Thursday, March 28, 2013

Padharo Bhunga Ma

December no January yeah it was in January this year when we had visited Kutch. Actually to grab a bit of what is called The Rann Utsav. In these few years being endorsed by Mr Amitabh Bachchan who is the brand ambassador of Gujarat. i am astonished at how the people in my housing society addicted to the so many soap operas on TV were perplexed when upon arrival back to base they first interrogated me on my absence for a week then after knowing where i had been to said something like this, " Run Utsav...kya daud me gayay thay kahaan, dilli mein ya kahin baahar...???" ( Had you gone to participate in any run, in Delhi or outstation... ???) Can't blame them much although entering home and after dumping our luggage we did feel perplexed too how they could have missed Mr Bachchan and his, " Jara Kuch din toh gujaro Gujrat mein...". How could they have not smelled Khushboo Gujrat Ki. (Aroma of Gujarat- The famous tagline of Gujarat Tourism rendered catchy and so luring by Mr Amitabh Bachchan. )

So, when i'm not talking of personal stuff or about trees and plants my posts shall feature some of the treats that i had at Run aka Rann. Actually my earlier post on Sona Behn was a solid chunk of my kitty.
Thankfully i also have before me this. A visit to this artist's village situated in the Banni grasslands region of Kutch in Gujarat.
i must confess here that i did feel strongly about correcting the spellings of all those words on that billboard. Emabroidery, lether, beg, Eplic, Antic and then thought gosh! do i know these words in my own mother tongue Hindi ! Do they have their own words in their own dialect for that or everything comes under Kutchee or Bhujee work ?!!. Must find out then. The local words for all that they do.
Entering the village i first saw lots and lots of this tree what they call in Hindi as Vilayati Babul and thanks to my own interest in trees Prosposis juliflora. Yes i am richer today because i know the local Kutchee/Bhujee or perhaps the Gujarati name too. Gando Baval.
 We had laughed my husband and i not because of the name but because it did remind us about the vulgar expletives commonly used in Bihar by those who just wouldn't be bothered about it's impact on the rest. 
 The tree which dots the terrains of Kutch never looked so appealingly good until we saw it here next to this mudflat house called Bhunga in Gujarati.

i was completely taken away by the simplistic beauty of this cute cottage in which i wouldn't mind living myself. Plastered with mud and cow dung so evenly and neatly the Bhungas with their circular structure are cool in summers and warm in winters. And i just loved the drawings on the walls, the small and partially latticed windows, that permanent sitting chair near the entrance, the low fencing with local wood but evenly plastered on the edges looking good aesthetically and feeling smooth on touching perhaps proclaiming no boundaries here just a demarcation of the living residential area from the pathway...

Also what i found most endearing was this plaque written in Gujarati hand-painted on a piece of perhaps broken -from -some- terracotta nailed on the wall outside welcoming one and all. Although the door was closed as we were told the residents were away we nevertheless had the pleasure of soaking into the comfort of that home and imagining the inside as to how it would be. Few functional things and no clutter of the ostentatious urban world. Padharo Bhunga Ma. The local sound of Gujarati. Translated it means You are most welcome- to our mud hut home.
The entire area looked eye-catching and so appealing to the senses and one could not help but just admire the artistic temperament of the village folks who are also famous for their Lippan work. Lippan is the local word for the art which means plastering. Plastering Of walls with a mixture of mud, thatch and cow- dung and decorating it with figures and mirrors.

Lippan, the same art used to decorate their natural refrigerators/ cold storage where they store not only grains but sometimes their green vegetables too if they have more to keep. That is whatever they don't need to cook for the day.

Before i got caught up with the cuteness of kids hanging around my eyes also fell on this.
This is what they use to make buttermilk called masala chhach. Masala chacch! cool yummy and very refreshing especially in the summers. Otherwise thick and very delectable sweet yoghurt drink called Lassi.
i was just too distracted to take a full shot of the apparatus because the cute pies were tugging on to my tunic asking for something so the other shot has the remaining of the apparatus, the rest of that long pole which is twisted with the rope to churn the buttermilk. Besides i am still trying to get better with my new camera. Actually distracted or not distracted that seems to be the absolute truth.

