November 15, 2016

And on 9 November, 2016...

In another part of the world, another Pandora's box was opened. 

Donald Trump became the President of USA

My money is not money any more!

We will remember 9 November 2016 as the day when the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in our wallets ceased to be money. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a television address to the nation at about 8 pm on 8 November, announced demonetisation of these two denominations of currency. We were in Chennai when this happened, and Harsha was driving us to the airport so we could catch our 10 pm flight back to Hyderabad.

The news first hit us via the ubiquitous friend Rekha messaged on our college group. We were sure it was a hoax. Soon, people on other groups to started posting this news, and we began sitting up, quite alarmed by this sudden announcement. The change would become effective 4 hours from the time we heard it!

It was about 11.30 pm by the time we reached Hyderabad and took a cab. We were not sure that our money would work. Luckily, we managed to get a cab who would accept the 'old' currency, and so, we got home.

Modi had opened a Pandora's box, no less.  He had managed to take the entire country's mind off what was happening 10,000 miles away - the election in the United States of America between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump!


10 years and 299 posts!

Wow, I've done 10 years, and I can't believe it myself! Although one can ask, why should the number 10 be more important than any other number? It should not be, but since we have words like 'dasha', 'decade' and so on, it is a mark that is recognised and respected. For me, it is a very important number because I was born on 10 January!

Since 2006 when I started blogging, all of us are 10 years older. My children were 13 and 8, Vijay and I were in our 40s/50s, my parents and other older people in the family in their 70s. We have all moved on the conveyor belt of time. While this is a good thing, there is sadness too. The children have left home, my parents have had their share of hospital visits, and we sometimes feel like we are back at the drawing board, wondering what life is all about. Existential angst...but then, you realise that growing up is good, and old and older is a good thing.  

The other thing that makes me very sad is that my teacher, Jaganmohan Reddy Sir, has been missing since 2 years now, and some close people like Mohan mama and Aditya are no longer around. 

Moving on to happier  thoughts, the one thing that makes me very happy is at how empowered we all have become over the last 10 years. Our smart phones are so loaded with incredible apps that life has indeed become much easier. I went to Ahmedabad 2 years back to visit Ragini who was interning there. I did not know the city. Got off at the airport and called an Ola cab. Then I set the GPS to the remote locality she was staying in, and I was the one who guided the driver to find her place. Made me feel really good because the only feeling I remember going to a new place and taking a cab or auto is fear and anxiety. 

The other thing that makes me happy is the social activism that internet has facilitated. From Facebook and Twitter to to to, there are so many ways in which we can try to make our voices heard.

Lots of nonsense happening in the world and it certainly makes me angry. A country like USA not having a proper choice for President is a statement that is loud and clear about the state of politics in the world. I am also angry at the many injustices we see and read about every day, about which we can do little, and at how intolerant we human beings are becoming day after day. I feel frustrated by the faceless, impersonal model that many businesses are adopting - banks, insurance companies, phone service providers and so on. I have written about this in earlier posts. I really would like to see this change. 

Apart from that, the small joys of life - the rain, the rainbow, trees and birds to meet, my childrens' and my own learning, discovery and travel. Then there's reading, writing, laughing, friends, movies, sports, food, chocolates, and sometimes Whatsapp! Life, when viewed from this angle, is always good. :)

And so I blog on into my 11th year, whether to celebrate discovery or express anguish. Some people tell me they still come here - my love and thanks to all of them, as also to my parents who are a regular readers. As for the wonderful friends I met through my blog, my life is that much richer because of them.

Happy birthday, Lens and Sensibility!


September 13, 2016

Smitten by the mockingbird!

Thinking back on my 6-week trip to the US during June-July 2016, I realise that it is moments of discovery, mostly of the natural world, that formed the high points of my trip.

