The photographs in the envelope

It was close to noon sometime last week. I was at work and wrestling with some pending bills, my least favourite task in the world.

“The morning mail’s here and there’s a packet for you,” announced G, my office assistant as she came into my room and handed a medium-sized envelope to me.

“Personal or official?” I asked, glad for the distraction.

“I think it is personal,” said G as she turned to leave.

“It is. And I know what’s inside too,” I said when I saw the return address on the envelope. “Go, get the others. I think all of you will like to see this.”

Within minutes my office team had gathered gathered around my table and the envelope had been cut open and its contents spread on the table — lots and lots of photographs of my family, many of which I was seeing for the first time.

Photos, memories, stories, Black and White

“So many photographs!” exclaimed a team member. “Someone in your family must have been very fond of photography.”

As we went through the photographs, I told them of the two photographers in the family who had taken the bulk of the photos. I also shared the memories and stories behind the ones I could recognise, and how the photographs in the envelope came to be sent to me.

Continue reading

How “Happy to Help” Vodafone misled and lied to me

Vodafone has been my mobile phone service provider for almost 13 years now. It has not always been a smooth relationship, but I have never felt the need to shift to another service provider. Until recently.

It all began my recent trip to Uzbekistan. This was a 10-day long trip and while I could have lived without a phone during that period, I knew that I would have to connect with my mother at least once a day by phone. They weren’t to be long chats but just a quick hello to re-assure her that I was fine, and for me to know that she was fine as well.

I knew from prior research that all the hotels I would be staying in had WiFi and while I could use that to access the internet, they were not supportive of WhatsApp or Viber calls. My mother is not text savvy, so I could only connect via phone calls.

Ideally, I should have used a local number to keep in touch with my mother. But my smartphone has a micro-sim and it is a pain to remove it and put it on. Just the thought of changing the sim was enough to make me decide on using my regular number with an international roaming pack provided by Vodafone. My brother, who also has a Vodafone cell connection, used one of their international roaming packs and was quite happy with it.

Unfortunately, my experience turned out to be radically opposite to his. It turned out to be a saga of misleading information, lies and obfuscation from the moment I contacted Vodafone at around 11 am on 16th September 2015 on the eve of my departure to Uzbekistan. The very “Happy To Help” Vodafone extended their customer service support in a way that doesn’t do what they promise in the picture below.


This image is from a Vodafone site. Do click on the photograph for the source.

Presenting the entire experience in the form of a timeline.

Continue reading

Mahisasuramardini: The slayer of the buffalo demon

Today is Vijaya Dashami or Bijoya. Today is the day when the Goddess Durga defeated Mahisasura or the buffalo demon, after a fierce battle that lasted 9 days and 9 nights. After killing him on the 10th day, Durga came to known as Mahisasuramardini or “she who killed the buffalo demon”.

Durga, Mahisasuramardini, Hindu Mythology, Indian Art, Indian AestheticsThe story of Mahisasuramardini (which you can read here or here) is perhaps one of the best known in Hindu mythology, and its associated imagery is one of the most recognisable.

I was introduced to the story of Mahisasuramardini by my grandmothers, and also my mother’s recitation of the Mahisasuramardini Stotram. Like most children of the 1970s, I was introduced to the popular imagery of Mahisasuramardini through Amar Chitra Katha’s “Tales of Durga” (see picture on the left).

It was this image of Mahisasuramardini that stayed with me till 1997 when I visited Mahabalipuram. I saw Indian sculptural art in a ‘natural’ setting for the first time, including this depiction of Mahisasuramardini. That was when I realised the immensity, beauty and power of the narratives I had heard and read from the time I was a kid.

That visit also marked the beginning of my interest in Hindu mythology expanding to include its representation in classical Indian art. And Mahisasuramardini fascinated me like no other, which, thanks to my travels in India, I came across in Aihole, Ellora, Patan, Vadnagar and Nalla Sopara. Artiistically and stylistically, each one of the relief sculptures were very different, and yet unmistakably that of Mahisasuramardini.