Now last but not the very least those who kept following me around. Those cute kids of that particular Bhunga who kept asking me for chocolate. i was so cross with my guide who had not informed me enough although he did impart me with some new knowledge about the place and it's people. 
The cute pies did get something from me and whatever i gave them i'm sure they were happy with that and my attention. But the chocolates would have magnified their delight ten times on having me as a guest in their Bhunga. There ought to be no doubt about that.
The next thing i did was to buy two big huge packets of Cadbury's Eclairs on my next stop at a refreshment stall near the main road. i was about to visit another village and i did not want to disappoint the cute souls there. Call it Murphy's law or whatever i did visit another village but there were no cuteepies there to ask me for chocolates.

Somethings are just too common and it helps if you know them beforehand. Not for anything but for the happiness in the heart. Since i had known it beforehand i had carried packets of cheap ball point pens once. The kids that you come across while taking the backwaters ride in a gondola like boat called kettuvallam in Kerala once upon a time greeted me with shouts saying, Penna! Penna!!. Can't forget the joy and fullness i had felt when they had with all the light in their eyes shouted in chorus, "Thank You Sister!! Bye Bye Sister..."
Wonder if those kids living in those floating islands in Kerala still ask for pens. These in the villages of Bhuj in Gujarat ask for Chocolates.

Leaving the village and remembering it with a smile, also feeling a bit sorry for being chocolateless, i just realized that i had forgotten to ask many of their local words for emabroidery, lether, eplic and antic... Self consoling and correcting i had heard someone say," Okay so what! u know ONE- Lippan now stay chill !!...enjoy the moment !!"

Such is the beauty of simple places of unassuming but talented to the core people. It renders all sense about words, spellings and everything that's supposed to be educated and civilized useless and pointless.

Before i quit for the time being i'll do what is so typical of me. Cramming knowledge on to my single page. Thanks to technology. It makes my job so easy. Copy pasting at the press of a button. But for a change i shall put only 2 facts here.
 i need to remind of the disaster of 26th January 1999 when that devastating earthquake had hit Gujarat. It was the Bhuj region that was the most affected and there was a lot of calamity and death. Strange but true, the Bhungas were the least affected by that earthquake which had measured 7.9 on the Richter scale, it's epicenter being 13 miles north east of Bhuj.

Now for the facts: These have lovingly been borrowed from the internet.
Fact 1. "The name "Rann" comes from the Hindi word ran (रण) meaning "desert". The Hindi word is derived fromSanskrit/Vedic word iriṇa (इरिण) attested in the Rigveda and Mahābhārata."
Fact # 2. Bhungas are closely linked to the identity of Kutch desert areas. They are single cylindrical structures put close to each other to form a house. In common terminology, each bhunga would be equivalent to a room in a house.

Disaster Resistance/ Structural System

Earthquake imparts lateral forces on the structure. Due to the circular plan of a bhunga, one half part of a bhunga always reacts as an arch against the forces applied from any direction that the earthquake waves hit the structure. Thus, bhunga uses a circular shape for its maximum advantage against lateral forces of an earthquake.
Corners are the weaker parts against lateral forces of an earthquake. Since there are no corners in a bhunga, it makes the structure more stable in earthquake situation.
The walls of a bhunga are very low. This helps the stability of the structure during the earthquake. This is possible due to the conical shape of the roof of bhunga, which comes quite low at the periphery while still forming high ceiling near the central usable space.
Roof of the bhunga is made out of thatch and is light weight. Lightweight roof is also very helpful against the lateral forces of the earthquake and causes less damage.
Bhungas are independent circular structures and do not share common walls with any structures. Thus there is no impact of load of one structure on the other. They react independently to the lateral forces of the earthquake.
Its circular shape helps during the cyclones too. There is no obstruction to the wind movement. The circular shape does not create big pressure difference between two sides of the structure.
In mud or stone construction of bhungas, the walls are thick. This makes the surface less penetrative for the heat. The lippan done on the walls is also less conductive which adds to the thermal comfort inside the bhunga.
Bhungas have small openings, this helps in extreme climate of the region.
Thatch roof is a weak conductor of heat and adds to the thermal comfort.
The roof overhang of a bhunga comes quite low casts shadows on the walls and protects the walls from the direct sunrays.
...that does it for today and before i quit i have to say this in Gujarati...
                                                                          Aankho thi Kahevu
                                                                          Aasan nathi
                                                                          Ane Chup Rahevu te
                                                                          Samadhan nathi
                                                                          Kahi dejo dil Kholi ne
                                                                          Hraday ni Vaat..
...or i can say this in English just to compare which feels better...
                                                                          Not easy to speak with the eyes.
                                                                          But being silent is no remedy either
                                                                          Speak for all you have to
                                                                          Words in your heart...