We were in San Diego, with Vijay's cousin and were about to leave on a road trip to San Francisco in the morning, when I heard a bird song from their backyard. I ran to see if I could spot the bird. I did spot it and then followed the most amazing conversation between this bird and its mate on another tree close by! The song was not monotonous like that of other birds...these birds made all kinds of sounds! I excitedly called Vijay and asked him to listen. I had no idea what the bird was, and was later told that it was a mockingbird!

For people living in the US, it may be common, but for me it was novel. Apart from the title of Harper Lee's book, I never really thought of the mockingbird or read about it. Yes, on an earlier trip, at Three Sisters Island near Niagara Falls, I did hear a bird sound like a the tring-tring of the telephone. I was fascinated but had not explored further. Maybe it had been the mockingbird!

The mockingbird is not very attractive - small and grey, with long legs and a tail. Males and females look alike. BUT this is what it sounds like. Just listen to it!

I opened a book I own titled, "Why birds sing" by David Rothenberg and found a whole chapter - 'Listen with the mockingbird'.

This para, among many others, captures the essence of this bird:

"The real bird imitates all in his path, with clear and graspable rhythms. Evenly paced clicks. A break. The same thing sung higher and faster, faster, then a quip, a turnaround, a stop. Space. Another melody, a game played with that. Rules you think you almost catch - twists you don't expect, like a fine jazz solo. It's all alone, at the edge of the field. He's got his territory, he's looking for his mate. Then he finds her. Then he doesn't stop. He keeps on singing. Singing on when there's no more need. If it's taunting anyone, it must be us - Fool, you think you can explain me! You think I tease you with my abilities? I sing the song of the world, the recombination of all that I hear. Listen in and listen good".

They sing to woo their mate. And they sing as they mate, the song of the male lasting far longer than the actual mating! "Shall we respect the song as an end in itself?" asked Rothenberg.

Then there's this delightful para: "What happens when he imitates clocks, car alarms, and barking dogs? He cannot use the same method to make those sounds as their sources do, but he does translate those sounds into new challenges for the syrinx (voice organ of birds). Why, why, why does he go on in threes, fours, and sixes? Ask him that. Ask him that. Ask him that. That that that. Ask Ask Ask."


Rothenberg apparently asked Partha Mitra, who works on sound comparison software and on rules of communication that govern the brain, "Do you think a detailed notation of this mockingbird music will help us make sense of it?"

"Listen", Partha said, "Indian music has gotten by without notation for thousands of years, and it is deeply complex. I think the mockingbird is much closer to improvisation than written composition."

Since we live in this amazing virtual world where one thing leads to another, I browsed around and chanced upon this song composed by Septimus Winner, composer of several of 19th century's most popular songs, and who published under the pseudonym Alice Hawthorne. His biggest hit of all was "Listen to the mockingbird", which spread faster than any song of its day. It actually sounds like the song of the mockingbird!

I'm dreaming now of Hally
Sweet Hally, sweet Hally
I'm dreaming now of Hally
For the tho't of her is one that never dies;

She's sleeping in the valley,
In the valley, in the valley,
She's sleeping in the valley
And the mocking bird is singing where she lies.
Listen to the mocking bird
Listen to the mocking bird...

So goes the song.
Listen to it here by Dolly Parton and Stuart Duncan and here by Brother Bones and his Shadows and here by Louis Armstrong.

As for me, I am truly smitten by the mockingbird!

Related link:

September 05, 2016

A thank you note to my government

In February 2015, I had written a worried note about some announcements made by the Telangana government, a few of these being building a stadium in NTR grounds, bringing the Osmania Hospital building down, emptying Hussain Sagar and building skyscrapers, and replacing the outer periphery of KBR Park with a road, which meant cutting down several trees and blasting beautiful rock formations.

So far, so good. None of these threats have been carried out. Perhaps the decision makers are busy with more important issues! Let's hope they never have the time to do these terrible things.

On the other hand, I must give credit where it is due. This is a thank you note to the Telangana government for some of the improvements I see around me. Except for random outages, power cuts have become a thing of the past, Mission Kakatiya seems to be a huge success, and in my area of interest, the parks in Hyderabad are getting more and more beautiful by the day, and open spaces have, so far, been left alone.

