Friday, 19 July 2019

The Not-So-Polite Observations of an Old Sour Grape

Hey there! If you are a blogger friend, I heartily congratulate you for having made it to The List. Non-bloggers (is there a muggle-like word for them?), it is a big thing to be on The List if you are a blogger. It is a comprehensive list, kinda like the Yellow Pages Awards for bloggers. Every blogger worth his words will be on The List. 

Every once in a while (probably every two months?), I am pleasantly surprised to see updates upon updates from delighted bloggers of having made it to The List. It is most likely that it is every blogger's dream to be acknowledged, to make a difference with words and thoughts that reach across the globe, enlightening, entertaining, healing the world with his/her prowess and knowledge.

I hasten to visit The Site, every time it comes up, and scroll down to the R's. R...Ra..tensing as I arrive at Re...nope, not there. Oh, yes, yours truly and blog are not on The List, as usual. Well, what did you expect, I say to myself. Writing whimsical stuff when it catches your fancy that caters to no one in particular, goes by a punchline that says, Always Expect the Unexpected, and you expect to be on The List? Pah! So not happening!
Are you even a blogger if you are not on The List, I ask myself. Yes, existential questions and self-doubt rack the mind. 

I casually wonder at the ingenuity of the person compiling The List. Smart guy/gal, this one. I hear listicle is a favorite blogging tool to help generate good SEO. (Look Ma, I am even learning to use some tech jargon in my blog)
This guy generates these listicles much like the honors list or the report cards one used to get in those harrowing wonder years. There are categories of these listicles, and pretty exhaustive lists these are. Besides the Top 25 Blogs, Top Travel Blogs, Top Food Blogs, Top Personal Blogs, there are other lists as well. Well-meaning, all-inclusive Lists like 1st, 2nd, 3rd consolation prizes, everyone gets to be on a List. In fact, it requires a special kind of talent to not make it to The List. Ahem! I surmise, I have not lost my touch in this aspect - consistently not making it to any list that matters.

The ones on The List definitely form the happening crowd of bloggers - some veteran reknown names, some consistent players, some newbie bloggers, some who've entered blogosphere from the happening Instagramland, to conquer this third-world SM realm. Yes, it does have the creme de la creme of bloggers. 
Blogging is much like Bollywood. You need to keep at it consistently. Be seen everywhere. Create controversies. Hob-nob with the hob-nobbable ones. Oh, yes generate content too.

And then I think...what if in the next Season of Listings, my blog makes it to The List? What then? Won't I be doing everything I could to tom-tom the breaking news, shouting it off roof-tops, nay, SM timelines? That ethereal moment in the limelight, however feeble its light, is what drives every being to chase his dream. Maybe I'd go that way too. 
Then again, I could demur! Be like the hoity-toity Amir Khan type or the award-waapsi type, and not do it very quietly either. I'd head to the SM and nonchalantly disclaim my claim to fame - that should make for some desirable noise - ruffling feathers.

Speaking of ruffling feathers, I think this post is certainly going to make inroads on that aspect.
Meh! I am just a good ol' sour grape! 


Copyright © 2019 KALA RAVI

Monday, 8 July 2019

Melon, Almond, Peach or Grape?

Don't judge a book by its cover, for appearances can be deceptive. 
Sounds great on paper, but real life and real people can be so confusing and paradoxical!
Just when you think you've figured out a person, he does a 360 degree turn and you are left wondering if it's the same person!
Still, I think inherent personality traits could be analogized to these edible references...
Image source:Pixabay
A melon is hard outside and soft inside. 
A hard almond shell has a hard nut inside.
A juicy soft peach has a hard seed at its core. 
A grape is soft outside and inside.

Then again, whatever the personality type is, there just might be some situations, certain circumstances that challenge, make it imperative for him/her switch from their stereotype. 
Most of us are not just black or white, but varying shades of grey. A timid cow can turn into a roaring lion while a raging bull may become a docile kitten. 

Hard outside, soft inside
The ex-king of RuritaniaThis fictional character from P.G Wodehouse novels has left a lasting impression on me*. 
"The ex-king of Ruritania's position as official stander on the sidewalk outside Barribault's Hotel was one of splendour and importance." - Full Moon (Blandings Castle)
This statuesque and imposing personality is the first one you encounter when you have to enter the Barribault's Hotel which welcomes only the creme de la creme of society. The ex-king admirably performs his designated task of daunting and deterring lay mortals or "the proletariat" as Wodehouse puts it, from entering the hallowed echelons of Barribault's. His mere presence seems like rigorous scrutiny to undesirable clientele, making them squirm and spirit away. 
But then, one is relieved to note that the blue blood of the ex-King tends to run a little less blue at times. It just happens that the position he holds is a lonely one and he occasionally gets off his high horse to seek the company of lesser beings. And hey, he is a pretty normal fellow, sociable even, when he does that! 
Sometimes one needs to look past a daunting exterior, unravel it and get to the soft core. 
* I'll have to admit here, my partiality to all things Wodehouse, compelled me to select this character over other more deserving references!

