Thursday, March 26, 2009
On the eve of Navreh (which literally means a ray of new light!!), the Kashmiri Pandit families observe a "thaal-bharun" ritual, in which they fill a thali (metal plate) with uncooked ricegrains. Atop the rice, there is walnut (its four partitions representing the four Vedas!!! with and without kernels), curd, cooked rice, a piece of roti, a pen, a currency note (of any denomination), salt and fresh fruit and a gold ornament. Besides, a few petals of dry flowers as well as a few fresh flowers are also placed on the rice-plate. The reason why walnut (or akhrot) and the dry flowers are a part of this thali is that because of extreme harsh winters in the valley, there used to be no fresh fruit or fresh flower available in Kashmir at the time of onset of new year. That is why, the walnut and dried flowers were used.
But after migration, when KP families settled in other parts of the country and world, fresh fruits and flowers are included as per availability. In fact, KPs celebrating this day in Kashmir itself, can procur all these things from the market as well. That is the changing world and power of technology, I would say but I will come to that later.
Apart from the things discussed above, the two most important things that are placed in this thali are:
1) Nechipatra (or almanac): The Kashmiri Pandit community's religious scholars undertake a tedious process to prepare an almanac every year, which is traditionally released and bought during the onset of traditional new year.
2) Wye, a special weed: Wye, a wild weed, resembling in shape to arabi, and considered pure, is also a part of this traditional thali.
This Thali is then covered with another metal plate for the night and early next morning, just before sunrise, a young member of the family, either boy or girl, takes this thali and circulates it among all the family members. In this way, the KPs welcome the new year, with the hope to receive and enjoy all those ingredients that form part of the thali and also as a kind of thanksgiving to the God Almighty, for keeping them safe and satiated in the year gone by.
Scholars put Navreh as the beginning of the lunar new year, which coincides with the onset of Navratras, celebrated during Chaitra (or spring) month. KPs celebrate their birthdays, death anniversaries, marriages and other auspicious occasions according to this calendar.
However, KPs are not the only ones who celebrate today as the onset of their new year.
This day is also celebrated as New Year's Day in Maharashtra (Gudi Padwa), in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka (Ogadi), by Sindhis as Cheti-Chand as well as in whole of North India as Chaitra Shukla.
Now we come to Navratras, literally meaning "Nine nights." This festival, as told above, is celebrated to invoke the energies emanating from all the nine avatars of Maa Durga. Navratras (or also called Navratris) are celebrated twice every year. One is celebrated during the spring time, which starts from today and the other one falls in the month of September, just at the onset of winters. Thus, twice every year, devotees celebrate the glory of the Goddess and her nine forms, during two different seasonal changes. Fasts are observed during these nine days and special food is cooked, which is devoid of onion, tomatoes and garlic.
Families plant "Jow" (or unchaffed paddygrains) in earthen pots inside a mound of dry earth and sand. Along with the jow, a whole supari is also planted inside the pot. This pot is then placed at a pure and sacred place within the house, where milk and water is sprinkled on it every morning. Just as the paddygrains start sprouting, these are covered with leaves. By the end of the eighth day, the paddygrains have grown into blooming shafts, coloured greenish yellow.
On the ninth day morning, a pooja is performed, wherein neighbourhood girls, who, on this day, are referred to as "Kanjakein" (little girls in reference to Goddess Durga's Mata Vaishno Devi avatar as a young girl), are served with Halwa (a sweet preparation) and poori (round wheatcakes deep fried in oil or ghee). Their feet are washed and then sindoor put on their foreheads, after which they are served the prasad (halwa-poori) and given gifts, etc.
The photograph above shows a thali filled with the Navreh items to give the readers an idea of what it exactly is.
Just one more thing, my fasts also began today and I would be keeping some of them. So, here is for a happy and auspicious Navreh and Navratras for all of us!!!!!!!!!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
On our last trip to the garden in 2004, we saw a vibrant crowd of tourists, from various parts of the country and the world, enjoying a healthy diet of fresh air and sparkling sunshine as well as clicking photographs under the shade of rare trees as well as inside the flower-beds.