There's something new in Sanjeevaiah Park every other day, and it has expanded even! Earlier, I used to see the typical blue wall cordoning off a large area, and I was sure some horrible constructions would come up there. So what a pleasant surprise when I found the wall gone and a new garden in its place, complete with trees to suit various zodiac signs. It is in this area that the huge flag has now been installed, instead of the world's tallest tower announced earlier (shudder, shudder!).
The 291-ft high flag set up to mark the 2nd birthday of Telangana. The flag itself is 72-ft high and 108-ft wide, making it the second largest in India (the tallest is in Ranchi, Jharkhand at 293 ft)

The butterfly garden in Sanjeevaiah Park is awesome...the number of butterflies you see there in season is unbelievable!

I spotted a young peacock and a peahen in this park for the first time!
KBR Park: We are so lucky to have a natural forest in the heart of the city. This park, apart being a fantastic lung space, also gives an opportunity for urban dwellers to walk in a forest, spot small animals and birds, and plenty of peacocks. Let us please keep it this way.
Thank god there is no landscaping done in this park! It is very important to retain wild plants, which are often referred to as 'weeds'. 
There are peacocks aplenty in KBR. Porcupines too have been noticed by quite a few people. 
Indira Park is closest to my home and I go there often. While I get depressed seeing the state of the water body in this park, there have been other improvements. The government nursery, that was in a bad state, is now lush and has a wide variety of plants.

The nursery looks green and well cared for.
There's supposed to be water here! And facilities for boating.
In general, the water bodies in Indira Park and Sanjeevaiah Park need to be restored.
The other side of the bridge is lovely, though!
 Thank you, Telangana, for these small, but very important improvements.

Now that I am feeling hopeful, how about doing some smart planning
to ease the traffic situation, guys :)?


August 22, 2016

My badminton story

Rio and the badminton matches inspired me to write about my own tryst with badminton – an important part of my life because I am what I am today because of this sport. Really.

If you ask me what I was doing from age 8 to age 19, apart from the things all children do, the one significant thing I did a lot was play shuttle badminton. I belong to a sports family, and badminton, particularly, was a rite of passage for each of us.

I was born in my grandfather’s ancestral house in the heart of Hanamkonda, in Warangal district, and lived there with my father’s seven brothers and two sisters, his mother and her co-sister, and several other extended family and friends. It was a house that welcomed everyone, and was always buzzing with activity. My uncles and their friends played cricket in the limited space we had. They also played gilli danda, marbles, tops and flew kites when it was the season. There was also an air gun with which some of them practised shooting…the gun was also fired in the air to scare away monkeys!

When I was six, my parents began building a new house - designed by my mother's brother Seetharam -  and everyone was very excited because the original plan had a badminton court on one side and a swimming pool on the other, thanks to my father’s love of sports and the good life, despite all odds (believe me, there were plenty of those)! Eventually, the swimming pool idea was chucked because water was scarce and there would be maintenance issues. But we did get that badminton court!

When I was seven, we moved to ‘Ratnakara’, our new house. It was beautiful, and much bigger than the old place. As we settled down, my uncles and their friends began working on the shuttle court. They brought a manual sports ground roller from somewhere and used to work very hard to make the ground smooth, sprinkling water as they went along, after which they used to draw the lines with lime powder. Soon a fine shuttle court was ready, to exact dimensions, and my father, his friends and the older of my uncles and their friends began playing in all earnest. 

My father’s badminton days date back to his college where he used to play a number of sports. Very good at all the games he played, and a very stylish player at that, he soon won my mom’s heart (she was his junior in Law College) when he defeated the guy who was stalking her, and who she wanted to see defeated! :)

Back to Ratnakara. So while the older people played in the court, my youngest uncles and I played in the open space in front of our house. So I started playing when I was about 8; my brother started at 2, very often interrupting our attempts at playing! It was serious stuff, and over a few years, we were allowed to play for a while in the shuttle court, and we played enthusiastically every evening, guided by my father. There were many young people around, and they all were greatly interested in the sport. And soon ‘Ratnakara Club’ was born. 