Hard outside, hard inside
On the other hand, what if you took the example of the ex-King of Ruritania to heart and decided to venture into a lion's den hoping to bring out its deep-rooted/non-existent gentleness? 
I certainly can't imagine the spine-tingling, Hannibal Lecter being anything other than what he is! Brrr! Foreboding exteriors can have equally scary interiors! 
Many times you hope that difficult, adamant, hard persons will eventually turn out to be congenial, approachable, but they are like a granite stone - what you find outside is what you will find inside - hard, rigid and unbending. The kind of person most likely to lead an army to victory or head a successful enterprise.

Soft outside, hard inside 
It is extremely challenging to deal with people with a gentle demeanor and a strong heart. Yep, silk hiding the steel within. Not necessarily a negative trait but it certainly can throw you off-balance. You can misinterpret their soft exterior as a weakness and land a rude shock when you encounter the unyielding or strong center. Ask Ravana about Devi Sita, Duryodhana about Draupadi or Allaudin Khilji about Rani Padmini. Beautiful, fragile beings who couldn't be made to budge or bend against their wishes.

Soft outside, soft inside
It is no hoot being a softie and a pushover. Almost everyone, takes you for granted. Take Yudhisthira or Dharmaputra for instance. A character who was soft-natured, easily swayed, and gentle to the core. Characters you want to scream at, "Have some spine for God's sake!" Then again, in a world so chock full of hard nuts, sometimes all you need is a soft marshmallow or a gooey-centered choco lava cake with no rude surprises waiting inside! 

And then again, what is a hard or a soft trait? 
Is hardness a negative trait, one that is ruthlesss and tough to break? Or is it an armour to shield the softness within? A turtle would literally think so! 
Is a softness a trait of weakness, one that enfeebles its beholder? Or is it an enigma to flummox a tough opponent? A wolf in sheep's clothing would certainly be disconcerting!

We humans have this innate need to find good in ourselves and in our fellow beings, even the harshest ones - like looking out for rainbows when it's raining. 

So what kinda personality are you? 
A Melon, Almond, Peach or Grape? 
Maybe you're a bit of all, a fruit cocktail?
Don't know? Well, nothing really makes sense, life doesn't make sense, you've just got to fake it till you make it.


Copyright © 2019 KALA RAVI

Monday, 24 June 2019

Just an evening walk

It is past mid-June and monsoon still hasn't hit Mumbai in earnest, I ponder as I watch the overcast skies and laboriously stroll on my usual walking track. It's a 2.5 km circular paved walkway surrounding a water body. One that has currently almost dried up in parts and left a choking stench. The stench motivates even the laziest walkers to turn into eager runners in an attempt to get past the overwhelming nasal assault in a hurry.
Ugh, I wince as the enthusiastic jogger passes by me, dripping sweat all over. Everyday I am awed by his perseverance at giving strenuous exercise a shot in such unbearable weather. 
Discussing the idiosyncrasies of the weather all the time, we Mumbai folks are rather going the British way, I say. While fair-weather folks write happy poems on nature, lesser mortals are left thrashing one another on social media, or like me transform to Dame Crib-A-Lot.
I smile at the young couple (overweight of course), enthusiastically pushing the stroller, their sweet baby asleep now. It is a lifestyle challenge to not put on weight with the abundantly available junk food, comfortable, effort-free living and screen addiction. It's a wonder a couple this young even has a baby, what with fertility issues being a common feature nowadays. 
Today out of the blue, my son decided to do something inexplicable. He asked to join me on my evening walk! What made him want to do this...when he could be at the mall chilling out with his friends or playing games on his tablet? I have no clue! Right now, my pride and joy know no bounds as I see him parking his cycle to join me.
I've decided to show off the merits of my beautiful walking track, the glorious sunset views, and if his attention still persists, discuss my observations of the people I see everyday on the track. It's a Sherlock thingy you see - the new one in the series 'Elementary' that my family is currently hooked to.
We pass this heavy-set young person (boy-going by his close-cropped hair, girl-going by the chest straining tee-shirt) walking briskly as he/she huffs by. A lady in dainty pink track-wear and a glossy, high ponytail jogs past. My son remarks that people who are really keen and serious about exercise always have a frowny or sour face while they are at it. Hmm, that is quite true, I muse. Maybe it is the strain of the focus or the harsh weather or maybe it's just what I've suspected all along - exercise is no fun!
My son reminds me of how we all loved walking on our holidays abroad. Oh, yes I remember how enviously I used to watch the locals who exercised so enthusiastically. Especially the office-goers who changed into sweats, jogged a cool 7-8 km, showered, grabbed a quick lunch and went back to work, all rejuvenated. Sure, you can think and do all that when the weather outside isn't like this!! πŸ‘‡πŸ˜ πŸ˜°πŸ˜“ Out here, a stunt like that would be suicidal! 
The group of three middle-aged women (err, like me? No, older!) is approaching. Always dressed to the nines in the best branded jogging suits, shoes, armed with fitness trackers and head phones, they are all also heavily made up! God knows how they miss seeing each other or themselves in the mirrors post the workout - with smudgy kohl-eyes and washed out patchy foundation, scary!
Further along the path, we see the bench with the old couples, neatly dressed, sitting on "their bench" enjoying the mild breeze. The men are inevitably discussing politics and the women as usual, speaking in hushed whispers. They must be exchanging notes about their husbands, daughter-in-laws or maids, I am about to tell my son. Tut, tut, I reprimand myself and tell him instead, "They are probably discussing a new recipe."
Several lovey-dovey couples pass by, new ones every day. What is common however is, the look of total absorption on their faces when they are talking to each other and their utter determination to snag the perfect selfie. To be young and in love! Examining it further, I think love was simpler in times of landline phones, no internet, letters and photo albums!
Image by <a href="">Willfried Wende</a> from <a href="">Pixabay</a>
We are heading towards a spot on my walking track that will bring us to a bench which is always occupied by the same man, irrespective of the time of the day. I am eager to hear what my son has to say about this strange character - the man on the bench.