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sona Behn - Her Embroidery, Silver and all Her Colors

i have always been fond of silver even when i was a kid. Any metal that looks white so when i first entered that room for the purpose of actually buying some hand embroidered stuff i got cured of my shopping fever. She took over. Sona Behn that's what she told me her name was. Now apparently my husband is smiling about his moolah savings while i am going bonkers trying to find out from people where i can find real silver tribal jewellery. Poor hubby darling unawares in his glee that his smile may not last long.
Perfunctory at first as she looks up to see me as just another customer who might not buy anything what to talk of much. 
It was only when i complimented her and showed keen interest on that thick piece of silver round her neck that she smiled for me.
That started it all. The breaking of ice and Sona Behn was more than willing to show it all. Requesting her male partner to take care of the customers she stood up and actually posed for me without me even asking her to do that.
And since she was so kind i moved a little backwards to take a full shot. Pretending to be a great shooter turning my body this way and that trying to fix my gadget in all kinds of photographic angles. Only i know that more than pretense it was me trying to get acquainted with that fantastic gadget on me. Alas! poor me this is the best i could do.
Then that final show stopper. She proudly presented to me what she announced was additional 2 kilos on her.
One kilo each on both her feet. So in total from what she was wearing each day and everyday could be a little more than 4 kilos. Can't ignore the one around her neck and that big nose stud which i happily forgot to shoot. Adding a few grams more for her arm bangles and her dress which looked heavy with all that mirror work kutch embroidery, plus the bead jewellery, she was with great ease in her frail body carrying something approximating 5 kilos. Each day and everyday.

She explained that she did not find it uncomfortable but was rather used to it. It is customary for her kind to wear all that. Dispelling the wrong notion that i had of her belonging to the Rabari tribe she educated me on bits of her own tribe called the Harijan. What was very impressive was the fact that all females in her tribe young or old, married or unmarried only wear what they have hand embroidered for themselves. Feeling a bit shy and explaining why her own dress looked faded but smiling nevertheless she told me about her ever so busy time making things, not for herself but for selling. For few years now that she is into this occupation of setting up her own bazaar and selling all that she makes she hardly gets any time to make a new one for herself.  Her own which she was wearing was something like ten years old and had lost all it's original sheen and colors. i peered in to figure out the fading colors then but all i could see was the brilliant embroidery all intact and not a thread unraveling from anywhere.

My husband started sending me irritating signals to make a move as we were being waited upon by fellow tourists and before i could ask her more about her family and rest i had to hastily wrap up my conversation with her. And since i barely had time to pick and choose i sought help from her to pick a few pieces from her embroidery galore. How could i leave without not having something of Sona Behn's Kutch embroidery. i was obliged suitably of course as one can see.

The irritating my skin colors that were lovingly painted on me this morning brings me here. Next to the so pleasing and non-irritating company of Sona Behn.

Tomorrow is Holi and it not surprising that while my mind is figuring out where to go to buy some safe non-carcinogenic herbal colors that i land up indulging in the brief but colorful memory of Sona Behn. Her brilliant heavy white metal, and all that she stands for...