We began having serious matches for seniors and juniors, complete with a chief guest, prizes and all! We all just loved playing! There was nothing else we would rather do with our evenings -- remember there was no TV, leave alone computers! My mother also started having serious doubts about our progress in academics.

In the meantime, the Officer’s Club (renamed Warangal club in later years), 2 km away from my house, built an indoor court. Quite a few members began to play and we slowly graduated from the outdoor court at home, to the indoor court in the club. We now had a wider selection of players to play with. We took advantage of this space, and apart from having a lot of fun, we also improved our game to the best of our ability.

We then started playing district tournaments – it was a big thing in Warangal. There were a lot of good players and good competition. We played as Ratnakara club and won most of the matches. There was a rolling shield and we won it year after year! My father invariably won the men’s singles title…I don’t remember when he stopped competing. For some time, I played as his partner in mixed doubles, we were a great team, and we used to win every match. Winning that shield was a heady thing, and we worked for it all year with a great deal of determination. Like the singing Von Trapp family in Sound of Music, we were the sporting family of Warangal!

I had my share of initial highs before better players came in -- one year I won women’s singles, doubles (with Lakshmi), and mixed doubles (with Srikanth). The headline in the newspaper read, ‘Triple crown for Ratnakara’, one more said, ‘Sadhana shines’…my two seconds of fame tasted sweet indeed!
Year after year we played district tournaments, and other matches held elsewhere. Then for the first time, we had a coach. Rammohan Rao Sir arrived from Hyderabad, and we signed up for coaching. We had to wake up at 4 am, exercise, jog and then play badminton. He taught us the right strokes, he made us practice shots, drops, rallies. It was tiring, but our game improved. Rao was a tough task master and we had a love-hate relationship with him! He expected a lot from me than from the boys because it was easier for women to get to somewhere worthwhile. But I don’t think I could give so much of myself to the game at that time, and meet his expectations.

I came to college and represented my university twice, once to Dharwad University and once to Calicut University. The trips were great fun, but both times, we hardly had any practice, we had no facilities, and returned after the first round. I played in the state tournament a few times, and the highest I reached was runners up in under 19 in AP. I never tried to better this title. 

Years passed, and each of us reached a stage when we had to leave Warangal to go to study elsewhere. I applied for Communication and Journalism in Osmania University, a much sought-after course at that time. I did not get the seat in the general category. I got it through sports quota…all those certificates I had earned came into good use and I got myself an education!
Then 'life' followed, and somehow badminton was not part of it. I often wonder why not, but I haven't found an answer to this. Perhaps it was the time we lived in.  
Last week I was in Warangal, watching Olympic badminton matches sitting next to my father. I would not have traded this for the best sports bar in the city. As we watched the games, we felt what the players were feeling, we knew exactly what they did right and what they did wrong. And both of us rejoiced in the fact that shuttle badminton, which had been an insignificant sport when we were playing it, has come to be a much-loved sport now. 
This post is:
-  For Pa, who introduced a whole generation of us to badminton and the wonderful world of sports.
-  For all the people who constituted Ratnakara Club and made our growing up really unique and wonderful.
-  And for the people we played with at Warangal club.

PS: The photos are from our albums - pardon the bad quality - I took them with my phone. There are photos of us with prizes the rolling shield, etc. but I couldn't find them on this trip to Warangal. The post couldn't wait!

May 28, 2016

Lost phone...Found phone!

"I lost my phone!"

Vijay came rushing into the house, panicking. It's the new 'serious'...those words we all dread to hear.

He was walking in our street, took out the phone from his shirt pocket, sent a message, put phone back in his pocket, and crossed the main road. And then it was gone.

