Saturday, October 28, 2006

Folk Mela @ Bangalore

Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat (KCP) situated in the heart of Bangalore at Kumara Krupa Road,near to the Bangalore Golf Course area hosted the Folk Mela from 20th -24th Oct’06. KCP is well connected by local transport. Spread over a spacious three acre area with imaginative landscaping, creative planning and the traditional village architectural style, the campus provided the perfect ambience for a Folk Mela. A plaza paved with stone and brickwork skillfully interspersed with grass, flowering shrubs and green trees, plus a food court conjured up an oasis for visitors.

The Folk Mela was organized by Kala Madhyam and Infosys Foundation was one of the chief sponsors for the Mela.

In the present age of fast modern life, cultural artists are fast losing their place in society. People have no time or interest in these artists, and there is considerable pain and a sense of hopelessness in these marginalized people. By showing an interest in their folk arts and folk traditions, Kala Madhyam tries to give them back their pride and means of livelihood. India has an amazing number of artisans dealing with myriad genres any country would be proud to have. But somehow they are pushed to the background. The main intention of this Mela was to showcase the folk art and culture and help artisans market their products and make their tradition a sustainable occupation.

A wide variety of skillfully crafted handicrafts, intrinsic to each part of the country was available in this exotic Mela. These range from intricate rosewood and sandalwood carvings, embellished camel hide footwear, to sophisticated fabric and drapery. Gems, beads, brassware, metal crafts, silk and woolens. The range was limitless.

The tradition of iron craft in Madhya Pradesh has been passed down from generation to generation and stands unmatched in skill and creativity. The iron craft of this region has a unique rustic charm. Excelling in iron sculptures, the craftsmen of the region experiment with each and every theme traditional or imaginary. The themes include local deities, armed tribal soldiers, horses, pigs, and different bird. The products consist mainly of decorative, worship and day-to-day living accessories. The sculptures are crafted with the traditional technique of heating, hammering, twisting, and cooling. The entire process is completed by one person, who is the artist, designer and blacksmith, all in one. With the growing demand, the artists have a more professional approach towards the size of production. Without drifting from producing the traditional objects, the artists have also ventured into modern day tastes such as birds, carved deeyas, candle stands, lattice, furniture and lamps.

West Bengal has some of the largest array of the finest specimens of temple terracotta panels. The use of terracotta plaques, medallions and wall panels as an integral part of architecture is undoubtly a speciality of West Bengal. The themes of these art pieces are drawn from epics and old legends. The style of the art is however essentially folk with very expressive designs. The plasticity of the material is very skillfully used.

Among the painting traditions, the devotional art of the pata-chitras, is a folk or popular style that centers around the worship of the God Jagannath. It also depicts many other religious themes as well, using the strong line and brilliant color that are typical of Orissan folk painting. I spoke to one of the artisans there and he briefed me the technique of making pata-chitra. The process begins with a sheet of cotton cloth being laid out on the ground. To this cloth is applied a coat of gum or glue made from tamarind seed. Then a second cloth is laid on top of this and another layer of tamarind glue is applied. The cloths are then left to dry in the sun. When the layered cloth is dry, it is cut to the desired sizes of finished pages and burnished on both sides, first with a coarse stone and finally with a smooth pebble. The design is sketched and the outlined areas of the sketch are filled in with primary colors, traditionally from vegetable or mineral pigments, but in recent years from store-bought colors also. Large areas of color are applied first and the details are then painted in these areas of solid color. When the painting is completed, it may be covered with a coat of lacquer.

The present day craze for body painting among the urban youth has suddenly revived interest in mehndi — the natural and pain-free art of decorating the hands and feet. Today, mehndi has taken the place of tattoos and the many harmful chemical applications for colouring the skin. Consequently, mehndi is no longer applied only on the hands and feet. Nor is it restricted to weddings and festivals. There were lots of people who were waiting for their turn to get their hands colored with the latest designs. Cones were used as convenient tools for creating new patterns, just as paper stencils are available for instant application. There were different shades ranging from bright red to deep brown, for appropriate highlights and outlining of patterns.

A tradition of puppeteering has long existed in Rajasthan. A traveling form of entertainment, it uses the ballads, retold in the voice of the puppeteer who is assisted by his family in erecting a make shift stage. Puppets are strung on the stage and recount historic anecdotes, replay tale of love and include much screeching and high pitched sounds as the puppets twirl and move frenetically. The puppets themselves are fairly simple creations. Mostly, they consist of painted woodenheads draped with dresses made from old fabrics and sequined for charm. The most elegant aspect of these puppets is the way their expressions are painted; large expressive eyes with arched eyebrows and curling moustache for men or a nose ring for the women.The puppet show ended with a dance performance to the tune of the song "Main Teri Dushman,Dushman tu Mera,Main Nagin Tu Sapera".

