Sunday, 27 January 2013

In Anticipation of CNY

 The heart of Vivocity in anticipation of Chinese New Year 2013. A Fair full of delightful fares!

Abundance of Yummies 

Sackfuls of Ingredients

Need 1?, Buy 3!

Wahopping (Walking and Window shopping!)

Take us home, Wall us up!

I am rooting for these vendors!

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Suspicion vs. Enamor in all things shopping!

Mouth Watering Treats!

The Buddha in various Avatars!

Convincing Mao style?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Girl Power, Family Name and all that...

A Khasi man sharing responsibilities
Up until eight standard, I was the only one in my class with a Khasi mother and a non Khasi family name. No one, including my mom really cared about it. She was a busy woman, with a demanding but happy life made of four kids, a great job and a travelling husband. Somehow, that Khasi element in her never even prompted, at any instant a family name battle with my dad. I still wonder.

In high school, I was reminded by well-wishers, mom excluded, of the advantages that came along with a Khasi family name. I eventually succumbed, and what followed was simple paper work that promised great returns in my educational and professional life. Of course, a side benefit was that, I became more “accepted” and people stopped teasing me about my Dad’s family name being the same as a leading Bollywood actor of that time.

Today, I have both my parents’ names tailing in my passport, marriage certificate and other important documents. I’m no feminist and I’m not scared of tedious paper work. With mom, dad and husband all from different communities, I just don’t believe that family names are important anymore. Family is!

Nevertheless, some years ago, when I moved to Mumbai, I understood the power of my mother’s name. It didn't change my fortune. It was only one strong reminder of the massive feminine power, back home in North East India. I lived in Mumbai for several years and my observed difference in ordinary women’s lives in Bollywood city and the modest hills is shocking.

I jerked one morning, when my housekeeper informed of her daughter’s death caused by burns, as a result of her husband’s drunken wrath. She gave me the news in the most normal tone. The same woman had amazed me earlier when she boasted on her facts about terrorists and rhinos eating together (and each other and everyone else) in people’s backyards in far Assam.

Women power in the hills has become a strong social security, and this in turn has brought about an updated positive identity, that is being contrasted with other societies, where the birth of women is regarded as bad luck, and burning brides is a trend. 

Far from being disadvantages, NE women, in particular, Khasi women, enjoy  an enviable position in the society. It is interesting to note that,like the Khasis, it the indigenous peoples of the world, including Africa, South America and Asia who are tinted as backward, but have such progressive mind-sets where the women lead! And it is also interesting that countries on these continents like India, Brazil, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Bangladesh have had a woman head of state . But that has not yet happened in some so called "developed" and "advanced" countries like the US.

Like in all modern, adapting societies, the girl power phenomenon in my part of the world is gracefully aging towards a more tolerant version, in favour of the younger generation where love, more than the urge to dominate, rules. This means that women are happy to share their power and men reciprocate, by their willingness to take responsibilities. At least, this is what I conclude from my friends’ updates and otherwise.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Unity in Diversity : Jan 13-14 festivals of India

Festivals that were celebrated in India last weekend ....
Bhogali Bihu, native to Assam, marks the end of the harvesting season. In modern times and big cities where agriculture means the life and world in our kitchen garden, it is significantly defined as the biggest feast or Bhog season. I, myself, with no one to judge, shamelessly gobble through the festival like the hungry caterpillar. 
The last time I was home for Bihu, I was amazed by the plentiful presence of food carnivals. They endorsed celebration delicacies made by women (sometimes men) from villages from all over Assam. Most times, these fares are such rob-offs, as if knowing well the effect of global warmed winters that make browsing through varieties of sweets easier than making them at home.  In this modern twist of celebration, there are still those who prefer to have their laroos (sweets made of coconut) and pithas (sweets made of grounded rice,sesame or coconut and jaggery) and other bihu sweetmeats made in their own kitchens.

Laroos and pithas
Photo by Manas Barooah

As a child, my favourite part of Magh Bihu was Uruka. I still wonder how the tall Meji, made of just straws and fire wood, managed to stand,with no firm support, on the damn ground .I miss those innocent Uruka nights,feasting and singing round the tall straw man with my cousins.That whole sacred ritual of bathing first thing the next very cold Bihu morning, burning the meji and feeding it with rice grains and betel nuts, always gave me a good sense of revival for the New Year.

A community Meji ritual
Photo by Anuwar Haza
Lohri, eve of Punjab's Makar Sankrati, has similar meji rituals.The Fire God is worshiped during this festival. Bonfires are lit in the evenings and families and communities make merry round them. Puffed rice, popcorn, sesame seed are ceremoniously thrown into the fire. They sing and dance till the fire dies out. The occasion can’t do without Makki Di Roti (corn bread) and Sarson Da Saag (grounded mustard leaves). Til (sesame) and jaggery  are also essential food items.Too bad, lassi doesn’t go well with the cold season. Vibrant colors, get-togethers, indigenous food culture and good old bhangra make Lohri one annual bash all Punjabis look forward to.

Feeding the burning fire 
Photo from Hindustan Times
Southern India celebrates the harvest season as  Pongal. It is observed with  much zest and enthusiasm as the indigenous New Year. On this occasion people religiously clean their homes and decorate them with kolam (rangoli). The cattle is worshiped during the festival and fed with a rice and jaggery dish, Pongal. This symbolizes thanksgiving and the dish is dedicated to Lord Surya.

The cow adorned and worshipped
Photo by Dev Gogoi

Thanking Lord Surya
Photo by Dev Gogoi
In western India,  Makar Sankranti marks the end of winter is celebrated with flying kites and kite flying competitions. Interestingly, the Marathis who observe the festival wear black  as the black sesame  is believed to be an auspicious ingredient of the season. Tilgul, a simple sweetmeat made of sesame and jaggery is prepared and exchanged on the occasion.


Photo by Journey Mart
Festivals  from different regions - and one could wonder how they could be so similar. The fire is common to most, the sesame and jaggery are essential ingredients in all the cebrations. These little flavours in our festivals make us unique as communities and unite us as a country.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Big Christmas in Li'l Singapore

Christmas Eve at Orchard Road was a busy affair. The street was thronged beyond pavement capacity and people were happily spilling over the main road because all is forgiven on this holy occasion. Through the crowd, I managed a liitle peep at the Christmas tree at Takashimaya and whoa, it looked gorgeous and seemed bigger than petite Singapore!

Takashimaya: Posing round the Christmas tree 

Though like most people, I thought the lights this year were least impressive. They were far too subtle for Orchard Road's massive, swank architecture. The rest was as usual, super best and very well done, given the fact that Singapore's Christmas is all man-made with no natural season or culture for it.

A crush of Christmas fans

Paul at Takashimaya made the most of it with their signature cakes and cosy Christmas home shaped cakes that me feel like it was really cold and snowing outside.

 Paul's sumptious Christmas cakes

Christmas, with all its man-made, commercial personality is an unavoidable event in Singapore that has its share of pleasant revelations every year. With blue and red done, I only hope the lights next year don’t go green! That said, Singapore definitely makes other countries go green with envy when it comes to its grand Christmas schemes!