"What do I do?" he asked.

I had read all about it several times, but couldn't remember! "Google it", I said.

"What to do if you lose phone?"
"Android phone - how to trace?

"Call my phone", he said, even as he was at the computer.

I dialled. No response.

"They're not picking up...maybe they want to keep it"

I dialled once again after a while.

This time, someone did pick up. "Hello...", he said.

One kind of relief!

"Hello...our phone is with you?"

"Yes, I am in Barkatpura. Come and pick it up."

I immediately tried to analyse the kind of person he was, by his manner of speaking. Sounded simple enough, but one never knows. My imagination works overtime at such times.

Vijay hurriedly made his way to the door.

"Wait, I am coming!" I said. What if there was a gang of guys who take him to a lonely galli (is there any such in the city?!) and say, "give us [huge amount of money] or else you won't get your phone back"? I should be with Vijay so we can tackle this together! :) (how, I don't know!)

We fight over whether we should go in the car or an auto. I say car, he says auto. Auto it is, in the hot afternoon sun.

As we walk to get an auto, I notice that the stitches at the bottom of Vijay's shirt pocket have given way. "Look!" I said. "Your phone must have slipped out of your pocket!"

"Oh ****", he says. And goes on to use other words to curse the garment company's flimsy stitching! "...should never buy ready-made shirts****". "Come on, it never happened before", I say.

Through the auto ride he recounts all the precious info that the chap who found his phone had access to. Whatsapp messages, bank info, emails, photos... "Don't you have a pass code?" I ask. "No", he says. "It was too bothersome, so I removed it".

We reach Barkatpura. He wants to get off the auto even before the auto stops! I hold him back.

We call Vijay's phone. The guy says come to the petrol pump. Vijay wants to get off and run across the road. I say let the auto drop us off over there. The auto guy says, "I'll take you, sit down". Together we manage to get him back into the auto!

There are four guys and some bikes.

One of them hands Vijay the phone, points to another wearing a red shirt and says, "He found it".

"Thank you very much", Vijay says, and takes it. He pulls out his wallet and gives red shirt a reward of Rs 200. The guy takes it. Then says give me some more. Another Rs 50 note exchanges hands.

Still, we are grateful he returned the phone. We turn to come back.

The first guy tells us that his office is down that road. That they deal in real estate. And that if we want to buy any property, we should contact him.

In that one extra minute, he did not miss a chance to advertise his business!

We get back home in the same auto. "Good we went in an auto", I say. "Otherwise they would've expected us to pay more." Vijay utters the words he so loves. "I told you".

Back home, he spends some quality time with his phone, going through its contents with great concentration. He then sets a 20-digit pass code, which he diligently inputs each time he now wants to use his phone! :)

"Hey, look at this!" he exclaims a little later when he finds a skewed photo of the road and traffic on his phone. A photo that he didn't take! WHO could have taken it?

He now has his detective hat on and is trying to figure out how that photo was taken...did the phone take it by itself when it fell? If so, how exactly could that have happened? Or did red shirt take the photo as he picked it up and drove away?...I guess we'll never know!

May 04, 2016

#HDFCLife - Chapter 2

A couple of weeks after I wrote my earlier blog post "Being controlled by big brother", where one of the stories was about #HDFC Life, I discovered that the company reads blogs and has a voice. One of their employees called me saying that they had read my blog and wanted to know details of the policy. I was overjoyed that someone had taken note. But I asked him why I should give him details over the phone. He said I could email them to the official id. I did this.

He called again the next day, apologised and said that I had a point when I said that #HDFCLife should have given me a choice of taking back the money I paid or keeping it with them for the rest of my life. He was polite and sounded genuinely interested in helping me. He then wanted to know a specific reason why I wanted the money...he said he would have to tell his seniors and convince them. I told him I wanted it for my daughter's education. He said, okay and that he would get back to me.