There was a wide spectrum of dance performances. I attended the shows from Uttaranchal(Barada Nati folk dance), Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh(Dafhu folk dance) and Kerala.

The day’s most spectacular performances were by artists from Rajasthan. The dance consisted of a veiled woman dancer balancing up to seven or eight pitchers and then swaying with the soles of her feet perched on the edges of a brass plate. There was a sense of cutting edge suspense and nail biting acts in the dance. The most thrilling part was when the artist performed the same dance feat standing on a grid of iron nails.

Then there was this sapera dance. The sapera dancer wears a long,colorful skirt embroidered with sliver ribbons. As she spins in a circle, her body sways acrobatically, so that it is impossible to believe that she is made of anything other than rubber. As the beat increases in tempo, the pace increases in such a pitch that it leaves viewer as exhausted as the dancer.

The martial art dance performance by artists from the rolling hills of north Kerala’s Wayanad District also impressed many. Kanavu(meaning ‘place of dreams’) is a unique learning community in Kerala. I spoke to one of the mentors in this school and she shared with me the learning curriculum followed in the school.Kanavu promotes the rich tribal heritage, music, painting, dance, theatre and martial arts followed by academic instruction in specific subjects by experts from various fields in Kerala. Tribal folk songs and rituals form the core of the effort to reinforce their sense of identity.

The entire day was full of action and learning for me. Ron, gave me company for the entire day and also helped me a lot while speaking to the local artisans and taking my photographs. An unpleasant and disappointing incident occurred when the entire earnings for the last three days of a small shop was found stolen by some stranger. The shop was run by a group of eight widows who had traveled to Bangalore for this Mela. But then true to the saying that the spirit never dies, when the cause is noble was proven by a young Australian student. She informed the gathering about this mishap and within no time all the people gathered for the Mela donated money voluntarily to make up for the loss.

The spirit and the fire within the artists should never die and the show must go on and on and on........ I was indeed happy,infact satisfied that I celebrated my Deepavali with the true lights and sparkling stars of this country, my fellow folk artists and artisans.

Keep reading and remain connected.

Cross-posted at Desicritics

(Note: The pics in this blog is part of a big collection of snaps I took that day.Incase you need to view the full album send me an email at tanaybeheraATyahooDOTcom)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dispel the Darkness: "Deepavali"

There are many theories connected with the festival of Deepavali, the festival of lights, but the primary reason is the celebration of light of knowledge over ignorance.

The Sanskrit word "Deepavali" -- Deepa meaning light and Avali, meaning a row. Every home is awash with the orange glow of twinkling diyas (small earthen lamps) lit to welcome Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity.

Have you ever thought why we celebrate Deepavali? In most cases, the general response is, "to celebrate Rama's return to Ayodhya after his exile". But there are many more legends behind the festival of lights. For few, the festival is connected to the amrit manthan or churning of the ocean. Legend has it that Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, appeared on the Kartik amavasya during the churning. Hence Lakshmi is worshipped during Deepavali, which falls on the Kartik amavasya. In south India, the primary reason for Deepavali is to celebrate Krishna's victory over the asura Narakasura. According to one version, Sathyabama, Krishna's wife, takes up arms against the demon to give her husband rest. A third story links it to the Mahabharat. The Pandavas, banished for 13 years after the game of dice, reappear on the Kartik amavasya. Another touches upon Vishnu's Vamanavatar. As Vaman, Vishnu pushes King Mahabali into the world of the dead. But because Bali's only fault was his pride, he was allowed to come to earth to light lamps and spread love and wisdom. In Kerala, it is said Bali is allowed to visit his former subjects, the celebration being Onam.

Fast forward to the present era of 21st century.

The new generation’s way of celebrating "Diwali". During Diwali, when markets are bullish, shopping is a necessity and is considered fortunate. Advertising and marketing gurus harness the festival season to the maximum to cash in on the 'buying' mood of the populace through innovative marketing. With so many malls and shopping complexes mushrooming in the Indian cities, these have become the melting pots for Diwali celebrations.

As Diwali approaches, markets are swarming with buyers splurging on anything under the sun in preparation for the festivities. However, over the years traditional markets selling utensils and clothes, have given way to swanky malls featuring cars, two-wheelers, ornaments and modern gadgets including TVs, refrigerator and cell phones. All these have changed the idea of "Diwali" and lighting of earthen diyas has been substituted with a new modern way of shopping pattern. Corporate giants, be it automobiles, consumer durables, IT, finance or apparels almost everything appeals to the instincts of the people and make a kill to post higher sales.

