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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cadence and Counterpoint- Documenting Santhal Musical traditions, a special exhibition at the National Museum, New Delhi

Cadence and Counterpoint- Documenting Santhal Musical traditions 

It is the responsibility of nations to preserve, protect and showcase the art, culture and heritage of  the different arts that  make up a whole and in that context, it was a real pleasure to see it happening in real time in New Delhi at the National Museum during my visit a couple of days back. 'Cadence and Counterpoint' a special exhibition showcasing and documenting the Santhal Musical Traditions and running from the 15th  April to the 17th of May has successfully brought forward the music and art in a very beautiful, informative and structured manner and as a student of history first and an advertising and communications professional thereafter, I had a rewarding experience and was pleased with the wealth of knowledge  I came away with. 

The National Museum, New Delhi

Spread over three floors, the National Museum is a veritable treasure trove of items over the centuries and a special mention must be made of how beautifully these have been placed and displayed. I propose to write a series on the National Museum and will be covering different aspects over the course of the next few posts. 

But in the meantime-
Here is an interesting story about how the National Museum of India came into existence.The blueprint for establishing the National Museum in Delhi was prepared by the Maurice Gwyer Committee in May 1946 and an Exhibition of Indian Art, consisting of selected artefacts from various museums of India was organized by the Royal Academy, London.This Exhibition went on display in the galleries of Burlington House, London in 1947-48. Since the exhibition was a great success, it was decided to display the same collection in Delhi ASAP.

Accordingly, an exhibition was organized in the Rashtrapati Bhawan  New Delhi in 1949 and this event proved responsible for the creation of the National Museum. On August 15, 1949, the National Museum, New Delhi, was inaugurated in the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The foundation of the present building was laid by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the first phase of the National Museum building was formally inaugurated in December 1960 while the second phase of the building was completed in 1989.

Summarizing the exhibition- At the very beginning

A range of the 'Banam'- Santhal musical instruments
The exhibition presents three types of objects related to the Santhal musical tradition. The first are the musical instruments, amongst which is the most important 'Banam'. A bowed mono chord and the only Santhal instrument to be categorized as a chordo phone, the 'Banam' is carved out of a single piece of soft wood.

Looking through and loving it- the musical instruments

Also displayed are the drums, the 'Tamak',   the 'Madal' and a range of flutes 

The view from the other side-The Banas  
The exhibition also features the extremely lively but languishing art form of the Santal community, the 'Chadar Badar'. This is a unique form of puppetry done on a set with a long pole as base. Rows of beautifully carved wooden puppets dance in formation with the pull of a string and attached mechanism. This performance closely resembles the actual folk dance of the Santhals. In fact, I had the opportunity to first watch the video version in the special AV room at the beginning of the exhibition and then moved onto the n beautifully handmade  piece which I've photographed and  can be seen  just below.

The Chadar Badar- a unique form of puppetry  

A visual representation of how this particular piece was made by the original karigar
The third set of objects in the exhibition is the Jadupatua, or scroll painting, all very stylish and beautiful.

An important part of the exhibition  is the documentation of Santhal traditions over time. Photographs, some taken by well known musicologists such as Alain Daniélou and Deben Bhattacharya, document the Santhal community from 1950's onwards. Original audio records from 1914 and videos, from the late 1960's up to the present day are also part of the documentation and go a very long way in making the whole experience that much more real and interactive.

In a nutshell, the exhibition is an close look at  the world of the Santhal community, its rich culture and musical traditions. The Exhibition is on view at the Special Exhibition Hall 2, National Museum, from 15 April till 17 May 2015 so for those of you who can make it, I would recommend it - very highly.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Culture Gully at The Kingdom of Dreams- A kaleidoscope of colours, food, fun and so much more

Culture Gully at the Kingdom of Dreams

A few years back I visited the Ibn Batuta Mall in Dubai and was struck by the architecture and beauty through the length and breadth of the mall. While primarily designed as a mall, it is much more than that. With courts named after different countries of the world and the architecture and ambience to match. eg. the Egyptian, Indian,  Chinese, Persian, Tunisian courts etc. it was an absolute pleasure to walk through and take pictures of the designs and elaborate styles displayed. The Ibn Batuta Mall certainly stayed  in my memory and every now and then I looked up the pics and found myself back there. 

Then one day last week, when I went to The Kingdom of Dreams for the launch of the Asus ZenFone 2, I came upon the Culture Gully at lunch time and was struck with almost the same sense of wonder and delight, albiet in a very Indian way.'Culture Gully', the first of its kind “Indoor Street of India” is a  beautifully designed and lit 10,000 square feet air-conditioned space. Built under an artificial sky, the gully showcases a rich diversity of Indian culture, from food and clothes to fabulous dance performances. The grand entrance of the Kingdom resembles a film set and everything is larger than life, reminding one of the bygone era. Or if you could actually close your eyes and imagine it well enough then you could really find yourself transported into any one of the pavilions that  you are standing in looks remarkably like a film set. 