Earlier, I'd thought it to be a mere coincidence that this man chose to be on the same bench every evening. When I changed my walking time to mornings, he was still there, at the same spot! The stranger thing was, he was always writing something into his notebook and never looked up. Maybe he was working on something complex like accounting/book-keeping and he was tallying end of the day records? I started observing him more keenly. A diminutive, nondescript personality probably in his late thirties, he was always dressed in a modest white shirt and grey pants. The bench he sat on had old newspapers spread across. There was small bag beside him with more books, a lunch-box and a water bottle. One day I even managed to have a closer peek into his notebook that he was so intently writing into. He was making intricate squiggles and doodles, scores and scores of them! 
Weird! Maybe he is a homeless, harmless, quirky guy who is trying to create a Guinness record on crazy scribbling, living on a park bench. What will he do when the rains come? I wonder. Without fail, I see him on his spot, at his book, every single day that I walk. 
We are approaching the bench...but what is this I see? Arghh! The man on the bench is missing, absconding from his fixed address - bench next to light pillar no 56 is empty! 
The son looks at me expectantly. But what can I say? The man has disappeared! I check to see if I am at the right spot. I am. Theories on the missing person race past my head, while my son calmly pats my shoulder and says, "You know ma, you could just have been imagining this? You have been watching quite a bit of Sherlock." 
Humph, just my luck! I recollect (possibly a past-life regression) a chapter from math on probability. "What is the probability of an event that has been consistently taking place  for the last six months not happening when you really want it to?"
Feeling deflated and embarrassed, I move ahead, casting furtive backward glances to check if the blasted man is back on his seat. 
We are almost at the end of the track and I am still unable to come to terms with the guy's disappearance. I momentarily freeze on my tracks as I see him approaching. It takes me a bit to realize it's him for I've never seen him upright, or walking or doing anything besides poring over his notebook. Hallelujah! I excitedly nudge the offspring and whisper, "It's him, this is him!"
He does look pretty normal, doing something equally normal...walking alongside a woman, talking in muted tones. I pretend to take a break to tie my laces. Oh, so the man decides to walk and talk. The couple passes us by and I turn to look back. He has his arm around her shoulder. Nice. Normal. Pah! 
"Come on ma, it's too hot, I can't take it anymore!"wails the son. I agree, I can't take this let-down anymore! We head back home. 
There is loud crash of thunder and it starts drizzling. Tomorrow, I am definitely going for my evening walk, come rain or shine. Will he be back on his bench doing his routine doodling or will he be gallivanting around like today evening...I wonder.
And you never know, if the rain really sets in and the sweat on my back actually dries up, I might dole out happier musings!


