Sunday, September 26, 2010

Love without boundaries!

It was a perfect love story. The boy met the girl and both fell madly in love. Both belonged to a different religion. But this time, the parents didn't play spoilsport nor did the society. Everything went on smoothly; they got married and yet retained the religion they belong to.

This is the story of all the new age couples that tie the knot inspite of belonging to different religions. Take the case of 28-year-old Sarah Aikara, a Catholic and an accounts supervisor with O&M. She met Ankur Jain (28), a Jain at their workplace and cupid struck them. After 3 years of dating, they decided to tie the knot. "Initially, both our parents were apprehensive, but later when we had a court marriage this May, they agreed to the union," says Sarah Aikara Jain. This month, they got hitched again in a traditional Jain ceremony followed by a church wedding. Sarah says, "None of us have or will get converted to the other's religion. We both have a cosmopolitan outlook and respect the other's religion," she says.

Inter-religion love marriages are a common tale but an inter-religion arranged marriage is a little tough to digest in our country. 37-year-old Joel Abraham Solomon, a Jew got married to Sunita Chandane (37), a Hindu this June after a matrimonial search of 12 years. "Being a Jew, it was very difficult to search for a good alliance in my own community, as we are a very few in the city," says Solomon, a homeopathic doctor. He adds that Judaism is a very strict religion and his wife would have to convert into Judaism to enter the synagogue or even celebrate festivals. "Initially, we searched for a match in our own community, but when things didn't shape up, I posted my profile on matrimonial sites," he says.

When Sunita said yes to Joel, the only clause she kept was that she wouldn't get converted to Judaism. "The Jews in Maharashtra have imbibed the culture very well. We speak Marathi at home. Our food habits are similar to the Maharashtrians. Moreover, our marriage ceremonies are also similar with the haldi and mehendi, so it wasn't so difficult for Sunita to adjust in our family," explains Solomon.

"In my case, my parents didn't complain or have a problem at all when I told them that I love a Catholic boy," says 26-year-old Arya Anil, a Hindu, who works as a sub-editor with ASAPP media. It was a mutual decision that Arya and her husband Anil took of not changing their respective religions. Arya agrees that adjusting to a new set up is a bit difficult. "The customs and cultures are different. Simple things such as celebrating birthdays are different in both the religions- we celebrate one by visiting the temple and having a holy bath, whereas in Anil's family they bring in the birthday at 12 in the night," she says. Sarah Aikara Jain differs in opinion. She feels that even if she was married to a Catholic boy, adjustments would have had to be made. "Some things are different, such as touching elders' feet. But these things can be followed easily. Me and my sister would celebrate Rakshabandhan and Diwali earlier, so adjusting is not a big deal," she says.

In 29-year-old Shweta Mistry's case commitment was the point in consideration more than religion itself. Born to a Punjabi father and Keralite mother, Mistry, a Hindu had no religion based hassles. But her childhood love Carl Mistry, a Parsi, who she knows since standard 9, was a commitment phobic. "He proposed to me but said that he didn't know how the relationship would head," says Mistry, a PR consultant. Interestingly, even Carl's parents had a love marriage, his father being a Parsi and mother, a Catholic. "One fine day, Carl realised how much he loved me and we got hitched," she says with a smile. Their parents were very supportive and they follow their own religions. The couple had a typical Punjabi wedding ceremony and celebrate all festivals- be it Christmas, Diwali or Parsi New Year.

When it comes to deciding about which religion will their children will follow, the couples are still in a fix. "Nowadays, as many people are marrying outside their communities, kids will not face any identity crisis. We have decided to teach our children about both the religions," says Jain. Mistry says that she hasn't decided whether to have kids, so the question of which religion they will follow doesn't arise.

In this age of globalisation, when we celebrate all festivals and mix up with a friend circle comprising of various castes and communities, it has become easier to marry outside the religion and yet keep the identity alive.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

'I had made 300 sketches of her'

On a visit to Pune, acclaimed artist Laxman Shreshtha talks about how he wooed his wife, his passion for art and the Himalayas as an inspiration

"I am a maverick and an artist. I never follow any rules," says Laxman Shreshtha, who was in Pune to meet some city-based artists. Shreshtha who hails from Nepal, was born in an aristocratic family and pursued his passion--art. He had to move base to Mumbai, as in those days, being an artist was not a respected profession.

Elaborating on his artistic journey, the 71-year-old artist says, "I had written a letter to the then principal of JJ School of Arts, JD Gondhalekar, that I would be coming to visit him. But when I actually landed in front of him, it left him amazed." He says that he was a rebel in the JJ School of Arts too. "In the class, I would follow whatever my teachers used to say, but when I returned to my room, I would change whatever I had drawn and try something new," he recalls.

Shreshtha also remembers meeting his wife Sunita at the art school. "She was my junior and was very attractive. She used to model for paintings and I had made 300 sketches of her, which I would carry with me always," he says. He was very shy to let her know this, but when his classmate did the honours for him, Sunita came to see the sketches and fell in love with Shreshtha. "We have been inseparable since then. When I got a scholarship to go to Paris, I asked her to accompany me. We had to get married as her parents wouldn't allow her to join me otherwise," he smiles.

Shreshtha started painting abstracts in 1964. "I won a gold medal in portrait paintings, but I decided to go ahead with abstract as it is more fulfilling," says Shreshtha, who was born in Siraha in Nepal. He says that he comes from a land of boundaries and he visits the Himalayas once in a year, which inspires the artist in him. "As an abstract painter, you don't have to depend on any subject, as you can just paint what comes to your mind," he says, adding that artists such as V Gaitonde have influenced him.

Shreshtha is pleased to have some serious collectors of his paintings across the globe. "Kumarmangalam Birla is one of my serious collectors," he says. He reveals that most of the collectors who collect paintings as an investment, do not really understand art. "Few collectors take the effort of talking to artists and collecting information," he says.

Talking about new and upcoming artists, he says that they want to break free from all the rules that have been set. "I would walk 10 miles in search of a good painting and encourage the artist. There have been times, when young students would visit me and we would chat about art over a cuppa."
"MF Hussain would call me El Greco after seeing my portraits," he says.

He adds that when you listen to good music or taste the food you like the most, you get involved with it cent percent. Similarly for an artist, the search of the ultimate and trying to find known from the unknown, is fulfilling.

A fine wine experience!

A guide on wines for beginners and wines that enhance the taste of various cuisines

Be it red, white or sparkling, wine has always adorned platters belonging to different cuisines across the globe. Wine is a popular beverage that accompanies and enhances a wide range of European and Mediterranean-style cuisines. And it's not just a beverage, but a flavour agent, as any connoisseur will tell you.