I particularly loved this piece from Rajasthan

The entrance to the Culture Gully is shaped like lotus petals, fringed by giant rose stems and mirrored walls. Stalls from various states, e.g UP (Lucknow) Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad, Goa, Mumbai, Rajasthan  and Delhi are selling a wide range of interesting food from the states, e.g the Rajasthani stall serves its meals on the traditional chowki  ( short stools) and ethnic thaals (Plates). What makes it even more interesting is that puppet shows are conducted outside the stall. 
A beautifully designed 'jharokha' 

The Mumbai shop,  which is shaped like a train sells a wide variety of goods which include items from Fashion Street. Look closely and you may actually find movie posters as well as old portraits as well, really couldn't get any better now could it? 

And now for the pricing which has been worked out very strategically . On weekdays -1 pm to 7 pm- the tickets for Culture Gully cost Rs 500 rupees. The next segment is at Rs  750 from 7 pm to 11 pm. On weekends, the tickets cost Rs 750 rupees in total but  one can spend Rs 600 rupees of  this amount on food or shopping. 

Looks even better as day turns to night

On my first visit -launch of the Asus ZenFone 2

I had a great time but must confess it wasn't enough as I had just about 20 minutes after the super lunch that we were all treated to. But I guess that first short and sweet visit has whetted my appetite for the next time when I plan to check it out in more detail. In particular, the first floor where there seemed to be a whole lot of action. 

But in the meantime you can explore to your heart's content. 

All you need to do is to check out the website -

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Laughter the best medicine

Audrey Hepburn once famously said, " I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it's the thing I like most- to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. Its probably the most important thing in a person," and I couldn't agree more.

( Pic sourced from the net)

I genuinely believe that a day in which I haven’t laughed out aloud is a day really wasted- Gone, never to come back again. Like me, many of you probably tend to feel the same way, which is why I wonder why laughter seems to have declined in ‘real’ life?

Mind you, here I’m not referring to the sitcoms and TV shows that sometimes tend to use canned laughter in order to induce viewers to somehow manage to summon up a laugh - I’m talking of the real good old-fashioned hearty peals of laughter that we all remember our grandparents, as well as our parents, indulging in.

Dr Michael Titze, a German psychologist, tells us that in the 1950s people used to laugh 18 minutes a day, but today we laugh not more than six minutes a day, despite the huge rise in the standard of living.

Children can laugh up to 300-400 times a day, but when we grow up to be adults this frequency comes down to less than 15 times a day, if at all.

The answers are not really difficult. Topping the list would be the day to day stress of living in a world which seems to have gone all wrong and where financial crisis is a bitter reality for so many people.

In addition, while there are many plus points of having instant access to worldwide news at the touch of a button, the downside is the heightened anxiety and fear at the very prospect of something that might go wrong.

Here, I’m obliged to point out the recent  Eurozone crisis with the euro facing an uncertain future - just for a moment, try and step into the shoes of all those who have invested heavily in that currency, or worse, the governments that have staunchly defended it till date, and you will begin to get an idea of what I mean.

Top that with long working hours, congested transport and overcrowded cities, and it's not surprising that divorce and family break-ups are higher than ever before.

As a major publicist of Positive Psychology, Dr Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania says engagement and meaning are particularly important. Other researchers have pointed to bonding with friends, family and loved ones as a major contributor.

So if we look at laughter as one manifestation of happiness, it turns out it’s not something we tend to do alone. “It is a tool of communication,” said Robert Provine of the University of Maryland.

Laughter is also infectious. Once one person starts, others quickly follow. As a natural consequence, when we laugh with others, we feel more connected to them - it’s part of our bonding and that makes us feel happier.

So how do we go back to the good old days when we all really did let our hair down and genuinely laugh? There is still hope, and as a result of research in both East and West, people are increasingly realising that laughter is something that can be ‘spontaneously created’ and need not be dependent on anything.

In fact, you can laugh for no reason at all.

Remember the walk in the park where you saw a group of people who at that point may have seemed quite mad to you, simply because they were all laughing? And that too, for no perceptible reason at all?

Well, that is actually called ‘laughter therapy’ and is deliberately designed to teach you how to laugh - in fact in many different styles at that.

We once visited my aunt and uncle in Chandigarh and she proudly showed us two prizes she had won at her local laughter club. After we had admired them and returned them to her she proceeded to demonstrate the prize-winning laughs.