Continue reading

A Saturday in town

I love South Mumbai, or town as many of us refer to that part of Mumbai. It is one of my favourite areas of the city and I’m always looking for excuses to head towards that side of the city. Need to buy a book? Want to stock up on dry fruits? Buy a gift? Meet a friend for coffee? No, problem. I just make a trip to town. :)

I haven’t been needing an excuse these last couple of months. Every Saturday, I head to town for my PG Diploma in Indian Aesthetics classes. Though they are in the afternoon, I try to combine it with other ‘work’ or explorations in town.

South Mumbai

About a month back, I had a minor fall that left me with a sprained ankle. Nothing serious, but my doctor didn’t want me gallivanting to town in local trains or walking around and straining the ankle, especially since I was due to travel soon. (I leave today. Yay !). That meant that my forays to town had to be restricted to going for class and coming straight back home. It was a depressing thought !

A couple of days later after the fall, I got a mail from Blacklane, a car ride service referring to an earlier email exchange. Sometime in June, Blacklane had reached out offering me a ride anywhere in Mumbai. Since I didn’t need one at that time, I declined and we left it that. The second time around, I didn’t decline, Blacklane offered me their services a couple of Saturdays back.

This is an account, in pictures, of that day in town.

Continue reading

Woven Wonders of Varanasi: A ‘beautiful’ disappointment

I love museums. Regular readers of this blog will know that museums have played a very important part in developing and furthering my interests and knowledge in art, culture, history and sometimes, even deciding where to travel to next. Though not all museums have been uniformly good, I have never left one without having learnt something new there, something that has added to my knowledge. Till recently, that is.

About 10 days back, I went to see an exhibition titled “Wonder Weaves of Varanasi” at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai. The aim of the exhibition was to showcase textiles and weaves from Benares / Varanasi as part of the larger ‘Make in India‘ campaign. It had been curated by Shaina NC, and was organised in association with the Ministry of Textiles of Government of India, and supported by Lakmé Fashion Week.

Prior to my visit, I had seen tantalising pictures of the exhibits on social media and then came across this newspaper report, which got me all intrigued about the exhibition. Since I knew next to nothing about weaves from Benares / Varanasi, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with them.

So, it was with great excitement that I arrived at the Museum, and my very first view of the exhibits justified that excitement.

Woven Wonders of Varanasi , Make in India, Shaina NC, Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mubai, Soecial Exhibition, Benarasi Weaves, Handlooms and Textiles

However, when I left the Museum after viewing the exhibition, my mood was very different — puzzled, disappointed and a little angry as well.

Let me elaborate.

Continue reading

Winter of 1992

In my previous post on the “Summer of 1992“, I shared with you one of the reasons why that year was so important for me. I continue with another post on the same theme, but set in the winter of 1992. Once again, this involves travel for the purpose of study as part requirement of the Master’s programme in Geology I was pursuing at that time.

“Right. Everyone take off every single piece of metal on your body and keep it in your bags. No belts, earrings, chains, rings, loose change, metal rimmed spectacles, etc. You cannot carry any metal inside as it is dangerous. Also, no lighters or matchsticks or any combustible substance.”

I listened to these instructions carefully and started taking off the metal items on my body. My classmates did the same.

“Once you’re done, please keep your bags in this corner of the room. Don’t worry about its safety for the room will be locked and a security guard will be stationed outside.”

It took us a while to remove all metal and combustible items items from our person and pockets, put them in our backpacks, and then stow them in the corner indicated. Finally, we were done.

“Everyone done? Good. Come and collect these hard hats and headlamps from me. I’ll show you how to wear them.”

All of us lined up to collect out ‘gear’ and get ‘kitted’ out with a growing sense of excitement and wide grins on our faces.

“All set, everyone? Good. Follow me.”

And we followed him as led us down a flight of stairs going into the earth. Deep into the earth.

Continue reading