Category Archives: India

Happy 70th! What ails my country?

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I wish A Very Happy 70th Independence Day to all my fellow Indian brothers and sisters 🙂 On this momentous occasion I’d like to briefly discuss about what ails India and Indians in general. It is not meant as a criticism but as an opportunity to reflect.

Its inertia. 

Yes that’s what it is. We are so used to a life of drudgery that we have no desire to get out of it. Its become a way of life for us. We are so used to corruption and handing out bribes for every little thing that we can’t envision a life without it. Like my father (rest his soul) used to say whenever he happened to visit a government office armed with a few thousand rupees and then proceed to dole them out incrementally starting from the peon to the officer in charge: “You have to or the job won’t get done.”

People are lackadaisical. They will stand around and stare at a dying man on the street and observe a helpless girl as she gets harassed by a bunch of goons but they won’t step in to help. Why? Because its a tamasha. A spectacle like that which unfolds in a movie theater. Why buy trouble?

And we have lost our voice that independence provided us. We feel empathy, shake our heads with regret but we don’t speak when we need to.

But all is not lost. Right now I feel a new India in my veins. We are waking up and perhaps realizing that the bonds that held us down for so long are old and rusty. They can be broken. Freedom is not a fairytale. It is a reality. Jai Hind!

Jugaad–Innovation the Indian Way!

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Necessity is the mother of invention. This is no more true in India where the lack of resources and the unquenchable aspirations of the common citizens prompts them to come up with ingenuous and often insane inventions. Here is a tiny sampling 🙂

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No electricity required- ‘Mitti fridge’ (a refrigerator made all of clay)

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The Beautiful Art of Kolam

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Kolam is an age old tradition in Southern India. These are temporary geometric designs consisting of curved loops drawn around a grid of dots employing rice flour/chalk/chalk flour or oher types of white or colored powders. Female members of Hindu families draw Kolams in the front of their houses. These are also known as Rangolee in Maharastra, Hase in Karnataka, Muggulu in Andhra Pradesh and Golam in Kerala.

While living in Chennai, I have watched with fascination my mother along with several other women on our street, drawing a fresh new Kolam every morning. This would be done after cleaning the floor with a broom and then with water. They would draw what appeared to be very complex designs in a jiffy, sometimes without lifting their hands off the floor. During the day the Kolams would get eroded by people’s feet, and the wind. But not to worry. A new one replaced it the following morning.

As always these Kolums are not just decorative. They have a cultural sginificance. They are meant to bring prosperity to the house and are symbols of welcome as well. There are many other purposes, but the following is what I found particularly endearing and is probably also true. In days of yore rice flour Kolams were drawn so the ants did not have to travel too far for food. They also attracted small birds and likewise other small creatures, hence welcoming other forms of life into the home and everyday life symbolizing harmony and peaceful coexistance with nature.

Below are a few Kolam designs drawn by my cousin and her friends 🙂

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Happy Republic Day!

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On January 26th, 1950, India adopted its own constitution and officially became an independent republic. Today, when our most fundamental right of Freedom is being threatened, let us all get together, not just Indians but global citizens of the world, and celebrate this very important day and determine to fight against all those forces who wish to snatch away what we hold most precious from us.

HAPPY REPUBLIC DAY! 

ind_constitution_premble_orgThe preamble of The Constitution of India

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First Republic Day Parade in 1950

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The Indian Tricolor setting the skies ablaze.

 

‘A Tanga Ride’ and an Excerpt from ‘The Accidental Wife’

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It has been more than fifteen years since I left my homeland and as expected the memories have begun to fade. Yet some persist stark and bright reinforced by odors, colors and textures and often bring a whimsical tear to my eye. If I go back now, I doubt my experiences will be similar as I’m older thereby more cynical though I like to think otherwise. Some of these reminisces are irreplaceable and as I don’t trust my brain enough I try to preserve them in my writings. Taking a tanga (horse drawn carriage) ride in Agra or through the streets of Old Delhi is one of them. The following scene in The Accidental Wife illustrates it—

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Then turning to Naina, Rihaan asked, “What now wife?”

She colored, appearing markedly disconcerted and made toward the autorickshaw stand.

He yanked her back. “No, that’s not what I had in mind.”

A few minutes later they were on their way.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Naina looked at Rihaan, concerned.

“I’m perfectly fine. Couldn’t have asked for anything better.” He let out a contented sigh, allowing his head to sink back into a pillow of fresh straw, and his worn out body to stretch along the length of the traditional tanga. With eyes closed, he inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with a mixture of the sweet hay and horse dung. The jerking rhythm, the clip clop of horse’s hooves, punctuated by the shrill cries of the tangawallah as they made their way through the busy thoroughfare was strangely comforting.

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‘Indian Elephants and an Excerpt from ‘The Accidental Wife’

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“A king who always cares for the elephants like his own sons is always victorious & will enjoy the friendship of the celestial world after death.” Kautiliya, scholar of Buddhism in India.

Whether it is a colorful figurine, a carved miniature, or a real live titan of an animal, the elephant is revered by many in the Indian culture. Said to be a gentle giant (the largest land mammal on earth), the elephant possesses attributes that humans strive to cultivate in themselves: intelligence, sensitivity, empathy, and self-awareness.

Indian mythology states that the devas (gods) and the asuras (demons) churned the oceans in a search for the elixir of life—amrit (nectar)—in hopes of becoming immortal. Through the churning of the ocean, navratnas (the nine jewels) surfaced, one of which was the elephant.

Reverence for the elephant has also been born from stories of the elephant being chosen as the carriage for Indra (the god of all gods) and visions of white elephants foretelling the birth of Gautam Buddha, in his mother’s dreams before his birth. Ganesha the elephant faced deity and son of Lord Shiva, is the god of wisdom and learning and the remover of obstacles. He is perhaps the most well known symbols of Hindu divinity all across the world.

The Asian elephant, the species that resides in India, has seen its numbers dwindle drastically in the past 15 years. At the turn of the century, nearly 200,000 animals roamed wild; now only 35,000 to 40,000 remain. Elephants are herbivores and eat up to 300 pounds of food a day. Preservation of habitat and eliminating ivory trade are vital aspects to keeping the elephant from extinction.

Elephant mothers are the ultimate example of a nurturing parent: carrying their babies for a gestation period of 22 months, giving birth to 200-pound baby, nursing for two years, then caring for and protecting the young elephant for the next sixteen years.

With so many endearing qualities and a history of cultural significance, the elephant is well deserving of its place of honor in the hearts of many Indians.

http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/elephants/asian_elephants/indian_elephant/

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/asian-elephant/?source=A-to-Z

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Excerpt from The Accidental Wife:

Inside it, she found some clothes just like the oversized ones hanging in the closet. They were of no interest to her. What caught her eye was a beautiful silk sari, tie-dyed in a rainbow of colors with decorated elephants marching along the borders and tiny shiny mirrors that caught the light and sparkled like diamonds. She flung it around her neck like a shawl and felt deeply comforted by the strong fragrance of sandalwood.

Underneath was a finely inlaid wooden box, inside which on a bed of tissue, lay several glass bangles in red, green and orange tied together with a string. Slipping them over her hands, she wondered if they were a gift from Rihaan. Instinct told her they were, thus filling her with a warm glow.

Trembling with excitement she dug deeper, and at the very bottom, found a large album. She flipped the pages over, only to find random black and white shots, of people and children on the streets. Nothing else. No blissful wedding pictures, in particular no family portraits, as if she’d severed all ties before coming here.

Feeling utterly wretched and frustrated, she tore the bangles from her hands and sank sobbing to the floor.

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