So, come enjoy it!!!!!!!
P.S. - The first photograph is of the originating source of the Chashm-e-Shahi while in the second photograph, there is my brother, Prashant and me (facing the camera) seated atop the stairs leading to the Chashma.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
About the photograph featured above:
The photograph featured above is a panoramic view of the world famous Dal Lake, which is located within the summer capital of J&K, Srinagar. It is the most favourite destination for tourists, visiting from within and outside the country. It is a naturally occuring water body and is famous for the houseboats, vacation homes built during the British rule, that are one of the major source of revenue to the Kashmiris. Owing to pollution and overall negligence, the lake covers about 11 square kilometers of area, which is almost half of what it used to be two decades ago. It is divided into four basins called Gagribal, Lokut Dal (meaning Small Dal or Junior Dal), Bod Dal (Senior Dal) and Nagin. Tourist spots like Nehru Park, Char Chinar, etc are located as small islands within the Dal Lake.
Some year ago, the lake used to freeze over completely during the winter season, offering the people a chance to enjoy another facet of nature. However, due to global warming and negligence, the freezing Dal is soon becoming a thing of past.
Among other things, Dal has some interesting flora and fauna, including the lotus flower, Lotus stem (known as Nadroo or Kamal Kakdee, a popular Kashmiri vegetable), water lillies and water chestnuts.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I have been thinking on the issue raised by Priyanka that "Does it make any sense that a person, already seeing a hell lot of reality in REAL LIFE, pays money to see more of it???"
Well, I am myself a fan of movies that take me through the tear-drama, romantic escapades and stomach-aching comedy (a la Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra, Subhash Ghai, Yash Chopra, Rakesh Roshan, Rajkumar Hirani, etc, etc, etc,,,). Believe me, I watch each one of them, as and when I get time and money (more important of the two!!!!)
I mean who wouldnt have laughed along with Munnabhai, Circuit as they went from ward to ward, curing patients and bringing a smile to their faces (to borrow a cliche!) even as Dr Asthana hemmed and hawed over their antics.
I am sure not an eye was left dry when Shahrukh Khan's tear-jerking look came onscreen as he explains to his mother, played by Reema Lagoo, why he cant reciprocate Naina's (Preity Zinta) love because of his heart ailment.
When Rakhee's earnest character of a mother, waiting for her two dead sons to be born again, says, "Mere Karan Arjun Aayenge..Zaroor Aayenge.." well, we believe her against all common sense, because we know "Ki asli zindagi mein bhi filmon ki tarah end mein sab kuch theek ho jata hai, aur agar sab kuch theek na ho, to yeh samajh lena chahiye ki picture abhi baaki hai, mere dost..."
See, films provide an answer to almost every situation, every question, every doubt of our life and thus, there is no overlooking the fact that cinema, in our country and our life, is basically a time machine that takes us away from our daily vagaries, into the arms of a life that we all dream of or strive for. You just have to travel to the southern part of the country and see for yourself, the idol worship that goes on for Rajnikant, Chiranjeevi, and others, who have passed away long ago, like M.G. Ramachandran and N.T. Ramarao.
But all said and done, is cinema just that??????
Should we, a nation of one billion and still poor to a large extent, allow such a costly mass medium to play only one role, that of helping us escape from what we, so fearfully, encounter in our daily life?
Sample a scenario: you are sitting inside your living room, switching channels with the remote, when, you come across an image from any of the three states of Rajasthan, Punjab or Haryana, that of an infant girl child, who is dead and has just been dug out from beneath a pile of earth, after she was put in there by her own father, grandfather, or uncle just because she was born a girl!!! I am sure you would keep thinking about that child for the rest of your day.
Sample another one: In 2001, the current chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Mr M Karunanidhi (I hope he is not reading this) being bodily picked up, with his trademark sunglasses, his chappals and his hair in disarray, and taken to the police station on the orders of the erstwhile CM, Jayalalitha. The visuals shown on television at that time were enough for some of us to tut tut! at the degenerating standard of politics in the country while most of us just shook our heads in disbelief, wondering what lay round the corner for us, the lesser mortals.