A number of Diwali fairs and carnivals are organised these days and in Bangalore recently the concept of shopping fest is soon becoming popular. This festival season, The Forum mall in Koramangala, is organising a true value shopping festival. The highpoints of Forum Shopping Festival (FSF) are the performances of artistes from Bulgaria, Hungary and Dubai who perform throughout the days in the mall. They showcase interesting items like juggling, stilt-walking, fire-throwing, Balevi performances, twirling dance and Hungarian cultural acts.

The small shopkeepers hawking earthen "diyas" and Lakshmi idols have now gone to the background but it’s worth noting that the number is still interesting if not phenomenal. The salespersons at up market outlet showcasing designer trousseau and traditional ethnic wear has been taken over by festive discount sales from Lee, Levis, Tommy Hilfiger,Marks and Spencer and many more. It is the time to keep the cash registers ringing. Traditional earthen diyas have been replaced by designer diyas and electric "lichi" lights. Consumers are saying good-bye to traditional sweets during this Diwali season and fast turning towards low calorie cookies and cakes. People now search for an alternative to sweets. People have gotten exhausted eating sweets especially during festivals and for a few dry fruits is a healthy choice. Decorated in beautiful trays and jars, dry fruits too make the best choice for health conscious and look sophisticated and refined as a gift.

We have forgotten the "galli wala" mithai shops specialties such as the jalebi, besan ke laddos, kaju barfi and the list is endless. Nowadays beer has somehow become the preferred drink on Diwali among youth. A considerable amount of booze is consumed in India during this time. I don't know or am I aware about the exact numbers, but judging from the crazy rush at local liquor stores, pubs and bars, the night before or on Diwali, it’s a lot. In the most of the offices (MNC’s, ITES’s and BPO’s), Diwali parties are common with load music, dance and local DJ’s humming the latest tracks such as "It’s the Time to Disco". For a few the long weekend (4 days leave including the Eid al-Fitr) is a long awaited opportunity to go on a hiking expedition, or to a hill station (Coorg, Otty, Munnar for Bangalore junta) or better to the hometown if someone is close to Bangalore.

So that’s Diwali….

What I did in Diwali?

I am not in favor of bursting crackers on Deepavali for 2 obvious reasons.

1. People spend thousands of rupees on purchasing crackers and fireworks.These gets burnt out in a fraction of a second. Youngsters and elders know where to buy : crackers, chocolate bombs and other banned fireworks.Every child enjoys lighting crackers. But, we seldom give a thought to the people who make the crackers. They are children, who are forced to work for almost 22 hours a day to give us moments of joy. They can only make these crackers, they cannot burst them. The poisonous chemicals, which children have to handle or inhale, can cause life-long damage to their health.

2. Noise pollution is one of the most harmful effects of this festival. The smoke and the bi-products of crackers pollute the air and the ecology is hindered. The worst part is people burst crackers in the streets, in the apartment complexes and in the market localities but never ever think for a while to clean up the area after all the fun and enjoyment. The next day morning the area bears the picture of a war affected zone littered with papers, plastics and earthen lamps and containers.

The Friday evening,I spent some time with one of my friends, Ron. Other than that had been to meet lot of my school friends and other office colleagues. I was elated over the fact that all the people I know celebrated Diwali in simple way but with oodles of creativity. Ron, made a simple photo frame all by herself using some disposable waste components and presented it to one of her friends with an ever lasting memorable pic tucked in it. One of my school days friends Aurobindo along with Aparna took me for a long drive and then we had simple food and some lighting. The pics below I guess can speak about the creativity that has been involved.(Shutter work is my handiwork :-),creativity part is Auro+Aparna )

Finally the day ended with long hours of chat with all my friends at Barista over a cup of coffee, walking back to the childhood pranks and college days. Finally we were all back home by 1:00 AM.

I felt it this way. Perhaps more of us could take a leaf out of the books of other cultures, other traditions, other spiritual perspectives, and finding those things we can celebrate and remember together? Yes, that's a thoroughly postmodern way of doing things. Taking bits from many beliefs and creating your own set of perceptions about the world and the Powers that influence it, celebrating and honoring across culture and creed. Diwali has always been more a social than religious festival. It is a personal, people-oriented festival when enmities are forgotten, families and friends meet, enjoy themselves, and establish or renew a world of closeness.