Three or four phone calls later, he asked me whether I received a letter from #HDFCLife in December 2015. I said I did not remember. He started reading out the letter and said that I should look at it, and that he would call again the next day so we could discuss it. I retrieved the letter from my file and read it. There was no information in it telling me that that was the time for me to ask for my money to be returned. It just said the policy was maturing, blah blah, and that if I had any queries, I should write back.

I waited for his phone call the next day. He never called back.

Soon after, I got a mail from #HDFCLife saying that I had no option to take the amount back. The point about not being given the information was not addressed at all.

So #HDFCLife...thank you for the phone calls, but I still have the same grouse against you. You should have given me the information earlier. I am not happy with your product and I want my money back.


Besides, #HDFCLife, your ads asking me to record my memories for my children on your website are most annoying. STOP SENDING THEM AT ONCE. Who the hell are you to invade my privacy?

I will talk about my bad experience everywhere. And that's a promise.      


April 03, 2016

Graffiti from the gallis of Bandra

On the Kala Ghoda trip, we went to Bandra to meet Rachna Chhachhi, my nutrition therapist and now a good friend. As always, it was great seeing her, and chatting up with her. Then, Ragini and I decided to try and find the graffiti in some of the lanes. We went to Chapel Road where we were delighted to see some of the graffiti we had read about!

The fun here is in the discovery...the paintings are in all kinds of unexpected places. Nothing planned, nothing predictable! I definitely would like to go back and discover more.

Here are 20 images. Please enlarge so you don't miss the details.

Did you know that momos were shy?
This has to be in Bollywood's Bombay!
A very Kalamkari-ish fish!
Going to the market to get veggies...she looks so real!  
Don't miss the little guy painting the big guy while standing on his palm :)
Yep, the bike's mine!

Err...I'm Jack and I'm about to climb the beanstalk. Hope you like my fez! 
Four ears, head split open, and you can see his humerus
(that's the word for elbow bone)
Flowers in front of a flowery font.
There's Mickey and Minnie Mouse too...who would've thought? 

She has to be a Math teacher. 
So pigeons have a secret life?!
Isn't this whole wall real sexy?!
Graffiti building, a scooter and two kids on bicycles.
Doesn't the bike complete the picture?
"This is not a selfie opportunity"...
This one's right outside Shah Rukh Khan's house.
Photos copyright Sadhana Ramchander. Please give credit if you use these somewhere.
Another interesting blogpost on Bandra's street art

March 27, 2016

Being controlled by big brother

Three incidents over the last 6 months have driven home to me the fact that I am living the dystopic reality predicted in George Orwell's Nineteen eighty four. Someone, somewhere is controlling me for their gain and I am helpless. I don't like it one bit.

I list here the three different models of control I have experienced in the recent past.

Control Model 1. Not giving the right information at the right time. 
#HFDCLife: We took this pension scheme 10 years back, and have been paying a certain amount of money every year. It was a tax-saving scheme, and we diligently paid the amounts agreed to, every year.

After maturity, we were told that from next year, we would receive the same amount that we had paid every year for the rest of our lives. When I looked at the amount we were getting, I felt that if I took back the lumpsum that I had paid over 10 years (with the interest), I would get better interest even from an FD, than what they were giving me. I told them I wanted to take back the whole amount.

I was told that I could have taken back the whole amount before the scheme matured, that is, a week back. I said, "But no one told me". They had nothing to say. They assumed that I was okay with locking the entire amount with them for the rest of my life. I asked them what options I had before me to get the money back. They said none. The money could only be claimed by my children after my death. Or, they said (wow!), I could get it in case of critical illness, which of course, has to be one of the ailments from their list.

I protested and argued. What if I had been bankrupt and absolutely need the money now to invest somewhere?


I then wrote an email to HDFC Life, Mumbai. I got back an encouraging mail saying I have the option to take back the amount. I went back to the local office and spent a good 2 hours. They told me that the info in the email was not correct, and that they would investigate. A day later I got an email from the Mumbai office apologising to me for the incorrect information given to me, and telling me that I could not get the money. There was nothing I could do any more.

