INSIGHTFUL TALKS, QUIRKY WRITINGS ON INDIA…

A BMTC bus ride

A BMTC(local) bus ride! It had been many, many, days since I took a BMTC* bus ride. Not that one doesn’t want to. It’s just that there never seems to be the right combination of available time, a suitable bus route, or leisure that one can find. It just seems so much easier to hop into an auto (and now that Ubers are here, even more so), than wait and take the trouble to get into a bus. It came as a welcome change, when there was the chance to go to Richmond road, which very conveniently , is served by multiple buses on the arterial old airport road. And so, it was the BMTC bus I got into. Not the fancy – airconditioned Vajras, but the regular BMTC ones . The ones that get washed perhaps, once a year. Or maybe its gross exaggeration- more likely to be washed once a month. And having got in, and secured a precious seat ( it was off peak time on Saturday), it was an experience certainly worth its while. For starters, the ride was smooth. No jarring music, no loud mobile phone conversations. Simple folks, looking out of the window, as would be expected in a bus ride.  As it used to be, in the olden days, before the mobiles took over almost every minute of precious existence. I sat there and looked too. And that was what made the bus ride so much more worth the while. I must have travelled along the old airport road at least a thousand times before, but, it was only this time, that...

A happy mother’s day

A happy mother’s day!    This mother’s day, for some reason, a thought came to mind- what about all the mothers out there who are struggling to feed, bring up and grow their children against all odds- poverty, wars and calamities? What can we do as fellow mothers to make their lives a bit easier? An organisation springs to mind. It is an organisation with a story. Many years back, I read this story and for some reason, it just stayed on in memory( some stories are indeed so powerful). Many more years ago, a lady was running a school in Lucknow, educating poor children. She saw a mother of four breaking a piece of bread into four parts to feed all of them. A piece of bread was all she could afford with her sparse earnings, as a chikankari worker. The middlemen took all the profit. The lady educator realised education was not enough. She took it on, to create a self help group for these women, to create and sell their own chikankari work directly to the buyers. Thus augmenting their income. Over years, the Self help group grew by leaps and bounds, and established itself as a known name for chikankari products. Beautifully embroidered kurtis, sarees, Dupattas and more; mostly sold through exhibitions they hold. Training, advocacy,skill building activities- everything came under their banner. Awards and accolades- including the Bharat Ratna poured in for the lady who started it all ; but the biggest award of all – in my view – is the difference she made to the lives of many mothers and their children, The organisation...

Home again to Hyderabad…

A chance trip to Hyderabad brings back so many memories, being a kind of a second home ( or native place as it is popularly called) and so many new ideas. It is no coincidence that each time I visit a different city in India, I invariably marvel at the different fare it has to offer, by way of literature, art, music or simply gastronomic delights. and so it Hyderabad happened to be on the menu recently. while Hyderabad is famous, no doubt for its Hyderabadi biryani ( a mouth watering spicy relish of rice and chicken ) and its Hyderabadi baingan, Karachi biscuits and more ( there I go again..rolling away), less is known of its cultural inclinations. Or so I thought until I was led into the light by the most enlightened residents of Hyderabad. Tell me three things you like about this city, I went. And then I heard them all say the same thing .. 1) it’s relaxed. 2) it’s relaxed. 3) it’s relaxed. Wow, can relaxed get ever more relaxed than this, ever? and so I came back, completely relaxed.. even more so, that I had been to the newly found cultural hub- Lamakaan, right in the centre of town. Unknown till now, a small centre that exists just to promote the arts, and too for no gain, really. Little benches with mosaic tops in a cute little room to watch the shows. And a cute little canteen (can food for the body be far from food for the mind?), dishing out delicious samosas, accompanied by ginger tea, sitting in the gallery, watching the...