Was that a revelation - it truly showed the extent to which a laugh can actually be created. It started off with some element of sheepishness on our part, but believe me, at the end of that period, we found ourselves joining in, and those laughs came from somewhere within us, of their very own volition!

To conclude, some people might have lost the knack of being able to laugh, but it is perfectly possible to help them get it back. People can be taught to laugh for no reason, to discover their innate capacity to experience their own wellspring of laughter and joy.

After all, 'What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul!' (an old proverb).

N B- This piece was originally written for 'My Take,' my column in Muscat Daily

Monday, April 13, 2015

Redefining my Smart Phone Experience with the ASUS ZenFone 2

I'm a hard core I Phone user and confess to being hooked on to it for the last many years without giving into the temptation of switching over to any other brand.

But something about the ASUS ZenFone 2 has me very intrigued and I must  admit-I would absolutely love to own one of these beautiful instruments!

Have you faced the problem of your smartphone hanging now and then? Does your smartphone fail to match its response time with your speed of operating it? Then Zenfone 2 can be the answer to such smartphone woes. The Zenfone 2 is loaded with never before 4GB RAM & up to 2.3GHz 64-bit Intel® Atom™ Z3580 processor that makes your everyday smartphone operations and multi-tasking up to three times better and seven times faster when playing a mobile game. Further, what if you can have a power bank exclusively adapted to meet your Zenfone 2 requirement? Not only this it is just as sleek as this smart phone itself. The power bank is of the size of a credit card so carrying it becomes quite handy. 
Simply put, here are 5 of my reasons why:

The exciting new range of the ASUS ZenFone 2

1.The ASUS ZenFone 2 has a stunning, all-new design employing iconic ASUS design elements that echo the spirit of Zen. 

2.To give you that really rich feel, it has  a luxurious brushed-metal finish and signature concentric-circle detailing. 

3.The graceful Ergonomic Arc case tapers to an incredibly-thin 3.9 mm at the edges for a bold yet elegant look. Given that , I think its already a great phone but there are a few more attributes worth detailing. 

4.The rear-mounted volume-control and shutter button is ideally positioned for one's index finger. Trouble free, ease of use and quick to manage..

5.And last but very high on my list of 'must haves' as I'm passionate about photography-It's vivid 5.5-inch Full HD IPS display packs an incredible 403ppi pixel density bordered by an ultra-narrow bezel, giving the ZenFone 2 a remarkable 72% screen-to-body ratio for a maximized viewing experience .Therefore everything you see is bigger, brighter and more beautiful.

Lets face it, with all these fantastic attributes, who wouldn't want to have an  ASUS ZenFone 2? I certainly put myself high on that list!



Saturday, April 11, 2015

At the Kose Indi iBlogger Meet, New Delhi to witness the exciting launch of Spa Wake

 Kose Corporation launches Spa Wake at Indi Blogger Meet, New Delhi
Networking, food, fun, an exciting product launch, great music, dance and goodies to delight.My first Indi Blogger Meet up after moving back to New Delhi from Muscat (after 24 years) at the Hyatt Regency, New Delhi last evening had all this and so much more.With over 150 Bloggers who actively participated and enjoyed every moment of the evening, it was a great opportunity for me to meet Indi Bloggers in real time and see the extent to which today's product launches in India have to integrate the blogging community as a 'must do" in order to spread word - immediately, efficiently and realistically.

The meet also saw the launch of Spa Wake, a new skin care brand of the KOSÉ Corporation, Japan which has moved into the Indian cosmetics market for the first time with the w skincare brand, Spa Wake, by its local Indian operating company KOSE Corporation India Pvt. Ltd.  The Spa Wake portfolio  will include seven products and 13 product types, priced at INR 69–249 and  marketed at Indian women in the middle-income bracket and available from urban supermarkets, mainly in the Indian capital Delhi, and the local product website. 

According to a recent study, the Indian cosmetics market is growing and mass-produced products account for 95% of the total. The rapid increase in the middle-income bracket and greater role of women in society in recent years has driven particularly rapid growth in the “premium mass market”, as consumers look for quality and added value in the mass-produced products they buy. KOSÉ believes that this premium mass market has potential and has therefore launched the Spa Wake products as its first foray into this market. The goal -to use these cosmetics to help grow KOSÉ’s business and support skin health and beauty as women play a greater role in Indian society.

I will now let my photographs take over and show you how the evening unfolded... 