While I do understand that this is how pension schemes work, I feel they had the moral responsibility to give me a choice to take back the whole amount before maturity of the scheme. Of course, I am foolish to assume this. Of course, I am being idealistic.

"Sar uthake jiyo" is HDFC's slogan for this scheme. But "sar jhukake dedo" is what they actually mean.

What I intend to do: I can't think of anything I can do about this. I just would like to warn anyone else taking HDFC Life or any other such scheme to be aware of their choices and to make the right decisions. I welcome advice from anyone who might have a solution to this.

Control Model 2. Take away money and don't be available to explain when customer asks for explanation.
#AIRTEL - THE MONEY-SUCKING GHOST: All these service providers - they are ghosts. No face, no ears, no voice, no shape, no form. You can't see them or expect your problems to be solved.

Among other problems, money suddenly starts draining from my phone. The internet recharge dies out within days and Airtel starts charging from my main account. In 3-4 days after recharge, my balance is zero and I am frustrated and angry. I call Airtel helpline....and after being redirected 45 times, I hear a human voice. I start complaining. He sounds call-centerish, stupid and un-knowledgeable. I am angry now and start shouting. He calmly tells me that he will put me on to his supervisor, and then I am put on hold. He ain't coming back, and I can't get call him back ...yes, I am the ulloo here. What I intend to do: Nothing. At least I can chuck Airtel any time and go to another service provider until I have a problem with them!

Control Model 3. Have one person at the helm who doesn't read mails and who only picks up phone calls, doesn't listen to reason, and simply shouts at you. 
This is the model followed by a client I wrote about in an earlier post. The people you work with and who see your painstaking efforts are different from the person who pays you. All of them read mails and respond when you are working with them on the job, but when you send your invoice telling them why they must pay more than the tentative estimate, none of them respond. The only thing you can do is to meet or call the boss who shouts. If you are a sensitive sort who cannot raise your voice and yell back, you quickly realise the futility of meeting such a person. And you learn your more working without a formal contract!
What I intend to do: We are not working for this client any more. And they are the losers.

March 16, 2016

Kala Ghoda Festival 2016

 Once in a while, it is nice to take a break from one's life and go for an interesting event out of town. We discovered this when we went for the Typoday in 2014 at Symbiosis Institute of design when Ragini was part of the organising team. You get to see another world of creative people, and you come back refreshed and motivated. While I was tempted to go for the Typoday 2016 in Bangalore, I chose to go to Bombay for the Kala ghoda festival. That Kobita and Ragini were also interested and willing to come along was an added incentive.

Kala Ghoda Festival has a variety of events - visual art installations, theatre, cinema, music, dance, literature, events for children, photography, art, heritage walks, food, shopping, urban design, architecture and so on. There is a lot happening in various places over 9 days, and it is not possible to attend everything. The Association was formed in 1998, and the first festival was held in 1999.

Here's a selection of photos from the event, and a few other photos taken on walks around the Kala Ghoda district.