Copyright © 2019 KALA RAVI

Tuesday, 18 June 2019


Mamis of yore specialized in culinary ventures and were reknown for their samarthiyam1 in everything under home-management. Be it, cooking, cleaning, accounting, home-remedies, health-care, child-rearing etc. they were the ultimate masters of the game. 
With the passing ages, gen-next mamis have notched up the game. 
Sungudi cottons have given way to linens, thirukurral classes have taken on the online mantle, lunch virundhu2 has morphed to sumptuous brunch, kashayam has transfigured to herbal tea, vambu3 sessions have shifted venue to online video-chats, ekadashi vratham has morphed to detox plan....and so on.
Armed with the cultural background and a strong foundation of values handed down through generations of venerated senior mamis, these new generation ladies are in addition, professionally qualified, tech-savvy, street smart and globally well-informed! They are, mind it, even more evolved forces than their older avatars. 
I refer to a generation born between 1960-1980 and I guess I am going to be rather infamous for even referring to this elite force as "mamis" despite the prefix of gen-next! So how about a "Yo-mami"?
While older mamis relied on age-old, tried and tested formulas and solutions from their ammas4 and paatis5 for all their domestic, health and other queries, mamis of today have the power of Google! With Whatsapp forwards and Facebook pages doing the rounds, containing everything from tips to strengthen the knee, gut, liver, pancreas, to relationship management, to parenting, to coping with old age, to staying positive, to leading a happy life on Mars, yo-mamis are a terribly knowledge-enabled lot!
It is a Sunday morning and not a very uncommon sight to observe our yo-mami, slipping on her transition bifocals first thing as she wakes up. She takes stock of the previous night's and early morning forwards (owing to time differences) from her multiple family and friend groups spread across the globe. Her trained eye misses nothing, dismissing old forwards, she scouts for new, fresh ones to forward that will surely elicit thumbs-ups and smileys. Of course, she also monitors her forwarding exercise, not too many, keeping  a strict tab on repeat forwards, that is a serious faux-pas of newbies! The daily panchangam app keeps her abreast of any forthcoming pandigais6pirandanaals7 and what nots.
Phew, a major chore done, she heads to the kitchen, sighing approvingly at the waft of her favorite lemongrass green tea that she has trained her husband - mama to brew. 

A word here on mamas. They are a species do I put it...haven't really evolved, hardly changed from their older versions. Hence, they do not get upgraded to Yo-mama status. The clothing sense may have changed a tad, they are also tech-savvy but reluctantly so. At heart, lies the quintessential overgrown mamma's boy who loves his non-happening weekends devoted to leisurely loo-time, endless news reading and watching, lots of thumb twiddling, a traditional heavy lunch followed by a good siesta and of course, the company of limitless tumblers of hot kaapi all through.

Mama glugs his  second cup of strong filter kaapi while reading the e-news on his new I-Pad that the son has got him on his last visit. Mama misses leafing through the good ol' newspapers during his "morning ritual". But of course, yo-mami is right, no point in sacrificing trees to get your bowels moving.
Soaking green grams to sprout for tomorrow's lunch, yo-mami whisks a smoothie of spinach, beetroot and almond milk with a tiny scoop of brown sugar for her breakfast. Mama of course gets the same sans the sugar, to account for his bulging midriff. 
Stoically he gulps the concoction while hoping this health-spree passes away just as quickly as it did in their past 'post-US trip' phase.
Yo-mami in the meanwhile browses through her favorites menus on youtube, to decide what to make for lunch today. While she has fresh quinoa in stock, she knows mama is craving for something spicy. Ah, burrito it would be today! Of course a no-onion-garlic version for the m-i-l.
Mama let's out a loud belch as he sets down his smoothie glass which sets yo-mami off to google...home remedies for flatulence and bloating.
Enter, mami senior, mama's mom. "Yennacchu pa? Yeyppa chattam naalu veedu talli kekaradu!" (What happened son? Burping noise can be heard four houses afar!)
"So disgusting no amma? I am just googling a remedy for that." 
While mama looks on in panic, yo-mami hands him a glass,"Here drink this apple cider vinegar with water, you should be okay in no time."
Yo-mami's face is scrunched over her phone as she browses light-on-the-stomach recipes for lunch.
Mami Sr drones,"Ido parupesama innikku chuda, chuda zeera rasam pannu. Adu kudda perungayum potta mor sadam, ellam seria poyidum." (Look here, today simply make piping hot cumin rasam with asaefoetida doused buttermilk and rice, everything will be alright) 
Mama's face lights up and yo-mami concedes, "Seri8 amma, that is a good idea. But first, he needs to get off the sofa and start moving around, half the gas problem is because of his sedentary lifestyle," she declares quoting one of the helpful forwards she read just today morning.
"Okay ma...I'll go to the xerox shop with the pen drive to take printouts of the ticket bookings of our upcoming Ladakh trip," says mama as he reluctantly vacates the couch.
"Aiyyo! Who takes printouts? Just save them as pdf's on your phone."
"But now come here first, amma you too...I am video-calling our little one."
The chat begins with the customary enquiries about the time difference, temperature and lamenting how underfed their darling looks. The two women, alternately offer advice and tips to the novice daughter studying overseas (obvi east coast US!). She receives tips on OPOS cooking from amma, taking oil bath twice a week from paati and checking bank balance regularly from appa.
Yo-mami ends the chat, looks at the time, quickly calculates the time difference and starts off on the next chat to the son working in the west coast (you know where) while making lunch. She makes subtle enquiries to inveigle any nuggets of information on his future plans viz. wedding plans, that yield nothing better than, “Amma for the nth time, there is no news! Now stop bothering me and tell me how to make vatta-koyumbu from this Grand Sweets mix you sent.”
Next on her agenda is a weekend Madhubani workshop. Draped in her raw silk saree with ikkat blouse, large bindi, chunky jewelry, glares on the head and a branded tote on her arm, she drives to her class, ensuring the bluetooth-feature is enabled for hands-free calls.
Yo-mami's back home in time for lunch. Post lunch it is time to order groceries, gifts and what-nots online. Also it's the time to catch up on all the scores of messages on FB and Whatsaapp. Twitter is her new frontier and Instagram her bestie. Snapchat is something looming on the horizon that she hasn’t made up her mind about, besides her 64 GB phone data space is running a little tight. 
A ping from the food delivery app informs her of a one-day-only pizza BOGO offer. Great! So that sorts out her dinner and next day’s lunch while mama could have some light soup tonight. On the other hand, it nullifies her mindful-eating regimen, hmm, she must remember to mindfully savor each bite of the pizza.
It’s evening. Yo-mami dons her tasteful pastel pallazo-kurta, ready to attend the screening of Hamlet at the theater. Mama is dragged out as well, with offers of unmissable cold-coffee and multigrain cucumber and cheese sandwiches at the theater, which he despises. Oh well, at least it would be dark and the A.C would be pleasant, mama concedes.
They are back home and mami sr is setting up the table with the pizza box and a large casserole of creamy thayir sadam9  tempered with mustard seeds, finely chopped green chillies, ginger, curry leaves and garnished with pomegranate - something which even yo-mami cannot resist. Especially along with her special olive oil aavakaya pickle! 
The sandwiches at the theatre are sitting heavily in yo-mami’s tummy. Just a scoopful, she promises herself after her third scoop, relegating the pizza to the refrigerator.
Ahh, nothing like thayir sadam, is there?
Maybe, all this is like old wine....ahem...arishtham in a new bottle!