These two scenarios, out of a million more, took place in two different corners of the country but people all over the country knew about it within hours, if not minutes, and an opinion was formed, which went on to contribute largely to the changing scenario of our country's social, economic, political, educational faces.
Such is the power of a mass medium and it is in this vein that I ask, should we not use this widely popular and all-encompassing medium to help ourselves get familiar with the brutally difficult life that breathes inside the conundrums that make up our underbelly, be it inside the economic capital Mumbai or the brackish backwaters of UP and Bihar or even our national capital, Delhi?
My Gulaal post from last week was in anticipation of the release of the much-awaited movie by Anurag Kashyap, which was first conceived in 2001, about eight years ago. The movie deals with student politics and the crusade for the lost glory of "Rajputana", with both the issues getting intertwined by the end, which, I agree, was a little off-kilter (hope you read it Anurag).
I liked the movie, though, it is not without limitations but the question that arises out of this discussion is that whether movies should be purely escapist or should there be a balance of dreams with reality?
As far as I am concerned, it is important to balance the cinema of our times in terms of its content, which can be both escapist as well as realistic.
It is important to dream because unless you dream of something, it never happens. Similarly, the realistic cinema of our times is a means to make that dream come. After all, what do we dream of, a better social order, better opportunities for all, economic equanimity and an ESCAPE from the bad things that ARE HAPPENING all around us, isn't it??
So there, the cinema, whether escapist or realistic is not that different from each other. The only difference is that in the former, we continue to live inside that dream albeit hypothetically, while in the latter, we are shaken out of our slumber and goaded to make the dreams come true. The difference, however, lies in that some of us ignore that call while some of us accept it and set out to work......
Well, you cant make your dreams come true unless you work on them, right???
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Colours, baloons, water-filled, coloured water, pichkaari, find their way into almost every other home in the country, children are found on most of the balconies, on the roads, inside the parks, splashing coloured water on each other.
While adults also enjoy in their own way, the holi celebrations are mostly meant for the young kids, who, for once, dnt mind getting up early on this day and getting drenched and, most importantly, staying drenched till well into the afternoon, when harried mothers, smiling behind their stern expressions, drag the kids inside for an elaborate bath to take off all the colour put into the hair, eyes, ear, etc, etc। Looking forward to enjoy the festival and its sights, though, I do not celebrate much of Holi myself.
However, there is one more thing that I am looking forward to this Holi (actually to be precise, after this Holi) and that is the release of film "गुलाल," filmmaker अनुराग कश्यप's first release after "देव डी ". I have put up a poster of the film, available on Internet, to give the readers an idea of what the film is like (though, I have a hunch that the movie will not be suited to everyone's liking, though I wish I am proven wrong).
The promos are available on Youtube and if anyone cares to watch, here is the link:
The promo looks explosive and I am sure that the movie will be an even better success than Dev D. It represents the struggles of the youth of today in the backdrop of regional politics (entirely my guess).
The actors are lesser known, except for Kay Kay of course but, nevertheless, their expressions say it all.
It is good that movies of today are ready to shed the burden of being a vehicle for escaping the harsh realities of life, which we simply cannot ignore anymore.
Corruption, political debauchery, regionalism, unemployment, lack of ideals and moral disintegration are the parasites that are eating away into the foundations of our Indian society and kudos to Kashyap and others of his ilk for briging them face to face for us.
Monday, February 23, 2009
In an unprecedented show of any India-based film at Oscars in the recent times, 'Slumdog Millionaire' has swept eight Oscars at the 81st Academy Awards:
1)Best Adapted Screenplay
4) Film Editing,
5) Original Score,
6) Original Song,
7) Direction and
8) Motion Picture.
Musical genius (I refrain from putting in Indian now since he is now more than just an Indian music maestro, he has gone truly global in his art) A R Rahman won two awards with his Jai Ho... composition.
Ironically, it brought to fore an occasion to celebrate what India is (in)famous for but just to see the proverbial silver lining in the cloud, it also brings up hope out of despair, success out of failure and good out of bad.
That I guess, should be the mantra for life for all of us, hai na???
Jai Ho then........