But if you have never tasted wine, how do you go about it? Many city hotels and restaurants have now started suggesting wines with the food that they serve, to make it simple for the novices to choose wines. Chef Chandan Thakur, assistant food and beverage manager, Westin Pune Koregaon Park says, "A beginner needs to start with simple yet exciting wines which have a good bouquet and aroma. In whites, you can start with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Italian pinot Grigio and in reds, one can start with Californian merlots or Australian Shiraz."

The Aromas chain of restaurants too suggests wines with their food on their menu. Sapana Malhotra, senior vice president, Ideal Hospitality Pvt Ltd, says, "We have a total of eight varietals each of red and white wines from Australia, Chile, France, Italy and India." She adds that wines in India change preference as per the season as each wine suits the different ambience around it. "We are trying to put wine on the table as a casual drink and not very complicated to understand, thus making the wine drinking experience a daily and enjoyable affair," she says.

So which wines go well with Indian cuisines and our ever-spicy dishes? Chef Thakur answers, "Indian dishes have a very complex flavour and aroma. Therefore, wines highly eminent in tartness like the Sauvignon Blanc or Australian Shiraz or the young Cotes du Rhone will go well with such dishes." Wines should be served cooler with Indian food as spicy foods taste better with cooler accompaniments. "A White Zinfandel, which is a pink wine and sweet makes a good marriage with paneer tikkas, reshmi kebabs and tandoori breads," he says. Sparkling wines too go well with Indian food. So, having champagne with your Indian meal isn't a bad idea.

Chef Thakur says that the wines that are served accompanying Indian food should have alcohol above 12 percent. "With desserts like rasmalai, wines such as a sweet Muscat or rich Semillon goes well," he says. With so many types of 'suggestion ready' wines, it won't be difficult for beginners to explore them and have a great meal.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Keeping it short

Kala Ramesh has mastered haiku, the Japanese form of 'one-breath poems'

An old cliche goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. But when it comes to haiku -- a Japanese form of poetry--the observation can't get any better. Haiku, which is an ancient form of poetry dating back to over 400 years, is like a painting of words.

Kala Ramesh, an exponent of haiku in the city, has won many accolades in this art form, and wishes that more people come to know about it. Kala, who is a Hindustani classical singer, came across haiku in 2005; she loved the form and started pursuing it. "Haiku is a very simple form of poetry. It has a fixed set of rules, and needs constant practice. Simplicity in anything is extremely difficult to master," explains Kala, who has learnt classical music for many years from Shubhada Chirmule in Pune.

Kala started writing haiku poems in January 2005, and her first poem was accepted in March by a publication called Bottle Rockets, and her haiku and tanka (a Japanese form of five-line poetry) were accepted for publication in Simply Haiku for their summer and autumn issues respectively. "There are plenty of printed and e-versions of haiku magazines.

Such magazines prove to be a source of information on the poetry form," informs Kala, whose credentials include an honourable mention in Mainichi Daily News Annual Selection in the years 2007-08.Haiku, which can also be called a one-breath poem, uses minimum words to express the meaning. Haiku is a three-line poem, but can also be written in one, two or four lines. Capital letters are generally not used in English language haiku (ELH) but there are exceptions.

"Basho, a master of this art form, has aptly said, 'Learn of the pine from the pine; learn of the bamboo from the bamboo', meaning, to become one with nature, is the most important ingredient while attempting to write a haiku," says Kala.

The poet says that in India, there are few Haiku poets who write in English. "Charoli in Marathi is similar to haiku," she says. Kala is keen to spread this art form by taking up workshops. She has taken workshops in New Delhi, Mumbai and in Pune.

"Many haiku poets, who are also professionals, feel good after writing them, as they get a chance to break away from the monotony of their life and spend some time with nature," she says.

Ageing too young?

It's no longer about mid-life crisis, changing lifestyles and ambitions have led today's youngsters to experience something called quarter-life crisis

Sohan Sinha is an engineer and has reached the pinnacle of his career at the young age of 30. But his success isn't making him happy and he suffers from stress, anxiety and sleep-related disorders.

Sohan is a classic case of a person suffering from something called the quarter-life crisis. Mid-life crisis is heard of, but now people aged between 25 and 30 years of age, are increasingly facing this disorder, hence the term quarter-life crisis! Sohan wanted to study fine arts, but due to parental pressure, had to take up engineering and excel in it. But after eight years of working, he finds his job mundane and non-fulfilling.

Vaidehi Atre (25), an IT professional has a heavy pay package, but still isn't happy. "I find my work very monotonous and feel that there is no creativity in what I do. I don't feel 'useful'." She adds that apart from this feeling a recent break-up with her boyfriend has made things worse for her. "I don't get sleep properly and day dream a lot. It is difficult for me to concentrate on my work," she says.

"Disorders such as stress and anxiety are becoming common among the youngsters. Unlike earlier, youngsters now study till the age of around 24, then get a job and get busy with their careers. Therefore, the marriage also comes late in the picture. Then it becomes difficult to adjust to the long working hours and the family," says clinical psychologist, Dr Natasha D'Cruz.

And then are people, who put in long working hours without being attached to what they are doing and looking only for monetary gains. "The cases related to quarter-life crisis have risen over the past couple of years. There is a performance anxiety in youngsters coupled with fear of failure and increasing expectations from the near and dear ones," says psychiatrist Dr Suparna Telang. "Nowadays, when it comes to choosing a career, interest becomes secondary and people generally opt for high paying jobs," she adds. People also spend less time with family which leads in aloofness.

"The lifestyle that youngsters follow also plays a key role in quarter-life crisis. Late-night outings, irregular sleep and faulty diet lead to anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and acidity," says Dr Telang. She says that many couples come to her complaining of a troubled married and sex life. "Couples as young as 26 and 28-years-old, come to me for consultation. Mostly both of them are working and are very tired when they come home and do not enjoy the act. Even during weekends, they have to finish chores and meet family and friends, which again ends them up tired," she says. Erratic routine and lifestyle is a vicious circle, which engulfs the youngsters in it, adds Dr Telang.

Dr D'Cruz narrates a case of a 28-year-old married girl, who had to relocate after her marriage and look for a new job there. "After one and a half years of marriage, she became pregnant and things became very difficult for her. She suffered stress and depression as it was difficult for her to manage the new marital life, new city, job and the baby," she says.

This is also leading a number of youngsters to take solace in spirituality, with the hope that they can take better control of their mind and life. Amrit Sadhana, member, management team, Osho International Meditation Resort says, "Who is happy with their lives? Everybody is searching for something more than what they have." According to her, today's youngsters are mature and intelligent enough as they have to deal with a burden of responsibilities very early in their lives. "If they are stressed, they come here to meditate and forget all their worries."

(Some names have been changed on request)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The morning dew....