Rampart Row, the Kala Ghoda area road that is cordoned off for the event.
'Choti rickshaw badi savari'...90 artists celebrating the three-wheeler.
(Artist: Naina Soparkar)
I loved these artistic autos!
Ragini and Malini taking photos of the colourful 'Cutting chai' by Seema Kohli
'Cosmic Coalesce' by Pearl Academy was simply out of this world. The frames have layers of embroidered fabric lit up at the centre for a celestial glow.  The branches are created using hand embroidery, applique work, weaving and burnt-out print techniques.
This was definitely one of my favourites. 
A worker adding finishing touches to an installation.
Note that this guy's shirt matches the artwork :) 
'A fish out of water' by Rahul Das
An unusual imaginary hybridization of a species to showcase a world
without borders, in this case a flowerhorn. 
(This is the explanation given by them)
Not sure what this installation is called, but it added a festive touch
both during the day and at night.
'Unity by diversity' by Siddharth H Somaiya...
an interactive installation 
'Tyre canopy' by Purva Pandit.
And this is my prize-winning shot for the Kala Ghoda photo contest. :)
The ghoda on the wall of Rhythm House. I wish I knew who did this.
Originally there was a statue of King Edward VII on a black horse in this area.
Appparently this was moved to the zoo (!).
This statue is what gave this festival its name. 
My nieces Nayantara and Vismaya fooling around at the Alliance Francais photo booth.
A random shot that I somehow like.
The whole of the Fort area has magnificent buildings. Not sure which one this is. 
This is the New India Assurance building, Kamani Marg near Flora Fountain.
The art deco style makes the 1936 building look larger than it is.
It looks quietly grand. 
Buckley Court, Colaba. I admired this building every time I walked past it.
They retained the old heritage building and built apartments behind it. 
Later read that this was designed by Hafeez Contractor. 
Each flat apparently has an area of 6000 sq ft with a a pool, park and workout space, 
and a 360 degree view of the harbour. Price: 11 crore.  
Had the honour of attending Bittu Sahgal's session at Kitaab Khana,
a charming book shop with a restaurant inside. 
What a beauty this is! But it is going to be brought down...the story of every city.
I was delighted to see this guy selling 'Bombai mithai'...something we used to eat as children.
He makes shapes out of the gooey candy - a rose, a parrot, a ring, a watch :)
Spotted this interesting restaurant exterior in the gallis of Kala Ghoda.

It was nice to see the brisk and busy Leopold Cafe.
We went to Bandra to meet Rachna...and passed by 'Mannat', Shah Rukh Khan's house.
People take selfies outside his gate and wait there, hoping to get a glimpse of him.

This is the first time I spent leisurely time in Bombay, and absolutely loved the place, especially the Fort/Colaba area where we stayed. Fabulous buildings, roads, gallis, good food, great shopping, the cabs are cheap and drivers honest - I could really live in this part of Bombay! Something alive, safe and simple about it. We were fortunate to get a room in YWCA even though we called just a day before we left, asking for reservation. 

Some sessions I attended are:

- Conversation with Bittu Sahgal during the launch of the book Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins. Bittu is a natural with children and they really love interacting with him. His passion for nature and wildlife comes through very spontaneously, and I was really glad I could meet him. 

- A discussion by the founders of Kala Ghoda. I was surprised that the festival was started only 17 years back, and that our friend Amita Desai was also one of the founders. I was happy to learn that the profits of the festival go towards restoration of buildings in the area. 

- 'How pictures tell a story' by the Canadian illustrator and film maker (Oscar winner) - Torill Kove. We saw her documentary The Danish Poet

- Paintings by different artists at Jahangir art gallery

- Workshop on Instagramming. Met Kuber Shah who is supposed to be a famous instagrammer. 

- Watched two plays: 
1. Jab shahar hamara sota hai presented by Yuva Theatre, Jalandhar, inspired by Romeo and Juliet, and is a passionate and intense musical.   
2. Unhe kuch kahna hai by Rangashila. A musical play that takes you on a journey of our great Hindustani poets and their poetry.

The short life of gadgets. Are they made to break? - Tamar Akov, an Industrial designer from Israel (Interesting trivia: Longest lasting light bulb 114 years. In US. People sing happy birthday to this bulb!)

- Explored 'The State of Architecture' show at the National Gallery of Modern Art. It was truly done to the highest standards and I felt I was in Paris or New York.

There were others too, but too many to list and describe. 

Apart from all this, we ate good food, we shopped and we walked a lot. Good fun, as always happens in an all-girls group! Malini came from Pune with her friends Mehak and Tanvi for the weekend, and it was lovely seeing them. Also met Vasudev and family and had a yummy lunch with them at Kitaab Khana. 

Would love to go back to Kala Ghoda again, but there are so many other places to see and festivals to attend!