stars, constellation and planetary position and movements with respect to earth as the centre. All our predictions from Vedic texts regarding weather, stars, constellations are hundred percent accurate. This was much before the Europeans realised that Earth is round and invented A.D. and B.C. Kumbh Mela starts on Makar Sankranti. In Kerala, it is the end of Shabrimala pilgrimage. In Punjab, it is Lohri time with the beginning of the harvest season, bonfire, food and dancing.India knew routes by sea and land to all over the world. These routes were documented in maps.  Our astrology and astronomy was the most advanced. When the British, the French, Portuguese came to India, they stole the sea route maps from temples and from the merchants. The Gurukul with its Guru Shishya parampara was doing great in imparting knowledge which enabled students to live a life and earn their own living. 

This year, I learnt how Maharashtra celebrates Makar Sankranti as I was a part of it. There are Haldi Kumkum celebrations all over. Haldi Kumkum is applying red (turmeric and lime) and yellow (turmeric) colours on the forehead. All women participate in it. There are  traditional games for Sankranti which test your mind and body. All this celebration is a group activity. Women old and young of all age groups and all status are a part of it. Big Rangoli is made in the centre or at the entrance of the hall/ ground/ aangan/ courtyard. The traditional colour worn for Sankranti is black. Modern Reason being Sankranti is a very cold night. Temperatures dip and black colour absorbs heat. So it is ideal to wear it.I knew in our family, when the daughter in law comes in, she is given a black Bandhni Saree. I never knew why this tradition. Similarly in Tamils, when the woman is pregnant, she is gifted a black heavy saree.  This was told to us but with our modern education, we thought all this is humbug or superstition . Colours have an impact on us. Now the modern science is using colour therapy to help people in various mental and physical diseases. 

In Maharashtra, Sankrant is celebrated to honour the new daughter-in-law in the family. The event I was a part of, She wore jewellery made of sugar and Til ( sesame). Years ago, women knew how to make these white jewellery beads at home. On Sankranti, before sunrise, sugar was melted and the beads were made by covering each Til with the sugar syrup. In Marathi, it is called 'Halwe che daagine' which is jewellery made of sugar. First time I saw how gorgeous this jewellery can look. All pieces of jewellery is made from this along with black beads..earrings, necklaces, Mangalsutra, finger rings, waist bands or kammar bandhs, bangles and more. A lady in Pune made intricate sugar jewellery. She is no more but her work is carried forwards by her daughter-in-law. The creativity of this jewellery and its grandeur is worth a look. Sankrant songs and games are a big equaliser among women. We played 'Fugdi' in pairs. Fugdi is crossing your hands and holding your partner's crossed hands and going round and round real fast. It is best done bare feet.  The trick is to look up at the sky, feel the breeze in your eyes and lungs and move without lifting your feet from the ground. The bonus is that I got to sight the early half moon. Fugdi is so exhilarating.  Even when I did not know a lady, holding crossed hands, looking at each other and matching your steps with her so that she doesn't fall and neither do you is the experience of true partnership. Now, the modern women go to self help seminars, shrinks and a Life Coach to learn these basics. All women from the family and friend circle were invited Grandmothers to Granddaughters. The men were in the side lines supporting the event. The new daughter-in-law for whom this function was organised, applied tilak/ 'Haldi Kumkum' for all ladies/ women/ girls and gave us gifts. What an acknowledgment for all the female members of the large social circle. The daughter-in-law also gets connected to all the women tribe and vice versa. The ceremony started with the mother-in-law putting the 'Halwe che daagine' sugar jewellery for the daughter-in-law. The newly married son gets the same from his mother-in-law.

The Dadar market was bustling with people pre and post Sankranti. The steel utensils shops and the plastic household item shops were buzzing with customers. Women were buying gifts to give to all ladies for Haldi Kumkum.  Everything was being bought in dozens. I questioned my friend about this kind of buying so much. She said it is your way of showing gratitude to all the women in your life and to the Gods of life, weather, harvest, food and more. 

The same time we have ' Bor Choth' or Ganesh Jayanti or Maghi Ganpati. My Grandmom used to make Churma Laddu for Ganpati Bappa's birthday. When I came to Mumbai, I forgot about Bor Choth as we started celebrating Ganpati. Lot of people get Bappa home for Maghi Ganpati in the month of Maagh on the fourth day, which is the original birthday of Ganeshji. 