Glossary of Tamil words used:

mami: a respectful address used for any Tamilian lady (typically TamBrahm) acquaintance, something like the ubiquitous Auntyji though it literally translates to mother's bro's (mama's) wife, mami.

1 samarthiyam – capability, efficiency
2 virundhu - feast
3 vambu - gossip
4 amma - mother
5 paati - grandmother
6 pandigai - festival
7 pirandanal - star (nakshatram) birthday
seri - alright, okay
9 thayir sadam - curd rice
arishtam - Ayurvedic health tonic (may or may not contain alcohol) Fermentation of herbs in order to release active ingredients, generates alcohol in these preparations.

Read more from,

 The Mami Saga:

1) Common-place Curd Rice

2) Kaapi-ready

3) Of Dangling Drumsticks, Wily Vadus and more

4) Idli Seria Vanduda?

5) Mamievolution

Copyright © 2019 KALA RAVI

Thursday, 9 May 2019

The Flame of the Forest

The Flame of the Forest

Come summer, the greens doth vanish
Dusty, parched and dry it is
In a flash they do appear
A bright red canopy takes over
The Flame of the Forest
Here to greet the scorching sun
A sight for sore eyes
Flamboyant in its regal majesty
Fiery blooms that arouse my glee
Harbinger of the summer’s zenith
Summers of fun and magic
Innocence and awe
A time to hide and seek
Beneath the flaming blooms
To dunk into old favourite tomes
Seek new adventures
Chase dragonflies
Hunt for luscious berries
Or simply laze
And gaze at the glory in red
Paens they sing of flowers many
None for this splendour in scarlet
Nature’s gift is the Gulmohur
Redeemer of a dull and drab summer

Copyright © 2019 KALA RAVI

Monday, 15 April 2019

Summer Snippets

As a casual, unbiased observer, I can tell you that folks exercising in Mumbai's open air at any time of the day, during the wonderful months of April, May or for that matter even October, are brave folks. They are the kind of recruits a commando team would aspire to have; relentless, persevering and undaunted by the rigors of a Mumbai summer. I drive past a walking trail with a wildly popular open-air gym and gaze in wonder at these striking examples of human grit and determination.
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay 
Let me be more specific about the Mumbai summer. Temperature-wise, we used to be pretty cool in comparison to say Nagpur, Ahmedabad or Delhi, but nowadays Mumbai temperatures are casually touching the dreaded 4o degrees celsius mark. Add to this the additional scene changing aspect of humidity and we have a killer formula! A formula that can siphon your energy and bring you to your knees, crawling towards the nearest fan/AC in no time. 
I have observed that summers are the ideal time to host international cricket matches. It is one of those plots to legitimately slay your opponents using the advantage of your home turf's life-sapping climatic conditions. If we natives find the heat oppressive imagine what it would do to people accustomed to temperate weather?

