Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

2015 has been a strange year, a tad surreal even.

It has been a year of fulfilling long-held dreams, exciting travel experiences, great perspective shifting books read, poor health thanks to my allergies, unexpected happiness and loss, achievements and opportunities lost, friends made and lost… among others. But most of all it has been a year of serendipity. A year where attending an event led me to take a decision that I now know has enriched my life in immeasurable ways and has imperceptibly changed it too.

On January 25, 2015, I attended a session on “Why a Library of Classical Indian Literature?” at the Jaipur Literature Festival, which had Sheldon Pollock as a speaker. I chose to attend this for two reasons — (ii) my niece had a lot of good things to say about Pollock’s writings, and (ii) the idea of a library of classical Indian literature was intriguing. To say that the session was great and Sheldon Pollock inspiring is a huge understatement, but what it did was to rekindle a desire to study classical Indian literature and art in a formal and structured setting.

Back home in Mumbai, I enrolled for the PG Diploma Programme in Indian Aesthetics conducted by Jnanapravaha. (I must add here that I had known about this course for about 2 years and had been dithering over joining it.) Classes began in July and at this point, I’m half-way through the programme. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the programme has raised more questions than given answers that I sought. And I mean this in the best possible way as I think, read and research into Indian Classical Art. In other words, I’m still feeling my way around. :P

That was 2015.

I don’t know what 2016 has in store for me, but I hope that it will be enriching. I begin 2016 with some travel to new destinations, which have been influenced by the programme I’m enrolled in. One of them is Mahabalipuram, which I visited in 1997 at a time when I neither understood its relevance or its beauty. I hope I can do both this time around. Watch this space for more. :)

Mahabalipuram, World Heritage Site, UNESCO, Film Camera, Travel

Mahabalipuram, May 1997. Apologies for the poor quality scanned photograph

Happy New Year, dear friend. Thank you for reading, commenting, writing, sharing, appreciating. Wish you the very best that 2016 has in store.

Before you go, I’d like to know what was the most important event in 2015 for you? And what are you looking forward to the most in 2016? Do share with me in the comments section of this post.

Cheers :)


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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.

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

Vodafone has been my mobile phone service provider for almost 13 years.  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 with 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 stay in touch with her via phone calls.

Ideally, I should have used a local number for that. 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 is also a Vodafone customer, had used 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 the eve of my departure to Uzbekistan. The very “Happy To Help” Vodafone extended their customer service support in a way that didn’t do what they promise in the picture below.

Vodafone-customer-service-number

This image is from a Vodafone site. Click on it for the source.

Presenting the entire experience in the form of a timeline.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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