Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Prayerful start to Bahai New Year

The 300-odd followers of the Bahai faith in the city will be celebrating Naw Ruz or New Year today. The faith, which was founded around 150 years ago, has nine holy days that are observed throughout the year. Naw Ruz is one such holy day of the Bahai faith.

"On Naw Ruz, the Bahais across the world go on a holiday, organise get-togethers and rejoice," said legal consultant and a follower of the Bahai faith Marzia Dalal.

Today, Bahais from the city will gather and offer prayers, sing devotional songs and also play games and have dinner together. "In Iran, Naw Ruz is celebrated by people of all religions," said Dalal.

Founder of the faith Baha'u'llah propagated that religion is not a matter of birth but a matter of individual investigation of the truth. Dalal said people belonging to different religions have adopted this faith. "On Naw Ruz, we sing songs and offer prayers in different languages such as English, Persian, Hindi and Marathi. This day provides an opportunity to aspiring poets and song writers to share their talent with the community members," said Dalal.

The Bahai calendar has 19 months of 19 days each and four intercalary days to achieve a balance with the Gregorian calendar. These days are dedicated towards doing social work and charity. The Bahais observe fast during the 19th month, which is from March 2 to March 20 and the New Year is celebrated on March 21. "During the fasting period, we generally meditate, read scriptures and offer prayers. It is a symbol of learning detachment," said Dalal.

Bahais do not have a fixed cuisine. They follow the traditions of the region they live in. "Before Naw Ruz, we clean the house and prepare sweets," said freelancer Jyoti Mehta. She added that their day starts soon after sunset and the family members gather around a table to offer prayers and have dinner. "The table has a copy of the sacred book, a mirror, candles, incense burner, bowl of water with a live gold fish, the plates and vessels with green sprouts, flowers, fruits, coins, bread, sugar cone, various grains, painted boiled eggs and seven articles beginning with the Persian letter S," said Mehta.

She added that this tradition is a part of the Persian culture and is not invoked by the writings of Baha'u'llah.

Interior decorator Naresh Mehta, who belongs to a Jain background but follows the Bahai faith, said, "Though my family members aren't followers of the Bahai faith, we do celebrate it by preparing sweets and having a family get-together."

Meena Pandey, a secretary, said Naw Ruz is celebrated like any other Hindu festival in Maharashtra by cleaning the house, inviting friends, drawing rangolis and making sweets. "My sisters who have married outside the religion also make it a point to celebrate Naw Ruz," she added.

(Published in DNA Pune on March 21, 2010)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hobby infuses life into her limbs

Impossible is nothing, says a tagline of a sports' product and 28-year-old Rekha Desai seems to have drawn inspiration from it. Desai, who is bound to a wheelchair since birth, loves music and dance and knows how to pursue her hobby despite all odds.

Desai had an inclination towards music since childhood and has learnt the harmonium and classical music. "I always thought that I wouldn't be able to dance because of my disability, but after being admitted to the Helper of the Handicapped, an institution for the differently abled in Kolhapur, my fears vanished," she said. She learnt dance on her own by watching performances on the television and reading books on the subject. Desai has been teaching at the institution since the past six years.

"Our dance group has staged a programme titled 'Hum Honge Kamayab' in Pune and Mumbai. Our children compose music and sing and dance as well," said Desai.

"Dance therapy drives away all the stress from the body and mind. It also helps increase the self-confidence of the differently abled," she added.

Teachers learn jigs to treat differently abled

Dance therapist Pasha is conducting a workshop for special educators in the city

For 43-year-old Delhi-based Syed Sallauddin Pasha, the word impossible is alien.

A classical dancer, choreographer and dance and movement therapist, Pasha has dedicated over 25 years of his life towards the cause of empowering the differently abled.

Pasha is the founder of Ability Unlimited, a one-of-its kind Therapeutic Theatre Production, for people with disabilities. He is holding a two-day workshop for special educators who have come from all over Maharashtra at the Bal Kalyan Sanstha from Thursday.

Pasha has received many accolades including the National Award in 2007 for his outstanding performance in the field of empowering persons with disabilities.

"I use a combination of many therapies such as dance and rhythm therapy, emotional freedom techniques and group therapy to relieve the stress in the differently abled and help them open up," said Pasha, fondly known as Guruji. The exercises and therapies have been adjusted to suit the requirement of the differently abled.

"I am here to teach these skills to the special educators who can in turn use them to heal their students," he added.He said during group therapy, the participants feel secure. "We use various themes such as those of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Students get into a certain character, where they get a different identity altogether," he added.