Next day is the fifth day of Maagh month called Basant Panchami. In Gujarati, we called it 'Vasant Paacham'. We pray to Saraswati Mata for knowledge. We wear yellow to signify the onset of spring. In Jharia, all girls wore sarees on this day. We went to Gujarati school for Saraswati Puja darshan. Got little 'halwa' as prasaad. Kept out books near the God at the temple and worshipped it. Did not study the whole day. 

Magi Ganpati goes on till Madhav Ashtami which is four days later.  Madhav Ashtami is a  celebration of Vithoba at Pandharpur.  This year Madhav Ashtami coincided with Republic Day. There was Haldi Kumkum in all the Chawls and societies in most areas. I celebrate this weather and be in gratitude of life itself. 





Friday, January 19, 2018

Bheema Koregaon from my Window

Every morning, when my house help walks into the house, we have a little chat. Her first question to me is did the kids go to school properly. I nod and ask about her two boys. Then the conversation veers towards her relatives and what she is dealing with them. Sometimes she tells me how she has to go to for a funeral or a wedding and how she plans to manage her jobs. This year we were at home on New Year's eve. On 1st January, she told me she did not clean her house on 31st December which is a ritual as they have prayers on the New Year. She said the boys were making the decorations for that. It is a creative bunch of boys in the Chawl.They are good in sports, music, dance and creativity. Our issues are so similar. We worry about our children. We feel bad by weird behaviour of our relatives and neighbours. We worry about what to cook for lunch and dinner. We think alike and empathise with each other. I speak less and she understands more. She is always upset when my other support staff  don't do their work properly or bunk work. 

The 1st January celebration in the Kasalrwadi chawl was very elegant this year. The decor was not garish. They have a program for the community. Money is collected from each house for the decoration, for inviting their political leaders and for gifting the invitees. The food is charged extra. All my maids feel bad that the money is spent on the outsiders to invite and give them gifts. This year there was a sound and light show. I could hear some words like war, Maratha, Peshwa etc. This was followed by the speech by some leader. He sounded like a young sensible guy. He did not rave and rant on the mike. Usually they have an anti Hindu tirade going on. This guy said that we are getting admissions and jobs but our community is still backward because we lack communication skills. He encouraged the youth to move with times. I was very impressed with the way the guy tone and the tenor of his speech. It was so unlike the past leaders' fiery speeches and there is absolutely no gratitude for the reservations. 

On 2nd January, it was a different woman who walked into my house. Her language had changed. It had become 'Amche Manus' (Our people) and 'Tumi loka' (You guys). She said our people were beaten to death in Pune. She watches TV and then her leaders from the chawl give her another picture. I explained that only one man was killed and he was a Maratha not a Dalit. Babasaheb was a good man and had all the good intentions. She talked about his grandson. She did not know the history of Bheema Koregaon. She just knew they have to pray.By this time, I had read up on Bheema Koregaon. Next day, she was okay about the violence and mayhem in Mumbai. She kept saying we have to stand up against you guys. Her leaders had said they had to go for the procession. I tried dissuading her from letting her family go for it. She said the local Chawl leaders will boycott us from the community if we do not go. She has grown up in a lovely house by the sea in Mumbai. She has not gone through any discrimination. She is enjoying all the perks and so is her family with a government  jobs and houses. Her son looses a cell phone every year. But she has been taught by her community leaders to hate others. It was a quiet day in Mumbai. Cop vans were stationed in all the areas where processions would start. By afternoon, the woman leaders were calling them out of their houses. The men all dressed in white started coming out of the Chawls. Lots of new blue flags materialised from inside the chawl. Some of them went to heckle the lone cop. He called for help and another police van came in. The 'Narebaazi' or sloganeering started. Anti Maratha, Anti Shivaji, Anti Hindu, Anti everything. All maids of the Chawl joined in. I could recognise some of them. The atmosphere did not feel good. 

They came back in an hour. I heaved a sigh of relief. In the Evening, I saw one lady from the Chawl, shouting some boys who were on a couple of bikes. She was telling them not to create ruckus in this area. Next day, our lady walked in a bit calmer. She said that they were having a peaceful march and were asking everyone to shut their business or shops when some unknown bikers joined them and started threatening the shopkeepers. The Chawl people told the cops that these bikers are not with us. The bikers sped off. These bikers had come back to check on the area. They did not look like Dalits or people from the Chawl opposite our house. They did look like rogues. They looked like outsiders by their language and dressing. Riots don't happen so easily. They are instigated by certain elements. I saw all of this at play from my window. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Shaken Not Stirred