Early morning the dew settles down on the leaves

Just like the tears roll down my eyes

The dew adorns the green leaves

Just like tears do my cheerless face

I walk in the garden to get some fresh air

Wipe out the tears on my face

Just when the sun comes and washes the dew away

I watch, astonished

In the evening the cricket’s noise fills the air

Just like the noise of your memories

Some soothing but mostly infuriating

That shattered the glass of my dreams

I go down the garden to find

That the noise has faded in the dimness of the dawn

Just like your presence in my life

From a gentle dawn to a serrated dusk

I look at the horizon far away

Where you have gone with the luggage called my dreams

I wait for you to come back…

And suddenly, the sky becomes cloudy…

And it rains and mixes my tears with the raindrops

I struggle to separate them from each other

And find out, it is difficult to separate you

From all my memories….

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Art for a cause

The artworks exhibited at Rukhsana W's debut art show were painted during her year-long battle against cancer

"Life is too beautiful to give it up so easily," says Rukhsana W, painter and homemaker. Rukhsana is a cancer survivor, and through her upcoming exhibition titled Hope, she wants to spread the message of faith and hope to the people affected by cancer.

"I was detected with breast cancer a year ago. I didn't lose hope and whenever I felt depressed or down, I took up to painting. All the paintings to be exhibited at the show have been painted during this one year of my battle against cancer," says Rukhsana, who also lost her husband to cancer. Rukhsana, who is a fine arts graduate from the Stella Maris College in Chennai, made Pune her home two years ago.

Rukhsana has spun all the positive elements such as autumn, spring, light at the end of a tunnel in her paintings. "In one of the paintings, I have shown two hands praying and a God's eye. It is titled Faith," she says. She drew this painting when she lost faith in God after being detected with cancer. "This painting helped me get my faith back," she says. She plans to donate a part of the sales to a cancer foundation called Prashanti Cancer Care Mission. "This will help people who can not afford treatment for cancer."

This is Rukhsana's first-ever exhibition. "After graduating in fine arts, I got married and started my family. I got so busy with life, that I didn't really take up painting seriously. After being detected with cancer, I rediscovered my passion for it."

Rukhsana says that she got breast cancer at an early age of 48. "I feel women are still not aware of this disease and need to get a check-up done regularly." Through the exhibition, Rukhsana plans to put this point across to all women and advise them to take care of themselves.

'Kalpana and I were avid readers'

On a recent visit to Pune, astronaut Joan Higginbotham shares her experiences of working at NASA, being in space for hours, and exchanging books with the late Indian astronaut

"As a child, I never aspired to become an astronaut," says Joan Higginbotham, the third Afro-American woman to travel into space. Higginbotham visited Pune as a part of her India tour to promote astronomy studies. She has worked closely with the iconic Indian-origin astronaut, Sunita Williams and has also trained with the late Kalpana Chawla.

For Higginbotham, becoming an astronaut wasn't a dream. It was fate that made her one. "I am an engineer and started my career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a shuttle launcher in 1987," says Higginbotham, who actively participated in 53 space shuttle launches during her nine-year tenure at the Kennedy Space Centre. She recalls that her boss was the one who suggested that she should become an astronaut. "I got selected as an astronaut in 1996 in my second attempt," she says.

Higginbotham logged over 308 hours in space during her mission with the crew of STS-116, which included Sunita Williams. "I was also selected for the STS-126 mission in the year 2008, but I didn't become a part as I retired in 2007," says Higginbotham, who now works as a manager-CSR with the USA-based Marathon Oil Corporation.

Recalling one of her experiences at her 11-year career as an astronaut, she says, "Once I was told to fly a jet plane and I had no prior experience of doing the same. I ended up riding it like a roller coaster. I did learn to fly a jet plane, but in a hard way!"

Higginbotham has also closely worked with Indian astronaut the late Kalpana Chawla. "Kalpana and I trained together several times. We both were avid readers and Kalpana gave me some books to read." She adds that her favourite book so far tilted Red Tent, was suggested by Chawla to her.

"Sunita and I flew together on the STS-116 mission. When you are in space, there is no gender discrimination. We all work as a team and there is no question of being a man or a woman," she says, advising all aspiring astronauts to study maths, science and technology well in school. "There is no shortcut to hard work and if you want to be an astronaut, you have to like maths and science," she reveals.

When asked about her decision to retire from the NASA in 2007, she says, "I had a wonderful 20-year long career with the NASA. Now, I want to try something different, that's why I have ventured in the private sector. Out of the 53 space shuttles that I launched, I had the privilege to fly on a few too. My only regret is that I couldn't do a space walk."

Soaked in nature's beauty

If you are a nature lover, you have more than one reason to visit Bhimashankar this monsoon. The place is not only known for its jyotirlinga--which is one of the 12 jyotirlingas in the country--but also for its picturesque points and dense forests.

Bhimashankar is 110 km away from Pune situated in the ghat region of the Sahyadris. The forest of here is known for its giant squirrel --Shekru--which is endemic to this region and is also the state animal of Maharashtra. Apart from this, there are many plant and animal species that will interest you. The Malabar whistling thrush is a metallic blue bird, which hides itself in the dense canopy of the forest. It makes a unique and sweet whistling sound which instantly captures your attention.

Another interesting found here is the insect called Cicada, which makes a loud noise by brushing its wings together. The male makes the sound to call the female insect during the mating season.

The Nagphani point is situated near the Bhimashankar temple and offers a panoramic view of the surrounding villages. The Kalavantin fort can be seen clearly from this point. Some other forts such as Rajmachi, Tung and Tikona can be seen from here. From this point, birds of prey such as the Crested Serpent Eagle and the Kestrel can be seen gliding through the valley in search of its prey.

During monsoon, a thick layer of fog and cloud engulf the Nagphani point, making it a beautiful sight. When you climb down this point, it leads you to a Hanuman temple, where many Bonnet Macaques can be seen. Small streams adorn the way back to the Bhimashankar temple. Another place that is a must-see is the Gupt Bhimashankar, where the river Bhima originates. The way towards the Gupt Bhimashankar is a simple one passing through the forest. Nature lovers can spot the Shekru, Malabar Whistling Thrush, various types of lichens and mushrooms in this forest. It leads you to a small temple of the Gupt Bhimashankar. There are small streams which make the location even more picturesque.

The Bhimashankar temple is located in the village of Bhorgiri, which is 50km from Rajgurunagar. You can reach the place from Pune via Manchar.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Wari time!

Tumhari adaon pe mein wari wari… a friend cracked a stupid joke when I told him that I am supposed to cover some wari stories. For the uninitiated, a wari or a procession is an annual thing in Maharashtra, Pune to be precise. It is carried out in the Hindu month of Ashadha. Two palkhis- one of Saint Tukaram comes from Dehu and other of Saint Dnyaneshwar which comes from Alandi and they both together head to the holy town of Pandharpur.