He has worked with differently abled people across the world. And through such dance therapy sessions the differently abled get opportunities to showcase their creativity, said Pasha.

Claiming that the mindset of people towards the differently abled is slowly changing, Pasha said they don't want sympathy or mercy. But they need opportunities to prove themselves. The workshop will focus on the theory and practice of these therapies, the adaptation and the implementation of the dance therapy for multiple disabilities which includes both physical and mental disabilities.

Ability Unlimited is known for its dance performances from Indian epics by the differently abled, mostly using Bharatnatyam.

Published in DNA, Pune on March 19, 2010.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

All is NOT well

Studies suggest that one out of three women suffer from what is known as light bladder leakage.

Madhoo Sharma (name changed), 46, is an English teacher with a jolly personality. She is overweight at 120kg, and is embarrassed to attend social functions as she unknowingly passes urine whenever she sneezes or laughs loudly. She is one of the many women who suffer from urinary incursor incontinence, also known as light bladder leakage.

Hollywood comedienne Whoopi Goldberg, 54, has become a face of a new bladder control campaign and admits that she herself suffers from the problem. Goldberg has filmed a string of humorous short films, in which she plays a series of historical figures including Cleopatra and Joan of Arc all talking about bladder problems.

According to facts laid out by this bladder control campaign, this condition which has two types -- urinary incursor stress incontinence and urinary incursor urge incontinence --affects one in three women. Women aged above 40 are generally affected by this condition, but it has been observed that younger women have started facing this problem too.

Dr Sunita Tandulwadkar, head of the obstetrics and gynaecology department, Ruby Hall Clinic, explains, "As a woman's age advances and also after repeated childbirth, there can be a tearing of the supports of the pelvic floor leading to bladder leakage."

In older age, the content of the female hormone oestrogen is negligible in the body. This hormone is needed to keep the urethral sphincter closed. When this hormone is not present in adequate quantities in the body, the sphincter tends to open, leading to uncontrolled urine leakage. "When a woman facing this problem, coughs or sneezes, the intra-abdominal pressure is exerted on the sphincter, leading to leakage," informs Tandulwadkar.

Dr Ashwini Bhalerao Gandhi, consultant gynaecologist, says, "Due to this condition, the daily routine of the women is affected. But women tend to suffer and neglect the problem." She adds that when such a problem is faced, the woman should immediately consult a gynaecologist and ascertain what the problem is about. "There could be other reasons apart from urinary incursor incontinence for leakage. It could also happen due to urinary or vaginal infection," says Dr Gandhi.

"This condition, if present on a smaller scale, can be controlled by exercises such as kegels, self-control and by drinking adequate water," says Dr Meenakshi Deshpande, gynaecologist, Vatsalya Hospital.

(Published in DNA, Pune on March 8, 2010.)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Through the viewfinder

Beautiful hues, interesting patterns and unorthodox pictures is what Lomography is all about. This off-shoot of photography was discovered when two Austrian students went to Russia and found a different type of camera. That's when this kind of experimental photography was started.

Flavius Pisapia, 29, who hails from Italy, is one such Lomography practitioner in the city. Pisapia has been practising Lomography for the past 10 years. "The Lomography cameras are unique and sometimes even made of plastic. They are also very inexpensive and the range starts from $40 onwards," says Pisapia, who learnt Lomography from a friend in London, when he was studying film-making.

In Lomography, one can add different effects such as split images, two-in-one images, coloured flashes, different shapes such as square and rectangle. "One can use the flash with coloured gels to give the images a coloured effect," says Pisapia. One can also use digital cameras for Lomography.

"In this type of photography, film rolls are used and processed in colour labs. One can also use pin-hole cameras for taking pictures," he says.

Using the Lomography technique, photographs can be taken indoors as well as outdoors. Today, Lomography has a huge member-base all across the world. The website www.lomography.com is dedicated to experimental and creative visual expression, a playful combination of low-tech and hi-tech. It is also an amalgamation of a cultural institution with a commercial photographic and design company. It focusses on the unique imagery, style and approach of analogue photography and its further development. Lomography products are available on the website.

Pisapia conducts workshops teaching these techniques and the tricks of the Lomographic camera, popularly known as Lomo LC-A. "I have an 11-year-old boy coming to me to learn this art. This shows that learning Lomography doesn't have any age bar," says Pisapia.

This cult photography is now expanding from Europe to the other parts of the world and Pisapia feels that India should also join the movement.

(The story has appeared in today's DNA After Hrs, Pune)