A festival of light and beauty, Deepavali encourages artistic expression and builds a strong sense of community. The diverse cultures and customs of India mingle together in a wonderful celebration of joy, light and unity.

Keep reading and remain connected.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Is it about Words…

Anit, 29 bachelor, ambitious but confused. Finally got rid of his uneasy dream. It was already nine in the morning. This seemed unusual, but that day he had reasons for oversleeping. However, he was not sure what might have caused it, but his countenance spoke of his not-so-good night's rest.

The bright sunrays through the partially opened window penetrated mercilessly into his domain, and owed little to the state of his mind. It was a gratifying morning, sunrays enveloped the wide prairie, dewdrops dangled on the grass, and leaves rustled so as to simulate some melancholic whisper. This pleasantness was just enough for many to forget all their sorrows. Anit, however, was almost indifferent. Until yesterday, the big house with the huge courtyard in the front, where hundreds of tulips merrily blossomed, gave him a sense of contentment. But that day, a strange feeling of abomination was clouding his senses. He was carpeted by his inventory of memories. He was pulling on with his life but few alarming questions always put him into deep thoughts. Compulsive school eduaction, engineering school and the rat race to realise his dreams (do you need a sleep to do that…) in the fast track open society of endless challenges which people call US of A. The whole acquisition that he held within his existence suddenly reduced to a size his vision could not comprehend.

Even though he could not stand the continuous ringing of the phone, which was deliberately distorting the morning silence, he walked slowly toward the telephone."Anit, you are late," the familiar voice on the other side exclaimed.

He knew he was late. Had it been just another normal day, by that time of the morning he would have already been flooded with con-calls and brain storming sessions in his cubicle. He listlessly replied, "Venky, looks like the headache is going to burst my head. Friend, I think I need a day off."

It is needless to say that he was lying, but his peer had no good reason to suspect the predicament that he was in. Venky understood.

Venky and Anit had been good friends since they had started engineering school together. Perhaps it was the similar background or their identical mindset, because of which they always cherished one another's company. During his stay at the engineering school, Anit was obsessed with becoming a journalist, and the thought of updating the people was a real challenge and rushing from one place to another. But then, things did not materialize the way he wanted them to. He became an Engineer. He had no regrets, however.

Time flies, he felt. California is the place where he wanted to be and right now he is sick of it. Everyone here is thirsty about money and he too knows that he is no exception and he proudly brands himself "A BIG BULL SHIT". Whenever one turns the wireless, the news assaults your soul; the world is littered with dead children and pain. Anit prefers solitude so he avoids the supermarket and the zooming life there. It’s too complicated. Grim checkout people urgent to get home. Kids breathing asthma. Babes bawling immediate needs. Bald headed young men pushing forward, rings in their ears and girls demanding more. Car parks cluttered with stress earned money. Housewives hurrying, car exhausts, liberated women with little freedom. The exhaustion from sleek cars, too much really too much choice. Too big and too modern but too lonely for him.

The feeling of emptiness was crawling all over him that day. The silence of the room and the incessant trickling of the dewdrop from the windowpane aggravated his loneliness. Thinking of ways to get out of this predicament he turned the music on.

"Jaate jaate wo mujhe achchhi nishaani de gaya umr bhar dohraoonga aisi kahaani de gaya…" Jagjit Singh’s touchy voice in Silsilay started to fill his abysmal void. The old vintage gramophone in his plush studio apartment was inducing more nostalgia to his being. Meanwhile, his body rested on a chair and his lips moved feebly uttering the lyrics of the song, word by word. While he relaxed and sang to himself, a sudden gust of wind rushed into the room and pushed the photo-frame resting on his bedside onto the floor. Nay! He was not oblivious to the fall, but the sound of the breaking glass and the music mingled so perfectly that he thought the incident did not need any attention. After a while, Anit's lethargic legs moved ceaselessly towards the broken pieces of glass. Her face was immaculate as ever and her eyes had a radiance that no one could stand. She was still smiling even though the jagged pieces of glass were all set to make it obscure. He did not move. He stared at her eyes for some time then he thought to himself, 'Is this all true?'

Ananya was a vivacious girl. She had a charm that no one could resist. Her ponytail properly made and it was the small bindi, which was the epicentre of her beauty and the dimple on her cheeks, just an acknowledgement that she was there. She had the eyes, which made you feel like scuba diving in it and remain drowned in the deep waters for long. She was undoubtedly beautiful; but what made her different from the rest was her eloquence -- she could talk about anything, and could make anyone believe that she was the most truthful. It was this eloquence that had mesmerized Anit.