Yesterday I (for the first time) was a part of the wari for 2 odd-kilometres (from Shivajinagar to FC Road). It was nice seeing pilgrims dressed in colourful clothes and all in a festive fervour dancing and swaying to the beat of the dholaks. The palkhi-rath was decorated beautifully and adorned with flowers and there was a mad rush to take the darshan.

Also being a bandh-day, the FC road was almost traffic free and a pleasant one to walk on. We were on a photo taking spree. The pilgrims posed for us in enthusiasm. Little children dressed in dhoti kurta and navvari sari were amongst some of the eye-catchers. The walk was surprisingly refreshing even in the crowd. Me and some of my mad friends ganged up and watched the procession sitting on a bank’s katta. We bought some funny toys and started honking some toy pipes (pipani). Some people stared at us with disgust but then, we were lost in our childhood, teasing and taunting each other.

We then headed to a newly opened plush coffee shop after soaking in the rain and watching the palkhi pass-by. (What an irony!) The only thing being that the owner of the cafĂ© won’t allow us in anymore!

We really did have a wari-ffic time! ;)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Life is beautiful... even when dusk sets in...

Old eyes, old memories, old beliefs but with a new twist- hope and cheer. That’s what the aged at the Ishaprem Niketan in Rasta Peth have. When I was supposed to visit the old age home for a story, I had imagined gloomy faces with innumerable sad stories to tell. But when I entered the premises, smiling faces with warmness surrounding them greeted me.

All the inmates were happy to see me and greeted me with enthusiasm. Immediately, they introduced themselves to me, telling me all about their life, what they had achieved so far and so on. They had so much to tell. One person, Chandrakant Golvalkar, who has acted as a side artist in a couple of movies, showed me his I-card and told me about his encounters with some famous actors. Another inmate, Bernanrd Lobo, remembers all the important dates and events in his life, even at the age of 75.

The ladies were a more enthusiastic bunch. Julie Jantas, a 62-year-old woman, loves to dance and she welcomed us by dancing. Any nice number plays on the television and Jantas breaks into a jig. She told me that when she was at home she didn’t have such kind of freedom, but here anything she does is welcomed. Another lady, Shanta Bhandari, kissed me on my cheeks, calling me her grandchild and told me that these people take her visiting gardens or to the circus, luxuries she otherwise wouldn’t have thought of getting.

They help each other- feeding each other, giving medication to the terminally ill and talking each other for a walk. An NGO called Nishkaam took them out on a picnic to Mulshi on Father’s Day, about which they were super-excited.

Looking at these cheerful inmates of the old age home, I thought all my worries had just flown away. We all have a lot to learn from them- including not losing hope, remaining cheerful come what may and keeping the child in you alive. For the inmates of the Ishaprem Niketan, life is beautiful, eventhough dusk has set in.

Joining the band of vegans

When you ask people whether they know what veganism is, all you get is, "Huh! Sorry, I didn't get you." But it's a concept that's fast catching the fancy of a number of people who want to go beyond just being a vegetarian. For the uninitiated, a vegan is a person who chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products.

Vasudha Louis, 33, an animator, has been a vegan for the past 14 years. "When I was a child, I had seen a chicken being cut and couldn't stand the sight. I stopped eating meat and gradually eggs too," she says. When Vasudha read Maneka Gandhi's book Heads and Tails, she decided to follow the vegan lifestyle.

Amruta Ubale, 26, an education officer with the NGO Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC) has been a vegan for the three years. She was brought up as a vegetarian and after knowing about the cruelty in the milk industry she decided to be a vegan. "As a vegan, I refrain from using silk, honey, leather and wax. I don't use pearl jewellery. Vegans also don't use cosmetics and toiletries, which are tested on animals or have an animal base," she says.

Being a vegetarian isn't easy, as one has to face many problems at social gatherings. "Many a times people would pass remarks, which I had to ignore," says Vasudha. Initially, Vasudha's in-laws could not understand her veganism as they are die-hard non-vegetarians.

Vegans substitute milk and milk products with soy products. For example, instead of having a milkshake they have a soy shake and instead of having paneer they have tofu. "When you go out to eat, it is easy to find vegan food in the Indian and Chinese cuisines," says Amruta. BWC works with industries, which manufacture vegan products and spread awareness on the same. Nowadays, restaurant joints and coffee shops offer vegan food and beverages.

Reports suggest that consuming vegan food may lead to certain deficiency. But vegans find an alternative to this by substituting meat with green leafy vegetables or dry fruits to get proteins and iron.

Clinical nutritionist, Dr Nupur Krishnan says, "I do not believe in a complete vegan diet as people have to be careful of what they eat." She advises consuming a lot of soybean products and pulses. "The food pyramid guidelines need to be followed by the vegans in order to remain healthy," she says. There are many healthy vegan recipes that can be found on the Internet. Websites such as give an insight on how to remain a vegan and what products are vegan-friendly. A vegan does not support zoos, circuses, animal driven carts, animal riding, caging birds, keeping wild or domestic animals as pets for selfish ends.

Monday, June 14, 2010

When my heart skipped a beat...

I am submitting this story as 's My first crush contest!

It was winter of the year 1997 and here I was, standing in a corner of the playground, perspiring. I had seen him and I knew it was now or never and I HAD to talk to him. He was a cool dude of my seventh standard class and I was a simple girl, a topper, cute-looking but definitely not ‘gorgeous’. And I was hopelessly in ‘love’ with him. Every look at him would seem like a fresh summer breeze, filled with the fragrance of flowers of vivid aromas.

He was my friend for five long years, and every passing year, I was more in love with him. Now, when I look back, it all seems so childish to me, but at that time it was more of a life-and-death situation. We used to play together, but now as he was the ‘hot property’ of my class, he had become choosy. And he chose to talk to me, which made me all the happier. Before I could reach him, he came to me and said, “Hi. What about lunch together?” in my mind, I had already started dancing to the tunes of ‘Pehla Nasha’, imagining myself and him dancing around trees like they do in Hindi films. “Hey!”, his voice brought me back from my dream world! “Yah,” I said quietly and we walked towards the classroom.

A tiny part of me wanted me to shut up and not tell him anything. But then I couldn’t keep it in my mind anymore. It had been two years that I loved him and wanted him to know. “Listen, Pinku (yes, that’s what I called him and he hated me for that),” I said. “Shush, how many times have I told you, no Pinku in school, duh!” he reminded me. “Okay. Listen Priyesh, I have to tell you something very serious,” I said. “First, you listen to me buddy. The reason why I have called you here is to tell you that I like this babe Sneha- the one who makes all the guys crazy,” he said. “Yeah. S-she is really cute,” I said, taking a deep breath, knowing what was coming. “She likes me too. I want to propose her formally and I need you to help me with some gift ideas,” he said, excitedly. I wanted to die or worse kill him for being so mean to me. But on the outside, I said, “That’s great. I know this really cool gift shop where we can go after school.” He stood up took my hand and kissed it and said, “You are a true friend.” Then he left. I stood there, frozen, not knowing what to do next. That was my first ever kiss- what if it was just on the hands.