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Aging Gracefully or Whatever

Recently i've started getting a lot of mail forwards from friends that take a substantial amount of LOL digs on getting old, anatomically and otherwise. But after the laughter is over and after i have forwarded them in turn to those whom i choose to i have a serious question i feel like sharing with others. Do we really get old ? If some lines and spots, additional adipose, health related issues... if that is synonymous with aging then maybe yes. But isn't it ironical that although physically we may seem to be aging mentally we are getting younger and younger. Alas! if everyone understood that then what a wonderful world it would be. Sometimes i have this mad urge to shake up all those people who consider themselves to be too old for some harmless nonsense and say, " C'mon it's raining!! let's go and sail some paper boats and jump around in the mud splashing muddy water on each other..."
Oh i want to go on and on but words do fail me to make it as interesting as Jenny Joseph. In her poem 'Warning' which has been re titled by so many other names she had put it all there. All that i wanted to say.


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to spit .

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends for dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

i wished to forward a poetry to my friends but these days not many are enthusiastic about humorless sensibilities. Everybody seems to prefer truth in a manner that should have sprinklings of humor here and there. And i am quite poor in that skill. Nevertheless since i had this with me i thought it better to paste it for all those like me who care to read somethings spoken from the heart even when there is nothing sounding funny there. Sure laughter is good i agree but too many laughable words sometimes fail to elicit that laughter in the heart. Rather it tends to make one feel small and low. Then in such times words like these sooth the senses and calm us back to normalcy.
 Aging Gracefully 
By Cher  
When we are young with supple skin,
Firm breasts high we wear a proud grin,
Arch our backs and stand tall,
Wanting our beauty to be admired by all.

Hearing how beautiful you are each day,
Gives your spirit a boost in such a way,
Then slowly over the years we hear it less,
Age starts to take it`s toll I guess.

Then when we hear it brings a smile,
Simply because we havent heard it in a while,
Although the same person still within,
No longer wearing such a proud grin.

Society judges by looks too much,
So as we age we seem to lose touch,
With what the true meaning of beauty is,
I have always thought it was this...

Comes from the inside my Dad used to say,
Because there it can never be taken away,
So hold it dear and near to your heart,
And with it dont ever dare to part.

For inner beauty is what makes us unique,
Then he would give me my kiss on the cheek,
I truly believe what he says is right,
So I hold it near and dear every night.

May not show on the outside anymore,
But I have a key to open the door,
To all my beauty that makes me shine,
Open that door and you`ll always be mine.

i think this should be all for the time being. Wishing all those who visit my page a very good week ahead and all these lovely colors :)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

How the Silk Cotton Tree Lost It's Leaves

“The fundamental cause of trouble in the world is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” 

Now the story :
Long long ago deep into the heart of the Himalayas stood a beautiful tall tree. Evergreen and lush it stood mellowing down all the rest in comparison. The rest seem to fade away. Such was it's glorious beauty. The cynosure of all eyes it was praised by one and all who passed that way. Travelers, saints, village folks, birds and even animals. For all not only admired it's beauty but also rested in it's leafy shade throughout the year.
One day a singing minstrel who sang praises of Lord Vishnu passed that way. Finding the tree so lush and breathtakingly beautiful he stopped by the tree and admiring the tree said, " Oh Mighty tree how is it that when all the trees have suffered the wrath of Pavan, the God of wind you have not lost a single leaf ? Are you a relative or a friend of Pavan that here you are so full of splendor immune to his blasts?"
By now the beautiful tree had grown arrogant in it's splendor and so curtly he replied, " I don't need that whimsical Pavan's protection or friendship. Why should I for I am stronger than him and although he has tried to harm me on many occasions he had to bite dust. Don't you know that my strength is greater than Pavan? If you don't then you are as silly as him you singing fool !!."

Ordinarily rude words like these can hurt and infuriate anyone but this singing minstrel was no ordinary being. He took intense pleasure in the misunderstanding and confusions between mortals and Gods. So unperturbed he proceeded onward his journey with his veena (musical instrument) in his hand reciting the praises of Lord Vishnu. All heard his songs of praise. The saints, the travelers, the village folks, the birds and animals. Bowing their heads in deep reverence they too joined in the chorus Narayan Narayan...
For they knew that the son of the creator Lord Brahma, the intelligent, energetic and extremely devoted to Lord Vishnu, the blessed celibate Narad Muni had just passed by. Considered to be Lord Vishnu's heart and mind they knew that something was about to happen for wherever Narad went he tried to establish Dharma and Karma (righteousness) and sometimes in trying to establish a balance major upheavals took place.