The Kamala Mills tragedy is still on my mind. I am shaken up by it. I had been to 1 Above, the restaurant which caught fire and where all the deaths happened. It just did not have a good vibe. The elevators were not working in the supposedly cool building which houses so many TV channels offices and studios. The staircase is not very big. It was full of empty plastic bottles of mineral water and cold drinks along with coffee cups n cigarette stubs. Did not feel very safe as we trudged up six floors to reach the terrace. The side entrance was narrow. The left side was like a store room and the right side had some 50 odd gas cylinders  lying in a straight line one on top of the other making a corridor which we had to cross to enter the restaurant. Terrace was all artificial plants, poles, curtains and candles with wooden furniture. The air conditioned area which also looked illegal had an extremely narrow service entrance opposite the toilet. The food was bad and so was the service. The crowd looked listless like the staff. I was wondering why the place was so popular. We just completed our meal and decided never to go back again. Walked back the dirty staircase down six or seven floors. Husband and me were talking that may be the alcohol was cheap to make it popular. 

I have this thing with all Kamala Mills eateries, I do not like the vibe or the food there. And I keep going there on and off just to try a new place which has come up. Right from Tamasha to Bombay Canteen to Grand Mamma s cafe to Milk to Smaash, each place manages to disappoint in food and service. I remember my nephew visiting  and wanting to go to Smaash. We went there and actually walked out as we thought it was no place for children. Why would it be so popular with parents to host parties for their children? It is so artificial, the games, the gadgets, the lighting and the ambience, definitely not for the kids. Aren't children supposed to play in open air and around nature? Why can't someone buy a piece of land and plant trees and make it a real children's park? Why do we have to put turf on the flooring so the child doesn't not fall and hurt himself ? What kind of environment are parents providing their children in Kidzania or Snow World? How hygienic is a place all air-conditioned permanently with no fresh air and no sunlight. Cleaning with detergents and Dettol just pollutes the closed air further. 

Coming back to the tragedy in Kamala Mills, the BMC broke down the encroachments in 600 odd eateries. The pressure came from their bosses and promptly a fortnight break was given to restaurants. All are back to operating the way they were. BMC is happy with some other things. On the day after the fire, the lunch business in the Kamala Mills restaurants was going on. In the night people were partying and the music was on, till the cops got it shut. Humanity has taken a back seat. Anyways, it comes out only for animals during the Indian festivals. People still flock to all the illegal terrace restaurants. The young honcho of the BMC ruling party has always said rooftop eateries are a good business idea. The BMC follows his orders and gives permission to all. I mean, the 1 Above eatery, got the fire clearance five days before the fire. The gas cylinders could not have been hidden anywhere else. 

They are catching the owners of the eateries but not the owner of the land who is renting it out to all the places and allowing encroachments. Junior officers of BMC bear the brunt by being suspended. All restaurants seem to have political contacts in the BMC and are able to flout all rules. I won't even talk about the kitchen, toilets and staff hygiene here. The less said the better. The fire which killed an equal number of people in a 'Farsaan' Snack making factory was heart breaking. All the nameless people who make snacks for us which our kids munch when they are not fed the factory machine prepared chips by the MNCs. Life disappears in a jiffy. Caution should be a way of life. Why do people want to flout these rules? What is this kind of urge to make money at the cost of other people's lives? 

Went for a 'Prarthana Sabha' or a prayer meet for the departed. There was a band of musicians singing Bhajans. The lady said we think we do not steal but think of all the taxes we don't pay or don't want to pay and manage to subvert, that is stealing too. This was an entire community of business people and the lady singer made this announcement between Bhajans. Even death does not stir us. 
Can we  start reading the fine print of our life? 


Monday, January 1, 2018

Sassoon Dock Art Project

Every place has a feeling. In today's fast world, who is listening to it. Last evening I had gone to Sasson Dock for the Street Art Project. It was the last day and we finally managed to reach. A young gentleman who has worked with Julia, the curator,  was showing us around. This was not like an art gallery with paintings or sculptures or some new age modern stuff. This was real as real could get. Each artist and I think there were about 30 of them, got connected to the soul of Sassoon Dock. The art made you realise what the Metropolis was doing to your mind and soul. This was not the cynical liberal Art, which just criticises what is. This was Art with passion and love for the place. Panditji, to whom I go for Bhagwadgeeta Satsang and Ramcharitmanas, uses a word called "Sakaratmak Bhaav". Loosely translated it means positive feeling but it means also not negating what is and going beyond that with a trust in the universal design. This St+Art was all about that. Karan who showed us around did it with the same zeal. He got us so involved with the space, the urban art, the people, the pigeons, the damp walls and the whole spirit of Sassoon Dock. He took us through the journey of how the artist reacted when he was first asked if he or she would like to be a part of it, the kind of music they played while working and the kind of work that went in by the volunteers and the 'Kolis' who helped this work come alive. 