It was about two years back when Anit had met her for the first time in a technical convention. She was a journalist. A few exchange of words that day laid the way for innumerable meetings that gave them a chance to know one another in a very short period of time. She had her own ways of expressing her interest in him, and he too made his inclinations apparent numerous times. Their togetherness was hinting nothing but an inception of a new episode. Anit had a strange trait, however. He was an introvert. He did not shed a drop of tear when his parents died in an ominous car accident or did he rejoice when he secured the dream job in the campus or when he made to the Grad School he was aspiring for since his childhood. Even though he was very considerate and empathetic, nobody could discern this unless one knew him very well. Ananya, on the contrary, was an extrovert, not exactly but an ambivert to be specific. She had been explicit enough to express her love on several occasions.

Anit, even though he loved her whole-heartedly, never really expressed his feelings. All he plagiarized quite often was:
"Don't follow me, I may not lead you. Don't walk ahead, I may not follow you. Just walk beside me, I'll be there forever!"

His aesthetic sense and her sense of appreciation blended almost intricately, and remarks such as these were more than enough to soothe her heart. Time went by and with it increased her longing to hear the words of love and commitment, which he never thought worth discussing. He always said, "Ananya, I cannot commit since I have so many other priorities." For him life was all about piling degrees and climbing the ladder of success (this is one crazy word, bloody SHIT) in the corporate circles, everything else appeared to him secondary.

She used to get hurt knowing that she was not his priority; but even then her love for him never reduced. Someone had once said to Anit, "A girl needs to know when she is being loved and when she is not" This thought was not alien to him, but what he instead felt was, "One does not have to express one's love by saying it in words."

Since he never really resorted to words, sometimes he wondered, "Why do people hold so much stigma about love? Is just saying 'I love you' everything?" He was sure there were innumerable ways to express one's love. Unfortunately, he never really uttered these three words that Ananya yearned to hear so much. These words never had any value in his eyes and he had the conviction that these are better suited for the tinsel and glossy world of films and artificial empty movie dialogues.

Although the contents of the world are sometime static, we all have different windows to look at the same thing. Although his heart was filled with love, his own belief that love was something to be felt rather than to be manifested in words did not coincide with hers. She had a different view. She needed an explicit verbal conveyance of his love toward her. Their professional obligations had always kept them busy and left them with very little time to spend together. Anit ran like a mad dog always engrossed in his work but noone ever understood him or his point of view. But Anit always felt that the physical distance could be of no consequence so far as he was convinced of her love. What he never tried to do was to see the world from Ananya's eyes; and he guided himself with the belief that every action of his was as impeccable as could be thought of.

Alas! Only if he would have known that his beliefs could cost him his love...

One cannot expect the world to rotate around one's own vision. But, he was late to realize this. Meanwhile, Ananya was getting weary of his attitude, and was slowly drifting away from him. Anit was unaware of Ananya's desire to be told, "I love you." Then one night his phone rang. It was Ananya. But it was not an every day call he used to get. In fact he was not ready for what was about to unfold."Anit," she said, "I am getting married!" The news shook the floor beneath his legs... A whole world of emptiness and chaos engulfed him.

A long pause, and a feeling of ambivalence crawled over the ambience. She continued, "Although I loved you with my life, you never really conceded your love for me. I wonder if you even cared!" His quivering lips moved so as to utter, "Why? You did not even say 'I love you' for once!" He felt as if he had not slept for thousand years, and was tired of traveling endless miles of his belief. He imagined himself in the shackles for an unjustifiable crime that he had committed. He felt like a conqueror who had won the battle at the cost of things for which the battle was fought for... Moments later, the receiver of the telephone was hanging downwards from the table. But even till today a question pinged him .Is it 'the words, spoken verbally' that matter or 'the treasured feelings and the caring' that matter. Probably explicit these days is more conspicuous and carry more weightage than implicit.

He realized his loss. No he did not weep as was inherent to him. Only if life had been so much blissful, he would have just sat and cried! he said to himself. Come on buddy buck up, kaal office bhi taau jana hai….

A four-letter word (L _ V E) that every living being feels and goes through it. Try to fill that blank with the letter that first comes to your mind and without it life is like a structure similar in dimensions to that letter but empty within. But why is it that in humans sometimes it kills them, it moves mountains for them. Well is it because Adam cried for Eve or Eve cried for Adam or is it keeping humans busy so much that they miss something more important?? Speaking of crying do you realise that when you cry for someone you feel that, how much of love you hold for him/her, but not when you laugh with him or her.

Am I wrong?

This is a fictional article based entirely on my imagination, any resemblance is merely a coincidence…

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