The first group of Indi Bloggers I met

Teatime - Before we went into the Oval

I chose a Cappuccino and loved the decor

The ceiling at the Oval

Seated just behind the Japanese delegation

Great table setting

Ice Breaker-Meeting and exchanging personal stuff

Met Mum and Daughter- The Smiling Sharmas

With Manjulika, the winner of the Beautiful Oman contest

Anoop Johnson welcomed all of us

The Team from Kose Japan

Ambassador of Japan to India,Takeshi Yagi
The Spa Wake Range Unveiled
Interestingly, the company will also have a strong e-commerce strategy and to begin with has tied up with Myntra. For now, the company’s products are available across 120 outlets in the Delhi-NCR region and plan to expand it to 300 outlets in the next three months. It has also roped in actor Aditi Rao Hydari as its brand ambassador
Aditi R Hyadari- Brand Ambassador Spa Wake

All Smiles

A Fabulous dance by Just Dance enthralled

Dinner Time approaches

Spoilt for choice

The Non Veg delights

A great demonstration

My fave- The Creme Brulee 

And before I close, here's a look at what all of us went home with 
The Spa Wake collection
  Thank you Indi Blogger. That was a great evening and looking forward to more...

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Delightful Dilli Haat-- The One Stop Destination for Arts, Crafts and Food of India

Always fascinating- Dilli Haat never fails to delight

All of us have some places which are high on our list of favourites. I'm no exception and in each city that I've visited or lived in I have at least one , and sometimes many more 'must visit' places. In Delhi, Dilli Haat ranks high on my list of must visit/anytime visit places and this post is about our recent visit to check out  Saras 2015, a celebration of Indian Handicrafts from villages . Scheduled to run from the 1st to the 15th of April, it is a vibrant and colourful event and at the very outset, I must tell you that we enjoyed it thoroughly!

A quick background about Dilli Haat-Dilli Haat is an open air craft bazaar cum food plaza situated opposite the INA market New Delhi and run by Delhi tourism and the Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC).    Dilli Haat covers over 6 acres and it serves as a 'one stop destination' to shop for arts and crafts as well as enjoying  delicious dishes along with cultural activities that are regularly conducted here. 
Beautiful puppets from Rajasthan

Saras 2015- From the 1st-15th of April 2015

The entrance to Saras- Amazing

 The food sold here is wide ranging and rather delicious.As a foodie, I love to try out anything new and interesting and this place certainly fulfills most criteria. More on that in one of my posts in my other blog, 'Food For Thought'Over and above that, Dilli Haat also organizes and conducts regional food festival. One is also spoilt for choice while looking at the handicrafts which include sandalwood and rosewood carvings, brass ware products, metal ware, jewelry made from gems, camel hide footwear etc.

I was lucky to get this shot, they loved it too! 

The best time to visit the place is during evening time as the haat is beautifully lit up   and the setting sun adds greatly to the warmth, charm and ambience of the place.
Bold, Bright and Beautiful

Part of our shopping- A pair of these summer sandals each

Two hours, a super coffee and a few goodies in our bags and we were ready to head back home, the visit to Saras 2015 at Dilli Haat was a great success and we are already looking forward to the next Exhibition.... 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Taking the plunge and Spending Quality Family Time

Its the small things that really do make the big difference and in that context spending quality family time is a big one on my list. But day to day life has its own challenges, particularly if the members are travelling or working in different cities. While technology is a boon when it comes to staying connected, it can be a real pain when people build walls around themselves and stay glued to their phones even if they are in the same house, or far worse, at the same table.

So I must share this true story when I deliberately used our time when we were forced to stay indoors at home in Muscat because of a high velocity tropical storm, Phet when the concerned authorities had sent out serious warnings and topped it by giving a holiday so that people didn't venture out recklessly. What could we all do as a family, I thought to myself? Something that would keep us all busy and engrossed as well as prevent us from getting hooked to the idiot box or then the bane of all of our lives, our phones.

It was really quite simple, we would play Monopoly, my mind told me and after a quick discussion, it was agreed- Monopoly it would be. I don't remember the last time all of us  sat down for about four hours and played a game of Monopoly as a family but that day certainly was. And when we had a marathon session  it was certainly a  'landmark'-by any stretch of the imagination.  
An extended session of Monopoly 

It's an entirely different matter that I was the first one to be knocked out but it was the sheer difference that it made to the way that an evening is normally spent. And for that we have to  thank Cyclone Phet, which raged around as we sat cozily at home, a big bowl of popcorn and our choice of beverage close at hand.

As the storm raged all around us

The previous evening had looked just as you can see in these two photographs  and the Government authorities had made sure that everyone was well informed and aware.Must add, that was the best thing they could have done under the circumstances!

Like I started off by saying, it really was well worth it. Thank you 'Phet', we loved our evening together.

The heart wants what it wants, right? Taking the plunge and listening to your heart, even if it is just for an evening really does have its advantages!

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