Priyesh and Sneha became an item the next day- the hottest couple in school who broke up in eighth standard. I cried for some days- a week to be precise, cursing him for not liking me. I tried some makeovers too, which were a super-flop and finally, gave up. Even now, when I think of my first crush, my heart skips a beat and it always will.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lost in the crowd

In Search of My Home is a documentary that depicts the trials and tribulations that refugees face in India

Phiar Vang, an old woman originally from Burma, lived in India for the past 22 years. She succumbed to tuberculosis because her family couldn't afford the medication and she wasn't provided with free government medical aid like thousands of other unregistered refugees don't in India.

In Search of My Home is a documentary directed by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, which talks about the day-to-day problems that the refugees face in our country. "India houses a huge number of refugee population, but yet there isn't any comprehensive domestic refugee law, that could guarantee them their basic human needs and a life of dignity," says Thomas. She informs that the refugees need to be registered by the UNHCR-UN Refugee Agency, after which they get proper education, healthcare and other facilities. "But there are many people like Vang, who can't get registered and are left in the lurch," she says.

Thomas and Ghosh researched for a period of almost eight months on refugees and their lifestyle. Both Ghosh and Thomas have obtained their MA in mass communication from the Jamia University in Delhi and are documentary film-makers. "We interacted with the refugees staying in west Delhi and came to know about their problems," says Thomas. It took them three months to finish the shooting and the post-production of the documentary.

The documentary was made as a part of the Infochange Media Fellowships, which are awarded every year by the Centre for Communication and Development Studies (CCDS) to researchers, writers and film-makers to cover a subject related to social justice or development in India.

The film has two stories - one of an old Burmese woman and another of an Afghani man called Masoud, who has to take care of his wife and eight children. The documentary, which is based out of New Delhi, is in various languages like Hindi and Chin--a Burmese language and has English subtitles. "The characters narrate their own stories in this documentary," says Thomas, who co-owns Black Ticket Films with Ghosh. "This film will be screened in different parts of the world on June 20, i.e. World Refugees Day," says Hutokshi Doctor, director, Centre for Communication and Development Studies.

When marriages are made at home

Tying the knot with your first cousin may require less adjustment but it can lead to genetic complications, say experts

Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Franklin Roosevelt and HG Wells share a common link, one that goes beyond the obvious fact that these men were exceptional in their respective fields. They all married their first cousins.

That's the path 25-year-old Ayesha Riyaz Nadaf's family chose for her. Her parents were elated when she consented to marry her paternal aunt's son. The reason was that she would be well-looked after in her new home. "When I was single, I received plenty of marriage proposals, but my parents accepted my relative's offer immediately," says Ayesha. There was little adjustment post-marriage. "We were not strangers and I knew his likes and dislikes," she says.

While many cultures, especially in the West, baulk at the thought of marrying within the family, the situation is slightly different in India. Our law accepts unions between first cousins, if the family and community members have given their consent.

But keeping it in the family is a risky business as the children of non-related couples have a 2% to 3% risk of birth defects, as opposed to those of first cousins, where the risk is as high as 6%.

"When marrying a person belonging to the family, it is strongly advised that the couple should consult a geneticist first. If the family has a history of any genetic disorders, there is a possibility that the children may develop complications," says Dr Jyoti Unni, gynaecology department head at Jehangir Hospital. Gynaecologist Dr Anshu Kulkarni says that the progeny of first cousins, who get married may develop disorders such as colour-blindness, haemophilia and thalassemia.

Ayesha and her family were aware of these problems and they consulted a gynaecologist, who gave her the go-ahead to start a family. "I have a five-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son. They're perfectly healthy children," she says proudly.

It was a different story for 29-year-old Pushpasheel Thakar, a practising lawyer. He fell in love with his first cousin and married her despite opposition from the families. "Initially, our parents didn't agree to our marriage, but they had to give in. We didn't face any problems from society either," he says.

For Thrity Dadabhoy, head of corporate communications at WLC College, marrying a first cousin was no big deal. "As our community is small, unions with first cousins are quite common. In fact, my grandparents were also first cousins, and were the children of twin brothers," she says.

In the north, inter-family alliances are rare occurrences. "In Delhi, where I stayed earlier, this is rare, and I faced a lot of censure," says Thrity. But despite being happily married for 29 years, with three healthy daughters, Thrity does not recommend people marrying within the family.

"In those days, there was little awareness. Now, it is a known fact that one's offspring might suffer from medical complications, I would advise against marrying your first cousin."

In some pre-arranged unions, accepting a cousin as a spouse, takes a lot of adjustment. Dr Kulkarni says, "One is born and brought up in the same family as the cousin and both parties have to be mentally prepared for a major shift in family roles." Family conflict always exists and marrying within the family may lessen it. "Getting married to a cousin also calls for a certain amount of adjustment. It is like any other marriage, compromise is a part of it," says Thrity.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Up close & personal at the click of a mouse

Founders of Marathi social networking sites say it is difficult to maintain exclusive community-centric websites

With Marathi social networking sites evoking a sense of pride and honour towards the language, there are mixed reactions in the Marathi-speaking community regarding the use of these sites. While some sites are doing well pertaining to members and activity, some are shutting down due to decreasing memberships.

Ajay Gallewale, founder of the website, which boasts of over 29,000 members, is based in Boston, USA. "Maayboli started as a joke. My wife Bhavana wanted me to build a 'home'. Like any new immigrant to the US we didn't have money. So, I said I will build you a 'home page' instead," says Gallewale. He and his wife Bhavana started Maayboli on September 16, 1996 in Boston. What started as a personal site later went on to become a universal networking site for Marathis all over the world.

Maayboli has around 1,42,198 visits per month and it has grown without any advertising. "It spread through word of mouth," says Gallewale, who is passionate about writing and edited his college's magazine as a student of College of Engineering, Pune.

He adds, "There are a few non-Marathi people, some Indians and some non-Indians who are members of the site. They also order Marathi books from us."

Founder of a social networking site, who is known by the name Marathi Superstar, has a different tale to tell. "Many social networking sites such as Orkut and Facebook are cluttered with non-Marathi people spamming Marathi communities. So, I planned to start a site exclusively for the Marathis," he says. He started the website on the Jagatik Marathi Din on February 27 this year. "Many people helped me popularise the site and by making new logos and moderating it. We started off with around 1,789 members," he says.