An abandoned godown in the 142 year old Sassoon Dock was given by the Bombay Port Trust to the  St+Art . The place had pigeons, cats, dogs and filth. It was cleaned up. Some walls repaired. Some were left like that to let you know how it was. The roof had gaping holes where transparent asbestos sheets were put to allow the sunlight. An installation is made of iron mesh of a dog peeing. The fishing nets were used with stencilled tissue paper fabric with words which we associate with smell like mother's cooking, brown paper to cover books, new bag etc. The smell plays a role in another place which is selling perfume of Sassoon Dock with the fishy smell. It says that anything packaged well, will sell.

 Shivo, an artist, loves Nammalvar's poems which are love poems for Vishnu Bhagwan. Organza and pearl, silk threads, net, tissue created the man and woman with Intricate embroidery by Mushtaq from Dharavi. One artist worked with bamboos, tubelights and the cloth used by the Koli men and women. The installation looked haphazard and then from a distance looked like one piece. The naked tubelights did not hurt the eye. The painting on the terrace wall with pillars which merged into the painting when seen from a distance, was awesome. Of course, it had elements of the Sassoon Dock hidden in it. 

The Singapore artist,Tan Zi Xi, came with plastic sheets from Singapore and then realised India really recycles plastic. She made an ocean of plastic and how a fish must be seeing it. It was insane as you sat on the flat in a room full of plastic making a ceiling on you. The artist went to Dharavi and chose the variety of scrap she wanted to use. The plastic sheets were washed, dried and sanitised and dried again. A cat gave her litter on the plastic sheets. And again the washing and sanitising had to be done. The volunteers plus 8 Koli women helped string the plastic bottles. The artist had the vision of how the ceiling should look like a sea of plastic.

One artist known as Livil, did work on Stencils in Austria and flew in with it. The Airline lost the bag of stencils and how they all went berserk. Luckily it was found within a day. The Stencil had Koli women with their children praying to the Sea God and offering coconut. It was a huge installation. The lighting behind had an aluminium sheet as Aluminium reflects light. Behind it was a two wall right angled Art which showed how Colonisation led to Westernisation and yet the front Stencil showed that it could not take away the culture of the place.

There was one room with a narrow opening under the staircase. We had to really bend down and go in through pipes and plastic sheets. Two artists worked on it. One with plastic and the other with the iron rods and bamboo installation. The way it was amalagamated to give us the urban feel where the city life is closing in on us and our consciousness. It is the most inorganic thing happening in an organic way.

The top floor had artists working with beautiful colours. They made a museum of a fish called 'Shunya' which was made with baskets woven in Dharavi. The eyes, the fins, the tooth all as museum artifacts. The walls colours were superb. This room would be a children s delight. Soothing purple, burnt pinks and oranges along with the moon. The artists worked with music right through the creation and one could sense the difference that had brought in the space. Music was lingering in the air. This was supposed to be like a temple and sure enough had the vibrance of a Mandir.

The toilets had very catchy art installations and were a part of the installations open to public viewing. The Big Minimalist is an Indian artist who did some walls with typography. Sajid Wajid used waste to make faces on the walls. 'Life inside the camera' was a room which you could see in daylight as it shows the sea, the boats the dock upside down as the lens captures it.

Most artists are graphic designers and work a lot with typography. The Instagram wall was two walls of colours. The walls were at right angles and the way the heart is created with fingers is insane. Karan, our amazingly sweet, well spoken and knowledgeable friend who made this alive for us, used the word 'insane' often. I am copying him and not succeeding at all.

Guido, the Australian artist, makes wall size portraits of real people. He does spray painting. Does not use any lazer technology to mark or outline the face. He had clicked these Koli women selling fish. In one of the guided tours, two of the three women had come. They had no idea they would see themselves on the walls. One of the walls got damp with the unseasonal rains in Mumbai and the way the paint has aged along with the lady, is mind blowing. Needless to say, it was Asian Paints.

The outer walls had portraits of the local Koli people. With the rains, the paper had torn away in places and it looked so authentic like the old hand painted film posters in smaller towns which get torn even with a kite string. Reminds me that 'Sankranti' n 'Lohri' is on its way. And then the weather starts changing. The feeling of New.