At home, the most coveted seat during these months is the one directly under the ceiling fan. One that everyone fights to occupy at all times. The doorbell rings. I warily rise from this besotted seat and make my way towards the door, away from the radius of the fan coverage and the floodgates break out...sweat pouring from every goddamned pore. By the time I am staggering back to my sanctuary under the fan, the throne has been usurped by the offspring. A few emotional words reasserting the pains I went through delivering his big fat head, washing countless nappies and sleepless nights spent turning over the cold compresses on his hot forehead...and he finally relents and I re-usurp the throne.
You see I am conscientious about A.C usage, what with the ceiling-hitting electricity bills. But there is only so much self-control one can have. A few days into this kind of ill treatment from the weather gods and I buckle down under the pressure; the A.C is on 24x7, mind you, only in one room of the house and that is where you'll find the whole family, alongwith each one's set of inseparable mobiles and chargers. Doorbells go unattended, landline phone calls unheard, but honestly? Who calls or rings when the world is scorching at 38ΒΊ celsius and rising with 150% relative humidity?

Summers are the time when schools declare holidays, considerate to the fact that humans can endure either mental or physical trauma, only one at a time. Of course moms are exceptions to this rule, what with us being called super-humans or demons. 
The kitchen is one under-privileged area that does not have access to cooler climes. Cooking comes close to third degree torture. I see rivulets of sweat pouring down my arm and forehead as I stew over the stove and I am reminded to stay away from ordering outside food as I imagine strange filthy cooks poring over steaming pots in unventilated kitchens with giant burners and....ewww!! Swiggy, Zomato et al can keep promoting no-cook summers but I am not going down that alley! But, but, but, mommies are always expected to do their best under all circumstances, right? Your kids practically live to eat during summers and thus born out of survival instincts are, inventive one-pot recipes. I can claim fame to a few such time and effort-saving recipes myself (patents pending). Recipes that keep the offspring satiated for at least 2-3 hours, while you pick up the trail of fun activities enthusiastically begun and strewn all over the house, right until your next battle with the ladles and pans. And no, not sharing them here, you do remember this blog is all about relaxing and raving and not anything really helpful! 😈
Main meals aren't the only thing your summer cooking entails. You can't believe the amount of munchies and the gallons of beverages the kids and their friends can put away when they are upto various fun "activities" like playing online games or staring at the screen all day. Many moms make hay while the sun shines and are upto their elbows in pickle, jam and goodie-making adventures. I've indulged in such ventures too and beat a hasty retreat when I realized that the kitchen is a place of no reprieve or escape. 
By the time I am done ladling out the last batch of goodies and stirring a fresh bucketful of homemade lemonade, I hear a clang. The clang of a large, empty aluminium drum hitting the floor. The pack of wolves, they call kids has managed to polish off that huge mound of goodies, emptied the juice barrel while spilling half of it, before I even came out of the kitchen! That does it! Kurkure, Lays, Tang and whatsoever junk it is for you folks!

Summers are not always about holidays to hill-stations, exotic trips abroad....and family get-togethers? Sadly, they are not so common today as grandparents are older and less agile than they used to be, folks live continents apart and maybe, just maybe because hearts aren't as large as the homes we have today. 
While you can keep reminiscing about those notorious pranks you played on/with your cousins and the amount of grandma's food you scarfed, the truth is it was all in the past and you really need to stop boring gen-next with those stories! You need to make summers memorable for your kids. You do want them to inflict their kids with their own stories of childhood summers, dontcha? 😜
I've engaged in some rather fun and fulfilling art-craft summer projects when the kids where younger. One of the motivations to do so being to save myself from the hustle of shepherding them to the umpteen, highly expensive and over-rated hobby classes that mushroomed all over during this time. Classes that taught you to fold paper, mold and paint ugly vases, stick buttons in a pattern, go crazy with glitter, dance to a Bollywood tune using PT exercise steps...ahh, I could do this too. You see, these young wards make for some really awesome, enthusiastic and high energy-level helpers provided you package it well. Something fun, engaging, interactive, creative and yet not too mind-boggling or back-breaking. Intrigued? Again, Relax-N-Rave declines from sharing further.😈 