Superstar adds it is obvious that there will be piracy, fake profiles on a social networking site. But people started blaming the owner even when the content was moderated. "That's why I am planning to sell off the site. Advertising is also expensive, if considered as a mean to revive the site," he says.

Darshan Kharshikar, a media professional, who is hooked on to a Marathi social networking site, says, "I had seen some three to four such sites, but they weren't so great content-wise. Then I came across a site which had good content and activity scope and got hooked to it." He adds that he joined the site to make friends with like-minded Marathi people. "I write blogs, share my trekking experiences with members and also discuss literature on forums. I have made quite a few friends and we have also gone trekking," says Kharshikar.

Priya Joshi, a student, is of the opinion that joining such Marathi sites isn't a good idea. She says, "We can interact with Marathi people on other sites as well. There is no need to create such exclusive sites and raise a bias. I have joined Marathi groups on Orkut and Facebook and interact with Marathis," she says.

The content and the people on the Marathi networking sites is what make them successful or otherwise. Gallewale says, "We feel successful when our members and partners achieve success through our site. One of the Maaybolikar, Nalini, made an appeal to Maaybolikars in Netherlands and with other members around the world they raised funds for school in the village Gondegaon in Ahmednagar."

An apple a day!

A recent study suggests that an apple diet helps protect the brain from effects of oxidative stress, helps aid digestion and promotes weight loss

An apple might successfully keep the doctor away, but recent research also proves that apples help you have a good memory even as you grow old. A study by the University of Massachusetts Lowell suggests that eating and drinking apples and apple juice in conjunction with a balanced diet can protect the brain from the effects of oxidative stress that contributes to age-related memory loss.

Apples are a very good source of dietary fibre, which helps aid digestion and promotes weight loss. Elaborating on the study and on the benefits of apples, nutrition consultant Geetu Amarnani, says, "Apples are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. They are low in calories and fat which means you can eat lots of apples without consuming too much energy." She adds that the fibre helps by filling the stomach quicker and thereby limiting the amount of food eaten.

Apple is found to prevent skin wrinkles and is also found to play a role in inhibiting ageing-related problems, preventing wrinkles and promoting hair growth. "Apples contain flavonoids and antioxidants that improve immune function, prevent heart disease, and some cancers," says Amarnani.

Amarnani discards the myth that consuming too many apples can lead to tooth decay, by saying, "On the contrary, eating apples is very good for the teeth and gums. Biting into the apple will exercise the gums keeping them healthy." It is better to eat a fresh apple or preparing apple juice at home. The apple juice available in the market is processed and contains extra sugar and due to the chemical treatments, it may also lose the nutrients in it.

One of the most easiest way of incorporating apple in daily meals is to eat them fresh at breakfast time or any time during the day as a mid meal snack. Apples can be added to most dishes like salads, or baked in desserts to make them tastier and more nutritious. Washington apples which are said to be the best apples in the world are available in India. Sumit Saran of SCS group which represents the Washington Apple Commission in India says, "Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith are some of the popular variants of Washington apples in India."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TRACK-ing it young!

DJ Prithvi, at the age of 12, is probably the youngest professional DJ in the country. He rocked the city audience on Saturday

His remix of the popular song Jai Ho has seen 14,000 plus downloads in 10 months! He made a world record gig for three hours and five minutes non-stop, mixing more than 100 songs. He is no ordinary DJ because Sai Prithvi, known as DJ Prithvi in the party circuit claims to be India's youngest DJ at the age of 12.

DJ Prithvi hails from Hyderabad and is going places, literally, as he is on an all-India tour. He performed on Saturday night at a city club and restaurant. The funds generated from his performances will go towards the betterment of the mentally challenged children. "I started DJing when I was 10 years old. I have learnt this art from DJ Ananth, a famous DJ based in Hyderabad," says Prithvi. The youngster has just passed his Std VII exams with flying colours, scoring 80% marks. "I generally perform only on weekends and find time in the morning to study," he says with a smile.

Music is his passion and Prithvi likes Bollywood house, hip hop and trance music. "I like playing Bollywood house music. I like bhangra too. People are curious about me and they like my music," he says. On this all-India tour, which started on May 8, he has performed in cities such as Chandigarh, Bangalore and Pune and will be performing in Mumbai, Chennai, Goa, Kolkata and Cochin.

"I will be on this all-India tour till my school starts. My parents and school authorities are very supportive. I generally have to perform late nights starting at 10pm. So my school timings are managed accordingly," he says. Earlier, Prithvi has toured the country to generate funds for the people affected with HIV/AIDS.

Marvels in marble!

The latest feather in sculptor and painter GL Narayan's cap is designing a Ganesh idol for Mukesh Ambani's dream home at Altamount Road in Mumbai

As a child, clay always fascinated GL Narayan, a sculptor and painter. He would go to the banks of a nallah, when in school and make figures out of it. From making small clay figures to making Ganesh idols in marble and exhibiting them all over the world, this 76-year old sculptor has surely carved a niche for himself.

But one of his best experiences till date would have to be a request to sculpt a five ft eight inches tall Ganesh idol for Mukesh Ambani's new home in Altamount Road in Mumbai. Talking about it, he says, "My friend and interior designer Varsha Desai approached me to do the project for the Ambanis. My other friend Malvika was also instrumental in introducing me to the Ambanis." The Ganesh idol is made from Makrana white marble and weighs over seven tonnes. "I used to go to Jaipur to work on the marble and the idol was done in around six months," says Narayan.

"As a child I would make clay figurines for a film-maker in my hometown Jeypore in Orissa and he would give me free movie tickets in return. The then Maharaja of Orissa, Vikram Dev Varma also appreciated my art and I was the first student in his art school," he says. He came to Mumbai in the 1950s to pursue arts and sculpture from the JJ School or Arts. "I used to do odd jobs at the film studios in Mumbai to fund my stay in Mumbai," says Narayan, a gold medalist at the JJ School of Arts.

He has sculpted figurines using clay, terracotta and bronze. But marble fascinated him the most. "I have been making marble Ganesh since the 1980s but I have stopped making them now, excepting the one for Ambanis. I am now focusing on my pictoral book titled Understanding Mahabharata," says Narayan, whose works have been bought by eminent personalities such as Indira Gandhi and Zakir Hussain. He has exhibited his work all over the country and abroad too. He was honoured in San Jose, USA by the North America Telugu Association.

He has studied astrology extensively. "I chose making Ganesh idols as he symbolises prosperity and wisdom. The idol which I have made for the Ambanis has an omkar in his stomach which represents that the lord is the saviour of the earth and its beings," he says.