As for the singing minstrel who traveled the lokas (abodes of Gods) he walked straight to Swargaloka (Heaven) which was also the abode of the God of wind Pavan. He stood in front of Lord Pavan and bowed his head in mock distress.

With all his rhetoric he addressed Pavan and said, " My Lord, I have come to seek some enlightenment from you."
Pavan : "O! You all knowing one what is it that I can impart to you, for I possess nothing that You don't know."
Narad Muni : " Narayan Narayan !!, how can Lord say such words when there is a matter that has been irking me because it defiles your grace .
So please let me ask You. How is it that when Indra the lord of Rain , Yama the lord of death, Kubera the keeper of Wealth, Varuna the lord of the Sea all these Gods bow down to your power and acknowledge your supremacy as you seem to be more powerful than them, this small creature, this mortal, this tree has the audacity and arrogance to defile your name and power!!"
So saying this and still praising Lord Vishnu and chanting Narayan Narayan Narad Muni took a bow and went on his way.

Narad Muni's task was done for he had not come to seek answers. But now it was for Lord Pavan to take charge and give an appropriate answer.
He swept the Himalayas in complete rage destroying everything that came his way.

" Semul!!" he shouted with tremendous roar and thunder, " Just because my grandfather Lord Brahma once rested in your shade after his work got over I have spared you for all these centuries. And now you dare so much as to insult me and also defile my name. You ungrateful mortal ! I will make sure that you are punished properly. You now will never grow a single leaf again. Ever!!"
The tree undaunted by the rage of Lord Pavan retaliated with arrogance laced with anger, " Suit yourself ! I am not afraid of your barks that sound like that of a jackal. Do what you want for you can not even bend a single limb of mine ".

Lord Pavan then filled with intense anger ravaged the tree with rain, sleet, hail, snow, thunder and lightening. Fully spent of his wrath he stopped short to see the extent of the aftermath.
He saw the once full of splendor tree denuded of all it's glory. The head bent in shame begging for mercy. For by now the tree had realized that it's arrogance was dumbfounded and wrong.

Lord Pavan's anger had cooled off by now and in it's place some mercy was seeping in. So he proclaimed,
" I see that you have realized your mistake and so I forgive you. But I came to inflict punishment which I have done, you shall get back all that you have but you will no longer be an evergreen tree. Every year you shall have a fall which will remind you of your arrogance and thus should see you humbled." Thus saying Lord Pavan vanished.

The tree grew back it's branches and got back all it's foliage but from then on just before spring arrives   it loses all it's glory. This has been happening for centuries now.
The punished tree as we know it is the Semul tree (silk cotton tree)

As kids we delighted in all mythological stories. Not for any other reason but for the simple fact that just like some of the Bollywood movies the stories hid in it's gamut barah masala terah swaad. Translated it should mean having twelve spices but thirteen tastes. Now i have no patience to enlist those twelve spices and thirteen tastes. And i am not sure if this story has all that jazz. But i'd like to mention here that although the tales having Rakshashaas (Demons) were the best which we heard with rapt attention chewing onto our nails till it hurt, it was those with the central character called Narad Muni which made us see the ultimate of what we defined as shrewd but blessed intelligence. Later thanks to that brilliant actor Mr Omkar Nath Dhar aka Jeevan and his Narayan Narayan Narad Muni with his veena, austere clothing, a garland of flowers round his neck and the lines on his head made with sandal paste symbolizing God Vishnu became an immortal character in our young impressionable minds.
Sure these stories came before Aesop's fables but just like those fables we read when we were introduced to formal education these stories had enough apart from spice and taste to impart what we needed to know. And i  just can't seem to thank enough my parents and guardians for that.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Sweet Little Cybershot Story called Starting a Family

i had been following the story each day as it unfolded. Some part moving me to tears and some making me look forward to a new beginning. And this particular morning i cried out loud...Oh no! not again!! i moved a bit closer to the railing so that i could empathize with the grieving mother. All i could see was part of the broken shell of an egg.
The fact being that she had laid not one but two cute eggs when my eyes had first chanced upon that window which i thought could be hose cleaned with the strong jets of my gardening hose-pipe. Thank Heavens i saw them first...the he and the she busy in their occupation. That of starting a family.