As the kids have grown older, summers are now all about exams and coaching schedules, designed to traumatize and distress students. For some pessimistic reason, most graduate/college exams are held in the month of May! Kids whiz in and out of home, to and from classes or test series. So now you are holding fort, ensuring they are sufficiently hydrated and nourished, carrying all their documents, not over-stressed or demotivated, ready and alert to pick up your purse and disapparate in a jiffy to where you might be needed. 
Holidays are a nightmare to plan with conflicting available dates, snarky dismissals and fussy stipulations over destinations being insta-worthy over everything else!  
Then I ponder, how will summers be when these birdies fly away from the nest. No extra cooking, cleaning, no screaming kids, no yelling back from me, books not splayed all over, beds neatly made, no toys lying on the floor to trip over, the throne under the fan all mine...sigh and oh so sad...boohoo! Life! 
We oldies would probably plan a getaway to cheer ourselves up. We'd start conversations dedicated to the hot, sultry weather, global warming, progress to how things have changed so fast and end up swapping stories of summers gone by.


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Copyright © 2019 KALA RAVI

Monday, 14 January 2019

Kutch Diaries #Shopping

My Kutch trip so far with visits to Dhordo and Dholavira were experiences of cultural, geographical and historical significance. But I still needed to get my retail experience to round it all off!
Follow the three part Kutch Diaries series:

Kutch Diaries #RannKiKahaaniya >> Kutch Diaries #Dholavira >> Kutch Diaries #Shopping

After a refreshing overnight stay at Radisson Hotel, Kandla (read my Tripadvisor review) I was eager to venture on the last leg of my Kutch trip, shopping! 
With limited time on my hands, I decided to visit the highly recommended LLDC, Ajrakh Studio and Bhujodi. (Kandla - LLDC 42 km, 1 hr)

LLDC, the Living and Learning Design Center is one of a kind craft design, education, learning and resource center, a pioneering effort of the Shrujan Trust. A trust which has enabled the beautiful work of simple women from rural Kutch to reach across the globe while giving them a regular livelihood, maintaining records of their techniques, materials used, creating new designs to market their creativity to more contemporary tastes.

Getting There
Located at Ajrakhpur village, 15 kms from Bhuj, it is easily reachable by public, private transport, chhakada rickshaws.

Admission Fees
Adults - Rs 50
Children - Rs 20

Tue-Sun (10 a.m - 6 p.m)

Photography is strictly prohibited in the museum.

The LLDC, Shrujan Trust

The LLDC center in itself is a visual treat with it's eco-friendly, energy conserving architecture. The tour of this center begins with an inspiring and informative AV in the auditorium. The museum consists of three galleries, a library and a craft studio.
The galleries have state-of-the-art temperature, light and humidity controls to carefully maintain the treasures they display. 

On display are the myriad hand-crafted perfections, the intricate hand-embroideries of 12 different Kutchi communities with over 50 different styles! Art and craft that has been passed down through generations from mother to daughter is being documented and preserved and it is a fantastic effort pioneered by the founder of the Shrujan Trust Late Smt. Chandaben Shroff (or Kaki as she is lovingly called).

Some stories behind the crafts of Kutch
We were fortunate to have an extremely passionate guide, a Shrujan Trust volunteer who took us through the galleries and gave us enlightening insights into the cultural and socio-economic background of the talented fingers that did all the beautiful handwork. 
Image source
When we asked about the entirely black clothed community Rabari women, he explained that they wore black because of either of these three reasons:
1) Legend has it that a Muslim king fell in love with a Rabari girl but the community refused his proposal. When the furious king threatened to kill the entire community, they escaped with the help of a Muslim man from the king's court. He was consequently killed for the treachery. It is to mourn the death of this man who helped to save their honor that the Rabari women wear black.
2) The Rabaris wear black to mourn the death of Lord Krishna whom they worship.
3) The woolen yarn came from black and white sheep. Since the black yarn didn't have takers, they used it for themselves while they sold off the white yarn.

We came to know that the Dhebhar Rabari community women had totally stopped the custom of using their embroidery work for themselves. This was because of an age-old dowry system wherein girls had to painstakingly make several pieces of embroidered garments and only then be allowed to get married. Community members finally decided totally scrap and ban this practice so that the girls could get married at the right age and not be restricted to getting married only after their dowry was completed. Today, these women create embroideries only for commercial purposes, thanks to the work of NGO's.
Another interesting fact I learned was that the intricacy and amount of embroidery on the garments worn by females - the ghagro (skirt) , choli (blouse) and odhani (scarf), varied according to the stage of life they were in. Playful, fully embroidered clothes for the besotted child, whimsical elaborate embroidery for the teen girls, just choli embroidery for the busy married woman and bare minimum embroidery for the old woman.

Shrujan has taken the pains to document and display the various kinds of embroidery patterns, styles, methods followed by different nomadic, semi-nomadic artisans of Kutch communities such as Rabari, Ahir, Aari, Jat, Mutwa, Meghwals, Node, Sodha, Harijan etc. 