Narayan made Pune his home ten years back after staying for over 30 years in Mumbai. "Life in Mumbai was becoming miserable due to the crowd and chaos. In Pune I found peace and tranquility. I can cook, paint and live in peace here," says Narayan.

Something for the winged variety

Vishwajeet Naik has set a perfect example by putting up water feeders for thirsty birds in his garden. As many as 16 varieties of birds visit his garden now

The mercury is rising like never before. While we humans might sit under the fan and sip on some juice, our winged friends have to suffer the sun helplessly.

Birds feel very thirsty due to the heat and their options of water such as the dew drops or ponds and streams of clear water are scarcely available in a city like Pune. Water feeders, which can be installed in a balcony or a garden, can act as a saviour for these thirsty birds. Vishwajeet Naik--a wildlife photographer and a painter has installed six such water feeders in his one and half acre garden at his residence in Camp.

"Every bird has a specific timing for drinking water or visiting a water-body," says Naik, who has also installed over 200 artificial boxes for the birds. He adds that the Indian myna visits the water-body all over the day, while pigeons flock around in the evening and the kites come around in the afternoon. "Small birds generally drink the water drops on the leaves of trees. Birds such as the tailor bird, Ashy Prinae, sun bird, white eye and bul bul come to my garden to drink water," says Naik, who has taken guidance regarding birds from his father and well-known ornithologist Satyasheel Naik.

Naik advises the use of a one to one-and-a-half inch deep tray made of cement to be used as a water feeder. "Birds not only come to drink water but also to have a bath. So the feeder should be deep enough," he says. He says that the water should be changed preferably everyday or at least three times a week.

"People who want to create such a facility for birds in their balconies can use saucers to store water," he says. The water feeders at the Naiks' residence have been made of mud with lotus and gappi fish in it. "White breasted kingfishers also flock my garden due to the fish," he says.

"During summer, many birds have their breeding season, so these boxes help in nesting and breeding," says Naik adding that the artificial boxes in his garden have seen 70 per cent occupancy.

(Pic courtesy: Vishwajeet Naik)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Time to hit the panic button

Taking up hobbies and making 'real' friends are the solutions to let go the addiction to social networking sites

From just pinging your friends online to being a part of e-campaigns to playing network games, the social networking sites have come a long way. Posting and commenting on pictures and status messages, is a common feature. But what if the dependency on these sites gets a bit too much and the only person who can help you out is a shrink?

Psychiatrist, Dr Suparna Telang says that many people look at such sites as an escape mechanism from the real world they live in. "First, people get curious about these sites, then they enjoy the variety of interaction they have to offer and subsequently, get dependent on these," she says. She adds that getting addicted to these sites is a sign that the person is not satisfied with his/her daily work and family life and doesn't have good friends to share stuff with.

Priyam Kabra, 26, a brand manager, was addicted to the popular social networking sites- Facebook and Orkut. "I would scrap my friends, update my statuses and comment on photos everyday. I had started liking my online life," she says. But when the sites were blocked in her office, she used to feel depressed at the thought of not being able to network online. "I used to feel depressed and left out when my friends would discuss Facebook. It took a few weeks to realise that it was good in a way, as my dependency on these sites lessened," says Priyam, who has stopped 'Facebooking' now.

Telang says that it can be considered as a good sign when people who are addicted to these sites, themselves decide to give them up. "Any type of emotional dependence is not good. One needs to nurture 'real' friends and take up worthwhile hobbies," she says. In case of Chanda Paliwal, 23, a housewife, pressure from the friends' side made her join Orkut. "I got hooked to it in no time. But then, I decided to keep away from Orkut and instead started calling up and meeting my friends," says Chanda, who originally hails from Rajasthan and now believes in calling up friends.

"If one is happy with his/her family and friends, there is no need for such crutches," says Dr Telang.

Myths about potatoes busted

Stop munching those potato fries, and start consuming them in boiled and baked form

Potato has always been tagged as the most 'fattening' food item on the plate and for years, there has been a misconception that potatoes make one fat. But studies have shown that it is not potato the villain, but the way we prepare it, which determines whether it is fattening or not.

Having carried out a revealing research, Suman Kumar Pandey, director of the Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI) in Shimla informs, "It is believed that potatoes are fattening, but in reality, potatoes contain less than 0.1% fat and are cholesterol free." He adds that potato absorbs considerable quantity of fat while frying. It is this added fat that could cause obesity if consumed in large quantities. Therefore, by itself, potato is not a fattening vegetable, however, preparing and serving potatoes with high-fat ingredients raises the caloric value of the dish.

Potato is a low energy food. It is not an outstanding source of energy, but is a very good source of high quality protein. "If potatoes are consumed in good quantity and on a regular basis, they could contribute considerably to our dietary fibre intake," says Pandey. Important minerals and trace elements such as phosphorus and iron are present in potato.

City-based clinical nutritionist and dietician, Aarati Pillai says, "Potatoes are a good source of starch. Boiled potatoes have enough starch and energy that is present in two chapattis." Instead of having fried potatoes in the diet, boiled and roasted potatoes should be included. "The intake of potatoes should be balanced with other vegetables," she says.

Pillai suggests that chopped potatoes if soaked in water for sometime and then baked in oven, sprinkled with salt and pepper can make a healthy mid-day snack. When on a fast, instead of frying potatoes, they can be boiled and sprinkled with masala and eaten with chutney. Potatoes can be added in a vegetable salad alongwith curd, honey, salt and pepper.

"Potatoes are also one of the best-tolerated foods in the world, which is good news for many people who suffer from food-related allergies," says Pandey.

So now while cooking, don't freak out at the mention of potato, but instead, prepare it in a healthier way.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What's your dialogue?

From famous film dialogues to witty one-liners, dialogues as caller tunes are increasingly being preferred by people

Have you ever heard a Yenna rascala, mind it, I say! from the popular film Quickgun Murugan or a Kishore Kumar mimicry when you called up someone? The trend of dialogue caller tunes or hello tunes as they are called, is fast catching up in the city. People are trying their best to catch attention by using weird and funky dialogues to entertain their callers.

Agnelo Nobbay, 22, a customer relations executive, had set a caller tune which said, 'The person you are trying to urgently reach is sipping tender coconut sitting on the beach', which suggested that the person does not like to be disturbed. Nobbay says, "I wanted something different to be set as my caller tune. As I don't like being disturbed by people every now and then, I chose this caller tune to put my message through in a subtle and funny way." He adds that initially people liked the tune and kept on calling him, but later on many complained as they got irritated listening to the same thing and asked him to change it. "As I am a customer relations manager now, I had to change my caller tune, as it could impart a wrong message to my clients," says Nobbay with a smile.