i could see one egg peeping from below the mom. The he and she close to each other having some agreeable if not intimate conversations. The going to be dad soon and his better half in complete harmony. i guess about one major issue for sure. The eggs kept rolling out every time she moved, even 
when slightly. The understanding affirmative nods as he faced her seemed to convey, " Don't worry I'll get a few more twigs to help make a roll and tumble resistant nest..."

He flew off to bring more twigs one by one at a time while she got busy arranging whatever she had to prevent the egg from rolling off the ledge. Her friend watching over her from above chatting with her while he was away.
He was back soon with not one but two twigs and placed them down slowly before her. She looks at him with all grateful eyes as if trying to say, ''You're such a darling...wonder what i would've done without you by my side..."
The very next morning as i went around to check how the family was doing i had seen the remains of one of the eggs. She kept nursing the one that she was left with but her sad eyes were fixed on the broken remains of the baby that she had lost . 
i had felt like crying and i did too. Whatever had happened in the night while we slept i am clueless all i knew at that moment that she had suffered a huge loss.

The reason for my outcry was the bit of that white piece again...she was not there where she was supposed to be. i moved closer trying to spot her elsewhere and then my eyes saw the most amazing thing.
Something that looked golden and fuzzy. She had also returned. Probably my outcry had alerted her and she was back to stand on guard. Protect with whatever it takes, her baby. Her one and only one.
i could see her alert and in readiness least bit tempted by all the grains, the maize and the millet that i had carefully transported last evening with the help of a hollow bamboo pole. She turned to look at me perhaps sensing my happiness on my wonderful discovery that all was not lost and that a new chapter had begun.
The baby looked like any adorable cute baby but not a pigeon baby. It was the cutest small duck i had ever seen. And i don't know how long i had watched them. Watched the weaning...the snuggling...the caressing... the disappearing inside the mama's belly and the not to be missed confidence that sometimes feels like some newly dawned upon self pride that one gets when one becomes the mother of an alive and kicking healthy baby.

i remember that day well. It was the winter solstice December 21st and the morning when i had got out it had felt bitterly cold and morbid and we were beginning to feel that perhaps just like the other few days that went by we might remain sunless. Devoid of any warmth on the what the doomsday ought to be. But the sun did show up appearing at noon at its lowest altitude over the horizon. As if dispelling all the doomsday and the chaotic weather prophesies.
 The baby pigeon duck cosy inside her mother was safe. Both were content and comfortable. Oblivious of the doomsday, the sun appearing and the steady barrage of visitors gathering above. Definitely i feel they too had congregated not only to greet the baby and shower kudos to the mother but also to proclaim, with all their chattering that ," Listen you people!! you have got it all wrong ". That Alexandrine parrot her watchful friend included. There were a lot many who had come and kept coming to sing for the newborn and to prove how foolish we humans were. For if the doomsday was about to happen they would be the first ones to warn us.

It was also the day i had decided to shed my fear once and for all and start shooting with my own DSLR Nikon camera which i had purchased a couple of months back.

 Now looking back i wonder if i would've done a better job had i handled the story with my DSLR. But on second thoughts i strongly feel that using any sophisticated camera on such occasions is just like using a vacuum cleaner. By the time you get the equipment, plug it in with it's attachment you are already done with your good old broom and mop. Besides when endearing dramas unfold before your eyes you are more comfortable with that which gives you quick results instead of you wondering how best to fix your new equipment. Last but not the very least the DSLR can scare the **** out of the poor birds trust me on that. Especially if they spot you with one. Their trichromatic vision probably perceives the protruding lens of such cameras as some weapon aimed towards them for destruction. Of them and their kind.  In such situations a cybershot definitely proves very useful and just too harmless. Even for them...the pigeons of course and the rest of the avians.