The embroidery consists of five elements: Mirrors, Motifs, Stitches, Borders and Style. An interesting fact we learnt was the communities living in close proximity often picked up each other's embroidering styles and incorporated those into their own unique styles.
Our Shrujan volunteer made us smile when he told us that the talented embroidering communities often quietly listened to instructions from various NGO's regarding design inputs and finally executed what they thought best!
Small samples of individual stitches in craft rings depict the intricate patterns and stitches while specially created frames display the richness of the work in all their glory. Some of the works take well over 6 months to a year to complete! It is mind-blowing work of such high quality and intricacy! 

Contemporary turn to Ethnic Embroidery
Earlier these embroideries were made by the Kutchi women only on cotton or woolen fabrics over skirts and blouses mainly as wedding trousseau but today they cater to contemporary markets. Embroideries are made on fabrics like chanderi silk, raw silk, tussar silk, satin, mangalgiri cotton, ikkat, linen, jute silk etc. Modern garments such as pallazos, dress yokes, kurtas, stoles, tunics, jackets, gowns, accessories such as bags, purses, mobile pouches and furnishings such as table runners, coasters, wall-hangings, cushion covers, bedcovers etc. are now adorned with intricate mirror-work, colorful embroideries like Pakko, Aari, Kharek, Neran, Suf, Garasiya Jat, Mutva etc.
I tried my hand at block printing at the Craft's studio.

The Shrujan store is a treasure trove of the most exquisite collection of the best of Kutchi hand embroidered products where I went totally head-over heels shopping! The prices are steep but when you realize how much time each painstaking project takes, you make no bones about coughing up the amount! Each product comes with a tag mentioning the kind of embroidery and the name of the artisan. You are in essence paying to own nothing less than a prized heirloom! Do check out the slideshow above to see the different kinds of embroidery works.

You can easily spend 3-4 hours at the LLDC and still be left wanting to spend some more time, like I did!

Additional reading: 
Communities and Culture of Kutch - Gujarat
The Rabaris: The Nomadic Pastoral Community of Kutch

The Ajrakh Studio
From the LLDC we headed to the nearby Ajrakh Studio famous for Ajrakh block printing and dyeing. Ajrakh printing is a lengthy process in which multiple block printing and washing of the fabric happens several times with natural dyes and natural color fixatives like lime, tamarind paste and even camel dung.

The Ajrakh Studio belongs to world-famous Ajrakh artisan Dr Ismail Khatri and his family carrying on an ancestral art. You can watch a wonderful AV which shows how the entire dyeing and block printing using multiple blocks is carried out. Though we could not meet the legendary Dr Khatri when we visited, he is usually around and speaks to visitors about the intricacies of his art and trade. The adjoining store has beautiful ajrakh-printed fabrics, stoles, sarees, bedsheets etc. that are now in great demand world-wide.

Additional reading:
Ajrakh - A Journey with Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri

Our next stop was the famous textile and handicraft village of Kutch, Bhujodi that is about 8 km from Bhuj. Vankars, the weaving community live here and entire families are involved in the weaving, dyeing and embroidery process. Most of the yarn is mill-produced that is woven in looms while the dyeing in the traditional tie-and-dye process is also carried out here. One can enter the homes of the Vankars and observe them at work where they create beautiful shawls, blankets, sarees and more.
Running short of time, I had only time enough to quickly browse through the place.
The shops here sell terrific stuff at very reasonable rates and are a must visit for any one visiting Bhuj. I visited Rakhiyo Hastkala shop and was blown by the variety and reasonable prices of some really amazing handicraft works, bandhini sarees, cutwork dress materials, embroidered pallazos, handbags, purses, wall-hangings and more.

Additional reading:
The Vankars of Bhujodi: Woven in Warmth
Bhujodi Weaving - Bhuj

You could check out this article for your more extensive shopping in Bhuj:
Shopping in Bhuj, India

And there! I was at the end of my Kutch trip! Time to head back home with happy memories, experiences, interesting trivia and lots of shopping bags! 
If you are a shopping or textile enthusiast you should plan your Kutch trip to explore the richness of talent here.

I researched these resources for you to plan a textile trail of Kutch:

1) Kutch Adventures India connects travelers with skilled artisans of Kutch as well as to non-government organizations to promote and preserve the arts and crafts of Kutch.
2) Matsya Craft Tours offers customized craft tours to various villages in Kutch.
3) Breakaway offers tours to hamlets in Kutch to see age old priting, dyeing and embroidery techniques alongwith interactions with the artisan communities.
4) Indus Discoveries has special tours to visit the artisan communities that are an essential part of the cultural heritage of Gujarat



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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and it does not intentionally promote any place or property. All the information and opinions shared here have been gathered and compiled by me based on my personal experience. 

Copyright © 2019 KALA RAVI