Some others, on a serious note, like to put some points across through serious dialogues related to topics such as patriotism and so on. Abhijeet Chowdhary, director with Swatantra Films says, "As I direct plays on serious topics such as education and RTI, I use a caller tune which makes people aware of their responsibilities towards the nation."

Preeti Sagar, a student, likes the ringtone her friend has used, which has some hilarious dialogues from the film Quickgun Murugan. "Instead of listening to the boring tring-tring, its better that such dialogues keep me entertained."

Pushpa Chauhan, a senior consultant uses a dialogue from the movie- Jab We Met. "The dialogue is very hilarious and goes something like Kide padenge tere upar. But as some may consider it indecent, I use this tune only for some close friends of mine," says Chauhan.

Be it the evergreen Gabbar Singh dialogues from Sholay or mimicry of famous comedians such as Om Prakash or Mehmood, the trend of caller dialogues is here to stay!

Maestro takes up cudgels for rudraveena

When you enter Pandit Hindraj alias Digambar Shivaram Divekar's home in Tulshibaug, the first thing you notice is the peculiar string instrument that rests in his drawing room. The rudra veena, one of the most ancient musical instruments, is on the way to its decline.

Pandit Divekar is one of the few maestros of the musical instrument in the country. He recently returned from a 15-day Europe tour. He visited Germany, France, Sweden, Portugal, Spain and Holland, where people showed a lot of interest in the instrument.

The rudra veena saw a decline after the 19th century and other string instruments such as the sitar and veena gained popularity. "The rudra veena produces a low frequency sound and the vibrations go on for 16 seconds. The microphone doesn't catch these low frequency vibrations," said Pandit Divekar, while explaining the reason of the decline of this instrument. He adds that earlier there weren't any sophisticated instruments to amplify the sound. But now, with the new technology, there are chances of revival of the rudra veena.

The instrument has a long tubular body made of wood or bamboo. Two large-sized round resonators made of dried and hollowed gourds are attached under the tube. Twenty-four brass-fitted raised wooden frets are fixed on the tube with the help of wax. The instrument, which was played in the durbars of various rajas and maharajas in the 19th century, has a peacock decoration on it. "The peacock's sound range completed the whole octave of music. Hence, the peacock has a lot of importance in music," said Pandit Divekar.

Panditji has been touring in India and abroad to increase awareness about rudra veena. He started travelling abroad in 1979 and has toured across Australia and Europe. "I have many foreigners coming to me to learn the rudra veena. But unfortunately, in our country, there isn't much awareness and scope to learn it and keep the tradition alive," he said.

Panditji's grandfather Chintoba Divekar was a noted theatre artiste and his disciples included Deenanath Mangeshkar and Lata Mangeshkar. His father Shivaram Divekar alias Hindgandharva was a noted rudra veena player and Pandit Divekar started learning the instrument from him at the age of eight.

The rudra veena has been associated to Lord Shiva and therefore during the Mughal rule, its name changed to been. Pandit Divekar has been trying hard to revive this instrument in the mainstream music scenario.

He said that universities should introduce this instrument in their curriculum and youth groups should also try and promote it. "I am doing my bit by teaching the instrument and I have also started a website to create awareness on a worldwide level," he said. He added that due to websites such as YouTube, he can add his videos and create awareness among young people.

"Various ragas, bandish and teen taals can be played on the rudra veena. It creates a heavenly voice. It has been appreciated by Europeans and I have had a few Swiss and Portuguese students studying the instrument under me," he said. He added that as the instrument is on a decline, there aren't many craftsmen making it.

"I use the rudra veena which my father used and it is 118 years old. In Maharashtra, the rudra veena is made only in Miraj," he said. Pandit Divekar feels that if the rudra veena is promoted at music festivals such as Pune Festivals or the Sawai Gandharva, it will help in its revival. This mother of all string instruments needs to be nurtured and cherished.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mirza ki Marzi ;)

Kahani mein twist: Sania Mirza is going to marry Pak cricketer Shoaib Malik.

This story has created quite a hoo-hallah in the media and among political parties. TV channels have gone to the extent of giving headlines such as 'Mirza ki Marzi', 'Kya Sania Banegi Pak ki dulhan...' and so on. People are discussing whether Sania will play for India or for Pakistan, where will she stay, what will she eat, blah blah blah....

After hearing all this, one Marathi poem comes to my mind... It goes: 'Tyane Prem kela.... Tine Prem Kela.... Mi mhanto Tumcha kay gela?' (He loved her... she loved him... I say... Whats your problem ;). What if Sania plays for Pak? Big deal, as if she is a great player. Let them do what they want. Who are we to interfere? Let Shoaib marry ten girls and then marry Sania, if she doesnt have a problem, what is your problem?

There are some really weird groups on Facebook: Welcome to Pakistan, Sania Bhabhi... then comes : IPL REJECTED 11 PAK1STANI PLAYERS AND SANIA MIRZA REJECTED WHOLE IND1A and another says : you Pakistan for taking Sania Mirza, Now Please take Rakhi Sawant also :)

Grow up people!!

Nice spice!

If Indian food is defined by the heady flavours of spices, then why should the all-time favourite ice cream be left out? That's the idea behind these spice ice creams that Puneites can now treat themselves to. From nutmeg, black pepper to cardamom and cloves, there are many different ice cream flavours on offer at the recently launched Zaika Spice Cream on FC Road.

"Traditionally, ice creams are made using fruits, vanilla or chocolate. The Indian spices are usually not used to make ice creams," says owner Siddharth Shirole. The parlour has 16 different types of plain spice ice creams and spice and fruit combination ice creams such as, black pepper, chakriphool, cinnamon, nutmeg-coconut, strawberry-cinnamon, clove-cinnamon-honey and apple-cinnamon.

Such different flavours of ice creams do invoke a sense of curiosity in people. Vikram Karve, food blogger says that Pune being a city of foodies, people do love to try innovative flavours. Talking about such unconventional ice cream flavours, Karve says, "I like the green chilly ice cream at Bachelorr's near Girgaum Chowpatty in Mumbai." He adds that flavours such as paan-ice cream in Kolkata and ginger lemon ice cream in Mumbai have gained tremendous popularity.

"The colour of such unconventional ice creams needs to be appealing. Also, care should be taken that there isn't an overdose of the flavour or it may be too much for people to handle," says Karve. Such unconventional flavours do not last for long, but if they appeal to the people, they may last longer. "If such ice creams are priced at a low rate, people will not hesitate and try them out," says Karve.

One can make such innovative ice creams at home too by altering some ingredients. For example, to make honey ice cream with cloves and cinnamon, one needs to infuse a small amount of clove and cinnamon powder in the milk for an hour. This milk can then be used to prepare honey ice cream, which will ensure a hint of these spices in the final product.

The next time you are in a mood to experiment, try these flavours to add spice to your life, literally.