Innovation on Independence Day

Another Independence day happened. The place was awash with flags of all sizes, from miniature ones adorning the coat lapels, to gigantic ones fluttering happily from flag poles, flying full mast. And this year was no different. At least, that’s what I thought, initially. Politicians made impressive speeches, trumpeting their measly successes and populist schemes ; kids performed to patriotic songs, adults devoured sweets, all in the spirit of freedom. But, a closer look revealed more. This year was different indeed. I found, for the first time maybe, a very creative, motley mix of souvenirs, ranging from headgears, caps, scarves and other accessories, specially created for the I day, the signs of a very innovative India. Some of the shops even had their window displays complete with  tri-colour t-shirts, bright enough to make our freedom fighters so happy, even today, well after they’ve gone. The ones to catch my attention, though, were the wristbands. A colourful saffron-white and green elasticated combo, serving as a nice accessory, a somewhat unusual bracelet. And available literally at the doorstep, at the local grocery shop.  So swayed was I , that four of these ( yes- four!) found their way into the shopping basket. And now that I am in possession of somewhat a largish number of these bands, I must find creative ways of using them. They do prove pretty useful though! To wipe off the sweat when its too hot, or to support the wrist when carrying heavy loads. Even to display the patriotic feeling, once in a while. So what if I-day is long gone. Flaunting these wristbands, I continue...
“Snow” -another Indian “Innovation”

“Snow” -another Indian “Innovation”

  Here cometh the next post on Indian innovation, after the Blouse piece story. A puzzle – how can it be that a huge country of a billion plus can only showcase a couple of inventions that strike? It does strike me as odd, so, from all the travels in the recent past, I have been looking for nuggets of undiscovered innovation, convinced as I am , that there is a lot more to be found as i amble across this vast, magnificent country.I mean it, you should look for more posts, as I plan to unearth more than you ever thought existed. And sometimes, it strikes, that innovation happens serendipitously- right? Discoveries usually do, but so can innovations. That is how i discovered the innovation called “Snow ” in Bangalore. Who ever thought that it doesnt snow in Bangalore? Even though fairly close to the equator, it does snow in Bangalore, and that too all the year round. In fact, it snows so brilliantly that one doesn’t even feel cold. The snow itself is powdery,fluffy, white and very occasionally dotted with specs of grey. It is an innovation indeed, snow created by waste products . Instead of letting them go to waste, the municipality is actually utilising them well- by allowing them to fester,rot, and ultimately metamorphose into white powdery specs that greet you, flying across so gently, on the wings of the breeze. If you are still wondering what and where this snow is, it is to be found on a gutter that flows from the Belandur lake.Tons of sewage, some detergent filled muck, finds its way everyday into the dregs of the canal, and blossoms and blooms,...
The Rose of Innovation

The Rose of Innovation

  Continuing on the weekend walks, this weekend entailed a lovely trip to Labagh. The ever famous gardens of Bangalore, lush and abundant with history and greenery, are always a delight to the senses. And this time, apart from the hilltop temple, the placid water-bodies, many varieties of birds and monkeys , one also had the chance to spot some very interesting varieties of roses. Red, blue, violet roses and many more, a garden well worth the visit. But, the one to catch my attention, was the very fragrant and delicate, full-bodied pink rose (the gulabi one ) a species rarely seen in the neighborhood gardens.   With a fragrance so powerful that it came across effortlessly, in whiffs with the breeze, every now and then.   It is the variety of rose that is used, very innovatively, to make Gulkand and rose water. Rose water – a concoction made with gulabi rose petals, a refreshing, cooling mix of water and roses, usually splashed on the face. And the Gulkand- A sticky blend of rose petals crushed and pounded with grains of sugar, to make a delectable sweet. Rarely have I come across sweets made of flower petals, except for the chocolate factory in Nice that had some unusual flower- filled chocolates.  It is no surprise that the common Indian Gulkand  (or the rose petal concoction), one of the most innovative ways of using flowers in food, originated in India, the country with perhaps the longest standing history of innovation in food . The best part – it is exotic, but not so much that you can’t buy it in the...